Peter W. Hogg

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Canada has never been able to amend its own constitution. Amendments have to be enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This is not the fault of the Old Country, which would be delighted to relinquish its power of amendment. It is the fault of Canadian politicians who, despite intermittent efforts since 1927 and very intensive efforts since 1968, have been unable to agree upon a domestic amending formula. For Prime Minister Trudeau, who has held office with only one brief interruption since 1968, constitutional reform has been a major personal objective. Nevertheless he has not been able to assemble a package of reforms which would command the agreement of the ten provincial premiers. The latest round of constitutional discussions was stimulated by the Quebec referendum on sovereignty-association which was defeated on May 20, 1980, by a popular vote of 60 per cent to 40 per cent. In the referendum campaign, the federalist forces promised that a "no" to sovereignty-association was not a vote for the status quo, and that the defeat of the referendum would be followed by constitutional change to better accommodate Quebec's aspirations. But even this commitment, although shared by the provincial premiers and the Prime Minister, was not sufficient to secure agreement on specifics at federal-provincial conferences which lasted through the summer and early fall of 1980.

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