Institutions of Canada


The Canadian Government
Political Parties
Election 2015
The SNC-Lavalin Crisis
Election 2019


The institutions of Canada will look familiar to both students of the United States and of the United Kingdom. Like the UK, Canada is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as its head of state; the Queen is represented in Canada by the Governor General. Legislative power belongs to a Parliament divided into a House of Commons (elected and based on popular representation) and a Senate (appointed and based on regional representation). Like the US, Canada is a federation born of two opposite trends: the desire to create a strong central government and the need to protect very diverse regional and ethnic identities.


For more information on the political institutions of Canada, browse through How Canadians Govern Themselves by Senator Eugene Forsey, which is available in easy-to-read format on the web site of the Canadian Parliament: http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/idb/forsey/index-e.asp


Listen to the Speech from the Throne read by Governor General David Johnston to open the 42nd Canadian Parliament on 4 December 2015. By tradition, the Speech from the Throne opens the Parliamentary session or follows an election. It states the general policy that the government intends to pursue. It is written by the Prime Minister and read by the Governor General. If you listen to the video or audio centers on the webpage, you will note that the Governor General regularly changes from English to French and back. This is because Canada is officially a bilingual country: https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/speech-throne.html


You will find a wide range of political and institutional topics discussed online through the ressources of the National Library and Archives:



This brief by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service sums up the role and powers of institutional actors like the Governor General, Senators… and answers questions on how Parliament works in Canada: Brian O'Neal, Michel Bédard, James Robertson, Government and Canada's 40th Parliament: Questions and Answers, PRB 08-12E, 9 September 2008. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/bdp-lop/bp/2011-37-eng.pdf


An academic article that compares the Canadian and American federalisms and their evolution from the moment of their creation: Laurence Cros, « La Constitution américaine et l’Acte d’Amérique du Nord britannique : naissance et évolution de deux fédéralismes nord-américains », Études Canadiennes, vol. 59, décembre 2005, p. 7-38. Click here.