Monday, June 24, 2024

40 years ago, Canada was reestablished without Quebec

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
"Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic."

40 years ago tomorrow, Canada was somewhat ‘reestablished’. without Quebec.

Queen Elizabeth II was in Ottawa to sign the initials “Declaration of Constitution Act, 1982”.

All Quebec newspapers of the time emphasize the great polarization caused by the event, which was nevertheless intended to establish.

Trudeau Levesque

in one of register On April 17, 1982, we talk about “Good Luck Day in Ottawa” while “Quebec has no heart to celebrate.” By the Queen in festive dress. On the other hand, Justice and Development Party Minister Jacques-Yvan Morin said: “This constitution is illegal.”

The next day, April 18th. the magazineTitle: “Canada Becomes Sovereign … While 35,000 Quebecers Demand Their Independence.”

While Pierre Elliot Trudeau, dressed in a trench coat, watches the British sovereign sign official documents, René Levesque takes command of the “March of Quebec.”

Quebec government in the streets of Montreal. Not in Ottawa. Because the agreement that led to this declaration, in November of last year, was made between Ottawa and the other nine provinces, in the absence of representatives of Quebec, during the “Night of the Long Knives,” as it was put in place.


On April 17, Trudeau assured us that “nothing that makes Quebec authentic” was sacrificed.

Forty years later, was he right?

Trudeau’s energy minister at the time, Marc Lalonde, believed Quebec’s privacy was in no way harmed by the repatriation. On the contrary, he argues, Quebecers like other Canadians have put an end to the “sign of dependency”: their basic law is no longer British.

For the rest, the charter “served all Quebecers very well” by protecting the rights of citizens and disadvantaged groups. The charter also guaranteed the rights of linguistic minorities.

For Benoît Pelletier, the verdict is quite different. A constitutionalist, Pelletier was a minister in Jean Charest’s liberal government from 2003 to 2008. According to him, in 1982 he created a new legal system in which “Quebec’s authenticity was sacrificed.”

He told Radio QUB on Wednesday that the Bill of Rights, in essence, “is being interpreted in a fairly uniform way by the courts.” This has limited Quebec’s ability to legislate the issues underlying this “authenticity”. For example, several provisions of Law 101 were declared invalid.

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It is certainly possible, thanks to the clause though, to evade a maximum of five years of rights as interpreted by the courts. But when Quebecers use it, as in the Secularism Act or Bill 96, there is a general disapproval elsewhere in Canada.

Biased judges?

The resettlement took place legally through controversial Supreme Court references (SCC) in 1981 and 1982.

These rulings concluded that Quebec had no veto over constitutional amendments.

Historian Frederic Bastian (see Battle of LondonBoreal, 2013) that in this judicial process, the principle of the independence of the courts was violated.

In the British archives, he discovered documents showing that SCC judges, Willard Este and Chief Justice Bora Laskin, were in contact with the federal government during the judges’ deliberations. Another SCC judge, Jan Betz, had in the past served as P. Trudeau’s “special advisor on constitutional affairs.”

Lévesque angry, but helpless

Then-Prime Minister of Quebec Rene Levesque and his wife, Corinne Cote, April 1982.

archive photo

Then-Prime Minister of Quebec Rene Levesque and his wife, Corinne Cote, April 1982.

During the Quebec Walk organized on the same day as the royal signing ceremony in Ottawa, René Levesque doesn’t seem to have enough harsh words.

“We are here to declare that this constitutional horror, fabricated without us, against us, and behind our backs, is a horror for others! Denounced on April 17, 1982.”

He was re-elected a year ago with a promise not to hold a referendum, except that he fired: “If we don’t have the country we need, we’ll make the country we need.”

Too tired?

But besides this great march, what will the Levesque government do to resist the imposition of a new Basic Law without its consent?

The popular thesis, “The Broken Man” by historian Pierre Godin, wants Levesque, exhausted, no longer to have the strength to repeat it as it should. Political scientist Guy LaForest once wrote that after resettlement Quebec was “decapitated”.

However, the gestures were made. ‘Lévesque did what he could!’ says Louis Bernard impatiently on the other end of the line.

