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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets in law a range of rights, including the right to life, liberty, and security of the person (Section 7), and the right to equal protection and benefit before and under the law without discrimination (Section 15).

What is a Charter Challenge?

Some parents seeking justice for their children have had to face the Supreme Court of Canada in challenging lower-ranking laws, regulations, policies, or practices by arguing that the regulation, policy or practice is inconsistent with the Charter, or inconsistent with earlier decisions made based on the Charter.

The Eaton Case

In 1992, the parents of Emily Eaton embarked on a long legal battle against the Brant County Board of Education to have their disabled daughter integrated into the regular class at her neighbourhood school.

In 1995, the Court of Appeal for Ontario came to the controversial decision that Emily Eaton had a constitutional right to be included in a regular classroom.

In its decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal claimed that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, segregating children with disabilities in special classes against their parents or guardians’ wishes violates their equality rights under section 15(1) of the Charter.

This decision, however, was later overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The majority decision in this appeal stated that there is no constitutional presumption in favour of the universal right to inclusion, but that the decision to include a child in a regular classroom should be based on the needs of the child.

The following are links to articles describing the Eaton case and the court decisions.

Eaton Case-Court of Appeal for Ontario (1995)

Eaton Case-Supreme Court of Canada (1997)

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