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Dec. 2: The Political Dynamics of Constitutional Reform 1981-Present. Senate Reference [Kit, p. 316] A. Cairns, “Constitutional Change…” [Kit, p. 138] R. Gibbons, “Shifting Sands…” [Kit, p. 163] Patriation Reference [Kit, p. 318] Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accord [Kit, pgs. 375 and 378]

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dec 2 the political dynamics of constitutional reform 1981 present
Dec. 2: The Political Dynamics of Constitutional Reform 1981-Present
  • Senate Reference [Kit, p. 316]
  • A. Cairns, “Constitutional Change…” [Kit, p. 138]
  • R. Gibbons, “Shifting Sands…” [Kit, p. 163]
  • Patriation Reference [Kit, p. 318]
  • Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accord [Kit, pgs. 375 and 378]
  • Resolution on Recognition of Quebec… [Kit, p. 389]
  • An Act Respecting Constitutional Amendment [Kit, p. 390]
  • A Framework to Improve the Social Union… [Kit, p. 392]
  • Reference re. Secession of Quebec [Kit, p. 337]
  • Alan Cairns: Constitutional Change and the Three Equalities [Kit, 138]
  • K. McRoberts, Misconceiving Canada, Chapter 9, “The 1995 Quebec Referendum” [Kit, p. 151]
  • P. Hogg, “The Duty to Negotiate” [Kit, p. 178]
  • Gall, Ch. 13, and Bogart, “The Administrative State and Judicial Review (182)”
main events surrounding patriation controversy
Balfour declaration: 1926

Statute of Westminster: 1931

Quiet Revolution: 1960 +

Trudeau becomes PM, 1968

Victoria Charter: 1971

Senate reference: 1979

Quebec referendum: 1980

Negotiations re patriation & Charter, 1980-81

Unilateral attempt to patriate by Trudeau, 1981

Patriation reference, 1981

Agreement of Nov. 5, 1981 (Que not inc’d)

Canada Act signed, April 1982

Quebec veto ref, 1982

Meech Lake Acc, 1987-1990

Charlottetown Accord, 1992

Quebec referendum: 1995

Main Events surrounding Patriation controversy
main events 2
Resolution on recognition of Quebec as a Distinct Society (1995)

Act respecting constitutional amendment, and resolution to recognize Quebec as a “distinct society.” (1996)

Calgary Declaration (1997)

Quebec secession reference (1998)

Social Union Framework Agreement (1999)

Clarity Act (2000)

Main events (2)
senate reference 1979
Senate Reference (1979)
  • Already discussed in class on cooperative federalism, Nov. 4/05
  • In 1978, the Trudeau government floated a “trial balloon,” a paper on Senate reform. Possibilities included abolishing the Senate, or changing it into a “house of the provinces” where half of the Senators would be chosen by the provincial legislatures or governments.
  • Does Parliament have the ability to change the Senate in any of these ways? Reference question sent to Supreme Court.
  • Answer by “the court” (Laskin, CJ): No. To change the Senate is to abolish the current Parliament (H of C, Senate, Queen) and replace it with a new Parliament. That requires a constitutional amendment by UK Parliament [after 1982, through the unanimity formula].
patriation reference 1981
Would the proposed amendments affect provincial powers: Yes (unanimous)

Is there a convention of provincial consultation?

Yes: Martland, Ritchie, Dickson, Beetz, Chouinard & Lamer (substantial, not unanimous)

No: Laskin, Estey & McIntyre: No

Has the convention hardened into constitutional law?

No: Laskin, Dickson, Beetz, Estey, McIntyre, Chouinard & Lamer

Yes: Martland & Ritchie

Patriation reference (1981)
alan cairns three equalities kit 138


Two nations

Debate over assymetrical federalism

Charter: a constraint on federalism

Charter’s popularity in Quebec

Alan Cairns: three equalities [Kit, 138]
meech lake accord
Meech Lake Accord:

“distinct society” clause

“constitutionalize” immigration agreements

Provinces submit names for vacancies to SCC

Any province can opt out of a shared cost program in areas of prov. jurisdiction & receive compensation if the province operates a similar program that meets “national standards.”

Compensation provided for any province opting out of any constitional amenendment under 7-50 formula that transfers prov powers to Ottawa.


Senate reform: prov’s nominate Senators to begin with

First ministers conf on economy annually

Annual constitutional conferences to discuss Senate reform, fisheries and other matters.

Meech Lake Accord
charlottetown accord
Everything in Meech Lake plus:

Canada Clause

Aboriginal rights strengthened, including right to negotiate self-government

Non-justiciable social charter

Measures to strengthen s. 121

Senate reform: 6 elected senators from each province, and 1 from each Territory, plus Aboriginal representation

SCC appointments: feds can appoint if provinces don’t nominate.

Guarantee of 25% of seats in H of C for Quebec

Prov. authority in areas of prov. Jurisdiction strengthened.

