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Law's meanings for equality in the Americas : less impoverished visions for Canada Neun, Heather 2019

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 LAW’S MEANINGS FOR EQUALITY IN THE AMERICAS:  LESS IMPOVERISHED VISIONS FOR CANADA   by   Heather Neun    M.Phil., The University of Sussex, 1987 J.D., The University of British Columbia, 1997    A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE  REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF   MASTER OF LAWS  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES  (Law)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA  (Vancouver)  APRIL 2019    © Heather Neun, 2019        ii  The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, a dissertation entitled:  Law’s Meanings for Equality in the Americas: Less Impoverished Visions for Canada  submitted by Heather Neun in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Laws in The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies  Examining Committee:  Professor Margot Young Supervisor  Professor Debra Parkes Supervisory Committee Member          iii Abstract  Equality is a ubiquitous concept that many assume is intuitively understood. There is however significant contention over its ‘true’ meaning. Following the enactment of constitutionalized equality guarantees under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there were high expectations for judicial interpretation that moved decisively away from a formal equality conception and embraced a substantive understanding. An extensive critique emerged early in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s jurisprudence and criticism has been sustained. For its part, the Court has consistently framed its approach as that of “substantive equality”.  Although its jurisprudence purportedly incorporates substantive elements that extend beyond the formalist “treating likes alike” and “same treatment” approach, the widespread disappointment is generally well-founded, given the gap between aspiration or rhetoric and the Court’s judgments.  The arguably contingent nature of equality means that other rights protection systems have generated different conceptions of its meaning. The approach to equality in the Inter-American human rights system (IAHRS) offers one such set of understandings. The objective of bringing together these two different systems is to consider how s. 15 jurisprudence falls short of a substantive equality vision, by considering the regional rights system of which Canada is a member.  Critical equality scholarship provides the basis for elaborating key elements of substantive equality. Three such elements are highlighted in evaluating the Court’s jurisprudence and how the IAHRS’s equality law and discourse stands up to a similar analysis, namely, the contextualized methodology, an indivisible approach to social rights, and a strong state responsibility doctrine. The two systems are generating different equality meanings and the IAHRS’s framework is more consonant with redress of pervasive substantive inequalities in the Americas, including through its employment of a deeply contextualized analysis, the development of positive state obligations and ‘indivisible’ approaches to equality in conjunction with other civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. As such, the IAHRS is of interest to Canadian equality-seeking groups, including those interested in exploring engagement with the system. At a minimum, the IAHRS’s      iv understandings may stir the legal imagination of advocates assessing future strategies for transformative social change in Canada.         v Lay Summary  The right to equality is considered fundamental, yet, as an ‘empty’ concept, it generates disagreement regarding its ‘proper’ meaning. The Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of constitutionalized equality rights under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been critiqued as falling short of what equality can and should mean. The Court’s approach is more formal than substantive, despite its consistent claim to the contrary. This thesis evaluates key limitations of the section 15 jurisprudence in light of equality understandings in the inter-American regional human rights system, concluding that this system applies a substantive inequality lens to its equality rights analysis, considering contextual realities and perspectives not usually addressed, and applying strong state duties to redress entrenched situations of structural inequality and discrimination. As such, the system’s interpretive frameworks are of interest to social justice and equality-seeking groups in Canada.         vi Preface  This thesis is original, unpublished, independent work by the author, Heather Neun.       vii Table of Contents   Abstract ........................................................................................................................................ iii Lay Summary ................................................................................................................................. v Preface ......................................................................................................................................... vi Table of Contents ......................................................................................................................... vii List of Abbreviations ...................................................................................................................... x Acknowledgements....................................................................................................................... xi Dedication ................................................................................................................................... xii  Chapter 1: Introduction .................................................................................................... 1 1.1 Contestation over Equality in Canada and the Americas ......................................................1 1.2 Rationale for Bringing the Two Systems Together ...............................................................9 1.3 Structure of Thesis ........................................................................................................... 15 1.4 Objectives and Expected Contributions of Thesis .............................................................. 18  Chapter 2: Methodology ................................................................................................ 21 2.1 Scope of Research ............................................................................................................ 21 2.1.1 Methodological Approach to Assessing Equality Understandings....................................................... 22 2.1.2 Parameters of Project’s Comparative Law Exercise: Imposing limits .................................................. 23 2.2 Theoretical Framework of Project ..................................................................................... 28  Chapter 3: Canadian Constitutionalized Equality Rights Law ........................................... 31 3.1 Introduction .................................................................................................................... 31 3.1.1 Objectives and Introduction to Section 15 .......................................................................................... 31 3.2 Interpretive Backdrop to Section 15 – Competing Visions of Equality ................................. 36 3.2.1 Binary or Spectrum? ............................................................................................................................ 36 3.2.2 Formal Equality Elaborated.................................................................................................................. 37 3.2.3 Substantive Equality Elaborated .......................................................................................................... 48 3.2.4 Element 1: Substantive Inequality Harms and Relevant Context ........................................................ 50 3.2.4.1 Key premises and analytical tools for examining complex inequality harms ............................. 50 3.2.4.2 Specific substantive inequality harms and forms of redress ...................................................... 53 3.2.4.3 The requisite contextualized methodology ................................................................................ 61 3.2.5 Elements Two and Three: Overcoming Dichotomies........................................................................... 62 3.3 S. 15 Jurisprudence: Openings, Ambivalence, Dim Prospects for Substantive Equality ........ 66 3.3.1 Overview of Equality Shortfalls ............................................................................................................ 66 3.3.2 The SCC’s Contextual Analysis: Examining the Jurisprudence ............................................................. 68 3.3.2.1 Ambit of protection: undershooting s. 15’s purpose ................................................................. 68      viii 3.3.2.2 Limited embrace of contextualism ............................................................................................. 75 3.3.2.3 SCC’s commitment to a “substantive contextual inquiry” ......................................................... 76 3.3.2.4 Device One: Enumerated and analogous grounds inquiry ......................................................... 78 3.3.2.5 Device Two: Categorical approaches to grounds ....................................................................... 83 3.3.2.6 Device Three: Role of comparison and comparative formula .................................................... 84 3.3.2.7 Device Four:  Analysis of multiple rights claims ......................................................................... 90 3.3.2.8 Device Five: Law’s experiment with contextual factors and dignity .......................................... 91 3.3.2.9 The Court’s current post-Law contextual inquiry ....................................................................... 98 3.3.3 Illustrations of the SCC’s Thin Contextual Analysis ............................................................................ 100 3.3.4 SCC’s Approach to Indivisibility and Positive Obligations .................................................................. 119 3.3.5 Positive State Obligations .................................................................................................................. 120 3.3.5.1 Summary of the state’s positive obligations ............................................................................ 132 3.3.6 Indivisibility and Justiciability of ESCR/SER ........................................................................................ 134 3.3.6.1 Prospects for successful ESCR/SER claims ................................................................................ 143 3.4 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 145  Chapter 4: Equality Understandings in the Inter-American Human Rights System ......... 146 4.1 Introduction and Outline ................................................................................................ 146 4.2 Methodological Choices and Research Challenges in the IAHRS ....................................... 148 4.2.1 Ambit of Sources of IAHRS Jurisprudence and Legal Standards ........................................................ 148 4.2.2 Criteria for Selection of IAHRS Decisions and Merits Reports ........................................................... 