Reference on Senate reform:
Major victory for POWER LAW in the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of the Fédération des communautés francophones et et acadienne du Canada
OTTAWA, April 25 2014,
The Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling Friday morning in the reference concerning the reform of the Senate.
The issue at the heart of this reference was to determine the procedure mandated by the Constitution for reforming certain aspects of the Senate. Can the Federal Parliament make unilateral changes to essential aspects of the Senate or is a measure of provincial consensus necessary?
The lawyers at Power Law had already successfully made submissions in a similar matter before the Court of Appeal of Quebec, on behalf of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. Before the Supreme Court of Canada, Power Law’s lawyers intervened on behalf of the FCFA to argue that Senate reform must maintain the institution’s role in the representation of linguistic minorities in Canada. They submitted that any unilateral change to essential aspects of the Senate would not respect the Constitution’s amending formula and that such a unilateral process would not allow for the of interests minority groups across Canada to be taken into account.
The Supreme Court’s decision confirms the position put forth by Power Law.
As Power Law had maintained, the Supreme Court ruled that the implementation of consultative elections and senatorial term limits cannot be carried out by Parliament acting alone. Rather, such amendments require the consent of at least seven provinces representing in aggregate half of the population of all the provinces together. Furthermore, the Court held that the abolition of the Senate would require the unanimous consent of all the provinces.
In its decision, the Supreme Court recognized the historic role played by the Senate in representing minority groups in Canada, including linguistic minorities and Aboriginal groups. The Court stated:
“Over time, the Senate also came to represent various groups that were underrepresented in the House of Commons. It served as a forum for ethnic, gender, religious, linguistic, and Aboriginal groups that did not always have a meaningful opportunity to present their views through the popular democratic process.”
The Court also underscored the role played by the Senate in the political representation of Quebec’s Anglophone minority.
Power Law is thrilled with this decision of the Supreme Court, which affirms the primacy of the Constitution and the importance of political institutions in the protection of minorities.
The FCFA’s mission
The FCFA’s mission is to be the national voice of Canada’s francophone and Acadian communities. Specifically, the FCFA seeks to ensure that francophones and Acadians are adequately represented within federal political institutions, and that their voice is heard.
The FCFA was founded in 1975 under the name Fédération des francophones horsQuébec. It is the principal spokesperson for 2,5 million francophones who live in nine provinces and three Canadian territories.