Le principal défi pour la Cour suprême du Canada ? Contrer le risque de sa politisation

Les 25 et 26 octobre prochains, j’aurai le privilège de prendre part au Symposium de la Cour suprême du Canada, qui sera tenu à Ottawa. C’est à cette occasion, et plus précisément dans le but d’aider à la préparation d’une des séances du symposium, que m’a été posée ainsi qu’aux autres participants la question suivante : « Quel est le plus important défi auquel fera face la Cour suprême du Canada au cours des prochaines décennies, et comment pourrait-elle relever ce défi? Ma réponse est que le plus important défi auquel fait déjà face la Cour suprême du Canada est le risque de sa politisation. Continuer à lire … « Le principal défi pour la Cour suprême du Canada ? Contrer le risque de sa politisation »


150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 3 of 3–A New Presentation of the Procedure that Enables its Identification

By Maxime St-Hilaire, Patrick F. Baud, and Éléna S. Drouin

This last post of our series aims to clarify how one can better define the procedure that allows the amendment of the supreme law of Canada, a procedure that, as we submitted in our previous posts, represents the best criterion to determine whether or not a provision is part of this very supreme law.

The Canadian constitutional amendment procedure: a new, thought-economical, account

Canada’s threefold constitutional amendment procedure is mostly set out in Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982 (CA 1982). It is asymmetrical, composed of a default, or “normal” procedure and two specific, or “exceptional” ones. We will start with the two exceptions. Continuer à lire … « 150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 3 of 3–A New Presentation of the Procedure that Enables its Identification »

150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 2 of 3–Amending the Supreme Law

By Maxime St-Hilaire, Patrick F. Baud, and Éléna S. Drouin

In Canadian constitutional law, it is not tautological to say, as we did in our previous post, that, as provided for by subsection 52(3) of the Constitution Act, 1982 (CA 1982), the supreme law of Canada is composed of all provisions that may be only amended in accordance with it. This is precisely what makes the difference between (formally) ordinary and (formally) constitutional “written” laws—an ordinary law cannot definitively determine how it is to be amended. While it is true that we do not know the exact substantive extent of the supreme law of Canada, we do know that the constituency competency (which again, must not be mistaken for the idea of “constituent power”), which was transferred to Canada in 1982 through an amendment “formula”, is meant to be exhaustive, or as Richard Albert puts it, a “complete code”. This is what the “patriation of the constitution”—effected by the Canada Act 1982 and its Schedule B, the CA 1982—was chiefly about. This means, as the Supreme Court explained in its 1982 opinion rejecting Quebec’s claim that it possessed a conventional veto over constitutional amendments, the “new procedure for amending the Constitution of Canada…entirely replaces the old one in its legal as well as in its conventional aspects”. It is through subsection 52(3), which we propose to use as the criterion for defining the supreme law of Canada that allows us to conceive of the non-recognition by, or “irrelevance” for, Canadian law, of the hypothetical repeal by the Parliamentary of the United Kingdom of section 2 of the Canada Act 1982, which reads: “[n]o Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 comes into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law”.

Any provision elsewhere in the supreme law related to constitutional amendment procedure is implied to have been repealed by Part V of the CA 1982. We are aware of five such provisions: section 3 of the Constitution Act, 1871, which allowed the federal parliament to alter a province’s boundaries only with the authorization of the affected province’s legislature; and the provisions in each of the agreements, made between the Federal executive and those of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan; concerning public lands and natural resources of these four provinces; and constitutionalized by the British/imperial Constitution Act, 1930, which reproduced them in schedules, that allow those agreements to be “varied by agreement confirmed by concurrent statutes of the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of the Province”. Continuer à lire … « 150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 2 of 3–Amending the Supreme Law »

150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 1 of 3–The Problem of Identification

By Maxime St-Hilaire, Patrick F. Baud, and Éléna S. Drouin

Canada’s constitution was for many decades perhaps best known for combining British-style constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with American-inspired federalism, albeit in a colonial form. Such a mixed constitution would have been considered improbable by the constitutional scholars of that age, such as A.V. Dicey (chap. III).

