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Unsuccessful attempts to amend the Canadian Constitution: Wikis


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Since the Constitution of Canada was patriated in 1982, there have been a number of failed attempts to amend the document under the new amending formula.

To date, only ten minor Amendments to the Constitution of Canada have successfully passed. There have, however, also been a number of unsuccessful attempts that have been defeated in the amending process.


Property Rights Amendment, 1983

On April 18, 1983, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau expressed support for entrenching property rights in the Constitution, but only if debate were limited to a single day, and the debate became engulfed in partisan tactics. Eleven days later, the Progressive Conservative Opposition introduced a motion of non-confidence in the Canadian House of Commons that sought to entrench the right to the "enjoyment of property" in the Constitution of Canada. The Trudeau government was not prepared to support its own defeat by backing such a motion (in any case, its passing would dissolve the House and prevent the Senate from considering it), and on May 2, 1983, the motion was defeated, with 88 votes in favour and 126 opposed.[1]

Powers of the Senate Amendment, 1984

Following the election of a Progressive Conservative majority and the appointment of Brian Mulroney as prime minister in 1984, the Canadian Senate came under increased scrutiny. Under the Constitution of Canada, senators are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, and during his time in office, Mulroney's predecessor, Pierre Trudeau, had arranged the appointment of a great deal of senators, giving the Liberals a majority in the upper house. There was a fear that the Senate would block Mulroney's legislation, so an attempt to amend the constitution was made in 1984, to limit the powers of the Senate.

Under the terms of the proposed amendment, the Senate would have a suspensive veto of 30 days on money bills and a 45-day suspensive veto on all other bills.

The proposed amendment secured the stated support of the majority of provincial governments, except Quebec and Manitoba, which was still enough to pass. The amendment was introduced into the House of Commons on June 7, 1985. However, 19 days later the government of Ontario changed hands, and the new Liberal premier refused to support the amendment. Without Ontario's support the amendment could not meet the 50% of the population qualification needed for ratification, so the amendment died.

Rights of the Unborn Amendment, 1986-1987

A motion calling for an amendment that would have enshrined rights for unborn children in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (and thus limited the legality of abortion) was introduced by the Progressive Conservative Party to the House of Commons on November 21, 1986. On June 2, 1987, the motion failed. Several Progressive Conservatives broke ranks to vote against the amendment.

Meech Lake Accord, 1987-1990

The Meech Lake accord was a complex package of amendments designed to address a number of concerns with the Canadian constitution. Among other things, it proposed granting the province of Quebec nominal "distinct status" within the Canadian federation, and would have changed the amending formula of the constitution itself, requiring a greater number of future amendments to require unanimous consent. It ultimately failed when the Manitoba legislature and government of Newfoundland refused to assent.

Charlottetown Accord, 1990-1992

Like the Meech Lake Accord, the Charlottetown Accord was a package of amendments designed to address a number of concerns with the Canadian constitution, many of which were similar to those originally included in the former. It was decided that a national referendum would be held on the matter, but the referendum failed in a number of provinces and did not come close to achieving the unanimous assent necessary.

Preamble to the Charter, 1999

In 1999, New Democratic Party MP Svend Robinson proposed before the House of Commons that the mention of God be struck from the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, citing concerns about Canada's diversity and those Canadians who would not share that principle. He was supported by a thousand constituents who had signed a petition, but the proposal was controversial and the party responded by undermining Robinson's responsibilities and position in the caucus.



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