Enshrining Equality Rights in Canada’s Constitution

When the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was being written, women’s groups across Canada recognized the need for a strong and concerted lobbying effort to bring a feminist perspective to the development of its equality provisions. After the strong wording of Section 15 (the equality rights provision) was achieved, women foresaw the challenge of putting abstract legal rights into action in the courts.

To do this, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund was established. “The coming into force of the Charter’s equality rights”, founding LEAF President Shelagh Day said on this occasion, “marks the beginning of a new era for women and for all equality-seekers in this nation. It is essential that women exercise these rights, since women’s equality is still a promise not a reality”.

Turning a new leaf: a West Coast perspective needed

West Coast LEAF was founded in 1985 at the same time as National LEAF, by a group of women who wished to create an organization to carry on the work of the national Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund in British Columbia.

Our first “office” was the filing cabinet outside Lynn Smith’s UBC office doors, and initially we helped LEAF intervene in cases that advanced equality in BC and improved women’s social, legal, and economic circumstances. Since 2009, West Coast LEAF has worked on interventions under its own name, independently from LEAF.

West Coast LEAF and LEAF are sister organizations. We are the only associate of LEAF who runs as an independent organization with its own staff, board, litigation, projects, and fundraising.