Today marks the 81st anniversaries of perhaps the most significant piece of legislation in the evolution of Canadian independence: the Statute of Westminster, which was given Royal Assent on 11 December 1936.
Most Canadians associated our independence with Confederation (1 July 1867). However, the British North America Act, 1867, gave Canada only partial independence from the British Parliament. As a Dominion, we could neither declare war nor negotiate treaties, etc. That all changed in 1931 when resolutions passed at the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930 became law.
The Statute of Westminster, 1931 declared the legislative equality of all of the King’s then-Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State. From that point onward, the Statute declared: “No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.” The illustration below, taken from “Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy,” by Nathan Tidridge, shows how the Crown of Canada became separate from the crown of the UK.
We don’t hear much about the Statute of Westminster in our day-to-day lives, and our national celebrations centre around July 1st, but December 11th in an important day on our calendar, for on that date in 1931, we became politically autonomous.