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James B. Kelly

Professor, Political Science

James B. Kelly


Dr. James B. Kelly holds a PhD in political science from McGill University (1999) and a bachelor’s degree (honours) from University of Toronto (1992).  He has held visiting appointments at McGill University, where he served as the 2006 Seagram Chair in Canadian Studies at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. In 2008, Dr. Kelly was a Visiting Fellow at The University of Melbourne, in residence at the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne Law School.

Dr. Kelly’s research has been funded by external granting agencies such as SSHRC and FQRSC.  His research focuses on the judicialization of politics associated with the introduction of bills of rights in parliamentary systems such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.  Dr. Kelly is the author and co-author of 5 books, including Governing with the Charter (UBC Press 2005), which was a finalist for the 2006 Donner Prize in Public Policy, a $35,000 prize awarded to the best book on public policy.  He has served as Co-editor (2011-12) and Assistant Editor (2009-11) of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.  Dr. Kelly has also served as Graduate Program Director (2004-6, 2020) and Associate Chair (2012-14, 2022-present) of the Department of Political Science at Concordia University. 

Dr. Kelly has been a guest lecturer at Queen's University Belfast (November 2013) and at the Centre for International Studies, University of Southern California (January 2013).  He has also been an invited lecturer at the Privy Council Office, the Department of Justice, and the Parliament of Canada. Dr. Kelly has also delivered lectures at the Crown Law Office and Ministry of Justice in New Zealand, and at the Department of Justice and Community Safety in the Australian Capital Territory. Finally, Dr. Kelly has been an invited guest of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee at the Parliament of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, as well as the Scrutiny of Bills Committee at the Australian Senate.  In May 2022, he was a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law at Bar-IIan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel.

He recently completed Constraining the Court: Judicial Power and Policy Implementation in the Charter era, which will be published by UBC Press as part of the Law and Society Series in 2024. This manuscript is the follow-up to his book on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Governing with the Charter, published by UBC Press in 2005.  

Dr. Kelly has begun a new research project that focuses on the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland.  This SSHRC funded project (2019-2024) is entitled Stormont and the Protection of Human Rights: how does consociational power sharing affect the Northern Ireland Assembly's approach to human rights? 


Bachelor of Arts (Hons)
University of Toronto

McGill University

Research interests

Canadian and Comparative Judicial Politics; Parliamentary Bills of Rights and the legislative process; Politics of Northern Ireland

Teaching Activities

POLI 204   Introduction to Canadian Politics

POLI 376   The Politics of Northern Ireland

POLI 324   Parliament and the Charter

POLI 407   Parliamentary Bills of Rights

POLI 428   Constitutional Politics in Canada

POLI 611   Judicial Politics and Policy Making

Government Reports and Media

Government Reports and Submissions

James B. Kelly, The Senate of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Expert Evidence. The Special Senate Committee on Modernization. Parliament of Canada, May 10, 2017.

James B. Kelly and Lorne Sossin, The Federal Government in Court: Litigation Drivers in the Canadian and International Context.  Ottawa: Department of Justice, 2005.

James B. Kelly and Janet L. Hiebert, Submission to the Human Rights Consultative Committee on Adopting a Bill of Rights.  Department of Justice, Government of Victoria, Melbourne Australia, 2005.


Election Issues 2015: A Maclean's premier on coalitions. Maclean's (August 2, 2015).

Whistleblower prompts call for more debate on whether bills violate Charter. Globe and Mail (January 17, 2013).

Selected Publications

Books and Guest Editorships

James B. Kelly, Constraining the Court: Judicial Power and and Policy Implementation in the Charter Era. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2024.

James B. Kelly, Guest Editor. Publius: The Journal of Federalism (2017). Virtual Issue: Federalism and Supreme Courts.

Janet L. Hiebert and James B. Kelly, Parliamentary Bills of Rights: The Experiences of New Zealand and United Kingdom.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

James B. Kelly and Christopher P. Manfredi, eds., Contested Constitutionalism: Reflections on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009.

Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay, James B. Kelly, Michael Lipson, and Jean-Francois Mayer, Understanding Human Rights: Origins, Concepts, and Critiques.  Toronto: Nelson Canada, 2008.

James B. Kelly, Governing with the Charter: Legislative and Judicial Politics and Framers' Intent.  Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005. 


James B. Kelly, "Legislative Capacity and Human Rights in the Age of Populism: Two Challenges for Legislated Rights: A Discussion of Legislating Rights: Securing Human Rights through Legislation," Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies 21:1 (2020), 94-111.

James B. Kelly and Kate Puddister, "Criminal Justice Policy During the Harper Era: Private Members' Bills, Penal Populism, and the Criminal Code of Canada," Canadian Journal of Law and Society 32:3 (2017), 391-415.

James B. Kelly, "Editor's Note - Introduction to the Publius Virtual Issue: Federalism and Supreme Courts," Publius: The Journal of Federalism (2017), 1-11.

James B. Kelly and Matthew Hennigar, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and the Minister of Justice: Weak-form review within a Constitutional Charter of Rights,” International Journal of Constitutional Law 10:1 (2012), 36-68.

James B. Kelly, “Judicial and Political Rights Review as Limited Insurance: The Functioning of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990,” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 49:3 (2011), 295-317.

James B. Kelly, “A Difficult Dialogue: Statements of Compatibility and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act,” Australian Journal of Political Science 46:2 (2011), 257-278.

James B. Kelly and Michael Murphy, “Shaping the Constitutional Dialogue on Federalism: The Canadian Supreme Court as Meta-Political Actor,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 35:2 (2005), 217-243.

