Women’s substantive equality… One case at a time

LEAF has shaped the meaning of substantive equality and equality rights law in Canada, helping legislators and the courts understand inequality from a feminist perspective. Since 1985, in dozens of cases, LEAF has exposed women’s realities in crucial areas such as:

  • Violence against women
  • Socio-economic rights
  • Workplace discrimination
  • Reproductive freedom
  • Access to services for people with disabilities
  • Aboriginal rights

Advancing equality guarantees in the law

LEAF’s work focuses on shaping the interpretation of sections 15 and 28 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Using these equality “guarantees”, LEAF works to strike down discriminatory laws and practices in Canada.

Section 15

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Section 28

Notwithstanding anything in the Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

LEAF also contributes significantly to the relationship between equality guarantees and other sections of the Charter, including section 2 (fundamental freedoms) and section 7 (legal rights).

In addition, LEAF’s work has provided analyses that have profoundly shaped the interpretation and application of statutory human rights law.

LEAF has not limited its interest to inequality on the ground of “sex” alone. LEAF has urged decision makers to consider the unique forms of inequality that are experienced by individuals who face discrimination on the basis of multiple or intersecting grounds. Such individuals may be those most marginalized in Canadian society, and thus most in need of Charter protection. LEAF’s analysis foregrounds the knowledge that individuals, and women and girls in particular, experience intersecting forms of discrimination on the basis of numerous and disparate personal characteristics (including race, class, indigeneity, sexual orientation, and disability).

Diversity and Collaboration

Central to LEAF’s mandate as a national, equality rights organization is our commitment to collaboration and consultation with others. This ensures LEAF’s arguments are informed and strengthened by the diversity of women’s experiences in Canada. By reaching into the many communities where women and girls’ lives are shaped and by learning about their experiences, LEAF becomes accountable to women and girls and the organizations that represent them.

LEAF does not provide funding or sponsor cases, nor does LEAF act for individuals directly. Rather, LEAF seeks leave to intervene in cases that may have a systemic effect upon equality rights. If you need assistance with your individual case, please contact the law society in your community or region to locate a lawyer or resource to assist you.