Constitution Day 2018: Good news for free trade, healthcare choice; bad news for judicial activism; mixed news for free speech

Constitution Day 2018: Good news for free trade, healthcare choice; bad news for judicial activism; mixed news for free speech

New for Constitution Day 2018, the Canadian Constitution Foundation surveyed Canadians’ views about our Constitution. Individual news releases covering key topics can be found at the following links:

New poll: Canadians overwhelmingly back free trade within Canada
New poll: A majority of Canadians support a private healthcare option for patients on waitlists

A PDF slideshow summarizing the results of each question can be found here.
Full data tables can be found here and here.

Summary of survey findings [2017 results in brackets, when asked last year]:

Canadians overwhelmingly believe the Constitution should guarantee a single Canadian economic market

  • 94% support a Constitutional right allowing Canadians to transport legally-purchased products between provinces.
  • 95% support a Constitutional right allowing Canadian businesses to sell their products directly to people in any province.
  • 96% support a Constitutional right allowing Canadians with a professional qualification in one province to work in all provinces.
  • 58% support the ability of the federal government to build an infrastructure project under its jurisdiction and responsibility, even if one or more provinces impacted by the project objects.

Lukewarm support for free speech

  • 38% of Canadians agree that the Charter should protect “hate speech” [2017: 40%].
  • Canadians age 18-35 are more likely to agree that hate speech should be protected (45%) than those over 55 (36%).
  • Only 28% of Canadians agree that the Charter should protect speech that praises terrorists or terrorist acts [2017: 28%].
  • 56% of Canadians agree that the Charter should protect speech that criticizes specific religions [2017: 56%].

Canadians support access to private healthcare for patients on long provincial wait lists

  • 76% of Canadians agree that the Charter should allow patients who have been on provincial healthcare wait lists longer than the maximum recommended waiting period for their condition to pay for private treatment
  • Support is highest in BC and Quebec (80%) and lowest in Atlantic Canada (67%).

What changes would Canadians like to see to our Constitution?

  • 90% would support an amendment to add the protection of property rights to the Charter. [2017: 92%]
  • Support for constitutionalizing property rights is consistent across all provinces and 45% “strongly support” this change [2017: 44%].
  • 71% would support an amendment ending protection for affirmative action programs, which are currently protected as an exception to equality rights in the Charter [2017: 69%].
  • 62% would support an amendment giving some constitutional rights to the unborn [2017: 61%].
  • 75% in Quebec support some constitutional rights for the unborn vs. only 53% in BC [2017: high of 72% in Quebec and a low of 53% in Alberta]. Nationally, only 12% “strongly oppose” [2017: 15%].
  • 75% of Canadians agree that the Charter should guarantee a minimum income for all Canadians [2017: 75%].

Canadians reject judicial activism; mixed views on how to interpret the Charter

  • When asked who should have the final say in interpreting a Charter right, 33% of Canadians think it should be judges [2017: 39%], 25% believe it should be a majority of Parliament [2017: 22%], 42% prefer a national referendum [2017: 39%].
  • Overall, Canadians rejected judicial law-making on constitutional interpretations, with only 26% believing the Constitution should be interpreted according to what judges believe is best for society [2017: 23%].
  • 45% prefer textual originalism, interpreting the Constitution according to the plain meaning of its words, while 29% prefer a jurisprudence of original intent [2017: 44% and 33%].
  • In Quebec, only 22% support the original intent of the drafters of the Constitution, the lowest in the country, while 39% trust the political judgment of judges, the highest in the country.

Are Canadians being taught about the Constitution?

  • 43% of Canadians overall remember learning about the Constitution in school [2017: 41%].

What is Constitution Day?

Both the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Constitution Act, 1982, were signed on March 29th, which the CCF has dubbed Canada’s “Constitution Day.” The CCF encourages all Canadians to mark Constitution Day by brushing up on Canada’s primary constitutional documents, or watching Chief Justice Glenn Joyal’s speech at the CCF’s 2017 Law & Freedom Conference on the development of Canadian constitutionalism post-1982, which is available here.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted by Ipsos between March 16th and March 19th, 2018 on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

(Image byMichael Gil under CC 2.0).