James B. Kelly, “Reconciling Rights and Federalism during Review ofthe Charter of Rights and Freedoms: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Centralization Thesis, 1982-1999,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 34:3 (2001), 321-55. 

Christopher P.  Manfredi and James B. Kelly, “Six Degrees of Dialogue: A Response to Hogg and Bushell,” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 37:3 (1999), 513-527.


James B. Kelly, “Québec and the ‘Sign Law’ Thirty Years after Ford and DevineFord construit solide,” in Kate Puddister and Emmett Macfarlane, eds., Constitutional Crossroads: Reflections on Charter Rights, Reconciliation, and Change.  Vancouver: UBC Press, 2022, pp. 275-292.

Janet L. Hiebert and James B. Kelly, "Intra-parliamentary dialogue in New Zealand and the United Kingdom: a little less conversation, a little more action please,' in Rosalind Dixon, Geoff Sigalet, and Gregoire Webber, eds., Constitutional Dialogue: Democracy, Rights, and Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 235-266.

James B. Kelly, "The Charter of the French Language and the Supreme Court of Canada: assessing whether constitutional design can influence policy outcomes," in Emmett Macfarlane, ed. Courts and the Constitution: Policy Impact. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018, pp. 250-268.

James B. Kelly, "The Charter of Rights, the Supreme Court of Canada, and Public Policy," in Jonathan Craft and Amanda Clarke, eds., Issues in Canadian Governance.  Toronto: Emond Publishing, 2018, pp. 91-108.

Kate Puddister and James B. Kelly, "With or Without You: Quebec, the Conservative movement, and the Pursuit of Majority Government,"in J. P. Lewis and Joanna Everett, ends., The Blueprint: Conservative parties and their impact on Canadian Politics.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017, pp. 150-171

Kate Puddister and James B. Kelly, “The Judicialization of (past) Politics under Danny Williams: The Cameron Inquiry and the Green Commission,” in First Amongst Unequals: The Premier, Politics, and Policy in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Alex Martland and Matthew Kerty, eds., Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014, pp. 114-129.

James B. Kelly, «Les limites de la mobilisation judiciaire: Alliance Québec, la Charte de la langue française et la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés» Le nouvel ordre constitutionnel canadien: du rapriement de 1982 à nos jours, sur la direction François Rocher et Benoît Pelletier.  Montreal:  Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2013, pp. 205-233.

Conference Participation

International Meetings

Research Committee on Comparative Judicial Studies, International Political Studies Association, Prato, Italy, 22-24 July 2019.

Political Studies Association (UK), Parliaments and Legislatures, Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland, November 5-7, 2018.

European Consortium for Political Research, Hamburg, Germany, August 23-25, 2018.

European Consortium for Political Research, Standing Group European Union, Paris, Science PO, June 13-15, 2018.

Research Committee on Comparative Judicial Studies, International Political Studies Association, Irvine, California, June 25-27, 2017.

European Consortium for Political Research, Prague, Czech Republic, September 7-10, 2016.

The Israel Democracy Institute, The Consideration of Rights in the Policy Making Process: What enhances their influence and what leads to their disregard? Madrid, Spain, June 14-15, 2015.

IX World Congress of the International Association of Constitutional Law, Oslo, Norway, June 16-20, 2014.

Research Committee on Comparative Judicial Studies, International Political Studies Association, Dublin, Ireland, July 22-24, 2013.

XIV Jerusalem Conference in Canadian Studies, Jerusalem, Israel, May 21-23, 2013.

XXII World Congress of Political Science, International Political Science Association, Madrid, Spain, July 8-12, 2012.

European Consortium for Political Research, Reykjavik, Iceland, August 25-27, 2011.

Research Committee on Comparative Judicial Studies, International Political Studies Association, Bologna, Italy, June 21-23, 2010.

XXI World Congress of Political Science, International Political Science Association, Santiago, Chile, July 12-16, 2009.

XX World Congress of Political Science, International Political Science Association, Fukuoka, Japan, June 12-16, 2006.

Public Lectures


James B. Kelly, "Legislative Capacity and Human Rights in the Age of Populism: Two Challenges for Legislated Rights: A Discussion of Legislating Rights: Securing Human Rights through Legislation," Workshop, IDC Herzliya, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv, Israel, 28 May 2019.

ames B. Kelly, "Confronting the Court: the Charter of the French Language and the Charter of Quebec Values," School of Law, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, November 13, 2013.

James B. Kelly, "Strong and weak-form judicial review: the complexity of Canada's constitutional Charter of Rights," Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, School of Law, The University of Melbourne, February 27, 2008.

James B. Kelly, "Legislative Activism in Canada and New Zealand," Crown Law Office, Wellington, New Zealand, July 25, 2006.

James B. Kelly, Legislative Activism and the Canadian Charter of Rights: lessons for the Australian Capital Territory's Human Rights Act 2004," Parliamentary Counsel Office, Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Australia, June 14, 2005.

James B. Kelly, "Rights Scrutiny in Parliamentary Democracies," Ministry of Justice, Wellington, New Zealand, May 21, 2004.


James B. Kelly, "The Parliamentary Reporting Duty of the Minister of Justice: time to rethink section 4.1.1 of the DOJ Act," Thirty Years On: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Parliament of Canada, April 27, 2012.

James B. Kelly, "Governing with the Charter of Rights: Improving Parliamentary Scrutiny of Legislation," Privy Council Office, Government of Canada, Ottawa, February 18, 2004.

James B. Kelly, "Who Makes the Laws? The Struggle for Legislative Supremacy in Canada," The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Breakfast on the Hill Series, Parliament of Canada, October 2, 2003.

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