Canada, House of Commons Debates, Question Period—The Constitution, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (16 February 1981)

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Date: 1981-02-16
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7249-7257.
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Hon. Flora MacDonald (Kingston and the Islands): Madam
Speaker, my question would have been to the Minister of
Justice had hie been here. In bis absence I will direct my
question to the Prime Minister.
The Minister of Justice, on several occasions this weekend,
was reported as saying that hie will not be considering new
amendments of substance to the charter of rights. The Prime
Minister will be aware that at a conference this weekend
hundreds of womcn from across the country put forward
proposais for major changes to the charter. What 1 would like
to ask the Prime Minister is a very simple question. Was the
minister ruling out in adivance, on behaîf of bis government, ail
the changes that have been proposed to the charter by the
women who met in Ottawa this weekend?
Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, 1 have not seen the statement by the Minister of
Justice, but it seems, from the quote given by the hon. lady,
tbat hie is saying the samne thing as 1 said, that we are not
considering any amcndments. However, we know that some
amendments may be moved in this House. 0f course we will
sec if they are an improvement to the resolution or not, and we

wilI make our judgment in consequence. For instance, 1 have
flot seen the particular resolutions from the meeting held over
the weekend, but 1 arn prepared to tell the hon. lady that if she
supports the resolution, 1 would probably be ready to support
the amendrnents.
An hon. Member: He’s for sale.
Miss MacDonald: Madam Speaker, knowing that the government
derailed the conference that wouid have taken place
in the fîrst place, 1 really arn surprised at this point to find that
the goverfiment is not sensitive enough to have found out what
took place at that conference during the weekend.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: I would like to put rny supplementary
question either to the Prime Minister or to the Minister of
Justice, now that he is here. The minister or the Prime
Minister will know that the weekend conference urged that if
the government was flot prepared to consider in total the
resolutions put forward by the women’s conference, then the
total package should be separated and the bill of rights deait
with separately here in Canada by a constituent assembly. 1
would like to ask the Prime Minister or the Nlinister of Justice
if they are wiiling to consider that proposaI.
Mr. Trudeau: WeIl, Madam Speaker, I just answered that. I
have flot seen the resolutions adopted over the weekend in any
detail, but I arn prepared to gamble that they are probably
very sensitive and worth-whiîe additions. I tell the hon. lady
and ber party that if they wilI support the resolution as it is
before the House, provided we accept these amendments, then
I think we have a good bargain. Would she do it?
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Hon. Flora MacDonald (Kingston and the Islands): Madam
Speaker, my further supplementary question is to the Minister
of Justice, now that the Prime Minister has given that reply.
As I understand it, these resolutions that have been put
An hon. Member: Weaseiing in,
Miss MacDonald: -by the women’s conference wili now be
considered by the Government of Canada. I would like to ask
the Minister of Justice if, when he rises in bis place tomorrow
afternoon in 24 hours’ time, he will say to the House which of
those resolutions the government wiîl be prepared to support.
An hon. Member: Take them one by one.
* (1420)
Hon. Jean Chrétien (Minister of Justice and Minister of
State for Social Development): Madam Speaker, I think the
Prime Minister put it very well. If the hon. member thinks
these amendments are important for women, she should be
ready to say she wants them to be incorporated in the Constitution,
and flot vote against them in the House of Commons.
Sonie hon. Members: Hear, hear!.
Mr. Chrétien: I amnfot very impressed with that kind of
argument because we have had the same problems with respect
to aboriginal rights. Hon. members opposite were ail in favour
of enshrining aboriginal rights in the Constitution, but after the
Indians had gone they said there should be no entrenchment
unless ail the premiers agree. Some of the premiers have
aîready said that they do flot want to, have any charter
incorporated in the Constitution.
If the opposition want to have those rights entrenched in the
new Canadian Constitution, they shouîd make up their rninds
and say they wiil support our activities.
Some hon. Members: H-ear, hear!
