Open Letter to Minister Rodriguez regarding the Court Challenges Program (CCP)


Hon. Pablo Rodriguez Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Rodriguez:

As you know, prior to the October 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau promised to restore funding to the Court Challenges Program (CCP). The federal budget of 2016 allocated $5 million annually to the new CCP and, in February 2017, your government announced its plans to “restore and modernize the CCP.”

On March 13 and on April 11, 2017 a coalition of over 80 national, provincial and local civil society organizations from across Canada wrote to Ministers Joly and Wilson-Raybould to express our grave concerns about the proposed ‘modernization’ (those letters are attached.) As we explained to Minister Joly, abandoning the CCP’s historic mandate to protect and advance substantive equality leaves open the prospect of funding being sought and granted for section 2, 3, 7 and even section 15 Charter claims that could seriously undermine, rather than reinforce, your government’s and our shared objective of a more diverse, inclusive and equitable Canada.

We underscored that, in the absence of a substantive equality mandate, CCP funding could be used to support challenges to restrictions on hate speech, official-language minority protections, political and election spending limits, safeguards for sexual assault victims within the criminal justice system, LGBTQ rights, women’s reproductive choice, affirmative action measures, the single-payer publicly funded health care system, and many other hard-fought gains for disadvantaged individuals and groups within Canadian society.

In September 2017 it was announced that the University of Ottawa had been selected to administer the new CCP. The membership of the committee appointed by the University to manage the CCP’s language rights and human rights program is surprising: no representation of Quebec’s official language minority nor of racialized, Indigenous or other disadvantaged groups (

In January 2018 representatives of civil society organizations met with Minister Joly, to reiterate our concerns relating to the CCP, namely that:

  • Section 35 (Aboriginal and Treaty) and section 25 rights have not been included in the reinstated CCP, notwithstanding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action relating to access to justice for Indigenous people in Canada;
  • The CCP’s historic mandate to protect and advance substantive equality and access to justice for historically disadvantaged groups has not been explicitly reaffirmed;
  • No assurance has been given that the contract with the University of Ottawa; the terms of reference for the CCP’s Expert Panels; and especially the CCP’s funding criteria, will protect and advance substantive equality for disadvantaged groups; and
  • While a minimum of $1.5 million of the CCP’s $5 million annual budget has been allocated to language rights cases, no amount has been earmarked for equality rights cases.

Since that meeting, no further announcements about the CCP have been made. Minister Rodriguez, we are deeply concerned that three years after the election and 18 months after your government announced the reinstatement of the program, a CCP capable of ensuring substantive equality and access to justice for disadvantaged groups in Canada is still not in place. We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience in order to discuss our concerns and to propose a way forward.

Yours sincerely,

Suki Beavers
Project Director, National Association of Women and the Law

On behalf of:

  • Alex Neve, Secretary General Amnesty International Canada
  • Lobat Sadrehashemi, President Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
  • Jewelles Smith, Chairperson Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee Feminist Alliance for International Action
  • Scott Robertson, President Indigenous Bar Association
  • Lucie Lamarche, Second Vice-president Ligue des droits et libertés
  • Lorena Fontaine, Representative Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy
  • Bruce Porter, Executive Director Social Rights Advocacy Centre


  • Béatrice Vaugrante, General Director Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
  • Pauline Worsfold, President Canadian Health Coalition
  • Sandra Noe, President Federation of Muslim Women
  • Ann Decter, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy YWCA Canada
  • Rushdia Mehreen, Coordinator Voices-Voix
  • Brent Patterson, Political Director Council of Canadians
  • Hailee Morrison, Executive Director Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
  • Harriett McLachlan, President Canada Without Poverty
  • Vincent Calderhead, Board member Charter Committee on Poverty Issues
  • Rita Morbia, Executive Director Inter Pares
  • Jennifer Henry, Executive Director KAIROS
  • Gabrielle Bouchard, President Fédération des femmes du Québec
  • Carmela Hutchison, President DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada
  • Diana Majury, President Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
  • Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
  • Nuzhat Jafri, Executive Director Canadian Council of Muslim Women
  • Maïra Martin, General Director Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
  • Amanda Dale, Executive Director Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
  • Annabel Webb, Co-Founder and Chair, Board of Directors
  • Tracey McIntosh, Executive Coordinator Justice for Girls
  • Rafia Haniff-Cleofas, Chair Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities
  • Elizabeth Dandy, Director, Equality Branch Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Hodan Ahmed, Liaison Officer Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL)
  • Tim McSorley, National Coordinator International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
  • Shalini Konanur, Executive Director South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
  • Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Clinic Director Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Gwen Brodsky, Director Poverty and Human Rights Centre
  • Louisa Russell, Collective member Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
  • Mohamed Boudjenane, Interim President Canadian Arab Federation
  • Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, Executive Director Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre
  • Susan Harney, Chairperson Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC
  • Tannis Braithwaite, Executive Director BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
  • Margaret Rao, President Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
  • Sunny Marriner, Executive Director Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre
  • Nathalie Goulet, Director Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
  • Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union
  • Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director ARCH Disability Law Centre
  • Brendan Wong, President Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (Ontario)
  • Lise Martin, Executive Director Women’s Shelters Canada
  • Richard Elliott, Executive Director Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
  • Nigel Barriffe, Board Chair Urban Alliance on Race Relations
  • Kathleen Ruff, Director
  • Gail Davidson, Executive Director Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  • Donna Franey, Executive Director Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
  • Jeremy Dias, Director Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity
  • Susan Bazilli, Director International Women’s Rights Project
  • Stefanie Lomatski, Coordinator Sexual Assault Network Ottawa
  • Ben McDonald, Spokesperson Alternatives North
  • Shaun Fluker, Executive Director Public Interest Law Clinic – University of Calgary Faculty of Law
  • Jennifer Maccarone, President Quebec English School Boards Association
  • Natasha Bakht, English Editor
  • Emmanuelle Bernheim, French Editor Canadian Journal of Women and the Law
  • Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurer National Union of Public and General Employees
  • Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  • Ryan Peck, Executive Director HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO
  • John McKinnon, Director Injured Workers’ Consultants Community Legal Clinic
  • Natalie Drolet, Executive Director West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association
  • Michael Kerr, Co-ordinator Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network
  • Cheryl Milne, Executive Director David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights
  • Debbie Douglas, Executive Director Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  • Nicole Pietsch, Coordinator Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)
  • Ann Batisse, Executive Director Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group
  • Vrinda Narain, Member of the Executive Committee South Asian Women’s Community Centre
  • Lana Robinson, Clerk Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
  • Kenneth Hale, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
  • Cindy Hanson, President Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
  • Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy & Legal Services Income Security Advocacy Centre
  • Aleem Bharmal, General Director Community Legal Assistance Society
  • Evelyn Calugay, Coordinator PINAY
  • Vincent Greason, Coordinator Table ronde des OVEP de l’Outaouais (TROVEPO)
  • Samer Muscati, Director International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto
  • Rob Dalgleish, Acting Executive Minister The United Church of Canada