Queen’s Certificate in Law – Introduction to Public & Constitutional Law
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Queen’s Certificate in Law – Introduction to Public & Constitutional Law

Public and constitutional law is about
power. Who can exercise power, what types of power can be exercised, and whether
and to what extent there are any limits on the exercise of government power. At
the beginning of the course we’ll look at the origins of Canada’s legal system,
and we’ll look at how it was influenced by the French and the United Kingdom
systems of government. We’ll also look at how the Supreme Court of Canada has
recognized Aboriginal law within the Canadian constitutional framework. We’ll
look at the Constitution Act 1867 which established Canada as a self-governing
Dominion and that divided the authority to make laws between the federal
parliament and the provincial legislatures. We’ll look at Canada’s
constitutional development from 1867 to the present and how Canada gained
autonomy from the United Kingdom. A critical moment in Canada’s
constitutional development was the enactment of the Constitution Act 1982.
This famously included the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but it
also included the constitutional amending procedures until 1982. If Canada
wanted to amend its constitution, it almost always had to ask the United
Kingdom to do this on Canada’s behalf. The Constitution Act 1982 enacted five
procedures so that Canada could amend its own constitution; it also famously
included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We’ll look at many of those
rights in the course. For example, we’ll look at how the Supreme Court has
interpreted the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, the
right to life liberty and security of the person, and the right to equality. We’ll also look at the role of Parliament and the provincial
legislatures in setting reasonable limits on charter rights, and we’ll look
at the ability of Parliament and the legislatures to enact laws
notwithstanding certain charter rights. The middle part of the course will
examine the three branches of government. We’ll look at the executive branch of
government including the formal executive consisting of the Queen, the
governor-general the lieutenant governors and the Privy Council; and also
the political executive consisting of ministers and the cabinet. Next, we’ll
look at the legislative branch of government. We’ll look at Parliament and
the legislators and the lawmaking process, and we’ll also look at the role
of parliamentarians in liberating and holding the government to
account. To conclude the middle part of the course we’ll look at the judicial
branch of government. We’ll examine the structure of the court system in Canada
and the way the judges are appointed and removed from office. We’ll also look at
how the Supreme Court of Canada has elaborated protections for the
independence of judges from undue influence from the other branches of
government. The last part of the course will look at the interaction among the
three branches of government, so we’ll look at how judges examine laws to see
whether they’re consistent with the Constitution. We’ll look at how judges
supervise the exercise of executive power, an area of law known as
administrative law, and finally we’ll look at the techniques that judges use
to interpret statutes. Many of the techniques of statutory interpretation
are technical and depend on the meaning of words, but we’ll look at a broader
question about whether judges should only look at the words enacted by
Parliament or if they should also try and discern the intentions of Parliament
or the Legislature.

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