Egan and Nesbit v. Canada, (1995) 182 N.R. 161 (SCC)

JudgeLamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateNovember 01, 1994
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(1995), 182 N.R. 161 (SCC);[1995] SCJ No 43 (QL);1995 CanLII 98 (SCC);12 RFL (4th) 201;96 FTR 80;29 CRR (2d) 79;182 NR 161;124 DLR (4th) 609;[1995] 2 SCR 513

Egan v. Can. (1995), 182 N.R. 161 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

James Egan and John Norris Nesbit (appellants) v. Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada (respondent) and Attorney General of Quebec, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Commission des droits de la personne du Québec, Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, Inter-Faith Coalition on Marriage and the Family, and Canadian Labour Congress (interveners)

(File No. 23636)

Indexed As: Egan and Nesbit v. Canada

Supreme Court of Canada

Lamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ.

May 25, 1995.

Summary:

The plaintiffs, a homosexual couple, com­menced an action for a declaration that the definition of the word "spouse" in s. 2 of the Old Age Security Act constituted discrimi­nation on the basis of sexual orientation contrary to s. 15 of the Charter.

The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Divi­sion, in a decision reported 47 F.T.R. 305, dismissed the plaintiffs' action. The plaintiffs appealed.

The Federal Court of Appeal, Linden, J.A., dissenting, in a decision reported 153 N.R. 161, dismissed the appeal. The plaintiffs appealed again.

The Supreme Court of Canada, with L'Heureux-Dubé, Cory, McLachlin and Iacobucci, JJ., dissenting, dismissed the appeal.

Civil Rights - Topic 953

Discrimination - Sexual orientation - Homosexuals - The Old Age Security Act, s. 2, defined "spouse" as including persons of the opposite sex who lived together for over a year and publicly represented them­selves as husband and wife - A homo­sexual couple argued that this definition, which in effect denied them a "spousal allowance", constituted discrimination because of sexual orientation (Charter, s. 15(1)) - The Supreme Court of Canada, per La Forest, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., Gonthier and Major, JJ., concurring), held that the definition of "spouse" did not infringe the Charter, s. 15(1), and even if it did, the infringement was justifiable under s. 1 - See paragraphs 1 to 30 - Sopinka, J., held that s. 15 was infringed, but the infringe­ment was justified under s. 1 - See para­graphs 31 to 40 - L'Heureux-Dubé, Cory, McLachlin and Iacobucci, JJ., dissenting, opined that the definition was discrimina­tory and not justifiable under s. 1 - See paragraphs 41 to 232.

Civil Rights - Topic 953

Discrimination - Sexual orientation - Homosexuals - The Supreme Court of Canada, per La Forest, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., Gonthier and Major, JJ., concurring), held that sexual orientation was a ground analogous to the grounds enumerated in s. 15 of the Charter - See paragraph 5 - Cory and Iacobucci, JJ., in joint dissenting reasons, agreed that sexual orientation was an analogous ground of discrimination - See paragraphs 99 to 106.

Civil Rights - Topic 5516

Equality and protection of the law - Tests for inequality - A homosexual couple claimed that certain Old Age Security Act provisions discriminated against them because of sexual orientation (Charter, s. 15) - The Supreme Court of Canada, per La Forest, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., Gonthier and Major, JJ., concurring), in analyzing the s. 15 issue, applied a three step test (i.e. (1) whether the law created a distinction; (2) whether the distinction caused disadvan­tage; and (3) whether the distinction was based on an irrelevant personal charac­teristic enumerated in s. 15(1) or analogous thereto) - See paragraphs 7 to 30 - Cory and Iacobucci, JJ., dissenting, discussed how to apply s. 15(1) - See paragraphs 55 to 109 - L'Heureux-Dubé, J., dissenting, after noting the divergent approaches to s. 15 in recent cases before the court, set out a framework for a s. 15 analysis - See paragraphs 160 to 213 - McLachlin, J., dissenting, applied the principles she dis­cussed in Miron v. Trudel - See paragraph 232.

Civil Rights - Topic 8348

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Application - Exceptions - Reasonable limits prescribed by law - [See first Civil Rights - Topic 953 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 8380.1

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Denial of rights - Remedies - Reading in - The Supreme Court of Canada, per Cory and Iacobucci, JJ., in joint dis­senting reasons, discussed the options available to the court under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act when legislation is found to be uncon­stitutional, and in particular, the court's power to "read in" or "readout/read down" impugned legislation - See paragraphs 145 to 156.

