Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Establishment of Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons (Continued)”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (20 October 1980)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1980 at 3850-3864.
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COMMONS DEBATES — October 20, 1980
ESTABLISHMENT OF SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS
The House resumed consideration of the motion of the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development (Mr. Chrétien):
That a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons be appointed to consider and report upon the document entitled “Proposed Resolution for a Joint Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada” published by the government on October 2, 1980, and to recommend in their report whether or not such an address, with such amendments as the committee considers necessary, should be presented by both Houses of Parliament to Her Majesty the Queen;
That 15 members of the House of Commons to be designated no later than three sitting days after the adoption of this motion be members on the part of this House of the Special Joint Committee;
That the committee have power to appoint from among its members such subcommittees as may be deemed advisable and necessary and to delegate to such subcommittees all or any of their powers except the power to report directly to the House;
That the committee have power to sit during sittings and adjournments of the House of Commons;
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to examine witnesses and to print such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That the committee submit their report not later than December 9, 1980;
That the quorum of the committee be I2 members, whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses are represented and that the joint chairmen be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, when six members are present so long as both Houses are represented; and
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting that House to unite with this House for the above purpose, and to select, if the Senate deems it to be advisable, members to act on the proposed Special Joint Committee.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order. When the debate was interrupted at five o”clock this afternoon, the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Mackasey) had the floor. The Chair recognizes the hon. member for Lincoln.
Hon. Bryce Mackasey (Lincoln): Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking at five o’clock, I was expressing the opinion that confederation has been a remarkable success. I talked very briefly about our economic system which has evolved and which combines the best of the free enterprise system and social obligations to the less fortunate and our dedication to the quality of life, thus providing our system with the best educated work force in the world and the healthiest population because of medicare.
I spoke of our equalization principle. Without it there could be no equality of opportunity in this country. I spoke about the principle that those who can afford it should help those in need, not only on an individual basis through the transfer of unemployment insurance, for example, from the worker in Ontario to those less fortunate, but also with the transfer of funds through our equalization formula.
Canada has been a remarkable success story, and it is recognized around the world that we have the finest country in the world. When we combine our standard of living with our degree of freedoms, I doubt if any country can match ours.
However, if confederation has been such a great success, why am I an advocate of the proposed resolution before the House, which in a relatively short period of time I hope will be referred to the special joint committee of the House and the Senate? As learned members opposite have emphasized in the last week, the fundamental philosophy behind the BNA Act has been, of course, compromise. It reflects a combination of the civil code, for instance, and jurisprudence to look after the rights of individuals.
But the one defect and the main defect in the BNA Act, is that it does not contain an amending formula. It does not contain an amending formula because the Fathers of Confederation did not think one was necessary. Perhaps in the light of the times one was not necessary. Forceful advocates of the rights of English Catholics like Connolly and McGee made sure that our rights were protected in the BNA Act. Others made sure that the rights of English Protestants were protected under section 133. Concern for French-speaking Canadians in the west was minimal. Numerically it was not a problem. Even the rights of French-speaking Canadians in Ontario were not a pressing problem in the field of education, because where French-speaking Ontarians lived they lived together and could control their own system of education and their own schools that long ago.
There is a relationship between the concern of Canadians today for individual rights and the general acceptance across Canada at this very moment today that we should get on with the business at hand, that this proposed resolution should be debated a few more days and then sent on to committee. I think this is the first time since I came here in I962 that Canadians have shown any concern at all about the issue of constitutional change. If anything, the tendency in the past has been to say, “Oh, not again; why are you debating proposed constitutional changes and amending formulae at a time when we have unemployment problems, inflation problems, tariff problems and energy policy problems?” I think the reason is that in recent years Canadians have become more conscious of individual rights and of how fragile individual rights really are.
Our history has been blemished like the history of any other country, and I will not repeat what has been said in this House about how we treated Canadians of Japanese origin during the war, about how we treated the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec in the 1950s and the infamous padlock law, about how some of the privileges of English-speaking Quebeckers have been eradicated, the result of provincial legislation, and about how in most provinces in this country individual rights of people, particularly in the field of education, are not as generous as they were at the time of confederation. This is unfortunate, but I think that perhaps for the first time the need to enshrine our rights in the constitution has become a real issue in many homes.
