Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (3 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7832-7868.
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COMMONS DEBATES — March 3, 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. Nelson A. Riis (Kamloops-Shuswap): Mr. Speaker, yesterday at the close of the sitting I was referring to the section of the charter dealing with human rights. I believe that Canadians generally have the feeling that their basic rights and freedoms are very well protected in Canada. Although our record is certainly far better than that of most nations, it is not beyond reproach. Our past, and indeed even our present, has witnessed many instances of gross and blatant discrimination where groups and individual rights and freedoms were viciously abused and in some extreme cases were eliminated completely.
Recall, for example, the total genocide of the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland where in some cases the Indians were considered as being less than human and shot for sport. Consider the thousands of Chinese who were brought into British Columbia during the 1880s and were, for all practical purposes, slaves. This was clearly demonstrated in the Dominion Elections Act of 1885 in which Chinese people were categorized as not being persons.
We have been reminded many times in the past number of weeks of the 23,000 Canadians of Japanese origin who were forcibly moved from their homes along the west coast under the War Measures Act. Many of us today shudder at the recollection of the smashing of the Woodworkers’ Union during their efforts to represent working people in Newfoundland.
There was the social political force of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1930s in Canada, again lifting its ugly head today. Under the Duplessis regime there were numerous examples of both religious and political discrimination and persecution. In recent times the government of Alberta attempted to manipulate the free press in that province and pass legislation abusing the rights and freedoms of the Hutterite people. In British Columbia, there was blatant racial discrimination against the Sikhs since arriving in that province at the turn of the century and, unfortunately, it still remains today. As was indicated in today’s question period, the federal government still maintains discriminating provisions regarding native Indian women under the Indian Act.
These practices must not be allowed to continue or to occur again, as the case may be. That is why we support the principle of an entrenched charter of rights.
To those who say, “You’re not giving rights to the people, you’re giving them to the courts”, I can only reply, “What legal system worthy of the name in providing for rights doesn’t leave the interpretation and enforcement of these rights to adjudication?” If we are serious about protecting minorities and protecting against discrimination, of course the courts will have to provide protection. Who protected the Hutterites or the Japanese Canadians? Who protected freedom of the press in Alberta or religious or political freedoms in Quebec? Not the legislatures. The dialectical tension between courts, citizens and legislatures is a permanent feature of our democratic way of life, and those who say “keep the courts away from protecting our rights” surely misunderstand the importance of the legal and judicial process in defining liberty itself.
In any case, there is nothing in the package before us that we are presently debating which prevents provincial legislatures and the federal government from respecting the rights of their citizens. What we have here is a safety net, an added protection, some extra security that in case provincial legislatures or the federal Parliament do not respect those rights, there is recourse to the courts.
These are changing times. Canadian society has become extremely dynamic. It is imperative that our Constitution reflect this dynamism in Canadian culture. Therefore, it is imperative that the Constitution of Canada include an amending formula which is flexible enough to provide for our evolving society while still reflecting the federal and regional nature of our country.
The one suggested is a practical amending formula and with appropriate co-operation ought to go a long way towards satisfying the concerns registered over the past number of months. It gives each of our four major regions of Canada a veto on constitutional change. While it identifies four regions, one could easily justify five, eight, or an infinite number of regions, but I believe we can live with the regions proposed as being a reasonable effort to meld population numbers and geographic area. This formula involves the provinces in the amending procedure, a procedure which is designed to ensure that substantial support exists from each of the four regions of Canada for any proposed amendment.
An alternative proposal was considered and rejected. I am referring to the so-called Vancouver formula which would resemble the formula we are presently discussing but would allow any province to opt out of a jurisdictional decision
directly affecting that province. Such a formula, in my view, is fundamentally wrong and incoherent. How can a province “opt out” of changes to such federal institutions as the Senate or the Supreme Court? Is it seriously contended that the Criminal Code should apply in Manitoba but not in Saskatchewan, or that provinces should be able to pick and choose what role they would play in Canada’s national defence? Where the formula is not incoherent, it profoundly misunderstands the nature of federalism, which surely includes the recognition of integrity within what are the explicitly recognized fields of national jurisdiction. It is hard to see how common citizenship can exist if basic human rights are different from province to province. One could also question the constitutionality of the “checkerboard” or “patchwork quilt” view of human rights.
It will be clear by now that I do not believe that Canada is simply the sum of its parts or a “community of communities”. l do not accept the view that the federal government is the agent of the provinces. That surely is to deny the constitutional reality that the Fathers of Confederation formed a federation whose national government has important, independent powers, and the historical, political, and economic reality that Canadians have come to look to their national government for leadership and material assistance. That leadership has not always been exercised with intelligence and restraint. Our federal institutions are in desperate need of reform. We have to find a way of establishing more co-operation in our federation. This will require a new leadership, a new will. The stage has been set for a new beginning, a new approach.
Years ago my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), wrote that Canada needed real symbols before maturing into the thriving, prosperous country it ought to be; it needed a flag, it needed an anthem and it needed a constitution. He saw it then. Canada sees it today. Canada is surely a country whose time has come. It was Laurier who said that the twentieth century will belong to Canada. Let us get on with realizing that dream.
My family came to Canada from Norway at the turn of the century. They moved into the west and settled far from the railway, far from the head of the rail in those days. They came in an oxcart to that flat, not necessarily hospitable, prairie land. It was a challenging prairie, yet what drew them into that environment was a dream. It was a dream of opportunity, a dream of freedom, a dream of equality. It was a dream that this was a place where their rights would be protected and where they could be different and maintain their cultural heritage. This Constitution will help to ensure that those dreams endure in Canada.
We are at an historic moment in Canada. We have an historic opportunity. That is why the Constitution is not “irrelevant”, or the private fantasy of one individual. The challenge of constitutional, economic and political reform will be with us long after the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) disappears from the scene. I am increasingly convinced that time is running out, and that all of us have to seize the day, to seize this opportunity now! Let us ensure that the Canada of our children and our children’s children will be a better Canada. Let us be a model for the world. Let us make Canada the home of the most challenging and civilized society on earth. Ours has been a proud past; let us act now to ensure a prosperous future.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ralph Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Small Businesses and Tourism)): Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured today to take part in this historic Thirty- second Parliament of Canada, debating the report of a joint committee of the House and Senate which has examined and studied this history-making resolution. As indicated by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chretien) when he introduced his resolution, we have been trying since 1927 to develop an amending formula through federal-provincial consultation. These attempts have failed.
On examination of the reason for failure during this 54-year period of frustration and anxiety, we find that the very diverse nature of our country, of its resources and its potential structure, made the task of amendment extremely difficult. For those who would suggest that the current political differences led to the failure of the last round of talks, let me remind them that on the nine previous occasions when the federal and provincial governments tried to reach consensus, the Prime Minister and provincial premiers were not the same as those we have today.
As we reflect on and examine regional development, we realize that central Canada had approximately 75 years’ head start on western Canada in terms of settlement and development, and 38 years’ head start within confederation. Now development and economic growth are becoming more active in the west. As this process takes place, the industrial development that follows will provide a balance that can only lead to a stronger Canada economically, politically and nationally. As the various regions of this nation develop their potential, there must be a bond of understanding. We cannot afford to have one region suppressing or taking advantage of another. We must work together, and in this context the principle of equalization as outlined in the proposed resolution is essential to our survival as a nation.
The bond of understanding and compassion for our fellow Canadians cannot be allowed to stop at a provincial boundary but should be extended in a way that will provide equality of opportunity in life, and equality of purpose, to people in all regions of this nation. The bond of understanding and our nationhood must be strengthened. The fact that a nation over 100 years old, a nation of 24 million people, has appealed on 26 different occasions since confederation to the parliament of a nation on another continent for changes to our Constitution is unacceptable in today’s world.
Canada is regarded as one of the great nations of the world. Canadians are among the leaders in contributing on a per capita basis to world food aid, yet we make a spectacle of ourselves as a nation that cannot agree to amend its Constitu-
tion. Where is our sense of pride? Surely, as a reasonably young but mature nation compared to other countries, we have come a long way in 114 years.
The feeling of outrage expressed by some of those in opposition really cannot be justified. If Parliament were to ignore the democratic system of representation, as we do at the first ministers’ meetings where each province has equal input, this body could not justify itself, or justify its actions. Such action is not indicative of representation by population.
To underscore what I mean, may I remind hon. members that in Prince Edward Island, for example, there are about 123,000 Canadians. In the province of Ontario there are over eight million Canadians. The imbalance of population between the provinces is well known, yet each provincial premier for historic reasons has been given equal opportunity and importance at federal-provincial conferences. However, given equal opportunity, the premiers could not reach agreement. Members of this Thirty-second Parliament must therefore accept their responsibility and execute the functions of a democratically elected body, representative of the population of Canada, and bring our amended Constitution home to Canada.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ferguson: It is my hope that the members of this House will act as responsible Canadians and respond unanimously, as they did on May 9 last year when the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko) presented the following resolution:
That the Parliament of Canada submit an address to Her Majesty the Queen, that Her Majesty may graciously be pleased to cause a bill to be laid before the Parliament of the United Kingdom to provide for the amendment in Canada of the Constitution of Canada.
When we reflect on the discussions and debate during the development of the British North America Act in the years before confederation, we are reminded of the fact that there was not unanimous agreement. In those days it was the members from Canada West, or Upper Canada, who provided the larger part of that majority to proceed. One of the men who worked diligently to bring opposing factions together to draft the British North America Act of 1867 was the Hon. George Brown who, in his younger years, owned property in the town of Bothwell in the riding now represented by the hon. member for Kent (Mr. Bossy). A new constituency delineated out of the riding of Kent is now part of the riding I represent.
George Brown came to Canada in 1843 from Scotland at 25 years of age. In Toronto he founded the newspaper The Banner, which was later renamed The Globe. He was the publisher and editor at that time. He was first elected to the legislative assembly of Canada in 1851, and he vocally advocated representation by population and a union of the provinces.
In 1861, weakened by illness, Brown left the political arena for two years, but in the summer of 1863 his health recovered and he returned to the legislative assembly as the representative from the riding of Oxford. He found a deadlock. Cartier’s Conservatives in Quebec on the one hand, and the Reformers in Upper Canada on the other, could not agree. Throughout the autumn session deadlock prevailed with no end in sight, but finally Brown, acting as a private member, disclosed a significant new approach. He moved for a select committee to inquire impartially into the sectional problems of Canada and to report on the best means of remedying them. Brown’s sole aim at that time was to settle the constitutional impasse. He was appointed chairman of the select committee which was composed of leading members of all parties, and on June 14 the committee reported to Parliament that there was a “strong feeling” in favour of “a federative system”.
Lord Monck, Governor General during those confederation years, stated that “George Brown was the man whose conduct rendered the project of confederation feasible”. On February 3 Mr. Megarry, the current publisher of The Globe and Mail, described George Brown’s efforts to the Royal Commonwealth Society of London in England when he said, and I quote:
Our newspaper, The Globe, was founded 137 years ago by George Brown, who was one of the architects of Canadian confederation. Without him, without his persistent political dedication, the colonies of British North America would never have come together.
I cannot help but look back with a sense of pride on such references to the Hon. George Brown, who once represented part of my constituency and was the founder and publisher of The Globe, a man who believed in Canada and worked to bring about that original union of those four provinces.
But then when I look at the speech of the current publisher to the Royal Commonwealth Society of London on February 3, I find that later on he said, and I quote:
We are only 114 years old as a nation. Relative to other members of the Commonwealth we are still going through our adolescence.
Mr. Peterson: Nonsense.
Mr. Ferguson: That speech must have been read by every Canadian with a degree of dismay. Mr. Megarry was really saying that Canada is an immature nation. The present day publisher of The Globe and Mail is George Brown’s successor in one sense only, because he has no faith in Canada and no vision of Canada as a country with one of the best systems of social welfare of any nation in the world. Canada is a nation which provides for its senior citizens and for those in need, a nation which is only one of the four countries of the world which are net exporters of food and a nation which, compared with other countries in the industrialized world, has created more jobs than any other similar country in the last ten years. Canada is a nation which has one of the highest standards of living of any nation in the world and is endeavouring to settle amicably great disputes, the like of which have plunged other countries into war.
When we consider the problems and developments over the years in other Commonwealth countries and even differences of opinion within various regions of the British Isles themselves, then I respectfully point out to this House that Canada is a mature nation. It is mature and able to decide by the
democratic process in this Parliament of Canada the content of the resolution before us in this debate, namely a Constitution and a bill of rights made in Canada for all Canadians.
The efforts of that first publisher of The Globe, the hon. George Brown, to bring about confederation and the statements of the current publisher are in direct contradiction. I suggest that inflammatory statements by Canadians in positions of responsibility, including members of this House, can only compound our current problems.
By contrast, on television on February 15 last, Charles Lynch, in referring to the acrimony which has surfaced in this debate—and, unfortunately, in some regions across the land said, and I quote:
The bitterness, I think, is largely fabricated by the people who have opposed the measure. by the premiers and by the Progressive Conservatives. I don’t see in the measure—it’s not that I’ve suddenly fallen in love with Trudeau and Chrétien, I simply do not see in the Constitution, in the amending formula, the temporary one. in the charter of rights, the things that the alarmists see. I am not offended by anything in the package.
He went on to say:
As for bulldozing it, I have thought for years now that that’s the only way. There’s no other way to do it. If they go the Conservative way, the premiers’ way, back to the table, you and I have covered enough federal-provincial conferences to know what that’s going to lead to. It’s going to lead nowhere… The only person who is sure of how to do it is Pierre Trudeau. And he, in his fourth term and with all the things at his age and everything, is taking a risk that no previous prime minister has ever taken and I think no future one will take. lf we don’t get it this time, we don’t get it at all.
This working veteran journalist leaves no doubt as to his thoughts on this matter and the need to proceed.
I was very proud of this House on May 9, 1980, and on the evening of May 20 I was very proud of the people of Quebec. I sincerely hope that the sense of pride of being Canadian prevails across this nation in the weeks ahead and results in a stronger and better Canada which has control of its own destiny.
The committee’s report before the House is the result of substantial alterations made by representatives of both sides of this House and the Senate. There is not the shadow of a doubt that the report before us reflects the wishes of the Canadian people. The committee members have examined a broader perspective than that represented by the ambitions and interests of their own provinces, their own regions or their own constituencies. Indeed, if we follow the adage that history is a good teacher, then if a similar committee achieved success to give us the British North America Act, which was intended to serve us during the fledgling years of nationhood, we must accept the majority report of the joint committee to ensure that this nation is never again faced with a vote which would provide opportunists with an excuse to divide the nation again.
The proposed resolution for a joint address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada ensures future generations fundamental rights and freedoms. This House is respectfully asking Her Royal Majesty to entrench a charter of rights duly debated in this chamber at second reading, in the special joint committee of both Houses and now again at this time.
The entrenchment of this strong charter of rights and freedoms will have far-reaching effects on our society. In that Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a section which affirms aboriginal rights. I am certainly proud of that part which refers specifically to the handicapped. I am proud that these rights are included in the charter. The special needs of the handicapped must be served.
The vast majority of the 100 groups and individuals who appeared before the special parliamentary committee favoured the entrenchment of a bill of rights. Thousands of our concerned citizens from both east and west have voiced approval in no uncertain terms.
I would like to quote from a letter from a constituent of mine dated February 9, 1981. He stated:
Dear Mr. Ferguson,
It is my hope that the Government of Canada will proceed in a straightforward manner with the matter of the Constitution. That is. the whole “package”, including the human rights section, should be put directly to the House and then to Westminster without the diversion of taking it to the courts and without backing down because some British parliamentarians might not think certain amendments suit their personal view of what Canada might be. The time has come to take the first major step in defining this “Canada” in constitutional terms, including human rights for all. Let Canadians and their government be bold and proud enough to do this together now.
Although the constitutional dialogue up until this time has been difficult, and some provincial premiers have not seen fit to come to terms with each other or Ottawa, I do believe it has been a creative discussion. But, the time for the process is nearly over and the decision faces us. The only alternative is to miss the opportunity and begin wallowing in words and bad feeling for years to come. This would be no favour to the country.
I am entirely confident that the government should proceed directly in repatriating the Constitution and I believe many, many other Canadians think and feel the same.
Within a very short time this will be recognized as having been the right course of action at this juncture in Canada’s history.
Sincerely, Jim Phelps.
Other members have had similar representations, Mr. Speaker.
It is with a sense of pride that just a week ago yesterday, Monday, February 23, I was honoured to have a gentleman from central Alberta drop in unannounced to see me in my office. This man, a complete stranger to me, expressed his deeply felt concern and conviction, a conviction as a Canadian by choice who had fought for Canada in World War II. In anguished terms, the man spoke about statements being made by some Members of Parliament and by the media which were intended to instil fear in the hearts of Canadians. As a Canadian who fought for his country, he knew where his duty lay. He asked what he could do for his nation, what he could do as an Albertan to assist in bringing about a better understanding between Canadians. That is typical. That man, though a stranger when he walked into my office, is the Canadian I know and am proud to know. As a true Canadian, I believe he will fight those who wish to instil fear by innuendo or simply because of personal goals and ambitions which they place ahead of the good of the nation.
Mr. Speaker, I have travelled across this nation on many occasions, from the rugged shores of Newfoundland to the Cabot trails of Cape Breton, to Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, to historic old Quebec, from the Great Lakes basin to the prairies, through the majestic Rockies to the Pacific. I am proud to be a part of this great nation and I am proud of its people.
It is in this context, Mr. Speaker, that I request all members of the House to pull together” as Canadians, to explain to their constituents that in spite of our problems we still have one of the best countries in the world; and in the words of Gordon Fairweather, the Human Rights Commissioner, we will now have one of the best charters of human rights of any nation in the world.
In my view, the proposed Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the tie that will bind Canadians together in their association with each other, cognizant and secure in the knowledge that their individual rights and freedoms will be upheld in the Constitution of this nation.
I therefore enjoin hon. members to vote for the report of the joint committee and the resolution to enhance the well-being of each citizen and strengthen the resolve of nationhood. This historic debate can only strengthen the bond of understanding and the bond of equality but, most of all, it will fulfil our obligations to the Fathers of Confederation and to Canada itself as a great nation in the world.
Hon. Flora MacDonald (Kingston and the Islands): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this historic debate about my country because Canada is a unique country, a country with a very special system of government, a federal system. We are one of only I4 countries in the world where the locus of power lies not in one but in two levels of government. From the day when my great predecessor from Kingston, Sir John A. Macdonald, first dreamed his dream of a united country from sea to sea, he and his confreres, Sir George Etienne Cartier, Sir Charles Tupper, George Brown and the many others, all instinctively knew that this country, diverse as it is in peoples, regions, resources and cultures, would have to have a special system of government. They knew that they would need something better suited to this complex country than the unitary system of government which operated in Britain from which they had already borrowed our parliamentary procedures. A unitary system such as that one, even though it was dear to Sir John A’s heart, would not, he knew, be capable of reflecting sensitively the differing views, and indeed the differing drives, of such a huge, sprawling, tumultuous and potentially explosive country. Canada was and is too unpredictable and too unwieldy a country to be held in check by one single rein of government designed to coerce it into uniformity. Canada never has been, is not now, and never will be, that kind of country.
It was recognition of the leashed up potential, of the greatness which lay in store for it, that led the Fathers of Confederation into the parallel and complementary paths of nation building and province building. It was not done easily and it was not done lightly. It took the divisiveness of the united Canada period, from 1841 to 1864, with its forced uniformity and its subsequent collapse, to make the people of Upper and Lower Canada appreciate that they had to be part of a system where the diversity and strengths of the one province had to be appreciated and respected by the other.
And so, when the new federation was conceived, it was in the knowledge that it would produce two levels of government, one which would encourage Canadians to look to the national government as the expression of their common interests, and the other to the provincial governments as the expression of their particular interests. But these were not to be mutually exclusive. Their interaction was the basis of the federal system.
There were times in those early years when the central government was tempted to tread heavily on the provinces, to take advantage of their vulnerability as they went through a difficult period of adjustment, which saw them relinquish their previous role as semi-independent entities to become fully integrated into the larger union.
That willingness to be part of the larger union did not come about easily. In fact, even as late as 1886, Nova Scotia, through a vote of its legislature confirmed in a general election, was still trying to secede from this “botheration scheme”, as it was derisively referred to.
No, the ties to confederation were not woven overnight. They were developed over time by wise legislators, both in Ottawa and in the provincial parliaments, who knew intuitively that the great experiment, so confidently launched by Macdonald and his associates in 1867, could only stay afloat if they all pulled in the same direction.
Yes, there were arguments; yes, there were strongly held conflicting opinions; but over and over again, argument and conflict gave way to the reasoned approach of seeking a solution by consensus. Macdonald knew that. He did not always like to treat with those pesky nuisances, the provinces, but treat he did. Laurier knew it, although at times his heart bled for the hurt that his own native province was caused. Borden knew it, Bennett knew it, and even Mackenzie King knew it, although his battles with Hepburn and Duplessis were legendary. St. Laurent honoured that tradition, as did Diefenbaker. Pearson developed it to a fine art—co-operative federalism, he called it. Clark made it a cornerstone of his government.
Co-operative federalism is not the easiest package in the world to sell. It is something intangible and elusive; it is a concept. Concepts are much more difficult to realize and articulate and to convey to people than cold, hard facts or a face in the window. But the cold, hard fact of this country is that without co-operative federalism and without the two orders of government working together for the betterment of the whole, the country will begin to disintegrate. The face in the window, whether to ourselves or to the rest of the world, must be the face of unity. Otherwise, the glass will splinter,
crack and badly distort the image of what once existed: unity, co-operation and consensus.
These are the hallmarks of our federal system. They have been stamped on it year after year since 1867. We have faced some extremely difficult and tense periods during those 114 years, but we have always weathered them because of the ultimate willingness of sometimes seemingly intransigent politicians to set aside their more narrowly defined and based interests, whether centrally oriented or provincially oriented, for the greater good of the country as a whole.
These politicians, whether Canadian prime ministers or provincial premiers, knew it was necessary in the face of deadlock and division to draw back and address themselves once more to the question: How can we restore the crucial balance essential to any federal system, a balance which recognizes the need for both strong provinces and a strong national community? That was the question on which they stood back time and again when it was necessary to readdress.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps it was easy to ride roughshod over the provinces a century ago. They had new powers which had yet to be tested and which at the time were nowhere near as important as those assigned to the central government. But times have changed and federalism, which is a growing, lively and dynamic system of government, has evolved.
We have been witnessing that phenomenon in Canada, particularly since World War II. Not unlike the other industrialized nations, we have lived through a social revolution which brought massive changes in our education systems, in our health services, and in our attitude towards the needy.
Extensive programs were established to meet the social expectations born out of the last half century. And generally speaking, owing to our Constitution, responsibility for those programs belongs to the provinces. Because some provinces had to face that responsibility which was not theirs before, the balance of federalism was altered. In addition their resources potential was not then fully acknowledged, but it has since become a power lever in the hands of the provinces. Neither social programs nor resources projects held high priority during the first 50, 60 or 70 years of the history of our nation, but once they were established they strengthened the role of the provinces in the federal equation.
The central government, for its part, moved into new areas and opened up whole new departments of government in Ottawa—DREE, Communications and Urban Affairs. With this shift it was inevitable that there would be greater conflict between the two levels of government. More than ever it was important to work out conflicts and potential disputes between the two levels of government by discussion, understanding, tolerance and hard-won consensus. More than ever it became increasingly important that the central government not be isolated in its thinking from the various regions of the country. More than ever it became increasingly important that there be continuous regional input into the central institutions and the central decision-makers so that their decisions would reflect adequately the diverse nature of this country.
It was obvious to anyone who was giving the matter any serious attention, who was at all sensitive to the very real regional differences in this country, that Ottawa would have to develop new mechanisms to reconcile these emerging differences. Otherwise, there would be increasing conflict between Ottawa and the provinces and between region and region as individual provinces struggled to bring their particular interests to the fore. It had to be the responsibility of the central government to reconcile those interests and those differences to make possible the means which would channel potentially divisive tension into a positive creative force for the nation as a whole.
The Pepin-Robarts report hammered home this vision of the country. Even the federal-provincial relations office in Ottawa appeared amenable to that concept. A few years ago that particular office, under the guidance of Gordon Robertson, a senior mandarin and long-time adviser to prime ministers, seemed to recognize the necessity for parallel and complementary nation-building and province-building. The need to maintain the balance so essential to our federal system seemed to be understood in Ottawa. There was no talk then of unilateral action by one partner in the federation against another. Indeed, in the continual discussions of the past 20 years on the Constitution, no government in Ottawa ever suggested that patriation or the imposition of an amending formula could or should be carried out unilaterally.
We must ask ourselves what makes the federal government of 1981 able to do something which the federal governments of 1964, 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1979—all those years when the Constitution was debated—felt they could not do? Throughout all those years the central government felt it had a moral Obligation, one much more important to the well-being of the country than any narrow legalistic approach, to act in concert with its partners in the federal system. That was a commitment to the Canadian way and an expression of belief in 114 years of shared progress, all of which the Liberal government is now willing to jettison or jeopardize by narrowing its view of what makes this country such a distinctive entity. We are being pushed toward a unitary system, a unilateral approach which would ignore the potential of regions, which would subjugate provinces to a lesser role and, indeed, lock them into a caste-system which would turn its back on what we have succeeded in becoming in 114 years of evolving federalism.
But these, Sir, seem to be the Prime Minister’s goals, He stated them to be patriation—unilaterally; an amending formula— unilaterally; and a charter of rights—unilaterally. Yet patriation could and should be accomplished with the endorsement of all the partners in the federation. An amending formula could be worked out with the provinces, as it was worked out in principle last summer, if only the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) would lessen his rigidity. I venture to say
that a charter of rights could be arrived at here in Canada if patience and persuasiveness would only replace arrogance and high-handedness.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: This country has been fortunate in that in times of greatest difficulty our leading politicians have always been willing to walk the extra mile to ensure that federalism works—all of our leading politicians in the past but not, it appears, the present Prime Minister. To the detriment of the country he insists upon saying, “This time we will do it my way.” But his way is repugnant to 64 per cent of the people of Canada, to all of the parties in the province of Quebec and to eight of the ten provinces of Canada. Why? Because his way rejects the federal nature of this country.
How long would we have lasted at earlier flashpoints in our country’s history if the nation’s leaders in those times had been as intransigent and as locked into a personal obsession as the present Prime Minister? More than anything it is the threat to our federal system of government inherent in every aspect of these constitutional proposals which leads me to reject them so strenuously. What the government is proposing is to use its power to make fundamental changes, unilaterally, to the very structure of this country, not just on this one occasion but on an ongoing basis.
I refer, of course, to the power of the unilateral referendum with which the government now seeks to arm itself. Of all the specifics in these proposals this is the most iniquitous, the most injurious to our system. It has been condemned by parliamentarians and the public alike, by those apprehensive about our freedoms and by experts in the field of constitutional law. The referendum proposal has been criticized by Gordon Robertson, whom I mentioned earlier. He spoke of it as, and I quote, “A dangerous way to try to find a remedy to a problem”. It is a measure, he said, that could give flesh and substance to east-west divisions.
It is not, however, a new proposal but an objective that the Prime Minister has long cherished. The attempt has been made in the past to insinuate the referendum into our political process. Then, as now, the government pretended it would amount to less than what is really proposed. The manipulation which was attempted several years ago should not be ignored by any member of this House today. In fact, I remind hon. members that in 1978 the government introduced Bill C-9, an act respecting public referendums in Canada on questions relating to the Constitution of Canada. At that time we were told that Bill C-9 would be used only to counter the Quebec referendum when it came. We were assured that it would be used once only. It was said the government needed the same right to consult the people of Quebec as did those advocating separation. That is what was said but that is not what was intended. In reality, what was attempted then, as is attempted now, was the integration of the referendum process into the fundamental political fabric of the nation, at the expense of our tried and tested political and judicial institutions and processes.
It is enlightening to look back now and see the devious route that the Liberal government followed then. For in 1978, at the very time the Prime Minister was meeting with the provincial premiers to review the whole matter of the Constitution, the government, unilaterally, introduced the referendum bill. At the very time when there was supposed bilateral discussion on the entire spectrum of federal and provincial powers, Bill C-9 was proposed, which would have given the federal government the power to override any result of the federal-provincial discussions then under way.
The House can be forgiven a sense of déja vu. In the debate on Bill C-9, when I pointed out the threat that the referendum posed to our system of federalism, the present Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) labelled what I had to say as “nonsense”. We were told to take the government’s word that it would not abuse these new and wide-ranging powers it was seeking to acquire, that we should accept blindly what they proposed.
It is very interesting to note that while the Progressive Conservative Party strongly opposed this grab by the Trudeau government of new powers, the New Democratic Party leader marched joyously along with the government. Indeed, the hon. member for Oshawa (Mr. Broadbent) saw nothing wrong then with the unilateral use of the referenda power by one level of government against another, as he does not see anything wrong with it today. The Prime Minister at that time was more candid than some of his ministers as to the uses he would make of a referendum. It was not his intention that the new power should be reserved solely to counter the PQ referendum. In a press conference in October of 1978 the Prime Minister said this:
The questions (in a referendum) could have to do with as simple a thing as patriation of the Constitution, or repatriation of the Constitution: they could have to do with the will of the country to remain united, as they could have to do with anything in between.
I repeated it then and I repeat now, “anything in between”. Had the government succeeded at that time in getting that referendum bill through, there would be no area of federal or provincial jurisdiction today on which a referendum, initiated unilaterally by the central government, framed unilaterally by the central government and conducted unilaterally by the central government, could not be used. Such scope is not merely dangerous, it is terrifying. Yet here we are, back once again with virtually the same proposal.
Conditions have not changed significantly in the past two or three years. The possibility of abuse of the referendum proposal remains the same as when Principal Watts of Queen’s University, appearing before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs on Bill C-9, stated:
What is important about the nature of the general bill is that the very existence of the bill—even if it were never invoked—the very fact that such a general bill exists, itself, becomes a potential leverage in discussions with the provinces about constitution reforms.
The very existence of the referendum power in the hands of the central government invokes the spectre of unilateral action on an ongoing basis. It signifies the end of co-operative federalism; and quite possibly, some day, the end of our
individual freedoms as well. For with the device of the referenda, we can never be assured that even those rights specified in the imperfect proposals for a charter of rights will really be protected.
We can never know when an occasion such as the October crisis of 1970 may be used by an unscrupulous government to make permanent changes to the Constitution and to our lives. There is nothing definitive about the use the federal government would make of a referendum, nor are there any checks and balances to potential abuses.
We have no direct precendent upon which we can judge these proposals. But we do have the experience of the power grab which the Liberal government attempted with its referendum bill. I did not trust the government’s motives then, and I certainly do not trust them now; nor am I assuaged in that mistrust by the proposals contained in the charter of rights. The most detailed part of this resolution, as we have seen, and the one to which most attention has been given over the past few months, is the charter of rights. I strongly endorse the entrenchment of a charter of rights in the Canadian Constitution—
An hon. Member: Bravo.
Miss MacDonald: —but one that is thoroughly developed in Canada, debated in Canada and passed into law in Canada.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: I agree wholeheartedly with those who say that a charter of rights cannot be bartered against this or that regional of specific interest; but I agree even more with those who say that it is such an extraordinary act of faith in our country that it cannot come into being as the by-product of strife and dissension and bitterness.
Mr. Wilson: The means do not justify the end.
Miss MacDonald: The entrenchment of a charter of rights should be a cause for celebration in one’s own country, not a bone of contention because it has been enacted into law by the government of another country.
I am persuaded on at least two counts that we need an entrenched charter to protect our rights and freedoms. First, I shall never forget the traumatic shock I had as an individual when, in October of 1970, the then and now Prime Minister suspended the freedoms of Canadians by the imposition of the War Measures Act. In the heat and acrimony and super-charged atmosphere of that period, it may have been the politically popular and expedient thing to do, but it was the wrong thing to do. A person’s rights and freedoms are so basic and so precious that no government leader should arbitrarily have the right to suspend them.
The second reason I support the entrenchment of a charter is that I believe it would offer some degree of security, of certainty, in a society where change and uncertainty and disruption are increasingly the norm. That is very important. But are we presented with such a charter? The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) admits it is far from being a perfect instrument. Why should we, when we come to entrenching something as important as a charter of rights, be satisfied with a halfway measure?
In its initial appearance it was so grotesque as to unite all human rights activists against it. How is it the government was so lacking in wisdom, in judgment, that it was able to put forward such a mean-spirited, negative document? I admit quite readily that it was improved during the committee hearings as a result of the representations of a limited number of Canadians. It could hardly have been made worse, But even yet, it is far from adequate, as the outcry from the 1,000 women who attended a conference on the Constitution earlier this month made clear. They, and others, ask: “Why is it there is no mention in the very first clause of the charter that all rights guaranteed hereinafter should apply equally to men and women?”
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: That was demanded by every women’s group which appeared before the committee, and by the thousands who did not have that opportunity. That is the wording in the universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which we are a signatory, yet the government chose to ignore it. It is a sad reflection on the government’s concept of equality that women should have to argue that their rights must be protected in this specific article or that specific article, as if somehow we are not equal in all aspects to all other Canadians.
The Minister of Justice has stated that the charter has been improved to protect the rights of women. The rights of women will be fully realized when one does not have to argue for protection but can point to a straightforward, unequivocal statement of purpose that all rights apply equally to men and women.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: No difference. No argument. No compromise.
Mr. Wilson: Where was MacGuigan when we needed him?
Miss MacDonald: But this charter lacks such a statement. I ask the minister, why is it not there?
There are other shortcomings to this charter. I have no assurance from reading it that the discrimination which presently exists against Indian women who marry non-status men and thereby lose their Indian status would be corrected under this charter. Far from it. The proposed entrenchment of certain native rights might make it possible to argue that this long-standing tradition of treating Indian women as second-class citizens is also entrenched. Why does the government not immediately eliminate that possibility by taking the simple
step, through legislation, of removing Section 12(1)(b) from the Indian Act?
That proposal has, I know, the support of all women members of the House of Commons and the Senate, and I am sure that if the government would only be courageous enough to introduce a bill to abolish Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, it would have the support of the great majority of parliamentarians. That single step would be the best possible indication of the government’s commitment to human rights.
I have said that I support the entrenchment of a charter of rights in the Constitution, but this particular charter is being held hostage to a divisive process that could do irreparable damage to our country.
I have heard some hon. members on the Liberal side argue against that proposal. I would say to them that the Liberal government has refused to bring in that kind of proposal for years, and that was something which was drafted by the Clark government. I hoped they would have accepted it, but I am afraid, given the reaction I now see, they would still have voted against it. Ask the people of this country whether or not Indian women should be equal to any other citizen of this country, and they will answer, “Yes”.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss MacDonald: Why will the government not separate the two and let us get on with persuading other Canadians of the merits of an entrenched charter—arrived at here in Canada, by and for Canadians—a goal which I think can be realized in this country? But that goal can only be realized if the government renounces its unilateral approach to constitutional reform and attempts once more the federalist route we have trod so often in the past.
A balanced system of federalism is as necessary to Canada’s survival as the very air we breathe. Today that system is being subjected to a three-pronged assault by the Liberal government’s constitutional proposals: first, by the decision to make major constitutional changes unilaterally; second, by the threat to impose an amending formula which would set province against province and region against region; and third, by the trickery of a referendum which could ride roughshod over the other partners in the federal system. We have seen the results to date of anger, bitterness and divisiveness. Never before in our country’s history has a Prime Minister deliberately set out to create such conflict through his lack of tolerance, understanding and compassion for Canadians in all parts of this great country. I would ask the Prime Minister to look to the examples set by all of his predecessors and draw back from this dangerous and destructive course. The partnership of Canada must continue. It must be upheld. This resolution would inflict upon it lasting wounds.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Peter Elzinga (Pembina): Mr. Speaker, in this House, I am happy to participate in this constitutional debate. As you are aware, in the previous portion of the debate in this chamber closure was invoked upon those members who wished to participate. Now again through the news media we hear rumblings that this portion of the debate is to be limited. I hope these rumblings are not true. It is imperative that members in this chamber have an opportunity to participate in this debate so that the individual regions can be heard on this very important issue. In reality, that is what our democracy is all about.
I rise to take part in this debate with a certain amount of sadness, sadness because in some respects this debate is so unnecessary. When we view the difficulties we are facing as a nation, we find that these difficulties are not being dealt with simply because of the ideological theories of one man, namely the Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Trudeau). It is because he does not wish to understand the true federal nature of our Canadian way of life that we are dealing with the constitutional issue at this time.
I am saddened also because these economic issues have to be addressed and they have not been addressed since this government once again assumed the treasury benches. I am sure that most members on both sides of the House would agree that these are issues which must be addressed.
Let me begin my remarks on the constitutional issue by paying tribute to the leader of our party who, on October 2, was given but a short 90 minutes after receiving the Prime Minister’s text to analyse the issues and to look at the difficulties which this constitutional resolution would place upon the Canadian people, and in that short period of time he homed in on the issues and brought forward our position to the Canadian people. He did all Canadians proud by sharing with them his views on the constitutional resolution at that time.
I wish to pay tribute to the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) for the integrity which he has shown in this debate. I wish to pay tribute also to his statemanship and patience in dealing with the resolution which has occupied so many hours of his time.
I wish to pay tribute to you, Mr. Speaker. On two very difficult occasions you occupied the chair when the proceedings were not as they should have been. I remember the evening when closure was invoked and a number of hon. members marched to the Chair to express disappointment at the closure motion brought forward by the Liberal government opposite. I remember the difficulty you encountered by having to name a member on this side, and even though I concur with what the member said at that time, I realize the difficulty in which he placed the Chair.
We have moved as a party to separate this package so that we can have the patriation proposal passed now giving Canadians the authority to amend their own Constitution, and as well a charter of rights which will be dealt with in Canada. This will give provincial legislatures an opportunity to participate in the development of a charter of rights. This approach would remove any intrusion into provincial rights and powers and
provide immediately legal authority to amend our Canadian Constitution.
Members opposite might ask why we took this approach. We believe the Liberal government’s approach to be illegitimate, unilateral and, therefore, divisive. Our proposals in the joint committee were designed to enhance the legitimacy of the constitutional process by making it consistent with the traditions of Canadian federalism. Our proposals would have generated national pride by having changes to the Constitution made in Canada, and removed the division in the country by building upon existing consensus.
Our party supports patriation. We support the entrenchment of equalization rights in the Constitution. We also support the Vancouver amending formula. We presented a resolution to this House on October 22, which the Liberals and the New Democratic Party voted against, indicating that we should patriate our Constitution immediately.
Throughout this debate, our party has attempted to strike the compromises which are necessary to put an end to the hostility and divisions throughout our country. This resolution presently before us has poisoned the intergovernmental relationships which are so necessary in a country such as Canada. We have the unilateral action of the Prime Minister in bringing forward this resolution, and his double standard for changes in our Constitution, standards whereby we will have unilateral federal action for the Prime Minister’s amendments and the application of an amending formula for everybody else’s thoughts.
The foundation of our Canadian federation is based on a system of two orders of government with respect for each other. This present unilateral action, this acting alone, causes an atmosphere of distrust, disunity and confrontation. In our Canadian federation our provinces have, and must continue to have, a meaningful role to play. Provincial input is required and necessary. We in our party would like to see provincial input because the Canadian federation is a partnership, a partnership which should have all levels contributing.
Again, I share the view that this resolution is creating an atmosphere which will disrupt any possibility of genuine reform taking place in the coming years. The government’s proposal is based on a false premise. The Liberal government’s premise is that the federal system no longer works and that progress cannot come from consensus. The basic premise of the resolution before us is that consensus does not work; that negotiation will not result in success. On that premise, the Liberal government opposite feels it is justified in acting alone in the face of opposition, not only from the provinces, but also from the Canadian people. The genius of our federal system is that consensus does work when reasonable governments are willing to sit down and work out a compromise. It is obvious it will not work when we have a federal government opposite wishing to impose its will on other levels of government. That is exactly what the Prime Minister wishes. He wishes the process of federalism to fail so that he could force his own will upon the Canadian population. This was substantiated in the leaked documents which came out of the first ministers’ meeting wherein he indicated it would be beneficial to the federal government if the conference failed so they could proceed with unilateral action. The process failed because the Prime Minister sabotaged the first ministers’ conference.
Mr. Collenette: I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that no member of this House can impute motives to another member of the House. The hon. member for Pembina (Mr. Elzinga) has transgressed the rules and practices of this House by imputing motives to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). I ask him to withdraw that comment.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Pembina has the floor. I am sure the hon. member is aware that the kind of language he is using could cause problems in terms of what is parliamentary and what is not parliamentary.
Mr. Taylor: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the language being used is not half as bad as that which the Prime Minister uses almost every day in question period.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Elzinga: As I was saying, confederation only fails when its leaders allow it to fail, and the Prime Minister has allowed the system to fail. The Prime Minister says we have been working for 54 years to bring home our Constitution. When we examine the record, we find that to be true. However, during those 54 years only 48 days were allotted to actual negotiations on bringing home the Constitution. Therefore, the argument is obviously false.
Why do members opposite want Great Britain to amend our Constitution rather than bring it home? Why do they ask Great Britain to meddle in our affairs? Let me share with members opposite the reason why. The amendments to our Constitution being proposed in this resolution would not meet the test of the Prime Minister’s amending formula; therefore he wants Great Britain to do his dirty work.
In our view, the proposed resolution is politically illegitimate in that it ignores Canada’s federal nature. It is unilateral because it excludes from the process of constitutional change the provinces, which are full partners in confederation. As a result, the constitutional measure is divisive now and will be in the future.
The amending formula presented in the resolution is deficient. There is no chance of gaining the consensus required to make it a respected formula. Moreover, the proposed Victoria formula creates classes of provinces, giving some a perpetual veto and imposing population requirements on others. I reject the Victoria amending formula because it does not recognize the equality of the provinces in our federation. It provides to some provinces a perpetual veto regardless of what their population may be in future years. It creates different classes of provinces in the Atlantic region and different classes of provinces in western Canada.
There is obvious discrimination in this amending formula on the basis of population. The amending formula is bad because it is entrenching unfairness into it. Even though it is wrong and unacceptable, members opposite are willing to see entrenched in the Constitution an amending formula which is unfair and inequitable.
The amending formula is one of the most important aspects of the resolution. This Liberal government raises a very thorny issue by putting its blessing on the Victoria charter. Any province which has or has had 25 per cent of the population of the country would have a perpetual veto. The red flag word is “had”. Things have changed in Canada since 1971. There have been and will continue to be decided population shifts. If Quebec and Ontario are to be granted a perpetual veto, those provinces which may grow to 25 per cent can justifiably say that they should have the veto now. After all, provinces with 25 per cent now may not have that population in the future, but they will have a perpetual veto.
The people in my area argue with perfect logic that if Quebec and Ontario are to retain a veto, even if they lose the share of their population which gave them the veto, then western Canadians should have it now. It confirms what many of us believe, that this Constitution is being rewritten simply to protect the two old provinces of confederation. We find that discrimination totally unfair. We resent being made second-class citizens.
The government insists on incorporating a referendum into the resolution. This would give the central government unilateral power to change the Constitution without reference to the elected legislatures of the provinces. We reject this proposal. I hope that members opposite will examine their consciences and vote in favour of the amendment we put forward earlier.
The charter of rights and freedoms is deficient in that it does not include the right to enjoyment of property. The exercise of this right has been instrumental in the building of Canada and is a principle valued by the great majority of Canadians. Everyone who has understood the common law has said that a man’s home is his castle. Many people emigrated to Canada attracted by the right to own homes, farms and property.
The Liberal-NDP coalition has refused to endorse that right and include it in the charter. One must ask, why have they done this? When the hon. member for Provencher opened the debate for our party, he questioned why the Liberal Party rejected our amendment, based on the Diefenbaker bill of rights, to recognize and acknowledge the supremacy of God. A portion of that amendment read, “affirming that the Canadian nation is founded upon the principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God”.
Why do members opposite not see fit to incorporate an amendment such as this in the constitutional package? Many of us believe that the Liberal-NDP coalition has sold out the interests of western Canada. Members of the New Democratic Party say that the resolution is very much improved because of the many amendments they proposed. If we review the record, we find that of the 43 amendments they presented, 41 were defeated and two were accepted. Therefore they can take very little credit for improving the resolution.
Western Canadians do not wish to dismantle this nation. They want to participate in a federation which gives equality to all. However, they should expect and receive fairness from our federal institutions. As I illustrated in my earlier remarks, the amending formula alone makes them very wary of any prospect of fairness on the part of the federal government.
I love Canada and I love Alberta, Mr. Speaker. I want to have the opportunity of contributing to the growth of both. When we examine what has been brought forward in the last few months and the negative impact it is having on the region that I come from, we find it has caused division. The constitutional package has caused division. The energy package has also caused division because it is so similar to the constitutional package in its discrimination against the regions.
I cannot help but be puzzled when I see hon. members opposite indicate sensitivity to the frustrations of Quebec. I sympathize with the frustrations of people in that area but I am puzzled that hon. members opposite show so little sensitivity for other areas when all of the country is Canada.
As I shared with you earlier, Mr. Speaker, one man’s obsession is causing the difficulty that we are having in Canada today. When we consider the economic difficulties that the nation faces, we see that this government has given us record high interest rates, a record low dollar, record high government spending, record high government deficits and record high unemployment. Maybe these are the reasons for the constitutional proposal before us. Maybe hon. members opposite hope that the Canadian people will be preoccupied with the constitutional proposal and not realize what a poor job they have done of governing the nation for the last several years.
In his presentation my colleague from British Columbia, who has been my seatmate for years, said that when we examine the wording of this resolution, when we consider who is talking to whom, we realize that by this resolution the government gives certain rights and privileges to the Canadian people. The wording of the resolution is very similar to that of the Russian constitution in which the government states the rights and privileges to be granted to the people. When we compare this proposal to the constitution of the United States, we find that the reverse is true, that the people there indicate to the government what powers they grant to the government. That is the way it should be in Canada. Our powers should be derived from the population. That is not the way this resolution is worded, however. The Prime Minister believes that he is almighty and that he can grant privileges to the individual in Canada. That is not what I believe democracy is and it is not the way that I believe the country should be run.
I have many reservations, Mr. Speaker, and the greatest one relates to the amending formula. I believe that in our nation all regions should play a meaningful role. I advocate that the amending process should be what is known as the Vancouver
formula. I also advocate a change in the status of the Senate. We should have equal representation from each province in the Senate and it should be an elected body. The regions would be protected by a second chamber. I wholeheartedly support representation by population for the House of Commons, but it is obvious that if the regions are to have a role to play in confederation, they must be respected.
My parents were immigrants from The Netherlands. They came here because they felt it was a land of opportunity. They worked extremely hard and prospered in their new home because of the rights and freedoms they enjoyed here. As elected members of this House, it is our obligation to ensure that these rights and freedoms are protected. They have a deep feeling of pride in being Canadian and this pride would have been more rich and deep had this constitutional resolution met with a general consensus. What should develop more national pride than bringing the Constitution home to Canada? Instead, it has caused division in the nation.
Let me close by sharing with the House my feeling that in good conscience I cannot vote to support this resolution. I cannot live with myself knowing that it would leave my constituents, my region and my sons as second-class citizens in a nation where all are supposed to be equal.
Most western Canadians want to play a full and meaningful role in the development of this nation. They want to contribute to the growth not only of their region but to all of Canada. But if the policies of this government continue to push us out of confederation, then what will happen to this country is obvious to all.
As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I love Canada, I love Alberta and I wish to contribute to the growth of both. I would ask hon. members opposite to allow us who come from the far regions of Canada to contribute to the welfare of the nation as a whole. True patriotism is to criticize constructively the land of our fathers and to construct the land of our children. We want to make a better country and a whole lot better world for our children. This land of our fathers is not as important as the land we leave to our children. This country is, in this sense, precisely the conjunction of virtues that were and are lacking in our historic home. The nation is what we have not been and what we must be under penalty of feeling ourselves erased. By so understanding our country, patriotism becomes for us an incessant activity. Our country becomes a task to be completed, a problem to be solved. It is our duty to complete that task.
Any thinking person will agree that true patriotism is to criticize the land of our fathers and to construct the land of our children. The greatest expression of true love is the desire to help and to serve one’s country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Dave Dingwall (Cape Breton-East Richmond): Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on the proposed resolution respecting the Canadian Constitution I should like to remind hon. members that this debate is apt to be recognized in subsequent years by historians, academics and our inevitable successors, as a crucial mark in Canadian history.
First, I would like to congratulate the Members of Parliament and those senators who participated in the special joint committee. I think particular congratulations should be bestowed upon the two co-chairmen of that committee. In addition, I believe congratulations should be conveyed to those witnesses who appeared before the committee, gave evidence and submitted briefs on a variety of topics as they relate to the Constitution.
This resolution before Parliament contains numerous provisions which, by themselves, are not exhaustive but, taken collectively, can be said to encompass all of what John Porter might refer to as the Canadian mosaic.
One important aspect of this constitutional package is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is my assessment that enshrining in the Canadian constitution a charter of rights and freedoms is not only an important aspect of this constitutional package but a crucial aspect of confederation.
For a moment I would like very briefly to describe what some of those rights are. The fundamental rights are freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief and opinion, freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and, of course, freedom of assembly. The democratic rights are the rights of individual Canadians to vote in elections of Members of Parliament and members of provincial legislatures. There are legal rights whereby everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained. Every Canadian also has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
There were various amendments to these sections as a result of testimony by a variety of groups which appeared before the special joint committee, including the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the government of New Brunswick.
Everyone has the right, on arrest or detention, to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right. This is a new addition because prior to this in the common law one did not have the right to be informed that one could have legal counsel. Every individual is equal before and under the law and is entitled to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national origin or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.
In the charter of rights we have enshrined the two official languages. We have also enshrined the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people of Canada. Those rights will now be recognized and affirmed in a Canadian Constitution.
One important aspect of this Canadian constitutional package is mobility rights. I believe it is an absolute necessity to maintain and promote the Canadian economic unit. Consequently, mobility rights ought to be enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. Enshrining in the Canadian Constitution the concept of mobility rights would give to Canadian citizens and
persons who are permanent residents certain inherent rights based on the concept of Canada as an economic and political union in which Canadians should be free to move, reside and work without discrimination based upon provincial or territorial boundaries. These provisions would prevent a province from denying people from other provinces the right to take up residence or seek work simply because they are from other provinces. Enshrining mobility rights in the Constitution does not prevent the provinces from applying qualifications for employment as long as they apply equally to similar persons in the provinces.
This concept of mobility rights has been affirmed and recognized by Canadians across the country. Gordon Fairweather came before the special joint committee and said:
I am absolutely delighted to see that mobility rights are to be enshrined… If the maritime provinces, from where I come, had been restricted in mobility there would have been social revolution in this country and I think it is time that people remembered that… We are totally committed to this principle and I think that 99 per cent of the people of Canada are.
A spokesman for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce who appeared before the special joint committee said this:
I would like to draw to your attention the concern of the business community of Canada to the subject known as economic union, that is the free flow between the provinces of goods, services, capital and labour… We have a concern that impediments . .. between provincial jurisdictions… are creating economic hardships, not only with the jurisdictions but for Canada as a whole in the development of its export trade.
He also said the Constitution should provide for a reduction of these impediments.
A great many other individuals recognized and affirmed the concept of mobility rights. In “A Future Together” in January of 1979, the Task Force on Canadian Unity said, and I quote:
In a federal union, the regions can expect their economies to perform better as a result of the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services.
The Canadian Bar Association said the following:
The Constitution should provide that all manpower may move freely without discrimination throughout the country.
The Quebec Liberal party has been referred to by hon. members opposite. In its beige paper it said:
The constitutional arrangements which would guarantee the right of all Canadians to establish themselves anywhere in the country, and their right to mobility, will not contradict the confirmation of provincial jurisdiction… but they will, however, prevent the provinces from passing laws which discriminate between their permanent residents and other Canadians.
I am a Member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada. We in Atlantic Canada have a fair share of the most damaging problems in this country, unemployment and high inflation. It is particularly important that we as a country have mobility rights.
If hon. members were to check with Statistics Canada or some other body, whether it be provincial or federal, they would readily see that the flow of goods and labour between the provinces over a period of time is astronomical. For instance, from October, 1979, to September, 1980, the number of people who migrated to the province of Newfoundland was approximately 11,000. The number of people who migrated from that province was approximately 12,000. The figures I have cover all the provinces. It can readily be seen that the work force of Canada is very liberal with respect to mobility. It too does not want to be restricted.
We cannot speak of mobility rights in a vacuum. I believe we must look to other jurisdictions which have enshrined mobility rights in their constitutions. Why should Canada be different? Such other jurisdictions as the United States, Australia, Switzerland, the Federal Republic of Germany anti Indian have all enshrined in their constitutions the concept of mobility rights.
In the days since this government announced its plans to patriate the Constitution we have heard a host of emotional reactions from a variety of sources. Indeed this is proper, for I believe we all look forward to the arrival of our Constitution in Canada after some 113 years. It is an arrival to which I look forward with a great sense of accomplishment. I, like other Members of Parliament and like the members of the Senate. will be a part of that great and historic event.
However, for a moment let us lay aside the emotional aspects of this issue and examine exactly what the patriation of this Constitution means in a practical sense. I believe all of us here and all those across the nation are cognizant of the reasons why the Fathers of Confederation came together over a century ago. They, like us, recognized the potential of a union of the widespread regions of this land. Only today are we beginning to realize that potential fully. It is a potential which is linked implicitly with a strong economic structure governed by a strong national government. They, like us, recognized that this land contains an abundance of resources and wealth which are second to none in the rest of the world. They also recognized that the strength of these resources could only be fully realized when the goods and services abundant in one area of the country could be shared with other areas where those particular resources did not abound.
We are all aware, Mr. Speaker, of the value of this holistic philosophy, a philosophy that states unequivocally that the sum of the individual parts is greater than the sum total of each individual segment. It was this realization, above all else, that prompted the various factions to lay aside their individual goals in order to construct a structure from which all would benefit.
The logic of such an argument is all around us today for us to view and appreciate. Canada is a country that owes its present status to the foresight and courage of those people who were able to lay aside their personal interests in the short term to achieve results that individually would have been unattainable.
In many ways, when I think of our country I cannot help but compare it to a family. Outwardly, a family can be seen as a group of individuals each with a certain set of goals, expectations, interests and talents. Certain members may make their contribution through their skills as intellectuals or educators, others through their ability to manufacture, and still others through their compassion and understanding. All make valu-
able contributions, and no one trait is more or less important than any other. Separately, each may be able to exist independently, at least for a short period of time, But where, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, does the real strength come from with these individuals? It results from their coming together in a unit that we refer to as a family, It is the family that provides the sense of belonging, the feeling of strength, and the sense of identity.
And what of this family that we call Canada? In my analogy, all the family members have significant and vital roles to play in the development and preservation of the unit. In this country, one member is able to make its contribution through its abundance of minerals, the raw materials needed for manufacturing, while another can provide the expertise for manufacturing these materials, and still another can provide the energy resources needed in the manufacturing. Some members can provide food from the waters that surround them, and others food from the land. Some areas are ideally suited to provide the facilities for exporting our goods, while others are better equipped to provide the goods to be exported.
The point I wish to make, Mr. Speaker, is that collectively as a nation we possess all the skills, resources, initiative and intelligence that will allow us to achieve our true potential as a great family, a great nation.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Dingwall: What we must guard against, however, is the temptation to count ourselves as part of the family only when it is to our advantage. We cannot be a member who relies on the family unit only in times of need and turns its back in better times. We must not try to lavish our own interests at the expense of other family members. Such an occurrence cannot be permitted for it tears at the very fibre that binds the unit together, leaving it disjointed, ineffective and weak. Hence the need for enshrining in the Canadian Constitution the concept of equalization.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Dingwall: There are some who may agree with the points I am making but voice their opposition to the manner in which this government is moving to accomplish the task. I would remind them that this government is exercising the very power that the Constitution sought to establish, a power that would allow for a strong voice, the voice of the people, to be heard above the voices of those whose main concern was their own regional and sometimes selfish interests.
This government, in its move to patriate the Constitution, is bringing this country to a new and exciting period in our history. This move is as important as the original one, made over a century ago, in that it allows us to advance to our next stage of development, a stage that will see us move from adolescence into adulthood.
I have already referred to my concept of this country as being similar in structure and philosophy to that of the family, a family with shared responsibility for the well-being of each other. This notion of equalization provides the vehicle by which this responsibility can be realized. Such a system should not be regarded by any one region or province as a one-way street, with money continually being taken from one area to be pumped into another. Moreover, such a system allows the national government to provide a stimulus in a given area for a certain period of time, a time when that province is able to support itself.
The commitments stated in Section 34(1) of the proposed resolution—to promote equal opportunities, to reduce economic disparities and to provide essential public services across the country—capture one of the most important elements of what it means to be a Canadian, a willingness to share our good fortune and our opportunities so that we can grow strong together.
I should like to remind hon. members that this commitment applies not only to Parliament and to the Government of Canada, but also to the legislatures and the governments of the provinces, although it is noted that this commitment does not alter the legislative powers of the two orders of government.
There is great merit in enshrining in the Constitution the concept of equalization so that sharing will be an important ingredient in the future of our national life. But there can be no doubt about the federal government’s current commitment to the principle of equalization. I could go on at some length to describe the current equalization program, but let me simply note that, for the fiscal year 1980-81, this program will require disbursements in excess of $3.3 billion. In Atlantic Canada, the province of Prince Edward Island will receive from the federal government unconditionally, with no strings attached, approximately $85 million to be used by that government for whatever they think necessary. Newfoundland will receive $377 million, New Brunswick $387 million, and my own province of Nova Scotia in excess of $440 million.
Canadians are aware of the provinces which are presently in need of such equalization payments and those from which the funds for these payments are derived. It should be noted that these provinces have not remained the same throughout the history of equalization payments. Indeed, the province of Alberta, to which we now refer as a have province, and whose potential is unlimited, received equalization payments from 1957-58 through to 1964-65. On the other hand, the province of Newfoundland, which has been the recipient of payments since 1957, now appears to be close to an era, which I am certain all members hope to be a reality, when such payments may no longer be necessary.
No one, Mr. Speaker, is capable of predicting the future, but with equalization payments Canadians from all parts of this country are assured of a reasonable standard of public services without imposing an undue tax burden on its residents. This notion of sharing has become a tradition in our country, a tradition that can be traced back to the original goals and ideals of the Fathers of Confederation, and it is a notion to which this party subscribes wholeheartedly.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Dingwall: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion I wish to quote one of Britain’s great prime ministers, Sir Winston Churchill, who stated:
The destiny of mankind is not decided by material computation. When great causes are on the move in the world . . . we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that, prior to the Quebec referendum, and shortly thereafter, members of this House, and indeed many of the first ministers, made a commitment not only to the people of Quebec but indeed to all Canadians with regard to constitutional renewal. We, as Members of Parliament, ought to seize this historic opportunity to fulfil our duty to the Canadian people. Mr. Speaker, I suggest the time is now.
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 necessary changes to the Schedule consequential thereto.
Mr. Mel Gass (Malpeque): Mr. Speaker, before I commence participating in the constitutional debate I would like to thank all the members of the committee who sat long, laborious hours. I would like especially to thank the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), Who was the leader and carried the discussions for our party.
I am honoured to be participating in one of the most important debates in the history of the Canadian Parliament, as we consider a proposal by the federal govenment to bring home the British North America Act from the British parliament and to establish within this country our own Constitution.
As a Canadian from Prince Edward Island, I am especially proud of the part my province, the cradle of confederation, has played in creating this great country of ours. While we were not one of the original colonies which first joined confederation in 1867, Islanders are indeed proud that we hosted the first conference in 1864. The reluctance of the Island to joint the union of colonies 114 years ago is, I think, an historic indicator of why the provinces today are reluctant to accept the terms of the constitutional proposals the federal government has placed before us.
I believe there are parallels which can be drawn between Prince Edward Island’s and the other provinces’ request for agreeable terms upon which they could enter confederation and today’s constitutional ventures. In 1864 the people of Prince Edward Island were stubbornly opposed to giving up their rights by becoming a province of Canada. They were adverse to any union which would surrender to anybody outside Charlottetown, their capital, control over the domestic concerns of the Island. Prince Edward Island did not want to part with any vestige of its local power.
Islanders at that time were busy, self-sufficient, safe and content on their little island. At both the Charlottetown and Quebec meetings in 1864 Islanders, despite their aversion to union, listened intently and agreed that the federation of all the colonies was desirable, provided the terms of the union could be satisfactory. But debate was not tempting enough. The terms of union did not prove acceptable to Prince Edward Island. Islanders felt that the terms were unfair to the island, especially those regarding their financial arrangements. They wanted the buying out of the absentee landlords of Prince
Edward Island, most of whom were in England. They wanted that buying out for the benefit of the tenant farmers. They wanted a guarantee of communications with the mainland. The proposed intercolonial railway was great for Nova Scotia und New Brunswick but meant little to Islanders. None of these terms were promised in the resolution drawn up in Quebec City, despite talk of putting them in, so the island watched and waited, passing up confederation in 1867, but eventually joining the country in 1873 when the time seemed right—and on their own terms as well.
Among other concessions, the dominion government advanced $800,000 to the Island for the purpose of buying out the absentee land owners. The Island received a sum equivalent to $50 per head of its population, and a continuous steamer service between the island and the mainland was established and maintained.
Although Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined confederation in 1867, they too agreed to the union only when their terms were agreed to. The maritime provinces, then as now, wanted to ensure that the peculiar economic needs of the region would be provided for. They wanted to retain control over matters that would allow them to preserve their local characters and institutions.
Today as we deal with the issue of constitutional patriation, Prince Edward Island and the other provinces do not want to give up or be denied the rights and terms which were agreed to in a spirit of co-operation over 100 years ago at the time of confederation. The failure of the federal government to agree with its partners, the provinces, concerns me very deeply. The federal government is seeking arbitrarily to alter the traditional relationship between the federal government and the provinces as well as substantially change the nature of our democratic institutions.
The Constitution is a public social contract which embodies the terms upon which Canadians agreed to live together in a spirit of national community. It sets forward the basic agreements for Canadians to live together. These agreements must be arrived at upon consent, for without such consent, they are deprived of their own legitimacy. The problem facing Canada is essentially a problem of agreeing on terms which will permit Canadians to live in a state of harmony with one another.
Canada is a federation of both provinces and a federal government and was designed by the Fathers of Confederation in this way, in the knowledge that our nation would be impossible to govern as a unitary state. We are also a country of regions, proud of our individual traditions but also of our sense of national community.
In a country as diverse as ours, Mr. Speaker, there always have been and will continue to be political tensions between certain regions and the federal government. This is inescapable because Canadians have both loyalty to the region in which they live and to the country as a whole. These tensions and concerns which besiege us demand the necessary political compromises. There is absolutely no hesitation or doubt in the minds of Canadians that the Constitution should be our own, passed by our own Parliament and resting in our own country. But we do not want the federal government to act unilaterally on this matter with such far-reaching implications affecting all provinces.
We hope the crisis and turmoil generated by the federal government and its constitutional proposals will help all of us focus on our vision of Canada and what we need to make this a better country. We hope we can work together to build a new Constitution of which we can be proud; a Constitution that protects our individual and cultural uniqueness, provincial diversities and national potential.
Our national institutions, such as the Senate and the Supreme Court, need revising. The division of powers between provincial and federal governments needs to be clarified. Our individual rights could be better protected. All we require is a sincere desire and a process through which we can work together toward these common goals. Ottawa alone has no right to amend our Constitution without the agreement of the provincial legislatures.
My major objection to the government’s proposals is the manner in which the federal government is acting alone to permanently change the nature of Canada, overriding the wishes of most of the provinces and of the vast majority of Canadians. To proceed in the manner proposed ignores the objections voiced by the provincial governments. What we have before us is a leader of a regional political party with only regional representation in Parliament imposing, unilaterally, an amended Constitution that will change the structure and basis of confederation.
People have joined together in confederation so they would have control over a common destiny. Now the federal government, unilaterally, is attempting to take away that spirit of compromise and sharing which built confederation, and impose its control over our destiny. Confederation has worked for Canada for 113 years. Certainly it has had its problems, its strains and its tension, but it has allowed Canadians the opportunity to build one of the strongest, most independent and freest countries in the world. One might justifiably wonder how long the proposed new Canadian Constitution would be able to maintain that state.
