Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Document Type



In this essay, which has been published in two parts, the author argues that the Meech Lake Accord was more than a hastily cobbled together political deal between the Prime Minister and ten provincial premiers. Despite the unattractive process by which the Meech Lake Accord was struck, and especially defended, despite the disingenuous character of the arguments most often advanced for its adoption, and despite its close connection with other aspects of the federal government's political agenda which many Canadians found suspicious, the Meech Lake Accord did respond to an important issue in post-patriation constitutionalism. A review of Canadian constitutional history, the evolution of French and English linguistic minorities in Canada, and the complementary motifs of French-Canadian and English-Canadian survivance leads the author to conclude that the forces which generated the Meech Lake Accord have been perennial features of "British North American" political life since 1759. The symbolic purpose of the Meech Lake Accord was to illustrate that, notwithstanding significant demographic and economic changes in Canada, and notwithstanding that the patriation exercise operated a profound transformation of the complex underpinnings of Canadian federalism, these traditional forces would still play a significant role in defining the values of the country. The failure of the Meech Lake Accord does not mean that these forces are now spent. Rather, it means only that the present "federal" structure within which they have been accommodated since 1867 probably is no longer appropriate for the task. The author concludes with a prognosis for what the institutional redesign likely to emerge over the next few years will be - a framework he characterizes as "heteronomy."