The Canadian federation’s constitution, which was initially set out in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 (CA 1867) served as a model for the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act in 1901. Over three decades ago, the Canada Act 1982 and its Schedule B, the English and French versions of the Constitution Act, 1982 (CA 1982), transferred full and exclusive constituent competency to Canada. This final step in Canada’s peaceful transition from British colony to independent country continues to serve as a model throughout the Commonwealth. Yet the constitutional reforms brought about in 1982 continue to raise the following essential, theoretical question: how, absent a revolution, can the full constituent competency be truly transferred rather than simply delegated to the former colony by the imperial legislator?

A basic question with no clear answer (yet)

The CA 1982 also brought major reforms to Canada’s constitution. In the past 35 years, Canada has become renown for its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which served as one of the models for South Africa’s Bill of Rights, as well as the recognition and affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the CA 1982, section that currently informs ongoing Australian debates on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But these oft-debated features of Canada’s constitution mask a more fundamental problem facing Canadian constitutionalists—they cannot answer what should be a simple question: what is the supreme law of Canada composed of? This question is one without a clear answer in Canadian law. For one, there exists no reliable list of the supreme law’s components and no such list could be established. Rather, it seems that the supreme law of Canada includes any possible provision that, based on the nature of its contents, falls under one of the (real) constitutional amendment procedures that the supreme law provides in certain of its key components. However, one of the amendment procedures does not specify which contents it applies to, yet it presents itself as the “normal,” that is to say, residual or default procedure. This draws a vicious circle. In our view, this problem is one that should be of interest not only to Canadian constitutionalists. This problem also particularly highlights the issues that can arise from perfectible constitutional drafting and the interaction among the constitutional amendment procedure and the rest of a constitution, notably a federative one. Continuer à lire … « 150 Years On: What is the Constitution of Canada?–Part 1 of 3–The Problem of Identification »

150 Years On: Why don’t we get clear on where the Canadian federal distribution of legislative powers (legally) comes from?

Although I can understand the desire to explain the distribution of legislative powers simply, it is misleading, not only in informal talks but also as the Supreme Court itself too often does, to suggest this distribution is set out only in sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, or only in this Act. See e.g. Carter v Canada, para 50; Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, para 131; Reference re Securities Act, para 54.

The federative distribution of legislative competencies is effected not only by these sections, not only within Part VI of the CA 1867, and again not even only within this Act, but also in other enactments that form part of the supreme law, including the Constitution Act, 1982. Continuer à lire … « 150 Years On: Why don’t we get clear on where the Canadian federal distribution of legislative powers (legally) comes from? »

“Quasi Constitutional” Status as *Not* Implying a Form Requirement

In his post on I-CONnect, Adam Perry writes that the British cases on what are known in the UK as constitutional statutes (and in Canada as quasiconstitutional statutes) “have been very controversial in constitutional circles”, whereas, by contrast, the Canadian cases caused barely a ripple. I would like here to take up the invitation, and to throw a tiny pebble into the lake.

Elsewhere — in a chapter on whether Quebec may adopt a “written constitution” for a book building on work presented at a symposium convened at Yale by Richard Albert I incidentally develop an argument about quasi-constitutional statutes in Canada.

My main argument is that the only way to enact formal constitutional provisions thatare part of the supreme law, so that they may invalidate ordinary ones, is to use one of Canada’s special constitution-changing procedures, which are different from and more demanding than the ordinary process of enacting a statute by aexercise of ordinary legislative power. These special procedures are entrenched in sections 35.1,3843, and 4648 of the Constitution Act 1982. It is worth noting that, whereassection 35.1 is not included in Part V, titled “Procedure for amending Constitution of Canada” but is nonetheless part of that procedure, other sections which are included in that Part, among them section 45, pertaining to “laws amending the constitution of the province”, are not. To summarizemy general thesis is that, in accordance with the “unwritten” principle of parliamentary sovereignty, both the federal parliament and provincial legislatures may probably not legally bind their successors or even themselves, even by (true) “manner” or “form” requirements, the meeting of which the validity of subsequent legislation would be conditional upon. My point is that the limited range of so-called “manner and form” requirements (from ordinary legislation) that are permissible under Canadian constitutional law using ordinary legislation should be understood as statutory interpretation rules, in the sense of rules allowing actors to resolve inconsistencies between enactments of a same legislature, and not as conditions for legal validity. This is where the idea of “quasiconstitutional” statutes becomes relevant.

