Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (4 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7894-7909.
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COMMONS DEBATES — March 4, 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. Bill Vankoughnet (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude my remarks of last evening on the constitutional debate.
Since the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and his government have been in power, and this has been much too long, Canada has suffered. Our economy has suffered. We have massive unemployment, inflation and high interest rates. We have had metric conversion and gun control imposed on us, along with a bilingualism policy not necessary in many areas of Canada. We have had an energy program imposed on us that reduces greatly our chances of energy self-sufficiency and leads us steadily down the road to socialism. We are still waiting for a budget to deal with the real issues facing Canadians.
We hear the need for the government constitutional proposals from a party that has done much to cause division and bad feelings across this country, from a party that cannot be said adequately to represent the various regions of Canada yet seems intent on forcing unpopular programs on the people. We hear reports of public deception by the Prime Minister and his government when they are apparently less than candid with the people of Canada. Many Canadians fought and died for our country and our system and they and their ancestors and the free world allies would likely be a little skeptical if they were told their system needed change by someone who perhaps did not take the opportunity to really stand up for his country at the time.
Mr. Speaker, the present government, on its record, has not earned the right even to consider unilateral patriation of an amended Constitution. The provinces and the people of Canada have had enough abuse from the present federal government, and any attempt by it to do something so controversial with something so very important must be viewed with suspicion.
Canada is a lot of things to a lot of people. It is our home. Few of us would want to leave here for anywhere else in the world, and at the same time many from other countries want to come and do come here to live in Canada. Canada is renowned for freedom, fair play and respect for the rule of law. Canada is ten provinces and two territories with a host of people from all backgrounds spread from sea to sea. We have an abundance of resources and much hope for the future. We have come a long way and we have a bright future ahead. Much of what we have today and our potential for the future stems from what we had in the past, That is a good system, an enduring system that is based on a constitutional monarchy and a democratic parliamentary system of government.
All of the good qualities that make up Canada did not happen in 54 years or 114 years, but evolved over centuries with the help of precedent, borrowing from systems that have been proven over time. We enjoy our rights. Through the parliamentary system, the common law and the Crown, we must ensure our time-honoured system of government prevails to serve us for the future. We must protect our system from slipping toward a socialistic system of government, as some feel we are heading towards. We must ensure that Canada does not become a unitary state as some feel we are heading towards. We must oppose these ideologies and work to preserve and improve the parliamentary federation we have now.
We must not forget that the government serves the people; it is not that the people serve the government. At least, that is how it has been in Canada and the free world and is exactly what we should work to preserve. Rights are not granted by
any government but are created with the individual human being as inalienable rights. The people always have these rights regardless of how different governments approach them.
We have inherited a strong heritage in our system that respects and enforces rights and freedoms and, whether written down or not, we must ensure that we continue to observe these in the future. We must guard against those whose ideologies are suspect and who want to change Canada, whether for their own self-interest or the interest of a larger over-all philosophy in opposition to that of our traditions.
This can be done gradually under a smokescreen of rhetoric and charisma and that is exactly what Canadians must not be fooled by. Look back and look ahead and then look at the last 12 or 13 years our country has been under the spell of the present Prime Minister. Think of the self-imposed rush to change our time honoured Constitution and ask, “Why?”.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot be in a blind rush to let the present government do any more real or potential harm to the future of our country. I am pleased to be part of a system which wants sincerely to maintain and build a better Canada by building on our present system and its strengths, not by unilateral and divisive change for the sake of change.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Douglas Fisher (Mississauga North): Mr, Speaker, I strongly support this resolution and I am very pleased that we are, at long last, bringing our own Constitution under our own control inside Canada. I believe that most of my constituents support this course of action as well. I am, therefore, honoured to take part and to make my contribution in this debate today. I believe in a strong Canada and I believe we need a strong federal government to have a strong country.
During Quebec’s referendum campaign almost a year ago, a most impressive array of prominent people made pledges to people there about Canada’s future. Members of Parliament, provincial premiers, municipal and local leaders, volunteer associations and service clubs, churches and schools, and private citizens all joined together to tell referendum voters that Canada is a vibrant country, a country ready to change, a country ready to remove irritants and a country ready to restore to everyone the full benefits of national unity.
Our debate today is a natural continuation of that campaign and of those pledges. We are acting on those promises. We are recognizing in these initial steps that we need the symbolism of self-control in our political life. We need the protections and the limits contained in the charter. We need the flexibility and the promise for change represented by the amending formula.
People in my part of Canada do not automatically associate this Constitution with that referendum, but, once reminded, they recognize we did indeed make promises that we must now fulfill. We know that honest people who voted with the majority for Canada now want us to hold up our end of the bargain. We also know that there are others who voted with the minority against Canada who are waiting in ambush in case we stumble or fail.
In a broader sense, people everywhere know that our work now is summing up a long and sometimes tedious history, a history of debate going back 50 years. Let us look at this summing up. Let us look at what we are offering. Our governments will continue to follow the guidelines contained in the old BNA Act. We need to alter these relationships very soon to get rid of the irritations created by an old fashioner document. We are not doing that, however, at this stage. Those refinements can come in the future after specific concrete negotiations. It is enough for now to settle on these familiar foundations.
These needed changes will happen soon, however, because we will be able to negotiate knowing that amendments are possible. The formula we are proposing offers everyone adequate safeguards. On the one hand, changes will be so politically challenging that the federal government will be forced to find suitable compromises. On the other hand, we will have enough flexibility to ensure that every provincial government sticks to the point during the negotiations and seeks the same compromises and the same balances. This gives us the chance to focus our future negotiations and to know that change is possible. Each side has some clout, so neither side can risk negotiating in bad faith. We have the opportunity to bring renewal and progress to our federation, to adapt to the future in good faith.
I believe in a strong central government for Canada. The alternative proposal for an amending formula put forward by the official opposition would greatly weaken the federal government.
Our formula allows debate, decisions by each province, regional and provincial approval, and then approval and application right across the country. Their formula would allow different proposals to have a different impact in different provinces, the famous checkerboard effect. Some critics have made a strong, emotional case for this idea and have argued that everything from traffic laws to pension reform is already in a checkerboard across Canada. That argument, especially with those kinds of examples, avoids the real point in this debate.
There are some rules that have to apply to everyone in Canada. We are looking at the fundamental rules of the game, not at minor regulations like automobile speed limits or negotiable government programs like pensions. The constitutional rules are so important that everything else stems from them. They must be the same everywhere. They cannot be ignored anywhere.
I cannot support, for example, any checkerboard or any opting out plan that can turn on or turn off my personal rights in different provinces, My freedom to worship is not a light switch that can be flicked on or flicked off by a provincial legislature. A handicapped person needs protections just as much in Ontario as in Manitoba. A woman’s rights do not change just because she happens to be on the west coast instead of the east coast.
When we describe the charter of rights in this resolution, we are talking about fundamental freedoms. We are telling all of our governments, in city halls, in provincial legislatures and in this Parliament, that there are boundaries beyond which governments cannot go. We are saying that governments, not individual people, are limited. The charter we want must apply everywhere, not just in a few places with those who happen to find agreement convenient.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Fisher: We need to keep our principles straight. We need to go back to our bedrock; our freedoms are too easily threatened. Protection is needed. That is why our charter is not going to be checkerboarded across Canada; our rights cannot be checkerboarded. Canadians, not just some Canadians, not just a few Canadians, all Canadians, enjoy the same rights.
As I mentioned a moment ago, we have a responsibility to act now. We also have the authority to act. We have heard a lot of rhetoric uttered about the process that we have used and about its effect on our goals. Some people have argued that we must have much greater support from the provinces for our actions. They seem to feel that the provinces are our equals, or that they are somehow even greater in importance than the federal government. They claim that our initiatives, our process, will tear confederation apart. I believe the opposite. I believe that we must act now. Our actions on this resolution can only strengthen our country. The federal government must be more than just one extra voice among the different governments in Canada, especially on constitutional matters. Action on the Constitution is our obligation. The final decision belongs here, in the Parliament of Canada.
Of course, we do have a partnership in confederation. Our provinces do have independent and respected roles to play. They do touch parts of our lives that should not be affected by the central government. Their views, accordingly, must be heard in a fundamental debate such as this. When the provinces refuse to act, however, or when the partnership breaks down, then we must act ourselves.
We should see each government’s role properly, not in some artificially inflated fashion. The provinces cannot extend their independence into a veto. They cannot demand that we turn our consultations, our interdependence, into the last word in the debate. Alone, or as a block, the provinces can give us valued insights. They cannot, however, simply add up all their jobs and all their claims and then conclude—as they have done—that the final word and the final decision is theirs. This Parliament must still receive more than provincial advice. We must take that advice. We must then add it in with other reactions and consider a wide variety of national pressures. We must use our own judgment and come up with our own answers.
In this debate, the provinces have been challenged to change federal actions by offering a better case. They have had plenty of opportunity to participate in the changes that are happening. Instead, they lost sight of the great national need and they pressed only for the sake of their local satisfactions. They saw the same marvellous opening to act as we did, to create change at long last, but they suggested only more delays as their alternatives. They have been given their chances over the past year, and over the past 50 years to improve our national life. Now, when we act and accept this opportunity, we are being called arrogant, insensitive and one-sided.
Well, we were elected, to all sides in this House, to take this responsibility and not to abdicate it or to assign it away to some poorly defined coalition, whether that coalition be a premier’s group or a collection of private individuals. The job is ours to do. In fact, if we do not act, if we back away from the job, then we will be signalling a terminal weakness in the federal government. We will be seen as unwilling or unable to act and to lead the country. We need a strong central government in Canada. We need federal leadership.
I believe we have assumed our responsibilities and that we have acted very, very well. When federal leadership has been needed, we have provided it. Members from all political parties can point to some aspect of this Constitution with pride in their contributions. Contrary to our critics’ views, this process has succeeded.
We have brought this discussion to the whole country. Through debates in this House and in the committee, constitutional change has become a truly national issue. There has not by any means been agreement, but everybody has had a full opportunity to be heard either here or in committee. Everybody has had a voice, and television has helped to take these voices to the public and to make them extra effective. Judging by my mail, opinions have become well informed and very firm. People who write or who stop to talk to me on this issue feel their views are worth expressing and that we are listening. I want to repeat, in conclusion, how pleased I am to be a part of this debate.
We are taking the first steps to give ourselves the proper tools for our government. We are bringing our Constitution to Canada, giving it the vital limits in the charter and making it possible to bring renewal in the future.
We have to start using this tool right away. At the beginning of my comments, I referred to the Quebec referendum as a great motivation and a great commitment to satisfy. I could, as easily, have added remarks about remote northern territories, about clashes between the resource and the consuming provinces, about disparities between the rich and the needy regions and about dissatisfactions and imbalances between populated and rural areeas. We obviously have to go now to those people who have deep differences and deep grievances and start to repair our national unity.
We have taken these first steps and, in doing so, we have made the next, bigger steps easier ones to take. We know how change will happen. That clears away the debris and lets us focus on what change is best for all. We must shape our institutions and our governments to fit our new needs. In the past, we have been paralysed by our lack of proper tools. Now
that we have given ourselves the equipment, we have to get on with the rest of the job.
Miss Pauline Jewett (New Westminster-Coquitlam): Mr. Speaker, like others, I am very proud to be taking part in this debate. I have felt for a very long time, in fact pretty well all my life, that one of the most important gaps in the Canadian Constitution, the British North America Act, has been the lack of a charter of human rights and freedoms binding on both federal and provincial legislatures. Therefore, when the constitutional proposals were introduced last fall, it was with particular pleasure that I noted there would be such a charter in this proposal.
It was, however, very discouraging when reading the fine print of the charter to discover how hastily conceived it had been and to what a large extent it had neglected the real needs of many Canadians. Indeed, in my speech in the House of Commons on October 23, I pointed out in particular that the charter, whatever its intent, did not guarantee women’s human right to equality. It had used the very same phrases, such as equality before the law, that had been used in both common and civil law traditions and in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights, which had been interpreted to mean equality in the administration of the law but not equality in the law itself and the very substance of the law. There were other deficiencies in the original proposals. That one, however, was so enormous that no woman in the country, or indeed any other group which had not hitherto been equal, could feel equality was being guaranteed.
Over the past several months one of the most exciting developments has been that Canadians have spoken. A very large number of Canadians have spoken to the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution of Canada, or have written submissions to it. When people say that this Constitution, and particularly this charter, is not being made in Canada, I really have to laugh. Not only is it being made in Canada by this Parliament, even more important than that, all the amendments introduced in January by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) were proposed and pressed by the people of Canada and their various important groupings, both provincial and nationwide.
Perhaps those of us in Parliament and in the legislatures tend to forget that a democracy consists of more than us, that there is perhaps not just two orders of government of vital importance in our democratic society, but a third order. This third order intervenes usually between elections, because the people themselves fundamentally guide us at elections. This order consists of groupings of individuals, economic groupings, cultural groupings, groupings based on ethnicity, religion or sex. These are powerful, dynamic and democratic groupings of people whose points of view we, as legislators and parliamentarians, ignore at our peril. It is from this part of our democracy we have been hearing in the past several months.
The wisest thing the government did was to allow television coverage of the constitutional hearings and an extension of time for briefs to be presented, both orally and in writing, to that committee. The authors of these briefs and submissions, these representatives of Canadians, are the ones who have had more to do than any of us with making this charter much stronger and better than that originally proposed. It is a very good one. These are Canadians who have done this. Even I was taken aback by the strength of their voices, particularly in the case of the briefs concerning women’s human rights to equality and by the general agreement among all the groups on what amendments were needed. We are not talking about just a few Canadians having been heard, we are talking about groups representing thousands and thousands of Canadians.
May I remind the House that on the issue of improving the charter, so far as women are concerned, excellent far-reaching briefs were heard from the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women; the National Action Committee on the Status of Women; the National Association of Women and the Law: Indian Rights for Indian Women; the Canadian Committee on Learning Opportunities for Women; the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League; the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and many more. These were just some of the groups who appeared before the committee. They represented women, and men too in some cases, not only as national organizations but as the umbrella group for many provincial and liberal associations.
In the written submissions, we heard from a large number of provincial status of women action committees, committees of women for constitutional change, many business and professional women’s clubs: The Catholic Women’s League, Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada, the National Council of Women of Canada, and through it the provincial and local councils of women; the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, several provincial advisory councils on the status of women and, in some cases, municipal ones; the Vancouver Status of Women submitted an excellent brief; Women for Political Action; many branches of the YWCA as well as the National YWCA; several university clubs; a number of research centres; and a number of women’s centres, including one very close to my riding, namely, the Port Coquitlam Women’s Centre. This is only a partial list of the voices heard of Canadian women who wanted to see the charter entrenched but who wanted to see the best possible one entrenched. They did it. It is their charter, just as it is the charter of groups for other parts of the charter who were heard, whether it was the disabled and the handicapped, the aboriginal peoples, or representatives of our multicultural fabric. They too are responsible for, and share in, the creation of this amended charter, so I hope we will not hear any more about this charter not having been made in Canada by Canadians.
There was significant improvement in almost all 50 clauses of the government’s constitutional proposals when the Minister of Justice brought his amendments forward in January. There were very significant improvements; there is no question about that. There is equally no question that further clarifications could be made. Further strengthening of certain clauses in the
charter could be achieved. Again I am talking today primarily about those parts affecting women.
A number of valuable clarifications and strengthenings were proposed by the ad hoe conference on Canadian women and the Constitution, about which hon. members have heard a great deal. There was a tremendously successful meeting in Ottawa the weekend of February 14 attended by over 1,000 women. I will not go through all the groups in Canada that have endorsed the recommendations of that conference, but once again there are literally dozens and dozens of them. This reflects the keen interest and participation in the creation of this charter of Canadian women.
I hope all hon. members will read very carefully the further suggestions made by the ad hoc conference. These are all now available to all hon. members. I hope hon. members will look particularly at three of the suggestions because the women themselves would like to see them highlighted in the charter.
The first suggestion is that there be a general statement, either in Section l or perhaps in Section 25, that the rights and freedoms set out in this charter be guaranteed to men and women equally. This should be an overriding statement, making it clear, in case there is any doubt in Section 15 or anywhere else, that the rights apply fully, completely and equally to women and men alike. This is important for all women but, perhaps I should say, particularly important for native women. It is something on which I think there is agreement on all sides. I know it is one of two amendments we proposed in the constitutional committee which the Conservatives were willing to support.
I am therefore very hopeful that if the Conservatives do not propose it as an amendment, or if we do not get the opportunity to propose it as an amendment, the Minister of Justice will bring it in.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss Jewett: The two others I would like to mention were not supported by either of the other two parties when the New Democrats introduced them in the committee. However, I think several members on the government side were willing at any rate to look at them very seriously. One is the use throughout the charter of the word “person” rather than “any individual”, “anyone” or any of the other words being used. The word “person” should be used throughout the charter.
The other one has to do with Section 15(2), the affirmative action section of the equal rights provisions. The suggestion is that affirmative action programs which are to be allowed—indeed, encouraged—should relate to disadvantaged groups. It is not necessary to include individuals. In fact, it might be dangerous in some ways if we did.
The whole purpose of Section 15(2) is to ensure that the equality rights set out in Section 15(1) do not prevent any law, program or activity which has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged groups. However, unfortunately it says “disadvantaged individuals or groups” and thereby makes it possible that a single individual, as happened in the famous Bakke case in the United States, could get some advantage that the group of which he was a member already had in abundance, and thereby prevent an individual in another group from being able to be advantaged by an affirmative action program. One has to look at the condition and situation of a group as a whole, and if a group as a whole is advantaged then the fact that a single member of that group is not should not give him or her something special. When one looks at the group as a whole and discovers it is disadvantaged, then it is the group as a whole for whom the affirmative action program should be undertaken.
I stress this because the women I have talked with and with whom other Members of Parliament have talked as well—and there are many from all over Canada—feel that to ensure that the intent of the charter is carried out so far as women are concerned and, indeed, other disadvantaged groups are concerned, it is vitally important to make this deletion from Section 15(2).
A moment ago I mentioned that the New Democratic Party had during the course of the committee actually introduced all but one of the amendments which are now being proposed by the ad hoc committee on women and the Constitution, and we would be more than happy to introduce them all again, but this may be procedurally extremely difficult to do. If it is, I can only urge the government, and specifically the Minister of Justice—I am afraid I have given up on the minister responsible for the status of women—
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss Jewett:—with all the power at my command to seriously consider highlighting those three amendments I have mentioned and to look seriously at the others as well.
I am somewhat comforted because hon. members will remember that on February 20 in the House I asked the Minister of Justice about this possibility. He said, “It is not possible to have a perfect charter.” These are the points of the women. Then he said, “If there is a possibility of more improvements, we will do our best to study all aspects of them”. On an earlier day, on February 16, the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) said that the additions, clarifications and further amendments are “probably very sensitive and worth-while additions.” I say to the government: do not wait until the Tories support these amendments. I do not think they are going to do so, except for the one I mentioned first. They are paying lip service to them. Quite honestly, I have found no evidence that they are going to support them, let alone introduce them, although I encourage them to do so and I hope they will.
Unlike the people of Canada who have spoken, there are many parliamentarians and members of provincial legislatures who think we should wait until we have the Constitution back home with an amending formula before we start working on a charter of fundamental rights and freedoms. I become very upset when I realize that what these proponents are asking for
is nothing. We will never, or not for 100 years perhaps, get a charter protecting our fundamental rights and freedoms if we wait until later. Women of Canada have said to me and to many others that if this is thrown into the battleground of federal-provincial conferences, we do not believe the 11 first ministers are going to give us our equality; we have no faith in it at all.
For example, if we look at what has happened in the United States we find that women there have been trying to get an equal rights amendment since 1924 and have not succeeded yet. Nor do I think that a constituent assembly is likely. I would like to see it, but I think it is unlikely it will come about. It is certainly not part of the Canadian historic tradition.
I would also like to make the point that at least some of us who read Canadian constitutional law believe the question of fundamental rights and freedoms is not part of Section 92(13) on property and civil rights. A charter of rights and freedoms is not a matter which can vary from one part of the country to another. It is something that is not strictly under provincial jurisdiction. The most important cases in the 1950s and 1960s—I am thinking of the Jehovah Witness case, the Roncarelli and the padlock law case—which had to do with civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom of assembly, or some aspect of our fundamental freedoms, denied that those freedoms were part of property and civil rights, and therefore under provincial jurisdiction. All those cases saw those rights as something that all Canadians must have, regardless of where they live. That being thc case, we should look at the few cases there are concerning our rights and freedoms in Canadian jurisprudence.
In some ways, I suppose, it could be argued that it is amazing there are any such cases, since we have not had a charter of rights. Even the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), I think, is coming to the position that rights and freedoms are not something that you have, maybe, in Quebec but not in Alberta, or vice versa, they have to be everywhere. There are a few significant cases from which it becomes clear that substantially it is no infringement of provincial jurisdiction at all. I wish we would stop talking as if we thought it was an infringement of provincial jurisdiction to have a charter of rights and freedoms entrenched in our Constitution.
Another argument one sometimes hears is that, with a charter of human rights and freedoms, we are replacing legislative supremacy by judicial supremacy. There is no doubt there will be more litigation, but may I remind the House—I am sure that members do not need this reminder, but may I do so anyway—that the courts have been interpreting our rights and freedoms under the common law, or under the civil law in the province of Quebec, for years and years. It is not a matter of the courts not interpreting our rights and freedoms all this time; they have been doing so under common law or under statutory law. As I pointed out a moment ago, even under the BNA Act, in a few monumental cases they have been interpreting our rights and freedoms. We are not going from something called legislative supremacy to judicial supremacy. There will be more litigation, there is no question, but the important thing which this charter has made a major effort to do since the people of Canada were heard from is to ensure that a clear signal is given to the courts about what freedoms and rights we want to have protected, and, above all, in the area in which I am particularly interested, a clear signal has been given now, I think, that we want equality for men and women in the very substance of the law itself.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss Jewett: A moment ago, I spoke about the people who say “wait until later” and I argued that we will wait forever. There is a lot of talk about the amending formula. No doubt it is somewhat more flexible than the rule of unanimity which, of course, would be a complete straitjacket, as we all know. The proposed amending formula is somewhat more flexible. It asks for an amendment to the Constitution to be supported by regional majority, and it divides Canada into four regions. Personally l think it is still pretty inflexible. Any region will be able to veto any amendment. As I say, it is not as bad as unanimity, of course, but I do not see how anyone can think it will result in very many amendments.
That may well be as it should be. But some people would argue that a federal system, particularly relating to the division of powers—and the charter has nothing to do with the division of powers—should not be too flexible; it should be really tough to get an amendment. I think it will be very tough, indeed, and I do not see much likelihood of many amendments getting through quickly. Therefore, those who are putting all their hopes on amendments coming through are misplacing their hopes.
I should like to say a word or two about the amending formula. A good many of my constituents are very interested in and concerned about the amending formula. As I understand the Constitution, the proposed amending formula, whereby there must be a majority in each of the four regions to support an amendment, is not necessarily the last word. If the legislators, premiers and all of us come up with a better alternative formula during the two years after the proposals are patriated and when unanimity is required, it is my understanding the people of Canada could then choose between the regional majority formula and whatever alternative was presented.
I, for one, will work very hard to have a five-region formula established in Canada. I know I will have lots of support from my British Columbia and northern colleagues in the New Democratic Party. We in British Columbia feel very strongly that British Columbia is a distinctive region and that we constitute a fifth region of this country. If there is to be a different amending formula, as an alternative to the one proposed now, many of us will work toward having a five-region formula. I do not know whether we will have the support of other provinces. If we are to present an alternative to the one in the constitutional proposals which we are patriating, certainly it must be agreeable to the other provinces. It is
our job as representatives of British Columbia to see if we can make it possible. In any event, I remind the House that there is an opportunity in the two years following the patriation of the Constitution for us to get cracking, put forward our alternative amending formula and try to do a selling job on other parts of the country.
In conclusion, I emphasize how important the whole process has been, particularly the hearings of the constitutional committee which allowed, permitted and encouraged Canadians in all walks of life to have an input in the charter of human rights. As Canadians I think we can all be incredibly proud of that achievement.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Miss Jewett: It is for this reason we all know in our hearts that this charter, particularly the amendments as a result of the input of the people of Canada, and the amendments we still hope will be made, is a charter created by Canadians.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Pierre Gimaiel (Lac-Saint-Jean): Mr. Speaker, may I first be allowed to say how happy I am to see the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria (Mr. Corbin) occupy the chair, and I hope that the people of the Madawaska Republic will appreciate the fact that it is the duty of their representative to make sure that our standing orders are being observed.
I will now come to the heart of the matter, Mr, Speaker. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to discuss today in the House a matter of the utmost importance for our country, for all its inhabitants and perhaps still more for our children. This great debate on the Canadian constitution began some years ago. We have now reached the stages of implementation. A great many things have been said throughout the years, but very few things have been done. This government has now decided that the time has come to set in motion the appropriate mechanisms which will enable our count to renew itself and to continue to be one of the finest countries in the world. It is obvious that this debate could be lengthy. Presently, we are considering an amendment dealing with the referendum introduced by the official opposition. This amendment, as many others which could be moved by that same party, is only an excuse to extend the debate.
I cannot say that I have any complaint about that, Mr. Speaker, because as the debate proceeds we get to know the different positions held by the various parties in the House. The clearer the positions, the better we can see what hon. members really have in mind. This is important, because a country consists of a group of human beings living in a specific geographic area, goodwill and good relations rather than confrontations are essential among its inhabitants whatever their differences may be. I have to add, however, Mr. Speaker, that I am extremely disappointed by comments I heard in the House because they pained and shocked me but the more I consider them, the more they pain me rather than shock me. I am referring to the statements made last evening in the House by the hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart). I would like to quote a few. Here is what one can read in the official English version of Hansard on page 7858, and I quote:
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.
I shuddered when I heard those first words, but when we think about it we realize that there is room for interpretation. So I said to myself that perhaps the hon. member did not mean what he said. A few lines further I read another sentence and that one meant a lot of things:
The bilingualism and biculturalism policies of this government have served only to act as an abrasive in English-speaking Canada.
I heard those words spoken here in the House where 284 sitting members represent millions of Canadians in the best interest of each and every one of our fellow citizens, and in all serenity. I heard those words spoken here in this House.
An hon. Member: Unbelievable!
Mr. Gimaiel: It is sheer nonsense!
Did one French-speaking member in this House recall all the hardships which francophones have had to put up with in this country over the past 100 years? Canada is a beautiful and great country because there were men who could understand one another. Some francophones have made tremendous sacrifices to be Canadians. That is why our country was built in harmony and with understanding and mutual respect, and I know that anglophones as well had a part to play, I know that there were anglophones who worked hard to build this country. I also know that they have shown respect for their French-speaking fellow citizens, but I think that in the debate we are holding now there is no room for nasty political partisanship, particularly when it smacks of racism, if we are to concentrate on building the country. I would be interested to hear the hon. member for Simcoe South say that he was voicing the opinion of all his constituents when he spoke in the House last night. I am sure that such is not the case and I would point out to him and to some of his colleagues that when he has the floor in the House he is not expressing the views of the Progressive Conservative Party but those of hundreds of thousands of people whom he represents here. That is his job and that is what he is paid for. I want to quote another sentence, and that one does not leave room for interpretation:
National bilingualism is unnatural, undesirable, unwelcome and it is one of the central causes of national disunity.
We hear those words which bring us back to the days of Lord Durham who had been sent to Canada by England so he
could look after our problems. As a member of the House I am asking myself what do the people I represent here want me to do. Do they want me to build a new country or to try to initiate a power struggle throughout Canada so that English-and French-speaking Canadians will be for ever arguing with one another? That is not what the people want.
I come from a 100 per cent francophone constituency, where the people are proud of what they are, proud of this individuality, proud of their language and of their property, proud of their culture. However, above everything else, they love their country. What they love most of all is to be able to get along with those with whom they live. What they love most of all is the peace that they can offer their children. What they love most of all is the peace they have enjoyed all their lives. Mr. Speaker, it is not with such speeches that we can provide this security for Canadians. Since the beginning of this debate, the positions of each party have become quite clear. The New Democratic Party said: Fine, we agree to patriate the Constitution and we agree with the charter of rights-indeed, they worked quite hard to have this charter amended—ans we also agree on the amending formula. However, there are certain things that we would like to see and that we feel are important for those we represent. We would like certain things in the area of energy, and so on.
I respect such a position as it is based on the wishes of the population. However, I am having serious doubts about the position of the Progressive Conservative Party. First of all, we have been told that the Conservatives were against unilateral patriation. Then, we were told that they wanted patriation, but without the charter of rights and without the proposed amending formula. We were told that they wanted to amend the charter of rights and were opposed to patriation. They also proposed amendments to the status of women and many other provisions. Then, they asked which formula was the right one. They said it was the Vancouver formula. Last weekend, it proved to be the wrong one, since a two thirds majority is sufficient to have an amendment passed. This formula includes the two third majority rule as well as opting-out and opting-in provisions, and we saw at the last Tory convention the results of a two third majority with opting-in and opting-out provisions. It is clear that their party is out of whack. But let us be serious. In this context, I must conclude that everything the Conservatives now put forward as their position is simply aimed at obstructing our work.
An hon. Member: They are divided!
Mr. Gimaiel: On a point as serious and as basic to our country as language and the bilingualism policy, I am asking one thing, and it is simply this: If the opinion expressed by the hon. member for Simcoe South does not reflect that of the Progressive Conservative Party—
An hon. Member: Shame!
Mr. Gimaiel:—I ask the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) to do what his predecessor, the Hon. Bob Stanfield did in the case of the then hon. member for Moncton, and to expel the hon. member for Simcoe South from his party!
I would like to say this to hon. members in English. I would like to ask the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition to do what is necessary, as the former leader of the opposition, Bob Stanfield, did when he expelled the member for Moncton because he did not support the view of the party with respect to the bilingual policy in Canada. I ask the Leader of the Oposition to do the same thing with the member for Simcoe South, if he was not expressing the view of his party. I ask him to do no less than that. Then we will know the truth.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Gimaiel: If he does not do so, this means the member for Simcoe South expresses the view of his party.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Gimaiel: I am pretty sure, however, that he will not do that, and I should like to explain why. First of all, is not the hon. Leader of the Opposition the man who, during a visit to Chicoutimi, signed the famous petition which the Quebec separatist government had been circulating throughout Quebec for the past six months?
Is he not the man who signed the petition the Quebec government made and circulated throughout the province for the last six months? Yes, they did it in Chicoutimi. The Leader of the Opposition did that.
Is it possible for us to say at this time that this party indeed has a policy promoting a bilingual and united Canada? No! In this respect, I should like now to direct my remarks especially to my own constituents. As residents of the Lac-Saint-Jean riding, you have certainly heard Quebec Premier René Levesque make the following statement: “We are indeed lucky to have the Progressive Conservative Party fighting for our interests in the House of Commons.” If that is what you mean when you talk about fighting for the interests of Quebecers in the House of Commons, Mr. Levesque, just keep on babbling and try to convince everybody that you yourself are fighting for Quebecers.
I, for one, can tell you that I am proud to be here to represent my constituents and to help build our country instead of trying to break it up as you are doing, Mr. Levesque. Let me tell you that I need not associate with people who make speeches such as this one to convince the people of
the Lac-Saint-Jean riding that I am working for them. Mr. Speaker, I feel the time has come for Quebecers to be told the truth about what is going on with regard to the constitutional renewal we are now launching. In Quebec, we have been accused of selling out the province, of betraying Bill 101, of changing the Constitution unilaterally, of everything imaginable. That has been said about the 75 Members of Parliament from Quebec, all the while insisting that we are acting like sheep. That is important.
There is one thing I want to tell the people of Quebec right now, and especially the people of my riding and that is that, as hon. members of the Government of Canada, we are not really changing the Canadian Constitution but preparing the context needed or desirable to change it in fact. This means, in simple terms, since I am an ordinary man, that we are in the process of asking the British government to send us back our Constitution so that 11 first ministers, the ten provincial premiers and the Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Trudeau) can sit around a table and discuss what changes are necessary so that our country can better meet the needs of the Canadians of today and those of tomorrow. At the same time, we tell our friends on the other side of the river or the ocean: Enshrine a charter of rights in that Constitution. You may say: But why a charter of rights? Very simple. Renewing a Constitution is renewing a country. It may even mean changing all the rights, all the laws that govern Canadians.
In that context, as representative of the 80,000 citizens who live in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean, I shall never accept that 11 first ministers, even if they are great Canadians, including the Right Hon. Prime Minister, should play around with the Canadian constitution and change it without first making sure that the fundamental rights of the people I represent are protected by a charter of rights enshrined forever in the Constitution. Of course, that is not perfect. But those who tried to achieve perfection at one fell swoop, do you know what they do in life? Nothing at all. Perfection cannot be achieved at first go. In addition, both a referendum formula and an amending formula will be included in the Constitution to prevent any systematic deadlock. We are not going to spend another 20 years of our life quibbling over that, wondering where we are going, what we are going to do. We have to find a solution to the Canadian constitutional problem. Our Constitution just has to be renewed because, as we know, when it was drawn up, there were no television, no airplanes; transportation even by road was much slower.
So many things have changed in this country. And so quickly. That is all we are about to do. To those who shout rape and treason, and those who come up with all sorts of arguments saying that we are betraying Quebec, I say that for the first time in the history of Canada, the rights of francophones to education in their own tongue, to their language, recognition of the French fact will be enshrined in the Constitution of Canada and no one, no prime minister, no government can change that without the consent of the Canadian people. Is that not a step forward?
I have seen very frustrating things happen in my riding, among others. We have all heard of the notorious petition which I mentioned earlier, the solidarity movement or whatever, which has been going around Quebec for the past six months. The signatures were to be gathered within a month and sent to all of us members from Quebec, challenging us to act according to the will of the people. I have seen how they operate. The people responsible for this petition tried first of all to go everywhere. When that did not work they went to the schools, but that did not work either. They asked the FTQ to help them and, like any good union they agreed and said, “Yes, Mr. Minister, we will do it.” The FTQ had people sign it. But that did not work either. People were forced to sign. They were told to sign. No, thank you. Sign. After trying ten times, people signed. People were also told that if they did not sign, they were not genuine Quebecers. How great! What does that mean? That seems to imply that there are two classes of Quebecers. l am beginning to wonder about those two classes of Quebecers. I will give you an example.
If I had to choose between being a fake Quebecer like the Minister of Justice who went to Washington two years ago and addressed the World Bank, in French only, and being a genuine Quebecer like the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Levesque, who two months after being elected delivered a speech entirely in English in New York, I would choose the former. He spoke two words in French: Saint-Félicien and Baie James, two projects, by the way, which he considered as political balloons before coming to power. I personally prefer being a fake francophone who speaks French in Washington than a genuine one who speaks English in New York. For sure. If being a fake Quebecer means deciding, like the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Lamontagne) did with his colleagues, to purchase F-18 fighters which will bring $1.5 million to Quebec, I prefer being a fake Quebecer rather than a genuine Quebecer like René Levesque who buys $11 million worth of buses from General Motors in the U.S. rather than from Bombardier, in Quebec.
I would rather be a fake Quebecer in that context. We do not need arm-chair Quebecers any longer. The drawing room days are gone when the intellectuals, the intelligentsia, were luring everybody in the province of Quebec, saying we all were going to rebuild this country, and perhaps by putting everything aside we were going to build another country which would be much better, a much better home to live in. Even if we have to keep outside in the cold for another ten years there would be nothing to it. We are going to build another country afterwards. Those days are over; all that silly talk is over. It is time now to act. Now we have people who sit down and discuss.
The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) is often blamed for not having held consultations. But I saw what happened last summer. After Quebecers had given their answer to the referendum held by the Parti Québécois, after Quebecers had said no, one of them, the same one who built Bombardier, the same man who built Canadair, stood up and said: “Let me deal with that, Pierre. I do not like the subject, I have never wanted to build a career around it but let me deal with it. I shall go and see the premiers, we shall see what they are made of.” He went around and met the premiers and what answers did he get? Mr. Sterling Lyon, the Premier of Manitoba, came to Ottawa and said he did not want a charter of rights. In 1980, a charter of rights, ugh! There is no use for that, it is simply insulting the people. There is no need to protect the rights of the citizenry but the rights of the provinces should be written into the Constitution. Let us protect ourselves, but the citizenry needs no protection.
We have to understand what is happening. We want an answer from Alberta but we just had it. The best way to be a Canadian is to say to the Canadian people: You need oil? We will no longer sell you any because you are not paying us the right price.
I remember reading in history books that if eastern Canadians had reacted in the same manner in the past Canada would not be the strong country it is today, it would not have survived.
A fact remains, it is impossible to believe that the premiers meant business at the bargaining table. They did not. Their political strategy was quite simple, namely to attack the Canadian government, to debate the constitution issue in order to focus public attention away from the provincial opposition, to be on hot lines or appear before the TV cameras with representatives of the Government of Canada because when people have to vote they can only vote for them because their opponents are the provincial parties, never the Liberal Party of Canada. But in this great debate, the provincial parties have not had their say because such were the rules of the game. That is over now. We have now come to the bottom line. We are now creating the necessary conditions in which a change can be made.
Later, the provincial premiers will come and sit with the Prime Minister of Canada and will build a new country on behalf of all Canadians. And in this regard, I can assure you, my constituents, that my deepest thoughts are for you and most of my work here is directed toward safeguarding your interests. That is why I attended more than 15 sittings of the committee on the Constitution and why I want to watch closely what is happening, because whatever happens in Canada in the years to come, whatever changes are made to our Constitution, I can swear to you that nobody will ever fiddle with your basic rights, nobody will ever deprive you of what your fathers and ancestors have fought for, because the responsibility you have invested in me is precisely to protect those rights, and this is what I am doing along with my colleagues. On their behalf, I simply say to you that if we vote for this resolution, it is because our country’s future is built on success, on change, and because we, as your representatives in Parliament, are ensuring that your interests and those of your children are protected.
In this regard I say to the government which is now involved: Go ahead! This country will be more beautiful because some honest and stouthearted men have worked on behalf of the anglophones, the francophones and the native people as well as of all the others who have built this country and helped to make it even more beautiful and more honest. I would ask my colleagues in the opposition to think more about their constituents instead of being concerned with an as yet undefined position for which their party is trying to drum up support.
Hon. John A. Fraser (Vancouver South): Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise on this occasion and take part in this debate. I know that Mr. Speaker will take it with appropriate good humour when I say I have been waiting this afternoon for some time. I must say that this has given me the opportunity to hear three very interesting speeches, two from my friends and colleagues on the government benches and one from a British Columbia friend and colleague, the hon. member for New Westminster-Coquitlam (Miss Jewett). I think hon. members will agree that in all the speeches there was a combination of thoughtfulness, passion and certainly a very great amount of conviction. I see some of my friends on the government side nodding in assent.
The hon. member who wins the prize for passion this afternoon, of course, is my friend the hon. member for Lac Saint-Jean (Mr. Gimaiel) who certainly left us in no doubt about what he thought on this subject. I am not sure whether my hon. friend dealt with some of the other matters of very great concern but he left me in no doubt about his feelings which are very sincerely held.
I may be forgiven if I point out that the speech of which he complains sounds suspiciously familiar, and I had a chance to look at it. It is similar to speeches made by the former member for Crowfoot who later, because it was politically advantageous to the Liberal Party, was brought into the bosom of the Liberal cabinet. I know that my good friend will not mind if I point that out. It may give him a chance to make another speech.
The speech of the hon. member for Mississauga North (Mr. Fisher) was restrained and concentrated on one aspect of the debate, the charter of rights, as did the speech of the hon. member for New Westminster. That is a legitimate subject in this debate but, while I think the charter of rights is very important, and I am sure hon. members will agree that with other hon. members I worked very hard to make it a better
charter of rights than it started out, it is not the only aspect of this debate.
Before I get into that subject, Mr. Speaker, I want to mention a couple of other matters that give me great pleasure. The first is to offer my congratulations to the co-chairmen of the joint committee on the Constitution on which I had the privilege and responsibility of serving. I think especially of the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal) who throughout the proceedings exhibited a great deal of competence, justice and fair play. In fact, he was so objective I thought when it came his turn to speak in the House he might adopt some of the views we had expressed to him. We found that he had other things on his mind, however, and cut off from the constraints on his almost quasi-judicial position, he managed to find something to say in support of the government’s views on this particular measure. That did not surprise me but I think it ought to be recorded that while I do not agree with what he said after he ceased to be a co-chairman, with others I compliment him on his very fine deliberations on behalf of all of us as co-chairman of that committee.
I want also to pay a tribute to one of my colleagues, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp). I think all hon. members will agree that he conducted himself throughout the proceedings of the constitutional committee with dignity, competence and a measure of patriotism to which all of us aspire and can understand.
I want to say something else because there are honest views held in this chamber and in this country which are very different views. The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) had the courage on October 2 last to say that not everybody agreed with the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Trudeau) package and had the courage to say no. The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition has been proven right in that fundamental decision over and over again during the weeks of deliberations that have taken place. Certainly he has been right about the reaction of the Canadian people.
One of the things that plagued this consideration of a new constitution has been the fact that many members of the public have been critical of politicians for acting like politicians, for being partisan. A letter which appeared in The Globe and Mail on February 24, 1981, had this to say:
Much of the debate in the House and elsewhere is blatantly partisan, and (possibly wrongly with the more sincere presentations) gives the appearance of being more concerned with the paramountcy of different levels of government than it is with what a new constitution will or will not do for the people of Canada.
The citizen who wrote that letter has every right to his opinion but I have to say in answer to that citizen and others who have written in a similar vein, being equally critical of all sides, that these deliberations were placed in a highly partisan cockpit. That was the decision of the government. It was a stacked deck. The package was imposed unilaterally in early October on the Canadian people and was not a consequence of 53 years of discussion and deliberation.
It behooves members of the Liberal government who claim that this is something we have been discussing for 53 years to go through the record and see how much has been discussed for 53 years. They will find very little. It is true there have been discussions about an amending formula but until recently we never heard about a referendum, a charter of rights and other things being discussed. The elimination of the power of the Senate as the last defender of the provinces was never discussed. The shibboleth that this has been going on for 53 years and has to be settled by July 1 is just that, a shibboleth. I would ask all fairminded members on the government side, and there are many, to keep that in mind. I would ask them to pay attention to the fact that although it is true there were meetings, the public was not involved in those meetings until this party, with the help of some members of the New Democratic Party, opened up the proceedings to television and radio.
Most of the discussions that have taken place between the federal government and the provinces were held in secret, as were the documents. It is a mistake to say that we have been debating this publicly for all these years.
Mr. LeBlanc: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. I happened to be the press secretary who opened federal-provincial conferences to television with Mr. Pearson in 1968. Since that time most federal-provincial conferences have been held in front of the television cameras.
Mr. Fraser: Mr. Speaker, may I answer the minister by saying that some parts of them have been public.
Mr. LeBlanc: Most of them.
Mr. Fraser: Some of the key parts were not, however. Why are all the arguments taking place about what was agreed upon and what was not? Most of it, or a significant part of it, was not done publicly. Until a few months ago, most people would not have known what the Victoria formula was all about so let us not pretend the Canadian public has had a long period of involvement.
Let us look at the atmosphere which existed when discussion on the resolution began. As I said, it was placed in a highly partisan cockpit. The wonder is that hon. members rose to their duty and the occasion, and that it was as civilized as it turned out. Remember, and I say this to the public which is watching, this was a highly partisan operation.
In the first place, it was created by closure in the House of Commons. That is not a very good way to start a debate about the way we ought to improve the basic laws under which we live. At first, radio and television coverage was not allowed. It was only allowed after tremendous opposition on the part of the Conservative Party and some members of the New Democratic Party. The committee was not allowed to travel. If some members from central Canada wanted to know how people in the west really feel, why did they not travel? I would hate to think it was because someone did not want them to find out. They would have learned a lot. Some of them have not learned yet.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Fraser: The members are not travelling now. They are sitting in Ottawa. If anyone thinks people in western Canada believe that Ottawa is listening to them, they are wrong.
Then there was the ridiculous time limit of December 9. After a tremendous battle, that was extended. This must be the strangest committee or joint committee which has ever been established. They voted to limit the number of experts on the subject being discussed who could appear before the committee. This has been a highly partisan debate. If anything, it has been a highly partisan structure.
Let us look at what the other place is doing. The Senate began its debate, because it is controlled by government members, before the House of Commons finished its debate. That is surely a most extraordinary bit of conduct on the part of the Senate.
Mr. Evans: It is not unusual at all.
Mr. Fraser: The hon. member says it is not unusual. I cannot imagine a debate on the fundamental laws of our country taking place here and proceeding at the same time in the Senate. That is incredible. The debate should have taken place here and then the Senate, exercising its prerogative, could have taken a look at what we had done.
Mr. Blais: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fraser: You will have your chance to speak later.
Mr. Blais: The hon. member is suggesting that the joint resolution ought to be dealt with first in the House of Commons and then in the Senate, seriatum. Is he implying that in terms of the joint committee, of which he was a member, he wanted the Senators excluded?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): That is not a point of order.
Mr. Fraser: It is not even a good question. I will go down the list of the Senators from the province of British Columbia. Senator Bell was asked to vote on whether the senate should proceed while we were still debating. That Senator was not there. Senator Lawson said it was perfectly all right to go ahead with the debate. So did Senator van Roggen, Senator Williams, Senator Perrault and Senator Austin.
Mr. Evans: I rise on a point of order. Unless I am mistaken, I believe it is out of order to refer to proceedings currently going on in the other place.
Mr. Fraser: The hon. member just proved my point. Apparently we in this chamber are not allowed to make reference to what is going on in the other chamber because it is going on at the same time. You want to close us off with closure, close us off with no TV and radio, and time limits and now with a procedural rule. you put us in a Catch 22 position. The hon. member just proved the point lam making.
An hon. Member: We only get 20 minutes.
Mr. Fraser: Somebody on the government side says they only get 20 minutes. That is something worked out by their House leader. If they are complaining about the time they are allotted, they should complain to their own people.
Let me give another classic example of the partisanship which existed. What happened on the question of property rights? The committee was clearly promised by a minister of the Crown that a property rights amendment by the Conservative party would be allowed. That was overruled a few days later. If anyone wants to know how partisan this has been, they can look at the words of the Prime Minister when speaking in Vancouver. Despite all the efforts of the NDP, even though they were misguided, to try to co-operate with the government, the Prime Minister said this:
“We’ve managed to split the NDP right down the middle between those who love freedom and justice more and the Liberals less… and those who hate Liberals more and love freedom and justice less”.
An extraordinary statement in an editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press said:
That statement stinks of everything that is wrong with Mr. Trudeau’s approach to the Constitution: its arrogance, its narrow partisanship and its sheer dishonesty.
I think I made the point that the debate on this resolution started off in a partisan manner. It has maintained a considerable degree of partisanship since. If this is going to be done by one party with a majority, rather than go through any kind of forum, it will be partisan. I am sorry if the public is upset about it, but the public ought to know why this is so.
What is the real issue in this debate? The issue is whether what we are doing is being done in the right way another, if so, is it the right answer. Mr. Justice O’Sullivan, one of the dissenting judges in the Manitoba case, said this:
—the Attorney General of Canada ends up in the proposition that a political party, if it forms the majority of both houses of the Canadian Parliament, has the power to amend the Constitution of our country as it pleases.
That was basically the position of the government lawyers in the court. In addition, it is the position in this, the highest court, with the vast majority of government speakers. Somebody referred to the province of Quebec and the promises made to that province during the referendum. Was that the promise made to the province of Quebec? I ask hon. members on the government side, especially those from the province of Quebec, whether that province was told during the referendum debate in that province that the federal government would come to the House of Commons and ask for the right to unilaterally change the Constitution of Canada? There is not a member in this House from the province of Quebec who can answer yes to that. They know the answer is no. Of course, Quebec was never told that. If that had been the basis of the campaign a few months ago to keep Quebec in confederation, the vote would have gone the other way.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): What did Ryan say?
Mr. Fraser: Mr. Ryan did not appear before the constitutional committee. He did speak to the press gallery, pointing out how dissatisfied he was with the process and how wrong it was. He said something else that was interesting, and which cuts through to the problem in this debate. He said that western separatism is more dangerous than Quebec separatism.
When I returned to the constitutional committee a few hours later, I was asked to comment on Mr. Ryan’s statement. I said I would. I said we had been here for a half a dozen years telling everyone that, but nobody would listen. The difficulty in terms of understanding between the centre of this country and the west is that until Mr. Ryan said there is a danger with regard to western separatism, nobody asked a western member of Parliament about it. That is the problem.
Some say that other problems in the country should not arise in this constitutional debate. However, when I hear people on a phone-in program in Ottawa advocating that we send troops to Alberta to take the oil, then I say there is trouble in this country.
Mr. Justice O’Sullivan went on to say:
What is proposed by the resolution which is the subject of this reference is that the majority of both houses of Parliament should invoke this legally unlimited power of the United Kingdom Parliament not only to “patriate” our Constitution hut also first to change the Constitution in fundamental respects before patriating it.
Was that ever said to the people of Quebec during the referendum? Of course not, because one could not have hold an audience if it had been said and certainly hon. members opposite could not have won the referendum, although I am glad they did. The government did not do it by publishing these things. It talked about change and addressing the needs of the French-speaking people of Canada and the province of Quebec. That was legitimate. But these kinds of statements were never put because any Quebecer worth his or her salt knows that is the very thing which has always concerned the people in the province of Quebec; that a federal government can move unilaterally to change the rules, because that puts Quebec, which is a minority and which has special things to be protected, in a position of very grave difficulty.
Mr. Justice O’Sullivan went on to say:
—but I find it difficult to understand how the Attorney General of Canada can assert that the Imperial Parliament remains supreme and sovereign over Canada, bound only by a “convention” which has no force of law and which it can legally disregard as it pleases.
Did anybody during the Quebec referendum tell Quebecers that the general principle, enunciated by Prime Minister St. Laurent, that right hon. gentleman, also contained in the government white paper of 1965, that no major amendment which affected the powers and the distribution of powers in this country ought to be made unilaterally by a federal government, was going to be changed? That was never put to anyone in Quebec. If anyone can find a speech where any leading member of any party, and certainly in the government party, went to Quebecers and said that was what they intended doing, then I will apologize publicly. But that was not the thesis upon which Quebec was told to vote “no.”
Mr. Justice O’Sullivan continued by saying this:
To hold that the United Kingdom Parliament has still the legal power to alter the fundamental structure of our confederation without the consent of its constituents would be to decline to give effect to constitutional principles and practices that are by now well settled.
I could go on.
That is what the issue was all about. I happen to believe that Mr. Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights should have been entrenched. I happen to believe that some rights should be entrenched. I also happen to believe that if changes are to be made in the fundamental laws of Canada, we must respect our partners. Respecting our partners is not to ignore them or for the federal government to decide it is right and they are wrong. I ask hon. members to give me an explanation of why the government is in trouble in the west.
Here is an article by Mr. Gordon Gibson. Mr. Gordon Gibson, just so hon. members on the government side will remember, worked in the Prime Minister’s office for some years. Three times since then he has run as a Liberal candidate in British Columbia and has been defeated. I have the highest regard for Mr. Gibson. I was one of those who had to run against him. Then he was elected to the British Columbia legislature and became the leader of the B.C. Liberal party. He is also the person who made promises in writing that if the Liberal government was successful in the 1980 campaign there would be no export tax on B.C. gas.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Remember that promise.
Mr. Fraser: He is the one who was betrayed by the minister of energy—
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): And the whole government.
Mr. Fraser:—only a few weeks later when I raised the matter in the House. This is what Mr. Gibson said only a few weeks ago:
What sort of mentality could plan to impose a new constitutional system—the very basis of our rules for living together—impose it through a procedure rejected not only by most provincial governments, but by an overwhelming majority of the people as well?
My goodness, why is it that the Liberal government wrings its hands and wonders why it cannot elect anyone in the west? That article is by the former leader of the Liberal party in British Columbia.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): The betrayed leader.
Mr. Fraser: There has been a lot of talk about a checkerboard. My party has been accused of offering a process different from that proposed by the government respecting a charter of rights because that process would create a checkerboard. I do not have to tell hon. members why there is a checkerboard. I am not talking about different places where stop signs or speed limit signs are put, I am talking about much of what goes on in this country. I am reminding hon. members that the British North America Act was a checkerboard. Whenever we put up a proposal to get people to agree to the charter of rights which has come from the committee,
and will probably come from these proceedings, hon. members opposite say we should not do this by persuasion, that we should not go to the public and to the legislatures to get agreement. We are criticized because there is a possibility of a checkerboard. In fact, the hon. member for New Westminster-Coquitlam, a very distinguished lady, said she has given up all hope that it will ever come about.
Let me remind hon. members on the government side that they have left the biggest checker on the board, and let me remind them what it is. In order to gain support in central Canada, in the province of Ontario, the Liberal government has left half a million francophones outside the protection of Section 133. There is no use running away from it. If hon. members want to talk about a checkerboard, just look at that. I would suggest that is a black spot. I do not agree with unilateral imposition. But if members opposite are going to criticize our formula because it may take a little longer, and it may not happen all at the same time, then in fairness they better look long and hard at what they are doing themselves.
The question is this: How do members opposite explain to francophones in Ontario that Manitoba, Quebec and now New Brunswick will be protected by Section 133 but the largest single majority of francophones outside of the province of Quebec will not be? If the Liberal Government wants to talk about a checkerboard, let me talk about a checkerboard.
What about immigrants coming to the province of Quebec? They are not going to be treated in the same way respecting the education of their children. I can live with a lot of differences in this country, but I think it is pretty hard to live with what gets to be near hypocrisy when the only criticism hon. members opposite can make about us saying we have a little more faith in our fellow Canadians than they have, and we think we can get it with a little time and persuasion, is that there will be a checkerboard. They have got a checkerboard.
On the question of the checkerboard and the rights, our proposal is that we take a little more time. The argument put forward by the government is that the premiers would never agree to anything. I ask hon. members opposite how they know that? I can see it on their lips already. They will say the premiers have not agreed to anything for 53 years. But that is not true. All kinds of changes have been made, many of them by agreement and consultation.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Eighteen.
Mr. Fraser: We have lived together as a country for 113 years. We have lived together, not as the Dominion of Canada, but we have lived together before that and we have done a lot of things by agreement. To come before the public and say there is no possibility of ever getting agreement again shows an extraordinary lack of faith. The hon. member for New Westminster-Coquitlam said that for two years the New Democratic Party would like to work on something which they could present as an amending formula, and that they would like some amendments with respect to women and the charter of rights. There are a number of things she wishes will come about and she hopes that everyone will agree. Does that not indicate the thought that we will be able to make changes as time goes by? That just contradicts her position completely.
My hon. friends from British Columbia have a dilemma. The hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson), unfortunately is not in the House right now, but he is a very strong defender of rights—so am I—and I understand how he feels. He said he did not like the amending formula but he would go ahead anyway because he wanted those rights very badly.
Yet that apparently is the position of the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Fulton), the hon. member for New Westminster-Coquitlam, the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Kristiansen), the hon. member for Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands (Mr. Manly), the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mrs. Mitchell), the hon. member for Kootenay East-Revelstoke (Mr. Parker), the hon. member for Kamloops-Shuswap (Mr. Riis), the hon. member for Mission-Port Moody (Mr. Rose), the hon. member for Comox-Powell River (Mr. Skelly) and the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway (Mr. Waddell). That is the New Democratic phalanx. They have ganged up with the senators from British Columbia to defend British Columbia interests by selling them out on the amending formula.
Let us take a look at what that amending formula does. Section 41, which is now section 45, gives eternally and for all time an absolute veto on constitutional change to the province of Ontario and to the province of Quebec.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear. I am prepared to put a veto in the hands of Quebec on some things, but I am not prepared to put a veto in the hands of the province of Ontario, no matter what its population will ever be and enshrine forever first-class and second-class—even third-class—status among provinces. If hon. members think this is not bothering people in western Canada, then they have not been listening. It is, and it is serious. That amending formula is seen by westerners as, first of all, unfair; and second, armed with the referendum, unnecessary.
Hon. members might ask, “Why is it unnecessary?” They want to break a deadlock. Let me tell hon. members why. Let us assume for a moment that the Victoria formula is fair. I do not think it should create first-class and second-class provinces, but let us assume it is fair. Why did the government put it there? The government put it there because it thought that to be a fair way of deciding how to make changes. But then the federal government came along and said, “If we do not get our way by putting it through Section 41 (which is now Section 45) we will have a referendum and go over the heads of the provinces because there is a deadlock”. For the life of me I do not understand what my friends on the government side mean by a deadlock.
If we have an amending formula which calls for passage by so many legislatures of different provinces in different regions, and if that is a fair proposal, why not live by the result? Why come along with a further amending formula which says that if the federal government does not get what it wants under
that so-called fair system, then it will go over the heads of the people with a referendum? I just cannot emphasize too much how that particular provision and that approach are offensive to western Canada and, quite possibly, to other places. For the life of me I do not know why they are necessary.
I can argue about the Victoria formula or some other formula. I prefer a formula which does not make first-class and second-class promises. I can live with a veto where there are cultural matters to defend when a minority population is involved, but how can the government and the NDP members from British Columbia ask us to go along with something which makes second-class citizens of British Columbians, changes profoundly the balance of power in this country and puts in the hands of the federal government a referendum which only the federal government can use?
Ten provinces could come to the federal government and say they have decided what is in the interests of this country, but they cannot adopt it because the federal government will not let them. I ask hon. members to think about this. If Section 45, the Victoria formula, is fair—and I do not think it is—and if the government thinks it fair, why does it need a referendum? That referendum proposal is causing an awful lot of trouble out west because it is seen as giving a central government power it never had before and power it does not need unless it is after something.
An hon. Member: Resource control.
Mr. Fraser: I want to point out something else. My hon. friends in the NDP from British Columbia make much of the fact that they do not like the amending formula we have proposed. They say there would be too many formulas and too many things left unanswered. My point is that my friends in the NDP are not voting for our formula, but apparently they are prepared to vote for the government’s formula.
Let us take a look at what the federal government formula does. It is not just Section 45 and the referendum; it is more complicated than that. There are too many formulas in the government proposal. Let us take a look at Section 36, which requires unanimity for two years. Let us take a look at Section 45, which is the Victoria formula. There could be a provincial alternative to the Victoria formula and another formula for tabling of that alternative. I refer hon. members to Section 42(1). There could be a federal alternative to the Victoria formula, and we would have no way of knowing what it was. I refer hon. members to Section 42(3)(a). There could be a referendum to decide between the federal proposal and the provincial proposal. Again I refer hon. members back to Section 41. There could be a permanent alternative formula and amendment by referendum. In that respect I refer to Section 46. If we look at the sections carefully we see there are six amending formulas contained in the government proposal.
Some of my friends on the government side look at me incredulously. I ask them to get themselves a lawyer or, if they are lawyers, put on their glasses and read the sections because that is what they show.
My hon. friends, especially my friends in the New Democratic Party, say they cannot go along with the Conservative amending formula because it might take too long. Just look at the delays involved in the government proposal. Unanimity would prevail for two years. Again I refer to Section 36. At the end of that two-year period failure to agree on an amending formula would result in recourse to a referendum. Just so that it will be on the record, I refer hon. members to Section 42(3); that referendum would be held within another two years during which time unanimity would still prevail. After the referendum had determined which formula would apply, the federal option or the provincial option, then six months would pass before the successful option would be proclaimed and put into place. That opens up the potential of four and a half to nearly five years of delay. How can NDP members from the province of British Columbia vote for that proposal and say they will not vote for ours?
Their argument was ably made by the hon. member for Burnaby, and this afternoon by the hon. member for New Westminster-Coquitlam. They do not care whether this leaves British Columbia in a second-class position. They do not care whether that provision of a referendum is driving the west away from the centre—and Quebec too, if we listen to what Mr. Ryan and Mr. Levesque say. The hon. members to whom I have referred do not care about that kind of division. They have so little faith that we could ever come to some agreement on a charter of rights they are prepared to go along with a formula which sells their province out. They will pay the price. Mr. Nystrom makes no mistake, not by a long shot. Mr. Nystrom and three others understand the west.
Mr. Knowles: Order.
Mr. Fraser: I am sorry. I mean the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom). I apologize to the hon. member and to other hon. members. The hon. member for Yorkton-Melville saw what this is. He pointed this out in the first speech he made in the House weeks and weeks ago. I ask that people listen to some of these members.
I would like to read some comments into the record. This is directed not only to government members but also to members of the New Democratic Party. Let me read what Stephen Lewis said. Mr. Lewis is the very respected former leader of the New Democratic Party in the province of Ontario. He said:
But at the final level there are those who argue, from Joe Clark to Allan Blakeney, from René Levesque to Lorne Nystrom that Pierre Trudeau’s dogmatic unilateral insistence is doing such terrible damage to the country that the constitutional package just isn’t worth it, not even with the charter.
He went on:
In personal terms, that is the roughest argument for me to cope with. I detest the petty provincialism of a number of the premiers.
He is tough on them.
I see nothing particularly noble in the ruckusness of the federal Tories.
He does not pat us on the back.
I am even disappointed in… Premier Blakeney. But as bad as all of that is I do believe that the federal Liberal behaviour is even worse, that we are doing
irreparable harm to our country. I have been told by those whose opinions I revere that one year alter the new Constitution is proclaimed the scars will have healed and pride will lake their place. with all my heart I want to believe that—but I don’t, I just don’t. The wounds have run too deep.
I am a westerner, but not one who just wants to be an alarmist. I am asking my Friends to listen. I am asking them to make the changes which can make this package a Canadian package made in Canada, and which will unite our country and not divide it.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): It being six o’clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 2(1).
At six o’clock the House adjourned, without question put, pursuant to Standing Order.