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Rights Application Doctrine and the Clash of Constitutionalisms in Canada

Thomas M. J. Bateman
Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 3-29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3232804
Page Count: 27
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Rights Application Doctrine and the Clash of Constitutionalisms in Canada
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Abstract

Canadian courts have been torn between two constitutionalisms in their interpretation of the application provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The traditional, liberal constitutionalist approach establishes a distinction between public and private realms and between state action and inaction, limiting the Charter's application to the public, governmental sphere of positive legislation and executive conduct. However, the courts have oscillated between this and a postliberal constitutionalism according to which distinctions between public and private and state action and inaction are arbitrary and artificial. This article argues that this clash of constitutionalisms is responsible in large part for the courts' inconsistent and confusing record in interpreting sections 32 and 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. /// Les tribunaux canadiens sont déchirés entre deux constitutionalisme dans leur interprétation des dispositions d'application de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés. L'approche constitutionnelle libérale traditionnelle établit une distinction entre les domaines public et privé et entre l'action et l'inaction de l'État, limitant l'application de la Chartre à la sphère publique gouvernmentale de législation positive et de conduite professionnelle. Cependant, les tribunaux ont oscillé entre cette approche et un constitutionalisme post-libéral selon lequel les distinctions entre public/privé et action/inaction de l'État sont arbitraires et artificielles. Cet article défend l'idée que ce conflit de constitutionalismes est en grande partie responsable des contradictions et des confusions évidentes dans l'interprétation des sous-sections 32 et 52 de la Loi constitutionnelle de 1982.

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