Constitutional Initiatives

A process of national dissolution begun in the late 1970s by Pierre Trudeau, who imagined that repatriating the British North America Act from the utterly indifferent British would somehow make Canada stronger and more virile. Trudeau’s other intention-which was to make an accommodation with French-speaking Canada that would narrow the civil separation between English-speaking Canada created in 1763 when Britain permitted Quebec to continue civil administration through the Napoleonic Code–may have been honourable in Trudeau’s logical, Jesuit fashion. Today it merely provides an object lesson in what paves the road to hell. In the late 1980s, the Mulroney government mounted a series of right wing constitutional initiatives-the Meech Lake deal and the Charlottetown Accord–designed to disperse powers to the provinces and make the taxation of the corporate sector impossible. Destructive as these were in themselves, the public debate over them served as a smokescreen to the signing of “trade” agreements with the United States and other countries that have made reaching a constitutional agreement with Quebec superfluous. By putting all our important national institutions under the control of multinational corporations and their policy apparati, we’ve created a central government unable to tax anyone but its individual citizens, and one that is frankly reluctant to govern the country. On the other hand, individual Canadians did get a Charter of Rights and Freedoms out of the deal. And the way things are going, it may be a good idea to have a set of civil guarantees on the books that are actionable rather than merely petitionable-by-the-hapless, the feckless or the hopeless. See bananas, Meech Lake, Charlottetown Accord

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