Canadian Constitutional Documents
Quota pars operis tanti nobis committur? - Seneca
Unlike the majority of countries whose basic law derives from one
document, Canada's basic law derives not only from a set of documents
known as Constitution Acts, but also a set of unwritten laws and
conventions. This comprises of all the acts passed since 1867 up
to and including 1993. As a result, all constitutional documents during that
time period have the force of law. This is analogous to laying a
foundation (Constitution Act, 1867) and then building upon it and
modifying it as the need arises (the successive acts).
There are other
documents that relate to
Canada's development as a country, but they do not hold the force of law
as each act was superseded by the other until the passing and
proclamation of the Constitution
Act, 1867. Also, in recent history there have been several
proposals to amend the constitution
which failed to get ratified.
Below you will find a list of some of these constitutional documents as
well as a comprehensive table culled from
Appendix II of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, and updated to
include the most recent constitutional enactments.
Also note that within these documents, at nearly the top of each of
these, you will find a date in perentheses. This is the date
when the document was given Royal Assent (i.e., proclaimed into law).
N. B. These documents are the English versions. A committee
was struck years ago to have them translated into an official French
version, but to the best of my knowledge, it just handed in its report
in 1993 and there has been nothing produced yet that is 'authorative.'
For more details on this, refer to section
55 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Also note that these documents are provided as a service to Canadians
and others interested in Canada, who regularly travel the net and who are
curious in regards to, "what the fuss is all about." This
"collection" is merely for reference only. If you have a legal question
regarding the consitutional validity of a law, consult a lawyer.
Contributions to this project are welcomed. I have some more plans for this, so stay tuned! See the Acknowledgements for a list of contributors and those
people who have helped along the way. Those who wish to mirror this archive please read this document.
If you wish, you may also initiate a search on this
- Constitution Act, 1867 (Consolidated) (Formerly known as the
British North America Act, 1867 [Consolidated])
- The base document of the Canadian Constitution
- United Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Québec), Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada.
- Created a U.K. style parliament: a House of Commons and a Senate
- Section 91 provided for federal powers, while section 92 laid
out the powers for the provinces.
- Neither a domestic amending formula nor a 'bill of rights' included.
Land Act, 1868
- All lands belonging to the Hudson's bay company and the
North-Western Territory (as it was then called) become part of the
Dominion of Canada.
- Temporary Government of Rupert's Land Act, 1869
- Allowed the government of Canada to have a transitional government
set up for Rupert's Land upon admittance, until it could change it to
suit Canada's needs.
- Manitoba Act,
- Created the Province of Manitoba and established its government.
- Constitution Act, 1871 (Formerly British North America Act,
- Gave Parliament the power to create new provinces out of
the Northwest Territories (then recently acquired from the Hudson's Bay
Company and the Queen).
- Parliament of Canada Act, 1875
- Clarified the power of the Canadian Parliament to legislate
over, "privileges, immunities, and powers of," its members.
- Admitted all remaining territories of British North America
surrounding Canada into Canada.
- Constitution Act, 1886 (Formerly British North America Act,
- Allowed parliamentary representation for citizens residing in
- Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889
- Boundary extensions to Ontario.
- Statute Law Revision Act, 1893
- An omnibus bill repealing certain 'spent' enactments,
including 10 affected sections in the Constitution Act, 1867.
- Canadian Speaker (Appointment of Deputy)
Act, 1895, Session 2 (Repealed by Constitution Act, 1982)
- A technical act which confirmed the validity of another act
regarding the Deputy Speaker of the Senate.
Act, 1907 (Formerly British North America Act, 1907)
- Amends the federal-provincial transfer payment schedule.
- Constitution Act, 1915 (Formerly British North America Act,
- Readjusts Senate seat allocation.
- British North America Act, 1916 (Repealed by Statute
Law Revision Act, 1927)
- Extended the term of the Twelfth Parliament during World War I
- Statute Law Revision Act, 1927
- An omnibus bill that repealed a number of Acts, including the
British North America Act, 1916.
- Statute of Westminster, 1931
- Removed legislative authority of Parliament in the
United Kingdom over the Dominions (Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland),
with the following caveat:
- As the Canadian delegation had been unable to settle on an
amending formula, the existing scheme (ie. a simple
British law, subject to amendment) was retained.
Act, 1940 (Formerly British North America Act, 1940)
- Gave the Federal Government under Parliament the power to
legislate laws repecting unemployment insurance.
- British North America Act, 1943 (Repealed by the
Constitution Act, 1982)
- Delayed the decennial re-adjustment of the seats in the House
of Commons until World War II was over.
- British North America Act, 1946 (Repealed by the
Constitution Act, 1982)
- Changed section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to bring
the number of members in the House of Commons to 255.
- Letters Patent Constituting the
Office of Governor General of Canada
- Describes the office of Governor General of Canada
- Defines the role of the Governor General in relation to the
monarchy and government.
- Succession to the office in case of death or incapacity.
- Defines his powers.
- Constitution Act, 1960 (Formerly British North America Act,
- Changed the length of term of office for superior court judges
(including those of the Supreme Court) to 75 years of age instead of
Act, 1964 (Formerly British North America Act, 1964)
- Gave Parliament the power to legislate laws regarding old age pensions.
Act, 1965 (Formerly British North America Act, 1965)
- Changed the length of term of office for Senators to 75 years
of age instead of for-life.
Act, 1974 (Formerly British North America Act, 1974)
- Changed the rules for calculating the number of MPs to sit in
the next Parliament.
Act, 1982 (Part of the Canada Act, 1982)
- Part of an act which 'patriated' Canada's constitution, due to
- Included a domestic amending formula (7 provinces/50% of population)
- Includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Includes the "Notwithstanding clause" allowing governments to
suspend the certain parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for
renewable 5-year periods.
- Includes a comprehensive schedule affecting many constitutional
documents, including repeals and re-enactments.
- Never signed by the separatist Quebec government of the day, or
even since then, but nevertheless is legally binding throughout Canada.
- The last act to amend the Canadian constitution to be enacted by
the United Kingdom Parliament.
- Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983
- Entrenched the recognition of rights obtained under aboriginal land
- Commitment of all governments to invite aboriginal and
territotorial government representatives to conferences on issues related to
- Constitution Act, 1985 (Representation)
- Replaced section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
- It did away with the old, complex formula that the Mulroney
government claimed would have created too many House of Commons seats,
therefore costing more money.
- Constitution Amendment, 1987 (Newfoundland Act)
- Amended Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with
Canada to include rights and privileges of more denominational schools.
- Constitution Amendment
Proclamation, 1993 (New Brunswick Act)
- Amends the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the
equality of the French and English linguistic communities in New Brunswick.
- Includes a provision for the New Brunswich legislature and
government to "preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges,"
of those communities.
Amendment Proclamation, 1993 (Prince Edward Island)
- Amends the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union to recognize
that the province can levy tolls for the use of a, "fixed crossing joining
the Island to the mainland."
Eppur, si muove... - Galileo
Last updated: March 2, 1995.
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