Canada, Senate Debates, “Motion for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen—Pending Judgment by Supreme Court of Canada […]”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (26 May 1981)


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Date: 1981-05-26
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2443-2446.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).


May 26, 1981 SENATE
DEBATES 2443

[Translation]
THE CONSTITUTION
MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN-
PENDING JUDGEMENT BY SUPREME COURT OF CANADA—
ALLEGED STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF JUSTICE
Hon. Martial Asselin: In another connection, the minister
also addressing Liberal supporters, and he was reportedly
exuberant, spoke in the following terms;
If the Supreme Court of Canada decided in favour of
the legality of the unilateral patriation of the Constitution
by the federal government—
And by the way, I wonder whether this was not a discreet
message sent by the minister to the Supreme Court while it is
dealing with the matter, the minister then added the following:
If the provinces reject the decision of the Supreme
Court, if they question the legality of the step taken by
the federal government, we will strictly adhere to the
Canadian Constitution and see to it to restrict provincial
powers and jurisdictions in some areas.
Could the minister tell us how the federal government could
restrict provincial powers in certain jurisdictions and areas,
and could he also tell us if the speech delivered by the Minister
of Justice re?ects the views of the Canadian government‘?
Q (2020)
[English]
Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government):
Again, honourable senators, the honourable senator is quoting
from remarks allegedly made by the Honourable the Minister
of Justice. Significantly, Senator Asselin did not refer to any
text in his presentation, but perhaps he has memorized the
remarks attributed to the Honourable the Minister of Justice.
In any case, as I said earlier, inquiries will go forward. I will
have a word with my colleague. I will discuss with him the
question of these alleged remarks, if, indeed, he made the
remarks quoted by the honourable senator.
Hon. Jacques Flynn (Leader of the Opposition): It was on
TV.
[Translation]
Senator Asselin: I take note of the minister’s statement and
realize that he hastens to contradict what Mr. Chrétien said in
Montreal last weekend. He certainly does. In the light of this
contradiction, I wonder if the minister would be ready to say
that the views expressed by Mr. Chrétien last weekend are not
those of the Government of Canada, considering, as he said,
that the Prime Minister has already indicated that he was
looking forward to meeting President Mitterrand of France as
soon as possible to deal with the issue of relations between
Canada and France. Could he explain the reason for this
uncalled for provocation on the part of the Honourable Jean
Chrétien, who said that as far as Canada is concerned, Mr.
Mitterrand and his government should mind their own
business.
[English]
Senator Perrault: Well, honourable senators, let us place
this line of questioning in its proper context. My honourable
friend appears to have quoted from a tattered newspaper
clipping which he has on his desk. The honourable senator has
been in Parliament long enough to know—without casting any
aspersions on the Fourth Estate—that newspaper quotations
are not regarded as the best source of evidence in Parliament.
Senator Flynn: We heard him on TV.
Senator Perrault: I committed myself to an endeavour to
obtain a text of the Honourable the Minister of Justice’s
remarks in Montreal–—if, indeed, he made such a speech. I
would think it to be highly irresponsible of me to attempt to
reply to alleged quotations from a newspaper clipping which
has been brought into this chamber by the Honourable Sena-
tor Asselin, much as I respect him. l am not contradicting the
former minister.
Senator Asselin: You are.
Senator Perrault: I have yet to see the text of what the
Honourable the Minister of Justice actually said. It seems to
me that this refusal to comment until a text is produced is the
responsible approach of the government under circumstances
of this kind.
[Translation]
Senator Asselin: I would like to raise a question of privilege.
I have never quoted from a newspaper clipping. The minister
says that I am quoting from a newspaper clipping before me. I
have never quoted a news report in this House. I am simply
asking the minister whether he is aware that the Minister of
Justice is reported as having made such a statement in Mon-
treal, and whether it reflects the opinion of the government.
That is simply what I am asking him. If he tells me that it is
not the government’s opinion, I will simply suggest that he is
contradicting the statement of the Minister of Justice. He will
then have to inquire and report to us whether the Canadian
government is actually suggesting that Mr. Mitterrand and his
government should mind their own business, even though that
government has made no statement whatsoever regarding
Canada since its election.
[English]
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, I think it was a
valid presumption on my part-
Hon. G. I. Smith: A presumption, anyway.
Senator Perrault: When I observed that I was not certain
whether such a speech had been made, a newspaper clipping
was held aloft and waved in the chamber by the honourable
senator.
Q (2025)
Let me repeat, in the clearest possible terms, that an inquiry
will go forward to the Minister of Justice to determine whether