Take, for instance, the whole issue of mobility. I was minister of labour for a number of years, close to the labour movement as a result, and I can remember the anger, the agony of trade unions in this country, particularly in the construction industry, when construction workers in Cornwall found they could not work in the province of Quebec two years ago, and when painters from Hull could not work in the national capital, in Ottawa. This was a real issue which was resolved through debate and discussion between appropriate ministers of one province and the other, but the element of retaliation was there: “If you do not allow our construction workers in your province, we will not allow your painters in our province.” This registered with Canadians, particularly those who come from Europe.
I can remember one very angry union leader asking me, “Is it really a big step from a work permit by the minister of manpower of a particular province to the day when we are going to need permits to travel across this country”? Is it all that far-fetched to think that the next step will be the need for visas to travel from one province to another?” Intelligent and concerned Canadians see this trend toward balkanization. They wonder about it and ask, “What are we going to do about it?” When the Premier of Newfoundlandand—I do not want to belabour him—stresses and emphasizes his dilemma, on the one hand, of providing jobs for the people of his province in the flourishing oil industry in Newfoundland, and the problem of denying access to those jobs to Canadians of other provinces, this is not a reassuring situation. The issue, for instance, of owning land anywhere in Canada by Canadians is another problem—
An hon. Member: Where is that covered in this bill?
Mr. Mackasey: I did not say it was. I did not interrupt the hon. member, and I will not interrupt him. If he would remain quiet during the rest of my speech, I will be very pleased. I did say earlier, when, I hope, the hon. member was in his seat, that the details to which he referred can be discussed when this resolution gets to committee. But I do not want to be bogged down on particular little points. I could ask the hon. member where, in here, is the province of Ontario prepared to recognize French as the official language in our province? It is not in there either, nor is freedom of choice in the field of education, nor was it intended, and I will come to that matter in a few minutes, if I am permitted.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Is the hon. member going to put in an amendment about this?
Some hon. Members: Put it in.
Mr. Mackasey: I will come to that. I suggest that the opposition members put in an amendment and they might be surprised at the reception on this side of the House.
What is proposed, Mr. Speaker? It is proposed that we bring our constitution home, the BNA Act, a further evolution, as I said earlier, a logical transition from a colonial state to a nation. The Governor General is now a Canadian, the new flag which is ours, and the Official Languages Act which reflects the true nature of Canada, and now we are suggesting, after all these years, that we bring the constitution home. I am not suggesting we should have moved at a faster pace. After all, we have achieved all that in a spirit of relative harmony and with virtually no bloodshed as compared to, say, the United States. But what is the sense of bringing home a constitution which we cannot amend because the Fathers of Confederation did not see the need at the time for an amending formula? What would be more logical, in selecting the amending formula to come along with the BNA Act, than the only formula which all the provincial premiers at one time agreed to in Victoria in 1971?
An hon. Member: What about the Vancouver consensus in 1980?
Mr. Mackasey: With the hon. member’s voice one can hear anything he says, but unfortunately he does not make too much sense.
That formula is the only formula that the provincial premiers of this country were able to agree to, and I think that, barring a better one, and with the two-year period in which the provinces and the federal government can get together and come up with a better one, this makes sense.
Let me come back to the other point, Mr. Speaker. What are the entrenched rights which we think Canada needs and which provincial legislation provides in some cases? I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that provincial legislation is only as good as the legislatures or the premiers of that province at that time in history, and there is no guarantee that if our rights are enshrined in provincial legislation, those rights will be found in that same provincial legislation five, ten, or 15 years from now. So our rights must be enshrined in the constitution.
Is anybody here against the enshrinement of the fundamental freedoms, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of belief, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press and other media, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association?
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Mackasey: Is anyone here against the right to stand for office for election to the House of Commons? Is anyone here against the democratic right which includes the requirement that no House of Commons and no legislative assembly continue for longer than five years?
Is anyone here against mobility rights?
An hon. Member: What about freedom of property?
