Elizabeth Symes v. Regina (1993) : a case study of feminist judicial action in Canada

Oates, Lori Lee (1997) Elizabeth Symes v. Regina (1993) : a case study of feminist judicial action in Canada. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The question of how resources should be allocated between the sexes is an old one, and one that Canadians have often taken to the courts for resolution. The constitutional entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in 1982, made it possible for the judiciary to take an even greater role in the debate over equality rights. In late 1993, Symes v. Regina came before the Canadian Supreme Court and brought gender equality rights to the forefront of public policy debate once again. -- Practising lawyer Elizabeth Symes argued that by not allowing the cost of her daycare as a tax deduction, the federal government was in violation of her equality rights. Day-care costs, she claimed, were a cost of doing business. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women publicly opposed her position, fearing that if she won, the only women to benefit would be those whose earnings required them to pay income tax. The Canadian Bar Association, however, defended Symes' position on the grounds that if day care were a cost of doing business, it would facilitate the entry of women into the legal profession. The Ministry of National Revenue argued that the issue at stake was one of tax law, not equality. The majority of the Canadian Supreme Court agreed with the government's position - that is the male majority of the Canadian Supreme Court agreed with the government. Given that the two female members of the Court had dissented from the opinion of their male counterparts, there was an accusation that if the judiciary was less male dominated, then women's rights cases would fare better in the courts. -- This case, which blatantly divided lawyers, feminists, and the Canadian Supreme Court, is perhaps the best example in Canadian history of the political questions which are often raised by feminist judicial action, the women's movement, and male domination of the legal profession. While the specific issues of the case have been dealt with by the courts, the more general questions which it raised will undoubtedly be with us, as a society, for a very long time. If there is a lesson to be learned from Symes v. Regina, it is that Canadian women cannot depend on the courts alone in order to improve their status in relation to men. Now that there is a constitutional guarantee of equality in place, it is more important than ever that women's rights advocates continue to push for more female representation in all branches and all levels of government. Even though a provision for equality rights has been put into writing, it remains the responsibility of every Canadian citizen to ensure that the courts properly enforce this principle.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/774
Item ID: 774
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 134-141.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Political Science
Date: 1997
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Saskatchewan--Regina
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Symes, Elizabeth, plaintiff; Child care services--Taxation--Canada; Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--Canada

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