Mr. Walter McLean (Waterloo): Madam Speaker, quite
obviously there is a division of opinion. At one moment
members of the government vote against a motion under
Standing Order 43, and then the next moment we are told that
rights are negotiable.
My question arises from the conference at the weekend, and
it is directed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will
know that this conference was representative of cvery province,
the regions, the territories, and ail political persuasions. In
iight of the fact that the meeting was virtually unanimous in
demanding that the minister responsible for the status of
women be reîieved of bis duties and, second, that the advisory
council report directly to Parliament, will the Prime Minister
now act on the wishes. of the women of Canada?
Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, I understand that the wishes of the women of Canada
have been expressed in the resolution to which the hon.
member for Kingston and the Islands referred.
Miss MacDonald: The resignation of your minister.
Mr. Trudeau: If hon. members opposite are serious, they
should support the position of the meeting at the weekend.
That position was that this group of women would support
patriation with an amending charter if we put certain amendments
in. So I tell the Tory party, corne on, listen to the
wornen, help us get the charter as they want it and heIp us put
these arnendments in.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. McLean: Madam Speaker. the Prime Minister wiII
know, once he is briefed, that the conference dealt not only
with the provisions of the charter and the constitutional proposais
but that it also addressed itself to the credibility of the
instrument which advises the goverfiment on matters relating
7250 February 16, 1981
February 16, 1981 COMMONS DEBATES
to womnen. My question was not answered. WiIl tbe Prime
Minister act to request a cbange of ministerial responsibility,
and will be respond witb respect to whether the council wiil
report to this chamber? Will the Prime Minister agree to the
provision of a review group to report to Parliament by July 1,
telling bow the credibility of tbe council can be restored?
Mr. Trudeau: Madam Speaker, 1 say let us get the cbarter
first. Let us entrench the rigbts of women, and let us have the
support of the Tory party.
Miss MacDonald: Chicken.
Mr. Clark: Notbing is important but your own obsession.
Miss Pauline Jewett (New Westminster-Coquitlam):
Madam Speaker, 1 wisb to preface my question by saying that
1 was deligbted to bear the Prime Minister say that be would
accept tbese amendments. Ail tbe amendments but one were
proposed by the New Democratic Party in tbe constitutional
committee. Ail but two of the amendments suggested at the
weekend, the Tories voted against.
Some hon. Members: Shame!
Miss Jewett: 1 would like, therefore, to pursue another
matter witb tbe minister responsible for the status of women.
Has the minister now seriously considered a matter wbich was
discussed broadly over the weekend, that is, the restructuring
of the advisory council? Has bc considered asking for the
resignations of the three vice-presidents? Has be considered
restructuring the counicil and baving it report directly to
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Employment and Immigration):
Madam Speaker, as the hon. member knows, 1 plan
to meet witb a number of representatives of women’s organizations
tbis afternoon.
Mr. Nielsen: Lots of luck.
An hon. Member: Keep your back to the wall.
Mr. Axworthy: 1 thank tbe bon. member for bis good
wishes. We plan to meet witb representatives of these groups
to talk about different recommendations and points of view
concerning the advisory council, and 1 amn looking forward to
their constructive recommendations in that regard.
Miss Jewett: Would tbe minister also look into the question
of giving us the assurance tbat the council, as restructured,
wiIi be a permanently funded body and will be created by
statute rather than order in council?
Oral Questions
Mr. Axworthy: Madam Speaker, tbere bas neyer been any
question in the mind of this government about the continuation
of the council. Some question bas been posed by certain former
members of the couricil concerning that, but it bas neyer been
a question so far as we are concerned. We tbink that tbe
council plays a very important role in this country. It represents
women’s points of view and it puts out some very good
research to whicb this government bas responded over the last
several months in bringing about practical accomplishments
rather than a lot of rbetoric. So we bave a very high regard for
the council, we tbink it could be improved, and we are meeting
with women’s groups to see that it will be improved.
a (1425)
Soine hon. Members: Hear, bear!
Miss Jewett: The minister responded to, the wish of the
Canadian women by getting the council to cancel or postpone
a conference. That is bow he responded. 1 should like to ask
the minister a final question. Since the council was not representative
of ail Canadian women, will lie ensure that ail groups
of women in Canada-and 1 amn, in particular, looking at
women in the labour movement, immigrant women and native
women-are going to be represented on tbe restructured
Mr. Axworthy: It would certainly be my interest to sec tbat
the broadest range of points of view is represented on the
council but, as tbe bon. member recognizes, in many cases
tbere are bundreds of points of view. Tbere is no monolithic
point of view so far as women are concerned, as we bave seen.
Tbere is a wide variety of points of views concerning ail kinds
of matters. Wbat we are trying to get is those individuals wbo
can apply tbe best judgment possible. But tbe council bas been
reflective of a pretty broad range. We wilI sec if it can be
improved, and if tbere are ways in whicb we can do tbat, tben
we wiIl respond to the recommendations we bear this afternoon.
But 1 would say, Madam Speaker, that 1 would like to
listen to tbose points of view before 1 make any definite
commitments, because the point of holding these consultations
is to hear the points of view before making up our minds.

Mr. John Gamble (York North): Madam Speaker, my
question is for the Prime Minister. It arises as a consequence
of some of the apparently conciliatory statements which were
made earlier. The Prime Minister will know that the constitutional
resolution now before this House again contains a
provision with respect to a referendum. Will the Prime Minister
divide the various items of his constitutional package,
namely, the patriation, the amending formula, and his alleged
charter of rights and freedoms-
Some hon. Members: Oh!
Mr. Gamble: -and submit the same to the people in a
referendum so that, indeed, the people of Canada can have an
input in determining this very principal and fundamental law
of the country?
Right Hon. P. E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, I apologize, since there was some noise, but if I
understand the bon. member correctly he is suggesting that we
hold a referendum in order to justify the government’s action.
Is this his suggestion?
Mr. Gamble: Madam Speaker, it is regrettable that I must
repeat my question for the purpose of receiving an initial
answer to it.
My question to the Prime Minister is simply this: Is he
prepared to take his constitutional resolution, divide it into the
7254 COMMONS DEBATES February 16, 1981
Februarv 16, 1981
three component elements of which it currently consiststhose
three elements which now create such animosity and
acrimony across our country-and submit them to the same
test that he would ask of future governments when employing
a referendum procedure to any constitutional amendment
which might come forward, so that the people of Canada can
vote directly in a democratic fashion on each one of these three
packages before his resolution is dispatched to the United
Kingdom for imposition on the people of Canada?
Mr. Trudeau: Madam Speaker, the hon. member is changing
the terms of reference as he states his question. He points
out correctly that there is a provision for a referendum to
make a choice between various amending formulas, if there is
not agreement. If he would suggest that there be a referendum
of that nature to accept or reject a charter once we had the
Constitution back home, I might consider it.
Mr. Siddon: That is not what he said.
Mr. Trudeau: Exactly, that is not what he said. But that is
in the resolution now. He should not argue that I should do
with the referendum on the amending formula the same thing
as I would do with the resolution on the charter.
Madam Speaker: I must allow the hon. member for North
York a very brief supplementary since he had to repeat his
first question.
Mr. Gamble: It is curious that in 1979 the Prime Minister
made these very statements after allegedly failing to reach
some agreement with provincial premiers. He said that “failing
that we will bring it back and consult the Canadian people
in a referendum, and that is the way we will do it”. He said
that we will at least be able to have a Canadian Constitution
made in Canada for Canadians.
It is very clear that in making those statements the Prime
Minister was talking about national unity in 1979. Has he now
changed his mind and is he now pursuing a course of national
destruction? Is that why he will not follow a policy of employing
this referendum program before the charter, inclusive of
all its provisions, is sent to the United Kingdom for imposition
on the people of Canada?
Mr. Trudeau: Madam Speaker, it seems to me the hon.
member talks a bit lightly of national destruction. The picture
we have now is of six provinces opposing this parliamentary
resolution in the courts. They, too, fear national destruction.
