Getting Charter rights right.
The BCCLA has been in court a LOT over the past several years, and we’ve had great success.
The BCCLA and other Canadian human rights organizations have won in the courts, time and time again.
These victories were achieved through courage and commitment from the people we work with, but they were also due to the fact that these laws were blatantly in conflict with the highest law in the land, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We knew it. The communities affected knew it. And we think the government knew it too. Or at least, they should have.
Relying on individuals and organizations to challenge the constitutionality of laws after the fact, when much damage has already been done, is unfair and costly, not just to the plaintiffs, but to the public at large.
Surely it’s in everyone’s interest that the government gets it right the first time.
Let me know what you think!
Laura Track, BCCLA Lawyer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The BCCLA has been in court a LOT over the past several years. We’ve launched challenges to the prohibition on physician assisted dying, indefinite solitary confinement and second-class citizenship, and intervened in cases involving drug laws, mandatory minimum sentences, sex work and so much more. Sure, we did advocacy outside the courts and pressed decision-makers to amend or repeal problematic laws too, but it’s been challenging, to say the least. On many occasions, we’ve felt like there’s really no choice but to litigate if Canadians’ Charter rights are to be protected.
Relying on individuals and organizations to challenge the constitutionality of laws after the fact, when the laws are already on the books and much damage has already been done, is unfair and costly, not just to the plaintiffs, but to the public at large. Meanwhile, as court cases drag on, the challenged laws remain in effect, leading to further potential rights violations. Surely it’s in everyone’s interest that the government gets it right the first time, and that only bills that pass constitutional muster get passed into law.
In his mandate letter to the new Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Trudeau said:
As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, your overarching goal will be to ensure our legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law. I expect you to ensure that our initiatives respect the Constitution of Canada, court decisions, and are in keeping with our proudest legal traditions. You are expected to ensure that the rights of Canadians are protected, that our work demonstrates the greatest possible commitment to respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that our government seeks to fulfill our policy goals with the least interference with the rights and privacy of Canadians as possible.
He also named review of the government’s litigation strategy as a top priority for the new Justice Minister, including ending appeals and changing positions that are inconsistent with the Charter.