Canada, Senate Debates, “Motion for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (1 April 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2209-2214.
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April 1, 1981 SENATE DEBATES 2209
MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN-
MOTION IN AMENDMENT-DEBATE CONTINUED
The Senate resumed from yesterday the debate on the
motion of Senator Perrault that an Address be presented to
Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada,
and on the motion in amendment thereto of Senator Yuzyk.
Hon. L. Norbert Thériault: Honourable senators, it is with
mixed feelings that I endeavour to bring some of my thoughts
on the constitutional resolution to the attention of this house.
It is probably fitting, honourable senators, that I do so on
April 1-April Fool’s Day.
In trying to decide on the approach that I would take to
make my contribution-as minor as it may be-to this very
important debate, I have, over the past few weeks and months,
read and reread statements made by so-called constitutional
experts: law professors, legal advisers and legislators. I have
come to the conclusion that my contribution would be more
genuine if I expressed it from the point of view of one who was
a member of the New Brunswick Legislature for 20 years; of
one who served as a member of the government under the able
leadership of my former boss, the then Premier, now Senator
Robichaud; and of one who has had the privilege, on two or
three occasions, to attend federal-provincial conferences, the
last of which was the one held in 1978. At that time I was the
interim leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick and
attended the conference at the invitation of Premier Hatfield.
Possibly because I am not a lawyer, I have strongly felt all
along that the Constitution question that is being debated now
is a political and not a legal one. I recall quite clearly the
appearance of the Premier of New Brunswick before the
Committee on the Constitution. Mr. Hatfield said to the
members of the committee, “You are the experts. You have to
make the decision. You can seek advice, but what happens
ultimately to this resolution depends on the decision made by
the elected members of the House of Commons and the
appointed members of the Senate.”
I have much difficulty in understanding the position of the
French-speaking members of this house who, according to me,
give their political party precedence over the advancement
which is proposed in the present resolution for French-speak~
ing minorities outside Quebec.
As a member of a minority group in the province of New
Brunswick, I have watched with some interest the progress
made by the Francophone minority of that province over the
last 25 or 30 years. It is with some satisfaction that I have seen
measures taken by the government of which I was a member in
the sixties and the seventies, and it is with pleasure that I have
seen the progress that has continued to take place in New
Brunswick under the leadership of Premier Hatfield. Honour-
able senators, I am sorry that there are not more Progressive
Conservatives like Richard Hatfield in this country at the
2210 SENATE DEBATES April 1, 1981
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Frith: Especially on certain points.
Senator Thériault: I would also like to say, honourable
senators, that from my point of view the present position taken
by the Conservative Party in the other place and in this place
takes away its right to bear the name “Progressive.”
According to what the Prime Minister said yesterday as a
result of the decision taken by the Supreme Court of New-
foundland in this matter, the government is prepared to com-
promise, saying to the opposition, “Let’s pass this resolution so
that it can go to the Supreme Court of Canada.” But in
listening to the Leader of the Opposition again today I have to
agree with the Leader of the Government in the Senate when
he says that the members in both houses representing the
Conservative Party seem to have a double standard, because a
few weeks back, when the Manitoba court rendered its deci-
sion on constitutional matters, a decision which was favourable
to the federal government, I, for one, certainly did not hear the
Leader of the Opposition here asking the Leader of the
Government if that was, in fact, the law in Manitoba. But
today he is proposing a motion that will prevent Parliament
from dealing with this question that has been before Parlia-
ment for the last six months.
Honourable senators, like so many others, I have for a
number of years watched how the powers of the provinces have
evolved; and, coming from the Atlantic region, I have often
asked myself where it would all end. Indeed, I had hoped that
after the proposed resolution had been accepted there would be
a long period of discussion which would settle, on the one
hand, the powers of the provincial governments and, on the
other, the powers of the federal government.
I seriously believe that part of the constitutional difficulties
we are in at the moment stem from the fact that over the last
20 to 25 years all of the provinces have been becoming
stronger and stronger. Not that that is bad; there is nothing
wrong with that in itself. Indeed, it is good for the country to
have strong provincial governments, but when provincial gov-
ernments are strong, that does raise questions concerning their
jurisdiction, in the sense that one might ask one’s self where
the power lies and where the jurisdiction of a particular
government commences and where it ends.
