Search for "Supreme Court of Canada"

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Manitoba Metis Federation Case

In Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada, the appellants (plaintiffs) — including the Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. (MMF) — charged that Canada failed to implement sections 31 and 32 of the Manitoba Act, 1870. These sections had promised land to the children of the Red River Métis in Manitoba, and recognized existing Métis land ownership. Although the MMF lost the case in 2007 and in a 2010 appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in its favour in 2013. The Supreme Court stated that in failing to follow the land grant provision, the Crown had not taken diligent action to fulfill its constitutional obligation. In response to this case, the Canadian government and the MMF signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 to explore talks on reconciliation and develop a framework for negotiating a solution.

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Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

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Mahmud Jamal

Mahmud Jamal, Supreme Court of Canada justice, Court of Appeal for Ontario judge, litigation lawyer, author, teacher (born 1967 in Nairobi, Kenya). Mahmud Jamal is the first racialized person and the first South Asian Canadian to be appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court of Canada. A former Fulbright scholar with a background in law and economics, Jamal worked as a litigator with the Toronto firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP before becoming a judge with the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He began serving on the Supreme Court on 1 July 2021.

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Guerin Case

The Guerin case (R. v. Guerin) resulted in a pivotal decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1984 about Indigenous rights. It centred on the fiduciary (guardian or trustee) responsibility of the Crown to consult openly and honestly with Indigenous peoples before making arrangements for the use of their land. (See also Duty to Consult.) For the first time, it established that the Crown has a legal responsibility to First Nations and not simply a moral one. It also recognized Aboriginal title to their land to be a sui generis (Latin for “unique”) right.

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Gertrude Guerin

Gertrude Guerin (née Ettershank; traditional name Klaw-law-we-leth; also known as “Old War Horse”), chief, politician, community advocate, elder (born 26 March 1917 on the Mission Reserve in North Vancouver, BC; died 25 January 1998). Guerin, born into the Squamish First Nation (see Central Coast Salish), was a fierce protector of Indigenous people and culture. She represented the Musqueam nation locally as an elected chief, and on the national stage in challenges to Canadian jurisdiction over traditional Musqueam territory (see Coast Salish).

timeline event

Mahmud Jamal Becomes First Racialized Person on Supreme Court of Canada

Mahmud Jamal became the first racialized person and the first South Asian Canadian to be appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court of Canada. A former Fulbright scholar with a background in law and economics, Jamal worked as a litigator before becoming a judge with the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He replaced justice Rosalie Abella and began serving on the Supreme Court on 1 July 2021.

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Omar Khadr Case

Omar Khadr is a Toronto-born Canadian, captured by American soldiers after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15 years old. The only minor since the Second World War to be convicted of purported war crimes, Khadr was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and Canada for almost 13 years in total. In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Khadr’s detainment violated “the principles of fundamental justice” and “the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of youth suspects.” Despite repeated attempts by the Canadian government to keep him in prison, Khadr was released on bail in May 2015. In July 2017, he received $10.5 million in compensation from the government for Canada’s role in violating his constitutional rights. In March 2019, an Alberta judge declared that Khadr had completed his war crimes sentence, making him a free man.

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Abortion in Canada

Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy. Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law as unconstitutional. Since then, abortion has been legal at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy. Abortion is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the Canada Health Act. (See Health Policy.) However, access to abortion services differs across the country. Despite its legalization, abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues of our time.

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Same-Sex Marriage in Canada

In 2003, Ontario and British Columbia became the first two provinces to legalize same-sex marriage. The federal Civil Marriage Act came into force on 20 July 2005, making same-sex marriage legal across Canada. Canada became the fourth country to permit same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005). Since then, all provinces in Canada have recognized same-sex marriages. Marriage itself falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada. But the provinces regulate the solemnization of marriage (the formal ceremony that is either civil or religious). They also grant marriage licenses. The Supreme Court has ruled that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a religious official cannot be legally compelled to perform same-sex marriages if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

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2018 Toronto Van Attack

At 1:24 p.m. on 23 April 2018, a 25-year-old man who identified as an incel (involuntary celibate), drove a rented van onto the sidewalk on Yonge Street in Toronto’s North York business district. He proceeded to drive south, intentionally running over pedestrians. When he was stopped by police 10 minutes later, 10 people (eight of them women) were dead and 16 injured. It was the biggest mass murder in Toronto history and the worst in Canada since the Montreal massacre in 1989. On 3 March 2021, the driver was found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. His sentencing process is scheduled to begin on 11 January 2022.

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Statute of Westminster, 1931 (Plain-Language Summary)

The Statute of Westminster, 1931 is a British law. It was passed on 11 December 1931. It made all the Commonwealth countries independent and equal with Britain. They now had full legal freedom except in areas of their choosing. The Statute also clarified the powers of Canada’s Parliament and those of the other Dominions.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Statute of Westminster, 1931. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Statute of Westminster, 1931.)

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Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is a board of the British Privy Council. It was formed in 1833. In 1844, it was given jurisdiction over all of Britain’s colonial courts. People who had been judges in high courts in Britain served on the Judicial Committee, along with a sprinkling of judges from the Commonwealth. Their decisions were often criticized for favouring provincial powers over federal authority, especially in fields such as trade and commerce. The Judicial Committee served as the court of final appeal for Canada until 1949, when that role was given to the Supreme Court of Canada.  

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Persons Case (Plain-Language Summary)

The Persons Case was a constitutional ruling. It established the right of women to serve in the Senate. The case was started by the Famous Five. They were a group of women activists. In 1928, they objected to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that women were not “persons.” As such, they were not allowed to serve in the Senate. The Famous Five challenged the law. In 1929, the decision was reversed. As a result, women were legally recognized as “persons.” They could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow reading of the law.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Persons Case. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see the full-length entry.)

timeline event

Taschereau’s Special Commission on Education

In 1924, Quebec Premier Louis-Alexandre Taschereau established a Special Commission on Education to examine the case of Jewish students in Quebec’s public school system. After the commissioners remained at an impasse, Taschereau referred the 1903 Act to the Quebec Court of Appeal. It concluded that the Act violated section 93 of the BNA Act and was therefore invalid. Jews had no legal rights to attend Protestant schools, teach or serve as commissioners. The court also ruled that the Quebec government did not have the authority to set up separate schools. The government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1926, it upheld the appeal court rulings but concluded that the provincial government had the right to establish separate schools. In 1928, the case was referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain, which agreed with the Supreme Court. (See also Jewish School Question.)

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Judiciary in Canada

The judiciary is, collectively, the judges of the courts of law. It is the branch of government in which judicial power is vested. It is independent of the legislative and executive branches. Judges are public officers appointed to preside in a court of justice, to interpret and apply the laws of Canada. They are responsible for adjudicating personal, sensitive, delicate, and emotional disputes; and for resolving major social, economic, and political issues that arise within a legal context. As such, the judiciary helps mold the social fabric governing daily life.