RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG)

RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG), [1995] 3 S.C.R. 199 is a leading Canadian constitutional decision of the Supreme Court of Canada where the Court upheld the federal Tobacco Products Control Act, but struck out the provisions which prevented tobacco advertising and unattributed health warnings.

RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG)
Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing: November 29–30, 1994
Judgment: September 21, 1995
Full case nameRJR-MacDonald Inc and Imperial Tobacco Ltd v The Attorney General of Canada
Citations[1995] 3 S.C.R. 199, 127 D.L.R. (4th) 1, 100 C.C.C. (3d) 449, 31 C.R.R. (2d) 189, 62 C.P.R. (3d) 417
Docket No.23490
The Tobacco Products Control Act was upheld under the federal government's criminal law power, but the provisions prohibiting advertising and requiring unattributed warning labels was struck down under the Charter right to freedom of expression.
Court Membership
Chief Justice: Antonio Lamer
Puisne Justices: Gérard La Forest, Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, John Sopinka, Charles Gonthier, Peter Cory, Beverley McLachlin, Frank Iacobucci, John C. Major
Reasons given
MajorityMcLachlin J. (paras. 122-178)
ConcurrenceMajor J. (paras. 193-217)
ConcurrenceIacobucci J. (paras. 179-192)
ConcurrenceLamer C.J. (para. 1)
ConcurrenceSopinka J. (para. 120)
DissentLa Forest J. (paras. 2-119), joined by L'Heureux-Dube and Gonthier JJ.
DissentCory J. (para. 121)


RJR MacDonald Inc. and Imperial Tobacco challenged the Act as being ultra vires the federal government's criminal law power and peace, order and good government power, and as being in violation of the right to freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Reasons of the courtEdit

The Court upheld the Act as valid under the criminal law power but found that sections 4, 8, and 9 of the Act violated freedom of expression and could not be saved under section 1 of the Charter. There were four separate opinions given.

Division of powersEdit

The Court found the Act was not colourable. The evil that the law is addressing does not have to be approached directly, and in these circumstances it would not be practical. Even though the subject was not one that was commonly recognized as being criminal does not necessarily invalidate it.

Charter issuesEdit

The majority held that the impugned sections violated the freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to say nothing. The mandatory use of unattributed labels was a form of forced expression and so invoked section 2(b).

The majority held that the violation was not upheld under section 1 of the Charter.

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