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Attorney General, legislatures, Parliament of Canada, legislation, constitutionality, defence of legislation, duty, legal advice, federalism


The Reference Re Genetic Non-Discrimination Act was unusual because the Attorney General for Canada argued that federal legislation was unconstitutional. In this comment, I explore the implications of this choice for the role of the Attorney General and her relationship with Parliament. I argue that the Attorney General has a duty not to defend legislation, including legislation that began as a private member’s bill, that she reasonably believes to be unconstitutional – and that if Parliament wants to defend such legislation, it should do so itself instead of relying on the Attorney General. If Parliament does not do so, the Attorney General should support the appointment of amicus. However, where the Attorney General advises Parliament during the legislative process that a bill is unconstitutional, Parliament’s rejection of that advice is legally irrelevant and not wrongful. That rejection should nonetheless prompt the Attorney General to resign, if indeed she is the lawyer to the legislature.

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Man LJ