Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (18 February 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7433-7449.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
COMMONS DEBATES — February 18, 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. Robert Wenman (Fraser Valley West): Madam Speaker, as I just witnessed the previous exchange a new low in Parliament has been found. I wonder if there is any point in my standing and speaking and asking to be heard on the floor of this Parliament. What is the point if in fact another cabinet minister has been appointed by the Queen to represent me? What is the point if I cannot be heard?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. I think it is fairly well understood that even in a case where the Speaker has given what I understand to be a ruling today and has undertaken to give further consideration to an aspect of that ruling. it seems to me that the hon. member would be more in keeping with the rules if he were not to comment on that matter which is now under consideration. We are on orders of the day and I suggest the hon. member address himself to the bill.
Mr. Wenman: If hon. members opposite cannot see the relevance of this and how it is related to this Parliament, to my right to stand here, to my right to be heard, that is too bad.
When I left off speaking yesterday I was referring to western alienation, to the closure brought against me, against my constituents and against this House of Commons. I was talking about the very problem that was mentioned by hon. members across the way. The Hon. member opposite said that you need no longer go through the Member of Parliament. Therefore, you need no longer go through Parliament; you now go directly to “the king”. That relates to the basic foundation of what the Constitution and parliamentary democracy are about.
We can go back and examine this. Somehow, the Constitution that we are talking about began its evolution in history as an outgrowth of the feudal system. I do not know whether it was in the Magna Carta or in Simon dc Montfort’s parliament or where exactly, but there was something which was meant to stop exactly the kind of abuse we have just seen. It came from a feudal system where the king handed out fiefs, he handed out parcels of land, parcels of constituencies and the recipient had ultimate control of whatever form of law there was in the land. We have now come full circle from the law coming out of the mouth of the king, through control of law transferring, it is hoped, to parliaments like this one; now it has come full circle
back through the mouth of the king who calls himself the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
In this, Parliament is the ultimate example. Parliament has become a sham. Members are elected by universal suffrage, by the ballot, and constituencies are marked with an eye to equity or at least the appearance of equity. Unfortunately, as we can see today, it is only a pretence. All that is left of this place in which we stand to speak is a pretence because, in fact, power is no longer here. Power is no longer vested in me through my constituents. It has been transferred directly, not by some minister with an idea, not by some political party, but by the Prime Minister of Canada. He has transferred the authority given to me by my people back to himself through his government and his cabinet.
How did we reach this stage, Mr. Speaker? Where did the power go? How did it slip away when we were all standing here thinking we were watching, so freely and openly? Who saw Parliament die? Did it die at the hands of a clever and devious tyrant?
An hon. Member: Yes.
Mr. Wenman: Was it smothered by the apathy of myself and my colleagues through being too comfortable? Was it through the expediency of your rules, Mr. Speaker? How did it happen? How did Parliament, how did this great place of debate and dignity, fall into such disrespect, such contempt? How did it arise that the Prime Minister can flaunt his arrogance? How can he flaunt that arrogance by appearing on television, instead of in this House of Commons, to present this motion? That is the ultimate arrogance in this situation. He has not appeared in this House of Commons to speak in this debate on this very resolution. He has bypassed the House of Commons on the basic debate, on what we are talking about today, and now he is bypassing the representation of the House.
In 1981 we have a new low in the House of Commons. Let this speech of the minister stand as a symbol to all Canadians of the travesty done to democracy. Let them see it as one more step. How can I tell members who support the government that the west does not want a cabinet minister representing me in the riding? The people want me to represent them. They chose me to represent Fraser Valley West. If hon. members opposite think that those constituents will put up with the arrogance of the king in appointing someone else, they will never grasp the true sentiment of the alienation felt in the west.
My constituents expect a fair forum to be created here so that hon. members opposite can hear what I have to say and respond to it accordingly. That is what the west wants. That is what democratic people across the nation want. They want a forum where all members can be heard. But do we get a forum where we can be heard, Mr. Speaker? No, we get closure. Our constituents send us here and then they say, “We do not hear our members speak.” How can they hear their members speak when the government invokes the most obnoxious form of closure known to this House, to this Parliament, to the British parliamentary system?
Hon. members opposite want to have things all their way and they are destroying this nation. They are destroying this democracy and putting forth high-sounding words.
What good is this piece of paper, this Constitution, this bill of rights? What good is it to me or to the people of Canada if it is but a piece of paper and no respect is shown for this institution itself? It is nothing, and I am really sorry about that.
This is very symbolic of what is wrong in our country, about what is so wrong about this institution. This particular document is described as the best document in the world. That is a pretty broad statement and it was made by the Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent). He claims modestly that this is the best document in the world. I suggest that his research has fallen short. After all, this document does not promise a “harmonious and happy society”. There are constitutions that promote a harmonious and happy society. Those words are contained in the constitution of democratic Kampuchea. It was going to reform Cambodia. The first measure of reform was an act of genocide: the slaughter of 25 per cent of its people! Yet a “harmonious and happy society” is a written guarantee in its constitution. We have those guarantees, theoretically, in the Constitution of Canada. Ours does not go quite that far; this one is more elaborate.
The constitution of Chile declares that “Men are born free and equal and nobody may be deprived of his personal freedom.” That is in the charter; it is a guarantee.
The Leader of the NDP claimed that ours is the greatest charter in the world. But he did not look at the charter of the Soviet Union. I do not say this facetiously, but the Soviet Union has one of the most elaborate, attractive and best constitutions in the world. It is all-encompassing. The Soviet constitution guarantees freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly meetings, street processions and demonstrations; it includes the privacy of citizens and their correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications. These are protected by law in a written constitution.
Our Constitution is more modest; it does not go that far. Does that make our Constitution better or worse? Not at all. What makes our Constitution more valuable is not what is written but instead what is contained in the basic philosophy, in the principles and values held by those who chose to be governed by this establishment. The people chose me, they chose all of us who sit here; they did not choose a person appointed by the Prime Minister.
This whole Constitution rests on the will of the people. That is why their participation is so important. That is why my participation, which has been diluted through restriction of opportunity and through closure, is so important. I think this point of principle and values is where it all rests.
That is why there was a little glimpse or opening in the committee’s resolution which had something to do with philosophy, principles and values. As everyone knows, that is the Diefenbaker preamble. I can understand why my socialist
friends and athiests, none of whom is here, which does not surprise me, are in such a hurry to pass this resolution.
Mr. Knowles: Order!
Mr. Wenman: The New Democrat is here to comment on my speech again. I thank him very much. I can see why the athiests and socialists want this motion passed right away. They have been successful in blotting out all references to the supremacy of God, all references to private ownership of property, the sanctity of the individual as a human being and the value and position of the family as the basic structure and unit of our society. Certainly the socialists and athiests want this through quickly.
However, the big surprise was to find the Liberal Party of I Canada under this Prime Minister not only condoning the desecration of these values and refusing to recognize them in our Constitution, but attempting to implement some kind of charter without them. Such a charter is deficient and must not be allowed to proceed through this House of Commons. These values are the only ones that give credibility to any constitution for Canada. The piece of paper will be meaningless without them.
Herein is our statement of creed, our beliefs, what we will stand for and not stand for. Not only should this charter suggest rights, but it should be extended. We need a charter of responsibilities as well as a charter of rights. We should be equally ready to discuss and entrench not only these rights but the responsibilities that a Canadian owes his country.
I wish there were an adequate way for me to express my gratitude that l feel in being a Canadian, the appreciation that somehow through fate I was born a citizen of this country. This country has given me everything; education and an opportunity to develop the individual being that is within me. I care about this country. I love this country. I want to keep this country together.
A basic foundation for keeping this country together is the Constitution. I care too much to have my Constitution, the Constitution of my country, shortchanged to suit the expediency and timetable of one man in his particular space and place in time.
I would be doing my constituents a wrong, I would be doing everything that I understand this Parliament to have been throughout history a disservice, if I were to support this motion in this form through this process and for the purposes stated so far. I have no problem in voting against this resolution. It is lacking in the basic principles and values which have made this nation, Canada, the nation it is today.
Hon. John Roberts (Minister of State for Science and Technology and Minister of the Environment): Mr. Speaker, this is an historic debate, a momentous debate, a serious debate. Initially I want to congratulate the leading speakers for each of the three parties for their contribution to the debate; my colleague the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien), the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) and the Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent). They made responsible contributions to the discussion. I only hope that as the debate proceeds we will be able to sustain that serious level.
The hon. member for Provencher said yesterday our differences on this question run deep, revealing different views on the nature of Canada. I believe his statement is true, although not in the way he described. This has become clear. It became clear to me during the summer when I, along with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, took part in federal-provincial discussions. It became clear during those discussions and during the first ministers’ conference, and it is becoming clear in this debate, that there are, underlying the divergent views expressed, different views given on the nature of Canada. Simply put, our view on this side of the House is that Canada is much more than the sum of its provinces or the sum of the regions of the country. It is not a kind of self-help contract made among the provinces. It is not, to use Senator Forsey’s expression, a “geographical expression”.
When the Fathers of Confederation did their work in the 1860s, they were not only concerned, although they certainly were, about maintaining the economic and military security of regions of their society; they consciously undertook the task of building a new nation from coast to coast. That view, if one goes through the confederation debates, blows like a tempest through their discussions, Here are the words of George Brown, expressed 116 years ago this month. After having drawn a comparison between the British colonies and various countries in Europe, he went on to say and I quote:
Well, sir, the bold scheme in your hands is nothing less than to gather all these countries into one—to organize them all under one government—
Our scheme is to establish a government that will seek to turn the tide of European emigration into this northern half of the American continent—that will strive to develop its great natural resources—and that will endeavour to maintain liberty, and justice, and Christianity through the land… Sir, the whole great ends of this confederation may not be realized in the lifetime of many who now hear me. We imagine not that such a structure can be built in a month or in a year. What we propose now is but to lay the foundations of the structure—to set in motion the governmental machinery that will one day, we trust, extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And we take especial credit to ourselves that the system we have devised, while admirably adapted to our present situation, is capable of gradual and efficient expansion in future years to meet all the great purposes contemplated by our scheme.
It is in furtherance of those objectives that we have presented this resolution to the House of Commons. The hon. member for Provencher said yesterday repeatedly, I am sure sincerely but falsely, that the view on this side of the House is that the federal system had not worked, that it had failed and that we were seeking to alter the fundamental nature of the federation, that the federation would be subverted.
None of those charges is true. We are proud of the achievements of the Canadian federation. Indeed, we believe that our party has been responsible for many of those achievements. We are proud of our system of government, of its accomplishments and of the historic role that our party has had in pursuing them.
We have not said the federation has failed. What we have said is that the pursuit of an amending formula agreed to by all provincial governments, a pursuit that has taken place over
half a century, has failed. We are saying the time has come in light of that failure to take our responsibilities as a national Parliament, representing the citizens of Canada, to strengthen our system of government by clearly defining how changes to the powers of government can take place within Canada.
Why has it failed? The reasons for the failure can probably be left to the historians. I suspect that when they examine the reasons for the failure, they will decide that, understandably, within any federal system there is natural tension between the views of the national and provincial governments. I suspect that they will also decide that the provinces were reluctant to give up an advocacy of unanimity for amendment knowing full well that that provided them with a useful bargaining instrument to try to get greater administrative and legislative powers from the federal government.
It is because we believe that historical evidence has shown us that unanimity is impossible to achieve that we have brought forward for the consideration of the House proposals which deal particularly with two areas: the charter of rights, to which I will refer later, and the question of an amending procedure for the Constitution of Canada.
The hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) said yesterday that the amending formula, whatever it was, should have two characteristics: it should be fair and equitable and should reflect the federal nature of Canada.
The amending process which we have brought forward for the consideration of the House exactly meets those requirements. It reflects the federal and the regional nature of Canada. For the first time, it formally involves the provinces in the amending procedure—a procedure which is designed to ensure that there is substantial support for amendment to the Constitution in each of the four regions of Canada. It is a fair procedure because it provides opportunity for the provincial governments to present an alternative formula for the approval of the people of Canada, if the provincial governments can agree on one to be presented.
Yesterday, the hon. member for Provencher said, “Well, there is virtual unanimity on the part of the provincial governments as to what formula they would like, the Vancouver formula.” Then he went on to say that our requirement of seven provinces, seven out of the ten, representing 80 per cent of the population, should agree, and we would put that formula to the people, was, he thought, an “imposition of tyranny”. It was a very bizarre statement, because later on, when he discussed his own amending formula, he suggested that what is required at one stage in the procedure is the agreement of seven provinces containing 50 per cent of the population. It is difficult for me to understand why seven provinces containing 80 per cent of the population is a “tyrannical imposition”, while seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population he calls an “achievement of consensus”.
An hon. Member: Taking it out of context.
Mr. Roberts: Well, the hon. member says I am taking it out of context. It is a bit difficult to do otherwise because there are so many contexts out of which one can take things.
There have been at least three varieties of amending procedures suggested by the opposition. There is the Tremblay formula, which I gather has now been taken back. There is the Vancouver formula, which they now find difficulties with. There was a whole range of options presented yesterday by the hon. member for Provencher. The difficulty with his point of view is that, literally, one does not know what the end result of his proposals would be?
At one point he said he was against unanimity. Fine. Then he held up the example of the United States as having an equitable constitution. The United States required approval of three quarters of the states. If you apply that to Canada, it means you would need to have approval of only eight of the provinces. That means that you could have constitutional changes imposed over the views of the Ontario and Quebec governments together, or over the views of the Alberta and British Columbia governments together, or over the views of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick governments together. And he thinks that that is an equitable formula.
Then he suggested that perhaps what should be done is to repeal Section 7 of the Statute of Westminster. The effect of repealing Section 7 of the statute would be to transfer authority from the British North America Act to this Parliament with no role for the provinces in any way. Is that the kind of amending formula that he wants?
Then he suggested that what we should have is the Vancouver formula, because he says there is an agreement in principle by all governments. One difficulty with that is that it is simply not true. Premier Hatfield indicated to the joint committee that there was not support for the Vancouver formula. Indeed, Mr. Wells, a minister in the Ontario government, wrote to the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko). It is a matter of public record. I will just read two paragraphs from his letter on the Vancouver formula which the hon. member for Provencher says is accepted by everyone in principle. I am now quoting Mr. Wells:
I have gone to some considerable length in recounting these events because I believe that they should be carefully considered by you and your colleagues in determining your ultimate stance on the federal resolution. While ministers and First ministers were willing to give various consideration to the Vancouver formula in spite of its potential checkerboard effect in the hope of achieving consensus, they could not come up with solutions to the two serious technical problems the formula contains. The problem of applicability, in particular, reopened all the arguments with regard to the general formula. If opting out could not be applied, then a S0 per cent population requirement was considered too flexible; unanimity was too rigid: 85 per cent left out the Atlantic provinces: a regional formula was regarded as treating some provinces unequally.
In sum, our discussions held out the potential for consensus, but it was not achieved in fact. The explanation lies not in the ill will of any of the participants, but in defects inherent in the formula itself.
Then the hon. member for Provencher says, “We recognize that there are some drawbacks to the Vancouver formula, some uncertainties”. So what we will have, as I mentioned earlier, is that if seven provinces containing 50 per cent of the population can agree on something, that is what we will
impose. But he never goes on to say what will happen if we do not have the agreement of seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population. It is a pig in a poke. It is unknown. In the ultimate analysis of the process put forward by the Conservative Party, one simply does not know what one is getting. It is a sincere point of view, sincerely expressed. It is not, I suggest, a view responsibly expressed.
The opposition yesterday, and I think throughout the debates of the committee, has really attacked the process by which we have sought constitutional reform, much more than the substance. They have described our efforts as “unilateral and divisive”. It is always a surprise to me when people use the word “unilateral”. I know sometimes it escapes members of the House, but words actually have a meaning. One can look them up if in doubt. “Unilateral” means imposed by one person or party. That is not what we are doing. We are proceeding with the support, I believe, of members in every political party in this House of Commons.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Roberts: We will proceed with significant support from the provinces. I believe, and the hon. member for Provencher has confirmed this in his remarks, that we are proceeding with a charter of rights which has the support of the people of Canada.
Of course, there are people who are unhappy with the process by which we have arrived at this position. I am unhappy with it. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) is unhappy with it. We would all prefer to go with the support of all the provinces. We would have loved to do that. The reason we are proceeding in the way we are is that we recognize that that kind of support is impossible to achieve.
Nor is this new Constitution one which is being made, as was charged yesterday, by foreigners, by the Imperial Parliament, by Great Britain. This Constitution is being made in Canada. Indeed, it has the longest gestation period of any baby in public life, going back well over 50 years. It is being made by the members of this House of Commons in this debate and by the decisions they will take. It has been made by the past Members of Parliament in previous parliamentary discussions, by the work of at least two joint committees of Parliament which have assessed our Constitution, by the continuing participation of a whole host of interested groups who made their views known to the joint committee, and by the witnesses who appeared before it. The role of Great Britain in this process is a formal one, not the exercise of moral authority. It is rather like a notary who ratifies a contract or a civil authority which registers a marriage.