There is no doubt in my mind that all the provincial
premiers are jealous of their rights in the field of education,
for instance. Just three or four weeks ago, following a meeting
in Fredericton between the provincial ministers of education
and the Secretary of State, there was a headline in the papers
the next day saying that all the provincial ministers of educa-
tion were highly concerned at the possibility of a cutback in
federal funds for post-secondary education. But, you know,
when you look at the situation of education in Canada today,
you have to wonder at the way people think, because there is
Alberta, for instance, with its Heritage Fund amounting to,
according to yesterday’s press, about $8 billion as of the end of
last December; and here is the federal government, in its
financial situation, showing a deficit of about $14 billion, and
yet the truth of the matter is that the federal government is
paying almost 60 per cent of all of the costs of post-secondary
education in the province of Alberta.
Are they really worried about being cut off? In fact, my
concern is that they might ask the federal government to get
out of that field. As one coming from a so-called “have not”
province, I am indeed concerned that before long the provinces
of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan may well say
to the federal government, “Get out of post-secondary educa-
tion, financially. Get out of financing health services. Those
fields come under provincial jurisdiction.”
That might be all right for the people of Alberta and the
other western provinces, but what would happen to those
services in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward
Island and Nova Scotia? What would happen to them in the
province of Quebec and perhaps even in the province of
Ontario, if the federal government were to withdraw? Is that
what this country is all about? Could it be that five years from
now we might find ourselves with a standard of services in one
part of the country that another part of the country could not
afford? And, if so, is that what Canada is all about?
I recall vividly with what deep interest I followed the
referendum question last spring. As an interested spectator, I
felt proud of the statements being made at that time by the
Premier of Ontario and by the Premier of Alberta, and by all
of the other premiers of the provinces of Canada apart from
Quebec. They were asking Quebec to stay in the country. They
said to Quebec: “This is a good country. We want you. Stay
in.” And yet, at the last federal-provincial conference it was
obvious that any sense of unity that had been created by the
referendum was now over, because all of a sudden the whole
picture had changed. Like many other Canadians watching
that conference, I saw a spectacle that hurt my feelings as a
Canadian. I saw certain premiers almost holding hands with
René Lévesque-and, as everyone knows, his main ambition as
premier of that province is nothing more than to break up this
country. So I ask myself if provincial power is really that
important. Is it so important for the provinces to secure all of
the power they require that they are prepared to break up the
country in order to get it?
I listened with great interest to Senator Manning’s speech. I
listened with interest to many of the other speeches that have
been made in this debate in this place. I have read some of the
speeches that were made in the other place. You know, I get
concerned as a Canadian, and I get concerned as a French-
speaking Canadian. Indeed, if my contribution to this debate
today is mostly in English, that is because I am the product of
a minority and, when I was growing up, I was not given the
opportunity to have in my language the kind of teachers or the
kind of schools I should have had–things I should have had
by right because my ancestors came to this country 375 years
ago, and came to stay.
I can recall that when I started out as a member of the New
Brunswick Legislature, there was no simultaneous interpreta-
April 1, 1981 SENATE DEBATES 2211
tion in the chamber, although Acadians at that time made up
35 per cent of the population of that province. If a member
wanted to say something and be understood by his colleagues,
he or she had to use the English language. As I have said, we
have made progress, but I wish there were more political
leaders, particularly English-speaking political leaders, in
Canada at this point in time who had the same philosophy as
Richard Hatfield. I repeat part of the statement he made
before the special joint committee, as he pointed his finger at
his Progressive Conservative confréres: “I challenge you to
have the rights of the French-speaking minority entrenched so
that their rights will be protected from one end of the country
to the other.” He said that if the government fails to include
these rights, it will not have to worry about a Constitution or a
country within the next 25 or 50 years.
I would like to relate to honourable senators an experience I
had just last summer. While flying home from Montreal to
Moncton I was seated with a man and a woman. Naturally, as
is my habit, I spoke to them in English, and the man answered
me in English with a heavy French accent. I would like to
relate to my colleagues the message these people left with me.
From our discussion I learned that they were brother and
sister, ordinary French-speaking Quebecers from the north of
Montreal. The man held the position of personnel manager for
one of the largest food distributing companies in Quebec. He
told me that he was responsible for some 1,700 people in
northern Montreal and northern Quebec. His sister told me
that she worked for another brother north of Montreal who
owned his own insurance business.
