Pondering the Patriation

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau talks with Justice Minister Jean Chrétien as they wait for the premiers to take their places during the ConstitutionaI Conference, Nov. 4, 1981.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau talks with Justice Minister Jean Chrétien as they wait for the premiers to take their places during the ConstitutionaI Conference, Nov. 4, 1981.

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Thirty years after pivotal constitutional negotiations, an Edmonton conference brings together many of the original participants to consider what happened and how it changed Canadian history.

After many decades of endless and futile wrangling about the constitution, in just four very tense days in early November of 1981, the governments of Canada finally succeeded in making the constitution fully Canadian. 

Exactly 30 years later, the University of Alberta brought many of the original participants together, in an event called The Patriation Negotiations Conference

One excited political scientist called it a "constitution fantasy camp", a sort of hall of fame event for constitution fans.  There were three of the provincial premiers from 1981, a handful of deputy ministers and key advisors and lobbyists, two drafters of the actual document, and even one member of the now legendary "kitchen accord."
 
They told stories about what happened and why and when, and how everything finally came together.  They talked about what's been called the Night of the Long Knives, the moment when all the governments except Quebec reached agreement.  They sorted through conflicting and confusing narratives, trying to figure out just how important the famed 'kitchen accord' actually was, and they debated how those four historic days in Ottawa changed Canada.

IDEAS was there, recording the talks and panels, and interviewing many of the key participants.

Participants in the program:

Jim Horsman, Minister of Advanced Education, Government of Alberta
John Buchanan, Premier of Nova Scotia, 1978-88
Janine Brodie, Professor of Political Economy and Social Governance, University of Alberta
Guy Laforest, Professor of Political Science, Université Laval
Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta, 1971-85
Howard Leeson, Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government of Saskatchewan, Political Scientist, University of Regina, author of The Patriation Minutes
Roy Romanow, Attorney General, Government of Saskatchewan
Edward Goldenberg, Special Constitutional Advisor to Minister of Justice, Government of Canada
Brian Peckford, Premier of Newfoundland, 1979-89
Mary Dawson, Drafter of the patriation package (Constitution Act, 1982)
Marilou McPhedran, co-leader, the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution, 1980-82
Judith Erola, Minister for the Status of Women, Government of Canada
Neil Sterritt, President of the Gitxsan-Wet'suwet'en Tribal Council, 1981-87
Chantal Hébert, national affairs writer, Toronto Star
Peter Russell, author, The Constitutional Odyssey

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