About the Senate
Canada’s parliamentary system is based on a division of powers between three branches – the executive, legislative and judicial. Each branch is designed to function independently of the others, although its powers are subject to limits set by either or both of the other branches. Thus, a series of dynamic ‘checks and balances’ operate together to sustain and nurture our fundamental democratic freedoms.
The Senate and House of Commons are part of the legislative branch. The legislative branch as a whole is intended to oversee and approve actions undertaken by the executive. The Senate’s function is primarily deliberative. The House of Commons, on the other hand, serves as a ‘confidence’ chamber. In other words, if the House of Commons votes in favour of a non-confidence motion, the executive (Prime Minister and Cabinet) must seek re-election.
As the third branch of our system of checks and balances, the judiciary upholds the rule of law which is a mainstay of democratic societies. Winston Churchill once described its crucial role by saying,
The independence of the judiciary from the executive is
the prime defence against tyranny.