I was somewhat encouraged when the government accepted changes to the proposed amending formula. Under the original constitutional package, two maritime provinces forming 50 per cent of the population of the region were needed to introduce changes to the Constitution. Because of the Island’s small population, this would have left us without a voice, and would have eliminated Prince Edward Island from ever having a say in constitutional matters. The amended proposal would require the approval of any two Atlantic provinces, enabling the Island to unite with any other Atlantic province to introduce changes, permitting Prince Edward Island to have a voice in constitutional decision making.
However, this amendment to the constitutional package, along with the others, is just a marginal improvement; sugar on the pill, so to speak. The concessions are not enough. Prince
Edward Island was treated badly the first time under the amending formula. Then the formula was changed to treat Prince Edward Island like the other provinces, so we find it hard to feel that we should be eternally grateful.
A much more fair formula for Prince Edward Island, the other provinces and for all of Canada is the Vancouver formula, one agreed to by all the provinces and the federal government, but one on which the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) has refused to act. Under the Vancouver formula, constitutional change would require the approval of Parliament and seven provinces making up 50 per cent of the population of Canada. Any proposed changes to the Constitution would then proceed according to the formula. Such a formula would give Prince Edward Island and other provinces with small populations some role in constitutional matters. Let me give you an example. Suppose six provinces comprising 50 per cent of the population of Canada agree to a constitutional change but they require the approval of a seventh province, irrespective of its population. Prince Edward Island could be that seventh province.
I am not suggesting that Canada should tailor-make its Constitution to meet the particular circumstances of Prince Edward Island, or of any other single province. I am saying, though, that whatever formula is adopted, it should not be unfair to any province. Therefore, the Vancouver formula is infinitely better than the modified Victoria charter.
Before I leave this question of the amending formula, I would like to make a comment concerning the other part of the amending formula proposal; that is, the referendum. The new amending formula is the most dangerous part of the constitutional proposal because of the referendum idea. Through it, Ottawa could impose constitutional changes by referendum. By controlling the rules of the referendum and spending huge amounts of advertising dollars, as it has been known to do, the federal government could manipulate the results. Such action damages federalism and undermines any attempt to build partnership in this country. Any reference to the use of a referendum should be deleted from any Canadian Constitution.
We are a large nation; we have some different values and beliefs in different regions and provinces. We need to have some protection. The proposed two methods of amending our Constitution are simply not acceptable because they do not provide us with the protection we must have.
There were a number of proposed amendments to the joint resolution on the Constitution which the Progressive Conservative party presented to the special joint committee, but which were rejected by the Liberal and New Democratic parties. There are four of these proposed amendments which I feel very strongly about and would like to mention. Most upsetting to me and to many Canadians is the fact that the federal government has denied the supremacy of God in its Constitution. It has rejected the Progressive Conservative proposed amendment which reads as follows:
Affirming that the Canadian nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free individuals and free institutions,
Affirming also that individuals and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law.
The Fathers of Confederation, over 100 years ago, recognized the fundamental fact of the supremacy of God in the affairs of men and nations, as the source from which all human rights and justice are derived. Today, this fact should continue to be recognized. Why in heaven’s name would the Liberals and NDP not want a reference to God in the Constitution? I am receiving letters from constituents of mine complaining about the fact there is no mention of the supremacy of God in the Constitution.
The federal government has also rejected the Progressive Conservative proposal that:
Everyone has the right to have reasonable access to information in the possession of any institution of any government.
We want to enshrine the right of freedom of information in the Constitution of Canada. Freedom of information is the vehicle by which Canadians obtain the right to information. We want to see that right asserted in the Constitution.
Nothing in the Constitution should affect the authority of Parliament to legislate in respect of abortion and capital punishment. The federal government has rejected this proposal. Without such a clause, it is possible that the Supreme Court of Canada could overrule Parliament in cases concerning abortion and capital punishment. In no way should this be allowed to happen. I believe on these two issues members of Parliament, not the Supreme Court, should have the final say so that the views and opinions of their constituents may be reflected. By rejecting the PC proposal, the federal government will be allowing the possibility that the courts could indeed be supreme over Parliament. We in the Progressive Conservative Party, and the people of Canada do not want this.
The federal government has voted against the Progressive Conservative proposal which would clarify in our Constitution that Her Majesty the Queen is the head of state of Canada and the provinces.
Over the years the federal government has attempted to reduce the role of the monarchy and substitute in terms of the status of the Queen that in fact the head of state is not Her Majesty, but rather the Governor General. We in the Progressive Conservative Party are concerned that Canada remain a constitutional monarchy. We believe our proposed amendment would constitute such a guarantee. By rejecting our proposal, the federal government is furthering its attempts to lessen the role of the monarchy in Canada, a move feared by many Canadians who want to retain Canada’s heritage, who want to retain the constitutional monarchy.
The proposed charter of rights is comprised of many sections, all of which are of vital importance to the future wellbeing of this country. I would like to focus on the section concerning property rights. Many people came to Canada
because they dreamed of and cherished the thought of owning their own land. Our party supported the inclusion of an amendment indicating that everyone has the right to enjoyment of property. On this issue, Prince Edward Island has supported the federal government’s position with good reason, but I want to make it perfectly clear that the government of Prince Edward Island is not against people owning and enjoying property. The main concern of Islanders is that property on Prince Edward Island belong to residents of Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island is small and dependent on its land. We value our land highly, as it is the most important of our few natural resources. In the past we have encountered a variety of problems where ownership of our land has been concerned. For more than 100 years we have been vulnerable to massive instances of absentee landlordism. In 1767, parcels of land on Prince Edward Island, which was then St. John Island, were lotteried off and the scandalous system of tenure, which has so aptly been called absentee proprietorship or absentee landlordism, was foisted upon the young colony, destined to throttle the Island’s progress for over 100 years and to colour the greater part of Island politics. Land proprietors neglected the terms under which they had received their lots, and none of the conditions by which grantees were to settle their tenants on their 20,000 acre lots within ten years had been adhered to. In 1797, 30 years later, 23 of the 67 lots were still completely empty of settlers. since the majority of the proprietors resided in Great Britain, some lands had already been pre-empted by squatters whose occupancy had no standing in law. Because proprietors had been permitted to escape their quit rent obligations, the island government had virtually no revenue for improvement projects. Isolation, tenantry, farming little above subsistence level, and absentee landlordism were the ingredients of real discontent. Tenant farmers struggled to extricate themselves from their peasant-like status and gain possession of the fields they ploughed, nourished and reaped. It was not until 1875, however, two years after Prince Edward Island joined Canada, that the tenants tribulation came to an end. The compulsory land purchase act was passed, and the productive red soil of Prince Edward Island passed into the ownership of those who tilled it.
Individuals and industries are free to come to the island, buy land and establish industries, but we do not want people from away buying our land and controlling it for mere speculation, nor do we want our prime agricultural land sold for purposes other than agriculture. The provincial government rightly feared that the proposed constitutional feature ensuring the freedom of property rights would prevent provinces from legislating in areas of property rights. Islanders were concerned whether they would have the right to ensure that their land was not held by people from out of the province who were not there to take advantage of it and to ensure that local people were not deprived of their property rights within their province. Prince Edward Island wants to be able to continue legislating its own property rights; it does not want provincial legislation on non-resident ownership of land rendered null and void by a clause in a Canadian constitution, especially a constitution such as the one being proposed by the federal government.
The federal government is succeeding in provoking bitter divisions within the country. Its tactics are divisive. It is entrenching bitterness as opposed to rights. The consensus of Canadians to live together was founded on the principles of consent and political compromise. The great genius of Canadians has been our ability to reach the necessary bargains so that we can live together as one people.
Accordingly, our Constitution must embody a process which will continue to renew political consensus, notwithstanding dramatic social transformations and recurring economic and political crises. Unfortunately, the federal government’s approach to this issue has widened the already dangerous divisions that exist in parts of Canada. This constitutional exercise should be an opportunity for all Canadians to renew themselves and their pride in their country, but instead it is dividing them. The fixation of the Prime Minister with patriation is causing more division and more tension. The Prime Minister’s apparent haste in bringing the Constitution home to Canada on his terms is unnecessary and very damaging. What we are sending to Westminster is wide-ranging and fundamental constitutional change, not merely a minor change in administrative jurisdiction. It is not a matter that can be or should be dealt with hastily.
The present deliberation over the constitution will affect the framework of Canada for many years to come. The federal governments amendments are not acceptable to most Canadians. If the federal and provincial governments cannot agree immediately, then I can see nothing wrong in simply leaving the Constitution alone until agreement is reached. It has served us pretty well for 113 years and surely we need not rush into ill-considered changes. A twentieth century Constitution must provide the framework for a meaningful new national economic policy. It bears directly on Canada’s future as one strong and united nation. An unwise decision could cause permanent regional alienation and dissent. It is a slow and laborious process, requiring perseverance and endurance; it cannot be hurried.
I would like to read a statement voiced some years ago by Senator Eugene Forsey which expressed the view that constitutional deliberations are of vital importance to this nation and cannot be dealt with in haste. He said:
The first basic fact we must get clear is that our existing Constitution is not a piece or old furniture, or an old top hat, or a Victorian system of plumbing. It is something which grew out of the needs of the pre-confederation colonies, which gave us life as a people, which has shaped our life as a people, which has adapted itself to our changing needs as a people. It has not remained what it was in 1867. It has grown, in some respects almost out of all recognition: a little by formal amendment; much by judicial interpretation; most of all, perhaps, by the development of new habits, new customs, new conventions, new administrative arrangements, especially inter-governmental arrangements, Perhaps it now needs further formal amendment. But let us never forget that, because a constitution is what it is, pervading and shaping the lives of every human being in the community, changing it by formal amendment is an immensely serious business. It is not like getting a new hairdo, or growing a beard, or buying new furniture or new clothes, or putting in a new bathroom. It is more like marriage— in the words of the Anglican prayer book, “not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in
hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly . . . but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.” What we are dealing with in constitutional change is not paper or things, it is human lives.
Some time ago I was checking through the library to find the derivation of the word “Canada”. According to the information I received, Canada derived from the Huron-Iroquois word “Kanata” which means a village or community. Canada is much more than a village. Canada is much more than a land mass consisting of the northern half of the North American continent. Canada is the people that inhabit this great land mass from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and from the Arctic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Canada is the attitude and aspirations of all these people. This Canada of ours is being divided by the way the Prime Minister is trying to shove this resolution through this House and ram his ideas down our throats to pursue his timetable.
I would like to quote from an article in The Citizen, it being a paper that does not always follow Conservative policies. More often than not it is quite favourably disposed to the present government and the present Prime Minister. I would like to quote from a column written by Iain Hunter, dateline Vancouver, and published on February 20, 1981.
Prime Minister Trudeau admitted Thursday he is dividing Canadians by pushing through his constitutional reforms.
He’s not sorry about it, he declared—in some cases he finds it “exhilarating.”
Trudeau told more than 200 cheering Liberal supporters here that if the country breaks apart in five or 50 years because of his unilateral action to patriate the Constitution with an entrenched charter of rights and his own amending formula “then I say it wasn’t worthy of living another day”.
Some hon. Members: Shame!
Mr. Gass: Shame, indeed. When I read those lines I tried to figure out what type of a man is leading this country, a man who can stand and say he is exhilarated when he is dividing our country.
A constitution should be a source of pride and a unifying influence within a political community. A constitution should be and can be, if the federal government will realize its folly and come to its senses, a symbol of our society’s democracy and an object of national pride for each and every Canadian.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Neil Young (Beaches): Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to join in this historic debate on the proposed Constitution and the charter of rights for Canadians.
Since I came here, following the 1980 election campaign, there have been very few matters come before this House which have demanded that we set aside our partisan political views in favour of the importance of the country. In my view, this matter presents one of those few occasions. It is a matter of such importance to the future of our country that it rises above partisan politics, and it should be debated in that light.
Throughout the past year the New Democratic Party has taken an approach to this debate which, in my view, has been both conciliatory and cooperative. As a Canadian I am proud of that fact. As a member of the New Democratic Party I am also proud of the role my leader has played in this debate on constitutional reform. I am also proud of our party’s two members who served on the joint committee, the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom) and the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson). They both worked extremely long and hard on this much-improved constitutional package.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Young: I believe the approach taken by the New Democratic Party has been a constructive one. I also believe there are a growing number of Canadians who would agree with me on this question. However, I also recognize that this debate has been an emotional one, as indeed it should be. It is difficult not to be emotional when, for the first time, we are debating a document which demands that we define what we think of ourselves as Canadians.
As Members of Parliament, we are being asked to set a course for Canada which will finally bring us to adulthood; which will finally bring us to full independence as a sovereign nation state.
I am particularly pleased to have been given the opportunity to be a member of this House when this debate is taking place. Like most members of the House there are many areas of this constitutional package that I could speak to. However, in the time I have available to me I want to address the proposed charter of rights.
During the course of this debate I have heard some people say that a charter of rights is unnecessary for Canadians. To those people I say they are wrong to hold that particular view. Even a shallow look at where we have been in our country, and where we are at now in the area of civil and human rights in all parts of Canada, would show that there is a need for such legislation. I would ask those who question this need to remember how Japanese Canadians were treated during World War II and the shame we feel now about that period in our history. I would ask them to cast their thoughts back to October 16, 1970, when the Government of Canada subjected the people of Canada to the first peacetime invocation of the War Measures Act. With a single stroke the government placed in suspended animation many of the hard-won liberties of the Canadian people.
I also ask those who question this need to look at what a number of provincial governments have done, or have attempted to do, from time to time. For example, the Alberta government at one time tried to strangle those who did not agree with it by passing anti-free press legislation. In the mid-1960s the Ontario government introduced a bill which, if it had been made law, would have drastically expanded the powers of the police in that province. Only public awareness and pressure prevented the government from actually carrying out its intentions. There was also the infamous padlock law in Quebec.
Consider the discrimination that is practised every day against women in our society, against our ethnic population, our aboriginal peoples and disabled and handicapped Canadians. One does not have to try very hard to recognize the need
for a universal charter of rights in our country. That need exists now, not at some distant time as others would suggest.
I want to take a moment to talk specifically about this need as it applies to Canadians who are disabled or handicapped. Last month the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, of which I am a member, tabled its report in the House. At the beginning of my remarks I said that on rare occasions matters come before us as Members of Parliament that rise above partisan politics. In my view this debate on the constitutional package is one of these matters. Another was the work the special committee did when we undertook our investigation of the conditions of disabled and handicapped Canadians. That committee had representatives of all of the political parties in the House. I know I speak for all of them when I say that while we may have had disagreements from time to time on philosophical directions we did not at any time reduce those disagreements to partisan, political levels.
As a result of that attitude, I believe our committee has presented one of the best reports this House has seen in a long time, and once it is acted upon its recommendations will at long last allow this important part of our community to fully participate in the mainstream of Canadian life.
The report of the special committee was presented after we had heard from 643 witnesses who presented us with 630 submissions at 87 meetings held across Canada. The report deals with two major types of obstacles disabled Canadians face every day of their lives.
One obstacle results from the fact that many men, women and children are deprived of good health, or have disabilities which deprive them of using their feet, legs, arms, hands, voices, ears, eyes and minds in a way that other Canadians take for granted. The other kind of obstacle results from attitudes that many able bodied Canadians have toward those Canadians who are disabled. This attitude has tended to develop a disregard for the needs of disabled people when we plan our human and civil rights protections, our health care services, employment opportunities and the various facilities and systems we have to provide, such as housing, education, transportation, shopping, recreation and communications.
During our public hearings we were repeatedly told that disabled Canadians had to be provided with greater protection under our human rights legislation, and it became obvious to the committee that this had to be a top priority for government action.
We came to that conclusion for a number of reasons. First of all, under existing legislation, the only protection against discrimination disabled people have is in the area of emp1oyment. Disabled Canadians are not protected from discrimination under the minimum wage laws in many provinces or under federal legislation. Disabled people are not protected from discrimination in the fields of accommodation and transportation, nor do they have equal access to education and communication as do all other Canadians. In simple terms, some two million Canadians are being denied the opportunity of fully participating in the mainstream of Canadian life because they are disabled or handicapped.
Many members may recall that on November 3 of last year I asked the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien), under the provisions of Standing Order 43, to amend the charter of rights to include the disabled, and to prohibit discrimination against the disabled and the handicapped in all areas of Canadian life.
I and my colleagues, the hon. member for Burnaby and the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville, pressed hard for such an amendment while the joint committee was considering the package now before us, and which now has those amendments included in it. Every group which appeared before that committee, and was concerned about bringing an end to the discrimination that has been practised for too long against our disabled population, argued in support of the amendment. What we are discussing here are the rights of 10 per cent of our population. We are discussing the right of over two million disabled and handicapped Canadians to enjoy life as do other Canadians. We are discussing a segment of our society that has over 60 per cent of its population out of work. We are discussing the right of thousands of children in the country to have access to an education now being denied them because of a learning disability, such as that of autistic children.
Mentally ill Canadians are discriminated against on a daily basis both by society and our judicial system. One only has to look at how the justice system treats people who are mentally disabled and who have been charged with offences, We have over 1,000 Canadians who have been locked away for varying lengths of time by decision of a lieutenant governor.
One individual, Emerson Bonnar, was just recently released after serving 16 years in a maximum security institution in New Brunswick for the criminally insane because he happens to be mentally retarded. It was alleged that he had stolen a purse in 1964. Emerson Bonnar, and more than 1,000 others like him, are locked up in institutions all across this country without benefit of trial. This must stop.
We are discussing an opportunity to give all Canadians, in all parts of our society, the right to fully participate in Canadian life as equals, a right that most of us very often simply take for granted. We in the New Democratic Party have argued for those rights, and I take some pride in knowing they are now included in the charter.
As a member in this House, I am not prepared to accept the proposition advanced by some that the charter of rights should be dealt with after the Constitution has been brought home.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Young: It is being dealt with here in Canada now, as are the other elements of the constitutional package. The suggestion that we are not somehow doing this is utter nonsense, and I rather suspect those who are advancing that suggestion know full well it is nonsense. To suggest that we are asking the U.K. government to make a Canadian constitution which includes a charter of rights is simply not factual.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Young: We are making that constitutional package right now, we are making it here in Canada, and all agree we have that right.
In conclusion, I want to say that we in the New Democratic Party want to get on with the job. We are not prepared to sit back while the provincial governments try to make up their minds whether they want all Canadians to have the same rights, regardless of the area of Canada in which they live. We believe all Canadians should have those rights now. We will not be party to any attempt to deny the granting of those rights, which I am convinced will happen if the charter is not acted upon and dealt with now.
Mr. Ron Stewart (Simcoe South): Mr. Speaker, I rise from my seat to enter this historic constitutional debate. I am not the least bit incredulous that our Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) would perpetrate the greatest hoax, the greatest manipulation, the greatest “con” job, the greatest “snow” job ever foisted upon the citizens of this great dominion of Canada by his unilateral despotic patriation of our very precious Constitution: unilateral patriation by going over the heads of the provinces, an amending formula with veto power to Ontario and Quebec, and a charter of rights entrenched by Britons, not Canadians.
As my colleagues who spoke before, I congratulate the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) for recognizing this duplicity as early as October 2, 1980. I congratulate my colleague from Provencher (Mr Epp) and his constitutional committee for their ongoing efforts to stop this callous manipulation by the Prime Minister and his trained anvil chorus. I love my riding of Simcoe South and my country, and I want patriation, but not dictatorship.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Stewart: Many of my colleagues have pointed out the history of this great Canada: the Quebec act of 1774, the constitutional act of 1791 and Lord Durham’s report. They recognized the fact that the Quebec act and the constitutional act gave to French Canadians rights which were the most enlightened of their time. Unfortunately, no one pointed out that the Durham report recommended the union of Upper and Lower Canada and the use of one federal language, English. Had this been adhered to, we would not be having this acrimonious debate in the House today. Now we must all acquiesce to the fact that the Right Hon. Prime Minister, in his master plan, has accomplished two of the three things he set out to do in his hell-bent-for-leather gallop to take Canada to the left.
First, he made closure the order of the day, controlling this House by limiting debate through the use of Rule 75c. Next, he passed the Official Languages Act. It may not be fashionable to speak out against the practice—not the theory or the idealism or the goals—of bilingualism.
An hon. Member: Three parties voted for it.
Mr. Stewart: Bilingualism and biculturalism are aimed at preserving and enhancing national unity. The practice and evidence is that they have had the opposite effect. To voice opposition, skepticism or disenchantment with the contribution of bilingualism and biculturalism to the national unity is to risk being pilloried by those who are blindly and irrevocably pledged to the concept, To speak out against the headlong rush into bilingualism is, alas, to be branded a redneck, to be labelled anti-French; I am not. But I see the Official Languages Act unamendable if this piece of legislation goes through, and I see that as a great risk to unity as does the premier of my province. I would be derelict in my duty as a representative of all of the people of Simcoe South if I did not transmit the majority of their feelings and sentiments to this House. Speaking for the voters of Simcoe South, I think I also speak for that silent majority in the rest of Canada on the issue of bilingualism.
Over a century ago, Lord Durham wrote in his celebrated report that he found “two nations warring within the bosom of a single state”. That war, unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, has continued until today. Of course, we have an Official Languages Act. But language has divided this nation. The bilingualism and biculturalism policies of this government have served only to act as an abrasive in English-speaking Canada.
Let us look at reality. The history and the experience of other nations would indicate that it is next to impossible to build a unified nation using two official languages. There must be one common language for basic communication, and in North America, whether we like it or not, figures tell us it is English. This was espoused by the hon. James Richardson, a former minister in that government, who was forced to resign. Bilingualism should be a two-way street. To me bilingualism means English language instruction opportunities for French-speaking Canadians and French-language instruction opportunities for English- speaking Canadians.
I have in my hand a copy of Hansard for March 2, 1981. At page 7773, the hon. member for Vaudreuil (Mr. Herbert) asked question No. 1,934, as follows:
What is the budget for the current fiscal year of the Official Language Minority Groups Directorate of the Department of the Secretary of State and what is the (a) percentage lb) per capita allocation of this sum to each official language group?
The answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State and Minister of Communications (Mr. Stollery) reads:
The budget of the Official Language Minority Groups Directorate for fiscal year 1980-81 is $15,000,000.
(a) and (b) Francophones outside Quebec Anglophones in Quebec
Allocation of budget 198081 (%) $14,073,800 (94%) $926,200 (6%)
Per capita (1976 Census) $15.63 $1.16
Amount committed as of January 15, 1981 $13,411,276 $895,617
Does that smack of human rights or does it smack of something we want to do under bilingualism? This must be done by moral suasion not by threat of fiat, not by the spectre of being red circled in the public service because you do not speak French. It should not be done by the lack of mobility, the inability to move freely from province to province because you do not speak both official languages fluently.
I placed question No. 1,731 on the Order Paper. it was answered on February 23, 1981, as reported in Hansard at pages 7557 and 7558. The federal government has wasted billions of dollars to produce a functionally bilingual public service, but it has not worked. Part of the answer to my question was that it cost $5,390 for 849 hours of instruction for a public servant. The hidden costs are much higher, such as the time away from the job while on immersion, the costs to pay a replacement to cover while that person is away on language training, the costs of removal expenses for the fortunate few who are chosen to study in total immersion in France, Quebec, or elsewhere, on full salary for one year. The answers provided to me by the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Johnston), who I see in the House, are only the tip of the iceberg. What the government revealed in its answer is that it does not really know how much it has cost for language instruction in the public service.
Bilingualism should mean that not only Anglo-Canadians learn French but unilingual French, or English Canadians, should not be discriminated against because they speak only one language. It should mean that the Kelsos of this world are not banished because they are unilingual. This was pointed out only yesterday by the hon. member for Winnipeg-Assiniboine (Mr. McKenzie). It should mean that unilingual Canadians are not forced to ride on the back of the bus because of an accident of birth, language or geography. It should mean that unilingual security guards and protective staff, who we see in this House, are not made second-class citizens because they speak one tongue. It should mean that every Canadian is able to communicate with his government in his or her language. It should mean that Anglo-Canadians in Quebec should be accorded the same rights that Franco-Canadians are seeking elsewhere in Canada. It should mean that the federal policy be administered sanely, not rammed down the throats of Canadians, and not in such a fashion as to force a backlash against our French partners in confederation.
Think of what might have happened had those federal billions of dollars been used in language instruction in the public schools, instead of having been wasted trying to make 45, 50 and 55-year-old civil servants bilingual. Today we might have had a vastly different Canada. French and English now have never been more alienated.
I do not want rough justice for members of a majority of the Canadian population, those whose mother tongue is English, just as there should not be rough justice for those whose mother tongue is French. I want real rights. I fear this document in respect of all our rights.
I respect Quebec, and I respect the French language and culture. We all spoke in this House to keep Quebec in confederation. I want to see the growth and development of a vibrant, bilingual Quebec. I do not want to see hyphenated Canadianism. If we are ever to be a united country we must build on the basis of equal partnership for all Canadians, not only a partnership of two founding races. if we are not a united country we are a divided country. lf we are divided we will never achieve our destiny and we will continue to be two nations “warring within the bosom of a single state”.
If this nation is to become truly bilingual, it must be done gradually through attrition. If that is the way it should be, so be it. But let it evolve under Parliament and provincial legislation, not through grass-bound, granite-etched pronouncements in a constitutional document such as the one proposed.
Many Canadians do not want to become bilingual. They do not need to become bilingual. They do not feel the need to become bilingual and they are probably not capable of becoming bilingual. This should be their choice. We must respect the right of the individual to that freedom of choice. Bilingualism must remain a matter of personal choice, not of entrenched legislation from on high.
Canada is now badly crippled because of the mailed fist of the federal government’s Official Languages Act, national standards which are unacceptable in most of the provinces and territories, It is essential that we learn to distinguish between individual bilingualism and national bilingualism because the one creates unity and the other causes division.
Individual bilingualism is not only accepted, it is welcomed and sought after and is, in fact, essential to the achievement of national unity. National bilingualism is unnatural, undesirable, unwelcome and it is one of the central causes of national disunity. We must all try to remember that we are nation building, not province building, and that if Canadians are to achieve their destiny as one people, Canada must ultimately be united by language, not divided by languages.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
An hon. Member: You have got them yapping now.
Mr. Stewart: But the coup d’état, the coup de grâce is the bringing home of our Constitution with a veto-included amending formula and the most imperfect charter of rights one could imagine. This charter will give the people not more rights but less. It comes through grovelling at the feet of Westminster to include the charter and amending formula,
If it is so great, why is the Prime Minister setting time limits on debate? Why were time limits set for the constitutional
committee? Why is everyone not accepted who wants to speak? The answer is that 64 per cent of Canadians, at last count, were opposed to his actions, and more are jumping on the band wagon every minute.
This is not merely something to oppose as an opposition member of Parliament. It is the very soul of this nation for which we struggle. By the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, we are alienating Canadians and Britons alike. The whole process is dead wrong. The Right Hon. Prime Minister, with his majority can make his unilateral operation successful, but western Canada has indicated clearly that the patient may die. Confederation was the result of a consensus of the provinces, a partnership and a desired interdependence.
An hon. Member: Quebecers will remember you.
Mr. Stewart: It united bankrupt provinces, and to the surprise of the world was the basis of fewer than two million people building a railroad some 4,000 miles from sea to sea.
By this same British North America Act, our French Canadian brothers were able to retain their language and their culture, which they have to this moment. Had we not been cemented together by this act, I am sure we would not be a united nation today, but rather a conquered appendage of the United States. I can imagine how much bilingualism there would then be. This language right seems to be much on the Prime Minister’s mind and that of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chretien), but I would remind them that my premier says no to entrenching. Is it as Shakespeare would say, me thinks they protest too much. Is the real purpose of the charter of rights to entrench?
The British North America Act did not enshrine our differences, it protected them. This was done though Clause 7 of the Statute of Westminster, as pointed out by my colleague, the hon. member for Durham-Northumberland (Mr. Lawrence). Now the time has come to change that Constitution. I would like it clearly and unequivocably understood that not only do I champion bringing home our Constitution with its equalization rights, but so does my leader and, unanimously, our party. I want our Constitution home just as I wanted and strived for our own official national anthem. I withdrew my private member’s bill, C-220, in favour of the government’s Bill C-36, and I had the great honour of being the sole speaker on behalf of my party, by agreement of our House leaders, on making O Canada our official national anthem.
In 1867 the provinces gave up the right of individual powers to form a strong federation. They formed a partnership which still had strong individual powers yet equally strong central powers. It was a federation, a partnership and a good one. This must continue. We must not go down the slippery road to republicanism, as stated so eloquently by Premier Lyon of Manitoba.
We have heard a great ado made of human rights by the leader of the party opposite. I ask, is there any federal party in this House which has more claim to be proud in that field of endeavour than the Progressive Conservative Party? I have in my hand a copy of the Canadian Bill of Rights introduced by the late Right Hon. John Diefenbaker in 1960. It is a code by which my party lives. Of course, this bill of rights is not in our Constitution, but to me it can be in or out as long as it is interpreted properly. The most perfectly written bill of rights is contained in the constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and one can just ask a citizen of Afghanistan how it is interpreted.
Again, unequivocably, I assert that I, my leader and my party are solidly behind the bill of rights for all Canadians, if that is what they want. But what is the rush? As one of the too often silent majority, I want to shout out for my rights for a change. As one of the approximately 70 per cent English-speaking people in this country, I want to talk about the saviour of “mon pays”. How about my country, my Constitution? I am here to warn the Canadian people that this proposal is wrong and that I will fight this wrong. This whole process of constitutional change is wrong.
I am angry and I cannot take it any more. Fellow Canadians and, more importantly, Liberal backbenchers, do not take it any more. We are being wronged by this document. My constituents are being wronged. My country is being wronged; wronged by a deceitful document prepared by a Prime Minister who has worshipped at the throne of Machiavelli, Marx, Chairman Mao, Laskey and Castro and makes no bones about it. The only hope we have of change is a revolt of the Liberal backbenchers. From what I hear from over there, I don’t think there is much hope.
The Prime Minister has the audacity to present this document to us, an effrontery to our country. He has the audacity to ask us to trust him in amending our Constitution; ours, not his Constitution. It has been said that Moses did not write the ten commandments, he just delivered them and led his people out of bondage. Well, the Prime Minister is leading us into bondage. We heard about his just society. What we have now is just a society.
In his book “Federalism and the French Canadian” the Prime Minister stated in reference to strong central government that:
It would certainly be an advantage if the federal government consulted the provinces about matters that affect them even if these matters are entirely within federal jurisdiction.
I do not see why we could not establish permanent consulting bodies to ensure that our trade, tariff, customs or monetary policies really reflect the opinions of people throughout the country and that no province feels undermined by the exercise of central power.
Why the change of heart? Why not then apply this to constitutional matters. Does this sound like a man who held up the first ministers’ conference. Does this eschew trust? When I asked the Prime Minister about this statement, he said it was written ten or 15 years ago. Yet, in 1977 when asked if he wanted the book abridged, the answer was an unequivocal no. This is the same Prime Minister who recently, while in British Columbia, stated that if Canada did split apart because of his unilateral action on the Constitution, “Then I say it is not
worthy of living another day.” Big deal! Well, I say balderdash to such despotic arrogance by the man who would alienate the demographically fastest growing half of this country for one last power fling.
A few days ago my colleague for Halton (Mr. Jelinek) caused an uproar in the House by referring to the Prime Minister in prose which Mr. Deputy Speaker termed “an unparliamentary expression”. Apparently, it is unparliamentary to use the four letter word which begins with “l”, ends with “r” and has “i” and “a” sandwiched in between. Far be it from me, as one of the new boys in this House, to question the wisdom of my elders and those who have gone before me in Parliament.
In our deliberations, I assume we are guided by Beauchesne’s rules and forms and the sections which deal with offensive language and personal attacks by one member upon another. Beauchesne delicately refers to this as any “irregularity in the warmth of debate”. Is it unparliamentary to say that the right hon. gentleman’s words and actions are at variance with the truth? Is it unparliamentary to say that the House and the people of Canada have been misled? Or. could one get around the rules of the House by couching the barb in semantics; by speaking with less than candor, with tongue in cheek?
In another era in Parliament a former member for New Brunswick once said that a Liberal member of the treasury benches has as much regard for the truth as a tom cat had for a marriage licence. I am not a member of any Canadian Bar Association, but it seems to me that the only defence against libel or slander is the truth. I read some rather damning and direct statements written by one Geoffrey Stevens in February issues of The Globe and Mail. Yet, I see no movement to summon Mr. Stevens before the bar of this House to answer his accusations, and Mr. Stevens used the most unparliamentary prose. He wrote on February 2 that “clarity and truth are incidental byproducts”. In another column he made reference to “Liberal lies. deceptions and evasions.” In yet another column he wrote:
—the perception that Mr. Trudeau has sinister, ulterior motives is widely held. That’s understandable, given the way he has lied, bullied the provinces and tried to browbeat the British.
Mr. Stevens stopped short of asking his readers if they would buy a used car from the Prime Minister. He wrote that:
Today, Canada is marked by a lack of trust among regions, between regions and the centre, between the people and their elected leaders.
Mr. Stevens concluded his column by saying:
By a single act of statesmanship—withdrawing his charter and giving Canadians an opportunity to approve it—Mr. Trudeau would demonstrate that he is not trying to pull a fast one, that he believes his constitution is worthy of public support, that he trusts the people. that they can trust him.
What trust can there be when The Globe and Mail contends that:
Mr. Trudeau misrepresented his constitutional plans to the government of Britain and that he and his ministers have been misleading the Canadian Parliament and public about Britain’s position.
I wonder how some of the Liberal backbenchers are able to look themselves in the face while they are shaving in the morning. How can they remain mute and obedient trained seals in the face of the true facts, in the face of the truth?
The truth is that the Prime Minister’s polls show that some 64 per cent of all Canadians in every province of Canada are opposed to unilateral action and amendment of the Constitution in Great Britain. The truth is that six of our ten provinces are attacking the federal position in the courts, that eight provinces are against it and I hope that after March 19 my own province makes it nine. At any rate, I ask the Prime Minister if eight troopers are marching down the street and one is out of step, who is at fault?
The truth is that a committee of the British House of Commons has stated it would be improper for Britain to amend the Constitution without the broad approval of the provinces. The truth is that the Prime Minister has been less than forthcoming about what he and his ministers told the British Prime Minister would be in the constitutional package and about what guarantees she gave concerning its passage through the British Parliament. That is very simple.
Why, then, are the trained seals on the government side of this House afraid to tell this Emperor Nero that he is fiddling while Canada burns? Why are they unwilling to do what is right instead of what his right hon. highness wants? Is there no one over there who will bell the cat? Why is that? Is a cabinet post or the job of parliamentary secretary worth the sellout of conscience?
I did not come to this House for personal position or gain. I now want to warn Canadian in general and members of the opposition in particular again against the three Ts—the trauma of the Trudeau treatise, this insidious plot to change our great Canada into a watered down republic.
Does fear of the Liberal Party prevent backbenchers from speaking their minds on this issue? Are backbenchers afraid of the living death that has befallen some of their colleagues like Turner, Basford and others who dared to speak out in opposition and in defiance of their leader and the Prime Minister? Are they afraid of limbo, of Coventry, of purgatory? Will no one on the Liberal side stand up against the Prime Minister and tell him he is wrong-dead wrong? Will no one tell him that he has gone too far? Is there no one who will oppose him in our steady march toward a presidential system of government? We must suffer power at any price because of one man’s vanity. Let each government member ask himself or herself if he or she would buy a used car from that man. If Shakespeare were over on this side he would look across the aisle, aghast, and I am sure he would intone, “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things.”
An advertisement in The Globe and Mail of January 23 inserted by the National Citizens’ Coalition—
Some hon. Members: “Quote”.
Mr. Stewart: Yes, quote as follows:
FEDERAL LIBERALS: STOP MR. TRUDEAU HAS MR. TRUDEAU OUTLIVED HIS USEFULNESS? YOU MUST KNOW THE MAJORITY OF CANADIANS—
1. Don’t want his changes put in the BNA Act before it is brought back to Canada. (64 per cent against it in Gallup Poll).
2. Don’t want his French-English bilingualism made official coast to coast.
3. Don’t want his cutbacks in oil production.
4. Don’t want his increase of more and more nationalization of industry which does away with competition.
5. Don’t want to keep picking fights with the U.S.A.—our best customer and military protector.
6. Don’t want Ottawa trying to bully the provinces.
7. Don’t want government to encourage Canadians to live beyond their means.
8. Don’t want to pay for fully indexed pensions for the civil servants and MPs.
9. Don’t want to leave our children an immense national debt.
After all, he got elected, not on any of the above issues. but on the issue of cheap gas which has proven to be a deception. lf you are unhappy with the federal government. let your Liberal MP know. Armed with letters—even a backbencher will be noticed by the party. YOUR LIBERAL MP HAS MORE POWER THAN YOU MIGHT REALIZE.
I had not realized that. It continues: The Liberals have 145 seats, and the combined opposition have 133, therefore the abstention of 12 Liberals could force an election or a change in leadership.
That is not the case now. Since they got in bed with our friends on my left it is going to take about 20 hon. members opposite to see through the hoax and vote against this crazy package, but that is all. On the back of this advertisement under the heading “Somebody’s lying about oil!” it continues as follows:
Ottawa says western provinces get 43 per cent of the oil revenue. Western provinces say it’s only 28 per cent.
Who’s telling the truth? British Columbia energy minister Mr. R. H. McClelland (Dec. 9/80 Globe and Mail) has asked Ottawa three times to produce the formula for Ottawa’s calculation of 43 per cent. He has received no answer.
lf the federal government and the Western provinces cannot agree on the basic figures for our National Energy Program, why is it being rammed through Parliament before they understand each other?
Is this a good deal? Why are we paying Mexicans the world price for oil, more than $40 a barrel while we pay our own Canadian producers less than half. $17.75 a barrel?
The National Citizens’ Coalition contends that the federal government is intentionally depressing the value of oil companies operating in Canada so that it will be able to buy the companies at bargain prices—then to be run by the civil servants, like the Post Office.
I ask hon. members if they remember the right hon. gentleman who campaigned against wage and price controls and then imposed them a few months later? That is the man who wants to re-do our Constitution. Do they remember the right hon. gentleman who proclaimed the War Measures Act, suspended the basic legal rights of all Canadians, suspended habeas corpus and incarcerated several hundred Quebecers for long periods without charges being laid, when a few people with $10 and a “Saturday night special” were huddled in a cellar somewhere?
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Order, please. The hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) has the floor.
Mr. Stewart: Remember the right hon. gentleman who allowed the first secret trial in Canada when even the charges were laid secretly? I presented a motion under Standing Order 43 requesting an apology to my old friend Peter Worthington, The Toronto Sun editor who was also charged. That appeal for an apology was to no avail.
Remember the right hon. gentleman who promised cheaper oil and gas at the pumps and now has given us the highest gas prices in history, higher prices than were ever contemplated in the Crosbie budget? Remember the right hon. gentleman who has always said that he would prefer a republic to a monarchy and now is trying to give us one? Remember this right hon. gentleman—
Mr. Evans: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Evans) rises on a point of order.
Mr. Evans: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order under Standing Order 35. I think it is quite clear that this speech has been one flagrant violation of Standing Order 35 after another. According to Beauchesne’s it is quite clear that the imputation of motives to members as being other than honourable is contrary to the rules. On page 115 Citation 326.(2) reads as follows:
Words may not be used hypothetically or conditionally. if they are plainly intended to convey a direct imputation.
I would suggest that also includes the reading of material, quote or unquote, that has the effect and intention of imputing motives that are simply and factually not true.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Deputy Speaker: This is a question that has been raised before in the course of the debate. The Chair has attempted to bear in mind remarks that have come from both sides of the House and on occasion has asked the hon. member concerned to rephrase his remarks in such a way as to stay within parliamentary usage. I am sure it is the intention of the hon. member not to violate the rules of this House, and I invite him to take note of the comment that has been made.
Mr. Taylor: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Taylor) on a point of order.
Mr. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. The actions of the Liberals have imputed more motions, more notions, disgraceful and sarcastic—
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Bow River is not raising a point of order, as he knows.
Mr. Taylor: It is as good a point of order as theirs was.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The Chair has observed that there has been a certain latitude on both sides of the House in this debate. The hon. member who has the floor has indicated that he has taken note of the matter.
Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, I recognize and respect the Chair. I might say that I made my remarks with tongue in cheek.
It will take a long time to overcome the hostility of the provincial governments which was brought about by the constitutional and energy policies. It will take a long time to recapture the trust of western Canada. The National Energy Program is supposed to be for Canadianization, and that is something all of us desire. However, it is nothing short of confiscation draped in the robes of a nationalization known as Petro-Can which really stands for the Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau ruining our Canada. Our symbols of nationhood—the flag, the anthem and the Constitution—should unite us. Instead, we are divided as never before. Trust has dissipated and vanished into the air because of the irresponsible and suicidal actions of this government. In another idealogy this type of government would be called a dictatorship. The Liberal Party of Canada has fallen on very dark days.
Mr. Evans: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think the excesses referred to in Standing Order 35 are quite clear here, and I ask that the hon. member be brought to order.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have been listening to this point, and the Chair is paying careful attention to the remarks being made.
Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the Liberal Party of Canada has fallen on dark days. The once great party of Laurier, King and St. Laurent has been reduced to a mouthpiece for a retreaded socialist, the last of the so-called— but misnamed, in my opinion—wise men. The Liberal Party has been taken over physically as well as ideologically. That is unfortunate. The sheep are content to bleat away as they follow the wolf, to abandon their principles and desert their party’s beliefs and tenets. As once stated very aptly by the late Sir Winston Churchill, “They are sheep in sheep’s clothing”.
If we let this government have its way we will lose the important rights we now have, the rights which distinguish a democracy from a dictatorship. The most basic of rights is the individual’s guarantee of the enjoyment of property without fear of confiscation by the state.
In a radio broadcast on September 1, 1944, Pope Pius XII stated, and I quote:
Private property is a natural fruit of labour, a product of intense activity of man, acquired through his energetic determination to ensure and develop with his own strength his own existence and that of his family, and to create for himself and for his own an existence of just freedom, not only economic, but also political, cultural and religious.
The Virginia bill of rights, the parent of all American bills of rights, in June, 1776, stated, and I quote:
That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity, namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Our right to property was first asserted in the Magna Carta and has steadily been reasserted in the courts and in statute law. It was reasserted in John Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights and in the United Nations charter of human rights.
Another right we will lose is individual freedom from being imprisoned for mere political opposition. This is not the Soviet Union or China; this is Canada, yet under a section of this proposed Constitution the War Measures Act is incorporated in the new Constitution. Under it, if a government wishes, one can be sent to prison for mere political agitation. The government does not have to wait for one to act or to make an actual treasonable move. If the government even “apprehends” an insurrection, the government can move.
“Apprehension” is defined in the dictionary as a state of mind or a thought or feeling as opposed to reality. “Apprehension” can be committed by placard carriers, people who voice strong political opinions—such as myself—and even strikers. If you end up in the slammer a victim of an apprehended insurrection, do not expect due process of law or a speedy trial. Habeas corpus, our guarantee of a speedy trial, is gone, and it was gone once before under the War Measures Act. It is replaced now in this proposed Constitution by a new law which allows the government to decide what is a “reasonable time” to bring a person to trial.
The government is even permitted to hold off elections if two-thirds of Parliament agrees with the “apprehension” that there is or could be an insurrection. I am alarmed at this assault on the rights of the individual and at this harsh approach to our most fundamental of rights.
The Barrie Banner, a local newspaper in my constituency, is not well known as a Tory newspaper or for its all-out support for the Member of Parliament for Simcoe South. An editorial in that newspaper on February 18 states: “Package won’t do”. It goes on at great length to tell why the police chiefs of the country feel that way. The editorial reads in part as follows:
It seems increasingly evident that the government’s constitutional package does not represent the will of the people, although patriation in itself is supported by all of us who think it’s time we wrestled out of the outdated relationship we have with Britain.
We all agree with that. It also say that the police association, and I quote:
—is concerned that the legislation will be “so protective of civil rights that crime flourishes, while law enforcement is repeatedly emasculated.”
The article ends as follows:
We will never know how important our involvement proves to be. but the next generation surely will.
In reality this so-called charter of rights is doing for our rights what Jack the Ripper did for door to door selling.
Over the years the present Liberal government has attempted to reduce the role of the monarchy and also to substitute, in terms of the status of the Queen, the Governor General as our
head of state. When Members of Parliament take their oaths, I remind them that they affirm fidelity and allegiance to the monarchy; otherwise, they cannot take their seats in this chamber. In 1931 under the Statute of Westminster Canadians chose to retain the monarchy. In other words, Canadians wanted to retain the constitutional monarchial system of government and to be members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Constitution is no ordinary law. It is a fundamental document respecting our nationhood. It must serve not only the needs of today but also serve the needs of our children. Because the Constitution is so fundamental to this nation, it should not be arbitrarily imposed by any one individual or government. The Constitution should be brought home so that we Canadians can change it here for ourselves.
The position of the Conservative Party on the Constitution reflects the will of the Canadian people. After all, it was our party under the leadership of the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker which gave Canadians their first charter of rights.
Some hon. Members: Time.
Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, I will close, if my time is up, by saying to the backbenchers on the opposite side that it only takes 20 of them to tell the Prime Minister they will vote against his unilateral patriation of the Constitution unless he calls the provincial premiers together one more time to seek unanimity on an amending formula and a charter of rights acceptable to all in this House; in short, a co-operative federalist country with the greatest future in the free world.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bill Vankoughnet (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington in this Canadian constitutional debate.
As a nation Canada may not have achieved all it might, but when we look about, we see that conditions could have been much worse. That is why I am concerned about the present governments attitude regarding unilateral change. Change leads to further change, and anyone who thinks the proposed changes being espoused are timeless is only fooling himself. However, change is inevitable and, if done properly and in an orderly manner, will be respected, even if not agreed to by all.
As a nation of nearly 114 years we have seen what looked like disastrous events at certain times, but as time passes we have found they were only incidents in the development of our nation. The unknown in this great country which holds so much promise is of concern to me. Our way of life, to a considerable extent, is new in human history. Under our present system of government we have moved toward eliminating poverty, and we have cut down illness to a degree which has not been seen elsewhere. We have spread opportunity for education throughout the country. We have maintained a high degree of harmony between freedom and order under the present division of federal and provincial powers.
As a Conservative I take a conservative view of what we are today and what we must do to make the future better. We must take a progressive step in maintaining a spirit of nationalism. I do not believe we can legislate or order the will to continue as a nation. Because of this belief I have taken the view that conservatism is not a rationalization of what exists but a rationalization of what will exist, and I pray that what will exist is a conservative order. One must first make what one is to conserve.
Having respect for the past, because of what our forefathers did and because of what that has enabled us to do, does not mean adopting it and becoming slaves to it; just as we should not change for the sake of change.
Canada has grown out of a wilderness, in a harsh climate, through the heartache of fate and beside powerful neighbours and natural barriers, but under a system of democracy which has served the test of time.
As we look back to our ancestors with very deep gratitude for all their industrious endeavours—the results of which we have inherited—we give them credit for their wisdom in laying the foundation on which we may from time to time revise to meet new challenges. As we try to improve the system they left, we may find ourselves even more appreciative of their foresight in not providing an easy way of changing our system of government.
The men and women who established this nation in 1867 were brave and wise people. They were not philosophical theorists like Plato who framed his Republic. They were not gifted with second sight to show them that within 114 years the population would increase so much, that our natural resources would be so vast and important to our standard of living, and that transportation by land, water, air and pipeline would revolutionize our way of living. Neither did they know of the electronic communication system which would become commonplace. What they did was to construct, within their scope of knowledge, with a spirit which was idealistic and with hands that were practical, a foundation on which many races and cultures could find firm footing as one united nation known as Canada.
We have reached our present standard of living because of our heritage, which is our past that we put into the present for the purpose of review. From our past we inherited the ethic of hard work, making do with what we had; then by improving it while attending to the business of today and preparing for tomorrow. From our more remote ancestors we have inherited the humanistic spirit of the Greeks and the Renaissance, emphasizing the dignity of men, the Roman and Anglo-Saxon rule of law to provide for peaceful change in our society, and the democratic faith in liberty, God and equality to make it a truly modern nation.
