About Canada's Constitution
Did You Know...
- that Canada has one of the oldest written constitutions in the world but that it has been changed the least since it became the law that formed Canada as a country 145 years ago, in 1867? To learn more, click here and to see the Constitution, click here.
- that Canada’s Constitution was developed and written from 1864 to 1867 by 36 men, known as the Fathers of Confederation, all of whom were politicians, and 33 of whom were of British origin, and 3 were of French origin, and that the British government changed their draft in significant ways? To learn more, click here.
- that these 36 men were politicians elected in elections in which only men who owned property, or paid significant taxes or rent, were allowed to vote (women and minorities were not allowed to vote in these elections, except in Nova Scotia where although minorities were allowed to vote, many did not)? To learn more, click here and click here and click here.
- that treaties signed between the British monarchy and the governments of aboriginal peoples in the 18th and 19th century have been largely ignored by Canadian governments ever since, leaving many unresolved issues concerning control of land and resources, and the governments, health, education and welfare of these aboriginal peoples? To learn more, click here and click here.
- that in 1982 Canada's Constitution was changed from a law that the British Parliament passed in 1867 into a Canadian law approved by the federal Canadian government and all provincial governments except Québec's government, but that Québec's government could approve the Constitution at any time simply by passing a resolution? To learn more, click here.
- that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to Canada's Constitution in 1982 (before that, Canada had a law called the Bill of Rights, which is still a federal law), and that the Charter is considered to be the most influential constitutional rights document in the world? Which raises the question -- Why is the rest of Canada's Constitution, especially the sections concerning the power of the monarchy, Prime Minister and provincial premiers, so far from world-leading?
- that when new Canadians take Canada's oath of citizenship, the oath makes them pledge allegiance to the Queen Elizabeth monarchy and her family and heirs instead of pledging allegiance to Canada, and that people born in Canada are not required to take the oath, and that Australia changed its oath so that new Australians pledge allegiance to Australia? To learn more, click here and click here.
- that Canada's Constitution has not been changed in any significant ways since 1982, for more than 30 years, and that 12.5 million out of the 34 million total number of Canadians were not even born in 1982, including 9 million who are 15-34 years old and so were not old enough to have voted in the 1992 Charlottetown Accord constitutional referendum nor the 1995 Quebec constitutional referendum, and that 5 million new Canadian immigrants have arrived since 1992 who have never been asked what they think about Canada’s Constitution?
- that 55% of Canadians agree Canada’s Constitution should be changed to have a democratically chosen, Canadian-born Head of State instead of continuing with a member of the monarchy? To learn more, click here.
- that two-thirds of Canadians want changes to the powers and positions of the Governor General and provincial lieutenant governors? To learn more, click here.
- that the Commonwealth of Nations (to which Canada belongs) has decided to change the rules to allow a woman to become the Queen of England even if she has brothers, and this means Canada must change its Constitution (which offers an opportunity for Canada to make the full change of replacing the foreign-born monarchy with a Canadian head of state (which 55% of Canadians want)? To learn more, click here.
- that many important rules of Canada’s Constitution are not written down, including rules about key actions of the Prime Minister of Canada and Premier of each province, and that what these rules are (known as “conventions”) is debated by experts, and that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that courts cannot enforce these rules, and as a result citizens can’t really do anything to prevent violations of these rules? To learn more, click here.
- that 84% of Canadians want these important rules that apply to the powers of the Prime Minister and premiers clearly written down and made enforceable, and that Canada's Governor General from 2010 to 2017, David Johnston, also thinks that the conventions should be written down? To learn more, click here and click here.
- that the Governor General is supposed to be the check on abuses of power by the Prime Minister in key situations, but that the Prime Minister chooses the Governor General (and that the provincial lieutenant governors are supposed to check the abuse of powers by provincial premiers, but the premiers have an influential say in choosing them)? To learn more, click here and click here and click here and click here.
- that despite the powers they have as set out in Canada’s Constitution, the unwritten rules (“conventions”) of the Constitution mean that Governor General of Canada usually has to do what the Prime Minister wants, and the lieutenant governors have to do what the Premier of each province wants, and that therefore the Prime Minister and Premiers can do many things that many people consider to be undemocratic without any review or restriction or penalty, such as: decide which are key votes (known as “votes of confidence”) on any proposed law; call elections and shut down Parliament whenever they want; combine changes to many laws into omnibus bills, and; appoint supporters of their political party to key law enforcement positions? To learn more, click here.
- that Britain, Australia and New Zealand have all written down key constitutional rules to restrict the powers of the Prime Minister and Cabinet? To learn more, click here and click here.
- that unlike 36 of the 54 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations (which Canada belongs to), and unlike many other countries around the world, Canada does not have a constitution with written rules that restrict the powers of the Prime Minister and/or President? To learn more, click here.
- that unlike 33 of the 54 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations (which Canada belongs to), and unlike many other countries around the world, Canada does not have a constitution with a head of state selected by the country (instead, Canada is a constitutional monarchy and our Head of State is the British monarchy (represented by the Governor General of Canada for the federal government, and by the Lieutenant Governor for each provincial government))? To learn more, click here and click here
- that in spring 2004 a Canadian federal House of Commons committee made up of politicians from four political parties recommended a review of the "mandate, constitutional role, responsibilities" and "the process for selecting and appointing" the Governor General of Canada? To learn more, click here. And that in November 2012, Prime Minister Harper set up a new advisory committee for the appointments of the Governor General and provincial lieutenant governors, but that this committee operated in secret and had no power to ensure the Prime Minister makes non-partisan, merit-based appointments, and that Prime Minister Trudeau decided not to use a similar committee when he appointed the new Governor General in 2017? To learn more, click here and click here.
- that there are no rules in Canada's Constitution about how the Governor General and provincial lieutenant governors are selected, and so Canadian politicians could start using a democratic selection process today, a process that does not include asking for the approval of the British monarchy? To learn more, click here and click here and click here.
- that 71% of Canadians want restrictions on the powers of the Prime Minister of Canada, and Premier of each province, and other federal and provincial political party leaders across the country, to do other things many people think are undemocratic, such as: the power to choose election candidates for their parties; the power to choose which politician in their party sits on which committees; the power to essentially force politicians in their party to vote the way they want them to vote, and; the power to kick politicians out of their party for any reason and at any time they want? To learn more, click here.
- that there are no political parties in the Northwest Territories, and the territory of Nunavut, and that the elected territorial politicians make decisions by consensus, with the Premier and the Cabinet elected by the members of the legislature, in direct contrast to political systems and decision-making processes of the federal Canadian government and 10 provincial governments and the Yukon Territory government? To learn more, click here and click here.