The Canadian Government

Canada is a democracy organized as constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government modeled after that of Great Britain. The official head of state in Canada is Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who is also Queen of Canada. The governor-general is the queen’s personal representative in Canada and the official head of the Canadian parliament, although with very limited powers.

The federal parliament in Canada consists of the House of Commons and the Senate. The actual head of government is the prime minister, who is responsible for choosing a cabinet. The cabinet consists of a group of ministers of varied expertise who serve with the support of the House of Commons. They are responsible for most legislation, and have the sole power to prepare and introduce bills that provide for the expenditure of public funds or taxation. The system is referred to as responsible government, which means that cabinet members sit in the parliament and are directly responsible to it, holding power only as long as a majority of the House of Commons shows confidence by voting with them. If a cabinet is defeated in the House of Commons on a motion of censure or a vote of no confidence, the cabinet must either resign, in which case the governor-general will ask the leader of the opposition to form a new cabinet, or a new election may be called.

The Canadian Senate has 104 members, appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Their actual function is advisory, although they may make minor changes in bills and no bill may become a law without being passed by the Senate. Senators hold office until age seventy-five unless they are absent from two consecutive sessions of parliament. The real power, however, resides in the House of Commons, the members of which are elected directly by the voters. The seats are allocated on the basis of population, and there are about 300 constituencies. By custom, almost all members of the cabinet must be members of the House of Commons or, if not already members, must win seats within a reasonable time.

General elections must be held at the end of every five years, but they may be conducted whenever issues require it, and most parliaments are dissolved before the end of the five-year term. When a government loses its majority support in a general election, a change of government occurs.

Although major and minor political parties were not created by law, they are recognized by law in Canada. The party that wins the largest number of seats in a general election forms of the government, and its leader becomes the prime minister. The second largest party becomes the official opposition. In this way, the people are assured of an effective alternative government should they become displeased with the one in power.

(taken from TOEFL, by BARON, p. 140)

Federal Policies for Native Peoples

Federal policy toward the Native Americans hasĀ  a long history of inconsistency, reversal, and failure. In the late 1700s, the United States government owned and operated factories, exchanging manufactured goods for furs and horses with the hope that mutual satisfaction with trade would result in peace between Native Americans and the rush of settlers who were moving west. At the same time, the government supported missionary groups in their efforts to build churches, schools, and model farms for those tribes that permitted them to live in their midst.

By the 1800s, federal negotiators were trying to convince many tribes to sell their land and move out of the line of frontier expansion, a policy that culminated in the forced expulsion of the major Southeastern tribes to the west. Over protests by Congress and the Supreme Court, President Andrew Jackson ordered the Native Americans to be removed to that is now Oklahoma. On the forced march, which the Cherokee Nation refers to as the “Trail of Tears,” many Native Americans died of disease, exposure and hunger.

By the end of the 1800s, the government had discovered that some of the land allocated as permanent reservations for the Native Americans contained valuable resources. Congress passed the Dawes Severalty Act, and for the next forty years Indian agents and missionaries attempted to destroy the tribal system by separating the members. It was during this time that the government boarding schools were established to educate Native American youth outside of the home environment.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, scattered tribes were encouraged to reorganize their tribal government. Anti-Indian sentiment resurfaced only ten years later, and by the 1950s relocation centers to move Native Americans from the reservations to urban areas were established.

Today, government policies are unclear. Many officials want to remove the federal government completely from Native American governance. Others believed that the government should support Native American efforts to maintain their culture. Not surprisingly, the Native Americans themselves are ambivalent about the role of the federal government in their affairs.


(taken from TOEFL Practice, by Baron, page 124)