See also the companion case Centrale des Syndicats du Québec v. Québec (A.G.) (2018).
This case concerned women’s access to pay equity.
LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada, in coalition with:
- The Equal Pay Coalition
- The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
In 1996, Québec passed a law requiring employers with 10 or more employees to give equal pay for work of equal value. Ten years later, less than half of employers had complied and less than two thirdshad even started on a plan. In 2009, Québec changed the law to require employers to review their progress on pay equity every five years through audits. If the audits showed women were not being paid fairly, employers were required to make changes moving forward. Women would not receive back pay for unfair wages.
Several unions challenged a number of provisions under the law, arguing that they violated women’s s.15 rights under the Charter. The trial judge found that the provisions were unconstitutional. The Québec Court of Appeal upheld the finding. Québec appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF, the Equal Pay Coalition, and the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity (the Equality Coalition) urged the Supreme Court to apply a robust equality analysis that recognizes how systemic discrimination structures women’s work.
The Equality Coalition argued that, because systemic sex discrimination is so deeply entrenched, there is a need for continuous active review of workplace practices. Without these reviews, discriminatory wage gaps would re-emerge over time. By requiring pay equity audits only every 5 years and denying women a remedy for the actual wage discrimination experienced during that period, the provisions provided only episodic, intermittent and incomplete protection for equality rights. This approach failed to treat pay equity as a normal and legitimate part of workplace rights and failed to build women’s equality into core workplace standards.
A majority of the Supreme Court held that the provisions discriminated based on sex, violated s. 15 of the Charter and could not be saved under s. 1. The majority recognized pay equity as a fundamental human right and expressly acknowledged the systemic nature of pay discrimination.
LEAF is grateful to Fay Faraday and Jan Borowy, counsel in this case, as well as Andrew Astritis, Ottawa agent for the Equality Coalition.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’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].