Posts tagged ‘written constitution’

Who needs a written constitution?

We in Canada tend to think of our Constitution, most notably the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as a distinct source of national pride. Indeed, the importance of the Charter cannot be overstated – it has had far-reaching international influence as a model of constitutional reform, for example helping to shape the post-Apartheid South African constitution, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and the UK Human Rights Act;[1] moreover Canadian Charter cases are “routinely referred to in most of the Commonwealth.”[2]

One of the most important functions of a written constitution is the entrenchment of certain human rights which are recognized as universal and not subject to the whims of the legislature; as such, the Canadian Charter was also an important step, as it broke with the British tradition of parliamentary supremacy by giving broad powers of judicial review to the courts, and granted even broader rights than did the US Bill of Rights (though this is partly balanced by the fact that Charter rights are subject to the notwithstanding clause).

One might worry, then, about the protection of human rights in countries that do not have written constitutions. Most notably, the UK has no formal written constitution, but instead relies on conventions and common law principles to fill in the gaps of statute law. Many such principles, written…

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