Canadian Values and Charlottetown
Convivium, 31 August 2017
Convivium editor-in-chief Father Raymond J. de Souza marks the 25th anniversary of the Charlottetown Accord, reporting on its significance in our current cultural moment.
Memories of it have now disappeared into the constitutional miasma that shrouded Canadian political life for some thirty years from the 1960s to the 1990s, but the Charlottetown Accord – signed twenty-five years ago this week – bears remembering in our current moment.
The Charlottetown Accord was the phoenix that attempted to rise from the ashes of the Meech Lake constitutional process. There were broad consultations and lengthy negotiations between the first ministers and aboriginal leaders. The principles of Meech Lake were extended further – Quebec as a distinct society, a provincial role in Senate and Supreme Court appointments, and agreements on federal-provincial spending power, language rights, Parliamentary reform, and the like.
Perhaps most interesting today is that the Charlottetown Accord proposed to include in the constitution a “Canada Clause” that would outline the principles undergirding the constitution. It would speak of the nature of Canada and would have interpretative authority, meaning that the courts would have to interpret the rest of the constitution, including the Charter of Rights, in light of the Canada Clause. Here is what had been proposed:
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