Mr. Mackasey: What about the democratic right which gives people the opportunity to speak from their seats? That is part of it, so I am not going to let the member worry me, Mobility rights? It is perhaps the most important right we can have at the moment, the right to work anywhere in this country in any province.
An hon. Member: What about free enterprise?
Mr. Mackasey: The right to establish ourselves and seek employment anywhere, the right to remain in Canada or leave the country, minority language educational rights which provide that citizens of the English-speaking or French-speaking minority of a province have the right to educate their children in that minority language, wherever numbers warrant—what is so important about that, Mr. Speaker? It is extremely important. How many of my friends in my province, in Quebec when I lived there, refused or had to refuse promotions, transfers by multinational corporations in other provinces, refusing jobs in Ontario, Manitoba or British Columbia because of their unease and concern that their children would not be able to continue their education in French? And now, because of provisions in Bill I01, English-speaking Canadians from the west, from Ontario and from the maritimes, are concerned also about transferring to the province of Quebec because of their unease about Bill 101 which permits them to have their children educated in English only with the permission of the government, and only then for a short period of time.
An hon. Member: Why did you not challenge the legislation?
Mr. Mackasey: Go home and you tell the people in your province what they should be doing about minority rights, and we will all applaud. The last time I was in Lincoln riding, I came to the conclusion that I was still in Canada. I was welcomed there, I was elected there. I beat a Tory there, and I will beat him again.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Mackasey: Is anyone in this House opposed to legal rights, the right to life and liberty, the security of a person, protection against unlawful search and seizure, unlawful detention or imprisonment, the right to be properly informed of the reasons, and non-discrimination rights which ensure that all Canadians, regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or sex, have the same before the law?
As I said earlier today, I think the Official Languages Act indicates what can be done in this House when people of good will stick together. In 1969 the Official Languages Act was passed with the support of all parties. As I recall it, some of the more eloquent speeches came from members opposite. But that too should be enshrinedin the constitution so that subsequent parliaments can deal with the situation if some pressure
groups try in some way to amend, water down, or make inoperative that particular legislation.
My time is nearly over, but I urge members of Parliament to consider approaching this particular debate in the same spirit which existed when pieces of legislation dramatically altering this country were passed. I am thinking of the flag, official languages, and many others. I urge that this matter be referred to the committee sooner than later. There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians watching this debate. For the first time hundreds of thousands of them are in favour of what is proposed here because, for the first time, thousands of them are concerned about individual rights.
A new Canadian who comes here is concerned about his or her rights. In many instances that is what brought people here in the first place. They are concerned whether their culture, language, freedom and ways of life will be protected, as I think the House should be. They wonder why there has been a delay. In fact most of them are wondering why it has taken almost 50 years to reach the point where we are working toward bringing our written constitution back to Canada.
Those people who are concerned about a referendum should not be concerned. The chances of it being used are not necessarily remote but, according to the formula, as a last resort. What does it mean? What does it intend to do? It will appeal directly to Canadians to settle an impasse between the central and provincial governments. To whom should we appeal? We have reached an impasse in our ability to do things, to enshrine human freedoms, rights and privileges. It is the people who suffer, not the members of Parliament. It is quite logical to appeal to them in a referendum if we must, because after all their rights are being held up.
As I said before supper, I believe the high calibre of the debate should continue. There have been remarkable contributions from all parts of the House. If we look at this with a view to bringing to an end an impasse which was never intended by the Fathers of Confederation when they omitted to provide an amending formula, and if we look at it as one of our great responsibilities as members of Parliament to bite the bullet and do the things needed for Canadians, many years too late, I think all of us. will be able to look back in five or ten years with approval on our own contributions.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Jack Murta (Lisgar): Mr. Speaker, I should like to say how pleased I am to participate in this debate. This evening I hope to point out, certainly to the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Mackasey), and other members of the House of Commons, the real concern of members on this side of the House respecting this resolution, and the real concerns of many, many Canadians across Canada. I will try to demonstrate to the House, as best I can, the fact that the country we know as Canada is really a partnership. It was formed that way and it was operated that way. One of the greatest threats the resolution proposes is the potential destruction of the partnership which makes Canada a truly unique country.
