The blind changing history

(NC)-David Lepofsky was a 23-year-old law student in the fall of 1980 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was first being debated in Ottawa. He was also going blind.

Lepofsky was shocked to learn the proposed Charter’s equality rights provisions did not protect against discrimination based on disability. Determined to make his case, he asked the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to appoint him as its “constitutional expert” so he could appear before the Special Joint Committee hearing submissions on the Charter.

The CNIB agreed, and Lepofsky began researching how he could appear before the committee.

“I fully expected we would never get invited,” Lepofsky recalls. Yet that is exactly what happened. Lepofsky was invited to appear before the committee on behalf of the CNIB to make his case. “My jaw hit the floor. I had no authority, I was a volunteer.”

His presentation was convincing and contributed to eventually having disability being added to Section 15 as grounds for protection under the Charter. “The disability amendment was the only right explicitly added during the parliamentary debates,” Lepofsky recalls. “It was an enormo milestone on our road to equality.”

To this day, Lepofsky feels strongly about Section 15, calling it a powerful instrument in removing obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying full participation in Canadian life. He now works as legal counsel with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General and teaches law at the University of Toronto. April 17, 2005, marks the 20th anniversary of Section 15 coming into force.

There is more information about Section 15 at

– News Canada