LUCIEN BOUCHARD, ILLUSIONIST
By Pierre Elliot Trudeau
I Accuse Lucien Bouchard of having betrayed the population
of Quebec during last October's referendum campaign. By distorting the political history of
his province and of his country, by spreading discord among it's citizens with his demagoric rhetoric and by preaching contempt for those Canadians who did not share his view, Lucien Bouchard went beyond the limits of honest and democratic debate.
Truth must be restored in order to rehabilitate democracy
in Quebec - this, I shall do by examining some of Mr. Bouchard's
assertions between Oct. 14 and 27, 1995.
I - FAILURES AND THEIR CAUSES
Mr. Bouchard's Assertion:
"Countless negotiations have been held between
Quebec and the rest of Canada over the past 30 years. All have failed..... Others have profited from our political weakness...." (Oct. 14, 1995 - Center Communautaire de St.Justin,
In 1964, in 1971 and in 1981, it was the government
of Quebec that sabotaged the negotiations by going back on its
word. The Meech Lake Accord, in 1990, is a different matter, and
I shall address it later.
This tactic would eventually constitute an almost
insurmountable obstacle to the patriation of the constitution
once the Supreme Court of Canada in September 1981, declared that
that, as conventions dictated, the Canadian government could not
patriate without a "substantial level of provincial consent."
The Gang of Eight's solidarity was broken on Nov. 4, 1981, when
during a negotiation meeting and without warning his colleagues,
Rene Levesque accepted a proposal from Canada's prime minister
to resolve the constitutional stumbling block through a referendum.
By going back on his word to his seven allies, Mr Levesque forced
them to regroup in a common front without him.
II - DEMANDS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
Mr. Bouchard's assertion:
"For 30 years, the fundamental reason why....
we were never able to convince English Canada (to concede) even Quebec's smallest historical demands is not
that we sent people who were not good negotiators. we had the
best ones. we had Rene Levesque." (Oct. 18, 1995 - St. Leonard)
Let us first examine the question of demands and then that of the negotiators.
Despite Mr. Bouchard's assertion, the Fulton-Favreau
formula satisfied the first requirement; the Victoria charter satisfied the first one fully and the second
one partially; and the Constitution Act of 1982 entirely satisfied both requirements. In the three cases,
these traditional demands were abandoned by successive Quebec governments when they went back on their word.
But then how can we explain that he then reneged
on my referendum proposal which he had accepted a few hours before? Was he negotiating in good faith, or
rather, was he trying to sabotage any federal-provincial co-operation
designed to solve the constitutional problem?
III- THE NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES: SHEER FABRICATION
Mr. Bouchard's assertion:
"Although there was an alliance with Rene Levesque to reach a reasonable agreement, these seven English Speaking provinces... abandoned him in the course of one night." (Oct., 23, 1995 - CEGEP de Limouilou)
It should first b noted that when Mr. Bouchard speaks
of a "reasonable agreement" he does not know what he
is talking about. This agreement explicitly rejected both the
notion of distinct society and that of a veto, two items which
Mr. Bouchard is constantly seeking for Quebec.
The 'Night' in question is of course that of the
so-called "Long Knives," a label shamelessly borrowed
from Nazi history by separatists suffering from acute paranoia.
( See note)
What really happened? When Rene Levesque betrayed
his allies of the Gang of Eight by accepting my referendum proposal,
he lost his credibility with them. The seven English speaking
premiers were in disarray and the session was adjourned to the
following day, Nov. 5. But it should be underlined that the seven
English provinces did not, as Mr. Bouchard says abandon Mr.Levesque.
Rather, it is Mr. Levesque who abandoned them. He plunged
the knife into the heart of the very accord he had signed less
than seven months earlier. And when Mr. Bouchard, in his Oct. 25 speech to the
nation , says that (Mr. Levesque's) "so called allies...went to meet Jean Chretien in an Ottawa hotel room
in the middle of the night, " this is historical falsehood.
Here is how the newspapers reported these events at that time:
As soon as the meeting was adjourned, around noon
on Nov. 4, Mr. Levesque is quoted as saying "For us, it (the
Trudeau proposal) seems to be a respectable and extraordinarily
interesting way of extracting ourselves from this imbroglio"
To which Claude Charron, one of his ministers, added: "For
us, it is the ideal solution." Le Devoir reported that "at
that point, the Quebec delegation was jubilant and , at the risk
of offending its partners of the Common Front, did not hesitate
to climb on board with Ottawa." (Le Devour, Nov. 5,1981)
The "Risk of offending its partners" was
not an imaginary one, the Quebec delegation finally realized in
the afternoon of Nov. 4. This led Rene Levesque to repudiate
my referendum proposal without any explanation other than saying
"It is all Greek to me." Michel Vastel, a journalist
then with Le Devoir, wrote: "By the end of the day , the
bridges were burning between Levesque and his former allies."
He added that later, while everyone thought agreements were under
discussion, "a senior Quebec official, who had been asked why he did not make a last-ditch
effort to keep the provinces together, glumly answered: 'After
what has happened this morning, we have lost all credibility'"
(Le Devoir, Nov. 6, 1981)
For more details on the press commentaries, see Le Desaccord du Lac Meech in max Nemni's book Le Quebec et la Restructuration du Canada (pp. 177-179) and William Johnson's A Canadian Myth (pp. 180-183).
