CFUW Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Tuesday, November 30 1999

(OTTAWA, April 17, 2012) -  Today, the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This momentous occasion is close to the hearts of many of our members, some of which were involved in the push 30 years ago to have equality rights recognized in the Constitution.

While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became part of the Constitution on April 17th 1982, it was not until 3 years later that section 15, recognizing equality rights, came into effect.

"The impact that the Charter, and section 15 in particular, has had for women in Canada over the last three decades, cannot be understated," said Brenda Wallace, CFUW National President. "It has given women a vehicle to challenge and overturn laws and policies that discriminate against them, such as certain provisions in marital laws and the Indian Act, the criminalization of abortion, unequal pay, among others."

While there have been many success, there are still several cases that have been brought forward to the courts for the purposes of advancing gender equality that have been unsuccessful. And today we are seeing many more cases being brought forward.

Prior to 2006 equality seeking groups, including women, were given assistance through the Court Challenges Program to bring forward important equality rights cases. Since the Government of Canada withdrew all funding for the program, there are very few supports left. Now there are only a handful of organizations like the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and some pro-bono lawyers who are willing to take on cases, but the costs can still be astronomical. Time and resources are limited.

"CFUW would very much like to see Government support for the Court Challenges Program reinstated", said Wallace. "Participation in processes such as Charter challenges should be considered as much a cornerstone of our democracy as voting. These cases serve a crucial oversight function by ensuring that political powers to do not overstep their bounds."

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has certainly been a huge step forward for women's equality in Canada, however it is also important to recognize that there are many other issues that go beyond the scope of formal legal equality, such as universal access to affordable child care, the feminization of poverty, and bringing an end to gender based violence, to name a few, that must be addressed in order for women to be truly equal.

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