Also I should like to be able to say that this measure represents a major historical event in the progress of our nation. A nation’s constitution is the basic law of the land. It provides the framework for social, political, and economic actions of its citizens. It is the document which establishes the basic ground rules of Canadian society. As such, any proposals to change this basic document should have the effect of increasing our sense of community and improving our institutions and processes in order that the quality of life of Canadian citizens can be advanced. In short, changes to the constitution should be directed toward greater harmony and understanding. They should be unifying and, above all else, they should not be undertaken lightly or without effective discussion and agreement between all partners of this confederation.
I believe the measure we are discussing today does none of these things. Without question, in my opinion, it is one of the most dangerous documents I have seen come before the House of Commons in the ten years I have been a member of Parliament. Both the manner in which this resolution is being presented and the resolution itself represent a direct threat to the very foundation of Canada. The resolution denies over I00 years of common Canadian experience. Since 1867 Canadians have been working toward developing systems and processes uniquely Canadian that can be applied to resolve Canadian problems within a framework which meets the underlying conditions of that common experience. The resolution which comes before us in the name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), in my opinion, could destroy a fundamental part of our common heritage—our federal system of government.
Before I move on to the method of introducing this resolution and the specific contents of the document we are debating, I should like to say a few words about the nature of our federal system, why it evolved as it did, and how it has been used to meet the needs of Canadians. Canada’s federation is a blend of government systems not found anywhere else in the world. It is truly a unique wedding of the principles of parliamentary government with the forms and institutions of a federal system of government organization. I believe all members of the House have a good grasp of the principle of parliamentary democracy, but it is true that sometimes we forget the importance of federalism in the Canadian experience and how we brought ourselves to the point we are at today.
Canadians gain a lot from both parts of our system. From the principles of the common law and parliamentary government we gain protection of individual rights and freedoms, an assurance of democratic principles and guarantees of our independence as a nation and freedom as a people. Individual rights and freedoms are matters of basic importance to all Canadians. If there was a measure to improve their protection in Canada, I am certain all members and all Canadians would wholeheartedly and gladly support it. However, the protection and the benefit Canadians gain from our federal system are also matters of basic concern to all of us. I believe this proposal is a direct threat to those uniquely Canadian concerns because it threatens the federal system we have established to protect and assure them. Canadian federalism is just not a
superficial luxury. When the Fathers of Confederation wedded the two systems of federalism and parliamentary government they did not do it simply as a sop to the provinces, nor did they do it as a means of window-dressing our constitution to distinguish it from the parliamentary system of Great Britain. Finally, I am convinced they did not do it simply as a means of causing problems for future generations of Canadians.
Canada’s blend of federalism with parliamentary government emerged from a unique set of conditions which still apply today in Canada. Had these conditions not existed there would have been no need to marry the two distinct systems of government. Under different conditions it would have been easier simply to form a unitary state modelled on the parliamentary institutions of Great Britain and let it go at that.
What are these conditions which necessitate a federal form of organization in Canada? First, I believe our size is a major factor. Even today we have a relatively small population scattered across a vast and varied land. Governing this nation with a unitary national government could not help but produce feelings of remoteness and alienation in places like British Columbia or Nova Scotia. Even residents of the capital city would tend to feel removed from their governments because things of immediate local concern, such as schools, roads and property taxes, would all be governed by our national government. As a result we have developed a system of dividing the labour between the two levels of government, one that is equipped to deal with major questions of truly national importance and one which is closer to the people and equipped to deal with those questions of a more localized nature which could easily get lost in the shuffle under a unitary national government.
The second main factor requiring a federal form of government is, in my opinion, the diverse social, cultural and linguistic character of our country. This diversity is enhanced by our size and the relative isolation of large parts of our population. I believe it is the federal system and not the parliamentary form of government which protects the rights of Canadians in this area most effectively. Under a unitary state the distinct views and needs of cultural groups would again be lost in a shuffle of competing minority group interests. Under a federal form of government minority groups can have a much greater impact and participation in those items which concern them in their everyday lives.
