Equality Day, April 17
Equality Day is celebrated across Canada on April 17 to mark the coming into force of the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on April 17, 1985.
The Charter was signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on April 17, 1982. However, Section 15 was not implemented for another three years, to allow federal, provincial, and territorial governments to analyze all their laws and amend them as necessary.
On this day Canadians everywhere can celebrate the inclusion of Sections 15 and 28 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such they form part of the Canadian Constitution. These sections are there because of the activism of Canadian women.
Section 15 states:
15.(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantage individuals or groups including those that are disadvantage because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Women from across Canada gathered at a landmark Women and the Constitution conference on February 14, 1981, to lobby for the inclusion of these provisions.
An additional clause included in the Constitution was developed at the women’s conference: an overriding principle for implementation of the decisions flowing from any constitutional legal activity.
Section 28 states:
28.Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
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