The Patriation of the Constitution
The Patriation of the Constitution
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Queen Elizabeth II signs the Constitution. (Robert Cooper, NAC PA-141503)
Since the 1960s, many negotiations have been held between the provinces and the federal government in an attempt to patriate the Constitution. Following the failed referendum on sovereignty-association, further constitutional negotiations took place.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
The Statute of Westminster (1931) and the Second World War (1939-1945) secured Canada's independence. However, Canada continued to retain its links to Great Britain, since its Constitution could only be modified by the British Parliament. Between 1960 and 1978, numerous negotiations were held between the provinces and the federal government to patriate The British North America Act and include an amending formula. None of these negotiations were successful.

SUMMARY
On May 20, 1980, the Parti Québécois held a referendum on sovereignty-association, which resulted in a resounding NO. During the campaign, Canada's Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, attempted to renew the Constitution. The NO victory spurred a new round of negotiations between the provinces and the federal government regarding the patriation of the Constitution. The Minister of Justice, Jean Chrétien, was given the responsibility of organizing a First Ministers' Conference in September 1980. As a result, the federal government claimed additional economic powers and each province presented its vision of Canada. The negotiations failed and on October 2, the federal government announced its intention to pass a resolution to unilaterally patriate the Constitution, without addressing the provinces' demands. The government wanted to include an amending formula and a charter of rights and freedoms. Joe Clark's Conservative party vigorously fought the resolution in the House of Commons. In the spring of 1981, the resolution was brought before the Supreme Court. During this time, a coalition of provinces known as the Gang of Eight was created. In April 1981, these provinces made Trudeau a counter-offer that allowed for an amending formula and the patriation of the Constitution without modification. Trudeau rejected their offer. On September 28, 1981, the Supreme Court issued its judgment: The federal government had the right to proceed with the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, but it was preferable if it could first work out an agreement with the provinces. As a result, it was decided that a new round of negotiations would begin on November 2, 1981. During the night of November 4-5, which would later be referred to as "the night of the long knives," the federal government reached an agreement with the Anglophone provinces, whereas Quebec was excluded from the negotiations. On the morning of November 5, the federal government announced that it could now patriate the Constitution. A resolution was conveyed to London, and on April 17, 1982, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the Constitution Act of 1982. In a final attempt to block the law, Quebec announced on November 25, 1981 that it would submit its veto. However, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on December 6, stating that Quebec had never held such veto powers.

Concepts
Westminster Statute (1931)
British law passed in 1931 that granted Canada full legal freedom. As of this point, the British Parliament could no longer vote on laws that applied to Canada.

Constitution (or constitutional law)
System of laws by which a State is governed. It is a country's fundamental law - the law of laws. Since 1982, the Canadian Constitution has also included a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Province
Member state of the Canadian federation whose powers are defined by the
Constitution. The majority of provinces, particularly Quebec and Alberta, call for a more equal partnership with the federal government and less centralized federalism.

Federal government
Central government whose powers are defined by the
Constitution. Its role is to govern the Canadian federation and to look after national interests. It often comes into conflict with provincial governments.

The British North America Act
Constitutional law proclaimed on March 29, 1867, by the British Parliament, providing for Confederation. In 1982, it was renamed the Constitution Act of 1867, as part of the movement toward the "patriation" of the Constitution.

Amending formula
Stipulation that allows the
Constitution to be amended. When the British North America Act was proclaimed in 1867, the British did not include a mechanism that would allow it to be modified. The inclusion of an amending formula was the object of intense negotiations.

1980 Referendum
In 1980, the Parti Québécois asked the people of Quebec for a mandate to negotiate a sovereignty-association with the
federal government. It was rejected by 60% of the population.

Constitution (or Constitution Act)
System of laws by which a State is governed. It is a country's fundamental law - the law of laws. Since 1982, the Canadian Constitution has also included a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Province
Member state of the Canadian federation whose powers are defined by the
Constitution. The majority of provinces, particularly Quebec and Alberta, call for a more equal partnership with the federal government and less centralized federalism.

Federal government
Central government whose powers are defined by the
Constitution. Its role is to govern the Canadian federation and to look after national interests. It often comes into conflict with provincial governments.

First Ministers' Conference
Meeting between the Prime Minister of Canada and
provincial Premiers. According to some people, it provides a forum for improving relations between the federal government and the provinces. It is not written in the Constitution that such meetings are mandatory.

Amending formula
Stipulation that allows the
Constitution to be amended. When the British North America Act was proclaimed in 1867, the British did not include a mechanism that would allow it to be modified. The inclusion of an amending formula was the object of intense negotiations.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Document incorporated into the
Constitution at the time of its patriation in 1982. It provides certain rights for citizens and minorities. The provinces were opposed to it for a long time based on the fact that this charter limits their power to make law.

House of Commons
The lower house of the Canadian Parliament, whose members (Members of Parliament) are elected by the general population. Its role is to vote on bills.

Supreme Court of Canada
Tribunal created by the Parliament of Canada Act in 1875. Since 1949 it has been the highest court in Canada. One of its functions is interpreting the
Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Gang of Eight
Coalition of eight
provinces that opposed the federal government. It included British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.


Night of the long knives
Night of November 4-5, 1981, during which four
provinces in the Gang of Eight (Saskatchewan, British Colombia, Alberta and Newfoundland) proposed amendments to the Constitution and to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With the exception of Quebec, all the provinces and the federal government accepted these modifications.

Veto power
In this case, it refers to a stipulation that prevents making modifications to the
Constitution if the province that holds veto power does not give its consent.