The Truth About Canadian Judicial Activism

Sanjeev Anand


The topic of judicial activism in Canada generates considerable disagreement. At a recent conference, retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice John Major stated that “there is no such thing as judicial activism in Canada.”1 In 2001, speaking in his capacity as the Canadian Alliance’s Justice critic, the current federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Vic Toews, told Parliament that the Supreme Court has “engaged in a frenzy of constitutional experimentation that resulted in the judiciary substituting its legal and societal preferences for those made by the elected representatives of the people . . . [producing] legal and constitutional anarchy.”2 One prominent constitutional scholar fears that the debate on judicial activism in Canada has begun to produce excessive judicial deference that allows legislatures and officials to act without scrutiny by the judiciary concerning the effects of state action on vulnerable minorities.

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