Interveners in Human Rights Cases.

AuthorMcKay-Panos, Linda

Canadian courts, even though they are not litigants, third parties may have an interest in intervening in court proceedings because the court's judgment may affect them or others whom they represent. They often have information that they believe may be relevant to the courts in making their decisions. In Canada, interveners usually appear in appellate proceedings, but they can also appear in trial proceedings. Interveners commonly intervene on either side of a human rights or Charter dispute because these cases often deal with broad public policy issues. Interveners may include human rights statutory bodies (e.g., the Alberta Human Rights Commission), governments, unions, employer groups and interest groups (e.g., the Council of Canadians with Disabilities). While governments (e.g., Attorneys General) have the right to intervene in Charter cases and must be given notice in advance of a Charter claim, private interveners must seek leave (permission) from the court to intervene. It is quite usual for several interveners to seek leave to intervene in major human rights and Charter cases.

Interveners may be given leave to intervene when they are seeking to provide a different perspective on issue(s) that are before the court, but not when they are seeking to change or otherwise expand upon those issues. When an individual, group or body is given leave to intervene in a case, they usually submit a written argument (called a factum) and are also given permission to make a brief oral submission to members of the court. There are strict rules about the maximum length of the factum and the amount of time interveners are allotted to make their arguments. In the interest of time management, sometimes groups of interveners combine their efforts and make joint submissions.

Recently the Supreme Court of Canada made the news when, on July 27, 2017, Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner rejected four Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) groups that had applied to intervene in a case about a law school at Trinity Western University (TWU). TWU requires students to sign a code of conduct limiting their sexual intimacy to heterosexual marriage. The case involves equality and freedom of religion--both important human rights issues.

Justice Wagner told the Globe and Mail on August 2, 2017, that he did not purposely exclude the LGBTQ groups. Because there was only one day allotted for the case hearing (and there were two cases to be...

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