Vanessa MacDonnell

Vanessa MacDonnell
Vanessa MacDonnell
Associate Professor and Co-Director, uOttawa Public Law Centre

B.Sc. (St. Francis Xavier University)
J.D. (Toronto)
LL.M. (Harvard)

Fauteux 122
Office Phone: 613-562-5800 ext. 7917
Office Fax: 613-562-5124


Vanessa MacDonnell is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law (Common Law Section) and Co-Director of the uOttawa Public Law Centre. She researches in the areas of Canadian constitutional law, constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law and criminal law. In 2019 she was selected for membership in the Global Young Academy. 

Vanessa's research examines the constitutional functions of the executive branch, inter-institutional relationships, and the role of social movements in the development of constitutional law. She is currently completing a SSHRC-funded research project on quasi-constitutional legislation. Vanessa has also written extensively about police powers and the jury.

Vanessa is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (J.D.) and Harvard Law School (LL.M.). She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at McGill University. Between 2007 and 2008 she served as a law clerk to Justice Louise Charron at the Supreme Court of Canada. Vanessa has held visiting research fellowships at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law, King's College London and the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law at Melbourne Law School. In 2019 she spent six months as Scholar-in-Residence in the Constitutional, Administrative and International Law Section of the federal Department of Justice.

Vanessa teaches or has taught criminal law, evidence, constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, administrative law, a seminar on the Supreme Court of Canada, and a graduate course on the impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on criminal law and procedure.

Vanessa is a regular media commentator on criminal and constitutional issues. She tweets about current affairs at @vanessa_macd. She recently appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada as co-counsel for the intervener Criminal Lawyer's Association in R v Saeed. 

Read Vanessa's papers on SSRN:

Vanessa MacDonnell CV


Books and Edited Collections

Canadian Constitutional Law, 6th ed (Toronto: Emond Publishing, 2022) (with Carissima Mathen et al., eds) (forthcoming)

Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2020) (with Colleen Flood, Sophie Thériault, Jane Philpott & Sridhar Venkatapuram, eds)

The Canadian Constitution in Transition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018) (with Richard Albert & Paul Daly, eds)

Articles and Book Chapters

"Treaty Promises and the Duty to Consult on Legislation" (2021) 51 Revue générale de droit 205 (with Jula Hughes)

"Le Parlement et les tribunaux" (2021) 51 Revue générale de droit 7 (with Charles Feldman)

“Policing Arbitrariness: Fleming v Ontario and the Ancillary Powers Doctrine” (2021) 100 Supreme Court Law Review 187 (with Terry Skolnik) 

"The Pervasive Constitution: The Constitution Outside the Courts" (2020) 48:4 Federal Law Review 437 (with Gabrielle Appleby and Ed Synot) 

“Ensuring Executive and Legislative Accountability in a Pandemic” in Colleen Flood, Vanessa MacDonnell, Sophie Thériault, Jane Philpott & Sridhar Venkatapuram, eds, Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2020)

“An Overview of COVID-19: Old and New Vulnerabilities” in Colleen Flood, Vanessa MacDonnell, Sophie Thériault, Jane Philpott & Sridhar Venkatapuram, eds, Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2020) (with Colleen Flood, Sophie Thériault, Jane Philpott & Sridhar Venkatapuram)

“Re-Thinking the “Invisible Constitution”: How Unwritten Constitutional Principles Shape Political Decision-Making” (2019) 65:2 McGill Law Journal 175

"Justice Suzanne Côté’s Reputation as a Dissenter on the Supreme Court of Canada” (2019) 88 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 47

"Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) as Constitutional Implementation" (2018) 96:2 Canadian Bar Review 372

"Introduction" in Richard Albert, Paul Daly & Vanessa MacDonnell, eds, The Canadian Constitution in Transition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018) (with Richard Albert & Paul Daly)

"The Reductionism of Global Models of Constitutional Rights" (2018) 12:1 Journal of Law & Ethics of Human Rights 73

"The Right to a Representative Jury: Beyond Kokopenace" (2017) 64 Criminal Law Quarterly 334

"The New Parliamentary Sovereignty" (2016) 21:1 Review of Constitutional Studies 13

"A Theory of Quasi-Constitutional Legislation" (2016) 53:2 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 508

"The Civil Servant's Role in the Implementation of Constitutional Rights" (2015) 13:2 International Journal of Constitutional Law 383

"The New Self-Defence Law: Progressive Development or Status Quo?" (2014) 92:2 Canadian Bar Review 301

"Equality & Incrementalism? The Role of Common Law Reasoning in Constitutional Rights Cases" (2014) 44:3 Ottawa Law Review 467 (with Jula Hughes & Karen Pearlston)

"Internet Surveillance and Popular Constitutionalism" in George Williams, Fergal Davis & Nicola McGarrity, eds, Surveillance, Counter-Terrorism and Comparative Constitutionalism (Oxford: Routledge, 2014) 313

"The Jury Vetting Cases: New Insights on Jury Trials in Criminal Cases?" (2013) 63 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 419 

"The Constitution as Framework for Governance" (2013) 63:4 University of Toronto Law Journal 624

"Social Science Evidence in German and Canadian Constitutional Law: Some Comparative Observations" (2013) 32:1 National Journal of Constitutional Law 23 (with Jula Hughes)

"The German Abortion Decisions and the Protective Function in German and Canadian Constitutional Law" (2013) 50:4 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 999 (with Jula Hughes)

"R v Sinclair: A New Trend in Balancing Individual Rights Against Societal Interests Outside of Section One of the Charter" (2012) 38 Queen's Law Journal 137

"Developments in Constitutional Law, 2011-2012 Term" (2012) 59 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 51

"Assessing the Impact of the Ancillary Powers Doctrine on Three Decades of Charter Jurisprudence" (2012) 58 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 225

"The Protective Function and Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" (2012) 17 Review of Constitutional Studies 53

Notes and Case Comments

"Book Review: Juries in the 21st Century, by Jacqueline Horan" (2014) 12:1 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 133

"Problems with the Newly Expanded Powers of Citizen's Arrest" (2012) 33:5 For the Defence 22 (with Leo Russomanno)

"Harnessing Debates in Comparative Constitutional Law as Teaching Tools: My Experiences in the Classroom" (2012) 6 Canadian Legal Education Annual Review 117

"Novel Applications of the Statutory Defence of Duress" (2011) 84 Criminal Reports (6th) 316

"R v. Lanteigne: The "Temporal" Scope of Section 11(b) of the Charter and "Process Control" (2011) 81 Criminal Reports (6th) 248