Government of Canada – September 12th
Topic 2: The Constitution
Purposes: (the constitution doesn’t really do the last two things)
Rule book for the conduct of political life
Defines key relationships between executive, legislature and judicial
Between levels of government (provinces and federal government)
Between citizens and their governments
Represents basic values of political system
Nature of Constitution, purposes, components, question on governor general, should
she have given Mr. Harper the prorogation *conference topics
Since 1982, section 50 states that the constitution of Canada is the supreme law of
Canada and any law inconsistent with the provisions is the existence of the
consistency with no force or effect. Anything in conflict with this is null and void –
who decides whether something is in violation? The courts.
As a result of the charter is people claiming the constitution is theirs.
Four basic elements (entrenched constitutional law) both 1867 and 1982 are
entrenched, hardest the change. Some provisions if the 1982 ex. Office of the
queen, gg, number of provinces, composition of supreme court – an
amendment requires unanimity (10 provinces and federal government)
Some are slightly easier, 7 provinces only required representing 50% of the
population. Ex. Powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators.
See Friday’s note for the set of laws.
Entrenched constitutional law: Subject to interpretation, Charter of Rights, Charter
Act of 1867
Non- entrenched law: Clarity Act – Quebec, 50% +1 fair majority? Must have a clear
question and majority vote. Resolution passed 5 years ago, introduced by Harper,
recognizing the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada. Official Languages
Act, part of the Constitution but can be abolished/changed by gov’t. 1960 bill of
rights, 1996 veto act. 1875 Supreme Court was created as highest court in Canada,
Judicial decisions/case law: Supreme Court wasn’t so until 1949; the final court of
appeal was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (House of Lords, Britain).
Those decisions on the Constitution arguably changed significantly the relationship
between the two levels of government. Starting 1880s to 1930s shifted the balance
of power to that the federal government didn’t have such a hierarchy over the
provincial power. After 1949, which provinces objected to abolition of Privy Council.
A lot of the Charter decisions post 1982, language rights, abortion, gay rights, are
now part of the constitution (arguable). Succession reference.