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the rule of law in action


CLN4U1-04 Research Report: The Rule of Law in Action May Zhu Mr. Nicolaou September 23, 2015

The purpose of the Rule of Law is to guarantee the certain rights of people. The rule of law recognizes that first, law is necessary in an orderly society; second, the law applies to everyone equally, no one is above the law; and third, legal rights will not be taken away except in accordance to the law. Throughout all the sections in the Constitution Act, 1982, a main focus in each section is that everyone has rights and freedom. The rule of law appears in the Constitution, s.9, where it states that “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”. This section specifically states that no one can be imprisoned by arbitrary powers, thus indicating that no authority figure is above the law. Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law under s.15 of the Charter clearly follows the rule of law, assuring equal right to everyone. The rule of law also applies in s.32 (1) (a) in the Charter, where it states that “the charter applies to the Parliament and the government of Canada”, which affirmed that no one can exceed law, regardless political powers. The rule of law has been applied to Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis in the case Roncarelli v.Duplessis ([1959] S.C.R. 121). Frank Roncarelli was a successful restaurant owner with high reputation and practicing Jehovah’s Witness in Montreal. He was very active in the Jehovah’s Witness community and uses his wealth to support those members who had been detained by providing them bail security. As the tension and conflict increased between the Roman Catholic community and the Jehovah’s Witness community, more Jehovah’s Witness members were arrested for selling their magazines without permits under the city by-laws. Roncarelli furnished bails for Jehovah’s Witness members multiple times within those years. Duplessis, who was the premier of Quebec at that time, talked to the Chairman of the Quebec Liquor Commissioner to provoke Roncarelli’s liquor license. The government actors believed that Roncarelli was disrupting the court system, causing civil disorder, therefore, “forever ” barred from holding a liquor license. Roncarelli sold his business within six months due to non profitable results without the liquor license. Thus, he sued Duplessis for $118,741 in damages. The issue was whether Duplessis had overstepped his authority in revoking the liquor license of Roncarelli. The Supreme Court ruled that Premier Duplessis exceeded his statutory authority when he revoked Roncarelli’s licence solely on the ground that he was a Jehovah’s Witness. Six judges ruled against Dulessis saying that there is no such thing as unlimited discretion or power in public authorities, as written by Kerwin C.J. and Locke and Martland J.J., “There was no authority in the Attorney-General's Department Act, the Executive Power Act, or the Alcoholic Liquor Act enabling the defendant to direct the cancellation of a permit under the Alcoholic Liquor Act.” The court first considered the statute, regardless the situation; Duplessis, was charged with a total of $46,132. Even though the charge was not even half of the total loss of Roncarelli, this case was an incredible moral victory for him, since it was the first case that a person sued a premier. The rule of law was followed throughout the case, in which that law applies to everyone equally, and that NO ONE has arbitrary powers over law, in which Duplessis could not exceed his powers to punish the most unpopular people. The case reassures the entire Canadian society the proper use of powers and equality rights, which is indispensable in a democracy.

Works Cited Bowal, Peter. "Whatever Happened To... Roncarelli v. Duplessis." LawNow Magazine. 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <http://www.lawnow.org/whatever-happened-to-roncarelli-v-duplessis/>. "P - R (The Rule of Law)." Rule of Law. University of Alberta. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <http://ualawccsprod.srv.ualberta.ca/ccs/index.php/pr/540-rule-of-law>. "Roncarelli v Duplessis." Case Brief Wiki. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <http://casebrief.wikia.com/wiki/Roncarelli_v_Duplessis>. "Roncarelli v Duplessis." Casebriefme RSS. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <http://casebrief.me/casebriefs/roncarelli-v-duplessis/>. "Roncarelli v. Duplessis." Supreme Court Judgments. Judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada, 27 Jan. 1959. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.


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