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Research Talks in Canadian Politics: Stephanie Chouinard (Royal Military College of Canada)

Thursday, February 27, 2020
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Dunning Hall
Room: 12
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"Courts, federalism, and minorities: The case of language rights at the Supreme Court of Canada" - Stéphanie Chouinard (Royal Military College of Canada) 

Minorities’ relationship with the judiciary, in any given democratic country, is a complex one. The judiciary is often portrayed as the counter-majoritarian branch, one where the law levels minorities’ lack of political power. However, it is widely recognized that the judiciary’s decisions continue to be orientated by the values and norms of the broader society. Is it possible, then, for minorities to be granted the recognition they are seeking from society through judicial mobilization? The talk will discuss the case of official-language rights interpretation at the Supreme Court of Canada. It will show that certain norms underlying the Canadian constitutional order, notably the notion of a political compromise that led to the adoption of a federal system, has informed the Court’s response to minority-language groups claims, leading to a partial response to those claims and an evolution of the federal regime. This case study contributes to broader debates on minority rights, notably the role of courts in multinational states and the adaptability of federal structures when confronted by minority claims.

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