Poverty and a Victorian Bill of Rights: A View from Canada

“Poverty and a Victorian Bill of Rights: A View from Canada” in M. Smith (ed) Human Rights 2005: The Year in Review (The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law: Melbourne, 2006)

19 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013

See all articles by David Wiseman

David Wiseman

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

Victoria is presently engaged in a process of considering whether to introduce a Bill of Rights. This paper addresses the possibility that any such of Bill of Rights might provide a means for imposing obligations upon the Victorian government to improve the standard of living of people living in poverty. More particularly, in accordance with the government's preference for constraints on the scope of human rights protection, I examine the possibility that an instrument cast in the language of civil and political rights, but not social and economic rights, can meaningfully contribute to the amelioration of poverty. My examination of this possibility takes place from the perspective of experience in Canada with anti-poverty litigation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is also cast in the language of civil and political rights. My basic argument is that it is certainly possible that civil and political rights language can be relied upon to impose anti-poverty obligations, but, given the Canadian experience, that possibility is unlikely to be realised in Victoria unless a range of predictable barriers are addressed during the process of establishing a Victorian Bill of Rights. As it happens, the Victorian government's preference for a political, rather than a judicial, supervision mechanism will, perhaps inadvertently, render some of the barriers faced in Canada redundant. But still other barriers will require attention. Those concerned with the plight of the poor and marginalised ought to ensure that the government takes the appropriate action to ameliorate those barriers.

In this paper I first briefly describe the process of considering a Bill of Rights established by the Victorian government, giving particular attention to the government's preferred model. This includes consideration of the government's antipathy to including social and economic rights and also an appraisal of the justifications it offers for that position. I then discuss the two approaches that have been used in Canada by those seeking to address poverty through human rights guarantees cast in terms of civil and political rights. I identify the extent to which these approaches have been successful and the barriers to success that have emerged. Finally, I consider the implications of the Canadian experience for a Victorian Bill of Rights.

Keywords: Victoria, Victorian government, Bill of RIghts, standard of living, poverty, human rights protection, civil rights, political rights, amelioration of poverty, Canadian experience, anti-poverty litigation, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, social and economic rights

Suggested Citation

Wiseman, David, Poverty and a Victorian Bill of Rights: A View from Canada (2006). “Poverty and a Victorian Bill of Rights: A View from Canada” in M. Smith (ed) Human Rights 2005: The Year in Review (The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law: Melbourne, 2006) , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2295715

David Wiseman (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.commonlaw.uottawa.ca/index.php

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