Freedom of Association

AuthorRobert J. Sharpe; Kent Roach
Freedom of association, guaranteed by section 2(d) of the Charter of
Rights and Free doms, protects t he right of individuals to come together
to form a wide array of organi zations and relationships, including those
with political, relig ious, and social purpose s. The diff‌icult threshold
issue for the courts has b een whether the guarantee not only recogni zes
the right of individual s to come together in an organization but also
confers constitutional protection on the activitie s essential to ensure
the association’s meaningf ul existence.
Nowhere has the issue of the scope of the gu arantee of freedom
of association been more hotly debated tha n with respect to the in sti-
tutions and practices of collective barga ining. Most of the caselaw on
section 2(d) deals with labour relations, especi ally in the public sector.
If section 2(d) protects only the right to come together and form an
association, its importance is relatively modest. On the other hand, to
the extent that it also protects the essential activ ities of the group, it
has enormous impact, particularly in the realm of labour relations. An-
other important issue for the collective bargaining regime is whether
freedom of association includes the r ight to refuse to be associ ated
with a group or its views and policies. Does section 2(d) include the
right to join the trade union of one’s choice, or to refuse to join a union
or pay it dues?

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