The Wrongs of Unequal Treatment

39 Pages Posted: 18 May 2004

Date Written: May 2004


When exactly is it unfair for a government not to treat citizens as equals? And what is the nature of the wrong done to individuals who are not treated as equals? The main aim of this paper is to argue that there are a number of quite distinct ways in which individuals may be wronged by unequal treatment, and that these different wrongs are not reducible to a single unifying explanation. I then try to show that the approach to violations of equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in Law v. Canada fails to separate out these different wrongs, and I argue that this has rendered the test both conceptually problematic and less able to recognize as discriminatory certain instances in which the claimant has indeed suffered from unfair treatment. In conclusion, the paper explores several ways in which the Law approach might be modified, in order to rectify these problems.

Suggested Citation

Moreau, Sophia Reibetanz, The Wrongs of Unequal Treatment (May 2004). U of Toronto, Public Law Research Paper No. 04-04. Available at SSRN: or

Sophia Reibetanz Moreau (Contact Author)

University of Toronto Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

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