Canada from 1968 to 1988

By | January 9, 2022

The history of Canada from 1968 to 1988 was characterized by the presence on the political scene of two men, PE Trudeau and R. Lévesque. Trudeau, Federal Prime Minister from April 1968 to June 1979 and from March 1980 to June 1984, personified the idea of ​​a single Canada, based on the languages ​​of the two founding components, English and French, and strongly oriented towards Ottawa, the federal capital.

Lévesque, prime minister of the province of Quebec from November 1976 to June 1985, was the one who, by leading the Part Québécois (with a pro-independence tendency) to victory and explicitly threatening the exit of Quebec from the Canadian federation, imposed parity for Canadian French speakers. theoretical at the level of decision-making with English speakers and restored control of their province to the French speakers of Quebec. As a reaction, Lévesque indirectly favored a centrifugal trend in the other provinces with respect to the centralization desired by Trudeau.

According to microedu, the linguistic story and the Quebec issue dominated the Canadian scene throughout the 1970s. Among the results of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963-71) was the Law on Official Languages ​​(1969), the cornerstone of the first Trudeau government, which established the parity of the two languages ​​and made bilingualism compulsory in all. federal or supra-provincial acts. Even if the law has had its opponents and does not include the languages ​​of other linguistic minorities, its results can be said to be remarkable. By the end of the 1970s, no politician or federal official at the executive level could exempt himself from a functional knowledge of both languages.

For its part, Quebec, within a series of measures to protect the French language, approved Law 101 (1977), also known as Charte de la Langue française, which recognized French as the only official language of the province (also in the courts) and made it compulsory for all, except for a minority group of exclusively English-speaking families, education in French. Law 101 also had important results, especially as regards the integration of new immigrants into an almost entirely French-speaking system of life.

The referendum proposed by Lévesque to the Québec voters (May 20, 1980) saw 60% of the voters opposed to the independence option, which in itself was not explicitly mentioned in the formulation of the referendum proposal. The defeat of Parti Québécois closed a chapter not only in the history of the province but also in that of Canada. Lévesque resigned (June 1985), and his successor, P.-M. Johnson (provincial prime minister since September), was defeated in the following elections (December 1985) by the liberal R. Bourassa, former prime minister from April 1970 to November 1976.

Trudeau resigned in June 1984 and his successor, J. Turner, prime minister from June to September 1984, could do nothing against the victory of the conservatives led by B. Mulroney. In many provinces the parties traditionally in power gave way to the opposition: the case of Ontario is sensational, where the conservatives in May 1985 registered the end of an absolute domination, which lasted 42 years.

If Trudeau’s last act was the new Constitution (signed by Queen Elizabeth II on April 17, 1982) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of the Constitution itself), Mulroney’s first act was the Lake Meech Agreement. (April 30, 1987), a sort of pact between Ottawa and the provinces, which essentially recognized Quebec the status of a “ distinct society ” while granting more power to all the individual provinces, to the detriment of federal centrality but which, due to the opposition of three provinces, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Manitoba, it has not been implemented. This favored the resumption of separatist politics in Quebec. This result would be exactly opposite to that pursued by Trudeau during his tenure years.

From the international point of view, Canada began to adopt an autonomous policy from the United States with the government of L. Pearson (April 1963-April 1968), only to become deeply intolerant towards the southern neighbors under Trudeau, especially during the war years. of Vietnam. Improve relations between the United States and individual provinces: during the mandate of Lévesque, for example, Quebec, which places itself on the international scene as a ” nation ” (and not a province) often in competition with Ottawa, fully understands the importance of these relationships for trade and for the Canadian economy as a whole.

The proximity of the American giant meant that Canada continually suffered the repercussions of the American economy and only partially succeeded in setting up and maintaining its own independent economic policy. The importance of the United States as a trading partner was the basis of the Free Trade Agreement (January 1988), which created a sort of regulated free market between Canada and the United States.

If the Free Trade Agreement was Mulroney’s workhorse in the November 1988 elections, that same theme was instead interpreted by Turner’s liberals and E. Broadbent’s neo-democrats as an open door to invasion. commercial, but also political, social and cultural of the American model.

The fear of the opponents of the Agreement is that the influence of the American model will lead Canada to lose those characteristics that distinguish him: the role of leader of the Francophonie (disputed to France) and of the Commonwealth (disputed to the United Kingdom), the defense of human rights and an ideal socially advanced multicultural society. On the international scene, this positive image of Canada has certainly contributed to the development of a community of Canadian scholars at university level (of “ Canadian studies ”) in over thirty countries, subject to investment by the government starting from since the mid-seventies.

The Canada of the seventies and eighties suffered the same economic difficulties as the rest of the western world. While the population reached 25 million in 1985 (more than double compared to 1945), Canada suffered two oil crises (1973 and 1979), inflation (12.5% ​​in 1981), unemployment (almost 12% in 1983), the steep rise in prices in the real estate market of large cities. First of all, young people, women, and the original populations (Indians and Inuit) were affected. New immigrants from Europe (33%), Latin America (33%) and Africa and Asia (33%) were relatively little affected.

Trudeau’s National Energy Plan (1981) or the measures of his successors have had little success, while some grandiose works wanted by the provinces, such as the James Bay hydroelectric basin in Quebec (first phase completed in 1981), have not yet given all their fruits.

Canada from 1968 to 1988