Canada, House of Commons Debates, “The Constitution—Procedure for Convening Federal-Provincial Conferences”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (28 May 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 10055-10056.
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Mr. John Gambie (York North): […] My supplementary question dealt with the acknowledged legal concept that in the event the charter of rights is established as contemplated by this resolution, the Supreme Court of Canada will in fact, as is the case in other jurisdictions, legislate through its interpretive judgments dealing with what the words in this charter mean. That is a simple principle of law and one which surely must be recognized by the Prime Minister who, I understand, was called to the bar, although I doubt he bas ever practised. At least I do not think he has ever practised.
Instead of dealing with the issue which was raised in the question, the Prime Minister dealt with the myth that for 54
years we have been trying to obtain a consensus. Nothing is further from the truth. The alleged charter of rights and freedoms with which we are presently concerned and which gives rise to most of the dispute throughout our nation was first presented to the people of Canada, to this Parliament and to the provincial premiers in October of 1980. October of 1980 is the fall of last year, and 54 years never enters into a determination of the time within which we have been concerned about this issue.
Then the Prime Minister went on in answer to my substantive question to say the following:
As to the question itself regarding the role of the courts and Parliament, it seems to me that the hon. member is under a misapprehension. What I have said is that both branches of government should be autonomous and should operate autonomously. It is our job to legislate. It is the court’s job to judge whether the legislation is intra vires or ultra vires.
That is not the question I was asking, Mr. Speaker. I know it is the court’s job to determine whether legisiation is intra vires or ultra vires, but that was not the question. The question was very simple: does the court not in fact legislate, having determined that it is intra vires, and thereby preclude this Parliament and all subsequent parliaments from ever determining whether they may change the words in the charter.
That was the question.
Now, Mr. Speaker, a prime minister who responds in the fashion this one has does no service to the public or this House. Very clearly this Parliament is the supreme parliament of all parliaments because it has fixed the basic law of the country, if this package goes through, and no subsequent parliament under any circumstances will be able to change the law as this Parliament has enacted it. Now that is the death blow to the democratic process, Mr. Speaker.