601:626 Canadian Legal System (2)*


*Fall 2014: students may obtain a third credit by completing a short paper or series of writings as directed by Professor Dane.

The United States and Canada, our neighbor to the North, share a good deal in the way of

culture, history, and legal tradition. But Canada is also profoundly different in several important

respects: Its system of government is parliamentary rather than presidential. Its equivalent to the

United States Bill of Rights dates back only to 1982 rather than 1789. The legal system of

Quebec, Canada’s second-most populous province, is grounded in French civil law rather than

English common law. Perhaps most important, Canada achieved its independence, not by

revolution or war, but by a peaceful and gradual process of separation from the United Kingdom.

This course will explore the special character of Canada through an introduction to its

legal system and constitutional doctrine. General topics at the start of the course will include the

nature of parliamentary government, the role of the courts and structure of the judicial system,

the understanding of aboriginal rights, the place of Quebec in Canada, and the substantial

differences between the Canadian and United States systems of federalism. The remainder of the

course will focus on topics in Canadian constitutional law, particularly with regard to rights and

freedoms including freedom of expression, equality, and cutting-edge questions such as same-sex


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