Canadian Law Canadian Law

5 Amazing Examples of Constitutional Law Cases in Canada

The term “law” represents different kinds of rules and principles. “The law” is those rules that regulate human conduct and behaviour from society’s viewpoint.

The Constitution establishes the basic principles of Canada’s democratic government when defining the powers of the three branches of government.

• The Executive

• The Legislative

• The Judiciary

Parliament is the legislative branch of the federal government. It has two components, the Monarch and the Senate. Parliament consists of the Queen (usually represented by the Governor-General). 

However, the executive branch includes just the Monarch, who is represented by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet. 

The Judiciary, or the judicial system, is the collective judgment of the courts of law in Canada. 

Let’s have a look at 5 amazing examples of constitutional law cases in Canada!

Canadian Parliment
Source: DepositPhotos

Since the collapse of human civilization, humanity has had some rules, or it has ruled itself in society, so the law sets the standard for us to live by if we want to be part of society. 

The law creates rules and regulations for society to ensure justice and freedom, protecting us from our government.

The Canadian legal system is based on an essential combination of common law and civil law. Common law is a right that is not written down as a law. 

Common law has evolved into a case-based rule system. This rule guides the judge in later decisions regarding similar cases.

Basic Structure

The Canadian legal system is pluralistic, with roots in the English common law system, the French civil law system, and Indigenous law systems produced by distinct Indigenous Nations.

The Canadian Constitution is the country’s ultimate law, and it is made up of both written language and unwritten customs. The Constitution Act of 1867 established parliamentary governance and split powers between the federal and provincial governments.

The Westminster Statute of 1931 guaranteed complete sovereignty, while the Constitution Act of 1982 severed all legislative links to Britain while also introducing a constitutional amendment mechanism and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter protects fundamental rights and freedoms that are normally unassailable by any government—though a notwithstanding provision permits Parliament and provincial legislatures to override some portions of the Charter for a five-year period.

Indigenous tribes in Canada have constitutionally recognized rights to land and traditional activities under Canadian Aboriginal law. Many treaties and case laws were developed to mediate interactions between Europeans and several Indigenous peoples. These treaties are agreements between the Crown-in-Council of Canada that have the responsibility to consult and accommodate. Indigenous law in Canada relates to Indigenous Nations’ and communities’ legal traditions, customs, and practices.

Constitutional law

The Constitution is a law that establishes, transfers, or restricts public institutions. Most great constitutions are written in modern times, but not always. Some important constitutions, such as the British Constitution, are not written.

The Constitution is a field of law that deals with interpreting and applying the powers, rights, and freedoms established by the officially adopted Constitution or the Charter.

The protection of human rights and civil liberties is a common element of the Constitution. This provision includes the powers of various government departments and the rights of citizens. The Constitution evolves as interpreted by the courts and legislatures.

Canadian constitutional law is unique, with many constitutional law cases. It is not partially written and consists of usage, practices, customs, and conventions. The scriptures are included in several decrees but are partially written. And, in part, the common law rules developed by the courts.

How does the constitution work with other Canadian laws?

The Constitution is Canada’s highest law. All other laws must be compatible with the rules set forth therein. If not, it may not be valid. Therefore, the Canadian Charter is part of the Constitution and is an essential law in Canada.

However, the rights and freedoms of the Charter are not absolute. They can be restricted to protect other rights or the value of essential countries. For example, laws against hatred promotion and child pornography can limit freedom of expression.

Close-up view of lady justice statue and lawyer.
Soource: Depositphotos

5 Amazing Examples of Constitutional Law Cases in Canada

About the Law

Section 1 of the Charter states that – 

“The rights of the Charter can be restricted by law as long as those restrictions are shown to be reasonable in a free and democratic society.”

Guarantees of charter rights and freedoms-section 1

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees these rights. The importance of this law is profound for the welfare of Canadian society. It was adopted in 1982, and liberty is established only to the reasonable limit stipulated by law that is court determined and can be justified in a free country.

It applies to all governments and can be challenged if not adhered to or if someone violates it. But under certain circumstances, it may not come under it. There are many judgments regarding the same—federal government, provincial and territorial—and include protection of the following provisions :

  • Fundamental freedoms, democratic rights.

  • Authority to live and seek employment anywhere in Canada.

  • Legal rights (life, liberty, and personal security).