Mr. Bouchard's assertion:
T he Constitution Act of 1982 "reduced Quebec's powers in the fields of language and education--- Rene Leveque refused it. Claude Ryan refused it . The National Assembly refused it." (Oct. 25, l995. 7pm., Radio-Canada television)
In the areas of language and education, the Constitution Act of 1982 enshrined precisely the "traditional requests from Quebec". Here is what Claude Ryan had to say about it the day after Lucien Bouchard made the above comment. "The Constitution Act of 1982 is not as dreadful as some like to pretend. It is a very reasonable law: it gave a Charter of Rights to all Canadians, Quebecers and others alike, and it reinforced the protection of linguistic rights for francophones throughout Canada." And elsewhere: "I heard Mr. Bouchard last night saying that (the Constitution of 1982 ) had stripped Quebec of important rights in language and education. In my humble opinion, it's not true. It's just not true."
While he disapproved of the "fact that the act
had been enacted without Quebec's signature" Claude Ryan
recognized that "objectively, the changes brought about by
the act of 1982 were very good changes, except where the amending
formula is concerned." Oct.26,1995. Interview with Bernard
Derome, Radio Canada television and Chateau Frontenac, RDI).
I, myself, shared Mr. Ryan's reservation with regard
to the amending formula. But it should be remembered that the
formula used in the constitution of l982 was based on the one
proposed by Mr. Levesque and the seven other provinces that formed
the Gang of Eight. This formula gave no veto to Quebec while the
one proposed by my government included a veto.
Thus on Dec.2,l981, Le Devoir published my reply to a letter from Premier Levesque dated Nov.25,l981, requesting a veto for Quebec. I said, in part: "Between l971 and Nov.5, l981 every government I headed put forth an amending formula which would have given Quebec a veto. We only abandoned the principle after you had done so yourself" by signing the Accord of the Eight and after "you had once again proposed (this accord) during our sessions of Nov.2,3,4 and 5."
Furthermore, failing that veto, the Accord of the
Eight gave the provinces a right to opt out which was enshrined
in section 38 (3) of the Constitution Act of 1982. This allows
each province to refuse any constitutional change that would diminish
its "legislative jurisdiction" or its "rights and
Mr. Bouchard is showing that he knows nothing about the 1982 constitution when he alleges that the Chretien government - after a No vote - will want "to perpetuate the current situation which gives the federal apparatus and the English-speaking provinces the power to impose anything they want on Quebec." (Oct 17,1995, 7:25 p.m., Westin Hotel, Montreal.)
Such stupid allegations- and they were legion- flow
more from hallucination than from the science of politics.
THE 1982 PATRIATION
Mr. Bouchard's assertion:
"In 1982, the constitution was patriated against our will . Because the interests of English Canada impelled them to act in this fashion." (Oct. 27, l995,-Radio Canada TV)
Mr. Bouchard certainly has a strange way of interpreting
our constitutional history! Wasn't it rather the French Canadians
who had traditionally striven to free themselves from colonial
ties with Great Britain by patriating the Canadian Constitution
from London? As for "interests", those of the predominately
English provinces were generally the same as Quebec's: to exchange
their consent to patriation for increased provincial powers.
Since 1927, every Canadian government , from that of MacKenzie King to that of Bennett, St. Laurent, Diefenbaker and Pearson, has tried in vain to persuade the provinces to end this vestige of colonialism. All had failed and Canada was the only country in the world to have as its constitution a law located in another country which could be amended, for the most part, only by the other country. In 1982, we were emerging from an extensive constitutional debate begun in l967 by the provinces. Canadian citizens had had enough of it and the matter needed to be laid to rest.
-115 years after becoming a country, Canada still
depended upon London's consent to amend its constitution. Could
Canada face yet another defeat when the only opposition to patriation
came from a provincial government set upon destroying the country?
Would the project have to grind to a halt because of an adversary
who wanted sovereignty for his province, but who refused it for
Three provinces, including Quebec, had asked the
Supreme Court of Canada to define the rules of the constitutional
game. The ruling was that patriation could happen only in the
presence of a "substantial level of provincial consent".
This requirement was amply satisfied with nine provinces out of
10 giving their consent.
Quebec's premier was opposed to patriation but, as
the rules of the above-mentioned game stated, he had no veto.
In any case he had explicitly waived this veto on signing the Accord
of the Eight. It was clear that his government wanted nothing
to do with a project that could be advantageous to the Canadian
Moreover 70 of the 75 members elected to the federal parliament by Quebec had voted for patriating the constitution while in Quebec's national assembly, 38 members - led by Mr. Ryan - out of l08 had voted on December 1, l981, which for all practical purposes , slammed the door on current efforts to seek compromises.
Thus less than 40% of all elected representatives of Quebec were opposed to the constitutional agreement. One may dispute this arithmetic analysis by arguing that Quebec's government is the only body allowed to speak for Quebecer's, but this claim is the very essence of separatism. If one believes in Canada, one must equally believe that , in matters constitutional, Quebec members elected to the Canadian Parliament represented Quebec's electorate just as much as the members of the Quebec National Assembly did.
Furthermore, polls have shown that the patriation of the constitution was not being rejected by the people. In March 1992, a CROP poll indicated that 48 percent of Quebecers blamed Mr. Levesque's government for refusing to sign the accord, while only 32 per cent agreed with it. In June of the same year, a Gallup poll found 49% of Quebecers agreed with the Constitution Act and only 16 per cent disapproved. -------------------------------------------
In international usage the term "Night
of The Long Knives" refers to Hitler's execution of 1000 leaders and member of the Nazi
S.A. Brownshirts in June , l934 . With this slaughter the Gestapo destroyed Hitler's internal