What does the Constitution DO?  Set the rules for our political process


What is Canada’s Constitution composed of?

1. Collection of laws, written by governments

2. Court decisions, written by judges

3. Conventions, unwritten rules that appeal as a matter of customs.


What did the Fathers of Confederation seek to accomplish through the union of the four original provinces?

1. Expand trade

2. Increase military strengths

3. Create a nation that one day stretched from sea to sea



What did the British North America Act (the “BNA Act”) accomplish?

1. Created a new Dominion, the Dominion of Canada.

2. Outline the separate power of the two levels of the governments.

3. Describe the structure of the federal parliament and the prov. legislatures

4. The British monarch is the higher authority for both level of governments


Federalism: Power is divided so local (provincial) governments protect regional interests but citizens get the benefits of union.


Some powers given to the Federal government are to make laws regarding:

Trade and commerce                                       Defence                                               Criminal Law


Navigation and shipp                                      Unemployement                                              Currency



Some powers given to the Provincial governments are to make laws regarding:

Education                                            Municipal issues                                              Property and civil r


Health                                     Labor                                       Regional interets


Over time, the role of governments changed, as governments took over more areas to assist people. To ensure that all Canadians enjoyed the same level of services, the federal government:  subsidizes the higher cost of certain social services, and the provinces run the programs, meeting national standards.





The BNA Act reflected the vision of government held by the Fathers of Confederation. That vision changed as Canada grew. So did the Constitution. Each new province resulted in: a act of the parliament creatin the province and becoming the constitution of the new province, also is added to the Canadian constitution.



The 1931 Statute of Westminster proclaimed that:

The British Parliament can not longer make laws for Canada

unless It requested it


In 1949,  The Privy Council of London was replaced by the supreme court of Canada.


Further indicators of Canada’s growing nationhood include:

The Citizinship Act, the Election Act and the creation of our Canadian flag


The beliefs and values of ordinary citizens also contribute to our Constitution. Conventions (unwritten rules) reflect how we think a democratic government should work, and may even ovvrride the written rules. An example of this occurring involved :

the constitutional crises; it stablished a new convention in 1926



So although it is written that “all laws are subject to Crown approval” and “the Crown can refuse the advice of the government”, the new convention dictates that the Crown should FOLLOW the advice of the government.


The Constitution can best be described as a RULEBOOK that outlines:

1. The power and responsabilities of our goverment

2. Outline the rights and freedom of citizens


It also adds stability to the process of government.


In disputes between governments (such as over which level has power to make laws in a specific area) the Courts                                                act as referee.


Precedents made on Constitutional issues form part of the Constitution, so that the courts not only interpret and enforce the Constitution, they also Contributes to it.


What if the Constitution itself needs amending?  Prior to 1982, Canada’s Constitution could only be amended by British Parliament.



Some concerns about the sufficiency of Canada’s 1960 Bill of Rights were:

1. Passed by the federal government,but itwasn't in trench in the constitution

2. It didn't apply where areas of provincial power

3. It was not enforceable by the courts


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes and protects these rights (amongst others): Equality rights                                                          Aboriginal rights

Language rights                                                                      Against discriminati


One province, Quebec,                                 did not sign the 1981 Constitutional Accord, because: Was nothing written recognizing special status for the francophone society


Canada’s Constitution was nonetheless patriated, and recast and renamed as:

The Constitution Act


The Queen remains Canada’s Head of State. But without Quebec, many felt our Constitutional community was incomplete. 1987:

meeting trying to bring Quebec back in the constitution resulted in an agreement, known as the Meech Lake Accord; it didn't receive unanimous aproval for all 11 governments.


The film concludes asserting that Canada’s constitution remains open, flexible and adaptable. It keeps pace with societal change, yet remains stable. The film was produced before more “recent” developments in Canada’s Constitutional process unfolded.  Do some research and determine what Constitutional conference was convened in 1992. What was the result of that conference?

Charlottetown constitutional conference defeats; according to some analysts it was due to the amount of changes that were proposed; they did difficult to reach any agreement.

What events in 1995 caused the federal government to alter how the general amending formula would function? Did Quebec regain its veto over Constitutional change?__________________________________________________________


See the federal 1996 Constitutional Amendments Act (  How does it impact future amendments to the Constitution?


the previous questions is related with the 1995 Quebec Referendum. As result the Federal Government recognized regional vetoes over proposed amendments held by the provinces of ON, QC, BC and the regions (Prairies (AB, SK and MB) and Atlantic (NB, NS, NF and PEI)).


The 1996 Constitutional Amendments Act set rules to accomplish any amendment process. It guives to the provinces more power seeking for a consensus at provincial level as starting point for any amendment and taking out power from any Minister of the Crown. The Constitution Act, 1982 states (section 41) "An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province:…". Similar in section 43 where states that issues related with any provinces, but not all; there, we can read ".. may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies"


The Constitutioanl Amendment Act states:


No Minister of the Crown shall propose a motion for a resolution to authorize an amendment to the Constitution of Canada, other than an amendment in respect of which the legislative assembly of a province may exercise a veto under section 41 or 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 or may express its dissent under subsection 38(3) of that Act, unless the amendment has first been consented to by a majority of the provinces that includes

(a) Ontario;

(b) Quebec;

(c) British Columbia;

(d) two or more of the Atlantic provinces that have, according to the then latest general census, combined populations of at least fifty per cent of the population of all the Atlantic provinces; and

(e) two or more of the Prairie provinces that have, according to the then latest general census, combined populations of at least fifty per cent of the population of all the Prairie provinces.