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date: 05 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter studies the interplay between federalism and foreign relations law in Canada. As the chapter notes, since Confederation and despite lengthy constitutional talks and the coming of the age of globalization, foreign affairs federalism in Canada remains characterized by the absence of written constitutional rules, the lack of institutionalization, and the important role of government practice in filling that void. Despite past controversies over the Labour Conventions case, the provincial power to implement treaties did not cause any serious foreign relations difficulties, and Canada was able to play an active role as a middle power on the international stage. Nevertheless, the current political and legal framework is such that problems can arise from time to time in the conduct of foreign affairs, if international obligations are incurred without substantial provincial support. Prior consultations with provinces are crucial, and the formulation of treaty reservations may be necessary in some cases. The insufficient political will to better institutionalize cooperation between Ottawa and the provinces in the conduct of foreign affairs continues to be surprising, especially in the light of positive sectoral or ad hoc initiatives. The positive role that provincial paradiplomacy may play in expanding the global influence of Canada could also be better embraced. The emerging obligation to consult with Aboriginal peoples stands in stark contrast with the lack of institutionalization of federal-provincial cooperation on foreign affairs.

Keywords: Canada, Quebec, foreign relations law, federalism, treaty-making, treaty implementation, role of parliament, Labour Conventions, Gérin-Lajoie doctrine, paradiplomacy

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