On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Quebec could rewrite a portion of the Canadian Constitution without the approval of the provinces or the federal government.
This is either a huge deal that could change the outcome of the next election and possibly the nature of the federation or it’s just cosmetic surgery on a 154-year-old text.
Despite the fact that Quebec’s plan was bundled into Bill 96, a 100-page language bill introduced last Thursday, few lawmakers or political experts know what to make of it.
Trudeau himself admitted that his support for the constitutional amendment was founded on a “preliminary review.”
Quebec essentially wants to add two bullet points to the 1867 Constitution Act: one that says “Quebecers form a country,” says one, and “French shall be Quebec’s only official language.” It is also the official language of the province of Quebec.
Both statements aren’t particularly controversial when considered separately. In a motion passed in 2006, the House of Commons recognized Quebecers as a country. The second argument captures an easily verifiable reality about how the government in Quebec works and how the majority of citizens communicate.
The tricky part is finding out how these two points can be incorporated into the Constitution. Quebec cites Section 45 of the 1982 Constitution Act, which states that every province can change its own constitution by merely passing a law in its legislature.
Trudeau seemed to agree with Quebec’s assessment in his remarks on Tuesday, stating, “Quebec, effectively, has the right to amend a part of the Constitution.”