Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Tabling Accord Signed by Government of Canada and Nine Provincial Governments”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (5 November 1981)

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Date: 1981-11-05
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 12536-12540.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).





Right Hon. P.E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Madam
Speaker, I would like to table copies, in both official lan-
guages, French and English, of the signed accord agreed to
this morning between the federal government and nine of the
provincial Premiers. If I can do that at this stage, later in the
proceedings we might find other copies. This is the only one I
have with me; I am sure copies will be distributed. The
substance of the accord is probably known by now to members
of this House.

I will not explain it in any detail except to say that we have
by consensus constitutionalized an endeavour begun in this
House more than a year ago to bring Canada’s Constitution to
Canada, to have in it an amending formula and to have in it a
charter of rights binding all levels of government.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Trudeau: I would first like to thank most members of
my caucus, particularly the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chretien)
and the ministers of this government who have stood steady in
the endeavour to achieve these three objectives. The applause
that we have just heard is a just expression of our happiness
with this outcome, having after 54 years of failure succeeded
in gaining the consensus to give Canada its Constitution with
an amending formula, and into the bargain to put in a charter
of rights, particularly in the area of language rights. There-
fore, I want to thank the members of my caucus.

I want to thank the leader of the New Democratic Party
(Mr. Broadbent) and the members of his caucus who have
supported this effort. It was to that degree a joint effort. There
were a great many discussions engaged in between members of
my caucus and his.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton
East (Mr. Yurko) who at the beginning of this operation, in
May 1980 if I recall, offered a motion to this House, which
was supported unanimously, to the effect that we should
patriate with an amending formula regardless of all the

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Trudeau: The task is not yet done. We have in this
House to look either at amendment to the resolution before
both Houses of Parliament, a joint resolution, or, alternatively,
to a new resolution which would incorporate the patriation and
all the elements of the charter with a couple of non obstante
clauses and an amending formula in lieu of the one that was in

I hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) and
the Leader of the New Democratic Party will agree to consult
with me in the course of tomorrow to see in what ways this
joint resolution can be presented in a fashion and a form which
hopefully will permit a speedy passage through this House in a
spirit of harmony as a result of these strivings, and incorporat-
ing, as I say, these three objectives; and hopefully in a form too
which will facilitate its passage in the United Kingdom Parlia-
ment. One last time our Constitution will be amended there,
and that will be the last time.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Trudeau: I have already talked to the government
House leader in the other place because there is a change
which affects them in this accord and a change which was put
forward in the compromise amending formula. I know the
reason for their veto up to now was that they felt it their duty
to protect the provinces. However, after consultation with the
House leader in the other place, I feel we can be hopeful, now
that the provinces themselves have consented to this, that they
will accept this amendment too.

Finally, I wish to express, as I already did this morning at
the closing session, my regret that the only signature lacking in
this Canadian harmony is that of the Premier of Quebec. We,
on the government side, remembered the resolution passed by
the Quebec National Assembly urging us to continue negotia-
tions, to avoid proceeding unilaterally and to seek compromise
solutions that would not take away from Quebec those juris-
dictions which the Quebec government has under the Constitu-
tion. We remembered this resolution, and we do believe that
we have acted in accordance with the intent of the unanimous
resolution passed by the Quebec National Assembly, since we
did reopen negotiations, we did continue the consultation
process and we are, in fact, no longer acting unilaterally, since
nine provinces have agreed with us on the procedure we have

Madam Speaker, I believe it is essential at this stage to
clarify two or three points. Clearly, there is no disagreement
on the patriation issue. As for the amending formula negotiated
and accepted by the province of Quebec and the Group of
Eight and made public on April 16 of this year. In other
words, I want my fellow citizens in Quebec to understand that
Quebec has retained the same veto right and the same opting-
out right they were offered in the April 16 agreement, an
agreement which received the approval of Premier Levesque.
So it cannot be said that we are taking away Quebec’s
traditional veto right. He has exactly the same veto right he
asked for in the so-called Group of Eight Accord formula, and
exactly the same opting-out right. What has been removed,
Madam Speaker, is a constitutional provision that would have
obliged the national government to compensate, in financial or
fiscal terms, a province that would exercise its opting-out
right, and conversely, would probably have obliged the prov-
inces to compensate the federal government for parting with
any of its jurisdictions.

