Ne parlez pas en bien, ne parlez pas en mal

Radio-Canada a mis en ligne une entrevue avec Denis Dion, un porte-parole du Directeur général des élections du Québec, portant, pour l’essentiel, sur l’application éventuelle de la Loi électorale, et notamment de ses règles concernant les « tiers »,  aux médias sociaux, vu l’importance du rôle qu’ils pourraient jouer dans la prochaine campagne électorale. C’est un sujet qui attire beaucoup d’attention dernièrement. D’ailleurs, je l’avais évoqué ici il y a quelques semaines.

M. Dion soutient que « [l]a Loi électorale n’a certainement pas pour but de limiter les débats dans la société québécoise durant les 33 jours de la période électorale ». Ce n’est pourtant manifestement pas vrai. En imposant des limites sévères aux dépenses des partis et des candidats, et en interdisant presque toute dépenses par quelque autre personne, la Loi électorale a pour effet de limiter les débats, et cet effet est tellement fort et prévisible qu’il est difficile de prétendre que telle n’était l’intention du législateur lorsqu’il adoptait la loi. En fait, M. Dion en est conscient. Comme il dit lui-même, la Loi électorale « exclut la participation des personnes qui viendraient à côté des … partis pour faire des dépenses ce qui désiquilibrerait ce que la loi veut équilibrer » – c’est-à-dire les ressources des différents partis politiques, qui sont, comme je le soulignais ici, les acteurs centraux, dominants, du système électoral. (D’où le choix révélateur de la préposition « à côté » par M. Dion.) On pourrait envisager plusieurs façons – certaines plus pratiques que d’autres ― d’atteindre cet équilibre. La Loi électorale représente un choix clair en faveur d’un système qui préserve cet équilibre en baillonant tous ceux qui risqueraient de le rompre.

Pour ce qui est de l’application de la Loi électorale aux médias sociaux, M. Dion confirme ce que j’écrivais il y a deux semaines et demie: la communication d’un message électoraliste par les médias sociaux n’est pas une dépense électorale au sens de la loi, puisqu’elle ne coûte rien à son auteur. Par ailleurs, il rappelle aussi qu’un message ne sera pas couvert par la loi s’il ne tend pas à favoriser ou à défavoriser l’élection d’un parti ou d’un candidat en particulier. Ainsi, dit M. Dion, « votez contre ceux qui soutiennent la hausse des frais de scolarité » est un message partisan qui sera couvert par la loi si son auteur paie pour le diffuser, alors que « votez pour l’accès à l’éducation » ne l’est peut-être pas. Finalement, rappelle M. Dion, on peut aussi échapper à l’effet de la Loi électorale « [s]i de par votre notoriété il y a toujours un journaliste qui vous court après » et que tout ce que vous dites se retrouve dans les médias, sans que vous n’ayez à payer. Un rappel, probablement pas intentionnel, du fait que la Loi électorale favorise les groupes bien établis au détriment des nouveaux-venus, dont les journalistes ne font pas la promotion gratuite.

Les médias sociaux auront-ils un effet important sur la prochaine campagne électorale? Difficile de le dire pour l’instant. Cependant, c’est une possibilité. Si ça s’avère éventuellement être le cas, dit M. Dion, « peut-être faudra-t-il adapter nos lois étant donné l’évolution de la façon dont les messages sont diffusés ». J’aurais bien aimé qu’on lui demande dans quel sens cette modification pourait aller. Comme je l’écrivais ici, on pourrait conclure que, puisque les médias sociaux permettent à quiconque de diffuser des messages électoralistes de façon plus ou moins illimittée, les limites imposées à la diffusion de tels messages par les moyens traditionnels ne sont plus utiles. Cependant, on pourrait aussi conclure que la seule façon de garder les partis politiques au centre du débat pré-électoral, c’est de commencer à censurer la diffusion de messages électoralistes sur les médias sociaux. M. Dion et son patron ont-ils les ressources et la volonté pour le  faire?

Minus the Mandatory Minimum

Last week, another mandatory minimum sentence introduced as part of the federal government’s “tough-on-crime” agenda was declared unconstitutional, this time by the Ontario Court of Justice. The provision at issue in R. v. Lewis, 2012 ONCJ 413, is par. 99(2)(a) of the Criminal Code, and imposes a mandatory minimum of three-years’ imprisonment for a first-time firearms trafficking offence.

The accused had sold some cocaine to an undercover police officer posing as a low-level dealer, and offered to sell him a handgun. The judge found, however, that that was a “hollow offer” never intended to be followed through on. The accused never had a gun or access to one―he only boasted of his ability to procure one in order to keep his new client’s business. Still, offering to sell a firearm is enough to bring one within the scope of the trafficking provision of the Criminal Code. After he was arrested and charged, he pled guilty to three counts of trafficking in cocaine, but challenged the charge of weapons-trafficking, arguing that the mandatory minimum sentence on it was unconstitutional because contrary to the prohibition on “cruel and unusual … punishment” in s. 12 of the Charter.

Adopting the test developed by the Superior Court in cases dealing with another mandatory minimum provision, justice Bellefontaine held that he had to decide, first, whether the sentence he would impose absent the mandatory minimum would in fact be less than that minimum, and second, if so, whether it was contrary to s. 12 and could not be saved by s. 1 of the Charter. To the first question, the judge answered that, although the accused’s blameworthiness for this offence was ” at the very low end of the spectrum of offences” since he never actually meant to sell a firearm, in view of his rather lengthy history of criminality, some of it violent, a one-year sentence would have been appropriate. That, of course, is well short of the statutory minimum.

The question of that minimum’s constitutionality must then be dealt with. The test set out by the Supreme Court “is whether [the sentence] is so excessive or grossly disproportionate as to outrage standards of decency.” This test must be applied both to the actual circumstances of the accused and to a reasonable hypothetical case; if the sentence fails it in either instance, it is unconstitutional. As applied to Mr. Lewis, the judge finds that the statutory minimum is disproportionate, but not so grossly as to be unconstitutional, given his “significant criminal antecedents and entrenched devotion to a criminal lifestyle.” The outcome is different, however, for a hypothetical accused in whose case these aggravating circumstances would not be present and who would be, say, trafficking in marijuana rather than cocaine. In that case, says justice Bellefontaine, a three year sentence would be outrageously disproportionate:

[w]hile the words “one year” or “two years” or “three years” slide off the tongue equally easily, they represent large magnitudes of difference to a youthful first offender serving the sentence.  A three year sentence will necessarily be served in the harsh environment of a federal penitentiary with generally older and many hardened violent criminals.  Such a length of sentence and the severe environment it would be served in would effectively eliminate rehabilitation as a sentencing objective when it should be the primary purpose of sentencing for a youthful first offender.  That length of sentence would not be required for specific deterrence.  Such a grossly disproportionate sentence could not be justified on the basis of general deterrence or the protection of the public.

The judge then proceeds to the s. 1 analysis. After referring to another recent mandatory-minimum case, he concludes that

Parliament has imposed a minimum penalty that addresses a worse case offence but which grossly over penalizes the many lesser ways that the same crime can be committed.  The minimum three year sentence does not address the different degrees of moral blame worthiness associated with the different circumstances under which the offence can be committed and accordingly the penalty does not meet the minimal impairment and proportionality tests in R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103 and cannot be justified under Section 1.

The judge briefly considers reading down the mandatory minimum to apply to actual trafficking cases, as opposed to those, such as the one at bar, of offers to traffic, but finally declines to do so. Accordingly, he declares the mandatory minimum provision unconstitutional.

James Morton, a former president of the Ontario Bar Association, argues that this is the wrong decision. “[W]ould reasonable people really be outraged by a fixed minimum sentence of three years for firearms trafficking? Is such a punishment truly grossly excessive? … The gun trafficking minimum sentence is one of those areas where the courts should have exercised more deference to parliament.” I don’t think so. If the constitution invalidates excessive sentences, just like it invalidates, say, laws infringing on freedom of speech, or federal laws invading provincial jurisdiction, then why should courts be more deferential to allegedly unconstitutionally harsh laws than to other potentially unconstitutional ones? What Mr. Morton’s comments do suggest is that it is problematic for courts to make popular feeling, of which they cannot be very good judges, a criterion of constitutionality. I doubt that courts actually take such references to popular feeling very seriously. But if so, they should drop the pretense.

