The failure of constitutionalism in Canada

  • Stephen Brooks


An obsession with constitutional reform characterized Canadian politics between 1987 and 1992. This reflected the failure of traditional mechanisms for bridging linguistic and regional differences in Canada, and the spirit of contentiousness and rightsconsciousness that has been encouraged since the passage of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.  These efforts to reform the constitution failed. In the 1992 referendum a majority of both French- and English-speaking Canadians, and majorities in 6 of the 10 provinces, rejected proposals supported by the country's political and economic elites. Support for the reform proposals was greatest among the more affluent parts of Canadian society. Despite the fact that both French and English Canada rejected the proposed reforms, their reasons for doing so were quite different. In the wake of this failure, the terms of a reconciliation between the aspirations of French and English Canada are elusive as ever.

How to Cite:

Brooks, S., (1993) “The failure of constitutionalism in Canada”, Res Publica 35(2), 271-285. doi:

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Published on
29 Jun 1993
Peer Reviewed