Social Science Evidence in Poverty-Related Charter Claims

An Example in Bedford v Canada

  • Sydney McIvor


Social science can be a useful tool for courts when deciding upon issues relating to poverty, as it can provide information about the societal realities of the matter in question. This paper explores the use of social science evidence in poverty law-related Charter claims, looking at the specific example of Bedford v Canada (Attorney General). Bedford was a Charter application that ultimately struck down three provisions in the Criminal Code as unconstitutional because they interfered with sex workers’ abilities to protect themselves against violence. Social science evidence played a vital role in the decision, demonstrating its effectiveness in these types of claims. The Supreme Court of Canada also made two important rulings in Bedford that increased the Court’s recognition of the legitimacy of social science facts. This paper concludes that social science evidence is an essential aspect of many poverty-related Charter claims and that a solution should be found for ensuring that there is funding available for impoverished persons bringing these claims.