Democracy means rule by the people, a system of government common to the U.S. and Canada. While technically the U.S. is a republic and Canada is a constitutional monarchy, both countries are governed by democratic practices and principles. Citizens of both countries elect their governments, although voting is not mandatory in either country. Each country has a constitution that guarantees democratic rights and freedoms and equality before the law to all citizens. The U.S. and Canadian governments collect taxes from citizens and businesses as a means of funding government operations and services for the people.
Both the U.S. and Canada elect their governments by district, with the number of representatives determined by the population of each geographic area. In the U.S., this elected body is called the House of Representatives, while the Canadian equivalent is the House of Commons. Each also has a senate, although this body is elected in the U.S. and appointed in Canada. Both also have elected heads of state, the U.S. president and the Canadian prime minister.
Canadians and Americans enjoy rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the constitution of each respective country. The first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up the Bill of Rights, while Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is entrenched in its Constitution. Both documents give citizens rights including freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, the right to vote and the right to petition their government.
The governments of the U.S. and Canada each have an executive, legislative and judicial branch. The constitutions are the highest law of the land in both, and are unifying documents laying out the governing principles to which the joining bodies, states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada, agreed. The constitutions outline citizens’ rights as well as federal and provincial or state powers.
The federal governments of the U.S. and Canada have power to levy taxes as a means of raising revenue. State and provincial governments are also empowered to collect taxes. Spending powers are outlined in the constitutions and other legislative bills and acts, and government services that provide for their citizens include infrastructure, such as highways, safety regulations for food and other consumer products, environmental protections and income security.
- The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Constitution of the United States
- Government of Canada Justice Laws Website: Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982: Distribution of Legislative Powers
- Government of Canada: Canadian Heritage: Your Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Parliament of Canada: About Parliament
- The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Bill of Rights
- Government of Canada: Canada Revenue Agency: Debunking Tax Myths
- Dictionary.com: Democracy
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