Constitutional Conference of First Ministers, Statement by the Honourable W. Bennett Campbell (30 October-1 November 1978)

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Date: 1978-10-30
By: W. Bennett Campbell
Citation: Constitutional Conference of First Ministers, Statement by the Honourable W. Bennett Campbell, Doc 800-8/038 (Ottawa: 30 October-1 November 1978).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

Document: 800-8/038

From the Office of the Premier




Attempts by governments in Canada to re-
new and repatriate the Constitution have benefited
from general public support. Despite lengthy efforts
in the past I do not believe that the majority of
Canadians doubt that change is possible. Rather,
most are convinced that constitutional change will
occur although some may be apprehensive that changes
will not be entirely to their liking. A few are
concerned that the character of the country will
change too much while others strive for substantial
and significant changes.

No doubt a majority of those who are observing
this process of constitutional review seek greater
clarification of where each government stands in order
to discern in a broad sense what agreements are possible
and what differences remain to be negotiated. This
statement summarizes Prince Edward Island’s initial
opinions on the major issues.


In our view it is desirable to have a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms included in the
Constitution of Canada. Although, the discussion of
Rights and Freedoms has not had as much publicity as
the proposed House of the Federation or the Monarchy,
nevertheless, I am aware, that the inclusion of a
Charter of Rights has the potential of changing our
system to a greater extent than changes in either of
these institutions. I am also aware of the objections
by some that the inclusion of a Charter of Rights
would challenge the Supremacy of Parliament and the
Legislatures, and may increase activities in the courts.
Notwithstanding the importance of such objections, I
feel that a Charter of Rights is worth these risks
in view of the benefits that are possible.

I believe it is a mistake to assume that
tradition alone is the best guardian of freedom,
especially as our society becomes increasingly de-
personalized and adopts more rapidly and completely
characteristics of a mass society. With such changes
occurring in the fabric of our country, it is
conceivable that as various groups take action to
differentiate themselves or to insulate themselves
from change, traditional values and ideas associated
with justice and fairness may become redefined. we
have seen such processes occur around the globe even
in countries having a parliamentary tradition and
there is no reason to assume that we could not
experience a similar phenomenon in Canada.

In fact, there are already several examples
in the history of our country wherein basic freedoms
have been threatened, if not temporarily lost, by the
legislative actions of governments. No doubt each
of us here can recall examples of laws passed in our
respective jurisdictions which encroached upon basic
freedoms. In my opinion, had we been guided by a
Charter of Rights and Freedoms there would have been
a greater probability that such legislation would not
have been conceived nor passed since it is more likely
that such would have been recognized from the outset
as being unconstitutional.

This observation must never be construed
to imply that Canadians have been poorly treated
relative to citizens of other countries. On the
contrary, Canadians have enjoyed a great amount of
personal freedom. I do feel, however, that it is
well to remind ourselves that our history is not
entirely without blemish. If freedom is the result
of eternal vigilance then a Charter of Rights
will not only assist us to exercise such vigilance,
but it will also serve as a constant reminder that
watchfulness is necessary.

A Charter of Rights in our Constitution
would be more than a law. It would become a statement
of ideals that could influence the development of the
thinking of young Canadians and new Canadians. It
would be an important source to all who would seek to
know Canada and participate in Canadians affairs and
it would serve as a guide to all Canadians assisting
them in acquiring and maintaining an appreciation for
the basic principles upon which a free society operates.

I acknowledge that a Charter of Rights will
not constitute an absolute guarantee of freedom but I
am convinced there is a greater liklihood that rights
and freedoms will be respected by our institutions and
cherished by our people if a Charter of Rights and
Freedoms is enshrined in the Constitution.

These are my general views on the principle
of including rights in the Constitution. I would like
to comment upon a specific aspect of the initial
federal proposal, Bill C-60.

Section 8 of the Federal Bill dealt with
the equal rights of all Canadians to own property.
If a bill such as C-60 were to become law, there is
a possibility that Prince Edward Island’s legislation
regulating the purchase of land by non-residents would
be superseded.