Many contributions have been made to this nation by people fleeing from oppression. Love of our country involves knowing
what went into building this nation, what it is and what it may become. Canada’s past has been favourable, in that order has prevailed without civil war and major disaster, so our future also can be bright and prosperous. The greatest danger lies in the belief that our present well-being justifies complacency. The future of Canada will rest on whether we approach change on the basis of a thorough understanding of our foundation and of our expectations.
We have inherited in trust a potential for greatness which must be passed on to future generations. Just as John Cabot was an explorer, so are we, but in spirit and expectation. We must continue to explore democracy’s mandate to make this bountiful land better; by discovering new ways of living with others. The spirit of exploration, whether it is exploration of the surface of the earth or of the principles of living, includes developing the capacity to face trouble with courage, to meet disappointment with cheerfulness and to accept success with humility. Our patriotism and faith in democracy requires a spirit that holds the community together by giving its citizens a sense of sharing something as unique as the Canadian flag. Although it is debatable whether the present design is best, it is now generally accepted as Canadian.
We may have different personal traditions, cultures, religions, backgrounds or earning powers, but we all believe ourselves to be vital parts of the Canadian society. This does not mean being patriotic in the sense of believing that our country, province or county, is superior to all others just because we were born here or live here. True love of one’s country is not the emotional luxury of vanity expressing itself in flag waving, but a sentiment expressed by a firm stand in the name of one’s country’s principles. It is living together, sharing of goals in common, enthusiastic planning of effective means to reach goals, an aggressive and efficient team action to make goals become realities.
In our democracy, we should seek a spirit within individuals, not a piece of governmental machinery to hold people together. The picture of a democratic country is one of self-reliant individuals who want to be allowed to do their own work, but who are also closely bound together by the great common aim that everyone seeks to devote himself to his country’s good.
When looking at Canada’s constitutional patriation, one finds it is necessary to cut through attitudes and prejudices which have built up for generations, and to look at the facts as they are and then to join others to fix what is faulty and to expand what is good. This approach brings together people of all races, languages, political parties and even religions in the realization of their ability to Change this large and diverse land. History shows that the break-up of Canada into smaller states would be like blowing out candles in a castle until all is dark. It is clear that prosperity results when pious, law-abiding and industrial people develop a civilization, but civilization will fall apart in the midst of petty bickering.
Culture is more than the ability to perform or to admire the arts; it is the superiority of thought, the enjoyment of beauty, efforts to raise oneself and others to a higher level. It implies openness of mind, a sensitive appreciation of human values and the development of the potential which each individual has within him. Canada needs leadership in church, university and the community, and we need governments with vision and with the unbiased ability to engender in Canadians a strong national feeling and a wish for individual advancement. Certainly Sir John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker had this ability. It is not so much a new ideology that is needed, as an earnest spirit which will sustain the people of this great nation in seeking a good life in this wonderful land.
I myself cannot define, and I doubt whether anyone else can, exactly what should be contained in a Constitution or charter of rights simply because the rights which it should contain can be argued endlessly. A charter of rights would give people a feeling of security and be an integrating force which would bring people together. However, it must not be taken for granted that in itself it will forever guarantee freedom to individuals. There are many examples where this is not the case. A nation such as Canada is unique and is in itself an ethnic and cultural entity tied together by such forces as language, history, technology and outlook.
Many countries in the world today have written constitutions using all kinds of grand wording and slogans and containing elaborate bills of rights. There is more to creating a just and workable constitution than putting it into words. Attempts by many countries to translate into chapter and verse a system which has taken our system many centuries to develop has led to disappointing results. Great Britain has no written constitution, yet it enjoys constitutional government with limited and accountable rule. Many would argue that the fundamental laws of Great Britain, along with a basic national consensus, are in reality more real constitution which is more frequently observed in practice than most other written and codified constitutions.
The supreme laws of Britain and Canada are perhaps most aptly described in Rousseau’s words: “Not graven in tablets or brass, but on the hearts of the citizen”.
A national constitution could be described as an official grouping of principles and rules which set out the sources, uses, purposes and restraints of public power. To this end, constitutional studies should look beyond written documents to constitutional practices, judicial interpretations, general laws, customs and tradition.
In Great Britain, over centuries of time, concern for maintaining the fundamental rights which we take for granted today grew together with the growth of democratic government. Britain has no written constitution, and no declaration of the liberties of the individual exists in British law. The principles set out in such historic documents as the Magna Carta of 1215, the Petition of Right of 1628, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, the Bill of Rights of 1869, and the Act of Settlement of 1701 form a basis for the English constitution within which the government must show due regard for the rights and liberties of the citizen.
The basic rights in these conventions may be defined as the right to personal security, the right to personal liberty and the right to own private property. Under the British system, a
person is free to do and to say what he likes provided he does not break the established rule of law. If his freedoms and rights are infringed, there are remedies in the courts. Under the British common law system, everything in general that is not specifically prohibited by law is lawful. Napoleonic law or codified systems of law such as in the U.S.S.R. work in the opposite fashion; everything that is not specifically mentioned is forbidden. We should be proud of our heritage and fine system which has worked so well, and be ever watchful of change for the sake of change. Why would anyone really want to change such a good system as ours?
We in Canada have followed the British system of government and it has served us well. A democratic society which respects the rule of law is the envy of people around the world. We have, as in Britain and Australia, a tradition of constitutional practice characterized by understanding, a sense of fair play, adherence to the rule of law, a vigilant opposition, a free press, public opinion and ultimate accountability through the free and secret ballot. To change such a workable and respected system for the sake of change and for the unknown requires proof that our system is not acceptable and assurance that we would be better off with another system. I do not feel such a case has been made by the present government for such unilateral change.
The Soviet Union has a written constitution which guarantees human rights. But all the rights and freedoms in that document are not worth the paper they are written on because the Soviets do not honour them. There is explicit and extensive abuse because of a one-party system and no free or secret ballot. I visited the Soviet Union and spoke to the common person there; believe me, I would not leave Canada with its unwritten constitution for the U.S.S.R. and its written constitution.
There is a vast difference between written rights and actual rights. In comparing constitutional practices in various countries, we see there is in practice little relationship between declarations of rights, written guarantees of rights and freedoms and the actual rights of citizens. Australia and Great Britain make no declarations, yet there are few infringements of rights, thanks to such checks as the government, the Opposition, the judiciary, freedom of the press and the citizenry.
In contrast, countries such as the Soviet Union, Argentina, Brazil and Czechoslovakia have in their written constitutions general statements and specific guarantees of fundamental rights and liberties, but we hear reports that these countries do not respect them, and we hear of many abuses with little check on arbitrary executive power.
These comparisons indicate the inadequacy of written constitutional guarantees of human rights. Governments and citizens must respect what constitutes any constitution, written or unwritten, if it is to work. It seems clear that written constitutional guarantees alone are neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee the exercise of fundamental human rights. Where rights already exist in practice, through traditions, conventions and respect for the rule of law, writing them down may not be necessary. Where such rights only exist in theory, writing them down will not help.
We are one of the few countries in the world without a written constitution, yet we have rights and freedoms in Canada second to none. We have inherited our system from Great Britain, and it has served us well. Instead of all this talk about “Brit-bashing”, we should take the time to remember from where our fine system of democratic government came. We have inherited a system that serves Canada as an independent nation well.
Any changes to such a fine system of government should be changes for the better. Changes imposed on partners in our federal system of government with which they strongly disagree would not seem to be changes for the better. Consensus in a federation is certainly necessary. I approve patriation of the BNA Act to Canada, but any changes to that act should be done in Canada by Canadians as partners in our system. Our tradition and our workable and proven Constitution should not be unilaterally changed. Relations with our traditional ally, Great Britain, should not be unnecessarily strained when this is not necessary or desirable. The federal government should not forget that the union of the various provinces created Canada.
We do not need another country to change our laws for us. We do not need to create problems for Great Britain by the federal government trying to shift the heat across the ocean on an issue as important as the one created by the present government. This is not fair to anyone and should not be seen as a self-serving opening for the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and his government to drive in a wedge and weaken our strong relationship to both Great Britain and the monarchy.
The Statute of Westminster, 1931 recognized the autonomy of the various dominions and ended whatever discretionary right the British government still had to legislate on behalf of the dominions including Canada.
We are in favour of a charter of rights, but do not favour unilateral imposition of such a charter in the face of strong opposition from a majority of the provinces and of Canadians. This indicates a denial of Canada’s federal nature, since the provinces are partners in the Canadian federation. Therefore, work remains to be done to create a true consensus on a charter of rights so that it is accepted rather than imposed.
The best protection of fundamental rights and freedoms commences with the concept that rights originate with individuals and are not conferred upon people by the government. For a charter of rights to be successful and to command respect, it should reflect this basic principle. When a suitable and acceptable charter of rights can be arrived at, I feel such a charter should have a preamble which recognizes the supremacy of God, the essential worth of the human person and the special importance of the family in our society. These fundamental values were in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights. We as Canadians should ensure that such stable institutions which helped build a strong Canada are included for all to see. I also
feel an agreed-to charter of rights should ensure Canadians the right to the enjoyment of property, as this too has been of great importance in the building of our country.
The Vancouver amending formula accepts the equality of all provinces and has the necessary characteristics of flexibility and a reasonable national consensus before any amendments are approved. It better reflects the reality of the federal nature of Canada, composed of different yet equal partners, and provides a safeguard from undue centralization.
I feel this refusal to accept God and reference to property rights is just another dilatory tactic for the government to amend and introduce these concepts, to manipulate the people into a false sense of passion for patriotism so that other important and far-reaching changes will be accepted without question about the long-term loss of individual rights. It would not surprise me in the least if the government introduced these measures affecting God and property rights at a convenient time to try and divert attention from other controversial aspects of its package.
The Constitution should be the result of broad consensus if it is to be respected across the country. We cannot run the risk of spawning secretive or semi-secretive organizations and movements as a result of unfair, arbitrary and unilateral constitutional proposals. Some countries send arbitrary dictates out from the centre of government to try and control the people, and we hear of the unfortunate results of such arbitrary action.
We in Canada are fortunate to have freedom of religion and worship and freedom of assembly in order to practise our different religions. The Fathers of Confederation founded Canada recognizing the supremacy of God, the importance of the family and private property, and the respect for moral and spiritual values. Just like property rights, people have fought and died over religious beliefs for centuries because of the strong feeling they instil. The Diefenbaker Bill of Rights recognized the importance of this quality of Canadian life in its wording.
My riding of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington is one of the oldest settled areas in Ontario. In 1784 much of the area was settled by United Empire Loyalists who left the United States because they chose to face hardships and the unknown to retain their way of life. These people through conviction, faith and hard work settled the area and worked to build what became the nation of Canada. Because of their faith, through their hard work, and through the work and faith of other groups across Canada the social fabric of our nation was created. It is because of the strong beliefs and hard work of our forefathers that we have such a great country today. We are not an atheist state, as some communist countries profess to be. Canada was built on high principles, strong heritage and religious beliefs.
You cannot do a good job on such an important document respecting the concept of Canada when what you are trying to do is change the concept of Canada in a unilateral fashion. The government should slow down and listen to reason, because reason is the future of a strong Canada based on a workable system through the broadest possible consensus. There is no reason for personal ambitions or arbitrary deadlines in an issue as important as the Constitution of our country.
Canada is composed of ten provinces and two territories. The federal government should not forget this fact. We have one of the largest countries in the world. Due to geographic expanse, by definition, many of the component parts of Canada differ greatly with respect to climate, topography, resource allocation and living standards. People in different parts of Canada have very real and different problems to face as a result of their location and heritage. This is an asset for any country. It adds strength and colour to the Canadian mosaic.
Powers and responsibility in the BNA Act are given to the federal government and others are given to the provinces. Powers of a more local nature were generally granted to the provinces in order to have a government in touch with and in understanding of the various unique provincial concerns in different areas across this vast country. On the other hand, the federal government was given powers over matters of a larger and more national concern. This system has served us rather well over the years as the various powers set out in the BNA Act were interpreted and utilized.
The basic premise of Canada is that it is a federation of provinces, each with its own sovereign government, united together in a federal state with a sovereign federal government. The provinces and the federal government are partners in confederation. They entered confederation with an agreement to define their roles in this country. They are partners in Canada. They are all integral and important components in confederation. No one part is a background of fluctuating importance, but every province, along with the federal government, is an active partner with something to contribute. It is important to realize that it was the regions of this British North America that created Canada and not the federal state that created the provinces. This is important to a strong partnership, something which the federal government does not seem to understand.
Federal-provincial relations have suffered greatly under the present government. It seems the federal government goes out of its way with unpopular legislation to trample the interests of the provinces. This is no way to treat a partner, and certainly not a proper atmosphere to create in the midst of the government’s push for constitutional change. This is a federal state, not a unitary one. If the federal government continues to try to write the provinces out of confederation we could be heading for a unitary state; that is not the Canadian way. The provinces realize this and they are standing up for their rights, their future, and because they are good Canadians, for Canada’s future.
We in the Progressive Conservative Party are in favour of patriation of the BNA Act to Canada. Patriation could be done quickly to get our document of nationhood where it
belongs without bothering to trouble any other country with our own concerns. Once home it should be amended by Canadians using an amending formula agreed upon between the federal government and the provinces.
One aspect of our present federal arrangements which I feel is imperative to maintain is our constitutional monarchy. Any attempt to alter or downplay this tradition, which is one of the main reasons our country is the best place to live in the world, will only worsen the division which exists. The monarchy is too deeply rooted in our culture and history to be removed from our political experience. There is no room in Canada for a threat by cunning people, or government, to upset political order and remake it according to their desire. I am opposed to any efforts to reduce the role of the monarchy. I support the retention of Her Majesty as the head of state in Canada.
The Loyalists took pride in their love of God and the monarch. They stood up for what they believed in to protect a way of life they cherished for future generations. I am honoured to be a descendant of such a group of people. I appreciate the Canada they strove to create. I do not forget or take for granted their sacrifices. I think we owe them and other pioneers the decency and respect to preserve the tradition and way of life they helped pass on to us.
No system of government is perfect, Mr. Speaker, but I, for myself, feel that our system is one of the best. I am proud of our heritage and tradition respected here and around the world. Let us remember where we came from so that we can better know where we are going. The government seems to have lost sight of this, but the people of Canada have not.
I think that with the concerns of many over the issue of women’s rights and opportunities for women, we tend to forget the capable and highly respected standard set over the years by our gracious head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. With estimates of somewhat over half our national population being women, their place as equal human beings is certainly established in Canada and should be ensured for the future. There are differing views put forward concerning the need for the rights of the unborn child and I would suggest that our time would be better spent considering all aspects of this issue.
For the people of a country to make the constitution work they must respect what it stands for. To command this respect it must be just, fair and inspiring now and into the future. The people must trust their government to lead them into that future with promises, rights and freedoms the Constitution promises to uphold.
The present government has made and broken many promises in this and previous Parliaments. It has consistently refused to deal with such serious matters of concern to Canadians as high interest rates, inflation and unemployment. There is no comprehensive industrial policy to help Canadian business and industry plan and grow for the future. Canada’s standard of living has slipped and our economy has seen better days. The present government, under the Prime Minister, has had more than enough time to deal with these matters.
Canadians are now being confronted with constitutional proposals put forward by this same government which has done so little for Canadians over the years. How can Canadians put trust and faith in such proposals from such a government? The answer is they cannot. How can Canadians respect a government which tries to get a foreign country, for which Canadians have long-standing respect, do its dirty work and then, at the same time, blame that country for every little thing that crops up? Great Britain deserves better treatment than this, Mr. Speaker. We owe her that much.
National unity, our economy and energy self-sufficiency are all suffering because the government will not listen to Canadians. In Canada we have great potential, with energy sources, raw materials and human resources that any country would be proud to possess, yet the federal government cannot digest reality. Mr. Speaker, the present government with its myriad of ivory-tower, short-gain programs is harming Canada, a country about which I feel very strongly.
The government should listen to reason on the constitutional issue and patriate the BNA Act to Canada, with an acceptable amending formula, with the provinces in Canada to make amendments in Canada. This would be the better course for Canadians. Patriation could be achieved quickly and the government could get on with the real issues facing Canadians, providing leadership, support and direction so that industry and business can plan for the future.
The present government has been nipping away at the Canada we know and love for some time now. Little changes here and little changes there gradually over time are taking their toll. I, along with many other Canadians, do not like what I am seeing and I am concerned for the future of our country.
Mr. Speaker, may I call it ten o’clock?