Human Rights of Transgender Persons

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Transgender persons are recognized in medicine as those who are born with the physical attributes of one gender, but who know at a deep level that their physical bodies do not match their inner gender. Federal and provincial human rights laws often protect transgender persons from discrimination in the areas of employment, services customarily available […]

The Whatcott Case: Balancing Free Speech and Social Harmony

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Introduction: a Clash of Rights The freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression comprise some of our “fundamental freedoms” listed in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  They assure the free exchange of ideas, the practice of one’s faith, the development of new ways of thinking and valuable social, legal, […]

Landmark Cases: Cases which have changed the Legal and Social Landscape of Canada

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Judgments may constitute landmark decisions in the social context of their time such as the Persons Case (Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General), 1930 ) — where the Privy Council determined that women were eligible to be appointed to the Senate — but may not seem so very startling to our modern sensibilities. Although the Privy Council […]

A Progress Report of Disability Rights since the Charter

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In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms formally enshrined equality rights into the Canadian constitution. Section 15 of the Charter reads: “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, […]

Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Are There Justifiable Limits?

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For several years, public service employees have been restricted in their right to strike, in order to preserve their “essential” services. However, some argue that recent changes to Alberta’s public service labour legislation unjustifiably interfere with several rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”)— particularly freedom of association. Alberta’s Public Service Employee […]

The Intersection of Law, Language and Culture

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Introduction When we think of the intersection of law and language, most of us reflect on the linguistic sides of the issue, such as: questions about why law-makers use certain words as opposed to others, queries about ‘legalese’, and problems of misunderstanding, interpretation and translation. Rarely do we spend much time considering the possibility that […]

Human Rights and Québec’s Charter of Values

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On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the Québec government tabled its Charter of Values, Bill 60. The Bill provides that public body personnel must maintain religious neutrality in the exercise of their functions. It also restricts personnel from wearing objects “such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a […]

A Secular Christmas

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This article deals with the law of Christmas, the celebration of this Christian event and the public displays of words or symbols that accompany it.  No Clear Separation of Church and State in Canada Most Canadians incorrectly assume, perhaps from a steady consumption of American pop culture, that Canada has clear constitutional enshrinement of the […]

Human Rights Implications of New Provincial Impaired Driving Laws

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Like many other Canadians, I am not terribly sympathetic towards people who drive while impaired, through alcohol, drugs (prescribed or illegal), while texting, or experiencing extreme fatigue. We have a set of laws under the federal Criminal Code of Canada, RSC 1985 c C-46, that address impaired driving. These include: operating a motor vehicle while […]

No Right to “Know One’s Past”: The BCCA in Pratten v British Columbia (Attorney General)

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In a decision released on November 27, 2012, the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) in Pratten v British Columbia, 2012 BCCA 480, reversed the British Columbia Supreme Court’s (BCSC) decision that provisions of the provincial Adoption Act are unconstitutional as a result of their failure to take into account the rights of people conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor […]