Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (2 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7774-7808.
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COMMONS DEBATES — March 2, 1981
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 thereto.
Mr. S. J. Korchinski (Mackenzie): Mr. Speaker, when I rose to speak last Thursday evening at nine o’clock, I just had a few moments in which to make my introductory remarks.
Therefore, I will proceed now without reviewing the comments I made at that time because I have much ground to cover. I have been a member of this House for the past 23 years and every day before the public is admitted to the gallery, we rise in our places and begin our proceedings with a prayer. That prayer is indicative of the spirit of our country; until now we have recognized the supremacy of God in Canada and the value the family has in our society. The proposed Constitution—if it is to be a new Constitution, and I am told this is the planning for the future—indicates the direction this country is going to take is not one where the supremacy of God will be recognized. In other words, there is no reference to that supremacy.
The other day the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) tried to explain why he is supporting the Liberal government, the government of the day, without reference to the supremacy of God. He said that when the Diefenbaker bill of rights was introduced in 1960, there was no reference to the supremacy of God, and when it went to the committee, that provision was not in the bill. I was a member of the House al that time and it was my privilege to be part of some of the committee work. I know what transpired. I wish to correct the impression left by the hon. member for Burnaby that it was a Liberal member of the House who introduced an amendment which allowed for the preamble to include a reference to God. The Liberal members applauded that statement. It was information they had not had up until that time, and they applauded.
I want to correct that error. The hon. member said we should dig into history. The history is this. The then minister of justice, Mr. Fulton, was concerned about the wording of the preamble. Because it was so important, he wanted members from all sides of the House to participate in drafting the wording of the bill. I looked up the reference. At page 7411 of Hansard for August 2, 1960, the then member for Essex East, Paul Martin, said this:
First of all, there is stated in the bill that the Canadian nation is founded on principles which acknowledge the supremacy of God.
He was chastising the then minister of justice. He stated that he had learned, when the suggestion was first made on second reading, that it was ridiculed by the minister of justice in his usual manner of playing politics. Mr. Fulton replied:
Mr. Chairman, that is not correct. What I was talking about was poetic language. No specific objection was taken to a preamble.
In other words, he was not opposing including the supremacy of God in the preamble. At page 590 of the committee report for 1960, he wanted to make it clear that he had no objection to including a reference to the supremacy of God. He said:
I know we have all been working on a preamble.
In other words, there was an invitation from the chairman to all members to write out a preamble. He stated that all suggestions would be considered at the time the preamble was drafted. On the same page, Mr. Martin is quoted as saying:
It seems to me that the suggestion or the minister that a committee be appointed to consider various suggestions was a wise one.
Let there be no mistake about the intention of Mr. Fulton. He said:
Our department would try to do that job for you, holding the balance between the various points of view that have been suggested.
That should clarify the matter. Because of the importance of the question, the wording was to be such that it would encompass the views of all the parties in the House of Commons.
There is a further point that should be made with regard to when the bill was in committee. We must remember that the rules have changed since that time. When second reading of the bill was being considered, it was considered as a matter of principle; members voted on a matter of principle. There was unanimous consent in the House at that time. No one objected to the way the bill was worded when it was sent to committee. Any changes that came about were with the concurrence of the government.
A large section of our society is now apparently being disregarded. Many people are inspired by the religious training they received when they were growing up. Many still turn to religion in order to instil in their families the belief and moral fibre they feel necessary.
I cannot help but think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) receives his inspiration while travelling to atheist countries like China and Russia. Therefore, future generations will not have the same recognition of the values we have held in the past. I am sure that many members opposite believe there should be a reference to the supremacy of God but are prepared to go ahead with this Constitution in order to satisfy one man’s ego.
This Constitution is incomplete, inaccurate, and does not go in the direction this country desires. This should be corrected before this resolution is dealt with by this Parliament. We should not be burdened with a deadline simply because the Prime Minister has his own personal deadline. If we continue in this direction, to whom will we pray? The Prime Minister? Will he be supreme? If we remove reference to the supremacy of God, there is only one man at the head of this country who is supreme.
This should be a very happy occasion for all Canadians. We are in the midst of constructing a Constitution. The foundation is being laid for the future. When planning the construction of a home, recognition is given to all the requirements. The housewife has certain requirements for the kitchen. The children may want a certain type of room. You try to accommodate everyone within the means available. We certainly have the means in this instance. We should have all the time that is necessary. Why lay the foundation in such a way that it will crumble within a few years?
When building a family home, ifall the family requirements are not taken into account, regardless of the cost of the structure the family will not he happy. This is the kind of situation we are creating for future Canadians. We should therefore take into account all the requirements.
I now want to deal with the provinces. On the question of the unilateral action taken by tho federal government, an amending formula and the inclusion of the Victoria formula, two provinces are given veto power. We are going to have three different categories of province in this country by the time we are through if we proceed on the present basis.
First of all, the two provinces that have the veto power, Ontario and Quebec—it has been that way up until the present—shall continue to do so. For some reason, these people in that part of Canada have a special choice in the matter. That should not be continued.
If we are to construct a new constitution, we should remove these inequalities; rather, we are putting in greater inequalities. For example, there is the requirement in the veto power that you have two provinces in the Atlantic region, and in western Canada you require two provinces, the total population of which should be what? Fifty per cent.
The city of Regina has a population which is almost twice that of P.E.I., and yet P.E.I. has more strength than all the province of Saskatchewan. What does that do to poor Premier Blakeney? He cannot join up with another province, Manitoba, if he wants to promote his socialism in the country, which the Liberal government is only too glad to promote. Where does that put him? Can hon. members not see why he is rejecting the package that is presented?
Therefore, we have three levels of province. I think this amounts to a castration of the provinces, because you cannot move without the prior consent of that man who sets himself up to be as supreme as God. God is no longer to be recognized. Only the Prime Minister can suggest the timing, the wording; of course, he has the resources of the whole country to promote his ideas. What you are doing is resorting to the castration of the provinces. That should not be perpetuated.
What do hon. members think the citizens of those provinces are going to think in the future? Do they think they will be happy in this family which is called Canada? Forever and a day, we will be reminded of that provision. It should certainly be excluded from the Constitution which has now been drafted.
In this country we have had a Liberal government for 38 of the last 50 years.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
An hon. Member: Thank God.
Mr. Korchinski: Somebody said “Thank God”. Because we have had a Liberal government which never recognized the requirements of the provinces, we now have five different political parties in Canada that have resorted to other political parties in the province to provide a counterbalance. The Liberal government is only interested in its own preservation in Ottawa, and that is why it is wording the Constitution. Why do you think we have to resort to Social Credit in B.C.?
An hon. Member: What’s your reason?
Mr. Korchinski: Why do you think we have had the CCF in Saskatchewan, and now the NDP? Why do you think we have a Union Nationale in Quebec? Why do you think we have the Parti Québécois? Why do you think we have Progressive Conservative governments in other provinces? Only occasionally did provinces resort to Liberals in order to turf out a government which got to be too smug. In places where they have only a two-party system, they resorted to electing a Liberal government. The simple reasons is that they have had to turn to new political parties in order to provide some balance. The government is emasculating the powers of others. What is it doing to the provinces?
Anybody who knows something of the history of school boards knows the power which they had some 25 years ago. A new idea came in: centralize, as the government is doing now. Keep the power in the central unit. Do you know what happened? At one time you were able to hire, fire, and select the kind of education that the community wanted. Today, the only role which one sitting on a school board plays is to make sure that the sewers are not plugged, That is the kind of power that is left to the school boards today, and that is the kind of power the government wants the provinces to have, regardless of the fact that these same Canadians elected these governments to provide a balance. They say, “Well, that Ottawa government certainly doesn’t do anything for us; we’ll go to another political party. At least maybe we’ll have some power then.”
That is the kind of situation we are in. We are not only perpetuating this situation, but enshrining it. We are chiselling it in marble to ensure that it stays this way. Is this the kind of future we want for Canadians? Some of us will be gone, but this situation will continue. How do you amend it? You cannot amend it because you have made the formula so restrictive that it is impossible to move without the consent of two provinces. Only by their mercy shall the provincial governments survive. In this Parliament, an hon. member said, “Thank God for the Liberal government.”
An hon. Member: Right on.
Mr. Korchinski: Where do you get your strength from? Fifty per cent comes from one province, Quebec; and with the province of Ontario you have 80 per cent of your strength. Adding one more province, New Brunswick, you have 91 per cent of your strength. Are you now speaking for all Canadians?
An hon. Member: No way.
Mr. Korchinski: I say that the government is enshrining this provision to make sure that the Liberal Party stays in office, and it is not speaking for Canadians. An hon. member said “Thank God.” Why has the province of Quebec had to resort to the Parti Québécois? Is it because of the Liberal government? Do you think they were happy with it? There are 73 members from Quebec and 52 from Ontario, Adding the seven from New Brunswick accounts for 91 per cent of the members. Perhaps for the benefit of the record I should indicate that during 38 years the province of Alberta has never had a Liberal government; in British Columbia, in 29 years, there has never been a Liberal government provincially; in Manitoba, in the last 32 years, there has never been a Liberal government; in New Brunswick, for ten out of 29 years there has been a Liberal government. They have a two-party system. Because our Constitution allowed a province to come into the federation in Canada, it also allowed Quebec the option of stepping out. Newfoundland resorted to a Liberal government temporarily for 23 of the last 32 years that they have been in confederation, but they stepped out, too. For eight out of 25 years, Nova Scotia had a Liberal government; again they have a two-party system. Ontario has not had a Liberal government in 32 years. P.E.I. has for 13 out of 22; they also have two-party system. Quebec for six out of 22 years has had a Liberal government. Saskatchewan has for seven out of 20 years.
Why are they doing this to Canadians? Only because of the self-interest of the Liberal government, their self-preservation in Ottawa. That is where the power is, and they want to continue in power.
The other day I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Mr. Munro) a question because for the first time under the definition of “aboriginals” in this proposed resolution the word “Metis” was included. The words “Indian”, “Inuit” and “Metis” are used. To anyone not familiar with the Metis situation it appears that we have made a breakthrough. I know that the Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent) says, “Look what we have done for Metis and Indians” and so forth. Only someone who does not know the situation and who is ignorant of thefacts would be so bold, because the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan does not belong to the national association. In the province of Saskatchewan the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians does not belong to the national organization. A long time ago that federation decided it did not want any part of that organization. It therefore is alone, There are 85,000 Metis in the province of Saskatchewan. The Inuit have been recognized, and there are 25,000 of them, The Indians have been recognized, and there are 300,000 of them. However, the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan has not been recognized because it is not part of the national organization, nor does it want any part.
What is this government telling that association? “You must adhere to another organization or you will not be recognized.” The Metis are saying it was a Friday night massacre. What rights are they being given? Hon. members opposite talk about rights. What kind of rights? They will have a discussion after the fact. The Metis are 85,000 strong in the province of Saskatchewan. They are saying this is a disservice, because up until now many organizations have been backing them up. Now those organizations are saying, “Why should you complain? You are mentioned in the charter.” What good is it? It is a disservice to these people because up until now they had the right to negotiate. If the negotiations failed, they had the
right to resort to the courts. What are hon. members opposite doing to them? They are taking away the right to negotiate. What kind of leverage will they have? What kind of hammer or clout will they have if we pass this the way it is now without identifying what rights they have?
Since when have the provinces not taken their responsibility? The answer the minister gave me was that no rights will be removed and that the federal government will not assume any responsibility. Since when have the provinces neglected their responsibility? Let us look at some reserves and make a comparison with respect to the way the provinces have looked after them. The houses are bigger. Sewer and water services are in place. Many facilities are better because they are looked after by the provinces. Now we take away that clout and say they can negotiate with the Prime Minister later. They do not trust the Prime Minister because there was no prior consultation. They are told they can resort to the courts. Who will fund them? They have no money. Furthermore, they do not trust our courts. Why should the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan trust the courts when it was the courts that came down with the decision to hang Louis Riel?
It is the same organization which springs from those days which is now talking, but hon. members on the Liberal and NDP benches should not tell anybody, including the Metis and Indians, that they are giving them anything. Up until now they had the right to negotiate and to resort to the courts. The right to negotiate is to be taken away, and these people do not trust the courts. That is the position they are being put into.
Just so there will be no doubt in the minds of hon. members opposite, I have here a telegram from the president of the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan. Because of the time element I will read just part of it, as follows:
The purpose of this telegram is to express our complete opposition to the so-called “native rights” package to be included in the proposed new Constitution . . . We believed our appearance before this committee was the first step in the consultative process with provincial and territorial native leaders which would lead to the establishment of a solid native charter of rights in the new Constitution.
Such has not been the case… the Native Council of Canada does not represent us.
That is exactly what I was trying to tell hon. members. I mentioned the membership.
I will read only parts of this telegram because it is so long. I am sure anyone who wants to see this telegram can have copies.
Your package is not one wilh which we are in agreement. Furthermore, the process is wrong… Mr. Prime Minister. will you not heed the cries of the Canadian people, including our membership, and admit that the process leading to a new Constitution is wrong?
That was from Jim Sinclair, the president of the association to which I have been referring.
My time is rapidly running out, but there are a few other things on which I would like to comment; for example, the right to own property. I happen to come from a stock or race of people who were peasants, in many cases, in central Europe and who had no right to property and could not possibly bold property. They came to this country. We did not have a charter of rights. We did not have to set out the right to own property in a charter. These people came to this country because they knew they could own property here. It was a tradition. They had heard about Canada. Canada was free; you could own land.
However, governments became very big and strong. The most vocal people asking for a charter of rights are the socialists. They are vocal because they are the first people to encroach on our rights. Over the years they imposed their demands on the public. They moved their greedy hands into every aspect of our society. They have moved in and infringed on our rights, with the help of the Liberals in Ottawa. We have come to the point where people have submitted to the fact that their rights have been lost. This has happened without our thinking about process.
What we should be doing is enshrining in a charter permission for government to move only in certain areas. Instead, the process has been reversed and the government is saying, “We are going to give you some rights.” Who gave the government those rights in the first instance? When people came to this country, they settled in small communities and selected leaders. They selected people to serve on councils. Those councils were given rights. Those rights were given to the councils by people. One by one they expanded and became governments, but the rights were in the hands of the people. Because of the octopus of big government we have now reached the point where people are losing their rights and they need to have a charter of rights.
What we do not realize is that over a period of time governments have become important and the people have no importance. To reassure the people we now have to resort to giving them a charter of rights. If we did not have the type of government we have had, we would not have to resort to this type of approach. The people always have rights. Governments have never had any rights except those rights the people have given them. Now the government says it is giving the people a charter of rights and freedoms. The government says that in the charter it is recognizing the rights of Indians, women, natives and so forth. This government recognizes only one thing; let that be clear. It is making itself supreme. That is wrong. Only a country like Russia can get away with a bluff like that. Article 72 of the Russian constitution reads as follows:
Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R.
The republics named are the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Estonia, Latvia and so forth.
A dinner is being put on by the Estonians and Latvians. Do hon. members think they would not like to secede? What good is that type of constitution? This government says it is giving the Canadian people rights, but the Canadian people have always had rights. Because of encroachments by governments
in 38 of the last 50 years on the rights of Canadians, we have now reached a point in our history when we have to reassure people in order to keep them from revolt. Because the people are disgruntled. People may wonder about what happened in the United States. I have heard comments about the choice of President Reagan. People are fed up. Why did people vote against some services and for tax cuts? They did so for the simple reason that they are fed up with big governments. That is exactly what we have had here.
It is regrettable that my time is almost up because I would dearly have liked to cover many other points.
Some hon. Members: More!
Mr. Korchinski: I would like to talk about the Vancouver consensus, for example. Let me touch briefly on that. They say it is going to be a checkerboard. Well, Mr. Speaker, do you know where the Prime Minister gets his information? He was in China, he has spent a lot of time in Russia, and everybody there behaves as if they were in the army. When they say “Attention”, everybody stands up; when they say “About turn”, everybody turns; and when they say “Forward march”, everybody marches forward. He wants everyone to be regimented. He wants a society which, if you plug it in, it turns yellow; if you tell it to move forward, it moves forward; and if you tell it to stand at attention, that is what it does.
The next step will be that everyone will have to wear a uniform as in red China. I have never travelled to red China and I have not seen it first hand, but on television you can see that everyone there is dressed in the same uniform. He wants a stereotype society, and never mind the fact that Quebec wanted a language of its own, that Saskatchewan wanted a medicare plan, which it would never have had if unanimity had been required. It was a Liberal provision which required the approval of six provinces before a grant could be made toward medicare. It was the Diefenbaker government which said, “We will provide assistance even if only one province wants it.” That is accommodation of the provinces. With its kind of attitude, the Liberal government cannot have accommodation.
I do not want to impose on the time of this House, Mr. Speaker, or on that of any member, but I will say this. What the Prime Minister has done is rejected British Columbia on the gas issue, infuriated Manitoba, mesmerized Ontario, inflamed separation in Quebec, scorned Newfoundland, ignored Prince Edward Island, antagonized Nova Scotia, manipulated Saskatchewan, tranquilized New Brunswick, despised Alberta, and, above all, reached a point where one hon. member has had to rise in his place and say that the Prime Minister has lied to Canadians.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Hon. Gerald Regan (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, I think that in determining who is for and who is against this resolution, we will have to mark the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Korchinski) as being doubtful.
I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to participate at this stage of this very important debate. Actually, I had not intended to do so; I was content to have my views recorded in the remarks which I delivered at the initial stage of consideration of this resolution. My speech in the House today is prompted solely by certain remarks the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) made in the debate last week. But before I turn to those remarks, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the right hon. gentleman on the endorsement he received from his party on the weekend. I believe that his hard work deserved a better endorsement, but, as I will be saying in the course of my remarks, unanimity is hard to achieve, whether on the Constitution or on other types of endorsement.
In relation to the remarks which the right hon. gentleman made in this debate last week, his views, his premises and his conclusions are so in error, so mischievous, so harmful to our national existence as to cry out for correction. I feel fervently about our country and its future. I have devoted two decades of my life to public service and I have been involved constantly in the serious examination, consideration and negotiation of matters affecting the welfare, unity and survival of Canada. From that experience I have developed a profound belief in the kind of Canada which can best persevere and best serve the interests of our different regions and varied cultures.
