Modernizing Judicial Review of the Exercise of Prerogative Powers in Canada


  • Jennifer A. Klinck BCL/LLB (McGill), LLM (Cambridge), Lawyer, Power Law, Vancouver



Despite judicial pronouncements that the source of government power, whether statutory or prerogative, should not affect judicial review, Canadian courts respond much more tentatively when asked to review exercises of prerogative powers than exercises of statutory powers. Courts (1) define prerogative powers in a way that makes it difficult to precisely articulate their existence and scope; (2) frequently avoid judicially reviewing exercises of prerogative powers by applying peculiar justiciability tests; and (3) when they do engage in judicial review, generally limit themselves to a conservative form of procedural review. This article proposes that courts reform judicial review of the exercise of prerogative powers by (1) adopting a principled approach to defining prerogative powers that starts with distinguishing the Crown’s prerogative powers from its natural person powers; (2) abandoning peculiar interest-based and subject matter justiciability tests in favour of a test that turns on the nature of the question, and maintaining a subject matter justiciability test only for exercises of prerogative powers that are integral to the democratic process; and (3) applying standard principles of administrative law to judicial review of the existence, scope, and exercise of prerogative powers.