We deleted this measure, with the agreement of the nine
provinces, for a very simple reason. We want to avoid a
situation in which the national government would be prevented
from having its constitutional amendment approved by a prov-
ince that would say: I am opting out and you are going to pay
me for doing just that. And this, I can assure the House, does
not apply only to Quebec. I am thinking, for instance, of a
constitutional amendment pursuant to which the Canadian
government would want to amend the Constitution so as to
allow the national government to legislate on pensions and
make them portable for the elderly from province to province.

If one of the wealthy provinces such as Alberta or Ontario–
and this obviously applies to Quebec as well–were to say that
it was opting out of the agreement and that we would be
obliged to pay compensation, this would make it impossible,
Madam Speaker, or at least very difficult, both fiscally and
financially, to adopt such a measure. And it is for this very
simple reason that the passage was removed–it is an impor-
tant one, I realize that–from the April accord. It was done
with the consent of the nine provinces, and this morning I
explained at length the spirit in which it was done to the
Premier of Quebec. Naturally, the political right, the constitu-
tional right, to negotiate compensation remains, but it is a
right to negotiate and not a pre-established obligation. So as
far as the amending formula is concerned, Madam Speaker, I
believe we have acted in accordance with the wishes of Que-
becers and those of the Quebec government, with the exception
of this point.

As far as the charter is concerned, the Premier of Quebec
told us this morning that he agreed with the charter and would
to be able to sign it except for two points. However, it is
important to understand that on the whole the charter received
the approval of the Quebec government and that consequently
nothing has been taken away from Quebec against the will of
its government.

The two exceptions are mobility rights, the right of Canadi-
ans, irrespective of where they live, to seek work and to settle
anywhere in Canada. We had to change the wording of these
mobility rights to dispel the legitimate fears of Newfoundland,
and we offered the same possibility to Quebec. Before the
resolution is passed, if Quebec can let us know how an
amendment acceptable to the others and acceptable to us
could be introduced, I am sure we would be able to find a
compromise solution, as we did for Newfoundland. Finally, the
only other point on which there was disagreement was the
obligation for each province to undertake freely to protect its
official language minorities.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Trudeau: I think the applause is an indication how
strongly we feel we have won a majority victory in the long
struggle of francophone minorities to obtain education rights
for their children. This was achieved in all nine anglophone
provinces by their agreement this morning. Quebec did not
give its agreement, I might say it has not yet given its
agreement. I explained that if it was a matter of changing the
wording, we would also be willing to do that, provided the
intent, which surely reflects the intent of all Canadians who
believe in justice, is preserved, that is, to ensure that franco-
phone and anglophone minorities are treated fairly. I am
convinced that between people of goodwill acting in good faith,
a way can still be found to express this. If we do not succeed
today or tomorrow, I am convinced we could and should find a
solution within a matter of weeks or months, so that the
Quebec government will be able freely to undertake what all
free men and women of goodwill would certainly expect it to
do, that is, the constitutional protection of its minorities. I
have said before that historically speaking, Quebec certainly
does not need to be told what to do in that respect. We have
always treated our language minorities fairly with regard to

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Trudeau:–and like Mr. Levesque this morning, I now
wish to ask the legislators of the province of Quebec, the
members sitting in the National Assembly, to consider the
importance of the agreement that was signed today. Under this
agreement, in terms of official languages at the federal level
and in New Brunswick, and in terms of official languages in
education in all provinces, francophone minorities have seen
history being made. I only hope that our fellow citizens in
Quebec will see this historical gesture repeated, as far as
Quebec’s jurisdiction is concerned.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Leader of the Opposition): Madam
Speaker, my colleagues and I are naturally happy to have this
matter back in the House of Commons and in Parliament. If I
may, at the beginning I want to express our appreciation to the
Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau)–

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Clark:–for reporting so quickly to the House of
Commons. May I say that I hope it will be a practice which
will be followed regularly by all ministers on important mat-
ters. But I certainly appreciate the Prime Minister coming
directly from the conference to the House which has been so
occupied with this matter for such a long time.

It was evident from watching the televised responses of first
ministers at the conference that many participants in the
conference just concluded feel a very real sense of satisfaction
and accomplishment at the prospect of a constitutional resolu-
tion which is likely to be dramatically different from the
constitutional resolution proposed to the House of Commons
more than a year ago by the Prime Minister.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Clark: Certainly there is a real sense of satisfaction
among many of us in the House and, if I may say so,
particularly among many of us in this party. The first minis-
ters met today because the judgment of the Supreme Court of
Canada allowed them to meet. The Supreme Court of Canada
had the opportunity to judge this question because this party
won that right for the court during a long and difficult fight on
the floor of the House of Commons.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Clark: On behalf of the people of Canada we fought for
the principle that our Constitution should be decided in our

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Clark: For nearly a year, the Progressive Conservative
Party has fought in Parliament against a resolution which it
felt was dividing the country, thereby making it possible for
the Supreme Court to consider the resolution and bring in its

I have spoken of satisfaction, but the dark shadow across
any satisfaction we might feel today is the fact that the
province of Quebec was not able to support the agreement at
the conference. The prospect exists, therefore, that Quebec will
be isolated and alone on a constitutional question. The conse-
quences of that isolation must concern every Canadian who
wants our nation to remain united.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Clark: We have just received a copy of the press release.
We have not yet examined the text of the new resolution to be
submitted to Parliament. During this conference, however, we
have heard the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of
Quebec discuss some of the issues which have resulted in
Quebec’s isolation.

One issue, as the Prime Minister indicated, concerns com-
pensation for provinces that do not take part in certain pro-
grams. If I heard the Prime Minister of Canada correctly, he
said he believed that this was a matter which could be resolved
outside the context of the Constitution. If the question can be
resolved on its merits, and if including in the constitutional
accord a formula for resolving it, may make the package more
acceptable to the province of Quebec, surely we should seek to
resolve within the Constitution an agreement which the Prime
Minister said can be resolved outside the Constitution.

Again if I heard the Prime Minister correctly, he believes
that further discussion may lead to some agreement on the
question of language rights. He reiterated that today when, in
speaking about the acceptance by the province of Quebec, he
said that there had not been acceptance by that province pas
encore, not yet, indicating that he thinks there may well be
some acceptance. If that is so, the new resolution proposed to
be presented to Parliament should be refined to seek the
unanimity which would be preferred by all of us who want to
keep the country intact.

An hon. Member: Oh, oh!

Mr. Clark: There is some heckling across the way which I
regret on this occasion, particularly since it comes from the
minister of fisheries; but perhaps that is to be expected.

There will be more to add in the House when we have seen
the exact language of the new resolution the government will
want to introduce. The Prime Minister has asked the opportu-
nity to consult with me and to consult with the hon. Leader of
the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent). Naturally we
would be prepared to meet with him to discuss the general
question of timing. We would be prepared to do that at his
earliest convenience.

What is important is that the events today have indicated
that much more agreement is possible in Canada than many
Canadians had previously believed to be possible. As the Prime
Minister reminded us often, and again today, this process
began some 54 years ago. The first ministers have just
emerged from four days of intensive discussions and some real
agreement. Soon the matter will be back in the House of
Commons and naturally we will want to consider all the
implications of a resolution which is dramatically different
from that which we considered before. It may be that, just as
Parliament improved the last resolution, Parliament may find
solutions to some of the matters not resolved by the first
ministers. Certainly all Canadians who value the unity of our
country would want us to accept our full duty to find even
broader agreement than was reported today.