There has been much talk, I think wildly exaggerated, on the part of the opposition about the divisiveness of this process that we have gone through, about the strength of debate and discussion taking place in the country. That is not a source of divisiveness. It is not a source of weakness. It is a source of strength that in this country we freely, forcefully, frankly and passionately debate these views. I suspect there is no institution which expresses more strongly a conflict of views of various representatives than this House of Parliament, this House of Commons. The expression of those views in this manner is not divisiveness. It is a way in which we come to a conclusion and develop consensus for our policies.
It is now before the House of Commons. It is not the process, not the manner of arriving, but the substance. What we must decide is whether in our heart of hearts the substance of what is being proposed is what we want for Canadians and what Canadians want for themselves.
The official spokesman for the Conservatives has said they want entrenched rights, but not by this process, even though he believes an entrenched charter of rights has popular support. This is a serious matter, but perhaps once in a while we can look at serious matters lightly. I could not help but think yesterday that I was rather happy the hon. member for Provencher was not around when Moses came down from Sinai because he would have said: “Of course, we are all in favour of the Ten Commandments, but we think Moses went up the wrong mountain, took the wrong path or should have had someone with him and, in any case, all of the tribes should be able to opt out.” That is a lighthearted view. I see by his smile that the hon. member appreciates that, but the point I want to make is that it is the substance on which the House must now pronounce. It is the question of whether we want these rights made legally enforceable for Canadians.
Mr. Siddon: We have those rights.
Mr. Roberts: The hon. member for Provencher addressed himself seriously to those questions yesterday. He spoke of the inalienable nature of rights. He regretted the omission of a reference to the divine sanction for rights. The hon. member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Wenman) raised the same point a few minutes ago. The hon. member for Provencher sincerely, but falsely, misrepresented the government’s effort, and I personally feel strongly about this because I was the representative of the federal government during our discussions at the federal-provincial conference who argued as strongly as I could for the inclusion of a preamble to the Constitution with explicit reference to divine majesty.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Roberts: It was the intent of this government to have those exact references in our Constitution. That is a matter of public record. That intent was made known last summer—July I, to be exact, and I want to take a moment to read it. It contains five or six paragraphs, but I want to read it because it makes that point clear and also makes clear the expression of the idea of the Canada we are trying to achieve in these constitutional proposals. I will cite the preamble which we urged upon the provinces to include in this Constitution.
We, the people of Canada, proudly proclaim that we are and shall always be, with the help of God, a free and self-governing people.
Born of a meeting of the English and French presence on North American soil which had long been the home of our native peoples, and enriched by the contribution of millions of people from the four corners of the earth, we have
chosen to create a life together which transcends the differences of blood relationships, language and religion, and which willingly accepts the experience of sharing our wealth and cultures, while respecting our diversity.
We have chosen to live together in one sovereign country, a true federation, conceived as a constitutional monarchy and founded on democratic principles.
Faithful to our history, and united by a common desire to give new life and strength to our federation, we are resolved to create together a new Constitution which:
shall be conceived and adopted in Canada,
shall reaffirm the official status of the French and English languages in Canada, and the diversity of cultures within Canadian society,
shall enshrine our fundamental freedoms, our basic civil, human and language rights, including the right to be educated in one’s own language, French or English, where numbers warrant,
shall define the rights of our native peoples, and
shall define the authority of Parliament and of the legislative assemblies of our several provinces.
We further declare that our Parliament and provincial legislatures, our various governments and their agencies shall have no other purpose than to strive for the happiness and fulfilment of each and all of us.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Roberts: It was not the federal government which prevented the adoption of that preamble.
Mr. Siddon: You have the power to put it in right now.
Mr. Roberts: It was not the federal government which objected to a reference to divine majesty, it was provincial governments representing the party of hon. gentlemen opposite which rejected that view.
Mr. Siddon: That is a cop-out. Put it in right now.
An hon. Member: Listen and learn.
Mr. Roberts: I still want that preamble in the Constitution. The government still wants that preamble in the Constitution. We are determined in our further discussions with the provinces, and there will be continuing discussions with the provinces, to have that preamble in the Constitution. I hope they will take place soon, and I believe there will be that preamble in the Constitution.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Roberts: The hon. member for Provencher misrepresented our views even more fundamentally yesterday. He argued passionately for inalienable rights. I agree; we agree. He argued that rights are not created by governments. I agree; we agree. What we are saying is that rights are inalienable. They are the essential condition, the context, for the fulfilment of the human personality and the human potential, including the moral and religious capacities of men and women. They flow from the nature of man. We argue that rights are inalienable, and we also argue that the time has come to have the Constitution recognize that inalienability and to make that recognition legally enforceable.
Some people disagree that that is a proper approach. I will go on a little bit later to explain why I think it is the proper approach. However, I think the hon. member for Provencher honestly misunderstood and misunderstands our position on rights. I will go further and say quite frankly that I do not understand the view of rights held by the hon. member for Provencher. He argued eloquently and passionately for inalienable rights. How can he then, in virtually the next breath, argue that they should be subject to provincial approval and to provincial opting out? He wants a charter of rights but he does not want this charter of rights.
An hon. Member: We live in a federal system.
Mr. Roberts: He does not want this charter of rights because, although he wants inalienable rights, he wants the provinces to be able to alienate them. I do not know how anyone can make that argument consistently. It is not credible, I suspect, to very many members of this House.
Our great objection to an amending formula based on the Vancouver principle, which the hon. member supported so strongly yesterday, is, as is commonly said, that it could create a checkerboard of rights. I would not use the word “checkerboard”. There is a certain consistency about clicckerboards. It would be a “crazy quilt” of rights across the country. However, the hon. member said a checkerboard is acceptable. Why is it acceptable? Because we do not live in a unitary state? I suggest it is not acceptable, and the question has not to do with whether one is in a federal or unitary state. It is not acceptable because it transgresses exactly that ideal of inalienable rights the hon. member expressed and because it creates different categories of rights for Canadians living in different parts of Canada. It is an exact contradiction of what a right is.
I believe passionately, as does the hon. member, in inalienable rights. I believe strongly that they must be entrenched with legal protection for all Canadians and not be subject to the whim of acceptance by provincial governments nor, for that matter, the whim of acceptance by a federal government.
There are those who protest—this was a point the hon. member made yesterday—that protection by Parliament and by legislature has been a safe enough protection for individual rights in Canada. I do not think history bears that out. There have been infringements of those rights based on racial discrimination, and I refer to Japanese-Canadians. Rights have been infringed on religious bases, and I refer to those of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Language rights have been infringed. The rights of free expression have been infringed by padlock laws. I do not think those aspects of Canadian history we are not so fond of recalling would justify the view that always the protection of rights by parliaments and legislatures has been satisfactory. There is a good reason for that. It is that parliaments and legislatures arc dominated by majorities. While it is important to protect the rights of majorities, it is most often the rights of minorities and the rights of individuals which are threatened by governments and require the protection of the rule of law.
In any case, even if one does hold strongly to the view that parliaments and legislatures are an adequate protection for natural rights, there is nothing in these proposals which prevents legislatures from respecting the rights of their citizens.
There is nothing which encourages them to infringe those rights.
What we have here is a safety net, an added protection, so that in case provincial legislatures or the federal government do not respect those rights, there is a recourse to the courts. An entrenched charter of rights makes assurance for Canadians doubly sure. I am sure Canadians want that kind of protection. If one were to ask the people of Nova Scotia whether they would like to have their rights protected by the majority government headed by Mr. Buchanan or by the courts, they would say, the courts. If one were to ask Quebecers whether they would like to have their natural rights protected by the Parti Québécois led by Mr. Levesque or by the courts, they would say, the courts. If one were to ask the people of Ontario whether they wanted their basic rights protected by Mr. Davis and the Conservative government or by the courts, they would say, the courts. If one were to ask the people of Manitoba whether they would want their rights protected by Mr. Lyon and his majority or by the courts, they would say, the courts. And if one were to ask the people of Canada whether they wanted their basic rights protected by our Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and his Liberal government or by the courts, they would say, the courts.
This concept of rights is something that does not flow from government. It cannot and should not be created by some contract or some deal between the provincial and national governments This concept of rights is basic and reflects the idea that we have of Canada. Those rights are the common heritage of Canadian citizenship and they should be binding, regardless of the government’s view, because they fulfil and express the common promise to all Canadians, wherever they may live in this country, that we shall have a country which provides rights, opportunities, equality of status and respect for the individual and the dignity of our citizens.
