In the early 1980s, as the government of Pierre Trudeau began the process of patriating Canada’s Constitution it was decided decided to include within the Constitution a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Concerns were raised in the debates concerning the charter. Would it give courts and judges too much power to interpret its meaning? How could it be amended once it was in place? There was also reservations among the provincial leaders that a Charter would restrict the right of provinces to independently make laws as they saw fit. After many years of passionate public debate, the Charter took effect as part of the Constitution Act, 1982 when Queen Elizabeth II signed the governing legislation, the Canada Act, 1982, into law on 17 April that year in Ottawa.
Prior to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it was near impossible to stop an elected government from passing unfair laws and policies. There was no protection for minority rights or fundamental freedoms. The difference the charter could have made to pre-charter events in our history in enormous. Additionally, we as a nation lacked a clear representation of our collective values. The charter is the supreme law of our nation after all.