Lesson 4: Democratic and Equality Charter Rights

Topic 1: Democratic Rights

As Canadians, we are well aware that we live in a democracy. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy, we share this status with roughly half the population of the world. However, only 14% of the world’s population lives in a country designated by the Economist as a “full democracy.” Other countries have been defined by the Economist as “flawed democracies”; “hybrid states”; and “authoritarian states.” Countries may change status over time as events and policies in the country become more or less democratic.

Additional Features of a Democracy

Beyond these democratic rights, there are other factors that contribute to Canada’s status as a highly democratic country. Definitions of democracy will generally include factors such as:

  • A competitive, multi-party political system
  • Universal adult suffrage
  • Free and open campaigning
  • Free media
  • An electoral system featuring secret ballots, voter security and absence of fraud

Other factors which might enhance the degree of democracy in a country might include:

  • Diversity of participation in politics (gender, ethnic or religious minorities)
  • Voter turnout
  • Voter confidence in democratic institutions
  • Other general aspects of freedom and liberty, including economic and social freedoms
  • Freedom from corruption in government

Even a highly democratic country such as Canada might be limited in one or more of these features. In Canada’s case, results of recent elections demonstrate some weakness in voter turnout and election of women to parliament.

Democratic Rights

Section Three — Democratic Rights of Citizens

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

Section Four — Maximum Duration of Legislative Bodies

No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.

Section Five — Continuation in Special Circumstances

In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.

Section Six — Annual Sittings of Legislative Bodies

There shall be a sitting of parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months.