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Balancing Individual and Collective Rights: The Charter

Assess the degree to which the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has successfully reconciled the needs of individuals and collectives with the needs of the majority.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students consider the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in recognizing and protecting collective and individual rights by assessing the extent to which the Charter has successfully reconciled the needs of the majority with the needs of individuals and collectives (official language and Aboriginal groups).

Uncover the significance of the Charter
Invite students to examine, in groups, a few of the top charter cases in Canada. You may wish to have students refer to the authorized student resources or websites (see References) for background information regarding collective rights and Charter challenges that specifically address the bulleted outcomes for specific outcome 9.1.7.
Caution is advised when selecting cases so as not to create anxiety for students, their families or the community.

Using a chart similar to the following, ask students to read the assigned cases to determine the impact on individual or collective rights. Criteria may include:

  • far-reaching consequences
  • lasting consequences
  • a major impact on one particular group of Canadians.

Impact on Individual and Collective Rights


Description of the case:


Results of the challenge:




Major impact on one particular group of Canadians





Invite groups to present their case studies to the class. During the presentations, encourage other students to record key ideas and evidence to answer these questions:

  • Has the Charter protected individual rights?
  • Has the Charter protected collective rights?
  • Has the Charter reconciled the needs of the majority (security, stability, prosperity) with the needs of the individual or collective (identity, equality, security)?

Establish criteria for an effective discussion
Invite students to share ideas on what makes an effective discussion. List their ideas on chart paper or on the board and ask students to select the four most important criteria for an effective discussion. The criteria might include the following:

  • relevant and accurate information
  • open-minded
  • respectful
  • uses appropriate language.

Hold a U-shaped Discussion
Ask students to form a continuous U according to their position on the issue, ranging from one extreme (the Charter has done an outstanding job at promoting collective rights) to the other extreme (the Charter has done a very poor job of promoting collective rights).

Do not allow students to seat themselves in the exact middle of the line as this may be a way to avoid taking a position. Every student must take a position that favours one side (however so slightly) more than the other.

Invite students at each end of the U to initiate the discussion by setting out the arguments supporting their positions. As you proceed toward the centre, invite students to explain why the Charter has been somewhat effective or ineffective at promoting group rights.
Encourage students to change places in the continuum if they hear convincing arguments.

For more detailed instructions on how to conduct and assess this discussion format, see U-shaped Discussion (Support Material).

Share conclusions
Ask students to share their final conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the Charter at strengthening Canada's political system.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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