Human Rights Protection
1. What are the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens?
Canadian citizens have rights and responsibilities.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the freedom of speech and peaceful meetings, and the creation of unions and associations. Canadians can live and work anywhere in the country, have dual citizenship, freely leave the country and come back. Canada respects people of all nationalities and skin colours. Women have equal rights with men. The law also protects freedom of religion and the rights of poorly protected groups: women, children, seniors and people with disabilities.
Canadians are not required to serve in the Canadian Forces, but young people have the right to enlist. If after immigration within the past four years you have lived in Canada for at least three years and have permanent resident status, can communicate in English (it is necessary to pass the IELTS exam with 4 points) or French, are familiar with the rights and responsibilities of Canadians and have a general idea of the country, then, after you reach 18 years of age, you can apply for citizenship in Canada. You can attend courses to prepare for the Citizenship test. The free brochure "Discover Canada,” published by the Ministry of Immigration Canada will help provide you with the necessary information. After becoming a Canadian citizen, you can get a Canadian passport and the right of visa-free entry to many countries.
Of course, in addition to the rights there are duties. First of all, Canadians must understand and obey Canadian laws, participate in elections, work and take care of their families, preserve nature, respect the rights and interests of other people and contribute to the unity and prosperity of the country.
2. What is the Human Rights Code?
In addition to the federal Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which all governmental authorities are obliged to comply with, each province has their own human rights laws, which all residents of the province must follow. In Ontario, the provincial law is called the Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination at home, at the workplace, in the service industry, and in professional associations and unions. There is a special list of factors that fall under the definition of discrimination, called Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination. Such factors include race, descent, place of birth, skin colour, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age (applies to workers aged 18 to 65 years), and marital status. The employer should not ask questions during an interview that pertain to Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination.
To control the observance of human rights in Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission was established. This is an agency which is accountable to the Parliament. Its responsibilities include: investigating complaints of discrimination and harassment, attempting the reconciliation of opposing sides, and preventing discrimination in schools and workplaces. The central office is located in Toronto and there are offices across the province.
3. How does the court system work?
The Canadian judicial system includes the Supreme Court of Canada, the Tax Court, the Federal courts, Military courts and courts of the provinces and territories.
The duties of the Supreme Court include the consideration of appeals against decisions of the courts of appeal of the lower court, the provision of advice on constitutional issues at the request of the federal government, and others. The Tax Court hears appeals of individuals and companies on issues related to income taxes, taxes on goods and services, as well as the payment of unemployment benefits. The federal courts hear and decide on legal disputes arising in Canada, for example, review of judicial decisions on immigration matters and disputes related to intellectual property. Military courts handle cases involving the crimes of military personal.
Each province and territory has its own appellate courts, Superior Courts and lower courts. Provincial Superior Courts consider the most serious criminal offenses related to murder, grievous bodily harm, rape, use and distribution of drugs, burglary, and others. Superior Courts also consider applications for divorce and civil disputes. Lower courts hear civil and criminal cases, as well as cash and property disputes. In Ontario there are family and small claims courts. The Canadian justice system guarantees that the courts are available to every citizen and that the proceedings are open, transparent and free from government intervention. Each Canadian citizen is presumed innocent until their guilt is proven; he or she has the right to an interpreter and to a free lawyer who will represent him in court.
4. How can I complain about discrimination?
Canada is a democratic country with a strong legal protection, so do not allow any infringement of your rights. If you are claiming against a federal government organization, you must go to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. During the year it receives about 1,800 complaints and 65.7% complaints are solved to the satisfaction of both sides. For example, the plaintiff is satisfied with an apology or with financial compensation. If at this stage the parties do not come to an agreement, the case is referred to the Human Rights Tribunal.
5. What is the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal?
For proceedings pertaining to the Human Rights Code the victim must apply for a special form (www.sjto.gov.on.ca/hrto). After receiving the application, the Human Rights Tribunal has to decide whether the case falls under the Human Rights Code, and if it is found to be related, the application will be accepted. The first step of the hearing is an offer to the conflicting parties to begin negotiations through an intermediary, and only if this is refused will the Human Rights Tribunal be responsible for making a decision. If you do not agree with the decision, you can go to court.
6. What is an ombudsman?
When seeking protection from a provincial government official's discrimination you should contact the Ombudsman - an independent officer appointed by Parliament who has the right to investigate citizens’ complaints. He sees more than 15,000 complaints a year, and in 75% of the complaints a decision is made within 24 hours. The rules about applying to an Ombudsman are available online www.ombudsman.on.ca/how.aspx?langID=1. It is recommended that the victim, first of all, has tried to resolve the conflict by himself, turning to a higher official in writing. If you're not satisfied with the response, you can appeal to the Ombudsman. He or she may consider your complaint, such as the refusal to issue a driver's licence, health insurance or disability benefits. The Ombudsman does not consider some complaints regarding the police, doctors, and lawyers. In these cases you can bring your case to court. You can also go to your Member of the Parliament, but the Ombudsman will not review complaints that are already being investigated by an MP.
7. Do I have religious rights?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the freedom of religion. Walking in the streets you will see places of worship everywhere and there are also religious newspapers and TV channels. Every newcomer can find their appropriate religious group by looking in the local media, talking to people in their community or contacting a settlement agency. You can enrol your child in religious schools; many of them have programs and graduation certificates that they can use to apply to colleges and universities.
8. How can I call the police?
If you are in danger and need urgent assistance from the police or you are a witness of crime, call 911 and report your case. This number can be dialled free of charge from any city phone box. You can ask for an interpreter; 911 provides service in many languages. If the case is not related to exceptional circumstances—for example, if you cannot sleep because of a noisy party or discover something stolen, you should call your local police department. In Toronto, dial 416-808-2222. In other cities you can find the police telephone number in the telephone directory under the heading "Police-Emergency Calls.” Teach your children when and how to call the police.
9. What services are provided by the police?
Police services include maintaining public peace, engaging in crime prevention and assistance to victims. The police will respond to your request for assistance regardless of your status in Canada. When dealing with the police you should be polite and patient so that they can perform their duties. Insist on an interpreter if you do not understand English. If a police officer stops you on the street, he must explain why he did so. You are not required to present an identification document, except when you are driving a car. You do not have to let the police into your apartment if you did not call for them, unless they come with a search warrant. Do not sign any papers if you do not understand what they mean.
In case of any suspicion the police officer can take you to the police station. During the arrest, you have the right to immediately contact your lawyer or ask for free legal aid. Detained children can immediately call their parents or relatives.
(To be continued)