We are now entering the last phase of a long and earnest debate. Its conclusion will mark one further great step along that path which George Brown charted 116 years ago and which I cited at the beginning of my remarks. It is a great step, an historic one, and all those many members who have taken part in the committee’s debates, those who have supported as well as those who have opposed, will have settled into a niche in our history. It is a great step in the continuing task of nation building, the building of a still new nation, the building of one united nation. We now have a unique opportunity to move forward. We have, too, the possibility of failure and the fundamental shock that would bring to our society.
I urge the House, as the only body which truly represents all Canadian citizens, to accept this resolution, imperfect as it may be in this or that detail, but on the whole, an imaginative and fair response to the challenges of our country. We have the opportunity to build and maintain the most civilized society in the world, civilized in our federal system of government, civilized in out tolerance and respect for the inalienable rights of humanity. Our past, the record of our federation, is a proud chapter in the life of our country. The best is yet to be. Let us go forward together on this surer foundation, this new Constitution, for the hoped-for country we all wish to build.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Hon. David Crombie (Rosedale): Mr. Speaker, first of all, I should like to express my appreciation for the opportunity to speak again on this matter. I have spoken three times in this House on the matter; in the fall before the matter was referred to the special joint committee and, of course, I have spent the last four months on that committee and have had the opportunity to address myself daily to the 59 sections contained in the government’s resolution.
My colleague, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), expressed, at the outset of his remarks yesterday, our appreciation of the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. loyal) who did such an outstanding job as co-chairman of that committee. I think every member of that committee should also thank the House and the respective authorities for the opportunity to participate, primarily because this has been an experience—I cannot recall having had any other such experience in public life and certainly not in my two and a half years as a member of the House-which has broadened our minds, taught us to listen to what people in other parts of the country have to say and directed our reading so we could understand a little better how this country functions.
I am one of those who recognizes, as I am sure all members of the House do, that the most important things which affect our constituents on a day to day basis are matters more immediate to the individual concerned, such as inflation, jobs, etc. Therefore I know there is a great number of my constituents who wonder why we spend so much time on the Constitution. I have never been backward about responding to that query because the Constitution is fundamentally what Canadians are all about. It tells us what are our values, our interests and our beliefs. It determines what our relationships with one another as individuals are and what the relationship between individuals and the government is. That is why I thought I might take this opportunity to look briefly at some of our history. I will try not to touch on the points raised yesterday by my colleague, the hon. member for Provencher. I will try not to touch on the points I have raised in my three previous interventions in the House.
I am glad to see the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) is here now because I can offer him my congratulations. I think it is important we recognize that when countries make their constitution, they do not think of it as being drawn up for lawyers. The Constitution is not something that comes from the sky. The Constitution comes from us, who we are and where we have been. My old friend and colleague, Marshall McLuhan, said that all of us go through life as if we were driving a car and looking through a rear view mirror. That is not a bad analogy. Perhaps that is what we should do when it comes to the Constitution, because while we are going down the road to the bright new future to which my friend, the hon. member for St. Paul’s (Mr. Roberts), wants to take us, it is
also wise to see where we have been. That helps us to determine whether we will be surprised by what is coming from behind us.
Let me look briefly at certain historic events which determine what kind of a Constitution we must have. It is hard to know where to begin in Canadian history and I do not want to bore people with history, but I have always been fascinated by time machines. When I was a boy and I heard of H. G. Wells’ time machine I was fascinated with it. When I found out there were none in my neighbourhood, and if there had been, I probably could not have afforded one, my mother explained to me that all she could do was to suggest legs and a library card.
My own reading preference is to look at the future and to look at the past. This helps me to adjust, like driving my car, to the present. Let me jump right into it and start at about 1750. At about that time Canada got into hot water in history. This country was formed as a consequence of the activities of two empires from about 1750 to the end of the century. At about that time the British empire and the French empire left. What was left was us and the original inhabitants of the land, the native and the aboriginal peoples. The first and most important document which came to us then was the proclamation of 1763. What it did was to define for the aboriginal peoples the basis of their rights. It was a recognition by the new visitors from Europe of what those rights would be. That is why a month, or some weeks ago, the whole burden of the argument by native peoples was to have the 1763 proclamation recognized again. History is useful to know; 1763 was important because of one group of people who said, “You have rights.”
The next document which defined who we were was the Quebec Act of 1774, because two, three or four years before the Britishempire lost the rest of the American empire, it acquired what was left of the old French empire. Although they recognized rights for aboriginal peoples, they did nothing for the French-speaking population acquired under the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The Quebec Act was established to ensure that there was a restoration of the rights of French-speaking people in what was then geographically called Canada. It restored not only language rights, but also religious and legal rights.
Those two documents already put in perspective for Canadians the reasons for which Constitution and rights are important. The Constitution Act, 1791 divided the old province into two; Upper and Lower Canada, as they became. We acquired a new custom called “Good fences make good neighbours”; an instinct which we will find throughout our Constitution, by the way.
The first defence of the new country was in 1812. For those who want to read Bishop Strachan, the first Anglican bishop of Ontario or what became Ontario, it is interesting to note that he morally justified the war of 1812 on the basis that if Canadians did not defeat the Americans, there would be a holocaust visited upon native peoples. Bishop Strachan said that the moral justification for the war of 1812 was to defend native peoples from the Americans who had started to come across the Appalachians.
In 1841 we had the Act of Union. I will not go through them all, but I wanted to make a couple of points.
While we were dealing first of all with British, French and native peoples, there has always been an assumption in this country—badly taught history—that it was sort of consecutive—the native peoples, the French, the British and then others. But right from the start we had people from all over the world, in particular Germans and Dutch. Throughout the nineteenth century, as it wore on, we had people from all over the world.
There was a great poem written by F. R. Scott a couple of years ago, the first time he read Ed Pratt’s classic poem on the building of the CPR. Pratt went through the entire building of the CPR without mentioning a single Chinese worker; quite a feat when one thinks about it. As F. R. Scott said to Ed Pratt in his poem, “Where are the Chinese in your poem, Ed? Where are the oriental gentlemen who swung picks at forty below?” We have had people from all over the world, not just the two founding cultures and the native people. They have made an impact on our understanding of who we are and what we are. They gave us three instincts as a people, and they are instincts which only we have; other peoples do not have them. They are born of that historical experience.
As can be seen in our history, it was absolutely essential for Canadians to learn one instinct, to allow for diversity. That is why in the history of this country, and today, one will find differences in education programs, language and religion. We had to learn the instinct of diversity in order to survive. It is not a thing we thought would be nice to do; it was in order to survive and to deal fairly with all the peoples who were here. We had to ensure that people could do what they needed to do in order to be who they were. That is what diversity really means on the street. It allowed us to nurture customs; it allowed Canadians to be new and to be old at the same time. It allowed them to acquire a new personality and to maintain an older one.
The second instinct we learned very early as a people was an instinct for rights. That rnélange of people who required diversity brought with them the second instinct, the need for rights.
We have learned something very clear and specific about rights. As the hon. member for Provencher said yesterday, first we learned that rights do not come from governments. This is not to be sneezed at because it is a fundamental principle. Indeed, older Canadians understood that most bills of rights were limits on governments; that is the point.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: If one wants to go through 1215, Runnymede, 1628, all the British and the French stuff or whatever, one will find that rights limit governments. That is why citizens need rights. They need rights, and those rights are to limit the
power of government over them. That is what it was always about. Rights do not come from governments; rights limit governments.
Rights also always rested on the basis of some spiritual entity, a supreme being. This was not merely because it was a nice thing, which it was, but primarily because it had a very practical advantage. When law rests on religion, when legal orders relate to spiritual principles, it allows for diversity and dissent. The roots of democratic dissent have always begun with religious dissent; laws imposed by governments were always fought on the basis of an appeal to God. This is why we insisted in the committee that not only should there be a preamble respecting the supreme authority because it was in our hearts that it should be related to spiritual principles, but it had a practical democratic value as well. The way in which generations of western people have been able to overcome tyranny was by being able to appeal over the head of the government which oppressed them.
The third thing our forefathers learned about rights was that they were very often related to property. It is only people born wealthy who do not understand that to own something not only makes it better for you, but it ensures that you are protected.
The reason all those people came to this country from all those lands was in order to have the security which property gave them, and the freedom to acquire and enjoy it. When my friends in the New Democratic Party on the committee said that property was not for the kind of people they would like to represent, they did not understand. The poor people in this country know the importance of the enjoyment of property. They worry very much when the government of the day will not allow it in the Constitution.
