Canada Outlines New Constitution Prime Minister's Appeal to Quebec to Remain Part of Country Is Heart of Controversial Plan

By Fred Langan, | The Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 1991 | Go to article overview
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Canada Outlines New Constitution Prime Minister's Appeal to Quebec to Remain Part of Country Is Heart of Controversial Plan


Fred Langan,, The Christian Science Monitor


CANADA is going to try again to keep Quebec in the country.

The outline for a new constitution, called Shaping Canada's Future Together, was placed before the House of Commons by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Tuesday.

The package covers everything from a reformed Senate to a form of self-government for native Canadians. But an appeal to Quebec to remain part of Canada is at the heart of the deal.

"Constitutional reform must embrace Quebec's distinct society," said Mr. Mulroney. "To recognize the distinct character of Quebec is to acknowledge sociological and political reality."

The federal government's constitutional package replaces the Meech Lake accord that was defeated in June of last year. The Canadian Constitution was brought back from Britain in 1982, but Quebec's then pro-separatist government was the only province that refused to sign it.

The Meech Lake accord was defeated by the provinces of Newfoundland and Manitoba in June last year, sending Canada into a crisis and Quebec to the brink of splitting off from the country. A year ago, opinion polls showed 65 percent of Quebeckers in favor of leaving Canada; today that number is just under 60 percent.

Politicians from Quebec have already voiced their opposition to the new offering.

"This package is very dangerous to Quebec," said Lucien Bouchard, leader of the separatist Bloc Qucois party and a former member of Mr. Mulroney's cabinet. The prime minister, outside the legislative chamber, was adamant in his dismissal of Mr. Bouchard's criticism.

"We are not going to be able to deal with the phonies who say they're interested in Canada but whose real objective is the destruction of the nation," Mulroney said. New proposal

Highlights of the new federal constitutional proposal include:

*Designating Quebec as a "Distinct Society" because of its French language, its culture, and its use of a separate civil law derived from French law (not English) for more than two centuries.

*Giving native Canadians self-government within 10 years. Elected councils would replace direct rule from the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa.

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