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Canadian Bar Association supports strengthening equality in the Quebec Charter

23 mars 2008

par Me Bernard Amyot, Me Julie Latour et Me Benoît Lussier

The Canadian Bar Association, through its 37,000 members, is actively involved in law reform, notably to promote equality within the justice system. For this reason, we support without reservation Bill 63, which, for the first time, explicitly recognizes the equality of men and women in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights.

Equality between men and women is one of the cornerstones of modern Quebec. It defines Quebec as an open and democratic society, reflects our commitment to social justice, and promotes social and economic growth. Conscious of the historic importance of this revision, the CBA argued for the legal necessity of these amendments before the Quebec parliamentary commission held in February.

Our Association believes these changes should have been included in the original text of the Quebec Charter in 1975. From our point of view, this legislation simply and concisely corrects an omission. These amendments will harmonize the Quebec Charter with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which contains a provision (section 28) similar to the Quebec amendments (preamble and section 49.2). In particular, the changes strengthen the legal protection of gender equality and will benefit all women in Quebec, whatever their origin.

The Canadian Charter expressly conveys the value of equality between men and women. Many international constitutional instruments do likewise, including the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Canada signed on May 19, 1976. Why should this principle not also be acknowledged in the Quebec Charter ?

With the Bill 63 amendments, our provincial government is giving all Quebec citizens the means to promote and protect the basic value of equality between men and women. It has a duty as legislator to provide the courts with the tools necessary to interpret the law and the Charter according to fundamental public values.

This update is a critical step to ensure that equality rights of men and women in Quebec are recognized as an integral part of our society. The amendments move us one step closer to true equality.

History reveals a tenacious and profound resistance to the full participation of women and the recognition of their rights. Only after tireless and courageous efforts has the legal, social and political balance been righted. The fact that the Charter will now include these collective values stands as a tribute to the dedicated commitment of men and women who were not swayed by the whims of their times.

The recognition of equality rights is a recent phenomenon and as a result, still fragile. None of these advances would have materialized over the past 50 years without a clear political will. Through legislation, including the right to vote and legal emancipation, women have been recognized as full-fledged members of our society.

Justice evolves over time. It is the citizens’ duty to promote and protect the values that we hold most important. For most Quebecers, these values define our society as a model for the world. Equality between men and women is at the forefront of these values.

On Sisyphe, March 22, 2008

Me Bernard Amyot, Me Julie Latour et Me Benoît Lussier

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