Episode 18 – A Stain on the Constitution

November 20, 2018


About the Episode

It was July 22nd, 1983.  The one-year-old Canadian Constitution sat safely in the vaults of Library and Archives Canada until Toronto art student Peter Grayson asked an archivist to view the document in order to study its calligraphy. When the document was brought before him, Grayson performed an act of protest that shocked Canadians everywhere: he threw paint upon our Constitution. Paint that, to this day, cannot be removed.

Why did Peter Grayson deface our Constitution? Why did he choose the Constitution for his protest?  Did the vandalism change what the document means to Canadians? What was the fallout of Grayson’s actions?

Grayson’s act that day raised many questions among scholars, politicians, conservators, and the general public about the nature of our history.  His actions set a legal precedent, and lead to sweeping changes within the institutions that are charged with the conservation and protection of our heritage.

Join hosts Nick, Robin, and Keely as they notice the ‘colourful’ story of the Canadian Constitution, and the stain that is now upon it.


  1. To book your own tour of Library and Archives Canada visit:


CBC. ”1984: Missile protester sentenced for defacing the Constitution.” CBC Digital Archives. Accessed June 2018.

O’Connor, Joe. “A blot on Canadian history: First the Queen signed our Constitution, then an activist threw paint on it.” National Post. July 19, 2013. Accessed June 2018. At

The Canadian Press. “Why the Charter has its red blotch.” Globe and Mail. April 15, 2012. Accessed June 2018.

Whalen, James C. “‘Out, Damned Spot!’ The Staining of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982.” Archivaria vol. 61 (Spring 2006): 289-298.


Hosts: Robin Mullins, Nick Bridges, Keely McCavitt

Researchers: Nick Johnston and Emily Cuggy

Audio Editing: Emily Cuggy and Robin Mullins

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit: National Post, A blot on Canadian History: first the Queen signed out Constitution, then an activist threw paint on it. (July 19, 2013)