Patriating the Constitution

Events

British North America Act

1867

-The act set out the powers of the federal and provincial governments and guaranteed the language and education rights of Quebec's french speaking majority
-No changes could be made without the British Parliament's approval

Statute of Westminster

1931

-The recommendations of the Balfour Report became law in 1931, when the Statute of Westminster was passed by the British government
-This statute formally turned the British Empire into the British Commonwealth
-Canada became a country equal in status with Britain, entitled to make its own laws
-There were still two remaining restrictions on Canada’s independence
-Canada’s constitution, the BNA act remained in Britain because the Canadian federal and provincial governments could not agree on an amending formula the procedure for changing the act
-Also the judicial court of appeal for Canadians resided in Britain until 1949

Constitution Act

1982

-Trudeau wanted to patriate the constitution where the government would have the authority to make changes
-He wanted this power because he wants to include a Charter of Rights and Freedoms
-He had to have the approval of all the provinces
-He needed to come up with an amending formula
-most of the provincial premiers were opposed to the Charter
-A series of meetings failed to resolve these issues
-The premiers agreed to accept the Charter if an escape clause were added
-This was the "notwithstanding clause" which allowed the federal government or any of the provinces to opt out of some of the clauses in the Charter

Meech Lake Accord

1987

-In 1987, Prime Minister Mulroney called the pre-miers to a conference at Meech Lake
-He proposed a package of amendments to the Constitution
-the Meech Lake Accord offered to recognize Quebec as a distinct society
-It also proposed giving more power to the other provinces
-All provinces, for example, would have the power to veto constitutional change
-Quebec supported the accord

Collapse of the Meech Lake Accord

1990

-There were many critics of the Meech Lake Accord
-Trudeau himself argued that the designation of Quebec as a distinct society would create “two solitudes” in Canada
-Other critics disliked the “distinct-society” clause
-Quebeckers saw this clause as a way of protecting French culture and language, but opponents worried that it might be used in Quebec to override the Charter and deprive specific groups of their rights
-Two provinces, Manitoba and Newfoundland,withheld their support
-As a result, the Meech Lake Accord disintegrated in June 1990
-The failure of the accord was seen as a rejection of Quebec itself, even a “humiliation
-By late 1990, support in Quebec for separation had soared to 64%

Charlottetown Accord

1992

-Prime Minister Mulroney believed he had to continue with the Constitution debate
-his government appointed a special “Citizen’s Forum” that travelled across the nation to hear the views of Canadians on the future of the Constitution
-Eventually, Mulroney and the premiers came up with another package of proposed constitutional amendments
-This was the Charlottetown Accord
-The Charlottetown Accord proposed reforming the Senate, making it an elected body with equal representation from all parts of the country, as the western provinces wanted
-It also supported Aboriginal self-government to draw the support of the First Nations

Failure of the Charlottetown Accord

1992

-The Charlottetown Accord was put to a national referendum in October 1992.
-54.5 percent of Canadian voters rejected it
-The Charlottetown Accord had so many clauses, each designed to please a different group, that it was easy to find fault
-The greatest opposition was in British Columbia,where 64% of voted no
-B.C. voters felt that the accord gave Quebec too much power
-Voters in Quebec generally believed that the Charlottetown Accord did not give them enough power because most of the Senate seats had been given up to the West.
-They also feared Aboriginal self-government, because it would affect a large portion of northern Quebec

Referendum of 1995

1995

-In 1995 Premier Jacques Parizeau called a provincial referendum on full sovereignty (the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada)
-The votes were counted on October 30th
-When the results were in,49.4 per cent of Quebeckers had voted yes and 50.6% voted no
-In the after-math of the referendum, some politicians continued to believe that Canada could change the Constitution to satisfy at least some of Quebec’s demands
-Others thought it was time to take a hard line with the separatists
-As the century closed, support for separatism appeared to be declining in Quebec