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April 2022 marked the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—a document that CCLA had a pivotal hand in creating and shaping. CCLA has been active since its founding in 1964 to protect fundamental rights and freedoms for people across Canada.

As we celebrate this milestone, we look back at our own organization’s history—reflecting on some of CCLA’s greatest achievements and advocacy throughout the decades:


CCLA defended the rights of Mohawk demonstrators to demonstrate on disputed land in Cornwall Ontario.


CCLA stood up and protested the use of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis.


CCLA intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada’s first appeal addressing the abortion work of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. CCLA defended and continues to defend the rights of women and pregnant individuals to choose what happens to their bodies.


CCLA was central in the discussions leading to the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


CCLA stood up for the equal rights of children and their communities, going to court to argue that the public funding of religious schools could harm public schools.


CCLA challenged new counter-terror laws after 9/11 that were unnecessary or overly broad; called out Canada’s complicity and involvement in torture abroad; and challenged secretive processes that allowed the government to indefinitely detain non-citizens whom the government alleged presented a national security risk.


CCLA supported same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing for the equality rights of 2SLGBTQI+ individuals, while also supporting the right of clergy to freedom of religion.


CCLA played an instrumental role in raising concerns about policing of the G20 summit in Toronto before, during, and after the Summit. We deployed over 50 human rights monitors to observe interactions between protestors and police during the summit, issued a report following the mass arrests, and held public hearings in the absence of a formal public inquiry. CCLA’s advocacy contributed to several important reviews that took place following the summit.


CCLA released a seminal report on Canada’s failed bail system.


Ontario’s government responded to CCLA’s reports on the unfairness of police record checks and coalition advocacy, passing the ground-breaking Police Records Check Reform Act of 2015.


CCLA challenged the unconstitutional use of indefinite solitary confinement in court and in parliament, forcing the federal government to dismantle the legal regime supporting solitary confinement.


CCLA together with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and an individual education student, filed a constitutional challenge in court against Bill 21, a Quebec law that prohibits teachers, police officers, judges, and others in the public sector from wearing religious symbols at work. The law harms religious, immigrant, and racialized minorities—and Muslim women in particular.


CCLA and co-applicant Lester Brown commenced proceedings against Waterfront Toronto and all three levels of government, seeking a reset of the rights-threatening Sidewalk Toronto smart city project; CCLA believes the litigation was one factor in Sidewalk Labs’ decision to cancel the project and leave Toronto in May 2020.


Since 2020, CCLA has determinedly monitored and advocated for an evidence-based, nuanced response to the COVID-19 pandemic by governments and state agencies, both in terms of protecting vulnerable populations and preventing unjustified infringements of civil liberties in the name of public safety. We did this through extensive advocacy and litigation and writing hundreds of op-eds, letters, and briefs to public authorities.


CCLA obtained special status to join a constitutional challenge that seeks to put an end to police powers that enable racial profiling. CCLA’s activism for decades against racial profiling has been strengthened significantly due to the Charter.



At the Barricades
By: Alan Borovoy

Acting for Freedom: Fifty Years of Civil Liberties in Canada
By: Marian Botsford Fraser with Sukanya Pillay and Kent Roach

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Twenty Years Later
By: R. Roy McMurtry

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