Legal Cases

Haig and Birch v. Canada (Canadian Armed Forces)


Captain Joshua Birch had a very successful career in the Canadian Armed forces. At least, until disclosing that he was gay. After that, he was discharged from the Canadian Forces. That is when 28 years ago in August 1992, he launched a human rights complaint to the Ontario Courts. The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of race, national or ethnic original, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction for which a pardon has been granted, but it didn’t say anything about sexual orientation.

In the historical sexual orientation case, he successfully argued that the omission of sexual orientation from the Canadian Human Rights Act constituted discrimination under the equality right guarantee set out in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court found that although sexual orientation wasn’t specifically mentioned in s.15(1), that it was a ground of discrimination. It added that omitting sexual orientation from the Canadian Human Rights Act constituted discrimination because it led to a failure to provide an adequate manner in which to deal with the prejudicial treatment of homosexual members of society. By not including sexual orientation, the act did not properly protect them from discrimination. To change this, the Ontario Court of Appeal “read” the term Sexual Orientation into the Canadian Human Rights Act

Federal Justice Minister Kim Campbell responds to the decision by announcing the government would take the necessary steps to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act. In November of 1992, the courts lifted the country’s ban on homosexuals in the military, allowing them to serve in the armed forces. Four years later in 1996, Parliament formally added sexual orientation as a protected ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act


Canadian Encyclopedia : Canadian Human Rights Act: