Procedure for Amending the Constitution of Canada

Part V (sections 38 to 49) of the Constitution Act, 1982 sets out how the Constitution of Canada can be amended.

  • Through the general amending procedure, generally referred to as the 7/50 formula (section 38.(1)). Some amendments require resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of at least two thirds of the provinces (7) that have at least 50% of the population of Canada as a whole. These include amendments in relation to the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators, and the extension of existing provinces into the territories (section 42).
  • By unanimous consent (section 41). Other amendments require resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assembly of each province. These include amendments in relation to the Governor General and to the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Amendment of provisions relating to some but not all provinces (section 43). Others require resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of the provinces to which the amendment applies. For example:
    • the 1993 amendment to the Constitution Act, 1982 which added section 16.1 entrenching official bilingualism in New Brunswick;
    • the 1993 amendment to the Schedule to the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union allowing the construction of a bridge which would relieve the Government of Canada from its constitutional obligation to provide ferry services to/from the continent;
    • the 1997 amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867, which added section 93A allowing Quebec to replace its denominational education system with a linguistic system;
    • the 2001 amendment to the Schedule to the Newfoundland Act, 1949, which changed the name “Province of Newfoundland” to “Province of Newfoundland and Labrador”.
  • Amendments by Parliament (section 44). Subject to sections 41 and 42, the Parliament of Canada may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution in relation to the Senate and the House of Commons. For example:
    • the 1999 amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867, to ensure the Territory of Nunavut representation in the Senate (section 3) and in the House of Commons (section 52.1).
  • Amendments by Provincial Legislatures (section 45). Subject to section 41, the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province.