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 dont 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
www.notesolution.com 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. Quebecs 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 doesnt
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 werent 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):
www.notesolution.com Everything that isnt 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 isnt written anywhere, it is understood.
Includes constitutional conventions and customs (e.g. pairing).
Constitutional conventions arent 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 60s and the
80s, 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. Trudauxs 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
www.notesolution.com o Equality among provinces and between federal and
provincial governments. The provincial government reflects
public views in areas under provincial jurisdiction and
federal government reflect public views in areas under
o Quebecs view : Canada is a contract of equality between
the English and the French. 1867 A pact between two
societies with two different cultures.
o Quebec National Assembly the cultural guardian for this
distinct society in North America
o Quebec has not accepted the constitution of 1987 as
legitimate even though they live under it, and do not
o Response to the other 3 visions. In 1763, the British
monarch recognized the aboriginals.
o Canada is the product of a tri-lateral society.
o Aboriginal people are very divided; they lack an
independent constitutional authority.
How is a constitution changed? Constitutional Amendments
In 1940, unemployment insurance was changed from provincial
government jurisdiction to federal government jurisdiction
Canadians couldnt decide as to the protocol for making amendments.
Until 1982, Canada approached Britain to make amendments to the
First convention : Britain would honor every request from Canada,
Second Convention: 1875, A joint resolution passed by the House of
Commons, passed by the senate to make amendments
Third Convention: Britain wouldnt respond to any one of the
component parts of Canada. Britain didnt want to get involved in
internal Canadian affairs (e.g. affairs between Quebec, aboriginals