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Banner: First Among EqualsMartin Brian Mulroney banner

Report on the First Ministers' meeting at Meech Lake, May 1, 1987

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Mr. Speaker, I rise to report to the House on the meeting of First Ministers yesterday at Meech Lake.

I am honoured to inform the House that at about 10 p.m. last night the Premiers and I reached unanimous agreement in principle on a Constitutional package which will allow Quebec to rejoin the Canadian constitutional family.

This agreement enhances the Confederation bargain and strengthens, I believe the federal nature of Canada. Although it remains to be formalized, it represents in the judgement of First Ministers, of all political stripes, from all areas of the country, an historic accomplishment.

The Meech Lake Agreement springs from the Canadian tradition of honourable compromise, and is a tribute to the statesmanship and leadership of all First Ministers demonstrated yesterday at Meech Lake.

Our task, simply put, was to settle a constitutional impasse which was incompletely resolved in 1981. Our task was to attempt to reconcile Quebec's distinct needs with the interests of all other provinces and the good of the country as a whole.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I am pleased to table the statement of principles that constitute the Meech Lake Agreement.

The essence of the Agreement is as follows:

  • We agreed to recognize the distinctiveness Quebec brings to Canada, which includes within it two principal language communities within the Federation.
  • We agreed to give constitutional protection to an expanded immigration agreement with Quebec and to enter into accords with other provinces, appropriate to their circumstances.
  • We agreed to entrench the Supreme Court of Canada and the requirement that at least three of the nine Justices appointed be from Quebec, and to provide for provincial involvement in Supreme Court appointments.
  • We agreed that reasonable compensation be granted to provinces that do not participate in future national shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, if they undertake their own initiatives or programs compatible with national objectives.
  • We agreed that all provinces must approve changes to national institutions under section 42 of the 1982 Constitution Act, and that the Government of Canada will provide reasonable compensation in all cases where a province opts out of an amendment transferring provincial jurisdiction to Parliament.
  • We agreed that there will be annual First Ministers' Conferences on the Constitution and that the first will be held before the end of 1988 to discuss senate reform, the fisheries and other items to be agreed upon.
  • Until Senate reform is achieved, appointments to the Senate will be made by the Federal Government from lists of candidates furnished by the provinces.
  • We are also entrenching in the Constitution the annual First Ministers' Conference on the economy.

Mr. Speaker, the Meech Lake Agreement is good for Canada, and good for Canadians. It will unblock the Constitutional reform process and enable Canadians to turn their attention to other issues such as Senate reform and fisheries.

Mr. Speaker, this agreement represents the best features of a vital Federal system, one which I believe responds to the aspirations of Canadians in every corner of the country. It reflects a spirit of partnership  --  and not one of endless federal-provincial power struggles.

The work of nation-building goes on.

Officials will shortly begin drafting a Constitutional text which reflects the Meech Lake Agreement.

I shall be convening a conference of First Ministers within weeks, the purpose of which will be to seek formal agreement. On the assumption a formal agreement is reached at this conference, the Constitutional amending process will proceed.

An amending resolution will be tabled in Parliament and in the Legislative Assembly of each province. Proclamation would follow once all the resolutions have been approved.

Mr. Speaker, Sir Wilfrid Laurier once said: "The governing motive of my life has been to harmonize the diverse elements which compose our country." Surely that is the wish of every member, on all sides of this House. That is our policy. That is our purpose  --  building a stronger Canada for all Canadians.

Thank You.

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Source: Mulroney, Martin Brian. Report on the First Ministers' meeting at Meech Lake. Ottawa: Office of the Prime Minister, 1987. 4 p.


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