Canadian Constitution - An Overview [UPSC Notes]

As the Indian Constitution, the Canadian Constitution is the supreme law of the land of Canada. This article will provide you with some important facts about the Constitution of Canada which can help IAS Exam aspirants to draw a comparison between it and India’s Constitution.

Read about the related topics from the links below:

Facts about Canada’s Constitution

  1. Canada Constitution consists of the Canada Act of 1982.
  2. Royal Proclamation of 1763 by the King, George-III made the first semblance to Canada’s Constitution.
  3. The British North America Act of 1867 established the Dominion of Canada as a federation of provinces.
  4. The indigenous Canadians are mentioned in the part-II of the Constitution Act of 1982.

Constitution Act of 1867

  1. It was formerly called the British North America Act of 1867.
  2. It is referred to as the primary document of Canadian Confederation.
  3. A political process that led to full Canadian sovereignty is called patriation and that culminated into the Constitution Act of 1867.

Constitution Act of 1982

Endorsed by all provincial governments except that of Quebec, this was the formal Act of Parliament that brought effect to Canada’s full legislative independence from the United Kingdom.

Constitution of Canada – Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom is Part 1 of the Constitution Act of 1982. It provides to its citizens, civil rights and liberties. These civil rights include:

  1. Freedom of expression
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom of mobility

Read about Fundamental Rights in India and compare if they are different from Canada’s civil rights.

Can Canada’s Constitution be amended?

Yes, it can be amended.

Salient Features of Canadian Constitution

  1. Constitutional Monarchy
    • As per the Constitution Act of 1867, the Canadian Monarchy is vested with the authority in Canada.
    • The formal head of the state is the British queen.
    • At the central level, there is an office of Governor-General of Canada.
    • At the provincial level, there is an office of Lieutenant Governors.
    • Note: As per the unwritten constitutional convention, Prime Minister and his/her cabinet exercise the executive authority.
  2. Parliamentary Government
    • There are a monarchy and two federal chambers.
    • The two federal chambers are called House of Commons and Senate.
    • House of Commons is the lower house and the Senate if the upper house.
    • At the provincial level, there are legislative chambers.
    • There are 308 members in the lower house.
    • Elections Process
      • The election process of Canada used the first-past-the-post system.
      • Constituencies are commonly called as ridings.
      • The seats are in proportion to the population of each territory.
    • Term of Member of Parliament
      • The term is for four years.
    • There are 105 members in the Senate.
    • Governor-General appoints the members in the senate on the prime minister’s advise.
  3. Federalism
    • The national government is called the federal government.
    • Regional governments are called provincial governments.
    • Residuary powers lie with the centre.
  4. Judiciary
    • The highest court in Canada, just like in India, is the Supreme Court.
    • There are nine members in Canada’s Supreme Court.

Conclusion:

Canada’s Constitution is not a single document as in the United States. It is made up of acts of the British and Canadian Parliaments, as well as legislation, judicial decisions and agreements between the federal and provincial governments.

It also includes unwritten elements such as British constitutional conventions, established custom, tradition and precedent. Responsible government, for example, in which the Cabinet is collectively responsible to the elected House of Commons and must resign if it loses a vote of confidence, is a fundamental, but unwritten, element of Canadian parliamentary democracy at the federal and provincial levels.

The Constitution’s basic written foundations are the Constitution Act, 1867, which created a federation of four provinces Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick under the British Crown, and the Constitution Act, 1982, which transferred formal control over the Constitution from Britain to Canada and entrenched a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and procedures for a constitutional amendment.

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