On October 26, 1992, the Canadian people, for the first time in their history as a political community, acted as Canada's ultimate constitutional authority—in effect, as a sovereign people. In the referendum conducted on that day, a majority of Canadians in a majority of provinces, said “No” to the Charlottetown Accord proposals for constitutional change.
Though the referendum was only consultative and not legally binding, nonetheless the governments that supported the Accord—and these include the federal government, all ten provincial governments and the two territorial governments, plus organizations representing the four groupings of aboriginal peoples (status and non-status Indians, Inuit, and Metis)—will not proceed with ratification of the Accord in their legislative assemblies. The politicians will respect the vox populi.
The referendum may have killed more than the Accord. It may very well be the last time this generation of Canadians attempts a grand resolution of constitutional issues in order to prevent a national unity crisis. If in the next few years Canada plunges once again into the constitutional maelstrom, it will be because it is confronted with an actual, not an apprehended, crisis of national unity.