Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (5 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7929-7961.
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RESOLUTION RESPECTING CONSTITUTION ACT, 1981
The House resumed debate on the motion of Mr. Chrétien,
seconded by Mr. Roberts, for an address to Her Majesty the
Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada.
And on the amendment of Mr. Epp, seconded by Mr. Baker
(Nepean-Carleton)-That the motion be amended in Schedule
B of the proposed resolution by deleting Clause 46, and by
making all necessary changes to the Schedule consequential
Mr. David Weatherhead (Scarborough West): Mr. Speaker,
it is an honour for me to participate in this most historic
debate this afternoon. In so doing, I join the thousands of
Canadians who are following our deliberations in the media,
and who have discussed this important issue with their friends
and neighbours. Hundreds more Canadians have participated
directly in the committee process, making significant contribu-
tions to the final package we have before us.
We can point to the experience of the committee and claim
that the parliamentary system of government works well for
and with Canadians. Representing groups of Canadians from
across Canada and Canadian society, witnesses before the
committee found that body receptive to their feelings, resulting
in certain changes to the resolution. Most notable among these
are the strengthened aboriginal rights. Of the 72 total inter-
ventions by groups or individuals, fully 69 of these approved of
the ultimate formula we have before us. Forty-one of the 54
interventions were in favour of cntrenching minority language
education rights in a Constitution, a principle favoured by all
provincial premiers as recently as 1978. No one appearing
before the committee disagreed substantially with the final
form of legal rights.
Much of the credit for the fine work of the committee is due
to its joint chairmen, and I would like to join my colleagues in
offering my congratulations to the hon. member for
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal) and to Senator Hays.
Under unprecedented media scrutiny they performed magnifi-
cently, due in large part to the excellent spirit of co-operation
among the committee members. Fifty-one members of the
other place took part in the work of the committee, joining 132
members of the House of commons who participated in the
committee’s deliberations at one time or another.
Before going further, I would like to take this opportunity to
dismiss a notion being stated by some members of the Con-
servative Party. Specifically, they charge that requesting
action on this resolution from the parliament at Westminster is
an act of colonialism. The Conservatives, while favouring a
charter of rights, want this charter enacted in Canada. Frank-
ly, that is exactly what is happening, and I am certain that
some members opposite know full well that charges of coloni-
alism are absurd. In addition to the almost 300 witnesses who
appeared on behalf of more than I00 groups in Canada, a total
of 35 pages were appended to the joint committees report to
Parliament, listing the hundreds of written submissions
received by the committee.
The substantive amendments, the unprecedented participa-
tion of 183 parliamentarians in the work of the committee, and
the appearances and intense lobbying by groups and individu-
als from across Canada, demonstrate clearly that this resolu-
tion is a Canadian document, made by Canadians, in Canada,
for Canadians. It represents the will of the Canadian people.
As the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) told the joint
It is the popular will that we have a charter of rights and freedoms for the
Canadian people, embedded in a constitution.
As members of the Parliament of Canada, we should be
cognizant of the fact that it is here, in this Parliament, that the
will of the Canadian people is expressed. By passing this
resolution, we are proclaiming, once and for all, that it is the
people who are sovereign, their rights supreme and
So long as most of the provincial governments are willing to
hold the rights and dignity of the Canadian people hostage in
exchange for greater provincial powers, these rights will con-
tinue to be considered secondary. Some provinces argue that
discussions on a charter of rights should take place at the same
time as talks on resource ownership or communications
Hon. members know full well that to proceed in this fashion
would effectively hold back the charter of rights forever. The
two senior premiers in the federation have stated that unani-
mous, or even near-unanimous, agreement is impossible in a
world of competing political ideas. That is why Premiers
Hatfield and Davis, both Conservatives, support the position of
the federal government in this debate. They speak from the
experiences gained in frustrating talks dating back to 1971,
when a glimmer of hope was seen at Victoria. They know, as I
do, that since 1927 13 first ministers’ conferences, 17 confer-
ences of federal-provincial ministers, and countless meetings of
officials have failed to reach agreement on patriation and an
Surely, as a Parliament accountable to all the Canadian
people, we have a responsibility to seize the political will to end
this deadlock once and for all. To persist in holding the charter
of rights for ransom, as is the case now, would be to tell the
Canadian people that their rights are secondary to communi-
cations jurisdiction, or to a reformed Senate.
Some argue that unanimity should be the formula for
constitutional change, knowing that it is a formula for failure.
What sort of unanimous agreement can we expect if Premier
Lyon continues to oppose a charter of rights in a new Constitu-
tion? What kind of unanimity can we hope for if Premier
Peckford blocks a charter of rights until there is agreement on
control of offshore resources? Will we continue to tell the
Canadian people that their right to hold and express beliefs is
only as important as the number of cod caught on the conti-
What, exactly, did Premier Peckford say about a charter of
rights? In a document placed before the first ministers last
September entitled “Towards the Twenty-First Century—
Together”, the Premier of Newfoundland stated, and I quote:
The people of Canada—as elsewhere—live in an age of continuing, almost
radical change. Today there is not the same surety as yesterday that values
enshrined in the heart and conscience ofa people will be universally respected.
The entrenchment of democratic rights and fundamental freedoms is a means
of giving explicit constitutional recognition to values which have served Canada
well… Newfoundland, therefore, supports a charter of rights which will
entrench the democratic rights and freedoms of Canadians.
To those who argue that legislatures should be supreme in
determining and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadi-
ans, I ask: Where were those rights and freedoms protected
when we stripped citizens of their rights merely because they
were of Japanese origin? Tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses about
the kind of protection given them by Premier Duplessis and his
legislature during the 1940s and 1950s. Try to explain to
Chinese Canadians that they were not even considered as
persons in the Election Act of 1885.
These points illustrate one of the deficiencies of the Vancou-
ver consensus as well. If, as under the provisions of that
amending formula, provinces may opt out of constitutional
obligations, the results would be disastrous. Alone among truly
democratic nations, our citizens would be unsure of their rights
from one provincial jurisdiction in the country to the next. We
would have, as has been said often, a checkerboard of rights
across Canada. Canadians travelling from one end of the
country to the other would be playing Russian roulette with
their fundamental rights. We need only look back to the
actions of the government of Alberta during the early years of
the Social Credit regime, where that government sought to
stultify legitimate political opposition through repressive press
Some will say that these are isolated incidents in our history,
and fortunately they are. However, to hide our heads in the
sand by patting ourselves on the back for our tolerance is to
forget that Indian women are still discriminated against. As a
group generally, women must still struggle to achieve some
level of equality in the workplace and elsewhere. lt is too easy
for most of us to adopt an “I’m all right, Jack” attitude when
it comes to providing services to the physically or mentally
handicapped. Through my personal experience as a member of
the Association for the Mentally Retarded, I am acutely aware
of the frustrations of people who know that their contribution
to Canada is stunted by a society structured to conform to an
arbitrary standard of ability.
Some of the interest groups who came to my office repre-
sented aboriginal peoples who have grown dismayed by the
erosion of their culture and the lack of participation they feel
in the building of our country. They sought an affirmation of
their rights within a strong and forward-looking Canada. All
Members of Parliament share this view, as shown by the
unanimous support for amendments strengthening aboriginal
Mr. Speaker, people can deny the rights of others too. We
know that throughout Canadian history immigrants were
encouraged to come to Canada to escape religious discrimina-
tion, or the insidious discrimination that poverty brings. They
saw and continue to see that Canada holds the promise of a
bright future for them and their families. ln all parts of
Canada their industry, vision and imagination have added to
the diversity and strength of this country.
What is the Canadian way of life, Mr. Speaker? Certainly it
is not some narrow perception offered by a few fringe spokes-
men. With few exceptions the Canadian way of life has been
one of tolerance, enriched by the contribution of people from
all over the world.
It has become a truism that Canada is a nation of immi-
grants, for, with the exception of the aboriginal peoples,
Canadians can trace their roots to the four corners of the
world. Canada owes its development as a peaceful and tranquil
nation to its own people, be they new Canadians or people
whose families have been in Canada for generations. It is for
this reason that the enshrinement and recognition of Canada’s
multicultural heritage in our Constitution is so important.
What is easily forgotten is that politicians and political
interpretations are transitory. With respect, I would point out
to those who oppose this resolution that, as much as anything
else, we are building the future. We are building a modern
Canada. We would need a knowledge bordering on the divine
to forecast the future, and while we would sincerely wish for
orderly development, we are scarcely equipped to predict the
endless possibilities for the future.
Equally transitory is public opinion and the social conditions
which will rapidly change the face of future societies. For
many people, Orwell’s “1984” looms as an ominous year,
demanding the vigilance of the people in order to protect their
own rights. It is significant, then, that in advance of the
change that is sure to overtake the future we as a Parliament
affirm the rights and dignity of the person.
What are the rights that we seek to enshrine in a new
Canadian Constitution, Mr. Speaker? Legal rights will ensure
that the citizen is given the best possible protection from
arbitrary justice. In attempting to build a sense of mutual trust
between the citizen and the law, we seek to make clear rules
that will inform the alleged offender of the charges and
possible punishment that he or she faces. We want to embed in
the Constitution the principle that persons may retain counsel
promptly to assist the offender in seeing that justice is done.
The new Constitution will effectively outlaw unreasonable
search and seizure, keeping Canadian law in line with the
provisions of the United Nations covenant, to which Canada is
The Constitution will make clear that no one will be pre-
vented from voting in or contesting an election for the Parlia-
ment of Canada or a legislature of any province. This demo-
cratic right will ensure that one of the most fundamental
principles of Canada is clearly spelled out, and that all citizens
share in the governing of Canada.
The charter of rights contains provisions for fundamental
freedoms that will guarantee Canadians freedom of expression,
thought, conscience and religion. Canadians will be entitled to
associate with people they choose, and to assemble peacefully
with fellow citizens.
In a society which values democracy, freedom of the press is
one of the most sacred principles that society can hold. Free-
dom of the press, therefore, is one of the fundamental free-
doms this resolution seeks to enshrine in our Constitution.
Let me make it clear that in adopting this resolution,
Parliament is not “granting” rights to people; we are merely
affirming fundamental rights that we accept as a given fact of
life in a democratic society.
By including the aged and mentally or physically disabled
among the categories of people who may not be discriminated
against, we are saying that all people in Canada may partici-
pate in the task of building our country. Finally, we are
correcting an injustice that has gone on far too long. It would
be unforgivable if we were to allow this situation to persist.
Among the rights we seek to enshrine in the Constitution
are the rights of all Canadians to share in the boundless wealth
and opportunity we have in Canada. For many years Ontario
shared without complaint its tax dollars to aid in the develop-
ment of other parts of Canada. Now, as the situation shifts,
other areas of the country are able to share the responsibility
of delivering the promise of Canada to all Canadians. A child
from a less advantaged part of Canada must never lose out on
that promise because he or she chooses to remain close to
family roots. It is essential that the quality of government
services be equal and that job opportunities exist everywhere in
Canada, regardless of where a Canadian chooses to live.
Equalization is a principle that is vital to the continued
survival of Canada as a nation together. Though regions
formerly in need of assistance have found sources of wealth,
opportunities will never be completely equal in Canada. But
across this vast land, the quality of life may be more important
than resources lying underground or in the offshore, more
satisfying than life in the industrial cities of central Canada. If
we can preserve the beauty that is tradition, if we can save the
heritage of families and communities remaining together at
home, then equalization will be seen, not just as an economic
leveller, but as a builder.
Just as important as equalization is the right of Canadian
residents to seek employment and residence anywhere in
Canada. Mobility rights are an important guarantee of that
opportunity. For many years Ontari0’s strong industrial base
provided Canadians and people from all over the world with
the opportunity to pursue a rewarding livelihood. Ontario’s
cities, towns and countryside are enriched by the contribution
of peoples from around the world and across Canada who
choose to make Ontario home. Once again, the shift in eco-
nomic opportunity makes it essential that Canada is home to
The western provinces now welcome our sons and daughters
to share in the boom that this region is experiencing. For its
part, Atlantic Canada stands on the threshold of untold
wealth, due in large part to the action of this government to
assert Canadian sovereignty over the 200-mile limit.
Mobility, like free speech, is a fundamental right. Anything
which would hamper this right flies in the face of the ideals
which are Canada. Enshrining this right in the Constitution of
Canada tells Canadians that all of Canada is theirs. The mere
accident of birth in one area or another has never prevented an
individual from sharing in the boundless promise that is
Canada. It must never do so, for without the right of mobility
for all of its citizens, Canada is a pointless, balkanized collec-
tion of communities out of touch with itself.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to give my support to the
principle of enshrining minority language education rights for
our two official languages, where numbers warrant.
If a constitution is to reflect the make-up of a country, it
must have an amending formula which provides for orderly
and fair amendment. For that reason, l favour the position
advocated by the government. The Victoria formula, as
amended, gives all regions, and indeed all provinces, a large
measure of protection which will ensure that their interests are
not tampered with by a small majority in the country. By
requiring the approval of the two most populous provinces, the
support of two provinces in western Canada representing 50
per cent of the population in that region, and by needing the
endorsement of two provinces in the Atlantic region, amend-
ments under the Victoria formula will represent a consensus
from all regions of the country. Of course, the provinces and
the federal government have the two years following patriation
in which to arrive at a formula by unanimous consent. While
this has not been successful in the past, one would hope that
the urgency to achieve greater consensus on an amending
formula will spur the first ministers to closer agreement.
I spoke earlier of the nightmare that Canadians would face
with the Vancouver formula. This formula is really a cop-out,
requiring no commitment by the provinces to respect rights in
a uniform and consistent pattern across Canada. If we are to
remain as one country, we must assert once and for all that
Canadian citizenship is one citizenship for all Canadians.
One of the people who came to my office in the past few
months represented a group who wanted to ensure that this
was not the end of the line for constitutional change. I made
the commitment then, and I do so now: there is much, much
more to be discussed at the first ministers’ conferences which
will be constitutionally required under this resolution. Family
law, questions relating to interprovincial and international
trade, reform of the Senate, Supreme Court and regional
representation on federal government bodies, and the divisions
of power, are but a few matters for discussion.
But, Mr. Speaker, all of this means nothing if the people of
Canada do not have fundamental rights embedded in their
Constitution. We must stop comparing the rights and dignity
of individual Canadians to regional representation on the
CRTC, important though it may be. Let us stop the horse
trading, bartering equality of men and women for a reformed
Senate. Let us not wait until the question of offshore jurisdic-
tion is settled before telling the aged and the disabled that,
finally, they are part of the process of building Canada’s
In this Parliament we are answering the most important
question facing Canada since 1867. What comes first, the
rights of the people or the rights of governments? Let us
answer, loud and clear, “the people come first!” Now is the
time to break the deadlock.
Mr. Stan Darling (Parry Sound-Muskoka): Mr. Speaker, it
is a privilege to speak on this very important resolution and on
the amendment which was brought forward by my colleague,
the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp).
First, I want to commend our leader in the Constitution
committee, the hon. member for Provencher, as well as the
hon. members from our side who made a great contribution to
that debate. I have a special commendation for the co-chair-
man of the committee, the hon. member for Hochelaga-
Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal). I also commend other hon. mem-
bers who have spoken on this topic.
I find this is a distressing time for me. I am compelled to
comment upon the arrogance and single-minded actions of the
Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) regarding the patriation of the
Constitution. I feel it is necessary to draw attention to what
surely will be the tragic consequences of these actions. I feel
just as strongly that I must apologize to the residents of my
riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka and to millions of other
Canadians. In fact, all of us in this House should apologize to
Canadians everywhere who feel, as I do, that there are other
more pressing problems facing this nation, such as inflation
and unemployment. These are the matters we should be talk-
ing about and doing something about.
It is important that our Constitution be in Canada, but
because the Prime Minister and members of his government
have now arbitrarily placed this matter before us, we must
challenge their approach and their methods. Surely we in
Parliament have a very important responsibility, a responsibili-
ty to deal with those issues more urgently affecting the daily
lives of the people of Canada.
A recent Gallup poll illustrates just how low on the level of
priorities stands the issue we are now debating. Fifty-five per
cent of those polled cited inflation as the most important
problem facing the country today, and 15 per cent cited
unemployment. Fewer than one in ten expressed concern over
energy problems, national unity or problems connected with
Canadians want the Constitution brought home, I will admit
that. However, another Gallup poll showed that 64 per cent
are opposed to the government’s unilateral position and high-
handed decision to bring it home on the basis it has outlined.
What they want now is for the government to get its priorities
The Constitution is not going to feed a hungry family. It is
not going to put a roof over the heads of people to keep them
warm. It will not find or create jobs for anyone. It will not
make us all one big happy family. The Constitution is impor-
tant and can have an effect on living conditions, but let us not
forget that we already have a Constitution and we still have
inflation and unemployment. The Constitution is a declaration
of principles. A proper application of those principles will put
this country back on a sound and stable economic footing.
I would be much happier if we were now dealing with real
problems rather than ones that have been created artificially.
Regrettably, the constitutional debate is before us. I have some
important points to bring forward in this regard. This is a fiery
time in Canada’s history. It is not a time for hasty or political-
ly expedient decisions by any governmental body.
What we are discussing is not just an ordinary law. We are
discussing the fundamental source of the law of the land, the
country’s Constitution. Let there be no doubt about it, the
outcome of this debate will have monumental consequences for
the future of this country. We are talking about the future of
Canadians for generations to come. We are talking about the
survival of this country as a federal state.
