September 2019

In 1982, the Human Rights Law Section (HRLS) of the Department of Justice was created as a center of expertise with a mandate to support the Department as it navigated its way in what was then the “brave new world” of the Charter.

Much of the Section’s work since then has involved providing legal advice on a wide range of novel and complex Charter issues in relation to specific matters. However, HRLS has also invested considerable energy in developing “knowledge management” tools aimed at helping inform colleagues across the Department about Charter issues and evolutions in the case law.

For over two decades, one of these tools has been the “Charter Checklists”. The Checklists were first published in hard copy in 1991 and went on-line internally at the Department of Justice in 2003. They are the product of longstanding collaboration among lawyers, students, paralegals and support staff in HRLS, the Official Languages Directorate and the Constitutional, Administrative and International Law Section.

More recently, and mindful of efforts to increase openness and transparency both inside and outside government, HRLS started thinking about how the Checklists could be adapted for publication so we could share the work of some of Canada’s leading Charter experts with a broader legal audience, while also continuing to provide a valuable resource for our colleagues.

This is how we landed on our refreshed and renamed tool: “Charterpedia”. What better way to celebrate the Charter’s 35th anniversary in 2017 than to transform decades of collective work into a “Charterpedia” that could be shared with a broader audience?

What will you find in Charterpedia? The entries for each provision of the Charter generally contain the following elements: 

Pinpoint cites to relevant authorities are provided and citations to Supreme Court of Canada decisions are hyperlinked wherever possible.  The date at the top of each entry reflects the date to which it is current. We will be striving to update the entries every six months.

Each entry has a different author or authors. While we’ve tried to standardize many aspects of the form and content, we have also tried not to let the “perfect be the enemy of the good” in order to facilitate timely publishing and updates. In other words, high quality — not absolute perfection — has been our goal.

And now, a few lawyerly caveats: HRLS’s Charterpedia should not be considered an exhaustive overview of the law. Charterpedia entries are intended to provide legal information. They are not legal advice, nor are they intended to be a substitute for legal advice. Charterpedia entries do not constitute a waiver of solicitor-client privilege, and do not reflect the formal views or legal positions of the Department of Justice.

Our goal has always been to produce a user-friendly tool which draws the reader's attention to the main issues that arise under the various provisions of the Charter and the leading case law on point. The cited case law tends to be that of the Supreme Court of Canada, but also includes appellate and trial level decisions where appropriate. Because it is still intended to be a key resource for Justice counsel and needs to be maintained in both English and French, Justice will continue to update the Charterpedia. In other words, it’s not a fully open and collaborative “wiki”.

Sarah Geh
Director General and Senior General Counsel
Human Rights Law Section