Freedom Through Federalism: CCF releases new book on division of powers, free version available online ­

Freedom Through Federalism: CCF releases new book on division of powers, free version available online ­

TORONTO: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is thrilled to release a new book about how Canada’s federal structure can be used to protect liberty and constrain government overreach.

Electronic copies of the book are available for free to download at

“Typically, when Canadians think about how the courts can enhance liberty, they think about our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, the Charter is an incredibly important part of our constitution that guarantees our fundamental freedoms. But it may surprise many Canadians to learn that the federal structure laid out in the Constitution Act, 1867, the division of powers and the decisions related to federalism can also constrain government action and thus promote freedom,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.

The book also looks at how the division of powers can be used to mitigate against the centralizing power of the federal government. An unchecked, strong federal power risks unduly treading into the jurisdiction of the province, and this can be to the detriment of the citizens of less populous and influential provinces. The book will also look at how the division of powers can likewise prevent the province from imposing their own restrictions on liberty when those restrictions are in the jurisdiction of the federal government. In other words, all levels of government can overreach and fetter freedom, and the federal structure can be used to prevent this when that fettering is outside that level of government’s power.

“We hope that this book brings will expand your awareness about how our constitution can protect you from government overreach, and that the courts will continue to hear cases on federalism and decide these cases using a coherent federalism analysis that protect rather than erodes liberty,” concluded Van Geyn.

The book is written by some of Canada’s leading scholars and practitioners with expertise in the constitutional division of powers. Contributors to the book include:

  • Aaron Wudrick from the MacDonald Laurier Institute, on how the References re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is a further erosion of Canada’s constitutional division of powers;
  • Prof. Dwight Newman of the University of Saskatchewan School of Law on Citizens Insurance v Parsons and how a case from 1881 helps protect liberty in the 21st century;
  • Jesse Hartery of McCarthy Tétrault on a case heading to the Supreme Court, Re: Reference to the Court of appeal of Quebec in relation with the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, and how that case is an opportunity to reaffirm key features of Canada’s federal structure;
  • Shannon Hale on the Reference re Genetic Non‑Discrimination Act and the Supreme Court’s three-way split;
  • Asher Honickman of Jordan Honickman Barristers and Advocates for the Rule of Law and the Comeau decision and the scope of trade between provinces and section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867;
  • Moira Lavoie of Reynolds, Mirth, Richards & Farmer LLP on the intersection of indigenous rights and the division of powers over resource development;
  • Brett Carlson and Briggs Larguinho of Borden Ladner Gervais on the Impact Assessment Act reference, which is likely headed to the Supreme Court, and the impact of that case on federalism;
  • Kristopher Kinsinger of the Runnymede Society on the 1938 Reference Re Alberta Legislation, the first of a series of Supreme Court cases that came to be known as the “implied bill of rights” cases, but which draw on Canada’s constitutional architecture;
  • Prof. Ryan Alford of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law on the 1976 Anti-Inflation Act reference, and what this case can teach us about emergency powers today; &
  • Guillaume Pelegrin of Fasken on the COPA and Lacombe cases, and the concept of freedom through a federally imposed permissive regime.

Free electronic copies of the book are available for download at