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The Branches of Canada's Federal System

Create an illustrated concept map explaining the roles and interrelationships of the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students explore the functioning of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government by creating an illustrated concept map explaining the roles, relationships and tensions between these branches.

Introduce the task
Inform students that they will be working in groups to create an illustrated concept map to explain the relationship and tensions between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The concept map will also explain the role of each of the three branches in creating and implementing laws. Tell students to explore more than the reference material account of the relationships; they should also include the real-life dynamics that exist in the relationships of these branches.

Research the three branches of government
Provide readings such as How a Government Bill Becomes Law (Background Information). Also ask students to carry out independent online research encourage them to contact representatives from the three branches of the federal government.

Help students identify categories to structure their research:

  • purposes and mandate of each branch
  • main activities and components of each branch
  • power relations among the branches—the authority that each branch has over the other branches
  • collaborative interactions among the branches—how they support or complement each other in completing their respective functions
  • tensions and safeguards—how the branches may limit or influence the operations of the other branches.

You may want to create a chart similar to the one below or adapt one of the charts and the assessment rubric in Collecting Information (Support Material).



Purpose and Mandate

Main Activities and Components

Power Relations

Collaborative Interactions

Tensions and Safeguards


* consider interests of the country

* oversee government departments

* introduce bills
* prepare budget

* drawn from the party in power (most seats)

* work with legislative branch to examine and make amendments to bills

* if proposed bills are defeated, it may be considered a vote of non-confidence, leading to an election


* represent voters

* debate proposed  bills
* vote bills into law or defeat bills

* can defeat bills introduced by the executive branch

* provide feedback on proposed bills, including suggested revisions

* can stall or sometimes defeat bills proposed by executive if felt it is not in interest of Canadians


* interpret laws
* enforce laws

* make arrests
* hear trials

* help to ensure laws are passed

*protect constitutional rights

* work with government to make sure the rule of law is followed

*sometimes strike down laws that are seen to be contrary to the constitution

Introduction to concept maps
Introduce students to concept maps by providing them with an example of a concept map and a mind map.

Mind maps place the central idea or concept in the centre and then organize related ideas around the central idea.

Concept maps start from the top and flow downward from the central concept. Concept maps use linking words, such as verbs, to establish relationships. Mind maps do not use linking words.

Provide students with various concept maps and ask them to construct a practice concept map on a familiar topic, such as relationships in school.

For further instructions, see Concept Maps (Support Material).

Determine criteria for effective concept maps
Review the criteria for an effective concept map, which may include the following:

  • contains accurate and important information
  • offers insightful information about the relationships and hierarchical structure
  • uses concise and expressive language
  • is visually effective and easy to understand.

Develop concept maps
Provide students with these steps to create a concept map:

  1. Identify key vocabulary by brainstorming all the terms and concepts related to Canada's political system, including how laws are created and passed.
  2. Write one term or concept per sticky note or index card.
  3. Classify the terms as either concepts or verbs/terms that link concepts.
  4. Arrange notes or cards so that they explain the role of each branch of government and reflect the relationships between the three branches.
  5. Use expressive verbs to label the relationships between the branches.
  6. Add powerful visuals to the concept map.

Share concept maps
Arrange for students to view the other classmates' maps and to explore their similarities and differences. Discuss any differences between the maps.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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