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article imageOp-Ed: The Constitution Act of 1982, Quebec and Thomas Mulcair

By Karl Gotthardt     Apr 28, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Canada's Constitution Act, along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted with the signature of Queen Elizabeth II 31 years ago, It is the law of the land and is one of the great achievements of Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The act is controversial in the Province of Quebec, since it was enacted without the consent of the Province of Quebec. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney attempted to get Quebec on side, unsuccessfully, with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accord. reports that the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper was criticized for not celebrating the thirtieth anniversary last year, while an official celebration was held in Toronto by then Interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae and former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who was justice minister at the time.
Stephen Harper, is not celebrating this anniversary in appropriate style. Well, it’s not really “some” people. It’s really one person, former prime minister Jean Chretien, who, as justice minister in 1982, was one of the signatories of that document. On Wednesday, Chretien and interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae will lead a Liberal celebration of the Charter in Toronto.
Fast forward one year later and the Act is in the news again. In his book La Bataille de Londre, Frederic Bastien a history professor at Dawson College, alleged that two of the Supreme Court justices made inappropriate disclosures about the Court’s deliberations regarding the 1981 patriation reference case.
As a result of the allegations, Canada's Supreme Court conducted an internal investigation and found no documents related to explosive new allegations.
"The Supreme Court of Canada conducted a thorough review of its records and it does not have any documents relevant to the alleged communications by former Chief Justice Bora Laskin and former Mr. Justice Willard Estey in relation to the patriation of the Constitution of Canada,"
As previously mentioned, the Act is controversial in Quebec and the Province passed a motion in April 2002 in Quebec's National Assembly, supported by the Liberal Party affirming that Quebec never acceded to the Constitution Act of 1982, which lessens the power of Quebec.
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm that it never acceded to the Constitution Act, 1982, whose effect was to lessen the powers and rights of Québec without the consent of the Québec Government, of the National Assembly, and that this Act is still unacceptable for Québec
The official opposition leader, Thomas Mulcair along with the current premier of Quebec Pauline Marois voted for the motion. After the supreme court released its findings that it could not find any evidence or documents that supported the allegation in Frederic Bastien's book, Thomas Mulcair said that the supreme court's findings are not credible.
"You won't find something you don't ask for. Those documents were given to Mr. Bastien by the Canadian government ... and large elements were taken out. So the first thing that one would have expected the Supreme Court to do is to ask for the full version, read them, and start an investigation, Instead, what they seem to have said from this cryptic, one-paragraph statement, is: 'We looked in our filing cabinet and we don't have them. It's a clear indication that the Supreme Court had no intention all along of ever dealing with this issue seriously. But unfortunately, it is an extremely serious issue."
The Government of Quebec said it was disappointed with the cursory examination of the Supreme Court, which leaves many questions unanswered.
Since the NDP won its opposition status with strong, overwhelming support of Quebec it is understandable that any party and especially the NDP would cater to Quebec. It raises the question, however, whether or not this is a stand a politician should take that is hoping to be prime minister of Canada.
The Constitution Act of 1982 and the accompanying Charter of Rights and Freedoms receives widespread support outside of Quebec. It is the law of the land and despite Quebec's opposition to it, it takes nothing away from the provinces. Provinces have the option to reject any measures that diminish their powers with the notwithstanding clause.
It would be a good thing to let sleeping dogs lie both inside and outside of Quebec and this would be particular important for Thomas Mulcair. The current conservative government is being accused of catering to Alberta, especially the resource sector, then why would we want to replace it with one that would give preference to another region over others? Justin Trudeau must be smiling.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Charter of Rights, Canada, Canadian Politics, thomas mulcair, Supreme court of canada
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