My understanding of Canada, however, is so different from that set forth by the right hon. gentleman as to require me to enter this debate to put forth our contrasting views. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the purpose of parliamentary debate is to draw attention to alternative views of our country. I agree that this is one purpose of debate, one justification of our party system, one manifestation of our parliamentary government. As he said, there are two visions of Canada. Ours is very different from his. I would happily place the choice of those two visions before the Canadian people, for the two visions are very different. His is a vision similar to Mr. Peckford’s and Mr. Lougheed’s. He has spoken of Canada’s relationship to the provinces as a community of communities. Mr. Peckford has expressed the same principle of total decentralization of authority in different words. He has said the Canadian government is the “agent of provincial governments.”
An hon. Member: Be honest.
Mr. Regan: If they see the Canadian government as being the agent of the provinces, then surely the Leader of the Opposition has shown himself to be the agent general of the premiers.
An hon. Member: That is right.
Mr. Regan: There are two visions of Canada. Ours is of a Canada of strong provinces and a strong central government. Ours is of a Canadian government able to provide leadership, to spread opportunities, to equalize opportunities throughout our country, and able to speak for all Canada in international matters.
The vision of the right hon. gentleman is of ten loosely affiliated states with varying rights and standards, constantly squabbling with each other while the Canadian government stands by, an impotent and irrelevant spectator.
An hon. Member: Irreverent?
Mr. Regan: Irreverent also. The vast majority of Canadians, including the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, rejected the two nation theory of our country which would have given special status to one province with different powers from the others. What the Leader of the Opposition now offers, however, is much worse than that which the country rejected and which Mr, Diefenbanker rejected. What the Leader of the Opposition offers is a ten-nation theory which is based on the implementation of the Vancouver formula. The implementation of his theory would bring on a weakened national government, near world prices for energy, interprovincial trade barriers, something like provincial passports to establish your right to work in a particular province, different constitutional provisions in different provinces, and no common standards in health or pension provisions.
An hon. member opposite says “nonsense.” I will tell him why it is not nonsense. it is not nonsense because his ten nation theory is one which would set our regions and our provinces drifting apart toward dubious independent futures, just as the ice packs of Lake Superior break up, drift apart and eventually disappear each spring.
The Leader of the Opposition talks of the present process of constitutional patriation as being divisive and he says that this has not been the Canadian way. I will deal with that particular inaccuracy in a moment, but let me first ask, what on earth could be more divisive than the Vancouver formula with which he adorns his position? That particular solution to finding a universally acceptable amending formula provides that, even if enough provinces were to approve a constitutional change, some provinces could opt out of it. More and more provinces could opt out of more provisions as various changes are made. Thus, if you look at the charter of rights, you could have aboriginal rights protected in some provinces but not in others. Discrimination based on sex may be outlawed in certain provinces but ignored in others. Citizens’ rights against unfair arrest could be entrenched in one province and unfettered imprisonment for such things as debt could be in vogue in others. I cannot imagine anything better designed to pull our country apart.
The right hon. gentleman also found the existence of different points of view on how the Constitution should be patriated distasteful and surprising. He was concerned about dissension. He contrasted the present process to that followed in the development of medicare in Canada; he picked that particular example. He said that the cause was as important, but that in the case of medicare what he called the Canadian federal process was followed.
His choice of an example of the federal process is apt, but if he thinks it serves his argument, his knowledge of even recent political history is faulty. Medicare is the crowning glory of our Canadian social system. it is the most striking example of the difference between the Canadian and American ways of life, but its birth was accompanied by anything but unanimity. If he thinks all the provinces were happy at its advent, I want to assure him that they were not. It was imposed by federal spending power when, as usual, the provinces were unable to agree, either among themselves or with the feds, on any medicare scheme.
Here are some of the comments of that era regarding the sort of federal process to which the hon. member referred. Premier Robarts said of medicare:
Medicare is a glowing example of a Machiavellian scheme that is in my humble opinion one of the greatest political frauds that has ever been perpetrated on the people of this country.
In this House a prominent Conservative of that time, Mr. Fulton, said the following concerning the medicare proposal:
—heavy handed and ruthless, financial blackmail . . . not co-operative federalism but . . . dictatorial federalism of the worst sort.
This was the certain type of “unanimity” which existed on medicare. I could quote the comments of four or five other premiers if time allowed, but I think what it comes back to is simply this: the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition has new been corrected on how medicare came about. I am sure he was corrected before I said these words, but medicare is not an exception. How it really came about is what the federal process in Canada is, as is the federal process elsewhere. Because as a government we have moved to end 50 years of deadlock on patriation, he contends that we have given up on the federal system. He argued that we should not have done that, that the federal system has not failed, that we should meet and listen to the premiers disagree among themselves for another 50 years or longer to achieve unanimity, in the same way as six premiers who opposed our proposition recently met in Montreal and could not even agree on an amending formula or on whether or not to go to England.
The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition does not understand that it is not the federal system which has failed; it is unanimity which has failed. The right hon. gentleman held extremely high office for a very brief time indeed. It was the only time he has ever held an executive-administrative position. He never participated in a single federal-provincial first ministers’ conference. He never solved an intergovernmental deadlock except by total surrender. I know it is a serious thing to charge a former prime minister with naivete, but I kindly and seriously suggest that he was not in office long enough to learn that the voice of faction is not hushed by the importance of the undertaking. His history was faulty on medicare. Perhaps he does not realize that all of Canada’s important national achievements have been accomplished despite dissension, dissension at least as deep and bitter as anything we have seen in the current undertaking.
If one reviews the debate, the public speeches and the outcries at the time of the original confederation, one will
learn that Nova Scotia, for instance, did everything, including defeating all those who had voted for confederation, to claw its way back out. What happened at the time of the building of the TransCanada Pipeline which we are awfully grateful to have today? The dissension from that great project contributed greatly to bringing the government down. What about the St. Lawrence Seaway or when the country was establishing a Canadian navy? Battles and dissension occurred in this House and in the provinces until finally the Premier of British Columbia bought two submarines at the start of the war. What about the debate on our flag when I was present in the House some 18 years ago? What about creation of the new western provinces? Dissension accompanied all of these great achievements. The achievements aregreat after, but dissension is part of the parliamentary process.
The simple fact is that none of these things would have come about if we had acted only with unanimity and without dissension. The simplistic view that the clash of important interests can quickly be resolved by good will alone is a vision reserved for the uninitiated. Good will there must be, but also much more: an ability to evaluate what is vital to federal and provincial interests; fairness mixed with protection of what is vital. Even in his brief time in office the right hon. gentleman should have learned this from his experience. With all this good will which he believes would achieve unanimity in developing a constitution, he was not able to settle with Lougheed, lsrael or the Water Street Baron who thrust the 18-cent excise tax on him. He could not even get Flora home to vote. So unanimity was not that easy to achieve. No, he has the wrong vision of Canada.
The federal system is not a system of unanimity. The federal system has not failed; rather, it has built the best country in the world. But unanimity will often fail when there are important conflicting interests. No federal country in the world expects or requires unanimity to make changes, and neither does Canada.
The Canadian government has always had the role of speaking for all Canadians. lt has not been a community among communities or a government among equals. If it has been, there would have been no medicare. We must consider our history, as the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition has failed to do. Every province created after 1867 came into being without consultation with or permission of the existing provinces. Can one think of a better example of an important constitutional change? The same was the case in relation to the province of Newfoundland. When Newfoundland was admitted, two premiers, including the premier of my province, complained that the provinces should be consulted. Consulted they were not; that was not the process.
The right hon. gentleman talked of past practices, but none dealt with patriation, an amending formula or entrcnchmcnt of a charter of rights. The facts are that there have been 16 significant amendments to the British North America Act by Westminster; of these, 13 affected provincial interests. Of these 13, the provinces were consulted on only six. In at least one of those six consultations, the federal government went ahead on its own when consultation did not bring agreement. Also he raised the question whether enough time has been spent in trying to reach that elusive unanimity. With a flourish, the right hon. gentleman suggested that only 48 days—this was his great discovery—since 1927 have been spent discussing the Constitution. This is either another naive simplification by a man who has never taken part in a first ministers’ conference, and therefore does not know how they operate, or a deliberate distortion. Let us assume the former and seek to educate the right hon. gentleman.
I personally took part in every first ministers’ conference between 1970 and 1978. In addition to specific constitutional conferences, the Constitution was often discussed, even when it was not on the public agenda. Discussions between governments are conducted through officials and ministers, as well as through the highly-publicized conferences of first ministers. I suggest it is an insult to Mr. Fulton and the late Mr. Favreau, to name only two who worked hard hours on the subject, to suggest, as did the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition, that the efforts to reach agreement were not serious and lengthy. There were almost constant meetings of officials and ministers between 1968 and 1971, from April 1975 to October 1976, from October 1978 to February 1979 and, of course, from June to September 1980.
I personally know how much time was spent by me, by my ministers and officials and by our counterparts in other provinces when I was in provincial government. For instance, the right hon. gentleman totally discounted or does not know that the various regions would have regional first ministers’ meetings in advance of the first ministers’ meetings in counting his 48 days. The time, energy and resources deployed by governments over the past 13 years to try to reach agreement on this subject have been enormous. The failure is due to the rising and often unrealistic expectations of some premiers who feel that each individual must have all of his concerns satisfied in full before movement can occur. Yet as a national government we have given away about as much power to the provinces as we can.
I would like to quote Chief Justice Bora Laskin of the Supreme Court of Canada—He said:
I know of no federal system in which the constituent units have as extensive a regulatory authority as the provinces of Canada—
Professor Rowland Harrison of the University of Calgary Law School said this:
The dispute over the control of resources is not so much a dispute about the limits of existing constitutional authority as it is a thrust by some of the provinces for u reassignment of authority.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he would have had an agreement with the provinces. He said that a prime minister who wanted to have an agreement could have had one. Yet in 50 years no prime minister has been able to obtain agreement. I think the right hon. gentleman might have achieved one—
Mr. Lawrence: Victoria in 1971.
Mr. Regan: The hon. member opposite says “Victoria in 1971.” I know about Victoria. I was there.
Mr. Lawrence: So was I.
Mr. Regan: As was the hon. member opposite. He knows that at Victoria all ten premiers agreed on the Victoria formula. The disagreement was not on the Victoria formula but on certain other additional demands made by Quebec at the last instance.
Mr. Lawrence: But there was agreement.
Mr. Regan: There was agreement.
Mr. Lawrence: Who queered it up?
Mr. Regan: When I am dealing with big game I will not be drawn aside by rabbit tracks.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Lawrence: The Liberal party of Quebec queered it up, that is who.
Mr. Regan: I want to say this about the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition. I think he might have had an agreement since his theory of government by capitulation is the way that agreement could occur, the unanimity could be achieved. In the process, his vision of Canada as a government among equals would have been achieved and, eventually, with all of the different constitutional provisions in different provinces, our country would have been destroyed. His record with respect to fisheries, the offshore, Alberta and lotteries shows that he is prepared to give away almost anything. For those in his ranks who are supporters of the charter of rights, I assure them that he would have given in to Premier Lyon in the same way as he gave in on these other matters and there would have been no charter of rights. Yet, the right hon. gentleman condemns in his remarks our unwillingness to continue negotiating with the premiers in endless circles, like the Vienna Congress in Napoleonic times.
If the constitutional debate causes divisions in the country, those divisions are fed by the right hon. gentleman, for his present opportunities lie not in accord and congenial progress. His chances of political survival have been fed and nourished by the dissension that he causes by this resolution. He has found this issue to be a heaven-sent opportunity to differ and dispute, to pretend and protest. He knows of the stripping of federal powers, yet he is prepared to yield further fisheries to Newfoundland, offshore resourccs endangering our international claim to a 200-mile limit, super resource powers to Alberta and yield whatever Bennett can think of to B.C.
I want to contrast this, Mr. Speaker, with the position ofthe Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent). On this resolution the Lcader of the NDP has taken the high road. The members of the NDP have exposed themselves to criticism for going along with the government. What do they gain by doing that? They expose themselves to criticism when they could take the easy course, the comfortable pew, of a party in opposition by opposing and being against whatever the government proposes. But I suggest that the difference is that the Leader of the New Democratic Party, with the proper recognition of principle and an understanding of the importance of strong central government, discharges his responsibilities in a way that the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition is not doing.
There is one other statement made by the Leader of the Opposition with which I would like to deal. He says, erroneously, that we are destroying the tradition of equality of the provinces. I do not know where he has found the historic exercise of any such principle. It is true that all provinces equally share the same legislative authority. But provinces have never participated equally in the formal institutions of the Government of Canada. They have not been equal in their representation in the House of Commons, nor in the Senate which is, supposedly, the voice of provincial interests. Actually, the Senate is roughly divided four ways, based upon the regions of the country and not the provinces. The provinces are not represented equally in the Supreme Court. They are not represented equally in the cabinet.
Indeed, the Right Irlon. Leader of the Opposition, when he was prime minister, did not have Manitoba, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick represented in his inner cabinet. Yet he now speaks in glowing terms of the member from Manitoba who was in his cabinet but was not included in his inner cabinet. Provinces have never been treated equally. I think you could not find a finer example of that.
We should be determined to accord fair and equitable treatment to all provinces, but at the same time let us not distort history and pretend that the premise has been different than it has. Indeed, it is not through our resolution or our formula that different classes of province would be created, as the hon. gentleman suggests. It is by his Vancouver formula that different classes of provinces would be created, some with entrenched rights, some without and some with different constitutional provisions from others.
The Leader of the Opposition reserves his most violent opposition for the proposed use of a referendum, region by region, to break an ongoing deadlock between the provinces and the federal government. I find this very difficult to understand because the way to break a deadlock. until now, has been recourse to the British parliament. After patriation that method will be gone forever. What we propose is somewhat similar to what Australia has. It has not destroyed federalism in that country; rather, their people have shown a judicious ability to balance federal and provincial arguments in the outcome of referenda. I fear his repugnance of resort to the people to break a deadlock indicates that he does not trust the people. Perhaps after last year I can understand why.
The same public elects two levels of government. If those two levels cannot agree, is it not logical to resolve the dispute by going back to those some electors from whom the legitimacy of both governments spring? The Leader of the Opposition says that the aftermath of this resolution will see us looking at
the breaking of our federation. I suggest that would be the aftermath of the course he wants to follow. We see a somewhat different aftermath. We see an aftermath of mature federal-provincial negotiations of an evolving constitution without trade-off blackmail. We see an aftermath of an amending formula that makes clear the protection of provincial rights, an aftermath in which the principles of equalization, of language rights and Indian rights are enshrined for all time.
He talks of aftermaths and we provide a solution to a deadlock of 50 years. Surely that is the challenge of government, We provide the protections our people have cried for in a charter of rights, the protections that delegation after delegation pleaded for as they appeared before the constitutional committee. We offer an aftermath of stability, for good fences make good neighbours, as Robert Frost said. Good provisions make good relations. While all the world is moving toward larger units, the Leader of the Opposition would give the Canadian government less authority than the Common Market has over the sovereign states of Europe. Years and years after the late Marshall McLuhan outlined the global village, the Leader of the Opposition wants a country where nothing happens except by unanimity—which means that nothing happens.
Yes, our vision of Canada and of its greatness is different. Our vision of Canada is more, much more, than the sum of its parts, I am confident that our vision will prevail.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Hon. George Hees (Northumberland): Madam Speaker, I should like to express my views, very briefly, on the government’s proposal to amend the Constitution of Canada. As we know, the debate has been divided into three main parts: first, bringing the Constitution to Canada; second, working out a new amending formula; and third, the inclusion of a charter of rights.
It has been clear from the start of the debate that the overwhelming majority of Canadians want the Constitution brought to Canada, so that has never been an issue. The issue is the plan of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) to ask the British government to amend our Constitution for us by changing the amending formula and entrenching a charter of rights. Under his plan, the Prime Minister intends that this country should go cap in hand to the British government and say, “We are not capable of amending our own Constitution, so will you please do the job for us?” That is colonialism of the highest order, and should not be done by a proud and independent nation.
What should be done is this. First, bring the Constitution to Canada as soon as possible, without asking the British government to amend it for us; second, decide in Parliament, with a free vote, which amending formula meets this country’s needs in the most practical and effective manner; third, decide in Parliament, with a free vote, which measures should be included in a charter of rights; and fourth, amend our own Constitution.
A free vote on each issue will make it possible for every Member of Parliament freely to express the views of that part of the country which he or she represents, and back up those opinions with their vote. This will be a true expression of the will of the Canadian people, and is the only way that an independent, self-respecting country can do the job which confronts us.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mrs. Eva Côté (Rimouski-Témiscouata): Mr. Speaker, the privilege of rising in this House during such an important debate in the history of our country is a great honour as well as a great responsibility. For the second time in a year, I must ponder on my country and find an answer as much for myself as for my family, my children and all the citizens of Rimouski-Temiscouata who have asked me to represent them here. I do not intend to reflect here the views of each of my constituents, but I think that most of them share my feeling about the nature of Canada and what it should be for our children, namely a free country, a structured, democratic and independent state.
For almost 300 years, Mr. Speaker, we have been working together to build a country. Last May when the referendum was held, like all Canadians residing in Quebec, I heard many of my fellow citizens say again and again that Canada is the country extending from ocean to ocean that we inherited from our forefathers a few decades or centuries ago and of which we must take good care. Throughout that vast territory, one finds a land, a subsoil, rivers and coasts that are rich, fertile and full of resources which have enabled every Canadian from the very beginning to earn a living and to be fulfilled.
Canada is also a hospitable, welcoming, attractive and hearty land that thousands of my fellow citizens have chosen over the years for all kinds of reasons as their new country, and all together, taking one year with another, with sheer love, will, perseverance and tolerance, we have built one of the finest countries in the world, and in so doing, we have developed our national pride. We have adopted symbols which reflect today our patriotism and our feeling of a shared future, thus uniting all Canadians: the Canadian citizenship, the one-leaved flag and the national anthem are surely the three main symbols.
Moreover, in 1968, more specifically on October 17, the Liberal government of the time introduced legislation dealing with the official languages of Canada which finally received royal assent on July 9, 1970. The policy on bilingualism had to be reaffirmed in 1973 through a resolution of the House, and I should like to say a few words about the Official Languages Act. The purpose of this act has never been to compel all Canadians from coast to coast to be bilingual, that is to say, to speak both French and English. lts purpose was instead to
great rights to the Canadian people. As a matter of fact, this not has required the Canadian government to provide all Canadian citizens with government services in one of the official languages, either in French or in English. And that is also a sign or symbol of national unity. We still have, however, a step to take, that is to give ourselves a constitution made by Canadians for Canadians. The proposed resolution for the patriation of the British North America Act which is now before the House includes an amending formula, a charter of basic rights and freedoms, minority language rights as well as the entrenchment of the principle of equalization so as to ensure the sharing of the Canadian wealth.
