Charter Cities: A Backgrounder
A “charter” is a document or a statute that grants specified rights, powers, privileges, or functions from the sovereign power of the state to an individual, corporation, city, or other unit of local organization.
The charter cities that currently exist in Canada draw their origins back to early historic arrangements. Typically a charter is appropriate in circumstances where a city has unique needs as distinct from those other municipalities in the jurisdiction, and as such that municipality requires some form of special arrangement.
There are several Charter Cities in Canada. These are:
• Saint John, New Brunswick – Established through Royal Charter in 1785.
• Montreal, Quebec – A legislative act incorporating Montreal as a city was given Royal Assent in 1832. A new charter was developed in 1840 and additional modifications were made between 1959 and 1970.
• Winnipeg, Manitoba – While incorporated in 1873, the city’s charter was repealed and brought in under municipal legislation in 1886. It received a renewed charter in 1902. The current charter coincides with the merger of Winnipeg with surrounding municipalities in 1972.
• Vancouver, British Columbia – This city was incorporated in 1886 through an exclusive statutory charter to recognize the terminal area. Vancouver was recognized differently from other municipalities due to its unique position in Canadian confederation, namely the CPR extension from Port Moody to Vancouver.
• Lloydminster, Alberta – A special charter was granted to Lloydminster in 1930 to recognize its unique border status. This charter was revised in 2005.
• Toronto, Ontario – Canada’s largest city received its charter in 2006.
• Halifax, Nova Scotia – Had been a charter city until 1999 when its charter was rescinded and it and all Nova Scotia municipalities were included under a single act. Halifax has expressed renewed interest in resurrecting a new legislated charter.
• Edmonton, Alberta – While still on the books, an Edmonton City Charter has not been active since the introduction of the The City Act in 1951, later replaced by the Municipal Government Act.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities has created a template for Charter Cities. It is located at: