Constitutional Structures of U.S. and


S. Congress under the Constitution. In both cases, the federal government has jurisdiction over all territories and relations with indigenous peoples, although in the U.S. The last territories to be granted statehood were Alaska and Hawaii in 1959-60 and there are no new territories requesting admission as states. Canada still has the Yukon and Northwest Territories that may eventually become full-fledged provinces in the future, but U.S. territories and commonwealths like Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Samoa all have complete self-rule except in foreign policy and have never given any indication that they are going to vote to request statehood.

Canada achieved full self-rule only gradually, as opposed to the United States, which became independent after the Revolutionary War of 1775-83. Britain gradually limited its power over Canada after confederation in 1867, and gave it full self-rule under the Statute of Westminster in 1931. No British laws could be applied in Canada after that time without the approval of the Canadian parliament, and even when the Second World War began in 1939, Canada had the power to declare war in its own right. As late as 1982, however, the Constitution Act was actually passed by the British Parliament, along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees the rights of minorities, native peoples and linguistic groups. To be sure, the people of the U.S. would have found any such influence by the British Parliament intolerable and inconceivable, but then the two countries went their separate ways long ago. Full independence for Canada therefore came about only gradually, and has left the country with a stronger Tory tradition than the United States, which is hardly surprising since so many Tories and Loyalists settled there after the American Revolution. As noted above, this has made the British Parliamentary tradition and political culture much stronger in Canada than in the U.S., and in many ways this system functions more smoothly and efficiently than U.S.-style checks and balances -- with a Senate that is anything but ceremonial.

From 1763, Quebec was a conquered province in the British Empire, and its participation in the Canadian confederation has always been uneasy, despite guarantees of religious and linguistic rights. For a time during the 1970s and 1980s, nationalists in Quebec almost succeeded in gaining independence -- and did in fact receive a considerable degree of autonomy and home rule in all matters except foreign affairs. Quebec did not ratify the 1982 Constitution and its status was one of the main topics of discussion at Meech Lake (1987-90) and Charlottetown (1992). Quebec places the most emphasis on provincial rights, just as the Southern United States (for very different reasons) has always been the strongest proponent of states rights. Quebec regards Canada more as a multinational, multicultural confederation than a strong federal union, although no secession crisis in Canada has ever reached the proportions on the U.S. Civil War of 1861-65 -- the most destructive war in U.S. history that left over 600,000 dead and two million wounded out of a population of 30 million. Of course, the issue of slavery was never a major political and moral problem in Canada, compared to the United States, where it was largely confined to one very distinctive region that never quite 'fit' with the rest of the country. In any event, the Civil War seemed to have resolved the question of whether states could secede quite definitively. None have seriously attempted it since, although there have been some secessionist movements in the United States since 1865, such as the Alaska Independence Party of which Sarah Palin was once a member. From time to time states like Texas have at least threatened secession, but none have seriously attempted it since 1865. Whether Quebec would be allowed to peacefully secede from Canada remains to be seem, but so far the crisis has never reached this level.