It is quite clear that we should have our own Constitution in Canada; all Members of Parliament agree on that. However, we do not agree on its provisions and the procedure, and I should like to deal with this, Mr. Speaker. The proposed amending formula would require the 11 governments of Canada to agree to any amendment to the Canadian Constitution within two years after patriation. During this two-year period, these same governments would have to meet and try to agree on an amending formula which would be satisfactory to all of them. If, after two years, the federal and provincial governments have failed to agree on an appropriate formula, the Canadian people would be consulted by means of a referendum. A formula agreed on by all provinces would be submitted to the Canadian people, as well as the formula being proposed now by the Canadian government, whereby all amendments to the Constitution would require the consent of two Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, and two western provinces, as well as 50 per cent of the population.
The proposed resolution also includes a Canadian charter of rights and fundamental freedoms. We all know that Canada and certain provinces now have a charter of rights and freedoms, but we know as well, and many speakers before me have said so, that the rights and freedoms of Canadians were trampled on various occasions in this country and many of our fellow citizens have suffered serious prejudices at times.
As to the protection of the linguistic rights of Canada’s French and English minorities, for the first time we agree in one specific field: French education will be available to French minorities outside the province of Quebec, and the English minority residing in Quebec will continue to get the same services. In other words, all Canadians throughout the country, whether their mother tongue is French or English, will enjoy the same rights and their own language and culture will be respected.
It is true that the decision to guarantee such services to linguistic minorities will have to depend on numbers, but I think we must have confidence in the good faith of the leaders we elect and, should the need arise, the citizens who believe that their rights were violated will have their day in court where judges will rule on legislative measures and actions taken by the provincial administrations, And finally the proposed constitution is aimed at sanctioning the principle of wealth sharing, namely equalization. Let us recall that not so very long ago certain regions of Canada were facing enormous difficulties and they were generously assisted by other regions of Canada which today find themselves in a precarious position.
Before equalization came into being the Government of Canada took steps to help the provincial governments. Among other things let us mention only the advent of medicare in 1966. As the Minister of Labour (Mr, Regan) said, this proposal on the part of the Canadian government was intended to help provincial authorities throughout Canada offer all citizens the same health services regardless of their financial situation. And even on such an important subject, on something which is so necessary to the welfare of Canadians, it was not easy to reach agreement and we had to wait until 1972 to see all provinces at last join this insurance plan.
If I thought it was necessary to mention the Canadian health insurance plan for which the federal government pays half the costs and which is administered by the provincial governments, and to refer to the equalization payments which are also made directly to those same provincial governments by the federal government and which began after so many years of discussions, it is to emphasize that federal-provincial negotiations are never easy even if the two levels of government say they want to work in the best interests of Canadians.Now what about the decades of discussions whose avowed purpose was to secure a Canadian constitution but which led to a deadlock as a result of local interests and delays?
Should we continue the debates with the illusion that we will achieve unanimous agreement in that field? Mr. Speaker, the year 2000 will soon be upon us and when our children read the history of Canada will they understand our hesitations, even our weakness, in our quest for a solution to that national problem and our will to solve it?
Will they understand that each and every time a Liberal government proposed needed and saving measures for Canadians, the official Progressive Conservative opposition rejected them? In the past, when the time came to give ourselves symbols, reasons to be proud of ourselves as Canadians, for instance, the Canadian citizenship and the maple leaf flag, the official opposition resisted them. Today, after having made every effort to come to an agreement with the provincial governments to have our very own Canadian constitution, which efforts came to naught because the provincial governments think they can better protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians by opposing the proposal, it takes the Liberal government considerable courage—which is nothing new—to go ahead and act, Mr. Speaker. The great pages in Canadian history were written by Liberal governments, led by men of duty and great generosity. Might it be that because of the
inability of the official opposition to understand the Canadian fact, to answer the aspirations of the Canadian people and to promote the policies needed for its fulfilment, the Progressive Conservative Party has generally been confined to that role, that of the opposition?
If we all wish our children to enjoy a better future, a just world where everyone will have the opportunity to develop freely and move about without restrictions, a productive and nourishing earth, and if we all wish the heritage which was entrusted to us and which we shall have to leave to our heirs to bear fruit, do we have the right to let certain local special interests prevail over our national interests? Mr. Speaker, I believe that we have reached the point of no return, and I urge sincerely and fraternally all of my colleagues, on both sides of the House, to support this essential proposal.
In closing, I would like to recall the words of the late Right Hon. Jules Leger, who stated the following in his installation speech on January 14, 1974, and I quote:
What can we wish Canadians in 1980? Clean landscapes with clear waters, welcoming and laborious cities, a fraternal environment where man will have found his true place: the first place, at the centre of creation, within a united and prosperous country, in a world of justice and peace.
Like him, Mr. Speaker, I would go on to say that if, in the years to come, I can be associated with such an undertaking, even in a modest capacity, I will know that my mission will not have been in vain. Like others, I will have done my best to work hard and steadily as a Canadian. And always, while accomplishing this mission, I will have had in mind the question asked by Paul the apostle: “Who gave you superiority over others? What distinguishes you from the others? If you have received everything freely, why boast about it as though you had acquired it through your own efforts?”
Mr. Dave Nickerson (Western Arctic): Mr. Speaker, first I want to compliment the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata (Mrs. Cote) who has just finished speaking. It is the first time I have heard her speak. I know how seldom it is that Liberal backbenchers have an opportunity to speak in this House. I listened to the hon. member very carefully and I compliment her on the sincerity of her remarks.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nickerson: It gives me pleasure at long last to say a few words on the subject of the Canadian Constitution, the Constitution of our beloved country. So far, I think we can all agree on that. Unlike some of my colleagues on the opposite side, I am not particularly dismayed that after a mere 114 years we have not yet found the perfect Constitution. The search for a perfect Constitution is something like a search for the Holy Grail. To the contrary, I am rather proud that our Constitution as written by the Fathers of Confederation and as changed from time to time when found necessary, has served us remarkably well over the years on account of its flexibility. its underlying principles of natural justice and free parliamentary democracy.
Man is a social and political animal who has organized himself into states and nations for thousands of years. He has yet to develop in any country of the world the perfect constitution. As an illustration of this, I would like to read a few quotations from Aristotle who studied this problem several thousand years ago and wrote in some depth on this matter in about 350 B.C. Some of his views are as up to date today as when they were first written. Aristotle, of course, was a constitutional thinker who, in the opinion of many authorities, surpassed in intelligence even the right hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. Trudeau).
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nickerson: Practically everybody would agree that he was superior in his concept of political honesty. The first quotation I have is a definition of “constitution”, which Aristotle held to be:
—the arrangement which states adopt for the distribution of offices of power and for the determination of sovereignty and of the end which the whole social complex, in each case, aims at realizing.
If we examine the constitutional proposal before us in the light of these three attributes, the changes which the Prime Minister would force upon Canadians become quite evident. I am not talking about the matter of patriation. Everybody wants that and it is quite simple to accomplish. The easiest way would have been, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) moved a motion not too long ago in this House that it be done immediately, for the Prime Minister to have agreed and voted in favour of it. I am not talking about that. What I am talking about are the wholesale changes which the Prime Minister would have the British parliament make for Canadians.
First, with respect to the goal of the social complex, heretofore in Canada that goal has usually been the maximizing of individual liberty. However, under the proposals before us it would become the subordination of the citizen to the state. To put the proposed charter into being would require a whole host of strict rules and regulations enforced by the state upon the citizenry.
Second, with regard to the distribution of sovereignty, the distribution which we have in the present federal system could, and I think would, be markedly changed. The concept that we have in Canada at the present time is that sovereignty is distributed among and vested in each Canadian citizen. Sovereignty is exercised by citizens both at the provincial level, those parts of the country fortunate enough to be organized into provinces, and at the federal level. Each one of us by so distributing his sharing enables the federal system to work reasonably well in a way that best serves our own individual interests.
However, I fear a change to a system where sovereignty becomes vested not in the citizenry but in the state, and where
the citizens and the provinces become emaciated and exist solely to support the federal government. That is the case in many socialist republics around the world. If you examine the constitutional practice of states in eastern Europe, you see that they fit into that mould or category.
The same applies very much to rights and freedoms. The concept which appears in the resolution is surely that the state is the fount of all rights and freedoms. This is contrary and inimical to Canadian past ideas, ones that I hold particularly dear; ideas that it is the individual who is inately the possessor of freedoms and it is the state which is to be feared at all times as the incipient transgressor of our basic human rights and freedoms. I will get back to the question of rights and freedoms a little later.
Let me now examine the third attribute, the distribution of offices of power. With the use of the referendum, a similar constitutional device, I fear a change in the way in which power and authority is to be exercised in this country. This fear of what might happen is apparent to the provinces which could stand to lose much of their autonomy and become merely administrative units within the federal bureaucracy. Most of them, if not all, are prepared to go to extreme lengths to stop this Trudeau constitutional steamroller.
We can see how the provinces are reacting to this. They are using the legal avenues open to them. It is not improbable that we will see—I would hate to sec it, but it seems the provinces wlll be forced into it—the provinces having to make a direct representation to the British authorities. It is terrible that the federal government should force them into that predicament.
Apart from the loss of autonomy of the provinces, I fear a loss of independence for institutions such as universities, the bench, the business community, the arts and cultural community. That has been going on for some time. They are becoming more and more under the influence and control of the central government. If we are not careful, we could end up with one large, hierarchical distribution of power and authority instead of what we have at present—a large number of interlocking and autonomous organizations.
My second quote from Aristotle is as follows:
What is needed is a system of government which the people will accept and feel able to operate starting with what they have already.
Here again, the eminent thinker has pointed to a major difficulty with the changes in the proposal before us. It is unacceptable to the people of Canada and, therefore, divisive. The Constitution should be an instrument of unity for the people of the nation, but those opposite have turned it into an instrument of disunity and divisiveness. Former Senator Forsey, who is not quite as old as Aristotle, never tires of saying that the most important thing about a constitution is that it should be ancient. I agree with him on that score. A constitution should be comfortable and reassuring. It should not be the subject to change by the whim of a powerful ruler. lt should be fixed, and constitutional changes should only be made after very careful consideration.
Changes in the useful arts and technology can and should be made quickly. If we find a better way of making an engine for an automobile that gets twice the gas mileage, then we should adopt that way quickly. There is no doubt about that. But when one is thinking about a country’s constitution, even if a change appears to be desirable on the face of it, there should be some reluctance in accepting it. Because we must not get into the habit of easy change and habitual tampering with the fundamental laws of the country.
In my opinion, changes of constitutions are to be feared like the devil and avoided like the plague, for this very reason: that anyone who changes the Constitution once has demonstrated that he has the power to change it again in the future; and even if you do agree with the first change, you can never be sure about the second.
I promised that I would return to the question of rights and freedoms. It would be my preference that only a general reference to the various humane and fundamental principles on which our Constitution should be based should be written as a preamble to the Constitution. The Constitution should confine itself largely to outlining the mechanism by which the state is to operate.
By trying to commit an exhaustive list of rights and freedoms to paper, we run the risk of two dangers, both of which are so evident in the proposed resolution before the House at the present time. First, we have omissions made either deliberately or inadvertently. As Canadians, under our existing and largely unwritten Constitution we enjoy all the basic rights and freedoms which free people should have. In codifying these, even if some catch-all phrase is inserted, some are bound to be excluded; and in future, the courts of the country, which will, under this Liberal proposal, become the ultimate arbiters of our rights and freedoms, will surely hold that it is the letter of the law that counts, and any rights not properly delineated in the written form in all probability never existed in the first place.
I think it might take some time for that frame of mind to come upon the courts; but there is always a danger that it might. As an example of a deliberate exclusion in the proposal, we can cite property rights. A number of members have already spoken on the property rights issue. I think it is so important that it bears repeating. We are talking about the right to hold and freely enjoy our own property, and not to be deprived thereof except through due process of law. Of course, our socialist friends opposite and to my left do not believe in this.
An hon. Member: Balderdash.
Mr. Nickerson: It is not balderdash. I can give many examples where members opposite have said that very thing.
An hon. Member: Ask Bill Davis how he stands.
Mr. Nickerson: In their thinking—and they have said this many times—this particular basic human right can be sacrif-
iced in the interest of the supremacy of the state or some other socialist virtue. The right to hold property, to enjoy property, is being deliberately left out of this proposal both by the NDP members in this House and by the Liberal members.
Let us look at something that might have been left out inadvertently. As a case in point, I would like to cite an erosion of a freedom that is continually occurring under the present Prime Minister and has been going on for some time. That is the right to make one’s living by engaging in the type of economic activity that one wishes. As an example of this, I—or any member in this House, for that mattervam forbidden by law to make a living as a fish merchant in the Northwest Territories. I am forbidden to buy fish from the fishermen and sell them to retailers or wholesalers, and that is because that particular field of economic activity has been exclusively reserved as a Crown monopoly. The government has taken that right away from us and given it to the Crown as a Crown monopoly.
Similarly, if Petro-Canada were to become the exclusive importer and exporter of petroleum—and that is a course of action advocated by the NDP which has been talked about in the House on many occasions-my right to make a living as an international oil trader would be taken away from me. At this point I do not particularly want to engage in that activity. I am quite happy as a Member of Parliament and cxpect to be so for many years to come.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nickerson: However, should I wish to become an oil trader, my right to do so will be taken away from me if the proposals regarding Petro-Canada are put into effect. My rights would be totally negated in that area.
A second danger is that rights impinge one on another; for example, one’s right to free speech, and one’s right not to be slandered, an example that is quite frequently given. Limits also have to be attached to all rights; for another example that I give frequently is the right to worship God in any way that you wish. That would seem to be a very basic right and one that should not be touched; but there are obvious limits to that particular right. Obviously. you cannot let people engage in human sacrifice, even if you have a willing victim; we must draw a line somewhere.
Because of the fact that rights impinge one on another and must be limited in some way, the codification, in trying to delineate and define each supposed right and to accommodate all the various views and interpretations put forward, becomes so wordy and complicated that nobody really understands what is said. One ends up with a constitution—if you try to put everything in—about 300 pages thick. A constitution should really be something simple, something that everybody can understand.
For these reasons, rights in the Constitution should only be there in the form of general principles, and definitions of rights and freedoms should be dealt with by formal parliamentary legislation. The proposal that we have before us makes all these errors. In my opinion it goes so far as to be more concerned about the enshrinement of administrative procedures than about the preservation of a Canadian free society.
In talking about enshrining administrative procedures, I would like to give the example of the reference in the proposed Constitution to equalization payments. In 198l equalization payments are a good idea. We all support equalization payments, but I honestly do not know whether I would want to put that principle into our Constitution. It is an administrative matter which is applicable at this point in time, but do we really want it there for 200 years to come? I do not think so.
I would like now to say a few words about my own part of Canada, the Northwest Territories. I made a brief indirect reference to the territories a few minutes ago when I referred to the people who were fortunate enough to live in provinces, but now I would like to discuss the territories in a little more detail.
Sometimes I sit in this House of Commons with a rather wistful sadness as my friends from Atlantic Canada debate whether the proposed Constitution of the Right Hon. Prime Minister would relegate them to being second-class citizens in their own country when they consider such things as a veto to be given to Ontario and a veto to be given to the province of Quebec in perpetuity. My friends from the prairies consider their fate to be that of third-class citizens of this country. I know full well what will happen to the 75,000 or so souls who make their homes in the two northern territories of this country. I know what will happen to them as a result of the proposals we have before us now. What is contemplated in the draft before us is an entrenchment and an enshrincment forever of the subservient, inferior and less than provincial status of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory. We do not even get a mention in the amending formula. We are to be virtual non-citizens. We are not to be second-class citizens or third-class citizens of this country but virtual non-citizens.
Mr. Mayer: Non-existent citizens.
Mr. Nickerson: Under the proposal before us we will never achieve provincial status. Unlike every other province in Canada, we will never control our own resources. Under these proposals we in the northern territories will never control our own lives.
My good friend, the hon. senator from the Northwest Territories, knows this, and as a citizen of what I consider to be an important and integral part of Canada I was proud and considered myself well represented when Senator Adams spoke out and voted against his own Liberal government when this matter was first discussed in the other House. This shows us that at least one or two Liberals are not like sheep ready to be led to the slaughter by the inconsiderate and incompetent shepherd so full of his own importance that he will tolerate nothing less than blind and servile obedience.
The colonialist mentality of the Prime Minister, which is displayed in his efforts to have the Canadian Constitution not
decided in Canada but, rather, to have his version forced upon us by an overseas government, is doubly displayed in his attitude toward the north.
In the United States the attitude has always been that territories are encouraged to become states. This dates back to the ordinance of the congress of confederation of 1787. In the United States that was the blueprint or set of directions by which new acquired territories were to achieve self-government by way of statehood as quickly as possible.
In Canada the exact opposite has been the case. The federal government continues to look upon the territories in the same way as the old Imperial government looked upon the colonies of Canada 150 to 200 years ago.
Let us contrast the ordinance in existence in the United States since the latter part of the eighteenth century, for instance, with an act of this Parliament in l870—some 100 years later—the act dealing with the temporary government of Rupertsland. That put the federal Government of Canada in a position, vis-à-vis Rupertsland—or the Northwest Territories—exactly the same as that which had previously existed between the British Imperial government and the colonies which are now united to form Canada. As far as the territories are concerned, since 1870 there has not been much of an improvement.
Let us look at the way in which those parts of the territories which are now the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan had to fight every inch of the way to achieve responsible government and then, some eight years later, achieve provincial status. They had to fight every inch of the way against an inconsiderate federal authority, which still exists to this day.
In my opinion, no Canadian Constitution is complete until it lays out the following with respect to the territories. First of all, we need a clear declaration that it is the intent that all parts of Canada should become, as soon as practicable, provinces in their own right. We also need an indication of the conditions under which that status will be achieved. We want to know what are the rules of the game. We know that British Columbia became a province with a population of 36,000 people. Is that one of the conditions? We know that when Manitoba became a province, it had a population of 12,000 people. What are the financial requirements? What are the population requirements? Are there any other requirements which we have to meet? Then we want laid down in the Canadian Constitution the moves which have to be made so that we can enjoy provincial status in the same way as more than 99.9 per cent of Canadians.
