Meech Lake Accord

This document is an excerpt from the Meech Lake Accord or the Constitutional Accord of 1987, and has been dated “June 3, 1987”. From the information given within the document, on can deduce that it was a set of amendments to the Constitutional Act of 1867, which was otherwise known as the British North America Act or 1867, and later, the Canada Act. It concerned all the provinces of Canada, including Quebec-the French province, mentioned specifically in the accord. It also envisages a greater participation of the French Province of Quebec, as well as the provision of equal status to all provinces and, better cooperation and understanding between the federal government and the provincial governments. The amendments touch five salient points: The French speaking Province of Quebec as “distinct society” within Canada; enhanced powers in matters of immigration to Quebec; Constitutional Veto restored; more powers to the provincial governments to participate or opt out of the programs of the federal government for appropriate financial compensation and lastly, provincial rights in appointments of Supreme Court Judges.

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From the document it is clear that Quebec, which had a sizable French-speaking population, had preserved its distinct linguistic and cultural identity, as different from the majority English-speaking provinces of Canada. The period was a turmoil-filled period. The province of Quebec had earlier refused to accept the Canadian Act, rejecting is as detrimental to unique identity of the French-speaking Canadians, and an attempt to dominate by the British North American provinces. This Meech Lake Accord of 1987, however, won the favor of the French-speaking Quebec population, because of the clause that guaranteed the preservation and promotion of the “distinct identity of Quebec”. Furthermore, the clause that the provincial governments shall be allowed to practice and preserve their own “linguistic privileges” gave the province of Quebec the rights to proclaim their principle language as French. Naturally this was viewed with doubts by other provinces.

The document was meant to be signed by the first ministers of all the provinces of Canada, with their consent, before December 31, 1988. But, serious doubts were raised by the first ministers of the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and Newfoundland. The accord also came to be opposed by many women’s rights groups and First Nations or Native Aboriginal / Indian American rights groups as not being adequately recognized. Finally it was stalled in 1990, as two provinces, Newfoundland and Manitoba did not approve it.

One more distinct feature in the document is the provincial rights given in the matter of immigrants. It promised to “incorporate the Cullen-Couture Agreement” in the matter of choosing the immigrants from foreign countries, allowing for “refugees” and separated members of the family to re-unite. To immigrants who prefer to settle in the province of Quebec, government of Quebec will be obliged to provide reception and facilitate their cultural and linguistic integration into the state. The purpose of the document seems to have been more to please the French-dominated Quebec, and convince them to somehow accept the Canadian Act, even it was with some amendments.

In short, the Meech Lake Accord indirectly conferred special status on the province of Quebec, to practice and promote their culture, language and empowered the government of Quebec more in matters of immigration. This naturally invited the ire of all other provinces and the accord was made defunct.       Source: 1987 Constitutional Accord