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The Written and Unwritten Constitution
An essay using the Canada in the Making site
The Canadian Constitution is both written and unwritten, the combined
product of acts and statutes, common law judgments and accepted
political conventions. This essay will require students to examine
the written and unwritten nature of Canada's Constitution, and argue
which (if either) has a greater influence in Canada's governance.
Social Studies/History; Ages 15 and up
This is an essay requiring that students describe the written and
unwritten sources of authority of the Canadian Constitution. They
must choose one of three perspectives and support their arguments
Research for this essay should require should take one to four
hour-long sessions online, depending on whether students have access
to a printed / hard copy versions of relevant documents. Note
that the sources used in ECO can be printed from the browser and
Outcomes (WCP, APEF); Expectations
(ON); Objectives (QC)
Table of Curricular Relevance by Course
British Columbia and Yukon Territory
Computers with Internet access
Student Work Sheet
Early Canadiana Online: Canada in The Making
Essay writing resources can be found in the Writing An Essay
unit on ECO:
Other links can be found in the Student Work Sheet.
Students will need
An understanding of Web navigation symbols, tools and terminology,
particularly the tools used in ECO.
Familiarity with research and essay writing skills.
An understanding of the events leading to the 1837 and 1838
Ask students how they think people decide the rules of government.
Is it the same in all countries? Where do they think Canada gets
its Constitutional traditions? What documents do they think are
the most important?
Hand out Student Work Sheets and introduce students to the ECO
Canada In the Making Web site. Read the assignment and
discuss. Students may work in groups to facilitate research online.
The documents are summarized in the Canada in the Making
section on "Canada's Constitutional History," and the
documents are linked from there.
Students should write the essay from one of the following perspectives:
1. Unwritten conventions have played the greatest part in shaping
2. Written documents have played the greatest part in shaping Canada's
3. Neither written nor unwritten sources of authority have played
the greatest part in shaping Canada's Constitution.
Discuss the balance of the arguments. Which aspect of the Constitution
do they find most important in Canada today? Does this seem a good
balance to them? Why or why not? What would they change?
See the Suggested Rubric.
Students can comment on advantages and disadvantages to what they
perceive to be Canada's Constitutional balance. What would they
change if they could, and why?