The Meech Lake Accord Essay, Research Paper
The Meech Lake Accord
The Meech Lake Accord was an agreement made by the prime minister of Canada and the premiers of all ten provinces to improve and make changes to the constitution of Canada and thereby make it acceptable to the province of Quebec. The agreement was negotiated and signed on June 3, 1987 but was never ratified.
The Canadian Constitution, originally known as the British North America Act, had been proposed in 1867, when Canada was still under British Rule. When Canada obtained full sovereignty from Britain in 1931, the government of Canada wanted to patriate and reform the original constitution. This ambition dragged on for a few decades due to the fact that the government could not negotiate a deal on how to improve and modify the constitution.
In 1960, another critical turning point of the development of an amended constitution had arose. French speaking Quebeckers were growing tired of the Canadian government not being able to satisfy their requests for changes. They felt that their culture, language and society were being dominated by the rest of English speaking Canada. They had felt this way ever since Confederation took place. In 1968, an attempt was made to solve this problem for Quebec. Rene Levesque, a Quebec politician, formed a political party that was dedicated to sovereignty-association. His main goal for this newly formed group was to make Quebec a sovereign nation which would be associated with but equal to the Canadian federal government.
Levesque achieved the position of Quebec?s premier in 1976. In 1980, he held a referendum in which the province of Quebec was to decide whether or not it wanted Quebec to be a separate nation. At that time, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau strongly opposed to the movement and offered to reform the constitution instead to satisfy Quebec?s demands. Levesque?s efforts failed with only 40% of the province voting for sovereignty. After the constitution was changed, many Quebeckers still rejected it because they felt their rights were still not met.
The battle for Quebec?s right to become a sovereign state raged for several more years until Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney put his efforts in solving the problem in 1984. He declared that he would amend the constitution to satisfy Quebec?s demands. Robert Bourassa, Quebec?s new premier, argued that the federal government must reform the constitution so that it would satisfy the conditions that would lead Quebec to ratify the constitution. There were five main points that Quebec demanded before they could sign the reformed constitution:
- A constitutional veto (meaning any one province could block any constitutional amendment)
- The recognition that Quebec is a ‘distinct society’
- The right to have Supreme Court Justices appointed from names on lists
created by the province
- The limitation of the federal spending power, namely, the allowance for a
province to withdraw from a national program to create its own with
- Greater provincial control of immigration, by automatically
constitutionalizing inter-governmental agreements relating to that.
A deadline for the amendment of the constitution was set for June 23, 1990. The Quebec government was the first province to approve of the constitution and soon other provinces followed.
By early June 1990, eight out of the ten provinces had gave their approval for the new accord. Manitoba and Newfoundland rejected the offer and then inevitably, time ran out. Ever since this moment in Canadian history, we are all uncertain about Canada?s future as a whole nation.