With the passage into law of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, rights took on new legal, political, and social significance in Canada. In the decades following, Canadian jurisprudence has emphasised the importance of rights,
determining their shape and asserting their centrality to legal ideas about what Canada represents. At the same time, an increasing number of Canadian novels have also engaged with the language of human rights and civil liberties, reflecting, like their counterparts in law, the possibilities of rights and the failure of their protection.
In A Culture of Rights, Benjamin Authers reads novels by authors including Joy Kogawa, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and Jeanette Armstrong alongside legal texts and key constitutional rights cases, arguing for the need for a more complex, interdisciplinary understanding of the sources of rights in Canada and elsewhere. He suggests that, at present, even when rights are violated, popular insistence on Canada’s rights-driven society remains. Despite the limited scope of our rights, and the deferral of more substantive rights protections to some projected, ideal Canada, we remain keen to promote ourselves as members of an entirely just society. (Description from the publisher University of Toronto Press, 2016)
Benjamin Authers is an assistant professor in the School of Law and Justice at the University of Canberra and a visiting fellow at RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University.