AskDefine | Define disallowance

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The action of not allowing, or of withdrawing allowance.

Extensive Definition

In Canadian constitutional law, disallowance and reservation are constitutional powers to reject any bill passed by Parliament or any legislature in Canada on the authority of the Queen of Canada. Before the Statute of Westminster the monarch would use this power on the advice of the "Imperial Parliament", however, post-1931 the monarch would be advised by Her Canadian Prime Minister. These powers, granted under sections 55 through 57 and 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867, were used a total of 112 times by the monarch on the advice of her Canadian government to veto provincial legislation. The last law "disallowed" occurred in April 1943 under King George VI of Canada: it was "An Act to Prohibit the Sale of Lands to any Enemy Aliens and Hutterites for the Duration of the War" by the Alberta Legislature.
Early in Confederation these powers were exercised relatively frequently, but soon fell into disuse. Currently, through a constitutional convention, they are regarded as obsolete and without force even though they were never formally eliminated. However, the ability of the Queen of Canada to disallow legislation has never been tested since it was last used in 1943. An attempt was made in 1971 to remove it from the Constitution with the Victoria Charter, but this failed. The first ministers decided not to remove it in the Constitution Act, 1982.


The power of reservation is held by the Governor General of Canada or Lieutenant Governor of a province. It gives them the authority to refer a bill to the Crown to make a final assessment of the validity of the law. Before the Statute of Westminster the Governor General of Canada would use this power to refer federal legislation to the "Imperial Parliament" or the provincial Lieutenant Governor would use the prerogative to refer legislation to the federal government. However, after Statute of Westminster, the Governor General of Canada could only reserve legislation for the review of the monarch (this has never been done).
The last time a provincial Lieutenant Governor reserved legislation for the review of the federal government was 1961 in Saskatchewan. Provincial Lieutenant Governors have used their right of reservation a total of 112 times, the most being in the province of Manitoba (21 times).


The power of disallowance is held by the Crown whereby the monarch reserves the right to nullify any bill passed by the federal or provincial government.
Prime Minister Macdonald exercised his power of disallowance against provincial legislation regularly. By 1911 the practice of disallowing provincial bills became very infrequent; however, it was used in the 1930s by Ernest Lapointe to strike down various Alberta laws during the Social Credit Party of Canada government. Since 1911, disallowance has been used only 17 times.


  • La Forest, "Disallowance and Reservation of Provincial Legislation" (Ottawa: Department of Justice, 1955).


disallowance in French: Désaveu et réserve
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