Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Emergency Measures”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (25 March 1982)

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Date: 1982-03-25
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1982 at 15807.
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Mr. John Gamble (York North): Madam Speaker, in answer to a question asked by the hon. member for Saskatoon West with respect to the effect of the emergency planning order of May, 1981, the Prime Minister stated yesterday that the Charter of Rights affords protection to anyone whose rights are abused under the War Measures Act, the emergency planning order or anything else. The Prime Minister will be aware that the first paragraph of the constitutional resolution provides that the rights and freedoms are subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law which can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I ask the Prime Minister whether the War Measures Act is within the prescribed limits of Section 1 of the new Constitution, and can it in fact still operate so as to deprive Canadians of their rights under the Charter? If not, will the Prime Minister be introducing a bill in this House to repeal the provisions of the War Measures Act on the grounds that they will become unconstitutional under the new Constitution?

Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam speaker, I honestly do not know if that is a rhetorical question. The hon. member should reflect on the fact that this kind of question will ultimately be decided by the courts. The preamble to the Charter was introduced, I seem to recall, with the support of all sides of this House precisely in order to assure that the War Measures Act or any other emergency order would not be used in a way contrary to democratic procedures in this country. Therefore I have no hesitation—well, now we have the hon. member for Durham-Northumberland wanting to get into the act.

Madam Speaker, the law speaks for itself. If the hon. member is suggesting we should delete the preamble to the Charter then I suggest he would have—his seatmate is shaking his head; he does not want that to happen. Therefore, the hon. member should realize that there is this protection in the Charter; it was put in there precisely to answer the kind of doubts the hon. member is entertaining.


Mr. John Gamble (York North): Madam Speaker, it is that type of response which creates the confusion. Yesterday the Prime Minister led the Canadian people to believe very specifically that this Charter, and paragraph 1 thereof, would override the provisions of the emergency planning order. He now says it should be left up to the courts, which of course is the case. My submission, Madam Speaker, is that he should not delude the Canadian people. One of the other great problems with the emergency planning order is the references to “in case of war”, including the incarceration of Canadians in civilian concentration camps. While “emergency” is defined under the provisions of the planning order, “war” is not. Will the Prime Minister agree to amend that order, offensive as it is, to provide that when “war” is referred to under this order it is real war between Canada and some foreign nation, and not apprehended war?

Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Does the hon. member want me to say something about the cold war, too? I await his suggestions.

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