Constitution Day: New poll shows Canadians are open to amending the Constitution

Constitution Day: New poll shows Canadians are open to amending the Constitution

From adding property rights to the Charter, to abolishing the Senate, to ending the equality rights exception for affirmative action programs, Canadians are remarkably open to supporting amendments to our Constitution.

According to a new Ipsos poll commissioned by the Canadian Constitution Foundation to mark the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s first Constitution, a majority of Canadians support six possible amendments to the Constitution.

  • 92% would support an amendment to add the protection of property rights to the Charter. Support is consistent across all provinces and 44% “strongly support” this change. 
  • 82% would support an amendment requiring new Canadians to uncover their faces when taking the Oath of Citizenship. 88% in Quebec while 79% in Alberta support this. Nationally, 59% “strongly support.” 
  • 70% support term-limiting the Prime Minister to 8 years, as for a U.S. President. 77% in BC and 78% in Quebec support vs. 64% in Ontario and 66% in Alberta.
  • 69% would support an amendment ending protection for affirmative action programs, which are currently protected as an exception to equality rights in the Charter.
  • 64% would support an amendment abolishing the Senate, with BC and Quebec leading the pack at 74% and 72% respectively, and Alberta the most reluctant, at 51%.
  • 61% would support an amendment giving some constitutional rights to the unborn, with 72% in Quebec supportive vs. only 53% in Alberta. Only 15% nationally “strongly oppose.”

While political commentators and constitutional scholars usually consider the Canadian Constitution is all-but impossible to amend – because most fundamental changes require either the unanimous consent of the provinces and the two federal houses of parliament or the agreement of seven provinces containing at least 50% of the national population plus the two federal houses of parliament – the results of the CCF survey showed that perceived provincial obstructions to amending the Constitution do not reflect a corresponding underlying reticence among Canadians.

Far from seeing our Constitution as set in stone and reflecting immutable values and irreversible political compromises, Canadians are very open to supporting Constitutional changes in many areas from how we are governed to the scope of our fundamental rights. Support for amendments was consistent across the country, with majorities in every province supporting each proposed amendment.

Overall, Quebeckers are most open to amending the Constitution, while Albertans are the most reluctant.

For a deeper look of the above polling data, click here or on the above image.

What is Constitution Day?

Both the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Constitution Act, 1982, were signed on March 29th, which the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has dubbed Canada’s “Constitution Day.” The CCF encourages all Canadians to mark Constitution Day by reading Canada’s primary constitutional documents, or about them, or to watch Chief Justice Glenn Joyal’s recent speech at the CCF’s Law & Freedom Conference on the development of Canadian constitutionalism, which is available on YouTube and on the CCF website here.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted by Ipsos between March 20th and March 23rd, 2017, on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. For this survey, a sample of 1,003 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval.  In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

See:New poll: Canadians lukewarm on free speech

(Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Poling)