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Meech Lake: Is Mulroney a 'weakling'?

Unfinished business brought the First Ministers back to the constitutional bargaining table in 1987. Many Canadians felt uneasy about Quebec's exclusion from the 1982 Constitution and so the negotiations began again under the leadership of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with the Meech Lake Accord. CBC Archives examines the backroom lockdowns, the "distinct society" debate and the ultimate undercurrent of constitutional discord.

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It's not often that politicians resort to schoolyard name-calling. But, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is that passionately opposed to the Meech Lake Accord. On CBC's Morningside, he calls Mulroney a "weakling" for bending to the premiers' demands. He also calls the premiers a bunch of "snivellers." Trudeau is the first prominent voice of dissent. But soon, more people begin to call for a deeper Meech Lake discussion, as heard in this CBC Radio documentary.
• On June 3, 1987, Pierre Trudeau expressed his concern for what the Meech Lake Accord could mean for Quebec. "We have made peace with Quebec," he explained, "by letting it believe that 'distinct society' means Two Nations. If the courts hold that it does have that meaning, Canada is doomed. If they hold otherwise, Quebec will have been tricked, and the howls of protest will strengthen separatism. One way or another, Meech Lake may mean the peace of the grave for the Canada we know and love."

• "Mr. Trudeau successfully portrayed the accord as a concession to Quebec. He made a very personal attack on all of us - the prime minister and the premiers. And this is the man who will go down in history as having made the most sweeping concession in history - the notwithstanding clause that allows provinces to opt out of Supreme Court rulings." - Brian Mulroney, Maclean's, June 19, 2000.

• Women's interest groups also expressed concern about the Accord. After fighting for the inclusion of women's rights in the 1982 Charter, some feared that the Meech Lake Accord would fail to offer adequate protection of constitutional rights. The Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution called for more discussion on the subject, as heard in this CBC Radio documentary.

• Northerners in the Yukon and Northwest Territories also expressed frustration with the Meech Lake Accord. Without provincial status, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were not eligible to make nominations for Supreme Court appointments.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: May 31, 1987
Guest(s): Ramsey Cooke, Lysiane Gagnon, Don Getty, Joe Ghiz, Daniel Latouche, Jack London, Claude Morin, Brian Mulroney, Brian Peckford, Pierre Trudeau
Host: Linden MacIntyre
Reporter: Carol Off
Duration: 21:48

Last updated: April 30, 2012

Page consulted on May 30, 2014

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