Cabinet Secrecy in Canada Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law

Cabinet Secrecy in Canada Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law

Yan Campagnolo

(2018) 12 Revue de droit parlementaire et politique, 33-65


The term “Cabinet secrecy” refers to the political and legal rules that protect the confidentiality of Cabinet deliberations and documents in Westminster jurisdictions. This article reflects the notes of an introductory course on Cabinet secrecy taught at the Department of Justice Canada from 2011 to 2017. The objective of the course was to introduce government lawyers and paralegals to the statutory framework protecting Cabinet secrecy at the federal level. It fulfilled an important need, given the dearth of literature on the subject. The course was not intended to criticize the statutory framework; rather, it sought to explain the rules governing Cabinet secrecy and the context in which these rules operate. This article seeks to make the contents of the course accessible to a broader audience. It is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the political protection of Cabinet secrecy under constitutional conventions. The second part examines the legal protection of Cabinet secrecy under common law and statute law. Lastly, the third part focuses specifically on the statutory regime established by Parliament pursuant to sections 39 of the Canada Evidence Act and 69 of the Access to Information Act.

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About the Author:

Yan Campagnolo’s research focuses on the political, legal and theoretical dimensions of Cabinet secrecy in Canada.  From 2004 to 2005, Professor Campagnolo served as a law clerk to Justice Morris Fish of the Supreme Court of Canada. From 2006 to 2008, he joined the Civil Law Section of the University of Ottawa, where he worked as an assistant professor, assistant dean and co-director of graduate studies in law. From 2008 to 2015, he practiced law as counsel for the Privy Council Office. In this capacity, he advised the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council on Supreme Court of Canada high-impact constitutional litigation, commissions of inquiry, democratic reform and access to information. In 2015, he joined the Common Law Section of the University of Ottawa as an assistant professor and a member of the Public Law Group.

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