A Timeline of Canada's Constitutional Evolution
An activity for use with the Canada in the Making site
The history of the written Canadian Constitution has been 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 activity will give you the opportunity to analyze
primary sources (original historical texts). You will make a presentation
of your findings and contribute to a time line of documents and
The first part of this activity is to create a timeline of important
documents. Though there have been many constitutional amendments
over the years, some documents stand out. You will be using the
following documents available through the Canada in the Making
site or other sites:
1. The Articles of Capitulation, Montreal, 1760
2. The Royal Proclamation, 1763:
3. The Québec Act, 1774:
4. The Constitutional Act, 1791:
5. The Union Act, 1840:
6. The British North America Act, 1867:
7. The Statute of Westminister, 1931:
8. The Constitution Act, 1982:
9. The Meech Lake Accord of 1987 and the Charlottetown
Accord of 1992:
For each of these documents, you will need to research and present
information all of the following, if applicable:
The major issue or events addressed by the document.
What events led to this document? Briefly describe them. For
example, did the framers intend to establish the rule of law
over a captured territory, or did they seek to unify the British
North American provinces into one nation?
Where does it fit in the movement toward the democracy we
The general evolution of Canadian democracy has gone as follows:
Conquest, military rule
Government by governor and select few
Elected assemblies created
Development of the "Family Compact" and "Château
Responsible government won
Confederation; division of power into federal and provincial
Gradual movement to autonomy from Britain
Patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the creation
Canadian Charter of Rights
In addition, there have been two forces acting in the Canadian
For documents written in 1867 and after, comment on whether
the document and events leading to it favored provincial power,
federal power, or neither.
How did this document affect the status of Lower Canada/Canada
East/Québec and the rights of French Canadians in Canada?
Was there anything that might offend certain parts of the
country in this document?
Note what they are, and why they would be offensive.
What do you think was the effect of each document for
Discuss all answers with your group. Put your answers on a sheet
of paper and create a timeline that looks something like this:
[image source: timeline.gif
alt tag: Example of Timeline]
Your work may be presented in point form or as paragraphs. The
use of illustrations is encouraged.
Note on 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
For tips on how to use primary sources, go to the "Using Primary
Sources in Your Work" page.
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
The Written and Unwritten Constitution
Canada in the Making: The Written and Unwritten Constitution
Canada in the Making: Representative Government
Canada in the Making: Responsible Government
Canada in the Making: Canada's Constitutional History
The Canadian Encyclopedia
National Archives of Canada: Canada's Constitutional Evolution
Solon Law Archives: Canadian Constitutional Documents