The passing of the Constitution Act, 1982, did not mean
an end to the constitutional evolution of Canada. There have been
numerous changes to the Act affecting different provinces. These
changes, along with slow procedural changes and court judgments,
will continue well into the future.
Topics in this section:
The Constitution Act, 1982
Newfoundland and Denominational Schools
The Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords
Other Interesting or Important Documents
The Constitution Act,
This marked the first time a charter of rights had been included
in any Canadian constitutional document. Because of this, courts
were given a much greater say in government and can now disallow
legislation on the basis of violations against the Charter of
Rights. It also:
Made specific mention of Aboriginal rights.
Included the "notwithstanding clause," which allows
a province to override the Charter of Rights.
Set the rules for amending the Constitution.
(With this act, Britain surrenders the power to make laws
affecting Canada, including the Constitution. It contains
the Constitution Act, 1982, in Schedule B.)
Newfoundland and Denominational Schools
After scandals involving denominational
schools in Newfoundland, public opinion in that province began
to turn toward changing the Constitution, allowing the provincial
government to take control of education. Previously, most schools
were administered by religious denominations.
The amending formula of the Constitution Act, 1982 allowed
for changes to the Constitution based on a vote in a provincial
legislature if the change would affect only the province itself.
A referendum was held on the issue in 1995. The vote was in favour
of a change in the constitution, and in 1997 the government of Newfoundland
gained authority over all schools in the province.
The New Brunswick Act amended section 16 of the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms to include the equality of the French
and English linguistic communities in New Brunswick. It also made
the government of New Brunswick responsible to "preserve and
promote the status, rights and privileges" of those communities.
This act excluded Québec from section 93 of the Constitution
Act, 1867. Vhis removed the requirement to provide denominational
schools. The chief motive was to allow Québec to reorganize
school boards along linguistic lines as the lines were becoming
muddled in the denominational system: English and French Catholic
schools existed alongside English and French Protestant schools.
In 1982, a movement began to separate the eastern Arctic area of
the Northwest Territories into a new territory. This was based on
the largely Inuit makeup of the population and the history of the
region. These issues made deciding a boundary difficult, as the
Dene-Métis in the Arctic also had land claims in the area.
After several contentious rounds of negotiation, a boundary was
finally agreed upon in 1991. In 1993, both the Nunavut Land
Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed.
The Nunavut Act created the territory and provided it with representation
in the House of Commons.
The Meech Lake and Charlottetown
In 1987, a conference was called to try to gain Québec's
approval of the Constitution. Québec, which protested the
method of repatriating the Constitution Act, 1982, and
wanted greater powers had systematically used the notwithstanding
clause of the Charter of Rights when passing legislation
for several years. The conference succeeded in reaching an agreement
and amendments were proposed. However, these amendments were not
ratified by all the provinces in the mandatory three-year limit.
After much public consultation, another conference was called in
Charlottetown in 1992. This also led to an agreement. The amendments
were rejected in a public national referendum later that year, however.
Other Important or Interesting Documents
(Revises the rules for determining the number of seats in parliament
for each province.)
(Courtesy Department of Justice, Canada)