Canada's 'no' voters humiliate Mulroney and anger Indians

CANADA yesterday woke up to the twin threats of civil rebellion by native Indians and a resurgence of separatist agitation in French- speaking Quebec after proposals for wide-ranging constitutional reform were thrown out in a nationwide referendum on Monday.

In what was also a humiliating set-back for the Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, and for the political establishment generally, Canadians overwhelmingly rejected a reform deal negotiated two months ago by Mr Mulroney and provincial and aboriginal leaders. Nationwide, the 'no' vote won by 54.4 per cent to 44.6 per cent.

As well as giving a fresh boost to secessionist forces in Quebec, the deal's rejection has already provoked anger among Canada's native Indian communities. Included in the so-called Charlottetown Agreement, negotiated in the provincial capital of Prince Edward Island, was an offer of 'inherent self-government' for the aboriginal Indian and Inuit (Eskimo) populations.

'We had an opportunity here to end dominance in the lives of the people I represent and we blew it,' said Ovide Mercredi, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Indians, he said, would take the law into their own hands to assert their rights and also make an appeal to the UN. 'We can assert our rights, we have our own law- making powers and we are not going to wait any more for your permission to use them,' he said.

Four out of 10 provinces, Newfoundland, New Brunswick Prince Edward Island, and Ontario, plus the Northwest Territories, backed the deal, designed principally to give Quebec greater autonomy as a 'distinct society' while keeping it in the federal fold. It was rejected by Quebec, 55.4 per cent to 42.4 per cent, while the margins were even wider in the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. In Ontaria, the bill scraped through with 49.8 per cent in favour to 49.6 per cent against. Conceding defeat, Mr Mulroney acknowledged in a late-night, national television broadcast that Charlottetown had been consigned to 'history', but warned that the issues it had attempted to settle remained. 'I do not share the optimism that has been expressed by some others that this is something we can ride over.' The grievances and aspirations of Canada's disparate communities remained, he said.

Though called upon by some to resign, Mr Mulroney pledged to turn his government's attention to the ailing economy, abandoning attempts at constitutional reform. So close was his association with the package, however, that he may come under pressure from his Conservative Party to step down next year ahead of federal elections which must be called by next autumn. In polls, Mr Mulroney suffers near-record unpopularity.

While the national election could radically alter the balance of power in Ottawa, with strong advances forecast for the fledgeling Reform Party which, from its Alberta base, led the 'no' campaign in the West, the consequences may be most dramatic in Quebec itself. Together the two secessionist parties, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) and the Bloc Quebecois, seem well placed to regain power.

Addressing a triumphant gathering of 'no' supporters in a Montreal nightclub late on Monday, Jacques Parizeau, the PQ leader, wasted no time in setting a new agenda. 'Let Canadians define their future as they want and us Quebeckers, we will define our future as we want,' he declared. 'We'll have to tell Quebeckers who said tonight they are a people, a nation that, tomorrow, very soon, they will have a country.' The moment of truth for Quebec is not likely to come until provincial elections due in 1994. If, as is now more likely, a pro-sovereignty coalition is elected, a referendum within the province could swiftly follow asking whether Quebec should finally separate from the rest of Canada. How such a vote would fall, however, remains unpredictable.

In an angry referendum in 1980, Quebeckers narrowly rejected a proposal for 'sovereignty-association' which would have given them quasi-independence while retaining economic and foreign policy links with Ottawa. In Monday's vote, the province divided between French-speakers who voted against the pact and English-speakers who supported it.

The rejection of Charlottetown by French Quebeckers largely reflected dissatisfaction with what was on offer, notably confirmation of Quebec's rights as a 'distinct society' with its own language and legal system and a guarantee of 25 per cent of the seats in parliament. In the West, the opposition was driven by concern that Quebec was getting too much. Westerners were also disappointed with proposals for limited reform of the Ottawa Senate, to make it into an elected body with equal representation for all the provinces.

Reaction to the defeat of the accord was sharpest from Indian leaders who threatened to take the law into their hands to assert their rights. Polls suggested fairly general support for the aboriginal elements of the Charlottetown package, as a step towards redressing widely acknowledged injustices inflicted since settlement on the native peoples who still make up 5 per cent of the population. Ron George, the leader of the Native Council of Canada, said: 'To those who voted 'no', I say congratulations, you have perpetuated apartheid in this country.' And in a reference to violent demonstrations by Mohawks in Montreal two years ago, he warned: 'If there are more roadblocks, more people killing themselves, congratulations, you won. I hope you feel good about that.'

(Photograph and map omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, Adobe, ...

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?