Plus on est de monde…

Il y aura, dit-on, bientôt des élections au Québec. Et qui dit élections, dit débat des chefs. Et qui dit débat des chefs, dit controverse sur la question de qui inviter et qui laisser de côté. Gilbert Lavoie pose la question en vue de la prochaine campagne électorale dans un billet sur son blogue pour La Presse. Il y a deux groupes parlementaires reconnus à l’Assemblée nationale, mais trois autres partis y ont également des députés. Alors, se demande M. Lavoie, “[a]urons-nous un débat à deux, à trois, à quatre ou à cinq?” Et puis il y en a plusieurs autres qui vont présenter des candidats aux élections (il y a une vingtaine de partis enregistrés au Québec, mais tous ne sont pas actifs). Ils n’auront peut-être pas grande chance de les faire élire, mais ils voudraient bien, eux aussi, profiter de la tribune qu’est le débat. Tout comme les chefs des partis établis, qui voudront en tirer le maximum de visibilité en écartant le plus grand nombre d’adversaires possible du débat télivisé (et réduire, du même coup, le nombre d’attaques qu’ils doivent affronter et la visibilité de leurs adversaires) .

Vu ces intérêts contradictoires et l’importance de l’enjeu, il est possible que certains partis exclus des débats se tournent vers les tribunaux pour obtenir d’y être invités, comme c’est déjà arrivé par le passé au Québec, lors d’élections fédérales, et dans d’autres provinces. Cependant, jusqu’à présent, les tribunaux ont toujours refusé de contraindre les réseaux de télévision, qui organisent les débats des chefs, d’y inviter un chef de parti. Cependant, aucune de ces décisions n’a été prise après un débat complet sur le fond de la question. Elles ont été rendues généralement dans le cadre de demandes d’injonctions d’urgence.

Le problème, c’est que les tribuaux sont réticents à octroyer de telles injonctions. Ils ne le font que dans les cas où la personne qui demande l’injonction démontre qu’elle y a un droit plutôt clair. Si le cas est douteux, l’injonction sera refusée. C’est ce qui se produit avec les débats des chefs. Les demandes d’injonction sont faites en catastrophe, une fois la campagne électorale déclenchée et la formule du débat annoncée. Or, le droit d’un chef qu’on n’y a pas invité d’y participer n’est pas clairement établi. Pour l’établir, il faudrait une preuve et un débat complets, ce que les tribunaux ont d’ailleurs souligné à quelques reprises (par exemple dans une décision ontarienne citée dans May v. CBC/Radio-Canada, 2011 FCA 130, au par. 25). Et une fois la demande d’injonction urgente rejetée, le demandeur perd généralement son intérêt pour la cause, et le débat sur le fond n’a jamais lieu. C’est ce qui semble être arrivé avec Mario Dumont, qui avait contesté son exclusion du débat des chefs en 1994, et  c’est ce qui est arrivé avec Elizabeth May l’an dernier.

Si jamais le débat sur le fond finit par avoir lieu, il va impliquer plusieurs questions difficiles. Au niveau fédéral et dans les provinces autres que le Québec, le premier obstacle que doit surmonter un chef qui prétend avoir un droit constitutionnel est de devoir démontrer que la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés s’applique à la question. Ce pourrait être le cas si la décision d’inviter ou d’exclure un chef est attribuée au CRTC  ou si les réseaux de télévision qui organisent le débat agissent en vertu d’une délégation d’un pouvoir réglementaire par le CRTC ou exercent autrement un rôle essentiellement public. Au Québec, cette question se résout facilement, puisque la Charte des droits et libertés de la persone s’applique aux personnes privées. Même si l’une ou l’autre Charte s’applique, il faudra trouver un équilibre entre les droits de plusieurs parties impliquées : celui des réseaux de télévision à la liberté d’expression, qui inclut logiquement un droit de choisir le contenu de leur programmation, celui des partis invités de débattre contre qui ils veulent bien (et donc de ne pas débattre contre certains de leurs adversaires), celui des partis exclus de participer au processus électoral, celui peut-être des électeurs à être bien informés… Bref, il s’agirait bel et bien d’un débat complexe et dont l’issue serait pour le moins incertaine. En fait, j’aurais tendance à dire que les tribunaux rejetteront probablement la demande d’un chef de parti exclu, ne serait-ce que parce que l’accepter exigerait aussi de formuler des critères pré-déterminés selon lesquels les invitations devraient être faites. Les tribunaux, selon moi, ne seraient pas capables de le faire, et ne devraient même pas essayer. Ils pourraient peut-être exiger que les législatures le fassent, mais je me demande si même elles en seraient capables, sans parler du fait que la législation à ce sujet servirait (comme toute législation électorale) les intérêts des partis déjà établis et présents dans la législature.

