Canada- a Good Example of Federalism

There are 192 countries in the United nations. There are differences between the constitutions in vogue in the World's nations. There are no two countries that have identical constitutions. Historical and geographical characteristics are the major causes for these differences. There are three types of political constitutions. They are (a) Unitary (b) Federal (c) Confederal. Srilanka is a unitary state. Decentralisation of power is fundemental for all state constitutions. It could be either functional or territorial. The type of costitution is determined by the degree of decentralisation as the central government cannot attend to all the functions of the government. Most countries have a unitary form of government. Many African countries and Middle-East countries have unitary constitutions. Power could be decentralised in a unitary state but not sovereignity.

In a federal state, there could be a central government and one or more regional states. Regional states retain their own sovereignity. Power flows from the regional states to the central government. Regional states may voluntarily surrender some of their powers to the central government. The surrender of powers vary from country to country. In a confederation, regional state can sever all relationship with the central government and become independent. The Soviet Union, Yugoslavian Republic and the European union are good examples. Canada has an area of land that is 160 times that of Srilanka. It has a federal constitution and three national ethnic groups - the English, the French and the Native Indians or Aborigines. It has 10 provinces and 3 regions. English and French are both state languages.

The parliament is divided into two- the House of Commons and the House of the Senate. Parliamentary elections are held once in 4 years and 301 members get elected. There are 104 members in the senate . They are appointed by the prime minister. The High Court judges are also appointed by the premier. Every province has a parliament, cabinet, premier, flag, finance department, education department and finance department. However, there is no separate military unit for security. If Srilanka incoporates the Canadian constitution, in toto , there would be no place for a Tamil army. The Canadian constitution is not just one document. It is a synthesis of many laws. The Canadian contitution at the start was a constitution formulated by the British government for the colonial states. Now, it has developed into the constitution for the provinces and regions of Canada. In the schedule of constitution formulated in 1982, a number of laws are listed. The 1982 constitution was the last constitution drafted by the British government for Canada. The later amendments were brought in by the Canadian parliament. In the evolution of the constitution of Canada, the year 1982 constitution is a landmark. It is called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter ensures basic rights of freedom of speech, equality before law and freedom of assembly. The constitution also approved the treaties between the Aborigines and the Canadian government made at various times in the past.

The 1982 constitution was signed by both prime minister Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II . It is a replacement for the earlier constitution introduced by the British government in 1867. The new costitution did not get the support of the Quebec people. The then prime minister of Quebec Rene Levesque alleged that premier Trudeau and the provincial prime ministers have marginalised the Quebec people. Mr. Levesque observed that the new constitution was centralising the powers. He demanded that powers regarding immigration and tax-levying should be shared between the central government and the provincial governments.

The agony of the fact that the people of Quebec hadn't fully accepted the 1982 Constitution nas been haunting the country over the last 20 years. The separatists of Quebec believe that premier Trudeau had deceived them. Another group says that the charge, that the power was centralised is an unnecessary fear. They state that free immigration and tax departments are in the hands of the Quebec government. The demand of the Quebec people is the Canadian governments's acknowledgement that the province constitutes a distnct society.

The Parti Quebecois is in charge of the province from 1944. The primary fear of the Quebec people is that within the North American continent of 300 million English speaking people, the language and cultural rights of 0.75 million French speaking people would be ignored. In Quebec, the French language is given first place in government affairs. Only the central government departments give parity of status to French and English. The trade name boards in Quebec are found with names written in big French letters and small English letters. The names of commodities are to be given in both languages. There is legislation to this effect. There is a separate police unit to implement these rules. Action is taken against all law offenders. English people living in Quebec face problems and there are frequent conflicts with the provincial government. Recently many English people have left Quebec and settled in other provinces, where there is parity of status between the two languages in government departments. If there are 15 percent French people in other provices, there is provision for functioning in French. The Canadian constitution has its merits as well as drawbacks.

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