Memorandum from R.G. Robertson [“Patriation” of the Constitution: discussions with Quebec] to Mr. Carter (25 April 1975)

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Date: 1975-04-25
By: R.G. Robertson
Citation: Memorandum from R.G. Robertson to Mr. Carter (25 April 1975).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).


April 25th, 1975.

c.c.: Mr. Gravelle


“Patriation” of the Constitution:
discussions with Quebec

After getting Pierre Gravelle’s memorandum
dated April 22nd with its attachments about the
various statements Mr. Bourassa has made concerning
“patriation” of the Constitution, I called Julien
Chouinard yesterday. We had quite a good talk about
the situation; he is going to speak to Mr. Bourassa
about the whole matter and he will call me back
thereafter. He thinks that it is not likely to be
before Wednesday because apparently Mr. Bourassa
has commitments that will make it impossible for
Julien to see him before then.

As indicated in Pierre’s memorandum,
Julien said that they were not really ready to
discuss the question of “patriation”. It turned
out that this is because they have underway some work
which pretty clearly runs at cross purposes to the
Prime Minister’s proposal. As I understand it, there
are four “studies” being undertaken – one on the
Victoria Charter and of the parts of it they would
like to see retained and of the parts dropped;
one on communications, one on immigration and
finally one on financial relations. The last is
apparently being done by Arthur Tremblay and the
first three in Chouinard’s office. I told Julien
that the Prime Minister’s proposal to the Premiers
at the dinner on April 9th was for action which would
be on”patriation” plus the amending procedure only
and would not get into any of the things that are
covered by their four areas of study. I said that,
as I understood it, the Prime Minister had made this
quite clear to the Premiers and Mr. Bourassa appeared
to be receptive to the approach although he had said
something about “guarantees” in relation to culture.
I asked Julien if he had any idea what this meant.


I think it is fairly clear that neither
Bourassa nor Chouinard at this stage know what they
have in mind by constitutional guarantees in
relation to culture. Julien said he thought that
Mr. Bourassa might in this way be meaning some
provisions that would relate to communications and
immigration since it is through policies and actions
in those areas that there can be the main threat
to the French cultural identity of Quebec. It is
quite clear, however, that nothing has been thought
out and they really do not know what kind of
“guarantee” could be effective that does not get
into the area of distribution of powers.

After exploring the above points, I
raised the question about our going to Quebec.
Julien said that he was quite sure Mr. Bourassa
would be glad to see us but a trip might be
unproductive if it took place too soon. We then
discussed whether it might be better for us to go
to some but not all of the other provinces first.
Julien rather thought that it might be useful for
Mr. Bourassa to know, when we come to see him,
what the Ontario position is. I suggested that we
might perhaps visit Ontario and two or three of
the Maritime provinces in order to get that much
of a sounding and then come to Quebec. We both
agreed that it would be unwise to see all the
English-speaking provinces and thus to appear to be
coming to Quebec with a “ganging up” against it.
Julien is going to discuss the desirability of a
sequence along these lines when he sees Mr. Bourassa.

It looks as though there is not much we can
do about arranging visits before the middle of next week.
I suspect that Quebec is going to suggest that we go
to Ontario plus some of the Maritimes first and then
come there two or three weeks from now. Perhaps a bit
of preparatory work for our discussions in Ontario
and the Maritime provinces should be done in this

I have been trying so far without success,
to think of some way in which some sort of “constitutional
guarantee” could be offered which would be interesting
to Mr. Bourassa without getting into the distribution


of powers. Perhaps you, Pierre and I could all give
this some thought and try to get together next week
to see if we can come up with anything at all that
would be useful.


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