The six of them have obviously not been able to agree even
among themselves. I was not present to sort of direct those
debates. There are six provinces opposing this resolution before
Parliament in the courts. These six had several months to come
to some kind of consensus. They even failed in reaching a
decision as to whether or not to go to London. It seems to me
that demonstrates the righteousness of the case before Parliament
Some hon. Members: Oh!
Oral Questions
Mr. Trudeau: What could destroy the country is the fact
that we would fail once again, after 53 years of effort, to bring
back the Constitution to Canada.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. S. J. Korchinski (Mackenzie): Madam Speaker, my
question is directed to the Minister of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development. The resolution on the Constitution
includes a provision which indicates a dramatic shift in government
policy to include Metis under the definition of aboriginal
rights. Has the minister or his department initiated any discussions
with provincial governments which have had to take
responsibility for the Metis in the absence of any federal
involvement, so that there may be an immediate transition of
responsibility regardless of what happens to the Constitution
resolution, and that there will be no reduction of services to the
Metis in this country?
Hon. John C. Munro (Minister of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development): Madam Speaker, I think that the
Metis, as members of the native organizations and as native
peoples of this country, are very happy with developments with
respect to the Constitution. i certainly do not see how that
affects the obligation of the provinces and the work the
provinces are doing in terms of providing adequate services to
the Metis people, and i hope that will continue.
Mr. Korchinski: Madam Speaker, I put it to the minister
that the inclusion of Metis is window dressing and there is
going to be no assumption of responsibility for providing
housing, welfare, health care and so on. This is something that
the Indians of this country assumed and expected to get from
the government under the terms of the treaties.
Mr. Munro (Hamilton East): The provision in the Constitution
refers to rights. If the provinces do not believe the Metis
have rights they can say so. In the meantime, what I am saying
is that they have an obligation to provide services to citizens
within the provinces and they should continue to provide them
to the Metis people. This should not affect that situation

[En glish]
Hon. Walter Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Madam Speaker,
my question is directed to the Secretary of State for External
Affairs. He will recall that on February 5, when he was
prompted by the Leader of the New Democratie Party about
reports that the British High Commissioner had attempted to
influence Members of Parliament and other Canadians with
respect to the Constitution, he replied that if these reports
were true it would be completely unacceptable to the government
and, in addition, he indicated that he was investigating
these reports. He has declined to make a statement on two
occasions in the House. Today, would he inform the House
whether there were any subversive activities found by the
government? If so, what they were, and what else has his
investigation uncovered?
Hon. Mark MacGuigan (Secretary of State for External
Affairs): Madam Speaker, following questions by the hon.
member for Oshawa, inquiries were made into certain activities
of the British High Commissioner. These inquiries, conducted
with the aid of officials, concerned contacts that Sir
John Ford had with elected representatives at the federal and
provincial levels. The information obtained has been shared
with the British authorities in London, through diplomatic
channels. The Canadian government has made and will make
no recommendations to the British government. It has been
known for some time that Sir John Ford was scheduled to
retire soon. His successor has now been named, and the
Canadian government welcomed the appointment on January
7256 COMMONS DEBATES February 16, 1981
Februarv 16. 1981 CMOSDBTS75
The Canadian government bas absolutely no objection to
anything the High Commissioner may have donc to represent
the position of the British government in relation (o its interests,
or to communicate his understanding of the situation in
the British parliament. This is an entireiy appropriate type of
diplomatic activity.
Miss MacDonald: Swallow yourself.
Mr. MacGuigan: In another context, the Prime Minister
stated the government’s position on such matters to the House
on December 16, 1977. Part of the High Commissioner’s
activity, of course, was of this type.
However, there are indications that the High Commissioner
went beyond these normal functions into internai political
matters. 1 arn assured that the Higb Commissioner has noted
the views expressed in this House. 1 have also been informed
that there is no intention on the part of the British government
to intervene in affairs which are properly matters for Canadians.
1 now consider the matter closed.

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