C. Conclusion

Author:Robert J. Sharpe - Kent Roach
Profession:Court of Appeal for Ontario - Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

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Judges are subject to significant restraints when interpreting the Charter. They must pay heed to its language, to past decisions under the doctrine of precedent, and to the respective institutional roles of the courts and the legislatures, albeit redefined by the Charter. Yet it is apparent that judicial interpretation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter has proved to be a complex and controversial task that, at times, involves the difficult burden of reconciling competing rights. Our legal regime does not provide judges with precise rules to guide them in this exercise. Indeed, our constitutional tradition directs the courts to resist the argument that the language of the constitution has a rigid and fixed meaning. The constitution is seen as an organic document that must grow with the times and remain capable of responding to the demands

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of a changing society. The debate about the Charter’s meaning is legal in structure, but the purposive and contextual approaches adopted by the Supreme Court to Charter interpretation require the judges to consider a rich array of historical, philosophical, and comparative sources.


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