The government of the Dominion of Canada was largely modeled on that of Great Britain, so the two governments shared many common features. Furthermore, Great Britain retained considerable power over the Dominion of Canada in its infancy. Although the fledgling, newly autonomous Dominion of Canada was largely self-governing, the mother country still held the ultimate authority.
The term “Dominion of Canada” may be unfamiliar to 21st century readers, as it has long since fallen out of common usage. The Dominion of Canada was established in 1867 and lasted for about 80 years. The dominion initially consisted of present-day Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Additional current-era provinces, such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and others, were added in the ensuing decades. The Dominion of Canada eventually evolved into the modern nation of Canada, and much of its governmental structure still shares striking similarities to Britain’s.
Houses of Parliament
Both Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada had parliaments, and both had two separate parliamentary bodies. In Great Britain, the two parliamentary bodies were the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the Dominion of Canada, the two parliamentary bodies were the House of Commons and the Senate. In both places, the House of Commons was the lower chamber, with members chosen by democratic election. In Great Britain, the house of Lords was the upper house, and membership could only be gained through inheritance or appointment. Similarly, the Senate was also the upper chamber in the Dominion, and members were appointed.
Heads of State
The British monarch was technically the head of state of both Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada. However, the power of monarchs decreased throughout the late colonial era, and a new role as leader of the government began to emerge -- that of prime minister. From the outset of the Dominion of Canada, it and Britain each had their own prime ministers. In both places, prime ministers weren’t elected by popular vote. Instead, prime ministers took office in a de-facto manner: if they were the head of the political party who won the most seats in the House of Commons’ general election, they automatically became prime minister.
In the Dominion of Canada as well as Great Britain, the prime ministers selected members of their cabinets. The Cabinet members played an important role in running the central governments. They prioritized, administered and implemented policies and public services, within the framework of the laws established by parliament.
- Simon Fraser University: Canadian Independence
- Canadiana.org: 1867 - 1931: Becoming a Nation
- Historical Atlas of the British Empire: Dominions 1931-1947
- This Day in History -- Canadian Independence Day
- Visit Britain: Government
- Parliament of Canada: The Parliament Buildings
- Parliament of Canada: About the House of Commons
- Parliament of Canada: About the Senate
- The Canada Guide: The Prime Minister of Canada
- U.K. Parliament: Parliament and Government
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images