Fundamental Freedoms - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
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Equality Rights
Canadian diversity, new Canadians, equal opportunity

Case Law

McKinney v. University of Guelph, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 229 (Supreme Court of Canada) Does mandatory retirement discriminate on the basis of age? Generally yes, but such a law can still be valid because a 65 year age limit on the right to work can be reasonable under section 1 of the Charter.

Regina v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697 (Supreme Court of Canada) Hate speech is protected by the right to freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter. The Court decided that the law which made hate speech a crime was valid. The law was a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under section 1 of the Charter. This limit protects important equality rights and values of Canadian society set out in sections 15 and 27 (multiculturalism) of the Charter and international human rights standards.

Miron v. Trudel, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 418 (Supreme Court of Canada) Discrimination based on marital status. The Court decided that under section 15, common law couples should have the same rights to government insurance benefits as married couples.

Adler v. Ontario, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 609 (Supreme Court of Canada) Discrimination based on religious belief. Did the government violate section 15 of the Charter because there was public funding for Roman Catholic schools but not public funding for schools of other religions? The Court decided that equality rights were not violated. Roman Catholic schools receive public funds because parts of Canada's Constitution other than the Charter give historical status to Roman Catholic education. The Charter cannot be used to attack other parts of Canada's Constitution.

Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624 (Supreme Court of Canada) Discrimination based on physical disability. Deaf people did not get the same quality of basic health care as others because the government did not provide sign language interpreters. The Court said that under section 15, governments must reasonably accommodate peoples disabilities unless doing so causes undue hardship. Equality does not mean treating everyone the same. Governments must look at barriers that stop people from fully participating in society.

Vriend v. Alberta, [1998] 1 S.C.R. 493 (Supreme Court of Canada) A human rights law did not protect people from discrimination because of sexual orientation. The Court decided that this law violated section 15 because it did not give gays and lesbians equal benefit or protection of the law.

Law v. Canada, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 497 (Supreme Court of Canada) The case deals with a law about a public pension plan. The Court decided there were good reasons for people to be treated differently because of age under this law. Treating younger people differently for the purpose of looking at who could receive pensions did not affect their dignity. The pension law did not discriminate in a way that violated equality rights under section 15. This is a major case for explaining how courts decide if section 15 has been violated. (For more information about this, see What it Means - Equality Rights For the full analysis, go to the court decision)

M. v. H., [1999] 2 S.C.R. 3 (Supreme Court of Canada) A law gave opposite-sex couples the right to claim support from each other if they split up. The law did not give same-sex couples the same right. The Court decided that this was discrimination under section 15 of the Charter. It affected the dignity of people and supported a stereotype that homosexuals were less able to form meaningful partnerships than heterosexuals.

Corbiere v. Canada (Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 203 (Supreme Court of Canada) This case explains how to decide if a ground for discrimination is included in section 15. These are basic personal traits that are impossible to change (for example, race or ethnic origin), or traits the government should not expect a person to change to achieve equality under the law (for example, religion).

Trociuk v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [2003] 1 S.C.R. 835 (Supreme Court of Canada) A law said that a father did not have the right to be named on his child's birth registration. The Court decided that this law was discriminatory on the basis of sex and violated equality rights under section 15. It affected the dignity of fathers by suggesting that a fathers relationship with his child was not as important as a mothers.

See also: Andrews v. Law Society (British Columbia), [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143 (Supreme Court of Canada) (Discrimination based on citizenship - A law that only let Canadian citizens practice law violated section 15) Lovelace v. Ontario, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 950 (Supreme Court of Canada) (Section 15(1) is to be interpreted to improve circumstances of disadvantaged people) Reference re Same Sex Marriage, [2004] S.C.C. 79 (Supreme Court of Canada) (The federal government asked the Supreme Court to answer questions about a proposed marriage law.)

Nellie McClung, 1915. For generations women have been thinking, and thought without expression is dynamic and gathers volume by repression.  Evolution when blocked and suppressed becomes revolution.
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