Canadian Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Disability Rights Activists in the Supreme Court of Canada: Legal Mobilization Theory and Accommodating Social Movements

Lisa Vanhalaa1 c1

a1 London School of Economics and Political Science

Abstract

Abstract. Disability rights organizations have been active participants before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) since the mid-1980s but they have been completely neglected in the literature on social movement legal mobilization. This paper seeks to remedy this lacuna by providing an overview of the litigation activity of the main disability rights organizations. It builds on an emerging complementary theoretical perspective for understanding the participation by movement actors in the Court. Through an analysis of shared and contested collective meaning frames within and across social movement organizations we can complement existing theoretical explanations for the overall development of legal mobilization by social movement actors.

Résumé. Les organismes du mouvement de défense des droits des personnes handicapées prennent une part active aux litiges devant la Cour suprême du Canada depuis le milieu des années quatre-vingt. Toutefois, on ne retrouve pas trace de ce mouvement dans la littérature sur la mobilisation des acteurs collectifs dans les lieux juridiques. Le présent article vient combler cette lacune en analysant les activités du mouvement dans ce domaine. L'article s'appuie sur une perspective théorique novatrice et complémentaire qui s'intéresse particulièrement aux rôles que jouent les idées organisationnelles et les relations intra-organisationnelles (conflictuelles ou de coopération) au sein du mouvement. L'article met de l'avant une explication qui combine ces deux facteurs pour mieux expliquer les tendances activistes de participation aux litiges par rapport aux analyses «classiques» qui ne prennent en compte que les ressources ou le contexte politique.

Correspondence:

c1 Lisa Vanhala, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, lisa.vanhala@nuffield.ox.ac.uk.

Footnotes

Acknowlegments: This work was only possible because many people were willing to share their time and expertise in interviews and I thank each of them. The latter stages of this work were supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (award PTA-026-27-2067). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2008 meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association. I would like to thank Katrin Auel, Bruce Blain, Tim Hicks, Dan Kelemen, Michael Orsini and the Journal's anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments and/or helpful discussions. I am solely responsible for any remaining omissions or errors.

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