Information about Canada
Knight's Canadian Info Collection

PRESENTS

Confederation and
Canada's Government

Canada and Flag

CONFEDERATION OF CANADA

Canada became The Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867. Each year July 1st is a national holiday called Canada Day. Before 1982 Canada Day had been known as Dominion Day, First of July or Confederation Day. Canada Day celebrates the events that occurred on July 1, 1867, when the British North America Act created the Canadian federal government. The BNA Act proclaimed "one Dominion under the name of Canada," hence the original title of the holiday, "Dominion Day." Dominion Day was officially renamed "Canada Day" by an Act of Parliament on October 27, 1982. This change reflected the policy of successive governments to downplay Canada's colonial origins. Canada's national celebration is always observed on July 1, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case it is observed the following day.

The Capital of Canada is Ottawa, Ontario. It was named as the national capital on December 31, 1857 by Queen Victoria.

PROCLAMATIONS, ACTS, STATUTES and ORDERS IN COUNCIL
which were proclaimed during Canada's history

Date
Document and description
1763The Royal Proclamation (October 7, 1763)
1774The Quebec Act, 1774
1791The Constitutional Act, 1791
1840The Union Act, 1840
1867The British North America Act, 1867
United the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada. The Province of
Canada became Ontario and Quebec.
1870The Manitoba Act, 1870
Manitoba was admitted as a province July 15, 1870.
1871Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting British Columbia
into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council May 16, 1871)
British Columbia was admitted as a province July 20, 1871.
1873Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Prince Edward
Island into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council June 26, 1873)
Prince Edward Island was admitted as a province July 1, 1873.
1880Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting all British
Territories and Possessions in North America and
Islands adjacent thereto into the Union
(U.K. Order in Council July 31,1880)
All remaining British territories and islands in North
America, except Newfoundland, were added to Canada
September 1, 1880.
1898The Yukon Territory Act, 1898.
Established the Yukon Territory.
1905The Alberta Act and The Saskatchewan Act
Alberta and Saskatchewan were admitted as provinces
September 1, 1905.
1931The Statute of Westminster, 1931
The United Kingdom could no longer pass laws affecting
the dominions, including Canada, without their request
and consent. They were given powers to sign treaties and
in the court system the Supreme Court of Canada
became the final Court of Appeal for Canada replacing the
(British) Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
1949The British North America Act, 1949
Newfoundland was admitted as a province March 31, 1949.
1982Canada Act, 1982 including the Constitution Act, 1982
Part I is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Proclamation bringing into force the Constitution Act, 1982.
1993The Nunavut Act of June 1993 and the Nunavut Land Claims
Agreement of July 9, 1993, made it possible for Nunavut to
become Canada's 3rd Territory on April 1st, 1999.

THE COAT OF ARMS OF CANADA

Canadian Coat of Arms Canada's Coat of Arms was originally assigned to Canada after Confederation (July 1, 1867) by the Royal Warrent of Queen Victoria dated May 26, 1868.

The "new" Arms of Canada were proclaimed by King George V, dated November 21, 1921 on the basis of a Canadian Order in Council dated April 30, 1921.

Canada's coat of arms contains many symbols of the four founding nations. The shield bears the royal lions of England, the lion of Scotland, the harp of Ireland, the fleurs-de-lis of France and three maple leaves for Canada. The shield is supported by the lion of England on the left and the unicorn of Scotland on the right. The lion holds the Union Flag, the unicorn holds the flag of Royal France. The scroll with the motto "a mari usque ad mare" (From Sea to Sea) rests on a wreath of the floral emblems of the founding nations.

THE PROVINCES/TERRITORIES ENTER CONFEDERATION

British Columbia - July 20,1871
BC
1871
Alberta - September 1, 1905
AB
1905
Saskatchewan - September 1, 1905
SK
1905
Manitoba - July 15, 1870
MB
1870
Ontario - July 1, 1867
ON
1867
Quebec - July 1, 1867
QC
1867
New Brunswick - July 1, 1867
NB
1867
Nova Scotia - July 1, 1867
NS
1867
Prince Edward Island - July 1, 1873
PI
1873
Newfoundland - March 31, 1949
NF
1949
  Yukon Territory - June 13, 1898
YK
1898
Northwest Territories - July 15, 1870
NT
1870
Nunavut Territory - April 1, 1999
NU
1999

THE CAPITAL CITIES OF THE PROVINCES AND TERRITORIES

The following are the capital cities of the 10 Provinces (from West to East) and the 3 Territories:-
British Columbia (Victoria); Alberta (Edmonton); Saskatchewan (Regina); Manitoba (Winnipeg); Ontario (Toronto); Québec (Québec City); New Brunswick (Fredericton); Nova Scotia (Halifax); Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown); Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's); Yukon Territory (Whitehorse); Northwest Territory (Yellowknife); and Nunavut Territory (Iqaluit).

THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federal state with a democratic parliament. As in many constitutional monarchies, there is a clear separation in roles between the Head of State and the Head of Government. The Governor General is appointed by The Queen (on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister). Canada's Head of Government is the Prime Minister who is an elected representative of the people of Canada and head of his political party.

Parliament BuildingsCanada's Parliament Buildings are located in Ottawa, Ontario, the nation's capital. Ottawa proper was founded in 1827 by Col. John By, an engineer in charge of construction of the Rideau Canal. At first called Bytown, it was re-named after the Ottawa, an Algonquian-speaking people, in 1855. In 1858, Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria to be the capital of the United Provinces of Canada, and in 1867 it became capital of the Dominion of Canada.

The Canadian Parliament is comprised elected members of the House of Commons (Lower House) and the Senate (The Upper House) - whose members are politically appointed Members of Parliament are elected by vote of the people every 4 years.
The Head of Government is the Prime Minister.
Canada's Highest Court is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canada has 2 official languages: English and French.
The Northwest Territory has 8 official spoken languages: Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, English, French, Gwich'in, Inuktitut, (including Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun) and Slavey (including North and South Slavey).

THE QUEEN AND GOVERNOR GENERAL

As a member of the Commonwealth, and a former member of the British realm, Canada's ties to the monarchy are steeped in history. For more than 500 years (since 1497) Canada has been a monarchy. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor General of Canada, thereby establishing the bills as Acts of Parliament (the Laws of Canada). The Governor General is actually picked by the serving Prime Minister and recommended to the Queen, who appoints that person to the office.

The Governor General also summons; prorogues (ends a session) and dissolves Parliament (ends Parliament until a new one is sworn in after an election); delivers the Speech from the Throne at the opening of sessions (outlining the Government's plans for legislation) and signs State documents (documents requiring and authorizing particular appointments and actions, such as Orders-in-Council, commissions, and pardons).
The Governor General acts on the Queen's behalf in all matters of interest to the monarch.


Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II - 2002 THE QUEEN'S GOLDEN JUBILEE YEAR

The Year 2002 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Accession to the Throne of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.   It was February 6, 1952, that Princess Elizabeth learned of her father, King George VI's, death and ascended to the throne.  Her Coronation followed on June 2, 1953.
The young Queen easily adapted to her new role, having already spent much of her life in service to the Commonwealth.  Just sixteen years old when she conducted her first solo public engagement, by the time her father's health began to deteriorate in 1951, the young princess was already a seasoned public figure, representing her father at numerous state occasions and managing a sizeable docket of official duties.  One can be certain that King George VI found solace in the daughter that was about to take his place.
Fifty years into her reign, Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world's most popular monarchs.  She is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and is head of the Commonwealth, which includes Canada and more than 40 other countries.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (The Royal Anthem)

THE QUEEN'S ROYAL VISITS TO CANADA

Some personal Royal links to Canada are long standing. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother first visited Canada in 1939 - her last visit being in 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of her first visit here.

As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen with The Duke of Edinburgh first visited Canada in 1951.
Since then, they have visited all the provinces in Canada including the following: in 1959, The Queen opened the new St Lawrence Seaway and visited many outlying districts never before seen by a reigning monarch. The Queen and The Duke attended the 100th anniversary of the Confederation in 1967, and in 1976 they attended, with The Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, the Olympic Games in Montreal (in which Princess Anne competed as a member of the British equestrian team).

In 1977 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited Canada as part of the Silver Jubilee tour, and The Queen was in Ottawa for the ceremony marking the Patriation of the Canadian Constitution in April 1982. The Queen and The Duke also toured Canada in 1997, when they visited Newfoundland (to mark its 500-year-old link with Britain), then Ontario and Ottawa (to mark Canada Day on 1 July). They also visited various parts of Canada in October 2002 during The Queen's Golden Jubilee year. In 2005 the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Saskatchewan and Alberta for the Centennial celebrations of those two Provinces.
In all, the Queen has visited Canada 22 times.

ORDER OF PRECEDENCE

Order of Precedence

THE CANADIAN CONSTUTUION

The Canadian Constitution dates back to Confederation. In 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, the founding document of Canada as an independent nation. Drafted by Canadians who became known as the Fathers of Confederation, the document stated that "The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in The Queen".

In 1982, the Canadian Parliament passed the Constitution Act 1982, which provided, for the first time in our country's history, a way of amending or changing the Constitution without having to obtain the approval of the British Parliament each time a change was required. This patriation or "bringing home" of the Canadian Constitution did not alter The Queen's status in Canada as Head of State. Her personal representative in Canada remains the Governor General, whose powers and authorities are detailed in the "Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada" (dated 1 October 1947).

MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES

Liberal Party Leader Conservative Party Leader New Democratic Party Leader Block Quebecois Leader Green Party Leader

Party and Party Leaders are (left to right):-

Liberal Party of Canada - The Right Hon Justin J.P. Trudeau -
Prime Minister of Canada

Conservative Party of Canada - The Hon. Andrew Scheer -
Leader of the Official Opposition)

New Democratic Party - The Hon. Thomas J. Mulcair

Bloc Quebecois Party - Ms. Martine Ouellet

Green Party - Ms. Elizabeth May

The breakdown of the Number of Seats for each Party in the House of Commons is as follows:-

Liberal Party Conservative Party New Democratic Party Bloc Quebecois Green Party

TOTAL COMMONS SEATS = 338
Liberal Party = 183 Conservative Party = 99 New Democratic Party = 44
Bloc Quebecois = 10 Green Party = 1 Independant = 1
Vacant = 0

as at May 24, 2017

The 338 House of Commons seats is divided amongst the Provinces and Territories, based on a population, as follows:
British Columbia 42
Alberta 34
Saskatchewan 14
Manitoba 14
Ontario 121
Quebec 78
New Brunswick 10
Nova Scotia 11
Prince Edward Island 4
Newfoundland & Labrador 7
Yukon Territory 1
Northwest Territories 1
Nunavut Territory 1

THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

The Official Website of the Canadian Government contains several sections and multi-pages about The Government and Members of Parliament and the Senate.
CLICK HERE

The Government

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a federal state and parliamentary democracy with two official languages and two systems of law: civil law and common law. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched in the Canadian Constitution.

Canada's Constitution was initially a British statute, the British North America Act, 1867, and until 1982, its amendment required action by the British Parliament. Since 1982 when the Constitution was "patriated" -- that is, when Canadians obtained the right to amend the Constitution in Canada -- this founding statute has been known as the Constitution Act, 1867.

The Monarchy

From the days of French colonization and British rule to today's self-government, Canadians have lived under a monarchy. Although Canada has been a self-governing "Dominion" in the British Empire since 1867, full independence for Canada, as for all British colonies, was only established in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster.

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, is also Canada's Queen, and sovereign of a number of realms. In her capacity as Queen of Canada, she delegates her powers to a Canadian Governor General. Canada is thus a constitutional monarchy: the Queen rules but does not govern.

The Federal Government

Canada's 33 "Fathers of Confederation" adopted a federal form of government in 1867. A federal state is one that brings together a number of different political communities under a common government for common purposes and separate local or regional governments for the particular needs of each region.

In Canada, the responsibilities of the central, or federal, Parliament include national defence, interprovincial and international trade and commerce, immigration, the banking and monetary system, criminal law and fisheries. The courts have also awarded to the federal Parliament such powers as aeronautics, shipping, railways, telecommunications and atomic energy.

The regional or provincial legislatures are responsible for education, property and civil rights, the administration of justice, the hospital system, natural resources within their borders, social security, health and municipal institutions.

The Parliamentary System

The roots of Canada's parliamentary system lie in Britain. In keeping with traditions handed down by the British Parliament, the Canadian Parliament is composed of the Queen (who is represented in Canada by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons.

The Senate, also called the Upper House, is patterned after the British House of Lords. Its 105 members are appointed, not elected, and are divided essentially among Canada's four main regions of Ontario, Quebec, the West and the Atlantic Provinces. The Senate has the same powers as the House of Commons, with a few exceptions.

What is a "Senator"? A Senator is a member of the Upper House of the Canadian Parliament, the Senate. There are ordinarily 105 Senators appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Senators are chosen to represent the various provinces and territories of Canada and are appointed until the age of 75.

The House of Commons is the major law-making body. It has 301 members, one from each of the 301 constituencies or electoral districts. The Canadian Constitution requires the election of a new House of Commons at least every five years. As in the United Kingdom and the United States, in Canada voters simply elect a single member for their electoral constituency, in one round of balloting.

What is a "Member of Parliament"? Although any person appointed to the Senate or elected to the House of Commons is considered a Member of Parliament, the term is more commonly used to refer to a person elected to a seat in the House of Commons as a representative of one of the 301 electoral districts into which Canada is divided. In debate, Members are identified not by their own names but by the names of their electoral districts.

In each constituency, the candidate who gets the largest number of votes is elected, even if his or her vote is less than half the total. Candidates usually represent a recognized political party - although some run as independents - and the party that wins the largest number of seats ordinarily forms the government. Its leader is asked by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.

The real executive authority is in the hands of the Cabinet, under the direction of the Prime Minister. In general, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, and is vested with extensive powers. In general, it is the Prime Minister who chooses the ministers from among the members of Parliament in the governing party.

