Court cites Constitutional cloak as barrier in tempest over Nadon

The Supreme Court’s ruling that Justice Marc Nadon is not eligible for one of its three Quebec seats marks the first time a Canadian judicial appointment has been struck down by a court, and a low point in relations between the Harper government and the McLachlin court.

But it is the court’s watershed declaration that the Supreme Court is “a constitutionally essential institution” and a “foundational premise of the Constitution” whose composition and “essential features” cannot be substantively changed, except by constitutional amendment, that will have the most lasting and far-reaching impact, experts say.

Under the March 21 ruling, future reforms such as requiring the court’s judges to be bilingual, or creating an intermediate court of appeal, will be far more difficult, they say. The ruling also means Parliament cannot unilaterally abolish the country’s high court by repealing the Supreme Court Act (SCA), ending a decades-long legal debate.

“In terms of legal certainty about  the status of the Supreme Court, [the] decision is welcome,” Université de Montréal professor Paul Daly told The Lawyers Weekly.

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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.