The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference

Article Title

Whose Right is it Anyway? Adjudicating Charter Rights in the Context of Multiple Rights Holders


Many of the rights and freedoms prescribed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) protect aspects of life that rights holders engage in collaboratively, rather than in isolation. Our protection from unreasonable search and seizure extends to houses that we may inhabit with family members or roommates. Our freedom of expression and religion prohibits state censorship of novels co-written by multiple authors and prohibits restriction on religious rites practised as a community. Our freedom of association guarantees the rights of multiple members of a union to collectively bargain together. Our right to a speedy trial applies to the trial of multiple co-accused just as it does to the trial of an individual. Yet, while protecting collaborative aspects of life, the protections of the Charter apply to each of us, individually. As a result, it is inevitable in these contexts — where multiple rights holders possess claims “equal to and overlapping with” one another — that conflicts will arise.