Allow me to return to the Quebec referendum of May 20, 1980. This was more of a plebiscite than a real referendum. In fact, the government of Prime Minister René Lévesque had only put its only constitutional option on the ballot, excluding the others.
Then a member of the National Assembly, I believed that in the event of a foreseeable defeat, such a rebuff of the government’s option by the electorate was likely to place Quebec at the mercy of the Canadian federal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau .
In all democratic logic, a real referendum, like the one held in Newfoundland in 1948, which included a choice between three options, should also have included three options, namely: that of the Parti Québécois government (a mandate to negotiate the option of sovereignty-association as explained in a white paper); the option of a renewed federalism of Claude Ryan (explained in the beige book of the Liberal Party of Quebec); and that of an autonomous state status of the confederal type for Quebec (with the powers as explained in my book The third option).
If no option had obtained 50% of the votes in the first round, a second round would have been necessary, as was the case in Newfoundland in 1948.
The referendum defeat was unequivocal with a result of 40% for Yes and 60% for No. It provided a useful pretext for the federal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau to announce that it intended to unilaterally repatriate the British North America Act (BNA Act) from the British Parliament, and to add new elements to it.
With this defeat, both the Quebec government and the official opposition were placed at a disadvantage to prevent the federal government from moving forward with its project.
On the one hand, the leader of the No camp, Claude Ryan, had morally “won” the plebiscite, but he was not in power to defend his option in favor of renewed federalism, accompanied by increased powers for Quebec . On the other hand, federal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was in office in Ottawa and he could take advantage of the situation and impose his own constitutional option, which had never been discussed and debated democratically during the Quebec referendum period of 1980.
The Lévesque government, at this time, in addition to not resigning after its referendum defeat, chose to join seven other provincial governments and form the Group of Eight, in a final attempt to defeat the unilateral constitutional aims of the federal government.
This plan B to counter the visions of the federal government involved great risks. Indeed, it was enough for the Canadian Prime Minister, to isolate the government of Quebec and rally the nine English-speaking provinces to his cause, to make minor concessions to the latter. This happened on a fateful night at the Château Laurier in Ottawa, known in Quebec as the Night of the Long Knives, on November 4, 1981, in the absence of representatives of the Quebec government.
This is how Quebec and its population became the victims of a historic constitutional “coup de force”, which paved the way for the adoption of the Constitutional Act of 1982, officially ratified on April 17, 1982 by Queen Elizabeth II . This law, imposed on Quebec and without ever having been signed by the Quebec government nor accepted by the Quebec people during a proper constitutional referendum, removed entire sections of historical rights and powers, notably in matters of language, education, culture and secularism, all areas which previously fell under its exclusive jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of Canada, an exclusively federal body, contributed greatly to the injustice done to Quebec. In fact, the latter ruled, on September 28, 1981, that the historic right of veto of Quebec, one of the four signatory provinces of the confederative pact of 1867, and whose modifications were based on the rule of unanimity until then, did not did not have a legal basis, but only a political one.
She concluded that the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution from London and its in-depth modification could be done provided that a “sufficient number” of provincial governments agreed, without taking into account the interests and prerogatives of the only province with a French-speaking majority. in Canada, Quebec.
The Constitution Act of 1982 conferred enormous powers on the Supreme Court of Canada, which had already benefited enormously from the repatriation of the powers of the Privy Council from London, in 1949, to not only rule on the form of laws adopted democratically by parliaments , but also on the merits.
Political and legal centralization at the Canadian federal level, unjustly imposed on Quebec since 1982, tends de facto to reduce Quebec, the only majority home of French speakers in the Canadian federation, to the status of an internal colony, politically subject to the dictates of English Canada. . The result is a major breach of justice, democracy and the right of people to self-govern.
Such increased and imposed political and legal centralization has set back the historical rights and powers of Quebec and its population by more than 100 years, since the adoption of the British North America Act of 1867.
Given that the Constitutional Act of 1982 imposed a reduction in the historic rights and powers of Quebec, notably in matters of language, education, culture and secularism, all areas which previously fell under its exclusive jurisdiction, and which are necessary to ensure its survival over time as the only province with a French-speaking majority;
Given that Quebec is not a province like the others, because it is the only province with a French-speaking majority in Canada and because it is unacceptable that existential rights and powers were forcibly taken away from it, without his consent;
Given that such a situation could ultimately lead to the Louisianaization of Quebec and possibly its disappearance as the only French-speaking majority state within the Canadian federation;
Given that neither the government of Quebec nor the Quebec population were democratically and directly consulted on the acceptance or not of the Constitutional Act of 1982;
It follows that political corrections must be made before irreparable damage results from the tutelage of the Quebec government and the subjugation of the Quebec population to the Anglo-Canadian majority.
Consequently, the Parliament of Quebec should solemnly declare that it has never ratified the Constitutional Act of 1982 and proclaim, as soon as possible, that it is an autonomous state within the Canadian federation, with all the historical rights and powers necessary for its survival and development.
This is by no means an unjustified status in the circumstances, in history and in law, because there are such states or autonomous regions in around forty countries around the world, all established to allow significant linguistic minorities to survive justly and prosper in peace.