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Lectures 1-6

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Victoria Wohl

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 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 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 written on 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 develop 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 Password: Canada 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): 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: Federalism Constitutionalism 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 Pan-Canadian 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 (Pan Canadian). o Mobility rights move anywhere in the country, or work anywhere. 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 together. 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 federal jurisdiction. Dualism 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 violate it. Aboriginal 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 constitution. Constitutional Conventions: First convention : Britain would honor every request from Canada, not interfere 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 etc)
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