What this government is attempting to do is wrong. I know
it, the members on this side of the Houseknow it, the
Canadian people know it and the British know it. Everyone
seems to know it except the Prime Minister and his puppets. I
suspect that, if the truth were known, a good many of them
also know it. Despite the fact that the majority of people on
both sides of the Atlantic oppose the Prime Minister’s consti-
tutional plans, he is determined to have his own way. I am
reminded of a song which the great entertainer Frank Sinatra
made famous, and probably made a great deal of money from,
entitled “I did it my way”. That seems to be the theme song of
the Prime Minister. The time has come for Canadians to stand
up to the arrogance of this administration and to yell out loud
and clear, “enough is enough!”
This government is uncaring, indifferent and ruthless. It is
not worthy of the confidence of the Canadian people. Canadi-
ans deserve better. They deserve a government they can trust,
a government willing to act in accordance with their wishes
It is with respect for the wishes and concerns of Canadians
that I say this resolution before us must be rejected. It must be
rejected if we value the foundation upon which this country
was created. We pride ourselves on being a secure, independ-
ent nation. Why, then, is the Prime Minister forcing the
British Parliament into a corner, demanding that the British do
something we should be doing ourselves? To place the British
Parliament in such a position is an embarrassing and regret-
table move. What should or should not be included in the
Canadian Constitution is a matter for Canadians to determine,
but only after the Constitution has been patriated, not before.
The government’s constitutional package must be defeated
for three very important reasons. The legality of the govern-
ment’s actions is highly questionable, the government’s move
to amend the Constitution unilaterally is a violation of the true
meaning of federalism, and the government does not have the
support of the majority of the Canadian population. These are
three sound and solid reasons for the immediate and absolute
rejection of this resolution. If the people do not want it done
this way, if some of the provinces are taking the issue to the
courts and if members of this Parliament oppose the move,
why in heaven’s name does the Prime Minister not back off?
The Premier of Saskatchewan has now bolted the govern-
ment ranks. It has been said that Blakeney now makes the
score eight to two against the Trudeau package. However, that
should be ten to two because we must not forget the territories.
This is certainly worth considering.
Never have we had ‘a Prime Minister who has caused more
divisiveness. When we look back we see some who were far
from good, but this Prime Minister has put us on more of a
collision course than all the other prime ministers combined.
We have region against region, province against province,
French against English, and to what end? Is it so that one day
we may replace the Queen and pass the crown on to an
The time has come, not to bestow a crown, but to bell the
cat who so arrogantly and flippantly suggests that, if the
nation is destroyed over the issue of patriation, it was not
worth saving in the first place.
Are we to sit submissively and allow one man to decide
whether this country is worth saving, the very man who is
pushing this country to the brink of destruction? Are we that
placid? Are we that timid? I think not.
The dividing tactic used so effectively in the past is now
being recognized, becoming fully understood and being acted
upon. There has developed a groundswell of citizens in this
nation who are coming forward and volunteering to place the
bell around the cat’s neck. Indeed, there are many who have a
strong desire to hit him over the head with it. There is no man
or woman in this country who should have the power to
single-handedly determine what is best for the others. No one
man or woman should be allowed to assume such power.
This is particularly true of a man who consciously excludes
any reference to a higher authority. This omission, in itself, is
highly revealing. The charter of rights, the one that has been
proposed by this government, makes no mention of the fact
that this country was founded upon the conviction that God
and not the government is supreme.
The Fathers of Confederation went back to Psalm 72, verse
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of
The Fathers of Confederation, the men who created this
nation, had no trouble accepting the supremacy of God. They
did not find the acknowledgement of God a threat to the way
in which this country was to be governed. They were simply
stating and reaffirming the obvious.
As one of the witnesses appearing before the Constitution
committee so eloquently reminded us:
—we were made in the image of God, and that our basic human value comes
from that affirmation and that we live constantly in the presence of God.
We do live in the presence of God. We swear solemn oaths
in His name. Prayers are held each day in this House before
we begin debate. Many members attend weekly prayer break-
fasts. The Canadian anthem now asks that God keep our land.
Easter and Christmas are times we celebrate with humanity
and gratitude. The Bill of Rights of the late Right Hon. John
Diefenbaker opens with these words:
The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian nation is founded
upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth
of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and
And so on. The government rejected this party’s amendment
that those words be contained in the government’s charter of
rights. I believe that any charter of rights which is ultimately
incorporated into the Canadian Constitution should make
reference to the fact that this nation was founded upon a belief
in a supreme being. The charter of rights before us makes no
Not only does the absence of any reference to God in the
proposed charter of rights upset and offend many Canadians;
they are also distressed about the lack of mention of a more
wordly nature. I speak now of property rights. I have been in
the real estate business for many years and I know how
important it is to many Canadians to own their own land.
People in this country have always worked long and hard—and
will continue to do so—and saved money so that they could
own a piece of Canada they could call their own.
During my many years in the real estate business many new
Canadians came to the area l have the honour to represent
from the great city of Toronto. These people were from
European and other countries where they had never had a
chance to own any land whatever. I naturally assumed they
were interested in buying summer cottages on lakes, but that
did not interest them in the least. They wanted bigger pieces of
land. They ended up buying l00-acre pieces of land with
nothing much on them. There might have been roads to them
and scrub bush, but that would be all. Some of those lots were
purchased for $700, $800 or $1,000. I can see how astute those
people were because those lots are now worth ten times or
more what was paid for them.
Mr. McKinnon: They had a good real estate agent!
Mr. Darling: That could be correct.
Property rights are a basic desire which creates strength in
our nation. That basic desire is inherent in the spirit of free
men. It is a basic desire which cannot and should not be
denied. This government did agree at one point to accept our
recommendation that property rights be enshrined in the
charter of rights. Then for purely political reasons the govern»
ment decided not to honour its commitment. The reason for
the abrupt turnabout of the government is very clear. The
reason was very opportunistic. The government needed the
support of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic
Party informed the government it would not support the
government’s constitutional package if property rights were
included, so what has been proposed is a charter of rights with
a fundamental right excluded. Perhaps the government should
correct the title of its charter; it should be the “charter of
partial rights”. The government’s proposed charter of rights is
not acceptable because partial rights are not acceptable.
The very fact that so many Canadians have spoken out
against the charter only reinforces the position taken on this
side of the House that patriation of the Constitution with an
amending formula acceptable to the provinces should be the
sole act of Parliament at this time. Only when this is accom-
plished should the issue of a charter of rights be dealt with. If
the constitutional package is divided in this manner, we will
avoid the unnecessary difficulties which are now developing in
our relationship with the British parliament.
There is no question that the British would be more than
willing to respond favourably to Canada’s request. For the life
of me I cannot understand why the Prime Minister is forcing
the British in this way. Why does he want to make enemies
outside the country? He has enough of them right here at
The amending formula is a perfect example. Back in 1867
when the British North America Act came into being and this
country was born, the Fathers of Confederation decided that
this country would be a federal state. Two levels of govern-
ment were established and each had responsibility and author-
ity over those matters falling within specific spheres of juris-
diction. lt has been a working relationship which has served
this country well for 114 years.
What the government now proposes through its amending
formula and referendum procedure is a dangerous move. It is a
move which will do nothing more than continue to divide the
nation and undermine the federal state system. It is a move
taken by the government with the conscious knowledge that it
pits region against region, province against province and
minority against minority, all because one man wants his way.
There has been the suggestion that those members of the
government who are uneasy and privately opposed to letting
the Prime Minister have his way on the issue are keeping silent
because of the “gold watch” syndrome. A departing employee
is given a gold watch from his firm and fellow workers for his
years of service, The Prime Minister’s gold watch, it is said,
will be the patriation of the Constitution and the charter of
Mr. Ellis: A very expensive watch!
Mr. Darling: What my colleague says is quite right. l urge
hon. members opposite to consider very carefully what they
are doing. If this is what they are doing, they will have to face
the fact that there will be no one in the country able to repair
this watch when its mechanism falls apart, as it surely will. All
the Prime Minister really deserves is a simple watch, probably
a Timex. I would be only too happy to supply him with one,
especially if it would hasten his retirement.
It has been said that humour lessens pain and that we only
laugh when it hurts. Well, it hurts. It hurts me and many other
Canadians to see this magnificent nation of ours in such
turmoil. It hurts to see what is happening to Canada because
of that impregnable barrier of indifference with which the
Prime Minister surrounds himself. It hurts to witness the
damage he is doing and to know what he wants to do to this
once proud and growing land. We will no longer accept the
pain, and the time has come to put an end to this headache.
The resolution we have before us must not be passed. It is
riddled with injustice. What the government is proposing is
destructive. It is time for all Members of Parliament to put
their country ahead of party loyalty. We must remember that
because of a willingness on the part of all Canadians to
co-operate, to sacrifice and to work together for the well-being
of the entire nation, Canada, in its short lifetime, has flour-
ished. The Canadian people have not stopped caring; they still
believe this country is worth caring for.
Canadians who realize how fortunate they are to be living in
such a magnificent country care very much. The riches of this
nation are not measured only in terms of forest products, oil,
wheat, minerals and other products we use and export; the
great wealth of this country also includes its human resources,
people who take silent and undemonstrative pride in calling
themselves Canadians. It once was fashionable to call such
people the silent majority. Well, that silence is being broken.
The people who care are now making themselves heard.
The voices of a great many people in this country are being
raised in anger about the fact that the government is setting in
motion changes to the fundamental structure of this nation
which will have grave consequences for the future. There is
anger at the fact that such changes are being implemented
with complete disregard for the will of the majority.
There is anger that such changes bypass and ignore many
concepts Canadians deem important to what may be termed
the Canadian identity. The Canadian identity is not as elusive
as many people may think. We know what it means to be a
Canadian. It means we are part of a nation of free and proud
people who treasure that freedom and pride and who work not
only to maintain but to assist others less fortunate in the
world. lt means we are part of a community of nations, the
Commonwealth, whose head is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth
Recognition and acceptance of the monarchy is not a threat
to Canada’s freedom or pride. The monarchy serves only to
enhance both. The monarchy does not imply a subservient role.
The monarchy only serves to reinforce our position of promi-
nence and stature in a community of nations. The monarchy
does not seek to intrude; the monarchy only seeks to provide a
link for the common good.
Over the years, the Liberal government has attempted, bit
by bit, to erode that link. The Liberal government seeks to
establish a Liberal identity in place of a Canadian identity.
The present resolution before us makes it quite clear. The
monarchy is important to Canada and Canadians understand
this. Canadians are also beginning to understand that the
Liberal government, through its proposed charter of rights, is
removing control over certain legislation from the people’s
I will speak now about the issues of capital punishment and
abortion. This party proposed that there be included in the
charter of rights a new section which would ensure that no
provision of the charter would be used by a court to determine
the issues of capital punishment and abortion, and that Parlia-
ment be allowed to legislate with respect to these delicate
issues. The resolution before us offers no such safeguard.
These are two issues the fate of which must be decided by
the people through their elected representatives. They are
moral issues which cannot, and must not, be decided by the
courts. By shifting the responsibility to the courts, this govern-
ment seeks to avoid dealing with matters under its jurisdiction
and deprives the people of Canada of a voice in the forum of
The voice of the people of Canada is of paramount impor-
tance. It is here in the Houseof Commons that the Canadian
voice is heard and acted upon. All too often the government
has turned a deaf ear to that voice and to that of members of
the House who enlarge on what is being said, and all too often
the Prime Minister orders a limit to debate when what is being
said contradicts his notion of what is right and what is wrong
for the people of Canada. It is highly possible that he is about
to act in the same arbitrary manner over the debate on the
patriation of the Constitution.
It is appropriate at this time to remind members of the
House that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Finance (Mr. MacEachen) stated categorically that every
member of the House would have the opportunity to speak on
this issue. I presume such an assurance was not given lightly,
and I say to the Deputy Prime Minister and government
House leader that we certainly expect that all members of
Parliament will have the opportunity to speak. I and my
colleagues accept the right to debate the substance and style of
the government’s constitutional proposal, a proposal the style
of which is as damaging as its substance. Because the issue
before us is of such grave importance, it is the right of each
and every member to have the opportunity to speak. For the
Prime Minister and the government to invoke closure at some
point during the debate would be an affront to members of the
House and to the Canadian people. I would therefore call upon
Mr. Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have
listened with great interest to the point of view expressed by
the hon. member during his speech and I have noticed that he
has been speaking now for 25 minutes. May I point out that
the House leader of the official opposition stated earlier this
afternoon, with approval, that hon. members on the govern-
ment side had limited their speeches to 20 minutes and that
only two of their members spoke a day. He stated that this was
an example which members on his side would follow.
An hon. Member: That is not a point of order.
Mr. Lalonde: I wonder if members on the hon. member’s
side would listen to their House leader.
Mr. Nielsen: Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak on this spurious
point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): That is not a point of
Mr. Nielsen: Mr. Speaker, l rise on a legitimate point of
order. You should prevent such spurious acts on the part of
ministers who should know better. The Minister of Energy,
Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) is trying to smuggle in a
point of debate under the guise ofa point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): Order, please. I accept
the argument that this was not a point of order. The hon.
member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Darling) has the
Mr. Darling: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the
comments of the Minister of Energy. Mines and Resources
Mr. Nielsen: I don’t.
Mr. Darling: As was mentioned several times here, the
Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources makes lengthy
speeches here from time to time, but he has not produced too
much. He is probably the member most responsible for the
mess in which we find ourselves today. He is responsible for
the high cost of energy.
An hon. Member: He is also dishonest.
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: Our leader, the Right Hon. Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Clark)—
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: l am not out of order. Do not worry about
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Darling: The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition had
made an agreement with the province of Alberta, but over a
year later the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has
not produced anything.
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: As a result, we are paying through the nose. It
is about time he left the House and headed for Alberta. It is
about time he came up with a deal and it is about time he
started to give in a bit.
Mr. Nielsen: Let him speak to the oil people and the real
estate people over there.
Mr. Darling: I know that time and time again all of us have
read many comments on this. I will mention the fact that when
this resolution was presented to the House by the Prime
Minister—I believe it was on October 2—one of the few times
in the last few years that he has spoken in the House, our
leader walked out. I can still see it. Our leader stated he was
against this resolution, and I put my hand up to my face and
said “Wow, what is this?” I was very skeptical of the position
taken by the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition, I will admit
that to the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Irwin) who
is pointing to me.
Mr. Irwin: You were right.
Mr. Darling: I was wrong, as the people of Canada eventu-
ally decided, because, may I point out to the almighty Cabinet
opposite, 64 per cent of the people of Canada are against the
government’s unilateral, autocratic, and high-handed way of
dealing with this question. Even the great columnists, the
$100,000 a year columnists, who were the mouthpieces of the
Prime Minister and of some of the hierarchy over there have
changed their views.
An hon. Member: Fotheringham and Stevens.
Mr. Darling: Yes, Fotheringham and so on. You can men-
tion all of them. Here is a columnist—
An hon. Member: It must be Lubor Zink.
Mr. Darling: That is right.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Darling: Just a minute, before you clap too much.
Mr. Lalonde: What about Bill Davis?
Mr. Darling: Mr. Lubor Zink is not the greatest advocate or
admirer of the Prime Minister. We see here the headline “Not
the first lie or the last”. Here is another article in which the
Prime Minister is quoted as having said “I am not a dictator”.
Mr. Lalonde: Quote Bill Davis.
Mr. Darling: Here is another one. This is a special one of
Mr. Lubor Zink’s, and I ask the Minister of Energy, Mines
and Resources to listen with care. The headline of this article
reads “Tyrannical Brat”.
In French, Mr. Minister, in French!
Some hon. Members: Encore! Encore!
Mr. Darling: Mr. Speaker, my French is very flimsy, and
I wish I could speak better French. Instead of being taught
to speak French in my six years of high school in Toronto, I
was taught how to spell the words and to put the accents this
way or the other. If I had been taught how to speak French at
that time, I would be able to speak it much better now.
Instead of launching into one of his sometimes harsh com-
ments, Mr. Lubor Zink wrote the following article:
On February 9, Le Devoir carried a column which packs more critical punch
than anything I have seen printed in English. Even rainmaker Keith Davey will
be hard put to dismiss the devastating blast in French as “lunatic fringe
extremism,” for neither the paper nor the writer can be branded with that iron.
Shaped for years by Claude Ryan (now Quebec Liberal party leader)—
No doubt the hon. Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources
knows Mr. Ryan and has considerable respect for him. The
—, Le Devoir at one time carried articles by Trudeau’s close friend Gerard
Pelletier (now Canada’s Ambassador in Paris). By any standards, it is a highly
respected and influential independent Montreal daily.
Would the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources con-
cede that? No, he will not concede that. The article continues:
lt has no use for separatism. lts learnings, if you look hard enough to detect any,
are impeccably “progressive.”
For those who do not read French or would find it difficult to get hold of the
February 9 issue of Le Devoir, I have made a rough translation of a few samples
from Jacques Poisson’s “Les fantasmes de M. Trudeau” (Mr. Trudeau’s delu-
sions) column. I tried to preserve the flavor but both the cadence and the punch
are better, l assure you, in the French original. Just the same, everything printed
in English about our peerless leader pales in comparison.
“It’s becoming more and more evident,” says Poisson, “that our Prime
Minister is succumbing to domination delusions which may date back to his
adolescent dreams. This may explain the arrogant forcing of his will on Britain
while he misrepresents that country as a menace.
“He sees himself dominating the British Parliament and the Commonwealth,
the French National Assembly, the international francophone community, nine
out of ten of Canada’s provinces, the Liberal Party, the NDP, North-South
relations between the rich and the poor countries—
“Our Prime Minister certainly is a person outside and above all rules. lt’s not
surprising any more than he plays fast and loose with traditions, customs.
concepts and the vocabulary.
