Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



In its Preamble, the Constitution of Canada speaks of the desire of the Provinces of Canada to be "federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom." Historically, then, the Constitution of Canada like the Constitution of the United States, stems from a compact between a number of different territorial units: the Provinces of Lower Canada (Quebec), Upper Canada (Ontario), and the two eastern maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brtnswick, joined together in 1867 to form the new Dominion of Canada, a number of other Provinces having been admitted to the union since that time. Juridically speaking, however, the origins are rather different. The fundamental instrument in which the Canadian Constitution is embodied, the British North America Act of 1867, is a statute of the United Kingdom Parliament, which calls attention to the fact that though Canada in 1867 became a self-governing Dominion within the then British Empire by virtue of the Act, her status for many purposes internationally was still something less than a full sovereign state. Although by 1931 the highly developed conventions governing the relationship of the United Kingdom to the self-governing Dominions had crystallised into the positive law rules of the Statute of Westminster, some vestiges of Canada's former subordinate position still remained.