Memorandum from R.G. Robertson [Conversation with Mr. Julien Chouinard and revised Form for the Proclamation] to the Prime Minister (18 September 1975)

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Date: 1975-09-18
By: R.G. Robertson
Citation: Memorandum from R.G. Robertson to the Prime Minister (18 September 1975).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).


September 18, 1975


Conversation with Mr. Julien Chouinard
and revised Form for the Proclamation

Pursuant to your conversation with the Prime
Minister of Quebec, Mr. Bourassa spoke to Julien Chouinard
and asked him to get in touch with me as soon as he saw
any possibilities for discussion. I had a long conversation
on the telephone with Mr. Chouinard on September 17, 1975.

Mr. Chouinard outlined to me the best possibili-
ties that he could see, bearing in mind the constraints
imposed by our intention of not getting into a consideration
of the distribution of powers. He has not yet raised these
matters with Mr. Bourassa. His suggestions are the following:

1. “Singularizing” the French language and culture

Chouinard suggested that the third Article of
the proposed Proclamation (Appendix No. l of the draft
you have already examined) cou1d be strengthened from
the point of view of Quebec if:

a) The French language were “singularized” in Article 3
as it had been in the second paragraph of the
Preamble. This seems more consonant with the
historical facts: when the federation was established,
the English language was not perceived as being
endangered, but French was.

b) A reference to culture were added.

c) A negative aspect were added to restrain the
federal Parliament and government from acting
in a way that might adversely affect the French
language and culture.


The difficulty with his first proposal is that
it might upset Mr. Hatfield. One way to reconcile
Messrs. Hatfield and Bourassa might be to convert
Appendix No. 2 of the earlier draft (federal language
rights with a Section permitting provinces to entrench
language rights) into Article 3 of the Proclamation.
This would clearly establish the parity of the two
languages at the federal level. The current Article 3
could follow as Article 4 to take note of the fact
that, in spite of official parity, the French language
is more likely to be endangered on the practical plane.

I know you have reservations about adding culture, but
it appears to be the price that will have to be paid
for “patriation”. I do not think that we will be able
to make progress unless culture is included.

The negative aspect of which Chouinard spoke
would enjoin the federal government and Parliament not
to act in a regressive way with respect to the French
language and culture. It would not give powers to
prevent to the government or Legislature of Quebec.

These suggestions have been embodied in
the modification of the second paragraph of
the Preamble (which now speaks of specific
provision for the constitutional status of
English and French, and singularizes the
French language and culture in terms of
preservation and development); in the
addition of a new Article 3 which defines
language rights on the federal plane; and
in the new Article 4 which now only refers
to the French language and culture and
which enjoins the federal government and
Parliament not only to bear in mind the
need for preserving and developing the
French language and culture but also not
to act in a way that might adversely affect
the French language and culture.

2. Agreements

Chouinard, although not certain, thinks it is
possible that Mr. Bourassa could have a defensible
position on guarantees, “spirit” and on his specific
mention of communications and immigration if an Article
were added dealing with agreements (“ententes”).


He saw three possibilities:

a) A new Article saying that the governments could
enter into agreements concerning the exercise
of their powers at large.

b) To have such a provision plus an amendment of
Article 95 of the BNA Act which would introduce
the idea and add “communications”.

c) To have a provision as referred to in (a) plus
the indication that this would be “notamment dans
les domaines de l’agriculture, de l’immigration
et des communications”.

The first suggestion would probably not be
acceptable to Mr. Bourassa. The second is most certainly
not acceptable to us, since it would tend to recognize
constitutionally that communications is a joint responsi-
bility. The third suggestion does appear to be sound.

Article 6 of the new proposed Form
for a Proclamation embodies this idea.
It has been cast in terms of ensuring
greater harmony of action between governments
and especially (for Mr. Bourassa) of avoiding
actions that would adversely affect the
French language and culture. The reference
to agriculture has been would
make the article in a certain sense parallel
to Article 95; agriculture has not been
mentioned to date in our negotiations and
Mr. Bourassa has not linked it to his cultural
preoccupations; and finally, no major agree-
ments in the field of agriculture are in the
offing. On the other hand, it might be
politically attractive to Mr. Bourassa.
I would suggest that it not be included at
this point in time, but that it be held in
reserve as a subject for negotiation should
the process bog down once again.

3. Regional economic disparities

Chouinard did not like ending this article with
a reference to “no change in the distribution of powers”,
so the Article has been restructured to provide less
risk of misinterpretation.


4. Bargaining points

Mr. Bourassa and his Cabinet will meet in early
October to study, among other things, the patriation
proposal. We could keep two items in reserve for
bargaining, if need be:

a) Inclusion of agriculture in the new Article 6
could be come a bargaining point.

b) To satisfy M. Ryan, who is interested in a concrete
sign of the spirit in which subsequent negotiations
will be conducted, and to explain in part the mechanism
through which agreements might be reached, Article 48
of the Victoria Charter could be added to the
Proclamation as Article 7:

7. Une Conférence réunissant le Premier ministre
du Canada et les Premiers ministres des Provinces
est convoquée par le Premier ministre du Canada
au moins une fois par an, à moins que la majorité
des membres qui la composent décide de ne pas la

7. A Conference composed of the Prime Minister of
Canada and the First Ministers of the Provinces
shall be called by the Prime Minister of Canada
at least once a year unless, in any year, a
majority of those composing the Conference decide
that it shall not be held.

Mr. Chouinard noted that there is to be a special
two-day meeting of the Quebec Cabinet on October 8th and 9th,
at which time the constitutional question, among other things,
will be discussed. He thinks it very important that we
should give him some reaction before that time if at all
possible. I said that I would give the matter immediate
attention and try to talk to him again today or tomorrow.
He wants this to be guarded as strictly confidential.

I would welcome your comments and instructions.


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