In a Poor State: The Long Road to Human Rights Protection on the Basis of Social Condition


  • Lynn A. Iding



This article examines how poverty in Canada might be alleviated with different forms of human rights protection that include protection from discrimination on the basis of social condition. Social condition discrimination could include denial of goods and services based on stereotypes of poverty, or could include disadvantage resulting from actual inability to pay. If based only on stereotypes, the author argues, social condition would be differentiated from other grounds of discrimination. Poor people need to be protected from the prejudice of others as well as the effects of being poor, and this may be accomplished by incorporating full social condition protection in both human rights legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada has international obligations concerning poverty, and those obligations are sometimes recognized by the courts in their decisions. However, economic rights have been consistently rejected as having Charter protection, perhaps out of fear that courts would be commanding the government to create or alter social programs. The author concludes that the Charter might still be the most effective place for economic rights, placing the initial onus more on the public sphere, which would at the same time consequently distribute some of the financial burden in the private sphere.