Emmett Macfarlane

Professor | Associate Chair, Graduate Studies
Emmett Macfarlane

Areas of specialization

  • Canadian Politics,
  • Public Policy,
  • The Supreme Court of Canada,
  • The Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
  • Parliament,
  • 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 roles of Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada. His current research consists of four primary projects: 1) unwritten constitutionalism, an examination of the role that constitutional conventions, unwritten principles, and the norms, practices, and customs surrounding the Constitution of Canada have for understanding constitutional law and politics; 2) legislative responses to court rulings on rights and the implications these interactions have for policy change, institutional relationships, and the meaning of the Constitution; 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 is the author and editor of seven books. His work also appears in a range of journals, including the International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON), 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.

He is currently the principal investigator of a $243,737 SSHRC Insight Grant studying the regulation of online hate speech in Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

In 2022, he was awarded the Faculty of Arts Award for Excellent in Research at the University of Waterloo.

Professor Macfarlane is a member of 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 Mail, National 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 Times, The Atlantic, and other outlets. You can also follow him on Twitter @EmmMacfarlane

Selected publications


2023. Legislating under the Charter: Parliament, Executive Power, and Rights. University of Toronto Press. (with Janet Hiebert and Anna Drake)

2022. 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

2023. “Provincial Constitutions, the Amending Formula, and Unilateral Amendments to the Constitution of Canada: An Analysis of Quebec’s Bill 96.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal. [forthcoming]

2022. “Beyond the Hate Speech Law Debate: A Charter Values Approach to Freedom of Expression.” Review of Constitutional Studies. 27(1): 145-68.

2022. "The Unconstitutionality of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments." Manitoba Law Journal. 45(1): 198-218.

2022. “The Overturning of Roe v. Wade: Are Abortion Rights in Canada Vulnerable?” Canadian Journal of Political Science. 55(3): 734-9.

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)

Links and additional information


Email: emacfarl@uwaterloo.ca
Office: Hagey Hall 308
Phone: x48397