January 31st Class –Leading Discussion


  1. Mandel Pages 96-106
  2. Knopff and Morton, Kit: pages 123-131




The Meech Lake Accord pg 97


There are 6 major components to the Meech Lake Accord:


  1. The "distinct society" clause and related amendments to the Charter
  2. Immigration agreements between the federal government and the provinces
  3. Opting out of the shared-cost programs with compensation
  4. Amendments to the Constitution
  5. Agenda items for future constitutional conferences
  6. Appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate.



A Few Events that Mandel Mentions which led up to the Meech Lake Accord.








Dissecting Each The Six Segments of the Accord


Distinct Society





The Spending Power


Amendments to the Constitution, p100


Constitutional Conferences



The Supreme Court of Canada



Meech Lake and the Legalization of Politics




Meech Fails


The June 9 Deal, pg 104






What’s Wrong with Charter Revolution and the Court Party?


Thesis: Morton and Knopff object to the Charter Revolution on the grounds that they feel it is deeply and fundamentally undemocratic in two senses –1) that it is anti-majoritarian and 2) it erodes the habits and temperament of representative democracy.

à More specifically, they argue that court room rights undermines one of the pillars of liberal democratic politics; namely ‘the willingness to engage those with whom one disagrees in the ongoing attempt to combine diverse interests into temporarily viable governing majorities." Hence, they argue that issues concerning rights should be dealt within the structure of elected institutions such as the legislature, and not in the courts. Once this debate occurs in an elected representative setting, various minorities will form coalitions to form temporary majorities, who will decide the outcome. However, when the final outcome of rights occurs in the Court room, it takes on an authoritarian spirit which is anti-majoritarian.


à Turns to two quotations from Peter Russell’s work in order to explain their concern.

  1. Russell infers from our Constitutional history the following: That not all Canadians have consented to form a single people in which a majority or some special majority have the right to set and conclude rest. In other words, some Canadians haven’t accepted majority rule. Because not all Canadian have accepted majority rule, which is at the heart of democracy according to the authors, it divides us as a society to the point where we are not a sovereign people.
  2. Focuses on a concern of transferring policymaking from the legislative to the judicial arena. More specifically, we need debate in order to settle political differences, this type of debate can only occur with the legislature and not within the Courts (because the Courts do not engage in these types of debates). The Charter represents attempt to move this type of discussion and settling of political differences out of the Legislature and into a void.
  3. Argues that the Charter was intended to reunify our country but instead has created more tension because it moved political discussion out of the legislature and into the Courts where it doesn’t belong nor truly occurs.





-leads to moral over sensitivity which lowers the threshold in which citizens feel justified in abandoning the democratic process.




The result is to embitter politics and decrease the inclination of political opponents to treat each other as fellow citizens –that is, as members of a sovereign people.




  1. Did you agree with Meech Lake? If so why and if not, why not?
  2. What is your view did "Distinct Society" represent? Was it purely symbolic and something that was to remain that way. OR was their potential for it to take on new meaning?
  3. Were the concerns of lobbyists against the Accord (e.g. women groups, First Nations, the physically disabled) legitimate?
  4. Do you think that if Meech Lake had passed that that it would have "reunified the country and quelled the Separtist movement?

  6. Do you feel that Charters/Bill of Rights have the ability to protect rights more or less than the legislature.

  8. Do you agree with the description and the effects of that description that Morton and Knopff give to "governments made by discussion"?