Dalhousie Law Journal


University of Calgary, unions, workers' rights groups, farmers, labour, employment, legislation, Alberta, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, equality, harm, Supreme Court of Canada, identity


A clinic at the University of Calgary law school in 2014 worked with unions and workers'rights groups to develop constitutionalchallenges to the historic exclusion of farm workers from labour and employment legislation in Alberta. After exploring arguments under sections 2(d), 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we concluded that, based on the existing jurisprudence, the equality rights arguments under section 15 were the weakest. This article explores what is lost when we fail to recognize the identity-based harms that flow from government violations of equality rights. It considers the nature of these harms, why they may be minimized or ignored, and the consequences of ignoring those harms. These issues are examined in the context of workers' rights, and in particular those of farm workers, but the analysis is also relevant to broader contexts. The article concludes with thoughts on how the Supreme Court of Canada's approach to section 15 of the Charter should be modified in order to better capture identitybased harms.