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Canada's 'Newer Constitutional Law' and the idea of constitutional rights

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  • This article places F.R. Scott’s 1935 call for entrenched constitutional rights within the context of marked changes in constitutional scholarship in the 1930s—what the author refers to as the “newer constitutional law”. Influenced by broader currents in legal theory and inspired by the political and economic upheavals of the Depression, constitutional scholars broke away from the formalist traditions of a previous generation and engaged in new ways of thinking and writing about Canadian constitutional law. In this new approach, scholars questioned Canada’s constitutional connection to Britain and argued instead for a made-inCanada constitutional law that could functionally address the changing needs of Canada and its citizens. In the process, scholars legitimated the prospects and possibilities of constitutional adaptation and change. Scott’s vision of constitutional renewal entailed a strong central government capable of national economic planning, but he added constitutional rights to protect the personal liberties he viewed as particularly under threat in the 1930s. In so doing, Scott subtly recast the meaning of constitutional rights and took the first tentative steps in a rights revolution that would fundamentally transform Canada in the decades that followed.

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    Article (Published)
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  • License
    © 2006 E. M. Adams et al. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Adams, E. M. (2006). Canada's 'Newer Constitutional Law' and the idea of constitutional rights. McGill Law Journal, 51, 435-474. Retrieved from
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