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Lecture 4a constitution II.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 2013 II Lecture 4a the Canadian Constitution - Constitutions outline the bedrock principles of a state - They establish the basic institutions of government - The relationship between levels of government - The relationship between citizens and government - Technically speaking, the Canadian constitution is not a single document - Rather, it is made up of a number of different components, some written and some unwritten Sources: 1. The Constitution Act, 1867 (Formerly British North America Act, 1867) - While it lays out many of the foundations of the Canadian state it is silent on others - It is brief on executive power and the judiciary (nothing explicit on PM) - It offers very little explicit protection of individual rights (unlike US Bill of Rights) - It does not contain any express provisions by which it can be amended 2. Amendments to Constitution Act, 1867 (most by British Parliament, some by Canadian Parliament) 3. British Statutes and Orders in Council 4. Organic Canadian Statutes 5. Constitution Act, 1982 - It is in the Constitution Act, 1982 that we find the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 6. Judicial Decisions - These are usually included as part of the constitution because they “clarify or alter the meaning of the Constitution” - Written generally - Don’t have a specific meaning for specific situations 7. Constitutional Conventions - This is the non-written part of the Constitution - Conventions are certain long established practices that are considered to be binding upon present and future governments - They are not, however, “enforceable by the court” – even while the courts may recognize their existence - Given that they define the basic nature of the state and the distribution of political power, Constitutions are subject to constant political pressure 1 - There are 3 primary political tensions that have driven constitutional change in Canada 1. The role of the Provinces in amending the Constitution - Until 1982 the Constitution could only be amended via a Canadian request to the British Parliament - The question prior to 1982 was on what basis was the Prime Minister entitled to make that request - The Supreme Court ruled that “there is nothing in law preventing a unilateral change” - However, in the same breath it acknowledged that a Convention existed that
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