Legal Rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: A Manual of Issues and Sources


275 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-459-35020-5





Reviewed by P.F. McKenna

P.F. McKenna was librarian at the Police Academy, Brampton, Ontario.


David C. McDonald, former chairman of the Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and presently justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, has written a most timely and useful book discussing specific legal issues that may arise from the application of the new Charter. The practical aim of this work is revealed in the subtitle: “a manual of issues and sources.” The work represents Mr. Justice McDonald’s thinking about the implications of this important constitutional instrument. The author has limited himself to a discussion of legal rights found in sections 7 to 14, the limiting clause in section 1 and the enforcement clause in section 24. Within those limits a great deal of useful speculation is worked out for the benefit of lawyers, judges, and others who consider that citizenship in “a free and democratic society” implies taking rights seriously. Mr. Justice McDonald moves carefully through the relevant sections of the Charter, attempting to illuminate them in light of other significant constitutional instruments — e.g., the Bill of Rights of the United States of America, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He discusses the essential terms and phrases that appear in the Charter and attempts to define them in a legally plausible manner. As is customary with serious legal treatises, reference is made to a substantial body of relevant case law. A large portion of the text occupies itself with the concept of unreasonable search and seizure, and the rights of persons arrested, detained, and imprisoned or of those charged with an offence. As an aid to the reader the author has included a number of helpful appendices, which contain the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights (which is still in force), other pertinent constitutional instruments (note that Appendix 4 is incorrectly labelled in the table of contents), as well as a selection of judicial and non-judicial writings on the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. These features, combined with a brief topical index, will make this book an important addition to the bookshelves of those involved with, or interested in, Canadian constitutional law. Finally, it should be pointed out that Mr. Justice McDonald will receive none of the proceeds from the sale of this work. He has elected to donate the royalties to the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.


McDonald, David C., “Legal Rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: A Manual of Issues and Sources,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024,