On April 8th, 1999, the Minister of Justice announced the creation of a Panel to review the Canadian Human Rights Act. At that time, the Minister stated that she wanted to increase the protection afforded by federal human rights enforcement mechanisms. Today, ordinary women question the efficiency of the Act in protecting their rights, the Auditor General has criticised the Act’s capacity to provide appropriate and timely remedies for rights violations, and Canada has recently come under unprecedented criticism from international bodies because of its failure to “promote, respect, protect and fulfil” fundamental human rights, and in particular those of Canadian women. The current Review of the Act must address these failures. The Minister must seize the opportunity to strengthen and reframe the Act so that it helps women, and particularly women from vulnerable constituencies (such as disabled women, Aboriginal women and women of colour) put an end to the persistent patterns of disadvantage which still characterise their place in society.
In December of 1999, NAWL presented a brief to the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel recommending the including of social condition as a protected ground of discrimination under the Act. We also told the Review Panel that if the Human Rights Act is to make a difference for the most disadvantaged women in Quebec and Canada, it must also include social and economic rights.