You might be Canadian. You might know about all that’s happening in the cold, snowy country you live in. But there is a truly Canadian document lurking in print and on the World Wide Web whose ramifications might greatly surprise you. Yes, that document is the Canadian constitution, and here are 8 hypothetical scenarios that would be completely constitutionally acceptable!
- The Queen uses her executive power — “the Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen” — to:
- Take the whips out of party leaders’ hands, thereby allowing all MPs to vote in a way that actually represents their constituents.
- Remove property rights (if they ever existed in the constitution), take control of the Maple Leafs, become their starting forward, and lead them to their first Stanley Cup since 67’.
- Using the parliamentary constitutional amendment process — “Parliament may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons”, along with party discipline, the Conservatives amend the constitution to remove the petty restriction stating Senators must have property value amounting to at least $4,000 above debts and liabilities. The PM is then able to reinstate Senator Patrick Brazeau without concern that the often drugged-up, bar-crawling 39-year-old is likely to be in financial dire straits very shortly.
- The Governor General takes the constitution literally and decides to summon the House of Commons only a couple times a year: “The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen’s Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon and call together the House of Commons.” Parliament probably continues to function in its typical complacent fashion.
- The Senate gives a sober second thought, realizes they don’t like a bill passed by the House of Commons, and therefore use their constitutional powers to vote against it and stop it from coming into action. For example, after the House approved of signing FIPA, the Senate might realize they don’t like it and might vote against it–oh, wait. Right, the senate never got to vote on FIPA, did they? Who knows, the whole thing has been pretty secretive. If Canadians weren’t consulted, the Senate probably wasn’t either.
- The government returns to its constitutional electoral process whereby “every Male British Subject, aged Twenty-one Years or upwards, being a Householder, shall have a Vote.” All hell breaks loose.
- The Queen abdicates her military power, given that she’s very busy dealing with affairs in the U.K.– “the Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen” — to Governor General David Johnston (now Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces) who declares war against Saint Pierre and Miquelon in an effort to bring the last remaining piece of New France under Canadian control. Canadian ships sink on the way from Newfoundland possibly because of outdated equipment, possibly because of drunken sailors.
- Canada returns to its constitutional root values in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms–“Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” Atheists protest on the Hill. Monotheists rejoice in acceptance of one Supreme Being. Polytheist identity crises ensue.
- The Vancouver Canucks reach the Stanley Cup again. British Columbia’s provincial legislature decides to use the “notwithstanding clause” to override citizen rights to freedom of expression (i.e. speaking about the Canucks), freedom of association (i.e. being a fan of the Canucks), freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. rioters will be hung by their ears outside GM Place?), and to suspend fans’ equality rights. “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination,” except for those pesky Canuck’s fans!
Clearly the Canadian Constitution has great potential for bizarre events. Yet Canadians can probably sleep tight knowing that most of modern governance is based not on written law but rather on unwritten convention passed down from our British institutional roots. For the time being, it appears these hypothetical scenarios will remain hypothetical.