For example, a corporate legal person can be proceeded against with criminal charges. Instinctively, one would be inclined to apply such "human" rights as that to a fair trial in protecting any defendant being proceeded against in a criminal context. But must the bar be quite as high for artificial legal persons as it is for natural ones?

And can non-human persons enjoy, and must they be afforded, "human rights"?

1 Answer 1


It depends on the right. See Quebec (Attorney General) v. 9147-0732 Québec inc., 2020 SCC 32:

To claim protection under the Charter, a corporation ⸺ indeed, any claimant ⸺ must establish that "it has an interest falling within the scope of the guarantee, and one which accords with the purpose of that provision."

Regarding section 12 (right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment or punishment):

the text “cruel and unusual” denotes protection that “only human beings can enjoy”

Regarding section 7 (right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or security of the person other than in accordance with principles of fundamental justice):

A plain, common sense reading of the phrase “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person” serves to underline the human element involved; only human beings can enjoy these rights.

But, regarding section 8 (right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure):

the Court accepted, without discussion or explanation, that the s. 8 right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure could apply to corporations.

And section 11(b):

the Court extended the s. 11(b) right to be tried within a reasonable time to corporations on the basis that any accused, corporate or human, has, as Stevenson J. said, “a legitimate interest in being tried within a reasonable time”

  • 2
    FWIW, I think that your conclusion is also true in the case of the U.K. and Europe. There would need to be a detailed right by right analysis that doesn't have a single answer, based upon what makes sense.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 9, 2023 at 20:55
  • Additional example: for a legal but not natural person a punishment of ending its existence/ shutting it down is generally considered ethically unproblematic. The death penalty for humans is ethically very complicated and restricted.
    – quarague
    Mar 10, 2023 at 8:30

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