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The Evolution Of The Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms And Human Rights In Canada

2009 words - 8 pages

The Honourable Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube of the Supreme Court of Canada said, "equality isn't just about being treated the same, and it isn't a waiting to be solved. Rather, it is about equal human dignity, and full membership in society. It is about promoting an equal sense of self-worth. It is about treating people with equal concern, equal respect, and equal consideration. These are the values that underlie equality. These are the values that are offended when we discriminate, consciously or not." Her Justice's word is entirely true. Identical treatment may not lead to equality in all cases, nor does differential treatment always cause inequality. This can be seen through the Canadian Bill of Rights and the judgements concerning discrimination and human rights passed under it, and within the wording of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as from Supreme Court of Canada judgements passed under it. In certain cases, differential treatment can help maintain, if not promote further equality.In 1960, under the Diefenbaker government, the Canadian Bill of Rights was enacted. Parliament did enact an equality guarantee in the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960; however, the equality guarantee only worked in theory. In practice, social inequality occurred, primarily due to the way the statue was interpreted (Wikipedia, 2008). This was primarily due to the fact it was simply another statute and lacked the authority of a constitution, or constitutional document. In particular, two Supreme Court of Canada Cases exemplify how narrow and arbitrary the document was. In the case of Bliss v. Attorney General of Canada, [1979] 1 S.C.R. 183, the Supreme Court found that denying benefits on the "basis of pregnancy was not sex or gender discrimination, since the distinction was based on the fact that the women were pregnant, rather than the fact that they were women" (Supreme Court of Canada, 1979). It is quite obvious that pregnancy and sex, womanhood itself, is inextricably linked to pregnancy; however, the Bill of Rights, as interpreted, did not consider discrimination against the state of pregnancy as discrimination in relation to gender and/or sex. Although similar treatment was given to all pregnant and non pregnant, women, it is clear that discrimination was occurring, and that identical treatment was the cause behind. Instead, should differential treatment have been utilized, and the standards for receiving benefits apply differently to pregnant women, then equality may have occurred. Furthermore, in another case, Attorney General of Canada v. Lavell, [1974] S.C.R. 1349, a law under the Indian Act disqualified native women who married non-natives from receiving certain benefits related to Indian status; however, it did disqualify native men who married a non-native, was held not to be discriminatory, since "all native women were treated equally with respect to each other" (Supreme Court of Canada, 1974). Technically, native women...

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