  • Like public education, equal rights for all

  • The official languages of Canada, minority language education rights

  • Canada’s multicultural heritage

  • Indigenous peoples’ religious rights

The values and principles which guide the Supreme Court in applying Section 1 include the inherent dignity of the human person, commitment to social justice and equality, accommodation of general beliefs, respect for community and cultural identity, and faith in social and political institutions, which enhance the participation of individuals and groups in society. This is what the Supreme Court concluded.

Example the of constitutional law case

These constitutional cases below will provide a broad view of Canadian society and its justice system. The following are the cases:

1.  v. Oakes, [1986] 1 SCR 103,

Case Name: Her Majesty the Queen v David Edwin Oakes

It is a case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada which instituted the famous Oakes test, a test of the reasonable limitations clause (section 1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that lets in natural barriers to rights and freedoms via regulation if the problem is encouraged by a “pressing and major objective” and can be “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Anyone whose rights have been infringed or violated can file a court case, and the trial will be held in court.

About the Law

Fundamental Freedom – Section 2

The provisions under the section of charter law are that everyone has the following fundamental rights i.e

  • “Freedom of conscience and religion”

  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

  • Freedom of peaceful assembly 

  • Freedom of association. 

Under Section 2 of the Charter, which that court-created, Canadians can follow the religion of their choice. In addition, freedom of thought, belief, and expression is guaranteed. The Charter protects the right of the press and other media to hear, as the media is an essential means of communicating ideas. The right to gather and act in peaceful groups is protected, as is the privilege to belong to trade unions and other associations.

These freedoms are set out in the Charter to access Canadian citizens to freely develop, express, gather, and discuss ideas and communicate them well to others, directly affecting them. These activities are the primary form of personal freedom. These processes are also crucial for a democratic country like Canada. In a democracy, people can discuss public policy issues, criticize governments, and solve social problems.

Canadian courts have depicted section 2(b) very broadly:

The Supreme Court held has adopted the following three-part legislative scheme for analyzing section 2(b)

  • i) Does the endeavour in query have expressive content, thereby bringing it inside area 2(b) protection?

  • ii) Does the technique or area of this expression get rid of that protection?

  • iii) If the expression is protected by section 2(b), does the government action in question infringe that protection, either in purpose or effect? 

Example of the constitutional law case

This is another example of the constitutional law case about the law mentioned above-.

2. [1990] 3 S.C.R. 870

Case Name: Donald Clarke Andrews and Robert Wayne Smith v. Her Majesty the Queen

This case is a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada reflecting upon section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerning the “freedom of expression.”

The case was against Donald Andrews and Robert Smith, who was accused of promoting hatred via controversial statements published in their bi-monthly magazine. They were charged under 319(2) of the Criminal Code

The concern raised before the Supreme Court was whether or not 319(2) of the Criminal Code violated laws under Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and if it did, was it defensible under Section 1. 

For this, the court upheld that it violated the Charter’s laws, but under Section 1, it was justifiable. 

About the Law

Democratic rights-section 3-5

This paragraph provides other examples of constitutional law cases. 

Democratic laws and acts of provincial citizen law are presented in section 3. The maximum duration of legislative bodies’ local law is given in section 4, and the annual sitting of legislative bodies is shown in section 5.

Section 3 of the acting process:

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and qualify for membership therein.

The Supreme Court limits this act so that people over 18 years can only vote. Other than that, if you are a Canadian citizen over 18 and are stopped from voting, you can challenge this in front of the court, and the judges in the proceedings will make the judgment.

Example of the law cases:

3. Prior to 1982, section 91(1) 

The above link is the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada’s selection on the proper way to participate in a federal election under part 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . The court struck down a provision requiring a political celebration to nominate 50 candidates before receiving positive benefits.

Section 4 of the active process states –

“The maximum period of legislative bodies is five years.”

(i) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs at a general election of its members.

Source: Shutterstock

Continuation in exceptional circumstances:

(ii) No house of commoners and no legislative assembly should continue for more than five years. The legislature may continue a legislative assembly beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.

During the actual or anticipated war, invasion, or insurrection, a House of Commons may additionally be ensured and continued by Parliament.

Examples of the constitutional law case – 

4. Prior to 1982, section 91(1) 

Constitution Act, 1867, as enacted by the British North America Act (No. 2) of 1949, determined the duration of the House of Commons in the same way as section 4 of the Charter.

