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Constitutionalism from the Cave

The imbroglio with the Ontario legislature’s enactment of Bill 5 to restructure the Toronto City Council a couple of months before an upcoming election, the Superior Court’s declaration of that legislation unconstitutional, the threatened invocation of the “notwithstanding clause” to override that declaration, and the Court of Appeal’s restoration of what little sanity could still be restored by reversing the Superior ...

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Political Costs as Control on the Notwithstanding Clause

The notwithstanding clause saga brought about by the Ford government is difficult for those born and bred on Supreme Court precedent. Law students are presented with an idea of the courts as benevolent actors of the public trust, hemming in cavalier legislatures acting on the passions of citizens. The saga, though, forces us to reckon with another sort of control ...

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Why ARL is Seeking Leave to Intervene in the Standard of Review Appeals

On August 30, 2018, Advocates for the Rule of Law brought a motion for intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in three appeals: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v Vavilov,[i] Bell Canada v. Canada (Attorney General),[ii] and National Football League v. Canada (Attorney General).[iii] In a rare move, the Court’s judgment granting leave to appeal elaborated as follows: The ...

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The Original “Living Tree”

One of the main arguments in Canada in favour of the “living tree” is that it has deep roots in our constitutional tradition. As the Supreme Court of Canada said in Reference Re Same Sex Marriage, the living tree is “one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation.”[1] The argument goes something like this: beginning with the famous ...

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Deference and Delegation As Fickle Bedfellows

The administrative state, the supposed sword of progressives, is not necessarily so. In many countries, the administrative state was constituted on the urging of progressives to advance a social justice agenda. In the United States, progressive reformers during the New Deal era sought to make government a “prescriptive entity” designed to advance certain progressive goals. Executive orders reached a “heyday” during ...

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Canada’s Political Safeguards of Federalism: A Theory on Shaky Doctrinal Ground

When Canada abandoned its appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in constitutional matters, the Supreme Court of Canada began to slowly re-shape the boundaries of our federalism jurisprudence. In doing so, it expanded the federal Parliament’s powers and articulated a diminished view of the judicial role. Its case law developed a “cooperative, flexible federalism”[1] defined by “a ...

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A Conversation on Comeau

This informal discussion between myself, Asher Honickman and Professor Malcolm Lavoie is owed, first of all, to a mea culpa. It’s a transcription of a discussion that was meant to be a podcast, but due to a recording issue wasn’t captured correctly. Since Asher, Malcolm and I agreed the discussion was useful and worth preserving, we’ve decided to present it ...

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Welcome to the Lawless Zone: the Kawaskimhon Moot and the Refusal to Recognize State Law

Media coverage of the letter written by Quebec’s Minister of the Environment, in opposition to the new federal environmental assessment process, sparked a debate in Le Devoir on the value of Aboriginal traditional knowledge. On the one hand, a group of eight lawyers argued that “[s]ubordination of traditional knowledge to compatibility with scientific data amounts to establishing a hierarchy of ...

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Has the Supreme Court Moved Beyond the “Living Tree”?

One of the first things law students are taught is that our Constitution is a “living tree.”  The Supreme Court has said that the living tree doctrine, which holds that our Constitution must be capable of evolving to meet new social realities, is “one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation” (See Reference Re Same Sex Marriage, at ...

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The Dark Art of Deference: Dubious Assumptions of Expertise on Home Statute Interpretation

The 10th anniversary of Dunsmuir presents an opportunity to revisit perhaps its most controversial aspect: the seeds it planted for a presumption of deference on home statute interpretation. As Professor Daly notes, the presumption is a “black hole” which engulfs questions of statutory interpretation in administrative law: Paul Daly, “Unreasonable Interpretations of Law” in Judicial Deference to Administrative Tribunals in ...

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