Brian Peckford debunks the “Kitchen Accord” and “Night of Long Knives” Narrative
- Giving Credit Where Credit’s Due: Rewriting the Patriation Story:
For the last 30 years, politicians and the media have frequently recounted the same story about the patriation of Canada’s constitution and the adoption of the Charter of Rights. Most of the credit in this version goes to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, but three others are recognized for breaking an impasse in the negotiations in 1981: federal justice minister Jean Chrétien, Saskatchewan attorney general Roy Romanow, and Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry. In his memoirs, Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford argues that the key intervention came not from Romanow, Chrétien, and McMcMurtry, but from Peckford himself and the members of the Newfoundland delegation.
The long-accepted narrative goes like this. In the 1980s, Trudeau was determined to create a charter of rights and a procedure that would allow Canada to amend its constitution without seeking Britain’s permission, a legacy from the country’s colonial past. Trudeau faced opposition from eight provincial premiers (all but those from Ontario and New Brunswick), who formed the Gang of Eight to advance their own decentralized vision of Canada. After failing to come to an agreement with the provinces, Trudeau decided to proceed without them, but a Supreme Court ruling forced him back to the negotiating table.
- Brian Peckford and the patriation of the Canadian constitution:
In Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More, the political memoirs of Brian Peckford, former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1979 to 1989, were formally published today at a launch party in St. John’s. Political Management professor and historian Stephen Azzi, writing in the Canadian Encyclopedia, draws attention to a little-known but markedly consequential contribution Peckford made to the Canada that exists today: his role in breaking the political log jam that permitted the patriation of the constitution and the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
The commonly accepted folklore holds that the provinces and the federal government were bitterly divided at the constitutional conference of November, 1981, until federal justice minister Jean Chrétien, Saskatchewan attorney general Roy Romanow, and Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry ducked into an unused pantry in the conference centre and hashed out a compromise that was later dubbed “the Kitchen Accord.” It is a nice story, says Prof. Azzi, but it fails to do justice to the complexities of the negotiations or to the role played by Brian Peckford in bringing about an eventual agreement.
- Brian Peckford interview on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon
POLITICS | Oct 8, 2012 | 44:38
- Brian Peckford re-writes constitution’s Night of Long Knives
Posted: Sep 20, 2012 9:54 AM ET
Last Updated: Sep 20, 2012 9:53 AM ET
It is one of the enduring stories of the battle to patriate Canada’s constitution: late-night talks on Nov. 4, 1981 that produced the Kitchen Accord, a compromise that ultimately led to an agreement that brought home Canada’s constitution.
That breakthrough has long been credited to then Justice Minister Jean Chrétien, Saskatchewan Attorney General Roy Romanow and Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurty — the so-called Kitchen Cabinet that met in the kitchen of Ottawa’s convention centre until the wee hours.
In Quebec, it has been known by another name: the Night of the Long Knives, referring to the perceived exclusion of Quebec premier René Lévesque and the betrayal of Quebec’s interests.
But 30 years later, another version of events has emerged — and former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford has outlined his own account in a new book, Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More.
Was it his proposal that actually laid the ground for the final agreement during the historic constitutional talks? Brian Peckford spoke with Power & Politics host Evan Solomon.
- Peckford rewrites history with new account of ‘Kitchen Accord’ to patriate Constitution
Randy Boswell, Postmedia News | Sep 12, 2012 11:54 PM ET | Last Updated: Sep 13, 2012 12:27 AM ET
Former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford has literally rewritten history, prompting the Canadian Encyclopedia to substantially revise the story of the 1982 patriation of the Constitution.
The then-premier of Canada’s newest province now gets central credit in shaping the historic deal, with the encyclopedia playing down somewhat the significance of the famous “Kitchen Accord” led by future prime minister Jean Chrétien that up until now was largely thought to be the constitutional saga’s breakthrough moment.
Mr. Peckford, whose political memoir was launched Wednesday in St. John’s, used the 30th anniversary of patriation in April to raise objections to the prevailing “mythology” about how the deal was done during a high-stakes first ministers’ conference in Ottawa in November, 1981.
Now, the country’s main easy-reference resource for historical knowledge has examined Mr. Peckford’s claims, conducted additional research and — as the author of the revised patriation entry puts it — is now “giving credit where credit’s due.”
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