Section 5 of the active process: Every twelve months, there has to be a gathering/meeting of the Parliament and each of the legislatures, at least once. 

Another basic democratic principle that the Supreme Court found is that a government must explain its actions to the people.

 Section 5 of the Charter clarifies that Parliament and the legislative assemblies must hold a session at least once a year. 

This ensures that elected contributors and the public are likely to query authorities’ moves in many instances and have a rational connection.

Women’s right to liberty and security—section 6

This is one of the last examples of constitutional law cases. 

Examples of constitutional law cases –

5. R. v. Morgentaler,  [1988] 1 SCR 30, R v Morgentaler,

Case Name: Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Dr. Leslie Frank Smoking, and Dr. Robert Scott v Her Majesty The Queen

Doctors Morgenthaler, Smelling, and Scott run clinics in Toronto to perform abortions for women who do not have the accredited or approved hospital certificate required by criminal law. Doctors have been charged with intentional abortion in violation of the Criminal Code.

This case was a Supreme Court of Canada decision that stated that the abortion clause under the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. Under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it was considered a violation of women’s rights to security of security person.

Since that ruling, Canada has abolished the criminal law that regulates abortion.

Unconstitutional laws

Unconstitutional laws are acts that give no rights. On the contrary, it violates a person’s liberty. The judge and their judicial review decide whether a law is unconstitutional or not by giving judgments.

Depending on the type of legislation, a statute may be declared unconstitutional by any court or only by special constitutional Supreme Courts with powers to rule on the validity of an act or a law.

Here is an example of the following act:

Let’s start with a U.S. case, as it is one of the most well-known and works as a great example for international cases.

1. Roe v. Wade (1973). 

Case Name: Jane Roe et al. v. Henry Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County

This was a ground-breaking decision by the Supreme Court (U.S.). It proclaimed that the Constitution of the United States is to protect a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to go for an abortion without any government interference and restrictions. 

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a significant decision of the United States Supreme Court in which the Court decided that the right to abortion was guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

The ruling invalidated several federal and state abortion restrictions, sparking an ongoing abortion debate in the United States concerning whether or not abortion should be allowed, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what role moral and religious beliefs should have in the political realm.

The ruling also affected the argument over the methodologies that the Supreme Court should employ in constitutional adjudication.

2. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Case Name: Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al.

In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court made another ground-breaking decision, stating that the state laws concerning racial segregation in all public schools are unconstitutional

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark case by the United States Supreme Court that found that racial segregation in public schools is unlawful, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.

The ruling substantially overturned the Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision from 1896, which declared that racial segregation laws did not violate the US Constitution as long as the facilities for each race were of similar quality, a notion known as “separate but equal.”

Brown cleared the door for integration, was a key win for the civil rights movement, and served as a model for many other impact litigation cases.

Source: DepositPhotos

Closing Thoughts 

In Court cases, judges act according to the criminal justice system and aim to ensure equal protection to all groups in Canadian society; that is where constitutional law and the process clause come into the picture.

These constitutional case laws are there to ensure a fair trial for all trail, including criminal trials.

With the above knowledge, we hope to have helped you learn more about constitutional law and its different examples. Please contact us in the comment section if you believe we missed something. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What steps are involved in becoming a lawyer in Canada?

To get a law degree in Canada, you need to complete the following steps :

Step 1: Get a graduation pre-law degree.

Step 2-Take the LSAT

Step 3-Go to law school

Step 4-take the Bar Council Exam

2. Speaking of laws and courts, next come lawyers. What is the work of a lawyer?

A lawyer’s work can be divided into three categories. First, representing a client as a defendant or as other parties in front of counsel; 

Second, carrying out legal research; third, giving advice or legal solutions to clients and maintaining a formal relationship with them.  And lastly, they also present evidence in front of the court and keep their grounds of argument.

3. What cases does constitutional law involve?

Constitutional law often refers to the rights guaranteed by Canada’s Constitution. Cases frequently concern the Bill of Rights or the rights of the federal and state governments. The term constitutional law refers to the rights enshrined in the federal and state constitutions.

4. What are the four landmark cases?

To have a better understanding of the Canadian legal system one should understand the significance of these four landmark court cases as well as their ongoing implications.

·         Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857.

·         United States v. Nixon, 1974.

·         Miranda v. Arizona, 1966.

·         Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.

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