remained constant, there was a shift from the United Kingdom to Canada in the political centre of gravity for these matters. The imperial authorities very quickly absolved themselves of political responsibility for our constitution. As early as 1868, the Nova Scotia House of Assembly sent a unanimous address to the Queen requesting separation of that province from the Dominion of Canada, and a somewhat similar request was sent to the imperial Parliament. British authorities declined to intervene in this manner in Canadian affairs. Before the end of the century, several more requests were made to British authorities by provincial governments, either to change the constitution or to enforce it, but in none of these situations was the British government prepared to act without the request of the government or Parliament of Canada.6
During the same forty-year period — up to but not including 1907 — the British Parliament passed some five Acts in the nature of amendments to the Canadian constitution. Of these, all save one were passed at the request of Canadian federal authorities. The one exception was the Statute Law Revision Act of 1893, which appears to have been passed just as the empire was assembled, in a state of absentmindedness. As part of a periodic “clean-up” of its statute books, the British Parliament repealed several sections of the British North America Act which it regarded as spent or otherwise no longer appropriate. This repeal was unrequested and seemingly unnoticed by Canada for many years thereafter.7 But this must be seen as an exception, as a routine process not invoking the political will of an emerging nation.
Just as it became clear during this period that the political judgment which went into constitutional amendment must be Canadian, not British, it also became clear that within the federal apparatus Parliament as well as the federal cabinet must approve any request for amendments. There was some uncertainty about this at first, and early Canadian governments of both major parties incurred the wrath of Parliament for not seeking its approval in a timely fashion. The practice of the joint address of the Senate and House of Commons to the sovereign, requesting that an amendment be submitted to the United Kingdom Parliament, emerged during this period with the result that, in the twentieth century, no amendment to the British North America Act has been sought without a joint address from the two Canadian Houses.
During this forty year period, however, there was no evidence of an effective provincial role in expressing the Canadian will for constitutional amendments. Quite the contrary. As I indicated earlier, requests from
6. See Gérin-Lajoie, Constitutional Amendment in Canada (1950) at 138-43.
7. Scott, “Forgotten Amendments to the Canadian Constitution” (1942) 20 Can. B. Rev. 339.