Canadian Charter Equality at 20: Reflections from a Card-Carrying Member of the Court Party

27:1 Policy Options 72-77, 2006

6 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2013 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015

See all articles by Martha Jackman

Martha Jackman

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: January 1, 2006


On the 20th anniversary of the Charter’s equality rights guarantees, Charter activist and expert Martha Jackman reviews the record of Charter litigation as a means to redress inequalities in Canada and concludes that it is mixed at best. Far from undermining Canadian democracy, she says, the Charter provides an important and legitimate avenue for challenging growing social inequities. Yet, low income litigants invoking the Charter have met with limited success due to a series of presumptions, including that social policy is beyond the legitimate purview of the courts, and that the state is neutral in its dealings with the poor. All in all, the relationship between rights and democracy is far more nuanced than the Charter critics argue, she says, and the real question, to her, is not whether the Charter and the so-called Court Party are destroying democracy, but rather how the Charter’s equality rights can inform and contribute to further strengthening the underlying values of our democratic system.

Note: Downloadable document is in English and French.

Keywords: Charter, Canada, Canadian, law, legal, litigation, equality, inequality, democracy, inequity, social, low income, political, politics, party, poverty, policy, courts, rights

Suggested Citation

Jackman, Martha, Canadian Charter Equality at 20: Reflections from a Card-Carrying Member of the Court Party (January 1, 2006). 27:1 Policy Options 72-77, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Martha Jackman (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5

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