The Desuetude of the Notwithstanding Clause -- And How to Revive it

The Court/Constitution and Public Policy (Emmett Macfarlane ed., Forthcoming)

Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 425

15 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2016

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 10, 2016

Abstract

The Supreme Court of Canada’s controversial invalidation of the Criminal Code prohibition on physician-assisted dying prompted suggestions that the federal government should invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to restore the law. Yet both the Harper and Trudeau Governments rejected this advice; the former refused to reenact the impugned law using the Notwithstanding Clause retrospectively; and the latter, newly-elected with a majority in October 2015, rejected the suggestion that it should pass its new law using the Notwithstanding Clause preemptively. It should come as no surprise that both governments took the same view of the Notwithstanding Clause. The reason why is clear but not easily explained: the Notwithstanding Clause has become politically toxic and is at risk of falling into constitutional desuetude, a phenomenon that afflicts a textually entrenched constitutional provision that political actors no longer see as politically usable despite there being no legal prohibition on its use. In this Chapter, I explain why the Notwithstanding Clause is at risk of desuetude, how this came to be, and also how political actors can halt its decline toward obsolescence in order to make it more likely that Parliament will in the future have a real choice whether or not to exercise the policymaking power that the Notwithstanding Clause confers upon it — rather than being compelled to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada as final and irreversible.

Keywords: Notwithstanding Clause, Legislative Override, Constitutional Change, Constitutional Convention, Canadian Constitution, Supreme Court of Canada, Constitutional Desuetude, Reservation, Disallowance

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Desuetude of the Notwithstanding Clause -- And How to Revive it (December 10, 2016). The Court/Constitution and Public Policy (Emmett Macfarlane ed., Forthcoming), Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 425, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2882456

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 )

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Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

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

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

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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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