I was reading the Wikipedia article on the Canadian Constitution, when I came across this statement (emphasis mine):

Enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has also fundamentally changed much of Canadian constitutional law. The Magna Carta, which has constitutional status in Canada, was occasionally called into service in legal argument. Since [enactment in] 1982, however, the arguments have been easier to make [...]

Unfortunately this is uncited. However, following a different citation on the page leads to this referencep. 56 which places the Magna Carta as part of the unwritten constitution. This seems odd to me as the Magna Carta is a written document, if anything I would have thought it would be part of the written constitution.

So, to what extent is the Magna Carta considered constitutional today in Canada?

2 Answers 2


The main argument I've read for the Magna Carta being considered constitutional relies on two facts:

  1. The Constitution of Canada contains unwritten principles. This is made clear in many Supreme Court cases. eg. Referece re Secession of Quebec, Reference re Provincial Judges.

  2. The Preamble of the Constitution Act, 1867 establishes a "Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom". This suggests that British principles, including those found in the Magna Carta, are to be maintained.

Nevertheless, the Magna Carta has been held not to be a constitutional document multiple times. For example, in the British Columbia Court of Appeals case R. v. Jebbett, the court succinctly held that the Magna Carta, though of legal force, is not constitutional and can be modified by ordinary statute. This holding has been repeated in multiple courts, including federal (eg. Galati v. Canada).

Additionally, even if it were constitutional, many of its principles have been repeated in the constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Not at all.

Magna Carta as originally drafted dealt exclusively with the relationship between the King and his landed barons; the belief that it dealt with anything to do with the common people is a myth. It was also repealed by King John shortly after he signed it and was declared illegal by a Papal bull.

All of the matters that it dealt with were subsumed into common or statute law long before the settlement of Canada.


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