Provincial and Territorial Governments

This mini-course on Provincial & Territorial Governments is meant as a complement to NAWL’s core modules on Feminist Law Reform. NAWL is grateful to Amanda Therrien for her invaluable work as the primary author of this mini-course.

Part 1: Introduction to Provincial and Territorial Governments

Given both the wide geographic areas that provincial/territorial governments cover and the broad scope of their powers, a thorough understanding of their operation is necessary for feminist law reform. This Part will provide a foundation for understanding how provincial and territorial governments function by examining what powers are within their respective spheres. 


Federalism and Equality Rights Implementation in Canada

Linda White

A Two-Way Street: Federalism and Women’s Politics in Canada and the United States

Jill Vickers

Part 2: The Structure of Provincial Governments and Yukon

With the exception of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Legislative Assemblies across Canada are organized in a similar fashion. In order to engage in feminist law reform, it is necessary to become familiar with the different branches of provincial/territorial governments to understand whether you should be approaching a Member of Parliament, a Cabinet Minister, or the Premier. This Part will provide an overview of how provincial governments are structured as well as the roles of its Members, Ministers, and Premiers.  

Provincial and Yukon governments are divided into legislative, executive, and judiciary branches.

The legislative branch consists of the Legislative Assembly and its Members. Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only two provinces with a different name for their provincial legislatures. In Quebec, it is referred to as the National Assembly, while in Newfoundland and Labrador it is called the House of Assembly. 

The legislative branch is primarily concerned with creating, amending, and passing laws. Follow the link below to see the webpage for your province/territory’s Legislative Assembly. 

The executive branch is comprised of the Premier and their Cabinet Ministers. The executive branch generally sets public policy priorities and is also involved in law making. 

The judiciary branch refers to the provincial court systems and is beyond the scope of this mini-course. 

Overview of the roles and responsibilities of the Lieutenant Governor, Premier, Cabinet Ministers, and Members

Engage & Discuss

Familiarize yourself with the names and roles of the members in your Province/Territory. 

Does the composition of members represent the diversity of your Province/Territory? Why or why not? 

Meetings of legislative assemblies are recorded and accessible via their websites. Navigate to your Province/Territory’s Legislative Assembly page to view a sessions or click here to view a recent sitting of the Alberta Legislative Assembly. 

What subjects are under discussion? How are issues being presented?

Part 3: The Structure of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Governments

The Nunavut and the Northwest Territories operate on a consensus model of government. 

As with the provinces, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are comprised of a legislative, an executive, and a judicial branches. The Legislative branch consists of the Legislative Assembly and the Commissioner (a role similar to that of Lieutenant Governors in the Provinces). The executive branch refers to the Premier and their cabinet and also includes the Commissioner, while the judicial branch refers to the court system. 

The key difference is that Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected as independents rather than as affiliates of a political party. Once the election has concluded, the Members select the Speaker, Premier and Ministers from amongst themselves in a secret ballot election. The Commissioner, appointed by the Governor General, is then responsible for formally appointing the Premier and the Ministers. Importantly, although the number of cabinet seats is not fixed, it cannot be a majority of the Members. 


Consensus Government and Collaboration: The COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada’s North and the Role Partnership Played in Protecting the Health and Well-Being of Residents

Caroline Cochrane


Engage & Discuss

What are some of the benefits of consensus governments? 

What might some of the drawbacks be? 

Part 4: The Benefits of Feminist Advocacy at the Provincial and Territorial Levels

Provincial and territorial governments are important sites for feminist advocacy due to the broad scope of their powers and their ability to effect change within the Province/Territory. 


Canadian Civil Liberties Association January 2021 Statement of Claim in a lawsuit challenging New Brunswick’s restrictions on abortion

How the Provinces Compare in Their COVID-19 Responses

Charles Breton & Mohy-Dean Tabbara

Engage & Discuss

Visit the website of your Province/Territory’s Status of Women committee or office. 

  • Who is the minister in charge? 
  • What initiatives are currently being prioritized? Make a list of other areas of intervention. 

Part 5: Provincial and Territorial Lawmaking

Lawmaking is one of the primary tasks of a Legislative Assembly and represents an important site of intervention for feminist law reform efforts. As Professor Anne Levesque has stated, “It’s much easier to influence a law and to give it a feminist spin from the beginning than to challenge it in court later on.” 

This Part will provide an overview of the different types of bills introduced in the Legislative Assembly and the process via which these bills become laws.

Types of Bills

How Bills Become Laws 

With minor variations, the process by which a bill becomes law is similar across the provinces and territories. In most cases, a bill is introduced during the first reading and is voted on by the Legislative Assembly. If it passes, it proceeds to a second reading where it is debated and voted on a second time. After this stage, it usually moves to a standing committee. As will be discussed in the next Part, standing committees often solicit feedback from organizations and members of the public and are an important opportunity for feminist law reform as the standing committee can propose amendments to the bill. The bill is then referred back to the House where Members debate it informally before it passes to a third reading. Once the bill passes its third reading, it will receive assent and become law, coming into force at a date to be named. 

All of the bills passed in your Province/Territory are publicly available on the websites of the Legislative Assemblies. Follow the link in Part 2 to see some of the bills passed in your Province/Territory. 


From Idea to Law: The Legislative Process, Legislative Assembly of Alberta

Engage & Discuss

Debates surrounding bills are contained in the Hansard (official report) of each Legislative Assembly. Locate the Hansard of your Legislative Assembly on its website and read some of the debates. 

Did any of the arguments surprise you?  

Visit the webpage for your Province/Territory’s Legislative Assembly. 

  • What bills are currently being considered? 
  • What stage have they progressed to? 

Draft a bill about an issue that is important to you. What counterarguments do you anticipate receiving? 

What amendments would you be willing to make?   

Part 6: Getting Involved in Provincial Government: Committees and Hearings

Provincial and territorial governments solicit feedback from the public in various ways. Participating in committees and hearings, submitting briefs, and presenting petitions are important avenues of feminist law reform. 


Virtual Committees: Presenter Guide

Legislative Assembly of Manitoba

Engage & Discuss

Navigate to your Province/Territory’s Legislative Assembly homepage and examine the guidelines for making a submission. 

Consider what elements you would include in a draft submission to a committee on a current bill or consultation that interests you. 

Part 7: Getting Involved in Provincial/Territorial Government: Contacting Members of the Legislative Assembly

Interacting with Members of the Legislative Assembly is a key component of feminist law reform as they are responsible for the introduction of bills and petitions into the Legislative Assemblies. Although Members are meant to be accessible to their constituents, in practice they may only be able to meet with you for a short amount of time, which is why preparation for such meetings is essential. 

Click here to consult Module Five of the Feminist Law Reform 101 course as many of the tips for interacting with Members of Parliament hold true for engaging with Members of the Legislative Assembly. 

Click on your Province/Territory for the Contact Information for your Legislative Assembly:


MLA Advocacy Guide, Public Interest Alberta

Engage & Discuss

Familiarize yourself with the Members of the Legislative Assembly in your province. 

  • Which ones have a track record of feminist advocacy? 
  • Brainstorm how you would approach these Members to discuss issues related to feminist law reform. 

Part 8: Getting Involved in Provincial/Territorial Government: Running for Office

Running for office as a Member of a Legislative Assembly is an important aspect of feminist law reform. Women who run for office often face harassment, misogyny, and underfunding, which is why reform in this area is needed. Click here for a CBC News article detailing some of the abuse faced by female Members. 

As of 2022, only the Northwest Territories have reached a state of gender parity, with women representing 52% of the legislature. Several provinces remain under the 30% bar. 


What Does Harassment and Bullying of Women in Politics Look Like?

CBC News

Elect Her: A Roadmap for Improving the representation of Women in Canadian Politics

Karen Vecchio


Doing Politics Differently: Women Premiers in Canada’s Provinces and Territories

Engage & Discuss

What candidacy rules govern your Province/Territory? Identify whether you think any of these rules might serve as a barrier for marginalized individuals attempting to run for office. 

How many female Members does your Province/Territory have? What are their roles in the legislature? Identify which female Members might be willing to provide mentorship.  

Does an increase in female Members necessarily result in an increase in feminist advocacy? How can members of Provincial and Territorial legislatures ensure that feminist ideals translate into feminist action?