This case concerned the constitutionality of British Columbia’s Child Paternity and Support Act (CPSA), which only allowed mothers of children born outside of a marriage to seek affiliation orders regarding parenthood. These affiliation orders could then be used by mothers to seek orders for child support from fathers.
West Coast LEAF Association, then affiliated with LEAF, intervened before the British Columbia Court of Appeal in partnership with:
- British Columbia Association of Social Workers
- British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
- Federated Anti-Poverty Groups of B.C.
- Vancouver Status of Women.
Vicki Louise Shewchuk, who was not married at the time, gave birth to a son. She filed a complaint under the CPSA alleging that Jerry Ricard was the father. Mr. Ricard’s paternity was established, and so he was liable to provide support for his son until his son’s 19th birthday.
Mr. Ricard challenged the constitutionality of the CPSA. He argued that it violated s. 15 of the Charter, discriminating based on sex because it offered no remedies to fathers seeking support from mothers of children born outside of married relationships. The Provincial Court of British Columbia agreed with Mr. Ricard, and struck down the CPSA. The Supreme Court of British Columbia overturned that decision and upheld the law. Mr. Ricard appealed that decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
The Coalition’s Arguments
The Intervener Coalition argued that, although the CPSA was unconstitutional, the appropriate remedy was not to strike down the legislation. Doing so would harm mothers who depended on CPSA payments, including mothers who received Social Assistance. Instead, the Court should extend the legislation to apply equally to both fathers and mothers.
The Court of Appeal agreed that the CPSA violated s. 15(1) of the Charter. However, it found that the limitation on equality rights was justified under s. 1 of the Charter. As a result, the Court upheld the CPSA.
LEAF is grateful to Lynn Smith and David Mossop, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the British Columbia 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].