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Toward the Charter by Christopher MacLennan


At the end of the Second World War, a growing concern that Canadians’ civil liberties were not adequately protected, coupled with the international revival of the concept of universal human rights, led to a long public campaign to adopt a national bill of rights. While these initial efforts had been only partially successful by the 1960s, they laid the foundation for the radical change in Canadian human rights achieved by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the 1980s. In Toward the Charter Christopher MacLennan explores the origins of this dramatic revolution in Canadian human rights, from its beginnings in the Great Depression to the critical developments of the 1960s. Drawing heavily on the experiences of a diverse range of human rights advocates, the author provides a detailed account of the various efforts to resist the abuse of civil liberties at the hands of the federal government and provincial legislatures and the resulting campaign for a national bill of rights.

The important roles played by parliamentarians such as John Diefenbaker and academics such as F.R. Scott are placed alongside those of trade unionists, women, and a long list of individuals representing Canada’s multicultural groups to reveal the diversity of the bill of rights movement. At the same time MacLennan weaves Canadian-made arguments for a bill of rights with ideas from the international human rights movement led by the United Nations to show that the Canadian experience can only be understood within a wider, global context.

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Canadians and the Demand for a National Bill of Rights



History: Canadian, Political Science: Canadian, History: Political  



McGill-Queen's University Press