Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Joel Bakan]

Published In

Supreme Court Law Review (2d)

Document Type


Publication Date



Constitutional Law; Canada


This paper seeks to draw out four different, and often conflicting, themes that inform the Supreme Court of Canada's constitutional decision making. Each theme expresses a conception of the Canadian state, and taken together they represent, arguably, the current range of dominant views regarding the appropriate role of the state in Canada: classical liberalism, federalism, social democracy and neo-liberalism. Explicit and implicit reliance upon these conceptions of the state can be understood as reflecting the Court's concern to stay in step with its perception of contemporary social consensus on the large political issues lurking behind every constitutional question it addresses. The fact that four different and potentially conflicting themes are developed in answer to this question suggests that the members of the Court have not been able to identify what the social consensus is; or, far more likely, a social consensus does not exist on the desirable scope and content of state power, only competing ideals.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.