Towards a Canadian Unitary State?: The Clash between Federalism and the Rule of Law

When it delivered the Reference Re Secession of Quebec in 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court asserted that federalism and the rule of law should be complementary, rather than antagonistic, constitutional principles. This Reference has since guided the judicial comprehension of the rule of law in the Canadian federation. However, this paper highlights the precariousness of the balance between the federal valuation of legal and socio-political diversity and the upholding of the rule of law. This paper first examines the fundaments and the relevance of these judicial teachings. It then finds out that the rule of law should not be construed in a uniform manner in a federal state in order for it to remain legitimate. That should be particularly true in a heterogenous polity such as Canada. Ultimately, this paper warns the Supreme Court against triggering what could be seen as a subtle unitisation of the rule of law, which would likely the crumbling of Canadian federalism.