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Parliamentary democracy as we understand it today is based upon the consent of the governed. Sovereignty resides in the people and it is they who decide who shall occupy the seats of power. It is in the light of this basic constitutional principle that we have to consider the structure of the Canadian Parliament.

Parliament consists of the Queen, represented by the Governor-General, the Senate and the House of Commons. The Governor-General summons Parliament, brings its sessions to an end by prorogation, and formally assents to every bill before it can become law. In practice he exercises all these powers on the advice of the Prime Minster and the Cabinet.

The passage of legislation depends on the participation of all three component parts of Parliament. A bill must be agreed to by both Houses and receive the Royal Assent before it can become an Act of Parliament. The powers of the Senate and the House of Commons are constitutionally equal except that financial legislation may not be introduced in the Senate.

All Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Until 1965 they were appointed for life, but Senators appointed since 1965 must retire at the age of 75.

The house of Commons is directly elected by the people, and although constitutionally the Senate is the upper House and the House of Commons is the lower House, it is the House of Commons which plays the predominant part in the Parliamentary system.

The Parliament of Canada came into being at a time when Parliamentary supremacy over the crown ad become established but before modern concepts of democracy based upon universal suffrage had been totally accepted. This explains why the appointed Senate was accorded powers almost equal to those of the popularly elected chamber.

English and French, the official languages of Canada, enjoy equal status in both Houses of Parliament. Senators and Members of Parliament are free to deliver their speeches in the language of their choice. In both Houses facilities exist for the simultaneous interpretation of speeches during the course of debate.

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