Making of the Charter: Voice of the People

Making of the Charter: Voice of the People

Queen Elizabeth signs Canada’s constitutional proclamation on April 17, 1982 . THE CANADIAN PRESS

UPDATED July 24, 2017 4:09pmET

Canada’s constitution was officially patriated in 1982. Before that, there was plenty of disagreement on what should be included in the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms — and whether Parliament or the courts should have the last say.

So in October 1980 the government proposed a committee of 25 MPs and Senators to hear from Canadians and move debate outside of the House of Commons. The Special Joint Committee on the Constitution of Canada sat from November 1980 to February 1981 — the first parliamentary committee to have its proceedings televised.

Join CPAC between July 17 and July 28 for a re-broadcast of key committee testimony.

Witnesses and parliamentarians consider issues that have defined debate — and court cases — about the Charter over the subsequent three decades: civil liberties, women’s rights, sexual orientation, religion, Indigenous rights, language, and more.

Why was the Special Joint Committee significant? Here’s University of Ottawa law professor Adam Dodek, editor of a forthcoming book on the committee:

Browse below to learn more about the committee and Canada’s constitutional debate — and watch the hearings!