The Significance of Section 7

AuthorHamish Stewart
Section 7 has proved to be one of the most fertile, even protean, sections
of the Charter, as its very general language has made it the source for
numerous constitutional claim s that might be diff‌icult to assert under
other sections of the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada’s early deter-
mination that the principles of fundamental justice included both princi-
ples of procedural fairnes s and principles of substantive justice1 opened
up grounds for challenging state action that would otherwise have been
immune to review on constitutional or administrative law grounds.
Some of the Court’s most dramatic interventions in Canadian law — its
invalidation of the abortion prohibition in the Criminal Cod e,2 its consti-
tutionalization of basic principles in criminal law,3 its foray into health
care policy,4 its interventions into the crimin al law governing sex work5
and medically assisted dying6 were made possible by its power to
review laws for compliance with substantive principles of justice. Given
the reluctance of the Court to recogni ze a section 1 limit on a section 7
right and the hesitancy of legislatures to use the sect ion 33 override to
1 Re BC Motor Vehicle Act, [1985] 2 SCR 486 [Motor Vehicle Reference], and see
Chapter 3.
2 R v Morgentaler, [1988] 1 SCR 30 [Morgentaler].
3 Motor Vehicle Reference, above note 1; R v Martineau, [1990] 2 SCR 633; R v Ruzic,
4 Chaoulli v Quebec (AG), 2005 SCC 35.
5 Canada (Attorne y General) v Bedford, 2013 SCC 72.
6 Carter v Canada (Attorne y General), 2015 SCC 5 [Carter].

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