This case concerned the repeal of the Employment Equity Act, 1993, and equity and equal opportunities in the workplace.
LEAF partnered with DisAbled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN) to intervene before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
In 1995, the Ontario government enacted the Job Quotas Repeal Act, 1995 (the JQRA). This Act repealed the Employment Equity Act, 1993 (the EEA), which the previous government had enacted. The EEA was designed to promote employment equity, in particular for Indigenous persons, people with disabilities, racialized persons, and women. Ontario’s Human Rights Code also prohibited systemic discrimination in employment, but required individual complaints.
Marilyn Ferrel and three others applied for a declaration that the JQRA was unconstitutional, as it violated their equality rights under s. 15 of the Charter. The Ontario Supreme Court dismissed their application, and so they appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
LEAF and DAWN argued that legislated employment equity was necessary to give effect to the right to be free from systemic discrimination. Repealing the EEA would perpetuate systemic discrimination in Ontario, especially in the workplace and employment context. The groups protected by the EEA faced barriers including higher rates of unemployment, fewer employment options, unequal pay for equal work, workplace harassment, and underrepresentation in senior positions. The Human Rights Code, no matter how finely tuned, placed the burden on individuals to fight systemic discrimination and inevitably missed many of the underlying causes of discrimination.
The Ontario Court of Appeal held that the Ontario Human Rights Code satisfied any duty the government had to enact legislation to combat systemic discrimination in employment, although it did not think that the government had such a duty. As a result, the Court dismissed the appeal and the EEA was repealed.
LEAF is grateful to Jennifer Scott and Carissima Mathen, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].