“lt’s not unusual for him to twist words to serve his despotic vision of reality.
For example, he accuses Britain of trying to interfere in Canadian affairs at the
very moment when the British show profound repugnance of Ottawa’s mix of
supplications and ultimata—
“It is said that our Prime Minister has found pleasure in grimaeing behind the
back of the Queen, thumbing his nose at heads of slates at international
meetings, rump-bumping Mrs. Thatcher, and in snickering at the BNA Act.”—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): Order, please. I regret to
inform the hon. member that his time has now expired. He
may continue only with the unanimous consent of the House.
Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Some hon. Members: No.
RESOLUTION RESPECTING CONSTITUTION ACT, 1981
The House resumed debate on the motion of Mr. Chrétien,
seconded by Mr. Roberts, for an address to Her Majesty the
Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada.
And on the amendment of Mr. Epp, seconded by Mr. Baker
(Nepean-Carleton)—That the motion be amended in Schedule
B of the proposed resolution by deleting Clause 46, and by
making all necessary changes to the Schedule consequential
Mr. Louis R. Desmarais (Parliamentary Secretary to Min-
ister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, I believe I can shed some light
on the debate because of my status as a French-speaking
Canadian raised in an English-speaking province without, of
course, presuming that either my personal feelings or political
convictions run deeper than those of my esteemed colleagues,
whatever their vision of the shape of our country’s future. My
background as a Canadian whose mother tongue is French,
who was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, but who has
been a Quebecer by adoption for the past 15 years, entitles me
to,offer a perspective based on live experience rather than
At the outset, Mr. Speaker, let mo briefly attempt to answer
the basic question around which all subsequent debate must
revolve: why does Canada need a new constitution? The
reasons—which for so many peoples of the world are self-evi-
dent—are, unfortunately, often clouded and confused by our
country’s peculiar history, traditions, social evolution and de-
velopment to nationhood. Unlike the great republic to the
south, with which we share the longest undefended border in
the world, Canada’s birth was gradual and discreet, without
cannon fire or trumpet blast, battle hymn, slogan or philoso-
phy designed to turn the world upside-down. There are even
those who maintain that the British North America Act was,
in reality, little more than a trade pact, aimed at establishing
harmonious interaction between Upper and Lower Canada,
while providing a measure of solidarity against the danger of a
takeover by the expanding United States.
But whatever the motives of Westminster, the coming of
confederation in 1867 marked the beginning of our gradual
drift toward the realization of our identity, our uniqueness, our
right to take our place among the sovereign nations of the
earth. Now it is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that in the absence of
armed conflict or violent rupture, Canadians felt no immediate
urgency in establishing a distinctive identity, But as the
decades passed, the generations came and went, pressures
inevitably began to build for a distinctive flag, national
anthem, and finally, for our own Constitution, which would
reflect the ideals and aspirations of all the diverse elements
which have contributed to the building of our nation.
But why, many still ask, do we have to have a written
Why not just go along with the provisions of the BNA Act
which, they argue, has served Canada well for more than a
Why not carry on in the British tradition of reliance on
precedent, custom and jurisprudence, instead of attempting to
enshrine fundamental principles in law?
Mr. Speaker, the initial answer is that Canada is not a
nation-state like Britain or many of its European counterparts.
This country is a mosaic, made up of people from every corner
of the globe, of widely different origins, customs and back-
grounds. Thus, to rely merely on implied consensus, deriving
from the common ideals of a homogeneous population, is
patently unworkable and unjust in this country today.
Moreover, we must realize that, despite our attachment to
elements of custom and tradition, deriving from language and
cultural ties with our European ancestors, Canadians are
North Americans, we are North Americans who have elected
to live within a federation. Thus, in defining our political
structures realism dictates that, while we may draw on the
experience of another federation such as Switzerland, coupled
with what we deem most valuable in the systems of European
nation-states, the end result must be a faithful reflection of our
own distinctiveness. All very well and good, is the reaction of
some to arguments such as the foregoing, but, they ask, why
not confine our Constitution to a general statement of princi-
ple, a declaration of de jure sovereignty to ratify the de facto
sovereignty Canada has already established with past actions,
such as its separate declaration of war in the last world
And it is here, Mr. Speaker, that we get to the nub of
current opposition to the government’s constitutional pro-
posals. And objections range all the way from global mistrust
of constitutional definition of rights under a Canadian charter
of individual rights and freedoms, to taking of issue with
specific provisions, such as the entrenchment of language
rights. ln the absence of any specific guarantees, Canada, in
fact, tends to follow the British tradition of the primacy of
“law, order and good government” when the chips are really
So, despite the illusions fostered through the impact of
American films, television and the like, but in the absence of
specifically defined constitutional guarantees of individual
rights, there is a less dramatic but more serious aspect involv-
Recent examples might include imposition of the War
Measures Act in 1970 or, in the more distant past, the wartime
internment of Canadians of Japanese origin—is deemed
bureaucratic expediency at all levels of government.
This lies in the development over decades of a mass of
statutory regulations-often constituting a maze of contradic-
tory confusion where personal freedoms are ignored or tram-
pied over roughshod in the interest of what Canadians have to
face the reality of just how easily basic human rights can be
suppressed or ignored under our existing system.
Most serious consequence of this—as the Canadian Bar
Association has pointed out—can be seen in the administration
of criminal law. In this area, the Bar Association maintains
there are instances where the administration process allows no
public debate and, consequently, no consideration of civil
liberties involved. As a result, people feel powerless to chal-
lenge the system and become either alienated from what they
regard as the tyranny of the establishment, or simply bow in
resigned, meek deference to authority. Is this how we want our
free citizenry to behave? Is this any example to put before the
world for a nation which subscribes to the United Nations’
Charter of Human Rights and aspires to a role as mediator
and peacemaker in today’s world? While not going quite so far
as to advocate adoption of the United States citizens’ basic
attitude of resistance and rebellion, when individual rights are
suppressed or arbitrary measures become intolerable, I am
convinced, Mr. Speaker, that we require a drastic change of
If we are ever to break out of this stifling web of statutory
regulations, which may differ not only from province to prov-
ince, but from parish to parish, if we are to ensure that
inequities in administration of criminal law are to be eliminat-
ed as far as is humanly possible, we must rid ourselves of the
notion that the Anglo-Saxon reliance on decency and fair play
is adequate to our needs today.
The reality is that we are a federation, living within a North
American context in a very imperfect world.
And we are now, l firmly believe, sufficiently mature as a
people to decide exactly what democratic, legal, political,
language or other rights we wish and intend to enjoy. And then
we should take pride in spelling out these fundamental free-
doms in clear and concise terms, so that our convictions are
manifest not only to ourselves, but to all peoples of the world.
This brings me, Mr. Speaker, to what is perhaps the most
sensitive area of the proposed Constitution—entrenchment of
minority language rights. Although the perspective on this
question may vary widely in accordance with a host of factors,
such as geographic location, ethnic origin, individual goals in
life and so on, there can be little doubt today that it remains
crucial to the future survival and development of our nation.
Over the past couple of decades alone it is safe to say that no
other single issue has generated such sustained heat and
controversy. Governments have grappled with the problem,
some coming to subsequent grief at the polls, following legisla-
tive attempts which may have half pleased one segment of the
population while infuriating another.
In my own province of Quebec I am reminded of the Union
Nationale’s controversial Bill-63, a direct result of the St.
Leonard language riots of the late 1960s, of Premier Bourass-
a’s equally ill-starred Bill-22 language law and, finally, of
Premier Levesque’s Bill-101, now a “cause célebre”, the
impact and implications of which are still being assessed.
Given this record of dissent and disaster, an outsider might
well be forgiven for asking the simple question: Why? There is
not a simple answer to this question, as any serious student of
linguistics well knows. The roots of the matter run deep
indeed, drawing their sustenance from the subtle psyche of the
But allow me, Mr. Speaker, to offer a more concrete exam-
ple based on my personal experience. As I mentioned earlier, I
was born and raised in Subdury, Ontario. French was the
language of my home and I was able to attend elementary
school in that language. But when it came time to go on to the
secondary level, there was no French school then available in
that Ontario town. So my parents were obliged to send me to
Ottawa, simply to complete my pre-university education in the
tongue they considered theirs by birthright and mine by
inheritance. This, you might feel, was no great tragedy in those
days, merely a mild trauma common to language minority
children everywhere. But Canada was my country. The fact
that the language through which I have learned to interpret
life had second-class status set me to wondering about the
quality of my citizenship.
Again, the Canadian Bar Association has summed up this
feeling of alienation very succinctly with the blunt assertion
that “constitutional language guarantees are required if Que-
becers are to continue to feel that Canada is their country”.
This touches the very heart of the matter. It is not enough,
nowhere nearly enough today, for French-speaking Canadians
outside Quebec to rely on the much-vaunted declarations of
intent or expressions of good will in this basic area of
Where is the intrinsic dignity, the vital sense of belonging, in
such an arrangement? Can we create a proud citizenry out of
a segment of our population condemned to receive its identity
as a charity from the hands of some latter-day Lady
Of course, it is in recognition of this that governments in
Quebec have made their agonized attempts to legislate such
dignity. For its part, the federal government has gone as far as
it can, giving bilingualism force of law in those fields over
which it has jurisdiction. But under the present provisions of
the BNA Act these areas are clearly restricted, with the result
that access to minority language education still depends on the
benevolence of the provincial governments. It is for this reason
that we propose to entrench minority language rights in our
Constitution as part of the charter of rights and freedoms.
What those opposing such entrenchment apparently fail to
grasp is that very much more is at stake here than just the
sense of identity and dignity of one of this country’s two
founding peoples. Quite clearly the corollary is that Canada’s
continued unity itself depends on successful inculcation of this
vital sense of belonging. For despite the smokescreens created
by the raising of economic and other issues over the recent
decades of acute Quebec unrest, the language question is and
has been at the heart of the issue.
It has become a truism to point out that, through use of its
two official languages both at home and abroad, Canada has
managed to maintain a measure of distinctness vis-a-vis the
all-pervasive culture of the United States. But if Canada as a
whole oft-times fears drowning in this American tidal wave,
just imagine the apprehensions of Quebec and our four million
unilingual French-speaking fellow Canadians who live there,
surrounded by an English language ocean of more than 250
million—the most powerful, technologically advanced and
wealthiest society in the world. Just try to envisage the fears,
trepidations and uncertainties of the French-speaking Quebec-
er, and how these fears are increased a hundredfold for his
counterpart outside his home province.
Thus there is no doubt in my mind that the language issue
has always been, and remains, at the root of any Quebec
independence movement, and the continued discrimination
against French-speaking minorities in other parts of this land
constitutes a major force for national disunity.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, that I must make the point here that
French-speaking Canadians no longer believe that this is any
particular person’s fault. They realize that there is no devious
Anglo-Saxon plot to eliminate their language.
An hon. Member: There never was.
Mr. Desmarais: The threat stems from a historical and
geopolitical accident of circumstances, not necessarily from
any ill will in the hearts of their English language compatriots
or American neighbours, But this realization does nothing to
make the danger any less real. And what thinking Quebecers
fear most of all is the nightmare possibility that mere force of
geographic and economic circumstances could lead to a gradu-
al degeneration of their language to a folkloric level. They are
now aware of instances elsewhere in the world where a lan-
guage, culture and an entire people have slipped into a sort of
twilight zone, providing a curiosity for tourists who come to
see the natives “who talk funny”.
Again, the modern day science of linguistics has made it
abundantly clear that the very quality of our individual
thought processes depends directly on the quality and precision
of the language we use. All abstract concepts—for example,
honour, courage, justice, equity and even love-are intan-
gibles, impalpable ideas which exist only through words and
their employment in our syntax. Thus it follows that if this
precision is blunted, if this syntax is distorted through deterio-
ration of language, the thought processes themselves inevitably
degenerate. And we end up with something less than a full
Now I am not, of course, suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that
mere constitutional entrenchment of language rights will solve
this problem, any more than will Quebcc’s Bill-101. I have
made the point rather as a form of appeal to those opposed to
such entrenchment to endeavour to look at the situation from
another person’s point of view.
It is, in essence, an appeal—perhaps I should even say a
heartfelt plea—for realization that French-speaking Canadi-
ans are desperately in need of understanding and support from
their English language fellow citizens. And this need, though
often concealed beneath truculence and aggressiveness, is as
poignantly real today as at any time in our country’s history.
From one Canadian to another it is, in fact, a cry for help.
In light of the foregoing, it is difficult to comprehend the
opposition to the government’s proposal for a truly Canadian
Constitution. At the Victoria conference of 1970, it should be
recalled, all provinces agreed to the principle of entrenchment
of political rights in a new Constitution. At the 1977 New
Brunswick premiers’ conference, all provincial government
heads again pledged to set up machinery to ensure access to
minority language education facilities across the country,
where warranted by sufficient population. This principle was
ratified at subsequent premiers’ meetings in Montreal and has
since, apparently, remained an avowed goal.
At the same time, Premier Lévesque offered his provincial
counterparts a formula for reciprocity covering minority lan-
guage education rights. Now that such reciprocity is, in
essence, being proposed in a constitutional charter which
would be beyond the whims of any transitory majority, it is
difficult indeed to see how the present Quebec government
could find credible grounds for objection; nor are there, as far
as I can determine, Mr. Speaker, any serious objections to the
principle of placing wealth sharing, through equalization,
beyond any such transitory tampering.
Thus we are forced to the conclusion that, with a majority of
Canadians in favour of bringing home the Constitution, of the
principle of entrenchment of basic rights, including language
mobility and equalization, opposition is aimed at form rather
than substance. Therefore, with your permission, Mr. Speaker,
I will attempt to deal with this aspect in the concluding portion
of my remarks today.
Now, examination of the substance of such opposition, in
addition to the representations heard by our parliamentary
committee, makes it clear that even most hon. members across
the floor here are in favour of the thrust of the g0vernment’s
proposals. And this, in turn, places responsibility for any move
to block our Constitution squarely on the shoulders of dissent-
ing provincial governments. But in this respect l would like to
make one pertinent observation. This is that, at the time when
the Quebec sovereignty-association referendum campaign was
in full swing, all other provincial premiers—some through
their very silence—quite clearly indicated tacit consent to the
federal government’s pledge to initiate immediate steps for
patriation and amendment of the Constitution. Some went
further and openly supported the promise that, if the No forces
were to win—that is, if a majority of Quebecers voted to
remain in Canada and give federalism another chance—they
would help see to it that prompt constitutional change was
Well, optimistic Quebec voters took them at their word and
the referendum result passed into history. And almost immedi-
ately, it appears, the hedging began.
Is it really possible, one wonders, that the rest of Canada
really believes that one such referendum vote has wiped out
any threat to Canadian unity? Can governments and elector-
ates actually convince themselves that Quebec’s fears, malaise,
unrest and the independence movement itself have now been
laid to rest and the remainder of the country can slide back
into the “good old days?” It would be tragic indeed, Mr.
Speaker, if our provincial leaders once again wore their two
solitudes blinkers. But even more distressingwmore potentially
disruptive and dangerous—would be realization by Canadians
that some provinces are now coldly determined to renege on
the pre-referendum constitutional reform consensus for purely
partisan, regional or electoral interests.
As a Canadian who remains a convinced federalist and has a
sincere faith in the basic integrity of his fellow citizens, I
would like to believe that such is not the case. Let us take a
look at the substance of the objections to the government’s
proposed machinery for bringing home our Constitution and
its subsequent amendment by Canadians and for Canadians.
First of all, much is being made of what is termed the
government’s “unilateral” action in pressing ahead with
patriation without obtaining prior unanimous approval of
every detail from the provinces.
We have been floundering over this issue for about half a
century now and there is no reason to believe that, if we have
to wait for total unanimity on every question, we will be any
further ahead in another fifty years’ time. Thus I strongly
suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the notion of prior unanimity—not
only in the constitutional area, but in any fallible, human
organism—is an elusive and virtually unobtainable ideal. We
have allowed this myth, this bugbear, to block and cripple all
our previous attempts to give ourselves a constitution of our
own. I sometimes wonder just what we must look like here in
the eyes of the rest of the world. This must not be allowed to
happen again. Now that we have the impetus, we have got to
press ahead, or reconcile ourselves to the realization that we
are not really the mature people we would like to believe.
But it has become increasingly clear over recent decades,
Mr. Speaker, that if we wait for perfection, we will wait
forever. Thus, we have no choice but to bite the bullet and act
now, while the majority impetus remains the driving force.
And all those raising academic arguments against what they
see fit to deem “unilateral” action in this respect, might do
well to consider that the alternative to “now” is almost certain-
This leads naturally to the second area of objection to the
machinery-rather than the principle-of the government’s
patriation proposals: the amending formula. Recognition of the
ever-present factor of human fallibility, of the virtual impossi-
bility of total unanimity and of the need to avoid future
constitutional stagnation, provides the basis for the proposed
amending formula. But this has been carefully shaped to
ensure that regional interests will remain forever protected
from arbitrary constitutional change, effected by a simply
majority of the country’s population. Now this formula will
clearly provide veto powers over certain areas of constitutional
amendment for each of the country’s four major regions.
Again, it is a break of the futile ideal of unanimity, which past
experience has shown all too painfully, would merely ham-
string any future constitutional reform. Thus I submit that a
formula along the lines proposed by our government has the
dual advantage of providing for effective regional veto powers,
while still permitting the people of this country to envisage
realistically any constitutional reform clearly destined to
enhance the over-all lifestyle of all Canadians.
