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.
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