Sophia Moreau Lectures on Discrimination and the Tort of Negligence

On February 12, Sophia Moreau, Associate Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Toronto, delivered the second Tort Law Research Group Public Lecture of the 2017/2018 academic year to an audience of students and faculty.

In her talk, “Discrimination and the Tort of Negligence: Some Important Similarities,” Professor Moreau suggested that we understand the unfairness of discrimination as not only an injustice against society or a group within society, but also as a personal wrong done to the individual discriminated against. Professor Moreau identified negligence as the personal wrong most akin to discrimination because both involve the wrong of behaving unreasonably with respect to a legitimate interest of another. It is only a wrong in the tort of negligence if one has a duty not to expose another to an unreasonable risk of harm. Likewise, Professor Moreau argued, it is only unreasonable not to accommodate a certain person or a group if one has a prior duty to. What, then, grounds the duty in anti-discrimination law? Discrimination, on Moreau’s theory, is unfair for different reasons. Some of these reasons ground a personal claim in the discriminatee against the discriminator, while others reflect a more general social injustice. If we understand the wrong of discrimination through the lens of negligence, as Professor Moreau encouraged us to do, the pluralist nature of the duty not to discriminate is easier to see.

Professor Moreau, a Commonwealth Scholar and former law clerk for Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada, teaches and writes about philosophical issues in legal, political, and moral philosophy, and on related issues in discrimination law, constitutional law, and tort law. She is currently working on a book on discrimination, titled The Many Faces of Equality, which defends a pluralist theory of why discrimination is unfair.