Sources of Immigration Law

AuthorJamie Chai Yun Liew; Donald Galloway
This chapter identif‌ies the legal source s that circumscr ibe the bound-
aries of authority of off‌icials within the immigration system, empow-
ering them to act in par ticular ways while constraining them from
stepping in other directions.
1) Section 95: Concurrent Powers over Immigration
As noted in Chapter 1, section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867, gives
concurrent powers over immigration to the Parliament of Canada and
to the provincial legislatures. The section also provides th at “any Law
of the Legislature of a Province relative to . . . Immigration shall h ave
effect in and for the Province as long and as fa r only as it is not repug-
nant to any Act of the Parliament of Canada.” The task of determining
whether there is repugnancy has proven to be diff‌icult, and at different
periods, the court s have adopted different approaches.
In an early case, Re Nakane,2 Irving J of fered this analysis: “It is not
possible that there can be two legislative bodies hav ing equal jurisdic-
tion in this matter, and where the Dominion Parliament has entered
1 (UK), 30 & 31 Vict, c 3, reprinted in RSC 1985, Appendix I I, No 5.
2 (1908), 13 BCR 370 (CA).
Sources of Imm igration Law 33
the f‌ield of legislation, they occupy it to the exclusion of Provinci al
legislat ion.”3 This approach, commonly called the “covering the f‌ield”
test of repugnancy, was also developed in another British Columbia
case of the same year, Re Narain Singh,4 in which an attempt by the
provincial legislature to impose a literacy test on immig rants was held
to be of no effect, since Parliament had passed “a complete code as to
what class or clas ses of immigrants shall be admitted or excluded.”5
There is widespread agreement among authorities that this test is
obsolete. In its most recent analysis, the Supreme Court of Can ada has
analyzed the idea of repugnancy in terms of “operational conf‌lict” and
“frustration of purpose.” It has articulated the doctrine of federal para-
mountcy in the following terms:
Paramountcy is engaged where t here is a conf‌lict between valid prov-
incial and federa l law. In such cases, the feder al law prevails, and the
provincial la w is rendered inoperative to the e xtent of the conf‌lict.
Conf‌lict can be e stablished by impossibility of dua l compliance or by
frustrat ion of a federal purpose: Can adian Western Bank, at para. 73.
. . .
Even where it is possible to simult aneously comply with both
federal and provinci al laws, situations w ill arise where r equiring
compliance with a prov incial law wil l frustrate t he purpose of a fed-
er al l aw.6
Thus, a provincial immigration law enacted under section 95 would
be repugnant to a federal statute only where it is impossible to comply
with both or where the aims of the latter are frustrated by it. Given the
lengthy list of objectives found in the Immigration and Refugee Protec-
tion Act (the IR PA), many of which pull in different direct ions, it is dif-
f‌icult to frame a conception of what could count as frustration in t his
2) Section 91(25): Naturalization and Aliens
The doctrine of paramountcy has also been discus sed in relation to
section 91(25) of the Constitution Act which ve sts juri sdiction over
naturaliz ation and aliens in the federal Parliament. The limits of this
head of power are somewhat unclear, and caselaw ha s not provided
3 Ibid at 375.
4 (1908), 13 BCR 477 (CA).
5 Ibid at 480.
6 Bank of Montreal v Marcotte, 2014 SCC 55 at paras 70–71.
lucid direction. Without doubt, this is the source of Parliament’s
power to make laws that speci fy the processes by which non-citizens
may become citizens; however, it is much less clear whether Parlia-
ment’s authority over citizenship in general can b e traced to this sec-
The most important cases t hat have analyzed this section have
focused on the question whether provincial act s that place differen-
tial burdens on aliens are constitutional.8 When deter mining whether
legislation f‌its under a specif‌ic heading, such as “Naturalization and
Aliens,” courts f‌irst attempt to identify the pith and substance of the
legislat ion.9 Only the federal legislature ha s the authority to enact a
statute that has, as it s pith and substance, a subject matter identif‌ied
in section 91.10 Moreover, a provincial act which, in pith and substance,
relates to a subject matter that the Const itution has assigned to the
provincial legislatures may be valid, even if, as an incidental effect, it
touches on a federal subject matter.11
The determination whether an act relates in pith and substance
to naturaliz ation and aliens has proven diff‌icult. In Cunningham v
Homma,12 provincial legislation that prohibited Japanese residents of
British Columbia from voting in provinci al elections was held to be
intra vires, on the ground that it related to race rather than al ienage. In
7 In Morgan v Prince Edward Island (AG), [1976] 2 SCR 349 at 355–56 [Morgan],
Laskin CJ s uggested that authority over c itizenship may have it s source in
s 91(25) or in the Peace, Order, and Good G overnment clause in the Pr eamble
to s 91.
8 See Unio n Colliery Co of British Columbia Ltd v Bryd en, [1899] AC 580 (PC);
Cunning ham v Homma , [1903] AC 151 (PC) [Homma]; Dicken son v Law Society
(Albe rta) (1978), 10 AR 120 (SCTD) [Dickenson]; R edlin v University of Albert a
(1980), 23 AR 31 (CA) [Redlin].
9 See Peter Hogg, Constit utional Law of Canada, 5th e d (Toronto: Carswell, 1997)
(loose-leaf upd ated July 2014) at 15-7.
10 However, under the “double asp ect” doctrine, a province ma y enact a statute
that relate s to these matters if it als o relates to another subject matte r within
provincial j urisdiction. See ibid at 15-12.
11 See ibid at 15 -9. The matter is somewh at more complex than this state ment
suggests si nce, in some cases, the court s will apply the doctri ne of interjuris-
dictional im munity to create a realm of exc lusive federal jurisdict ion into which
provincial le gislation cannot encroach . According to this doctr ine, a valid
provincial l aw will be held to have a lim ited applicability — with t hose matters
that fall w ithin the area of federal ju risdiction lying b eyond the limits. Thus,
this is a doct rine about the applicab ility of a law rather th an a doctrine about
the validity of a law. It has not been applied in c ases dealing wit h alienage or
naturali zation. See Hogg, ibid a t 15-28 .
12 Homma, above note 8.

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