YOUR RIGHTS &
What are my rights as a Canadian?
All Canadians enjoy certain rights based on
Canada's tradition of democracy and respect for human dignity and freedom.
These rights are found in Canada's human rights codes and in the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
All Canadians enjoy the following rights:
Equality rights: equal treatment
before and under the low, and equal protection and benefit of the law
Democratic rights: such as the right to participate in
political activities, to vote and to be elected to political office
Legal rights: such as the right to be presumed innocent until
proven guilty, the right to retain a lawyer and to be informed of that
right, and the right to an interpreter in court proceedings
Mobility rights: such as the right to enter and leave Canada,
and to move to and take up residence in any province
Language rights: generally, the right to use either the English
or French language in communications with Canada's federal government
and some of Canada's provincial governments
Minority language education rights: in general, French and
English minorities in every province and territory have the right to be
educated in their own language
All Canadians also enjoy fundamental freedoms of
religion, thought, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
What are the rights
and responsibilities of a citizen?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets
out the democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of all Canadians. Some
rights are essential for Canadian citizens:
the right to vote or to be a candidate in
federal and provincial elections;
the right to enter, remain in or leave Canada;
the right to earn a living and reside in any province or territory;
minority language education rights (English or French); and
the right to apply for a Canadian passport.
What is a "multicultural heritage"?
Canadians are proud of
their multicultural heritage. In Canada, many different cultural and
ethnic groups live and work together in harmony and tolerance. Canada'
diversity is encouraged by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and
the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. These laws say that all Canadians are
free to promote and share their multicultural heritage.
Another major component of Canada's multicultural heritage is the
existence of Aboriginal people in Canada. Aboriginal people lived in
Canada thousand of years before the first immigrants arrived, and they
enjoy certain additional rights to protect their cultures and languages
and to become self-governing.
If your rights have been violated by the federal
or provincial government, you can challenge that action in court.
If your rights have been violated by a private
individual, you can seek justice from a federal or provincial human rights
commission or ombudsperson, whose job it is to hear, investigate and
resolve human rights violations.
If you require legal assistance to enforce your
rights, but cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, you may be eligible for
free or low-cost legal aid in your local community.
Is it necessary
to learn English or French?
English and French are the
two official languages of Canada, and they are an important part of
Canadian identity. You must learn one of these two languages to become a
What are my
responsibilities as a Canadian?
Canadians also share common responsibilities.
understand and obey Canadian laws
participate in Canada's democratic political system
vote in elections
allow other Canadians to enjoy their rights and freedoms
appreciate and help to preserve Canada's multicultural heritage
All Canadians are encouraged to become informed
about political activities, and to help better their communities and the
Canadian citizenship also implies the following
to obey Canada's laws;
to vote in the federal, provincial and municipal elections;
to discourage discrimination and injustice;
to respect the rights of others;
to respect public and private property; and
to support Canada's ideals in building the country we all share.
PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS
As a permanent resident
("landed immigrant"), you have more rights and privileges than visitors to
Canada have, but you do not have all the rights held by Canadian citizens.
Here are some of the things you should know about being a permanent
resident in Canada.
Restrictions on democratic rights
Permanent residents cannot:
live in Canada without risk of removal,
re-enter Canada after being out of the country for six months or more,
unless they satisfy Immigration that they did not intend to abandon
Canada as their place of permanent residence,
hold a Canadian passport,
vote in federal elections or some provincial or municipal elections,
run for elected office in federal elections or some provincial or
Removal from Canada
A permanent resident can be forced to leave
Canada for several reasons. If an Immigration official has information
showing that you should be removed from Canada, you may be ordered to
attend an Immigration inquiry. The inquiry is held to decide whether you
have violated the Immigration Act and should be removed from Canada.
If you are a permanent resident, you can still
lose your status. No matter how long you have lived here, you can be
required to leave Canada if:
you used false documents when you applied for
you provided false or incomplete information when you applied for
permanent residence or when you were landed;
there were conditions on your permanent resident status but you did
not fulfill them; for example, you did not marry within 90 days of
arriving in Canada after being sponsored by your fiance or fiancee;
you were convicted of or committed a crime outside Canada before or
after you were landed (crimes committed after landing will result in
removal only if they are more serious offences, based on the sentence
that could have been imposed); exceptions will be made if at least five
years have passed since you committed the crime, or since your sentence
ended, and if you satisfy the Canadian authorities that you have been
you were convicted of a crime in Canada before or after you were
landed (crimes committed after landing will result in removal only if
they are more serious offences, based on the sentence that was or could
have been imposed);
Immigration believes that you have been, or will be, involved in
espionage, subversion, terrorism, or organized crime, or that you are a
security risk for some other reason; or
Immigration believes that you committed war crimes or crimes against
humanity outside Canada, or that you were a senior member of or official
in a government that was guilty of such acts or of terrorism or gross
human rights violations.
