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Canada's founding constitutional document is the British North America Act of 1867, written by the Fathers of Confederation and passed by the British Parliament.

In 1982, it was patriated, i.e. brought under the authority of the Canadian Parliament. It was then amended and renamed the Constitution Act, 1867

Read excerpts from the Constitution Act here.











Canada as a constitutional monarchy



The description of "Executive Power" in the Constitution Act, 1867 begins by declaring Canada's relationship to the British monarchy: "The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen."


However, it is Parliament and the provincial legislatures -- rather than the governor general and the lieutenant-governors as representatives of the Crown -- that give active expression to the political will of Canadians.










Canada as a federation


Canada in its modern form was created in 1867 thanks to a federation of the previously separate British colonies of North America.

The original members were Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the United Province of Canada (which became Ontario and Quebec)

Manitoba was created in 1870 after the Metis Rebellion

British Columbia joined in 1871

PEI joined in 1873

Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905

Newfoundland was the last province to join in 1949.


The authors of Canada's Constitution spent several years debating the direction and concentration of political authority in Canada. Having settled on a federal system, the architects of Confederation distributed legislative power between a centralized national government and parallel provincial governments. Articles 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 enumerate the specific powers of Parliament and of the provincial legislatures.


More on how Condeferation was built: