Glossary of Terms

Advocacy and activism diagram
Adapted from the "Advocating Creatively"

Advocacy Terms

Advocacy—acting or speaking in favour of a policy, cause, or idea. “Political advocacy” means working to change government policy or legislation.

Brief—a document summarizing important information on a specific subject including the background and purpose of an advocacy campaign.

Demonstration—a public event (such as picketing, parading, etc.) displaying a group’s opinion toward an issue.

Petition—a formal request (bearing signatures of those making the request) that is addressed to a person or group of people in authority or power (such as the House of Commons). This request solicits an action on the part of the recipient(s).

Press Release—an announcement of an event or news item sent to the press by an organization, government agency, public relations firm, etc.

Structure of Government Terms

Cabinet—the executive decision-making body of the government (at both federal and provincial levels) that approves departmental drafts of government bills and proposes them to the legislature.

Cabinet Minister—member of the Cabinet chosen by the Prime Minister.  Each Cabinet Minister is the head of one department, such as Citizenship and Immigration or Environment Canada.

Civil Service—those branches of public service concerned with all governmental administrative functions outside the armed services.

Constituent—a Canadian citizen represented by a Member of Parliament.

Governor General—the Queen’s representative in Canada (The Queen is Canada’s head of state).

House of Commons—the elected, lower house of Parliament.  It is the principal means through which Canadians can participate in legislative decision-making.

Legislator—members of the federal or provincial legislature who writes and passes laws.

Legislature—the legislative branch of a federal or provincial government.

Member of Parliament (MP)—elected federal officials in the House of Commons.  Each MP represents a riding.

Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Member of the House of Assembly (MHA), or Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)—elected representatives serving in provincial or territorial legislatures. Different terms are used depending on the province or territory the representative serves (MPP—Ontario, MNA—Quebec, MHA—Newfoundland & Labrador, MLA—all other provinces and territories).

Opposition Party Critic—representatives from opposition parties responsible for presenting party policies on a certain issue and critiquing government policy on that issue.

Parliament—the legislative branch of the government, composed of the House of Commons and
the Senate.

Parliamentarian—a Senator or Member of the House of Commons.

Premier—the head of government of a province or territory. Usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the legislature.

Prime Minister—head of the government of Canada and the chairman of the Cabinet. The leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons.

Private Members Bill (PMB)— bills that are introduced in the House of Commons by an MP who is not a cabinet minister. These bills follow the same legislative process as a government bill, but cannot use government funds.

Riding/Constituency/Electoral District—a geographical area with representation by one Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Senate—the upper house of Parliament, meant to act as a check and balance to the House of Commons.  Senators are appointed by the Governor General, on the advice from the Prime Minister.  Senators can remain in the Senate until they reach 75 years of age.

Supreme Court of Canada—the highest court in Canada. The Supreme Court has nine justices and hears appeals from decisions of provincial courts.

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    For more information about the Parliament of Canada, visit

Legislative Terms

Act—a law made by Parliament or a provincial legislature.

Amendment—a change to a piece of legislation proposed in a motion, a bill, or committee report.

Bill —a proposed act submitted to Parliament for approval.  A bill becomes an act if it is passed (approved) by both Houses and receives royal assent.

Legislation—a term to refer to both laws and acts.

Royal Assent— after a bill has been passed by the House and Senate, this is the final step in the passage of a bill through Parliament.  At this stage, the Governor General approves the bill on behalf of the Queen.

Canadian government structure diagram
This diagram was adapted from Mr. Gilchrist’s Social Studies Blog (
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    For a more information on how the government is structured, see Eugene Forsey’s How Canadians Govern Themselves.

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