CFP: Reflections On Things Past: The Continuing Influence Of The Charlottetown Accord Negotiations On Canadian Law And Statecraft 20 Years Later. University of New Brunswick, Oct 25-26.
Through the spring, summer, and autumn of 1992, federal, provincial and territorial governments and national representatives of Aboriginal peoples were consumed by the negotiation of what became the Charlottetown Accord. Coming on the heels of the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord in the summer of 1990, the Charlottetown Accord was the outcome of a much broader process of political "pulse taking" and citizen engagement across the country. It was also a far broader package of constitutional reform proposals than was Meech, designed to address all outstanding constitutional grievances at once and for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the Charlottetown Accord was the largest package of constitutional reform proposals negotiated in Canada since the negotiation of Confederation itself. Yet despite the amount of effort put into addressing the procedural and substantive critiques of the Meech Lake Accord, the Charlottetown Accord was defeated by voters in a majority of the provinces in the referendum of October 26, 1992. Some have described its failure as having crippled our practices of national self-determination to this day.
While the Charlottetown Accord may have brought to an end the era of "mega-constitutional politics" in Canada, both the process for negotiating and ratifying the package and its content continue to exert an influence on Canadian politics and Canadian discourse about rights, communities, and nationalism. For example, the Charlottetown negotiations were the catalyst for the recognition of the inherent right of self-government for Aboriginal peoples by several governments in Canada and the Charlottetown text on constraining the federal spending power had a direct influence on the negotiation of the Social Union Framework Agreement in 1999.
The Charlottetown negotiations also led to a permanent restructuring of intergovernmental relations in Canada, as it was the first time that territorial governments and representatives of national Aboriginal organizations were formally involved in an intergovernmental process that was general in scope, a practice which has since become the norm, albeit with some procedural variations. The experience of the Charlottetown referendum also taught Canadian governments a hard lesson about the difficulty of amending the Constitution. The use of a referendum as a ratification mechanism for the Charlottetown Accord may have set the bar for what is required to make constitutional amendments legitimate so high that many doubt it will ever again be possible to make a general amendment to the Constitution. Thus it is important to understand the strengths and frailties of the Charlottetown process, so that we can begin to develop (or possibly rediscover) instruments of constitutional and political dynamism that are both legitimate and effective, if we are to function as a modern, self-determining political community.
Even the language used to discuss multiculturalism, nationalism, and liberalism was fundamentally changed by the experience of the Canadian constitutional debate during the period from the "death of Meech" to the failure of the Charlottetown Accord. The work Canadian scholars such as Will Kymlicka, James Tully, Jeremy Webber, and Patrick Macklem were in many ways intellectual products of the political turmoil of that period. In turn, their reflections on the issues at the centre of Canada's existential crisis during that period, such as the meaning of liberalism, equality, identity, self-determination, and federalism, have fundamentally changed the way we discuss these issues, both in Canada and internationally, today.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the negotiation of the Charlottetown Accord, the Faculty of Law and Department of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network are hosting a conference, "Reflections on Things Past: The Continuing Influence of the Charlottetown Accord Negotiations on Canadian Law and Statecraft 20 Years Later", on October 25th and 26th, 2012 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This conference will provide scholars, practitioners, and observers of intergovernmental relations, Indigenous issues, law, political science, and public policy with the opportunity to look back on the events of 1992 from the political, intellectual, and public policy environment of the early 21st century, to identify how echoes of the Charlottetown Accord negotiations can still be heard in Canadian legal and political discourse. Scholars, students, and others who wish to present papers at the conference can submit an abstract for consideration on any topic related to the Charlottetown Accord and the implications of its contents or its failure for Canadian law and statecraft today, but the conference will have a particular focus on:
- The political dynamics that led to the negotiation of the Charlottetown Accord;
- Rights, identity, nationalism and federalism;
- The future of constitutional amendment and "mega-constitutional politics";
- The evolution of policies directed to Indigenous peoples, Indigenous rights and self-government policies since 1992;
- Reform of the federal spending power;
- The constitutional and political status of the territories;
- The evolution of intergovernmental relations and the processes by which national policy has been established in Canada since 1992;
- Reform of the institutions of government;
- The continuing challenges of citizen engagement and securing democratic legitimacy for political decision-making; and
- Competing conceptions of Canada today.
Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and must be accompanied by a brief biography and list of publications. Submissions from graduate students are encouraged. Abstracts should be submitted to Charconf@unb.ca by April 15, 2012.
Effective immediately: the CPA's new e-mail address is email@example.com.
(For changes contact web editor)