Charter: A Course PODCAST

About the Series

Charter: A Course is a podcast created by the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights (the Asper Centre) and hosted by the Asper Centre’s Executive Director Cheryl MilneCharter: A Course focuses on Canadian constitutional law and litigation. In each episode, we highlight the accomplishments of U of T Law’s faculty and alumni involved in leading constitutional cases and issues. Each episode also includes a “Practice Corner,” where we talk about the ins and outs of what it means to be a constitutional litigator.  Whether you are a law student, a lawyer, or just an interested person, we hope that you learn about an aspect of constitutional law and litigation that interests you in our podcast.

Episode 1: What’s the Point of Section 1?

Show Notes 

In this episode, we begin our exploration of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a conversation about section 1, which sets out that the rights in the Charter are subject to limits, or as the section says, “reasonable limits that are demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.” We are privileged to speak with scholar and U of T alumnus Professor Jacob Weinrib. During our “Practice Corner,” we speak with constitutional litigator and U of T Law alumnus Padraic Ryan.

Read more here and find a full transcript of Episode 1 here.

News Statement: Toronto (City) v Ontario (Attorney General)

In a deeply divided 5 to 4 decision released today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Better Local Government Act, 2018 as constitutional. This legislation was enacted by the newly elected Ford government in 2018, midway through an ongoing municipal election. The legislation reduced the number of wards of Toronto City Council from 47 wards to 25 wards.

A number of individuals, including candidates in the 47-ward election, challenged the legislation, as did the City of Toronto. It was argued that cancelling a democratic election more than halfway through the election period breached the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of expression, without justification. The challenge was successful at Divisional Court but failed at the Court of Appeal. The individual litigants dropped out of the litigation at this point and the City of Toronto appealed to the SCC.

The David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, represented by Alexi Wood of St. Lawrence Barristers LLP, intervened on the issue of freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Charter.

The Asper Centre is disappointed in the majority ruling in the SCC. According to Alexi Wood, “The majority decision fails to recognize the importance of electoral expression and has the potential to destabilize other types of expression in the future.”

The Asper Centre prefers the analysis set out in Justice Abella’s dissent, which held that the Act unconstitutionally interfered with the political dialogue between candidates and voters. The legislation was an unprecedented intervention midway through the election period, “destabilizing the foundations of the electoral process and interfering with the ability of candidates and voters to engage in meaningful political discourse during the period leading up to voting day,” according to the dissenting opinion. Justice Abella, quoting from the Asper Centre’s legal arguments, specifically noted how different aspects of the election period require protection: “All exercises of expression, at each and every stage of the electoral process – not only the final act of voting – must receive consistent and robust Charter protection” (paragraph 130).

Cheryl Milne, Executive Director of the Asper Centre, notes, “The majority and dissenting opinions represent very different views of our constitution with the majority taking a much narrower interpretation of freedom of expression, characterising the claim as a positive rights claim for an expressive platform and thus not protected by the Charter.”

Lorraine Weinrib, professor emerita at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and a specialist in constitutional law and litigation, notes that the majority judgment embodies some novel features: “It does not emphasize the importance of the guarantee of the fundamental freedom of expression in protecting the full range of public participation in the vital context of the actual election period. It does not emphasize the importance of democratic deliberation and representation at the municipal level where, as has been so clear during the covid pandemic, local government carries out a distinctive and crucial role in making policy decisions, setting priorities, and providing services in a densely populated, exceptionally diverse context.”

In stressing the importance of the text of the Charter, the majority undermined the well-established understanding that constitutional principles provide fidelity to the Charter’s basic value structure in a changing world. The contrasting factual summaries in the reasoning in this case also makes clear that we need new rules for Charter litigation so that the litigants, whose personal accounts of the actual impact of complicated government legislation on their lives and the lives of their communities, can fully participate in the adjudication of their claims through the full litigation process.

For further information:

Alexi Wood, Counsel
St. Lawrence Barristers LLP
Direct: 647 245 8283 / alexi.wood@stlbarristers.ca

Lillianne Cadieux-Shaw, Co-Counsel
St. Lawrence Barristers LLP
Direct: 647 245 3122 / lil.cadieux.shaw@stlbarristers.ca

Professor Lorraine Weinrib, Professor Emerita
University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
l.weinrib@utoronto.ca

Cheryl Milne, Executive Director
David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights
cheryl.milne@utoronto.ca

Meet Jonathan Rudin, the Asper Centre’s New Constitutional Litigator-in-Residence

 

By Leila Far Soares 

Jonathan Rudin, program director at Aboriginal Legal Services and experienced litigator, will be co-teaching the Asper Centre’s Clinic course as the new Constitutional Litigator-in-Residence for Fall 2021. Mr. Rudin has written widely and spoken passionately on the topic of aboriginal justice and has advocated countless cases before all-levels of Canadian court. We are very fortunate to have him join our faculty at the law school this coming term.  

Mr. Rudin’s interest in the law emanated from a desire to influence social change, a desire which served as the driving force behind his motivation to attend law school. Yet, for just over a decade after graduating and getting called to the bar, he did not work directly in law. Instead, Mr. Rudin opted to work with social justice organizations, where he could focus on fundraising and organizational development: “I wanted to get involved with things that I felt were working more broadly and systemically to address issues,” rather than “putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”  

However, this social justice work ultimately led Mr. Rudin to a career in litigation. His involvement with several indigenous organizations coupled with the knowledge he gained while completing his Masters in Constitutional Law at Osgoode Hall, piqued his interest in indigenous justice and culminated in an opportunity to work for Aboriginal Legal Services. ALS marked the beginning of Mr. Rudin’s engagement with constitutional litigation, allowing him to intervene in a number of significant and noteworthy cases. Of these, Mr. Rudin described R v Gladue and R v Ipeelee as two cases which stand out as most memorable to him. “You don’t always know going in how significant a case will be, how the court is going to take it, or what they are going to focus on.” Mr. Rudin emphasized the real issues and consequences at play in bringing constitutional challenges: “when you do this sort of work, especially if it is constitutional, you don’t just lose for your client, there are bigger issues at play.” 

Mr. Rudin plans to bring the litigation experience he’s gained at ALS to the University of Toronto Faculty of Law this fall, offering students a practical perspective and sharing insights as to what constitutional litigation really entails. He hopes to convey “a sense of how the process works and what it takes.” His experiences speaking before the Court have taught him valuable lessons in what judges want: brevity, clarity, and structure. “Writing a factum or doing oral arguments before the court, you are presenting things to an audience: judges. This is a very different audience, and one we are not familiar with playing to.” He plans to share these lessons, alongside many more, through the clinic.  

In the meantime, I asked Mr. Rudin if there was any advice he could offer to current law students. He remarked how difficult being a law student during a global pandemic must be and the inevitable fatigue that must accompany zoom law. In fact, Mr. Rudin described the challenges he faces as a lawyer working in a COVID world. “A lot of the work I do, it’s not me, it’s a whole team of people working together,” and meeting over zoom can certainly change professional dynamics. Mr. Rudin expressed his hope that next fall he will be able to meet with students in person. To mitigate zoom fatigue and the exhaustion that can come from the demanding nature of law school generally, Mr. Rudin stressed the importance of maintaining interests and activities outside of the law. For Mr. Rudin, this takes the form of regular jam sessions with his band: Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room. 

Additionally, Mr. Rudin encourages current students to keep an open mind as they navigate through their years of law school. Often times, he remarked, students have a pre-conceived notion of what area of law they want to pursue without knowing much about what it really entails. “There are all sorts of areas of law that we know nothing about and the more opportunities you have to try things the better.” He lauded the Asper Centre’s clinic as giving students a real sense of what working in constitutional law encompasses. He encourages students to take the opportunities the clinic has to offer and looks forward to meeting students in a few short months. 

Leila Far Soares is an incoming 2L JD student at the Faculty of Law and is currently one of the Asper Centre’s summer research assistants. 

Constitutional Litigator-in-Residence for 2021

The Asper Centre is pleased to announce that Jonathan Rudin has been selected as its new Constitutional-Litigator-in-Residence and will be co-teaching the Asper Centre’s clinical course in the Fall of 2021. Mr. Rudin’s extensive constitutional litigation experience in pursuing Indigenous justice and Aboriginal rights, as well as his teaching experience will greatly enrich the Asper Centre’s Clinic students next term.

Jonathan Rudin received his LL.B. and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. In 1990 he was hired to establish Aboriginal Legal Services and has been with ALS ever since. Currently he is the Program Director.

Mr. Rudin has represented ALS as an intervener at the Supreme Court of Canada 12 times. He has often appeared before the Ontario Court of Appeal and before Courts of Appeal in Quebec, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

At ALS he helped establish the Community Council – the first urban Aboriginal justice program in Canada in 1992, and in 2001 helped establish the Gladue (Aboriginal Persons) Court at the Old City Hall Courts in Toronto.

Mr. Rudin has written and spoken widely on issues of Indigenous justice. His book, Indigenous People and the Criminal Justice System was released by Emond Publishing in 2018 and won the Walter Owen Book Prize from the Canadian Foundation for Legal Research in 2019. A second edition of the book will be published in 2022.

Mr. Rudin also teaches on a part-time basis in the Masters of Law program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Last but not least, he plays the mandolin and sings with Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, a group that plays regularly in Toronto and has a number of videos on YouTube.

In Their Memory The Calls to Action Must Be Fulfilled

 

71) We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

72) We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

73) We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.

74) We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.

75) We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

76) We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.

ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.

iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

LINKS

Index of Missing Children and Unmarked Burials

Where are the children buried?