The word "constitution" comes from the Latin word "constituo", which means "to set up" "to establish". A "constitution" is simply an agreement by which separate geographical locations, each with their own ruling group, agreed to voluntarily became associated with each other to form a larger geographical location under a single ruling group; which is called a country. Therefore, a constitution is the document which sets out the rules under which the country (which was established by that constitution) MUST operate. The words of the constitution are not optional, they are the rules that created and define the country, and if the country is not being run according to those rules, then it is being run rogue. Simply put, a deal was made before day one; each province and territory agreed that they would join together and be a single country to be operated under the rules set out in the constitution; hence if they are not following those rules they are acting illegally.
What happens if a country chooses to not follow its own constitution ? Nothing ! A constitution is the essence of the honour system. Even if the highest court in the land orders the government to follow the constitution, nothing happens if the government ignores that court order. How is it possible that the government can ignore the constitution and even ignore the highest court in the land ?
The judges do NOT go out and physically enforce their orders. The only way a court order gets enforced is if the government's police, army, sheriff's office, bailiff's office, prison system, etc. enforces that order. For example, if the highest court orders the government to require all Canadians to only drive electric cars; but the government ignores that court order, what would happen ? Nothing ! The police officers take their orders from the sergeant, who takes her orders from the lieutenant, all the way up the line to the chief of police, who takes his orders from city counsel. Therefore, if city council decides to ignore that court order, and word goes down the line to NOT arrest people who drive gas cars, no-one who drives a gas car would get arrested and the order of the highest court would be ignored.
If the highest court ordered that all Canadians must, for one day each month, do volunteer work for the military, but the military, which obeys the Prime Minister, did not call anyone to do the volunteer work, and no-one came on their own to do the volunteer work, and the police were told to not arrest anyone who does not show up for their military volunteer work, what would happen ? Nothing ! There is no way that a court can force the government to follow its orders. Hence the government is free to follow or to ignore any court order, and there is nothing anyone in the country can do about it; because it is the government and its agencies that do the enforcing.
What happens if the courts choose to not follow the country's constitution ? Nothing ! A constitution is the essence of the honour system. Even if the highest court makes a ruling contrary to the words of the constitution, there is no mechanism by which the government can force that court to change its ruling. If the constitution is ignored, NOTHING happens, its the honour system.
If the government cannot be forced to follow the constitution, and the courts cannot be forced to make rulings in accordance with the constitution, then what good is the constitution ? It is hoped that the courts and the government will follow the words of the constitution; without a constitution there would be no hope at all for the courts and the government to follow any set of rules. It boils down to people. An intelligent, impartial and objective elected representative, or government administrator or court judge, that goes by the independently supported legally valid evidence ("ISLVE"), will always do their best to follow the constitution. If the people with the power choose to make decisions contrary to the ISLVE and contrary to the constitution, because they know that they can get away with it, as their position leaves them immune to personal consequences for ignoring the ISLVE and ignoring the laws and ignoring the constitution, then the constitution is just ignored words on a piece of paper.
ISLVE means evidence that is NOT simply someone's "word" or "opinion"; because if the "word" or "opinion" of the person who says "X is true", is valid evidence, then the "word" or "opinion" of the person who says "X is not true" is also valid evidence, and that results in no evidence at all, as the "X is true" and the "X is not true" cancel each other out. Someone's word or opinion, supported by the phrase "that makes sense" or "that's their usual practice" or some other phrase, that in the end requires you to simply trust the person's word or opinion, does not make the original "word" or "opinion" into ISLVE, because it still boils down to having to trust that person; in which case to be fair, the person who claims the opposite must also be trusted, and that cancels out to nothing. Having a multiple of people with the same interests (ie. co-workers, friends, etc.) each give their "word" or "opinion" is not independent support; it is simply a group of connected people all showing up asking that their "word" or "opinion" be believed; in which case to be fair, the opposite "word" or "opinion" of other people would also have to be equally believed, and that cancels out to nothing.
Consequently, if the person in power, applies the law, constitution, rules, by saying: "I believe Mr. X, and therefore I will apply the rules, law, constitution, to what Mr. X claims are the facts.", then you will have the constitution, rules, law, being IGNORED, because the starting point of applying the constitution, law, rules, are the real facts; not someone's word or opinion. If the person in power applies the law, constitution, rules, to the facts as demonstrated by the ISLVE, then the constitution, law, rules will be followed. Similarly, if the person in power ignores the words of the rules, law, constitution, and claims that the constitution, law, rules say things they do not say, you will also have the rules, law, constitution being IGNORED.
Canada was first created by The British North America Act, 1867 ("BNA" Act), which later became known as the Constitution Act, 1867. I'll call it the BNA act, as that is the name by which most Canadians know it. The BNA act was a law passed by the parliament of England, which owned the geographical locations that were turned into the country of Canada. The chain of events was:
1.) Sometime after Columbus discovered North America, England and France, each using military force, took over large portions of land in North America.
2.) Immigrants from the conquering nations (some coming as volunteers, others forced to come) go to the conquered lands in North America.
3.) More than a century later the English and French immigrant populations in the conquered lands are relatively huge, they have their own local governments, cities, towns, and separate provinces; all under the control of England. The names of those separate provinces were: Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. (Back then there was a province called Canada, better known as Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Upper Canada is now called Ontario and Lower Canada is now called Quebec.)
4.)Those provinces desired to become united into a country, which would go by the name of Canada, and therefore asked England, which owned them, if it would pass a law uniting them into a country called Canada.
5.)England said "Yes." and passed a law (the BNA act) binding those provinces together into the country of Canada.
The BNA act was Canada's Constitution.
Because the BNA act was simply a law passed by England's parliament, should England have chosen to do so, it could have passed another law dismantling Canada, or removing parts of Canada, or changing Canada's form of government, or changing the authorities and powers of the provinces or of the federal government. During the decades that elapsed after the BNA act of 1867, England's parliament did pass other acts amending and changing the BNA act, which other acts (passed in the British parliament) changed the provinces and governmental powers in Canada. In practice, all of those changes to Canada, its governments and their powers, made by the British parliament, were done at the request of the Canadian Federal Government; however, the fact remains that all of those changes to Canada were simply acts of the British parliament, made with no more or less power and authority, and having no more or less legal affect, than acts of the British parliament that determined how long a copyright lasted, or created a new public holiday, or created a tax on mustache wax, or some other mundane governmental act.
Does the foregoing mean that Canada was not its own country ? No. It was definitely wanky that whenever Canada wanted its constitution (the BNA act) changed, Canada had to ask the British parliament to make the change, and until the British parliament made that change, officially, legally, the change did not happen. However, as Britian never used its legal power to make changes to Canada that were not requested by Canada, the reality of it was that Canada was in practice its own country.
What would have happened if England had made a change to the BNA act which Canada did not request, and Canada ignored that change ?
1.) England could have ignored Canada’s ignoring of its law changing the BNA act; or
2.) England could have sent troops into Canada to force the Canadian government to follow the law it passed, which changed the BNA act.
If option 2 happened, then either Canada would have resisted and a battle would have taken place between the British troops trying to force the Canadian government to obey the change to the BNA act and the Canadian troops which Canada’s government sent to stop the actions of those British troops, or the Canadian government would have given in and obeyed the change to the BNA act. Such a situation took place in the United States, and is briefly discussed in my paper on The Constitution of the United States.
The ultimate meaning of all of the above is that it is the people in charge (primarily the elected government, secondarily the judiciary, and thirdly, government officials) who have the real power to obey or ignore ISLVE, rules, laws or even the constitution. People are defined by what they do, and a country is defined by what the people who are in power do. If Canada has intelligent, impartial and objective people in the positions of power, and they go by the Constitution and by the ISLVE, Canada will be a fair, just and good place to live.
To list everything set out in Canada's original constitution, the BNA act, would be redundant, as a copy of the BNA act can easily be obtained online. The purpose of this paper is to explain exactly what Canada's Constitution is, and its use and value; most of which has been explained above; what remains is to state the most significant sections of Canada's original constitution:
Sections 1 to 7 of the BNA act
said that within 6 months of Britain's parliament passing the BNA act the Queen could make a proclamation declaring that the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick would become one dominion called Canada, in which there were four separate provinces, specifically, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (Remember, prior to the BNA act, what are now called Ontario and Quebec, were one unit (known as a province) which was called Canada. One of the things the BNA act did was to divide the pre-BNA act province called Canada into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec after the BNA act joined it and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick together into one country which was then called Canada. Therefore, before the BNA act "Canada" was the name of a single province that contained the physical area that now makes up both Ontario and Quebec; after the BNA act "Canada" was the name of a country which was made up of four provinces as aforesaid.)
created the parliament and the Canadian senate.
Sections 21 to 36
set out the maximum and minimum number senators, how they were appointed, the lack of qualifications needed to be appointed a senator, how long their appointment would last, and other rules governing senators and the operation of the senate. Essentially making the senate a huge patronage trough. (Being a senator is a great job to get, for the person who gets it, however, its value to Canada has yet to be demonstrated.)
Sections 37 to 53
set out the number of members for the house of commons (ie. the number of members of parliament "MPs") and how that number can be increased or decreased; how the number of MPs allocated for each province is to be determined, and a minimum number of MPs each province is entitled to have. Those sections also set out that each province should elect its MPs, and the means by which the House of Commons should conduct its business.
Sections 54 to 57
set out what must happen after the House of Commons passes a bill (ie. enacts legislation) for that legislation to become law through the assent of the British monarch or said monarch's representative.
Sections 58 to 68
dealt with the executive powers of each of the provinces; by which the BNA act meant the powers of the Lieutenant Governor of the province (which in reality is a figure-head position that is not supposed to exercise any executive power) and that each province should have executives in the positions of Attorney General, Secretary, Registrar of the Province, Treasurer, Commissioner of Crown Lands, Commissioner of Agriculture and Public Works. Said sections also set out the powers of the aforesaid executives and that said powers could be changed by the provincial legislatures.
Sections 69 to 90
set out how the provincial governments should be set up, how many elected and appointed members they should have, the qualifications necessary to seek to become an elected or appointed member of a provincial government, some of the qualifications to run for election or to be appointed (as the case may be), and some of the qualifications to be able to vote in a provincial election.
set out the aspects of a country (eg. postal service, military, shipping, copyrights, Indians, etc.) over which the parliament of Canada had jurisdiction.
Sections 92 and 93
set out the aspects of a province (eg. land, provincial prisons, saloons, borrowing on the province’s credit, etc.) over which the provincial government had jurisdiction.
Sections 96 to 101
gave the parliament of Canada jurisdiction to appoint and pay the judges of the district courts, county courts, superior courts, and appeal court in each of the provinces, and to set up a court of appeal that had jurisdiction over all of Canada, and appoint and pay the judges of that cross-Canada court of appeal (called the Supreme Court of Canada).
Sections 102 to 144
deal with administrative matters between the federal government and the provincial governments and with the collection of taxes and other revenues by the federal government and the provincial governments and with payments between the federal government and the provincial governments, and with the division of responsibility for provincial and federal debts; and provides a HUGE salary to the Governor General for rubber stamping documents.
Sections 146 and 147
are the final two sections and they deal with the potential for the admission of other provinces.