The British have it, and we want it:
The act, printed on vellum and held with thousands of other parliamentary records in a document repository in London, was adopted by British lawmakers and signed by Queen Victoria several months before Canada's birth on July 1, 1867.
While Library and Archives Canada possesses paper copies of the document, the animal-skin originals have remained in British hands for the past 143 years.
British officials have, in the past, rejected requests to surrender the historic legislation.
Well, look at it from the Brits' perspective. How would you like a bunch of foreigners, even if they are family, removing bits and pieces of your national records? The British North America Act (officially renamed Constitution Act, 1867 by the anglophobic Trudeau government at the time of patriation) is just another act of the Mother Parliament, one among many thousands. It's our birth certificate, but Westminster issued quite a few of these over the centuries. What happens when all the old colonies come rummaging through the archives, grabbing this old vellum and that?
With the backing of some historiographical heavyweights, including Jack Granatstein, a "Bring Back the Act" campaign has been started. The marketing boys must have outvoted the nitpickers on that slogan, the Act was never in Canada. We are not bringing it back, we are taking it for the first time. It's been gathering dust in that archive, with fishing legislation and assorted treaties with long defunct states, for the better part of a century and a half.
My own sentiments are divided on this one. Yes, there is an inherent coolness - well for me anyway - of having the BNA on Canadian soil. On another level the whole campaign smacks of a pinning for an American-style veneration of our constitution. But therein lies the rub. We are a constitutional monarchy not a constitutional republic. The U.S Constitution and Declaration of Independence are the fountainhead of America, and Americanism. We have different origins and a different history.
The BNA didn't create Canada, it was an administrative reorganization which created the federal government. While some of the Fathers of Confederation did hint, that at some point in the distant future, we would become independent, that wasn't in the cards then. Indeed, one of the major goals of Confederation was to prevent Canada from becoming independent. Many of the leading Fathers - Macdonald, Brown and Galt among them - were terrified that Britain was getting fed up with its quarrelsome North American possessions.
Why risk a war with the emerging United States over Canada? Why risk the lucrative trade and commercial links between Britain and America? All for a "few acres of snow," as Voltaire had called us? "We must make ourselves powerful," said John A. If Canada looked like something big and important, Britain would think twice about cutting us loose. When John A was given an audience with Queen of Victoria, after Confederation was a done deal, he told Her Majesty that the whole point of the exercise was to ensure that Canada remained loyal to her, and her descendants, "forever."
The BNA was just a piece of legislation, subject to the traditions of the British constitution, and future revisions as deemed necessary by the relevant parties. The Act simply does not play the same role in Canadian history as the American constitution does in their history. The attempt to "Bring Back" the BNA seems to be another example of imported Americanism with a Maple Leaf slapped on the side. I like America, I like Americans, the Fathers of the American republic are personal heroes, but I'm not American. I'm Canadian. In Canada the fountainhead of our constitutional traditions is the Crown.