The War Measures Act was a federal law adopted by Parliament on 22 August 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War. It gave broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during war or insurrection. It was used, controversially, to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered “enemy aliens” during both world wars, leading to mass arrest and detention without charge or trial. The Act was also invoked during the 1970 October Crisis in Quebec. It has since been replaced by the more limited Emergencies Act.
After the 1885 Northwest Rebellion (also known as the Northwest Resistance), the federal government developed the pass system — a process by which Indigenous people had to present a travel document authorized by an Indian agent in order to leave and return to their reserves. The pass system was a way of controlling the movement of Indigenous people. It aimed to prevent large gatherings, seen by many White settlers as a threat to their settlements. Colonial officials also believed that the pass system would prevent another conflict like the Northwest Resistance. Used in conjunction with policies such as the Indian Act and residential schools, the pass system was part of an overall policy of assimilation. Though it never became a law, the pass system restricted Indigenous freedom in the Prairie West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has had lasting impacts on generations of Indigenous people, as restrictions on mobility caused damage to Indigenous economies, cultures and societies.
The Constitution of Canada is the country’s governing legal framework. It defines the powers of the executive branches of government and the legislatures at both the national and provincial levels. Canada’s Constitution is not one legal document but is composed of several statutes and orders, as well as generally accepted practices known as constitutional conventions.
The Canada‒United States Safe Third Country Agreement (hereafter the STCA) sets out the rules of refugee/asylum claims between Canada and the United States. This agreement stipulates that a refugee must claim asylum in the first country in which they arrive, either Canada or the US, and precludes their entry into the neighbouring country unless they qualify for an exemption. A number of challenges have been raised to the agreement, particularly since July 2017 — as a result of concerns about human rights protections in the US after the election of President Donald Trump, and particularly his executive orders on immigration.
Between 1725 and 1779, Britain signed a series of treaties with various Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy peoples living in parts of what are now the Maritimes and Gaspé region in Canada and the northeastern United States. Commonly known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties, these agreements were chiefly designed to prevent war between enemies and to facilitate trade. While these treaties contained no monetary or land transfer provisions, they guaranteed hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of the Indigenous signatories. The Peace and Friendship Treaties remain in effect today.
The Canadian Human Rights Act, created in 1977, is designed to ensure equality of opportunity by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, and a variety of other categories. The Canadian Human Rights Act produced two human rights bodies: the Canadian Human Rights Commission and, through a 1985 amendment, the Human Rights Tribunal Panel (which became the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 1998). Decisions of both the Commission and Tribunal can be appealed to the Federal Court of Canada. The Act only applies to people who work for or receive benefits from the federal government, to First Nations, and to federally-regulated private companies such as airlines and banks. Each province and territory in Canada has its own human rights legislation. These human rights laws govern provincially- and territorially-regulated entities such as schools and hospitals.
Administrative law is one of three basic areas of public law dealing with the relationship between government and its citizens, the other two being constitutional law and criminal law. Administrative law ensures that government actions are authorized by Parliament or by provincial legislatures, and that laws are implemented and administered in a fair and reasonable manner. Administrative law is based on the principle that government actions must (strictly speaking) be legal, and that citizens who are affected by unlawful government acts must have effective remedies. A strong administrative law system helps maintain public confidence in government authority.
Introduced by Camille Laurin, Bill 101, Charte de la langue française (1977), made French the official language of government and of the courts in the province of Québec, as well as making it the normal and habitual language of the workplace, of instruction, of communications, of commerce and of business.1
Everett George Klippert was the only Canadian ever declared a dangerous sexual offender and sentenced to what amounted to life in prison, for no other reason than he was a gay man. Outrage over that sentence, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1967, led to the decriminalization of gay sex two years later. Klippert was released from prison in 1971. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he would recommend a pardon for Klippert. The following year, the Trudeau government formally apologized and issued a compensation package to men who were charged, convicted and punished simply because they were gay.
The Halibut Treaty of 1923 was a Canadian-American agreement on fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean. As the first treaty independently negotiated and signed by the Canadian government, it was one of several landmark events that transitioned Canada into an autonomous sovereign state. The treaty confirmed Canada’s political and economic place in North America. It was also the first environmental treaty targeting the conservation of an ocean fish stock.
The Statute of Westminster, of 11 December 1931, was a British law clarifying the powers of Canada's Parliament and those of the other Commonwealth Dominions. It granted these former colonies full legal freedom except in those areas where they chose to remain subordinate to Britain.