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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Twenty-eight years ago today, the British government enacted a law that officially ended it’s legal authority over the country of Canada. With the passage of the Canada Act, 1982, however, came another document. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees political rights to the country’s citizens, and civil rights to everyone within its borders.

April 17 is also the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the most influential sections of the Charter: Section 15 with its protection of equality rights. Inspired by the Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the section also allows those rights to be extended to other groups when warranted. As a result, without the need for amendments, Canada has been able to declare other protected areas, including citizenship, marital status, and, notably, sexual orientation.

Perspective and change

Living in the U.S. has helped me see how profoundly the Charter has shaped the entire definition of what Canada is for the better. From same-sex marriage to its resoundingly multicultural cities, modern Canada is clearly inspired by the ideas defined just three decades ago in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nearly seven years ago, after seeing how badly the government copy of the Charter was presented online, I believed Web standards could help bring some dignity to the document. Browsers, however, were not quite ready to support the complex counter rules I needed to define the legal document.

In subsequent years, there’s been significant improvements in browsers and a new drive to bring openness to government. The latest example of this is Canada’s Open Parliament. But still, the Charter has languished online.

On its twenty-eighth birthday, I want to change this.

Openness through availability

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is now available, in both French and English, and is designed specifically to be more accessible and more discoverable, while evoking the feel of the original document.

This version is stripped of bureaucratic uniformity and free from proprietary plug-ins. There are no commercial interests involved and it is built on open standards.

This one is designed to be read and shared openly by anyone so that everyone can understand and appreciate the value of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Where to find the Charter