toronto literacy workers saythey will launch a Charter challenge of the Harris government's mandatory literacy testing program for social assistance recipients.The plan, which literacy workers call a crude attempt to stigmatize welfare recipients and deny them benefits, will go into effect October 1. But lawyers for the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy and the Toronto Advocacy Council for Adult Literacy say it will be possible to launch a court challenge ahead of time because the planned program is a such an obvious violation of the Charter that it will not be necessary to wait for a test case involving an actual recipient.
According to lawyer Jackie Chic, the mandatory literacy testing violates both section 15, which prohibits discrimination, and section 7, which guarantees the security of the person. Chic adds that the challenge will likely be mounted in conjunction with a similar challenge by a coalition of groups opposed to mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.
Ministry of Community and Social Services spokesperson Dan Miles says mandatory testing is necessary to help welfare recipients get jobs, and that the planned challenges will not deter the government.
"If we'd been deterred by Charter challenges, we wouldn't have proceeded with any aspect of our welfare reforms," he says.