provinces to the imperial authorities for amendments systematically were rejected, and any proposed action by British authorities on the initiative of the provinces was seen in London as an inappropriate interference with Canadian affairs. Although some of the constitutional amendments of that period potentially affected provincial rights and interests, provincial consent for such amendments was neither sought by federal authorities, given by provincial authorities, nor made subjects of enquiry by imperial authorities.
Keep in mind that these were the halcyon days of federal hegemony. What a time it would have been to be a federal lawyer! In this forty year period, 88 provincial laws were disallowed by the federal cabinet, and the declaratory power was used by parliament 353 times. 8 It is not surprising that during this period political legitimacy for amendments to the Canadian constitution was identified with federal authorities alone.
The Next Sixty Years — Provincial Particularism Prospers
Throughout the rest of the first hundred years of Confederation we have not only the consolidation of Canadian political autonomy, vis-à-vis the imperial authorities, but also a fragmentation within Canada of that political authority in matters of constitutional amendment.
The consolidation of Canadian political autonomy was speeded by our participation in the First World War and was confirmed after the war. The Imperial conference of 1926 adopted the Balfour Declaration, which stated that the Dominions (including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, the Irish Free State, and Newfoundland) were “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs”. This meant, among other things, that political responsibility for Canadian affairs was clearly recognized as being in Canada, not in the United Kingdom. The Governor General was to act on the advice of his Canadian ministers, not on instructions from London. The sovereign would be advised on Canadian affairs by his Canadian ministers. The United Kingdom Parliament would not pass laws for Canada, including constitutional amendments, without a request from Canada that it do so. These principles, which to varying degrees had come to be accepted practice in Dominion affairs, were acknowledged in the Balfour Declaration and some of them were codified by the Statute of Westminster of 1931. So in this interlude between the wars, it was clearly confirmed that the
8. La Forest, Disallowance and Reservation of Provincial Legislation (1955) at 83-96; Le pouvoir declaratoire du Parlement (1969) at 123-45.