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Martha Jackman

Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa

Martha Jackman specializes in constitutional law, with a particular focus on issues relating to women and other marginalized groups


Martha Jackman - La Charte canadienne et l’accès aux soins de santé

Conférence de la série «Les grands conférences Paul-Bernard» 15 décembre 2014 presenté par le Centre de recherche Léa-Roback ----- MARTHA JACKMAN, Spécialiste du droit constitutionnel, Professeure titulaire, Faculté de droit, Université d'Ottawa, membre du Conseil de direction de l’Association nationale femmes et droit. «La Charte canadienne et l’accès aux soins de santé : promesses et risques» Les patients, et les groupes qui agissent en leur nom, se servent de plus en plus de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés comme moyen d’exiger des gouvernements et d’autres décideurs de rendre compte de leurs décisions ayant une incidence sur l’accès aux soins de santé. Comme l’illustre l’arrêt rendu par la Cour suprême du Canada en 2005 dans l’affaire Chaoulli c. Québec, cela entraîne toutefois de graves conséquences, non seulement pour les parties directement impliquées, mais pour le système de soins de santé dans son ensemble. Dans la foulée des décisions de PHS Community Services Society c. Canada, Médecins canadiens pour les soins aux réfugiés c. Canada et d’autres causes récentes, cette présentation examinera aussi bien les promesses que les risques posés par la Charte canadienne en matière d’accès aux soins de santé au Canada. ----- 15 décembre 2014 Direction de santé publique de Montréal --Amphithéâtre, 1301 rue Sherbrooke Est, Montréal Pour plus d'information :

The Future of Health Care Accountability: A Human Rights Approach

Published by Ottawa Law Review

2016 The paper argues that there is an urgent need in Canada for a human rights approach to health care accountability. Taking as its starting point that health care decision-making must respect Canadian Charter and international human rights guarantees, the paper contends that accountability mechanisms, both in relation to the overall performance of the health care system and individual access to care, must be designed to reflect and reinforce these fundamental human rights principles, not only as a matter of domestic and international legal obligation, but in order to be effective. To make this case, the paper first provides a brief overview of the concrete steps governments have taken towards implementing the various accountability reforms that have been put forward in Canada over the past twenty years. It then considers the implications of the absence of a human rights approach to health care accountability, particularly for those whose needs are least well served within the current system. The paper goes on to suggest that what is required, moving forward, is not only the recognition that health care is a fundamental right, but the creation of institutions and mechanisms capable of enforcing that right at both the access to care and system performance levels. The paper points to the Alternative Social Charter as one possible model for achieving effective accountability within the health care system: a critical reform for the future of health and human rights in Canada.


Rights Based Strategies to Address Homelessness and Poverty in Canada: The Charter Framework

Published by Advancing Social Rights in Canada

2014 This chapter explores the extent to which a domestic constitutional framework exists for a rights-based approach to housing and anti-poverty strategies in Canada, compatible with, and informed by, international human rights law and jurisprudence. Particular attention is paid to four Canadian constitutional provisions: 1) the commitment to provide public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians, under section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982; the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, under section 15 of the Charter; and Canadian governments’ obligation, under section 1 of the Charter, to balance and limit rights in a manner that is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable.


Section 7 of the Charter and Health-Care Spending

Published by The Fiscal Sustainability of Health Care in Canada

2004 This paper address three questions relating to section 7 of the Canadian Charter in the health care context: whether section 7 guarantees a right to refuse unwanted health care; whether it establishes a right to receive care; and whether it guarantees the right to provide health care services. The implications of the section 7 requirement that deprivations of life, liberty or security of the person must be “in conformity with the principles of fundamental justice” is also considered. In the individual treatment setting, principles of fundamental justice can be met by ensuring that patients participate fully in decisions about their own care. In the policy and regulatory setting, fundamental justice can be met by ensuring that decisions relating to health care services are publicly debated before implementation. To ensure meaningful participation at the individual level, health care providers may need to spend more time with patients. At the institutional level, increased accountability of decision-making may also be more time-consuming and therefore more costly. However, such expenditures are likely to be outweighed by the savings achieved through more effective health care decisions.


Constitutional Rhetoric or Social Justice? Reflections on the Justiciability Debate

Published by Social Justice and the Constitution - Perspectives on a Social Union for Canada

1992 The Ontario government’s initial efforts to put a social charter on the Canadian constitutional reform agenda were welcomed by poverty rights advocates across Canada, who lamented the absence of explicit reference to social rights in the 1982 Charter. However, no government seems prepared to support the entrenchment of anything stronger than a declaration of good intentions. The chapter challenges conventional arguments relating to positive versus negative rights; judicial competence and the pursuit of rights as a mechanism for social change, that underlie the prevailing critique of justiciable social rights. It concludes that, by rejecting the justiciablity of social rights, Canada’s First Ministers have lost a precious opportunity to transform the Charter into a more faithful reflection of the social values and aspirations which the vast majority of Canadians share.


