The Quasi-Legislative Effect of the Supreme Court of Canada
25 March 2014
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 symbolized a new era for Canada. Championed by Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the charter entrenched the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadian society, and allowed for those rights to be enforced by any individual should they be infringed upon. The enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms illustrates yet another shift from traditional Westminster style of governance, and created a new political atmosphere. The notion of Parliamentary supremacy has shifted to accommodate constitutional supremacy, where two institutions must work together to balance the will of the elected and the language of the charter. Constitutions, the most basic of political institutions, have the power to affect politics, by defining the rules of the political sphere. Though Parliament remains supreme, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has empowered the judiciary with the ability to interpret it broadly and settle major questions of public policy, something the Bill of Rights, 1960 could never really achieve. The charter has in effect, given the judiciary a quasi-legislative authority.
This paper will argue that the Supreme Court of Canada has adopted a quasi-legislative approach in its decision making as a result of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982. Quasi-legislative is defined as having a partly legislative character by possession of the right to make rules and regulations, having the force of law (Merriam-Webster). In this paper, it is useful to define quasi-legislative as the court’s ability to influence policy, be it innocent or motivated, through charter enf...
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... of the judiciary as being one separate from government, in a non-political capacity whose purpose is not to question the acts of government, but rather to be the mediator when dispute arise (McLachlin, 2009). Clearly, McLachlin captures the essence of what the judiciary is. The Supreme Court of Canada is one of the most visible and trusted political institutions, which has shaped the country’s political arena. In practice, the Supreme Court of Canada does have a quasi-legislative effect on public policy.
This paper has argued that the Supreme Court of Canada has adopted a quasi-legislative role in their decision making as a result of the Charter or Rights and Freedoms, 1982.The broad and liberal interpretation of charter language, for better or worse has and will continue to influence Canadian politics and the formulation and adoption of public policy.
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