Memorandum from R.G. Robertson [“Patriation” of the Constitution – The Position of Premier Bourassa] (28 August 1975)

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Date: 1975-08-28
By: R.G. Robertson
Citation: Memorandum from R.G. Robertson (28 August 1975).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).


August 28th, 1975.


“Patriation” of the Constitution –
The Position of Premier Bourassa

On August 12th, after speaking on the tele-
phone to Julien Chouinard, I sent him two copies in
English and in French of the drafts we had prepared
of a “Form for a Proclamation of the Governor General”
to bring into effect the “patriation” of the
Constitution. During the week-end of August 23rd-24th
Premier Bourassa made a statement at a conference at
Mont Gabriel which included quite specific references
to “patriation” of the Constitution and the fact that
Quebec would require “constitutional guarantees”.
He referred specifically to communications and
immigration and to the need for Quebec to have the
power “to decide finally about major questions which
concern the protection and the development of its
language and its culture”. As the statement appeared
to involve requirements beyond what I had discussed
with him in May, I phoned Julien Chouinard yesterday
(August 27th) to find out what had developed since
August 12th and where things stood.

Chouinard told me that he had discussed our
drafts with Premier Bourassa after they had been
received. Mr. Bourassa found them inadequate in
several respects:

(a) There was no clear or adequate reference
to the “guarantee” for the French language
in a way that was special and different
from English and there was no reference
whatever to “culture”. Chouinard thought
anything that did not meet these two
points would be impossible for Mr. Bourassa
to consider.



(b) Even if adjustments were made in the above
respect, our formulation would not meet the
need Mr. Bourassa sees in the kind of
problem he reflected when he apparently
said to Mr. Chouinard that our formulation
would do nothing to prevent Radio Canada
establishing three English language radio
stations in Quebec without any reference to
or consultation with Quebec and with no
capacity for intervention ordecision by
it. Chouinard said this represented the
kind of need that Mr. Bourassa envisaged
and the kind of “guarantee” through the
agency of the Quebec Government that he
thought essential.

(c) The formulation had nothing directly on
communications and immigration.

(d) The final part of Section 4 could give the
impression that nothing in the whole docu-
ment affected the distribution of powers
which was a very bad note on which to end.

On Chouinard’s first point I stressed the
difficulty that there would be for New Brunswick and
Saskatchewan if there was specific reference to the
French language and culture. I also made the argument
that “culture” did not need to be included if language
was protected since language was the real basis for
culture. Mr. Chouinard said that neither point would
carry conviction with Mr. Bourassa and there was no way
there could be agreement without these points covered.

On points (b) and (c) Chouinard stressed that
Mr. Bourassa was really very serious – indeed he had
discussed this whole problem during an hour and a half
with Mr. Chouinard the previous day (August 26th).
Chouinard said we should study Mr. Bourassa’s text
very carefully. What he said there was what he meant.



Chouinard said that Mr. Bourassa had had
dinner and a long talk with the Honourable Jean Marchand
earlier in the week (on August 26th I think) and had
outlined his position to him. According to Mr. Bourassa
Mr. Marchand had expressed himself as in agreement with
Mr. Bourassa’s stand on “cultural sovereignty” and on
the reasonableness of his position. He had apparently
said that he would resign if something was pushed through
that did not provide adequate protection in this regard.

Chouinard ended the conversation by saying that
he would be continuing to work on the formulation of
something with a view to discussion with Mr. Bourassa
after September 8th. He hoped we would be doing the
same and would see where there was room for adjustment
on the federal side. He confessed to feeling very
pessimistic as to whether it would be possible to
bridge the gap there appeared to be between the two
positions at this stage.


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