Gerald Beaudoin

From Pierre Bédard to Gérald Beaudoin the line runs straight. French Canada has never been without its experts on the British Constitution, champions of parliamentary freedoms and human rights. We’ve all benefited.

Bédard was leader of the majority party in Lower Canada’s first Legislative Assembly and the founder and first editor of the province’s political journal, Le Canadien. In 1792 he drew up a reading list in British constitutional history and practice: John Locke. William Blackstone, Jean Louis De Lolme, Edmund Burke. He made himself a supreme master of the British tradition – and a serious nuisance in colonial politics. In 1810, the Governor threw him in jail. For goodness sakes, Bédard was demanding nothing less than that the British allow French Canadians the full range of British political freedoms! What arrogance! Bédard was ahead of his time. But he left his mark and he was in the right.

Gérald Beaudoin, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1988, served the cause of constitutionalism in a number of capacities, notably as a member of the Pépin-Robarts Commission on constitutional reform, where he argued against the separation of Quebec from Canada. As co-chair (with Jim Edwards) of the House-Senate committee on constitutional reform (see the Beaudoin-Edwards Report, June 1991), he argued for ratification of constitutional amendments by Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

Ratification by Parliament and the provincial legislatures? How else, you ask. But at the time, opinion in Canada was for ratification by any group of “ordinary Canadians” drawn from the population at large. Any group that put themselves forward. Any gang selected by Decima Research and Maclean’s Magazine (July, 1991). Get those jackasses in Parliament out of the constitutional reform business. That was the prevailing sentiment. Get rid of the politicians. Get rid of the “men in suits.” Beaudoin was swimming against the populist tide. He was behind the times. But he left his mark. And he was in the right.

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1 Response to “Gerald Beaudoin”


  1. 1 David T. Koyzis October 16, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Janet:

    Thanks for your reflections on Beaudoin. I’ve linked to your post here..


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