POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Canadian Parliament

The Canadian Parliament (alternatively: Parliament of Canada, Parlement du Canada) is the country’s federal legislative branch of government. The seat of Parliament is located at Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and is made up of the following three components:

  • House of Commons - the elected lower chamber
  • Senate - the unelected upper chamber
  • Monarch - a Governor General representing the UK monarch

All three elements of the Canadian Parliament have been inherited, with some alterations, from the UK Parliament and play distinctive roles in the legislative process. For a bill to become law in Canada, it must pass through both the House of Commons and the Senate before being given Royal Assent by the Governor General. In practice, however, the Governor General’s role is purely ceremonial and, by convention, will always give Royal Assent to a bill which has successfully passed through both chambers of Parliament.

History of the Canadian Parliament

The modern Canadian Parliament was established in 1867 by the passage of the British North America Act through the UK Parliament. The Act brought together the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada (which was split into two provinces - Quebec and Ontario) under a single, semi-independent Federation known as the Dominion of Canada.

It wasn’t until 1931 that the Parliament of Canada was granted full legislative autonomy. This was achieved through both the UK and Canadian Parliaments passing the Statute of Westminster. The statute, however, did not give Canada unlimited power to amend its own constitution, with major amendments still requiring the approval of the UK Parliament. The Canada Act 1982 finally invested the Canadian legislatures with full authority to enact constitutional amendments.

See also: Parliamentary Sovereignty

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