Political Science and Government
Generally speaking, a constitution is a system or code that establishes the rules and principles by which an organization is governed. Many different types of organizations have constitutions, ranging from companies, to voluntary organizations, to political parties. The Canadian Constitution is an example of a particular type of constitution, usually referred to as a governmental or national constitution. In this context, the Canadian Constitution establishes the rules and principles that govern the operation of government and political life in Canada. It represents, in essence, the basic “rulebook” of Canadian politics, setting out the nation’s fundamental political principles, the powers and duties of government, and the rights and privileges of citizens.
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In addition to outlining the basic structure of government, the Constitution provides for a broad set of individual rights and freedoms, most of which are stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Key Charter rights include fundamental freedoms (the freedoms of religion, expression, and association), democratic rights (such as the right to vote and run for political office), mobility rights, legal rights (such as the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure and the right not to be arbitrarily detained and imprisoned), and equality rights (the right to be treated equal before the law and the right be free from discrimination). It is important to note that the Charter only states these rights and freedoms in very general terms. Their precise meaning is interpreted and clarified by the Canadian judiciary (and, in particular, the Supreme Court of Canada).
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