The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) celebrates Equality Day to recognize the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms coming into effect on April 17, 1985.

« Equality Day recognizes and celebrates the significance of the provision for equality rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now, 28 years later, LEAF’s interventions in cases have established legal precedents to ensure substantive equality for all women and girls across Canada, » said Diane O’Reggio, Executive Director.

In January 1981, an Ad Hoc Committee on the Constitution made up of lawyers, human rights activists and feminist grew out of the recognition that women needed to have a meaningful influence on the wording and workings of the proposed Charter of Rights.   Women from across Canada who gathered at the Women and the Constitution conference on February 14 1981, lobbied and secured the inclusion of the equality provisions. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on April 17, 1982. However, section 15, the equality rights provision, was not put into effect for three years, allowing time for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to review all their laws and amend them as necessary.

Thanks to the activism of Canadian women, section 15 and section 28 were included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which forms part of the Canadian Constitution. This victory was not complete. Women have had to bring test cases through the courts to create real change.LEAF has been a leader in equality rights for 28 years, intervening in over 150 cases. The decisions in those cases and the legislation that followed has made strides towards equality in reproductive freedoms, pay equity, employment, housing, immigration, family law, sexual violence, sexual orientation and disability accommodation for women and marginalized groups.

There is still much work to be done but we want to take a moment to reflect on how much has been accomplished and wish all of our supporters a happy Equality Day!

*Be sure to check out the televised hearing of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on April 23, 2013 at noon to 1pm (EST). The Committee invited LEAF to appear as a witness for their study on sexual harassment in the federal workplace.

LEAF is a national charitable organization that works towards the ensuring the law guarantees substantive equality for all women and girls.