The Canadian Charter's Transformative Aspirations

Supreme Court Law Review (2nd), Vol. 19, pp. 17-37, 2003

11 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2008

See all articles by Lorraine Weinrib

Lorraine Weinrib

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2003


One can appreciate the Charter's transformative character by studying the resolution of the intense political debate that precipitated its adoption. What emerges from this engagement is not a Charter chained to Canadian legal history. Rather, one encounters a modern Bill of Rights designed to adapt to Canada the mode of higher law, rights protection that has become the hallmark of liberal democracy in the aftermath of the Second World War. This model now operates in many national settings, nurtured by the development and operation of supra-national human rights protecting instruments. Far from departing from or denying democratic values, this model has become the blueprint for new and reconstructed liberal democracies. It is especially strong in contexts where weaker forms of democratic governance deteriorated into racist, and even genocidal, totalitarianism. It offers an organic, dynamic mode of rights protection, which is receptive to active government, respectful of diversity and pluralism, and detached from any traditional conservative moral code based on shared culture, history, religion, or ethnicity.

Suggested Citation

Weinrib, Lorraine, The Canadian Charter's Transformative Aspirations (January 1, 2003). Supreme Court Law Review (2nd), Vol. 19, pp. 17-37, 2003, Available at SSRN:

Lorraine Weinrib (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-5075 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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