National Post: Jack Woodward lawyer: The real anniversary of Canada’s founding

National Post, October 7, 2013:

No government in Canada plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of our country. On Oct. 7, 2013, one of the oldest continuous written constitutions on the planet reaches a quarter of a millennium. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 — Canada’s founding document — stands for four enduring principles: democracy, the rule of law, fairness for veterans, and protection of aboriginal lands.

RP 1763 was a colonial statute passed by the government of Britain under the Whig (Liberal) Prime Minister George Grenville. Grenville’s government renamed New France, the country that is now Ontario and Quebec, as “Quebec” and went on to “erect” a new government on the English model. No mention of “Canada” yet, the name came along after the country was created. But this is what made Canada a separate country in North America, and it pre-dates the founding of the United States. The much-celebrated constitution of 1867, which chops Canada into provinces (for the second time, because the first attempt at creating provinces in 1791 was abandoned in 1840) is just one of several technical fixes on the basic nation-building of 1763.

Canada’s 250 year old constitution was, in its time, a progressive document from a liberal government in the Age of Enlightenment, in stark contrast to the feudal monarchist colonial regime it displaced. It sets up assemblies and courts to “care for the Liberties and Properties” of the inhabitants and future settlers. This was well prior to the American and French Revolutions.

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