What Section 15 has Achieved

Penney Kome



The triumphant Canadian women’s constitution fight was a “political earthquake.” Massive lobbying efforts created or amended, inserted, and defended two sections relevant to sex equality—sections 15 and 28—in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Responses from both provincial and federal governments included the appointment in 1982 of the first woman justice of the Supreme Court, Bertha Wilson. A series of court challenges under section 15 resulted in a legal earthquake with respect to equal treatment for sexual preference. The presence of women justices on the Canadian Supreme Court—a political change—may produce the level of scrutiny that section 28 was intended to invoke.



Le combat constitutionnel triomphant des femmes canadiennes a été un « cataclysme politique ». Les efforts massifs de lobbying ont permis de créer ou de modifier, d’insérer et de protéger deux articles pertinents à l’égalité des sexes—les articles 15 et 28—dans la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés. Les réactions du gouvernement fédéral et des gouvernements provinciaux ont comporté la nomination, en 1982, de la première femme juge à la Cour suprême, Bertha Wilson. Une série de contestations judiciaires en vertu de l’article 15 a provoqué un cataclysme juridique en ce qui concerne l’égalité du traitement face à l’orientation sexuelle. La présence de femmes juges à la Cour suprême du Canada—un changement politique—pourrait entraîner le degré de minutie que l’article 28 visait à invoquer.


women's movement, women judges; equality rights

Full Text:

120-125 PDF


Benedet, Janine. 2013. “Message from the Director,” Law Femme. UBC Law: Centre for Feminist Studies. 12:1.

Brodsky, Gwen and Shelagh Day. 1989. Canadian Charter equality rights for women: One step forward or two steps back? Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Cameron, Jamie. 2007. “Bertha Wilson: ‘Will women judges really make a difference?’ – Listen to Justice Wilson’s Speech.” The Court. York University, Osgoode Hall Law School. 31 May.

Cossman, Brenda. 2002. "Lesbians, gay men and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Osgoode Law Journal. 40:223. 223-249.

Kome, Penney. 1983. The taking of Twenty-Eight. Women challenge the Constitution. Toronto: Women’s Press.

Mahoney, Kathleen. 1994. "A Charter of Rights: The Canadian Experience" Papers on Parliament No. 23. Government of Australia. September, 47-75.

Makin, Kirk. 2013. “Supreme Court needs more women departing judge says,” Toronto Globe & Mail. 2 February.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
Articles published in Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice/Études critiques sur le genre, la culture, et la justice are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

ISSN: 1715-0698

If the page is not displaying images and text correctly, adjust viewing to fullscreen.