The Rights Revolution (Plain-Language Summary)

The Rights Revolution in Canada occurred between 1945 and 1982. Around the end of the Second World War, provincial legislatures began to create laws to protect human rights. In 1944, Ontario passed The Racial Discrimination Act. This law made it illegal to discriminate against a person for their race or creed. In 1947, Saskatchewan passed the Act to Protect Certain Civil Rights. This was the first bill of rights in Canada.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the rights revolution in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Rights Revolution in Canada.)



On the global stage, Canadian law professor John Peters Humphrey helped write the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the 1960s and 1970s, women, queer communities, disabled people, and Indigenous peoples,among others, fought for — and won —greater human rights. In 1960, Canada passed a Bill of Human Rights that applied to federal laws and actions. The 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act was also limited, as it only applied to federal government employees, First Nations, and private companies regulated by the federal government. In 1982, however, the Constitution came under Canadian control for the first time. The 1982 Constitution included the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This meant that human rights were protected by the highest law of the land. The Charter includes freedom of expression, the right to a democratic government, the right to live and seek work anywhere in Canada, the right to equality, the right to use Canada’s official languages, and the right of French or English minorities to an education in their language. Since 1982, individuals and groups have used the court system to further clarify the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter.