Unity, Diversity and Justice

a virtual exhibition from the Diefenbaker Center Canada

Entrenchment

Entrenchment
Trudeau and Cretien in a discussion at the First Ministers’ Conference.
Trudeau and Cretien in a discussion at the First Ministers’ Conference.

Many Canadians were initially apprehensive about particular rights in the Charter such as bilingualism and minority language education. The majority of provincial governments, including Saskatchewan, resisted the Charter, complaining that certain principles in it usurped provincial jurisdiction. Provinces pushed instead for revisions to the Bill of Rights, but Ottawa rejected this strategy, insisting that entrenching the Charter in the Constitution was the only way to guarantee rights protection. While the Bill could only render certain laws “inoperative” for a period of time if they contravened certain rights, entrenchment assured that any federal or provincial legislation inconsistent with the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter would be judged invalid.

Unifinished Symphony
Unifinished Symphony

When discussions with the provinces came to an impasse, Trudeau threatened to bypass the Premiers altogether and enter into unilateral discussions with the British Crown. However, the Canadian Supreme Court declared that provincial consultation and consent was required for constitutional amendments. By including the Notwithstanding Clause, the Liberals managed to gain the support of most of the provinces for the Charter, but the Province of Québec refused to sign the document.


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