Effecting balance: Oakes analysis restaged.

Author:Zion, Mark
Position:The Oakes Test: A Historical Perspective

This article challenges the present structure of the R v Oakes test for Charter section 1 applicability, which is one form of international four-stage proportionality analysis (PA). The article argues that stage four of the test--proportionality stricto sensu (PSS) in the international setting--ought to determine case outcomes routinely. Accordingly, other stages must be modified so that each one has a necessary and logical function. First, the article surveys the evolution of German doctrine and proposes Canadian changes. Second, the article draws on the works of Gregoire Webber and Robert Alexy to theorize the most democratically contentious stage within PA, which is PSS. Third, the article engages in a structural comparison between the Israeli Supreme Court's "robust PSS" decision by President Bara, Beit Sourik, with the Supreme Court of Canada's "weak PSS" decision by Chief Justice McLachlin, Wilson Colony, arguing in favour of the former approach. Fourth, the article refutes the positions of Webber and Jurgen Habermas in affirming that a four-stage framework, if applied properly, is preferable to straightforward "moral reflection." Finally, the article considers the extent to which one pernicious form of "deference" has impeded the evolution of Canadian PA, and argues that it undermines the rule of law. In conclusion, the article proposes that restructuring the Oakes test along Israeli and German lines not only makes the most sense with respect to the stages' logical functions, but that such an approach would be consonant with the Rawlsian idea that a decision procedure (such as Oakes) ought to be judged by the likelihood that it will produce just outcomes. Stage four considers outcomes explicitly.

Cet article remet en question la structure actuelle du critere etabli par l'arret R c Oakes pour determiner l'applicabilite de l'article 1 de la Charte, qui est une forme de l'analyse de la proportionnalite (AP) internationale en quatre etapes. Dans cet article, on soutient que la quatrieme etape de ce critere, soit la proportionnalite stricto sensu (PSS) dans un contexte international, devrait servir a statuer sur des cas de facon courante. Il faudrait par consequent modifier les autres etapes afin que chacune d'entre elles soit dotee d'une fonction aussi logique que necessaire. L'article explore en premier lieu l'evolution de la doctrine allemande et propose des changements applicables au Canada. En second lieu, l'article se fonde sur les travaux de Gregoire Webber et de Robert Alexy qui ont theorise l'etape la plus controversee sur le plan democratique de l'AP, soit la PSS. En troisieme lieu, l'article etablit une comparaison structurelle entre la decision rendue par la Cour supreme d'Israel a propos du caractere > par le president Bara, dans I'arret Beit Sourik, et la decision rendue par Cour supreme du Canada a propos du caractere > sous la plume de la juge en chef McLachlin, dans l'arret Wilson Colony, et conclut en faveur de la premiere approche. En quatrieme lieu, l'article refute les positions de Webber et de Jurgen Habermas en affirmant qu'un cadre compose de quatre etapes, a condition qu'il soit correctement applique, est preferable a une > simple. Enfin, l'article examine dans quelle mesure une forme pernicicuse de > a entrave l'evolution de l'AP canadienne et soutient que cela mine la primaute du droit. En conclusion, l'article propose que la restructuration du critere etabli dans l'arret Oakes en fonction des theses israelienne et allemande est non seulement plus sensee du point de vue des fonctions logiques des etapes de l'analyse mais qu'en outre une telle approche correspondrait a l'idee rawlsienne qu'une procedure decisionnelle (tel que l'arret Oakes) devrait etre jugee en fonction de la probabilite qu'elle favorise le prononce de resultats justes. La quatrieme etape tient compte des resultats de facon explicite.

Table of Contents I. INTRODUCTION II. PA PROTECTS RIGHTS A. PA in Historical Context B. PSS is Theoretically Defensible 1. Alexy's Weight Formula and Barak's Relative Approach to Balancing 2. Barak's Principled Balancing III. IMPROVING PA ADJUDICATION A. The Israeli Template: Barak and Beit Sourik 1. The Objective 2. Rational Connection 3. Least Restrictive Means 4. PSS B. Lessons for Canadian PA: Chief Justice McLachlin and Wilson Colony 1. The Objective 2. Rational Connection 3. Least Restrictive Means 4. PSS IV. ANSWERING PA'S CRITICS A. Habermas's Accusation of Irrationality B. Webber's Incommensurability Objection V. LARGER TRENDS IN OAKES VI. CONCLUSION:TOWARDS A MORE DETERMINATIVE FOURTH STAGE I. INTRODUCTION

The Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision in Alberta v Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony (1) set off a firestorm of critical reaction in the academic community. The decision upheld a law requiring all drivers' licenses to include photographs. Because their religious beliefs forbid them to be photographed, the Hutterites of Wilson Colony were unable to comply with this law and challenged it on freedom of religion grounds under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (2) The Court ruled that although the law violated section 2(a), it could be saved under section 1. (3) As this article will show, this decision has caused significant hardship for the Hutterites in exchange for negligible communal gain. Although this article contends that the majority decision itself was flawed, it raises the question as to whether there are wider, structural lessons that might be learned from the case. This article will further argue that how the Supreme Court of Canada structures the stages of the test from R v Oakes (4) for section 1 applicability bears strongly on what it ultimately decides and how that decision is justified in its written reasons. (5) The Oakes test methodology should be reformed so that stage four may be decisive in difficult cases. It is only this balancing stage which calls for a searching inquiry into all of the likely consequences that a government measure might have. John Rawls expounds an "instrumentalist condition of good government" whereby, "The fundamental criterion for judging any procedure is the justice of its likely results." (6) If stage four were allowed to do its work of considering likely results explicitly, the Oakes test might be viewed as an exceptionally just decision procedure.

In Canada, the Court has gradually refined Oakes in the decades since Chief Justice Dickson introduced it, but Wilson Colony illustrates the difficulties that persist. Peter Hogg states that stage one of the test, the requirement of a pressing and substantial government objective, leaves little work for stage four's balancing to do. (7) Accordingly, he notes that most cases resolve at stage three's "least drastic means" inquiry. (8) This state of affairs is well known, but it remains surprising; surely laws that employ the least drastic means may nevertheless be unjustifiable in their effects. The Oakes test is but one incarnation of the four-stage "proportionality analysis" (PA), as it is known in the comparative constitutional literature. In that literature, stage four (which balances salutary and deleterious effects) receives special attention and it has a technical name: "proportionality stricto sensu (PSS)." (9) For many reasons that are beyond the scope of this paper, PA has become the dominant framework for adjudicating constitutional challenges to government measures across most of the world. (10) This article's approach is reciprocal: it defends PA by advocating for it in one specific idealized Oakes configuration and defends that configuration by showing how it draws strength from PA's theoretical merits.

This article will proceed in four parts. First, it will use a comparative approach to demonstrate the historical and theoretical legitimacy of robust PA--that in which every part, especially PSS, plays a meaningful role. Second, it will ground the discussion in a comparison between an Israeli "robust-PSS" (termed by this article) case and a Canadian "weak-PSS" (Oakes) case. In the former, PSS (stage four) plays a greater role than it does in the latter, but there are other important differences that prepare the way for that stage's success. Third, it will address critics of PA who favour dispensing with this framework altogether. Fourth, it will justify Oakes' reform with attention to Canada's particular constitutional structure and post-Charter judicial history. The article will conclude by critiquing one particular concept of "deference," whose influence poses the primary obstacle to a refigured fourth stage. In this preliminary foray, the article examines PA solely as a framework for section 1 adjudication, not as an interpretive theory, (11) and evaluates Oakes in the context of social policy, not criminal law.


    1. PA in Historical Context

      Gregoire Webber contends that by eliding categorical prohibitions, PA threatens the inviolable core of classical liberal rights. He claims that "rights have become merely one reason among others juggled in a process of proportionality reasoning. The result is perhaps nothing short of a loss of rights." (12) However, a brief review of German legal history will disclose a more complicated relationship between PA and the function of rights as a "firewall" (13) against undesirable state coercion of individuals. (14)

      In mid-eighteenth century Prussia, the Rechtsstaat (a state "governed by law") was born under the enlightened rule of Friedrich the Great. (15) His successor, Friedrich Wilhelm III, codified the law to include a provision that "the police [are] to take only the necessary measures for the maintenance of public peace, security, and order...." (16) Police law applied to "nearly the whole of the state's (then fairly primitive) interventions in society," (17) so this early "least restrictive means" criterion conferred wide-ranging protections. (18) However...

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