Security of the Person: S. 7 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Physical/Psychological Integrity

Security of the person is one of three interests afforded protection under s.7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”). But the protection is not absolute. An individual may be deprived of security of the person provided the deprivation accords with the principles of fundamental justice.

S.7 of the Charter does not protect a person against any and all deprivations or intrusions upon personal security. The deprivation must be sufficiently serious to warrant Charter protection.

The right of security of the person protects the physical and psychological integrity of the individual. To mark out the boundaries that protect an individual’s psychological integrity from state interference is an inexact science. There is a qualitative aspect to this type of conduct that would ascend to the level of an infringement of this right. The right of security of the person does not protect an individual from the ordinary stresses and anxieties that a person of reasonable sensibility would suffer from government action.

To establish a restriction of security of the person (psychological integrity) , an applicant must show , on a balance of probabilities, that the state conduct in issue had a serious and profound effect on the applicant’s psychological integrity. The effects of state interference are to be assessed objectively, with a view to their impact on the psychological integrity of a person of reasonable sensibility. The effects need not rise to the level of nervous shock or psychiatric illness, but must extend beyond ordinary stresses or anxiety.

The phrase ” serious state-imposed psychological stress” fixes two requirements that must be satisfied for the right to security of the person to become engaged. The psychological harm must result from the conduct of the state. In other words, there must be a causal link between the impugned state conduct and the Charter violations claimed. And the psychological prejudice or harm must be serious.*

William Poulos, Barrister
* This blog is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require legal advice, a lawyer should be consulted to advise with respect to the specific circumstances of your case.

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