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The British North America Acts 1867–1975 are the original names of a series of Acts at the core of the constitution of Canada. They were enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Parliament of Canada. In Canada, some of the Acts were amended or repealed by the Constitution Act, 1982; the rest were renamed the Constitution Acts. In the United Kingdom, those Acts that were passed by the British Parliament remain on the law books under their original names. The term "British North America" (BNA) refers to the British colonies in North America.
Canada dates its history as a country to the British North America Act, 1867, which came into force on 1 July 1867. However, Canada was not created fully independent, as the United Kingdom retained legislative control over Canada, and full control over Canadian foreign policy. Until 1949, changes to the British North America Acts could be made only by the British parliament. The British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949, gave the Parliament of Canada the power to make limited constitutional amendments, but full Canadian control over the constitution was not achieved until the passage of the Canada Act 1982. This long delay was in large part due to the inability to create a constitutional amendment procedure that was acceptable to all of the provinces, particularly Quebec.
Because of this, all British North America Acts dated before 1949 were passed by the British parliament, while some of those dated after 1949 were passed by the Canadian parliament. When Canada patriated its constitution with the passage of the Canada Act 1982, the existing British North America Acts were either repealed, or "modernized" and retitled as "Constitution Acts" in Canada.
The fifteen BNA Acts enacted by the United Kingdom Parliament do not have official French-language versions. Only the English version is official. The five BNA Acts enacted by the Canadian Parliament do have official French-language versions, and the English-language and French-language versions are equally authoritative (as with all legislation enacted by the Canadian Parliament).
The French Constitutional Drafting Committee produced translations of all the British North America Acts, pursuant to section 55 of the Constitution Act, 1982, but these were never enacted by Parliament to make them official.
The different Acts of the series are distinguished by appending the year of their enactment. BNA Acts were passed in 1867, 1871, 1886, 1907, 1915, 1916*, 1930, 1940, 1943*, 1946*, 1949, 1949 (No. 2)*, 1951*, 1952*, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1974, 1975 and 1975 (No. 2). Those marked with (*) have since been repealed. Five of the British North America Acts were enacted by the Parliament of Canada; namely those of 1952, 1965, 1974, 1975, and 1975 (No. 2). The other fifteen were enacted by the Imperial Parliament at Westminster.
The first Act, the British North America Act, 1867 created the self-governing Dominion of Canada. The remaining acts dealt with a variety of topics, though the majority were concerned with modifying representation in Parliament or the Senate as the country grew and changed (1886, 1915, 1943, 1946, 1952, 1974, 1975, 1975 (No. 2)). Other topics include modifying the country's boundaries (1871, 1949), transfer payments (1907), temporary changes due to war (1916, 1943), federal-provincial powers (1930, 1964), power over constitutional changes (1949 (No. 2)), the creation of new social programs (1951, 1964), and mandatory retirement ages (1960, 1965)
The act, also known as the BNA Act, comprises a major part of the Constitution of Canada. The Act entails the original creation of a federal dominion and sets the framework for much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system. It received its current name in 1982, with the patriation of the constitution (having originally been enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom). Amendments were also made at this time: section 92A was added, giving provinces greater control over non-renewable natural resources.
This act gave Canada the power to establish new provinces and territories and change provincial boundaries with the affected province's consent. The act recognized the creation of the province of Manitoba and the incorporation of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory into Canada and allowed parliament and the Ontario and Quebec legislatures to redraw the boundaries of Ontario and Quebec in order to incorporate parts of these acquisitions.
(7 Edw. VII) This act regulated transfer payments by the federal government to smaller provinces to support their legislatures and governments. The funds transferred were set at between $100,000 and $250,000 depending on the province's population with an extra $100,000 a year for ten years to British Columbia.
Expanded the Canadian Senate by giving Western Canadian provinces 24 Senators, the same number guaranteed to Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. The Act also guaranteed Newfoundland six Senators should the British colony join Confederation (it did in 1949).
(6 & 7 Geo. V) Extended the life of the 12th Canadian Parliament until October 1917, beyond the normal maximum of five years. The extension was due to World War I. This Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act, 1927.
This act gave the federal government the jurisdiction over Unemployment Insurance thus allowing such a program to be created on a national level. An earlier attempt to create an Unemployment Insurance program during the Great Depression was ruled unconstitutional as unemployment relief was deemed to be a provincial responsibility.
This act adjusted the formula for distributing seats in the Canadian House of Commons amongst the provinces and territories.
This Act should not be confused with the British North America (No. 2) Act 1949 (see below).
Granted Canada limited powers to amend its own constitution. The Parliament of Canada was thereafter allowed to amend the Canadian constitution in many areas of its own jurisdiction without appealing to the British Parliament first. However, the approval of the British Parliament was still needed for wider constitutional change such as that involving areas of provincial responsibility. Therefore, the Act can best be seen as a "partial patriation" of the Canadian constitution.
The Act was repealed in 1982 with the full patriation of the constitution from the United Kingdom and the addition of a new, comprehensive amending formula.
This Act is not to be confused with the British North America Act, 1949 - later renamed the Newfoundland Act in 1982 - which confirmed the terms of union between Newfoundland and Canada and made Newfoundland the tenth province.
Gave the federal government the power to pass legislation concerning Old Age Pensions while recognizing the right of provincial legislatures to do likewise. While parliament had instituted an Old Age Pension in 1927 it was administered by the provinces and jointly funded by them. This amendment allowed the federal government to administer and operate its own pension plan and allowed it to pass the Old Age Security Act.
This was the first of the British North America Acts to be enacted by the Canadian Parliament (rather than at Westminster). This was possible under the provisions of the British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949.
This act adjusted the number of seats in the House of Commons and limited the number of seats a province could lose due to redistribution based on the census to 15% of its previous number. It also gave Yukon territory its own Member of Parliament.
This act expanded the federal government's jurisdiction over pensions to include survivor benefits and disability benefits while continuing to allow provincial legislation. This amendment to the BNA Act made the Canada Pension Plan possible.
This was the second of the British North America Acts to be enacted by the Parliament of Canada (rather than at Westminster). This was possible under the provisions of the British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949.
Renamed the Constitution Act, 1965 in 1982, this legislation was introduced by the government of Lester B. Pearson and instituted a mandatory retirement age of 75 for all persons appointed to the Canadian Senate. Those appointed prior to the passage of the Act were exempt.
This was the third of the British North America Acts to be enacted by the Parliament of Canada (rather than at Westminster). This was possible under the provisions of the British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949.
Changed the rules for the redistribution of seats in the Canadian House of Commons so that Quebec would have 75 seats while other provinces' seat allocation would be determined based on the size of their population in comparison to Quebec's. Provinces continued to be guaranteed to have at least as many MPs as Senators.
This was the fourth of the British North America Acts to be enacted by the Parliament of Canada (rather than at Westminster). This was possible under the provisions of the British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949.
This was the fifth of the British North America Acts to be enacted by the Parliament of Canada (rather than at Westminster). This was possible under the provisions of the British North America (No. 2) Act, 1949.
Increased the number of Senate seats to 104 from 102 and allocated one seat for the Yukon and one for the Northwest Territories.
The final act of the Westminster parliament had a different name as it renamed unrepealed previous British North America Acts, amended some and repealed others, patriated all remaining legislative and constitutional powers to Canada, and included the Constitution Act, 1982 as a schedule.