Past Event! Note: this event has already taken place.

Charter Statements and the Trudeau Ministry: The Parliamentary Reporting Duty in Comparative Context

March 15, 2018 at 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM

Location:A602 Loeb Building

Dr. James B. Kelly, Professor of Political Science, Concordia University


Under section 4.1.1 of the Department of Justice Act, the Minister of Justice is required to review all bills submitted by the ministry and to report any Charter inconsistencies to the House of Commons at the first opportunity.  Despite the invalidation of significant statutes by the Supreme Court of Canada as inconsistent with the Charter, a section 4.1.1 report to the House of Commons has never occurred.  The mandate letter issued by the Prime Minister to the Minister of Justice in 2015 commits the Trudeau ministry to demonstrate greater commitment and respect for the Charter of Rights.  Acting upon this, the Minister of Justice began submitting to Parliament, in the context of bills within her brief such as Bill C-14 (Medical Assistance in Dying), ‘Charter Statements’ that outline why a bill is viewed as consistent with the Charter of Rights.  As of April 2016, the Minister of Justice has submitted 14 Charter Statements to Parliament.  Under Bill C-51 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act), which is currently before the Senate, the Trudeau ministry intends to formalize this practice, whereby the Minister of Justice will submit a Charter Statement for all bills introduced by the ministry.  The purpose of this talk is two-fold: first, to provide an analysis of the initial 14 Charter Statements issued by the Minister of Justice to the House of Commons; and second, to place the duty to report proposed by Bill C-51 within a comparative context of existing ministerial reporting obligations, and parliamentary reforms, in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.


James B. Kelly is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University, and holds a Ph.d. from McGill University, which was awarded in 1999.  His research focuses on the judicialization of politics associated with the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, as well as the adoption of bills of rights in Westminster parliamentary democracies such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  His books include Governing with the Charter (UBC Press 2006), Contested Constitutionalism (UBC Press 2009) that was co-edited with Christopher P. Manfredi, and Parliamentary Bills of Rights: The Experiences of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, published by Cambridge University Press in 2016, and co-authored with Janet L. Hiebert.  He is currently working on a manuscript for UBC Press that explores the former Harper government and the Charter of Rights, which is entitled Confronting the Court: the Harper Conservatives and the Charter of Rights.  His newest research project focuses on Northern Ireland and the human rights commitments in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.   Dr. Kelly is a former Assistant Editor and Co-editor (English) of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.

Sponsored by the Bell Chair in Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.