Civil Rights - Topic 8380.18

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Denial of rights - Remedies - Reading down - [See Civil Rights - Topic 8380.1 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 8668

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Equality rights (s. 15) - What consti­tutes a breach of s. 15 - [See first Civil Rights - Topic 953 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 8672

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Equality rights (s. 15) - Analogous categories - [See second Civil Rights - Topic 953 ].

Government Programs - Topic 1605

Old age pensions - Spousal allowances - [See first Civil Rights - Topic 953 ].

Cases Noticed:

Canada (Attorney General) v. Ward, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 689; 153 N.R. 321, refd to. [para. 5].

Miron and Valliere v. Trudel et al. (1995), 181 N.R. 253 (S.C.C.), refd to. [paras. 6, 161, 232].

Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143; 91 N.R. 255; 56 D.L.R.(4th) 1, refd to. [paras. 7, 56, 162].

Symes v. Minister of National Revenue, [1993] 4 S.C.R. 695; 161 N.R. 243, refd to. [paras. 13, 61, 208].

R. v. Turpin, Siddiqui and Clauzel, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1296; 96 N.R. 115; 34 O.A.C. 115; 48 C.C.C.(3d) 8; 69 C.R.(3d) 97; 39 C.R.R. 306, refd to. [paras. 13, 56, 167].

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295; [1985] 3 W.W.R. 481; 58 N.R. 81; 60 A.R. 161; 18 C.C.C.(3d) 385; 18 D.L.R.(4th) 321; 37 Alta. L.R.(2d) 97; 85 C.L.L.C. 14,023; 13 C.R.R. 64, refd to. [paras. 13, 138, 161].

United States of America v. Cotroni; United States of America v. El Zein, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1469; 96 N.R. 321; 23 Q.A.C. 182; 48 C.C.C.(3d) 193, refd to. [para. 13].

McKinney v. University of Guelph et al., [1990] 3 S.C.R. 229; 118 N.R. 1; 45 O.A.C. 1; 76 D.L.R.(4th) 545; 2 C.R.R.(2d) 1, refd to. [paras. 15, 33, 141, 165].

Mahe, Martel, Dubé et al. v. Alberta (1987), 80 A.R. 161; 54 Alta. L.R.(2d) 212 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 15].

Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Québec (Procureur géneral), [1989] 1 S.C.R. 927; 94 N.R. 167; 24 Q.A.C. 2; 58 D.L.R.(4th) 577; 25 C.P.R.(3d) 417, refd to. [para. 37].

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103; 65 N.R. 87; 14 O.A.C. 335; 26 D.L.R.(4th) 200; 50 C.R.(3d) 1; 24 C.C.C.(3d) 321; 19 C.R.R. 308, refd to. [paras. 52, 199].

Human Rights Commission (Ont.) and O'Malley v. Simpsons Sears, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536; 64 N.R. 161; 12 O.A.C. 241; 23 D.L.R.(4th) 321; 52 O.R.(2d) 799; 9 C.C.E.L. 185; 17 Admin. L.R. 89; 86 C.L.L.C. 17,002, refd to. [paras. 66, 176].

Tétreault-Gadoury v. Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, [1991] 2 S.C.R. 22; 126 N.R. 1, refd to. [para. 84].

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), 347 U.S. 483 (U.S. Supreme Ct.), refd to. [para. 89].

Brooks, Allen and Dixon et al. v. Canada Safeway Ltd., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1219; 94 N.R. 373; 58 Man.R.(2d) 161; 59 D.L.R.(4th) 321, refd to. [paras. 94, 224].

Schachter v. Canada et al., [1992] 2 S.C.R. 679; 139 N.R. 1; 93 D.L.R.(4th) 1, refd to. [paras. 94, 228].

Janzen and Govereau v. Pharos Restaurant and Grammas et al., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1252; 95 N.R. 81; 58 Man.R.(2d) 1; 59 D.L.R.(4th) 352; [1989] 4 W.W.R. 39, refd to. [para. 95].

Janzen v. Platy Enterprises - see Janzen and Govereau v. Pharos Restaurant and Grammas et al.

