s. 7:  Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice

Section 7 guarantees your right to life, liberty, and security of the person. You cannot be deprived of these rights unless the deprivation complies with the principles of fundamental justice. This section of the Charter applies to every person present in Canada, even if they are not Canadian citizens. It also applies to Canadian citizens living outside of Canada.

The Test

There are two questions that must be asked in order to determine if there has been a violation of section 7:

  1. Has your right to life, liberty, or security of the person been interfered with?

  2. If yes, was the interference done in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice?

Life, Liberty, and Security of the Person

Life means the basic right to be alive. The right to life has historically been treated as more important than many other rights, including security of the person, bodily control, and liberty of choice (Rodriguez v British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 SCR 519).  This is, however, an area of constant development and change. In the coming months, the Supreme Court of Canada will be re-evaluating their previous position on assisted suicide; if it is allowed, then that would put the right to personal autonomy and bodily control above the right to life in limited circumstances (see: Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2013 BCCA 435).

Liberty means the freedom to make personal choices and to move without physical restraint (Blencoe v British Columbia (Human Rights Commission), [2000] 2 SCR 307 at 49). This is most often brought up in the context of imprisonment.

Security of the person protects your right to the health and privacy of your body (R v Morgentaler, [1988] 1 SCR 30). This does not just apply to physical integrity. Any claims of psychological integrity must be serious, must be able to be assessed objectively, and must be more than just stress (New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v G(J), [1999] 3 SCR 46 at 59).

Your rights under section 7 can only be violated if the violation is in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

The Principles of Fundamental Justice

The principles of fundamental justice protect the core values of our justice system, and set out the minimum standard that must be met if government action or legislation is going to interfere with your section 7 rights. There are both procedural and substantive principles of fundamental justice.

Procedurally, you are entitled to (Re BC Motor Vehicle Act, [1985] 2 SCR 486):

Substantively, you are entitled to a legal system that is not:

  1. Arbitrary – there must be a connection between the effect and the object of the law. Any limitations to your section 7 rights must be necessary to uphold the purpose of the law (Chaoulli v Quebec (Attorney General), [2005] 1 SCR 791). For example, a law whose purpose is to protect your access to health care would be arbitrary if, instead of accomplishing that purpose, it restricted your ability to safely get a certain medical procedure (Morgentaler, supra).

  2. Overbroad – the means used by the government to achieve the purpose of a law must be reasonably necessary. (see discussion in R v Heywood, [1994] 3 SCR 761).

  3. Grossly Disproportionate – the government’s response to state or societal interests must not be too extreme for the situation. (see: Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society, [2011] 3 SCR 134 at 133).

For more discussion, see generally: Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, [2013] 3 SCR 1101 at 98 to 123).

Section 7 guarantees that the government will not interfere with your right to life, liberty, or security of the person. It does not impose an obligation on the government to provide everyone with these rights. (see: Gosselin v. Quebec (Attorney General), [2002] 4 SCR 429 at 81).

If you think your rights under section 7 have been breached, click here to determine if that infringement was unreasonable and unjustified.