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Studies on the Canadian Constitution and Canadian Federalism


Last revised:
19 February 2001

The Constitution Act, 1867

Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

Name given to Canada's main constitutional document. The Constitution Act, 1867 is a British statute passed in 1867 for two purposes: to divide the United Province of Canada into two provinces - Quebec and Ontario - and to unite four of the British North American colonies into a federal system. The change in constitution was effected following a series of conferences, in Charlottetown, Quebec and London through which the several colonies made their desires and aspirations known. As such, it was the first time in their history that Canadians were given a predominant voice in constitution making. The Act originally contained 147 articles, many of which have either fallen into disuse or have been abrogated since. It is divided into eleven parts: I. Preliminary (art. 1-2); II. Union (art. 3-8); III. Executive power (art. 9-16); IV. Legislative power (art. 17-57); Provincial Constitution (art. 58-90); VI. Distribution of Legislative powers (art. 90-96); VII. Judicature (art. 96-101); VIII. Revenues, Debts, Assets, Taxation (art. 102-126); IX. Miscellaneous Provisions (art. 127-144); X. Intercolonial Railway (art. 145); XI. Admission of other colonies (art. 146-147). The name Constitutional Act is also given to a series of amendments to the original document. Such amendments are called Constitution Act followed by the relevant date for the amendment (ex. Constitution Act, 1871 etc.).

© 2001 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College