Operation Dismantle at the Olympics

Citizens concerned that the deployment of a weapons system in their place of residence will expose them to an increased risk of a devastating attack turn to the courts to try to block the deployment. They fail. To a Canadian constitutional law junkie, that’s the short story of Operation Dismantle v. The Queen, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 441. But that is also the story, on which the BBC reports, of a group of London residents who tried to challenge the decision by the British defence ministry to install a missile system on the roof of their apartment building as part of the security deployment for the upcoming Olympics. The High Court rejected their claim yesterday in Harrow Community Support Ltd v The Secretary of State for Defence, [2012] EWHC 1921 (Admin). But although the two cases can, I think, be fairly summarized in much the same way, there are substantial differences in the courts’ reasoning.

Operation Dismantle was an attempt by a coalition of civil society groups to block the testing of American cruise missiles in Canada on the ground that it increased the likelihood of nuclear war and thereby contravened Canadians’ right to the security of the person, protected by section 7 of the Charter. The Supreme Court had “no doubt that the executive branch of the Canadian government is duty bound to act in accordance with the dictates of the Charter” (455) – and that the judiciary could verify compliance with this duty even of a cabinet decision having to do with foreign policy (459).

However, the Court held “that the causal link between the actions of the Canadian government [in allowing the missile test to go forward], and the alleged violation of appellants’ rights under the Charter is simply too uncertain, speculative and hypothetical to sustain a cause of action” (447). Chief Justice Dickson insisted that judicial “remedial action will not be justified where the link between the action and the future harm alleged is not capable of proof” (456). The problem for the appellants was that given the inherent uncertainty of international relations, “it is simply not possible for a court, even with the best available evidence, to do more than speculate upon” (454) the consequences of the decision to allow missile tests. And as subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court show, the same can be true of other governmental decisions in the realm of foreign policy. Thus the actual consequences of the Supreme Court’s holding that “disputes of a political or foreign policy nature may be properly cognizable by the courts” (459) are rather less far-reaching than they might first seem to be. A sweeping assertion of judicial power is combined with a very cautious approach to its exercise.

The decision of the High Court might seem to be, in a sense, the opposite. Justice Cave-Haddon professes extreme caution, asserting that “[m]ilitary operational deployments for reasons of national security are matters for which the Government is answerable to Parliament and not – absent bad faith or acting outside the limits of the discretion – the Courts” (par. 27). And yet he makes – on the strength of a fairly scanty record quickly put together for an application heard on an expedited basis – detailed findings of fact, including a finding regarding degree to which the installation of the missile system makes the claimants’ apartment block more likely to be a terrorist target. Unfortunately for claimants, this degree is, in the judge’s view, nil. The claimants lose, but – purportedly – on the merits, rather than because their claim is inherently incapable of prof.

The reason for my skepticism as to whether this really is a decision on the merits is that the judge appears to have accepted with no reservations the government’s testimony, and in particular that of the general responsible for the military’s Olympics security deployment. Now it is not clear whether, or how seriously, the claimants challenged that evidence. But what seems clear enough is that much of it was opinion (about the missiles’ necessity, safety, etc.), not fact capable of proof in court. And even if we treat such testimony as expert evidence, what chance would the claimants have had to challenge it even if they had tried? A high-ranked military officer is, after all, presumably the best expert on such questions, and a court would be naturally inclined to defer to him.

Perhaps it is better simply to admit, as our Supreme Court did in Operation Dismantle, that the allegations of claimants in such cases are not capable of proof. Or to hold, as both the English High Court and our Supreme Court ostensibly did not,  that such cases are, quite simply, not justiciable.

Googling Justice

Law review articles don’t make newspapers very often. But they do sometimes, as I noted in a post discussing the use of a certain four-letter word by Supreme Courts in the U.S. and Canada. Another example is a very interesting forthcoming paper by Allison Orr Larsen, of the William & Mary School of Law, called “Confronting Supreme Court Fact Finding,” which is the subject of a recent Washington Post story.

What seems to have piqued the Post‘s interest was the reference, in a fiery dissent by Justice Scalia in Arizona v. United States, to an newspaper article published after the oral argument in that case. The article was obviously not referred to by any of the submissions to the court. Justice Scalia, or one of his clerks, found it himself. Never mind the political controversy around Justice Scalia’s comments; “let’s … focus on a different lesson,” says the Post. “[U.S.] Supreme Court justices Google just like the rest of us.”

