Life, Liberty, and Security of Person

Life, Liberty, and Security of Person

Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The other legal rights contained in the Charter can be thought of as more specific examples of the principles of fundamental justice referred to in section 7. Many times, when accused persons launch Charter challenges, they will include section 7 along with another section more specific to their set of circumstances. Section 7 of the Charter is complex and sometimes uncertain.

What is the Right not to be Deprived of Life, Liberty, and Security of Person?

Section 7 of the Charter guarantees everyone the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or security of the person except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This right is broad and applies to any circumstances where an individual’s life, liberty, or security of person has been threatened by a government actor.

Life Interest

All individuals inside Canada have the right not to be deprived of life except in accordance with principles of fundamental justice. Where the government causes the death of an individual, or increases the likelihood of an individual’s death, directly or indirectly, and not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, they have violated the individual’s section 7 right. For example, an individual who is unlawfully shot and killed by police has been deprived of their right to life.

Liberty Interest

All individuals in Canada have the right not to be deprived of their liberty interest except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Where the government deprives an individual of their physical liberty by arresting, detaining, imprisoning, or threatening to imprison, it must be done in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. For example, an individual who is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit has been deprived of their right to liberty.

Security of Person Interest

All individuals inside Canada have the right not to be deprived of security of the person except in accordance with principles of fundamental justice. This guarantees everyone the right not to be physically or psychologically threatened with suffering or other physical violence, and the right to be free of psychological or physical suffering or violence. The right is triggered any time an individual is deprived of the freedom to control their psychological or physical integrity. An individual who has been unnecessarily violently arrested and injured by officers has been deprived of their right to security of person.

To determine whether an individual’s section 7 Charter right has been violated, there is a two-step analysis. First, the court must consider whether the applicant was deprived of their life, liberty, or security of the person. If the answer is yes, the court must then consider whether that depravation was carried out in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

What are the Principles of Fundamental Justice?

The principles of fundamental justice are the foundation of our justice system and can be found in sections 8 through 14 of the Charter. They are the basic tenants of our legal system and include procedural fairness and equality. Laws, processes, and procedures must not be vague, arbitrary or overbreadth. Punishments must be proportionate to the harm caused by the offence committed. These principles are reflected throughout the Charter.

Other principles of fundamental justice included in sections 8-14 of the Charter include the right to a fair trial, the right to remain silent, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the right not to be forced to provide self-incriminating information.

When is the Right Triggered?

The right not to be deprived of life, liberty, and security of person except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice is triggered any time an individual is deprived of the freedom to control their psychological or physical integrity.

What happens if the Right is Violated?

Since section 7 is so broad and encompasses so many different rights, the remedy for a section 7 Charter violation will vary from case to case. Where an individual is successful in their section 7 Charter challenge, the court may order a remedy pursuant to sections 24(1) or 24(2) of the Charter.

Cases

R. v. Morgentaler, [1988] 1 SCR 30

In the landmark case of R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada addressed the issue of abortion rights in Canada. The Court indicated that the Criminal Code offence making abortion a crime was unconstitutional. The Court reasoned that denying women abortions was a violation of their section 7 Charter right to security of the person.

R. v. Charkaoui, [2007] 1 SCR 350

In the Supreme Court case of R. v. Charkaoui, the Court discussed section 7 of the Charter, stating that section 7 requires that the process for depriving an individual of their right to life, liberty, and security of the person must be fair. It does not require that a particular process be used. Whatever the process, it must be carried out in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice which includes procedural fairness.

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