After we switched the discussion to French, they told me
that they were worried because their father, who had just
retired at the age of 65 and who was supposed to be on
vacation with their mother visiting, for the first time, the
Atlantic provinces, had had a heart attack in Antigonish, Nova
Scotia. They told me they were flying down to be with their
parents because neither their father nor their mother could
speak English, and they were worried that their parents would
be unable to communicate. I told them not to worry, that there
were a few Acadians in Nova Scotia, which they were pleas-
antly surprised to learn.
The topic of the discussion eventually changed to the refe-
rendum in Quebec. They both told me that they felt that they
were not at home in this country outside their province. I am
not saying that if we pass this resolution French-speaking
Canadians across this country will feel at home the next day. I
would like to paraphrase what Richard Hatfield said to the
special joint committee when he appeared as Premier of New
Brunswick. He told the committee that if New Brunswick had
not passed its Official Languages Act, the government there
would not have been able to make the progress it has made. I
am talking about the entrenchment of linguistic rights within
the Charter of Rights. Premier Hatfield went on to say that he
wanted these linguistic rights entrenched in the Constitution
because, regardless of the goodwill of politicians, when they
are elected they are often-times submitted to the will of the
Let me give an example. Although there is the Official
Languages Act, although 35 per cent of the population of New
Brunswick are Francophone, and in spite of all the progress
made there in the past years, today in the city of Saint John
approximately 12,000 Francophones, not all of whom speak
French, had to gang up to fight for one classroom where their
children could be educated in French. I am sure that honour-
able senators cannot picture a town or city in Quebec which
contains 12,000 Anglophones not having an English-speaking
In my humble opinion, a charter of rights should be
entrenched in the Constitution of this country, and that chart-
er should include linguistic rights.
Senator Frith: Hear, hear.
Senator Thériault: I have heard honourable senators and
members of the other place say that Russia has the best
charter of rights of any country in the world included in their
constitution. I am not for one moment suggesting that the
entrenchment of rights will automatically provide those rights
the next day. I am suggesting that such entrenchment will give
people the confidence to demand those rights. I have also
heard people who are against the entrenchment of rights say
that in the United States, in spite of the fact that that
country’s Constitution includes an entrenchment of rights,
there are many problems with, for example, the treatment of
the black population and other minorities. I put the question to
honourable senators in reverse. Ask yourselves how they would
have been treated if those rights had not been entrenched in
their Constitution. That is what we must ask ourselves.
I fail to understand, honourable senators, why the provincial
governments are so concerned over the entrenchment of rights
in the Constitution. Why is the Premier of New Brunswick so
anxious to have those rights included in the Constitution? It is
because he has lived in that province and because he knows, as
I know and as any person from New Brunswick knows, that
even in 1981 it is possible in the province of New Brunswick,
at any given time, to elect a government that, under public
pressure, may even be called upon to go so far as to withdraw
or to withhold some of the rights which are now taken for
granted by the Francophones of the province.
I ask my colleagues: What is there in this resolution that
takes away from the provinces and gives to the federal govern-
ment? Can honourable senators single out one item in the
resolution that takes away a provincial power and makes it a
federal power? In my humble opinion, the resolution says that
it will take away from politicians the right to trample on
human and other rights.
If I may, honourable senators, I would quote from an article
which I came across the other day written by one Joan
Wallace of Vancouver, B.C., who is described as follows:
-founding member and first president of the Vancouver
Status of Women, member for four years of the Canadian
Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and general
manager of the B.C. division of the Retail Merchants
2212 SENATE DEBATES April 1, 1981
Association of Canada. She is one of a panel that serves
on human rights tribunals for the Canadian Human
The article quotes Joan Wallace as saying:
As a member of one of Canada’s disadvantaged minori-
ties I am getting sick of the provincial premiers’ hysterical
opposition to the entrenchment of a charter of rights in a
patriated Canadian constitution.
The article quotes her further as saying:
The extremely spotty record of provincial governments
in protecting their own citizens against discrimination on
the basis of race, color, religion, sex, marital status, and
physical handicap makes it imperative that Canadians be
given the protection of a strong charter of rights that is
binding on all levels of government and that takes prece-
dence over all other laws passed by those governments.
Honourable senators, I could not agree more.
