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Article

Green Paper

A green paper is a statement by the government, not of policy already determined, but of proposals put before the nation for discussion. Like a white paper, a green paper is an official document sponsored by the Crown. (Traditionally, green papers were printed on green paper to distinguish them from white papers.) A green paper is produced early in the policy-making process, when ministers are still formulating their proposals. Many white papers in Canada have been, in effect, green papers. And at least one green paper — the 1975 Green Paper on Immigration and Population — was released for public debate after the government had already drafted legislation.

Article

Distribution of Powers

Distribution of powers refers to the division of legislative powers and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments. The areas of distribution were first outlined at the Quebec Conference in 1864 (see Quebec Resolutions) and are enshrined in the Constitution Act, 1867. They have been a source of debate and tension between the provinces and the federal government for generations. (See Federal-Provincial Relations.) However, this part of the Constitution has remained remarkably unchanged since Confederation.

Article

Filibuster

A filibuster is a parliamentary delaying tactic. It is typically employed by opposition parties to delay or prevent the passage of a bill they don’t like. A filibuster is brought about when legislators speak at great length in opposition to a bill; propose numerous, often trivial amendments; or raise many parliamentary points of privilege. All of this is designed to keep the bill from coming to a vote. The goal of a filibuster is to either change a bill or stop its passage.

Article

White Paper

A government white paper is a Cabinet-approved document that explains a political issue and proposed legislation to address it. The purpose of a white paper is to introduce a new government policy to test the public’s reaction to it. The name derives from the custom of binding the document in white paper, rather than using a cover page. White papers are different from green papers, which seek public reaction not to new policy but to more general proposals. The most controversial white paper in Canada was issued in 1969; it sought to redefine the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples. (See The 1969 White Paper.)

Article

Welfare State

The welfare state in Canada is a multi-billion dollar system of government programs that transfer money and services to Canadians to deal with an array of societal needs.

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National Energy Program

The National Energy Program (NEP) was an energy policy of the government of Canada from 1980 through 1985. Its goal was to ensure that Canada could supply its own oil and gas needs by 1990. The NEP was initially popular with consumers and as a symbol of Canadian economic nationalism. However, private industry and some provincial governments opposed it.

A federal-provincial deal resolved controversial parts of the NEP in 1981. Starting the next year, however, the program was dismantled in phases. Global economic conditions had changed such that the NEP was no longer considered necessary or useful. The development of the oil sands and offshore drilling, as well as the rise in Western alienation and the development of the modern Conservative Party of Canada, are all aspects of the NEP’s complicated legacy.

Article

The White Paper, 1969

The 1969 White Paper (formally known as the “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969”) was a Canadian government policy paper that attempted to abolish previous legal documents relating to Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the Indian Act and  treaties. It also aimed to assimilate all “Indian” peoples under the Canadian state. The 1969 White Paper was proposed by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development  Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to widespread criticism. The policy proposed to eliminate Indian Status, incorporate First Nations under provincial government responsibilities, and impose land decisions, notions of private property and economic agendas on Indigenous communities. The backlash to the 1969 White Paper was monumental, leading not only to its withdrawal in 1970, but to a wave of activism, academic work and court decisions over the next five decades. (See also Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada and Indigenous Peoples in Canadian Law.)

Article

Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

Article

Inuit High Arctic Relocations in Canada

In 1953 and 1955, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acting as representatives of the Department of Resources and Development, moved approximately 92 Inuit from Inukjuak, formerly called Port Harrison, in Northern Quebec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), in what is now Nunavut, to settle two locations on the High Arctic islands. It has been argued that the Government of Canada ordered the relocations to establish Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and proposed to Inuit the move, promising improved living conditions. The Inuit were assured plentiful wildlife, but soon discovered that they had been misled, and endured hardships. The effects have lingered for generations. The Inuit High Arctic relocations are often referred to as a “dark chapter” in Canadian history, and an example of how the federal government forced changes that fundamentally affected (and continue to affect) Inuit lives.

Article

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Plain-Language Summary)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) started working in 2008. It was a result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). The IRSSA recognized the suffering and trauma experienced by Indigenous students at residential schools. It also provided financial compensation (money) to the students. The TRC performed many tasks. It created a national research centre. It collected documents from churches and government. It held events where students told their stories. Also, it did research about residential schools and issued a final report. (See also  Reconciliation in Canada.)

Article

Leader of the Opposition

In Canada, the leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest political party sitting in opposition to the federal government. In other words, it is the party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons. The formal title is “Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.” This title reflects the Westminster system of government found in many Commonwealth countries whose political roots can be traced to the United Kingdom. The current leader of the Opposition is Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre.

Article

Editorial: The Stanley Flag and the “Distinctive Canadian Symbol”

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

Prime Minister Lester Pearson and John Matheson, one of his Liberal Members of Parliament, are widely considered the fathers of the Canadian flag. Their names were front and centre in 2015 during the tributes and celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the flag’s creation. But the role played by George Stanley is often lost in the story of how this iconic symbol came to be.

Editorial

Editorial: Baldwin, LaFontaine and Responsible Government

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

The BaldwinLaFontaine government of 1848 has been called the “great ministry.” In addition to establishing responsible government, it had an incomparable record of legislation. It established a public school system and finalized the founding of the University of Toronto. It set up municipal governments and pacified French-Canadian nationalism after a period of unrest. Responsible government did not transform Canada overnight into a fully developed democracy. But it was an important milestone along the road to political autonomy. Most importantly, it provided an opportunity for French Canadians to find a means for their survival through the British Constitution. The partnership and friendship between Baldwin and LaFontaine were brilliant examples of collaboration that have been all too rare in Canadian history.

Editorial

Editorial: The Canadian Flag, Distinctively Our Own

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

On 15 February 1965, at hundreds of ceremonies across the country and around the world, the red and white Maple Leaf Flag was raised for the first time. In Ottawa, 10,000 people gathered on a chilly, snow-covered Parliament Hill. At precisely noon, the guns on nearby Nepean Point sounded as the sun broke through the clouds. An RCMP constable, 26-year-old Joseph Secours, hoisted the National Flag of Canada to the top of a specially-erected white staff. A sudden breeze snapped it to attention.

Editorial

Voting in Early Canada

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

Before Confederation, elections were rowdy, highly competitive and even violent.

Editorial

Editorial: The Statute of Westminster, Canada's Declaration of Independence

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

In the fall of 1929, Canada’s Minister of Justice, Ernest Lapointe, travelled to England. He took with him Dr. Oscar Skelton — the “elder statesman” of the Canadian civil service, as William Lyon Mackenzie King once described him. When Lapointe and Skelton were done their negotiations, they had confirmed that Canada would have its independence from the British Empire.