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Canada's Constitutional Evolution

An essay using the Canada in the Making site

Student Guide

The history of the written Canadian Constitution is a process that could be described as being evolutionary. Sometimes, dramatic events have spurred changes in legislation, which have in turn shaped future events. Ultimately, this led to the Constitution that Canadians enjoy today. This major essay will give you the opportunity to analyze major constitutional document and the events surrounding them. In doing so you will examine primary sources (historical documents) and draw conclusions from evidence.

You will examine several or all of the constitutional documents from the list below and examine the effect each had on a specific theme- or issue in Canadian constitutional history.

Step 1: Chose a theme.

You are invited to choose a theme from the list below, or use one approved by your teacher:

  • Aboriginal rights

  • Individual rights and freedoms

  • The status of Québec and French Canadians

  • French Canadian nationalism

  • Provincial-federal division of powers

  • Independence from Britain

Step 2: Select documents.

Select four to six documents of the major constitutional documents available through the Canada in the Making site that had the most impact on the issues/groups touched by your theme.

1. The Articles of Capitulation, Montreal, 1760
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution5_e.html
2. The Royal Proclamation, 1763:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution6_e.html
3. The Québec Act, 1774:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution7_e.html
4. The Constitutional Act, 1791:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution8_e.html
5. The Union Act, 1840:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution11_e.html
6. The British North America Act, 1867:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution13_e.html
7. The Statute of Westminister, 1931:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution15_e.html
8. The Constitution Act, 1982:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution16_e.html
9. The Meech Lake Accord of 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord of 1992:
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution/constitution16_e.html

Step 3: Conduct research.

For each of the documents, you will need to research and include information on all of the following, as applicable:

  • Briefly describe events surrounding the document, and the primary issue it was meant to address.
    For example, was the document intended to establish the rule of law over a captured territory or was it meant to unify the British North American provinces into one nation?

  • How does the document affect the issues/groups touched by your theme?
    Would groups affected have thought it was in their interests or against them? Would any groups be offended? Was the effect lasting? Does it still have an impact today?

  • Based on the historical trends you find in your research, what do you think might be the next step in Canadian constitutional history?

Essay Requirements

The paper should be _____________ words long. It should contain:

  • A title page with the title, your name, the course name, your teacher's name and the date submitted.

  • A clear introduction with a thesis statement.

  • Proper citation (footnotes/endnotes or APA/MLA style, as determined by your teacher).

  • A bibliography.

Make an effort to use primary sources to support your arguments. These can be found on the Canada in the Making Web site.

Note on Sources

Primary sources
Primary sources represent the most authentic resources that historians can draw upon. The documents that you will be using below may be digitized, but are still considered primary sources. Try to use the sources available on the "Canada's Constitutional History" portion of the Canada in the Making Web site to strengthen your arguments.

For tips on how to use primary sources, go to the "Using Primary Sources in Your Work" page.
URL: http://www.canadian.org/citm/guide/essay_e.html

Secondary sources
Secondary sources are works that interpret or analyze an historical event or phenomenon. Generally the author is at least one step removed from the event. Although not as authentic as primary sources, secondary sources are still valuable.

Possible Sources of Information Online

Note: It is important to choose sources that are produced by reputable institutions or individuals. Such information is more likely to give you a balanced, neutral view and be prepared or reviewed by experts.

Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History
URL: http://www.canadiana.org/citm/themes/constitution1_e.html

The Canadian Encyclopedia
URL: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com

National Archives of Canada: Canada's Constitutional Evolution
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/051103_f.html (French)
URL: http://www.archives.ca/05/051103_e.html (English)

Solon Law Archives: Canadian Constitutional Documents
URL: http://www.solon.org/Constitutions/Canada/

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