The patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 are, in some ways, the story of one man and one party. The constitutional package was drafted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals and approved by two Houses both controlled by the Liberals. The project was marked by Liberal control pitted against Conservative (and sometimes NDP) resistance, political gamesmanship, and partisan acrimony. But there is at least one chapter in this story where the Liberals lost their grip on the narrative, the parties set aside petty partisanship, and the Canadian public became the author of its own history. For three months in 1980 and 1981, a Special Joint Committee of the House and Senate provided a platform for the voices of hundreds of individuals and organizations that represented an extraordinarily diverse cross-section of Canadian society. For the first time in Canadian history, television shined the spotlight on a committee’s work and captured the attention of the nation. The engagement of the broader public, combined with the ideas and passions of the witnesses who spoke to the Committee, softened a process that would otherwise have been partisan, and the end result was a stronger Charter of Rights.
Hogg, Peter W. and Wang, Annika.
"The Special Joint Committee on the Constitution of Canada, 1980-81."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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