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The Heavy Hand of the Law: The Canadian Supreme Court and Mandatory Retirement*

  • Thomas R. Klassen (a1) and C. T. Gillin (a2)

Abstract

In the past two decades the Supreme Court of Canada made apparently contradictory rulings on mandatory retirement. In 1982, the Court ruled that mandatory retirement for firefighters at age 60 violated provincial human rights laws; in 1990, it found that forced retirement for university faculty and others at age 65 was constitutional. An analysis of the decisions shows that the Court relied on the stereotype of older workers as being less competent than younger workers, and failed to provide older workers with protection against age-based discrimination. A number of the key mandatory retirement cases deal with university faculty and may yet have unanticipated consequences, such as strengthening the role of academic tenure. The unwillingness of the Supreme Court to eliminate mandatory retirement means that ad hoc arrangements driven by changing life cycles, employer needs, demographic changes and legislative actions will continue to arise.

Au cours des deux dernières décennies, la Cour suprême du Canada a rendu des jugements en apparence contradictoires sur la retraite obligatoire. En 1982, la Cour a statué que la retraite obligatoire à 60 ans pour les pompiers violait les lois provinciales sur les droits de la personne; en 1990, elle statuait que la retraite obligatoire à 65 ans pour les professeurs et autres membres du personnel des universités était constitutionnelle. L'analyse de ces décisions montre que la Cour s'est appuyée sur le stéréotype voulant que les travailleurs âgés soient moins compétents que les jeunes et n'a pas accordé aux travailleurs âgés une protection contre la discrimination fondée sur l'âge. Un certain nombre des principaux arrêts en matière de retraite obligatoire portent sur le cas de professeurs d'université et pourraient avoir des conséquences imprévues, comme le renforcement du rôle de la titularisation. La réticence de la Cour suprême à abolir la retraite obligatoire signifie la poursuite d'arrangements ad hoc fondés sur l'évolution des cycles de vie, les besoins des employeurs, les changements démographiques et l'évolution de la législation.

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The Heavy Hand of the Law: The Canadian Supreme Court and Mandatory Retirement*

  • Thomas R. Klassen (a1) and C. T. Gillin (a2)

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