R. v. Swain, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 933; 125 N.R. 1; 47 O.A.C. 81; 63 C.C.C.(3d) 481, refd to. [para. 100].

Douglas v. Canada (1992), 58 F.T.R. 147 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 101].

Vriend et al. v. Alberta (1994), 152 A.R. 1 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 104].

Veysey v. Correctional Service of Canada (1989), 29 F.T.R. 74; 44 C.R.R. 364 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 105].

Brown v. British Columbia (Minister of Health) (1990), 42 B.C.L.R.(2d) 294 (S.C.), refd to. [para. 105].

Knodel v. Medical Services Commission (B.C.) (1991), 58 B.C.L.R.(2d) 356 (S.C.), refd to. [para. 105].

Leshner v. Ontario (1992), 16 C.H.R.R. D/184 (Bd. of Inquiry), refd to. [para. 105].

Conway v. Canada, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 872; 154 N.R. 392; 105 D.L.R.(4th) 210; 83 C.C.C.(3d) 1, refd to. [paras. 107, 180].

Weatherall v. Canada (Attorney General) - see Conway v. Canada.

R. v. Hess; R. v. Nguyen, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 906; 119 N.R. 353; 46 O.A.C. 13; 73 Man.R.(2d) 1; 3 W.A.C. 1; [1990] 6 W.W.R. 289; 79 C.R.(3d) 332; 59 C.C.C.(3d) 161, refd to. [paras. 107, 180].

Canada (Attorney General) v. Mossop, [1993] 1 S.C.R. 554; 149 N.R. 1; 100 D.L.R.(4th) 658, refd to. [paras. 124, 209].

Haig and Birch v. Canada et al. (1991), 5 O.R.(3d) 245 (Gen. Div.), affd. (1992), 57 O.A.C. 272; 9 O.R.(3d) 495 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 152].

Thibaudeau v. Minister of National Revenue (1995), 182 N.R. 1 (S.C.C.), refd to. [para. 161].

R. v. Généreux, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 259; 133 N.R. 241; 70 C.C.C.(3d) 1; 88 D.L.R.(4th) 110, refd to. [para. 179].

Schachtschneider v. Minister of National Revenue, [1994] 1 F.C. 40; 154 N.R. 321 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 187].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Dagenais et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835; 175 N.R. 1; 76 O.A.C. 81, refd to. [para. 199].

Reference re Sections 193 and 195.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1123; [1990] 4 W.W.R. 481; 109 N.R. 81; 68 Man.R.(2d) 1; 56 C.C.C.(3d) 65; 77 C.R.(3d) 1, refd to. [para. 205].

Bliss v. Canada (Attorney General), [1979] 1 S.C.R. 183; 23 N.R. 527, refd to. [para. 224].

Statutes Noticed:

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982, sect. 1 [para. 30 et seq.]; sect. 15 [para. 1 et seq.].

Constitution Act, 1982, sect. 52(1) [paras. 44, 81, 145].

Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 158, generally [para. 80].

Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act Regulations (B.C.), Reg. 479/76, sect. 2(d), sect. 3(2) [para. 129]; sect. 8 [para. 130]; sect. 10 [para. 129].

Old Age Security Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. O-9, sect. 2 [para. 3 et seq.]; sect. 19(1) [paras. 3, 44].

Resolution on Equal Rights for Homo­sexuals and Lesbians in the European Community (U.K.), A3-0028/94, generally [para. 103].

Saskatchewan Assistance Act Regulations (Sask.), Reg. 78/66, generally [para. 129].

Social Welfare Act Regulations (N.B.), Reg. 82-227, generally [para. 129].

Welfare Assistance Act Regulations (P.E.I.), Reg. EC 746/84, generally [para. 129].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Abella, Rosalie Silberman, Report of the Commission on Equality in Employment (1984), p. 9 [para. 167].

Bayefsky, Anne F., A Case Comment on the First Three Equality Rights Cases Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Andrews, Workers' Com­pensation Reference, Turpin (1990), 1 Supreme Court L.R.(2d) 503, pp. 518, 519 [para. 207]; 528 [para. 202].

Canada, Equality for All: Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights (1985), pp. 26, 30, 31, 32 [para. 101].

