Canada’s 'Constitution Similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom': A Sustainable Jurisprudence of Constitutional Principles

Unwritten constitutional principles often find their place into Canadian constitutional law via their supposed foothold in the part of the Preamble to the Constitution Act, 1867 that refers to 'a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom'. Principles such as judicial independence, democracy, federalism, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and protection of minorities have been derived from the preamble in this way. This paper looks through over a hundred years of Supreme Court of Canada case law in order to determine what that preambular phrase has meant over time. It then proposes a reading of the Preamble and constitutional principles that is attentive to text, case law, principles and an evolving Canadian context: a sustainable jurisprudence.