Constitutional Law Branch

Office Snapshot

  • Location: Toronto
  • Lawyers: 23
  • Articling Students: 3
  • Summer Law Students: 2
  • Types of Law: Administrative, Civil, Constitutional, Human Rights

Who we are

The Constitutional Law Branch (CLB) provides advice to the Ontario government regarding constitutional issues pertaining to programs, policies, and legislation as well as constitution reform. While our practice is mostly civil litigation, we often handle significant constitutional issues in provincial prosecutions. We also act as the government’s counsel during constitutional challenges at all levels of court.

Our cases often raise issues of national public importance and therefore tend to garner significant attention. Our practice is fascinating, intellectually challenging and complex. The work requires a flexible, sensitive and creative approach to legal and public policy issues, in addition to a sound knowledge of the law. The concentration of expertise in constitutional litigation and law in the Branch is difficult to find elsewhere in Canada.

What we do

Counsel in the CLB:

  • Provide advice to government on the Constitutional risks associated with new or existing government programs, policies and legislation, and provide risk-mitigation strategies
  • Litigate constitutional cases on behalf of the Government of Ontario (with the exception of criminal cases and aboriginal and treaty rights cases) before tribunals and all levels of court.

Our major cases

CLB counsel have argued many of the leading Constitutional cases that you have studied in law school, including:

  • Auton v. British Columbia: Therapy for children with autism
  • Eldridge v. British Columbia:  Entitlement to sign language interpreters for health services
  • Gosselin v. Quebec: Age discrimination and positive obligation for social assistance
  • Health Services Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia: The right to bargain collectively
  • Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec: Freedom of expression and advertising
  • M. v. H.: Definition of spouse in the Family Law Act
  • Montréal (City) v. 2952-1366 Québec Inc.: Freedom of expression and use of public property
  • R. v. Kapp: Aboriginal fishing and affirmative action programs
  • Vriend v. Alberta: Sexual orientation and the Alberta Human Rights Code

What students do

Articling

CLB articling students are involved in all stages of a file. Students are given a great deal of responsibility, though counsel are always available for consultation and advice. Specifically, students:

  • Participate with counsel in all phases of actions, applications, and appeals
  • Are called on to draft pleadings and factums, organize and analyze documents, prepare materials for and attend upon motions, and interview and prepare witnesses
  • Are encouraged to develop their litigation skills, and are given ample opportunity to do so by attending with counsel at trials, appeals, pre-trial conferences, motions, and examinations for discovery
  • May have carriage of their own files and the opportunity to make submissions before tribunals or at the provincial court level when appropriate.

Our students also provide in-depth Constitutional research on intellectually stimulating issues.  Where research is done in support of active litigation, students are encouraged to attend any proceedings that take place.  Where possible, we endeavour to bring each of our articling students to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Priority is given to applicants with excellent academic credentials, strong research skills, interest in litigation, and a demonstrated commitment to constitutional law and policy. We believe that creativity is fostered by intelligent open minds, and that candidates from diverse backgrounds with a shared commitment to the highest ideals of public service foster that environment.

Summer Law

We provide summer law students with a stimulating experience in a collegial work environment.  Like our articling students, our summer law students are involved in all stages of our files. Our summer law students are provided with a mentor to provide support, guidance and feedback. Many of our summer law students return to our office for their articles.

Why choose us

"I can't imagine there's anywhere else one could article and get the in-depth look at Constitutional law, and Constitutional practice, that I got at the Constitutional Law Branch. The opportunity to focus on this area of law full time was incredible." Former Articling Student

We do what many law students dream of – Constitutional law – every day.  We offer a work experience not available elsewhere: the opportunity to engage on a daily basis with some of the most important legal and public policy issues arising in the country today.

Our students are supported and evaluated throughout their time with us. While the counsel who assigns work on a file provides day-to-day supervision on that file, we have a mentoring system in place to advise our students on issues as they arise and provide feedback on work performed. Each student mentor is responsible for ensuring the students have a fulfilling, varied, and balanced articling experience. In addition to the MAG-wide educational opportunities, our students can attend a series of junior counsel seminars that provide practical information and advice. Our students may also attend educational programs presented by the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations, or the Advocates’ Society.

Distinguished former counsel in our office include:

  • Janet E. Minor, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada
  • Hon. Justice Robert E. Charney, Ontario Superior Court of Justice
  • Hon. Justice Shaun Nakatsuru, Ontario Court of Justice
  • Hon. Justice John Cavarzan, Ontario Superior Court of Justice
  • Arif Virani, MP for Parkdale-High Park and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)
  • The late David W. Mundell, Q.C.
  • Carol Creighton, Q.C.
  • Elizabeth Goldberg, past CEO, Law Foundation of Ontario
  • Tanya Lee, CEO, Law Foundation of Ontario
  • Lori Sterling, Deputy Minister of Labour, Government of Canada
  • Prof. Lorraine E. Weinrib, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
  • Prof. Timothy Macklem, Head of School of Law, King’s College London

Contact us

Joshua Hunter, Counsel
Chair, Constitutional Law Branch Student Committee
joshua.hunter@ontario.ca
416-326-3840