Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act (Continued) “, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (26 November 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 13355-13369.
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COMMONS DEBATES — November 26, 1980
RESOLUTION RESPECTING THE CONSTITUTION ACT, 1981
The House resumed consideration of the motion of Mr. Chrétien on the Constitution of Canada, as amended, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Nielsen (p. 13346).
Hon. Erik Nielsen (Yukon): Mr. Speaker, when we adjourned for private members’ hour, I was emphasizing the fact that we had just dealt with a resolution which entrenched in the reinstated Section 34 the right to existing aboriginal rights. That includes existing aboriginal rights in the two northern territories. I read to the House the native position with respect to their rights, in terms of their right to become a participant in a future Canadian province. We now have enshrined in Section 34 by a decision of the House the right to achieve provincial status without the overriding subjection to the so-called amending formula where seven provincial premiers must agree to the carving out of new provinces, together with in excess of 50 per cent of the population.
While I believe the government’s acceptance of the April accord by the premiers as a basis for constitutional amendment improved that part of the charter by strengthening the consensus principle, it created a very serious and threatening problem for Canadian citizens living above the 60th parallel. For over half a century, and certainly as long as I have been living in the north—and it is not that long—the dream of provincial status has been the loadstone of northern hopes. It has been central to the vision of the north which sees the development of Yukon and the Northwest Territories as the best and brightest hope for Canada’s future. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) accepted the inclusion of two clauses in the April accord relating to “the extension of existing provinces into the territories” and “notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces”, he dealt a crushing blow to the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Canadian citizens resident above 60. He gave away what was not his to give away—the rights and privileges of Canadians of northern Canada above 60.
The clauses proposed by the provinces in the April accord did not become part of the constitutional package until accepted by the Prime Minister in November. They were bad in April; they are bad in November. They had their origin in 1976 when, I am informed, the premier most insistent upon the retention of those two clauses in what turned out to be the accord was the Premier of Nova Scotia. We have been creating movement in order to bring about accord for the deletion of these sections. It had not occurred to me at the time—but it does now—that in discussions with provincial governments and premiers we found that the premier of the province who insisted upon the inclusion of the clauses as we see them now was not the present Premier of Nova Scotia but the minister for amateur fitness and sport, or whatever it is; he is the minister for “Diamond Tooth Gertie”. He was the man who insisted upon the retention of this invidious proposal as far as it concerns the two northern territories.
I cannot hear the hon. Minister of State for Mines (Mrs. Erola); I would dearly love to. I know she would not wish to extend her boundaries beyond those she enjoys now.
Mrs. Erola: Oh, yes, I would.
Mr. Nielsen: Nonetheless, I wish to become serious about this matter of deep concern to the northern territories. Never at any time did the governments of Yukon or of the Northwest Territories participate in putting together either the April accord or the latest arrangement from which the north was totally, resolutely and determinedly excluded. We were given the opportunity as governments in Yukon and in the Northwest Territories to appear as witnesses before the standing committee on a resolution which did not contain these two provisions. After the committee had finished its work and after it reported back to Parliament, there was a meeting of provincial premiers at which the elected legislatures of the two northern territories were not heard. They were not heard in April, they were not heard in November. Yet we are now confronted with two provisions in a resolution affecting the future forever and a day of Canadians, in which we in the north have not had any input; we have not been heard.
In my view, this was a rather cavalier treatment, of the kind to be expected, perhaps, by a Soviet government or one of its satellites. That is what it boils down to. The shutting out of these thousands of Canadian citizens in the north is something about which we are deeply resentful. These give-away clauses that open the door to provincial invasion of the north with the blessing of the federal government are found in the sections that are the subject of the amendment.
I submit to you and to the government, Mr. Speaker, that the government cannot barter away the rights of northern Canadians in order to secure a provincial consensus for the package—a consensus that the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) and other are working on and on which they are getting some movement so that the premiers now understand what is coming down. As far as the future of the Northwest Territories is concerned, they are coming around to the view that this is not right and coming around to agreement that these clauses should be deleted from both the moral and the legal point of view.
In the early stages of this debate, the Prime Minister talked about trading off rights for fish, trading off rights for oil, trading off rights for whatever. What are we doing if it is not trading off the rights of all Canadian citizens in northern Canada for the sake of consensus? This is an outright betrayal of the rights of northern Canadian citizens who live in a part of Canada where it is felt that the southern mentality stops at the 60th parallel.
There may be one or two exceptions, of course. I would be remiss and ungallant if I did not recognize—and I do so immediately—that one of those exceptions is the Minister of
State for Mines. If she is truly as happy—and it was a day for champagne—as when the House unanimously passed equal rights for male and female persons, then she should be ecstatic about the prospect of voting in favour of the motion which I have proposed with respect to the rights of northern Canadians, of whom she is one.
As it stands now, Section 146 of the British North America Act, followed by the 1871 Act, gives to the federal Parliament the exclusive jurisdiction to create new provinces. That includes the same process as that which created the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia, which was carved out of the Northwestern Territories as it was known in those days, without any provincial consultation or consensus. Yet the government wants us as a Parliament to barter away those rights in favour of the amending formula.
That is simply not right. It is another example of the rights of northern Canadians being trampled upon. Arguments have been presented with respect to the effect of Bill C-48, the National Energy Program, whereby the federal government asserts Ottawa’s right to northern resources as if the north were a mere department of government. This emphasizes unmistakably the need to bring about provincial status for Yukon and the Northwest Territories as quickly as possible.
I know that the Liberal philosophy and the Trudeau philosophy does not embrace that concept and never will. I point out, however, that they have an obligation to leave Parliament free to enjoy the jurisdiction with which it was originally endowed when that principle of creating new provinces was first established in 1867 and 1871.
For those who would argue numbers and money, I point out that the Northwest Territories, with 60,000 people, has a greater population than either Manitoba or British Columbia had in 1871 when they attained provincial status. Never was it contemplated, either in the BNA Act, the Yukon Act or any other relevant statute, that any of the existing provinces should extend their boundaries northward to gobble up the territories. That idea was first expressed by Premier Pattullo in I935 in British Columbia and was reiterated by Premier W. A. C. Bennett. Later it was jumped on by Alberta and Saskatchewan. The reaction of northerners was a counterproposal to the effect, “Let’s take our boundaries south 54-60, 56-40 or bust.”
It is all for the expediency of consensus at a time when northern sections of existing provinces are, in many cases, desperately unhappy because of the inability of far-away provincial governments to understand and solve their problems. Neither the government of Yukon nor that of the Northwest Territories was permitted to participate in the negotiations which took place behind closed doors.
We were permitted in as observers. In the public sessions chairs were placed in the corner of the room for an elected representative of Yukon and of the Northwest Territories. They were not to be heard; they were not to speak on behalf of the people who elected them.
The attitude of the government is that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Mr. Munro) speaks for Canadians in the north. I say, God help us if that is the attitude to be adopted here.
My objective today is to persuade the government of the inherent error in that kind of thinking, an error far too common in southern Canada where the official mindset is irrevocably programmed to the concept “From Sea to Sea”. Except from members on this side, we never hear “throughout the country”. We never hear “from sea to sea to sea”; we have three seas. I hear snickers from hon. members opposite.
I want to try to convince members that Canada is more, must be more than simply from sea unto sea; Canada is from sea unto sea unto sea. We are a nation with three seacoasts. All are important, and perhaps the most important in terms of Canada’s future is the sea that borders on Canada’s Arctic.
Commenting on the cavalier treatment accorded to northern Canadians, the Globe and Mail on Saturday, November 21, under the heading “Selling of the North” editorialized as follows:
The people of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon—both natives and whites—have been used as bargaining counters in the constitutional argument between the Prime Minister and the premiers.
I could not agree more. This was a blatant political sell-out of a kind for which the Prime Minister is becoming notorious. First, women’s rights were sold out—we restored those; the credit goes here for restoring them.
An hon. Member: Nice try!
An hon. Member: That is the joke of the week!
Mr. Nielsen: Let hon. members on my left, the bed partners of the hon. members opposite, rise and say that they are called chiefs.
The women were sold out, Mr. Speaker, and we were responsible for having their rights restored. I noticed with great gratitude today that members to my left voted for the restoration of Section 34 in the Constitution.
I will make another prediction. When those hon. members speak, they will speak in favour of this amendment. Let them say “nay” to it. They do not dare to do otherwise. If they had any conscience or morality on the other side, they would do the same.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nielsen: Unless we are deemed to have less than the same democratic freedoms as southern Canadians, unless we are deemed to be different from any other Canadians, and unless we are deemed to be second-class Canadians, hon. members will support it; but I doubt it, notwithstanding the substantial movement that my friend, the hon. member for Provencher has caused to be made in bringing the premiers together, and, hopefully, they will support this amendment tomorrow.
I could go on and quote from The Globe and Mail editorial to which I referred, but I do not think that I will have time. What is happening here is a dastardly betrayal of the rights ot’ the people of Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): You have got to rectify it.
Mr. Nielsen: It is a dastardly betrayal Certainly, the sooner provincial status is achieved and recognized by Parliament, the sooner will the people in our territories feel at long last that they are part of Canada and that they will be able to develop their resources for the benefit of all Canadians. I hear some ehceping from the hon. member for Birds Hill.
Mr. Blaikie: Winnipeg-Birds Hill.
Mr. Nielsen: If he wants to cheep, or if he wants to ask a question, I will gladly sit down and let him ask it, and I will answer it; but, otherwise, let him listen and learn. I invite him to come to Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Mr. Blaikie: I have been there twice.
Mr. Nielsen: For how long?
Mr. Blaikie: I have been there twice.
Mr. Nielsen: For how long?
Mr. Taylor: Fifteen minutes.
Mr. Nielsen: I have lived there for 30 years, and if the hon. member will shut up and listen, he might learn something.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
An hon. Member: It just goes to show that time does not mean a thing!
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) has the floor.
Mr. Epp: We thought so, too.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nielsen: I do not mind, sir. It livens up the debate to have these interjections. But if hon. members are really interested and really want to learn, they will listen and they might learn.
An hon. Member: From you?
Mr. Nielsen: Yes, from me, because I live there. I know what the people throughout the Northwest Territories and Yukon feel, native and white alike, and the hon. member does not.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nielsen: Over and over again, the people of the north hnve learned that as far as this government is concerned, they huve no rights and, indeed, they do not exist. We have judicial opinions which state just that, brought down by judges who, I might say, have been appointed to the Supreme Court by a Liberal government. We are mere colonials in the eyes of the government and of the law. That is a fact, and let hon. members speak against that when their turn comes in the debate. I will lay odds that the lion. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar) will say nothing less than what I am saying now.
Mr. Ittinuar: I will say a lot more, Erik.
Mr. Nielsen: He may do, and that will add to it, more than the interjections of the hon. members are adding to this debate.
Mr. Epp: I think you have got to them, Erik.
Mr. Nielsen: So far as the north is concerned, our people, our Canadian citizens in the north, are being subjected to a policy of de-Canadianization by this government, which has been running all over the country shouting about its policy of Canadianization. The federal government must not be allowed to get away with the idea that after more than 100 years of confederation-building, the rules can be suddenly changed, and that we will be subjected to the whim of seven provincial Premiers—
An hon. Member: Conservative.
Mr. Nielsen:—and 50 per ecnt of the population. I am sorry, I could not hear the interjection. The hon. member asks, “Do you not trust the premiers?” Of course I trust all of our premiers. That is what this country is about. I am afraid the reason for the mess we are in right now is that the government over there does not trust the premiers of the country when they are purporting to speak on behalf of the people within their jurisdiction.
An hon. Member: Nine of them trust us.
Mr. Nielsen: The people of northern Canada have been treated as second~class and third-class citizens and have been allowed no more role in the constitutional negotiations affecting them than if they had resided in Ulan Bator. For the benefit of people like the lion. member for Willowdale (Mr. Peterson), who probably does not know where Ulan Bator is, it happens to be in outer Mongolia. That is the way we sometimes feel in Yukon and Northwest Territories with respect to our treatment by this government. We are absolutely sick and tired of accepting colonial status, including the administration of bureaucrats thousands of miles away.
Imagine, Mr. Speaker, being a farmer—and I do not suggest for one moment that you are—
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nielsen:—and driving a team of horses with reins 4,000 miles long. That is what we have up there. The end of the reins are here. I will not say where the end of the horse is, but that is where we are.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
An hon. Member: We know where the end of the horse is.
Mr. Nielsen: Northerners must have the assurance that their future destiny will not be the subject of collusion and whim—but did I hear the unmentionable end of the horse from Newfoundland just interject?
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nielsen: If I had to move a motion with any hope of acceptance tonight, it would be to create a referendum to establish two provinces in the north.
I see that my time is slipping by, and so is my speech, If any confirmation was needed of the destructiveness of the proposals regarding the Yukon and Northwest Territories, it is found in the lame and feeble explanation by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The simple fact is that the federal government picked up the proposal embodied in clauses (e) and (f) in Section 41(1) of the accord reached by the premiers in April. It is not strange or unusual to find that kind of thing happening. It is, however, more than strange to find the federal government embodying a principle in the Constitution—and I want to be serious for a moment here— which never before existed in any form; that is, a provincial veto over the formation of a province. The formation of a new province is a power belonging to the federal Parliament. It has always been thus. It does not belong to the government but to Parliament under the BNA Act.
The proposals to which the north objects are a complete reversal of constitutional practice which has existed for over 100 years. It is an indication that the government takes the same cavalier attitude to the powers of Parliament that it does to those of the provinces when its own interests are at stake.
The minister trotted out the statement that it is the federal governments recent practice to consult the provinces when considering the creation of a new province. First, consulting the provinces in any field at all is a new departure for this government. Second, it is a mind-boggling statement by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in answer to the question: what new provinces have been created recently?
As far as anyone is aware, the last time a new province was created was when Newfoundland entered confederation in I949. Certainly that cannot be deemed to be a recent event, nor was the minister around to take part. I will not comment on where he might have been. Therefore, when he says that the government has recently consulted provinces about creating provinces, what is he talking about? What were those recent consultations? What provinces took part in those recent consultations? What possible new provinces were being discussed? Were they talking about a new province of Yukon, which is long overdue for provincehood? I very much doubt it; at least, not with that minister there, not with that Prime Minister there, not with that government there, not with those Liberals there. Is this why we have these new clauses which overturn the practice of the past and take away a right that belongs to Parliament?
What have they been up to, sir? Is there some way we can get at the facts, facts which Canadians are entitled to know about this government’s subterranean tunnels? Parliament creates new provinces, not the government and not the existing provinces. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia were created by Parliament through a joint address of both Parliaments. Some were colonies, some were territories. British Columbia was a colony. I might interject here that, there are many people who believe that this Parliament has never amended the BNA Act, We cannot do it, they say. How many people would be surprised if I told them it was done? It was done in 1952. How many hon. members know that?
Mr. Deans: You just told us.
Mr. Nielsen: I am glad the hon. member for Hamilton-Mountain (Mr. Deans) is listening. It is very gratifying and the information just might penetrate his mind.
The BNA Act was amended unilaterally by this Parliament in I952 when, for the first time, a Member of Parliament was given a seat in this place for the Northwest Territories. A request was not made to Westminster to do this. It was done here. For those who believe, like the hon. member for Hamilton-Mountain when he was supporting the government in the initial resolution together with other members of his party, right down the line—
Mr. Deans: Are you going to read and talk for 40 minutes?
Mr. Nielsen: I might be asking for a minute or two more.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nielsen: The bottom line of the argument is that a government cannot take away from the people of Canada the right to establish new provinces through Parliament. To do so is a travesty and a betrayal of a right enjoyed by Canada for over 100 years. The government must be aware of the Pandora’s box it is opening with these proposals. First, it is putting off indefinitely the creation of new provinces by subjecting them to provincial veto.
Second, the government is opening the door to provincial intervention and invasion—there is no other word for it but invasion—of the territories now belonging to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Third, the government is inviting a shambles in the administration of resources in those two territories. But that is not surprising to me. I am one of those who believe that the government creates disorder deliberately for its own purposes. It has created and fomented fiscal disorder in the budget, economic disorder in its interest rate policy, constitutional disorder in its tortuous and evasive method of putting together a Constitution for Canadians. This has created unbelievable
disorder in the oil and gas industry by setting up God knows what Crown corporation for what purpose, if not for massive state intervention. The policy of the government is one of creating confusion and disorder.
The people of the north are a special breed. They are Canadians.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nielsen: They want the rights and privileges enjoyed by other Canadians, no more and no less but the same rights and privileges enjoyed by any other Canadian. They do not want to accept taxation without representation. They will not accept being used as pawns by a politically-minded government. They have chosen to accept hardship and inconvenience. They have chosen to make do with less than their fellow Canadians. They are an independent breed. They are people who stand on their own two feet. I have often called the people in the territories the last bastion of free enterprise in this socialistically torn country of ours.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nielsen: They laugh over there. Let them visit and get the feeling of the people of the north themselves. Let them ask their own member, the hon. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar).
Mr. Blaikie: Why did the NDP win the last by-election?
Mr. Taylor: Bird’s eye would freeze to death if he ever went up there.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nielsen: Bird’s eye would freeze in his own bird’s nest if he went up there.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nielsen: The northern people do not want to see the north turn into a gigantic reserve operated from Ottawa by people who, in the main, have never seen it.
Sir, I need a few moments more to complete my speech and I ask the indulgence of the House to do this.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member’s time has expired, but he may continue with unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Nielsen: Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for its indulgence.
Natives and whites are united on this issue. In this issue there are no natives and no whites; there are only northerners. We are united in fighting the southern Canadian mentality that the world ends at the 60th parallel or before. The world does not end there. It is a different world. Perhaps it is a world where climate is everything and where in most communities in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon everything must be ?own in. Perhaps it is the last frontier of our country.
Canada’s future economic prospects depend on orderly development of northern resources for the benefit of all Canadians. That will come only if provincial administrations are given the task of dealing with conditions on the spot, conditions dealt with by the residents who are there and who know the conditions. The day has long gone when citizens of the north, native or European, will tolerate being a colony of the bureaucracy.
The future belongs to the north, and the north must be free to realize that future for the benefit of all Canadians.
Throughout these negotiations, the elected governments of the territories have been patronized, ignored, treated with indifference or contempt but, whatever else, never heard by their elected representatives.
The Mackenzie Valley, the Honufort Sea, Melville Island, these are the passwords of the future. Northerners demand a voice in that future so they can spunk for n Canadian point of view, a point of view formed by living and working in the north country.
We are the trustees of the future, and it is time that this fact was recognized here in the House and in the country. I hope that by tomorrow we will have that provincial accord which will delete these invidious provisions from the proposed Constitution, and I have every indication from the government that if we do have an assurance that there is that accord, the government will voluntarily support the amendments proposed by me.
With all my heart I hope that this will come about so that we do not take this terribly retrograde step which will forever doom every possibility of the Yukon or any other of our northern territories from ever becoming a province.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier): Mr. Speaker, the purpose of my comments will be to clarify my position on the proposed resolution for patriation of the Canadian constitution, because I feel it is essential at this point in the debate to explain exactly why I disagree with the motion. First of all, I want to make it quite clear that I am personally in favour of patriating the Canadian constitution. Our country will not be fully sovereign until it is able to decide for itself what its future is to be. Patriating our constitution to Canada will remove any lingering traces of colonialism, and from now on, Canadians will make their own decision. I am not opposed to the government’s objectives in introducing this motion, nor am I objecting to the way it was done, although I would have preferred the Government of Quebec to have been a partner in the agreement that was concluded. The present situation is probably due to the ambiguity of the Supreme Court decision in which the Justices washed their hands of the whole thing simply tossing the ball back in the politicians’ court. It is important to understand which constitutional provisions relate to the Charter of Rights. After establishing what the objectives
of these provisions are, I will argue about the expected implementation of these provisions.
The main purpose of a constitution is to guarantee the rights of citizens beyond the reach of any political power. Furthermore, it should not be used to protect the rights of majorities but rather those of minorities, for the former, the majorities, protect themselves naturally through their numbers, through political influence and through the environment they create. That is why protection of the rights of the minorities cannot be left in the hands of the majorities, nor in those, for that matter, of the various legislative assemblies.
A constitution is in fact, Mr. Speaker, a social contract which binds a whole nation, and to which each citizen is subject. The latter element should ensure that each and every citizen enjoys respect and equality within the social body, regardless of his origin, opinions, language and beliefs.
In the present constitutional resolution presented to the Parliament of Canada by the federal government, these rights ,will be entrenched in a charter of rights and freedoms. The charter is intended to be universal, above everything else. Its primary objective is to guarantee equal rights to all individuals throughout Canada. The rights in the charter include the right to fundamental freedoms and democratic rights, which are covered by Clauses 1 to 5, and with which I wholeheartedly agree. Clause 6 guarantees mobility rights and rights to gain livelyhood everywhere in Canada. Although I agree with the essence of this clause, we shall see that other constitutional provisions make it somewhat less than ironclad, and I would go so far as to say that in practice, its existence is threatened. Clauses 7 to 15 guarantee legal rights, and for the same reasons I gave concerning Clause 6, the implementation of these rights is also threatened throughout Canada. Clauses 16 to 22 deal with official languages, and it is said specifically that these provisions apply to the Parliament of Canada and to New Brunswick. The status of official languages in other provinces is regulated by earlier constitutional provisions in Section 133 of the British North America Act and Section 23 of the Manitoba Act. There, Mr. Speaker, we have the crux of the constitutional resolution. A direct consequence of the fact that the status of the French language is governed by such provisions is that all clauses in the charter starting with Clause I6 are, in effect, English only in seven out of 10 provinces.
It is true that mobility rights and legal rights are guaranteed under the charter, but in reality are those rights guaranteed to French-speaking citizens if they cannot, except in three provinces, be tried in their own language, buy a house in their own language or register their will in their own language? Indeed, can they use their own language to carry on business, make transactions, sign contracts, etc? No, Mr. Speaker.
Clause 23 gives constitutional guarantees with respect to language educational rights, up to and including secondary school, in all provinces including Quebec. The wording of Clause 23 is not specific about the administration and control of minority language educational institutions. A liberal and broad interpretation will probably be necessary to establish that the legislators of this House, by applying the process in subparagraph 23(3)(b), and I quote:
(3) The right of citizens of Canada under subsections (1) and (2) . . .
(b) includes, where the number of those children so warrants, the right to have them receive that instruction in minority language educational facilities provided out of public funds.
That is the process, Mr. Speaker. With due respect to my friend Bill Davis, the premier of my province, there is still a glimmer of hope.
Not more than a week or two ago, my Canadian First Minister told me something I would like to read to you, in reply to a question I asked him on November 9. His answer was: “So I think that to start with, francophones outside Quebec should take time out to celebrate, but not too long”, and I agree, Mr. Speaker, there is a glimmer of hope in the fact that a liberal interpretation of this clause may give us access to the administration and control of our educational institutions.
Of course, some will say that since the charter grants minority language education right, throughout the country, the rights of the francophones are, indeed, protected. However, the charter imposes a notion of quantity by specifying, quite ignobly, “where the number is sufficient to warrant”—that famous clause. What will this number be? Who will decide what is to be that number, the provinces concerned or the courts of justice? We can look forward to some tough battles on this question, Mr. Speaker, in the years to come.
Furthermore, in seven provinces out of ten, including my province of Ontario, a French-speaking citizen will not be able to use his mother tongue in the legislative assembly and courts since these rights will not be guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution. Can it truly be said that equal rights are guaranteed to all?
The irony of this situation can be readily appreciated. Since the Charter of Rights does not give access to legal and legislative institutions in the language of the linguistic minority in that Canadian province, parents will have to fight in English to obtain recognition of a minimum of the constitutional rights granted to them as francophones. This serious de?ciency in the Charter of Rights makes it unacceptable in my opinion. We are told that the charter safeguards the rights of linguistic minorities, but it does so only partially. Minorities are given certain rights, but not the tools required to ensure that they are respected. That is why I disagree with this proposal, Mr.
Speaker. The inclusion of a charter of rights re?ects the desire to grant the same rights to all Canadians. Yet, these rights granted in the charter are denied in practice by other provisions. This is what I question. I am told that as a French-speaking Canadian, I am given every right while, in fact, these rights can be exercised fully and completely only in three provinces. In its present version, our future Constitution will maintain the notion of two classes of citizens: those who have rights across the country, namely English Canadians, and those who have rights only in three provinces, namely French-speaking Canadians.
Even the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) was against this disparity of linguistic rights at the time. In reply to a question I asked in this House concerning the equality of linguistic rights, Mr. Trudeau replied, as reported on page 2642 of Hansard for January 29, 1979:
—I would insist on the fact that this bill of rights should and must include a bill of rights protecting official language minorities all over the country.
This commitment has been partly met and some of these rights are included in the charter. The problem therefore comes basically from Section 133 which, because of its exclusive application to Quebec, cancels out the total application of these rights in seven other Canadian provinces. Section 133 is the tool used by the English-speaking majority to have access to parliamentary and legal institutions through its minority. This means that all English-speaking Canadians can have access to the democratic institutions in their own language throughout the country, including Quebec, where they are in a minority, and I quite agree with that. However, the majority of the provinces, or seven out of ten, are refusing to grant French-speaking Canadians from Quebec and elsewhere the same right to access in their own language to legislative and legal institutions.
I am against this double standard in applying legislation in Canadian territory. I am truly embarrassed to realize that today, in 1981, the majority continues to impose itself, even where the members of its group are in a minority, and refuses to grant the same rights to the other linguistic community. I would feel much better if we abolished Section 133 of the British North America Act, thus putting an end to the preferential treatment afforded to the majority.
All provinces should be subjected to the application of such a provision, or it should be simply deleted as was proposed by the Pepin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity. I believe that the arguments brought forward by that commission are the same as those I am advancing tonight.
Moreover, I am not the only one to hold that view. My colleagues of the Ontario branch of the Liberal Party of Canada unanimously passed the following proposal last fall. I will spare you the preamble, but the resolution reads as follows:
. . . Resolved that this meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) firmly support the application of Section 133 of the Constitution to Ontario.
Even public opinion supports this position which seems to indicate that the population is often more awake than certain politicians would lead us to believe.
At the provincial level, an opinion poll commissioned by The Globe and Mail revealed that in Ontario more than 53 per cent of the population agree that the province of Ontario should be bound by Section 133. In my own riding of Ottawa-Vanier, this figure exceeds 66 per cent, according to an opinion poll taken in October, 1981. Over 83 per cent of the population in my riding demand that francophones outside Quebec be granted the same constitutional rights as those granted to the English-speaking minority in the province of Quebec, namely, a completely autonomous education system, which we do not have in Ontario, and the right to use their own language in the legislative assemblies and the courts. Under the present resolution this equality of treatment is denied francophones. For this equality to exist, Section 133 should either be made applicable to those provinces which are not bound by it, or be abolished in the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba.
Now who objects to that? The Ontario Premier, Mr. Davis, of course, and several of his provincial counterparts. The federal government was compelled by Mr. Davis to accept this way of thinking in order to get his support. At that time, since eight provinces out of ten rejected the patriation proposal, the Prime Minister had no choice. Besides, he stated at a recent press conference that nothing would please him more than to compel Ontario to recognize its francophones by forcing Section l33 on that province; but the interplay of political alliances prevented him from doing so. La Presse reported in its edition of Monday, November 23, the comments of Premier Davis who said, and I quote:
It is quite obvious that our strong objection to Ottawa’s initial intention to review Section 133 of the Constitution in order to institutionalize bilingualism has led the Canadian government to give up that idea.
Mr. Davis, on the other hand, claims that Ontario should not be forced to grand francophones these rights, that Ontario would do it at its own pace, that is, slowly. Need I remind hon. members of all the battles fought by francophones in Ontario to get a few statutory privileges. Need I remind hon. members, to question the good will of Mr. Davis, of the painful clashes I witnessed as school trustee from I966 to 1979? Sturgeon Falls in 1971-72, Cornwall in 1973, Elliot Lake in I974, Windsor-Essex, Penetanguishene, and this is only in Ontario, Mr. Speaker, but I could mention similar battles now being fought all over Canada. Mr. Speaker, I should like to read the preamble of the Ontario legislation creating a French school in Essex. I think this preamble is quite eloquent about the legal recognition of francophones in Ontario. I quote:
An Act to require The Essex County Board of Education to provide a French-language Secondary School
Assented to July 12th, 1977
WHEREAS the French language advisory committee of The Essex County Board of Education has, since 1969, consistently recommended that a French-language secondary school be provided; and whereas, upon such recommendation having been rejected by the Board in the year 1974, the Languages of Instruction Commission of Ontario recommended that the Board provide such a school; and whereas The Essex County Board of Education, having initially rejected the recommendation of the Commission. subsequently agreed in April, 1975 to proceed with construction of a French-language secondary school, but on and after the 23rd day of February, 1976 ceased to proceed therewith; and whcreas a mediator appointed by order in council No. 1452/76 recommended in February, 1977 that the Board build such school, but the Board, on or about the 8th day of March, 1977, decided not to build the school and it is now apparent that no such school will be provided at this time; and whereas there are sufficient French-speaking secondary school pupils resident in or adjacent to the area of jurisdiction of The Essex County Board of Education who have elected to be taught in the French language to warrant the provision of a French-language secondary school: and whereas the public interest, and in particular the interests of such French speaking secondary school pupils, require that such a school be constructed;
Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
And the bill followed nine years after the formal recommendation, Mr. Speaker.
The meagre comfort we have obtained from the Ontario government over the past 100 years is the result of bitter fighting such as that I have just described. And Mr. Davis would have us believe that he will grant us additional rights when the Constitution will allow him not to. Let us not dream in colour, Mr. Speaker. One of the best ways to ensure that linguistic minorities enjoy these rights forever is to spell it out in the Constitution. Because the current resolution fails to do so, I must in all conscience voice my opposition. The resolution is incompleted and unfair to francophones. lt will create two classes of citizens. It will create a checker board country of legal exemptions. I am sure we could do better, much better.
Another aspect of this resolution which reveals even more its real worth, is the presence in the Charter of a great many non obsrante clauses. These clauses of course are the result of the negotiated compromise between the federal government and the nine provincial governments. However, if we re?ect upon the result of that compromise we realize that this resolution is probably the only federal document which has to rely upon provincial jurisdiction or legislation to become operative. As I pointed out in an earlier speech, that is a good example of a situation where the government of Canada proposes and where provincial governments dispose. How then can we speak of a Canadian constitution? We should instead speak of a constitution of the Canadian provinces made possible through the federal government. Those numerous opting-out clauses leave us in a rather strange situation, Mr. Speaker. I see that you are about to rise. I do not know whether my time is up, but I would seek the unanimous consent of the House to finish my speech because I have only a few pages left to read.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: ls there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to continue?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
An hon. Member: Relevancy. Remember there is an amendment on the floor.