If you are deported from Canada, dependent
children who are not Canadian citizens may have to leave with you.
Most permanent residents ordered to leave Canada
at an Immigration inquiry can appeal this order at the Immigration Appeal
Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). This is not possible,
however, if you were ordered removed because you were convicted of a
serious crime and the Minister of Immigration sees you as a danger to the
public or certifies that you are a security risk. If this happens, you
should get legal help immediately. Written submissions may persuade the
Minister not to declare you a danger to the public, or to let you remain
in Canada regardless.
If you have the right to appeal, humanitarian and
compassionate factors can be considered at your appeal, unless you were
ordered removed because an Immigration adjudicator determined that you are
a security risk (a spy or terrorist, for example). If this is the case, a
legal issue must be raised in your appeal. If your appeal is successful,
you will be allowed to stay in Canada, even if you violated the
If you travel outside
Canada, you need proof of your permanent resident status when you return.
If your original landing document has been lost or stolen, you must pay a
fee to Canada Immigration and apply for a "certified true copy" of this
Returning resident permits:
residents can apply for a "returning resident permit' before they leave
Canada, or while abroad. It is especially important to do this if you plan
to be away for more than six months, or you have already been away that
long. You will have to explain your absence from Canada.
Permits are usually granted if:
sent to another country by your employer,
you went abroad to study, or
you left Canada with a family member who is a Canadian citizen or has
a returning resident permit.
are refused if Immigration believes that you intended or intend to abandon
Canada as your home.
Most returning resident permits are valid for less than 12 months, but
under some circumstances permits may be given for up to 24 months. As long
as your permit is valid, you can use it to leave and re-enter Canada
Coming back to
When you return to Canada,
your status as a permanent resident may be challenged at the port of
entry, and a formal inquiry may be held. If you have been absent from
Canada for more than 183 days in the last 12 months and do not have a
returning resident pen-nit, you will have to prove that you never intended
to abandon Canada as your home.
If you do have a returning resident permit, or you have been out of the
country for less than 183 days in the last 12 months, your status can
still be challenged. This is unlikely to happen, but if it does, it is up
to Immigration to prove that you intended to abandon Canada as your home.
If your status is being challenged, get legal advice.
If an Immigration adjudicator decides that you did intend to abandon
Canada as your home, you will lose your permanent resident status and be
ordered to leave the country. You have the right to appeal this decision
to the Immigration Appeal Division of the IRB.
OUR RIGHTS AS A PERMANENT RESIDENTS
If you are a permanent
resident in Canada, you have rights and privileges and are entitled to a
variety of services. Each province handles services for immigrants in a
different way and may call these services by different names. Look under
the provincial government listings in the blue pages of your telephone
book to see what's available.
Most large cities have at least one immigrant aid agency that can help you
adjust to Canadian life and give you information about local services. Ask
Immigration about the immigrant aid agency in your area, or ask your
religious or cultural centre for more information. A community information
centre may also be able to answer your questions.
Most provinces have some type of legal aid plan to help people who need
a lawyer but can't afford one. Some provinces provide free legal help
through community legal clinics. If you need legal advice, look under
Legal Aid in the telephone book or call your provincial Attomey-General's
All provinces have some type of health insurance plan. In some
provinces, people pay into this plan on a regular basis, and the plan then
pays for their medical care. Remember:
hospital and other medical bills can be very expensive, much more
expensive than the cost of paying into a plan, and
there may be financial help if you cannot afford health insurance
When you arrive in Canada, apply for health insurance right away:
there's probably a waiting period before you become eligible for help.
(Ontario note: Health insurance in Ontario is free, but you must apply for
It is very important to learn English or French. Language skills in one
or both languages will help you get a job. Many language classes are
offered by boards of education. Community colleges and other schools also
offer language classes, sometimes for free.
In addition, if you register with a Human Resource Centre of Canada (HRCC)
and are looking for work, you may be able to attend free language classes
through the Centre.
For more information, talk to a counsellor at an HRCC, or contact your
local community information centre.
There are publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools in every
Canadian province. You do not have to pay a fee to attend one of these
schools if you are a permanent resident and live in the same municipality
as the school. There are also private schools that charge fees.
