The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Section 15 (1982)

In 1980 Prime Minister Trudeau advanced a plan to patriate the Constitution, including a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, from Britain to Canada. A Special Joint Committee of the House of Commons and the Senate held public hearings which allowed the public to propose amendments. NAC spoke to the public hearings on 20 November 1980, calling for the Charter to recognise equality between women and men.

In February 1981 NAC planned a conference for women on the constitution to discuss the potential impact of the constitution on women; the federal government cancelled it. In response, Doris Anderson, President of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, resigned in protest and feminist groups organised a counter conference and formed a coalition, the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution. On14 February 1981 about 1,300 women met in Parliament to demand a specific clause on equal rights between women and men.

Sections 15 and 28 were included in the Charter, although they did not come into effect until 17 April 1985: section 15 provides for “equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination” and section 28 states “Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”