Celebrate Equality Day and the Charter of Rights & Freedoms | National Union of Public and General Employees

Celebrate Equality Day and the Charter of Rights & Freedoms

Sections 15 and 28 are part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of the historic activism of Canadian women.

Ottawa (17 April 2012) - April 17 marks the anniversary of the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms coming into force as is celeberated as Equality Day each year.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has created a poster for the occasion and is encouraging members and the general public to use it in their workplaces, union offices and communities. The poster can be downloaded by clicking here or it can be ordered by e-mailing NUPGE at national@nupge.ca.

 Download - NUPGE Equality Day Poster 2009

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, until 1985, to allow federal, provincial, and territorial governments to analyze all their laws and amend them as necessary.

Section 15 states:

Equality Rights
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.

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.

Today, one of the issues facing Canadian women is income inequality.  Research shows there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada.  A top priority of future government budgets must be to reduce income inequality for everyone but especially for women.  A primary tool that would address this issue is the development of a Fairness Test by all levels of government in Canada. 

A Fairness Test would assess the impact of key tax and spending policies in government budgets to determine whether they will increase or decrease income inequality.  A Fairness Test for budgets would be a transparent way for government to show a commitment to the essential goal of reducing income inequality and improving the quality of women's lives.

As Canadian women showed in 1981 by lobbying for inclusion of equilty provisions in the Charter, women uniting together can create change.  This is why one of the focuses of the National Union's Women 4 Change, as part of the All Together Now! campaign, will be to lobby governments for the implementation of a Fairness Test. 

More information:

Download - NUPGE Equality Day Poster


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE