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Constitutional Roundtable: Richard Albert

September 27, 2017 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm



Richard Albert

 Professor, Boston College Law School

The Most Powerful Court in the World?
Constitutional Amendment after the Senate Reform and Supreme Court Act References

Associate Professor Yasmin Dawood
Canada Research Chair in Democracy, Constitutionalism & Electoral Law
University of Toronto

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
12:30 – 2:00PM
Solarium (room FA2), Falconer Hall
84 Queen’s Park

The Supreme Court of Canada has grown since Confederation from supreme in name alone into the guardian of Canada’s constitutional identity, joining high courts in Colombia, India, Israel, Germany, South Africa and the United States in contention for the title of the most powerful court in the world. Over the decades since its creation in 1875, the Canadian Supreme Court has acquired increasing importance in constitutional law and politics as a result of both constitutional design and the gradual accretion of authority that derives from reasoned judgments, legislative deference and public support. As the Constitution of Canada marks its sesquicentennial, the Supreme Court has acquired a new power that will make it the gatekeeper to constitutional reform in the years ahead: the power to rule whether a proposed constitutional amendment is constitutional.

The recent Senate Reform and Supreme Court Act References reveal the blueprint for how the Court will exercise this extraordinary power under its reference jurisdiction in future litigation challenging the validity of a proposed constitutional amendment: the Court will determine which of the five procedures in Canada’s amending formula political actors must use to formalize any proposed amendment. The source of the Court’s new power is the doctrine and theory of the Constitution’s “architecture”—the Court’s own innovation whose content and boundaries are determined by the Court alone, even where the proposed amendment may affect the Court itself.

Richard Albert is a tenured Associate Professor and Nicholson Scholar at Boston College Law School. His scholarship focuses on constitutional amendment in comparative, doctrinal, historical and theoretical perspectives. He is currently writing a book on constitutional amendment, to be published by Oxford University Press. He is also co-editor of the forthcoming volumes: Canada in the World: Comparative Perspectives on the Canadian Constitution (Cambridge), The Foundations and Traditions of Constitutional Amendment (Hart), and the Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Constitutions (Oxford). A former law clerk to the Chief Justice of Canada, Richard Albert holds degrees in law and political science from Yale, Oxford and Harvard.

A light lunch will be provided.

For more information, please contact Nadia Gulezko at


September 27, 2017
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm