|The Meech Lake Constitutional Accord (the Accord) was a series of proposals for constitutional change dealing with federal–provincial division of powers and which recognised the province of Quebec as a distinct society within Canada. Since the 1960s, governments in Quebec have maintained that the province requires greater constitutional powers for the purpose of protecting language and culture. The Accord recognised the Anglophone minority in Quebec as a fundamental characteristic of Canada, as well as the francophone minority elsewhere in Canada. At the same time, all provinces were accorded a formal role in appointing representatives to sit on the Senate and the Supreme Court. The Accord also sought to establish provincial rights to remain outside cost-sharing agreements without financial penalty (the ‘opt out provisions’). |
The Accord also sought to constitutionalise the parallel jurisdiction over immigration given by the Constitution Act 1867. In addition, it would constitutionally entrench the federal–provincial consultative process by requiring annual First Ministers’ meetings where Senate reform would be discussed. Finally, the Accord sought to change existing constitutional amendment provisions such that all listed specialised matters would require the unanimous consent of both Parliament and the legislatures of the provinces.
While Quebec’s legislative assembly passed the necessary resolution for approval in June 1987, the Accord required unanimous ratification before 23 June 1990. All First Ministers of the provinces eventually agreed to ratify the Accord subject to some further constitutional discussions including Senate reform and Aboriginal and equality issues. Ultimately, the Accord failed to be ratified. Manitoba was granted an extension of the ratification date which then necessitated re-ratification in Quebec. The Accord was not brought to a vote by the disgruntled premier of Newfoundland and it finally collapsed.