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Constitutional History
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Aboriginals
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Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Photograph: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with Prime Minister The Rt. Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau signing the Constitution, 1982 - NAC/ANC PA-141503
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1982 - 2002:
The Modern Constitution

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
Language Matters
Nunavut
The Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords
Other Interesting or Important Documents

The Constitution Act, 1982
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.

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Canada Act, 1982
(With this act, Britain surrenders the power to make laws affecting Canada, including the Constitution. It contains the Constitution Act, 1982, in Schedule B.)

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Constitution Act, 1982
(Courtesy of Department of Justice, Canada)

READ the summary
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Proclamation, bringing into force the Constitution Act, 1982
(This proclamation makes the Constitution Act, 1982, law.)

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Photograph: Mr. Brian Mulroney and Mrs. Mila Mulroney speaking to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau at the gala event for the swearing-in of the Governor-General Jeanne Sauvé held at the National Art Centre, 1984 - NAC/ANC C-152416
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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.

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Constitution Amendment, 1987 (Newfoundland Act)
(Amends the Newfoundland Act, previously the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada, allowing Pentecostal schools.)

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Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1997 (Newfoundland Act)
(Gives the government of Newfoundland authority over all schools in the province.)

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Constitution Act, 1998 (Newfoundland Act)
(Makes guarantees for courses in religious education that are not specific to a denomination and allows religious observances where requested by parents.)

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Language Matters
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.

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Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1993 (New Brunswick Act)

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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.

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Constitution Amendment, 1997 (Québec)

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Nunavut
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.

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Constitution Act, 1993 (Nunavut Act)
(Courtesy Department of Justice, Canada)

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Canada, 1999
Canada, 1999

To learn more about Nunavut's entry to Confederation:


The Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords
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.

To learn more about the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords:


Other Important or Interesting Documents

  • Representation Act, 1985
    (Revises the rules for determining the number of seats in parliament for each province.)
    (Courtesy Department of Justice, Canada)

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