POL214 - Lecture 1 12/6/10 6:58 PM
What is a constitution?
! The governing principles of a country
! Might outline the division of powers among the different divisions of
! Might spell out the divisions of powers among different orders of the
! The supreme law of the land within a given territory (in a
geographically limited area)
Read: The constitution act of 1867 – BNA Act (changed to the constitution
act of 1982)
! “The constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada…”
! The Charter or Rights and Freedoms: People became parties to the
constitution; people have constitutionalized rights. If anyone feels like
their constitutional rights are violated, they can take it to court
! A constitution establishes and defines political community
! Entails the fundamental rights of individuals i.e. the fundamental rights
of Canadian citizens
! Different people use the word constitution if different ways, however
every constitutions deals with the issues of who governs
! Constitutions don’t guarantee that rights will be protected, but without
a constitution the notion of rights would not exist.
1988, the American Prime Minister said after a legal case said
that “The American Constitution is not worth the paper it is
! People shape a constitution. It is not simply a document, but rather a
point of departure. Constitutions are internal, not external. Prof.
Wiseman uses the metaphor of a constitution being like a tree;
something constant and continuous. Leaves fall, change and new ones
Three pillars of the constitution:
! Responsible Government 1848
! Federalism : goes back to 1867
! Charter of Rights 1982
POL214 - Lecture 2 12/6/10 6:58 PM
Turn-it-in Course ID: 2502532
The parliament wishes to expand the House of Commons from 308 places
to 338. Quebec’s influence in Canada is shrinking, not expanding.
Parliamentary supremacy: the parliament was the constitution 1848
Federal parliament and provincial parliament – Federalism 1867 (Canada
had just as many French speaking people as English speaking)
1867 – Canada moved from Parliamentary supremacy to Bifurcated
Parliamentary Supremacy. Canada was not just a united government, it
was a divided government.
Canada had an evolution, they built a constitution where they spelt out
what provincial government was responsible for, and what the federal
government was responsible for – Constitutional Supremacy (this includes
the Charter of Rights)
Charter of Rights – limits parliamentary supremacy but doesn’t
completely eclipse it. Parliament is able to change its own rules.
Provincial government – property and civil rights (laid out by the charter).
Big “C” vs. small “c” constitutions
Constitution (big “C”):
" The big “C” Constitution refers to the formal texts of the
constitution: the 2 important texts are the Constitution Act of 1867
and the Constitution Act of 1982.
" There are some orders that weren’t even passed by the Canadian
parliament, but are still included in the Constitution (as long as
these orders are passed by the federal cabinet, they are included)
" Is the supreme court of Canada a part of the Constitution of
Canada? Created the Supreme Court in 1875, some scholars believe
it is part of our Constitution. Others say that even though the
Constitution refers to the supreme court, it is not constitutionalized
Constitution (small “c”):
" Everything that isn’t formally written in the Constitution but
including some acts of parliament, some orders of council, judicial
decisions about the constitution
" Constitutional conventions- e.g. if an opposition party gets a
majority of the votes, the candidate should run for prime minister.
Even though this isn’t written anywhere, it is understood.
" Includes constitutional conventions and customs (e.g. pairing).
Constitutional conventions aren’t enforced by the courts.
Reference questions – Opinion from the court, not a formal problem
rather just an informal query.
Can the provincial government of Quebec just leave under the law of the
constitution? (reference question)
Court: The constitution is not just the formal text but rather the global
rules. The court touched about these 4 main principles:
! Respect for Minorities: Perhaps the English-speaking population of
Quebec, or aboriginals.
Competing Constitutional Visions: These rose between the 60’s and the
80’s, four major rounds to try to change the constitution
o Pierre Trudaux- Arose when the federal government under
Trudaux wanted to change the constitution so that Britain
had nothing to do with it. Trudaux’s charter of rights
generates an image of Canada in which all Canadians are
equal and are governed by majority rule and Canadian law
o Mobility rights – move anywhere in the country, or work
• Federal- Provincial Ensemble
o Argument that even though all Canadians share one
parliament, Canada is a consensus (ensemble) of what the
federal government and provincial government want
might outline the division of powers among the different divisions of the government. might spell out the divisions of powers among different orders of the government. the supreme law of the land within a given territory (in a geographically limited area) Read: the constitution act of 1867 bna act (changed to the constitution act of 1982) the constitution of canada is the supreme law of canada . the charter or rights and freedoms: people became parties to the constitution; people have constitutionalized rights. If anyone feels like their constitutional rights are violated, they can take it to court. a constitution establishes and defines political community. entails the fundamental rights of individuals i. e. the fundamental rights of canadian citizens. different people use the word constitution if different ways, however every constitutions deals with the issues of who governs.