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About ARL

Advocates for the Rule of Law (ARL) is a Canadian think-tank and a registered not-for-profit corporation dedicated to promoting the rule of law.

The “rule of law” means that society is governed by fixed rules that are announced in advance and are predictably and consistently applied. It means that all individuals are equal before the law and that all government officials are subordinate to and subject to the law.

ARL is non-partisan. Our members come from diverse backgrounds and have divergent political views. What unites us is a shared belief in the rule of law, and the following ten propositions which flow from that basic concept:

  • Constitutionalism: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and can only be amended pursuant to its own amending formula. All government power is derived from and limited by the Constitution.
  • Everything is permitted except that which is proscribed by law, and no individual should be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person or enjoyment of property unless that person has been afforded a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal.
  • Laws should be legislated by the legislature, executed by the executive and applied by an independent judiciary.
  • Laws should be of general application and should avoid exemptions and regulatory discretion wherever possible.
  • Statutes should establish rights, obligations and prohibitions in clear and precise language.
  • Laws that are not enforced or enforceable undermine faith in the rule of law.
  • The courts should strictly apply judicial precedents except where the precedent is clearly wrong and/or has proven unworkable in practice.
  • Statutes should be interpreted by looking to the ordinary meaning of the text in its full statutory context.
  • Legal disputes should be decided in accordance with general principles, not the sympathies of the particular case.
  • All legislative and administrative actions should be subject to judicial review; but the role of the courts is “to apply the law, not to make it.”*

The rule of law is the foundation of a free society; but it cannot be taken for granted. There will always be a strong temptation for arbitrary and discretionary decision-making. Our goal is to advocate the central importance of the rule of law and to highlight the social, political and financial costs we all suffer when the rule of law is trampled upon.

Canada’s stability and success have been made possible by an enduring Constitution and a vast cultural inheritance, of which the rule of law has been an essential feature. ARL is committed to educating the public about our legal history and traditions and to demonstrating that the rule of law has always been a “fundamental postulate of our constitutional structure.”**

ARL generates regular legal commentary on a wide variety of topics and provides opportunities for legal scholarship and professional networking.

 

*Severn v. Ontario, (1878), 2 S.C.R. 70 at 103 (dissent);  Currie v. Harris Lithographing Co., [1917] O.J. No. 52 (C.A.);  R. v. Crosstown Motors Ltd., [1974] A.J. No. 132, para. 31 (Ct. Jus).

** Roncarelli v. Duplessis [1959] S.C.R. 121 at p. 142