On the question of the use of a referendum for popular
ratification of any amending formula or subsequent constitu-
tional change, I should make it clear that basic human rights
must remain unaffected. This means that, as laid out in the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such provisions could never
be withdrawn or altered merely by a referendum majority
vote. Improvements, however, could always be made. That is,
additional rights and freedoms could be added to the charter,
in the light of experience and to meet needs not covered in the
present proposals. Thus the charter would remain for all time
inviolable, protecting our people, while itself protected from
any threat from the transient “tyranny of the majority”.
Before concluding, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully urge all
members to reflect seriously, until we vote on the proposed
constitutional resolution, upon the words of the outstanding
parliamentarian Lord Acton, and I quote:
The maturity of a society is measured by the maturity with which this society
treats its minorities—
In concluding, I appeal to the maturity of all members to get
on with the work. Despite our differences and endless debates
in certain areas of disagreement, I remain convinced that there
is infinitely more to unite than to divide us. Our future, our
potential in people and resources sometimes staggers the
imagination. What we are striving for now is some sort of
common denominator which can bring it all together for the
Madam Speaker, if there is one thought which I would like
to emphasize and to leave with you in concluding my remarks
today, let me repeat Lord Acton’s words: “The maturity of a
society is measured by the maturity with which this society
treats its minorities.”
Despite our differences and seemingly endless debate in
certain areas of disagreement, I remain convinced that there is
and has always been infinitely more to unite than to divide us.
Our future, our potential in people and resources, sometimes
staggers the imagination. It is all there. What we are striving
for now is some sort of common denominator which can bring
it all together for the common good.
Let us get started. Let us get to work.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): A very good speech. A very
Mr. Jim Hawkes (Calgary West): Mr. Speaker, I should
like to begin by congratulating the previous speaker, the hon.
member for Dollard (Mr. Desmarais), on his remarks. He
expressed in his speech considerable wisdom and the strength
of feeling was evident to us all.
My congratulations, however, centre on the fact that he
followed a spurious point of order interjected by the Minister
of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) which both-
ered me a great deal. The minister said to the House that the
147 members who represent the Liberal party would be
restricted to 20-minute speeches on an issue that is so impor-
tant. I congratulate the hon. member for Dollard for taking
almost the full 40 minutes to which his constituents are
entitled. I think he used the time well to express a point of
view which I cannot share in most respects, but which I can
honour. I hope future speakers from the other side will take
their responsibility to their constituents and to this Parliament
seriously and take the time they need to bring to the floor of
this House the message that they think they have to give. I
hope they will not be muzzled by the wishes of cabinet
ministers or the House leader.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Well said.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Hawkes: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak as a Canadian
from Alberta. I rise as a citizen within this federation, some-
one who values my freedom, my right to vote for a school
board, a municipal or county government, a provincial legisla-
ture or this federal House of Commons.
In my province exactly 100 people are elected to serve in the
legislature and the House of Commons, 79 in our provincial
government and 21 in this House. I rise to report that 99 of
those 100 people who represent the people of our province in a
free, democratic way are totally and unalterably opposed to
the present process and to the consequences of that process.
The hon. member for Dollard talked about national unity
and the need for some changes relative to the people who live
in the province of Quebec. In my brief intervention before this
House today I will talk about the threat to national unity
which this proposed constitutional amendment carries with it
in my province and in my riding. That threat is real and it
must be attended; it must be given consideration before it is
Last night I attended Baltic night, an event which occurs
once a year on Parliament Hill. The thrust of Baltic night and
the message which is delivered to parliamentarians by the
Baltic people centres exclusively on the need for vigilance, on
the protection of our freedom. That is the message from Baltic
night and it is particularly appropriate that I have the opportu-
nity to speak on the Constitution of Canada the day after
attending Baltic night. I had the opportunity to listen to the
refugees from unitary, totalitarian states warn us about the
dangers to freedom and to see that concern is passed through
generations to the young people who belong to the Baltic
I rise in this House today to clarify a couple of matters.
First, I attended 50 of the 56 sitting days of the committee
which met on the Constitution of Canada and for a whole year
prior to that I spent at least as many hours outside of that
committee tyring to comprehend the nature of constitutions
and the impact which they might have on a nation such as
Canada. Through that kind of diligence I think one deserves
the opportunity to speak in this House.
Second, this debate, in its initial short time in this House, in
the Constitution committee itself and now at this phase, has
demonstrated a great deal of difference between the members
opposite and the members who serve in the official opposition.
I believe the difference relates to the fact that members of the
Liberal Party will give speech after speech centring on goals.
On this side of the House we have no quarrel with the goals,
but whether I appear on television with ministers of the
Crown, in committee with Liberal members or whether I listen
to speeches in the House of Commons, I think it is curious that
members opposite seldom deal with the fine print. They
seldom deal with the reality of what is written in this resolu-
tion. They seldom deal with the nature of Canada and the way
we are governed; nor do they deal with the intrusion this
particular legislation will make into our lives.
I think of this resolution we are debating today as a secret
revolution. That it is a revolution, I have no doubt; and I will
expound on that later. The fact that this is being done with a
measure of secrecy, though not total secrecy, I also have no
doubt; and I shall expound on that also. The revolution occurs
in two ways. One way has been talked about a little, but the
other way is seldom talked about. The revolution in the way
we will be governed in the future will hit anyone who gives this
measure serious study. It is a revolution related to the power of
the people and to the supremacy of the voters of this country.
This resolution will take away those powers from the people.
That in itself is a revolutionary concept in its magnitude and
It is also a revolution in both its process and its substance
which attempts to dismantle the federal system. I wish to deal
with both of these in what I hope might be understandable
ways, not only for members of this House—and I have found it
helpful in achieving my own degree of clarity—but also for
those who watch our proceedings from time to time through
the medium of television. What I say may help them.
The principle on which this nation was founded, one which
continues to this day, is that the voters are supreme. When we
elect our school boards, municipal and county councils, our
provincial legislatures, or this House of Commons, what we do
is elect juries or peers to represent us in a decision-making
process. In these forums the majority rules and we are gov-
erned. But critical to that is the notion that periodically, every
three, four or five years, the voters of this country for each of
those bodies have the power and the responsibility to decide
whether or not the same people shall continue to govern in
their areas of jurisdiction or a different group of people shall
For instance, in the recent municipal elections in the city of
Calgary, the latter course was chosen. The entire public school
board was changed; half of the separate school board was
changed, half of the city council was changed and a new
mayor was elected because the voters of the city of Calgary
had that democratic right and power to change the jury. I
think for those who care about freedom there is nothing more
important to protect than that power which lies in universal
suffrage in the ballot which all of us enjoy.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Hawkes: The Liberal Party, aided and abetted by some
members of the New Democratic Party, is attempting in secret
to take that power away from the people and to give it to a
jury of nine people, of which five of the nine shall rule. The
government is not changing the process of the selection of the
nine. That process today, and in the fine print of this resolu-
tion, which will be continued, is the selection of those nine
people, largely in secret and chosen essentially by one person.
That is the nature of the revolution.
There may be value, and l would assert there is value, in
handing over to the courts some additional responsibility. But I
think that should be matched by a great deal more care and
attention. As we increase those responsibilities, then we need
to deal with the mechanism of selection to ensure that we, as
free people, retain control of that jury as well. Certainly when
we attempt to take away from Canadian voters the power to
choose who shall govern them, we should do it with a great
deal more care, attention and time than we are devoting to the
way we are doing it now.
Do I find this denial of the supremacy of voters to be
discrepant through the last 12 or 13 years? I do not. There is a
school of thought in philosophy and political science which
must be described as an attitude portrayed by those who
believe in oligarchies, those who believe that somehow there is
an elite class of rulers who somehow have more wisdom and
knowledge than others, and that this elite class shall rule. If we
look back over the last 12 or 13 years, those years which bring
us to this point in constitutional revision, we can see that mind
set in operation. The growth to 400 Crown corporations in its
basic element represents the fact that we have turned over
jurisdiction in 400 areas of our lives to small boards of
directors who are not chosen after public examination but are
We get into great debates in this House about patronage
appointments, but we cannot have access to information from
Crown corporations. These are hot topics for a day or two and
then forgotten, but the sum total of 12 or 13 years is the fact
that just at the federal level alone we have over 400 of those
kinds of groups. That is the consequence of a philosophy which
believes in oligarchy.
One of the big issues faced in this House with great fre-
quency in recent times is the energy issue. We argue occasion-
ally about Petro-Canada, its growth, and its development. I
ask members of this House how the directors of Petro-Canada
were chosen. Do they know their names? What are their
qualifications? Are they good at what they do? Hon. members
choose to expand that organization and its influence over our
lives without the kind of careful consideration that should go
into the selection of those people.
How is it that a corporation that is worth $3.5 billion only
had a profit of $13 million at a time when other oil companies
are being accused of excess profits? Does it relate in any way,
shape or form to the method we use in choosing who shall
govern? Why do we so willingly give those few people such an
expanded role? Have they earned it? Are they subject to
I would like to read the first paragraph of Beauchesne’s.
Soon after I was elected to this House in May, 1979, I was
given a copy of Beauchesne. For those of the general popula-
tion who do not serve in this House and may not know
Beauchesne, it is a book which attempts to tell members of
Parliament, new or old, their rights and responsibilities. The
first paragraph deals with the principles of parliamentary law
and reads as follows:
The principles that lie at the basis of English parliamentary law, have always
been kept steadily in view by the Canadian Parliament; these are: To protect a
minority and restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority; to secure the
transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every member to
express his opinions within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an
unnecessary waste of time; to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of
every measure; and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden
That is the responsibility of each and every member who
serves in this House. We should put that in perspective and
just deal with two of the key points, to “restrain the improvi-
dence or tyranny of a majority” and “to give abundant oppor-
tunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent
any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse.” If all
members, regardless of party affiliation, who accept the re-
sponsibility of sitting in this House, were to take those respon-
sibilities seriously, how would we feel about the process in
which we are presently engaged? I suggest we should at least
be nervous about the extent to which we are discharging that
I said there were two aspects to the resolution. One was the
denigration of the power of the individual voter. The second
was the dismantling of the federal system. Of those two issues,
the most difficult to comprehend is the dismantling of the
The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) and others on that
side indicated that there is no rearrangement of powers in this
country. I think I have built a reasonable case to show that the
powers of the voters have been diminished. However, those on
the other side seem to leave us with the notion that the rights
and privileges of the governments elected in the provinces are
not seriously affected.
I ask members opposite, and anybody watching us today, to
get a copy of this resolution. It will be seen that the provinces
are specifically referred to 31 times in the resolution. If their
powers are not to be significantly affected, why is it necessary
to refer to provincial legislatures 31 times?
A federal system is not built on a principle of decentraliza-
tion. If you examine the experts and constitutional theory, you
find it is built on the principle of non-centralization. It is a
form of government which does not exist universally through-
out the world, or even universally throughout the free world,
but it exists in some countries, not because it is preferred but
because it is the best of government for a particular nation and
The Fathers of Confederation and those who up to this point
have been responsible for the affairs of the nation were and
have been wise in the extent to which they have done their best
to pay attention to the fact that any successful federation will
adhere to the principle of non-centralization. Within that
concept it is important to note that the various political
entities, the various kinds of government in a true federation,
are sovereign in their areas of jurisdiction. That has been the
understanding in this nation until this point, that that sover-
eignty ofjurisdiction exists constitutionally. It does today, and
it cannot be taken away unilaterally without the agreement of
those who are affected. To do that constitutes a revolution. It
runs counter to any basic understanding of what a federation is
The importance of the notion of a federation in a nation like
Canada is twofold. This process we are engaged in today
demonstrates clearly the importance of protection from arbi-
trary action by a transitory majority in a single level of
government. Where would we be today if we did not have
more than one level of government to object to the revolution
which is being attempted in this I-louse? The voters of this
country need to be protected from the tyranny of transitory
majorities, and I suggest that it is our federation and the
interplay between the different constituent elements which
provide us with that protection. Because of the size of this
nation, territorial democracy is an important concept, and
those who would deny the importance of that concept invite us
all to run the risk of separation of the nation.
The true nature of a federation involves legal jurisdiction,
and hon. members opposite, today and on other days, in
addressing themselves to the amending formula have talked
about its fairness because every region is represented. Where
in this federation is there a regional government? In this
federation we have ten provincial governments, the govern-
ment of Yukon, and the government of the Northwest Territo-
ries. We do not have regional governments. We have provincial
governments. That is the nature of this federation, and those
are our nation’s states. The provinces have legal jurisdictions
guaranteed in the Constitution of Canada, and it is the Liberal
government which is unilaterally trying to take those guaran-
tees away from the Canadian people. I suggest that will not
It is interesting to note also that scholars of federations talk
not just about legal jurisdiction, but they also talk about the
spirit and the practices of a federation. The spirit involves
honouring the partnership and acknowledging that we are a
federation, and to ignore the spirit is to weaken the spirit and
weaken the will to survive. It is like a marriage. A marriage
licence is a very simple, straightforward document. Not much
is written on it. The terms and conditions are not specified, but
those evolve and marriages last and prosper if the partners
work at it. They decay and split apart if the need for parncra
ship is not acknowledged and partnership is not worked at.
Today we have a situation in which eight of the ten provin-
cial governments and the governments of both the Yukon and
Northwest Territories—ten of the 12 governments which
represent the areas of this country—are opposed to these
constitutional amendments. I think it behooves all of us to
think of that. If that opposition can be overcome by legal
means which do not pay attention to the spirit and thc
practices of the federation, then what will happen to this
nation? Are those risks worth running for all parts of this
I have said in committee and to the Minister of Justice that
this proposal attempts to separate Canadians from their gov-
erning traditions, their legal traditions, and their economic
traditions. The best word I can think of to describe those who
support it is “separatist”. Those who seek to separate are in
fact the true separatists in this confederation of ours.
In my attendance at the constitutional committee hearings I
thought that perhaps with the passage of time and process we
might arrive at a Constitution which I felt was supportable,
but in my attendance at those committee hearings I was an
unwilling participant in a bad process, and we have produced a
bad resolution which will not do good things for Canada.
I have sat many times and thought about what would
constitute a good process. Perhaps l will just sketch that out
briefly for the House. I think a good process of constitutional
renewal would begin with an invitation to Canadians in all
walks of life—whatever their responsibilities or stations—to
submit to some central place their ideas on the constitutionnl
problems which exist in the country, and their suggested
solutions. Armed with that kind of input l suggest that a
constituent assembly composed of representatives of all
Canadians—elected politicians, ethnic groups, women, men,
labour, business, academics and others—could consider those
statements of problems and proposed solutions and, after some
considerable period of time and examination, make recommen-
dations to the partners in our federation. With the moral
authority of such a body I think we could end up with a good
When I have those thoughts in my head, l run them against
my personal experience in this Parliament in dealing with the
Constitution of Canada. I read a memo which advised the
Prime Minister (Mr, Trudeau) and the government opposite
that it seemed unlikely that the partners in confederation could
agree to the federal perspective or buy totally what the Prime
Minister wanted them to, and in that event it was important to
turn the September first ministers’ conference into a public
relations platform designed to convince the Canadian people
that it was the provinces which were to blame and not the
The next piece of advice in that memo of 59 pages was that
the federal government should then move quickly to ram its
ideas through, and the federal government was warned that if
it took too long, the opposition would grow. I refer to that as
the strategy of speed and secrecy. Step one involved closure,
the denial of free speech in this House of Commons on the
Constitution of Canada after 24 hours of debate. After one full
day of debate, closure was invoked. That fits the strategy of
speed and secrecy.
Step two was to move the resolution to the committee. In the
committee there were 15 Liberals, two New Democrats, and
eight Conservatives. The memo advised that this step be taken
because it would make it easier to control the committee. We
think that committees are masters of their own destinies and
that majority rules, but when there are 15 votes for the
government and ten for the opposition, we can see that that
control is evident. Was that control put to use? I suggest it
We started out with a 30-day time limit, no television, no
broadcasting, and long hours. People became tired. We fought,
and some of those things were amended slightly. However,
hidden in the background was the exercise of control over the
choice of witnesses and the length of time they had to appear
before the committee. There was the warning that closure was
everywhere we turned. As one member of this House who sat
there for a long, long time, I have no sense of pride. I carry
something more akin to a sense of shame that a-free and
democratic institution like the Parliament of Canada forced
me to participate in something which had many elements of a
charade rather than a true inquiry.
I sat there and I heard the hon. member for Provencher
(Mr. Epp) and others in our party move an amendment, and
before it was out of their mouths, the Minister of Justice said
that the government would or would not vote for it. Before the
arguments were heard, before the wisdom of that amendment
was apparent, the minister said the government would or
would not vote for it, and the 15 members did what the
Minister of Justice told them to do.
An hon. Member: Shame!
Mr. Hawkes: Then they had the gall to come to the House
and say this was a resolution sponsored by the Parliament of
Canada. It is not; it is a government initiative supported by
government members and by some of their marriage partners
from the NDP.
In early October I took great pride in the fact that the
leader of this party said on national television that this was a
bad piece of legislation. That was on Thursday night. The
Leader of the NDP (Mr. Broadbent) and the Prime Minister
said it was good. But what are the facts, Mr. Speaker?
We have a resolution before us in the House today. The
resolution we saw in early October had 59 clauses. The
resolution we now have before us has 68 amendments: 67
mandated by the committee and one moved since then which
nobody seems to have noticed. What does an amendment
mean? When the government agrees to it, it means the govern-
ment acknowledged the mistake. There were 67 mistakes
which the government was willing to acknowledge in a bill
which had 59 clauses. Have there ever been in the history of
this Parliament 67 or 68 amendments to a 59 clause bill? It
was the worst piece of legislation that this Parliament has ever
considered, and the leader of our party told Canadians that.
