Unity, Diversity and Justice

a virtual exhibition from the Diefenbaker Center Canada

Substantive vs Formal Laws

Substantive vs Formal Laws

The distinction between “formal” and “substantive” laws is a critical prerequisite to understanding the advancements made in the Charter since the enactment of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights did not consider that identical treatment of all Canadians might have produced inequality. “Formal” laws in the Bill treated all members of one group identically, but did not treat all groups equally in relation to each other.

Building on the shortcomings of the Bill of Rights, Section 15 of the Charter is defined by “substantive” law, which provides equal protection and benefit of the law to every individual separately, regardless of group association.


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