CWP at the Supreme Court of Canada?

05-20-14

Canada Without Poverty (CWP) has joined forces with the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues (CCPI) in a legal case going to the Supreme Court of Canada in October 2014.  The case is called Taypotat v. Kahkewistahaw First Nation.

The case is about discriminatory electoral rules on Aboriginal reserves that prevent people without a Gr. 12 education from running for public office. It’s being brought forward by an Aboriginal Elder – Louis Taypotat – who never attained his Gr. 12 because he dropped out of the residential school system.  Louis, who was 75 at the time, is challenging the electoral rule imposed by the Band Council as discriminatory based on age and Aboriginality–residence (the rule would exclude a lot of older on–reserve Aboriginal people).  Louis won at the Federal Court of Appeal, but the decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada by the Respondents.

CWP/CCPI agree that the rule is discriminatory so we’ve decided to join the legal challenge. But instead of age discrimination we are going to argue that the electoral rule discriminates against Louis based on the social condition of level of education. In other words, that the rule discriminates against him because of a number of social factors that created barriers to him attaining a grade 12 education.

The argument that CWP and CCPI have developed in the Taypotat case is important – especially if the Supreme Court likes it – because it has broader implications including for people living in poverty.  CWP and CCPI have long argued that social condition – which would include poverty, homelessness, level of education, etc. – should be recognized as a ground of discrimination for disadvantaged groups.

If the Supreme Court is willing to accept level of education as a ground of discrimination based in social condition in Taypotat, they might also be willing to keep the door open for a broader understanding of social condition that provides Charter protections to poor people.  

What happens next?

CWP and CCPI have approached the Supreme Court to ask them if we can make the social condition arguments at the hearing.  To this end, we filed an outline of our argument with the court, and Louis Taypotat’s lawyer has given the thumbs up with respect to us being there, but the decision is ultimately the Supreme Court’s. So for now, we wait!

CWP/CCPI are represented by Prof. Martha Jackman (University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law) and Sacha Paul/Andrew Sain (Thompson, Dorfmann, Sweatman LLP, Manitoba).

If the Supreme Court is amenable to hearing us – then CWP will be off to the Supreme Court in October 2014!

It will take a lot of intense work to convince the Supreme Court to hear us. We need to begin preparing our legal argument today. Will you be one of the 50 individuals to help fund this work. This is a truly rare opportunity for Canada Without Poverty to be heard at the Supreme Court Canada.