FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued by Nathalie Chiasson, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, for Equality Day, which is today:

Today we are celebrating Equality Day, designed to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The coming into force of section 15 of the Charter in 1985 was a touchstone in Canadian history by guaranteeing the right to equality of all before the law, without discrimination. Nearly 37 years after its adoption, the concept of equality is confronted by today’s reality. Although section 15 contains a list of nine types of prohibited discrimination, the list was not exhaustive and has evolved over time before the courts.

The evolution of our attitudes and social changes have also influenced the importance we place on equality in our province, which is entrenched by the New Brunswick Human Rights Act. In this context, the short list of grounds for protection contained in the first version of the act, which was passed in 1967 and advocates the fundamental principle of the equal dignity and rights of all human beings, has also expanded.

For example, the definition of sex, no longer confined to just man or woman, was updated in 2017, at the time of the latest amendment to the act, and is now also defined by gender identity or expression. This amendment was necessary to support the concepts of inclusion and respect for each person in their diversity. The addition of “gender identity or expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination now also provides inclusive protection for the transgender, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex people of our province.

However, with the many denunciations of sexual harassment in the workplace and the #MeToo movement that have been in the news in the past few years, it must be admitted that even with protection mechanisms in place, and although they have been improved to make them more effective, there is still a long way to go before reaching full equality in all areas of society.

On this anniversary of the adoption of the charter, we should be proud to be able to live in a society that values human rights and equality, but we all have our part to play in applying these rights to others. Let us take the time to think about the right to equality so we can live in a society free from all forms of discrimination on this day when New Brunswick joins the rest of the country in promoting and protecting the equality of all Canadians. Today I invite you to discuss the importance of the right to equality with your colleagues, friends, and family members.