Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2801H1F L5101

Special Topics

Comparative Constitutionalism


Constitutional supremacy – a concept that has long been a major pillar of American political order – is now shared, in one form or another, by over 150 countries and several supra-national entities across the globe. Most of them have recently adopted a constitution or constitutional revision that contains a bill of rights and establishes some form of active judicial review, thereby empowering courts to determine the constitutionality of “ordinary” statutes and decrees. Consequently, high courts have become a central forum for dealing with core moral dilemmas, key policy-making challenges and contentious political questions. This global trend, which Canada joined with the adoption of the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, is arguably one of the most significant developments in 21st century government. Meanwhile, in younger polities, challenges related to the drafting of constitutions and establishing the authority and legitimacy of an independent judiciary occupy the political arena. In an increasing number of settings worldwide, the constitutional order itself faces considerable challenges by religion, ethnic rifts, economic crises, security threats and political populism. This seminar offers an examination of various legal and political aspects of these broad trends, in particular the interaction between constitutional law and the political sphere worldwide. It combines study of relevant constitutional texts and court rulings with exploration of pertinent political science research concerning the global expansion of constitutionalism and judicial review. Throughout the course, special emphasis will be given to pertinent features of the Canadian constitution and Canada’s contribution to the world of new constitutionalism.

Format and Requirements

Class attendance and participation (20%): The first seminar meeting will be devoted to an introductory survey that will briefly map the field, its scope and evolution, key issues and themes, epistemology and methodologies. Thereafter, seminar meetings will be based on guided collective discussion of each week’s topic and reading materials. Students are expected to come ready for class. Class participation includes preparation for class, regular attendance, and substantive contribution to weekly discussions.

Comment paper and in-class presentation (20%): Each student will submit and present one comment paper during the seminar. The comment paper (maximum 1,500 words, all-inclusive) will be a critical, integrative assessment of the readings for a given class. Students are expected to use the comment paper to illuminate an important question in the reading or to develop their own coherent argument based on the readings. Students will present their comment paper in class for approximately 10 minutes. Students must sign up for the submission of their comment paper before the second seminar meeting.

Final seminar paper (60%): Students may choose one of two options for the final paper (maximum 5,000 words excluding footnotes): 1) an integrative, critical book review of three books dealing with Canadian and comparative constitutional law and politics; or 2) a research paper on a topic dealing with, or closely related to, one of the seminar’s main themes. The seminar paper’s topic or choice of reviewed books must be pre-approved by the instructor. Actual submission of the final paper must comply with pertinent Department of Political Science and Graduate School rules and regulations.


This intensive course is open to MA and PhD students only.

The course counts as an ordinary half credit course and comprised of eight (8) three-hour sessions as follows:

Schedule: Monday, September 25, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Thursday, September 28, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Friday, September 29, 2017, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Monday, October 2, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Wednesday,tober 4, 2017, 9 am - 12 pm.

Location: Sidney Smith Hall, Room 3130

Eligibility and Enrolment procedures:

Enrollment is limited to fifteen (15) MA & PhD students. Students with keen interest in Canadian and comparative public law and their intersection with comparative politics are encouraged to take it.

For enrolment procedures, please contact Carolynn Branton in the Graduate Office c.branton@utoronto.ca or (416) 978-7170.