Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

Constitutional Amendment by Stealth

Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

Constitutional Amendment by Stealth

Article excerpt

Constitutional amendment ordinarily channels public deliberation through formal, transparent, and predictable procedures designed to express the informed aggregated choices of political, popular, and institutional actors. Yet the Government of Canada's proposed senator selection reforms concealed a democratically problematic strategy to innovate an informal, obscure, and irregular method of constitutional change: constitutional amendment by stealth. There are three distinguishing features of constitutional amendment by stealth--distinctions that make stealth amendment stand apart from other types of informal constitutional change: the circumvention of formal amendment rules, the intentional creation of a convention, and the twinned consequences of both promoting and weakening democracy. Constitutional amendment by stealth occurs where political actors consciously establish a new democratic practice whose repetition is intended to compel their successors into compliance. Over time, this practice matures into an unwritten constitutional convention, and consequently becomes informally entrenched in the constitution, though without the democratic legitimacy we commonly associate with an amendment. In this article, I theorize constitutional amendment by stealth from legal, theoretical, and comparative perspectives, and consider its consequences for the rule of law.

In general, lorsqu'il est question de modifications constitutionnelles, le debat public s'effectue par des demarches formelles, transparentes et previsibles concues pour vehiculer les opinions eclairees des acteurs politiques, populaires et institutionnels. Toutefois, avec ses propositions de reformes du mode de selection des senateurs, le gouvernement du Canada a tente de creer une procedure de modification constitutionnelle informelle, obscure et irreguliere : l'amendement constitutionnel furtif (<< constitutional amendment by stealth >>). L'amendement constitutionnel furtif comporte trois caracteristiques principales, qui le distinguent d'autres types de modifications constitutionnelles informelles : le contournement des regles formelles de modification, la creation intentionnelle d'une convention et la consequence paradoxale d'a la fois promouvoir et affaiblir la democratie. Avec l'amendement constitutionnel furtif, certains acteurs politiques cherchent a etablir une nouvelle pratique democratique, qui par sa repetition, vise a contraindre les decisions de leurs successeurs. Avec le temps, une telle pratique se mue en convention constitutionnelle non ecrite, et par consequent, s'enracine de facon informelle dans la Constitution, sans toutefois beneficier de la legitimite democratique normalement associee a un amendement constitutionnel. Dans cet article, l'auteur theorise l'amendement constitutionnel furtif en l'abordant des points de vue juridique, theorique et comparatif, et discute de ses consequences pour l'Etat de droit.

Introduction

I.   Constitutional Amendment in Canada
     A. The Difficulty of Formal Amendment
     B. The Prevalence of Informal Amendment
     C. The Informal Amendment of Formed
        Amendment Rules
II.  Senate Reform and the Senate Reference
     A. Modern Senate Reform
     B. The Supreme Court's Senate Reference
     C. Democratic Values and Consultative
        Flections
III. Stealth and the Rule of Law
     A. Consultative Elections and the Creation
        of Convention
        1. The Constraint of Consultative Elections
        2. The Actors, Objects, and Subjects of
           Entrapment
        3. The Convention on Senator Selection
     B. Stealth Amendment and the Values of Formal
        Amendment
        1. The Values of the Rule of Law
        2. Formal Amendment and the Rule of Law
        3. Consultative Elections and the Rule of Law
     C. The Costs and Consequences of Stealth
        1. Stealth Amendment and Ordinary
           Conventional Change
        2. Constitutional Integrity and Democratic
           Legitimacy
        3. … 
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