December 1, 2021

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Night of long blades: 40 years later, the scars are still there

Night of long blades: 40 years later, the scars are still there

The night of the long blades from November 4 to 5, 1981, 40 years ago, marked the history of Quebec and Canada with hot iron. “A day of rage and humiliation,” described the then Prime Minister of Quebec, Rene Lewesk, in his memoirs. The night before, provincial prime ministers, along with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had agreed to a compromise behind Quebec.

Read more: The night of long blades still haunts us

Called the “Night of the Long Swords”, the event is a spark for the constitutional crisis that is struggling to heal. Back to the origins of the resettlement of the Constitution.

Concrete effects

“Politically, this is serious and very important,” explains Patrick Dylan, a law professor at Laval University and an expert on constitutional issues. “One imposes his basic law on another. It shattered Canada’s ideal of an agreement between two founding peoples. Added to this is the lack of tribal approval in 1867, as there was in 1982. However, from a legal point of view, this is the situation in Quebec. However, he will have to deal with the new Canadian charter for rights and freedoms, which will expose Bill 101 to weakening challenges. Quebec challenged the new constitution in the Supreme Court in 1982, but did not win.

Constant silence

Ottawa still refuses to classify documents related to this period in history, as evidence for being materially sensitive. Released in 2013 Battle of London, By Frédéric Bastien, led to renewed interest. There, the historian confirmed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had been in contact with the British archives during the process, as well as with the British and Canadian governments. Quebec unanimously requested Ottawa to “give access to all the information in its archives and to shed all light on the events”. Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to open the books, while New Liberal leader Justin Trudeau confirmed that Quebec was “doing everything it can to create a new myth or reopen old struggles.” The Supreme Court said that none of the documents supporting the study were available.

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Functional stalemate

No Quebec government, whether liberal, PQ or Caquist, has signed the 1982 constitution. Canada and Quebec continue to ignore this protracted stalemate, despite some failed attempts to secede and meet between 1985 and 1995. “Condemning the failure of the constitution, Canada has become a country that rejects its problems, which cannot face, discuss and negotiate solutions directly. When it comes, ”Mr. Dylan commented.

Why “Night of the Long Swords”

The expression “night of long knives” is not always unanimous. Patrick Dylan found that “this is a little too much compared to these echoes in the history of contemporary Europe.” It was quickly adopted in Quebec at a moment of collective anger, marking the 1934 night when Adolf Hitler expelled the Nazi Party from all its enemies. In English Canada, we talk a lot about the “kitchen contract”, the “kitchen contract”, referring to a document signed by Jean Cretian and two provincial colleagues in the kitchen at the Ottawa Convention Center.

After a long night of shouting, Quebec newspapers, including the Le Journal de Montreal, announced that negotiations to return the constitution with Quebec's approval had failed, and it was isolated.

Archive photos

After a night of long knives, Quebec newspapers, including the Le Journal de Montreal, declared that negotiations to return the constitution with Quebec’s approval had failed, and it was isolated.

Defeat of the 1980 referendum, preface

The failure of the referendum on the sovereign-union proposed by René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois in May 1980 could seize the opportunity for Canadian Prime Minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau to implement a plan he had long wanted: the constitution adopted in London to be sent back to Canada. During the referendum, the referendum promised not to vote for the current status quo. Despite the massive re-election of the PQ a few months ago, Trudeau has independent control against Quebec, weakening the circumstances.

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“Group of Eight”

Trudeau’s plan did not succeed in advance. In the months leading up to the referendum, he had to face a “committee of eight”: all prime ministers, except Ontario and New Brunswick, opposed the idea of ​​a ‘charter that prioritizes politics’. Power of the Provinces. The provincial-federal talks lasted several months, but were unsuccessful. In November 1981, Trudeau invited them to a three-day “last chance conference” in the Canadian capital.

November 4 evening

From November 4 to 5, while Renே Lewesk was on the other side of the border in Katino, the prime ministers reached an agreement with the federal government through Justice Minister Jean Gretchen. The talks are leading to a compromise rather than in Quebec’s interests. “Essentially, the overnight negotiated compromise was carved out in response to Quebec’s concerns, especially the language rights and the group’s right to leave with compensation.” Patrick Dylan, a law professor at Laval University, explains that a province that withdraws from any federal program would be a moderate financial institution.

Hard day

The news of the deal, which happened overnight behind his back, makes Rene Lewesky frantic, learning the subject in the morning on the paper he has placed on his lunch plate. “We used what we did not have to remove the most important of our needs, that is, the right to receive financial compensation if withdrawn. Stabbed at midnight,” he says in his memoirs. On November 6, Quebec newspapers followed suit. The Journal of Montreal And Press.

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