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Research Talks in Canadian Politics: Robert Schertzer (University of Toronto)

Thursday, March 12, 2020
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Dunning Hall
Room: 12
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"Courting Diversity: the contradictions and implications of a representative Supreme Court of Canada" - Robert Schertzer  (University of Toronto) 

This talk explores representative dynamics on the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). While we tend to focus on courts as legal institutions, they also serve a critical function as venues representing the diverse interests and needs of many different constituencies. The most established expression of this function across federations – and in Canada – is the practice of appointing judges from different regions. The talk will seek to answer two related questions about the practice of regional representation: why do federations do this, and does it matter? To answer these questions, the talk first challenges the notion that federal high courts are centralist by design. Then, focusing on Canada and the appointment of justices from Quebec, the talk examines the conceptual and empirical contradictions of justices acting as both independent legal actors and representatives of a national minority group. Through this examination – which includes an in-depth review of every federalism case over the past 35 years – it is clear that while we can understand SCC justices from Quebec as representatives, their influence on the decision-making of the Court is not necessarily what some would expect. 

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