Post-secondary schools such as community colleges and universities charge
tuition and have entrance requirements. You may be able to get student
loans or grants if you attend a post- secondary institution. Check with
the registrar of the institution that interests you.
Every province has laws that protect people from
discrimination on the basis of their race, colour, citizenship, ethnic
background, religion, handicap, and sex. These laws usually protect you
from discrimination in employment, housing, and the services available to
you. In Ontario, they protect you from discrimination on the basis of
If you believe you are the victim of discrimination, see a lawyer or
community legal worker. Or call the government ministry responsible for
human rights in your province. Get the telephone number by looking up
Human Rights in the provincial government listing of your telephone book.
Canada has a Charter of rights and Freedoms. The
Charter protects your right to such things as freedom of religion, freedom
of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of
Each province has laws
related to employment. These laws vary from province to province, but in
no case does the government guarantee a job for every person who wants to
Human Resource Centres of Canada (HRCCs):
HRCCs are set up by the Canadian government to help people looking
for work. Many employers advertise job openings at these centres. Each
centre has counsellors who may be able to help with your job search
skills and language training. In some situations, they may also be
able to help with occupational training or upgrading.
The provincial government is responsible for laws that set
standards for working conditions. These laws usually guarantee such
things as a minimum wage, normal working hours, overtime pay, holi-
days and vacation, and termination notice.
To find out more about employment standards in your province, call
your provincial Ministry of Labour. If your employer has treated you
unfairly, contact your union or Ministry of Labour, or see a lawyer.
Health and safety:
Some provinces have laws that protect workers from health and
safety hazards in the workplace. These laws may give employees the
right to refuse work if they think it is unsafe.
Each province has laws that protect a worker's right to join or form a
labour union. A union is an organization of workers that bargains with
employers to set conditions of employment such as wages. This process
is called "collective bargaining."
Your province may have a programme that compensates workers who are
injured on the job. This is a type of insurance system that can
provide income or compensation to people temporarily or' permanently
disabled because of a work-related injury.
Employment insurance (El):
Employment insurance is run by the federal government and provides
benefits to people who have lost their jobs. There are rules to decide
who qualifies for El and how long they can collect benefits.
Your local HRCC can provide more information.
Social services and income assistance:
Provincial governments offer a range of social
services, including income assistance programmes.
HRCCs (federal government offices) may also help. HRCC staff may be able
to refer you to a programme that-provides an allowance for basic living
Other services available in Canada include subsidized housing, subsidized
daycare services, and pension income supplements. Local governments or
community organizations may also fund counselling services, community
information centres, shelters for assaulted women and the homeless, and
free food and clothing programmes.
If you find it difficult to get the programmes,
services, and benefits outlined above, a lawyer or your local community
legal clinic may be able to help you.
you are arrested:
Certain rights are guaranteed every person in
Canada who is arrested or charged with an offence. These include:
the right to know the offence with which you
the right to legal advice and representation; and
the right to a full trial in a court of law; you are innocent until
If you are arrested, speak to a lawyer
immediately. If you are a permanent resident, you may lose your status and
be deported if you are found guilty of committing a criminal offence.
IMPORTANT TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Government & Justice System:
Client Services & Information Unit, Social
Government of Ontario, Information Service:
Government of Canada, Information Service: 1-800-622-6232
Ministry of Community & Social Services: 1-800-622-5111
Old Age Security & Canada Pension Plan: 1-800-277-9914
Ombudsman Ontario: 416-586-3300, 1-800-263-1830
Ontario Information & Privacy Commission: 416-326-3333, 1-800-387-0073
Reference Canada - Referral to Federal programs
and Services: 1-800-667-3355
Registrar General - Name Change, Birth and
Marriage Certificates: 416-325-8305
Social Assistance Review Board: 1-800-387-5655
Canadian Human Rights Commission: 416-973-5527, 1-800-999-6899
Ontario Human Rights Commission: 416-326-9511, 1-800-387-9080
Bullying at Work Places: 416-535-9875
Lawyers & Legal Organizations:
Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC): 416-947-3300, 1-800-668-7380
Lawyer Referral Service (LRS): 1-800-268-8326
Legal Aid Ontario: Ottawa: 613-238-7931
Community Policing Support Unit: Elder Abuse:
Canada Pension Plan (CPP): 1-800-277-9914
Old Age Security (OAS): 1-800-277-9914
Housing Connections: 416-981-6111
Small Claims Court:
Wills & Estates:
Office of the Public
Guardian and Trustee: 1-800-366-0335