Wednesday April 18, 2012
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Wednesday April 18, 2012
Canada’s last great step forward
There was no sunshine in Ottawa when they signed the Constitution Act on April 17, 1982. While the gunmetal grey skies above Parliament Hill opened with a deluge, demonstrators in Quebec City wore black armbands, waved the fleur-de-lis, and denounced their brethren as “vendus.”
No matter. In the shadow of the Peace Tower, the federal government had arranged a spray of flags, a fusillade of cannon, a flock of birds and a flight of fighter jets. Thirty thousand spectators cheered.
The Queen, seated on a canopied stage, gave the new Constitution legitimacy. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, in a morning suit and a top hat, gave it eloquence. Both gave it their signatures, and a sense of occasion, too.
To reporters who had spent some two years covering parliamentary debates, intergovernmental conferences, committee hearings and court challenges, all played out in the shrillest of tones, the ceremony on April 17 marked the end of a political season for the ages.
Surely, we thought, this was the last of the wasting battles over rights and powers between the federal government and the provinces, which had flared episodically since the mid-1960s.
Surely, we thought, this was the war to end all of Canada’s Constitutional Wars, “The Last Act,” as Ron Graham, the mellifluous chronicler, called his account of the feverish events that unfolded in November 1981.
Before Canada’s Thirty Years War did come to end, there would still be disastrous agreements at Meech Lake and Charlottetown, both intended to fix a Constitution that needed no fixing.(Source: Ottawa Citizen)