12/15/2014 12:22 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

Stephen Harper's Unappointed Senate Seats Unconstitutional, Vancouver Lawyer Says

A Vancouver lawyer is taking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to court for failing to fill 16 empty Senate seats, claiming the delay in appointing senators is a violation of the Canadian Constitution.

Aniz Alani has filed an application in Federal Court calling for the appointment of 16 senators, arguing the Constitution requires the prime minister to fill empty seats in a reasonable amount of time.

The lawsuit follows comments Harper made at an event earlier this month in Markham, Ont.

"I don't think I'm getting a lot of calls from Canadians to name more senators right about now," Harper said.

That irked Alani, a corporate lawyer who says he has no political affiliation, just an interest in constitutional law.

"I looked at the Constitution myself, and I saw it says 'when a vacancy occurs,' and I thought why isn't there any controversy about this?" Alani told CBC News.

"And it seemed to be that this was a political issue that was kind of ignoring the legal realities of the Constitution," he said.

"As a lawyer, but also as a Canadian, I think the rule of law is especially important," he said.

Harper has named 59 senators since he became prime minister in 2006, but the Senate's speaker has said the number of vacancies is affecting the scandal-plagued chamber's ability to function.

Harper claims it's still working well enough to pass his legislation.

"From the government's standpoint, we're able to continue to pass our legislation through the Senate," he said. "So from our standpoint, the Senate is continuing to fulfil its function," Harper told the crowd at the Markham event.

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