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FactsEdit

Law was 30 when her husband died, was in good health and had no dependent children. The Canada Pension Plan supplies pension money to spouses of those who have died on some conditions – either being over 45 at the time of death, being disabled, or having dependent children guarantees that you will receive benefits. However, as none of these apply, Law would have to wait until she is 65 to receive her benefits. She is saying that these provisions violate her s.15 Charter right on the enumerated ground of age.

IssueEdit

  1. Does the Canada Pension Plan violate the s.15 Charter right to equal benefit under the law on the basis of the enumerated ground of age?

DecisionEdit

Appeal dismissed.

ReasonsEdit

Iacobucci, writing for a unanimous court, lays out everything that the Supreme Court wants to say about "discrimination" under s.15. He establishes the purpose of the section and how to determine whether or not discrimination has occurred. He says first that s.15(1) must always be given a purposive interpretation and be viewed in the entire context of the situation. Then he says that in order to establish a violation of s.15 you must satisfy the three-part test:

  1. differential treatment (need a comparator group) . . .
  2. on the basis of an enumerated or analogous ground, and
  3. the law has a purpose or effect that is discriminatory.

In determining if the effect is "discriminatory" in the third step, the court must consider:

  1. Does the law draw a distinction:
    1. between the claimant and other on the basis of stereotypical personal characteristics, or;
    2. fail to take into account the claimant's disadvantaged position?
  2. Is this differential treatment based on an enumerated or analogous ground?
  3. Does this discriminate by imposing a burden or withholding a benefit?

He says that the purpose of s.15(1) is "to prevent the violation of essential human dignity . . . and to promote a society in which all persons enjoy equal recognition under the law as human beings". It is essential to find a conflict between the impugned law and the purpose of s.15(1) in order to found a discrimination claim.

He goes on to say that the equality guarantee is a comparative concept, and that you must establish a comparator group that is not discriminated against, and is similar to the claimant in most ways except for the ground cited. The claimant, or the court may establish this.

The violation of dignity must be done in context – from the perspective of the claimant. It must be determined if a reasonable person in the same position would feel that their human dignity had been violated. Some important things to consider here (not necessary, help ground a claim) are:

  • pre-existing disadvantage
  • correspondence between the ground and the actual needs of the claimant
  • ameliorative purpose of the law
  • the nature and scope of the interest affected by the impugned law

A claimant never has to prove any of these things, and a decision about discrimination can be completely drawn by the court through logical inferences if necessary. However, it may be helpful for the claimant to examine some of the factors listed above.

In the case at bar, it is clear that there is a distinction drawn on the enumerated ground of age, however the court finds that there is no discrimination. Several factors contribute to this: younger people are not a disadvantaged group; there is no need of the claimant here as she can find work, and the law has a very ameliorative purpose. Therefore, this is one of the few cases where there has been a distinction drawn on the basis of an enumerated ground, however this distinction does not create "discrimination". Therefore, this is not a violation of the equal benefits provided by s.15(1).

RatioEdit

In order to establish a violation of s.15 a claimant must satisfy a three-part test:

  1. differential treatment (need a comparator group) . . .
  2. on the basis of an enumerated or analogous ground, and
  3. the law has a purpose or effect that is discriminatory - consider the following:
    1. does the law draw a distinction:
      1. between the claimant and other on the basis of stereotypical personal characteristics, or;
      2. fail to take into account the claimant's disadvantaged position?
    2. is this differential treatment based on an enumerated or analogous ground?
    3. does this discriminate by imposing a burden or withholding a benefit?

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