The ex-Chief of Staff of Levsk, who in 1982 was Secretary-General of the Executive Council, recalls that all laws passed from that time until he left office in 1985 will include the “exception clause”.

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In the National Assembly, the government passed a resolution, with the support of many liberals, condemning Ottawa’s action. Quebec will also defend the existence of a court veto to overturn repatriation. without result.


Why isn’t a Quebec referendum on a “power coup” held in Ottawa?

In Trudeau’s entourage, this scenario is frightening. But Martin Tremblay, a historian and former chief of staff at Levsk, recalls in a book that internal polls “do not allow us to predict an absolute majority.”

Moreover, Levesque is obsessed with the serious economic crisis affecting Quebec. “For him, it did not make sense to hold a referendum on the constitution when interest rates were at 17% and people were losing their homes!”

Sixty-eight “traitors”, one fighter

The word “betrayal” often appears when discussing resettlement in 1982.

From there to classify Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal Federal MPs in Ottawa as “traitors,” there is only one step. What would the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal (SSJB), the nationalist organization headed at the time by the fiery independent Gilles Riom, go for?

She had a large poster printed with the names of 68 Quebec liberals who voted for the Patriot. the address : They are traitors!

A preview of the poster published by the Society of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Montreal in 1982.

Photography by Antoine Ropitel

A preview of the poster published by the Society of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Montreal in 1982.

SSJB buys ads page in . format duty And post it there.

“It is absolutely absurd, it is shameful,” still indignant, 40 years later, former minister Marc Lalonde. It cost me $50,000! »

The latter, along with a colleague, would sue the SSJB in court for libel and libel. It will be necessary to wait until 2003 before the Supreme Court decides… in favor of the SSJB. Trudeau’s former deputy and senator, Serge Goyal, who was targeted by the SSJB accusations, emphasizes a paradox: “However, thanks to the freedom of expression recognized in the 1982 Charter, the SSJB won.”

only discount

Only one of Trudeau’s 74 lawmakers chose to formally oppose repatriation: Louis Duclos, MP for Montmorency. Even today, at the age of 82, he kills the “hateful” side of the case and the “intellectually dishonest” character of his former boss.

As early as March 1981, Duclos announced that he would vote against repatriation. “Many people then told me that it would be bad for my career. Three or four other elected Quebec Reds were enticed to join him. Including Jean Lapierre (who voted to please his mentor André Olé). Others chose to be absent.

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Some expressed regret for their vote. After a drunken evening, a former liberal colleague confides in him (Duclos refuses to be identified): “You must have found us cowards.”

Federal defeat in Quebec

For former minister Marc Lalonde, nationalizing the constitution, “was like realizing a dream”.

At 92, he recalls that, as a “young lawyer”, he often dreamed of a “fundamental amendment to the Constitution”, or more precisely the British North American Act of 1867. A dream he had combined with Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Despite its importance, the 1982 modification was, in general, “modest,” as Marc Lalonde says today.

One thing is for sure, it is in no way consistent with what was pledged during the 1980 referendum campaign, Decentralization, which recognized the peculiarity of Quebec. It was beige book.

This way of seeing things did not matter at all to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who nevertheless pretended to support her on May 14, 1980, in the midst of the referendum campaign, in a speech in which he asserted that “no” means “yes to federalism.” Revamped.

Seeing Claude Ryan

When we talked to him about Claude Ryan’s ideas, Marc Lalonde, 40 years later, seemed upset: “Ryan was never a constitutionalist in his life. He then explains that the proposed federalism in beige book (and desired by a clear majority of Quebecers) was “unrealistic”.

Indeed, as political scientist Jay LaForest once wrote, Trudeau-style federalism rejected Ryan’s multinational vision.

From the point of view of the Troudians, neither the State of Quebec nor the inhabitants of Quebec; of Canadian individuals who happen to live, by chance, in the “Province of Quebec”.

Claude Ryan was highly critical of repatriation. He then led the fight with Robert Borasa for the Meech Accords, and then that of Charlottetown, which would have corrected the 1982 humiliation.

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