NEGOTIATIONS WITH QUEBEC, Part 3

By Pierre Elliot Trudeau

This is the last of three parts reproducing an article by Mr. Trudeau first published in the Montreal Gazette, Feb 3/96. Parts One and Two are set out under 'Previous Papers'. Permission for this Internet application was granted by Mr. Trudeau.


WHO SAID NO TO MEECH?

Mr. Bouchards assertion:

" They (English Canada) rejected the hand offered by Quebec in l990 … No one came to Montreal to demonstrate and claim 'We love you'. They simply said No to Meech" (Oct. 27, l995, 7:30 p.m. Radio-Canada TV)

THE FACTS

Two days before the referendum, separatists would, of course, have preferred that a few English extremists trample the Quebec flag. But to mock the tens of thousands Canadians who came to Quebec from other provinces on Oct. 27, l995, to express their support and their hope to the people of Quebec is, at the very least, inelegant. And in fact, who said No to Meech?

  1. On June 3,l987, the Canadian government and the nine English speaking provinces said Yes to Meech and signed the Meech Lake Accord. Throughout Canada, the English press was generally in favor of it. In Quebec, the English press and Alliance Quebec, standard-bearer of anglo quebecers, had said Yes to it from the outset.

  2. In Quebec, French opinion leaders generally said No to Meech. Only 18 per cent of the experts who spoke to the parliamentary commission set up by the Bourassa government in April l987 said Yes to Meech - 70 per cent were against it. As for groups and associations, 19 per cent were in favor of Meech and 81 per cent were against it. And all those groups saying no to Meech were essentially French speaking organizations such as the three largest labor federations (CSN,FTQ,CEQ) a teachers' group (L'Alliance des professeurs de Montreal), an artists group(l'Union des artists), a writers group (l'Union des Ecrivains), a farmers' union ( l'Union des Producteurs Agricoles).

As for Quebec's political groups, the Parti Quebecois and the NDP were firmly against the Meech Lake Accord. Then, surprisingly, Premier Bourassa, while saying he had to sign the accord, went on record to say he had reservations. In fact, as early as May 12,1987, even before the accord was adopted, he had declared to the National Assembly that his government had taken "another step towards a temporary solution to the constitutional problem…. There would be other requests and other discussions later , or a second series or other series of constitutional reform". On June 18,1987, Mr. Bourassa felt impelled to speak in the National Assembly about Quebec's "right of self determination" and to recall that it was included "in the constitutional program of the Liberal Party." Finally, on June 23, l987, he concluded the debate in the National Assembly with the following words: "The leader of the opposition (Mr. Pierre-Marc Johnson) constantly refers to the constitutional matters which have yet to be settled. Does he forget that there will be a second round of discussions?"

But Mr. Bourassa himself did not forget: in February 1990, more than four months before the deadline for the final ratification of the Meech Lake accord, his party adopted a resolution to "set up a constitutional committee ( the Allaire committee) which would prepare the political content of the second round of negotiations which would start after the accord was ratified." It also contains a veiled threat: the committee would also examine scenarios "to prepare for a possible failure of the Meech Lake Accord."

Mr. Bourassa had dusted off his Victoria tactic from l971: to negotiate an agreement but, even before its signature, announce that it does not satisfy Quebec and that other requests will follow. (He would do the same with the Charlottetown accord in l992 when he compared the referendum to a lottery)

One might assume that such actions would disillusion the good people of Canada who thought that acceptance of Meech would satisfy Quebec and bring constitutional peace to the country. But no! Astonishingly, on Jan.23, l990, after such inflammatory remarks and equivocal posturing coming from Quebec, including the use of the notwithstanding clause to ban English signs, seven English speaking provinces and the Canadian Government still supported Meech. Two provinces had yet to take a definitive stand, because of the hesitancy of one premier and the opposition of one native member of the Manitoba.

How can one seriously conclude, as Lucien Bouchard does, that it is "English Canada" who "rejected the hand offered by Quebec in l990" and who "simply said NO to Meech"?

I ACCUSE LUCIEN BOUCHARD:

"By calling upon fallacies and untruths to advance the cause of hateful demagoguery; Lucien Bouchard misled the electors during last October's referendum. By his actions, he tarnished Quebec's good reputation as a democratic society and he does not deserve the trust of the people in this province."