The Continuum of International Maritime Law and Canadian Maritime Law: Explaining a Complex Relationship

Article excerpt

This article discusses the relationship between international maritime law and Canadian maritime law from legislative and judicial perspectives. It explains the relationship through Canada's implementation of international maritime conventions and a study of Canadian case law. The article concludes that the relationship has a well-developed pattern based on legislative structures and judicial processes. With strong historical roots and traditions, the relationship is motivated by international comity and has firm grounding in international and domestic public policy in support of international uniformity to facilitate international commerce. Canadian maritime law has a unique heritage underscored by commercial necessity. The consequence is a relationship between international law and domestic law in a maritime setting that appears to be less problematic than the relationship between international law and other areas of domestic law in Canada.

L'article traite de la relation entre le droit maritime international et le droit maritime canadien de la perspective du pouvoir législatif et du pouvoir judiciaire. Il explique la relation en examinant la mise en oeuvre, parle Canada, de conventions maritimes internationales et une étude de la jurisprudence canadienne. L'article conclut que la relation suit un modèle bien établi fondé sur des structures législatives et des processus judiciaires. Avec de solides racines et traditions historiques, la relation est motivée par la courtoisie entre les nations et repose sur une base solide en politique publique internationale et nationale pour favoriser l'uniformité et le commerce entre pays. Le droit maritime canadien a un patrimoine unique issu des besoins commerciaux. La conséquence est une relation entre le droit international et le droit canadien dans un contexte maritime qui semble moins problématique que la relation entre le droit international et d'autres domaines du droit canadien.


I. Context

1. Sources of international maritime law

a. Traditional international law sources

b. International maritime "soft law" and industry practices

c. Travaux préparatoires in an international maritime context

2. Constitutional framework

H. Implementation through legislation

III. Role of the courts

1. Passive notice of international rules

2. Notice of treaty rules to find applicable law and aid statute construction

3. Notice to clarify extent of application offederal and provincial law in a marine setting

4. Instructing lower courts on the incremental development of the common law

5. Notice of international conventions as applied in foreign jurisdictions

6. Notice of customary international law

IV. Assessment



In his classic essay on the relationship between international law and domestic law in Canada, the late Ronald St. John Macdonald found the task of describing the relationship to be "necessarily complex."1 He saw international law and domestic law interacting along a broad front, with multiple subject-matter points of contact and through legislative, executive and judicial structures, but without an identifiable pattern, and with difficulties further compounded by source diversity, treaty, customary and general international law.2 Today, notwithstanding the persistence of complexity in the relationship between international maritime law and Canadian maritime law, elements of structure and process are also present.

.International maritime law is a branch of international law, cutting across public and private law. It has helped define and make more uniform a very complex area of law both within and outside Canada. It consists of a regulatory system for international shipping for the purposes of trade facilitation, maritime safety, environment protection, and security. It is one of the most detailed and systematically regulated fields of international law. …


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