Ignoring the Golden Principle of Charter Interpretation?
(2008) 42 Supreme Court Law Review 441-458
20 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2008 Last revised: 5 Mar 2016
One consistent and disturbing trend since the birth of the Charter in 1982 is that race has been and continues to be, with a few notable exceptions, erased from the factual narratives presented to the Supreme Court of Canada and from the constitutional legal rules established by the Court in criminal procedure cases. Understanding the etiology of this erasing is not easy. In earlier pieces, the author has explored the role of trial and appellate lawyers. This paper focuses on principles of judicial review and the failure of the Supreme Court to consistently consider the impact of the constitutional rules it creates or interprets on Aboriginal and racialized communities. What makes the silence so problematic is that the Supreme Court gave itself the tool in 2001 to address part of the identified problem when it established an anti-racism principle of Charter interpretation in R. v. Golden,  3 S.C.R. 369. This paper seeks to address a number of questions focused on the legacy of Golden. What is the origin and content of the Golden principle of judicial review? What is the evidence from subsequent cases and academic commentary that this is indeed an accepted principle of constitutional interpretation? What cases from the 2007 Supreme Court term would have benefited from a critical race analysis? And, in particular, how would factoring in Golden have impacted the Court's analysis in R. v. Clayton, 2007 SCC 32? And finally, how should the Golden principle be applied in future cases?
Keywords: Systemic Racism, Constitutional Law, Criminal Justice
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