Canada is mainly governed according to principles embodied in the Constitution Act of 1982, which gave the Canadian government total authority over its constitution. Previously, the British North America Act of 1867 and subsequent laws had reserved some constitutional authority with the British parliament. Canada is a federal union, with a division of powers between the central and provincial governments. Under the original 1867 act, the central government had considerable power over the provinces, but, through amendments to the act and changes brought by practical experience, the provincial governments have increased the scope of their authority. However, considerable tension continues to exist between the federal government and the provincial governments over the proper allocation of power.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, added by the passage of the 1982 Constitution Act to the country’s constitution, guarantees to citizens “fundamental freedoms”, such as those of conscience and the press; “democratic rights” to vote and seek election; “mobility”, “legal”, and “equality” rights to move throughout Canada, to enjoy security of person, and to combat discrimination; and the equality of the French and English languages. The charter changed the Canadian political system by enhancing the power of the courts to make or unmake laws through judicial decisions. It also contains the so-called “notwithstanding” clause, which allows Parliament or the provincial legislatures to designate an act operative even though it might clash with a charter provision.
The head of state of Canada is the sovereign of the United Kingdom, who is represented in Canada by the governor-general; the head of government is the prime minister, who is responsible to Parliament.
The central government of Canada exercises all powers not specifically assigned to the provinces; it has exclusive jurisdiction over administration of the public debt, currency and coinage, taxation for general purposes, organization of national defence, fiscal matters, banking, fisheries, commerce, navigation and shipping, energy policy, agriculture, postal service, census, statistics, patents, copyright, naturalization, aliens, indigenous peoples, marriage, and divorce. Among the powers assigned to the provincial governments are education, hospitals, provincial property and civil rights, taxation for local purposes, the regulation of local commerce, and the borrowing of money. With respect to certain matters, such as immigration, the federal and provincial governments possess concurrent jurisdiction.
The Canadian parliament consists of two houses: the Senate (composed of 105 members appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister), and the House of Commons (composed of 308 members apportioned according to provincial population).
Senators serve until the age of 75, and House members are elected for five years (or until the House is dissolved) by popular vote. Elections are held at the prime minister’s discretion. Laws must be passed by both houses and signed by the governor-general.
The sovereign is represented in each of Canada’s ten provinces by a lieutenant-governor, appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the prime minister. The head of government of each province is the premier, who is responsible to a unicameral provincial legislature. The three territories are governed by federally appointed commissioners, assisted in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut by a legislative assembly and in the Yukon Territory by an elected council and legislature. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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