Mr. Gauthier: I thank hon. members for their consent. I will speak for another three or four minutes at most.
An hon. Member: Speak about the provincial territories.
Mr. Gauthier: To put it another way, a Canadian citizen anxious to travel in his own country will have to check very carefully, before leaving his province, how the constitution is interpreted in the provinces where he intends to stay. For instance, if he were to be arrested his legal rights might vary when he crosses a border. Faced with what may be a great number of rights which are applicable or not applicable, the least one can do is wonder whether one is still in the same country or in a federation of different countries. Despite this imbroglio of legal situations which might develop and which I find deplorable, I can fully appreciate the spirit of compromise and co-operation which paved the way for the present agreement. I am all the more pleased to see that this spirit of compromise is enduring, as we have noticed in the past two days. It is that same will to compromise which enabled the governments to return to the bargaining table and redefine a new constitutional agreement which now includes the right to equality for Canadian women and the acknowledgement in our constitution of the rights of the native people.
On these two issues, Mr. Speaker, I am in complete agreement with the position taken by the government of Canada. In view of these demonstrations of good will and of compliance with the true spirit of federalism, I seek the support of all members so that our Constitution will recognize, apart from the rights I just mentioned, the right for citizens of both official language groups to an equal treatment. In fact, Mr. Speaker, that simply means the implementation of the motion I introduced today under Standi4ng Order 43 to ask that all provinces recognize the linguistic duality of Canada and be subjected to Section 17(2), 18(2), 19(2) and 20(2) of the resolution. That would establish in law the equality sought by both language groups. I therefore ask that the government and this House introduce an amendment to that effect, since I cannot do so for reasons of parliamentary procedure. I hope Mr. Speaker that I have made my position clear.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Hon. members have heard the amendment moved by the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen)
seconded by the hon. member for Nepean-Carleton (Mr. Baker).
The hon. member for Nepean-Carleton on a point of order.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Mr. Speaker, I was rising to speak in the debate.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar).
Mr. Peter Ittinuar (Nunatsiaq): Mr. Speaker, I am relatively happy to speak to this motion moved by the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen). I wish it was unnecessary. It has been a concern since the first ministers’ conference two and a half weeks ago, first brought to our attention with full impact by the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Certainly it is one that I, as one of the members aspiring for autonomy in the far north on an equal basis with the provinces, would wish to see deleted so we as northern people can proceed with plans in this respect.
It was inconceivable to northerners, both from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, that the premiers of the provinces could have deliberately agreed to expand their powers to the point of stealing what rightfully belongs to other people. This in itself is unconstitutional. I am sure, under the same circumstances, that all members of the House would react in the way that the assemblies of the two territories and all northern people have reacted.
Therefore this matter is certainly one that the federal New Democratic Party has been concerned with. The day before last the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Fulton) moved an amendment which I had the honour to second, stating that any changes to the boundaries or political status of the territories should be done only with the consent and participation of the people inhabiting those areas. This is onlyjust. Every person in this country knows that. Most assuredly, the premiers knew that when they agreed to the November 5 accord.
I would like to quote from several documents that might help enlighten people. First, a resolution was passed unanimously in the Yukon Territorial Assembly which reads as follows:
The Yukon Legislative Assembly supports the efforts of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories to have clauses 41(e) and 41(f) of the Constitution Act, 1981 now before the House of Commons removed and that this legislature further seeks the inclusion in the Constitution Act. 1981 of a clause that will provide for the capability of new provinces to be crusted under similar circumstances to the British North America Act of 1871.
Second, a resolution was passed in December 1867 in this Parliament asking for jurisdiction over the northwestern territory and Rupert’s Land, which states:
—to grant to the Parliament of Canada authority to legislate for their future welfare and good government; and we most humbly bog to express to Your Majesty that we are willing to assume the duties and obligations of government and legislation as regards those territories.
Further to that, I quote from the preamble to the Rupert’s Land Act which outlined the terms under which the land transfer was made, which reads as follows:
—and to grant to the Parliament of Canada authority to legislate fur their future welfare and good government upon the terms and conditions therein stated.
In light of that act, it is clear that the inclusion of Section 4l(1)(e) and (f) is a violation of trust and an abdication of the federal government’s responsibilities to the territories. By taking this power for themselves, the provinces have made an incursion into federal jurisdiction.
This means that under the powers given them by the inclusion of Section 41(e) and (f), for the first time in history provincial governments will be granted extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Section 41(1)(f) will means that no new provinces can be established without the consent of at least two thirds of the provinces whose combined population exceeds one half of the total population of Canada and the federal Parliament. Therefore, for the Northwest Territories or the Yukon Territory to become a province, it will be necessary to have the consent of eight governments. This is a marked departure from the present law and past convention, where the authority to establish new provinces resided exclusively with the Parliament of Canada.
This is not acceptable. How would one of those provinces like to be under similar circumstances? I do not think it would like it. We can only assume that, having deleted the aboriginal and treaty rights section from the Constitution Act, 1981, the provinces would never allow northern peoples, no matter how far down the road, the right to look forward to the attainment of full, responsible government under the same conditions and privileges that other Canadians have enjoyed.
This is elitist thinking and repugnant to a society which calls itself democratic. It is repugnant to this party in view of the fact that it is the federal NDP policy to support the right of territorial peoples to self-determination.
In this regard, northern people are realists. We do not ask for provincial status now, but wish to have it when we are ready. We do not expect to own all the resources in the north. However, Bill C-48 takes care of that. Constitutionally, we do expect to have the right to the same political development that all other Canadians have enjoyed. For the moment, while we prepare for advancement in the political sphere, we wish to remain under federal jurisdiction. This jurisdiction was further confirmed under the British North America Act 1871 which, by the way, is included in Schedule I of the resolution. An oversight by the premiers? Perhaps.
To northerners the possibility of provincial takeovers leaves us feeling something akin to what Canadians would feel if the Constitution of the United States included provisions for extending state boundaries into Canada. In the north we have a national identity which is based on our loyalty to our country, but we also have another identity deeply rooted in the fact that we are northerners.
We do not wish to be annexed, and we particularly do not like the scenario of losing our status as residents of a territory through constitutional provisions which we had no part in developing. There were no territorial government representa-
tives present to defend the autonomy of territorial lands, and so Section 41(e) and (f) made its appearance in the Constitution.
The nine premiers, eight of them Tory I might add, who signed the constitutional accord naturally have a stake in leaving the way open to extending their boundaries, particularly considering the fact that the areas into which they would move are a resource developcr’s dream. Fossil fuel and mineral resources are considered to be in abundance in the north. The only surprising aspect of this development is that the federal government did not balk at the possibility of future loss of control over the Canada lands which the oil and gas act so ably ensured.
All Canadians would surely empathize with the situation which faces us in the north if they would consider their own reactions under similar circumstances. It is essential to future north-south relations in our own country that the northern territories be allowed to develop within the Canadian tradition in ways which fully involve us politically. The deletion of Section 4l(e) and (f) is a small but essential step in this direction.
Hon. W. Bennett Campbell (Minister of Veterans Affairs): Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to take part in this historic debate. I am sure that all hon. members share in the sense of achievement that is represented in the resolution before the House. It is not every session, nor even every year or indeed every decade, that a subject of this significance is brought before Parliament. I do not believe there will be many such occasions in the future to discuss a matter as fundamental as the Constitution of a country itself, because it is not every year that amendments are brought forward to a matter as important as this.
Because of the historic achievements, I wish to pay particular tribute to those who have been most responsible, especially to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) who has presided with wisdom and grace over the whole process of constitutional discussions and who, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, will be recognized and acknowledged as the architect of a truly Canadian Constitution. I also pay tribute to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien), and the provincial premiers and to all hon. members of the House who have debated and discussed this matter, not only in the House but also throughout the country. I also want to add commendations to the literally thousands of Canadians who have participated not only before the committee but in public discussion and who have made their contribution to this Canadian Constitution, because I know that all Canadians share in this achievement.
