Courts okay favouritism of Canadians for public-service jobs

Supreme Court of Canada divided over ruling which says non-citizens can apply — only if there are no qualified Canadians.
By Asha Tomlinson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/10/2003

In a deeply divided ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed it’s okay to favour Canadian citizens over non-citizens for public-service jobs.

The recent decision upholds a federal law that says non-citizens can only apply for permanent public-service jobs if there are no qualified Canadian candidates. In a 6-3 ruling, the majority of judges said the breach of equality rights of non-citizens is reasonable and justifiable.

“It only makes sense for a country as open and diverse as Canada to enact a policy that integrates its population,” Justice Michel Bastarache wrote on behalf of four majority-opinion judges. “The signal effect of the impugned provisions is not to discourage immigration, but to underscore the value of citizenship.”

Two other judges upheld the law saying they didn’t see the law as an infringement from the get-go. However, the three judges who dissented — Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Madam Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé and Mr. Justice Ian Binnie — believed the law to be unjust and serves only to isolate non-citizens.

“In essence the government’s argument is this: we discriminate against people lawfully in Canada so they will value citizenship and be motivated to become citizens, at which point we will cease to discriminate against them.

“The discrimination in question is at odds with the values of tolerance, equality and respect that the government acknowledges lie at the heart of Canadian citizenship,” wrote the minority.

The Lavoie vs. Canada ruling disappointed the three women who challenged the provision of the Public Service Employment Act — all are permanent residents, but only two have since become Canadian citizens.

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *