What will Canada be like in another 150 years? Despite deepening darkness in the world around us, I like to be optimistic. I think that Canada, and hopefully our world, will be a better, fairer place in the centuries to come. Since Confederation, Canada’s laws have increasingly reflected our social and political values toward equality and fairness.
However, I doubt the text of our Constitution will change much. The amending formula found in section 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982 requires too much buy-in from too many different places with different agendas. Any changes to the text of the Constitution require votes in favour in seven of the ten provinces, which must exceed half the population of the country.1 We will be freer and fairer, but regional squabbles will always exist. Barring a war which redraws maps and forces us to rewrite the entire thing, the text itself probably won’t have changed much. It’s possible Quebec will not even have ratified it..
Luckily, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has always shown a willingness to adopt a living tree doctrine, allowing our society to evolve with changing Canadian values. It was the SCC that insisted on protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.2 It was the SCC that established the right to assisted suicide.3 It was the SCC that established that our outdated sex work laws were dangerous.4 The SCC split 6-3 over whether something must have identifiable harm to be criminalized and, as the challenger wished to establish, whether prohibition of marijuana was unconstitutional.5
As the SCC and future progressive parliaments will push our society forward in some ways, new technologies will push it forward in others. Automation is the way of the future (though people touting new AI as a replacement for lawyers clearly do not understand the profession), and Canada must adapt accordingly.
One adaptation I see to deal with those issues is the adoption of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme. UBI is the idea of making sure that everyone has a basic standard of living through no-strings-attached cash payments. The largest social change in centuries will have to occur, and will require Canadians to stop stigmatizing a lack of gainful employment. We need to not look down on people who don’t “work”, especially those who choose not to in order to pursue art, education, and invention.
The future is bright. Our courts are willing to reinterpret our constitution to reflect our changing society. Our country is evolving at an incredibly rapid rate. Happy 150, Canada. I hope I live long enough to see a fraction of how great things will be when you hit 300.
1Constitution Act, 1982, s 42, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.
2Vriend v Alberta,  1 SCR 493, 156 DLR (4th) 385.
3Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 SCC 4,  1 SCR 13.
4Bedford v Canada (Attorney General), 2013 SCC 72,  3 SCR 1101.
5R v Malmo-Levine, 2003 SCC 74,  3 SCR 571.