Charter Equality at Twenty: Reflections of a Card-Carrying Member of the Court Party

Published by National Journal of Constitutional Law

2006 On the twentieth anniversary of the Canadian Charter's equality guarantees, the author reviews the record of Charter litigation as a means to redress inequalities in Canada and concludes that it is mixed at best. Far from undermining Canadian democracy, the Charter provides an important and legitimate avenue for challenging growing social inequities. Yet, low income litigants invoking the Charter have met with limited success due to a series of presumptions, including that social policy is beyond the legitimate purview of the courts, and that the state is neutral in its dealings with the poor. All in all, the author suggests, the relationship between rights and democracy is far more nuanced than the Charter critics argue, and the real question is not whether the Charter and the so-called Court Party are destroying democracy, but rather how the Charter's equality rights can inform and contribute to further strengthening the underlying values of our democratic system.



Martha Jackman, B.A. (Queen’s), LL.B. (Toronto), LL.M. (Yale), specializes in constitutional law, with a particular focus on issues relating to women and other marginalized groups. She joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa in 1988. She publishes primarily in the areas of socio-economic rights, equality, and the Canadian Charter. She appears regularly before law reform bodies, lawyers, judges, and parliamentary committees and has acted as legal counsel in a number of important Charter test cases. She is a member of the National Steering Committee, the National Association of Women and the Law, a former member of Equality Rights Panel of the Court Challenges Program of Canada, and the Board of Directors of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). In 2007, she received the Law Society of Upper Canada Medal for her contributions to the profession and in 2015, was the recipient of the Canadian Bar Association’s Touchstone Award. Biographie

Martha Jackman, B.A. (Queen’s), LL.B. (Toronto), LL.M. (Yale), est une spécialiste du droit constitutionnel. Elle s’intéresse également aux problèmes juridiques liés à la protection des femmes et des groupes défavorisés. Elle publie principalement dans le domaine des droits socio-économiques ainsi que de l'égalité et la Charte canadienne. Elle comparaît régulièrement en matière de droit constitutionnel et de politique sociale devant des commissions des droits de la personne, des regroupements de juristes et de juges ainsi que des comités parlementaires et ses compétences sont recherchées en matière de contentieux constitutionnel. Elle est membre du Conseil de direction de l’Association nationale femmes et droit et ancienne membre du Conseil de direction des Fonds d’action et d’éducation juridiques des femmes ainsi que du Comité des droits à l’égalité du Programme de contestation judiciaire du Canada.. En 2007, on lui a décerné la médaille du Barreau du Haut-Canada, un honneur attribué chaque année à des juristes ayant grandement contribué à la profession. En 2015 elle a mérité les Prix ‘Les Assises’ de l’Association du barreau canadien.


University of Victoria Law Students Society First Year Teaching Award


Touchstone Award, Canadian Bar Association


Law Society of Upper Canada Medal


Marion Porter Prize, Awarded by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women for the most significant feminist research article from a journal or anthology


Augusta Stowe-Gullen Affirmative Action Medal, Awarded by the National Capital Committee on the Advancement of Learning Opportunities for Women


Additional Titles and Affiliations

National Association of Women and the Law : Member

National Steering Committee National Association of Women and the Law/Association nationale Femmes et Droit : Member (Co Chair 2012 - )

Law Society of Upper Canada : Member

Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario : Member

Journal of Law and Equality : Member of the Editorial Advisory Board

Research Grants

Social Rights Accountability Project

Organization: Community-University Research Alliance Program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 1000000


2004 - 2009 The project examines domestic and international mechanisms and norms for holding Canadian governments accountable for policies and actions affecting the enjoyment of socio-economic rights.

Poverty, Equality and Health

Organization: Foundation for Legal Research
Grant amount: 2900


2004 - 2007 The project considers issues of poverty, access to health and the right to health care through a substantive equality framework.

Reconceiving Human Rights Practice for the New Social Rights Paradigm

Organization: Community-University Research Alliance Program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 1000000


2009 - 2015 The project explores the conceptual and practical foundations for a new community-based human rights approach to poverty and inequality in Canada.

More information:

Reconceiving Human Rights Practice for the New Social Rights Paradigm

Organization: Community-University Research Alliance Program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Grant amount: 20000


2008 - 2009 Letter of Intent funding awarded to prepare an application for a second five-year CURA project.

Intergovernmental Relations in Public Health Project, Advancing Theories, Frameworks, Methods and Measurements in Health Services Special Competition

Organization: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Grant amount: 193105


The project examines inter-provincial dimensions and policy challenges in the area of public health in Canada.


  • Women
  • Marginalized Groups
  • Constitutional Law
  • Charter of Rights
  • Access to Health Care


  • Yale Law School
    LL.M., 1988
  • University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
    LL.B., 1985
  • Queen's University
    B.A., 1981

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