I heard the Leader of the NDP stand up in the House the
other day and say that this is the best we can hope to
have. But the leader of that party and his caucus proposed 43
amendments to the resolution. They saw 43 mistakes in the
bill. Two amendments were accepted and 41 were not—there
are still 41 amendments which he identified, and now they call
it the best that this country can do. I am ashamed of them.
If we looked around us, we would also find that in the
process of federal-provincial consultation there was a 12-item
agenda and agreement was reached in large part on such items
as communications, offshore resources, fisheries, and family
law. They agreed on a different amending formula, they
agreed on something different on resource ownership, different
from what we find in this resolution. Why is that? Why do the
NDP and hon. members opposite sit here so willingly intend-
ing to vote for this resolution, when in fact they know that
such a large part of what is needed in the way of constitutional
revision, such a large part of what was agreed to, does not
appear in this resolution? What does appear is a number of
things on which there was never agreement or discussion.
I see that my time is running out, Mr. Speaker. When I
began my comments, I was wondering whether I would be able
to speak for 40 minutes. I see now that I have dealt with only
one third of the items I had prepared for my speech today.
An hon. Member: Carry on.
Mr. Hawkes: I suppose that all I can really do in conclusion
is to express, as clearly and as succinctly as I can, my belief
that the people of my province, the people of most western
Canadian provinces, will not, in the long run, want to belong to
a federation in which they are treated as second-class citizens.
They will not want to belong to a unitary state. They wish to
be partners in a federation. They will not be victims.
We are on a very dangerous cliff. I hope that perhaps in the
quietness of the caucus, in the quietness of the halls and of the
offices, hon. members opposite, before they vote to impose this
resolution on all the people of Canada, will take at least a little
time to speak with us and will come to our province to meet
with our people and to judge for themselves the seriousness of
what is facing Canada today.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ian Deans (Hamilton Mountain): Mr. Speaker, I am
pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I
suppose that at some time in the future people will look back
and they may even read the comments made by members of
the House of Commons and members of the Senate and give
some consideration to what was the truth in the views various
members put forward of what is likely to happen to Canada as
a result of this debate and of this action by the government.
I have listened to many points of view, and I have found it
sometimes difficult to determine exactly how much of what is
being said is real, how much is partisan, how much is misinfor-
mation. I assume it is all said honestly, but it worries me
because many of the things that have been said about the
consequences of the passage of this piece of legislation could
not and will not come to pass. This measure will not destroy
confederation. It will not take away the rights of people to
have a democracy where they will be able to elect Members of
Parliament and where those Members of Parliament will repre-
sent them and, in some way or other, deal with the issues and
the problems of the time.
I listened with interest to my friend from the Conservative
Party who spoke before me as he said that going to the courts
was such a terrible thing. Yet every single Member of Parlia-
ment knows that every piece of legislation we pass will, at
some point, be interpreted by the courts, and the court inter-
pretation will set the precedent which will be the benchmark
against which the legislation will be applied. Every Member of
Parliament knows that the legislation which we will pass from
this day forward, as on any other day, will be subject to
amendment in the House of Commons.
The one thing that has not been said by those who suggest
that what is happening destroys democracy is that until today,
and until this bill finally becomes law, if we wanted to make
any change to the existing Constitution of Canada, we could
not have gone to the courts of Canada; we had to go to
Westminster and ask another Parliament, far removed from
the concerns of Canada, with little, if any, interest in the day
to day activities of our country, to approve or disapprove of the
changes we would like to make. Frankly, I do not think it is all
that bad to have the court in your own land, appointed by your
own Parliament, make the final decision.
Mr. Andre: It is not appointed by us. That was the whole
point of the speech.
Mr. Deans: It is appointed under an act of Parliament, and
therefore appointed by Parliament.
Mr. Andre: No, that was the whole point of the speech.
Mr. Deans: The point of his speech was wrong.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): How do you know it is
wrong since you did not understand it?
Mr. Deans: The greatest part of the debate I have heard
outside the House of Commons has been centred upon why we
are doing this right now, why we are not dealing with the
economy, with employment, with energy. I think there is a
certain validity to that. Perhaps on balance it might have been
better to spread out the discussion of the constitutional change
over a longer period of time. This would have afforded an
opportunity to deal with some of the problems which more
evidently touch the lives of the vast majority of Canadians. But
given that that was not to happen, it is appropriate that we
should be dealing with the Constitution here in Canada and
putting to rest, once and for all, the idle argument that this
Constitution is to be made in Great Britain. What utter
nonsense! What utter nonsense!
The committee sat countless hours listening to representa-
tions from Canadians. Members of Parliament and Senators
deliberated carefully over the matters put before them. The
House of Commons debated at great length the Constitution
and the consequences of it. How can anyone say that this
Constitution will be made in Britain? Yes, it will be approved
in Britain for the last time, but it will be made in Canada by
Canadians on behalf of Canadians.
Mr. Andre: Are the premiers involved?
Mr. Deans: When I return to my constituency, the people
ask why the Conservatives are so naive and nasty. I say that it
is their nature. Also they ask me what it is about this matter
that I support. I should like to tell them that any time a
discussion took place about the Constitution of Canada during
my almost 15 years in politics, the one matter raised most
often was that we ought to have our own Constitution, that we
should have the British North America Act brought to
Canada, since it was made here in the first place, and that it
should be located here as a Constitution for this country.
Perhaps I am one of the few members of the House who has
looked at and read the actual British North America Act in
Westminster. Therefore I think we are responding to the
wishes of the vast majority by moving to bring the Constitu-
What good would it be to have the Constitution in Canada
with no way of amending it? The argument then centres on
how it should be amended. Should we use the amending
formula which was worked out in committee? Should we use
another formula, perhaps the one proposed by the Conserva-
tive party which is supported in part by some of the premiers?
I asked myself those questions, and I came to the conclusion
that it is better to have this formula, deficient though it may
be, than one which allows the provinces to opt in or out of the
constitutional provisions and thereby deny Canadians equal
access to the rights that are being given, recognized, and
written in this Constitution.
Surely it is better to have this amending formula, although
it requires some change. Surely it is better to have this
amending formula for the next two years and to allow the
premiers of the various provinces and the government to come
together and look for a formula which has their total support,
one which reflects the concerns of western Canada.
Mr. Andre: At least blush when you say that.
Mr. Deans: I say to the hon. member for Calgary Centre
(Mr. Andre), who speaks often but rarely rises, if what the
Conservative Party is saying is true, that there is a willingness
out there to find a way to resolve the differences of opinion,
then within the next few years that willingness will rise to the
top and there will be a new formula, if it has unanimity, which
will be acceptable to everyone.
Mr. Andre: Why would Trudeau give up his power? You are
an old union negotiator; use your head.
Mr. Deans: Despite the nattering of the hon. member for
Calgary Centre, I should like to indicate we have almost
agreed unanimously that we want to bring the Constitution to
Canada and that we must have an amending formula. We
have both those things in place. They are not absolutely
perfect, but who would expect that they would be?
Then we hear arguments about the bill of rights. Who in
Canada wants to perpetrate the system which exists in terms
of dealing with the disabled? Who wants to deny the section
dealing with the rights of women? Who in the Tory caucus, or
out in the country, wants to deny natives the rights we have
been able to negotiate and include in this bill of rights? Who
says that we should leave the system as it is? It is not I, not I. I
do not want to leave the way in which we deal with our
disabled and handicapped as it has been over the last half
century or more. I want to see it changed. I want to see some
rights. I do not want to leave the question of women’s rights
hanging in the air for the next 15 or 20 years while discussions
take place. I do not want to turn to the natives in this country
who have placed so much trust in us, and say that for the sake
of expediency and political gain, as the Conservatives have
said, “we will back away; we will not guarantee your right to a
place at the table.”
It is difficult to come up with a constitution; it cannot be
perfect. It must be a living document, not one which writes
about history. It is a document upon which the future will be
developed. lt is a document which sets out the accepted norms
and the parameters within which the majority of people feel
comfortable in our society.
The question as to whether the bill of rights should be
entrenched is a difficult one to answer. Although I have never
been particularly in favour ofa referendum, given the opportu-
nity in the final analysis to have such a referendum, I suppose
a bill of rights could be entrenched. We must bear in mind
always that this bill of rights is not the final one, that it will
change with the times and will reflect the concerns of society
as society evolves.
I should like to refer to the report of the Royal Commission
Inquiry Into Civil Rights written by former Chief Justice
McRuer a number of years ago. He wrote the following about
a bill of rights:
When people demand a comprehensive “bill of rights” declared or defined in
some authoritative legal form, what is it they seek? ls it not the age old demand
To write a bill of rights is to express in general terms the expectation and
claim of citizens that the legal system under which they live shall be just.
He went on to write:
It is to be appreciated that the definition and implementation ofa bill of rights
cannot be done in one simple operation. Adherence to the standards set out in a
bill of rights is a very complex process. It must allow for and promote continuous
progress involving legal change, together with adjustment through the decisions
of impartial courts and the legislative action of democratic legislatures.
Also he wrote about constitutional law as follows:
As Sir lvor Jennings has said, in a sense all law is constitutional law.
This is because it is in fact written within the constitutional
framework of the country.
It is interesting to look at the arguments which have taken
place here about constitutional law and whether certain things
should or should not be included in the Constitution. One
argument put forward by the Conservative Party—and I
assume it was in good faith—dealth with property rights. Butl
should like to refer to what former Chief Justice McRuer
wrote when he dealt with the matter of property rights. It
The laws against trespass and violence safeguard the free enjoyment of the
ownership of land—
In fact it has been generally recognized in this country that
property rights are the responsibility of provincial jurisdictions
and that to write some vague reference to property rights in
the Constitution can only serve to complicate further an
already very complicated situation and to create even further
problems in terms of whom has the ultimate jurisdiction to
determine the right of individuals to quiet enjoyment of their
own property. The fact that we pointed that out and said that
this is an inappropriate place to put it cannot, and ought not,
be interpreted to mean that somehow or other we are opposed
to someone owning a home. I doubt that there is a political
party anywhere which has spoken more often, more passion-
ately and more carefully about the need to provide the oppor-
tunity for people at all income levels to have accommodation
at a price they can afford, to buy a home of their own and to
live in dignity. I do not think any party has any more claim to
that than we do.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Deans: When I listen to Conservatives talking about
what they put forward, they do not tell you the implications of
it. The implications would have been a continuous harangue
through the court system trying to determine whether, indeed,
it was a provincial or a federal responsibility, whether the
Constitution would take precedence over the rights of the
provinces. That measure would have served no one. In fact it
would have served only to frustrate and aggravate. It would
not have made any sense.
So, when I look at those kinds of things I wonder why it is
that we have allowed, at least what appears to me to be, a step
forward toward establishing the Constitution in Canada with
the rights of individuals written so that they can look at them
and read them and so that they do not have to rely on
something which is called “common law tradition” to deter-
mine what it is they are entitled to and what it is they have
every right to expect.
When we refer to common law, of course we are not
referring to Canadian common law. We are referring to
British common law. Canada has not been a nation long
enough to have established a sufficiently strong tradition in
common law. Thus, when we try to make an interpretation
about the rights of individuals, using common law, we are
actually basing it on the common law traditions of Great
Britain. Great Britain has centuries of history behind it, an
evolution of a process which we have never had, an evolution
which allowed for all changes that took place through many
different systems, through the industrial revolution and
through the emergence of the common man or woman into
prominence in the state.
We cannot really base our tradition on that because our
tradition is a different one. It is the North American tradition.
It has a good core in British law but it is not necessarily
governed by British law only. Therefore, to suggest for a
moment that it is better to rely upon common law tradition
than to rely upon a bill of rights, is a matter of opinion.
For many of us, having looked at it, opinion comes down
more heavily on the need to say it to people in writing so that
they can read it in any part of the country. This enables them
to understand what it is that their laws are about and what
their rights are. That does not take away for one moment the
existing law and the weight of it. It does not depreciate for one
moment the laws that we have already written into the books,
the laws which have stood the test of time. They still remain. It
is not as if you are starting all over again and eliminating all
the other laws because you are writing the guidelines. You
continue to use those laws. The laws that protect people still
remain in place. The laws that give them the rights I have
mentioned with regard to property still remain in place.
Therefore, it is not a matter of starting over. It is a matter
of having reached a point where the growth of the country
indicates that we are now capable, as Britain thought we were
some years ago, to stand alone, not to be isolated but to stand
alone to develop new friendships and to help strengthen old
ones. The fact that we ask of Britain that she give us our
Constitution back now does not mean that we do not want to
continue to associate with her. It means that we want to have a
relationship of maturity, of equality. That relationship will be
strengthened by actions on both sides of the Atlantic. It means
we will be doing what so many much smaller countries in the
world decided they should do for themselves years and years
ago, that is, to be masters in their own homes.
I just returned from speaking to the Prime Minister of
Barbados, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, and to some people
in another part of the world. They listened with almost
incredulity to the discussion that we might not want to be
independent, that we are not really sure that we are ready for
it yet. They do not believe it—neither do I. I think we are
ready. In fact I think it is time.
As I talk to people across this country, all I can find out
from them is that they are upset by the constant wrangling.
They cannot differentiate between the charges and the coun-
terchargcs. They do not have sufficient in-depth knowledge of
the subject to be able properly to evaluate what is the truth, as
I said at the beginning. As I see it, the truth is simple.
We will bring back the British North America Act, which
was written here. When we have brought it back we will have
a way to amend it. As part of our Constitution we will have
decided to put down on paper what the rights of individual
Canadians will be—each Canadian, not just Canadians living
in one part of the country or another, but all Canadians no
matter where they live. The Canadian living in Prince Edward
Island, whose family lives in Alberta, will have the same rights
as all others. A Canadian living in Ontario or in British
Columbia will have the same rights, because they are all
Canadians. If they decide to up and move, they can do that.
They will not lose the rights that they have, as would be the
case if we allow the opting in and out formula, as would be the
ease if we left it to the jurisdiction of each province to write its
own bill of rights.
Surely to God being a Canadian means something. Surely
being a Canadian in any part of this country is the same as
being a Canadian in any other part. Surely the rights that you
have in one part of the country are the same as the rights you
have in another part of the country. You cannot have them
denied because of the whim of one jurisdiction. That is what
this is all about. That is what we are trying to achieve.
If I had my way, and I suspect maybe this will happen, I
would have included the recognition of the supremacy of God
in the preamble. We supported it. My good friend, the hon.
member for Saskatoon East (Mr. Ogle) spoke about it in
committee and he proposed it would be a good thing. I suspect
we may see it yet.
IfI had my way I would see the amending formula changed
in order to correct an imbalance which exists in western
Canada as a result of the formula we now have. Maybe we will
get that. I do not want to risk a return to the inequities which
exist across this country, the inequality which exists across this
country in terms of the way individual jurisdictions deal with
Canadians. I do not want to run that risk any longer.
In closing I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I have great
respect for the views that have been expressed by the many
premiers across this country about what would be best for
their jurisdictions. I must say that among all the letters I have
received I have not received one from any premier. What I will
say, because I am a Member of Parliament, is that in looking
at it I do not doubt for a moment their sincerity as they speak
about what is best for their jurisdictions.
I think what we must understand is that we are not talking
about a jurisdictional dispute at the moment, We are talking
about the rights of Canadians, regardless of where they live.
We are talking about what is best for each of the component
parts since, when added together, it is not necessarily best for
the whole. That is the dilemma which confronts us. I wait with
interest to hear the reasons why what we are doing is wrong,
because I hear, from people on all sides of the House, that they
support the constitutional package, bringing it back to
Canada, having an amending formula, albeit we may disagree
as to what it should be. They even support the bill of rights.
Well, damn it, if we are supporting all these proposals, what
are we fighting about?
One final point comes to mind. When this is over—and God
knows that it will be over some day—and we have sovereignty
in Canada, which we are striving for, and the Constitution is
here, and the bill of rights is printed, and members are
shipping them out by the hundreds to their constituents across
the country, pointing out the good things contained in them, I
hope we will be able to corne together as a House of Commons
and say to the people of Canada, “Look, in spite of our
partisan differences and some reservations, this document is a
good foundation upon which to build. If we work together, we
can make it even better. It affords a good opportunity to
preserve those items which are of value, and guarantees that
you will receive a high quality of treatment, no matter where
But what we will say to the people of Canada is, “Alongside
the flag and the national anthem, you will have a Constitution
which tells you, in the type of language that we can all
understand, that being a Canadian is the best thing in the
world, and that together we will have a better nation”.
Mr. Thomas Siddon (Richmond-South Delta): Mr. Speaker,
in listening to the concluding remarks of my hon. colleague
from Hamilton-Mountain, I can only hope that the day will
come when the Constitution adopted for Canada is the right
one, and that there will be peace and harmony in the country
arising from that document, whatever form it takes.
I reflect back to the summertime and to the month of
September when we saw signs around our country admonish-
ing Canadians to work together. I believe one sign said, “Let’s
work together to build a better country, now.” I remember
that sign quite vividly, and another sign which said, “A new
Constitution: Make it right, make it work, make it ours.”
I am sorry to begin my remarks this evening by suggesting
that the present government initiative defies these slogans. Is it
right to discriminate against some provinces and to favour
others through a biased amending formula? Will it work if we
set region against region, as some of these proposals do? Can it
ever be ours, in our hearts, if the British government is to be
blackmailed into passing amendments which are unacceptable
to many Canadians and to many provinces—in fact, eight
Canada is a marvellous country, and we are all very thank-
ful for having the opportunity to live here. We have a country
where we respect the differences of one another, and that
diversity makes us stronger; interdependency allows the coun-
try, collectively, to be much more than the sum of the individu-
al parts. It is a team effort, and not everyone can play goalie
and not everyone can play forward, but we all have a part to
play in the future of our country.
