Are newcomers treated as second-class citizens in Canada? Some worry that they will have less freedom to participate in activities that they enjoyed in their home country. This should not be the case. Canada is a country with a strong history of upholding rights and freedoms that enable its residents to live fully and freely. In fact, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees certain rights to permanent residents as well as equal protection and equal benefit of the law to everyone without discrimination.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a document that summarizes the rights and freedoms Canadians believe are necessary for a free and democratic society. It is an integral part of the country’s constitution. The charter protects and recognizes the following fundamental freedoms:
- Freedom of speech – You have the right to express your beliefs and opinions freely (including through a free press).
- Freedom of association – You may meet and interact with anyone you wish and gather peacefully with other people.
- Freedom of religion – You may choose to practise any religion or no religion at all.
- Mobility rights – The right to move around, live and work anywhere in Canada; and to leave Canada.
- Legal rights – Right to life, liberty and security. This includes protection from unlawful or unjust arrest or detention by the government. You also have the right to due legal process under Canadian law. This means that the government must respect all your rights under the law.
- Right to equality – You cannot be discriminated against because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability; You have the same rights whether you are a woman or a man.
- Language rights – You have the right to receive services from the federal government in either English or French.
Canadians have the distinction of being a pioneer in the field of human rights. This spirit of respect for equality is seen in its broad immigration policies and its culture that welcome multiculturalism and diversity. For example, while equal rights for LGBTQs continue to be debated elsewhere, Canada has long advocated for their equal rights and protection against discrimination under the law. As early as 2005, the country has granted same-sex couples the right to civil marriage. Likewise, it does not force religious groups to marry same-sex couples if it goes against their beliefs.
Rights and responsibilities of citizenship
Together with these rights come responsibilities such as obeying the law, working to take care of yourself and your family, learning the official languages, helping others in the community, and protecting Canada’s heritage and natural environment. Once you become a Canadian citizen, you will also have the right or responsibility to:
- Vote in federal, provincial or territorial, and municipal elections
- Run as a candidate in elections
- Apply for a Canadian passport and enter and leave the country freely
- Serve on a jury if called to do so
Age of majority and Age of consent
The age of majority is the age at which a person is considered an adult legally. In Canada, this varies depending on the province or territory you are in. In Manitoba, the age of majority is 18 years old. On the other hand, the age of consent is the age when a person can legally consent to sexual activity. In Manitoba (and the whole of Canada), it is 16 years old. However, it is raised to 18 years old if it involves exploitation of any kind (e.g. prostitution, pornography, or if occurs in a relationship of authority, trust or dependency). You can read more about Age of majority and Age of consent here.
Military service is not compulsory in Canada. However, you may choose to serve the Canadian Forces (navy, army, and air force) as a career choice. You can also serve part-time in local navy, militia and air reserves which could provide you with valuable experience (Canadian Forces). Meanwhile, young children could learn discipline, responsibility and other valuable skills by joining the navy, army, and air force cadets.
Written in collaboration with the CIC-Integration Branch (Settlement Information Renewal Exercise).
Sources: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship at CIC.gc.ca, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Parliament of Canada site), and The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the Canadian Heritage page at CIC.gc.ca.
Newcomer rights and freedoms
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