LAW, POLITICS AND THE MANITOBA SCHOOL QUESTION: SUPREME COURT AND PRIVY COUNCIL
AbstractThe 1896 election, ushering in the Laurier era, was profoundly influenced by two Manitoba School cases decided in directly conflicting ways by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Privy Council. The Supreme Court in the Barrett case gave a reasonable interpretation to the denominational school rights guaranteed by the constitution. However, the narrow interpretation by the Privy Council so trivialized the protection that it must be regarded as an amendment to our constitution. The author contends that this Privy Council case represents the most unfortunate of all judicial amendments because of its deleterious impact upon Canadian unity. The amendment nurtured the growth of political separatism in Quebec by causing French Canadians to believe that only within Quebec would their cultural rights be protected. Franco-Manitobans were so disillusioned that almost ninety years elapsed before Manitoba's official Language Act of 1890, a clearly unconstitutional statute, was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court itself was adversely affected and ceased to confront issues arising under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 in the united way, initially exemplified by the Barrett case. The author occasionally uses biographical material in an attempt to understand the factors influencing the judicial decisions.
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