Socio-Economic Rights Under the Canadian Charter
In M. Langford, ed., Social Rights Jurisprudence: Emerging Trends in International and Comparative Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
21 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2014 Last revised: 14 Mar 2015
Date Written: 2008
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not explicitly mention socio-economic rights. However, the language of the Charter – particularly section 7 and section 15 – presents an opportunity to give constitutional protection to economic, social and cultural rights. Though these rights have judicially been interpreted narrowly, they are best interpreted as having socio-economic dimensions given the Canadian context in which the Charter was adopted. Considering the historical expectations of rights holders, the Charter's open-ended and expansive wording, its balancing of individual rights and collective values, the important interpretive role of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights can play in determining the scope of rights and governments' responsibilities, and the broad range of remedies available for Charter violations, there is n reason why the Canadian courts should not play an active role in safeguarding socio-economic rights in Canada. Canadian courts have fallen short of explicitly recognizing socio-economic rights, particularly if they impose a positive obligation on governments. However, there is potential for socio-economic rights to be recognized as a fundamental principle that is central to the interpretation of all human rights.
Keywords: Canada, Charter, socio-economic, Charter, section 7, section 15, social, cultural, rights, ICESCR, international, poverty,
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