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Democracy and the Rule of Law

Lesson Seven: Making Reasoned Laws, Part II

Objective
Students will understand how the Notwithstanding Clause can help balance the power of elected legislatures with the power of the courts.

Procedure
1. Review with class the role judges play in upholding the rule of law, as discussed in Lesson Four. Then lead class discussion on the following question:
Judges are not elected. However, they are appointed by democratically-elected governments.

a) What are the benefits and drawbacks of an appointed judiciary?
b) What are the benefits and drawbacks of an elected judiciary?

2. Distribute and read the handout Preventing Mob Rule: The Courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms then assign Think questions.
KEY QUESTION
• Why must citizens be granted fundamental freedoms, legal rights, and equality rights?

3. Lead class discussion of the following question:
When is it appropriate to push the accepted norms and rules of a liberal democracy?

Case Study
4. There are imperfections in Canada’s system of law-making. Governments of all stripes have exploited these imperfections. Imperfections in our Law-Making: The Notwithstanding Clause as a “last resort” looks at perhaps the most controversial check and balance on power in Canada’s liberal democratic constitution, the Notwithstanding Clause, and how it can potentially be abused by politicians.

Further Exploration
5. Teachers wishing to more deeply explore the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should check out the Department of Justice’s learning resources for the Charter.

6. Teachers wishing to better-understand Canada’s court system should check out PLEA's Courts and Our Legal System.

Preventing Mob Rule: The Courts and the Charter

Handout

Imperfections in our Law-Making: The Notwithstanding Clause as a "last resort"

Case Study

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