Canada is a federal state, a parliamentary democracy, and a constitutional monarchy. Our Head of State is the Sovereign, or British Monarch. This role is mostly symbolic and historical, and clearly separated from that of the Head of Government, who is the Prime Minister of Canada—the person who actually directs the governing of the country.

Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. The Prime Minister is the head of the federal government, which is based in Ottawa. The federal government deals with national and international matters, such as mail, taxes, money and banking, shipping and railways, criminal law, foreign affairs, immigration and national defence. A premier leads each province and territory; provincial and territorial governments are each responsible for education, healthcare, and road regulations. Municipal or city governments are responsible for parks, parking, libraries, roadways, emergency services, and other local issues.

In Canada, any citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote in municipal, provincial, or federal elections.

As a student with temporary resident status in Canada, you are subject to Canadian law and obligated to comply with it. Canadian law serves to protect the basic rights and freedoms of its people, such as security, liberty, and equality. The law applies to everyone equally, including the police, the government, and public officials.

In Canada, the police serve and protect all people. You should call the police if you are a victim of crime or if you witness a crime in progress.

Ignorance is generally not an acceptable excuse for breaking the law, so it is your responsibility to make sure you are familiar with Canadian law.

For example, here are some laws you should know about before coming to Canada:

Family Laws:

In Canada, it is illegal to:

  • Have more than one spouse
  • Abuse or neglect your spouse or child(ren)
  • Abuse or neglect seniors
  • Perpetrate gender-based violence
  • Force someone into marriage

Driving Laws:

In Canada, it is illegal to:

  • Drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Drive while texting or talking on the phone
  • Not wear a seat belt

If you will be driving, or riding a bike while here, please review the rules of the road in the Government of Alberta Drivers' Guide.  This would also be useful to review as a pedestrian.