Dworkin's Shadow: Equality Rights and the Supreme Court of Canada's Loss of Dignity
25 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 3, 2011
Ronald Dworkin’s theory of equality has exerted a strong gravitational force over Canadian equality rights doctrine for more than two decades. And although Dworkin is never cited in the Supreme Court of Canada’s equality rights cases, his shadow is plainly visible in the reception of the right to ‘equal concern and respect’ in Andrews (1989), and the ‘right to moral independence’ in Law v. Canada (1999).
Although this paper assesses the extent to which Dworkin’s theory of equality has been received in Canadian law, it also engages in debates between Dworkin and his critics that developed as Dworkin defended and modified his theory of rights and equality over the years. The debates between Dworkin and his critics are invaluable for interpreting Canadian constitutional jurisprudence, I will argue, because the Supreme Court does not always adequately justify the conceptions of equality, dignity, etc. that it incorporates into constitutional law. Indeed, it is not always evident that the Court is aware that it is choosing among alternative conceptions, rather than straightforwardly interpreting a determinate constitutional text. The payoff from a parallel study of Dworkin and the equality rights doctrine of the Supreme Court is the identification of resources from the academic debate that can be commended for the development of a more sound and stable constitutional doctrine.
Keywords: Dworkin, equality, dignity, Andrews, Charter of Rights
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation