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Flashcards in Chapter 3 vocab Deck (19):

Amending Formula

It is a procedure for changing the constitution. It is where any amendment needs the consent/approval of Parliament along with 2/3 of the provinces representing over 50% of the Canadian population. The Constitution Act of 1982 addressed the amending formula above as well as other amending provisions including: if a constitutional change affects activity in one province only, then only the province and the federal agreement need to agree.



A bill is a proposed law (legislation). When a bill is introduced in the legislature by a cabinet minister, it is known as a government or public bill. Government bills often pass if the government has a majority of seats in the House of Commons. A bill may also be introduced by an elected representative who is not a cabinet minister, in which case it is called a Private Member's Bill. Such Private Member's Bill may be proposed by citizens, lobby groups or other organizations, but is always introduced by a MP.


Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

It is a part of the Constitution Act of 1982. It describes constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of all individuals. It is the most important part of the Constitution. Any law or government action that violates this section can be deemed invalid and struck down.


Civil Liberties

These are basic individual rights protected by the law such as the freedom of speech. Before the Constitution Act of 1982, people were upset as they felt that civil liberties were not guaranteed. As a result, the Canadian Constitution had to be brought back to Canada.


Executive Branch

It is the administrative branch of government that is accountable for carrying out the government's plans and policies. It consists of the prime minister, the Cabinet, and the public or civil service (who actually do the real work). Elected representatives comprise the cabinet and are appointed by the PM; they have responsibility for specific portfolios and issues e.g., ministry of education. The cabinet plays an important role as the level of the administrative branch creates policy, administers laws, and controls governmental spending.


Federal system

It is a two-level system of governing - the central federal government and provincial level governments, each with their own areas of responsibilities and powers. Each part of government has control over its jurisdictions. The federal government could overrule a provincial law if it was considered to be in the best interest of all Canadians.


Government or Public Bill

It is legislation (law) created by a Cabinet minister. A proposed law is known as a bill when it is introduced in the legislature. These bills are rarely defeated if the government holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons.


Intra Vires

This refers to passing a law within a government's jurisdiction (authority). In Latin, it means "within the power". If a provincial government passes a law that is outside their legislative authority and within the power of the federal government only, the federal government could oppose.


Ultra Vires

This is the opposite of Intra Vires. This is where it is beyond the power of the government to pass laws (in Latin meaning "beyond the powers"). For example, the provincial government has no say in passing criminal law as criminal law is a federal issue.



It is the section of government responsible for watching over Canada's court system. It is independent of the Legislative and Executive branches. The judiciary comprises judges or justices who preside over disputes, interpret laws and make decisions regarding punishments. Judges' appointments are based on their qualities rather than political motivation or to which party they are aligned to in their personal dealings. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest level court in Canada followed by three provincial court levels - the Provincial Court of Appeal, the Superior Court (serious offences), and the Provincial Court (less serious cases). Judges of higher courts (Court of Appeal and Superior Court) are selected by federal officials and court judges for the lower courts are hired by the province.


Legislative Branch

It is the section of government that has the power to make, change, and repeal laws. It is also known as parliament at the federal level and legislature at the provincial level. The federal branch consists of two houses, the House of Commons and the Senate. The senate has wide powers. They can defeat bills even after they have been passed in the House of Commons or request revisions. Provinces do not have senates, only the Legislative assembly.


Lobby Groups

They are individuals who attempt to influence legislators to support their cause. Examples include groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Coalition for Gun Control. Lobby groups have succeeded also on changing public opinion with regard to these issues as well.



It is to bring legislative power under the authority of the country to which it applies.


Principle of Equalization

It is the section of the constitution which provides equal access to essential services for all Canadians in all provinces (Section 36 of the Constitution Act of 1982). Some provinces that are smaller would not be able to collect sufficient provincial tax revenue to make this happen. Through taxes, the wealthier provinces equalized services for all Canadians.


Private Member's Bill

It is legislation proposed by an elected representative (MP) who is not in Cabinet. This may be brought to the attention of the MP by citizens, lobby groups, or corporations. Although, the bill is always formally introduced by an MP. The procedure of passing through the legislature is the same as for a government bill. However, it is always more difficult to pass than a government bill.


Residual Powers

It is the federal responsibility to create laws in legislative areas that are not assigned to the provinces or existed at the time the Act was written. Examples include authority over airports and telecommunications. Section 91 reads "It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons to make laws for the Peace, Order, and Good Government of Canada." But is this a concern regarding how free a government can legislate, how far can it go?


Shared Cost Agreements

It is a deal between the two levels of government to share the cost for programs in areas not specified by the British North American Act (before the Constitution was patriated). For example, money for health care would be provided to the provinces by the federal government as long as the provinces agreed to spend the money according to federally established guidelines. These agreements avoided involving and arguing their respective cases in front of the British Parliament.


Statute of Westminster

It is legislation passed in 1931 in Britain that extended Canada's law-making powers and was an important constitutional change for Canada. Canada could create its own laws without Britain. In addition, these laws could not be overruled by Britain if they did not agree with British laws. Canada was no longer ruled under the laws of Great Britain. Canada could enter into trade agreements without British involvement or approval. However, Canada could still not amend it own constitution without Britain's approval.


Unitary System

It is a one-level system of governing where power is focused in one parliament led by a prime minister. Canada could not adopt this style of government as Canada was different from Great Britain in terms of geographic size. This system would not work for a country as large and diverse as Canada.