Press release: Supreme Court Rules Corporations Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Be Free from Cruelty 

November 5, 2020

OTTAWA (Unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg Territory): Today, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is celebrating a significant victory for human rights at the Supreme Court Canada. In Attorney General of Quebec, et al. v. 9147-0732 Québec Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that corporations cannot benefit from the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual treatment or punishment set out in s. 12 of the Charter. The Court held that s. 12 only applies to human beings. The BCCLA intervened in this appeal to argue that there is a consensus in international human rights law that protections against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment only apply to human beings.

Gib van Ert, lawyer for the BCCLA, stated: “Today’s Supreme Court decision confirms that corporations cannot invoke the Charter right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. That right is a human right not a corporate right. The Court also affirmed the important role that international law can play in elucidating the meaning and application of the Charter’s guarantees.”

Jessica Magonet, lawyer for the BCCLA, stated: “Today’s decision puts Canada in line with the international consensus that corporations do not have the right to be protected from cruelty. This right is about preventing human suffering and protecting human dignity. Allowing corporations to benefit from s. 12 would be inconsistent with the purpose and meaning of the right to be free from cruelty.”

The BCCLA was represented in these appeals by Gib van Ert of Gib van Ert Law and Jessica Magonet of the BCCLA.

Read the BCCLA’s factum here.