Editor: I feel I need to correct the misinterpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Michelle Matich’s letter published in the June 27 edition of the paper.
Michelle incorrectly states that section 15 (1) of the Charter lists 10 specific items on which our rights and freedoms are based. Sections 2 to 14 of the Charter deal with our rights and freedoms.
The fundamental rights are listed in section 2. They are freedom of religion, freedom of thought including freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Other than freedom of religion, none of the items that Michelle listed are included in our guaranteed rights and freedoms.
What section 15(1) deals with is equality before the law. This section states that all Canadians, regardless of race, sex, colour, etc., are equal before the law and must be treated equally by the government. The official government explanation of this section is as follows: “This section of the Charter makes it clear that every individual in Canada — regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability — is to be considered equal. This means that governments must not discriminate on any of these grounds in its laws or programs.”
Michelle is correct that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an important part of our Constitution and the freedoms it protects are important. But it is equally important to interpret it correctly.
It does not in any way restrict an organization or institution from having a restrictive code of conduct so long as that code of conduct does not restrict the freedoms dealt with by sections 2 to 14 of the Charter.
What the Supreme Court has decided in the TWU case is, in effect, the Law Societies in Canada can discriminate against certain individuals on the basis of religion.
They have decided that the right to discriminate overrides the Charter right of freedom of religion. In my mind this is a very dangerous decision. What is the next Charter right they will override?