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Chapter 2

Week 1 Readings - Chapter 2.docx

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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2300
Tamara Small

POLS 2300: Canadian Government and Politics Week 1 Readings: Chapter 2 – The Constitution and Constitutional Change - Meech Lake Accord was a response to Quebec’s demands for constitutional change and included a controversial clause recognizing Quebec as a “distinct society” - Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland had not approved the accord a few weeks before the 3 year deadline therefore it did not go through - Constitution was made a strictly Canadian document in 1982 The Canadian Constitution - A Constitution sets the fundamental rules by which a country is governed, a framework within which various governing institutions operate and the legitimate processes by which governments can act and laws can be passed - There is no single document that contains all aspects of the Canadian constitution, it consists of 4 different elements: o 1) Formal constitutional documents o 2) Ordinary acts of the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures that are of a constitutional nature o 3) Constitutional conventions o 4) Judicial decisions that interpret the constitution Formal Constitutional Documents - Constitution Act 1867 o Originally termed the BNA Act, 1867 o Established Canada as a federal union of just four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick o Provisions were the establishment of the Canadian Parliament consisting of the HofC and Senate o The formation of Canada in 1867 did not create an independent country o Stayed true to the British model except for the adoption of the Federal system o Distributed power to make laws between Parliament and Provincial legislatures o Protected rights and privileges of Roman Catholic schools in Ontario o English or French can be used in the parliament o By making “property and civil rights” and exclusively provincial matter, Quebec was able to maintain its system of civil law - Constitution Act 1982 o Canada had become an independent country by the Statute of Westminster 1931 o Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the recognition of rights of aboriginal peoples, commitment to the principle of making equalization payments to the poorer provinces o Give provinces greater legislative authority over non renewable natural resources, forestry resources and electrical energy - Other Formal Documents o Statute of Westminster – formalized the independence of Canada, added BC, PEI, Newfoundland and other territories into Canada Acts of Constitutional Nature - Acts can be considered part of the constitution, even though they are not included in the list of documents that form the Constitution of Canada - Important laws like Canada Election Act, Supreme Court of Canada, Clarity Act - These acts are not part of the supreme law therefore don’t have priority over other laws Constitutional Conventions - Widely accepted informal constitutional rules - Important because the formal constitutional documents don’t fully describe how government is to operate - There is an important convention that the governor general follows the advice of the PM and cabinet Judicial Decisions That Interpret the Constitution - Judicial interpretations of the Constitution have become an essential part of the constitution - “Unwritten principles” such as democracy, federalism, minority protection, and judicial independence - Constitution Act 1867 didn’t explicitly authorize the courts to overturn laws passed by Parliament or provincial legislatures that they deemed to be in violation of the Constitution - Because of Canada’s colonial status the UK’s Colonial Laws Validity Act meant that Canadian laws could be struck down as invalid if they conflicted with British laws - Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a panel of judges primarily from the British House of Lords used the power of judicial review to strike down a number of laws that it viewed as violating the division of powers between Parliament and provincial legislatures Constitutional Change Formal Amendments to the Constitution - Requirement that 1 of the 4 formulas has to be used to amend the formal Constitution o 1) A majority in the HofC and in the Senate, plus a majority in each provincial legislature (ex: to change office of Queen, GG, LG), unanimity o 2) A majority in the HofC and in the Senate, plus a majority in at least 2/3 of the provincial legislatures that represent at least ½ of the population of all the provinces (ex: to create new provinces), compromise o 3) A majority in the HofC and in the Senate as well as a majority in the legislature of the province or provinces that are affected by the change (ex: change in the boundaries of a province) o 4) Parliament or provincial legislatures operating alone (ex: change the operating procedures of their own government) - Constitutional Amendments Act 1996 requires that proposed constitutional changes cannot be presented to Parliament by the Canadian Cabinet unless it has the support of the following: o Quebec, Ontario, BC, Majority of prairie provinces, at least 2/4 Atlantic provinces Constitutional Controversies - “Quiet Revolution” – involved the modernization of Quebec society and politics, and resulted in the Quebec governments appeal for more constitutional powers to lead social an
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