In 1985 the federal government set up a Court Challenges Program which was intended to help “disadvantaged” groups and individuals to bring court challenges under the Charter of Rights. A fund of nine million dollars was provided for this purpose.
Left wing perspective
Since the Department of Justice wanted to be at arms’ length from the groups or individuals challenging federal laws, responsibility for administering the fund was given to an Ottawa-based voluntary non-profit organization called the Canadian Council on Social Development, which is known to have strong left-wing or “progressive” perspective. This Council, in turn, appointed an Equality Panel to decide which cases would receive financial assistance from the Court Challenges Program.
Who has benefited from this Program? Certainly not the disadvantaged or poor, for whom the fund was intended. As Osgoode Hall law school professor Reuben Hasson complained during a conference on social welfare in October 1989, in Toronto, the Court Challenges Program has done virtually nothing for poor people.
It is obvious that the Equality Panel members who control the money support organizations which promote non-traditional values, even when such organizations are not disadvantaged. The Equality Panel has approved many grants to assist the feminist, pro-abortion and homosexual causes, although some of the recipients are clearly not “disadvantaged.”
For example, the Panel has funded at least four separate homosexual challenges and has given approximately $100,000 last year alone to the legal arm of the feminist movement, the Legal Education Action Fund (LEAF). This was done despite the fact that LEAF has already received, since 1985, nearly one million dollars in operating expenses from the federal Secretary of State’s Women’s Program, and another million dollars from Ontario Attorney General Ian Scott for litigation purposes, plus other additional generous grants. Much of this money given to LEAF this past year by the Court Challenges Program has been channeled to assist in its interventions in cases involving abortion rights.
REAL women refused
When the pro-family and pro-life REAL Women of Canada applied for similar funding from the Program in precisely the same abortion cases in which LEAF received funds, we were refused. The Equality Panel will not approve Court Challenges grants to REAL Women, even though REAL Women is clearly at a disadvantage since it receives no government grants and subsists on donations and membership fees.
Moreover, when REAL Women testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights to point out the blatant discrimination against it by the Court Challenges Program, instead of objectively analyzing the issues raised, the Committee permitted Committee member Sven Robinson, a well-known supporter of homosexual rights and radical feminist policies, to launch into an attack on REAL Women. Our concerns were ignored.
This same Committee, incidentally, was presented with a study carried out by the former Litigation Direction of LEAF which indicated that “women” should continue to be funded by the Court Challenges Program, apparently because all women are disadvantaged simply by reason of being women. This would, of course, allow for funding to any (feminist) ”women’s” group, whether or not it was truly in need of funding.
It is not surprising that homosexual and radical feminist groups have received preferred status, as the Program’s Equality Panel consists mainly of a small group of interlOcking feminist individuals who are using the program to promote their ideology. The Director of the Program is also an acknowledged feminist activist. Moreover, one of the Panel members actually carried out legal research for LEAF and then, unashamedly, as a member of the Equality Panel, handed out large grants to it for its legal research!
The promotion by the Equality Panel of the Court Challenges Program of a narrow, radical feminist and homosexual-rights agenda, opposed to traditional family values, has profound implications for Canadian society. It is not possible to establish the limits of equality under the Charter if only one side is funded and heard by the courts. By assisting one side only in these controversial social issues, the Canadian government is giving powerful and undue influence to anti-family forces. This defeats the very objectives of the Charter of Rights.
This article first appeared in an open letter to the Oshawa (Ontario) Times.
Co-founder of REAL Women of Canada, Mrs. Landolt is a mother of five and a lawyer. She resides in Toronto, and is at present serving as Vice-President for REAL Women of Canada.