I would like to take a few moments to expand on these concepts because I believe they are important if we are to try and understand the nature of the threat to federalism, which this resolution implies. I believe the two preconditions of federalism, which I have outlined briefly, come together in a national characteristic which is distinctly Canadian. Canadians are among the most self-reliant and independent people in the world. Our unique contribution to that self-reliance and independence is loyalty and a strong desire to celebrate our distinctiveness. We have a national government in place to guarantee certain basic universal rights and freedoms. But we have created a federal system to allow us as a people to develop and grow differently within the bounds of those universal rights.
These uniquely Canadian requirements were well illustrated in the BNA Act which wedded parliamentary government to the federal system in order to provide a unique solution to a truly Canadian set of conditions. Basically it is the federal system which affords the greatest assurance and protection for our people. The significance of this is well demonstrated in section 92 of the BNA Act which outlines the rights and powers granted to the provincial governments. While items of provincial jurisdiction are not absolutely inviolate under the BNA Act, the importance which the founding fathers placed on the federal system is clearly illustrated by the difficulties that will befall any national government which attempts an unwarranted intrusion into the provincial realm. Similarly, the desire to afford strong protection is illustrated by the granting of powers to the provinces. which are much stronger and more extensive than those which have devolved to the state level of government in the nation to the south of us.
The unique solution to Canadian conditions provided by the wedding of two forms of political organization also recognizes the need for a truly national consideration. The parliamentary system of government is designed to protect individual rights and provision was made in the BNA Act which would allow the national government to go to the aid of individuals or groups whose rights might be threatened by provincial governments. Conversely, it is the federal system and the relatively greater strength of the provincial governments which affords protection against an infringement of our rights by the national government itself.
The conclusion which should be drawn is clear. The Canadian system is a unique experiment which has served us pretty well for the last 113 years because ournational needs and the needs stemming from our regional and cultural diversity have evolved a system that is a partnership. This Canadian partnership implies relative equality for our two levels of government in areas where their interests are common or shared and relative independence in areas where their interests are largely exclusive. In other words, the Canadian experiment attempts to bring our diversity together where there is common interest and shared experience while at the same time allowing all Canadians an opportunity to celebrate their differences in different regions of the country. I contend our partnership does not allow for minority shareholders. The board of directors of Canada, if you like, is composed of relatively equal partners each with an area of expertise which allows him to make a valuable contribution and each with an area of responsibility which requires that consideration be given to the common responsibility. The over-all goal of this organization is the protection of life and liberty and the furtherance of quality of life in Canada. Each component part is important to the achieving of these goals and each has a very distinct role to play. I believe this resolution provides a threat to the federal component of our system and if we lose that component we
lose something which is uniquely Canadian, designed to deal with our uniquely Canadian conditions.
I believe Canadians want to resolve a problem that seems to be simply an eternal squabble about our constitution. I also believe they will support any action which provides a greater degree of protection for their fundamental rights of liberty and freedom. In other words, Canadians want to be Canadian. They want to be proud of their nationality and their institu- tions. They know their identity and they do not want to continually have it questioned as a result of constant bickering over the constitution or eternal federal-provincial fights. On the face of it, this resolution before us does not openly contradict any of these fundamental Canadian desires. If it passed I submit that there would still be a unit called Canada marked on the maps of the world and we would still have a Canadian flag and a national anthem. But many people in various parts of the country—certainly in the part from which I come—are asking “But for how long?” I believed as I mentioned earlier, that this resolution is deliberately designed to change the concept of the Canadian federation as a partnership.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) is imposing his personal opinion on the partners of our confederation. Those opinions will effectively destroy the partnership which countless generations of Canadians have worked so hard to forge and which, as I mentioned before, is working pretty well. If, as I suggest, these actions by the Prime Minister destroy our Canadian partnership how long will it be before citizens in the west and the east, or the north and the south, decide they no longer need to be a part of the country because they no longer enjoy the rights the partnership they feel they have enjoyed, certainly up until this time.
I believe there is a general consensus across Canada as to the positive benefits that can be achieved by a charter of rights in a new constitution. I also believe there is almost universal agreement on patriating our constitution with a suitable amending formula which reflects the reality of Canada’s own totally unique experiment. However, I do not believe that Canadians would accept these improvements if the cost was the destruction or even the possible destruction of the Canadian partnership and the risk of fragmenting the country. Those possibilities are, in my opinion, certainly very distinct. Yet, this is exactly what I feel the Prime Minister is proposing to do and why I referred to the resolution earlier as being one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to come before Parliament while I have had the privilege to be a member of the House of of Commons.
