Lesson 4: Democratic and Equality Charter Rights


Activity 1: Democratic Rights

Write the word “democracy” on the board and elicit responses from students regarding a definition for what makes a country a democracy. Provide students with Handout 1: Democratic Rights which contains the democratic rights in the Charter. Remind students of the Charter and its place enshrined in the Constitution and discuss each of the rights.

Go back to the definition of democracy on the board and have students add any more concepts including the ones on the handout.  Talk about other countries in the world and how the face of democracy is always changing. Read the instructions on the handout and have them do the activity in groups. Ask a volunteer to report their ranking back to the class. Tell student about the focus case below where the prisoner fought for the right to vote.

To see the answer key for Handout 1, see the Assessment section.

Focus Case

At one time, all inmates in federal and provincial prisons were denied the right to vote. In 1992, Richard Sauvé challenged this under s.3 (the right to vote) and s.15 (equality rights) of the Charter. He won his case in Ontario Court of Appeal and the Federal Court of Appeal. Parliament amended the wording so that prisoners serving less than two years were given voting privileges. This didn’t help Sauvé, since he was serving a life sentence for first degree murder. Again he challenged the limitation in 1995. He was successful and in 1997 all prisoners were allowed to vote. But in 1999 the Federal Court of Appeal over turned the decision. Sauvé appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada for the third time. In 2002, in Sauvé v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) [2002] 3 S.C.R. 519, the court ruled that prisoners serving more than two years could not be disqualified from voting. To date, the legislation has not been amended but the Chief Electoral Officer has applied the Sauvé decision to allow inmates the opportunity to vote.

Activity 2: Elections

Local Government Elections

Have students read Handout 2: Local Government Elections for homework and then answer the questions on Handout 3: What Do I Know About Local Government Elections? They will hand this in for assessment. After completion of the sheet, spend five minutes highlighting points that you would like to stress and giving the answers.

Optional: Model Local Government Election Simulation

A model local government election simulation might serve as an interesting unit project.


  • Divide the class into groups of two-to-three students, with each group made up of one candidate and campaign organizer(s).
  • Open nominations. Have students nominate each other for positions of mayor and council. For the purposes of this simulation, a small four-member town council will be elected. Remind students that cities elect larger councils. (See Handout 2: Local Government Elections)
  • Use the template Handout 4: Local Election Ballot to create an election ballot with the names of your student candidates. Photocopy sufficient ballots for your election.
  • Give students time in class and for homework to research local issues and to prepare campaign materials and speeches.
  • Require the campaigns to produce one, two-to-three minute campaign speech, presented by the candidate and one or two of the following (one created by each campaign supporter in the group):
    • Campaign website
    • Brochure
    • Newspaper advertisement
    • Poster
    • Radio ad
    • Video (Might be posted on YouTube. This would involve parent permission and a talk with your administrator re: school policy. Alternatively, an internal password-protected site could display the students’ work.)


Designate one class period as Election Day. Have the candidates present their speeches to the class and display or present their campaign materials.

Balloting and Tabulation

  • Set up a voting place with ballot boxes and voting screens, if possible. If your school has participated in Student Vote in a past federal or provincial election, use these props. Remind students of the rules for marking ballots and the number of candidates they are eligible to vote for.
  • Allow each candidate to appoint one scrutineer to observe you counting the ballots in another room. Scrutineers may not touch the ballots, but may dispute spoiled ballots and are there to ensure the tabulation process is sound.
  • Make sure you look at the local government act to see if you are using current information.

Federal Election and the Electoral Process

This activity may be done for homework or as an in class activity. If you are planning to have the students complete the word clues and word search in class it is advisable to assign reading of Handout 5: Federal Elections in advance to save time. Discuss the different electoral systems and how electoral boundaries are created with your students prior to the word search. The students use the handout to find the missing words in Handout 6: Federal Elections Word Search. Upon completion of the word search review the answers.

To see the answer keys for Handout 3 and Handout 6, see the Assessment section.

Activity 3: Right and Responsibility to Vote

Survey Results

Have students hand in their surveys at the beginning of the day so a small team of students can compile the results from Handout 7: Voting Survey. Alternatively, produce the tally sheet on a white board, overhead or with a digital projector and tally results together. Show students the results from the most recent elections from the websites of Elections Canada http://www.elections.ca, Elections BC http://www.elections.bc.ca, and your local government. Compare results from their poll with broader results and discuss the most common reasons that participants gave for not voting. Do the students think these are legitimate reasons?

Debate on Responsibility to Vote

Ask students to define the word “responsibility” — what sort of responsibilities do they have at home or school? Pose the question “What responsibilities do citizens of Canada have to our country?” Explain to the class that they will be debating the following resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED: Canadian citizens have a responsibility to always vote.

All students need to take a position and then prepare points to support their position and think of points against their position and how they would refute those points.  They can work in teams of like-minded students.

Divide class chairs into three sections on different walls of the room. On one wall, have a sign that says “Responsibility to Vote” and on the opposite wall have one that says “No Responsibility to Vote”. Place chairs between the two positions for students who are entirely undecided or are leaning to one perspective or the other.

Invite students to speak and keep a speakers list, alternating between speakers from different perspectives. Students who are undecided should be encouraged to make comments, ask questions of either side and to move to one side or the other by the end of the debate.

Encourage students to demonstrate open-mindedness by choosing to move from one position in the classroom to another when another student’s argument convinces them to change their viewpoints.

Debrief the debate by listing arguments that could be made for each side of the debate

For homework, have students write a paragraph articulating their post-debate position on the issue.

Possible Arguments

Arguments in favour Arguments against

When most Canadians vote, the results of the election reflect the wishes of Canadians better.

If we have the right to vote, we should have the right not to vote.

Health of our democracy requires active citizenship through voting and other means.

Some voters are not informed about political issues, parties or candidates, so they might not make the best choices in voting.

Voting encourages citizens to become better informed.

Some citizens will not find any candidates or parties that reflect their views so they should not feel compelled to vote.

Canadians are lucky to have the right to vote and should not take it for granted.

Some citizens think that others will do the voting so they do not have to.

If we see voting as a civic duty, we are more likely to do it.