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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: The Consequences of the Failure of the Meech Lake Accord

Type: Webquest
Subjects: History, Political Science, Business Studies
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 3 to 4 lessons
Purpose: To examine the reasons for the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, to examine the impact of the Accord’s failure
Summary: Using a variety of web-based resources, student will research, prepare, and present a round-table discussion of the reasons for the failure of the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord and the continuing impact of this event on Canadian history, politics, government, and society.


In 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney initiated an ambitious project of constitutional reform that would permit Quebec to sign the 1982 Constitution. The Meech Lake Accord, which he and the 10 provincial premiers negotiated in that year, was designed to meet most of Quebec's concerns and demands for constitutional reforms including official recognition in the Constitution of Quebec as a "distinct society" within Canada. Quebec had four other major demands that would have increased its provincial powers and expanded its jurisdictions within the federation.

While the federal government and most provinces approved the agreement, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and others were still holding out as the ratification deadline approached in 1990. Other groups not involved in the original negotiations, such as Aboriginal Peoples and women, had major concerns about their rights should the accord pass.

Despite frantic last-minute negotiations, and major concessions, the Meech Lake Accord failed to gain ratification, causing great disappointment and bitterness in Quebec, and increased support for sovereignty there. Lucien Bouchard quit the Mulroney government and established the pro-independence Bloc Québécois.

After failing to win voters' approval for the 1992 Charlottetown Accord, the Conservatives were defeated in the 1993 federal election. That election resulted in a major upheaval in Canadian politics and the arrival of two new regional parties, the Bloc, and the western Reform Party, on the national scene.

The Task

Students will prepare a round-table discussion on the reasons for the failure of the Meech Lake Accord in 1990, and its continuing impact on Canada over a decade later.

Divide the class into groups to research the following issues and questions arising from the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and its consequences:

The people who were mainly responsible for the failure of the accord, and why.

Reasons for opposition to the accord, and the validity of these criticisms.

Reasons for support for the accord, and the validity of this support.

The role of a significant political figure in the events leading up to the failure of the accord.

The rise in support for Quebec sovereignty after the failure of the accord.

Changes in Canadian politics after the failure of the accord (for example, the 1993 federal election results, the rise of the Reform Party, the defeat of the Conservative government).

The Charlottetown Accord and its similarities to, and differences from, Meech.

The 1992 constitutional referendum, main issues, players, and results.

The impact of the failure of the accord on the 1995 sovereignty referendum in Quebec.

The importance of the Meech Lake Accord and continuing constitutional issues in Canadian politics and history in the 21st century.

Students should obtain as much information as they can about these issues.

The Process

Students work in groups, using the resources at Constitutional Discord: Meech Lake on the CBC Digital Archives website and the other sites relating to the issue of constitutional reform in Canada, such as Canada's Constitutional Debate: What Makes a Nation, and Charting the Future: Canada's New Constitution, also on the CBC Digital Archives website. They may also wish to consult other print and non-print resources. Students will need to take careful notes and cite all sources, as well as provide detailed support for each of their points.


Have each group present its round-table discussion. Create a master list of significant individuals, issues, events, and consequences of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. Ask: What did you learn about the process? What were the most important consequences of the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords on Canadian history?

Interested students can prepare and present a short paper with one of these titles: Why the Meech Lake Accord Failed, What the Failure of the Meech Lake Accord Means for Canada's Future, or Should Canada Pursue Constitutional Reform into the 21st Century?

Resources for this Topic

Adams, Scott. Quebec, Meech Lake and Canada: Two Languages, Two Cultures, Two Nations. Vancouver: Habitat Canada Publishers, 1990.
Behiels, Michael D., ed. The Meech Lake Primer: Conflicting Views of the 1987 Constitutional Accord. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1989.
Cohen, Andrew. A Deal Undone: The Making and Breaking of the Meech Lake Accord. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1990.
Coyne, Deborah. Roll of the Dice: Working With Clyde Wells During the Meech Lake Negotiations. Toronto: James Lorimer, 1992.
Monahan, Patrick. Meech Lake: The Inside Story. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Canada: A People's History. Episode 17: In an Uncertain World, 1976-90. (CBC, 2001)