I love this country as much as every other Canadian and
every other Member of Parliament here this evening. I respect
the fact that we come from different backgrounds, languages,
and geographical locations. We are not all the same. I can only
say, “Thank God for that”.
I am reminded of a statement made during the confedera-
tion debates, in 1856. Sir George Cartier said:
I view the diversity of races in British North America in this way: we are all of
different races, not for the purpose of warring against each other, but in order to
compete and emulate for the general good.
I must conclude that no one man or political party has the
wisdom to surpass that of all others; that of the premiers; that
of the people who are calling phone-in programs and writing
letters to Members of Parliament these days, to express their
views on the government’s constitutional proposals.
I think of the closely knit family, much like the one I know
so well, where the parents sometimes get a little bit out of
control, but generally we try not to “talk down” to our
children. Parents do not order them around, although they
might get carried away from time to time; instead, parents
attempt to teach by example and speak softly to their children
in order to cultivate respect. In that process, the family spirit
strengthens, and the family grows in its understanding of all its
members, and learns from one another. Parents often learn a
great deal from their children.
I would like to see our country come together as a family—a
family which has the power to last. My fear this evening is
that the process of constitutional reform is not bringing about
that family spirit which I consider to be so important.
I would also like to remind members of the spirit of the
Constitution enacted in 1867 and reflected in 1871 when rny
province joined this wonderful country. After all, “constitu-
tion” really means the putting together of a country. This is
the way British Columbia felt on the morning of July 20, 1871,
as reported in The British Colonist of Victoria, under the
headline, “Confederation Complete”, and I quote:
Today British Columbia passes peacefully and, let us add, gracefully into the
confederated empire of British North America . . . To-day British Columbia and
Canada joined hands and hearts across the Rocky Mountains… let us join
hands in a friendly but firm resolve to begin our new political life a united and
I only wish that were the spirit in the chamber this evening,
but I am afraid it is not; and that suggests that there is
something seriously wrong—not necessarily wrong with all of
the detail in the document we have before us at present, but
something seriously wrong in the government’s approach to
this matter, and it concerns me deeply. After all, Canada has
not consented to this process.
I must turn to the preamble of the resolution we have before
us, and it states that, “whereas Canada has requested and
consented to the enactment of an act of the parliament of the
Mr. Speaker, Canada has not consented! Most Canadians
have not even been consulted on this matter! Our hon. col-
leagues to the left and across the way can talk about all of the
delegations and individuals who appeared before the special
committee that did such fine work for all of us, but the people
of Canada have not been consulted and are in fact being
ignored in this process, by not being allowed to be involved in
deciding this issue.
It was the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Clark)
who had the courage on the evening of October 22 to stand
alone. The Leader of the NDP (Mr. Broadbent) did not stand
alone. He hopped quickly into bed with Mr. Trudeau and he
has been there ever since.
Some hon. Members: Order, order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): I am sorry I must
interrupt the hon. member, but there has been a developing
trend to refer to hon. members by their names rather than by
their office or riding, and I would remind the hon. member of
the necessity to refer to members by title.
Mr. Siddon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I suppose those notes
were appropriate for speaking across the country. I meant the
Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
Now, more than two thirds of Canadians agree with the
position the Leader of the Opposition has taken, that the
process, at the very least, is wrong, and the approach being
taken by the Prime Minister in reforming our Constitution is
What is the correct course of action? I believe that was laid
out very clearly by my leader, the hon. member for Yellow-
head, and by our principal spokesman on the joint committee,
the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), and other mem-
bers of the Progressive Conservative Party, as that committee
deliberated through the months of December and January.
First of all this party has a respect for the federal nature of
this country; for the federal-provincial partnerships and divi-
sion of powers as clearly set out in our existing Constitution,
the British North America Act. In a few moments I will
elaborate on this and show how the present document changes
that arrangement of federal-provincial powers in a very pro-
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, this party believes we should bring
the Constitution home and bring it home now. The hon.
member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko) initiated this process
many months ago. I can only ask why it has not been brought
home to date, following his motion which was passed in this
House many months ago. This party also moved another
motion on October 22 urging upon this House the immediate
patriation of our Constitution on a very simple basis, so that
we might make the subsequent and very important amend-
ments in Canada.
This party advocates a bill of rights and advocates that it be
entrenched in the Constitution. But it must be a practical bill
of rights, a Canadian bill of rights. We are not prepared to
accept a Constitution and a charter of rights on which the
Canadian people have not had adequate opportunity to offer
We believe that the amending formula by which this Consti-
tution may be changed in the future has to be fair to all the
parts and regions of Canada, by treating all provinces as equal.
That is why we put forward the Vancouver amending formula
which does not contain the outright discrimination that the
government’s amending proposal contains. We believe that all
amendments to the Constitution in the future must be debated
and adopted in Canada by Canadians, not by Great Britain.
Canadians should decide on Canadian questions, as my leader
has often said.
We put forward the proposal for a constituent assembly
which would be given a certain period of time to recommend
the appropriate changes to our Constitution, in the assurance
that they would have the support not merely of the Prime
Minister and his colleagues but of all the provinces and
people as well.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we believe that the referendum
method which is being proposed as a means of amending our
Constitution in the future is contrary to our parliamentary
traditions, but, more seriously, it is divisive and threatens the
rights of minority groups in this country. I will give some
further explanation of this in a few moments.
We have put forward an amendment calling for the deletion
of Clause 46. It would delete the use of referenda which could
be abused to the extent they would deny rights to minorities
and Canadians at large; given a certain spirit and time in the
country. Senator Roblin in the other place often says that we
must do things in the right way if they are to be done right. I
heartily echo that sentiment.
What is wrong with the governmcnt’s approach? First of all,
this government has no mandate from many Canadians. It
received no mandate on February 18 last year to change our
Constitution in substantive ways. It has a mandate from
members who come largely from two provinces, and it has the
implied consent of two other provinces, one of which is a
common province, the province of Ontario, but the rest of the
country is being bypassed in this process. Neither does this
government have a mandate from the people of Quebec, as it
often claims to have.
I am reminded of statements made by a well-known and
respected political scientist in the province of Quebec, Dr.
Leon Dion. As reported in the Edmonton Journal on October
3, 1980, the day after the Prime Minister presented his
proposal, Dr. Dion said: “It’s a sad day for democracy in
Canada”. He went on to note that the Prime Minister was
using his promise made during the Quebec referendum to
renew the Constitution as a reason for proceeding on the
present path. He said in fact that Quebec had precise demands
which were expounded during the referendum campaign and
that the Prime Minister’s plan for patriation and a bill of
rights does not meet these precise demands, and does not meet
the aspirations of Quebecers. I think that view is reflected
when many of the hon. members opposite return to their
constituencies each weekend.
Mr. Lalonde: He voted Yes on the referendum.
Mr. Siddon: The article in the Edmonton Journal continues:
Trudeau’s stubborn desire to impose his views on the provinces’ will create
confusion, and might also create more antagonism, Dion predicted. A constitu-
tion must exist on consensus, not on force and constraint.
The third reason for believing the government is taking the
wrong approach is the pace at which it is moving. The
government is in a big rush, for some inexplicable reason.
Perhaps this has something to do with the Prime Minister’s
personal timetable. Especially and above all else, I think the
government is perpctrating a fraud and a deception upon the
Canadian people. To be more specific, it is perpetrating a
power grab on the provinces. That is what unilateralism is all
about and it leads ultimately to a unitary state. I hope hon.
members will hear me out, Mr. Speaker.
I believe that Canadians are being deceived, fraudulently, in
three key areas. First of all, this government is substantially
altering the nature of federalism. It is substantially altering
the relationship between the provinces and the federal govern-
ment. I shall elaborate on that in a moment.
Secondly, the government is using the government of Great
Britain to enact changes in our Constitution in a manner
which would not even pass the test of its own amending
formula here in Canada. If it is so confident that this initiative
will be widely accepted by Canadians, then for the life of me I
cannot understand why the government would not put the
question before Canadians, even using its own biased, amend-
ing formula, before sending the joint address to Westminster.
Thirdly, the most significant fraud in all of this, I believe, is
the sham that minority rights and human rights are being
proclaimed as reasons for this initiative. In fact, those rights
are being abridged within the text, A referendum mechanism
is being proposed which could, in many cases, be used to deny
those rights later and to assert the will of the majority, in the
face of the needs of minority groups.
I want to turn now to the British North America Act.
Clause 55 of the resolution before the House removes the
Guarantee of provincial rights which was clearly asserted in
Section 91.1 of the British North America Act. Clause 55 of
the resolution essentially repeals Section 91.1 of the British
North America Act. This section gives to the federal govern-
ment the power to amend, from time to time, the Constitution
of Canada “except as regards matters coming within the
classes of subjects by this act assigned exclusively to the
legislatures of the provinces”. In other words, through the use
of Clause 55 to repeal Section 91.1 of the British North
America Act, the government takes away the guarantee the
provinces have enjoyed since 1867. The provinces which joined
confederation after that date also enjoy that guarantee. Now it
is being struck and the federal government is giving itself the
power to change the Constitution of Canada in any matter
whatsoever—in any matter pertaining to provincial rights as
set out in Section 92 of the British North America Act. This
deals with the right of the provinces to borrow money, to
manage and sell public lands, to operate hospitals, municipal
institutions, to undertake local works, to operate canals, tele-
graphs and other communications works, to alter provincial
responsibility with regard to the solemnization of marriage,
and with regard to property and civil rights.
To go further, Mr. Speaker, Clause 55 would deny the
provinces the power over education as set out in Section 93,
and control of resource ownership as set out in Section 109 of
the British North America Act. In many other respects it
would alter the powers and privileges that provincial govern-
ments have enjoyed since confederation and for which other
provinces that joined later have worked and fought. I believe
Clause 55 is unconstitutional, Mr. Speaker, as it frees the
government to change the Constitution unilaterally, That
becomes clear when one reads Section 91.1 of the BNA Act.
We all know now that the amending formula which is
proposed creates not only two classes of provinces, but three or
four. The western provinces will rank as at least third class. I
believe this discrimination threatens the very future of our
nation. No member opposite, except to hide behind the
premiers at Victoria in 1971, has convinced me there is any
good reason for implementing the present biased amending
formula. Perhaps it is to secure and maintain their mandate
and support from the two most populous provinces, to forget
about and to deny completely the future I want for my
children, and the development of communities in the less
populated part of Canada, from where I come.
The present government is using Britain to do its own dirty
work. The government’s proposed constitutional amendments
would not even stand the test of its own amending formula
here in Canada. The resolution could not be passed in Canada.
For one thing, whether or not there was a referendum, at least
two of the western provinces would reject these proposals
outright. There is a very good chance, and I am sure our
colleagues from Quebec could confirm this, that Quebec,
either through an act of the legislature or a referendum, would
reject this act if the proposed amending formula were applied
as the test as to whether it should proceed to Westminster.
Quebec would reject it because of the language rights situation
in Ontario and Quebec. Therefore, the Prime Minister is
asking the British parliament to prostitute itself by enabling,
with the principal support of only two provinces, himself to
accomplish his personal goals, even though two thirds of the
Canadian people object to the process being put forward.
Surely this had to be a form of dictatorship.
This act, which is being perpetrated, has the potential to
become a major embarrassment to the parliament in Westmin-
ster. It could well be that Westminster might be blackmailed
into passing this legislation, only to subsequently learn that it
has been a party to something illegal, if and when the Supreme
Court of Canada finds that the cases being brought by the
provinces are right and proper and that the federal government
is acting in an unconstitutional manner.
On the question of minority rights, and I have alleged that
this is a sham perpetrated on all of the special interest and
underprivileged groups in our nation, I believe these groups are
being deceived into believing they will get certain rights which
they do not already enjoy. However, in so far as the rights of
minority groups are concerned, many of those rights as set out
in the resolution are qualified by a limitation clause which
empowers the Supreme Court of Canada to restrict those
rights in any way it deems to be proper. Once those rights have
been delineated and interpreted by a ruling of the Supreme
Court of Canada, minority groups will have no further
recourse to this Parliament, to their provincial legislatures or
to seek redress in any other way for a perceived injustice
arising out of a misjudgment by the Supreme Court of
In spite of the fond notion which comes from one or two of
the members opposite, that Canadians should have the oppor-
tunity to litigate rather than to lobby, in fact they will not have
the opportunity to litigate because once those decisions are
rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada it will be virtually
impossible to have them altered. It is not a matter of litigating
or lobbying. Canadians will not be able to lobby because we
Members of Parliament will not be able to help them. Neither
will they be able to litigate, even if they had ample financial
resources at their disposal, because the court will have made
For the sake of these various minority groups, I want to
refer to Clause 6 of the resolution which contains the so-called
mobility provisions. It has a limitation. Section 6(3) reads as
The rights specified in Subsection (2)—
That is the right to move from province to province and enjoy
and seek employment, are mitigated by what follows. We read
on in that Section 6(3)(a) that those rights are limited by:
(a) any laws or practices of general application in force in a province other than
those that discriminate among persons primarily on the basis of province of
present or previous residence;—
These people are being led to believe they can move back
and forth between provinces and seek employment. But if you
read the Subsections of that clause, people will be denied that
right, if there are laws or practices in general force which
would deny that right. So it is a sham.
Similarly in Clause 7, which reads:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not
to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental
—we are qualifying everything. We are pretending we are
granting people something which, under our system of
common law, they have enjoyed in this country for decades.
We could also refer to Section 15(1) which talks about
equality. All Canadians are equal under Section 15(1), but
under Section 15(2) we are not all equal. Some are more equal
than others. Some of us are very concerned about that.
It is not a matter of litigating or lobbying. It is a matter of
locking people, in perpetuity—other than through the use of
the referendum method, which I will come to in a moment—
into judgments rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Even more alarming for these minority groups is the pro-
posed use of a referendum contrived by the federal government
to amend those minority rights, if the majority should so
choose. The referendum method of Section 46 is completely
inconsistent with rights. It is completely contradictory to the
spirit of the charter of rights because it can sweep those rights
away at a moment’s notice. If this country were swept by a
wave of national emotion—it might last two, three, four or five
years, as the Second World War did-the rights of any
minority group could be denied very quickly. The will of the
majority could be used to take those rights away. This is
dangerous and divisive. This is why our amendment, deleting
all reference to the referendum as an amending procedure,
ought to be supported by all members in this House.
l want to speak for a moment of the virtues of the parlia-
mentary system, as I see it. When I was younger I could not
understand why a referendum or a simple ballot was not the
best means of making all decisions in our country. But I have
learned in my two and a half years here that there is much
more to making important decisions than that. There is the
important process of doing our homework, of listening to our
colleagues from all parts of Canada and of sometimes temper-
ing our strong regional feelings against what other members
bring to my caucus or to this House. Often I will change my
mind two or three times before I am sure.
The referendum procedure mitigates against all of that soul
searching because people make their decisions on the basis of a
moment’s whim, a moment’s instinct or a two-week campaign.
I suggest that is what is seriously at fault with this proposed
referendum method. I believe the notion of consensus and
compromise is better. This is what I experience in my caucus,
whereby members from all parts of Canada give me a much
greater appreciation of what our country is really all about.
Their views encourage me to tread more lightly than I might
otherwise do, especially when a matter of entering into some-
one else’s area ofjurisdiction is involved.
This is a lesson which is probably more difficult for mem-
bers opposite to appreciate, because they do not have enough
representation in some parts of the country. As a result, they
are not able to sense these important regional feelings which
we often try to express from this side of the House. As my
good colleague, Senator Tremblay is fond of saying: “The
approach of consensus is much more human than the approach
of deadlock-breaking mechanisms”, which is how this referen-
dum method is being described.
I believe the government is perpetrating an intentional
deceit on minority groups. We often hear from hon. members
opposite, for example, the minister for propaganda and others,
about the Japanese Canadians. We all sympathize for the way
they were mistreated during the Second World War. We hear
that they somehow might have been saved from discrimination
had this charter of rights been enacted. I say that is rubbish.
in a fit of national emotion those rights would be denied one
way or the other and the dangers would be even more severe,
given the referendum method which is included in this
Mr. Fleming: What do they say? They say they want it. Ask
Mr. McDermid: They had it in the United States and it
didn’t do them much good.
Mr. Siddon: It is not beyond the realm of possibility that,
given the current climate between western Canada, Alberta in
particular, and the national government, a referendum, if this
mechanism were in place, could be used to take control of the
resources of that province. It could take control of the timber
of British Columbia, the uranium of Ontario or the gold and
hydroelectric power of Quebec. That is symptomatic of the
divisiveness which this referendum device can introduce to our
nation. As a person born in Alberta and resident in British
Columbia I can tell you; that is where my bottom line would
come. If, through a national referendum, there was a vote to
deny the people of Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, or any
other province their natural birthright, as clearly set out under
the Constitution of Canada, then I would feel this country was
no longer worth saving. I say that quite seriously.
We might also see a time when the referendum could be
used to deny underprivileged Canadians of the unemployment
insurance benefits or of welfare benefits. I would suggest to
you that a majority of Canadians, if given that question to
answer, would probably sweep those programs away at a
moment’s notice. So there is another danger here because a
referendum might discriminate against a very significant and
important minority group which receives a very important
service from this government, such as welfare. We could
conceivably have a bad government in Ottawa, as many
believe we do at present, which would perpetrate these types of
actions upon the people. With the benefit of government
advertising this could lead to a situation where the will of
majority would sweep away the rights of those important
minority groups with which we must concern ourselves.
