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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Canada Act 1982 (1982 c. 11) is an Act of Parliament passed by the British Parliament that ended all remaining dependence of Canada on the United Kingdom, by a process known as "patriation". It includes the text of the Constitution Act, 1982, in both of Canada's official languages, in Schedule B, and a translation of the main body into French in Schedule A, making it the first British Act of Parliament since the Middle Ages to be passed in the French language.

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History

Canada's political history began with the British North America Act of 1867 (currently officially called the Constitution Act). This act created the modern state of Canada by combining Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a dominion within the British Empire. From this Canada adopted a Westminster style government with a Parliament of Canada. A Governor General fulfilled the constitutional duties of the British Sovereign on Canadian soil.

Despite this, the United Kingdom still had the power to legislate for Canada. The Statute of Westminster 1931 removed this power of the British Parliament for Canada, as well as the other British Dominions (Australia (adopted 1942), the Irish Free State, New Zealand (adopted 1947), the Union of South Africa, and the Dominion of Newfoundland (never ratified, joined Canada in 1949)), except where the Dominion consented to Imperial legislation. Also, the British North America (No. 2) Act 1949 was passed by the British Parliament, giving the Parliament of Canada significant constitutional amending powers. However, an Act of the British Parliament was still required to make some amendments in the Canadian constitution.

This delay in the patriation of the Canadian constitution was due in large part to the lack of agreement concerning a method for amending the constitution that would be acceptable to all of the provinces, particularly Quebec.

Enactment of the Act

The Canada Act was the last request of the Canadian government to amend the country's constitution. After unpromising negotiations with the provincial governments, Pierre Trudeau eventually began to hope that the federal Parliament could unilaterally patriate the constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Patriation Reference, that provincial consent was not technically needed, but that substantial consent from the provinces was needed according to constitutional convention. Trudeau succeeded in convincing nine provinces out of ten by adding the Notwithstanding Clause to limit the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Aside from some objections from British MPs who protested Canada's past mistreatment of Quebec and Aboriginal peoples (as recalled with frustration by Jean Chrétien in his memoirs Straight from the Heart), there was little opposition from the British government to passing the Act. Through section 2 of the Canada Act 1982, the United Kingdom ended its involvement with further amendments to the Canadian constitution.

Proclamation by the Queen of Canada

While the Canada Act 1982 received Royal Assent on March 29, 1982 in London, it was not until the Queen came to Canada that the Constitution Act, 1982, its Canadian equivalent, was proclaimed by letters patent as a statutory instrument by the Queen during her presence in Canada.

The Constitution Act, 1982 was signed into law by Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada on April 17, 1982 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Queen Elizabeth's constitutional powers over Canada were not affected by the Act, and she remains Queen and Head of State of Canada. Canada has complete sovereignty as an independent country and the Queen's role as monarch of Canada is separate from her role as the British monarch or the monarch of any of the other Commonwealth realms.

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