Last Friday, Liberal McGill hosted the Honourable Marc Garneau for a talk entitled “30 years after the Patriation: where are we now?” in the Lev Buhkman room of the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) Building. Garneau is the current Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Westmount-Ville Marie in Montreal.
Garneau came to McGill as part of a larger movement entitled the Choose Your Canada tour. According to Liberal McGill President Eric Hendry, the tour aims to bring various Liberal caucus members to university campuses across the country from Oct. 9 to Nov. 4.
“The purpose of this event is to introduce McGill students to the MP for the riding that McGill is in, Westmount—Ville Marie,” Hendry said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to hear a parliamentarian talk about a subject that many [people] are interested in.”
Hendry also noted that Marc Garneau has spoken at McGill before, and was brought back due to his vast field of experience, and impressive knowledge on many different subjects.
“Last time he was here was two years ago,” Hendry said. “It’s been a while, and he’s a great speaker to bring to … campus as much as we can. He’s had so much experience in so many walks of life.”
Garneau’s talk on Friday covered federalism and Quebec’s place in Canada since the 1981 Patriation—when the Constitution was made amendable only by Canada, without the British Parliament playing a role. While Quebec did not approve of these constitutional changes, Garneau shared his view that the overall effect of the Patriation was positive for all of Canada.
“Thirty years later … whether or not it was endorsed by the government of Quebec, Quebec avails itself of the constitution, it avails itself of the charter, the amending formula, and the notwithstanding clause in order to achieve its political objectives,” Garneau said. “In my opinion, the results were very positive for Canadians and for Quebeckers.”
Garneau also explained that Canada is not the only federation in which constitutional changes have not been approved by the entire country, citing Bavaria in Germany as another example.
“Although not an ideal situation, I think we all have to admit that Germany [and] Canada still manage to function very well sometimes,” he said.
Following his talk, Garneau hosted a question and answer period. Audience members’ questions covered a variety of topics, ranging from the Patriation itself, to Garneau’s potential leadership candidacy, and to Bill C-420—a bill that Garneau himself put forward, and which would establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada.
Students who attended the event offered positive and enthusiastic feedback.
“I wasn’t aware that he was such an incredible speaker and it was great to see him in his element like that,” Laura Jarecsni, U0 education, said. “It was interesting to hear him talk about his potential Liberal leadership candidacy. I was very excited by that.”
The event also fits into Liberal McGill’s goal to inform students about the upcoming Liberal Party leadership elections, and to encourage them to get involved with the actions of the Liberal Party.
“We’re … hoping to bring in as many leadership candidates to McGill as possible,” Hendry said. “The leadership election is going to be the focus of our speaking events throughout the year.”