Sparsely-populated, due to unfavorable climate.
Site of first European settlement in the Americas: L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, circa 1000 A.D.
Perhaps 1/2 million people in Canada circa 1500 A.D.
British settlement focused on Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
French settlement along the St. Lawrence River (known as Canada) and in Acadia: New France.
Seven Years' War/French and Indian War (1754–63) brought all French territory east of the Mississippi River under British control.
Territory reorganized into three colonies: Québec, Prince Edward Island, and an enlarged Nova Scotia.
Quebec Act (1774): Expanded boundaries west and south, entrenched French law and customs.
Lack of an elected assembly angered English-speaking colonists there and in other colonies.
Atlantic colonies saw westward expansion limited.
Québec's southern lands ceded to the United States (became U.S. Northwest Territory).
Many pro-British Loyalists settled in southern Québec, south of the St. Lawrence River and west of the Ottawa River.
Expanding English-speaking population led to split of Nova Scotia (creating New Brunswick) and Québec (creating Upper Canada and Lower Canada).
U.S. attempt to conquer Canada in War of 1812 fails; most Canadians were loyal to Britain but wanted political reform.
Rebellions in 1837–38 attempt to overthrow colonial governments in both Canadas, demand more accountability to the mass public.
British response: merge Upper and Lower Canada into single Province of Canada (1840), eventual adoption of responsible government (1849).
Province of Canada unstable: Francophone/Catholic Canada East and Anglophone/Anglican Canada West had fundamental disagreements.
“Double-majority” rule, equal representation for east and west gave disproportionate power to Canada West.
American expansionism and British indifference to Canadian affairs led colonies to explore union.
Three conferences of colonial leaders agreed to a federal structure with four provinces: Québec (Canada East), Ontario (Canada West), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Dominion of Canada established July 1, 1867 (Canada Day).
Lands controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company become the Northwest Territories in 1870.
Three provinces added in 1870s: Manitoba (1870), British Columbia (1871), and Prince Edward Island (1873).
Saskatchewan and Alberta become provinces in 1905.
Newfoundland and Labrador (separate colony since 1583) becomes a province in 1949.
Three territories remain: Northwest Territories (1870), Yukon (1898), and Nunavut (1999).
1867? British North America Act grants self-government in many, but not all affairs.
Foreign policy remained in hands of UK Parliament.
Example: World War I.
1931? Statute of Westminster repeals ability of British parliament to legislate on most, but not all, Canadian matters w/o consent of Canadian authorities.
1982? UK Canada Act “patriated” the Canadian constitution, allowed amendments without agreement by the British parliament.
Constitution Act (BNA Act), 1867
Constitution Act, 1982
Similar rights to U.S. Bill of Rights and Reconstruction Amendments.
Linguistic rights for English-speaking and French-speaking minorities.
Affirmative action programs expressly permitted.
Notwithstanding clause allows Parliament, provincial legislatures to enact laws that contradict Charter guarantees, effective for up to 5 years (renewable).
Unlike U.S. Constitution, original intent was for a stronger national government:
In practice, much more decentralized today:
The House of Commons
Executive power is nominally vested in the Queen of Canada.
Governor General of Canada (or viceroy) acts on Queen's behalf when not present in Canada.
Modeled on the British House of Commons
Since 2015 election: 338 members, elected from single member districts (informally ridings).
No Canadian aristocracy, but represented wealthy nonetheless.
105 seats, apportioned to provinces by constitution.
Vacant seats filled by prime minister for life terms; must retire at 75.
Nominally equal in power to Commons; by convention, does not block laws passed by Commons.
The Senate: election or abolition?
Like in most parliamentary systems, prime minister and his/her cabinet is responsible to Parliament.
Current government led by Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, PM since November 2015.
Unlike UK, minority governments since World War II have been fairly common due to multiparty system.
Conservative Party (Tories): 2004 merger of the former Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party; center-right.
Liberal Party (Grits): traditional “party of government”; centrist/center-left.
New Democratic Party: left-wing party, social democratic orientation.
Bloc Québecois: pro-independence party for Québec.
Most provincial parties are only loosely tied to their federal counterparts.
Lieutenant Governor: represents the Queen, appointed on advice of federal prime minister.
Premier and cabinet responsible to the legislature.
Territorial governments similar; usually less partisan.
Language and culture: Québec and francophones; First Nations.
Western alienation (versus ON/QC).
Social issues increasingly divisive.
Immigration: assimilation versus multiculturalism.
Independence referenda failed in 1980, 1995.
Pro-independence Parti Québecois seeks greater devolution of power.
First Nations in northern Québec may want to stay in Canada.
English Canada: viable without Québec?
Living next to [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt. — Pierre Trudeau.
Asymmetric relationship: US largely ignores Canada; Canada deeply affected by US policies.
Disputes: fishing rights, trade disputes (softwood lumber), Keystone XL, post-9/11 border security.
NAFTA was controversial; prospect of deeper cooperation (customs union, single market) raises sovereignty fears.
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