Despite where things lie now, ranking of the rights of people is bound to occur. For instance we obviously do have some forms of age discrimination (retirement, age of majority) even though we shouldn’t according to our Charter of Rights. So discrimination by age is a lesser evil than other forms of discrimination.
What follows is the pertinent clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights.
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Not listed in the ‘in particular’ part is the more recent cause of sexual orientation. Canada now performs marriages of same sex partners to uphold this addition and it is now an assumed right.
I do approve of the future ranking of these “equal rights” because they are not equal to each other. But it’s going to take a hard, honest look to rank each one.
Let’s look at this list and find the weakest one. Every characteristic on this list is something that no matter how hard we try we cannot change. Except, of course, religion. This is a choice. There are many atheists who choose not to believe in anything and many agnostics who won’t put their foot in any camp. Still it might seem, somehow to some, that religion isn’t a choice. However, we regularly choose the religion of our parents. Or we often pick and choose the one closest to closely held beliefs of ours. More of the choice thing is apparent when men choose polygamy religions that agree with them having more wives or pro drug people choose a religion that allows for drugs to be used by members such as The Church of the Universe. Notice both choices are against the law – we haven’t and I don’t think can totally enshrine freedom of religion in our rights.
A physical or mental disablility demands recognition of a differently abled situation (Full disclosure: I have a mental disability). It is often times harder for the physically or mentally disabled to land a job. Because of this, social programs have to be tailored to acknowledge this unfair turn of events. Because this affects people before anything else is taken into consideration (national origin I’m looking at you – treatment of the disabled shouldn’t vary due to your old country treatment of the disabled) , I think this has to be prioritized as more important than some of the other rights.
So what about the classification of sex? It’s not as cut and dried as it might seem at first. There exist hermaphrodites which exhibit both male and female characteristics. Some are considered more female and some are classified as more male (I’m not going to get to the nitty gritty) but still there are some that are in the middle. Usually the choice is made soon after birth, whether to raise them as a male or female. Why should the parents get to choose? I say at least wait until puberty to find out what works or doesn’t. So here I am pro choice of the person affected. You and I know, however, that there are nation of origin, religious and age arguments to be brought into account. The conventional wisdom of today is that sex must be defined or they will be persecuted. The awkward ‘it’ might have to be used in English, but the French part of Canada would demand a sex assignation to keep the purity of the language. Why must it be defined? Surely the Charter of Rights can be given enough teeth in this instance to protect the rights no matter how differently sexed the child might be. Of course there is the distinct possibility that such a person might want to keep all its sexual characteristics and avoid any surgeries.
I have to admit that I’m surprised that fashion hasn’t taken a hit from people of varying ethnic origins. There’s the obviously unnatural state of saying that straight hair is in, or curly hair is, or that the tan is out. I’m surprised to see that colour contacts are still rare, despite other ethnic origin identifiers being routinely changed. I yearn for the day when I can see a yellow smiley face in one eye and a black eight ball in the other eye of the same person.
Inexpensive spray-on skin colours have yet to be developed that are accepted by fashion. A sneer accompanies the reaction to the so called natural looking, yet orange tans. Where is the proud to be orange movement? Ironically, the ‘natural’ human colours will be the first to become commonplace, although technologically ‘non-human’ colours came first.
Then there is the possibility that sex and sexual orientation might put things at odds. Say you’re a man who wants to be a woman, physically. What if you want to then, romance men? What if you want to, then, romance women? One could leave you with your lights punched out. The other could leave you with your lights punched out. Both ways, you’d hope the Charter of Rights would protect you.
I started this with the idea that I might be able to write a bit on this topic. This is twice the length I’d expected and I’m not even near done. I don’t even have a straight logical thread like I usually do for my pieces. It is a can of worms. What I really expect to happen is that all these topics will get into the courts. The courts will probably never say they’re ranking our ‘in particular’ rights, but in truth they probably will be. It’ll go as society goes, such as with assuming sexual orientation is as strong a right as the other rights of the Charter. Where this all will lead I don’t know but expect it to take up a lot of 21st century legal thinking in Canada.