Supreme Court on Trial
Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue
The Supreme Court of Canada has been accused of usurping Canadian democracy on a long list of divisive topics, including assisted dying, sex work, supervised injection sites, same-sex marriage, labour relations, election spending, and health care policy. Some critics claim that the nine unelected judges on Canada’s highest Court have used the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to impose their own views on public policy over those of elected governments. This book joins the crucial debate about the Charter, the Court, and Canadian democracy, and was shortlisted for the Donner Prize in public policy when originally published.
Some of the questions that Kent Roach considers in this important and timely book include: What is judicial activism? Is the Charter making us more like America, where the political nature of the judges appointed to the Court has become critical? Can judges simply read their own political preferences into the Charter? Are judges captive to special interests? What can governments and people do when they think the Court has got it wrong?
This revised edition updates the continued dialogue between the Court and Canadian governments and society over Charter issues, including recent dialogues about assisted dying and supervised injection sites. It also responds to criticisms from some commentators that the dialogue between courts and the government is a fraudulent and undemocratic monologue, and from others who believe that this dialogue can undermine the rule of law. In short, The Supreme Court on Trial makes an important contribution to understanding the role of the Court and the Charter in our democracy.
Kent Roach is a professor of law at the University of Toronto, where he holds the Prichard-Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy. He formerly served as a law clerk to Justice Bertha Wilson of the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2002, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; in 2013, he was awarded a Pierre Trudeau Fellowship; and in 2015, he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada. Professor Roach is the author of thirteen books, including Constitutional Remedies in Canada (awarded the 1997 Walter Owen Book Prize) and now in its second edition; Due Process and Victims’ Rights (shortlisted for the 1999 Donner Prize); The Supreme Court on Trial: Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue (shortlisted for the 2001 Donner Prize) and now in a revised edition; Brian Dickson: A Judge’s Journey, co-authored with Robert Sharpe (winner of the 2003 Defoe Prize); The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism (co-winner of the 2012 Mundell Medal); and False Security: The Radicalization of Canadian Anti-Terrorism, co-authored with Craig Forcese (winner of the 2016 Canadian Law and Society book prize). He is also the author of Criminal Law, now in its sixth edition, in the Irwin Law Essentials of Canadian Law series. Professor Roach has represented interveners in many Charter cases, including Downtown Eastside Sex Workers on standing, Khawaja on terrorism, Sauvé on voting and equality, Latimer on mandatory penalties, Golden on strip searches, and Ward on Charter damages.