Spring 2020 - POL 421W D100

Rights, Equality, and the Charter (4)

Class Number: 5270

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3251, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Eight upper division units in political science or permission of the department.



The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been part of the Canadian constitution for over 35 years. We assess the Charter's effectiveness in protecting human rights and equality within Canada and its effect on the wider political system. Students with credit for POL 428 Selected Topics in Canadian Government and Politics I under the title The Charter of Rights may not take this course for further credit. Students with credit for POL 421 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been part of the Canadian constitution for over 35 years. This course will assess the Charter’s effectiveness in protecting human rights within Canada, and its wider impact on the political system. In the first part of the course, we will ask how Canadian courts decide rights cases. In particular, we will focus on how the definitions of particular rights have evolved since 1982, how courts balance competing rights and freedoms and how courts balance rights and freedoms against the public interest. During this section of the course, you will examine the text of the Charter and read case law, giving you skills in interpreting legal texts and applying legal principles to individual cases.

In the second part of the course we will consider the Charter as a fundamental shift in the Canadian constitutional system – moving power from Parliament to the courts system. We will examine how the Charter interacts with a parliamentary, federal political system. The final few weeks of the course will be devoted to your own research, which should focus on the legal, constitutional or political impact of the Charter on Canada. These classes will be spent reading and reviewing each other’s papers, presenting your own research and revising your drafts in light of feedback from your peers.

There will be a 4-hour seminar each week, with students expected to take the lead in debating and discussing the week’s reading and each other’s work.


  • Participation, inc. leading seminar discussion once 20%
  • Legal Case Notes x 2 (5% each) 10%
  • Research Project : Research Proposal and Annotated Bibliography 10% Peer Review of other students’ drafts x 2 10% (5% each) Research Paper inc. memo responding to peer review 35% Oral presentation of findings 15% 70%



MacIvor, Heather. (2013). Canadian government and politics in the Charter era (2nd ed.) Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2013. Available at the SFU Bookstore. 
ISBN: 9780195447286

Plus journal articles available on-line (see the syllabus).

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html