We have found that honouring the federal-provincial process
has resulted in significant progress on the Constitution. This
Parliament, whose vigilance and determination allowed the first
Supreme Court of Canada to decide and allowed the first
ministers to meet again, welcomes the progress which has been
made so far, and this Parliament looks forward to contributing
to even further progress and even further agreement.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Edward Broadbent (Oshawa): Madam Speaker, at the
outset I should like to offer my deepest congratulations not
only to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) but to the Premiers
of the provinces, reflecting highly divergent personal views,
highly divergent regional interests and highly divergent parti-
san concerns, for producing for us today in a desirable process
a broad Canadian consensus.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Broadbent: I should like to say also at this point that
when this process began in the House, as the Prime Minister
reminded us a few minutes ago, just over a year ago we in the
New Democratic Party had three objectives. We wanted an
independent Canadian Constitution, we wanted a workable
amending formula, and we wanted a charter of rights for all
Canadians. We were determined from the outset, reflecting
upon the deep traditions of our own party and movement, as
well as the tradition of other parties, to ensure that at the end
of the process which began a year ago we would end up with a
document that achieved those three objectives.

In the process, Madam Speaker, we well know that there
were some important Supreme COurt decisions, first at the
provincial Supreme Court level. Finally the Supreme Court of
Canada made a ruling that caused all of us, I might say in
passing to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark), to say at
the time that the decisions of the superior court in Canada
could not be ignored because they are an integral part of our
political system. They had to be respected. Members of all
parties, going right back to the decision made by the Supreme
Court of the province of Newfoundland and ending in the
decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada, said that the
judicial process, as part of our political system, had to be
respected. That has been done.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Broadbent: Most specifically, in light of the recent
decision that said, on the one hand, to those of us in federal
politics that what we were doing was legal–on a certain
resolution that we had before us–and, on the other hand, that
a broader consensus had to be achieved, there was one course
of action that was singularly appropriate, and that was to have
a new conference. My party called for that conference right
after the Supreme Court decision.

I am pleased to say–and I do not think one should be
grudging about this because it seems to me a spirit of generosi-
ty and magnanimity flowed through all parties in the building
not far from here today, and therefore it beehoves us to
demonstrate the same concern–that all parties in the House
responded to the implications of that Supreme Court decision
which came down a few weeks ago.

What we have seen today is a reflection of the best Canadi-
an tradition of compromise. Conservatives, Liberals and New
Democrats, Newfoundlanders, Albertans, people from Ontario
and British Columbia, have come together to achieve a docu-
ment that in terms of the process, I emphasize, was incompa-
rable in its spirit of magnanimity and give and take.

I want to say that it is the deeply felt view of my colleagues
and myself that the charter of rights that we fought for, the
independent Constitution that we fought for, the amending
formula that we fought for and that we had built into the old
document, when we see them in their new form, in the present
document that has been agreed upon, will contain acceptable
and desirable alternatives. I strongly hope that is the case.

In conclusion, I must say I am personally very sad that the
Quebec government has not deemed it possible to sign the
agreement. Because it represents a very special region and a
unique nation in Canada, its decision is of paramount impor-
tance. I hope that future amendments will make it possible for
the Quebec government to change its mind.

The Prime Minister has indicated that certain efforts will be
made to achieve that very desirable goal.

I think it is a fundamental commitment of members of all
sides of the House that when it comes to the people of the
province of Quebec, we must do everything we can to make
Quebecers feel that they can be at the same time Quebecois
and good Canadians.

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr. Broadbent: I will conclude, Madam Speaker, by again
congratulating the Prime Minister and the Premiers involved
in this very difficult process on what they have achieved today.
I want to indicate that I will be only too willing to sit down
with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Oppo-
sition tomorrow to work out the specific details of how we can
bring this important process to a final and productive

Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

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