Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Emergency Planning”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (17 December 1981)

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Date: 1981-12-17
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 14177-14184.
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EMERGENCY PLANNING—P.C. 1981-1305, MAY 21, 1981,


[Page 14181]

Hon. Elmer M. MacKay (Central Nova): […] The very first part of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our proposed new Constitution has a weasel clause in it. Particularly in view of the events unfolding here today I do not think it has to be taken very seriously, at least until the government does something to justify the faith it is asking Canadians to have in it.

Before I read it I want to remind the House, for example, that we have done a lot of talking about freedom of information, and one of the most regressive clauses of any legislation of any civilized country is Section 41(2) of the Federal Court Act of Canada. I remind hon. members also that drastic modifications have been proposed to our freedom of information legislation. Yet right now in Quebec members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are being denied an adequate opportunity to defend themselves by virtue of this particular section’s invocation by the Solicitor General (Mr. Kaplan).

This was not the first time that this draconian action has been taken since the freedom of information act has been brought forward in committee. It would seem to me that if the government were the least bit serious about doing something to become more enlightened in this respect, it would not be doing what it is doing with Section 41(2), when it is apparently on the way out, nor would it be taking the course of action it is taking here today in refusing to bring forward the kind of information that it has been requested to do if it were serious about the ideals of our new Constitution. The first clause reads:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it—

—and here is where it starts to weasel, Mr. Speaker—

—subject only to such reasonable limits—

—as are generally accepted in a free and democratic society with a parliamentary system of government.

What kind of system are we talking about? Are we talking about Tanzania? If we are, I do not have very much confidence. I do not think we will ever assuage the fears of Canadians about the implications of arbitrary pieces of legislation such as this, or regulations, until the government demonstrates by its actions what it intends to do, instead of obfuscating. As the author, Eldridge Cleaver, once said, “If you are going to talk the talk, you have got to walk the walk.” I do not understand why in times of peace, as the hon. member for Saskatoon West (Mr. Hnatyshyn) said, “We have to put up with the kind of apprehended fears caused by this sort of draconian regulation”.

Back in the 1950s, the hysteria was over the spread of atomic technology. I can well remember a bit of doggerel by the late Pete Seeger which went something like this, “The atom don’t care about all this hysteria. It flourishes in Los Alamos and also Siberia”. So, it may seem, will internment camps. If we will take this kind of legislation or regulation to its logical conclusion, maybe we will have a “Gulag Archipelago” in North Bay, or perhaps Thunder Bay. Perhaps that will be a great advancement in our contemporary Canadian Constitution.

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