2444 SENATE
DEBATES May 26, I981
such a speech was made. If, in fact, such a speech was made,
the minister will be asked whether or not he would like to
clarify his remarks.
The honourable senator asked for an opinion from me about
certain legal aspects of these alleged remarks. I would remind
him that questions asked in respect of any matter should not
involve a reply requiring legal opinion.
[ Translation]
Senator Asselin: Honourable senators, I am not asking my
honourable friend for a legal opinion at all. I know that this is
not the place to do so. I also know that he would not be able to
give me a legal opinion, because of his background. This is not
what I am asking him.
But could he give us a clear and accurate statement from his
government on our future relations with France and tell us
whether that statement will be consistent with what the Minis-
ter of Justice stated in Montreal or whether it will simply be a
denial of that statement.
[English]
Senator Perraultz Honourable senators, I hope that we can
conclude on this note. Following the election of Francois
Mitterrand, the Prime Minister issued a very clear statement
which expressed the hope of Canada that there be close
co-operation between Canada and France. If Senator Asselin
would like a copy of that statement, I shall be pleased to
provide him with it.

THE CONSTITUTION
MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN-
PENDING JUDGMENT OF SUPREME COURT OF CANADA
ALLEGED STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF JUSTICE
Hon. G. I. Smith: Honourable senators, I suppose my
question is really a supplementary to one of those asked by my
colleague, Senator Asselin.
In any event, I would like to ask the Leader of the Govern-
ment by what unusual sense of proper practice did the Minis-
ter of Justice, on television–which I happened to see twice
over the weekend—say words to the effect—and I will not
attempt to quote them exactly–that if the Supreme Court of
[Senator Perrault]
Canada should decide against the federal government, the
Government of Canada will seriously consider what I took to
mean working to rule, and would thus take away from the
provincial governments things which the federal government
had recently given them. More particularly, what did the
honourable gentleman mean when he said that the federal
government might take away from the provincial governments
things which the federal government had recently given them?
Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, at this time I am not prepared to
attempt to reply to a question based upon professed recollec-
tions of some television broadcast.
Senator Smith: If the honourable gentleman wishes to doubt
my word, I would be glad to get him a script.
Senator Perrault: Good.
Senator Smith: Perhaps he ought to get the script himself.
Honourable senators, this is the first time in a number of
years that I have heard somebody say to me that he doubted
the substance of what I said I had heard. Of course, I have
heard some strange things from the honourable gentleman
opposite, so I should be prepared for anything, even if it is so
close to being-—what gentle word can I find to substitute for
“insulting”?
Hon. George J. Mcllraith: Be careful.
Senator Smith: Does the honourable gentleman wish to say
something?
Senator Mcllraithz I simply said, “Be careful.”
Senator Smith: I am being careful. First, I would like the
honourable gentleman to explain how it is that a member of
the Government of Canada, while the question of constitution-
al change is before the Supreme Court of Canada, can find a
precedent which would allow him to begin discussing that
matter, which is sub judice in the strictest sense of the word‘?
Q (Z010)
Senator Perrault: Surely, honourable senators, for a Con-
servative senator to suggest that there should not be free
speech in this country is not consistent with the great Con-
servative tradition in this country.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Perraultz What we have here appears to be an
uncommon attempt by the Official Opposition to pillory a very
competent Minister of Justice. I think it is unfair.
Senator Smith: lsn’t that awful!
Senator Perraultz I think it is unfair to haul into this
chamber as “evidence” what appear to be tattered newspaper
clippings which are alleged to carry fragmentary accounts of
some speech supposed to have been made in Montreal.
Some Hon. Senators: No, no!
Hon. Martial Asselin: I never referred to clippings.
Senator Perrault: And here we have another honourable
senator, who happened to tune in a television broadcast,
alleging that he has further evidence.

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