This is just a quick note to let readers know about some events this coming week.
First, on Monday, I will give a talk on “The Supremacy of That Which Is Highest and Best in Man” ― or, in other words, freedom of conscience ― at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. The event starts at noon in Room 150. It’s organized by the Runnymede Society ― for whom I already spoke on this issue a couple of years ago. Of course, much has happened since then; the demands various branches of the Canadian state make on the conscience of those subject to their respective jurisdictions have only expanded. As Lord Acton noted in the same lecture on the Beginning of the Modern State from which the title of my talk is drawn, “[t]he passion for power over others can never cease to threaten mankind, and is always sure of finding new and unforeseen allies in continuing its martyrology”. In my talk, I will both discuss the unchanging nature and claims of conscience itself, and touch on the most recent attacks on it in Canada.
On Wednesday, I will be doing another Runnymede event, this one a discussion entitled “‘Dirty word’ or dirty little secret: originalism in Canada”, at the University of Alberta. This will also start at noon, in LC190. The event’s title is recycled from a Runnymede talk I once gave at the Université de Montréal, but the idea here is to have a conversation on constitutional interpretation ― and why it’s not all as simple as the purveyors of the living tree mythology would have you believe. Despite setbacks, such as the Supreme Court’s decision in R v Comeau, 2018 SCC 15, this is an exciting time to be an originalist in Canada. Between scholarship by more or less subversive-minded people such as yours truly, and the accessible publication of materials related to the making of our constitution both online (notably by the Primary Documents project) and in dead-tree form (that is, Adam Dodek’s The Charter Debates), the dead constitution is alive and kicking.
Finally, on Thursday, I will be taking part in a panel discussion with Howard Kislowicz and Jennifer Raso called “Dissecting TWU“, organized by the Centre for Constitutional Studies. This one starts at 5:30PM in Howie McLennan Ross Hall. Between the three of us, we will, I believe, cover many of the important aspects, both constitutional and administrative, of the recent Trinity Western dilogy (and in particular of Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University, 2018 SCC 32). For my own part, I will focus on the way in which the Trinity Western decisions expand the powers of administrative decision-makers, allowing them to appoint themselves as enforcers of “human rights” and constitutional obligations against those who were never supposed to be bound by them.
I am looking forward to these events, and am grateful to those who have helped organize them ― especially Joanna Baron at the Runnymede Society and Patricia Paradis at the Centre for Constitutional Studies. If you can make it, please come, and say hello. It’s always great to meet readers of this blog.