Save the Court Challenges Program!

The federal government announced on Sept. 25, 2006 that it was abolishing the Court Challenges Program, a small program that provided modest contributions to the cost of important test cases dealing with language and equality rights. Without this Program, Canada’s constitutional rights are real only for the wealthy. A website is now online to coordinate national efforts to save it:

Examples of cases supported by the Court Challenges Program – Equality Rights

Canadian Newspapers Co. v. Canada (Attorney General), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 122
A man was charged with sexually assaulting his wife. The woman applied for an order banning publication of any information that would identify her. Canadian Newspapers Co. took the position that the Criminal Code contravened the guarantee of freedom of the press in the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the the Criminal code section is justifiable since ito encourages victims of sexual assault to come forward by protecting them from the trauma of publication resulting in embarrassment.

R. v. Butler, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452
The Supreme Court of Canada articulated a harms-based test for determining when material should be considered obscene: the “community standard of tolerance” test, i.e. what Canadians would not tolerate other Canadians being exposed to. Material which may be said to exploit sex in a “degrading or dehumanizing” manner will fail the community standards test because it is perceived to be harmful to society, particularly women.

R. v. Prosper, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 236
In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that where an impoverished arrested person requests counsel, the police must desist from attempting to obtain a statement until counsel has been provided. “The poor are not constitutional castaways.”

Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513
A gay couple from British Columbia challenged the definition of spouse in the Old Age Security Act, which denied a spousal benefit available to opposite sex partners. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited by the Charter – a breakthrough for lesbians and gays seeking protection from discrimination.

Corbiere et al v. The Queen and Batchewana Indian Band, [1999] 2 S.C.R. 203
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed that the Indian Act residency requirement violated the equality rights of Aboriginal band members living off reserve. Particularly affected by the voting bar are women and their adult children who regained their Indian status under Bill C-31 and who never had the opportunity to live on the reserve.

R. v. Mills, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 668
Mills, accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, wanted to obtain records of visits she made to a counseling agency and a psychiatrist. He did not want to follow the procedures for accessing these records which are imposed by the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the provisions do not interfere with an accused person’s right to a fair criminal process under sections 7 and 11(d) of the Charter.

R. v. Wu, [2003] 3 S.C.R. 530
Mr. Wu was disabled and on social assistance, with a dependent daughter. He was convicted of possession of contraband cigarettes, an offence which is subject to a mandatory minimum fine. The trial judge provided no time to pay and ordered a conditional sentence of 75 days in default of payment to be served in the community. The Supreme Court accepted submissions of an intervener representing poor people and found that those living in poverty should not face any form of incarceration solely because of their inability to pay a fine.

Signez cette pétition afin de demander au gouvernement du Canada le rétablissement du Programme de contestation judiciaire et des autres programmes coupés par le gouvernement Harper le 25 septembre 2006 :

Le Programme de contestation judiciaire du Canada permet à des causes types fondées sur les droits linguistiques et les droits à l’égalité d’accéder au système judiciaire. Ces droits ne sont que des garanties sur papier si les personnes visées ne peuvent accéder aux tribunaux pour les faire appliquer.

À maintes reprises, le gouvernement du Canada a avisé les organes de traité des Nations Unies qu’il finançait le PCJ afin de se conformer à son obligation de garantir l’égalité d’accès aux tribunaux et de pourvoir d’efficaces recours en vertu des traités internationaux de droits de la personne
Dans une démocratie constitutionnelle comme le Canada, les causes-types constitutionnelles permettent d’examiner la signification des droits et leurs limites. Les montants alloués par le PCJ ne représentent qu’une fraction des coûts d’une cause-type fondée sur les droits constitutionnels.

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