The fourth thing our forefathers learned about rights was that their rights lay in the common law; not always kind, very often harsh, but there was something about it they understood clearly. What they understood was that their rights were to be assumed. They did not need to have their rights listed. In fact, the only listing came when those rights were reduced. As they used to say, “If they can write it down then they can take it away.” They understood that right. The rights we have allow us to do anything we like, except what you would restrict. That is how they understood those rights.
The first thing they understood was diversity and the second was the instinct for rights. The third instinct they understood was how to deal with conflicts and differences of opinion. All that diversity, all those needs for rights could not be dealt with on the basis of unilateral action by anybody. The country could not afford it. That is why Canadians organized a way of dealing with conflict, a way of dealing with differences, on the basis of consensus and consent. Tolerance, civility and compromise, those are the tools Canadians used, not the drawing of lines, not compulsion and not unilaterally. The stability, the freedom and the security which brought them to this country, and which is still bringing them to this country, rests on the fact that in this country we deal with our differences on the basis of consensus and consent. That is why in 1867 the federal principle was adopted. It was not because somebody thought it up and said, “Let’s give it to the Canadians.” The Canadians sucked it up from their own roots. It is the only way this country can go. Federalism means those three things; diversity, rights and consensus. That is our history.
There were two or three items raised by some speakers yesterday on the government side with which I would like to deal. I think the hon. member for St. Paul’s also mentioned them. He mentioned the question of the checkerboard or, as he calls it, the “crazy quilt”. They say that somehow the government is opposed to a Vancouver Formula or, indeed, just generally opposed to anything that has different categories of rights. I think those are pretty close to the exact words of the member for St. Paul’s.
Let us look at that matter for a second, since the diversity in this country has allowed us to do just that. We have adopted the checkerboard, or the crazy quilt, as the minister called it. I would like to show you one or two things, Mr. Speaker. The British North America Act lays out the checkerboard. It says there are certain powers given to the federal government and there are certain powers given to the provincial government. Section 92 gives the provinces their powers. The province can do as it will in relation to them, subject in some areas to the courts. When Newfoundland came into confederation it came under a different set of circumstances than the other provinces. Section 133, which deals with language rights, imposes on the province of Quebec different categories of rights than it does on any other province, a fact that still remains.
Does the crazy quilt pattern mean all provinces must have the same rights at the same time? If it does, if that is what the minister means, then we are in great difficulty, since most of the social programs in this country were adopted by provinces able to conduct their own social experiments, then later on having them generalized across the country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: Today, the province of Quebec in its bill of rights offers rights which are not available to other Canadians. I do not know if the minister remembers that, but it is true. One of them deals with sexual orientation. It is included in their charter of rights in Quebec and not in any other province. That is the checkerboard. The province of Quebec wants to do that. Indeed, while I am dealing with the province of Quebec, it was because of that checkerboard, that crazy quilt, that the freedom to protect the language and the culture of the province of Quebec exists. Indeed, the language and culture of all the other people in this country results from the diversity which the crazy quilt allows.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: I do not blame the government for not wanting to remember those things, since it destroys the argument that somehow it is against an amending formula because it is against a checkerboard. At least, it should remember that
it created the checkerboard in its own resolution. It has now created four categories of language rights in this country; not one, but four. That is a checkerboard. Their own amending formula creates three classes of province. That is a checkerboard. I guess it all depends, Mr. Speaker, on whether it is the checkerboard you want or the checkerboard you do not want. But to raise the question of opposing an amending formula because it is a checkerboard is dishonest, not intentionally so, but dishonest.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: If the Victoria Formula had been adopted in 1968 there would be no medicare and no Canada Pension Plan in this country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: Behind all of that is a philosophy which is alien to this country. As I indicated, this country has always required the necessity for diversity. This government only understands the pressure of one thumb—its own. The only thing the government seems to understand is that the power must be with it. If it is with other governments then that is a difficulty.
I would like to deal with the charter and make a few comments in respect of my own feelings about it. I talked of the rights that Canadians learned about in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, indeed, also in the twentieth century. I also indicated in my wee story about F. R. Scott that there were thousands of people—nay, hundreds of thousands—who did not have the rights which British people had. There are a great many examples of this in our Canadian history. That is why I have always been one of those who support a charter of rights. I have great hopes for that charter.
The people who came to the committee over the past four months represent the sons and the daughters, the grandsons and the granddaughters, the great-grandsons and the great-granddaughters, of all the people here before who did not have those rights. They did not know how to deal with the culture which gave its fruit, the common law. That is why in my view a charter of rights is essential in this country.
The charter needs to be two things. It must be one which will work and one which does not destroy the essentials of the country at the same time. Let me deal with that. This charter does not include the Diefenbaker preamble. It ought to since we have few enough symbols in this country. Twenty years ago this year this House adopted the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights. The preamble included not only belief in the Supreme Being and the role of the family, but included a number of things which Canadians hold dearly. We put that to the committee and the government voted it down.
Some hon. Members: Shame, shame!
Mr. Crombie: I would ask what is the status of the Diefenbaker preamble? We do not know, but this charter of rights does not contain the Diefenbaker preamble.
Secondly, it does not include property, as I mentioned earlier. The right to enjoy property is essential to people’s understanding not only of their rights but of their freedom and security, We put a motion to include privacy as a right; and it was voted down.
The government is always talking about how interested it is in freedom of information. Well, it voted that proposal down, too.
Finally, in dealing with the charter, what impressed me was the argument that somehow throughout this whole piece the provinces are narrow provincialists who do not guard other people’s interests or needs; only the federal government would do that. I guess I spent too long as a municipal politician to accept that point of view. As I said in the committee, there are hundreds of thousands of women and men in this country who work for municipalities and provinces doing the actual work of delivering the rights contained in the charter. The day the government decides it does not care how many provinces oppose and, therefore, how many municipalities are not involved, that is the day they lose touch with space ship earth, because this federal government does not deliver services to the handicapped, to women, or to those who need care and comfort. In urban areas it does not deliver services; municipalities and provinces deliver services. The charter of rights may get the Liberal Party votes but it is not going to help the people who are in need.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me deal with what we regard as the crucial problem. I indicated earlier the Canadian instincts for diversity, for rights, and for consensus were important. The government’s resolution has no consensus. For the first time in our history we are forgetting how to go about change. We have always made change by consensus. The government now is going to move unilaterally.
They may regard that as simply a process which is not connected to the goal or to what is being done. The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) says, yes, that is a bad process, hold your nose. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) says, long after the process is over you will like the product and the process will be forgotten. The Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent) said it is time for a decision, time for change. We have to act decisively in history. l always worry about people who are going to act on my behalf for their history.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: Mr. Speaker, the Canadian I would like to see in the future is one that still knows what is going on in the rear window, because this country is not like the Leader of the New Democratic Party’s analogy of the United States and their civil war. The thing that has always impressed me about this
country is that we are not a people who solved problems and differences of opinion by civil war and revolution. Canada is unique, and that was really the burden of what I wanted to say when I was going through the historical development of the country. We are unique, we do not move unilaterally, one level of government against another; and we do not impose one level of government against another.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Crombie: In short, unilateralism is unacceptable because it is the exact opposite of the federal system. That is why we oppose it.
Let me deal finally with that old, old question of process. The government and the New Democratic Party are saying: Don’t worry about the means, you will love the end. Every time human beings decide that the means will justify the end, that is the time ordinary people get hurt. All political questions at root are moral questions and anyone who has read history knows that the day you let a bad means attempt to achieve a good end, you will rue that day. This country will not then be looking to the future that the hon. member for St. Paul’s talked about, it will be looking to a number of years of unnecessary bitterness and division. We would like to say to the government: Think one more time.
An hon. Member: Fifty-three more years.
Mr. Crombie: My friend from Toronto says 53 more years. I was reading a book called “Miracle in Philadelphia” which concerns the American bill of rights. It took them a long time, many years to adopt it. If things are worth doing, they are worth doing well. We have not had 53 years of failure. This country had grown and grown well over the last 53 years.
I am saying that what the government can do is go to Britain and say: Send it back, thank you very much, Everyone agrees on that. I think you can get some agreement on the amending formula. The charter needs some work, even the government will admit that. My friend, the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Mackasey) kept saying: we have three years before it is in practice anyway so we can tidy it up here, turn a spigot there. Well, he wants to pick up the votes now and pay later. I can understand that but I do not applaud it.
Let me conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that the process over the past four months has been a very important one for this country, and if the government persists in its course of action we will be in greater difficulty than it can imagine. The three instincts that Canadians had long before this government came along are diversity, rights and consensus. They will be here long after this government is gone. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Dennis Dawson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Employment and Immigration): Mr. Speaker, I should like first of all to congratulate the hon. member, not only on his performance in the House today, but especially on the rather remarkable work that members opposite as well as government members have done in committee. On the other hand, I am rather disappointed to find that after many hours of work and sound suggestions by the hon. member for Rosedale (Mr. Crombie), he is not ready, at a rather crucial moment, to support a charter which has been improved, thanks to his co-operation.
Mr. Speaker, I was reluctant to speak at this stage of the debate on the government resolution because several points I raised in the first part of the debate last December have been discussed and amended by members of the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution of Canada, and also because some aspects of the constitution were not perfect. As was so aptly pointed out by the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development (Mr. Chrétien), nobody has to be perfect. In the speech I made in December, I drew to the attention of the House some weaknesses of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today, in light of the report of the special joint committee, I note that several of those weakness have been corrected. For example, in Section 1 of the first resolution, the individual rights were restricted as follows: “It is subject only to such reasonable limits as are generally accepted in a free and democratic society within a parliamentary system of government.” As a result of some amendments, the section now reads as follows:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
I suggest that this change is consistent with the many requests made by human rights groups and will. prevent any discriminatory action not only on the part of provincial governments—for the restraining effect of the charter does not apply exclusively to provincial governments-but also to the federal government. The new Section 15 which deals with Equality Rights is an improvement over the old Section 15 which dealt with Non-discrimination Rights and which read as follows:
Everyone has the right to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law without discrimination because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or sex. This section does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged persons or groups.
The section as amended is much more specific, because it adds discrimination based on mental and physical disability and states that every individual is equal before the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law.
If we may set the charter aside for a while, Mr. Speaker, I think that the patriation of our Constitution, the enshrinement of our freedoms and rights, as well as the new amending formula are truly the first steps torward an in-depth reform. This reform is that which was promised to Quebecers by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) himself on the eve of the referendum when he stated, and I quote:
l know that I can solemnly promise that, should the No-side win, we will set in motion forthwith the mechanisms required for renewing the Constitution, and that we will not stop until we have achieved this goal.
I am convinced that the Prime Minister was at the time relying on the good will which most premiers had expressed during the referendum campaign to carry out the necessary reform through federal-provincial conferences. I, for one, was expecting a lot from the consultations which the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development had undertaken last summer, as well as from the federal-provincial conference which was held last September. Instead of witnessing people involved in negotiations to achieve the goal of a renewed constitution, we saw our first ministers discuss the power-sharing issue first, apparently neither too anxious nor concerned about the patriation of our Constitution and the inclusion of a human rights charter.
After something like ten such conferences in 54 years, I find that the Constitution has not moved an inch, because there have only been minor changes brought about and it is still locked-up in London. How then can we fulfil that promise to provide Canadians with a modern constitution attuned to the Canadian reality at the dawn of the twenty-first century? On the one hand, Mr. Speaker, from the very moment when the Government of Canada brought forth its proposed resolution, a strong opposition front has accused Ottawa of acting unilaterally, without the support of the provinces or of the population. Some people are wondering whether the action taken by the government is wise or legal.
By means of a vast offensive of advertised propaganda, the Quebec government is fostering confusion stating that Ottawa should come back to the table, negotiate and come to an agreement because “we are not to be fooled” as the slogan goes; also there are editors, columnists and intellectuals who call the federal Liberal Members of Parliament from Quebec sheep, traitors and voiceless. From their pulpit, Mr. Speaker, those high priests of the day even go as far as urging our members to ignore party line and to vote according to their conscience.
To hear them, Mr. Speaker, one would think that the proposed resolution means an end to the present federal system, that it comes to us overnight without notice and without consultation. Such is not the case, Mr. Speaker. Throughout last summer, the provinces were consulted; the Quebec caucus and the national caucus met several times to make sure that the proposals of the government and the provinces would meet with the approval of all hon. members, and among others, the Quebec Liberal members.
At that time, I witnessed the good will of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice in starting negotiations with the provincial premiers. There was no end to their efforts in making sure that at no point would hon. members on this side of the House be unable to support them. One thing is sure, much more was expected from the first ministers’ constitutional conference of last September. I was disappointed, like some of my colleagues, to see that after so many hours of negotiations, the participants had failed to agree on a formula to amend the Constitution once patriated. I admit that more flexibility would have been desirable on the part of both the Canadian government and the provinces in order to achieve real agreement between the parties. But that conference having failed, are we to sit on our hands and just wait for another constitutional conference, or should we not, instead, accept the project through which the Canadian people can have a truly Canadian constitution, not in 54 years but much sooner, a project that bypasses the principle of unanimity which has caused first ministers’ conferences to end in deadlock for some 40 years, Mr. Speaker?
Some people have asked me how a member who has a reputation for taking a more peaceful approach to negotiation based on consensus and not on confrontation, one who is known to some of his colleagues on the other side as a dove, can support this resolution. Sure, I will identify myself as a dove; sure, I do not like the situation we are in now; sure, I would rather we arrived at a negotiated deal, but we did try and we did not succeed. We now have a choice. We admit a partial failure in arriving at unanimity and take a chance on going back to the negotiating table with partners who cannot seem to agree among themselves and risk losing the progress we made, or we can support the resolution. I stand for supporting the resolution. It is an important step forward and a first step in obtaining the goal we all search for, and that is, constitutional change. If we give up now we are doomed to failure, and failure after 55 years of effort only favours support of the status quo. I am not one who supports the status quo, Mr. Speaker.
As a Quebecer who participated actively in the referendum I will not accept this resolution as the only change promised during that referendum. This is but one step. It will be our duty as members of the government caucus to assure ourselves that the constitutional changes continue to occur and that they occur with the full participation of members of this House.
The performance of the parliamentarians on the joint committee is proof that we should not leave constitutional changes to 11 premiers and their civil servants.
As a whole, Mr. Speaker, the resolution proposed by the Government of Canada has already gained support from the majority of members in the House, from two provinces—a third one is still sitting on the fence—from several provincial political parties, and from most of the groups which gave evidence at the public hearings of the special committee as a result of the amendments moved by the Minister of Justice.
We know that the people of Canada are asking for a change and the proposed resolution fulfils their expectations. That does not mean that the federal project is altogether perfect; it has to be seen as a tool which will enable us to break out of the deadlock. As for me, that tool meets two significant criteria. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I admit that the unilateral amending formula imposes a rhythm and new rules which do not suit all provincial governments. But one essential fact remains for us members from Quebec, namely, that the government of Quebec and all Quebecers maintain their right of veto and that in future no constitutional change can be made without their consent. I consider that this right of veto is a prerequisite condition for anyone who acknowledges the specificness of Quebec. We have seen that members of the opposition, not unlike the provinces, have so far failed to agree on an amending formula. Once we had the Vancouver formula, now we have Senator Tremblay’s formula. Mr. Speaker, what can we say about the Vancouver formula? We can say that it is endorsed by the Parti Québecois and by several provincial Conservative governments. What is the formula? It allows opting out, one of its great qualities, according to the Quebec premier. For someone who is bent on opting out to the extreme and separate from his country, of course, he can find something interesting in a formula under which he can withdraw from all federal programs and reject certain constitutional provisions. But that is certainly not the wish of hon. members from Quebec.
With regard to Senator Tremblay’s formula I am still quite astonished to realize that, for all practical purposes and depending on economic circumstances, Quebec would lose its rights of veto. If the final count were to be 70-30, for all practical purposes Quebec would be in an extremely embarrassing situation, whereas with the amending formula of the Victoria charter Quebecers, representing 25 per cent of the population, would be guaranteed that no change can be made without their consent. Naturally, Mr. Speaker, any formula which is criticized throughout Canada because it is overly generous to Quebec can indeed be an option to which the Parti Québécois would object. But, Mr. Speaker, I think it is our duty as Liberal members from Quebec to make sure that the Victoria formula is the strict minimum.
Second, I want to speak in favour of the charter of rights and freedoms, particularly the section about mobility rights, labour mobility, and the right to education in the language of the minority. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Immigration, I consider that enshrining those rights in the Constitution is essential if we want to make sure that all Canadians participate in the economic growth of the larger regions of Canada. We now hear the Quebec government advertise that this will take jobs away from Quebecers. In my opinion, it is quite clear that according to all the studies that have been made recently that there are more Quebecers leaving their province to find jobs elsewhere in Canada than there are other Canadians entering that province “to steal our jobs” as they say. When you think of the economic boom in the west and the development in Newfoundland and Labrador Quebecers will certainly not be penalized in being given the right to share these jobs which are the jobs of the future in our country.
The fact is that this must be associated with another factor; the access to French schools. You cannot ask Quebecers to leave their province and get stranded in another province where they will not have the right to send their children to French schools. I also think that this is a change that is perhaps not as far-reaching as one would have wished, but at least it gives assurance to those Quebecers that they will benefit from those jobs that will be created all across Canada. It is certain that if they did not have this right, they would be reluctant to go. Now at least they have the assurance that they will have access to French schools.
The same applies to the entrenchment of the principle of equalization which gives the economy an additional stability. It is the concept of sharing that is now recognized by most Canadians and which has enabled Canada to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world. I think that it should be entrenched in the Constitution. The equalization principle will force both levels of government to favor economic development in order to reduce inequality of opportunities and in order to provide Canadians with essential services that are of acceptable quality. By entrenching this concept of sharing we are ensuring the future of Canadians in keeping with a tradition which was established in the early days of this country.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, the proposed resolution is but one stage which will launch the renewal process for which we have been waiting for 54 years. After patriation, the provinces will have to come back to the table to negotiate and reach some agreement, as the Quebec government is so fond of saying in its ads. At that time, the premiers can put forward their proposals for an equitable division of powers. We must recognize, Mr. Speaker, that the provinces have several justifiable demands. Moreover, most of the requests made in the sixties were recognized by the Pearson government.
Also, the changes and reform called for in 1968, 1969 and 1970 were accepted by the present Prime Minister. Many people seem to have forgotten the progress made in the social field after the Victoria conference. What about the agreements
on immigration and the successful telecommunications agreements in the mid-seventies. During the next round of federal-provincial negotiations, we should adopt as a principle that every bit of progress made should be entrenched in the Constitution. Had this been done in the past when the first ministers agreed on six or seven items out of l2 on the agenda, we would probably be much further ahead now in the division of powers. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, they were out to get package deals.
Also, Mr. Speaker. the input by Members of Parliament in this constitutional renewal process should not, as I have said, be restricted to this particular debate. It must continue at all stages following the passage of the proposed resolution. I think that future constitutional changes must not come only as a result of discussions between the federal and provincial ministers but must involve Members of Parliament. l think we can be proud of the way in which the joint committee operated, of the resolutions and amendments proposed by both opposition parties and by government members, and I believe that all members have an important role to play. I can only hope that this will continue in the future.
During the first debate last December, some members on both sides of the House seemed reluctant to take a stand on the proposed resolution as a whole, or on part of it, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My advice to them at the time was to take part in the work of the special committee to suggest improvements or express their views so that the final resolution might be the best and the most perfect possible.
Those who suggested changes, Mr. Speaker, and who obtained that the original resolution be amended deserve our congratulations. To those who did not succeed in imposing amendments or having them accepted, I would ask this question: can we afford at this time in our history to miss this unique opportunity to recognize the bilingual character of our country and its respect of human rights? While I respect those who intend to vote against the resolution, Mr. Speaker, I believe that, as representatives of the Canadian people, we must accept this proposal so that the government may act immediately by taking a first step in the right direction and by taking this important initiative of patriating the Constitution.
This leads me, Mr. Speaker, to speak once again briefly of those who accuse federal members of Parliament from Quebec of failing to comply with the wishes of their constituents and call us grovellers or sheep. Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that we have any lesson to take from these people. The day before yesterday, I was listening to the Quebec premier in a radio interview. He was saying that he did not understand why the Liberal members from Quebec were not more independent of their party. He did not understand why they did not vote against the proposed resolution. For my part, Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand why the Quebec premier would make such comments. We all know that in the four and a half years that the Parti Québécois has been in power in Quebec, PQ members were never allowed to vote freely. How can those people suggest that we should not support our leader and our party when, for nearly five years, the great majority of PQ members have toed the party line as we have done ourselves. The Parti Québécois executive even decided after the referendum to change considerably its electoral platform by abolishing the principle of a referendum and pushing back the basic objective of that political party, namely, sovereignty, into the background among its priorities.
Where were those who now say that federal members have failed to protect the interests of their constituents, of their members and of the population? Where were those people who are now criticizing us? Why did they not protest when this decision was imposed by the Parti Québécois leaders? No, Mr. Speaker, we have nothing to learn from those people. They should know that in a parliamentary system like ours, the party line and party solidarity must be maintained and respected. If the personal views of a member are at too great a variance with the line adopted by his party, it is up to the individual member to take his responsibilities by accepting the decisions of his caucus or to consider the result a vote against it would have.
However, as a member has many opportunities to express his views at caucus meetings or in committee, he can reach an acceptable compromise by playing an active role. As I said earlier, perfection is impossible to attain and we should leave well enough alone. In the present situation, if I were to rely on the pundits, I could easily become a national hero. I would simply have to vote against the proposed resolution, and editorialists, Conservative and Parti Québécois members would congratulate me on my gesture. I would go back to Quebec City to a triumphant welcome by the people of my constituency who, in any case, probably never even voted for me. I would get all this because I would have gone against the wishes of the party which was elected by the population and against a leader who, for all practical purposes, is respected by Quebecers. By voting against it I would have prevented the federal government from imposing its will. There is nothing revolutionary in that. Those are things which have been claimed by the people of both Canada and Quebec for some time. The Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent) stated in an interview published in last Saturday’s edition of Le Devoir, and I quote:
It is important that party leaders think of their country, and not only of their supporters. A true politician should be capable of entertaining such an attitude and of explaining it in the presence of his supporters. It will be difficult for my party, but it was necessary for the country.
It will be the same for the hon. members from Quebec. It will be the same for the Progressive Conservative members if they were against, and also for those who will have some reservations to make on the resolution. So where is the unfairness about the reform of the Constitution as proposed by the Government of Canada? Is it in patriation? Certainly not, since I know very few people who are against the idea of bringing back our Constitution, which is now in London.
We have seen some battles here in the past. We have seen all kinds of confrontations between Quebecers and English Canadians. When for years Quebecers were calling themselves French-Canadians or Canadiens, the rest of the people of Canada were calling themselves British subjects or British citizens. Maybe after so long Quebecers decided they wanted to identify themselves with something closer to them, and then started identifying themselves as Québécois. If we had not waited so long to adopt our Canadian Citizenship Act, and to start identifying ourselves as Canadians, maybe Quebecers would not have seen that necessity.
We have seen the fight for a Canadian flag when people on both sides of this House voted for or against it. We can remember that great flag debate when the Quebec caucus was fighting so that Canada would adopt its own flag, because after a hundred years, French Canadians could not identify themselves with a flag they did not relate to: the Red Ensign or the Union Jack. No, we have to wait a hundred years for our flag. Quebecers, after waiting so long, decided in the early fifties that they wanted their own flag because they needed something they could relate to.
During the referendum, Quebecers started flying the Canadian flag, and I think they have been flying it for a long time, because they realize that it is their flag and they have an attachment to it.
We have to ensure that this Canadianization continues We saw the example last summer of our national anthem. Once again Quebecers had to be ahead. They had to sing “O Canada” long before the rest of Canada, which was singing “God Save the King” or “God Save the Queen”. Quebecers were perhaps bored with that, and started singing national songs in Quebec. During the referendum, we saw that Quebecers wanted to identify themselves as Canadians.
Canadians had placed great hopes in the negotiations scheduled for the premiers’ constitutional conference last fall. We all wished that those in attendance would reach a consensus on the different items on the agenda, After the failure of this conference, I would have liked to see the provinces try once more to come to an agreement with the federal government, to put forward a proposed resolution unanimously agreed to by all of them.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we found out that the provincial premiers were having some difficulty in coming to an agreement and, by the way they never even reached a consensus on anything. Whether it was about going to London, or the amending formula, or any formula at all, the only thing to which they agreed unanimously was their opposition to the federal proposal. Surely, this negative attitude of provincial “partisanship” will not help build a better Canada!
The Government of Canada is acting in the interests of the people of all Canada and in order to move foward along the constitutional path, they are seeking the authorization of Parliament, which represents the Canadian people. I want to give them that support and I urgently ask my colleagues of the Progressive Conservative Party to set aside their partisan views and join with the New Democratic Party and Liberal members in giving their unconditional support to this proposal, so that we may go ahead with the constitutional reform.
Mr. Knowles: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, may I say there have been the necessary discussions, and I believe you will find that the House will agree to sit a few minutes beyond six o’clock if necessary so that our friend, the hon. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar), can complete his speech.
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Peter Ittinuar (Nunatsiaq): Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief.
Mr. Knowles: Take your time.
