A Democratic Defence of the Court Challenges Program

Larissa Kloegman

Abstract


The introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms1 has provided many historically disadvantaged groups with an opportunity to have their rights acknowledged in the policy process. Indeed the Charter places a legal ob- ligation upon governments to ensure their leg- islative efforts respect the rights of historically disadvantaged groups. Some claim, however, that the Charter has produced activist judges who create rights for “special” interest groups rather than defer to Parliament. Others sug- gest Canada’s parliamentary system is not, on its own, favourable to all Canadians, and many groups and individuals are forced to the courts to make their interests and concerns known to government policy makers and legislators. The Court Challenges Program (CCP) was at the centre of this debate. This modest, federally funded initiative contributed to the protection and promotion of Canada’s official language mi- nority groups (OLMGs) for almost thirty years, and provided assistance to groups seeking to as- sert their section 15 Charter rights for almost twenty. The Court Challenges Program served as a last resort for many of Canada’s most dis- advantaged groups, but the Harper government recently took the position that the CCP was one of several “wasteful programs” not “providing good value for money.”2 Funding for the pro- gram was eliminated in 2006, silencing many of Canada’s most vulnerable groups.


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