Famous Canadian Civil Liberties Cases

The Great Depression caused Canada, like the United States, to take rather reactionary action to deal with the economic crisis.

In Alberta, the Social Credit Act of 1937 massively restructured the banking and credit system in many ways, the least not being a section that required that the press seek governmental approval of any coverage that could be construed as criticizing the Alberta government’s new policies. This legislation was challenged successfully in 1937, and a key decision handed down by the Supreme Court from that case was based on a distinction between fundamental rights (those that affect all Canadians) and local rights. It was indeed ruled that the rights given to free press fall into the latter category, and that Alberta crossed a line with the Social Credit Act of 1937.

In 1939, in the case of Christie v. York, a black man was denied service in a Halifax tavern because of the company policy of not service Negroes. The police claimed they couldn’t do anything as it was a civil matter. The tavern used the common law rule that a merchant can arbitrarily refuse service due to freedom of contract. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the right of individuals were more important than the freedom of contract. People were unable to get jobs and unable to move. Moving can be what you need sometimes to help get jobs, especially when the economy is tanking. In 1945, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately invalidated a covenant that restricted the selling of land to Jews and people of “questionable nationality”.

In 1993, The Latimer case ignited a national controversy since it was directly concerned the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as the definition and ethics of euthanasia. Mr. Latimer’s view was that a parent has the right to kill a child with a disability, if that parent decides the child’s quality of life no longer warrants its continuation. Many Canadians supported Robert Latimer’s act. A 1999 poll found that 73% of Canadians believed that Latimer acted out of compassion and he should receive a more lenient sentence. The same poll found that 41% of Canadians believe that mercy killing should be legal. Numerous disability rights groups obtained intervenor status in Latimer’s controversial appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The groups argued that killing a severely disabled child like Tracy is no different than killing a non-disabled child and should carry the same penalty. To do otherwise would devalue the lives of disabled people and increase the risk of more such killings by their caregivers.The case finally reached the Supreme Court of Canada where his prison sentence was upheld.

We are fortunate in the US that there are social security disability lawyers who can assist people who are applying for disability benefits. The process is complex and can take months. If the applicant receives a letter of denial and they do not have the help of a ssd lawyer, this is the time to do it. Appealing a decision of rejection is much more complicated and time consuming than the initial application process. A social security disability attorney will do all the paper work and filings as they prepare they client for the hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Although Canada does not have social security as we know it in the US, they do have a social safety net that covers a broad spectrum of programs. The Latimer’s offered an opportunity for a national debate that in the long run gave a higher profile and a more vocal voice to Canadian disability rights groups and their message. The disability community was pleased to be part of something that raised awareness about what inclusion really means.

In the 1950s, there were three high – profile cases dealing with free speech, religion and association.

Saumur v. Cité of Québec dealt with the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to distribute literature on city streets, which was originally considered sedition. In the case of Roncarelli v. Duplessis, Jehovah’s Witnesses also figured into the equation prominently – the case’s plaintiff, Frank Roncarelli, had lost his restaurant liquor license in 1947 for providing bail to a large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were arrested in Montreal. In Switzman vs. Elbling and Attorney – General of Québec , the case challenged the validity of the Padlock Act, which was an Act passed in 1937 hailing from the province of Quebec that was originally intended to prevent the dissemination of communist – deemed propaganda.

There have been many controversial acts that occur as history unfolds. Attitudes change and with them the laws.

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