The Conventions of Constitutional Amendment in Canada

43 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 4 Jan 2022

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government; Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo; Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas FGV DIREITO SP; Reichman University - Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Harry Radziner School of Law; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; Airlangga University; Yale University; Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai

Date Written: December 19, 2015

Abstract

Commentators have suggested that the unsuccessful national referendum to ratify the 1992 Charlottetown Accord has created an expectation of popular participation requiring national referendal consultation in major reforms to the Constitution of Canada. In this Article, I inquire whether federal political actors are bound by a constitutional convention of national referendal consultation for formal amendments to the basic structure of the Constitution of Canada. Drawing from the Supreme Court of Canada’s Patriation Reference, I suggest that we cannot know whether federal political actors are bound by such a convention until they are confronted with the question whether or not to hold a national referendum in connection with a change to the Constitution’s basic structure. I conclude by suggesting, perhaps counterintuitively, that layering a conventional requirement of national referendal consultation onto the existing requirements for formal amendments to the Constitution’s basic structure could well undermine democracy, despite our common association of referenda with democratic legitimacy. I suggest instead that a national referendum should be an alternative path, not an additional step, in constitutional amendment.

Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Constitutional Conventions, Constitution of Canada, Referendum, Jennings Test, Patriation Reference, Secession Reference, Senate Reform Reference, Charlottetown Accord, Meech Lake Accord

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Conventions of Constitutional Amendment in Canada (December 19, 2015). 53 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 399 (2016), Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 387, Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 38/2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2705669

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512.213.1113 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utexas.edu/faculty/richard-albert

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government ( email )

College of Liberal Arts
1 University Station A1800
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo ( email )

Facultad de Derecho
Av. Samborondón 5
Samborondón, 092301
Ecuador

HOME PAGE: http://uees.edu.ec/postgrado/postgrado-derecho

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas ( email )

12 place du Pantheon
Paris cedex 06, 75231
France

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

Calle 12 # 1-17 este
Calle 12 0 83
Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://www.uexternado.edu.co/derecho

São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas FGV DIREITO SP

R. Rocha, 233, Bela Vista
São Paulo, 01330-000
Brazil

HOME PAGE: http://direitosp.fgv.br

Reichman University - Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Harry Radziner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://www.idc.ac.il/en/schools/law/pages/home.aspx

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://commonlaw.uottawa.ca

Airlangga University

Dharmawangsa Dalam Selatan
Surabaya, East Java 60286
Indonesia

HOME PAGE: http://www.unair.ac.id

Yale University

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai ( email )

2nd Floor, CETTM MTNL Building, Technology Street
Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai 400076
Maharashtra
India

HOME PAGE: http://mnlumumbai.edu.in/vaf.php

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