Second, within any new Constitution there should be a solemn declaration of trust respecting the lands and resources of provinces yet to be. Just a few days ago Bill C-48 was dealt with at second reading and referred to a committee. In that bill we see that the federal government wants the lands and resources of the north in perpetuity. Under this governments constitutional vision and scheme of things, those lands and resources will never go to the people of the territories as they do in any other part of this country. In my opinion, that view is wrong and it is colonialist. In the estimation of the people of the north the Trudeau Constitution fails in that it looks backward to a colonial past rather than forward to a day on which I and my fellow citizens of the north can enjoy the same rights and privileges as those taken for granted by southern Canadians.
Another issue on the Constitution as it affects the north is language. On behalf of those of my constituents, and there are many, who speak languages which were spoken on this continent thousands and thousands of years before ever a word of French or English was heard, I want to register the strongest objection. On behalf of those people who use every day language, such as Chippewan, Slavey, Loucheux, Dog Rib or Inuktitut, I want to register the strongest objection to a Constitution which relegatcs their language—which is just as Canadian, if not more so, than French or English—to an unofficial status. Language matters, except, for instance, those which deal with the operation of the federal Parliament, must be left to the provinces and the territories concerned. A Constitution which makes French an official language in the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories yet denies the same status to Inuktitut is clearly perverse and unacceptable.
Let me say in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that I will vote against a socialist, centrally-controlled and bureaucratically-regulated country in which the language preferences of the regions are to be dictated by the federal level. I will vote against a non-Canadian government doing the Prime Minister’s constitutional dirty work for him. Let us get rid of what has been described as a grab-bag of nonsense attached to the Constitution. Let us bring back our Constitution as is to this country immediately, and let us have any amendments to the Canadian Constitution made in Canada, by Canadians, with the general consent of Canadians.
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 thereto.
Mr. Cyril Keeper (Winnipeg-St. James): Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is a pleasure to follow “no change Nickerson” in this debate. More seriously, I should like to say that this is an historic debate and it is a real honour and privilege for me to participate in it. It is particularly so because these are interesting times. There are no clear and simple answers to the problems we face, and that was demonstrated by the various positions taken by public officials in this country in dealing with the constitutional question. Indeed, it is interesting to be living in these times.
I must say I am proud of the approach which my party has taken to the challenges facing us, an approach which has been both constructive and democratic. When I say it has been democratic, I mean that we respect the views of the minority. In particular, we respect the views of our members from Saskatchewan who are voting against this package. However, we do not confuse respect for the views of the minority with the democratic rights of the majority, and it is the majority of our caucus who are setting this direction and whose case I am putting forward today.
Let me say, furthermore, that our approach is constructive in the sense that we are seeking to improve the patriation package before us. We are seeking to build rather than simply to tear down. There are real temptations to be simply negative and to tear down the package which has been put before the House, particularly because of the way the Liberal government has handled the constitutional process. Their handling of this package has been both abominable and dismal. Shortly after the Quebec referendum, there was a very positive climate in this country for constitutional change, but it did not take long for the Liberal government to dissipate that public good will for constitutional change by its mismanagement of the process.
The first error of the Liberal government was the leaked document on constitutional strategy—a cynical document which was followed very quickly by the intemperate reactions of provincial governments, As a result, there was very little real possibility or hope for constructive action to be taken by the constitutional conference which followed the Quebec referendum. I must point out quite honestly that at least one province, if not more, did not react in the intemperate way in which some others did. I am thinking now of Saskatchewan, which continued to negotiate and to win positive and constructive changes in the constitutional package.
The next step of the Liberals was to abuse the closure rule. I think they would have gained public support for the necessary constitutional changes had they not invoked closure but allowed further debate in the first instance on the constitutional package. Also, the Liberals misjudged public opinion when they tried to give the committee inadequate time to debate the Constitution and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make a change which would allow for adequate examination of the document before the committee, specifically to extend the time allowed—which was won, at least in part, through the efforts of this party—from December 9 to February 6. I must say that this was a significant and important change in the way in which the constitutional package was handled.
However, the Liberals again misjudged the situation when they excluded television from the committee on the Constitution, However, they were finally badgered into allowing television into the committee, thus allowing the public to observe the constitutional debate there. Now we on this side of the House are demanding a full and fair debate on the Constitution, The government must not take that demand lightly, for it is only a full and fair debate in the House that will give the final version of the Constitution real legitimacy in this country. I challenge the government to seek to win public support for this resolution and to refrain from any further funny business which may erode public support for this package.
In spite of the bungling and mishandling of this matter by the Liberals, there are many good things about the package. For example, there has been an opportunity for citizen input into the resolution and for provinces to continue to negotiate this matter. Certainly the negotiating efforts of Saskatchewan have led to improvements in this package. I believe it is still possible for there to be further improvements in this package by way of amendments in this House if the Tories, for example, would allow members of other parties to put forward amendments, and I hope the government will continue to be open to suggestions leading to improvements in the package to make this a good package for all of Canada.
The reason we have offered support for this package from the start is that it contains some very important principles, such as patriation, an amending formula, the bill of rights, and a promise of a resource amendment. These are good principles. Unfortunately, when the package was put together originally it was seriously flawed. A great deal of work was done by the citizens of this country and by members of the House to improve the package and bring it up to par.
Particularly, I am thinking of the fact that there were many loopholes in the original charter of rights which had to be closed. The first article of that charter of rights would have made the entire charter of rights meaningless. That loophole had to be closed and was finally closed. Also there were loopholes in the legal rights section which had to be closed and were closed. The non-discrimination section of the charter of
rights was greatly strengthened by a change in wording which, after amendment, allowed for the fact that laws themselves should not discriminate against groups. Not only was it provided in the administration of the law that there should be no discrimination, but also that laws themselves should not discriminate. I believe that area was particularly important to the women of this country. Certainly it was something for which they fought very hard. Also the original package made no reference to the handicapped. Clearly the addition of the handicapped was significant and important and vastly improved the package.
One area about which I feel most strongly in this package was the reference to Indian, Inuit, and Metis rights; in other words, aboriginal and treaty rights. From the beginning it seemed to me that there was a particularly strong basis for adding a positive entrenchment of aboriginal and treaty rights in this particular package. I say that because from the beginning the package made reference to educational rights, the language rights of the English and French minorities. In itself it showed a respect for the cultural duality and plurality of the country. Also it showed our respect for both historical and cultural differences. Because of those matters, I felt from the beginning that there were very strong arguments for the entrenchment of aboriginal rights in this package. The entrenchment of aboriginal rights in essence is the affirmation of our respect for the differences among ourselves, rather than a denial of or lack of respect for them.
Even though an amendment was moved and accepted which positively affirmed aboriginal rights, there are still some people who are questioning it on the basis that it does not include all of what should be included in a constitution with respect to such rights. In no way is it to be seen as a final resolution of the aboriginal rights question. It is an affirmation of principle which can be useful to aboriginal people in terms of further negotiations to get down to the concrete details of aboriginal rights. It is a starting point by which a government can never again say that there was no such thing as aboriginal rights in this country, as was said in 1969 by the Trudeau government. That tactic can never be used again.
I have read court cases which affect aboriginal rights, and the clear pattern has been to knock down those rights, whether they be hunting rights or whatever. Now the court has the option to look at the Constitution and say, “The Constitution affirms aboriginal rights; perhaps I should give weight to that in the decision before me rather than, as has been done in the past, striking down aboriginal rights.”
This amendment is particularly historic because for the first time in Canadian history the representatives and leaders of native people, Indian, Inuit and Métis, have been directly involved in negotiations affecting themselves. If there is to be any resolution of the problems of our native people, it is only through such direct involvement and participation that a resolution will come. I feel strongly that this addition to the constitutional package is significant, important and historic. There are other ways in which this package has been strengthened, particularly due to the efforts of our caucus and of people in the community. I am thinking now of the equalization formula. When it was originally enunciated in the first package, it made no reference to direct payments to the provinces. Now the constitution package makes that reference so that the provinces across the nation will be assured that they have the capacity to deliver services of a relatively equal nature. It will be a very strong negotiating tool for provincial governments in their dealings with the federal government. This will be particularly so for provinces such as my own, Manitoba, and for Newfoundland and the maritimes which depend heavily upon the federal government for adequate revenues to provide sufficient services to their citizens.
Even though when the package first came out it was seriously flawed, it is now a good package deserving of support. There are still people in the community who are calling for the package to be strengthened further. I would welcome a further strengthening of the package, but it is no excuse or reason not to support the package as it is. We must continue to work to improve it, but we must not use the aspirations of people for futher improvements as a way to try to cut out altogether the support for the package.
To those who are in principle against the entrenchment of a charter of rights, and to those who are against an entrenchment of a charter of rights without provincial approval, I would simply say that if the provincial legislatures, which have been described as supreme, had moved with regard to human rights, had introduced what is called primacy legislation, had done all of what needs to be done in terms of affirmative action, had protected minorities, had changed the social and economic conditions under which minorities in this country live, had protected in legislative form the legal rights of the minorities and all other matters which are dealt with in the constitution package, then there would be no need for action now. It is only because legislatures have not dealt sufficiently or adequately with these matters that we now have need for the charter of rights which is before us today.
Of course, the Constitution package contains more than the charter of rights; of course we have need of more. For example, it contains an amending formula, and there have been significant changes to that amending formula. The use of referenda, which was a pretty free-wheeling power when the package was first presented, has been limited significantly. Now a referendum can only be used as a deadlock-breaking mechanism, when the provinces and the federal government are in deadlock. It can only be used under those circumstances after the governments have gone through the process of federal and provincial negotiation. To those who somehow say that referenda are totally illegitimate and should never be used, I must say that I favour consulting the people, and it will he the Canadian people who will decide any difference between federal and provincial governments with regard to constitutional questions. I feel that is a thoroughly and completely democratic approach, one which in these circumstances will be useful. It is one that is limited and has rules by which one can move to the referendum process.
Some people are against referenda. They say that the federal government could use a trick question to fool the citizens of this country and bring in a constitutional change which would destroy the federal nature of this country. Rene Lévesque tried that and it did not work. He put what could be called a “soft” question to the people of that province. The people of that province saw the meaning of the question and made the decision for themselves. So while politicians will be politicians, citizens will be citizens and they will make the final decisions in a democratic nation.
I feel we must remind ourselves as well that this referendum proposal does have regional balance. While it is only a deadlock-breaking mechanism, it also requires a majority in the regions of the country. There is no way that Ontario would be able to impose a constitutional change on the west. The west has a veto.
There is also another very positive change with regard to the referendum proposal, and that is the creation of a referendum rules commission. This commission was created after a submission by the Premier of Saskatchewan. It was his very constructive contribution to the constitutional committee hearings that brought about this change. While the change does not go as far as he would personally have liked it to go and it is not absolute, it is certainly a very influential and important change. lt will be very difficult for a Parliament or for a government to fiddle with the rules as proposed by the referendum commission.
Our positive approach, our constructive approach to the constitutional package, has paid off. It has resulted in a much better package than was originally presented to this Parliament. The positive approach taken by the citizens of this country has paid off. The positive efforts of some of the provinces have paid off, and we have a much better package today than was originally presented to us.
I would like to deal with some further arguments which are used to undermine the package. These are attacks on the package. For example, it is said that the amending formula will create unequal provinces. Let us face the facts, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that if all provinces were to be treated the same, or absolutely equal, then what we are asking for is an amending formula which demands unanimity. That approach is clearly unworkable and clearly unrealistic. It is important to keep the facts in mind with regard to this debate. The fact is that what the amending formula does is to create regions. Any province which acquires 25 per cent or more of the population in the future will thereby become a region with a veto. The west is a region and it has a veto. Thus, the amending formula is workable and fair. It is not perfect, but no one is offering an alternative which is perfect.
We are asked by others to support the Vancouver formula. The Vancouver formula contains no veto for Quebec. In our historical and present situation this would obviously be inadequate and unacceptable. It has no veto for the west. Given the strong feelings in the west today, that would be inadequate. The Vancouver formula also allows for provinces to opt out of rights and to opt out of redistribution of powers. It requires disguised unanimity. The opting out formula is really a disguise for a demand for unanimity, which is clearly and fundamentally unworkable. The formula which is offered by the Conservative Party is clearly a mirage. it is not a real amending formula; it is a “maybe” formula. We must be responsible and realistic, Mr. Speaker. This country needs an amending formula and we have one before us. It has been approved in public debate and we will support it.
Those attempting to tear this package apart have also taken a new tack of late. They have talked about the Senate. They say that this constitutional package is giving the Senate a veto with respect to all constitutional change. I would have wished and hoped in the first instance that the government would have been a little more courageous in maintaining the suspensive veto with regard to the Senate. in other words, the Senate could only hold up matters for a limited period of time. I continue to challenge the government today to reintroduce that suspensive veto, if it can only get up the courage to do so. Simply because the government has no courage is no reason for us to throw the baby out with the bath water. What happens in this constitutional package with regard to the Senate is that there is no mention made of it. What we have with regard to the Senate is the maintenance of the status quo. Since the beginning of history in this country the Senate has had a veto over all constitutional and legislative changes. That technical and legal veto clearly continues, but it does not deprive us of the right to continue to fight for the abolition of real reform of the Senate.
It is rather ironic that the critics of this package at this moment call for us to change the Senate, since it is one of the areas which does affect the provinces. The battle cry has been that federalism is being destroyed by changing things in the Constitution which have an impact on the provinces. If we were to come forward with a major reform of the Senate, then these critics would be up in arms. They would be asking why this was being done without unanimous provincial support.
The most important thing to say about the Senate is that I do not believe that any realistic or responsible citizen could believe that, while the Senate maintains a legal and technical veto, if the legislatures and Parliament of this country were to put forward a full and adequate reform of the Senate, whether that be abolition or reform, they could stop that. The reason the Senate does not exercise its legal veto today, before the passage of this resolution, is because it is essentially an illegitimate body, since it is not elected. The way we gain the legitimate right to make decisions with regard to public matters in this country is by being an elected body. There is no doubt in my mind but that our capacity to reform the Senate remains, given a strong and dedicated government. The argument stating that we should not support this package because there is no Senate reform contained in it is a bogus one. Our capacity to reform the Senate remains. When the government gets up its courage and when the provinces are ready to move, then we will reform the Senate.
One of the further arguments used against this package and against support of it is that somehow we are destroying federalism. I must say that I feel that is an overblown, exaggerated and essentially misleading argument. In this constitutional package we are not dealing with the redistribution of powers among provinces and the federal government. Canada remains a federation. After this package is passed by this House and the parliament in England, there will still be provincial powers and federal government powers. In fact, we are moving to strengthen federalism by providing an amending formula which will allow both the provinces and the federal government to amend the Constitution in the future.
The rights charter obviously affects the powers of the provincial and federal governments by transferring power from legislatures to citizens, not by transferring power from provincial governments to the federal government. Further, it has been recognized that the rights contained in the charter fall within federal jurisdiction. Past Supreme Court decisions recorganized that. In essence, we are not doing anything to affect the balance of federal and provincial relationships in this country; what we are doing is providing rights for citizens and limiting the capacity of legislatures and governments to act in an arbitrary fashion.
Another tack that has been taken in an attempt to destroy this package is the contention that we need a constitution made in Canada. Can any citizen doubt that this constitutional package is being made in Canada? Given the long history of federal and provincial conferences on the Constitution, given our experience and involvement in the Quebec referendum, given the debate in Parliament last fall, given the length and breadth of the hearings of the joint parliamentary committee on the Constitution, given the opportunity there has been, and which remains, for the provinces to negotiate changes, surely no citizen who has listened to or read the media, which has been dominated by this question in the last few months, can doubt that this Constitution is made in Canada by Canadians and for Canadians.
I want to deal with another area of criticism of this package, the reference to property rights. I find it ironic that members of the Conservative party say that this package should not be supported because it lacks reference to property rights. It was the provinces that opposed the inclusion of property rights. Surely those who believe that we should not do anything which affects the power of the provinces do not want us to move on property rights which are clearly within provincial jurisdiction. As well, surely we do not want to limit the capacity of legislatures to act in the public interest where necessary. I think of items such as auto insurance in Manitoba. We would not want to leave to chance the opportunity of legislatures and governments to act in the public interest in such areas, Why, then, would we want to leave to chance the opportunity of governments to act with regard to land ownership? Think, for example, of Prince Edward Island. We want that province to be able to protect its land for use by Canadians. We do not want to run the risk that corporations could use our courts to limit the capacity of our legislatures to move in these areas at times when it is absolutely necessary. I am confident that the package is good and that the absence of property rights is entirely justified in the present circumstances.
There is another argument that we must face and that is on the legal question. We are told that we should not move on constitutional change until the legal question is cleared up. I must say, first of all, that when a matter goes to court it is surely a question of public policy whether we go to court by reference or whether we go to court when there is a concrete law for the court to examine. That is a matter of public policy. I, for one, would prefer that the court have a concrete statute before it rather than a hypothetical question. I would take the legal question more seriously if those provinces who challenge the matter in the courts would respect the decision of the courts. After the decision of the court in Manitoba which favoured action by this Parliament for constitutional change, however, the provinces simply dismissed decisions of the court. Clearly they are not so much interested in law as they are in obstruction. If they were interested in law, I am sure they would be willing, if the court were to hold that this Parliament is right in taking action on constitutional matters, to reconsider their position. That did not happen after the latest court decision which held that this Parliament was correct in what it was doing. They did not reconsider their decision.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: Ask Saskatchewan. It is going to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Keeper: I feel that the arguments being used against constitutional change by Parliament at this time are essentially bogus arguments. I feel it is very important that people have the opportunity to hear the facts so that they can make a balanced decision with regard to this constitutional package. In closing, Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is time to bring our Constitution home. Surely it is time to demonstrate that we are a mature, sovereign nation capable of making our own decisions on constitutional matters.
We need a charter of rights in order to protect people from arbitrary decisions made by government and legislatures. We need a charter of rights which will embody the rights of every citizen in this country and symbolize the citizenship of every citizen from coast to coast.
