The Ontario Divisional Court has found that the provincial government's regulation defining "spouse" in welfare law discriminates against sole support parents on social assistance. Four women had launched the Charter challenge when the Harris government changed the definition of spouse in 1995. They had already won their case at the Social Assistance Review Board, but the government had appealed the Board's ruling.
The Court found that the so-called "spouse-in-the-house" rule violates section 15, the equality rights section of the Charter of Rights, as it discriminates against sole support parents on assistance. "The evidence shows that the legislation exacts a price from those women for their relationships which it does not exact from other women in society with similar relationships: their financial independence. The price so exacted is payable in human dignity."
Justices Lane and Haley also say that "persons on social assistance are often stigmatised and feel themselves unworthy. The serious invasion of their privacy and the unwarranted assumption of their dependency upon a man occasioned by the Regulation can only reinforce this unfortunate aspect of their lives."