There is also another reason I am proud to take part in this debate. It is a very special reason. I am a resident of Prince Edward Island. In 1864, 117 years ago, the first meeting to discuss the concept of confederation of the British North American colonies was held in Prince Edward Island. I sat as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island for more than ten years, in a building called Province House, known throughout Canada as the cradle of confederation It is designated today as a national historic site. It was in that building, just down the hall from where the Legislative Assembly still meets, that the Charlottetown Conference was held.
Of that meeting, Sir John A. Macdonald said that if the Charlottetown conference had not been held, never, perhaps for a long series of years, would we have been able to bring confederation to a practical conclusion”. As a distinguished Canadian historian, Peter Waite, correctly noted, the Charlottetown conference “Was more than a Canadian triumph; it was the first appearance of an authentic national spirit”.
I think it is rather fitting, Mr. Speaker, that during these days when the logical culmination of that original conference is taking place, now as Parliament is taking steps to bring the Constitution to Canada, workmen are putting the finishing touches to the restoration of those confederation chambers in Charlottetown. The building, under Parks Canada, is being restored to the way it was at the time of the Charlottetown conference. It is rather interesting that as we put the finishing touches to this constitutional debate, the finishing touches are being put to the chambers where the idea of confereration itself first took root.
I may be forgiven a certain sense of pride as a Prince Edward Islander because the spirit of confederation really had its birth there. I think it is also useful to look at the resolution that is now before us in two ways. It is, as I said, the logical culmination of the original drafting of the British North America Act. No one in the House or in the country will disagree with the patriation of that act. I believe then, first of all, that we should look at this measure as the fulfilment of a broad range of historical imperatives. As the Minister of Justice so appropriately observed at the beginning of this debate in quoting the words of George Brown, the original Constitution was not a perfect document. Even with the measures that have now been incorporated into it, it is still not a perfect document. Yet it fulfills in many respects the spirit of the Fathers of Confederation. That spirit, those historical imperatives, saw a united Canada from sea to sea. There was a sense of cultural and linguistic diversities throughout the country and a respect for those diversities. There was a recognition of the special needs and the opportunities of each region.
While as a Maritimer I cannot say that the national policy served us extremely well, it is not because of the constitutional framework but because of the loss of that spirit of sharing which was inherent in the concept of confederation at the beginning. Perhaps the original framers were at fault for not including the guarantees. Perhaps the euphoria of nation-building obscured consideration of practical realities as they might and did emerge. In any case, I am happy to see that this resolution not only captures the original spirit of Canada from sea to sea but also confirms and incorporates the commitment of Parliament to those principles.
This brings me to my second point, Mr. Speaker. This step does not only represent the fulfilment ofa process which began
more than a century ago, it also represents the beginning of a process, the laying of a foundation for the future of federalism in this country. Not only does it catch up to present realities, it is also forward looking. The entrenchmcnt of native rights, the rights of women, the principle of equalization, embodies some very basic principles which have served this country well and will continue to serve it in the years ahead. It is more than a measure which reflects the state of our country, of our national psyche, at a given period in our history.
It is not simply a measure which is frozen in time. The resolution is both the fulfilment and the promise of the very framework of this country. It is a recognition, a reconfirmation of our confidence in the federalist system, a system which has served us well before and which will serve us better in the years ahead. It is a reconfirmation of a national spirit which was first conceived in Charlottetown, and it promises the opportunity for the continued evolution of the federal character of our country in response to future changes throughout society as a whole.
We talk about the nature of the resolution before us. Over the last number of months we have had a great deal of discussion about the general character of federalism and what it, means to all of us. We heard discussions ranging from a preference for a strong federalist system to preference for what has been characterized as a system made up of a “community of communities” where a jurisdiction is transferred from one level of government to the other. In one area there is total jurisdiction for fisheries and in another area there is total jurisdiction for mineral resources, thus areas are abandoned and transferred from one level to the other.
It is very important within this process to ensure that we not only project the federalist system; it must also be changed and must respond to the changing society and country in which we live. I do not mean this in a narrow legalistic sense. I mean it must reflect the co-operative achievement of Canadians working together for a common goal. At the same time—it is clear that we must recognize the diversities of our great country. In fact, I have argued that, because of the unique circumstances of Prince Edward Island, special responses to its needs and opportunities were essential. But I also recognize that a precondition to all that, whether it be the capacity to respond to the diversities of regions or provinces or individuals, is the maintenance of a strong federal system which is crucial to the continued existence of the country.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms removes the prospect of the exercise of arbitrary political power interfering with the basic rights and freedoms of individuals, just as the entrenchment of the principle of equalization ensures that provinces such as Prince Edward Island will continue to play their legitimate role in the context of a strong federal system of government. On those grounds, I repeat that the resolution makes an assumption about the essential federal character of the country, which I fully endorse and support.
Throughout the entire constitutional discussions over tho past decade or so—in fact over the past half century—the province I represent consistently addressed the need for a strong federal government to redress the imbalances among provinces which have existed. That principle was recognized in 1912 by Sir Wilfrid Laurier who was commenting in the House of Commons on a brief brought before tho ferderal government by the province of Prince Edward Island. “The one reason for recognizing the case presented by Prince Edward Island which has impressed me”, said Laurier “and it is not a constitutional reason, it is not a legal reason, It is a simple question of equity . . .”
I am proud to see the question of equity entrenched in the Constitution, not just as it applies to the provinces, but also as it applies to women, to native people, and to nll individuals throughout the country. It would be a shame if that principle, that spirit of equity, were not shared by all governments and by the people they represent. At the risk of milking an understatement, the Constitution is a good thing. But it will fail if its spirit and intent are not fully slatted and endorsed by the people of Canada and their government.
As Minister of Veterans Affairs I am deeply aware of the spirit of sacrifice on behalf of the principles of freedom, justice and equity which Canadians before us have made. We can be faithful to that spirit by supporting the resolution. It has been remarked that various enactments contained in the resolution will create a lot of business for lawyers as the legal applications are tested before the courts. I hope that is not the case, not because I want to see lawyers lose business but because it would seem a shame if the spirit and intent of the resolution were diminished by legalistic bickering, Yet, as I said at the outset, the constitutional package represents an excellent start in the process of enabling Canadians to determine the constitutional framework which best servcs their needs, while embodying certain fundamental principles which are essential to the future wellbeing of the country and of all Canadians.
There are opportunities for further improvements, but I believe this package provides a sound base upon which to continue to work for the achievement of our common goals in the future. With the patriation of the Constitution, the process will now be in the hands of Canadian citizens.
In conclusion, this package represents not only the fulfilment of our historic aspirations as a country, but also the framework and the basis for our future growth as a nation and as a people. I commend the way in which it has redressed the deficiencies and also the way in which it has ensured the principles of equity and freedom in our future. The original agreement was not forged out of revolution but because reasonable people sat down together. Although it has taken more than a half a century to reach this point—which in itself speaks volumes about the Canadian experience—I believe historians will regard this package as one of the significant achievements of Canadian nationhood and statecraft. It is more than a constitutional package; it is a reaffirmation of our faith in the country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Hon. Walter Baker (Nepenn-Carleton): Mr. Speaker, I am conscious, when I rise in the House this evening, that I am following a very distinguished speech by a very distinguished member of the House, a former premier of Prince Edward Island and a former leader of the opposition in that chamber who sought refuge in this Chamber. Having been part of the life of Prince Edward Island during the period of time when he was seeking refuge here, I welcome the statesmanlike quality of the hon. member’s contribution to the debate.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): When I came into the Chamber tonight, I did not think I would be following a former premier and a former leader of the opposition. I am pleased that it was a person from other than central Canada.