Fed powers of disallowance and reservation repealed

Fed declaratory power limited; require prov. consent.

Charlottetown Accord
social union framework agreement 1999
All Canadians are equal

Needs must be met everywhere

Social programs should be adequate and sustainable

Promote mobility within Canada

Public accountability and transparency

Evaluate results of programs

Participative democracy

Funding predictability

Fed-prov consultation, not unilateral action

Social Union Framework Agreement (1999)
qu bec secession reference 1998
Stéphane Dion

Critical of “yes” side in 1995 referendum

Asked by PM to become Min of Intergovernmental Affairs in 1996 & context by-election

Proponent of “Plan B:” fed gov’t should be active in opposing Québec separatism.

Guy Bertrand (a former sovereignist leader in Québec turned federalist)

began a litigation process in which challenged the Québec government’s attempts to institute sovereignty on Charter of Rights grounds.

Québec government tried to block Bertrand’s challenge, so fed gov’t continued the litigation through the reference (part of “Plan B”)

Québec Secession Reference (1998)
qu bec secession reference 2
Argued in Feb, 1998

Québec gov’t wouldn’t participate, so SCC appointed André Joli-Cœur as amicus curiae.

Amicus argued that reference jurisdiction of SCC is ultra vires.

Can an appeal court be given original jurisdiction? Yes.

Can an appeal court advise? In Canada, yes (despite rule about no specific mention).


Too theoretical?

Too political?

Not ripe?

Canada does not have as strict a separation of powers as U.S.

Advisory opinion different from a litigated case.

Québec Secession Reference (2)
qu bec secession reference 3

1. Under Can Const, can Québec secede unilaterally, without a constitutional amendment?

2. Under Int law, can Québec secede unilaterally?

3. If conflict between (1) and (2), which takes precedence?

Why did SCC write such a lengthy judgment?

1. Can Québec secede unilaterally under constitution?

Arguments in favour based on democracy.

What is democracy?

Our democracy is based on shared values, and unilateral secession puts these at risk. Thus, duty to negotiate.

Was SCC too activist, or not activist enough re “clear question” and “clear majority”?

Québec Secession Reference (3)
qu bec secession reference 4
2. Does international law give Québec the right to secede unilaterlally?

Amicus: right to self-determination belongs to all “peoples.”

Do Québeckers constitute a “people”?

SCC: not necessary to decide, because even if yes, the right only exists where a “people” is mistreated.

right to only arises under international law where “a people” is governed as part of a colonial empire, “is subject to alien subjugation, domination or exploitation; and possibly where ‘a people’ is denied any meaningful exercise of its right to self-determination within the state of which it forms a part.”

Québec Secession Reference (4)
qu bec secession reference 5
Spring of 2000: Bill C-20: “An Act to give effect to the requirement for clarity….”

Within 30 days of a prov legislature tabling a referendum question, H. of C. must declare whether question is “clear.”

If question considered “clear,” and a majority votes in favour, H of C must determine whether majority is “clear.” Consider:

Size of majority

Proportion voting

Views of political parties

View of Senate

Québec Secession Reference (5)
qu bec secession reference 6
After SCC decision: PQ gov’t seemed to support decision.

Jacques-Yvan Morin (former Québec intergovernmental affairs minister): SCC decision means feds can’t refuse to negotiate, but can put up many obstacles to Quebec secession.

Kenneth McRoberts: The Trudeau strategy for Canadian unity has failed.


Québec can no longer claim that it can secede unilaterally.

The “duty to negotiate” secession in face of a “clear majority” vote in favour in a province is unprecedented in world history.

Québec Secession Reference (6)
gall last chapter
New directions:

Is law the best way to implement a public policy?

If so, think about federalism issues in potential litigation. What mechanisms are there for cooperation?


A tool for judges

Education for lawyers and judges

Electronic law library

Public image of legal profession

Public education

Legal accountability

Case management, ADR, mediation

Legal fees

Legal insurance

Continuing education (prof. Dev. LLM at Osgoode)

Alternative careers for lawyers

Law reform (Canada Law Commission)

Gall – last chapter
w a bogart courts country ch 4 the administrative state and judicial review kit 182
Do courts promote a fairer society, or act as a roadblock to advancement?

Federal administrative agencies (eg. CRTC, Hum Rts Comm): 640.

Ontario: 36 reg bodies (eg. Lab rels bd,WSIB – ½ million claims/yr), 44 licensing appeal tribunals, 8 compensation boards, 19 arbitration agencies, 95 advisory boards.

Leg’s try to keep courts from supervising admin agencies too closely. Why?

Should courts intervene in admin trib’s rarely, when there are clear issues of fairness?

Bogart: courts may be good, at times, in signaling unfairness, but are not usually good at finding solutions.

W.A. Bogart, Courts & Country, Ch 4 (The administrative state and judicial review, kit 182)
review for exam
Review for Exam
  • See review notes on web page
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