Strictly speaking, the Prime Minister and Cabinet are the advisers of the monarch. De facto power, however, lies with the Cabinet, and the head of state (the Governor General) acts on its advice. Cabinet develops government policy and is responsible to the House of Commons. The Government of Canada, headed by some 25 ministers, performs its duties through the intermediary of the federal departments, special boards, commissions and state-owned corporations.

Political Development

Canada, which had been a self-governing colony in 1867, rose to the status of an independent state after its participation in World War I and achieved de jure independence with the Statue of Westminster in 1931. The Constitution of 1867 had one serious flaw: it contained no general formula for constitutional amendment. It was necessary to address the British Parliament in London each time the founding statute needed change.

An amending formula should have been included in the Constitution at the time of the coming into force of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, but it was not until November 1981, after numerous attempts, that the federal government and the provinces (except Quebec) agreed to the amending formula that is now part of the Constitution Act, 1982. Since that time, the Constitution can be amended only in Canada.

A Flexible System

The Canadian constitutional system has been changed over the years, sometimes quite extensively, but always peacefully and gradually. In the 1980s and 1990s, two major efforts were made at reform. The 1987 Meech Lake Accord sought to bring Quebec back into Canada's constitutional family by meeting five constitutional conditions set out by Quebec. The conditions centred on a provincial participation in the appointment of Supreme Court judges and senators, the Constitution's amending formula, increased powers for the provinces in immigration matters, some reduction in federal spending powers, and a constitutional declaration that Quebec is a "distinct society."

However, the Meech Lake Accord was not implemented because it did not obtain the legislative consent of all provinces and the federal government, as required under the 1982 amending formula.

In 1991-92, another round of constitutional reform was initiated, leading to the Charlottetown Agreement. The Agreement, which was supported by the Prime Minister, the 10 provincial premiers, the two territorial leaders and four national Aboriginal leaders, provided for a reformed Senate and changes to the division of legislative powers between the federal and provincial governments. It also supported the right of Canada's Aboriginal people to inherent self-government, and recognized Quebec as a distinct society. The Agreement, however, was rejected by Canadians in a national referendum held on October 26, 1992.

Today, the parliamentary system is still the form of government that is the choice of Canadians. The federal structure, with the sharing of powers it entails, is the one formula that can take into account Canada's geographical realities, the diversity of its cultural communities and its dual legal and linguistic heritage.

Canada's first minority government was in 1921 under Liberal MacKenzie King. Then in the 1950s and 1960s, Canadians were governed by four minority governmnts in a row. John Diefenbaker failed to get majorities in 1957 and 1962.
Lester Pearson won the election in 1963, but with a minority, and did the same in 1965. Pearson was the only Prime Minister so far never to head a majority government.

What Is A Minority Government?

A minority government is a situation in which no one party has more than 50 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. With 308 ridings electing MPs this time, a party would need 155 to form what's called a majority government.
If no party wins 155 seats, the leader of the ruling party (the Liberals in this case) gets first crack at convincing the Governor General that he can form a government, even if the other parties win more ridings. That's because the prime minister remains the prime minister until his government is defeated by another party that wins a majority of seats in a general election, he resigns, or his government loses a vote of confidence on a major motion in the House of Commons (for example, on the vote to accept a budget). With all the other parties combined holding more seats and thus votes than the ruling party, this is the usual way a minority government comes to an end.
The day of defeat can be staved off for months, or even years, if the governing party strikes a pact with one or more small parties to support it on parliamentary votes. The usual payoff is a promise that the ruling party will introduce legislation that accomplishes some of the planks in the minor party's platform. At some point, however, the relationship falls apart over some deep disagreement on policy or an itch to get back to the polls to ask voters for a more stable majority government.
Governor General Adrienne Clarkson would come into the picture if our next government falls on a confidence vote. She would go to the party with the best chance of forming a different minority government with the same group of 308 MPs sitting in the House of Commons. In the 2004 election the Liberals won 135 seats and the Conservatives 99, with the other parties racking up 74 between them. If Liberal Leader Paul Martin's attempt at a minority government (with an alliance with the New Democratic Party) fell, Clarkson would ask Conservative Leader Stephen Harper if he was prepared to form a government. If he could then form an alliance with another party, he could then rule for as long as that friendship stayed intact (or until the natural end of the government's five-year mandate). But that coalition too would likely fall apart before long and the Conservatives would lose a vote of confidence.
If no party is prepared to form a government, the Governor General will dissolve Parliament and call a another general election, in which all the parties get a chance to win more than half the seats and form a majority government.
That is not a guaranteed result after a minority government falls in Canada, it should be noted. Liberal Lester B. Pearson led two back-to-back minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965. He was the first prime minister in Canadian history to never win a majority government.

In 2006 and again in 2008 - a Conservative Minority Government was elected.

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