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Constitutional & Charter of Rights

Constitutional & Charter of Rights
Constitutional & Charter of Rights
Expertise / Practices / Litigation & Dispute Resolution / Constitutional & Charter of Rights

Companies doing business in Canada are affected by a wide range of federal, provincial and municipal legislation. They also have to contend with regulatory bodies that assert their investigative, enforcement and decision-making powers. In some cases, the government acts outside of its jurisdiction or in violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, and in other cases, class actions are brought on in relation to legislation that is constitutionally invalid. These and other constitutional issues are complex and have broad-ranging effects on businesses in all sectors. In deciding whether to comply with questionable assertions of government authority or defend litigation in relation to a law that may be unenforceable, you need experienced counsel that is knowledgeable about all aspects of the Constitution of Canada and the unique procedural issues that arise in such litigation.

Blakes has a leading constitutional law practice in Canada. Continuing in the traditions set by Peter W. Hogg, Canada’s foremost constitutional scholar and our Scholar in Residence for many years, Blakes lawyers practice in all areas of constitutional law. Businesses in various sectors all rely on our lawyers for advice about questions related to federalism, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Indigenous rights. In collaboration with our preeminent Media & Defamation and Freedom of Information practices, we also represent Canada's major newspapers, publishers and broadcasters in free-speech challenges.
Blakes has extensive experience in the Supreme Court of Canada. Many of our lawyers have served as law clerks to judges of the Supreme Court and other appellate courts. Our record of success has led to Blakes being retained in many of the leading constitutional, public and administrative law cases, and we regularly provide clients with legal opinions on all aspects of constitutional law. Blakes lawyers have appeared before the Supreme Court in a wide range of constitutional disputes, including cases about the application of provincial legislation to federally regulated companies, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, discrimination and equality rights, tax, Indigenous rights, interprovincial trade, investigative powers, right to jury trials, parliamentary privilege, the independence of the judiciary and legal counsel, and health and environmental matters. We have also appeared before legislative committees to address constitutional issues.
Blakes is committed to a pro bono program that assists underrepresented communities in advocating for their constitutional rights, and we frequently intervene in the Supreme Court on behalf of non-profit organizations and other pro bono clients.
Every year, Blakes organizes and hosts the Wilson Moot, a national constitutional appeal moot that attracts the best law students from across the country. At the Wilson Moot, judges from the Supreme Court and other courts volunteer their time to teach students about advocacy.

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Recent Experience
  • The respondent in Orphan Well Association v. Grant Thornton Ltd., a Supreme Court appeal about the division of powers and the constitutional doctrine of federal paramountcy in the context of bankruptcy and insolvency.

  • Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Limited, Husky Oil Operations Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Limited in obtaining successful rulings at the Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal regarding limits on the provincial environmental jurisdiction over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

  • The appellant in Royal Bank of Canada v. Trang, a Supreme Court appeal raising issues of privacy and cooperative federalism.

  • The respondents in Grant v. Torstar Corp., in which the Supreme Court recognized the defence of responsible journalism against a claim of defamation.

  • The Legislative Assembly of Ontario in matters relating to parliamentary privilege, including intervening in the Supreme Court in Chagnon v. Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec and Canada (House of Commons) v. Vaid.

  • The respondent in Canada v. Federation of Law Societies of Canada, in which the Supreme Court first recognized lawyers’ duty of commitment to their clients’ causes as a principle of fundamental justice.

  • The interveners Toronto Commercial Arbitration Society and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Canada Inc. in Uber Technologies Inc v. Heller, a case involving the constitutional right to access to justice in the context of arbitration clauses.

  • Two distinct interveners in Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. v. Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, in which the Supreme Court addressed the Crown’s duty to consult with Aboriginal Peoples under the Constitution.

  • The intervener Canadian American Bar Association before the Supreme Court in a constitutional challenge to the federal government's denial of voting rights for Canadian citizens who have resided outside Canada for more than five years.

  • The interveners in R. v. Kapp, which outlined the modern test for ameliorative programs under the equality rights provisions of the Charter.

  • The appellants in Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada, a case that examined whether mandatory publications bans violate freedom of expression under the Charter.

  • The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) in a case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in which the applicant unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Ontario Insurance Act.

  • The respondent in British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Lafarge Canada Inc., in which the Supreme Court clarified the scope of the paramountcy doctrine that applies when provincial and federal legislation are inconsistent.

  • The appellants in Canada Western Bank v. Alberta, an appeal in which the Supreme Court refined the interjurisdictional immunity doctrine relating to the applicability of provincial legislation to federally regulated companies.

  • An intervener in R. v. Manning, a Supreme Court appeal relating to when forfeiture orders are constitutionally disproportionate.

  • The interveners in R. v. Tse and R. v. Paterson, concerning the Charter right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

  • The interveners in Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, a Supreme Court appeal on the issue of whether freedom of expression guarantees access to government documents.

  • The House of Commons on matters of parliamentary privilege before the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities (the Gomery Commission) and the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

  • Bell, Rogers and Cogeco in a challenge to an unconstitutional tax.

  • The Toronto Transit Commission in a Charter challenge to its drug and alcohol testing policy. 

  • Marine Atlantic Inc. in connection with a judicial review application and appeal in the Federal Court of Appeal by a competitor who challenged Marine Atlantic’s commercial freight rates.

  • The Toronto Star in a constitutional challenge to the application of the Freedom of Information Act to administrative tribunals, stating that the open courts principle should apply to facilitate better public access.​

  • The Attorney General of Canada and the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario on matters relating to judicial independence. ​