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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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Statutory Interpretation from the Stratasphere

Statutory interpretation presents problems of judicial subjectivity.[1] Though it is well-established that courts and advocates must look to the “text, context, and purpose” of a particular statutory provision to determine its meaning, little work has focused on what courts should do when purposes are stated at different levels of abstraction, or where the statute has multiple purposes which are seemingly ...

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Applying the law (or not) to “a child born of a three-way”

In a decision delivered in April 2018, a Newfoundland court recognized three legal parents (two fathers and one mother), based on the throuple’s sexual relationship  The case starts with a Newfoundland throuple—two men and a woman in a sexual relationship—who had a child in 2017.[1] The identity of the mother is clear, both biologically and in law. However, the men could ...

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Is Deference Possible Here? The Groia Decision and Disguised Correctness

In Groia v Law Society of Upper Canada, 2018 SCC 27, decided last week, the Supreme Court of Canada once again fractured over the approach to take to the judicial review of an administrative decision ― and, once again, the majority chose correctness review disguised as reasonableness as its methodology. The substantive issue in Groia was whether the Law Society was entitled to ...

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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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Comeau is a Casualty of Confused Doctrine

The Supreme Court delivered a bizarre decision last week in R.v. Comeau. By way of background, Comeau concerned the interpretation of s.121 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which states: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.” The issue for the Court was ...

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Canon to the Right of Them, Canon to the Left of Them, Canon in Front of Them

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Schnarr v. Blue Mountain is significant for two reasons. First, it provides much needed clarification to the law of occupiers’ liability, and to waivers of liability in particular. Second,  it includes a detailed discussion of some of the principles of statutory interpretation. In this brief article, I discuss the Court of Appeal’s ...

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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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RIP Reasonableness

 The Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Quebec (Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) v Caron, 2018 SCC 3, which may, or may not, be another sign that the Court’s love affair with deference to administrative decision-makers is coming to an end ― in practice if not yet in theory. I ...

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