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Democracy and the Rule of Law

Lesson Five: Freedom and Law

Objective
Students will learn how liberal democracies use the law to both promote and restrict freedom.

Procedure
1. Ask students if they believe they are free. If not, ask what restrictions exist in their life.
• Are these restrictions reasonable?
• Are these restrictions on the whole a positive or a negative?

2. Distribute and read the handout Freedom and Law.
KEY QUESTION
• Politicians are often concerned with pleasing the majority. Being re-elected depends upon it. But what would happen if politicians singularly decided minority rights based on what the majority wanted?

3. Break students into groups to look up specific laws that interest them. Have them determine:
a) how that law restricts freedom
b) how that law promotes freedom

Then have them determine, on the whole, if the restrictions on freedoms created by that law are reasonable.

4. For any of the laws researched above, ask students how they are free to lobby for changes to that law. Teachers may wish to look back to Lesson Three and especially its Further Exploration suggestions for guiding this discussion.

Case Study
5. Switzerland’s Minaret Debate explores the risks of leaving minority rights in the hands of the majority.

Further Exploration
6. Teachers interested in exploring how regulating waste disposal simultaneously restricts and promotes freedoms should check out The Great Stink of London: A Case Study in The PLEA: The Bathroom Barrister.

7. Teachers interested in exploring how judges are selected in a liberal democracy should check out Judges and Political Connections in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town: The Learning Resource.

8. Teachers interested in an overview of significant court cases involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should check out the Department of Justice’s Examples of Charter-related cases.

Freedom and Law

Handout

Switzerland's Minaret Debate

Case Study

What is Revolution?