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The History Of Canada Series: The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada [Hardcover]

Ron Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 5 2011 History of Canada

Between the evening of November 3 and the morning of November 4, 1981, critical decisions were made that led to the repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights.

The "Night of the Long Knives," as it has become known, was the culmination of more than a decade of constitutional debates triggered in large measure by the advent of Quebec nationalism, the electoral triumph of the Parti Québécois, and the first referendum. It also coincided with the rise of some of the most powerful premiers in Canadian history, formidable men who were pressing for a more decentralized federation. And, of course, it is about the struggle between them and Pierre Trudeau.

What happened that night remains a very hot political button in Quebec, while the impact of the Charter and the Notwithstanding Clause were significant issues in our most recent election. Thirty years on, with many of the key participants still alive, The Last Act gives this remarkable event a full dramatic historical narrative to establish what really took place that night.


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The History Of Canada Series: The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada + The History of Canada Series: The Destiny of Canada: MACDONALD LAURIER AND THE ELECTION OF 1891 + The History of Canada Series: Death or Victory
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Review

“Gripping ... authoritative ... a superb job ... a fine work of scholarship that is also a wonderful read for anyone interested in understanding the political forces in play during those turbulent four days.” - Literary Review of Canada

"A spirited and judicious account ... Ron Graham is ... one of the finest long-form journalists of his generation." - The Globe and Mail --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ron Graham is one of Canada’s most acclaimed and accomplished political journalists. Born in Ottawa, educated at McGill and the Institute of Canadian Studies at Carleton University, he began his career as a documentary producer at CBC Television and subsequently as a regular contributor to Saturday Night magazine. His first book, One-Eyed Kings, an award-winning study of Canadian politics from Trudeau to Mulroney, was followed by God’s Dominion; The French Quarter; and All the King’s Horses,. Ron Graham also edited the memoirs of Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien and The Essential Trudeau.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trudeeau's Coup for the Federal Government June 24 2011
This is an excellent account of the complex even byzantine negotiations that brought Canada an amending formula for the constitution with the Constitution Act of 1982, which contains the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many Canadians found the process boring, but Ron Graham brings the whole thing to life with his insights into the colourful personalities of the participants. The book is an excellent guide to this important series of events in Canadian history.

Other than the essential starting point that the patriation of the constitution from the Parliament of Great Britain to Canada was desirable and necessary, Graham does not take sides. The book is not about political philosophy and the nuances of a federal system. This is perhaps a wise course on his part.

The most important consequence of the new Constitution Act is that 'interpretation' - to be distinguised from 'amendment' - of the constitution is now made by the Supreme Court of Canada. Formerly the constitution was interpreted by the British Privy Council, which because it was removed from the Canadian scene could afford to be objective. It generally found in favour of the provinces. In fact interpretation of the constitution is everything; there will be few attempts to amend it. Trudeau, as a centralist, was determined to reduce the role of the provinces, and by taking the power to interpret it from the Privy Council and turning it over to the Supreme Court, all of whose members are appointed by the Prime Minster, he succeeded.

Graham touches only lightly on what modern political scientists call the 'compact theory' of federalism - which was in fact the Privy Council's interpretation. But it was not just a theory, it was our constitution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of patriation Oct. 27 2012
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book is a gift to anyone interested in Canadian history. Bias is inevitable of course (Graham is largely supportive of Trudeau), but he is fair minded and clear in presenting the perspectives of the premiers. The negotiations detailed here were complex to say the least, but at the end of it, for better or worse, Canada had its own constitution. Some myths are put to rest here, most notably what really went on during the "night of the long knives". Regardless of your perspective on the action, you will finish more knowledgeable about a key event in Canadian history.
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