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 rights, 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 examines legislative responses to court rulings on rights and the implications these interactions have for policy change, institutional relationships, and the meaning of the Constitution.

He also holds a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to study the role and policy impact of officers of Parliament (the auditor general, privacy commissioner, etc.) and the implications of their work for democratic accountability.

Professor Macfarlane’s past research includes empirical and conceptual analyses of the idea that there is an inter-institutional “dialogue” about policies implicated by the Charter of Rights. Professor Macfarlane’s doctoral work focused on judicial decision making and behaviour on the Supreme Court of Canada, which culminated in a book published by UBC Press titled Governing from the Bench: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Role.

He completed his PhD in 2009 at Queen’s University. From 2009-2011, he undertook a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship as an Associate of the Canada Program at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (2009-10) and as a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School (2010-11).

Professor Macfarlane 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 appeared as an expert witness before the parliamentary committee on electoral reform. He regularly writes op-eds on Canadian politics for 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


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

2018. “Positive Rights and Section 15 of the Charter: Addressing a Dilemma.” National Journal of Constitutional Law. 38(1): 147-68.

2018. “‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’: Regime Politics, the Harper Government, and the Supreme Court of Canada.” Canadian Journal of Political Science. 51(1): 1-21.

2018. “The Impact and Role of Officers of Parliament: Canada’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.” Canadian Public Administration. 61(1): 5-25. (with Gwyneth Bergman)

2017. “Dialogue, Remedies, and Positive Rights: Carter v. Canada as Microcosm for Past and Future Issues under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Ottawa Law Review. 49(1): 107-29.

2016. "Constitutional Constraints on Electoral Reform in Canada: Why Parliament is (Mostly) Free to Implement a New Voting System." Supreme Court Law Review. 76: 399-417.

2015. “Unsteady Architecture: Ambiguity, the Senate Reference, and the Future of Constitutional Amendment in Canada.” McGill Law Journal.

2015. “Public Policy, Rights, and Abortion Access in Canada.” International Journal of Canadian Studies. 51: 97-120. (with Rachael Johnstone).

2014. “The Dilemma of Positive Rights: Access to Health Care and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Journal of Canadian Studies. 48(3): 49-78. [Note: this article was first published in August, 2015]

2013. “Dialogue or Compliance? Measuring Legislatures' Policy Responses to Court Rulings on Rights.” International Political Science Review. 34: 39-56. Prepublished on April 13, 2012. DOI: 10.1177/0192512111432565

Links and additional information


Office: Hagey Hall 308
Phone: x48397

University of Waterloo

Follow Professor Macfarlane @EmmMacfarlane

Profiles by type