Yan Campagnolo, Cabinet Secrecy in Theory and Practice – The result of ten years of research and reflection

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Over the past year, cabinet secrecy has become a hot topic due to controversies raised by legal cases against Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Hence, Professor Yan Campagnolo’s latest book on cabinet secrecy, Le secret ministériel : théorie et pratique, published by Presses de l’Université Laval, is very timely.

This book is the first complete examination of the subject. It explores the inherent tension between government transparency and the need to preserve the confidential nature of cabinet proceedings. The book provides an in-depth analysis of cabinet secrecy from historical, theoretical and practical perspectives with reference to British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian cabinets.

Former Clerk of the Privy Council Mel Cappe is happy to see the “publication of a such a complete, rigorous examination of the ins and outs of cabinet secrecy in modern government.” Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Lebel noted that Yan Campagnolo “has made a significant intellectual contribution in a challenging field of Canadian public law.”

The idea for this book was born when Yan Campagnolo was working as a lawyer in the Privy Council Office and the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair was making headlines. In this context, Yan Campagnolo began pondering the idea of cabinet secrecy, which is based on constitutional conventions, common law and certain obscure provisions of federal legislation. Realizing that the concept was quite vague and that effective recourses against claims of cabinet immunity were lacking, Yan Campagnolo decided to clarify the concept and reconsider its framework. He chose to make it the subject of his doctoral thesis at the University of Toronto.

Even as a child, Yan Campagnolo saw himself working in the legal profession: law and politics were dinner table topics as he was growing up in Quebec City. His interest in public affairs and his desire to study both civil and common law in a bilingual setting motivated him to pursue his undergraduate degree in law at the University of Ottawa. Twenty years later, he considers himself privileged to be helping to shape the next generation of legal minds at his alma mater.

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