OTTAWA-Constitutional Affairs Minister Joe Clark has what may be the toughest job in the country--trying to keep it together.
Clark has had some success since he took the job last spring, coupled with a few pitfalls.
What follows is a year-end interview with Clark. It has been abridged for length and clarity.
Q: Some people say there is a chance you might be charged with negotiating the break-up of the country.
A: That could happen. One always has to realize that this can fail. I don't think it's going to fail, but I have to confess that part of my reason for saying this is I just think this is a common-sense country and at the end of the day, we'll come to the view that it does not make sense to have a country like this fail. I don't think that will happen but it's certainly a possibility.
Q: There is a view in Quebec that the country is based on a partnership of two founding nations. There seems to be a view in the rest of the country that it's a partnership of 10 equal provinces. How do you square that circle?
A: I think we've done it in the proposals. I guess the dilemma is that there is a sense that people as people should be treated the same, but there is a growing willingness to recognize that there is a cultural difference, a difference, to Quebec.
Q: When you talk about recognition of Quebec's sociological difference, that seems different than the question of giving Quebec more power. Isn't what you're talking about is making that difference real in a constitutional sense in terms of powers that Quebec has to have?
A: Yes, but we're doing that in a way that is consistent with the idea of equality. Are we, in law, treating Government A the same as Government B, the government of Alberta the same as the government of Quebec? I think the answer to that is yes, they have the same rights.
Q: On distinct society, there's a suggestion both that it's a symbol, and that it's not a symbol, that it can be used as a--Trojan Horse is too pejorative--that it can [be] used as a device to give Quebec asymmetry--powers that other provinces don't have.
A: I don't think there's a valid concern that it's a Trojan Horse. There is a part of it that is a symbol. Remember we're doing two things to distinct society. One is putting it in the Constitution. The other is making available to everyone powers that are particularly important to Quebec so that there will be a practical way to give effect to those things. I think that takes account of the symbolic need. It finds a way to give substance, all the while respecting equality.
Part of what I'm trying to do here is move as much toward a recognition of the reality and the nature of Quebec as the circumstances in the rest of the country will allow.
Q: You say it is a Canada round, but clearly the process is driven by what's going to happen in October in Quebec.
A: Well, it is. Those are the most urgent pressures, but there are also other very strong pressures. The aboriginal situation won't wait.
(article accompanied by photograph of Joe Clark, captioned:
JOE CLARK: has enjoyed some successes)
(text of December 16, 1991 Vancouver Sun article)
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TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.