LEAF recently sought leave to intervene in the Senate Reform Reference scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in November, 2013. Due to the fast-tracking of the case at the request of the federal government, the usual timelines for filing leave applications were severely truncated and LEAF had to seek leave to file our motion late. Unfortunately, the SCC has dismissed our application to file and therefore we will not be heard by the Court in November.

Undaunted, we wish to draw to the attention of LEAF supporters and women’s organizations more broadly, the reasons for our attempt to intervene in the case. The topic may seem dry (even with the recent Senate spending revelations!) but women in Canada know from experience how important it is for governments to consult with us when considering any changes to our governmental structures. With the Senate Reform Reference, the government is seeking the Court’s opinion on whether it has the authority to reform the Senate by legislation (Bill C-7) or whether it must do so by constitutional amendment.

We stated in our written memorandum of argument that Canadian women have a well-founded interest in any proposed constitutional amendments or reforms of governmental structures, and that both at law and by convention, the Canadian government is obligated to ensure that the principles of equality enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are applied to any proposed constitutional amendment or reform of governmental structures. Given that women continue to be under-represented in both the House and the Senate, LEAF sought to remind the parties that inclusion and equality are fundamental principles of our democracy. The proposed legislation does not provide for any ameliorative measures to address this continued under-representation.

While the Court’s decision with respect to our motion is disappointing, LEAF nonetheless intends to raise these issues with respect to Senate Reform in order to ensure that women’s voices are heard – and heeded – ahead of any changes to the structure of our Parliament.