Growing up in a Canada without the “Charter of Right.”

The 30th Anniversary of the Charter of Rights

Most Canadians are unaware of what life in Canada was like in the days prior to the “Charter of Rights.”

Looking back to those years, I recall the hurtful ways in which divorced women were treated. As well, if a teenager became pregnant, the shame was unbelievable. Some committed suicide or had illegal abortions, some losing their lives in the process. An unwed mother who was raising a child on her own was a pariah. She usually moved to a new neighbourhood and pretended that her husband was dead. Women were not treated equal in the work force, despite the gains they had made during the war years. If a female teacher married, she was forced to relinquish her teaching position. Homosexuality was a crime and severely punished under the law, with a prison term imposed.

When people today sing the rousing old song, “Give me that Old Time Religion,” I don’t think that they consider what the “old days” were really like. The “Old Time Religion” was hurtful and intolerant. Each denomination believed that they possessed the sole truth and thought that people who did not believe as did were bound for hell. Protestants and Catholics did not readily socialize in those days. If a Catholic entered a Protestant church, it was considered a sin. I still remember the hurtful stories that they told in my neighbourhood about the evil habits of the various religions. Anti-Semitism was prevalent. How do we know that these religious practices were wrong? Simply by realizing that most of the churches have ceased to condone such attitudes.

I also remember the ridiculous stories people told about the immigrants, who after the war, were mainly Italians. Then as the various waves of other ethnic groups arrived, they told the same stupid jokes and stories, but changed the nationality. Racial and religious jokes were generally socially acceptable. Opportunities in the workplace were not equal for various ethnic groups.

With the passage of the Charter of Right, conditions did not immediately change. However, anti—discriminatory laws were passed that allowed grievances to be redressed. Today, Canada is one of the most tolerant nations in the world, possessing a sense of fairness that is almost unrivalled.

We are in danger of losing this rich heritage, as some politicians attempt to pass laws that force their moral beliefs on the nation. Others promote intolerant or unfair laws to garner votes from select groups or to gain financial support from corporations. They do not take environmental issues seriously. These politicians resent the intrusion of the courts to rectify injustices, claiming it is undemocratic, believing that only the elected  representatives should have this power. However, they forget that minority rights must never be subjected to the will of the majority. The outcome is all too obvious.

Thank God for The Charter of Rights. 

When I began writing “The Toronto Trilogy,” I attempted to create stories that would reveal the hurts and joys of growing up in Toronto during the war year and the post-war period. Through the fictional characters, I was able to explore the social issues that I mentioned earlier in this post. I felt that reading about the effects that prejudice had on their lives was more meaningful that creating an historical account.

The first book in the trilogy, “Arse Over Teakettle,” is an entertaining tale of a young boy coming-of-age during the 1940s, as his family lives through the horrors of the war years. He and his friends learn about the hurtful effects of religious and ethnic intolerance.

The second book is “The Reluctant Virgin,” and it continues the story of the same family, but the main character and his friends are now teenagers. A murder/mystery is the literary vehicle that allows the social issues to be explored.  

The third book in the trilogy is still being written, and should be available next year.

I have spent much of my adult life researching the history of Toronto. I love the city. It has provided the background for my books, one of which, “The Villages Within”, was short-listed for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link:

They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:

There Never Was a Better Time:

Arse Over Teakettle:

The Reluctant Virgin;

The Villages Within: 

Author’s Home Page:

Authors can be contacted at: [email protected]

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *