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Reconciling Rights and Federalism during Review of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Centralization Thesis, 1982 to 1999

  • James B. Kelly (a1)

This article considers the relationship between rights and federalism in the Supreme Court of Canada's review of cases invoking the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It considers whether the Supreme Court of Canada has compromised provincial autonomy by establishing Canada-wide standards in provincial areas of jurisdiction. It suggests that the centralization thesis associated with judicial review on Charter grounds is inconclusive, and combining several processes under the rubric of centralization, it misrepresents the Charter's effect on Canadian federalism and provincial autonomy. Further, the centralization thesis has lost much momentum during the course of Charter review, and, as a result, is a limited approach to understanding the relationship between rights and federalism in Canada. Specifically, the Supreme Court of Canada has demonstrated sensitivity to federalism in its Charter jurisprudence, most evident in a complex jurisprudence that has served to offset the centralization thesis and its implications for provincial autonomy. This threepart federalism jurisprudence is federalism as gatekeeper, an explicit federalism jurisprudence and an implicit federalism jurisprudence, which is most evident in the relationship between criminal rights and provincial responsibility for the administration of justice. This article demonstrates that the Court's approach to Charter review has seen a reconciliation between rights and federalism, most evident in the declining importance of the centralization thesis and the growing importance of the three-part federalism jurisprudence during Charter review. This sensitivity to federalism has existed since the beginning of the Court's Charter jurisprudence but has largely been overshadowed by the dominance of the centralization thesis in the Charter debate.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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