Event Details

Provincial Constitutions and Unilateral Amendments to the Constitution of Canada: An Analysis of Quebec's Bill 96

We're delighted to announce a special guest lecture by Professor Emmett Macfarlane (University of Waterloo), who'll be presenting a talk based on his recently published paper: Provincial Constitutions, the Amending Formula, and Unilateral Amendments to the Constitution of Canada: An Analysis of Quebec's Bill 96.

Lecture Abstract:

In this lecture, Professor Emmett Macfarlane critically analyzes Quebec’s authority to unilaterally amend the Constitution of Canada. Via a critical analysis of the proposed provisions, which would recognize Quebecers as a nation and French as the only language of the province, the lecture will assert that provinces cannot make direct amendments to the text of the Constitution of Canada. This argument is reflected in the wording of the various constitutional amending procedures, historical and contemporary constitutional practice, and the underlying purpose and the fundamental distinction, and complex relationship, between the Constitution of Canada as supreme law and the constitution of the province.

The lecture will also analyze the specific matters in the proposed provisions and concludes that the addition of either of the proposed provisions requires recourse to an amending procedure other than section 45. Adding recognition of Quebecers’ status as a nation to the Constitution Act, 1867 exceeds the scope of provincial constitution, in part because it would not reflect a statement by Quebec in its own provincial constitution, something it would be free to enact via ordinary legislation. Instead, what Quebec proposes is to confer such recognition by the entire country. The language provision requires recourse to either the bilateral procedure under section 43 or the unanimity procedure of section 41, given the express language of other provisions of the amending formula.



Emmett Macfarlane

Professor, University of Waterloo
Professor Macfarlane’s research explores the relationships between constitutional law, governance, and public policy, with a particular focus on the roles of Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada. His current research consists of four primary projects: 1) unwritten constitutionalism, an examination of the role that constitutional conventions, unwritten principles, and the norms, practices, and customs surrounding the Constitution of Canada have for understanding constitutional law and politics; 2) legislative responses to court rulings on rights and the implications these interactions have for policy change, institutional relationships, and the meaning of the Constitution; 3) a project on free expression and hate speech in the social media age; and 4) analyses of constitutional change and the amending process. In addition, Professor Macfarlane is the author and editor of seven books. His work also appears in a range of journals, including the International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON), Canadian Journal of Political Science, Canadian Public Administration, International Political Science Review, McGill Law Journal, National Journal of Constitutional Law, and the Supreme Court Law Review, among others.

Event Date(s):

March 13, 2024, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

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Centre for Constitutional Studies
448D Law Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB T6G 2H5
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