People with Disabilities and the Charter: Disability Rights at the Supreme Court of Canada Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Keywords:Charter of Rights, Disability case law, Physical disabilities, Mental disabilities, Constitutional law, Equality, Justice, Models of disability
The inclusion of people with disabilities as a designated group for rights protection in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was viewed as a triumph of disability advocacy in Canada. And yet, a number of commentators look back with disappointment over the 30 years since the Charter was passed. This paper employs an empirical approach to examine an important subset of cases invoking the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to promote disability rights. Specifically, it examines 14 cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada to uncover the types of disability issues that have been addressed, and the approach of Supreme Court justices to these issues. In order to qualify for inclusion, cases had to have an appellant with a disability, and to directly address a disability discrimination issue. The current study shows a very limited impact of the Charter, despite expectations of a discernible shift in the position of people with disabilities within Canadian society. There is still no consistently applied “disability lens” in the policy environment, and there are relatively few tangible indicators of the kinds of considerations offered to other enumerated groups, such as Ministry or oversight committees dedicated to their issues.
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