Associate Professor | Associate Chair, Graduate Studies

Emmett MacfarlaneAreas of specialization

Canadian Politics,

Public Policy,

The Supreme Court of Canada,

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms,


Constitutional Law


BA (Western), MA (Queen's), PhD (Queen's)

Professor Macfarlane’s research explores the relationships between constitutional law, governance, and public policy, with a particular focus on the Supreme Court of Canada’s impact on public policy and political discourse under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

His current research consists of four primary projects: 1) an examination of legislative responses to court rulings on rights and the implications these interactions have for policy change, institutional relationships, and the meaning of the Constitution; 2) a study of officers of Parliament (the auditor general, privacy commissioner, etc.) and the implications of their work for democratic accountability; 3) a project on free expression and hate speech in the social media age; and 4) analyses of constitutional change and the amending process.

Professor Macfarlane’s past research includes a study of the Supreme Court of Canada, published as the book Governing from the Bench: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Role (UBC Press, 2013), and a study of the Senate, Senate reform, and constitutional change in the book Constitutional Pariah: Reference re Senate Reform and the Future of Parliament (UBC Press, 2021). He has also edited books titled Constitutional Amendment in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2016), Policy Change, Courts, and the Canadian Constitution (University of Toronto Press, 2018) and Dilemmas of Free Expression (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming). His work also appears in a range of journals, including the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Canadian Public Administration, International Political Science Review, McGill Law Journal, National Journal of Constitutional Law, and the Supreme Court Law Review, among others.

Professor Macfarlane is on the editorial boards of the Canadian Journal of Political Science and the Review of Constitutional Studies.

He has provided non-partisan policy advice to the Government of Canada on the Senate appointments process and the Supreme Court appointments process, to the Senate on Senate reform, and to various parliamentarians of different partisan stripes on constitutional matters. He has appeared as an expert witness before the parliamentary committees on electoral reform and on parliamentary procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has written over 60 op-eds on Canadian politics for the CBC, Maclean’s, the Globe and MailNational Post, and Ottawa Citizen. He is frequently interviewed by the media, and has been interviewed by Canadian national and local newspapers, radio stations, the CBC, The New York TimesThe Atlantic, and other outlets. You can also follow him on Twitter @EmmMacfarlane

Selected publications


Accepted for publication. Legislating under the Charter: Parliament, Executive Power, and Rights. University of Toronto Press. (with Janet Hiebert and Anna Drake)

Forthcoming. Constitutional Crossroads: Reflections on Charter Rights, Reconciliation, and Change. UBC Press. (edited) (with Kate Puddister)

2022. Dilemmas of Free Expression. University of Toronto Press. (edited)

2021. Constitutional Pariah: Reference re Senate Reform and the Future of Parliament. UBC Press.

2018. Policy Change, Courts, and the Canadian Constitution. University of Toronto Press. (edited)

2016. Constitutional Amendment in Canada. University of Toronto Press. (edited)

2013. Governing from the Bench: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Role. UBC Press.

Journal Articles

Forthcoming. "The Unconstitutionality of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments." Manitoba Law Journal.

2022. “The Place of Constitutional Conventions in the Constitutional Architecture, and in the Courts.” Canadian Journal of Political Science. 1-20 [First published on ‘FirstView’ March 29, 2022].

2021. “Judicial Amendment of the Constitution.” International Journal of Constitutional Law. 19(5): 1894-1924.

2021. “Equality Rights, Abortion Access, and New Brunswick’s Regulation 84-20.” University of New Brunswick Law Journal. 72: 302-24. (with Rachael Johnstone)

2021. “Protecting Privacy? Government and Parliamentary Responsiveness to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.” Canadian Public Administration. 64(3): 437-57. (with Gwyneth Bergman)

2020. "Public Policy and Constitutional Rights in Times of Crisis." Canadian Journal of Political Science. 1-5. [published ‘online first’ DOI: 10.1017/S0008423920000256]

Links and additional information


Office: Hagey Hall 308
Phone: x48397

University of Waterloo

Follow Professor Macfarlane @EmmMacfarlane

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