For almost 20 years, the Supreme Court of Canada increasingly rejected the idea of disability as an inherent impairment and progressively endorsed the social model of disability, which recognizes the disabling condition is a consequence of structural and societal factors. However, recent Supreme Court jurisprudence has resurfaced the fallacy of disability being defined by individual defects and deviance. This paper surveys the Court’s disability discrimination jurisprudence from the seminal Eldridge v. British Columbia decision to the splintered Ward v. Quebec decision, examining how the Court appears to be retreating from the social model’s understanding of disability being a product of systemic oppression and prejudicial attitudes, to a retrenchment of the antiquated notion that disabled people are freaks of nature and side-show spectacles. The paper posits that, by affırming a comedian’s freedom to ridicule and demean a child with multiple disabilities, the Court in Ward revived the so-called freak model of disability and condoned the exploitation of disability for able-bodied amusement. It concludes that Ward reveals there is still much work to do to achieve full equity and inclusion for people with disabilities in Canada.
Chadha, Ena and Rogers, Emmett.
"Does the Supreme Court of Canada Give a “Freak” About Disability Dignity?: The Inclusion Fallacy 25 Years After Eldridge."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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