Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Question Period—The Constitution”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (27 November 1981)

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Date: 1981-11-27
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 13381, 13384-13385.
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Mr. David Berger (Laurier): Madam Speaker, my question
is directed to the Rigbt Honourable Prime Minister. Yesterday,
Premier Lévesque, in referring to statements by tbe Prime
Minister to the effect that Quebec had lost its veto rigbt, said
that these statements in fact acknowledged the existence of a
veto rigbt. Some members of the media appear to be ratber
confused by tbis apparent paradox. Would the Prime Minister
say that the alleged veto right was neyer a legal rigbt but
ratber a politîcal privilege that tbe government of Quebec bas
now Iost by obstructing ail attempts to reform the Canadian
Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, as far as the legal aspect of the matter is concerned,
obviously 1 can only express an opinion. The courts will bave to
decide on tbe legality aspect, if necessary, but my position bas
always been, tbat ever since 1 became leader of tbe Canadian
government we bave always looked for an amending formula
based on tbe concept of regionalism, wbicb recognized tbe
existence of four regions in Canada and as a resuit acknowledged
implicitly tbat tbe Province of Quebec bad a veto rigbt.
Tbat was our position at tbe constitutional conference in 197 1,
and bas been our position up to tbe events of tbe past few
weeks, wben we bad a resolution before tbe House in wbicb we
were proposing an amending formula based on tbe regional
concept and tberefore on a veto rigbt for Quebec. So tbat when
Premier Lévesque, in joining forces witb tbe seven provinces,
agreed witb tbeir concept tbat ail provinces were equal and
that there were no veto rights for anyone, and signed the
accord on April 16 of this year, bie relinquisbed tbe veto rigbt
we bad been prepared to acknowledge in tbe amending formula.
So that is wbat bappened, Madam Speaker, and once
more, I do not want to say what the law is on tbis question nor
wbat tbe constitutional conventions sbould be. 1 merely wisb to
say tbat for ten years we bave been proposing a constitutional
amending formula tbat would bave given tbe Province of
Quebec veto rigbts, and it was Mr. Lévesque’s government
that since or sometime before tbe accord, in September 1980,
joined forces witb tbe seven provinces wbicb denîed veto rigbts
to any of tbe provinces. Mr. Lévesque agreed to accept tbis
view, tbereby relinquisbing tbe veto rigbts we were prepared to
acknowledge, flot in law but in tbe amending formula we were





Mr. Gilles Marceau (Jouquière): Madam Speaker, my
question is directed ta tbe Right Hon. Prime Minister.
Since yesterday, tbc gavernmcnt of Qucbec bas started ta
sbaw an interest in the situation of francopbones autside
Quebec, after baving ignorcd tbem for a year and a baîf
during tbe negatiatians on the Constitution. I may recaîl a
statement by Claude Marin at tbe beginning of tbe last
conference in wbicb bc said tbat applying Section 133 ta
Ontario was of no consequence wbatsoever.

Does tbe Prime Minister agree tbat far more generous
guarantees would bave been abtained if Quebec bad wanted ta
take ta beart tbe interests of Canadians instead of witbdrawing
witbin ils own separatist option?

Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, tbis question is similar ta tbe issue of Quebec’s veto
wbicb 1 discussed carlier in reply ta another question. 1 can say
tbat botb items receivcd aur attention, since wc wcre proposing
a veto rigbt for Quebec and impravements in tbe position of
francophones in the rest of the country. In the course of tbe
negatiations an tbe Constitution, we did nat receive Quebec’s
support an either of these twa items. In fact, it jained farces
witb tbe seven provinces that at tbe time did not want veto
rigbts-tbey still do not-and wbicb also did nat want to
guarantee educational rigbts. Madarn Speaker, I believe we
could go even furtber. Starting at tbe Victoria Conference in
1971, the Canadian governrnent bad received frorn seven
provinces a constitutional guarantec for at least part of Section
133. Tbese canstitutianal guarantees werc entrencbed in the

[Page 13385]

Victoria charter, wbich, as the record shows, was rejected by
the province of Quebec.

The federal government, since 1 became Prime Minister
and, of course, under Mr. Pearson, has been figbting for the
entrenchment in the Constitution of minority rigbts for francophones
outside Quebec. We have aîways done so without the
help of the province of Quebec, and now, since Mr. Levesque
came to power, in spite of the opposition of the province of
Quebec, and that is what the situation has been for ten years.

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