For over a century, the Université de Montréal Faculty of Law has enjoyed a rich tradition in constitutional law, which has produced some of Canada’s most prominent constitutional scholars and actors on the constitutional scene. This tradition lives on in a stimulating and varied academic program.
The Faculty’s Constitutional Heritage: From the Postwar Period to the Quiet Revolution
Though constitutional law has been taught at the Faculty of Law since the end of the nineteenth century, it is not until the postwar period that a constitutionalist, Pierre Carignan, LL.L. ’45, entered the ranks of the Faculty’s first career professors. In 1953, recently returned from his studies at Oxford, Rhodes Scholar Jean Beetz, LL.L. ’50, would join him. They were followed by André Morel, LL.L. ’53, M.A. ’54, in 1957 and, the year after, by Jacques-Yvan Morin. Respectively private law and international law experts, the latter two professors would also become respected constitutional scholars.
1961 would be a remarkable year for the Faculty. Were recruited: Alice Desjardins, LL.L. ’57, the first woman to hold the position of full-time law professor at a Canadian university and, later, the first woman to be appointed Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal; Pierre Elliott Trudeau, LL.L. ’43, who would become Canada’s 15th prime minister; and, in criminal law, Antonio Lamer, LL.L. ’56, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The following year, the Faculty of Law founded Canada’s first academic legal research centre, the Institut de recherche en droit public (today the Centre de recherche en droit public), whose mission was to “foster and organise public law research, particularly in constitutional and administrative law.” Its first director was Jean Beetz and Pierre Trudeau was a part-time research associate. Two years later, they would be joined by Jacques Brossard, LL.L. ’55.
Upon becoming Dean of the Law Faculty in 1968, Beetz needed to find a replacement for Trudeau, who had officially departed for the federal political scene and brought with him another constitutional law professor, Paul Tellier, who had just arrived at the Law Faculty a year earlier. Tellier would go on to a notable career in the public service and, later, in the most highest reaches of the business world. Antonio Lamer was soon to leave the Faculty and begin his judicial career. At 36, he became Canada’s youngest judge.
These departures coincided with the Faculty of Law’s move into a brand new pavilion, later named the Maximilien-Caron Pavilion, and with the arrival of a new cohort of constitutional law professors. Among them were Andrée Lajoie, LL.L. ’56, and François Chevrette, LL.L. ’64, a former student of Trudeau’s and Desjardins's, who would become one the most distinguished Canadian constitutional law professors of his generation. The following year, the Faculty’s constitutional group would be joined by Yves Ouellette, LL.L. ’61, D.E.S. ’63, LL.D. ’65, André Tremblay and Herbert Marx, LL.L. ’67, a recent Harvard graduate who would successively become an academic, a politician, and a judge.
One can but imagine what it must have been like to study at the Faculty of Law at a time when its constitutional law program was taught by a body of professors comprising a future prime minister of Canada and Father of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a future justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (Beetz), the first woman to be a tenured law professor in Canada and later first woman to be appointed Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, a future vice-premier of Québec (Morin), a future Québec minister of justice and Superior Court judge (Marx), a future president and CEO of large corporations such as Bombardier and the Canadian National Railway Company (“CN”) (Tellier), and the person who would become the most eminent constitutionalist in the history of the Law Faculty (Chevrette).
Constitutional Law at the Faculty Today
The Faculty of Law offers a comprehensive program of study in constitutional law. LL.B. students begin by following two basic mandatory courses in their first year of law studies (Droit constitutionnel 1 and Droit constitutionnel 2—DRT 1501 and 1502), which provide a general introduction to the main fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional law. Those wishing to further their knowledge in this field then have the option of taking Libertés publiques (DRT 3503) (a course created by Pierre Trudeau when he was an associate professor at the Faculty), Droit des autochtones (DRT 3011), and Partage des compétences législatives (DRT 3502). Upper-level courses that examine important current issues in, among other areas, comparative constitutional law are offered regularly as well, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels (DRT 3002, DRT 6845).
At the LL.B. level, the legal-skills training includes a course designed to develop students’ legal writing abilities (DRT 2902), which offers a “constitutional law” option. Students can also participate in a national moot court competition (DRT 3965), namely the Laskin, a competition in Canadian constitutional and administrative law, and the Wilson Moot, which focuses on equality rights issues. Students can also elect to take on a personal research project or a research assistantship in constitutional law, under the supervision of a professor of their choice (DRT 3910, DRT 3947).
At the postgraduate level, the Faculty of Law offers a Masters (LL.M.) and a doctoral (LL.D.) program to candidates wishing to conduct a research project that seeks to make a contribution to the field. Many of our LL.M. and LL.D. Graduates moved to take academic posts. Among current law professors are:
- Karim Benyekhlef, LL.B. ’84, LL.M. ’87 (Supervisor: A. Morel), LL.D. ’91 (Supervisors: E. Mackaay & A. Morel), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
- Stéphane Bernatchez, LL.B. ’89, LL.M. ’97, LL.D. ’06 (Supervisors: J. Woehrling & F. Chevrette), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Sherbrooke
- Andrée Boisselle, LL.M. ’07 (Supervisor: J. Leclair), Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
- Hugo Cyr, LL.D. ’07 (Supervisor: F. Chevrette), Dean, Faculty of Political Science and Law, UQAM
- Reza Eslami-Somea, LL.D. ’01 (Supervisors: A. Tremblay and S.J. Toope), Professor, Faculty of Law, Shahid Beheshti University
- Fabien Gélinas, LL.B. ’88, LL.M. ’91 (Supervisor: A. Morel), Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
- Sébastien Grammond, LL.B. ’92, LL.M. ’94 (Supervisor: A. Lajoie), Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
- Noura Karazivan, LL.D. ’12 (Supervisor: J.-F. Gaudreault-Desbiens), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
- Jean Leclair, LL.B. ’85, LL.M. ’90 (Supervisor: A. Morel), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
- Lucie Lemonde, LL.M. ’89 (Supervisor: H. Dumont), LL.D. ’95, Professor, Faculty of Political Science and Law, UQAM
- Denis Nadeau, LL.M. ’82 (Supervisor: F. Chevrette), Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
- René Pepin, LL.M. ’75 (Supervisor: F. Chevrette), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Sherbrooke
- Daniel Proulx, LL.M. 80’ (Supervisor: A. Morel), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Sherbrooke
- Daniel Turp, LL.M. ’80 (Supervisor: J.-Y. Morin), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
- Martine Valois, LL.B. ’86, LL.D. ’10 (Supervisor: J. Frémont), Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
Others have dedicated themselves to public service in non-academic fields. For instance:
- Alexandre Cloutier, LL.M. ’04 (Supervisor: D. Turp), Member, Québec National Assembly, and former Québec minister
- Yves de Montigny, LL.L. ’78, LL.M. ’81 (Supervisors: A. Morel and F. Chevrette), Justice, Federal Court of Appeal
- Patrice Desbiens, LL.B. ’97, LL.M. ’02 (Supervisor: L. Viau), Deputy Judge Advocate General, Canadian Armed Forces
- Linda Facchin, LL.M. ’99 (Supervisor: K. Benyekhlef), Executive Director, Legal Affairs, Labour Relations and Employment Law, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Jean-Marc Fournier, LL.B. ’81, LL.M. ’91, Member, Québec National Assembly, and Québec minister
- Sylvie Gagnon, LL.B. ’89, LL.M. ’92 (Supervisor: J. Frémont), Administrative Judge, Tribunal administratif du Québec
- Bernard Mandeville, LL.M. ’87, President-Judge, Municipal Court of Montréal
- Stéphane Perrault, LL.B. ’89, LL.M. ’92 (Supervisor: A. Lajoie), LL.D. ’98 (Supervisor: A. Lajoie), Acting Chief Electoral Officer and Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Regulatory Affairs and Public Affairs, Elections Canada
Division de la gestion de documents et des archives de l'Université de Montréal
Hétu, Jean, ed, Album Souvenir 1878-1978 : Centenaire de la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal (Montréal: Yvon Blais, 1978).
—, ed, Les diplômés de la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal depuis 125 ans (Montréal: Thémis, 2003).
August 2017. The original version of this note can be found at H.-R. Zhou, "Le droit constitutionnel à la Faculté: d'hier à aujourd'hui", (2017) 41:1 Le Pigeon dissident 13.
This content has been updated on September 9th, 2017 at 13 h 18 min.