Postscript: Say it ain't so, Phil.
Published Friday, June 2, 2017 12:53PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 2, 2017 12:56PM EDT
Have we so soon forgotten the last two attempts at nation building?
Have we learned nothing from the lessons of Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord, aka Meech Light?
Things on the unity front are going well these days, so why touch it?
There is relative peace on the on linguistic front.
Quebec is no longer holding a knife to the throat of Canada.
Constitutional reform, particularly reform to entrench Quebec specificity, is toxic and odds are any effort will not end up well.
Brian Mulroney said he rolled the dice with Meech and with that roll we almost lost our country.
Distinct society was a not starter in the rest of Canada, especially when the Quebec government was invoking section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, and abrogating English language rights with Bill 178.
In effect the government was wiping out English on the commercial face of Quebec.
Meech, with its five conditions, divided the country.
The agreement was supposed to bring Quebec in from the constitutional cold it had been left out in since 1982 and Quebec’s refusal to sign the constitution of Pierre Trudeau.
What Quebec saw as a normal set of demands reflecting its sense of nation hood, many in the rest of Canada saw as a spoiled child demanding special status.
Indeed many argued that the distinct society clause would allow Quebec free rein in any constitutional matters dealing with language and culture.
It was a time when emotions were running at a fever pitch and a long deadline allowing for provincial ratification set in motion the wheels of its own destruction.
Rightly so, Canada’s indigenous people were angry at not being part of the process.
I was in Winnipeg in June 1990 when an Ojibwa-Cree member of the legislature for Rupert’s Land by the name of Elijah Harper clutched an eagle feather in the Manitoba Legislature and said No.
This is how we reported it all those years ago:
As the Manitoba legislature was being called to session this morning the fate of Meech Lake seemed certain.
“if we adjourn at 12:30, I think history would have been made,” said Harper.
“Unless something remarkable happens this morning it’s finished.”
“Mr speaker I wonder if there would be agreement to sit beyond 12:30.”
"Is it the will the house to sit beyond 12:30? No, there is no leave”.
And with that Meech died and Canada’s history was changed forever.
That year Fete Nationale celebrations were heated and political.
The streets of Montreal were seething with anger and rejection. Separatist tensions were never higher. Independence never seemed closer.
In the National Assembly Robert Bourassa stood up to assure Quebecers that they and only they would decide their future.
“Quebec is today and for always a distinct society, free and capable of assuming its own destiny and development,” said Bourassa.
The rolling of the dice brought us the Bloc Quebecois, brought us Lucien Bouchard, brought back the separatist movement in full force.
And it brought us to October 30, 1995 when 50,000 votes saved us from the abyss.
When the premier starts touting constitutional change and starts talking distinct society it is a clear and present warning of danger.
His intentions may be honourable but they are misguided.
Too much is unpredictable.
There are too many opportunities for misunderstanding and slights and feelings of rejection.
Too much could and would go wrong.
Leave that genie in the bottle.
Our country isn’t perfect but right now it is working.
As Churchill said, “the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.”
M. Couillard, s’il vous plait...