Why You Should Attend


September 15-17, 2017

Three-day symposium divided into plenary sessions and targeted workshops at the University of Ottawa with an anticipated audience of at least 100-150 people


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Over 35 Guest Speakers

Guest speakers will include The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and la Francophonie, Margarette May Macaulay, First Vice President of the Inter-American Commission James Cavallaro, Former President of the IACHR, Jacques Frémont President of the University of Ottawa and formerly, President of the Quebec Human Rights & Youth Rights Commission, Allan Rock, Former President of University of Ottawa and The Honourable Justice Deschamps Former Judge at Supreme Court of Canada

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Desmarais Building

All activities will take place at Building Desmarais, Room 12102 , University of Ottawa, 55 Laurier Avenue East

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The Relationship Between Canada’s 150th Anniversary and the Inter-American System

The Supreme Court of Canada, as we know it today, has not always been the court of last resort in this country. At the beginning of the Canadian federation 150 years ago, the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council was the final judicial oversight of the Dominion of Canada until 1949.

This system of external judicial review allowed individuals residing in Canada to benefit from increased protection of their rights and freedoms. Indeed, this first period of Canadian judicial history is characterized by rich constitutional jurisprudence. Moreover, it is in the “person” case, also known as Edwards v. A.G. Canada, where the living tree theory emerged for the first time and continues to guide the interpretation of the Supreme Court regarding rights and freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter. It was thanks to the intervention of the London Privy Council in Edwards that women were recognized as legal “persons” and have since been able to continue their fight to obtain additional rights and access to a civic and political life. It was this model of British external judicial oversight in Canada that not only allowed women to be heard on many issues but also played an important role in protecting the rights and freedoms of other vulnerable groups in Canadian society.

On the other hand, the judicial period from 1949 to 1982 was rather unproductive with respect to the advancement of human rights and freedoms. It was only in 1982, with the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that the Supreme Court of Canada finally began to play a substantial role in the protection of human rights and freedoms.

Since 1949, following the abolishment of Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as a final review mechanism overseas, it would be relevant to consider whether Canada’s potential membership in the Inter-American system would benefit the Canadian judicial system, as did the Privy Council at the time. In addition, this continental-type of external judicial review system would expand and ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Canada’s 150th anniversary is a timely initaive to reflect upon Canada’s role in protecting human rights in the Americas. While it is true “that Canadians already enjoy protection under the Charter, as well as federal and provincial human rights laws, [does not necessarily mean] that they have so much protection “added the Canadian Senate Committee in 2003.  It is therefore all the more important to question the strengthening of Canada’s ties with international organizations that defend human rights. While our most important neighbour, the United States, has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and is threatening to do the same with NAFTA, both having the effect of ensuring uniformity within the rules regarding environmental rights and worker’s rights.