Law v. Canada involved a challenge of the formula by which survivor’s benefits are granted under the Canada Pension Plan. Nancy Law claimed these benefits at age 30, after the death of her husband who had contributed to the Canada Pension Plan for a period of 22 years. Law argued that the provisions of the Canada Pension Plan that limited access to survivor’s benefits on the basis of age were a violation of her equality rights under Section 15(1) of the Charter.
The Court ruled in a unanimous (9-to-0) decision that Law’s equality rights had not been infringed, and that the legal approach to Section 15 must be one of “contextual analysis.”
“The fact that the legislation is premised upon informed statistical generalizations which may not correspond perfectly with the long-term financial need of all surviving spouses does not affect the ultimate conclusion that the legislation is consonant with the human dignity and freedom of the appellant.” the Court concluded. “Parliament is entitled, under these limited circumstances at least, to premise remedial legislation upon informed generalizations without running afoul of s. 15(1) of the Charter and being required to justify its position under s.1.”
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