150 4.3 Introduction to the Inter-American Human Rights System ............................................... 153 4.3.1 Organization of American States and the IAHRS ............................................................................... 153 4.3.2 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) .................................................................... 157 4.3.3 Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) ............................................................................... 161 4.3.4 Evolution of System’s Rights Agenda: Historical Socio-Political Forces ............................................. 163 4.3.5 Canada and the IAHRS ....................................................................................................................... 168 4.4 Part I:  Foundational Elements of Equality Rights Framework .......................................... 171 4.4.1 Introduction to Equality Rights:  General Interpretive and Analytical Framework ........................... 171 4.4.1.1 Equality texts ............................................................................................................................ 171 4.4.1.2 Equality’s Roles: As jus cogens right, anchoring right, structural principle .............................. 173 4.4.1.3 Where equality sits on the spectrum ....................................................................................... 176 4.4.2 Element One: Place of Context and Contextual Analysis ................................................................... 179 4.4.2.1  Theoretical framework for poverty and human rights ............................................................ 180 4.4.3 Approach to False Binaries: Striving for Coherence .......................................................................... 182 4.4.3.1 Indivisibility and the enforcement of ESCR/SER ....................................................................... 182 4.4.3.2  Positive-negative duties:  strong state responsibility doctrine ............................................... 186 4.5 Part II:  Jurisprudential Trajectories ................................................................................ 192 4.5.1 Building Blocks for Substantive Equality: Life Projects or Plans ........................................................ 192 4.5.2 Building Blocks for Substantive Equality: Right to a Dignified Life .................................................... 195 4.5.3 Street Children: Right to a Dignified Life as Avenue for the Justiciability of ESCR ............................. 196 4.5.4 Combining Status Subordination with Economic Subordination and Poverty .................................. 201 4.5.5 From Criminalization of Poverty to Exploitation and Labour Rights .................................................. 212 4.5.6 Multiply Marginalized Out-Groups: The Case of Migrants ................................................................ 218 4.5.7 Theorizing Difference and Challenging ‘Universality’ through Indigenous Rights ............................. 230 4.5.7.1 Context-setting: taking the long and deep view ...................................................................... 232 4.5.7.2 Trajectory of Indigenous rights jurisprudence ......................................................................... 235      ix 4.5.7.3  First line of cases: sui generis conceptions of the right to property ....................................... 238 4.5.7.4  Dignified life comes together with collective property ........................................................... 244 4.5.7.5  Second line of cases:  equality dimensions of participation and political rights ..................... 251 4.5.8 Social Construction and Misrecognition of ‘Difference’: The Case of Disability ................................ 264 4.5.9 Gendered and Multidimensional Forms of Subordination and Discrimination ................................. 273 4.5.9.2 Domestic violence and state duties of prevention and due diligence ..................................... 279 4.5.9.3 Systemic patterns of violence by third parties: Cotton Field.................................................... 286 4.5.9.4 Context of violence and marginalization: barriers to justice for Indigenous women .............. 295 4.5.9.5 Patterned discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canada ....................... 299 4.6 IAHRS Equality Understandings: Assessment .................................................................. 302  Chapter 5:  Reflection on Equality Visions in Canada and the Americas .......................... 304 5.1 Dialogue of the Systems:  What the IAHRS has to say to Canada ...................................... 304 5.2 Conclusions ................................................................................................................... 313 5.3 Final Thoughts ............................................................................................................... 318  Bibliography………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………320  Appendix A: Inter-American Commission Reports Concerning Women ............................... 349 Appendix B: Rights Provisions ............................................................................................ 350          x List of Abbreviations  ACHR: American Convention on Human Rights  ADRDM: American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man  CBDP: Convention for the Prevention, Sanction and Eradication of Violence Against Women, known as Convention of Belém do Pará  CEDAW: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women  CEJIL: Centre for Justice and International Law  CERD: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination  CPR: Civil and Political Rights  CRPD: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  ESCR: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  IACHR: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  IACtHR: Inter-American Court of Human Rights  IAHRS: Inter-American Human Rights System  ICCPR: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights   ICESCR: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  LEAF: Legal Education and Action Fund  OAS: Organization of American States  SCC: Supreme Court of Canada  SER: Social and Economic Rights or Socio-Economic Rights          xi Acknowledgements  Undertaking this course of studies proved much more challenging than expected. I could not have completed this thesis without the support and guidance of my supervisor, Professor Margot Young. Her patience and enthusiasm have been greatly appreciated. I am also extremely grateful to Professor Debra Parkes for agreeing to be my second reader and for her important insights.         xii Dedication  To Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, in recognition of their courage and determination to obtain justice.  And to Vanessa Coria Castilla and my other colleagues at CEJIL in Costa Rica, who also contributed to the inspiration for this project, and whose efforts in defending human rights fuel and further the vision of a more just world.   And finally, to my core team of Brad, Juliet and Nikolai.        1 Chapter 1: Introduction  1.1 Contestation over Equality in Canada and the Americas   “Equality is a term that, standing alone, means nothing. It has no universally recognized, inherent or intrinsic content.”1    So spoke Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, one of Canada’s most important equality rights jurists, sharing a sentiment expressed by other justices of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), both on and off the bench.2 In other accounts, equality has been described as “empty”,3 “open-ended and indeterminate”, and “capable of giving rise to multiple and often conflicting accounts of its ‘proper’ meaning”.4 Canada’s experience with the adjudication of entrenched constitutional equality rights guarantees under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) 5 is a testament to the different and often contradictory conceptions of equality that circulate and uneasily coexist.6 Over three decades of s. 15 jurisprudence and scholarly debate over its meaning and application have demonstrated how varied and disputed are the normative understandings of the legal concept of equality.                                                    1 Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, “A Conversation about Equality” (2000-2001) 29 Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 65 at 74. 2 Justice Iacobucci referred to section 15 as “perhaps the Charter’s most conceptually difficult provision” in the paradigmatic case of Law v. Canada (Minister of Employment & Immigration), [1999] S.C.J. No.12, [1999] 1 SCR 497 at para 2, 170 DLR (4th) 1 [Law]. See also former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s much cited article, characterizing equality as ‘the most difficult right’: “Equality: The Most Difficult Right” (2001) 14 S.C.L.R. (2d) 17. 3 Peter Westen, “The Empty Idea of Equality” (1982) 95(3) Harvard Law Review 537 [Weston, “Empty Idea”]. See also his other writings: “On “Confusing Ideas”: Reply” (1981-2) 91 Yale L.J. 1153; and Speaking of Equality: An Analysis of the Rhetorical Force of “Equality” in Moral and Legal Discourse (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990). 4 Colm O’Cinneide, “The Right to Equality: A Substantive Legal Norm or Vacuous Rhetoric?” (2008) 1 University College London Human Rights Review 80, at 80. 5 Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Charter]. Section 15 came into force on April 17, 1985. See text in Appendix B: Rights Provisions. 6 Further to this: “…the legal treatment of equality is in a state of confusion resulting from the uneasy and even contradictory co-existence of different ideological concepts of, and approaches to, equality.” Colleen Sheppard, “Equality, Ideology and Oppression: Women and the Charter” (1986-1987) 10 Dalhousie Law Journal 195 at 196 [Sheppard, “Equality, Ideology”].      2 My interest in the contested nature of this “exalted right”7 arose while researching equality rights for two petitions that came before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court or IACtHR) in 2009.8 The litigation was advanced by two Indigenous women from Mexico, Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú,9 whose cases raised profound issues of structural and systemic discrimination in a complex context of violence, poverty and oppression.10 Their petitions were filed as a last resort pitch for justice from the inter-American human rights system (IAHRS or Inter-American system), a regional rights protection system that is little known in Canada but enjoys a significant presence in the legal culture of Mexico and the central and southern countries of the Americas.   I was struck by apparent differences in the Inter-American system’s approach to equality and other fundamental rights,11 as compared to Canada. I formed the preliminary view that the IAHRS’s equality analysis is different than that of Canada’s top court, and, as well, potentially more progressive, and ‘truly’, as opposed to rhetorically,12 substantive.13 It also struck me as                                                  7 Law, supra note 2 at para 2. 8 In 2009, I volunteered with the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) in its meso-America office in San José, Costa Rica, which is also the site of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  9 Fernández Ortega et al. v. Mexico (2010) (Merits) Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 215 [Fernández Ortega]; and Rosendo Cantú et al. v. Mexico (2010) (Merits) Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 216 [Rosendo Cantú].  10 In separate incidents in early 2002, Fernández Ortega and Rosendo Cantú were raped by members of the Mexican military in their respective geographically isolated and marginalized communities. These communities are situated in a rural, highly indigenous populated region of Guerrero, a state that had experienced a documented pattern of systematic human rights violations and was also subject to intensive militarization. Following a series of difficulties in accessing both health services and the justice system for reasons unique to their status as poor Indigenous women who did not speak Spanish, and after filing complaints in the Mexican non-military (civilian) system, their cases were transferred to military jurisdiction. Both domestic appeals against these transfers failed and the women filed petitions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Eventually, their cases were transferred to the Inter-American Court in 2009 and the Court heard their cases in 2010. It issued judgments later that year in their favour, along with significant remedies against the state of Mexico, including in the important category of ‘guarantees of non-repetition’. 11 The IAHRS is advancing interpretations that are more consistently substantive and derived from an explicitly structural and critical understanding of the forces of inequality and marginalization in the states of the Americas.  12 This terminology appears in the equality scholarship of various authors. See O’Cinneide, supra note 4, which explores whether the right to equality is a substantive legal norm or “vacuous rhetoric”. See also Sheila McIntyre in “Timely Interventions: MacKinnon’s Contribution to Canadian Equality Jurisprudence” (2010-2011) 46 Tulsa L.Rev. 81 at 97. 13 One of the Commission’s reports framed equality rights as encompassing a broader formulation it described as “anti-subordination”, in the context of addressing the systemic subordination of women: OAS, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence in the Americas, OR OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 68 (2007) at paras 72-76 [Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence IACHR Report].       3 interesting that this fundamental jus cogens14 right15 was being approached in such divergent ways by adjudicators in different rights systems,16 as well as within a single system, given the evident contestation within the SCC itself.17  While doing the petitions research and reviewing thematic reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Inter-American Commission or IACHR), I encountered a laudatory reference to the SCC’s equality conception, describing its approach in substantive terms.18 I was cautious about a progressive narrative as I was somewhat aware of the critical Canadian scholarship that disputed how substantive the SCC’s conception really is. I was familiar with several high water mark s. 15 decisions,19 but questioned the reality of a progressive equality vision in Canada.   Following a closer examination of the "winding course”20 of the SCC’s jurisprudence, I renewed my impression of the narrowly substantive, if not largely formal, nature of the Supreme Court’s                                                  14 A definition of the jus cogens status of the right to equality is contained in one of the Inter-American Court’s advisory opinions which decided that a principle that is so fundamental forms part of jus cogens: “[It] may be considered peremptory under general international law, inasmuch as it applies to all States, whether or not they are party to a specific international treaty, and gives rise to effects with regard to third parties, including individuals.” Juridical Condition and Rights of the Undocumented Migrants (Mexico) (2003) Advisory Opinion OC-18/03, Inter-Am Ct HR (Ser A) No 18 at 100 [Undocumented Migrants Advisory Opinion]. 15 The IACtHR’s advisory opinion in Undocumented Migrants, ibid, held that equality is a jus cogens right. 16 My research included the equality jurisprudence of the European human rights system.  17 This contestation is evident in such decisions as the ‘trilogy’ in 1995, where the Court divided in fundamental ways that went to the purpose and ambit of the s. 15 protection: Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 SCR 513, 124 DLR (4th) 609 [Egan]; Miron v. Trudel, [1995] 2 SCR 418, 124 DLR (4th) 693 [Miron]; and Thibaudeau v. Canada, [1995] 2 SCR 627, 124 DLR (4th) 449 [Thibaudeau].  18 Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence IACHR Report, supra note 13 at para 93, citing the SCC’s decision in Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 SCR 143 [Andrews]. 19 The cases I had in mind were Eldridge v. British Columbia, [1997] 3 SCR 624, 151 DLR (4th) 577 [Eldridge]; Vriend v. Alberta, [1998] 1 SCR 493 [Vriend]; and the decision in the statutory human rights case of British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (B.C.G.S.E.U.), [1999] 3 SCR 3 [Meiorin].  20 Peter Hogg, “What is Equality?: The Winding Course of Judicial Interpretation” (2005) 29(4) The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference 39, online:  <http://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/sclr/vol29/iss1/4> (last accessed April 22, 2019). The travails of the s. 15 doctrinal framework have also been described as the “rollercoaster of the s. 15(1) test”: Patricia Hughes, “Supreme Court of Canada Equality Jurisprudence and "Everyday Life" (2012) 58 S.C.L.R.(2d) 245 at 255.      4 interpretations.21 It confirmed that there are valid questions as to whether the shift in equality und