We need a reference in the constitutional package to multiculturalism, to language rights and to native rights in order to demonstrate our respect for the cultural and historical differences which are the Strength of this nation. These need to be clearly and positively defined in a constitutional document.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, the events of the past several months and years demonstrate the need for an amending formula on constitutional matters. We need a decision-making framework within which the provinces and the federal government can come to decisions on constitutional matters and not simply bicker and throw brickbats at each other in front of the television cameras.
If we support these principles, if we support patriation, if we support human rights, if we support the necessity for a decision-making framework for constitutional matters in this country so that we can build our own Canada and our own Constitution, then I feel it is time that we take action to support this package rather than attempt to tear it down and delay action unnecessarily and indefinitely.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member who has just concluded his remarks entertain a question with respect to the role of the courts in this constitutional debate?
Mr. Keeper: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: The hon. member indicated that a reference of a matter by the provinces to the courts or a reference by this government to the Supreme Court of Canada was somehow an abuse of the judicial process and that the provinces were not going to abide by the decision of the court. Is the hon. member accusing the provinces of perhaps flaunting a decision of the court? Does the hon. member agree or disagree with the intention of the New Democratic Party government in the province of Saskatchewan to refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada to find out whether the package is ultra vires? Does he think the judiciary has no role to play in this debate?
Mr. Keeper: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that a change in the Constitution is essentially a policy question and a political question. Therefore, it is better dealt with by legislatures and Parliament. I was saying that there is a clear policy choice before government as to whether they wish to go to a court with a legal question by way of reference or regarding a concrete piece of legislation with which the court can deal. While I want this Parliament to deal with the policy question, I think it would be preferable in that instance to have a piece of legislation before the court rather than a hypothetical statement by way of reference.
With regard to my comments concerning the provinces, which were to the effect that if those provinces which went to the Manitoba court of appeal had taken into account the weight of that decision in favour of action by this Parliament and had indicated that they would seriously reconsider their position because of that pronouncement by the court, I would have had much more confidence in their stated reason for going further in the courts.
Mr. Charles Mayer (Portage-Marquette): Mr. Speaker, we are having some legal lessons.
I agree with the many speakers before me who have said that it is a privilege and a responsibility to have an opportunity to participate in this debate. This is an important debate in which to take part and I believe that everyone here has an obligation to speak on behalf of their constituents.
My constituency of Portage-Marquette is in Manitoba. I appreciate having the chance to say a few words about the constitutional resolution we are debating because it would be difficult for me to return to Portage-Marquette and explain to my constituents why I was not given an opportunity to participate. In this connection, I take the government at its word and trust it will see that everyone who wants to participate in this debate has that opportunity. This way members can raise their concerns as well as concerns raised as a result of discussions with their constituents. In my opinion, everyone should be able to participate in this debate because everyone has a particular point of view, not only individual members but also the many thousands of constituents we represent. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us who are here on behalf of our constituents to take this opportunity to speak on this important topic.
I want to pay tribute to the constitutional committee members who worked very hard from November until the first part of February. Although many people have paid tribute to this committee before and will again, I think it is worthwhile to comment on the work they did. That kind of committee work can be constructive to many areas of concern to this House. The constitutional committee members certainly deserve the credit given to them.
We need to have faith in ourselves as we proceed. I am sorry the present government, judging by the way it is proceeding, is not demonstrating any faith for the concerns of Canadians from one end of the country to the other over what the constitutional resolution contains. We have eight provincial governments involved in legal actions against what the government is doing. Many public opinion polls point out that only it minority favour the process by which the government in attempting to carry out its constitutional renewal. We have numerous newspaper advertisements attacking the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) on a personal basis and soliciting support against what he and the government are doing.
In a country that is supposedly run on the basis of democracy in which everyone should be listened to, one man and one vote, what is happening is unprecedented. I fail to understand why the government is in such a hurry. It is ludicrous that we operate within an artificially imposed time-frame when we are dealing with such an important matter as the Constitution. which underlies everything we do in this country. I fail to see why we cannot take more time to ensure that we do everything right.
The hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James (Mr. Keeper) who spoke before me made some reference to the Vancouver formula. He said that the Vancouver formula does not give a veto to Quebec. I disagree with him totally. An opting-out provision gives the province of Quebec a veto in terms of things about which it feels strongly. In fact, that is the basis of the multiculturalism policy we have in this country.
People talk about the checkerboard problems we would have with the bill of rights, that we would have different rights in different provinces. We have a multiculturalism department set up to see that people’s different areas of concern are protected. The hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James said that the argument he had heard so far as to why we should not proceed was a bogus one. Perhaps he should have listened to the hon. member for Western Arctic (Mr. Nickerson) who
spoke eloquently about the native people not being treated as people, that they were treated almost as non-citizens. I fail to see how the hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James could have made the statement that it was a bogus argument, particularly in view of his own racial extraction. The hon. member for Western Arctic talked very eloquently on behalf of the native people he represents, people who are more native to this country than I, and yet the hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James says the argument why we should not proceed is a bogus one. Nevertheless, the concerns expressed by the hon. member for Western Arctic on behaif of his constituents were clearly sincere and genuine ones. This is something the hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James should consider carefully when he talks about bogus arguments; he should understand what he is saying when he makes reference to such things.
I come from an area which has sent two prime ministers to Ottawa, one from Portage and one from Marquette. The first prime minister of the country, Sir John A. Macdonald, very briefly represented Marquette constituency in this House. The distinguished prime minister, Sir Arthur Meighen, whose portrait hangs in the hall outside this chamber, represented Portage in this House. I shall refer to what these two distinguished gentlemen said in the constitutional debates and how apt their remarks are today. Incidentally, the debates took place in l865 prior to the union of the country and have come to be known as the constitutional debates. Our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald said this:
But, on looking at the subject in the conference, and discussing the matter as we did, most unreservedly. and with a desire to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. we found that such a system was impracticable.
The system to which he referred was that of a unitary state. There has been much talk about Macdonald and the fact that he would have preferred a unitary system of government. I believe that is what the constitutional resolution will be leading us to in this country, but our first prime minister realized that a unitary state would not work. That is what he is referring to in this quotation. He goes on:
In the first place, it would not meet the assent of the people of Lower Canada, because they felt that in their peculiar position—being in a minority, with a different language, nationality and religion from the majority—in case of a junction with the other province, their institutions and their laws might be assailed, and their ancestral associations, on which they prided themselves, attacked and prejudiced; it was found that any proposition which involved the absorption of the individuality of Lower Canada—if I may use the expression— would not be received with favour by her people.
That is even more applicable today. Not only are we talking about those regions that originally made up Canada, but additional regions. We are talking about what is now the most important and viable region of Canada, the west. If it is true to say there were concerns over a unitary system of government and what it would do in 1865 when this constitutional debate took place, it is even more true today when we have another very important and vital and growing region of the country wanting to feel part of this country. That is something worth considering.
I wish to refer to part of what Sir Arthur Meighen said concerning the country. Here he was talking at a birthday party marking the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of D’Arcy McGee. He was referring to some of the problems the country had had prior to that time. In this speech, given in Ottawa on April l3, 1925, he said:
The obstacles encountered have been greater than we had believed, but they have been as nothing when compared with the obstacles and dangers which by our union we surmounted.
That is the truth. There are and always have been many problems in Canada because of the great diversity of geography which makes up this country. The point Prime Minister Meighen was making at that time was that not to have tackled and solved those kinds of problems would have left us in worse peril than we would have been without solving them. He went on:
—let us look back across the span of two generations and watch the bold, brave figures of the captains of that time; let us learn from their patience and emulate their courage and highly resolve to enrich by our devotion the noble heritage they have handed down.
I wonder whether in 50 years from now history students who study the debate going on in this process will be able to make the kind of remarks Sir Arthur Meighen made on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of D’Arcy McGee. There is certainly some area for concern and question as to whether that will be the case.
The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) is in the chamber. I wish to take issue with some of the remarks he made in the speech opening the debate on this important issue. The minister spoke very eloquently and with conviction. We all know he is a serious man. He said, as reported at page 7374 of Hansard:
During this debate we will hear a great deal about process, and I will speak to that issue later, but I want want to speak more about substance. Because long after the debate over process is finished and forgotten. Canadians will take pride in the results of the substance of our work.
I find that unfortunate because process is all important in what the government is doing. If people do not have faith in the process, the end results will be badly scarred. They will bear those scars for a long time because our Constitution will be with us for a long time.
This should be a very exciting time for our country. We should be planning for and looking ahead to the future. All of us have occasion to plan. We plan to go on a trip, to take a course to improve our education, to build a house or buy a car. Farmers plan their crops at the beginning of the year. It is a very exciting time because, when we do that, we look forward to the future.
Most Canadians would like this to be a happy time for our country. It is the most important planning we can be doing. We are laying the foundation for the way our country will be governed and the principles on which it will operate for a long time.
That is why it is unfortunate that the Minister of Justice dismisses this concern over process without a lot of thought being given to it. During this planning process or stage of
constitutional renewal, unless we take into account the feelings of the people of this country and ensure that there is good will for what we are doing, the fruits we bear from this resolution will be bad ones. That would be very unfortunate.
A very good argument could be made that the reason we are renewing our Constitution is to create good will in the country so that we all can live together in more harmony than in the past. If in the process of renewal we create so much bad will that we destroy the very purpose for which we are doing it, then that is very sad. That is why I take issue with the Minister of Justice when he dismisses process and says it is really not important because the end result will be remembered a long time after the process. There is a lot of bitterness and a lot of doubt about what we are doing. This is evidenced by many people I talk to when I go home to my constituency. It is unfortunate that people are so distrustful of the way the government is proceeding.
Much has been said about the constitutional resolution. We spent many hours in a joint committee talking about the different articles. I would point out that we are not dealing with just a piece of paper. We should be thinking about what it is doing and will be doing to the whole country after it is adopted. The government should be very cognizant of this as it proceeds.
Our spokesman on the Constitution, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), receives literally hundreds of letters every day outlining the concerns which people from coast to coast have about the way the government is proceeding. It is interesting to note that they are sending their letters to the hon. member for Provencher. We have to be proud to be associated with him and give him credit for the way he conveys the image of total honesty to the Canadian public. That is something this chamber should recognize. Many Canadians feel comfortable with him and are sending their Ietters to him.
When the hon. member for Provencher spoke so eloquently on February 17, he pointed out that the whole proposition on which this resolution is based is false. I refer to the proposition that this country is not working, that it is somehow coming apart and not functioning the way it should and, therefore, we must go through this process of constitutional renewal.
Canadians have become concerned about the process. Many of them do not quite understand the technicalities and the fine points of what goes on in this chamber day in and day out. They do not understand the intricacies of the debate which goes on here as well as the points of order and questions of privilege. However, they sense that something is not right about the way the government is proceeding. It is even more significant when you realize that the majority of Canadians are in favour of their Constitution being patriated. They are in favour of a bill of rights and of having some kind of an amending formula to the Constitution when we get it in Canada, and yet they are not in favour of what the government is doing.
I would point out to the Minister of Justice that the area of concern they have is not only over the content so much as it is over the way the government is proceeding. Therefore, I would argue very strongly that process is very important; in fact, almost all-important in this debate. The government should consider this as they proceed.
There have been many polls taken, and we can quote polls that break down public opinion across the country in terms of different regions; the Atlantic region, the province of Quebec, the province of Ontario, and the western regions. Last Thursday, results were released from a poll taken by the Quebec Institute of Public Opinion during the week of February 12 to 18. The question asked of people in Quebec was: How do you think your Member of Parliament should vote on the constitutional resolution? The results were very interesting. Forty-four per cent of the people who were polled said that they thought their Member of Parliament should vote against the constitutional resolution; 37 per cent said they should vote for it; and about 20 per cent did not register an opinion.
That is a very significant poll, in the sense that we all know the present government has over half of its support in the province of Quebec, yet in Quebec, where they won overwhelming support in the last federal election, there were no issues with respect to the Constitution in the last campaign. That is a subject for another speech all in itself. I find it very interesting to note that 44 per cent of the people in the province of Quebec, in a public opinion poll taken two weeks ago, said their members should vote against the constitutional resolution. That is something that all members opposite should look at very closely and sincerely when it is time for them to decide whether they can support the constitutional resolution before us. As I said, many polls have been taken, but I think this one is very significant. We all know that polls are subject to much interpretation, but when you have a poll taken in the province of Quebec saying that Quebecers are not in agreement with the policy of the federal Liberal Party of Canada on the Constitution, that should tell you something about the manner in which the Liberal government is proceeding on the constitutional resolution.
One of the other areas of concern is what the government is doing in terms of setting a precedent. Much has been made of the way we govern ourselves and the fact that many of our institutions function on the basis of conventions derived over time. Probably one of the most democratic, if not the most democratic country in the world, is Great Britain, and it really does not have a constitution in the sense that we or the Americans do; yet it is considered one of the most democratic countries in the world. Its citizens enjoy as many rights as those of any country in the world because over time they have developed many of their rules based on precedent.
The government, if it proceeds the way the resolution is now drafted, will be setting a precedent of overriding provincial concerns. That is a very dangerous precedent to set, and should not be done lightly. Precedent can become all-powerful or all-governing in terms of our own institution. There is no
reference in the British North America Act to either the party system of government we have or to cabinet. Yet we all know that without those two well accepted conventions, which are the result of precedents built up over a time, we would not have the type of government we have today.
I ask the government to consider what kind of a precedent they are setting when they proceed unilaterally to override concerns of the provinces. This is obviously very evident when we have eight provincial governments taking the federal government to court. The federal government ignores what the provinces have been saying. This sets a very dangerous precedent, one that will have very bad implications for the manner in which our country is governed in the future.
In the remaining time I have, I would like to speak of some of the concerns we have for western Canada. Many of us in western Canada do not understand why the Constitution has suddenly become such a matter of priority. I think most of us would say that although we do not think the BNA Act is 100 per cent perfect, it has served the area of the country that I come from extremely well. Manitoba came into confederation in 1870, as did British Columbia. This past year Alberta and Saskatchewan celebrated their 75th anniversary in confederation, having entered confederation in 1905.
Although we have had many concerns over the way we have been treated as parts of this country, I think we agree that the Constitution has not prevented us from doing a fair job. I find it unfortunate that for some reason we have decided on a very urgent and self-imposed time-frame in which to change the Constitution.
In the western part of the country, we are not so much concerned about the Constitution as we are about the way government institutions function, and how they take into account our concerns. I can cite many examples. One could talk about transportation for the rest of the evening; one could talk about tariff policies, and what they do to western Canada, not only in terms of the costs we incur in purchases, but in terms of establishing manufacturing industries. One could also talk about the way government committees, boards and tribunals operate.
A case in point is the International Joint Commission, the commission set up to look at problems which arise from time to time in relation to the large border we share with the United States. The International Joint Commission is made up of Americans and Canadians. Western Canada has a border with the US. approximately half the total length of that border. It stretches from the Manitoba-Ontario border right to the Pacific Ocean; yet there has never been a member from Western Canada appointed to the International Joint Commission. The Garrison project, in Northern Dakota, will affect Manitoba adversely, and we have problems in respect of west coast fisheries. However, western Canada has never had a member on the International Joint Commission.
The Canadian Transport Commission is a regulatory body that oversees many of the areas of responsibility of the Department of Transport. lt is centralized here in Ottawa, and has had a branch in Winnipeg for a long time. The Winnipeg branch really has not been as much of a branch as it has been a sort of clearing house for information purposes. Approximately two years ago, a western section of the CTC was established in Saskatoon, yet it has not been given the necessary authority to deal with transportation problems which affect western Canada. Matters are so bad that this very important body has not yet been able to locate in proper office space, despite the fact there is a large amount of square footage of office space available in Saskatoon. It has not been given the authority or the responsibility to plan many of the expenditures the federal government makes as a result of railway transportation policies in this country.
I find that to be very unfortunate in that here we have an institution of the federal government which could be very responsive to concerns in western Canada because of its location, yet because of the attitude of the central government it is not given the necessary responsibility. The result is not only alienation, because of our unhappiness with not having the decision-making power located in western Canada, but also inefficiencies of government because the commission in Saskatoon does not have the necessary autonomy. It is in a much better position to make value judgments on many of the transportation issues of the day, being located in an area where those transportation policies will show results. However, we still have directives coming from Ottawa.
In western Canada transportation is a very important issue. In terms of geography we have a very large country, and one of the many things that binds us together is transportation policy. This is particularly so in western Canada where distances are so vast relative to other areas of the country. An air route was recently awarded PWA to allow it to fly from Calgary to Brandon to Toronto. It required a change of transportation policy on the part of the previous minister of transport, the hon. member for Vegreville (Mr. Mazankowski), even to get an application before the Canadian Transport Commission so that Brandon could receive jet service. That policy announcement was made in November of 1979. It took over a year to award the route to PWA, despite the fact that PWA was the only applicant and despite the fact that when PWA did apply it did not ask for a subsidy.
If we had a transportation policy which was genuinely attuned to our areas of concern in western Canada—in all of Canada—it seems to me this important air route would have been awarded much sooner.
I was also disturbed about the make-up of the commission which heard the PWA application in Brandon back in October. I felt that two commissioners from Saskatoon should have been among the three who heard the application, but I was told two commissioners on the panel from western Canada was not acceptable because that might prejudice the board’s decision in favour of western Canada. That was a terrible thing to say. I do not understand how three commissioners from eastern Canada judging an issue affecting eastern Canada could not be seen to be prejudiced in favour of eastern Canada.
Perhaps I should say central Canada to keep myself clear with my colleagues from the maritimes. I do not understand how we can have that type of double standard in terms of the way commissioners are selected to make judgments with respect to transportation policy in different parts of the country. I find this a very deplorable attitude on the part of the federal government with respect to transportation policy.
We in western Canada feel very strongly that we would like to be able to make a contribution to the whole country and more of a contribution in terms of the things we can produce for export. We know that there is a very large demand for cereal grains around the world. We will have to work very hard to meet the demand to feed people, yet we are lacking transportation policies which would allow western farmers to export the things they produce. Such an ability would not benefit just our area of the country but the country as a whole.
Many hon. members opposite ask why we mistrust the government so much. They ask why there is so much concern about the resolution as it is drafted. It should be obvious to them why there is so much mistrust. I would like to cite an analogy. We all know that Jack Horner sat for many years in this House as a member of my party. I do not know how many times he was elected, but I believe he served the area of Alberta he came from for years as a member of this House. He was a very popular member. I understand he was a very hard-working member. He obviously did a good job for his constituents, or he would not have enjoyed their support for so many years. Yet when he decided for some reason—I do not think it will ever be known to me—to cross the floor and sit with the Liberal government, he subsequently lost his deposits in two federal elections. He lost his deposits because of the distaste people in his riding had for the policies the Liberal government had been carrying out. It seems to me the Liberal government should be in a position to carry out policies which would be favourably received by all the people of Canada because, as has been pointed out, Liberal governments have been in power here for 18 of the last 20 years. A government in power has the ability to pursue the policies it sees fit. The government of the day has not seen fit to pursue policies which treat fairly what I think is the most important, dynamic, vital and growing area in the country. This has been the case for the past 18 years. If the government had pursued such policies there might be at least one member elected from that area of the country. It should be obvious to the government that if we mistrust it or do not go along with it on matters with which we feel we are fairly familiar, such as freight rates or postal service, etc. it should not expect the people of western Canada to trust it to do the right thing in that region of the country with respect to something as involved as the Constitution. This is a point the government should consider when it is pursuing the constitutional resolution we have before us.
I also do not understand and cannot really find any valid reason why the government should set a self-imposed deadline. and try to meet that deadline. This is a very artificial and counterproductive way to proceed. It was pointed out previously by a speaker this afternoon that a document connected with the first ministers’ meeting here in Ottawa back in September had many insidious tones. There has been some concern about the Prime Minister speaking with tongue in cheek, and about his not being totally forthcoming with respect to all of the facts concerning representations he made to the Prime Minister of Great Britain about the opposition of the provinces to the constitutional resolution. If we cannot negotiate in good faith and realize that there really ls no reason to be in a hurry except for our own self-inflicted, artificially-imposed time limit, then really we have no good reason to proceed.
The Minister of Justice is still in the House. I do not know whether he is listening, but there is a short article in today’s Montreal Gazette under the headline “More support us: Chrétien”. The article reads in part as follows:
“There are more now who agree on the basics,” he told a meeting of the Quebec wing of the Liberal national council.
“They all accept the principle of patriation. Thcy support a bill of rights and more and more people are defending the Victoria amendment formula.”
It seems to me that that is a very solid argument in favour of removing the July I deadline and trying to get the premiers back to the negotiating table. I should not say trying to get them back to the negotiating table; they have offered to go to the negotiating table, but the federal governmcnt has not seen fit to take them up on that offer. If the Minister of Justice is sincere in what he says about more people supporting him, and that coming about as a result of a lapse of time and a “better understanding” on the part of the people about what is happening, I hope he will pursue the offers made by the provincial premiers with respect to going back to the negotiating table. If we do in fact have a constitutional resolution which the premiers cannot support and are not willing to go along with, we will certainly be damaging ourselves in the long run.
We have to act as mature people. We have to be mature when we go into a union or any arrangement to work together. That is what a constitution is really all about. A constitution is composed of ground rules by which we govern ourselves and under which we want to work together in the future. It seems to me if we do not have a consensus approach, as in which this government apparently is not interested—it is using an imposition approach—we destroy faith, maturity and a sense of feeling good about our country. We cannot afford to destroy a feeling of good will when we go into a union, and that is what we are discussing. We are talking about a reunion: a rebirth of our country. I strongly urge the government to consider this in the process. I again point out in the strongest terms that process has to be considered as a very important part of the way we adopt this constitutional resolution.
In closing I will simply say that unless the government is willing to be more flexible, and negotiate with the provinces in a meaningful way, the process by which it will accomplish this constitutional renewal and patriation will cause very severe scars which will take a long time to heal.
The Minister of Justice should pay attention to what the people of Quebec are telling him about how Quebec members of Parliament should vote. If he is serious when he says more
people agree with the government, and if he believes that. I hope he will take more time, make some effort, sit down with the provinces, try to agree on an amending formula and settle some of the differences with many of the provinces over the way the government is proceeding with the constitutional resolution.
Mr. Vince Dantzer (Okanagan North): Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to have this opportunity to address the House of Commons of Canada on the issue of constitutional reform. lt is an honour and, more than that, it is a responsibility given me by the residents of Okanagan North, a responsibility which I take very seriously.
Over the past few months, many speakers have commented on the historic overtones surrounding this debate. They have said, and I agree, that we may well be adding a sentence. a page or perhaps even a chapter to the history of this country. However, let us hope the chapter we add is but a continuation of what has been a long and honourable history of our Canadian federation, and I emphasize the word “federation”; a federation which has worked well and has truly served this diverse land with its multicultural population. I hope that, because of the tenor of the document before us, we are not writing the last chapter of a pocket book on the final fulfilment of one man’s ego.
The opportunity to join the constitutional debate this evening is a delayed opportunity. I was ready to participate last December when this government used closure to end that stage of debate in the House of Commons. I am certain it is the first time in the history of any democratic country anywhere in the world that duly elected representatives of the people were denied the opportunity to speak on what is the fundamental law of any civilized country, the rules by which we seek to govern ourselves; our Constitution. I understand the government is again threatening closure of this debate if we, the members of this House, do not conduct ourselves according to the government’s wishes. lt is truly an ironic state of affairs. This government says it is introducing a bill of rights to guarantee our basic freedoms, but to do so it feels it necessary to deny that most basic right of all, the right of parliamentarians, the people’s elected representatives, to freely discuss and debate the proposed legislation before the House.
Closure was imposed in the House on October 23 of last year. That first use of closure provided real evidence that the procedure and the strategy outlined in that infamous Kirby document were actually being followed by the government. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that was a document with a self-fulfilling prophecy. It predicted the failure of last summer’s constitutional conference; outlined a plan in the event of failure and concocted a strategy to place the blame on the provincial premiers. During last summer, the premiers were subjected to a form of closure because time after time they were threatened by an imposed deadline.
This process of unseemly and undue haste, this attempt to impose deadlines, has continued during the whole constitutional process. First of all, the government refused to permit television broadcasting. Then, under intense pressure from the Progressive Conservative Party, it reluctantly allowed the Canadian people to see the committee in action by means of complete television coverage. Again the committee began to sit on November 6 of last year and was immediately advised that there was a December 9 deadline, at which time its proceedings were to be concluded. Again, intense pressure from the Progressive Conservative opposition on the government finally resulted in the extension of the deadline to February 13 of this year, which was the date originally demanded by our party. Throughout this process, the government has made every effort to limit discussion and free debate of this resolution. They have attempted to limit the participation of the Canadian people in their own Constitution. Their heavyhanded arrogance has almost made a mockery of the democratic process.
Finally, when the government limited the number of constitutional experts they would allow to appear before the committee, it became abundantly clear they had every intention of approaching constitutional reform in a dictatorial manner, allowing no input from anyone except their own hired hands and their own bureaucrats.
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to members of the House, particularly to those on the other side, that we in the west are familiar with the real estate agent who tries to sell you a house or an apartment block in great haste and, in an attempt to do so, makes every kind of deal possible with everyone. We know that in such cases the buyer is well advised to look for termites in the basement of the house the agent is trying to sell him. We also know that when a car dealer tries to sell a used automobile and attempts to conclude the sale in a rush, the buyer is well advised to look for sawdust in the crank-case. Similarly, when a prime minister of Canada, particularly if he is a Liberal, tries to rush through the constitutional resolution, the people of Canada had better take a long and close look at the small print because something is bound to be there that the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) does not want them to find.
Much of the apprehension, distrust and, indeed, anger at this resolution, which is apparent throughout this country, is due to the unseemly haste with which this document is being rushed through the parliamentary process. Time after time at the committee stage witnesses pleaded for more time. Archbishop Clark in his presentation to the committee admonished the committee to take more time to reflect and to study the document to ensure that it is properly conceived and to allow the Canadian people to have an input into it.
In my own constituency of Okanagan North a group was formed which made a simple request, after a great deal of study that the deadline be extended by six months, and that the committee be allowed to travel throughout Canada. The group collected almost 3,000 names on a petition in support of their request which they sent to the Prime Minister and to the committee. Of course, the Prime Minister ignored this petition, as he did a 750,000 name petition which he received from Quebec, his own province.
At the beginning of this debate, the first time the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. EPP) spoke at this stage, he uttered what I consider to be prophetic words; that time does not respect that which is done without it. I suggest to the House that time will indeed deal harshly with this hastily conceived and badly flawed document. As the debate on the Constitution has progressed over the past months it has become evident to me, and I think to many people, because many speakers have pointed to this problem, that the debate proceeded on two completely different philosophies of what this country was, is now, and should become in the future. This debate has gone on in one form or another since Confederation. It involves the very nature and I believe the very foundation of this great country.
Those who support the government’s resolution—the Liberal members of this House, the Hon. Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent), some members of his party and of course the editors of Pravda—favour a strong central government and would see Canada eventually become a unitary state. lt is clear to those who understand the socialist mind why all socialists, exccpt for the possible exception of the Premier of Saskatchewan, support a unitary state. Obviously the devout goal of all socialists is to ensure that the state owns the means of production, including land. Of course this is only possible in a unitary state with all power in the central government. The Premier of Saskatchewan believes in that particular theory because he bought up most of the land in Saskatchewan. But it is not clear to me why the Liberal majority in the House has adopted this socialistic goal. It is possible, perhaps probable, that the government backbenchers are only slavishly following the dictates of the Prime Minister. Perhaps they are not even aware that the path they have chosen to follow inevitably leads to the destruction of federalism and the formation of a unitary state. The government has now travelled so far down the socialist road that perhaps it is hard for the hon. members opposite to distinguish. On the other hand, perhaps they are aware, being for the most part from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Perhaps they are aware that historically, Ottawa runs this country for the benefit of central Canada. Indeed those Liberal backbenchers may be more subtle and astute than we think. They may even realize that if Canada becomes a unitary state, nothing much will change for Quebec and Ontario.
The other side of the great debate is espoused by those of us who believe that Canada was created in 1867 as a federal state, and by those who believe that the destiny of this great land, with its immense distances, its linguistic and ethnic differences, its diversity of culture and its extremes of climate, could only be realized in a strengthened and renewed federalism. For the most part these people are Progressive Conservative members of the House.
There has never been any contest in the House over the issue to patriate the Constitution to Canada with an acceptable amending formula. In fact, the Conservative party moved such a motion and it was defeated by the hon. members opposite. There has never been any real contest in this House or elsewhere over the issue of a bill of rights. Certainly I think most people agree that the time for a bill of rights is now. But the contest in this debate since the resolution was first introduced has been in what country that bill should be framed and passed into law. That has been the contest, that has been the concern, that has been the issue. lt has been the subject of discussion and debate in committee and in the House. Only to a degree has the contest involved what kind of bill of rights we want. The real issue which has arisen in this constitutional debate is: unitary state or federal government, which shall it be?
The constitutional resolution of the government now before the House contains three elements which, if carried into law, would inevitably lead the country down the road to a unitary state in which provincial governments would become political eunuchs, at best, or, at worst, would disappear altogether. The first element leading to a unitary state is the break with tradition, by asking to change the British North America Act unilaterally in matters affecting exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This action strikes at the very heart of federalism and defies constitutional conventions which have emerged since 1867.
Secondly, the proposed amending formula of this government makes it inevitable that the federal system will disappear and that a centralized unitary state will emerge. The perpetual veto of Quebec and Ontario in the amending formula, aside from the fact that it unnecessarily creates second-class provinces and, by implication, second- class citizens, confirms the charge so well expressed by another member on this side of the House that the Prime Minister conceives this country as consisting of Upper and Lower Canada and those provinces in the so-called outer Canada; those people living in provinces outside the central area.
The constitutional resolution before us also proposes a referendum as a means of an amending formula, and it allows only the federal government to initiate and control the referendum process. This is another major proposal which will lead inevitably to a unitary state. This fact is recognized throughout the country in all provinces where the concept of federalism is held essential; in fact in all provinces outside central Canada. That is why there has been so much violent opposition to the introduction of this resolution in its present form. That provision was the one which Premier Blakeney of Saskatchewan could not swallow. lt was, so to speak, the chicken bone in his throat which finally forced him to join the other western and eastern provinces in rejecting this proposal.
Why are we so disturbed that this resolution, as drafted and placed before the House, will eventually result in more centralization of power in Ottawa and eventually a single unitary state? lt is fair to say we are disturbed because our present federal system of government is uniquely and ideally suited to the needs and requirements of this great country. We in this country today have a form of government which really was not foreseen by the Fathers of Confederation. We have a federal system which has been molded over the years by experience
and by changes made to meet the circumstances of the times and conditions of our unique country. Today we have a system of federalism which is well tuned and finely honed to meet the peculiar and challenging requirements of a country so large and diverse as Canada, even though that system might not suit the centralist tendencies of the present government.
When the Fathers of Confederation first met and eventually worked out the details of the British North America Act, they sought to avoid—at least some of them-what they thought were dangers in the decentralization which took place in the United States. In 1867 they felt there was a grievous error in the way that country had developed since its beginning, and as it was emerging in 1867. Therefore, some of the rules and regulations they laid out in the BNA Act were designed to specifically give certain rights to each province and certain rights to the federal government.
However, history has no respect for experts and today we find both the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States considerably changed from what they were in 1867. Today in the United States we find that the government in power is centralized in Washington. The power of the slates has almost disappeared. Today there is also the thought by people who have examined the workings of that government that the government in Washington is out of control. They say the government is ungovernable and unmanageable. The new President of the United States has been saying recently that there must be more decentralization, that more power and more responsibility must be given to the states if their problems are to be solved.
In this country we are saying there should be more centralization. We must surely have learned by the experiences of other countries such as Sweden, England and the United States, where centralization has made governments grow to such an extent they are no longer manageable.
Over the years in this country we have seen a somewhat different story, in spite of the drift toward centralization which occurred during the depression and the Second World War. At those times provincial governments recognized the need for more power in Ottawa in order to prosecute the war more efficiently. After peace arrived in 1946 the succeeding years saw more responsibility being taken by the provinces. This can be seen in the spending studies issued by the government recently.
In 1867 grants and subsidies from the federal government represented about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the revenues of the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. At that time grants and subsidies represented between one half and two-thirds of the revenues of the then provinces of Ontario and Quebec. A number of years later. in 1920, we can see that the provinces were collecting 65 per cent of the revenue and the federal government only 35 per cent. Through experience Canada had become a much more decentralized country by 1920.
If we again look at those statistics for 1945 we see that the federal government’s tax levy reached almost 72 per cent and that provincial and municipal levies reached only about 28 per cent. Those figures show a dramatic shift of power in those years from the provinces and municipalities to Ottawa. Again, this was because Canadians felt it was necessary to shift the power in order to prosecute the war successfully, which, of course, we did.
Going over the statistics, looking at 1978, we see that the provincial share of revenue has risen to almost 55 per cent. As soon as the threat of war was over, the people of this country again felt that in order to fully satisfy the needs and desires of citizens in each part of the country it was necessary to decentralize the power, and so they did. These statistics show that the people who raised most of the money were the provinces and the municipalities, since, so to speak, that is where the action was. This indicates that the people of this country instinctively followed the old political rule of subsidiarity, which means that rules and laws should be made at the level where their impacts are felt most. I think that is a political rule this government seeks now to forget.
My suggestion, Mr. Speaker, is that over the years the Canadian Constitution has proven to be a highly flexible document. This recently-issued report highlights the fact that the BNA Act has proven adequate to enable Canada to handle the change from a rural society of many years ago to what is now essentially an urban and industrial community. Our Constitution has enabled us to make this change easily. I believe we all know that during that period of change there was a tremendous growth in governments at all levels. In spite of that growth the present system is highly flexible. It is very responsive to the needs and requirements of individual provinces. Our present Constitution has been a success since it has resulted in a decentralized system. Only Switzerland, considered to be the most decentralized country in the world, is more decentralized. Our system is one in which both the provincial governments and Ottawa are strong and well equipped to fulfil their particular functions. Neither Ottawa nor the provinces are autonomous. Autonomy has given way to interdependence. That is as it should be. That is why I oppose the imposition of this constitutional proposal, as does my party and many millions of Canadians. lt proposes to break up a system which has worked well in the past and which will work well in the future.
In a country such as Canada there must be co-operation and ongoing consultation. This country is just too big, too diverse to be run solely from Ottawa as envisaged by these proposals. The future must see the continuation of the trend to develop major national policies by consultation and discussion and not in a unilateral fashion, as has been evidenced by this constitutional process.
This House should be aware that western Canada will never again tolerate the system of centralized government in Ottawa when the voting control of that government remains in the hands of Ontario and Quebec on every issue, and in particular on those issues which fundamentally affect the basic interests
of western Canada. We have seen the results of that kind of effort in the rise of alienation and in the increased feeling of separatism which presently exists in western Canada.
We all know this is a far better document because the Conservative opposition, led by our leader, was successful in prolonging the debate on this subject, thereby allowing greater participation by the people of Canada. However, it is still a flawed document. It is flawed because the way in which it is drafted purports to confer and grant rights. I would like to speak for a moment on this issue.
As has been said many times, and expressed far better than I am able to by speakers from the Progressive Conservative Party, fundamental freedoms are best protected and preserved by the recognition of the principle that rights originate with human beings. The freedom and dignity of the individual exists and derives from the nature of the human being. All governments can do is to confirm and protect those rights.
We should ask ourselves, what are we doing when we attempt to develop a constitution? What are we doing when we attempt to devise that most basic of all laws? Are we not simply attempting to devise a set of basic rules governing man as a social person and governing the relationship of man to man? In building that set of relationships should there not be an affirmation of the basic principles upon which our western society and our nation has been built?
In the constitutional committee the member for Rosedale (Mr. Crombie) expressed this when he said, “Constitutions are made up of values, interest and beliefs of the people… It cannot do so unless the fundamental source of the principles upon which that society rests are articulated clearly. . . The fact of the matter is that our rights do not come from the government, but frorn other sources, from tradition, from God . . . The essential kernel of western democratic faith is such that dissent is allowed from government and dissent has come by an appeal over governments to God. That is the history of our tradition—” That is what the hon. member said, and I agree.
The definitions of our freedoms and rights in this country had some of their beginnings in the common law of England which at the end of the twelfth century was already set toward the making ofa free and democratic society of responsible men and women. The design is clear in that most famous of documents, the Magna Carla, of which Archbishop Stephen Langton was the architect. The famous words of that charter embody the following formula:
No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseiscd of his free tenement Or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed unless by lawful judgment of his peers.
