PSCI 2003 Lecture Notes - Jacques Parizeau, Distinct Society, Edmund Burke
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September 25, 2012
The Crown Continued
Historical and traditional symbol; part
of our heritage
Queen and Governor General as
unifying symbolic head of state. Non-
Governor General as “constitutional
Outdated, elitist, British-only heritage
Queen lives far away, rarely visits, and
has questionable heirs
Uneven Quality of GG's
Reserve powers are vague, even
Is Change Possible?
Courts and legal system based on embedded “invisible Crown” so everything would
require a complete overhaul
Would require provincial unanimity and popular support
Australia attempted to do the same in 1999 and the referendum failed with 55% against
because there was no clear idea of what would replace the idea of the crown
Who would be the head of state? Would they be appointed or elected?
Would threaten provincial and federal equality because the Governor General and
Lieutenant Governor answer to the “crown” currently, and demoting the position of the
Lieutenant Governor to answer to the Governor General would not be in the best interests
of provincial powers
Would affect relations with Aboriginal Nations, because the Royal Proclamation that gave
Aboriginals rights to their land involved a relationship to the crown and not the federal
The Constitutional Odyssey
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How can a constitution be amended?
Unwritten conventions can evolve naturally by consensus and incremental change
Written ones need an amending formula
USA: Congress, President and 3/4 of States approval are needed to change constitution
British North America Act was an ordinary act of the British Parliament in London
(technically doesn't need an amending formula because another act of legislation by
British Parliament could easily overturn it, but it did require Canada asking British
Parliament to pass legislation in order to change it)
Patriation & Amendment
Gradual British-Canadian equality came about
◦ 1926 Balfour Declaration
◦ 1931 Statute of Westminster
◦ Canada and its constitution were no longer under direct British Control
But there was no Canadian amending formula
◦ Do all provinces have to agree to changes?
◦ A majority?
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