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1990: Bourassa laments death of Meech Lake Accord

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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After a lengthy standing ovation, a sombre but determined Robert Bourassa addresses the Quebec National Assembly as seen in this CBC Television clip. In the name of all Quebecers, he expresses his disappointment about the death of Meech and asks what does Canada want? "English Canada must clearly understand, Quebec is today and for all times a distinct society, free and capable of assuming its destiny and its development," he says to thundering applause.

Jacques Parizeau, leader of the Parti Québécois and of the Official Opposition, rises and begins to speak. Parizeau, who had been a vocal critic of Bourassa's handling of Meech, is conciliatory. "My premier," he says, "I hold out my hand to you."
• In 1994 Robert Bourassa retired from politics. He was succeeded by Daniel Johnson. Jacques Parizeau defeated Johnson in the 1994 provincial election.

• Before his death in 1996, Robert Bourassa said in an interview with Maclean's that although the Meech Lake Accord failed, it was a worthy effort. "Without Quebec's signature on the Constitution, there is a hole in the heart of all Quebecers - including federalists. I thought we could heal that," he said.

• "The silent majority of Quebecers approved Meech Lake. For them it was a chance for constitutional peace, so we could tackle more directly problems of international economics, demography and the environment. No agreement can be 100% satisfactory, but it was a pragmatic approach." - Time, Sept. 7, 1990.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: June 22, 1990
Guest(s): Robert Bourassa, Jacques Parizeau
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Duration: 11:12

Last updated: March 5, 2014

Page consulted on April 25, 2014

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