The Law of Your Land: A Practical Guide to the New Canadian Constitutions


112 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-88794-107-9





Reviewed by Sam Coghlan

Sam Coghlan was Deputy Director and Senior Consultant of the Thames Ontario Library Service Board, Southwestern Ontario.


Every literate citizen of Canada who has been in the country for any time in the last decade must know one simple truth about Canadian constitutional law — it is confusing. Dozens of groups, parties, and governments not only arguing about what the Canadian constitution should say, but also disagreeing vehemently about what it does say, have created a sense of confusion. This book hopes to bring some clarity to the scene for the educated layman. It succeeds.

The Law of Your Land is an in-depth, well-researched, well-written sample of political journalism which not only needs to be a book because of its size, but also deserves to be a book because it is so useful. Langford, a CBC journalist, explains complex issues well and, on the whole, accurately. He tells how the constitution evolved by combining history, politics, and legal analysis into a palatable, understandable story. His description of the new constitution, how it came to be, and how it may evolve further acknowledges most important perspectives without offering opinion as to which is most proper.

Langford’s style is not so meticulous in its fairness as to weigh his story down with fine points or footnotes. His focus is on the differences over major issues, often stating as fact what scholars would call only hypothesis. But the overall picture is accurate, although at times his desire to have all parties look their best sometimes comes across as propaganda — as though these gentlemen sat down over tea, discussed their differences, and reached an amiable agreement, all without raising their voices. This impression is unfair to Langford, though, as he does discuss in some detail the divergent positions of various groups.

His method of achieving clarity is simple. He assumes the reader possesses only a basic understanding of the legal system and of Canada’s constitutional history. He explains everything in simple narrative, using, where possible, non-technical knowledge without condescension. A few times the reading is complex, but this is attributable to the complexity of the specific topic under discussion.

The worst aspect of this book can be blamed on its journalistic nature — it is too timely. Because Langford so well describes an evolving entity (the constitution) at a particular point in time, the points of view he describes will change, the actors will change, even the law will change. For example, he constantly refers to the federal government’s position on issues; those positions will likely change considerably if the federal government changes. But this shortcoming affects the book only as current events reading; it will always be useful as a concise, readable introduction to Canada’s new constitution.


Langford, J. Stuart, “The Law of Your Land: A Practical Guide to the New Canadian Constitutions,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,