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Constitutional Forum. Volume 14, Number 2 (2005), p. 7-17.


Canada and international conflict; Canadian armed conflict; democracy and war; parliment and war


This paper argues that Canadian democratic practices as evidenced in both pre-UN Charter and post-UN Charter regimes support the view that Canada has hardly participated in an international conflict without parliamentary debate, approval and/or ratification. In other words, Canadian participation in armed conflicts is often a function of parliamentary approval. The question raised by this practice or convention is whether such parliamentary approval is a legal obligation on the part of the government. The short answer is that it is primarily a political obligation with implications for governmental legitimacy. More importantly, Parliament has an undeniable role in reviewing the government’s decision concerning Canadian participation in the use of force in international relations. Therefore the question of Canadian participation cannot be a function of executive discretion. Canadian vigilance cannot be guaranteed unless Parliament is a potent and vibrant institution for the articulation of public concerns and interests. In this context, the chronic impotence of both the ruling party caucus and opposition parties in Parliament give reason for concern.

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