Mr. Ittinuar: Mr. Speaker, my friend, the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien), likes to say, when he speaks of the natives in the Constitution, “together we will build a great nation”. He said this yesterday, and I would like to follow up on his response and explain how we could build a great nation.
As we all know, this is a critical period in Canadian history. As usual, I am pleased and honoured to be a participant in the debate on the Canadian Constitution. I am particularly happy because this is a significant time in the long history of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. We have a responsibility to see that consideration is given to the interests of all Canadians, but I will be speaking specifically to the issue of entrenching aboriginal rights in the Constitution of Canada. The significance of this, as I said earlier, cannot be overstated.
When I spoke in the House last fall, I was fairly despondent about the future of aboriginal rights in Canada. The first draft of the constitutional resolution was a serious blow to us in our long fight for legal and political recognition of our rights as original inhabitants. It appeared that all our voices had fallen on deaf ears. A constitution without affirmation of our rights signalled the beginning of the end for us as distinct peoples within confederation.
At the time, Britain seemed the only avenue for change open to us. However, we pressed very hard to have our positions heard at the joint committee on the Constitution. I believe, for once, members of that committee listened. We owe a great debt to those people who came in good faith, facing what looked like impossible odds, to make the case they have tried to make so many times before.
When the Minister of Justice introduced amendments to the resolution on January 13, our hopes for recognition were dampened, dampened by amendments which fell disappointingly short of entrenchment. Native people were united in their belief that the amendments were not nearly enough to protect our cultures and lifestyles and to secure our future within confederation. We redoubled our efforts to achieve this last
chance for recognition because we always maintained that entrenchment would be impossible after patriation, given the views of most of the premiers in the provinces of Canada.
For once, native leaders from all parts of the country, Inuit, Indian and Metis, worked together in a process of intensive discussion, consultation and debate with members of all parties. My own party, and particularly the hon. member for Oshawa (Mr. Broadbent), who, in our language, we like to call the “Downright hon. member for Oshawa” played a large role in convincing the government to accept our amendments, which were won only after a long and hard process of negotiating with the federal government.
We would, of course, prefer that aboriginal rights were recognized because they were self-evident of a society where principles of simple justice prevailed. But I am sorry to say they were not aspects of that charter. Aboriginal rights were ignored in the first draft, whether by design or accident, and I prefer to think by design, but that does not matter now. The fact is that they were missing.
As I said in the committee, there have always been members in all parties who were sympathetic to our goals and who have worked on behalf of native peoples. The unanimous all-party agreement which recognized aboriginal rights on January 30 was a great accomplishment. It was not just a result of intensive work in the last week of committee hearings, but the culmination of years of struggle.
This marks the beginning of a new era for native people in Canada. The importance of this recognition of aboriginal rights lies precisely in its being a beginning. Our historical relationship with the federal, provincial and territorial governments has not been a happy one to date. Until January 30, we faced the prospect of a Canadian constitution being patriated without any positive inclusion of the rights of the native people of Canada. For us this could only lead to the erosion of our distinct native cultures through a gradual process of assimilation, which is a negative process. The true significance of the aboriginal rights amendments is that they guaranteed us freedom to follow our traditions and to speak our own languages within the greater Canadian society. The constitutional resolution before the House recognizes the principle of aboriginal rights, and the process of enumerating and defining these rights will follow in the post-patriation period.
Section 35 allows for native participation at constitutional conferences held during the two-year period following patriation and calls specifically for the agenda to include the matter of identifying and defining aboriginal rights. This section implicitly recognizes the principle that the aboriginal peoples of Canada must be involved in the process of defining exactly what their rights are and, more importantly, that only the native peoples themselves can adequately represent their own interests. Only through a process such as this can the paternalism which unfortunately has existed in the past be eliminated. I must say it is through the help of members in all parties who have worked toward this that we have achieved this end.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ittinuar: I sincerely hope that when the native representatives sit down at the table with the first ministers, the first matter to be resolved will be agreement on the formula which permits the ongoing participation of native peoples at all future conferences and on all matters which affect their interests.
I believe the Conservative Party is in agreement with me when I say that the amendments with regard to aboriginal rights passed by the joint committee are not only fair and just but also long overdue. In fact, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) put it rather well when he said:
If justice is to be done in the country it must also be done first to Canada’s aboriginal people.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ittinuar: Members of the party to my right applaud, but I wonder if they are aware of the implications of patriation without the inclusion of the amendments on aboriginal rights. Let me explain. First we would not be represented at constitutional conferences and, second, the possibility of obtaining provincial agreement on these amendments is tenuous at best.
The amending formula at least recognizes the power of the provinces, but without the amendments which we have achieved the native peoples of Canada have nothing and face the prospect of never again seeing their rights recognized and affirmed by a Canadian constitution.
Unilateral patriation is not the most desirable route, as we are all aware, yet in spite of this I ask hon. members to consider seriously Canada’s native people when the vote is taken. This would take justice out of the realm of abstract idealism and put it into the Constitution of Canada.
Section 33 of the proposed resolution recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada. The significance of this amendment is twofold, for it entrenches the collective rights of the aboriginal peoples while at the same time recognizes important distinctions within the broad category of aboriginal or “native” people.
Inuit, Indians and Metis cultures, languages, histories and traditions are very different from one another, and yet we share the right to identify ourselves as aboriginal. The recognition and affirmation of aboriginal rights at the constitutional level provides protection against the erosion of these rights. It means that federal government lawyers can never again argue against the existence of aboriginal rights, as they did in court against the Inuit of Baker Lake. The principle has been affirmed, and the long process of clearly defining the nature of such rights will follow. Entrenchment of aboriginal rights marks the beginning of a new era in which native people themselves will have a hand in shaping what those rights mean.
The limitation of rights through such indirect means as government programs and policies will be more difficult. Considering the level of distrust which presently exists, and has
always existed between native people and governments, the process of redefining the relationship between these parties can only lead to greater understanding and mutual respect.
Section 25 of the charter of rights and freedoms protects aboriginal rights from being gradually eroded by the assertion of other rights or freedoms in the charter. This is important historically, for many of the conditions faced by native people in Canada today are not the result of an assault on native rights but, rather, the indirect consequence of policies and legislation which had other purposes.
Section 25 also protects the sanctity of land claims settlements, as it holds the government responsible for upholding the guarantees obtained in settlements. It is my hope and trust that the federal government will fulfil the great moment of January 30 and move to settle all claims in this country.
The inclusion of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is also very important. I believe it has the significance for native people that the Magna Carta has in the British tradition. I would like to quote from the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which I think explains why it is significant for us.
And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest, and the security of our colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom we are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the possession of such parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by us, are reserved for them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.
“Hunting grounds” today can mean any number of things. Aboriginal people have never relinquished their rights as the first inhabitants of this country. Aboriginal rights have always been ours. What is important about this resolution is that it recognizes those rights.
This is not to say this is the last word on aboriginal rights. It is simply the beginning. My friend Charlie Watt, president of the Makivak Corporation of Quebec, said before the joint committee, and I quote:
All we are asking for is recognition that we are a distinct people, we live in Canada, and we are here to stay. If you recognize that principle, let us work out the details after patriation.
The amendments won on January 30 are an immense and dramatic improvement on the aboriginal proposal and are certainly worthy of our support.
There have always been differences among Canadians. and among native people too. We would be naive to expect otherwise, but it is our shared sense of pride in our unique identities and histories which gives us our strength. That is what makes consensus and agreement such a triumph.
I certainly have grievances about the charter of rights. I have grievances, for instance, about the section on mobility rights. The rights in that section do not accrue to the people of the north because they speak neither English nor French, and they have no desire to move anywhere else in Canada. However, the people of southern Canada can move into northern Canada at their leisure because that section benefits them. This is a likely prospect because of the potential development of those lands on which the Inuit of the north live.
I had an unfortunate argument with the Minister of Justice during the joint committee hearings. He agreed with my arguments but, because of party discipline, he could not agree to amend that part of the constitutional charter.
I would like to say to native people, to my fellow parliamentarians and to all Canadians that we do not need to deny our differences in order to acknowledge our achievements. As I said in my first speech in this House in Eskimo-and I would like to speak again in Eskimo in answer to what the Minister of Justice said yesterday—together we can make a great nation. The Eskimos would say:
Atautikkut kisiani sanajunnaqpugut Canadattiavangmik.
Only together can we build a great nation.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): It being six o’clock, and with the consent of the House earlier given, I now leave the chair until two o’clock tomorrow afternoon.
At six o’clock the House adjourned, without question put, pursuant to Standing Order.