Judging and Equality: For Whom Does the Charter Toll?

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



judicial role, judges and equality, judicial activism, judicial restraint, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, constitutional law, balance of powers


The tension between an individualistic and communitarian approach to the world is crucial to how equality will be defined in Canada. Violations of equality diminish the rights and dignity of all Canadians and not just the particular individuals or the specific groups who are the immediate victims of inequality.

This article explores the role of judges in promoting equality. In order to pursue this discussion, several related questions will also be addressed. What are the limits and strengths of the Charter as a means to a more egalitarian society? What is the nature of judging and is it distinct from the larger political process? What has been the record of the Supreme Court of Canada to date on Charter issues and how can this be extrapolated to emerging equality issues? What is the proper role for the courts in promoting equality in comparison with other institutional mechanisms?