Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord: Efforts to Rejoin Quebec with the Canadian Constitutional Family

Topics: Quebec, Meech Lake Accord, Robert Bourassa Pages: 6 (2004 words) Published: October 9, 2008
Poli Sci.

Meech Lake accord and Charlottetown Accord can be defined as attempts of Canadian government to make Quebec rejoin the Canadian Constitutional family. P.M Brian Mulrooney wanted that Quebec should symbolically rejoin the Canadian Constitutional family. Therefore, the new premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, was asked to outline conditions for such reunion. Mulrooney and premiers met at Meech Lake in April 1987 and agreed on a document that addressed Quebec’s demand and was known as Meech Lake Accord. Prior to this accord government of Quebec “opted out” of the new Charter Of Rights to maximum extend possible under sec. 33 by introducing a “notwithstanding clause” into each of its existing statutes and into every newly acted statues. In addition, the government also refused to participate in new constitutional amendments. Quebec’s this behavior was the result of curbing of its powers by Charter of Rights. Quebec government announced five conditions, these were: (i) Constitutional recognition of Quebec as a “distinct society”. (ii) A veto on constitutional amendments. (iii) Increased jurisdiction over immigration. (iv) participation in Supreme Court appointments. (v) Financial compensation when Quebec opted out of national programs set by Ottawa within provincial jurisdiction. In 1991 a new set of ambitious negotiations began and it was believed that these negotiations would cure everybody’s constitutional discontent as well as Quebec’s. In 1992 the eleven first ministers reached an agreement at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The Charlottetown Accord included all the elements of Meech LakeAccord, and much else besides. For example, regarding the division of legislative powers, it provided for exclusive provincial jurisdiction over forestry, mining and some other areas. It had four main parts : Canada Clause, a Triple-E senate, Aboriginal self-government, and changes to division of powers. The "Canada Clause" set out the values that define the nature of the Canadian character. One of those values was the recognition that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada. However, inspite of Canadian government’s sincere efforts of solving constitutional grievances, both the accords failed. Unlike the Meech Lake Accord, the ratification process here provided for a national referendum. Charlottetown Accord failed because, nationally, 54% of the votes cast opposed the accord. Whereas, there were different reasons for failure of Meech Lake Accord. The accord failed because it could not be ratified. The areas of concern which lead to delay in ratification process were: 1. The distinct society clause will be the first step towards separation. 2. It would weaken minority rights in Quebec. 3. It would weaken powers of Federal Government. 4. Aboriginal Rights will be neglected, and last but not the least 5.Tthe closed door process by which the accord was formulated was not liked by critics . Failure of these accords show that amending procedure is flawed and public participation is important, but it does not guarantee success of the proposals. The core reason for the failure of Charlottetown Accord was that it failed in national referendum. However, there were some elements in the Accord that were heavily criticized. The most debated point was the “Distinct Society “clause. Quebec separatists, Lucien Bouchard’s Bloc Quebecois and the provincial Parti Quebecois led by Jacques Parizeau, strongly opposed as they believed it did not give Quebec enough powers. Preston Manning's fledgling, western-based Reform Party battled the accord in the West, opposing the acknowledgement of Quebec as a distinct society and arguing that Senate reform did not go far enough. The most important opponent of the accord was probably former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In a piece first published in Maclean's Magazine he argued that the accord meant the end of Canada and was the disintegration of the federal government. Critics in Quebec...
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