The Magna Carta, as wrested from King John, was hailed as a great bill of rights. Yet it bestowed nothing on the English people. It merely recognized their rights, chiefly the freedom of free men and women.
This tradition continued and appeared in the American constitution in the now famous passage, which reads as follows:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This charter before this House bestows nothing on the Canadian people. It merely recognizes and attempts to protect rights already existing. That is why the Progressive Conservatives moved that the preamble to the John Diefenbaker bill of rights be introduced into this charter. That preamble read in part as follows:
The Canadian nation was founded on principles that acknowledged the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free individuals and free institutions.
I personally, and there are many across this great nation who agree, cannot accept a charter which does not express clearly and identify the source of all rights and freedoms as deriving from the nature of the fact that we are human beings.
There are other flaws in this document, flaws due to the process and haste which has characterized the passage of this resolution. Where are property rights? During the committee hearings the hon. member for Provencher proposed the following amendment:
Freedom from unreasonable interference with privacy, family, home, correspondence and enjoyment of properly.
These basic rights have been accepted in our tradition for hundreds of years. They appear in the Magna Carta. They were present in John Diefenbaker’s bill of rights, yet the Liberal majority at the direction of the New Democratic Party retreated from the position of acceptance to one of rejection and refused to allow the charter to guarantee the right of Canadians to own and enjoy property. “A man’s home is his castle”, but not in Canada under a Liberal and NDP government.
If we are to have a charter, then let it be the very best we can compose, working together. Such a charter, for example, would commit this confederation to ensuring, so far as humanly possible, equal opportunities for all citizens, including equality under the rule of law for rich and poor alike, and equal protection against discrimination of all kinds, including discrimination because of sex, age and economic means. For example, women should be safeguarded against discrimination because they are women, or because they are elderly women, or because they are elderly women without the wherewithal to live free from want and fear in their retirement years.
In this instance I agree with those who say that an adequate charter should include some recognition of economic and social rights, as well as political, legal and civil rights. After all, the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and later international covenants, which Canada has formally endorsed, list various economic and social rights, including the right to a standard of living adequate to the health and well-being of every person and family.
Further, I concur with an observation made by the B.C. Federation of Labour in its recent submission to the constitu-
tional committee when it said that for most citizens social and economic conditions have more day-to-day significance than civil rights and political freedoms which are established. That, to a large degree, is like people in western Canada and people in all parts of Canada wondering why we spend so much time on this Constitution and why the government has not spent more time bringing forth solutions to end inflation, high interest rates and unemployment.
There is another point. in at least two provincial codes, or charters or rights, there already exists an equivalent or implicit recognition of economic and social rights. The British Columbia code prohibits discrimination on any ground except where reasonable grounds can be demonstrated. Quebec’s charter of rights and freedoms prohibits any discrimination because of social condition. I suppose social condition would include insufficient income for basic human needs. It should never stand in the way of senior citizens, most of them elderly women, who have given so much to their country.
Such discrimination is intolerable. More Canadians would recognize this unacceptable state of affairs were such lack of opportunity and financial discrimination prohibited in any future, much improved charter of rights.
This Constitution is also flawed because it does not adequately deal with collective rights. The Federation of independent Schools has correctly pointed out that as the charter now stands, section 15 might well endanger the ability of certain organizations to provide services to their constituents. The charter should be changed to include an exemption clause, as they suggest. As it now stands, the charter may take away rights that currently exist.
Finally, I believe that the right to life is inadequately guaranteed in the charter. First, and I have said this earlier, the charter should make clear that the right to life is an inherent right belonging to all human beings because of their humanity. it is not a gift of this charter.
My own persuasion is that the charter should clearly protect the right to life of the unborn. However, I realize there are those in this House who strongly object to the mention of such a proposal, and it would not likely be enacted.
Therefore I would urge this government to adopt the Progressive Conservative proposal that the charter clearly confirm that the issue of the right to life of the unborn and the issue of capital punishment should be decided by the Parliament of Canada, and that nothing in this charter would prevent that.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to call it seven o’clock.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member’s time has expired. He cannot call it seven o’clock.
Mr. Taylor: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member started at 6.21.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member started at 6.20. It being seven o’clock I do now leave the chair until eight o’clock.
At seven o’clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
Mr. Dan McKenzie (Winnipeg-Assiniboine): Mr. Speaker, all of us are very anxious to speak in this debate. Some of us are getting short notice but I am here tonight and I will do the best I can to make a contribution.
One of the most interesting things so far with regard to the whole constitutional package and the Bill of Rights is the number of responsible Liberals left in the country who are speaking out against the manner in which the government is trying to patriate the Constitution. I want to quote from a recent article in the The Gazette under the heading “Four Liberal senators balk at BNA bill.” It reads:
At least four and perhaps as many as eight Liberal senators will break party ranks to vote against Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s constitution reform resolution.
In a series of interviews, the . . . senators said they are deeply concerned by the legal, ethical and political implications of the resolution and warned that Trudeau’s action could destroy the country.
Of course, destroying the country would not bother many members on the opposite side. That is the program they embarked upon many years ago. They have balkanized this country. they have put it into bankruptcy and they have left us at the mercy of OPEC. But what else is new?
The article continues:
Echoing Progressive Conservative arguments, the senators criticized the proposed charter of rights and Ottawa’s determination to move unilaterally against the wishes of eight of the 10 provinces.
One of the senators said Trudeau was “mad” and two others accused him of steamrolling over critics, including those in its own caucus.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) was in Brazil in January, we read that he arrived there in his running shoes and in a Seersucker suit. The honour guard was standing at attention with their guns on their shoulders. What does our Prime Minister do? He hands them bars of soap. When you read reports like that of the Prime Minister cavorting around this world, it is no wonder some Liberal senators are calling him mad.
We read on as follows:
Some claimed that more than a dozen of their colleagues would vote against the package, but party insiders believe only four have made such a decision.
They include George McIlraith (Ontario), former solicitor general and government leader in the House of Commons, Eric Cook (Newfoundland), Paul Lafond (Quebec)—
Mr. Lafond is a personal friend of the Prime Minister and one of his first appointments to the Senate.
The article continues:
—and Jean-Paul Deschalelets (Quebec).
Four other Liberal senators—Andrew Thompson (Ontario), Ann Bell (B.C.), Daniel Lang (Ontario), and Henry Hicks (Nova Scotia)—are now leaning toward opposition.
I guess they like to sleep at night. Also, one of the best contributions to the debate so far in the Senate was that of the Hon. Eric Cook, a Liberal senator and former judge; as reported at page 1838 of the Senate Hansard for February 24, 1981, as follows:
I am opposed to the resolution because I arn opposed to the federal government’s unilateral action notwithstanding the disapproval of the majority of the provinces and the majority of Canadians.
I read part of his address the other night. There are a few other points I want to put on the record tonight. Senator Cook said:
Fifty-four years ago I became a law student, and one thing I have learned for certain during that long period is that judges are often traditionalists but not often reformers.
Senator Cook was referring to judges handling our human rights. He goes into great detail on how time delaying and costly it can be for a Canadian citizen to go through the courts to protect his rights. He refers to the Liberal Party’s constitutional package as a “dog’s breakfast”. Senator Cook said:
For us to adopt the attitude, however, that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has to pass blindly any “dog’s breakfast” we send over is neither reasonable nor rational.
Senator Cook continued by saying this:
I would agree that the U.K. Parliament should not endeavour to amend or improve any measure we send over, but I most firmly believe that any independent or self- respecting parliament can certainly reject it. To put the ease clearly, suppose our charter of rights contained provisions repugnant to human rights. Must the United Kingdom pass that? Of course not. The answer would be, “Pass it yourselves. if that is what you want; but we will not.” However, if it may be rejected because it lacks merit, it may also be rejected because it lacks a reasonable degree of support, because it is being imposed by a minority of sovereign partners on majority of sovereign partners, and by a minority of the population on the majority of the population.
A Liberal senator said that, one who has been around for many years and who has a lot of experience. Protecting people’s rights, both basic and human rights sounds great. It is really a motherhood issue.
However, when we look at how the Liberal Party has become involved in protecting people’s rights, we see there is a lot to be desired.
I wish to refer to a recent case that went through three different courts and ended up in the Supreme Court. A federal civil servant with the Ministry of Transport was placed in a very unfortunate position. Because he was not able to learn the French language, the Liberal government leaned on him to get him out of his job. He was threatened and harassed and told to move from Montreal to another city.
This civil servant took his case to court where it took five years to prove the Liberal government was wrong in harassing him. Where was the Liberal government that protects people’s rights? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Bockstael) sits there with a big smile on his face. He thinks this is a big joke. He nods his head. It is a big joke, harassing individuals.
Mr. Bockstael: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not think it is in order for the hon. member for Winnipeg-Assiniboine (Mr. McKenzie) to make those remarks. If I choose to smile at something one of my colleagues has said to me, it should not be inferred as making light of what the hon. member for Winnipeg-Assiniboine is saying.
Mr. McKenzie: Mr. Speaker, I am glad you did not recognize that as a point of order. The parliamentary secretary has not spoken about this individual. My point is there are laws to protect individuals such as this. He should not be removed from his position because he cannot learn to speak the French language. I repeat, after having been harassed by the Ministry of Transport and being forced to move to another city, he had to spend five years in the courts defending himself. Where was the Liberal Party which looks after the rights of people? They were nowhere to be found.
An hon. Member: Where were the Conservatives?
Mr. McKenzie: This case was recently brought to my attention. Therefore, I am now speaking on it. I am sure that no Liberals will speak on it. Neither civil servants nor anyone else should be threatened with dismissal for not being able to learn to speak French or English. No unilingual Canadian should be threatened the way Mr. Kelso was threatened in Montreal. He took an aptitude test which showed that he could not learn the French language. Not everyone is capable of learning a second language, and they should not be harassed because of it. I do not see anything in the Liberal package, and I am sure we will never see anything, to protect these people. This is nothing but windowdressing. There is another one smiling and snickering.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. McKenzie: We should return to the merit system in this country, not quotas for jobs and threatening individuals who cannot learn another language.
I hope Mr. Kelso will be fully reimbursed for his legal fees, every red cent. When I was in touch with this gentleman, he told me he was going after his legal fees. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport will ensure that he is fully reimbursed after having spent five years in the courts in order to save his job. He should also be paid his additional costs for transportation back and forth from Cornwall to Montreal to visit his lawyer. We will see how many Liberals speak on that matter.
I will be pursuing this matter in committee if Mr. Kelso is not fully reimbursed. He was reduced to the role of a second- class citizen because he could not learn another language. That is the great Liberal Bill of Rights. Justice, my foot!
I quote from a Globe and Mail report on Mr. Kelso’s case:
Noting that Mr. Kelso had been told to accept within two days or be dismissed, he ruled that this threat of dismissal was illegal. It would be
intolerable if employees were forced to risk disciplinary action to preserve their legal rights, he said. Rights are not extinguished by obeying the employer’s instruction while at the same time contesting his decision.
After five years that was the ruling of the court.
There is another case which was brought up a number of years ago. I thought the matter had been settled, but it was again recently brought to my attention. It involved a question of the rights of an individual, entrenchment, and so on. I quote from the February 15, 1981, Toronto Star:
Five years after he was fired from Canadian National Telecommunications. Bernie Maguire is no closer to learning why he failed a security clearance.
Maguire knows about the document that got him fired, but he can’t see it for security reasons.
And even if Maguire got the information he wants from his security file, he was told he would be charged under the Official Secrets Act if any of it was made public.
Today, Maguire, 28, is a bus driver in Edmonton.
“If I have any hope at all of getting back into electronics, the dismissal has to be cleared up,” the former radio technician said in an interview. “I’m not giving it up.”
He was fired from CN Telecommunications because of a hidden security test he could not find out about. He still does not have the matter cleared up five years later. CN Telecommunications comes under the MOT. We will see whether the parliamentary secretary looks into Mr. Maguire’s case. He now drives a bus because he got the boot from CN. They would not tell him why. This bill of rights is a big joke for the Liberals. They are only interested in Ontario and Quebec.
Now we will get a little closer to home. A recent headline read “Commons guards riled about Sauvé’s remark.”
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. McKenzie: There are approximately 260 uniformed security guards on Parliament Hill. Approximately 52 are unilingual English. They have been informed they can no longer be on duty at any main entrance or in the galleries. instead, they are being relegated to walking the corridors. They will not be promoted. Where is there any justice in that bill of rights?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The matter to which the hon. member refers could be discussed before an appropriate committee of this House. Because this matter refers to the jurisdiction of the Speaker, I suggest the hon. member avail himself of that committee.
Mr. McKenzie: Mr. Speaker, it was discussed before the appropriate committee of this House, the public accounts committee, on Thursday, February 12. This is public information. I am not raising anything new. The statement was made that for “humanitarian reasons” these 52 unilingual English uniformed security guards will be kept on staff. What an insult. Where is thejustice there? What are the Liberals going to do about these English-speaking Canadians who are being treated in this way? It is a terrible crime.
The particular Liberal that raised this in committee stated, “if there is only one who does not speak both languages, it is too much.” All of these unilingual English security guards, uniformed guards that have been here for years—some of them are sergeants—are not supposed to be here. He wants them all put off the staff. Where is the justice in the Official Languages Act? Why did the Liberals introduce that phony resolution in June, 1973, and then introduce Clause 6 or Clause 7 so that we can protect these individuals because they are not supposed to be treated this way? Where is the fairness?
The Conservative Party has gone along with your bilingual policy to promote bilingualism and teach other languages in the schools. All we get is a bunch of Liberals yapping and yelling there. They think this is a big joke. If they had their way, they would kick the 52 unilingual English right out of here.
An hon. Member: Look who’s talking about fairness. Look what you do to Joe.
Mr. McKenzie: So, we do not hear any Liberals speaking—
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Winnipeg-Assiniboine (Mr. Mckenzie) has the floor.
Mr. McKenzie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
An hon. Member: Geronimo.
An hon. Member: Wait till Joe gets you.
Mr. McKenzie: Yes, that is about the size of the contribution we will hear from the Liberals; yelling “Geronimo”, and, “Joe”. The bill of rights; what an utter fraud. What an absolute farce, Liberals concerned about a bill of rights. All they are concerned with is their votes in Quebec and Ontario.
An hon. Member: You were the farce on Friday night.
Mr. McKenzie: We will have no comment from the Liberals on the injustice to that air traffic controller, or Mr. Maguire or the 52 unilingual English who are being abused right here, where we should be practising justice toward all Canadians, regardless of their ethnic origin or what language they speak.
An hon. Member: Even Joe Clark.
Mr. McKenzie: Yes, even Joe Clark will speak up for these people. It certainly will not be any Liberal.
Also, we get an example of what the Liberals are saying in Quebec. I want to read from a recent Montreal Gazette article which says:
Another group of Quebec Liberals has come out against the party’s plan to allow children to attend English-language schools in Quebec simply because their parents’ mother tongue is English.
Do you hear any Liberals speaking on this? No, of course not. There is nothing like this in their bill of rights to protect the English in Quebec; not one word. Do you hear them saying anything against Bill 101, or anything else?
An hon. Member: You have to read it.
An hon. Member: He can’t read.
Mr. McKenzie: Some Liberal says I cannot read. I can read. I read only too well, Mr. Speaker. I have never been taken in by a Liberal in my life.
I want to talk about some other parts of this constitutional package, namely, property rights in respect of which the Liberals have been skating all over the place, because they were afraid they would lose the support of the NDP. They were concerned that they were not going to be able to confiscate property and nationalize industry.
Another section we are very concerned about relates to the affirmation of the sovereignty of God, and free institutions. This is in the same wording as Mr. Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights, which was accepted back in 1960. We are very concerned about freedom of information, which is not clearly defined in the constitutional package, and privacy of the home and family. The Liberals are trying to get into everybody’s bedroom and livingroom. The Vancouver formula should be recognized, with the Queen defined as head of state.
We believe we should split the package in two. The Canadian package should be done in Canada by Canadians, as has been pointed out by prominent Liberal senators in the other place.
I would also like to quote from a recent Globe and Mail article with regard to the NDP and their position:
Federal New Democratic Party Leader Edward Broadbent may believe that he has done what is right in throwing his support to the federal government’s constitutional resolution; but the damage to Canada could be great. The damage to the NDP almost certainly will be.
I hope they are right on that point.
Let me give another example of rights, and we only have rights when it suits the government. Let us look at the new fighter aircraft contract. This so-called Liberal Party is supposed to be recognizing all parts of Canada. After they agreed on one fighter aircraft they would be purchasing, the Liberals immediately announced that 48 per cent of the industrial benefits of the NFA contract would be going to the province of Quebec, 48 per cent of the profit—
An hon. Member: A point of order.
Mr. McKenzie: Thirty-nine per cent—
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Collenette).
Mr. Collenette: Mr. Speaker, I am as tolerant as the next one, but I do believe the comments made by the hon. member for Winnipeg-Assiniboine (Mr. McKenzie) certainly transgress the limits of the resolution, and do not deal, in any way, even with the constitution. It is one thing for him to speak on the amendment dealing with the referendum of his own party provided by his own member from Manitoba, but he is not speaking on anything to do with the resolution. It is the old diatribe we have heard in this House since 1972. Mr. Speaker, I do think you ought to call the hon. member to be relevant. Mr. Deputy Speaker: I must call attention to the fact that the hon. member has the floor on the resolution and the amendment which is before us, and which we are currently discussing.
Mr. McKenzie: That is right. The amendment calls for justice and rights.
An hon. Member: No, it does not.
Mr. McKenzie: Justice and rights, in fair distribution of the NFA contract across Canada. Right at the start—
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Parliamentary Secretory to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Evans) on a point of order.
Mr. Evans: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member does not know what the amendment is, I will tell him. It is to abolish the use of the referendum in the resolution. That is what is before the House now.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): That is not a point of order.
Mr. McKenzie: I am sorry you must put up with these interruptions, Mr. Speaker. To give you an idea of the injustice and the many things that are not contained in the bill of rights and the constitutional package, I would point out, in a recent news article on the distribution of industrial benefits across Canada, which has to—
An hon. Member: Having nothing to do with the resolution.
