Carissima Mathen

Carissima Mathen
Carissima Mathen
Full Professor

57 Louis Pasteur St., Room 119
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 3282


Carissima Mathen, LSM joined the Faculty in 2011, and is Full Professor of Law.  She teaches Canadian Constitutional and Criminal Law, as well as seminars in Advanced Constitutional Law. She served as Vice-Dean (Academic) of the English Program from 2017-2019.  From 2002-2011, Professor Mathen was a member of the Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick.  From 1994-2001, she was Counsel and, later, Director of Litigation for the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) undertaking equality rights litigation before the Supreme Court of Canada and other courts.   She was involved in some of the most formative Charter cases of the Lamer court including Vriend v AlbertaR v RDS,Winnipeg Child and Family Services v GM v HR v Darrach and R v Mills

Professor Mathen is an expert in Canadian constitutional law.  Her 2019 monograph, Courts Without Cases: The Law and Politics of Advisory Opinions (Hart) won 2nd Place Distinction in the prestigious Walter Owen Book Prize competition.  She has also written The Tenth Justice: Judicial Appointments, Marc Nadon and the Supreme Court Act Reference (UBC Press, 2020). She is the Editor of the leading casebook, Canadian Constitutional Law 6th Edition (Emond, 2022).  She has authored works on the Charter of Rights, the division of powers, the separation of powers, constitutional litigation, comparative constitutional law and constitutional theory.  She also has published in criminal law, legal pedagogy, and feminist legal theory.   Her scholarship has appeared in various journals including The Supreme Court Law Review, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, National Journal of Constitutional Law, Canadian Bar Review, and Queen’s Law Journal.  In 2018, the Law Faculty recognized her work with the Award for Excellence in Legal Research. 

Professor Mathen has published numerous op eds and is regularly cited in national media.  In 2016, she received the Faculty's Award for Excellence in Media Relations. In 2018, the University of Ottawa honoured her long-standing commitment to public discourse with its Media Relations Award (Commentary). 

Professor Mathen is a 2018 recipient of the Law Society Medal, one of the highest honours bestowed by the Ontario bar. 

Selected Publications

  • "Equality Before the Charter: Reflections on Fraser v Canada", (2022) 104 Supreme Court Law Review, 105-122 

  • “Regulating Expression on Social Media”, in E. Macfarlane, ed., Dilemmas of Free Expression (University of Toronto Press, 2021) 91-110 

  • “What’s Right With Section 33.1” (2021) 25:3 Canadian Criminal Law Review 255-274 (with Michael Plaxton) 

  • “An Inconvenient Constitution?  The Troubles with Suspended Declarations of Invalidity”, (2021) 101 The Supreme Court Law Review 345-350 

  • The Tenth Justice (with Michael Plaxton) (UBC Press, 2020) 

  • "Resisting the Siren's Call: Emergency Powers, Federalism and Public Policy" in Colleen M. Flood et al, eds, Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (UOP, 2020) 115-126 

  • "Technologically-Facilitated Violence Against Women & Girls: Assessing the Canadian Criminal Law Response" (2020) 97 Canadian Bar Review 564-696 (with Jane Bailey) 

  • Courts Without Cases: The Law and Politics of Advisory Opinions (Hart Publishing, 2019) (2nd Place Distinction - Walter Owen Book Prize 2021) 

  • "The Reference Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Canada" in Paul Daly, ed., Apex Courts and the Common Law (UTP, 2019) 140-165 

  • “Access to Charter Justice”, Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution (OUP, 2017) 639-655 

  • “A Recent History of Government Responses to Constitutional Litigation” (2016) 25:3 Constitutional Forum 101-108 

  • “Legal Education, TWU and the Looking Glass”, (2016) 75 The Supreme Court Law Review 223-245 (with Michael Plaxton) 

  • Book Review: “Nothing to Lose but Our Chains” – Louis Seidman, Constitutional Disobedience” (2016) 52 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 375-386 

  • “The Federal Principle” in E.MacFarlane, ed, Constitutional Amendment in Canada (UTP, 2016) 65-84 

  • "The Shadow of Absurdity and the Challenge of Easy Cases: Looking Back on the Supreme Court Act Reference" (2015) 71 The Supreme Court Law Review 161-189 

  • "Crowdsourcing Sexual Objectification" (2014) Laws 3, no. 3: 529-552 

  • "The Upside of Dissent in Equality Jurisprudence" (2013) 63  The Supreme Court Law Review 111-142 

  • "Purposive Interpretation, Quebec and the Supreme Court Act" (2013) 22:3 Constitutional Forum 15-26 (with Michael Plaxton) 

  • " 'A Precarious, Chancy Situation': Aboriginal Gaming Rights in Canada " (2013) 46:2 UBC Law Review 349-395 

  • "Reflecting Culture: Polygamy and the Charter" in Benjamin L. Berger and James Stribopoulos, eds Unsettled Legacy: Thirty Years of Criminal Justice under the Charter (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2012) 391-408 (also published in 2012 57 SCLR 2d) 

  • "HIV, Consent and Criminal Wrongs" (2011) 57 The Criminal Law Quarterly 464-485 (with Michael Plaxton) 

  • “‘The Question Calls for an Answer, and I Propose to Answer It’: The Patriation Reference as Constitutional Method” (2011) 54 The Supreme Court Law Review 143-166 

  • Women, Law and Equality: A Discussion Guide (Toronto: Irwin, 2010) (with Kim Brooks) 

  • "What Religious Freedom Jurisprudence Reveals about Equality" (2009) 6:2 Journal of Law and Equality 163 

  • “Choices and Controversy: Judicial Appointments in Canada” (2008) 58 U.N.B.L.J.  52-72 


  • Crisis, Conundrum, Controversy: The Survival of Constitutional Law and Order  CML4101
  • Criminal Law and Procedure CML 1203
  • Constitutional Law CML 1116