April 16, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Former minister Benoit Pelletier dies aged 64

Former minister Benoit Pelletier dies aged 64

Former Quebec minister Benoit Pelletier, who was the Liberal Party's top constitutionalist under Jean Charest, died Saturday in Mexico, his family announced. He is 64 years old.

In a press release issued Monday morning, Mr. Pelletier's family mourned the passing of “a caring husband, devoted, funny, generous and considerate family man and a great lover of Quebec and the French language.”

This renowned professor of law – especially constitutional law – made the leap into “active politics” in 1998, becoming a Member of Parliament for Chaplain in Outlaws, where he taught at one of his alma maters, the University of Ottawa.

MP Pelletier immediately chaired the Liberal Party's (PLQ) special committee on Quebec's political and constitutional future and is considered the father of Jean Charest's party's constitutional platform.

When the Liberals took power in 2003, the politician naturally became Canada's Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, a position he held along with other ministries until his retirement from political life in 2008.

A “federal Quebec nationalist”, considered to be of an “autonomous” trend, Mr. Pelletier was a proponent of “asymmetrical federalism”—he fought against fiscal imbalances and limits on Ottawa's spending power. He was also the father of the Confederation Council, a group of provinces that faced the central authority of Ottawa.

A supporter of constitutional reforms, however, ten years after the narrow “No” victory in the 1995 referendum, he said the “reopening” of the Canadian constitution was “unfruitful.”

An “Autonomous Federation”

Born in Quebec on January 10, 1960, Benoît Pelletier earned a law degree from Laval University in 1981 before working at the federal Department of Justice. He earned a master's degree from the University of Ottawa in 1989 and began teaching there in the 1990s — he was assistant dean of faculty from 1996 until jumping into politics.

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Elected Vice-President of Chapleau in 1998, he was re-elected in 2003 and 2007; He did not run again in 2008. During his time in Jean Charest's cabinet, he was responsible for Canadian Francophonie, domestic affairs and the reform of democratic institutions – he supported voting reform. Organization and Abolition of Monarchy. He also opposed Senate reform proposed by conservative federal Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But Mr. Pelletier was above all an expert on constitutional matters for the PLQ. Mr. In the 2000s the PLQ's new constitutional platform would become: “A Plan for Quebec: Determination, Autonomy and Leadership”.

Already in 2001, a reference to autonomy, a concept he never disdained: “Personally, I would not hesitate to define myself as an autonomist,” he said in an interview. Duty In 2007. He claimed to have adopted the term before Mario Dumont claimed it in 2004. »

Constitution for Quebec

In his “Plan for Quebec,” Mr. In 2006, Minister Pelletier concluded an agreement with the Harper government that allows Quebec to appoint a permanent representative to the Canadian delegation to UNESCO.

He was also in favor of adopting a Quebec constitution, as many member states of the confederations had done, according to Jean Lesage's Liberals, which had already been proposed in the 1960s. irking some federalists.

“For my part, I have no doubt that most of those who promote the project of a constitution for Quebec do so with a completely reasonable perspective of giving Quebec a unified document. What legacies do we want to leave for the generations that follow us,” said the Canadian intergovernmental minister during the first Quebec Congress of the Constitution in Quebec in 2006.

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“Great source of inspiration”

After a decade in his active politics from 1998 to 2008, Mr. Pelletier returned to practicing law and teaching at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law in 2009. In 2015, the federal government appointed him to the Panel on Medical Aid in Dying.

He became a Grand Citizen of the Order of Godino in 2009, an Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2014, and a Member of the Order of Canada in 2016, among other distinctions. He received a medal from the Bar of Quebec in 2019 and a medal of honor from the National Assembly in May 2022.

Monday morning Mr. In a written response to Pelletier's death, Jean Charest offered his thoughts to the former MP's family.

“Through his legal thinking and his political commitment, Benoît Pelletier has helped Quebec make significant gains within the Canadian Confederation and around the world. He is a great source of inspiration for anyone who wants to advance the interests of the nation of Quebec, both in Canada and internationally,” the former premier said in a statement.

Current interim Liberal leader Mark Tanguay added on social media

“Intelligent, a great speaker and always ready to help, he was a role model for us all. His legacy will live on,” he wrote.

An earlier version of the text states that Benoit Pelletier died at the age of 63. He was more than 64 years old. Our apologies.