The Subversion of Human Rights by Governments in Canada

Gwen Brodsky, “The Subversion of Human Rights by Governments in Canada” in M. Young, S. Boyd, G.Brodsky and S. Day, eds. Poverty: Rights, Social Citizenship and Legal Activism (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007)

Rights to equality and life, liberty, and security of the person in our modern Canadian Constitution must be understood to encompass an obligation on governments to ensure that everyone has adequate food, clothing, and housing. If the social and economic dimension of these rights is excised from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the values and principles that underlie it – respect for human dignity and personal autonomy, commitment to social justice and substantive equality, and faith in social and pol1itical institutions – are betrayed. Various forms of disadvantage experienced by women and other major groups that are subject to entrenched discrimination become magnified, and poor people are treated as though they are 2 “constitutional castaways.” For these groups, strong social programs are necessary to the fulfilment of the rights to equality and security. The most marginalized people simply cannot enjoy these rights absent a foundation of strong social supports. On this basis alone, the Charter should be under- stood to require governments to ensure that everyone has an adequate standard of living  …

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