Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Human Rights in Canada: A History by Dominique Clément




1. Liberty and State Formation

2. Civil Liberties in Canada

3. Human Rights Beginnings

4. The Rights Revolution

5. Contesting Human Rights


Works Cited


Additional Resources



Is there such a thing as a Canadian rights culture? There are virtually no limits to how people employ rights-talk today, from the most profound violations of individual freedom to the mundane realities of daily life. This book is both a history of human rights in Canada and an attempt to better understand our rights culture.


  • Long-listed, Foreword INDIE Book Awards 2016


Clément has rendered a great service to scholars and the general public in composing this account of the history of human rights in Canada for there is no doubt that human rights has been and remains at the centre of a deep transformation of the Canadian social order.

- Tom Mitchell

In remarkably lucid prose, Dominique Clément reveals the evolution of Canada’s rights culture from British conventions to post-Charter innovations, from civil liberties to human rights, from mere equality before the law to ‘the most sophisticated human rights legal regime in the world. ’ Along the way, he reminds us that rights don’t exist in the abstract, that they evolve within a culture as that culture evolves, that the rights revolution is far from complete, especially for Indigenous Canadians, and that in the end, ‘human rights are, and always should be, a dialogue. ’ An invaluable book. ” – John Ibbitson, Writer at Large, The Globe and Mail

- John Ibbitson

Clement . .. presents a history of how Canada developed "its own unique rights culture," shaped by the idea that "human rights are a sociological and historical phenomenon as well as a legal fact. " . .. [Human Rights in Canada: A History] will be an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the formation of modern Canada.

- Publishers Weekly

Clément's book is a useful introductory tool that, accompanied by his online portal at HistoryofRights. ca, provides an important resource about something that can be so easily swept away.

- Matthew Behrens

Anyone interested in human rights in Canada should read this engaging book.   Clément provides a thorough history of the topic, from the 18th-century conquest to contemporary debates on the meaning of human rights.   Of particular note is his stress on Aboriginal rights, women’s rights, rights of sexual minorities, human rights in Quebec, and human rights in Canadian foreign policy.   A readable, comprehensive volume, Human Rights in Canada is especially suitable for classroom use. – Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights; Professor, Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Balsillie School of International Affairs

- Rhoda Howard-Hassmann

Dominique Clément takes us on an invaluable journey through history, law, politics and society, examining how those forces have embedded human rights at the heart of what it is to be Canadian.   From the political rebellions of the 1830s, through to highly charged social change in the 1970s and ground-breaking Supreme Court rulings in 2015, there is hardly a crackdown, social movement or court ruling of human rights significance that is not woven into this remarkable account.   He stresses throughout that Canada’s rights culture has been a continuing evolution, reflected as much in ongoing social dialogue as it is in laws that have been passed.   Understanding our unique national rights culture helps illuminate the past.   It also importantly frames the human rights challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead.   – Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Canada)

- Alex Neve