He said something in his speech which has been brought home to me in the nine years I have been a member of the House of Commons, something which perhaps Canadians forget, that is that a solution which might be dreamed up by a government to apply nationally sometimes does not apply as appropriately in British Columbia or Prince Edward Island as it might in Ontario. What might be appropriate for the hon. member’s part of Canada might not be appropriate in western Canada. This speaks to the great diversity of the nation and to the reason why the Fathers of Confederation made a great journey down the St. Lawrence by boat to Charlottetown in I867 and made the happy return journey to Quebec. This speaks to the reason for having a federal system. We are different, we are different. If we do not realize this, we will miss something as Canadians.
This debate started off in the fall in dreadful rancour, If it meant anything at all as it moved from its stage in the fall to now, it was that somehow or other respect for the importance of the differences in Canada was seeping into the minds of hon. members of the House and of members of the Canadian public who were watching—the differences of region, of development, of language, of race, of time, and the differences in people coming to Canada for the first time, As a result of this debate I hope that, whatever else comes of it, we will begin again the process of understanding what Cartier and Macdonald began in 1867.
The hon. member spoke of confederation. What is confederation? It is a difficult term to describe. Certainly it is similar to a marriage. Certain things are written down and codified about the relationship of marriage, and those things are enforceable between husband and wife. If the husband does not live up to his obligations or his wife does not live up to her obligations in a marriage, the offended party can take the other to court and enforce those rights against the other.
But written words do not keep a marriage together nor do they keep a marriage alive. The things important to domestic peace in marriage are the things that are unwritten, the things that cannot be legislated, that are as simple and straightforward as they are profound. Those things are respect, understanding, love, sharing, compromise, trust and forgiveness. They are what grease the wheels of marriage. I have a feeling, Mr. Speaker, that they also grease the wheels of nationhood.
It has been the lack of those elements between the two levels of government in the last while that has caused so much trouble in the Canadian family.
If we have seen precious little of those virtues, then the brilliant judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada pointed the way to peace, to the state where we could begin to talk to each other, to where we were given a second chance as a country, and our leaders were given a second chance to begin again the search for the resolution of some of our difficulties.
Hon. members will recall that at the time of the judgment what was on the minds of us all was what the leaders of the country would do with that time. Would they squander it, begin again the exercise in confrontation that had gone before, or would they begin to talk to each other rather than at each other.
I think all of us in the House tonight can say to the Premiers, can say to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), can say to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) and the others who were involved in those negotiations that they did not squander that time. We are now at the point in the debate where we are considering a new confederation for our country. This is what it amounts to.
The so-called “gang of eight” opposed to what was happening has become the “chorus of nine” in favour. Those who had opposed the very idea of entrenching a Charter of Rights and Freedoms of some kind in the Constitution of Canada are now consulting with ministers of the Crown, with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark), and with the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), about how it should be improved. Such is the change in attitude.
Whereas the amending process was a stumbling block to agreement because it gave unnatural powers to the central 0provinces at the expense of others, somehow or other we have agreed upon the keystone of federalism, that is, the power to amend our Constitution ourselves.
I say to you that at the end of this exercise, Mr. Speaker, this document will go to Great Britain and we will have patriation. We will have the right to amend the Constitution here, again and again and again if we choose.
I listened tonight to the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier) who spoke rather feelingly of what is a charter of rights and freedoms. If] quote him correctly, he said that a charter of rights in a Constitution is designed to protect the rights of minorities against majorities.
Hon. members may recall that last fall I said in the House that the rules of practice, what is in Beauchesne, what is in the parliamentary tomes, is that the majority does not necessarily have the right to rule. We protect minorities in the country; we have to protect minorities here.
I listened to the hon. member speak—he did not speak before in the debate—and tonight he spoke with feeling from
his own position. I could understand how he felt. I personally felt that way last fall. As I listened to him, I said to myself that he should have faith in this new beginning because this Constitution has within it the right of all of us as Canadians to participate in advancing rights. That is an important feature.
When the accord was reached, there were some who said that it should not be changed by Parliament. “Don’t rock the boat” said the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien). I suggest we have improved the boat. We have added equality of the sexes. We have had unanimous agreement today with respect to the rights of the native people.
We are now talking about an amendment, which I hope will be supported in the House and which I hope will meet with agreement, that will allow the people of the Northwest Territories and the people of Yukon, those people north of 60, to feel that their opportunity, when they want to exercise it, to become a province like Prince Edward Island, like Ontario, like Quebec, like Alberta and like British Columbia, is not taken away from them.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean~Carleton): I think that is worthy of support. They want only to preserve the right to realize their future aspirations.
I have not travelled much, but I have been in the north several times and I can attest to the spirit of enterprise and the spirit of the future of the people in northern Canada. I think we in the House owe them passage of this amendment. I hope it can be done. I do not say anything tonight in a partisan sense, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister for Veterans Affairs (Mr. Campbell) was kind enough to mention that all members of the House had contributed to bring us to the point at which we are now, and he is right. The resolution before us now is different; the amending formula is different; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is different, and the differences in Canada are respected in this document.
The Supreme Court of Canada was allowed to function. It brought down a judgment which I say is a brilliant judgment, one that could not be picked apart. It gave the country a second chance. It said the government had a legal right to do what it wanted but to beware if it moved without substantial provincial support. It would be unconstitutional and, I think, divisive and damaging to the country. We have reached a new plateau.
In his kindness in paying tribute to all members of the House, the minister included the Leader of the Opposition. I hope hon. members will allow me to say something about my leader and his part in this process.
There would not have been renewed negotiations but for the steadfastness of the Leader of the Opposition who inspired a sense of commitment to the importance of consensus in the constitutional process.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): There are many who may disagree with my leader. It is a free country; they can disagree with him if they want. Of course, he reserved the right to disagree with them. He believed in the importance of consensus, in understanding and compromise, and he fought for those things.
I say with as much modesty as I can muster that it was my party which led a battle in the House. It wits not understood early in the battle that it was to delay the process, to delay a steamroller, which we honestly believed was wrong. Ultimately, the courts were allowed to decide and make that historic landmark judgment.
I was very proud to be the House leader of the pnrty during that process. I must say that I am delighted not to be the House leader of the party today. When I listened to the point of order being argued today, I was delighted to be able to sit as an observer, because as my friends know, I have argued many points of order before. However, it was important. I do not say this in a partisan sense, looking back on it now, because it is the way things have evolved. However, hon. members will recall that this former resolution was to be in Britain by Christmas—
An hon. Member: It will be.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):—Christmas of 1980. It is best for the country that it was not there in 1980 because I believe—
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):—we would have done great damage. I want to pay tribute to my leader who, right from the outset, said where he stood and never changed his ground. In his speech the other day, he indicated the importance of having Quebec at the table of the accord. He said that we, as a party and as a Parliament, should grasp every opportunity to keep alive any chink of light there might be to have Quebec as part of that accord.
It is important to repeat again and again that there will be an empty chair at the table of confederation if the House approves this resolution. It is important that we keep that chink of light alive if we can because this is not the end of the constitutional process. This is, by virtue of the Constitution itself, the beginning of the constitutional process, a process which will go on as long as this country exists. All of us, everywhere, must try to keep that alive.
I do not know the attitude of the government of Quebec. However, I believe it is important that, whatever we do, we hold ourselves open to the people of Quebec. That is why my leader has proposed an amendment in terms of full compensation for opting out. That is important, as he stated so well to the people of Quebec. That is why I hope that in the discussions he is having there could be some settlement with respect to the issue of language.
I want to see the Canada clause adopted in that province. I am a Canadian. My children will grow up in this province as Canadians. I would like them to be able to go to that province. My friends on the other side shake their heads, suggesting that it may be impossible, and it may be; but my case is only that that chink of light should be kept alive if it is at all possible. Governments come and go. Public men come and go. As they come and go, attitudes change and societies evolve. Surely, we would want the society in Quebec or elsewhere to evolve so that, as the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier said, the override clause could be diminished so that rights would be completely entrenched, if they are there at all. This would mean there would be no opting out and there could be no absence from one chair at the table of confederation.
