Corporations and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: The Dignitarian Exclusion

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The author argues that corporations do not have any rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many Canadian Courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have by and large accepted this conclusion. However, most of these Courts have based their no corporate rights decisions on the assumption that the Charter does not protect economic rights. The author, on the other hand, has reached this conclusion by arguing that there are no "points of intersection" between corporations and the purpose of the Charter. There are no points of intersection, because the purpose of constitutional rights is the protection and advancement of human dignity, whereas the purpose of corporations is the accumulation of economic wealth. In order to ensure that the Courts reach this conclusion, the author argues that the Courts should replace their current use of a "liberal" approach to the Charter with a "dignitarian" approach to the Charter. A dignitarian approach places the emphasis of constitutional law on protecting and advancing individual dignity and self worth, and would ensure that corporations do not have Charter rights because the fact that a corporation lacks human dignity becomes constitutionally significant. The author also contends that a dignitarian approach to the Charter should be used in order to permit the Courts to protect a number of important individual economic rights. Although a number of recent cases contain fairly blunt statements that the Charter does not protect any economic rights, because the Courts have readily acknowledged that many sections of the Charter are capable of an economic rights interpretation, the author contends that the failure of the Charter to protect economic rights is the fault of judges, not the fault of the drafters of the Charter, or indeed of the Charter itself.


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