Government of Canada and Canada's Economy

Constituion of Canada and Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Canada actually has two Constitutions. The first is the Canadian Constitution 1867, when Canada officially became a country. Or more accurately, when the first four provinces (Upper Canada - now Ontario, Lower Canada - now Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) formed the country of Canada from various British colonies. The remaining provinces joined at different times until 1949 when Newfoundland was the last province to join.

The Constitution Act 1867 was formerly called the "British North American Act" or the BNA Act. This Act created Canada and set out the structure of Canadian government and courts. It also details the division of powers between the federal government and provincial governments.

The second Canadian Constitution is the Constitution Act 1984. This Act was created by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his government. The Constitution Act 1984 repatriated the BNA Act and turned it into the Constitution Act 1867. The Constitution Act 1984 also contained significant changes to the Canadian Constitution, including a procedure for amending the Constitution in the future.

Most importantly, the Constitution Act 1984 also contained the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a central document to what it means to be Canadian today.

The Charter, as it is known, details a series of responsibilities that government actors must maintain towards Canadian citizens. It also contains freedoms that citizens can be assured of.

The Constitution Act 1984 also contains several unique provisions. For instance, Section 52 gives courts the power to remove, read-in, or amend laws that conflict with the Charter. Section 24 creates a similar provision that allows Courts to refuse evidence because it conflicts with the Charter or to create any other remedy. However, Section 1 allows the courts to keep the evidence or the section of the law that conflicts with the Charter, if it is in the interest of a free and just society.

The Constitution Act includes Section 35 which creates special Aboriginal Rights. Section 11-17 creates rights on arrest and Section 33 is the "notwithstanding clause", that allows governments to keep legislation that conflicts with the Charter for up to 5 years.

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