In Auton v. British Columbia, our courts faced a perfect storm created by colliding social, political, and legal forces. The end result of the litigation in Canada was a case described by the Supreme Court as “the first case of this type to reach this court.” in the view of the Supreme Court, the unanimous findings in the lower court had been built upon an incorrect premise that the provincial medicare scheme conferred a statutory right to public funding for all medically necessary services. The Court concluded that outside these core medical services, the statute had granted administrative discretion as to whether to extend public funding for treatments, such as intensive behavioural the rapy or other professional disciplines, such as behavioural the rapy. The Court went on to consider whether the petitioners were wrongly excluded from funding under the statute as properly construed. The perfect storm underlying Auton raises the more general question of the intersection of equality rights and the development and administration of social programs. In this paper, Geoffrey Cowper addresses some of the criticisms made of the result and reasoning in Auton. He the n addresses briefly the results and reasoning in other social benefit cases. That analysis suggests that the Court does not have a fixed approach to equality claims which arise in the context of social benefit programs. Rather, as in Auton, the Court appears consistently to prefer a more narrowly legal means of resolving the disputes rather than employing general questions of social policy and considering how equality analysis may facilitate or interfere with identified social objectives. To the extent that the decided cases indicate a trend, the Court appears to have little hesitation when it is convinced that the use of the distinction in its context is arbitrary and unfair.
Cowper, D. Geoffrey Q.C..
"Equality Rights and Social Benefit Programs."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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