Mr. McKenzie:—do with constitutional matters, and fairness, and individuals’ rights, provinces’ rights, it is pointed out that:
Ever since Canadair bid on only one of the four Hornet contracts, Quebec cabinet ministers and Liberal MPs have been winning their colleagues what Premier Rene Levesque and his Parti Québécois will sny if Quebec’s share of the pie appears to be falling short.
Mr. Lévesque does not have to worry. These Liberals will look after their power base, and they will see that 48 per cent or more goes into Quebec. They do not have to worry about Mr. Levesque.
An hon. Member: Thirty-five per cent.
Mr. McKenzie: I have a letter from the Archbishop’s office, the archdiocese of Vancouver. I hope the Liberals are not going to call this a point of order. It is about the constitutional package.
An hon. Member: Talking about the referendum.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
An hon. Member: It is about time.
Mr. McKenzie: Well, I am glad I am getting a hand from the Liberals. We hope to be hearing from them about Bernie Maguire, Mr. Kelso, and what they are going to do about the 52 unilingual English. The uniformed security guards on the
Hill will be very interested in hearing your comments about that.
The Archbishop’s office is very concerned about the package and at the constitutional committee hearings it pointed out:
The Undersigned Roman Catholic Bishops of British Columbia and the Yukon wish to express their deep concern over inadequacies in the proposed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We share the conviction that there is a potentially harmful imbalance between Individual and collective rights. While we endorse and support the objective of guaranteeing individual rights, both those that flow from civil law and those that are anterior to it, we hold it to be equally indispensable that there be at the same time and in proper balance the objective of guaranteeing collective rights.
The proposed charter of rights as presently it is worded leaves us with the impression that the great importance of collective rights is not understood or recognized.
They are perfectly right there, and there is no intention on the part of the Liberal Party to recognize them in any way at all.
Another denomination is speaking out against the package. I want to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark), who led the fight to tell the Canadian people what the Liberal Party is up to.
Mr. Rossi: That is not what you said a couple of nights ago.
Mr. McKenzie: The Canadian people did not fully understand what this was about. They understand it now. I was not getting any mail a few months ago, but I am getting lots of mail now about what is going on in the country under this so-called Liberal government.
I would like now to read from the Canadian Churchman as follows:
Archbishop Ted Scott is convinced the federal government has taken a wrong turn on the road to a Canadian-made constitution.
The Canadian primate said so forcefully last month in a two-hour dialogue with Senators and Members of Parliament who make up thejoint parliamentary committee on the Constitution of Canada.
The Anglican leader said unilateral federal government action is not the bcst way of reflecting the aspirations of Canada’s diverse parts.
Of course, this has been highlighted by a number of Liberal senators in the other place who have been around here much longer than many of those who are sitting here tonight yelling and shouting.
I would like to quote another very respected gentleman in Manitoba, a former Liberal premier of Manitoba. Mr. Douglas Campbell was premier of Manitoba for ten years, and he appeared at some constitutional hearings in Winnipeg back in January. The article I am quoting reads in part as follows:
Campbell charges Trudeau misleading Canadians in bid to patriate constitution.
Douglas Campbell, former Liberal premier of Manitoba, yesterday accused Prime Minister Trudeau of misleading the Canadian people in his attempts to bring home the Constitution.
This very respected gentleman and a member of the Liberal Party for some 60 years says the Prime Minister is misleading the Canadian people. Other prominent Liberals in the other place are saying the Prime Minister is mad. Thank heaven some Liberals are speaking out against this ridiculous proposal. Mr. Campbell went on to say:
“I don’t think Mr. Trudeau has given the information that the public has a right to expect,” Campbell told the legislative committee holding public hearings on constitutional reform.
Campbell, premier from 1948 to 1958. condemned Ottawa’s bilingual policies. bill of rights, amending formula and haste.
He urged the Manitoba government “to use every legal means” to halt Ottawa’s unilateral course.
Campbell said Trudeau has “been less than frank”—
Mr. Campbell is being very polite.
Mr. Rossi: That is something you aren’t.
—in implying the provinces have delayed patriation.
“There is the implication that the provinces have in some way held up patriation,” Campbell said.
“The big holdup always was how do we amend it once we get it home.”
Campbell said Ottawa has forgotten that in the past the provinces and the federal government agreed unanimously before any changes were made to the Constitution.
In those days the premiers and the prime minister met on a regular basis, and they discussed things properly. Nothing was rammed down their throats. Mr. Campbell is referring back to those days when we were making progress and when we had responsible government in this country. Mr. Campbell went on to say:
“Only since Trudeau showed up has there been a move from unanimous consent,” he said.
The federal government also has suggested that those who oppose the entrenchment of a bill of rights oppose human rights, Campbell said.
Actually, a bill of rights would undermine democratic principles, he told the committee.
“It is not the job of the Constitution to legislate.”
Campbell said Trudeau’s attempts to legislate bilingualism have created resistance in the west to the French community.
“I think the program is being oversold,” he said.
It is nice to hear some prominent Liberals speaking out, especially those who are in the other place today.
I would like to finish by reading the comments of a great historian in Winnipeg, a gentleman by the name of Eric Wells, former editor of the Winnipeg Tribune and a broadcaster who has studies Canadian issues for many years. I just want to read the comments he made on radio station CJOB on February 6. Mr. Wells said:
The parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada are on a collision course. and we are nearing the end of the line—the British connection is going to go.
What began as a relatively minor constitutional adjustment to be made by Canada’s Parliament has been fanned into a major conflagration and there appears to be no way to avoid the consequences.
Unless—unless Canada withdraws its demand for a Canadian charter of rights to be passed by the British House, or unless the British parliamentarians cave in and take their orders from Ottawa.
In view of the threats made by Prime Minister Trudeau the Canadian demand will not be withdrawn, nor should we expect that British parliamentarians, who defied the divine right of kings, will now surrender that principle to Ottawa’s divine politicians.
The scenario has degenerated into it sordid hoax, all of it cooked up in our capital city. The most disgraceful distortion is that the British are reviving colonialism in questioning the substance of the Canadian demand.
All the British are suggesting is that we Canadians should puss our own laws in our own parliament. We must be slow learners. Our Canadian Parliament has become the black sheep of all the parliaments spawned by Westminster.
Our Prime Minister jokes about the British dilemma. He scowls on TV mocking the Brits with the words: “The Empire strikes back . . .” And his ally, Ed Broadbent, insults members of the house by calling them “Colonel Blimps and colonials” when they show Concern about the obscene burden we have inflicted upon the British.
That’s the way we’re winding up the British connection, and what a lousy way to close the family album. In our parliament our politicians vandalize our heritage with cheap shots.
That is what we hear from the Liberal Party tonight when I raise the legitimate concerns of Canadians and refer to the way they have been abused by the Liberal Party. All we get is cheap shots from the Liberals who are in the House tonight.
Mr. Rossi: Look who is talking about being cheap.
No wonder the British are puzzled, we don’t even show good form.
We certainly have not seen good form here tonight. I hope before the debate is finished we hear what the Liberals will do to help Mr. Bernie Maguire. I hope we will find out if the Liberals will fully reimburse Mr. Kelso for his court costs and all the additional costs he had to incur to save his job because he could not learn to speak another language. I hope to hear from the Liberals about what they will do about the 52 unilingual uniformed security staff on this Hill. I hope to hear what the Liberals suggest in order to save their jobs and allow them to be promoted. That is my final point. A resolution was passed here in this House in June of 1973 to protect unilingual civil servants, but it only covers federal civil servants. It docs not cover House of Commons staff nor the employees of Crown corporations. I would like to see the Liberals bring forward proper legislation so that these individuals can be protected by law. Then we will know if the Liberals are really concerned about human rights and basic rights. I hope we hear from them before this debate is closed.
Mr. Nelson A. Riis (Kamloops-Shuswap): Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the previous speaker for his very intellectual, constructive and thoughtful contribution to our constitutional debate! I found his contribution to be very motivated, and I will have a difficult time following it!
I appreciate this opportunity to participate in this constitutional debate. I join in this debate with a great deal of respect and humility. This issue is one of the great issues of recent times. It is an issue whose time has definitely come.
I have respect for those colleagues who have played such a contributory role in the process up to this point, colleagues from all parties who, in their own way, have served the people of Canada very well. I want to recognize especially the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom) and the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) who have fulfilled their responsibilities in a most admirable style and who have made a profound contribution to the constitutional debate.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Riis: I also have respect for the institution of Parliament and the opportunity it provides for all of us to participate in this crucial debate, and a decision which will touch the lives of all Canadians in profound ways for generations to come. From this stems my humility at being a part of this historic process, a historic process of paramount importance to the future of Canada and the future of Canadians.
We are now in the final stages of a debate which began, not four months ago, not four years ago, not 40 years ago, but 54 years ago when, back in 1927, J. S. Woodsworth introduced a motion to patriate the Constitution. That same motion prompted the calling of the first constitutional conference which essentially began the process we now sec culminating here.
In 1947 it was T. C. Douglas who introduced Canada’s first Bill of Rights and, like his colleague, J. S. Woodsworth, he too was, before his time, presenting ideas and concepts which today, decades later, we find to be valuable and certainly worthwhile advancing. The 1960s saw the beginning of Quebec’s “quiet revolution”, the awakening and the recognition by the people in the province of Quebec, to the fact that they had been facing injustices for years and that the time had come for the wrongs to be rightcd. In 1965 we saw Canada finally obtain its own flag, its own symbol of independence and autonomy. In the 1970s we saw the rise to power of the Parti Québécois and the issue of duality emerged clearly as a central theme in Canadian history. At the same time, in the 1970s we saw the centre of economic gravity in Canada shift from central Canada slowly westward, emphasizing the serious regional splits and diversity within the country. Last year, in 1980, we saw the country adopting its national anthem. We had a song to sing when the time was appropriate. In 1981, we hope to sce the final steps being taken toward a Constitution for Canada.
Step by step we have won our autonomy, our independence and our sovereignty, and today we areat the close of a historic period, but let us also recognize we are about to embark on a new one. In a sense, this is the beginning, the first step toward the formation of a society of greater social and economic justice. What happens from this stage onward will be the rcal test of our commitment for a renewed and better Canada. Social, economic, cultural and regional changes in Canada have necessitated the need for a new Constitution. The Canada which we sec in 1981 is quite a different country from the one which existed in 1867. The fabric of society has changed significantly, the demography of Canada has changed significantly, and the economic structure of Canada has changed. It is a different country requiring a different constitution.
It is important to say that the constitutional debate is not a red herring, as many have suggested. It has been suggested that it is somewhat less important than energy or the economy. No, it is very much a part of the fundamental difficulties facing our country. To fail to patriate our Constitution with an
amending formula including the principle of equalization and a charter of rights would certainly threaten the very fabric of our country today.
There is no question that these are difficult, emotional and challenging times. Writing a constitution does not come easily. Nothing of value comes easily, and I would suggest that the most rewarding experiences of our lives are emotional, challenging and difficult experiences. Sir John A. Macdonald and the Fathers of Confederation did not have it easy. To do nothing is easy. To do nothing, as we did in 1931 when we decided to leave our Constitution in Britain since it would be too difficult to agree on an amending formula, was easy. To bring the Constitution home to Canada is a real challenge, and to include in it the principle of equalization, a charter of rights and an amending formula is something my party has proudly advocated and worked toward for years.
The original proposal brought before the House included the basic principles we had sought for decades and, while our first reaction was to support it, the first draft presented to Parliament had many serious and obvious flaws. It needed to be changed in an effort to adequately meet the needs of Canada in the 19805 and in the decades to come. It was at that point that the NDP, unlike the other opposition party, decided to put partisan differences aside. This was not a typical piece of legislation which the opposition felt an obligation to oppose. We decided to be a positive, constructive opposition party as the Whigs and Tories were in 1864 when they came together to address the need for a constitution in Canada. Here were politicians with strong and passionate differences who said this was too important a matter to let partisan politics interfere with their decision making. I suggest that was a decision which this House should have made and which certainly the Tory party should have made at the outset.
We sought to improve the resolution by providing serious and constructive amendments and criticisms. It has been said that we were asking the British parliament to do our work. I would ask members ofthe Conservative Party and all members of the House: what on earth have we been doing for the past six months? During the constitutional committee debate over 100 members of the House of Commons participated in one way or another, 914 individuals expressed their opinions regarding the proposal, and 294 groups made their views known. We asked that the debates be televised so that Canadians across the country would have an opportunity to listen in on the committee discussions and respond more appropriately to Members of Parliament. We asked that the issue be fully debated in the House of Commons, and to that of course we still hold. I personally have received over 200 pieces of correspondence and many more phone calls. I have participated in more than a dozen constitutional workshops and forums in western Canada. No one can seriously suggest that this is not a Canadian-made resolution, made by Canadians for Canadians. My disappointment is that it could have been handled much better. The principle of participatory grassroots democracy could have been included and all 282 members of the House should have had the opportunity to play a much more involved and integral role in the process, but unfortunately that is behind us and we failed in that respect.
Because of our positive and constructive approach we feel that real progress was made. We feel that we as a positive opposition party have accomplished a great deal, and again I must congratulate the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville and the hon. member for Burnaby, as well as others, who played such a critical role in achieving a better Constitution for Canada.
One of the items we feel we can legitimately share in the responsibility for achieving was a clause providing equality before and under the law in substance as well as in procedure. This is especially relevant to the 51 per cent of the population who are women in Canada. In my mind it is a clear signal to the courts of Canada to recognize women’s rights.
We were successful in achieving non-discrimination rights for the handicapped in Canada. Now 700,000 individuals will have a better future because of the constructive criticisms and approach of the members of my party. We were successful in achieving educational rights for linguistic minorities. We were successful in achieving resource control for the provinces of Canada and explicit recognition of Canada’s multicultural character. We worked hard with the native bands and organizations across the country to achieve an affirmation of aboriginal and native rights within the Constitution. This does a great deal to guarantee the historical and collective rights of Canada’s original peoples. It would be an embarrassment for all of us if that clause had not been included; it would have been difficult for any of us to visit Indian reserves anywhere in Canada.
I was particularly moved by my colleague who spoke on behalf of the Inuit people of Canada. He explained in his speech that his great grandfather took along many of the European explorers and showed them the way through the various Arctic Islands, only to have these explorers run up on to the beaches, plant flags and claim they had found these islands for the first time. What does that say to an individual who has lived on those islands for perhaps thousands of years? What about the Indian people in my own part of British Columbia who have lived along the river valleys for 12,000 or maybe 20,000 years only to have Simon Fraser or Thompson discover them? This is the kind of thing which does little to recognize the role Canada’s original peoples played in our history. I am proud to say that with our help the affirmation of aboriginal and native rights is now firmly entrenched in the Constitution of Canada.
We would like to see other changes. We would like to see the abolition of the Senate and a clarification of both women’s and Indian rights within the Constitution. We would also like to see the recognition of collective bargaining rights and political rights. But these are changes we will work toward before this process is through and as it unfolds during constitutional discussions in following years.
Yes, we were prepared to make some compromise in the best interests of Canadians, For those who say compromise is a dirty game, let me say that were it not for the constructive, determined and progressive efforts of our party, many of the 59 changes to the original resolution would not have occurred as they did.
As a western Member of Parliament, I am proud of my party’s amendment which secures for the provinces the right to manage, own, tax and control the nonlrenewable resources, the forestry resources and the hydro resources within their boundaries. These rights are key building blocks on which to create a sound, secure and diversified economic future for western Canada, as well as Canada per se. This is especially important for some provinces, particularly those in the west, since the ability to direct and develop the sale of depleting resources is absolutely crucial.
During the first 100 years of confederation the west, richly endowed with natural resources, was forced to forgo the development of a manufacturing base. Manufacturing was largely focused in central Canada and was nurtured by almost a century of strong protective tariffs. The resources of the other provinces now deserve comparable protection. Many provincial governments have been apprehensive about past judicial decisions on their traditional right to manage and control the resources within their own boundaries. Therefore, a constitutionally entrenched affirmation confirming provincial ownership and management of resources is a key element of a fair confederation package.
The amendment of the hon. member for Oshawa (Mr. Broadbent) will help to ease the apprehension of many people in resource-producing provinces concerning their ability to use their resources to help build their economic future and to ease their uncertainty about the equity of the confederation bargain. The amendment gives the provinces the right to control the level and nature of exploration of non-renewable resources. It offers them the right to regulate the way and rate at which forestry, non-renewable and electrical resources are exploited. The amendment would permit provinces to institute resource management and conservation schemes as they deem necessary. It allows provinces to develop electrical generation projects in ways and at rates they see fit. Provinces would be able to regulate the movement of their resources within Canada, so long as it did not contravene federal legislation. Provinces would also have the right to set resource prices and levy direct and indirect taxes on the resources sold in Canada, as long as the provinces did not discriminate in the prices charged or the availability of resources to all Canadians.
These rights would apply fully to non-renewable resources, resources generating electricity and forest resources. I believe this amendment will help to allay the fears, particularly of western Canadians, that when they seek to regulate their resources their ability to do so will be halted by the complexity of federal powers. It will help to renew their conviction that the Canadian federation can be constructed fairly in ways which allow all partners to develop fully in the best interests of their people.
I should like to take a few moments to look at the four main parts of the present resolution: patriation, equalization, a charter of rights and an amending formula. I think one can gloss over quickly the section on patriation. There is no question that a few months ago this House voted unanimously for the patriation of Canada’s Constitution. This must be done and as far as I am concerned, the sooner the better.
However, the topic of equalization is a very important one. The concept of the rich parts of Canada assisting the poor parts of Canada is a matter of profound concern to social democrats. Disparities exist between regions of Canada which result in unequal opportunities for Canadians at the present time. Young people from the outports of Newfoundland may not have the same opportunities as youngsters growing up in metropolitan Toronto. People from some parts of the western provinces may not have the same opportunity as those people coming from other parts of Canada. Equalization is a concept that we all use when we raise our families. Certain parts of the family are always prepared to stand by and assist other parts during times of need. In that spirit, the concept of equalization is something about which we feel extremely strongly.
Perhaps the most important section in the resolution before us is the charter of rights. I believe passionately in the protection and the existence of human rights. They must be entrenched in the Constitution to provide legal protection for all Canadians, not subject to the whim of provincial governments nor, for that matter, to the whim of federal governments. There are those who protest that protection by parliaments and legislatures has been a safe enough protection of individual rights in Canada, but I do not think history bears this out.
May I call it nine o’clock, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It 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 and public bills.