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The BNA Act

Overview of the BNA Act

- The BNA (British North American Act).
- Effective on July 1, 1867.
- A series of laws that makes up the constitution.
- Over the years there have been thirteen BNA Acts.
- Canada was not allowed to change the constitution, without permission from the British Parliament, until the amending formula was created.

The BNA Act

The first written constitution of Canada, the act of confederation officially called the BNA act became effective as of July 1, 1867. The British North American Act (BNA Act) is the law passed by the British Parliament. It is the key piece of legislation on which today's Canadian constitution is built, however it is also based on older pieces of legislation such as the Quebec Act of 1774, the constitutional rulings of the Imperial Privy Council and since 1982 a Charter of Rights and Freedom and an amending formula. The BNA Act was created in the British House of Commons, so it could only be changed by the British Parliament and not by the government of Canada. Even though Canada was on its own it could not change its own constitution. The lack of control over decision making and constitutional change lasted for Canada's first century as a nation.

The new country consisted of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario. As time went by new provinces were added. Prince Edward Island and British Columbia were added by the acts of the British Parliament. Other provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta became part of Canada by an act of the Canadian Parliament, but even in the case Canada had to get approval from the British Parliament. Without an amending formula Canada could not even enlarge its territories without asking permission.

Canada also looked for ways of becoming more independent in External Affairs. From the 1880's to the 1920's Canada took many advantages to act as a sovereign country. In 1923 Canada signed its first treaty without a British countersignature the Halibut Treaty with the U.S.A. This is one of the examples, which brought Canada closer to controlling its constitution.

Copyright 1998, Phil C. & Hussein B.