This week Canada marks the 25th anniversary of a defining moment in its history. It was at this time in 1982 that the Canadian constitution was repatriated and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect.
When then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II signed the Canadian Constitution Act the last remnants of British control in Canadian affairs was ended. Included in this new Canadian constitution was the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Modeled on the philosophy of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the act gave the full force of the constitution to the policy of multiculturalism in Canada.
Since its adoption, the Charter has become entrenched as an important part of the Canadian identity. Though it has a broad impact on Canadian law and policy, one of its most important effects has been to further enshrine multiculturalism into Canadian society. As a nation built on immigration, Canada first made multiculturalism an official policy in 1971 in recognition of the valuable contribution made by the different cultures that make up the fabric of Canadian society. The Charter took this policy one step further by building a strong constitutional legal protection for multiculturalism.
Aside from the protection of fundamental freedoms of belief, expression, association and the like which form the basis for a multicultural society, the Charter specifically recognizes multiculturalism as a Canadian value. Section 27 of the Charter requires that Canadian laws be interpreted through an understanding of multiculturalism. The inclusion of these elements make the Charter as relevant for multiculturalism in Canada today as it was when it was written 25 years ago.
Sources: The Globe and Mail; Government of Canada