Let us talk for a moment about the entrenched bill of rights.
What should it contain? Should it be simple or complex?
Should it be rooted in the system of common law or civil law?
Where do the rights of one person end and the rights of the
next person begin? These are important questions which have
not been clarified. That is why many of us believe the present
charter of rights is flawed and premature.
Under the present proposal for a charter of rights, the only
rights and freedoms which will exist after the charter becomes
law are those which are presently recognized, as set out in
Clause 26, and those other rights and freedoms which are
clearly delineated in the charter.
This is the civil law approach. It is fraught with danger for
minority groups, provinces and all those free individuals and
community groups which enjoy certain privileges in this
I favour, as I believe most Canadians do, the common law
approach, based on a thousand years of history, which grants
to every citizen in a free democratic society all the rights in the
world, all the rights in the country that they should wish,
except in so far as those rights are restricted by law.
All rights are not absolute; of course some of them are. The
basic fundamental rights most definitely are; but many of the
things we call rights actually lead to areas of conflict. It is a
very important principle in every phase of civilization that the
rights of every person should in theory end where the rights of
the next person begin. That is generally the case for the
so-called fundamental rights; rights to freedom of worship,
freedom of speech and the others listed under the fundamental
rights definition. In reality, however, there will often be an
overlap. If there is an overlap, the rights of one person or
group will supersede those of another person or group. Then
we can ultimately expect discrimination, arguments and uIti-
mately personal conflict because we are setting up various
classes of citizenship. I am not suggesting we should not do
that in special cases.
I am going to suggest in a moment that affirmative action is
important in some cases, but if rights are written down and
become too complicated they will lead to trouble. We saw that
before the committee, with many special interest groups lining
up, wanting to be named in the body of the Constitution.
In cases where special status is perhaps required to redress
an imbalance, such as affirmative action for women in the
work force, or affirmative action with respect to the use of
French language in the House of Commons or in the govern-
ments of the land, maybe there is a case for these special rights
being accorded. However, we must always remember that if
those affirmative action measures ultimately have their desired
effect, then one day you will want to eliminate that special
status. You will want to do that because you have corrected an
inequity, an injustice within society. Such a correction or
reversal from special status will be required from time to time
and must be accomplished, not by referendum, but by a wise
deliberation in the democratically elected Parliament and
legislatures of our land.
The proposed charter of rights will in fact entrench perma-
nent discrimination against certain persons and groups, in
perpetuity. Those whose rights are abused; those who are given
second-class status by a decision of the courts, must have
recourse to review by their democratically elected representa-
tives. There is no other way to ensure justice for them.
This charter of rights would perpetrate second-class citizen-
ship upon many Canadians; young and old, men and women
with various special interests. Let me give a few examples of
rights that come into conflict. There are the rights of smokers
and non-smokers in a closed room. There is the question of the
rights of the unborn child contained within his or her mother’s
womb. Who has the right to life; the mother or the child? Who
has the final say?
What about the rights of those who happen to know both
our official languages and therefore qualify for a better job?
What about the rights of the unilingual person who does not
qualify for the better job? Those are rights in conflict. On the
use of property, should the owner have the right to obtain the
highest and best use of his property or do the neighbours have
some interest in that question?
There is the question of environmental concern versus indus-
try, of development; the question of the right to strike versus
the right to work. With regard to denominational education,
should a teacher be able to insist on teaching in a Roman
Catholic school even though he or she may not be a Christian?
I say no, of course not! That is what this concept of special
status would produce. One way or another a determination by
the Supreme Court of Canada would fix and entrench into the
future of our country for a long, long time, various degrees of
What about the rights of the employer as distinct from the
employee? We talk about individual rights. The person who
may be alcoholic or have some other personal anomalies may
not be viewed as employable by the employer. Should the
employer be forced to hire that person? What about landlords
versus tenants? Does the landlord have any say over who shall
be allowed to rent and occupy his premises? These are exam-
ples of rights in conflict.
My assertion is that we need a simple entrenched bill of
rights which covers the most fundamental rights, and a sub-
sidiary list of special rights. I would not call them secondary
rights, but special rights. We must make a distinction between
special rights and these fundamental rights, because special
rights are there for a special purpose, that is to right inequities;
to give special advantage and status to the handicapped, the
native people, women in the work force and the francophone
minority in a particular province. They would get special
status and special rights, but they would not be entrenched and
engraved in stone forever and a day.
There must be a mechanism of flexibility which would allow
for those special rights to be altered and adjusted with time so
as to eliminate inequity, at the point where the other party
becomes second-class. The present charter does not allow for
this. It is rigid, inflexible and ambiguous.
I believe that the main elements of our Canadian Bill of
Rights, John Diefenbakers’ Bill of Rights as passed in this
Parliament some 20 years ago, should form the main body of
those fundamental rights which we enjoy in Canada. That Bill
of Rights should be entrenched and the Constitution should
incorporate the following words:
The Parliament of Canada, affirming, that the Canadian nation is founded
upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth
of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and
Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is
founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;
It is hereby recognized that the fundamental rights of every
person, as clearly set out in the Canadian Bill of Rights
—the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment
of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of
the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the
freedom of religion;
freedom of speech;
freedom of assembly and association; and
freedom of the press.
Those are the sort of fundamental rights that are unambig-
uous. Such simplicity will avoid a hornet’s nest and we will not
end up creating anomalies in our society, with some people
first-class, and others second-class, in perpetuity. I suggest
that this government should consider very carefully some of
these questions: The abuses to which a referendum can be put,
the question of whether or not Canadians are indeed all equal
as we pretend they ought to be, and whether the process the
present government is following is right and proper.
In closing, 1 want to observe that one evening in January I
was watching a delegation of Metis from northern Saskatche-
wan as they appeared before the constitutional committee.
One of the witnesses, perhaps inadvertently, said “But if we
are named in the Constitution, we are going to be singled out
in perpetuity as requiring special status and that will guaran-
tee discrimination against us.”
I make that assertion very forcefully this evening. Entrench-
ment of special status guarantees discrimination. It is not true
that the natives all want to see their rights reflected in the
Constitution. They want their claims resolved. The Union of
B.C.Indian Chiefs has certainly made that clear. It is not true
that all Canadians want to have this great gift which the gods
across the way are going to give us. They want the kind of
standards and values on which our country was founded;
respect for God, moral decency, spiritual values and the ability
to own property and enjoy freedom.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The Chair will recognize
the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) who is seeking to
be recognized. That will take place at eight o’clock.
It being seven o’clock, I do now leave the chair until eight
At seven o’clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. When the
House rose at seven o’clock this evening, the Chair had
recognized the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle), who
had not yet begun his contribution to the debate. Accordingly,
I will recognize him again for the full 40 minutes allowed.
Hon. Roch La Salle (Juliette): Mr. Speaker, I am very
happy to take this opportunity to take part in this debate
which I believe to be vitally important for our country. I would
like to say, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian people are now
aware that this debate is of major importance for the future of
Canadian federalism. There is every reason to believe that our
fellow citizens throughout the country have understood the
determining nature of the changes proposed by this govern-
ment. Up to now, several Quebec members of the government,
of course, have spoken in favour of the package deal proposed
by the Prime Minister.
For my part, I wanted to take part in this historic debate so
that those who follow our proceedings closely may have a true
picture of the Quebec reality. I want the dissenting voices of
hundreds of thousands of Quebecers to be heard strongly and
vigorously in this House. I wish to thank my colleagues of the
Progressive Conservative party for allowing me today to
accomplish this mission on which I had set my heart. I greatly
appreciate this gesture of friendship extended to me and this
act of courtesy towards the Quebec people.
I want to make myself quite clear at the outset, Mr.
Speaker. I am speaking today not only as the member for
Joliette, not only in my new capacity as leader of the Union
Nationale Party in Quebec, but first and foremost, I am
speaking today in this imposing chamber as a French-speaking
Quebecer, a Quebecer who stands by the hundreds of thou-
sands of his fellow citizens who reject the resolution proposed
by the Liberal government because it goes against their con-
cept of Canadian federalism.
These Quebecers are not only Union Nationale members,
Mr. Speaker. Nor are they only from the Parti Québécois.
Many of them are very active supporters of the Quebec
Liberal party. I believe it is important that Canadians every-
where understand that the opposition of Quebecers, as con-
firmed by many polls in the last few months, goes beyond
traditional party lines. The reason is very simple for anyone
willing to see beyond the partisan rut. The proposed resolution
of the Liberal government is even worse that the status quo; it
is a definite step backward for Quebec society as a whole and a
tremendous insult to Quebec federalists. It is quite obvious
that the Liberal government wants to claim ownership of the
Constitution, This goes against our constitutional traditions.
Canada is not limited to Ottawa. It includes all the prov-
inces. Until further notice, these provinces have sovereign
governments in their own jurisdictions. When an amendment
to the Constitution changes these exclusive jurisdictions, the
provinces must not only be consulted, but they must also give
their agreement. This is the true nature of our Canadian
federalism. Instead of trying to agree with the provinces,
instead of negotiating in good faith with an open mind, the
Liberal government seeks confrontation, stirs up division, and
successfully moreover, to better impose its centralizing concept
of federalism and it narrow vision of the future.
Members opposite submit that the proposed resolution takes
nothing away from the provinces. I say that this is not true,
Mr. Speaker. First, it directly erodes the exclusive provincial
jurisdiction over education and the language of instruction
without the conscnt of a majority of provinces. Because of its
distinctive nature as the only Canadian province with a franco-
phone majority, Quebec cannot accept that its jurisdiction in
this regard be curtailed in relation to the present status quo.
This evolution goes against the wishes of most Quebecers
who have always fought to improve their condition in relation
to the status quo. Second, Mr. Speaker, through the charter of
rights and freedoms, the proposed resolution threatens to make
inoperative about 100 Quebec statutes. At least, this is the
legal opinion expressed by a group of Montreal lawyers at the
request of the Quebec government. As recently as yesterday,
the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) agreed that this was so.
He even suggested that it would be a good thing, as though the
statutes involved were necessarily discriminatory, when it is
quite possible that they do not comply with the provisions of
the charter not because they deny these rights and freedoms,
but because they reflect a different concept of their applica-
tion. Third, the proposed resolution represents a step backward
for the provinces because of its unilateral nature.
By moving unilaterally, by moving against the explicit will
of eight provinces out of ten, the federal government is dealing
a very hard blow to all Quebec federalists, who still believe
that our federal system must recognize equal constitutional
status to both levels of government. Every political party in
Quebec, Mr. Speaker, accepts that principle. Indeed, it is
important to note that it was included in the recommendations
of the late Pepin-Robarts report. That recommendation reads
Since we view the provincial governments as equal in stature and maturity to
the central government, we have no difficulty in stating that in a restructured,
genuinely federal union, the provinces should be recognized as having a constitu-
tional status equal with that of the central government.
Ottawa’s unilateral action, if it passes here and later in
London, will give a de facto, if not a legal status, a status of
legal seniority to the federal government. That unilateral
action will automatically destroy the beautiful dreams of
equality of constitutional status between the two levels of
government. The dice will be loaded once and for all in favour
of Ottawa, and there will be nothing left for the provinces to
do but to bite the bullet. And fourth, as if this were not
enough, this Liberal government changes its bold stroke into a
coup d’Etat. It establishes on a permanent basis unilateral
action by the federal Parliament over the heads of provincial
In this matter, I come more precisely to the amendment
moved by my colleague from Provencher (Mr. Epp), which
aims at deleting from the Liberal package the referendum as a
permanent means of constitutional change. I wholeheartedly
support that amendment. In a British parliamentary system as
ours, Parliament is the ultimate expression of the sovereignty
of the people. In a federative country like Canada, this sover-
eignty is also divided between two levels of government. I
cannot accept that all of a sudden, without consultation.
without previous study, and especially without the agreement
of the provincial governments, a procedure such as a referen-
dum be introduced as an ongoing amending formula in order
to amend among other things the future division of this
sovereignty between both levels of government.
On two occasions, the Liberal government is infringing upon
parliamentary sovereignty. First of all, by shifting the respon-
sibility for basic freedoms from the legislative power to the
courts. Second, by ignoring the provincial legislatures with
regard to constitutional amendments and by consulting the
people directly. In addition, with a referendum, the right of
veto that can be exercised by a province, whether Quebec or
any other one, becomes totally useless. Should this right be
exercised, the federal government would still be in a position to
give the deadlock of its own making as a pretext pursuant to
the rules required by the Canadian Parliament under a statute,
to launch a referendum in order to settle the matter.
Let nobody tell me, Mr. Speaker, that the amendment made
by the joint committee alters the basic principle of this pro-
posal. The purpose of this amendment is to establish a referen-
dum rules commission with a membership of three, one of
them representing the provinces. This does not alter in any
way the basic principle, since this commission has no authority
to make decisions. Even though the Prime Minister (Mr.
Trudeau) may say that those who are opposed to his package
deal are stuck in a status quo, no one will take him seriously
from now on. Indeed, what he is proposing is worse than the
status quo and goes against the concept of federalism now
prevailing in Quebec.
Quebecers have understood it, and that is why a majority of
them reject the proposed resolution. Mr. Speaker, I say a
majority of them. I know that present Quebec members have
concealed from the rest of the country the reality of Quebec
and the Quebec majority that will not be fooled by the
proposal now before us.
An hon. Member: That’s true!
Mr. La Salle: And I wonder why they do not have the
courage to tell the Prime Minister to his face and the Canadi-
an people that the majority of Quebecers are against this
But what I do not understand, Mr. Speaker, is why of the 73
Liberal members from Quebec, only one, the hon. member for
Montmorency (Mr. Duclos) had the courage to stand up and
say out loud what he thinks down deep and what several of his
colleagues think also. Considering the mood of rejection which
prevails in Quebec on this issue, should not those who sup-
posedly represent the opinion of Quebecers have the decency to
reflect the mood of the people of Quebec and do so without
political partisanship? This issue is too crucial, Mr. Speaker,
and will have too much of an impact on Canadian federalism
to be confined to the narrow limits of party politics. Is it
possible that only two out of 74 members of this House
representing Quebec dare say what thousands of their fellow
Quebecers think? If so, it is shameful and should be forcefully
I fully agree with the words of wisdom written by Marcel
Pepin, editor of Quebec City’s Le Soleil. This is what this
prominent journalist wrote because of the way Liberal mem-
bers of Parliament appear so powerless and idle:
Liberal members of parliament—
For Quebec of course.
—must fully realize the extent to which they will be stabbing their province in
the back by voting for the Liberal proposal. By doing so, they will be enshrining
the principle of federal supremacy whereas in a federation all partners are
supposed to be equal. Second, they will be endorsing the legitimacy of a
unilateral action when the essence of federalism presupposes agreement between
the two levels of government. Third, they will be giving the federal government
the authority to alter unilaterally the balance of power between Ottawa and the
provinces by means of a referendum whose rules would be set by the central
government. And finally, they will be allowing the federal government to
unilaterally establish the time-frame of an amending formula, The only ones who
can stop irreparable damage from being done are the members of Parliament for
Quebec. They must be rcmindcd of their duty and told that their first loyalty is
to the people who send them to a parliament which they do not and will never
control but which they can still influence.
There is something I would like to ask the members from
Quebec. In the last two months I have met thousands of
Quebecers and they are concerned because they do not under-
stand why, while you are sitting here, you do not express the
views of the majority of Quebecers on this issue. They fully
realize that the Prime Minister has decided to create a Canada
in his image. But the majority of the Quebec people think that
a group of Quebecers could stop this proposal. The greatest
service you could do your province and your constituents,
would be to stop this Prime Minister before it is too late,
before he completely tears this country apart, this country
which is yours and mine. What I am asking my colleagues
opposite is to show some courage, of course, and also some
honesty and to let their heart speak out. I cannot believe that
these 73 Liberal members from Quebec, 72 pardon me, there
is one who wants to object to—
An hon. Member: 74!
Mr. La Salle: The member for Lévis is not yet elected. I ask
them: Please be sensitive to the interests of the voters in
Quebec who sent them here to represent them and not to carry
out the dictates of an obsessed Prime Minister who refuses to
take into account the Canadian reality. What I ask my Liberal
colleagues opposite, Mr. Speaker, is to convince their Prime
Minister to immediately return to the bargaining table with
Patriation of the Constitution and amending formula, which
must of necessity accompany it, must come about through
negotiations between equal partners. Never should steps of
such vital importance to the country be taken unilaterally as is
the case in this instance. That is what Quebec public opinion
wants: an opinion that has been expressed not only by the
government but also by all political parties in Quebec; an
opinion that has been expressed by many editors and renowned
constitutional experts; finally, an opinion that has been
expressed through a petition signed by over 750,000 persons
from all over Quebec.
This, Mr. Speaker, is my last speech in this House as the
Progressive Conservative member for the riding of Joliette. As
I promised and, of course, as the rules would have it, I shall
resign, and this I intend to do when the next provincial election
is called. Still, I should like to remind my colleagues from
Quebec that some of their speeches have made me very sad; I
have read several though not all of them. But I should like to
appeal to their sense of honesty and objectivity and ask them
to tell this House the truth about Quebec, to tell this House
that the Liberals in Quebec do not agree with the Liberals
here, so that Canadians might be aware of it. The leader of the
Liberal Party, who failed to appear before the Joint Commit-
tee on the Constitution of Canada—the committee would have
been happy to see him there—went as close as 150 feet from it,
where he stated his opposition to the proposal at a press
conference, I believe, in which he delivered a message from his
fellow-members from Quebec to the effect that the majority of
Quebecers refuse to support this unilateral exercise and the
idea that we should become a unitarian state.
After 13 years, Mr. Speaker, I could not leave this House
without saying also just how sorry I am to realize that the
Prime Minister who is leading the country to its demise is
responsible, first and foremost, for the tearing apart of
Canada, for the rising tide of alienation, not only in Quebec
but in other provinces as well. I imagine he says there are still
some Quebecers who have been encouraged to expose this
unacceptable resolution the results of which will be unfortu-
nate. It can be felt, it can be seen, but the stubbornness of that
Prime Minister, and the lack of courage of those people who
should reflect the Quebec views—I am referring to the Minis-
ter of Transport (Mr. Pepin), who was reprimanded for his
extremely interesting study which reflected the Canadian real-
ity and recommended remedial measures which, I think, would
have solved some of our problems, a study that was shelved in
no time flat, so that the Minister of Transport was unable to
support and even respect his signature on that extremely
important document which recommended solutions to the
problems raised by the Constitution of Canada. The Prime
Minister snuffed it, and a pity it is, Mr. Speaker. Still, there
are people opposite who recognize the great value of that study
which we no longer hear about. Instead, there is only the vision
of one man, and his concept of an artificial Canada that does
not exist, and that never will as the Prime Minister would like
to invent it, and we all know that.
As a Quebecer, Mr. Speaker, I am ashamed to ask a foreign
government to legislate on my basic rights. This is most
shameful. You can laugh, you have been doing that for the
past 13 years and you stoop so low as to ask a foreign
parliament to do something that you should do yourselves if
you were brave enough, but you refrain from acting because
you know quite well that it would be difficult to induce most
Canadians, through legally established procedures in Canada,
to approve the proposal which you are asking a foreign govern-
ment to support. It is embarrassing, Mr. Speaker.
I hope that some Quebecers—we are not against the
patriation of the Constitution nor against an amending for-
mula—we all agree on that. I urge you to patriatc them and you
will get our support. I urge you to bring them back to Canada
and to amend that Constitution with Canadians by Canadians.
This is what we are asking you to do.
Miss Bégin: This is what we are doing.
Mr. La Salle: The minister says: “This is what we are
doing.” No kidding! This is what we are doing! They say that
to the people of Quebec who are unknowingly deceived by such
comments, I think that it is sheer madness. I will not say any
An hon. Member: What were you doing on May 20?
Mr. La Salle: On May 20, I felt that you were hypocrites,
and I was right, Mr. Speaker. I was standing up for Quebec
and rejecting a proposal which suggested what I now feel is a
constitutional reform of sorts that is a true reflection of the
views of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). I am being
thanked for not supporting such a commitment. Moreover, you
forget to mention that the leader of the Liberal Party in
Quebec has clearly stated that if he had known that he would
be misled as he is now, he would never have chaired the No
committee. Those Liberals did not perhaps deserve such a fate
and all Canadians should be aware of that.
An hon. Member: What is your position?
Mr. La Salle: Mr. Speaker, for those who are still unaware
of my position, I support a principle, the protection of provin-
cial autonomy. My position is clear, I wish to keep my
province within a Canadian federation respectful of the aspira-
tions of my province and of provincial aspirations generally,
respectful of regional identities and based, and I do not
hesitate to say so, on the Pepin-Robarts report. I find in this
report some very good recommendations which could bring
about this national harmony we are seeking. But it is neither
through unilateral action such as the one you are taking, nor
with intentions such as those which the Quebec government is
entertaining that we will achieve it, but by respecting provin-
cial jurisdictions and favouring a wider provincial participation
in major national decisions, by convincing the provinces to
co-operate in building this country, working together and not
going their separate way as they do now.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to send this message
to my fellow Quebecers, and I hope others will oppose such an
unacceptable measure. There is one among you who has
already done so. Those hon. members were ready to stake their
seats on the referendum. Well, let them do so, for this is the
way you will secure your seats. The people of Quebec are
waiting for you. Mr. Speaker, it is not without emotion that I
must bid farewell to my colleagues of the Progressive Con-
scrvative Party. I salute also my colleagues on the government
and NDP benches, as well as the support staff of the House.
For the past 13 years, Mr. Speaker, my electors in the
federal riding of Joliettc have renewed their trust in me.
An hon. Member: It won’t last!
Mr. La Salle: I want to thank them from the bottom of my
heart for this demonstration of friendship and faith in me. I
want to tell them that I am not leaving them. On the contrary,
I want to get closer to them to fight for their interests,
certainly in a different way, but always with the same dedica-
tion, sincerity and enthusiasm. I consider accepting the leader-
ship of a party in Quebec like a new challenge which is not
inconsistent with the actions I have taken in the federal
political arena over the past 12 years. I feel that it is a normal
development, in view of the political climate which has existed
in Quebec for the past few years.
I wish to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr.
Clark) for the trust and support he bestowed upon me from
the moment he became leader of the Progressive Conservative
Party. That man stood out in the minds of several Quebecers
and Canadians as an outspoken supporter of provincial rights
and of a renewed federalism in keeping with our constitutional
traditions and the Canadian reality such as it is experienced
today in the various regions of this large country. To me, Mr.
Speaker, he will always remain a politician who deserves our
respect and admiration.
Mr. Speaker, during the 20 seconds I have left, I appeal
once again to all my Quebec colleagues to ponder over the best
way to serve their country and their province. Tonight I
detected the same old arrogance I have felt for 13 years, and I
forgive them before leaving, Mr. Speaker. But that is the kind
of feeling which makes it easier to say goodbye to such people.
For years I prevailed upon them to join with those who
understood the importance of a real constitutional reform
which would respect the integrity of the provinces and of the
present-day Canadian reality.
I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that a majority in this House
will succeed in defeating that diabolical scheme which can
only tear this country apart. I hope we are going to revert to a
better arrangement, and I trust the British government will
understand we want our provinces respected and will not yield
to the proposal of this government. I think this will be the most
positive action we could take for the Canadian people what-
ever their languages, whatever their walks of life and I think
this will be the greatest gesture we can extend to our prov-
inces, and that it will make it possible for Quebec to retain its
place within this confederation, a confederation respectful of
the rights of all Canadians, within which Quebec will feel
more at ease and very happy.
An hon. Member: As the hon. member for Simcoe-South
(Mr. Stewart) said, only one language. Tell that to Quebecers.
Miss Bégin: I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The hon. Minister of
National Health and Welfare on a point of order.
Miss Bégin: Mr. Speaker, would you allow me, as a Quebec-
er, as a Canadian, on behalf of all of us on this side of the
House, perhaps for the benefit of all those in the galleries who
sometimes witness our shouting matches and wonder whether
our hate for each other is equal to the pitch of our voices, to
point out just the same that tonight we have heard the last
speech of the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) who will
be leaving this House. After all, the task of all members on
both sides of the House is thankless, and whatever we may
think, sometimes we get carried away, but one can impute to
other members but one motive for their actions, namely that
once elected, they came here to do their best for all those who
voted for them. I would like to urge all my colleagues to join
with me in wishing the hon. member for Joliette all the best,
not in his political life, because I cannot go that far, but in his
Mr. Cousineau: Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member for
Joliette (Mr. La Salle) allow a question from the hon. member
Mr. La Salle: Certainly!
Mr. Cousineau: Instead of criticizing the Quebec members
who arefighting for bilingualism in this country, does the hon.
member for Joliettc intend to reject and dissociate himself
from the position taken by the hon. member for Simcoe South
(Mr. Stewart) in his speech last Tuesday?
Mr. La Salle: I am pleased to answer that the hon. member
did not fight against bilingualism. He discussed the manner in
which it has been implemented. There are always two ways to
implement something. l have read the hon. member’s speech.
He condemned the manner in which bilingualism has been
implemented not its principle.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order!
Mr. Andre: Go drown in the Gatineau River.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): It would be much easier
for the Chair to—
An hon. Member: The only thing you want from Quebec is
their vote. That’s all you want.
Mr. Andre: Why don’t you ask Jack Horner his view, you
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order. It would be much
easier for the Chair to recognize hon. members who, if they
wish to speak, might stand up.
Mr. Forrestall: Do you want me to stand up?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): If the hon. member
wants to be recognized, he should learn to stand up. I intend to
now recognize the hon. member for Brandon-Souris (Mr.
Dinsdale) unless l have a point of order. The hon. member for
Dartmouth-Halifax East (Mr. Forestall) on a point of
Mr. Forrestall: Mr. Speaker, one wonders what it is that
this House is all about when, on the eve of an hon. mcmber’s
distinguished career in this House, when he is making his last
comments to this assembly, we witness a cheap, cheap, low
question such as that posed by the hon. member opposite,
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. Now the
difficulty grows because, if the hon. member has found some
fault with comments that have been made by a member on the
other side, then I am sure the other side can easily find fault
with comments being made now. Perhaps we can settle it in
the following fashion:
I am reasonably sure that everybody wishes the hon.
member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) a brilliant career and a
long and happy life, as others have already said.
That is sufficiently non-political, to wish the hon. member
Mr. Nystrom: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish
to join with the Minister of National Health and Welfare
(Miss Begin) in wishing all the best to my good friend Roch
La Salle who has just made his last speech in this House. I
have known the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) for a
long time. He was elected to this House in 1968 along with mc
and many others. He was re-elccted in the next five general
elections. The hon. member for Joliette has always been
strongly motivated and strong—minded and l want to wish him,
on behalf of all New Democrats and on my own behalf, great
success in his private life. We have been friends ever since we
were elected to the Canadian Parliament, that is almost thir-
teen years ago.
Hon. W. G. Dinsdale (Brandon-Souris): Mr. Speaker, I
begin my remarks tonight following those of the distinguished
member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle). I think the members of
this party view his departure with a certain degree of poignan-
cy and regret, because he has been the “Lone Ranger”, if I
may use a western expression, and we have been able to make
the proud boast that the party of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposi-
tion has been represented in every province and in the territo-
ries, from sea to sea. With the departure of the hon. member,
we can no longer make that claim. However, I am sure that in
the days ahead, after we have overcome the madness that has
generated this divisive debate, there will come a time when the
people of the province of Quebec will come back to that old
blue party. the party of confederation; the Conservative Party
which made confederation happen and which now is engaged
in the most critical debate in respect of the continuation of this
nation, from sea to sea, we have ever experienced.
In my 30 years in Parliament, this has been the most
extraordinarily confusing debate. It is the first time I have
faced a government which is doing everything possible to
divide the nation. It is beyond understanding why they should
pursue this divisive course.
I sat under Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, who had the
image of the father of the nation, so much so that he was
known as “Uncle Louis”; what a contrast between Uncle Louis
and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
I sat under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who initiated
the policy of co-operative federalism, and when everything
possible was done to make this country, which historically has
been a difficult nation to govern, function as a united nation
from sea to sea. I sat under Lester Pearson, who carried on
that same spirit of co-operative federalism; and then, more
recently, the right hon. member who led the Conservative
government for a short period.
lt is a puzzling circumstance which finds me taking part in
this debate, and I want to spend the time l have tonight trying
to impress upon hon. members opposite that if they persist in
this course, they will completely fracture this nation.
lt would be different if the government had a mandate and a
power base that was representative of the country; but this
government has no such mandate. During the recent runoff
election in 1980, not one word was mentioned about constitu-
tional affairs. lt was sort of a peek-a-boo, Goldfarb oriented
election, where the main concern was keeping the leader of the
Liberal party out of sight. ln 1979, large areas of Canada had
voted the Liberal Party out of office because ofthe right hon.
gentIeman’s increasing unpopularity. So we have a government
which has no mandate, its power is located in the two central
provinces, using that power to force a constitution through
Parliament that is opposed by 64 per cent of the people of
Canada-by eight provinces—and what is most important, by
the four western provinces and two territories.
As a matter of fact the two territories are not even men-
tioned in the Constitution. They are going to remain in a state
of limbo. Their problem is to get into confederation, not to get
out of it. The government is going to endeavour to enshrine in
the Constitution the domination of this power base, Quebec
and Ontario, in the Canadian body polilique in perpetuity
because of the veto power of the Victoria amending formula.
l think you will understand, Mr. Speaker, why the feeling of
alienation in western Canada has been growing by leaps and
bounds. Just before I came into the House tonight l was
reading the Brandon Sun from my home town. The city of
Brandon and western Manitoba never succumbed to all the
problems of alienation there were in the early thirties with the
party splintering, that saw the emergence of the CCF move-
ment in Saskatchewan and the emergence of the Social Credit
movement in Alberta. My own particular bailiwiek in Manito-
ba never succumbed to that feeling of alienation. When l came
to this House the CCF was known as “the crazy Canadian
farmers” because it was part of this western agrarian protest.
An hon. Member: And the Progressives.
Mr. Dinsdale: The Progressives were earlier, in the twenties.
l am referring to the thirties. The Progressives was a party of
the twenties if we want an historic reference.
Last Thursday evening in the city of Brandon 750 people
attended a meeting of West-Fed in the Keystone Centre. l
would be lucky to get a hundred people out to a meeting, Mr.
Mr. MacLaren: That is easy to understand!
Mr. Dinsdale: I want to tell the hon. member that even
when the Prime Minister was out there two weeks ago he did
not get that size audience either. The article in the Brandon
Sun on February 27, reads in part:
During his speech, Mr. Knutson was interrupted several times by applause from
the enthusiastic audience, one of the largest crowds he said he has drawn while
criss-crossing western Canada in the one year since West-Fed was formed as a
I want to inform the hon. member for Etobicoke North (Mr.
MacLaren) who is from central Canada and does not appreci-
ate the degree of alienation rampant in western Canada at the
present time, that what the government he supports—
Mr. MacLaren: I am from Vancouver!
Mr. Dinsdale: —is contemplating through its unilateral
action to force a constitution over the united protests of the
four provinces will contribute in a special way to the growing
alienation in western Canada.
I do not know why the Prime Minister is doing this. Perhaps
he anticipates what is going to happen should his Constitution
pass by the use of his central Canadian based majority. He is
already behaving as if Canada were a unitary state. What
would happen if unitary-statism were ever imposed on the
Constitution? lt causes one to shudder.
The present critical imbalance of power resulted from
thrusting Canada into an election six months after the people
had voted for a change. The inevitable result was to split the
country right down the middle. As all hon. members know,
there are no government representatives west of the Red River.
lt is not the first time the Liberal Party has used the divide and
conquer formula. lt was used by the late Right Hon. Macken-
zie King. He managed to keep his Upper Canada and Lower
Canada power base pretty well intact during most of his long
A moment ago l referred to the splintering of parties in
Canada during the thirties. An hon. member seated behind me
asked, “What about the Progressives of the 1920s?” lt is not a
happenstance that all the protest parties, all the splinter
parties have had their origin in western Canada. During the
twenties, thirties and forties it was possible to play these
divisive political games without threatening to destroy Canada
as a federal state because finance, industry and population
were concentrated in the golden horseshoe area of Quebec
City, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor. This is no
longer true. Economic power has moved to western Canada.
Unfortunately, political power remains in Ontario and Quebec.
The unilateral action of the Prime Minister who has changed
the rules in the middle of the game, is designed to ensure that
it will remain there forever.
lt is not a coincidence, for example, that in the two-pronged
attack on western Canada, almost the same vehemence is
given to the government’s support of the National Energy
Program and that will make it possible for the central govern-
ment to invade the economic prerogatives of western Canada.
The Prime Minister moves unilaterally, using his majority
based in central Canada. Unfortunately, at the present time
the numbers in the other place support him, although it is
encouraging to note that some very responsible voices in that
other place have been heard to warn against the foolishness of
unilateral action of this kind. It is becoming increasingly clear
from the debates in this House, and reports in the newspapers,
exactly what the Prime Minister is doing to Canada.
In a recent visit to British Columbia the message was made
abundantly clear. A front page story in the Ottawa Citizen
under the byline by Iain Hunter, national editor, put that
situation in focus. In part the article said:
Prime Minister Trudeau admitted Thursday he is dividing Canadians by pushing
through his constitutional reforms. He’s not sorry about it, he declared—in some
cases he finds it ‘exhilarating.’
How can a national leader find a fundamental division in
Canada exhilarating? In my experience in the House up to this
time, I have observed that the main purpose of a prime
minister has been to find the modus vivendi, some common
ground, so that the process of reconciliation can go on, rather
than the process of divisiveness. The newspaper article goes on:
Trudeau told more than 200 cheering Liberal supporters—
The hon. member for Etobicoke North referred to the 100
that came out to cheer me. I do not know whether or not there
are any more than 200 Liberals in British Columbia. The story
Trudeau told more than 200 cheering Liberal supporters here that if the country
breaks apart in five or 50 years because of his unilateral action to patriate the
Constitution with an entrenched charter of rights and his own amending
l am quoting now from the press article:
—”then I say it wasn’t worthy of living another day”.
In other words, “après moi, le déluge—lf I don’t get my
way, the country is not worth saving.”
I have heard of other political leaders in fascist countries
who have expressed almost the same thought. I propound the
question, why would a national leader deliberately want to
create division in Canada? It has taken us a long time to reach
the point of unity out of the diversity that we have at the
present time. It has resulted from a spirit of tolerance and
The Acting Speaker (Mr. BIaker): Order, please. I am sorry
to interrupt the hon. member, but, as he may know, under the
extended hours provisions of the House order we are expected
at this time to proceed to private members’ business.
lt being nine o’clock, the House will now proceed to the
consideration of private members’ business as listed on today’s
Order Paper, namely, notices of motions, private bills and