Nevertheless, I think it is important to
acknowledge, that if Canada is to be more than an
association of individual provinces then all Canadians
must share equal rights regardless of where they are
born or reside and all must be able to move freely
throughout their country without any difference
being made because of their origin. Therefore,
Prince Edward Island is prepared to consider the
proposal that property rights be protected by the

I hasten to point out that Prince Edward
Island will not abandon the control of its physical
resource base. Farmland, shore frontage, and the
unique landscape of the Island are main stays of the
provincial economy and are part of the natural heritage
of Islanders and other Canadians. There is no question
that such a limited national resource must be pro-
tected. Consequently, Prince Edward Island would
definitely maintain powers to control the use of its
resources but all relevant legislation and regulations,
such as those covering the use of land, would be applied
to all Canadians equally.

I want the record to be clear on a further
point. Consideration of such a proposal is contingent
upon our being convinced that the people of Prince
Edward Island will not experience restrictions in any
other province other than those laws which are generally
applied to all other citizens of Canada.


Prince Edward Island has consistently
advocated that Canada requires a strong central
government if it is to overcome the natural tendency
toward fragmentation caused by such a relatively
small population dispersed throughout such a huge
area. A strong central government and a strong
Canadian identity are necessary if this country is to
avoid perpetually categorizing some of its citizens
as being less advantaged than others.

There are compelling historical reasons why
we cannot, and clear political reasons why we should
not attempt to redesign the country into units of
homogenous size. Although some are smaller, all
provinces should be equal and their people have a right
to be treated equally in every respect throughout the
Nation. Differences in the history of our people and
in the scale of our jurisdictions adds a diversity to
federal-provincial relations and to the development of
points of view in this country that are as equally
important as cultural diversity or any other kind of
diversity. (Despite claims by some, the smaller
provinces are not over-governed and, indeed, they
do work together to take full advantage of economics of
scale wherever practical).

But smaller provinces are less likely
to have access to great amounts of natural resources
and as long as Canadian wealth is largely generated
by selling natural resources, then they can never
hope to generate as much wealth as jurisdictions with
large land areas. This phase of Canada’s development
may subside; wealth and power may shift to other areas
of the country. But because we are so diverse there
will never be a time when all provinces will have
equal wealth.

If nationhood means anything, Canadians must
have equal access to opportunities and enjoy national
standards for basic services regardless of the rising
or falling of the fortunes of individual provinces.
This should be the common birthright of all Canadians
and a fundamental principle of the country.

If we are to maintain a strong country
and avoid becoming merely an association of provinces,
the federal government must have the necessary power
to enable it to develop and implement national policies.
The Government of Canada must have a distinct presence
at home and abroad and all Canadians should, to some
extent, feel this presence as well as share a common
identity and bond that is characteristically found
in any healthy community.

But, we recognize that some segments of
Canadian society require special consideration in
order to effect changes that more accurately reflect
their needs as they mature and develop within the
country. Therefore, although Prince Edward Island,
with few exceptions, is basically satisfied with the
present division of powers, this province is certainly
prepared to discuss the concept of the federal government
to the provinces whenever it is
thought to be necessary or desirable. There are
already many precedents for delegating powers; the
criminal justice field, the new citizenship act and
the Maritime Off-Shore Resources Agreement are but a
few examples.

From the point of view of Prince Edward
Island most of the recent jurisdictional disagreements
are more administrative than constitutional in nature
and it is doubtful that problems could be solved
by constitutional or other legislative amendments. Re-
gardless of whatever constitutional agreements are
negotiated or however clearly respective powers are
delineated, there will never be a substitute for full
consultation and extensive cooperation between levels
of government.


The Monarchy is greatly respected on Prince
Edward Island and many Islanders feel a personal loyalty
and affection towards Her Majesty. Few in Prince Edward
Island perceive the Monarchy as inhibiting Canadians
to develop and grow. Therefore, it is the position
of our government to support the existing role of the

The Senate

Our government is pleased to discuss
alternative proposals if it is thought that the Upper
House can be made more effective.

I would like to observe, however, that since
we feel most difficulties between ourselves and the
Government of Canada are administrative rather than
legislative, it would seem unlikely that an Upper
House of Parliament would be more effective in resolving
differences than would the Lower House. Frankly, from
our point of view it is doubtful that any substitute
can be found that will be more efficient in solving
problems,recently referred to as “intrusions”, than
face to face consultation between ministers from both
levels of government.

If Canada is to retain an Upper House, Prince
Edward Island would not be adverse to modifying the
Senate in order to overcome some of the criticisms that
have been identified during its past century of service.

We would agree that the primary role of
the Senate should be to continue to provide a thoughtful
second look at legislation developed in the Commons.
This is a useful function and, according to its own
testimony, the Senate’s influence has resulted in a
large number of beneficial revisions to proposed

The Senate has also distinguished itself by
conducting important and beneficial enquiries which
have influenced the attitudes of a large number of
Canadians beyond the fields of politics and law. Canada
would benefit from continuing to have men of stature
who are legally a part of the Parliament of Canada
perform such work.

And the Senate acts as a “lobby from within”
in a positive sense, although perhaps accomplishments
are not well publicized. Senators, together with members
of the Commons, can do a great deal to make the views
of their constituents and the interest of their provinces
more widely known throughout Parliament.

Given these basic activities, Prince Edward
Island would find it acceptable if:

-all Senators were appointed by resolutions
of the Provincial Legislatures

-the length of terms were set at five years
and each member were limited to two terms

Prince Edward Island feels that such a procedure
would tend to select high quality individuals who
would be intent upon achieving significant accom-
plishments during their terms of office, and that
legislative appointments would tend to select members
with a greater devotion to their native Province than to
a specific political philosophy or party.

Notwithstanding these observations, our
province is quite open to other proposals and suggestions
for revising the Upper House.

Supreme Court

Most proposals for the Supreme Court that are
described in the federal bill are generally acceptable
to us. We support regional representation and agree with
increasing the numbers. It is reasonable from our point
of view that judges experienced with the Civil Code
should be the ones primarily involved in the decisions
respecting the Civil Code. However, we should like
to raise a question regarding the Civil Code: Since
judges having a background in the Civil Code would
take part in decisions of cases based on Common Law,
would it not be equally wise to have some judges
versed in Common Law participate in Civil Law cases?
Even though the latter would constitute a minority
on such cases, their presence may have an important
integrating effect in preventing two bodies of law
in this country from becoming increasingly isolated
from each other.

My only remaining comment on the Supreme
Court is that we do not favour some aspects of the
appointment procedure as outlined in the federal bill
C-60. We would propose that if all agreed that
changes in the appointment procedure are desirable, then
we consider referring this matter to a federal-
provincial committee of Attorneys General.


The process of constitutional review has
permitted an examination of differences of opinion
between provinces and the federal government as well
as among the provinces themselves. I think it is fair
to say that although most differences appear to be
federal-provincial in nature, there are occasions
when provinces differ more substantially among them-
selves. I personally would feel distressed if public
and honest discussion of these differences were to be
interpreted as evidence that our Canadian system were
overburdened. On theomwraqn it should be clear in
the public mind that inability to expose differences
would constitute more convincing evidence that our
system was not functioning well.

In view of the nature of the differences to
which I have just referred, and, since resolution of
these differences cannot avoid having a substantial
impact on both levels of government, we in Prince Edward
Island are of the opinion that future discussions ought
to be primarily federal-provincial ones and any
mechanism that is devised to continue this process
should include both levels of government throughout
all stages of the process.

The process of constitutional review
involves substantial long term and short term con-
siderations. It is our hope that the long term
perspective may remind us that for a great many people
the concept of Canada is much more than a tangible
entity, and it is much more than a solution to an
economic problem. There are other kinds of union that
offer greater economic advantage.

For many Canadians, the concept “Canada”
is an ideal that embodies a way of life, an identity,
and a camaraderie that cannot be found anywhere else.
Such perceptions go far beyond aims of economic
advantage; indeed they may compel economic sacrifice.

I believe that the people who founded this
country were moved by such a spirit. It is my feeling,
and the feeling of many people in Prince Edward Island,
that if we possess this spirit in the forefront of
our minds and hearts, then the agreements we forge
during the process of constitutional reform are certain
to be lasting ones.

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