James B. Kelly and Christopher P. Manfredi

in The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195335354
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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The judiciary plays a prominent role in the maintenance and development of the Canadian constitutional system. Apart from maintaining the rule of law and the administration of justice, the courts and the members of the judiciary are important constitutional actors, as they provide interpretation of the federal division of powers and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Understanding the evolution of Canadian federalism is incomplete without considering the decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), Canada's highest court until 1949, and the Supreme Court of Canada after the abolition of the JCPC. This article discusses the structure and functions of the court system of the Supreme Court of Canada. The first section discusses the constitutional basis of the court system in Canada and the boundaries of judicial responsibilities between provincial and federal governments. The second section focuses on the appointment of judges and the reform movements by the federal and provincial governments since the 1960s. The third section discusses the Supreme Court of Canada and the three significant events that formed this institution: the abolition of appeals to the JCPC in 1949; the eradication of appeals as of right in 1975; and the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The last section discusses the courts and their contribution to the evolution of Canadian federalism and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

Keywords: judiciary; Canadian federalism; Judicial Committee; Supreme Court; court system; appointment of judges; Canadian Charter

Article.  6970 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Politics and Law

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