What is the situation now as far as this resolution is
concerned? Honourable senators, let me quote from The Tele-
graph-Journal of Saint John, New Brunswick, of Monday,
March 30, 1981. The article states:
Where are the government proposals now? After an
exhaustive three-month study by a special joint Com-
mons-Senate committee, they have been under a final
round of debate in the two houses of Parliament for six
What is the problem? The Commons has been bogged
down since the first day of that debate–Feb. l7–on a
Tory amendment to remove the provision for referen-
dums. The Conservatives have refused repeated overtures
to limit the discussion or allow other amendments to be
The article goes on to state:
And, to complicate the situation, the Tories tied up the
Commons for three days last week on procedural wran-
gling, preventing debate on the motion and at least tem-
porarily forestalling any attempt to close off debate on it.
Honourable senators, who opposes this resolution in the
Parliament of Canada? All of the Tory members, to the best
of my information, that is, 101, minus one, oppose the resolu-
tion; I45 Liberal members, minus 1, support the resolution;
and 32 NDP members, minus 4, support the resolution. Have
you ever stopped to think what percentage of the Canadian
populations’ representatives are opposing this resolution, are
bogging down Parliament and, as a matter of fact, are threat-
ening the breakdown of our system? They represent less than
35 per cent of the population of Canada.
What is that 35 per cent composed of? Generally speaking,
they are good, Canadian citizens-but secure Canadian citi-
zens. They are secure in their language rights, in their econom-
ic rights and in their working rights. Have we reached the
stage in Parliament where a minority of people can prevent our
legally elected government, supported by 28 members of
another party, also legally elected, proceeding with the run-
ning of the affairs of this country? They say, “Oh, yes, we will
permit you to deal with the other urgent business of the
country such as the economy, inflation, unemployment, energy
and all the rest, but on our conditions and when we tell you to
I ask myself and my colleagues: What is so unreasonable in
the proposition that was put by the Prime Minister yesterday?
It is true that two provincial courts have rendered opposite
decisions. It is true, I suppose, without being a lawyer, that the
government could refer the question as it stands now to the
Supreme Court of Canada, but does it make sense after the
majority of the members legally elected to run this country
have spent six months debating this resolution?
What does this resolution do? It brings home the Constitu-
tion and nobody seems to oppose that. It proposes an amending
formula that will be discussed among the 10 premiers and the
federal government in the next two years. It provides that, if
an agreement cannot be reached, the people will decide which,
if any, amending formula they will choose. It also entrenches a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms for the protection of minority
groups such as the handicapped, the native peoples and
I find myself at a loss. I had the good fortune of being a
replacement member of the Special Joint Committee on the
Constitution for seven or eight of its meetings. At times I
heard members of the Conservative Party suggesting amend-
ments, and some of them were accepted. They now, supposed-
ly, have an amendment before the house. In the meantime, the
whole country knows that there is only one elected Conserva-
tive member in the other place who will stand up and vote for
the end result of that resolution; and, to my knowledge, not
one Conservative senator in this place will do so. So who are
they kidding? What do they want? I cannot understand people
wanting to improve or amend something they oppose. It just
does not make sense. Finally, the truth came out last week
when the Conservative house leader said, “We will stall. We
will prevent Parliament from working.”
What is wrong with passing this resolution and then sending
it to the Supreme Court? If the Supreme Court says that it is
beyond the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada, so be it;
that will be the end of it. I ask all those who are now insisting
that the resolution go to the Supreme Court of Canada: What
of your position if the Supreme Court of Canada decides that
it is within the jurisdiction of Parliament to deal with this
Hon. Lowell Murray: Do you wish an answer now?
Senator Thériault: I would love one.
Senator Murray: Our opposition to this resolution was not
based only on the fact that we thought it might be illegal–
Senator Frith: Let him speak.
Senator Murray: Our opposition was based not only on the
fact that we thought it might be illegal, but because we believe
April 1, 1981 SENATE
firmly that it is a negation of federalism, that it is wrong for
the country, and that it will have bad effects on the country.
Senator Frith: So you are still opposed to it?
Senator Murray: Yes. We said that our argument was not
confined to the illegality of it.
Senator Thériault: I will deal with that question. I could not
expect anything else from you.
So, you are now saying that if the Supreme Court decides
that it is legal you will not support it. You are saying that
because it is not your view of federalism. I want to know
whether your view of federalism is the Joe Clark view of a
community of communities?
Senator Murray: I will get to that.
