Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Positive Rights; Precedent; Canadian Constitutional Law; Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights
Whether the Supreme Court of Canada can and should recognize so-called ‘positive’ rights (viz, rights that require the performance of certain actions, possibly including the provision of goods, by the government) under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms remains contentious. Binding Supreme Court of Canada precedent states that there are no positive Charter rights – at least under sections 7, 12, and 15 of the Charter, under which demands for positive action are most controversially raised – but positive aspects of Charter rights could be recognized in the future. Yet the circumstances under which recognition would be appropriate remain opaque. This work suggests that the law of precedent is a helpful tool for examining when recognition could be justified from both the institutional perspective of the Court’s internal norms and from an all-things-considered perspective. It is, at minimum, a useful framing mechanism for exploring the most difficult issues concerning the recognition of positive rights. Interestingly, application of the test suggests a break between when the Supreme Court of Canada could recognize positive rights according to its own norms and when it would be all-things-considered justified to do so. Yet, more importantly, the considerations raised by the law of precedent test also highlight a burden for future all-things-considered justified recognition and demonstrate how the judiciary can avoid the potential negative consequences of positive rights recognition if they choose to recognize them (e.g., where recognition of some form cannot be avoided in a contested case).
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Da Silva, Michael.
"Precedent and Positive Charter Rights: Time for a Change?."
Osgoode Hall Law Journal