This document describes and lists the positions and recommendations adopted or formulated by successive Québec governments concerning Québec’s status and constitutional powers. It updates the study entitled Québec’s Traditional Constitutional Positions (1936-1990) that was published by the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes, which then expanded the scope of a study made in 1978 by the ministère des Affaires intergouvernementales du Québec on Québec’s positions regarding the distribution of powers. In addition to document updating, the recent version offers three new parts made up respectively of speeches, documents and a timetable of events.
The study now covers a period of 64 years, i.e. from August 26, 1936 when the first government of Maurice Duplessis was sworn in, until March 8, 2001, the date when Lucien Bouchard’s government ended. It makes no claim to be exhaustive. Furthermore, since the source of each government position has been indexed, the reader can procure an overview not only regarding the nature of these positions, but also their scope, consistency and the issues at stake.
Entitled “Positions of Québec,” the first part of the document presents the positions and claims of successive Québec governments in chronological order. The drafting of this part required research into various government sources such as supporting documents, accounts of intergovernmental meetings, communiqués, white papers and legislative discourses.
The classification adopted in the 1991 document was kept intact yet subject to some changes involving a new heading added to the six preceding ones, among other changes.
Bearing the title “Status of Québec,” the first heading under part 1 of the document reviews government statements regarding the place that Québec should occupy within the federalist context of Canada, as well as statements dealing with Québec’s accession to sovereignty. This heading especially delves into the fundamental interpretations that Québec governments have given to the Constitution Act, 1867, and to issues relevant to the process by which Québec’s political status is determined.
The second heading addresses the constitutional reform process. It includes statements pertaining to constitutional policies of various governments, as well as their positions as regards major milestones in the evolution of constitutional affairs as seen from a Québec perspective.
The third heading looks into positions relating to the constitutional amending procedure.
The fourth heading presents positions taken by Québec regarding the distribution of powers. It is divided into three sections: general principles, sectorial jurisdictions, and unilateral powers. The first section covers the principles, criteria and objectives that governments have invoked with regard to the general issue of how powers are distributed. It also includes statements describing the manner in which governments have viewed the interplay of powers. The second section inventories the positions that governments have taken either to affirm and define their jurisdiction over a particular sector of activities, or to claim new ones. Unilateral powers encompass spending, reserve, disallowance, declaratory, residuary and exceptional provisional powers.
The fifth heading, “Individual and language rights,” raises the positions taken with regard to such rights within the context of Canadian constitutional reform and within various institutional contexts characteristic of Québec.
The sixth heading reviews Canadian federal institutions, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, the Senate, FederalProvincial Conferences and the office of the Lieutenant Governor.
The seventh and last heading “Intergovernmental policy,” is broader and subdivides into several sections to facilitate consultation. The section on “Conducting intergovernmental relations” includes statements on intergovernmental relation policies set forth by various governments. The section on “Financial aspects of federalism” is a look at various items such as financial autonomy, shared-cost agreements, intergovernmental financial transfers and equity in federal spending. Finally, the remaining sections integrate the positions of principle on certain major intergovernmental issues, especially relations with Aboriginal Nations, the French-Speaking and Acadian Communities of Canada, internal and international trade. Some government positions belonging to one and the same period could have been reported under several headings used in part 1. To avoid multiple repetitions, references were inserted into the text to indicate positions or declarations that, despite their integration under one heading, are also relevant to other headings. As such, for each chronological subdivision, the reader may procure a broad vision of the field covered by each of the headings. Moreover, the index makes it possible to find positions for the entire period covered by the document based upon specific themes.
In part 1, the chronological subdivisions generally correspond to the succession of governments. Nonetheless, the period covering the Lévesque government (including that of Pierre Marc Johnson) and Robert Bourassa’s second government was divided on the basis of major events related to the question of Québec’s political status, which wielded influence over the constitutional and intergovernmental policies of those governments.
The second part of the document offers a selection of speeches delivered by the prime ministers and ministers of the Québec government. These speeches are reproduced either integrally or from extensive extracts. They are associated with historic circumstances or they rest upon fundamental issues in the constitutional and intergovernmental domain.
The third part provides a selection of documents linked to Québec’s evolution and its positions in constitutional matters, as well as more generally in intergovernmental relations. It also includes Canadian framework texts that Québec did not sign (The Constitutional Agreement, November 5, 1981, which in turn led to the adopting of the Constitutional Act, 1982, without Québec’s consent; the Calgary Declaration; and the Social Union Framework Agreement, February 4, 1999, that Québec did not sign). Finally, the last part of the document includes a short timetable. This is a reference tool intended to facilitate the forming of an historical perspective based on positions, speeches and documents incorporated in this study.