Margret Kopala

Letter broadcast on July 27, 1997

I was intrigued to hear your guests discuss ideas for changing Canada’s constitution that the provincial premiers might consider at their annual meeting in August.


Your guests dismiss the idea of a constituent assembly (in which deliberative democracy would be a major component) too lightly and ignore its most compelling argument. Namely, that those who govern are in a conflict of interest when they establish the rules by which they govern. What’s that line about the foxes guarding the henhouse? Or, as the philosopher Simone Weil put it, "The constitutional function and the governmental function are incompatible."

Following the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord, many Canadians - including former premiers Wells and Lougheed - called for the establishment of a constituent assembly on these (among other) grounds. Further, we suggested that participants decline subsequent political office if not in perpetuity at least for a designated period of time. I also felt that if we had a constituent assembly once very twenty years or so, we would be more forgiving of ourselves when we didn’t solve all Canada’s constitutional problems all at once. Fear of failure being the biggest current obstacle to constitutional renewal, this proviso means there would always be a next time and another generation to do the job a bit better.

Margret Kopala

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