Adding Social Condition to the Canadian Human Rights Act

Wayne MacKay

Abstract


Almost a decade ago, in June 2000, the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel conducted a comprehensive review of the Canadian Human Rights Act [CHRA] and recommended that “social condition” be added as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Since then, no action has been taken to implement this recommendation, despite calls for action from international bodies, political actors, human rights agencies and organizations, and academic commentators to provide protections from discrimination for those suffering from social and economic disadvantage. The authors analyze the experiences at the provincial level with socio-economic grounds of discrimination, jurisprudential developments under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms related to claims based on socio-economic disadvantage, the broader proposal of incorporating justiciable social and economic rights into Canadian law, and the range of arguments both for and against recognizing social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination. In the end, the authors recommend a feasible and practical means for adding social condition to the Canadian Human Rights Act so that it will provide predictability for administrators, adjudicators and respondents, as well as sufficient flexibility to reflect the multi-faceted and intersectional experience of discrimination of human rights claimants. While socio-economic inequality continues to be a significant and pressing problem in need of a multi-pronged and comprehensive solution, the addition of the ground of social condition to the CHRA will be one more tool in advancing the rights and interests of those on the very margins of Canadian society.


This paper was co-authored with Natasha Kim, Dalhousie University.


Keywords


Constitutional Law; Human Rights and Discrimination

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