Women and Constitutional Change: A Response by the National Association of Women and the Law to Federal Proposals for Amending the Constitution
33 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2014 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015
Date Written: August 5, 1992
This brief contains specific recommendations by the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) respecting federal constitutional reform proposals published in “Shaping Canada's Future Together” (1991) and “Report to the Special joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons on a Renewed Canada” (1992). NAWL submits that all constitutional reforms should be assessed for their role in ensuring substantive equality for all Canadians, particularly women, and NAWL supports Aboriginal peoples' inherent right to self-determination and self-government. In particular, NAWL recommends that the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) should be immediately given full standing at the Constitutional Table; Quebec should be recognized as a distinct society; that the federal government must remain committed to promoting bilingualism in Canada; a constitutional commitment to eradicating sexual and other forms of inequality should be pre-eminent in any new constitutional preamble; and that property rights should not be entrenched in the Charter. NAWL further recommends that the Constitution Act 1982 should be amended to include an enforceable social charter; the House of Commons should be reformed to ensure equal representation of women, and better representation of equality-seeking minorities; the Senate should be abolished, or in the alternative be reformed to improve representation of currently underrepresented constituencies; women's groups should have the right to put forward names for vacancies on the Supreme Court of Canada; half the Supreme Court judges should be women and section 36 should be reinforced to prevent the federal government from violating its commitments under existing cost agreements or from cutting back on intergovernmental transfers designed to reduce inequality. Finally, NAWL recommends that any final package of constitutional reforms should be debated and ratified by a constituent assembly, with full representation of women and of equality seeking minorities, and that any changes to the Canadian Constitution be acceptable to the Aboriginal people of Canada, and to the people of Quebec.
Keywords: constitution, Parliament, section 33, Charter, Canada, reform, equality, women, Aboriginal, Quebec, bilingualism, social charter, Supreme Court, gender, amendment, intergovernmental, transfers, spending, cost
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