Canada, Hansard, House of Commons Debates, October 22, 1979, vol. 1, 1st Sess., 31st Parl., p. 476 [para. 34].

Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence (June 12, 1975), p. 25:7 [para. 113].

Duclos, Nitya, An Argument for Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage, in Carol Rogerson, Family Law Cases and Materials (1991-92), vol. 1, p. 194 [para. 139].

Eichler, Margrit, Families in Canada Today: Recent Changes and their Policy Consequences (2nd Ed. 1988), generally [para. 139].

Gibson, Dale, Analogous Grounds of Dis­crimination Under the Canadian Charter: Too Much Ado About Next to Nothing (1991), 29 Alta. L. Rev. 772, generally [para. 171].

Gibson, Dale, Equality for Some (1991), 40 U.N.B.L.J. 2, generally [para. 171].

Gibson, Dale, The Law of the Charter: Equality Rights (1990), generally [para. 171].

Hansard - see Canada, Hansard, House of Commons Debates.

Hogg, Peter W., Constitutional Law of Canada (3rd Ed. 1992), pp. 911, 912 [para. 32].

Iyer, N., Categorical Denials: Equality Rights and the Shaping of Social Identity (1993), 19 Queen's L.J. 179, generally [para. 207].

Lepofsky, M. David, The Canadian Judi­cial Approach to Equality Rights: Free­dom Ride or Rollercoaster? (1992), 1 N.J.C.L. 315, generally [para. 167].

Petersen, Cynthia, A Queer Response to Bashing: Legislating Against Hate (1991), 15 Queen's L.J. 237, generally [para. 101].

Quebec, Commission des droits de la personne, Comité de consultation, De l'illégalité à l'égalité: Rapport de la con­sultation publique sur la violence et la discrimination envers les gais et les­biennes (May 1994), p. 125 [para. 102].

Smith, C. Lynn, Judicial Interpretation of Equality Rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Some Clear and Present Dangers (1988), 23 U.B.C.L. Rev. 65, p. 86 [para. 164].

Smith, Carolyn Gibson, Proud but Cau­tious: Homophobic Abuse and Discrimi­nation in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Pub­lic Interest Research Group (July 1994), generally [para. 101].

Vanier Institute of the Family, Profiling Canada's Families (1994), pp. 67 [para. 73]; 71, 74 [para. 74].

Counsel:

Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C., and Leah Great­head, for the appellants;

H.J. Wruck, Q.C., F.E. Campbell, Q.C., and L.M. Hitch, for the respondent;

Madeleine Aubé, for the intervener, Que­bec (Attorney General);

William F. Pentney and J. Helen Beck, for the intervener, the Canadian Human Rights Commission;

Hélène Tessier, for the intervener, the Commission des droits de la personne du Quebec;

Cynthia Petersen, for the intervener, Equality for Gays and Lesbians Every­where;

Charles M. Campbell and Susan Ursel, for the intervener, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto;

Peter R. Jervis and Iain T. Benson, for the intervener, Inter-Faith Coalition on Marriage and the Family;

Steven Barrett and Vanessa Payne, for the intervener, the Canadian Labour Congress.

Solicitors of Record:

Arvay Finlay, Victoria, British Columbia, for the appellants;

Department of Justice, Ottawa, Ontario, for the respondent;

Madeleine Aubé, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, for the intervener, Quebec (Attorney General);

William F. Pentney, Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, the Canadian Human Rights Commission;

Hélène Tessier, Montreal, Quebec, for the intervener, the Commission des droits de la personne du Québec;

Cynthia Petersen, Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, Equality for Gays and Les­bians Everywhere;

Iler, Campbell, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto;

Lerner & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Inter-Faith Coalition on Marriage and the Family;

Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, the Canadian Labour Congress.

This case was heard on November 1, 1994, before Lamer, C.J.C., La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major, JJ., for the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision of the court was delivered in both official languages, on May 25, 1995, including the following opinions:

La Forest, J. (Lamer, C.J.C., Gonthier and Major, JJ., concurring) - see para­graphs 1 to 30;

Sopinka, J., concurring in the result - see paragraphs 31 to 40;

Cory and Iacobucci, JJ., joint dissenting reasons - see paragraphs 41 to 159;

L'Heureux-Dubé, J., dissenting - see paragraphs 160 to 231;

McLachlin, J., dissenting - see para­graph 232.

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