Canada is governed by an organized system of laws. Citizens elect representatives in Parliament and the provincial legislatures to form governments, who then create our laws. In Canada, the law applies to everyone, including police officers, judges, politicians, members of the military and government workers. Our laws were created to provide order in society, to settle disputes peacefully, and to express Canadian values and beliefs. Everyone in Canada, whether a citizen or a permanent resident, has equal access to the justice system and is protected by it.
Our police forces exist to keep people safe and to enforce the law. You can ask the police for help in all kinds of situations – if there's been an accident, if someone has stolen something from you, if you are a victim of assault, if you see a crime taking place, or if someone you know has disappeared.
There are different types of police in Canada, including federal, provincial, territorial and municipal police forces. Remember, the police are there to help you. In an emergency, call 911 or 0 for the operator to contact your local police force.
If you are questioned by the police or arrested, do not resist. Remember, in Canada, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Communicate as clearly as possible and look directly at the officer. Be ready to show some kind of identification. If you are taken into custody, you have the right to know why and to have a lawyer and a translator present, if you need one. Under Canadian law, it is a serious crime to try to bribe the police by offering money, gifts or services in exchange for special treatment.
If you need help in a Canadian court, you could consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. There are services that can help you find a lawyer. These include referral services provided by provincial and territorial law societies (www.cba.org) and JusticeNet, a not-for-profit service helping people in need of legal expertise (www.justicenet.ca).
Depending on your income, you may be able to get the services of a lawyer free of charge (this is called “legal aid”). Each province and territory has a legal aid society that is responsible for providing these services. You can also ask an immigrant-serving organization in your city or town for assistance in obtaining legal representation (www.cic.gc.ca)
Family violence includes many different kinds of abuse that adults or children may experience in their families or homes. All forms of physical and sexual abuse (including unwanted sexual activity with your husband, wife, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend) are illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada. It is a crime to hit, punch, beat or kick a member of your family, or to threaten to hurt or kill someone. It is also a crime to have any sexual contact with a child. In addition, female genital mutilation and honour-based crimes are considered barbarous in Canada and are not tolerated. People found guilty of violent crimes against family members are subject to serious punishments under Canadian law, including incarceration. Family violence also includes neglect, financial and psychological abuse.
Parents in Canada have a legal duty to provide their children with the necessities of life until they reach the age of 16. However, most parents continue to support their children after they turn 16, normally until the child finishes high school and often beyond. Canadian laws protect children from abuse, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse. All forms of child abuse may result in criminal charges being laid or the intervention of child protection authorities. Child abuse includes any kind of sexual contact, neglect, and female genital mutilation.
Police, doctors, teachers and children's aid workers will take action if they think children are being harmed. Parents are responsible above all for their children's behaviour and well-being.
It is illegal to hurt or take advantage of elders. Elder abuse includes any action that someone in a relationship of trust takes that results in harm or distress to an older person. This abuse can be physical, financial, psychological or sexual, and it includes neglect.
Human trafficking is a terrible crime that usually affects vulnerable women and children who have often come to Canada as visitors or immigrants. It involves recruiting, transporting, or imprisoning someone against their will for exploitation, often of a sexual nature. Help is available to victims of human trafficking. To report what may be a case of human trafficking, contact your local police at 911 or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-8477. For more information, visit http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca
Our laws protect all Canadians, including gays and lesbians, from unjust discrimination. All Canadians enjoy the same access to education, health care, jobs, housing, social services, and pensions, regardless of their sexual orientation. In 2005, Parliament passed a law extending the right to civil marriage to same-sex couples. At the same time, the law respects religious freedom, so no church, synagogue, mosque or temple can be forced to perform a marriage that goes against the religious beliefs of its members.
Under the Official Languages Act, Canada is an officially bilingual country. This means that Canadians have the right to receive federal government services in English and French. At the provincial, territorial and municipal levels, the availability of services in both official languages varies. New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual.
In Canada, we have a long tradition of treating animals in a humane manner, both pets and livestock (such as pigs, horses, cows, chickens, goats and other farm animals). If you find a lost or abandoned house pet, such as a dog or cat, contact your local Humane Society or animal shelter or take the animal there and they will care for it. There are animal cruelty laws in many municipalities and most provinces and territories. You may be fined or jailed if you abuse an animal.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada