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Getting Started: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

A guide to help form a basic understanding of the legislative pathway the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms underwent to be enacted as well as to help locate and identify legislative intent.

Print Materials

The Great Library has the Hansard volumes—along with their associated indexes—that contain the Canadian parliamentary Charter debates. The volumes for the 32nd Parliament which include the debates surrounding the Charter and Constitution can be found in the American Room on the main floor of the Library:

Though there is no bill number to reference when using the index, the Charter Hansards have been indexed under “Constitution”.[1] But, because there are pages upon pages of material on the topic (albeit broken down sub-topically), it may be advisable to access these Hansards by using the print index in tandem with PrimaryDocuments.ca (see below).

The Great Library also has the volumes containing the debates of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada which considered and amended the 1980 Proposed Resolution for a Joint Address to Her Majesty the Queen Respecting the Constitution of Canada—the legislative documents that would inform the legal make-up of the 1982 Constitution Act. A complete set of the 1980-1981 bound debates can be found at the Great Library in the American Room. 

[1] See also such variants as: “Constitution debate”, “Constitution Act, 1982”, “Constitution of Canada”, etc.

Online Materials

Although not an official source, the PrimaryDocuments.ca database was created by the Canadian Constitution Foundation in an attempt to gather, digitize, organize, and bring clarity to the overwhelming volume of materials concerning the Constitution Act, 1982. Along with its collection of legislative, government, secondary and primary documents (such as the 1980 Proposed Resolution cited to above), Primary Documents.ca also provides access to the indexes to Canadian and British parliamentary debates. While still a lot to look through, the indexes offers linked Hansard entries which are chronically organized and topically identified in their assigned titles. The indexes to the Canadian parliamentary debates can be found below:

This resource also includes the digitized debates of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada which considered and amended the 1980 Proposed Resolution.