Senator Thériault: Is it your view that in this country we
should not share the wealth? Is it your view that in this
country the minority and native peoples should not have
Senator Murray: Honourable senators, the events of the
other place have overtaken my colleague. The members of the
various parties are meeting to discuss whether or not to send
the matter to the Supreme Court, and under what conditions,
before further discussion takes place in the other place. He can
continue, but I would only urge him to quit while he is ahead.
Senator Smith: You mean, while he is not too far behind.
Senator Frith: He is well ahead. Don’t quit while you are
Senator Thériault: Honourable senators, I believe that any
Canadian, in the true spirit of Canadianism, is always ahead;
not only ahead now but ahead of his time if he is a true
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Thériault: Some of you may recall an organization
by the name of Dada. If I recall correctly, it started in Zurich
in 1917. That organization was composed of people who were
opposed to everything: they were opposed to government; they
were opposed to business; they were opposed to art; and they
were opposed to science. They were opposed to everything that
was going on in the world. I thought that organization had
died with the fellow who started it, who, I believe, was called
Jacques Rigaud. He died in 1939, but I think they have
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Thériault: Why cannot the Conservative Party be
on the right side of the issue at any time in this country?
Senator Steuart: They are like lemmings.
Senator Thériault: As I read my political history, when this
country came into being in 1867, the Conservative Party,
under Sir John A. Macdonald, was very avant-garde and made
a great contribution to this country. I do not know if I recall
the quote correctly, but Sir John A. Macdonald said at one
time, in one of his better speeches, that he could see the day
when Canada would be to the provinces what the mother
country, Britain, then was to Canada. It is too bad that some
of these reactionary Tories would not read the speeches of Sir
John A. Macdonald before making some of the speeches they
are making on this resolution.
I have hope for this country. I have hope because there are
members of the Liberal Party, members of the NDP, and
members of the Conservative Party-namely, Premiers Davis
and Hatfield-who believe in this country. I do not say “Aye,
Aye” to all Liberal leaders. I can honestly tell you that I was
very disappointed during the last provincial election in Ontario
that the Liberal leader did not stand up for section 133 of the
B.N.A. Act as it applies to New Brunswick so that it could
apply to Ontario.
I dare say this to you, honourable senators. If any of the
leaders of the three parties running in Ontario had taken that
stand, I am convinced that the people of Ontario would have
supported them. That is the sad part of it. We have to depend
on politicians, and we are afraid, as politicians, to offend
people. I know what I am talking about because I was one for
Senator Murray: You are now a statesman?
Senator Thériault: No. As a matter of fact, I am not
concerned with the constitutional problems in New Brunswick,
because we have a leader of the Conservative Party who sees
20 years ahead of you. I am concerned that I might be
tempted to go back to the provincial legislature.
Senator Phillips: And campaign for Hatfield?
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Thériault: No. However, I will tell you something.
If I had to make a choice, I would sooner campaign for
Hatfield than for any Tory I know sitting in the other place or,
for that matter, sitting in this place.
Is it not strange that these people never learn? Their one
representative from the province of Quebec has been sent
home to organize, under a different name, the Conservative
Party of Quebec.
An Hon. Senator: What do they call it?
Senator Thériault: I think it is the Union Nationale for the
next two or three weeks. We will see how well it will do.
I say to the French-speaking senators here, and particularly
to the young Conservative senators: Look ahead. Put your
country ahead of your party for once. Be on the right side of
the issue when history is written.
There are at least four or five Liberal senators in this place
who, because of strong conviction, have decided that they
cannot support the resolution.
Senator Deschatelets: The gang of four.
Senator Thériault: That’s normal in a gang of 72. By the
same average, it would be normal that one senator from the
centrepiece here would have enough conviction to support the
resolution. I am really looking at Senator Murray, because I
2214 SENATE DEBATES Apri l 1981
have had occasion to see him at work. I saw him at work in
New Brunswick, and I thought he was progressive, but he has
changed since living there.
I say to you, my colleagues in the Conservative party, for
God’s sake go speak to your friends in the other place tonight.
Take them out to dinner; buy them a bottle of wine; do
something; but try to talk some sense into them. They are, in
fact, in the process of destroying the system.
Senator Grosart That is not so
Senator Theriault They are and I am concerned as are
other Canadians Otherwise, your party Wlll be destroyed for
the next 25 years
On motion of Senator Lawson debate adjourned
The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p m