The Chair's projects: research and teaching

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Most of Professor Poirier’s publications explore various aspects of federalism, the protection of minorities (notably linguistic ones), and, more broadly, public law. It is in the field of intergovernmental relations and cooperative federalism that her contributions are the most significant and original.

Her multidisciplinary methodological approaches combine legal technicality, institutionalism, socio-political contextualization, and legal theory (including normative pluralism) through a comparative lens – even in the study of Canadian constitutional law.

Over the coming years, Professor Poirier hopes – notably – to study the intersection between feminism and the transformations of institutional architecture in post-conflict societies; the role of judges in overseeing cooperative federalism; and the intergovernmental implications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).


For any information on courses and registration at McGill Law, visit Law's Student Affairs Office page on Current Courses and Registration.

Constitutional Law (PUB2 101: 2016-2017, 2015-2016, 2017-2018)

First year 2 term course. A treatment of the history, the theory and the practice of constitutional law. The powers of the legislative, executive and judicial branches are discussed in light of guiding principles such as constitutionalism, the rule of law, democracy, the protection of fundamental freedoms and minorities, and federalism. In French.

See entry in McGill's eCalendar:   PUB2 101D1 - Constitutional Law & PUB2 101D2 - Constitutional Law

Seminar in constitutional drafting and reform: "Modernizing" the Canadian Constitution (LAWG 539 Special Topics in Law / Advanced Questions in Constitutional Law) 

This course took place in 2017, the year marking the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Canadian federation. Taught in collaboration with the Université de Montréal’s Law Faculty, this seminar brought about 30 students (15 from each faculty), alternating between McGill and Université de Montréal for 3-hour sessions.

The primary objective of the course was to “modernize” the Constitution of Canada: regroup its scattered sections (the multiple “constitutional laws” and their annexes) and propose potential modifications, notably to codify certain conventions, or even entrench certain principles. The main idea was to propose a “legible”, “living” and “contemporary” constitutional instrument. Some class sessions were be devoted to comparative law and Canadian constitutional history. Finally, exercises in preparation of a Constituent Assembly were run throughout the semester and concluded with a simulated constitutional assembly in Ottawa. Students were also expected (if possible) attend the Canadian Federalism and its Future conference , which took place on March 22-23, 2017. Read the resulting new constitution produced by the students: PDF icon Class project: new text for the Canadian Constitution

See entry in McGill's eCalendar:   LAWG 539 - Specialized Topics in Law 20

Comparative Federalism (PUB2 503: 2015-2016)

Despite the mishaps of some of its real-life incarnations, the “federal idea”, often summarised by the slogan “unity within diversity”, is frequently presented as one of the most effective ways of maintaining a degree of territorial and social cohesion in a state-like structure, without the disadvantages of forced homogeneity. To decipher the “federal phenomenon”, the course is divided into four parts.  First, a brief introduction canvasses the origins of “the federal idea”, its normative underpinnings and some of the reasons which lead public actors to opt for federal solutions. Second, we will explore the many shapes and forms in which federalism can be « incarnated ». Third, we will address specific institutional arrangements that structure autonomy and interaction between federal actors (distribution of competences, second chambers and intergovernmental relations), from a comparative perspective. Fourth, guest speakers will provide a panorama of the risks and potential of of the “federal phenomenon”.  

See entry in McGill's eCalendar:   PUB2 503 - Comparative Federalism