Sample Case Study on Supreme Court Use of the Charter to Limit the Scope of Legislation and Administrative Power in Canada

The Charter is used in providing the citizens and residents of Canada with a wide range of rights that are highlighted in the country’s constitution. The power of the Canadian courts was greatly extended after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, referred to as the Charter, was enacted in the year 1982. After the enactment, the courts were given powers to adjudicate in various areas and the branches of the government. For instance, they can give a ruling concerning the division of powers between different levels of government. Courts can as well deliver a judgment in regards to the legality and constitutionality of the laws that could be enacted by the provincial legislatures and the Parliament (Hogg 39).

Charter can be viewed as the promises that are made by the state to its citizens (Hogg 42). In the case of Carter v. Canada, the state has guaranteed its citizens the safety and security of their lives. As a result, it has promised to protect their lives unless the occurrence of natural death. In the case, the plaintiff was in a position that physician-assisted death should be allowed with the consent of the patient. However, the defendant was of the view that allowing physician-assisted death will be allowing legalizing the act of causing another person’s death. Supreme Court of Canada made a final decision confirming that Canadians have the rights as per their constitution of choosing physician assistance in dying. In its ruling in Carter v. Canada, it found out that there were laws that were used to deprive S7 rights to life, security, and liberty of the citizens like Gloria Taylor that were suffering from terminal and serious illnesses. They hence denied the section 7 rights of a person to make choices that are important to their lives and hence caused avoidable sufferings.

In their ruling judges of the Supreme Court used the charter to limit the scope of the legislation and the administrative powers. The court proposed the amendment of the constitution and forwarded its recommendation to the Parliament to amend the clauses in the constitution which is the supreme law of Canada. Charter limitation helps the court in protecting the rights of minorities as well as the protection of civil libertarian values (Vogel 421)

The court ruling mostly has a remarkable victory for the protection of human rights and freedom. The Supreme Court hence can use the Charter to limit the administrative power even if the attorney general and the parliament are in contra opinion. The Court hence uses the Charter to limit administration when interpreting the freedom and rights of citizens. Freedom is in regard to their lives, liberty, and security. The court judgment can, therefore, legalize and strike the Criminal Codes that prohibit citizens from enjoying their freedom as well as exercising their constitutional rights (Vogel 422).

The Supreme Court of Canada is mandated with the role to interpret and enforce the Carter. It hence has absolute power on the matters laid down by the Charter. The court hence has ultimate authority in determining the criminal laws that are deemed to cause the violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court hence uses the Charter to limit the legislative work of the legislation and forward laws that need to be amended to the Parliament.

Opinion on the Legitimacy Role for the Courts Concerning Use of Charter

In my opinion, the interpretation and the enforcement of the Charter are the legitimate roles of the Supreme Court of Canada. Section 52 of the Canadian Constitution Act, of the year 1982 confirmed the Charter’s supremacy. The courts have been playing a significant role in striking down the clauses that are unconstitutional.

In the case of Carter v. Canada, it is the legitimate role of the court to strike down the unconstitutional statutes that were not in support of the individual’s right to life. In the case of Carter v. Canada, the Court determined the unconstitutionality and illegality in the statutes that prohibited the citizens from making life choices concerning their death. The issue was also involving painful and incurable illnesses that could be affecting the majority of citizens and had a chance of being avoided.

The court has been bestowed with the decisive power of interpreting and enforcing the Charter. Courts in most cases receive a number of Charter questions from the citizens and the government. Rights claimants have a high chance of being prosecuted under criminal law if the court argues that the act was unconstitutional. A ruling government can raise questions about the rights by making a submission of reference questions to the Supreme Court of the country.

The Supreme Court has a decisive authority of judicial review over the Canadian federal and provincial laws’ constitutional validity. For instance, if the provincial or federal law has been found to contradict the division of power as provided by the acts in a constitution, parliament can only live with the results or conduct the amendment to the law. The legislature can as well validate a particular law temporarily through the use of override power provided by the notwithstanding clause.

As a general rule, courts have included in their scope the role of interpreting charter rights. Traditionally their functions were limited to understanding every charter and explaining what it meant to citizens. Since the year 1982 after the adoption of the Charter, the court embraced a purposive role in altering the scope of rights. The move was supposed to ensure that the rights are applied in a way that effectively fit their broader purpose. The function is in line with the generous interpretation of human rights and the freedom of citizens in different situations. The role is hence meant to benefit the people and ensure that they exercise their constitutional rights at the expense of the government powers.

Estimation Concerning the Decision of the Case of Carter v. Canada

In the case, the Supreme Court declared that some Criminal Code provisions had no force. The court stated that the Codes contribute significantly in prohibiting citizens from exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms. According to the court, the statutes make it an illegal act for an adult person who has clear consent to the termination of life. The individuals are the members of the society who are suffering from severe terminal illnesses. The diseases cause severe sufferings that are intolerable to the victims in their health conditions and are unnecessary.

The decision of the court in Carter v. Canada was not carried out in a correct manner because the court created a lot of doubts that could delay implementation and the amendment of the statutes. For instance, the words that were used during the ruling created doubt on whether the court was intending to legalize euthanasia. The court was ruling on assisted suicide, but it was not clear whether its decision was also legalizing euthanasia.

The fact that the Court caused some doubts in that it did not provide for or substantiate between legalizing assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia indicated that the ruling was not decided correctly. The court decision, it did not provide for legal justification for either assisted suicide or euthanasia. The decision was rather silent on euthanasia as a result of its particular seriousness concerning the legality and ethical implications on the part of the medical practitioners.

The court decision was based on the fact that it was striking down Section 14. However, it was clear that the effects were to the extent that the section was to affect its ruling for the case at hand. Interpretation of Section 14 could hence be used to refer to assisted suicide which could be the intention of the court. The decision was not clear since the intended scope by the court of striking Section 14 was not clear.

The court uses the Charter to protect the rights and freedom of the citizens. The decision of the case hence aimed at protecting the rights of the citizens who suffered from the terminal and painful diseases. However, the decision did not clarify the legal implications for the physicians who were not willing to participate in assisted dying. The decision could have also considered the freedom and rights of the physicians in a situation where they were not willing to provide and participate in assisted dying. The court did not make it clear whether it was legalizing euthanasia according to its decision.


Works Cited

Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)

Hogg, Peter W.Constitutional Law of Canada. Toronto: Carswell, 2013.

Vogel, Lauren. “CMA developing assisted death guidelines.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 187.13 (2015): 421-422. Print.