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Courting Diversity: Exploring the Contradictions of Representation on the Supreme Court of Canada

September 27, 2018 at 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM

Location:A602 Loeb Loeb Building

Dr. Robert Schertzer
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Abstract: This talk explores representative dynamics on the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). While we tend to focus on courts as legal institutions, they also serve a critical function as venues representing the diverse interests and needs of many different constituencies. The most established expression of this function in Canada is the practice of appointing SCC justices from different regions.

The talk will seek to answer a foundational question about the practice of regional representation: does it matter? Focusing in particular on justices from Quebec, the talk examines the conceptual and empirical contradictions of justices acting as both independent legal actors and representatives of a national minority group within a central federal institution. Through this examination – which includes an in-depth review of every federalism case over the past 35 years – it is clear that while we can understand SCC justices from Quebec as representatives, their influence on the decision-making of the Court is not necessarily what some would expect.

Pizza and refreshments will be served.

Sponsored by the Bell Chair in Canadian Parliamentary Democracy