Continuer à lire … « “Quasi Constitutional” Status as *Not* Implying a Form Requirement »

Trinity Western: Did the Chief Justice of Canada make an illegal or questionable order?

By Patrick F. Baud and Maxime St-Hilaire

On February 23, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave in two appeals arising from the British Columbia and Ontario law societies’ decision not to accredit of Trinity Western University’s law school. Trinity Western University, a private, evangelical Christian university in British Columbia, requires students to sign its Community Covenant as a condition of admission to the law school. The Community Covenant prohibits students from engaging “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”. Without the law societies’ accreditation, the law school’s graduates will not be automatically eligible to be admitted to the bar. Continuer à lire … « Trinity Western: Did the Chief Justice of Canada make an illegal or questionable order? »

De plus en plus « populaire », le populisme constitutionnel

Deux blogues internationaux de droit constitutionnel, I•CONnect et le Verfassungsblog, se sont réunis spécialement afin de tenir un « mini-symposium » sur le sujet du populisme constitutionnel. J’entends profiter ici de l’occasion que me donne cette lecture de rendre brièvement compte de ma compréhension de la notion.

Dans le cadre de ce symposium bloguesque, Rosalind Dixon a rappelé que le populisme connaissait actuellement une montée à l’échelle mondiale : Amérique latine (néobolivarisme), Hongrie, Pologne, Royaume-Uni (Brexit), États-Unis (trumpisme), France (FN). La liste aurait pu s’allonger des Philippines de Duterte et de la Turquie d’Erdogan, entre autres exemples.

Continuer à lire … « De plus en plus « populaire », le populisme constitutionnel »

Rien à faire: le Québec et ses médias ne veulent pas comprendre la révision de la carte électorale

Dans La Presse d’aujourd’hui, un journaliste écrit que « [c]’est un tabou dont on a peu parlé cette semaine, mais en fixant à 125 le nombre de circonscriptions, la loi mène à un affrontement entre la métropole et les régions ».

Or, Comme Leonid Sirota et moi l’avons pourtant expliqué dans les pages de ce même journal, l' »affrontement entre la métropole et les régions » vient du principe d’effectivité d’abord, auquel l’article 14 de la Loi électorale (LE) donne à tort préséance sur celui d’égalité de force électorale de manière à rendre intangible la sur-représentation des électeurs ruraux, puis de la plus forte croissance de la banlieue par rapport la ville, et ce, en sachant que c’est le nombre d’électeurs qui est ici pris en compte par la Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE). Si la loi était modifiée seulement de manière à permettre à la CRE d’ajouter des sièges, cela ne changerait rien, ni au principe de la sur-représentation des zones rurales, ni donc à l' »affrontement entre la métropole et les régions », ni au fait que le nombre d’électeurs croit plus vite dans sa banlieue que sur l’Île de Montréal.

Continuer à lire … « Rien à faire: le Québec et ses médias ne veulent pas comprendre la révision de la carte électorale »

La dérogation aux droits constitutionnels fondamentaux: à quelles conditions est-ce légitime?

Dans quelles circonstances est-il légitime de la part du législateur de déroger aux droits constitutionnels fondamentaux? Jusqu’à ce qu’une argumentation convaincante en faveur du contraire ne soit produite, la réponse à cette question est: en situation d’urgence ou autrement exceptionnelle. Avant d’expliquer pourquoi, il convient de bien circonscrire le propos.

La question à laquelle répond le présent billet est celle de la légitimité, non pas celle de la constitutionnalité au sens, strict, du droit positif canadien. Cela dit, la question de la légitimité de la dérogation aux droits ne se pose utilement qu’au sujet d’une dérogation qui serait d’abord possible en vertu du droit constitutionnel positif, ce qui n’est pas le cas, par exemple et comme je l’ai démontré dans mon dernier billet, d’une dérogation que n’admet pas notre droit relatif à la répartition fédérative des compétences.

Continuer à lire … « La dérogation aux droits constitutionnels fondamentaux: à quelles conditions est-ce légitime? »