Any attempt to ban dreadlocks in Canada would be absurd

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Dear Mr Brown,

I would like to know if any of the Canadian colleges that you represent have any policy against dreadlocks. I am not a Rastafarian, but I have locks. I want to know if the constitutional laws of Canada are similar to Jamaica.

 

— OB

 

Dear OB:

I am not an expert on Jamaican constitutional law to make a comparison. However, I will briefly explain how the Canadian Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would apply to a policy against dreadlocks.

There would be no such ban in Canada. I would find any attempt to ban dreadlocks in Canada to be absurd, whether on the grounds of religious freedom, if applicable, as well as right of expression and self-autonomy.

Life, liberty and security of the person

In relation to Canadian constitutional protection, any inappropriate law or policy banning dreadlocks does not have to be assessed through religious freedom. The right to liberty and security of the person is a relevant law and actioned by the Government infringing upon autonomy.

Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Eeryone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Section 7 of the charter requires that laws or State actions that interfere with life, liberty and security of the person conform to the principles of fundamental justice, that is notions of justice and fair process. The principles of fundamental justice are not limited to procedural matters, but also include substantive principles of fundamental justice

Section 7 involves a two-step analysis:

1. Is there an infringement of one of the three protected interests, that is a deprivation of life, liberty or security of the person?

2. Is the deprivation in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice?

All individuals physically present in Canada will benefit from the protection of Section 7. The guarantees under Section 7 typically arise in connection with the administration of justice. However, Section 7 may apply to legislation or government action entirely unrelated to adjudicative or administrative proceedings.

Security of the person

Constitutional matters pertaining to autonomy and quality of life may be treated as liberty and security interests. Section 7 also protects a sphere of personal autonomy and expression involving “inherently private choices” that go to the “core of what it means to enjoy individual dignity and independence”.

Security of the person is generally given a broad interpretation and has both a physical and psychological aspect. Security of the person includes a person’s right to control his/her own bodily integrity.

It will be engaged where the State interferes with personal autonomy and a person’s ability to control his or her own physical or psychological integrity.

Personal appearance has also been upheld as related to liberty, entitling individuals to choose their hairstyle and manner of dress, except where the individual’s right to appearance is outweighed by the State’s interest in maintaining sanitary conditions and discipline in prisons or in establishing grooming standards for police and firemen.

Fundamental justice

Whether a principle may be said to be a principle of fundamental justice will depend upon an analysis of the nature, sources, rationale, and essential role of that principle within the judicial process.

The principles of fundamental justice include the principles against:

• Arbitrariness, that is it bears no connection to the law’s purpose.

• Overbreadth, that is laws that are rational in part but that overreach and capture some conduct that bears no relation to the legislative objective. The articulation of the objective should focus on the ends of the legislation rather than on the means, be at an appropriate level of generality and capture the main thrust of the law in precise and succinct terms.

• Gross disproportionality, that is laws that may be rationally connected to the objective but whose effects are so disproportionate that they cannot be supported. Gross disproportionality applies only in extreme cases where “the seriousness of the deprivation is totally out of sync with the objective of the measure”.

For example, in the context of banning students with dreadlocks:

• A policy regarding hairstyles may be described as arbitrary, discriminatory, and intrusive as there is no link between hairstyle and obtaining an education.

• Even if there was an objective, such as lice, there are lesser intrusive measures that could be taken to satisfy the objective without breaching constitutional rights by dealing with hygiene rather than hairstyle.

I hope I have addressed your concern. Should you have any other queries, please contact me.

 

Please visit jamaica2canada.com for additional information on Canadian Permanent Residence programs, including Express Entry, The Study & Work programme, visas or appeals, etc.

Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel and an accredited Canadian education agent of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM — a Canadian immigration and education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to jamaica2canada@gmail.com.

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