patriation of Canadian Constitution

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Pierre Trudeau (1919—2000) Canadian Liberal statesman

Jean Chrétien (b. 1934) Canadian Liberal statesman, Prime Minister 1993–2003

Meech Lake Accord

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The ‘bringing home’ of the Constitution to Canada from Britain, whose parliament had retained the notional right of accepting or rejecting changes to the Canadian constitution. The issue was raised during the 1980 referendum on sovereignty for Quebec, in which Trudeau argued successfully for a redefinition of Quebec's status if the Quebeckers voted to remain within Canada. With his lieutenant, Chrétien, Trudeau set about not only bringing home to Canada all the rights still in Britain, but also defining once and for all the roles of the Canadian federal state and of its provinces, which had been in dispute ever since the creation of Canada on 1 July 1867.

After eighteen months of protracted negotiations between Trudeau and the provincial premiers, a compromise was reached. Moreover, a new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to replace Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights was announced, which became law on 17 April 1982. Though legally binding, these agreements were rejected by Quebec. As the province encompassing the vast majority of French speakers, Quebec insisted on the principle of ‘duality’, whereby Canada was divided into separate English‐ and French‐speaking parts, both of which had to agree to constitutional change. By contrast, the other provinces agreed that constitutional change would have to be supported by a substantial majority in federal parliament, and among the provinces. According to this reasoning, Quebec was thus not accorded any special constitutional status. As a result, the agreement failed in its original purpose, that of pacifying separatist demands in Quebec. To the contrary, it fuelled separatism by failing to incorporate the province's demands into the Canadian constitutional framework.Meech Lake Accord

Meech Lake Accord

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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