Indeed they do, writes prof. Larsen, and very frequently. She found more than 100 examples of judicial citations of sources not referred in the record in the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court issued in the last 15 years; and such citations might be especially frequent in high-profile cases. While the rules of evidence require judges to keep to the evidence put to them by the parties, and appellate courts to the facts found at trial, for the “adjudicative facts” of a case – who did what, where, when, to whom, with what intention, etc. – these limits do not apply to “legislative facts” – general facts about the world or, more specifically, the social (and scientific) context in which legal rules operate.

As prof. Larsen notes, “[i]ndependent judicial research of legislative facts is certainly not a new phenomenon” (6). But new technologies are game-changers, because they make it so much easier. “Social science studies, raw statistics, and other data are all just a Google search away. If the Justices want more empirical support for a factual dimension of their argument, they can find it easily and without the help of anyone outside of the Supreme Court building” (6). If the parties (and interveners) to a case did not provide them with as much contextual information as they would have liked, judges used to have to rely on their own knowledge of the world, or guess, in order to figure out the context in which the rules they applied operated, and present their conclusion as, essentially, bald assertions. No longer. Now they can easily find what someone else has written on whatever topic interests them, and provide that person’s work as a source – an authority – for their assertions.

Prof. Larsen argues that this raises several problems, which the law at present fails to address. One is the risk of mistake. What if the information judges find is wrong or unreliable? Normally, we trust that the adversarial process will allow the parties to point out mistakes in the evidence submitted by their opponents. But if the judges engage in “in-house” fact-finding, there is no one to call them on the errors they might – and surely will – make. What makes the problem even worse is that human psychology and, possibly, technology, can conspire to make the results of judicial investigations biased. It is well-known that we tend to look (harder) for information that supports our hunches (rather) than for that which disproves it. But now, in addition, it is possible for search engine algorithms to supply us with information that suits our (likely) biases as inferred from our previous online activity. There is, apparently, debate over whether Google actually does this, but at least the possibility is there and ought to be worrying. Last but not least, in addition to the problems of error and bias, judicial reliance on “in-house” research is unfair to the parties, who have no notice of what the judges are doing and no opportunity to challenge their findings or even to address their concerns.

In fairness, it’s not as if the old common sense, logic, and bald assertion way of “finding” legislative facts were problem-free. Perhaps, at some point in the past, their experience as litigators was sufficient to teach future judges all they needed to know about the world (though that’s very doubtful). It surely isn’t anymore (as I wrote, for example, here). And bald assertions of judicial common sense are hardly less unfair to the parties, or less affected by bias (class bias for example), than their autonomous research. I don’t know if it is possible to establish with any sort of confidence whether the problems the new resources at the judges’ disposal are creating are worse than those they are displacing. But perhaps it is worth trying.

Another thing I don’t know is whether these problems might be less acute in Canada than they are in the United States. I don’t have any hard numbers, but my impression is that our Supreme Court might cite fewer problematic sources for its legislative-fact-finding. It often relies on the governmental studies, which I suppose are easily available to the parties and surely are (or really, really ought to be) part of the record. I may be wrong about this though. That would be a feasible study, and an interesting one to undertake, but for now, I do not have the time to do so. I would love to hear from those in the know though, former Supreme Court clerks for example.

Arguing with Death, Again

I wrote, three months ago now, about the sorts of arguments people make for and against the death penalty. Contrary perhaps to our intuitions, from at least the times of Thucydides, death penalty’s opponents have tended to resort to consequentialist arguments, while its supporters have relied on appeals to justice. A couple of interviews the BBC has taken in California, where the abolition of death penalty is going to be the subject of a referendum in the fall, confirm this trend – mostly.

The mother of a murdered child, who supports the death penalty, talks about justice for the killer. “He deserves” to be put to death; he ought to pay for the victim’s suffering. The former warden of a prison who once oversaw executions and now opposes the death penalty talks about its expense and ineffectiveness.

Things are more complicated though. The mother (perhaps prompted by the interviewer, whom we don’t hear) speaks of lethal injection being “humane,” the “most humane” thing that can be done to the murderer. Never mind whether this is really so. What I want to emphasize is that, despite appealing to justice in the shape of retribution, she is not calling for him to be tortured and brutalized as he tortured and brutalized her son. The ex-warden, for her part, brings up the irrevocable injustice of innocents possibly being executed.

And then there is, on both sides, an argument that I hesitate classify as being either about justice or about consequences – the one about “closure.” The mother says she needs the death penalty inflicted on her son’s killer to have it; the ex-warden says that’s a “false hope.”

So the issue is complex. Still, a point a made in my original post might be true. Arguments made for the sales pitch to the electorate might (need to be) different from those that avail in philosophical disputations or even in a personal reflection on a fraught moral issue. (This might, incidentally, be a partial response to the worry, expressed for example by Jeremy Waldron, that judicial resolution of moral issues like the death penalty takes them from the realm of serious thinking into that of legal technicalities. It seems that the political process isn’t much better than the judicial one, since also transforms the way these issues are considered, albeit in a different way.)

Constitutional Implications

I have come across a fairly interesting new article, “A Comparative Analysis of the Doctrinal Consequences of Interpretive Disagreements for Implied Constitutional Rights,” by Zoë Robinson, of DePaul University’s College of Law. On the basis of a comparison between Australia and the United States, specifically between the development of a right to free political communication in Australia and the right to abortion in the U.S., Prof. Robinson argues that judicial implication is a rather ineffective way of  protecting rights. Implication of rights is always the result of dubious interpretive methods; it is vulnerable to criticism, which makes judges self-conscious; it also results in “a paucity of interpretive resources which could support doctrinal developments” (96). I think prof. Robinson is right, as an empirical matter, about the weakness of implied rights, but I doubt that her explanations for it are sufficient, or even correct.

To help us think about the problem of implied rights, it is useful to cast a wider net than prof. Robinson does. One way of doing this is to bring Canada into the comparison. We have, after all, our own “implied bill of rights,” consisting mostly of the freedom of (political) speech. Another, which reflecting on implication in Canadian constitutional law suggests, is to compare implied rights not to “express” rights, as prof. Robinson does, but to other implied constitutional rules, which in Canada we know as “underlying constitutional principles,” and which also exist in American law (the separation of powers jurisprudence is, for example, built on the implications of the three-branch structure of government created by Articles I, II, and III of the U.S. Constitution).

The story of Canadian “implied bill of rights” cases seems to suggest that prof. Robinson may well be right. Despite high-minded rhetoric and apparent promise, the idea of rights implicit in the preamble of, or the institutions created by, the Constitution Act, 1867, was never endorsed by a majority of the Supreme Court, and never served as the actual ratio decidendi of a case; it was always raised in obiter by, at most, a couple of judges at a time. While lauded by some academics, notably F.R. Scott, it was criticized by others, notably Bora Laskin. And in the late 1970s, the Supreme Court came to reject it, in Dupond v. City of Montreal, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 770, (though justice Laskin, ironically, dissented). Despite this rejection, and the subsequent coming into force of the Charter, the “implied bill of rights” is not quite dead and buried (Justice Lebel, for example, referred to it with approval in his concurring opinion in R. v. Demers, 2004 SCC 46, [2004] 2 S.C.R. 489), but there is not much life in it either.

Yet looking at underlying constitutional principles provides a useful contrast. You’d think that they would be affected by the same problems as implied rights – dubious origins, vulnerability to criticism, impossibility to develop into something jurisprudentially useful. And to some extent they certainly are. They have indeed been criticized – for example, in a scathing paper by Université de Montréal’s Jean Leclair – and the Supreme Court’s unanimous, and dismissive, almost contemptuous, rejection of underlying principles as source of implied constitutional protections in British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., 2005 SCC 49, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 473, seems to confirm that implication is not a reliable source of rights. But that’s not the whole story of underlying principles. They have been applied to powerful effect in judicial independence cases (indeed, it is certainly arguable that the Supreme Court has gone too far with the principle of judicial independence), and also in the Manitoba Language Rights reference, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721,  in which the Supreme Court managed to declare unconstitutional Manitoba’s entire statute book unconstitutional for not being enacted in both official languages without creating chaos, by the device of suspending the declaration of invalidity, in the name of the underlying principle of the Rule of Law.

What the cases involving underlying principles seem to suggest is that these principles are more easily used to work out fundamentals of constitutional structure than individual rights. The situation in America, at least as I understand it, confirms this thought, since separation of powers cases there seem to excite nowhere near the same degree of hostility, and to be subject to nowhere near the same degree of judicial self-doubt, as cases that can be described as involving implied rights. Why this should be so, I do not quite understand. Perhaps it is merely because rights cases are more high-profile and (or because) more intelligible to the layperson than structural cases. Perhaps there are other reasons why courts are more confident in their ability to get constitutional structure right than individual rights. However that may be, implied constitutional rules are not bound to be anemic and fruitless. If implied constitutional rights are, there ought to be some further explanation, specific to rights themselves, and not applicable to all constitutional implications.