In the Cooper case (1996), a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Human Rights Commission did not have the power under its enabling statute to pronounce upon the constitutional validity of the mandatory age of retirement. Judge La Forest drew up the reasons of the majority. He held that the Canadian Human Rights Commission did not constitute an appropriate forum to resolve important constitutional questions as it lacked the requisite expertise. Moreover, the Canadian Human Rights Act dictated what the Commission, or a tribunal appointed by it, was able to adjudicate upon, and the Commission did not have jurisdiction under the Act to subject the provisions of the Act to constitutional scrutiny. In her dissent, Judge McLachlin observed that a tribunal empowered to settle questions of law must be able to adjudicate on questions relative to the Canadian ChartAer of Rights and Freedoms.
The appellants in this case had been required to retire at age 60 pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. They contended that that requirement was discriminatory.