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The set of arrangements by which a nation governs itself. In Canada the core of the constitution is the BNA Act and its amendments (now called the Constitution Act 1867) and the Constitution Act 1982. Most of what we take to be the constitution, however, is not contained in these documents: things like responsible government, political parties, cabinet, the bureaucracy are absent. Some of these matters are covered by laws like the Elections Act, the House of Commons Act, the Legislative Assembly Acts and the Public Service Acts . In Canada, constitutional convention, embodying political traditions and practices, is unusually important and Canada's system of government cannot be understood simply from the written laws. For example, it is constitutional convention, but not law, that ministers must be members of the House of Commons or the Senate, or that the Governor General must appoint the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons as Prime Minister. It is appropriate to also include court judgments interpreting constitutional Acts and formal agreements between federal and provincial governments as parts of Canada's constitutional arrangements.

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
The online version of this dictionary is a product of
Athabasca University and

*This social science dictionary has 1000
entries covering the disciplines of sociology, criminology, political
science and women's study with a commitment to Canadian examples and
events and names