History 414 (101) Constitutions in Canadian History: From Pre-Contact to the Charter of Rights




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Constitutions shape countries, peoples, and governments. This course explores the history of constitutions from the pre-contact period to the twenty-first century era of the Canadian Charter of Rights. It examines how constitutions defined, entrenched, and often limited the rights of individuals and groups, such as religious, linguistic, and racial minorities. Students will also explore how constitutions were reshaped by the rise of democracy in Canada as well as the emergence of federalism after Confederation in 1867. Finally, students will examine the growing influence of human rights in the early and mid-twentieth century and the resulting push for a Canadian bill of rights. We will finish by focusing on the role of Charter of Rights in debates over issues like First Nations land rights, gay marriage, and prostitution. Students will read key work by scholars of Canadian constitutional law, but they will also read important primary sources such as constitutional documents, political pamphlets, and seminal court decisions.