1. Constitutional Framework

A constitution is a system of fundamental principles that govern a nation, state or other organization. Canada’s Constitution creates a framework for how the nation will operate. Canada’s Constitution is not just one document. It consists of: 

  • The Constitution Act, 1867
  • The Constitution Act, 1982 
  • Unwritten rules and customs 

The Constitution Act, 1867 created Canada as a nation separate from the United Kingdom. It brought together the original provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Constitution Act, 1982 builds on the 1867 Act. It also includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (also known as “the Charter”). When we talk about “the Constitution”, we are usually talking about both the 1867 and 1982 Constitution Acts together. 

Among other things, the Constitution: 

  • creates the Parliament of Canada, including the Senate and the House of Commons 
  • creates provincial governments
  • distributes powers between the federal and provincial governments 
  • sets out rules for appointing judges
  • includes financial terms about revenues, debts, assets and taxes 
  • sets out rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada 
  • includes equalization formulas and rules for minimizing regional disparities 
  • sets out a process for amending the Constitution of Canada