Section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Date of this Version

January 1989

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Colvin, Eric (1989). Section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadian Bar Review, Vol. 68, Iss. 3, pp. 560-585.

Issues of the Canadian Bar Review are available online via the website of the Canadian Bar Association.


This article presents a theory of how section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects life, liberty and security of the person. On the basis of a purposive and contextual interpretation, it is argued that section 7 is concerned with legal means rather than social ends. It confers a right not to be deprived of life, liberty or security except by means in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It requires that the standards ofthe rule of law be observed in the design of rules of conduct. It also permits judicial review of mechanisms of enforcement such as sanctions. It does not, however, permit judicial review of the substantive content of law in a sense which would cover the social objectives which the law is designed to achieve. It is argued that this interpretation fits well with what has been said in the leading decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada.

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