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Constitutional Predicament

Constitutional Predicament: Canada after the Referendum of 1992

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Constitutional Predicament
    Book Description:

    Canada's fifth effort at "mega-constitutional politics" was a period of popular discussion and leadership negotiation, that ran from the defeat in 1990 of the Meech Lake Accord through the Charlottetown Accord and the referendum of 26 October 1992. Constitutional Predicament explores the referendum in relation to the democratic process; nationalism (Canadian, Aboriginal, Québécois) and pluralism; principles of constitutionalism, constitution-making, and popular participation in constitution-making; the role of the Charter and Supreme Court; future constitutional efforts; and worldwide trends. The contributors agree that Canadian voters rejected the Charlottetown proposals because they disapproved of both their content and the procedure by which they were drawn up. They conclude that, while Quebec remains the chief problem for the Canadian constitution, Quebec was not the sole constitutional issue or the sole issue which determined how Canadians voted. The constitutional process did help make it apparent that Canada is multinational and that each of the three major nations has valid claims on the political system. The contributors offer contrasting views on how the Charlottetown Accord came to read as it does, why negotiators at Charlottetown so misjudged public opinion, and the prognosis for further constitution-making. Readers may also see the referendum vote as a preview of the vote in the general election of October 1993, which unseated the Tories one year later, almost to the day.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6475-6
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Juan D. Lindau
  4. Introduction: Canada’s Predicament
    (pp. 3-24)

    “Has Canada proliferated its solitudes into three or more?” asked Alan Cairns, drawing on the famous Hugh MacLennan novel. “Remember,” replied James Tully, “that MacLennan took the two ‘solitudes’ phrase from a Rilke poem about love.” The essays that follow explore the “Canada round” according to the nationalisms involved, the nationalistic and particularistic pulls, the principles of constitutionalism and constitution making, the quality and appropriateness of popular participation in constitution making, what the Charlottetown events might tell us about future efforts to revisit the matter, and the referendum as an illustration of worldwide trends. The Canada round of popular discussion...

  5. 1 The Charlottetown Accord: Multinational Canada v. Federalism
    (pp. 25-63)

    Traumatic events, such as the recent constitutional referendum, heighten self-consciousness without generating agreement on what has transpired. Indeed, the reverse is more likely true, since the particularistic self-consciousness activated by the referendum process informs the subsequent competition to affix self-interested meaning to this latest Canadian constitutional episode. As rival interpretive claims battle for attention, the pre-referendum constitutional past also gets subtly redefined. Interpretations of the Charlottetown Accord and referendum are indirectly reinterpretations of Meech Lake, of the 1982 Constitution Act and the Trudeau legacy, of past relations between Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian state, and of historical patterns of relationship...

  6. 2 Deliberating a Constitution: The Meaning of the Canadian Referendum of 1992
    (pp. 64-88)

    On 26 October 1992, 54 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec, 57 per cent of Quebeckers, and 62 per cent of voters on Indian reserves refused to give a mandate allowing the federal and provincial governments and Aboriginal representatives to renew the Canadian constitution “on the basis of the agreement reached on August 28, 1992,” in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.¹ What did this negative vote mean? Why did Canadians, Quebeckers, and Aboriginal peoples massively reject an agreement that seemed out of reach just a few weeks before, one that was approved by all parties to the negotiation, supported by the...

  7. 3 Looking Eastward, Looking Backward: A Western Reading of the Never-Ending Story
    (pp. 89-111)

    At the centre of Canada’s current constitutional problems is the Quebec question. This question is multidimensional and complex. It has a long history. Moreover, it is not at all clear that the Quebec question can be solved within the existing constitutional regime. Indeed, so clouded have the issues become, so muddy the constitutional waters, that Canadians have grave difficulties providing cogent and coherent analyses of their own troubles.¹

    One reason, perhaps the chief reason, is that Canadians have been sheltered within a stable political world where serious political questions never were raised and where politics was conducted, over their heads,...

  8. 4 Constitution Making and the Myth of the People
    (pp. 112-131)

    A number of dubious assumptions about the role of citizens in liberal democracies plague Canada’s ongoing constitutional debate. The crucial one – to my knowledge, never explored or challenged – is that liberal democracies require public involvement in the constitutional process. Canadians have simply taken it for granted that because liberal democracies facilitate popular participation in day-to-day politics, they must as a matter of course promote popular participation in constitution making.

    The argument of this paper is, first, that liberal democratic theory warns against popular participation in the process of drawing up a new constitution and, secondly, that the participation...

  9. 5 Judicial Politics Canadian–Style: The Supreme Court’s Contribution to the Constitutional Crisis of 1992
    (pp. 132-148)

    Foreign observers are justified in their astonishment at the sweep of constitutional amendments proposed by the (now defeated) Charlottetown Accord. The accord would have affected sixty-four clauses of the Canadian constitution, increasing its actual length by one-third. Almost no aspect of the constitution was left untouched: the Senate, the House of Commons, formulas for representation and election to both chambers, the federal division of powers, First Ministers’ Conferences, Aboriginal self-government, all were affected. Perhaps most baffling was the Canada clause. The Canada clause was to serve as a preamble to the “new” constitution. Symbolically, it delineated the constitution’s “essential values.”...

  10. 6 Diversity’s Gambit Declined
    (pp. 149-198)

    After the Charlottetown Accord was voted down in the referendum, Alain Dubuc, editor ofLa Presse, wrote:

    Ce que la victoire du NON illustre, c’est d’abord l’incapacité des citoyens d’en arriver à un consensus. II s’agit là d’une impasse structurelle, qui s’inscrit dans 1’histoire et dans les mouvements sociaux et qui est beaucoup plus significative que les maladresses d’un texte juridique ou les errements des politiciens.

    What the victory of the “No” shows is the inability of the citizens to reach an agreement. This is a structural impasse, which is inscribed in history and in social movements, and which is...

  11. 7 Globalism and Localism: Constitutionalism in a New World Order
    (pp. 199-222)

    “The constitutional odyssey must end,” Peter Russell argued in a recent article in theGlobe and Mail(4 October 1992), “to secure Canada’s sovereignty.” There is really only one essential question, Russell contends, underlying our constitutional wrangles: whether we can be a people sharing a common constitution. “Is it too much,” he challenges, “to seek closure on that question?”

    Seekclosure? Is it accidental that one of Canada’s most respected political scientists would express his desire for unity with a term that resonates deeply with the deconstructive tactics of progressive intellectuals all over Europe and North America? And though Russell...

  12. Appendix: Consensus Report on the Constitution, Charlottetown, August 28, 1992 (Charlottetown Accord)
    (pp. 223-250)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 251-288)
  14. Contributors
    (pp. 289-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-295)