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The Meech Lake Accord and Manitoba

The Story

As CBC reporter Nancy Wilson finds in this CBC Television report, the mere mention of "Meech" inspires vigorous debate in Manitoba. Manitobans speak passionately about Aboriginal rights and dispute the package put together by the "backroom boys." As the June 23 deadline approaches, many fear the anti-Meech mood in Manitoba will prove to be the accord's undoing. But fed-up Manitobans argue that after years of western alienation, they are more than prepared to stand and be counted in their opposition.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: May 3, 1990
Guest(s): David Ardison, Sharon Carstairs, Gary Doer, Gary Filmon, Jack Fraser, Raymond Hebert, Greg Mason, Howard Pawley, Gary Thomas
Host: Terence McKenna
Reporter: Nancy Wilson
Duration: 19:57

Did You know?

• In 1989, Manitoba and New Brunswick held a series of public hearings on the Meech Lake accord. The testimony in both provinces was overwhelmingly negative. In October of the same year, both provinces released reports detailing their findings. The Manitoba report suggested the inclusion of a "Canada clause" which would recognize the equally distinct French, Aboriginal and multicultural sectors of the country. The New Brunswick commission suggested the creation of a "companion accord" which would offer special protection for minorities and women.

• A revolving door of politicians changed the nature of consensus for the Meech Lake accord. In October 1987, Liberal Frank McKenna defeated Richard Hatfield in New Brunswick. Although McKenna later came to support the accord, he initially expressed disdain for it. In the spring of 1988, Conservative Gary Filmon succeeded NDP Manitoba premier Howard Pawley. And, in April 1989, Liberal Clyde Wells became the new premier of Newfoundland. Shortly after he was elected, Wells rescinded his province's approval for the Accord.

• On April 6, 1990, Wells nullified Brian Peckford's signature on the Meech Lake accord. The Newfoundland legislature had already agreed to approve the accord. In a public letter to Prime Minister Mulroney, Wells wrote that "at worst, [the accord] would result in the destruction of the nation in a relatively short period of time." Wells argued on the basis of equality for every province and every citizen. His popularity soared and he soon became the anchor for the anti-Meech movement.

• Academic Charles Taylor argued that the Meech Affair was, in a sense, much ado about nothing. "Quebec already has a de facto special arrangement. We have our own provincial pension plan, immigration arrangements, income tax. But as soon as you say to the rest of Canada, 'Let's make it legal,' all hell breaks loose," he said in Time magazine, Sept. 7, 1990.


Constitutional Discord: Meech Lake more