Your Honour can judge from what I say, that I am overjoyed that we have moved from the process of confrontation to one where I feel a great sense of coming together. I think it is important that the resolution go forward with the broadest support we can muster in the House of Commons. We have spent a great deal of time. I believe now, as I look back on it, that time has not been wasted.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): There are some things in this country that we must tackle, as they are very important to Canadians who may be watching this debate and wanting this debate to end quickly. I want it to end quickly. I want the government to be able to move quickly, regardless of what the vote may be in the House of Commons.
I believe we have demonstrated that Parliament is not the rubber stamp of federal~provincial conferences. We have now demonstrated, in at least two instances, that there is room to improve even their good work, that their work is likely the first word and not the last word, and that this is the Parliament of all Canadians.
I hope that hon, members of the House will approach the amendment put by my successor as House leader, my colleague, the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen), in the spirit in which he put it; namely, it is important that we keep the principle of equalization for women and for the aboriginal people of the country entrenched in our Constitution, and that people be allowed to move freely from province to province. Equally, people who want to form provinces, and people who want to protect the boundaries to protect their potential to form provinces, should have that right. That is why, as a person who has been a visitor north of 60, I make a plea to my friends in the government to accept this reasonable amendment put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Yukon.
In the dying days of the debate, I do not think I will participate in this constitutional debate any further. I appreciate the latitude that Your Honour has allowed me. I feel very much like the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier felt, as he had not participated in the debate either. I had the opportunity sooner. We will engage in many things, but none more profound than what we are concerned with now.
I want to thank my colleagues on all sides for their kind attention to what I had to say.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Maurice Dupras (Labelle): Mr. Speaker, I wish to begin my remarks in the debate on this resolution by praising my predecessor, the distinguished hon. member for Nepean-Carleton (Mr. Baker). I listened to his speech and I was very impressed by the quality of his contribution to the debate. I did not expect anything else. I knew in advance that my friend, the hon. member for Nepean-Carleton, would bring a constructive contribution to this debate. It is unfortunate that he could not inspire his colleague, the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle).
It is a shame, Mr. Speaker, that the member for Joliette did not choose to make the kind of speech just held by his colleague from Nepean-Carleton. However, I would have liked to have heard from my respected colleague from Nepean-Carleton how he intends to convince Mr. Davis, the Premier of Ontario, to recognize minority rights in Ontario, as demanded by my colleague from Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier), on the same terms as they are recognized in New Brunswick and Quebec. I hope that the member for Nepean-Carleton will be able to convince his colleagues and Mr. Davis that they would be well advised to do so. In fact, if national unity is the issue, Mr. Davis should be made to understand that the Progressive Conservative members in the House of Commons are supporting this petition being made by the members from Quebec on behalf of the people of the Province of Quebec. And contrary to the claims of our colleague from Joliette, although the Government of the Province of Quebec is not represented among the signatories to the agreement, Quebecers do not lack representation. And this, Mr. Speaker, is because the main architects of the new constitution are people from the Province of Quebec—I see that my colleague from Nepean-Carleton agrees. Since I have only a few minutes until ten o’clock, Mr. Speaker, before breaching points that are of particular concern to me, especially regarding the resolution, I wish to say a few words in praise of those who, in fact, have worked for months toward that historic moment when Canada and Canadians will have their own Canadian constitution, and I am, of course, referring to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) and the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
Mr. Speaker, Canada enjoys an enviable reputation in the rest of the world, and that is why the world is watching us today and why observers are anxious to see how Canadians are going to deal with the issue of getting a truly Canadian constitution, how they are going to convince Canadians from every part of the country that there are tremendous benefits in national unity and that Canadians should have a made-in-Canada constitution. The same observers, whether they are
from Europe, Asia or South America, will probably be very surprised to see how passionately involved Canadians have become in their country in the course of this debate. At the beginning of November the situation seemed to have reached an impasse, but then came incredibly rapid developments and we are now actually about to create a truly Canadian constitution. And this is thanks to the spirit of co-operation shown by all heads of provincial parties, all provincial first ministers, with one exception, of course, but with 74 members in the House of Commons, one can say that Quebec is amply represented and that the interests of Quebecers are in good hands. We have been doing this for years, Mr. Speaker. If there are 74 of us, it certainly did not happen by accident, and the reason is surely that the members from the province of Quebec are dedicated to defending the interests of Quebecers.
Of course, the Government of the province of Quebec was in a position where it could not sign this kind of agreement, for the simple reason that its number one priority and raison d’étre is to separate the province of Quebec from Canada. Would the party’s militants agree to having their leader sign and become a Father of the Canadian Confederation? Imagine! I do not understand how anyone could entertain the thought that those people would be capable of coming to Ottawa in good faith and making a sincere contribution to advancing the case of Canada’s Constitution. In fact, they made it quite clear that they thought it was a non-starter and that they were not interested. The whole point of their being there was to apply delaying tactics. Every time a solution seemed imminent, every time a problem was resolved, they managed to find other ways to obstruct the proceedings and to keep Canadians from getting their made-in-Canada constitution. Of course, that is part of their program. And that is how they keep the aspirations of their militants alive.
Mr. Speaker, today the Premier of the province of Quebec or perhaps I should say the provincial Premier of Quebec, is claiming that he has a veto right, which he himself had refused last April, when he acknowledged that he did not, in fact, have a right of veto. Besides, if he had been convinced that he had veto powers, he would not have found it necessary to go to the Supreme Court and ask them to decide whether two major provinces, with the Canadian Government, could ensure the patriation of our constitution with an amending formula and the Charter of Rights. If he had felt for a minute that he really had that veto right, he certainly would not have gone to the Supreme Court. Clearly Mr. Speaker, his arguments are frivolous.
I referred earlier to the contribution of the hon. member for Joliette, the Progressive Conservative member for Joliette. I had expected that his contribution to this debate would be inspired by loftier sentiments.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, he kept carping at his colleagues from Quebec. It is a nice thing in such an assembly to hear someone claim that only he can be right. This reminds me, Mr. Speaker, of that soldier who was marching out of step in a parade and saying: I am not out of step, all the others are. This is absolutely shocking and what I found most disappointing in his intervention was his lack of support for his leader. After hearing him, the first question you wanted to ask was this: Is his leader really sitting at the House of Commons or in the Quebec Legislative Assembly? And from his comments, to which we are unfortunately used, I infer that his leader is not sitting in this House but in Quebec. However, as a member of the federal Parliament addressing the constitutional proposal, it seems to me he should have supported his own leader, the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in his efforts to convince his Quebec leader to sign the agreement, like his counterparts from the other provinces. But he did not, Mr. Speaker. He did not have the decency to praise his leader’s commendable efforts to convince Premier Levesque, on behalf of the Quebec people, to support the resolution as suggested and supported by the other premiers. But he may also see some political advantage in trying to turn Quebecers’ minds away from matters which are relevant to them. The longer the debate goes on, the better it is for him because there are problems Quebecers have and wish to discuss among themselves, for instance the gasoline tax increase, the National Holiday scandal, the high increases in electricity rates and many other matters, such as the scandals and the mismanagement at the Department of Education. Quebec, or at least the present provincial government is pleased that the debate is still going on in this place because it keeps the people’s minds occupied in every province and especially in Quebec.
Mr. Speaker, before calling it ten o’clock I would simply like to repeat how tiresome it is for us Quebecers that so much time is being spent on deciding to give ourselves a Canadian constitution. With your permission I will read a statement by one of my predecessors here in this House of Commons, the member for Labelle in the 1930s, Mr. Henri Bourassa, who upon returning from a trip—Mr. Speaker, I see that you want to call it ten o’clock, so I will wait until tomorrow to quote my colleague and predecessor, Mr. Henri Bourassa.