M. The Charlottetown Accord

Author:Patrick J. Monahan - Byron Shaw

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In the spring of 1991, both the Bélanger-Campeau Commission and the Allaire Committee recommended that Quebec hold a referendum on sovereignty unless significant offers of renewed federalism were forthcoming from the rest of Canada. The Quebec National Assembly passed legislation requiring a referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec by 26 October 1992. This deadline served as the catalyst for a new round of constitutional negotiations, culminating in the Charlottetown Accord in the summer of 1992.85The federal government was determined to avoid what it regarded as the two key mistakes that had resulted in the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord. First, it described the new process as a Canada Round, designed to deal with the constitutional concerns of all Canadians, in contrast with the Quebec-centred focus of the Meech Lake Accord. Second, the federal government committed itself to extensive public consultations before any agreement was signed.

In September 1991, the federal government unveiled an initial package of constitutional proposals and referred the package to a parliamentary committee co-chaired by Senator Gérald Beaudoin86and Conservative MP Dorothy Dobbie for public hearings. The federal proposals included all of the elements of the failed Meech Lake Accord but went much further and proposed far-reaching changes to matters such as the Senate, the division of powers, the Canadian economic union, and the recognition of Aboriginal rights.87In early 1992, a series of five publicly televised conferences were held on various aspects of the proposals. The public conferences were attended by politicians, representatives of interest groups, and Canadians chosen at random from newspaper advertisements. This public consultation process culminated in the publication of the report of the Beaudoin-Dobbie Committee at the end of February 1992, where a significant number of modifications to the original federal proposals were recommended.

At this point, a second intergovernmental phase of the discussions began. In mid-March 1992, the federal government and the provinces agreed to establish a multilateral negotiation process to refine the

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Beaudoin-Dobbie recommendations. Representatives of the territories and the four national Aboriginal organizations were also invited to participate in the negotiations. Quebec, which had been boycotting federal-provincial negotiations since the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, declined to...

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