All Charter rights and freedoms apply to Canadian citizens. There are some restrictions on the rights and freedoms that can be relied upon by people who are not Canadian citizens.

Charter rights and freedoms that protect “everyone” (including non-citizens):

  • Fundamental freedoms (conscience and religion; thought, belief, opinion and expression (including freedom of the press); peaceful assembly; association).

  • Legal Rights (the right to life, liberty, and security of the person; the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; the right to be free from arbitrary detention or imprisonment; all other rights on arrest or detention;  the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; the right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment; the right not to be forced to incriminate yourself).

  • The right to an interpreter of your language in a court proceeding

  • The right to equal treatment before and under the law.

  • The right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination

  • To use either the English or French language in communications with Canada's federal government and certain provincial governments

Charter rights and freedoms that can only be invoked by Canadian citizens:

  • the right to vote in elections;

  • the right to run for office;

  • the right to enter, leave and remain in Canada;

  • the right to move to and gain a livelihood in any province (this includes permanent residents but is subject to certain additional limitations); and

  • the right of individuals in French or English-speaking minority communities to have their children educated in their primary language.

The Charter and corporations

While corporations can rely on some Charter rights and freedoms, there are others that only apply to human beings. A corporation cannot invoke the right to life, liberty and security of the person, the right to equal treatment before and under the law, the right to freedom of religion,  and the right to live free from discrimination.

However, if a corporation is defending itself, it is permitted to raise any Charter argument it wants to demonstrate that the law is unconstitutional.  In these cases, the corporation is not claiming that it has a right or freedom -- rather, it is claiming that the law cannot stand because breaches the Charter and therefore, has no force or effect.

As an example, in R v Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 SCR 295 a corporation was charged with an offence for operating on a Sunday. The corporation successfully argued that they law requiring it to stay closed on Sunday was unconstitutional because it unjustifiably infringed s. 2(a) of the Charter  (freedom of conscience and religion). The law was therefore declared unconstitutional.  While a corporation doesn’t have a right to freedom of religion,  could not be prosecuted by a law that was unconstitutional (Big M at 39)