The ROYAL PROCLAMATION OF 1763, the QUEBEC ACT (1774), the CONSTITUTIONAL ACT (1791) and the ACT OF UNION (1840) which preceded the BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT (1867) are all constitutional Acts concerning Canada. The STATUTE OF WESTMINSTER (1931) recognized the independence of Canada; the Canada Act of 1982 and the Constitution Act of 1982 patriated the Constitution and gave Canada a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a general amending formula.
Since 17 April 1982, the BNA Act has been styled the Constitution Act of 1867, while the Constitution Acts of 1867 to 1975 and the Constitution Act of 1982 have been collectively titled the Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982. The Constitution of Canada also comprises other legislative documents and decrees, including the British Magna Carta (1215), Bill of Rights (1689), Petition of Right (1629) and Act of Settlement (1701). In its judgement of 28 September 1981, the Supreme Court of Canada noted that the Constitution consists of legislative rules, rules of the common law and constitutional conventions. The first 2 rules make up CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; the conventions, while part of the Constitution and recognized and commented upon by the courts, are not imposed by the courts and are not a source of constitutional law and when they are flouted the remedy is political, not legal.
The Supreme Court in that reference declared that nothing in constitutional law precluded Parliament from presenting an Address to the British Parliament requesting amendment to the Constitution of Canada, but that a constitutional convention nonetheless required that Parliament enjoy substantial support from the provinces before doing so. The Supreme Court provided several examples of such conventions. One of the most important is that of RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT, eg, the Cabinet may only stay in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of the House of Commons. According to the Supreme Court, "a convention occupies a position somewhere in between usage or custom on the one hand and a constitutional law on the other," and its main purpose "is to ensure that the legal framework of the Constitution will be operated in accordance with the prevailing constitutional values or principles of the period."
Author GÉRALD-A. BEAUDOIN
Links to Other Sites
Centre for Constitutional Studies
The official site of the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta. The Centre was founded to encourage and facilitate the interdisciplinary study of constitutional matters both nationally and internationally.
Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982
This website offers an official consolidation of the text of the Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly the British North America Act, 1867), together with amendments made to it since its enactment, and the text of the Constitution Act, 1982, as amended since its enactment. The Constitution Act, 1982 contains the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other new provisions, including the procedure for amending the Constitution of Canada. From the Department of Justice.
Constitutional Patriation: The Lougheed-Lévesque Correspondence
See selected correspondence between Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and Québec Premier René Lévesque in 1982, sent immediately after the patriation of the constitution. Focuses on events prior to the signing of the final agreement and concerns about Quebec’s sense of betrayal at that time. Historical context is provided in the document. From the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen's University.
Fundamental Freedoms: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
A superb multimedia educational resource about Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Explore the interactive Virtual Charter section for an up-close view of each section of the Charter, the Canadian Constitution, and the British North America Act. Also features interviews with Canadians talking about the Charter, comprehensive teacher guides that focus on related historical and legal issues, information about the television documentary “Fundamental Freedoms,” and much more.
The Canadian State: Documents & Dialogue
The Canadian State Web exhibition enables students to explore the various aspects of Canadian governance and to use a set of unique "real life" activities to create their own political party. The activities cover a wide variety of Social Science disciplines: History, Civics, Law, Language Arts, World Issues, Communications, and Canada in a North American Perspective. From Library and Archives Canada.