The concept of human dignity in the case-law of the Supreme Court of Canada on Charter Equality Rights

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Author: Tatiana Vasilieva

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2021-5-118-137

Keywords: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, human dignity, right to equality, Supreme Court of Canada

Abstract

This article explores the evolution of the Supreme Court of Canada’s approach to the application of the concept of human dignity in constitutional equality cases. Traditionally, in human rights cases, this concept serves only to strengthen the argument, to show that the violation affects the person’s intrinsic worth. It is only in Canada and in South Africa that there is experience in applying the concept as a criterion for identifying discrimination. In 1999, in Law v. Canada, the Supreme Court recognized the purpose of Article 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 to be the protection of human dignity and stated that discrimination must be established based on assessment of the impact of a program or law on human dignity. However, in 2008, in R. v. Kapp, the Court noted that the application of the concept of human dignity creates difficulties and places an additional burden of prove on the plaintiff. It is no coincidence that victims of discrimination have preferred to seek protection before human rights tribunals and commissions, where the dignity-based test is not used. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the use of the concept of human dignity as a criterion for identifying discrimination. The unsuccessful experience of applying the concept of human dignity as legal test has demonstrated that not every theoretically correct legal construction is effective in adjudication.

About the author: Tatiana Vasilieva – Doctor of Science in Law, Associate Professor, Chief Research Fellow, Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Vasilieva T. (2021) Ispol'zovanie Verhovnym sudom Kanady kontseptsii dostoinstva cheloveka v konstitutsionnykh sporakh o ravnopravii [The concept of human dignity in the case-law of the Supreme Court of Canada on Charter Equality Rights]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 118–137. (In Russian).

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