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Constitution Act 1982.

OTTAWA--17 April 1982

In a colourful ceremony on Parliament Hill, the Queen has signed the Royal Proclamation of the Canadian Constitution. The Constitution is now an act of the Canadian Parliament, with an added Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect individual liberties. Just as Elizabeth II was signing the document, the sky opened and the assembled thousands were drenched in a heavy downpour. Despite the weather, the large crowd was jubilant. High winds drowned out most of the Queen's speech and Prime Minister Trudeau's address was punctuated by thunderclaps. He said: "History will show that nothing essential to the originality of Quebec has been sacrificed."

Following the agreement signed last November, the Constitution package passed swiftly through the Canadian and British Parliaments. While there was joy in Ottawa, there was unhappiness in other parts of the country. Many Native leaders opposed the package and lobbied MPs in London, two of whom lectured Canada on how to give its Aboriginal people a better deal.

There is, of course, opposition in Quebec. Flags on government buildings flew at half-staff--the traditional sign of mourning--on 2 December, when the Constitutional Accord was passed by the House of Commons.

And, while it rained on Mr. Trudeau's parade, the threat of rain ruined Mr. Levesque's. The Quebec Premier had planned a huge march of protest through Montreal. It was timed to coincide with the Queen's signing of the proclamation. But, the heavy rain clouds put a lot of people off; only about 20,000 chanted (in English) "Elizabeth go home."


Within the Chatter of Rights and Freedoms there is a lawyer-speak section called the "Notwithstanding Clause." Several provincial premiers insisted on having the clause and Mr. Trudeau is said to have agreed to it under protest. Under the clause, both the federal and provincial levels of government have the power to pass laws that overrule some of the Charter's protections. Senator Eugene Forsey has a deeper understanding of constitutional issues than almost anybody else in Canada. He says the Notwithstanding Clause has "shot" the Charter full of "great, big, gaping holes."

The vote on the Canada Bill in the British House of Commons was 177 in favour, and 33 against; fewer than a third of the 635 Members of Parliament had bothered to turn up.

Following the 17 April proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Quebec had no veto in law or practice over patriation oF the Constitution. Quebec, in consequence, was legally bound by the Constitution Act, 1982.

The Constitution's amending formula has an "opting out" provision allowing up to three provinces to ignore amendments affecting their powers.
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Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Constitutional agreement.
Next Article:Meech Lake Accord.

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