A lot, actually! On April 17, 1985, the equality rights provisions enshrined in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force.
West Coast LEAF was established in that same year to ensure that the rights in section 15 became a reality for women.
As we look back on the past 30 years, it can feel like equality rights have been slow to progress and reflect the realities of those experiencing discrimination, but it is important to recognize that we have made important progress.
Here are a just a handful of ways in which the Charter has impacted the lives of equality-seeking Canadians:
- Section 15 guarantees a right to substantive equality. (Andrews)
- Common law spouses must have the option of the same public benefits as married spouses. (Miron)
- Same sex couples must have equal access to public benefits and be included in the definition of “spouse”. (Vriend; M. v. H.; Hislop)
- Targeting gay and lesbian publications as “obscene” is discriminatory. (Little Sisters)
- The state has a positive obligation to provide sign language interpretation to deaf people so they can meaningfully access the public health system. (Eldridge)
- Denying benefits to workers with some types of disabilities without regard to actual need is discriminatory. (Martin)
- Aboriginal people living on and off reserve have equal rights to vote in band elections. (Corbiere)
- Women who lost their Indian status because they married non status men – and some of their offspring – regained status. (McIvor)
- Mothers and babies can remain together in prisons when it is in the best interests of the child. (Inglis)
- The reproductive work of women must be fully recognized in employment benefit programs. (BCTF)
As we celebrate this anniversary – and contemplate the long road still ahead – we are proud to be part of a much larger community fighting for women’s rights and gender equality.
We intend to keep working to ensure that judges and lawmakers hear and understand the diverse perspectives of women and girls, including the ways in which the law impacts our lives every day.
We’re just getting started!