I believe that the method which the Prime Minister has chosen is a dangerous method. The Prime Minister has imposed a deadline on the entire question. In effect, one of the partners of our confederation has said to all the other so-called equal partners that this process will be accomplished within a certain period of time whether they like it or not. In effect, the Prime Minister strode into the nation’s boardroom, deliberately pointed a gun at the head of each of the other directors and said, “You will behave or suffer the consequences”.
In a federation which was built on the concept of partnership and all that it implies in terms of discussion, compromise and consensus, putting partners under the gun destroys any hope of goodwill or mutual trust. Obviously, the Prime Minister has decided to create a Canadian constitution in virtually his own image. Items like the fundamental rights of Parliament or the partners in our confederation can be shoved aside if he so wishes. As a result of the way in which the Prime Minister is implementing this action, it is clear there will be no change without the personal stamp of the Prime Minister.
Through this resolution the government intends to patriate the Constitution of Canada with the addition of a charter of rights and a formula for amending the constitution once it is home in Canada. It is the amending formula the government proposes which provides the greatest threat to the partnership of our federation. Once again, I stress that if the partnership is damaged, then we in Canada are in for very troubled times.
The amending formula proposed in the resolution is in two parts, and these are contained in section 41 and section 42. Section 41 outlines the procedure for amendment by the Parliament of Canada and the legislatures of the provinces. Section 42 provides for a referendum on constitutional change which will be called by the national government if it sees fit. I wish to deal with section 42 first.”
Let us assume for a moment that a change in the constitution was not accomplished under the provisions of section 41, which I will deal with shortly. If the Government of Canada particularly favoured that amendment it could, under section 42, issue a proclamation calling for a referendum to be held. Further provision of the bill states clearly that the federal government is solely responsible for making the laws that govern the rules of a referendum, subject only to the restriction that no Canadian citizen shall have his or her rights to vote removed.
How does this affect the concept of a Canadian partnership? First, there is no provision to allow the provinces to call a referendum across Canada in the event that it is the federal government which opposes a particular constitutional change. Second, there is nothing in the resolution that provides standard rules or principles to govern the referendum itself. Since the Governement of Canada is solely responsible for the rules of the referendum, it could easily amend the laws in that regard to suit its position on any given constitutional proposal. If it was in favour of a particular change, it could relax the majority required; if it were opposed, it could, I suppose, substantially tighten the requirements. In either case, the provinces would come under the complete domination of the federal government.
Instead of being equals in the Canadian federation, this provision creates ten second-class citizens within the partnership itself. Having made second-class citizens of the provinces under section 42, the federal government then proceeds to destroy the partnership even further under the provisions of
section 41. The amending formula outlined in this section is complicated, but certain key elements stand out clearly.
The first element is that no changes to our constitution will occur without the consent of the provinces of Canada which now hold, or have ever held, 25 per cent of the population of Canada. Of course, this provision gives the provinces of Ontario and Quebec veto power over any constitutional change in the future. Furthermore, population trends indicate clearly that no other provinces in Canada are likely to join this select group of veto holders in the foreseeable future.
The second element is the amendment procedure that applies to the rest of Canada, which is: agreement by two of the provincial governments in each of the Atlantic regions and the western regions. However, these two provinces must contain between them at least 50 per cent of the population of the region for their approval to have any effect. Clearly, this amendment procedure discriminates against the smaller provinces in our federation and denies them the rights and responsibilities of full partnership that they feel, and justly, that they have enjoyed up to this point.
Furthermore, it discriminates against the western provinces and Atlantic provinces as regions by institutionalizing different classes of provinces in the amending process. For example, consider the position of my home province of Manitaba and the province of Saskatchewan. Because of the relatively small populations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, neither province can substantially affect the result of a constitutional amendment. Manitoba could combine with either British Columbia or Alberta in the western region to meet the requirement for approval or rejection of a proposed amendment. However, Manitoba and Saskatchewan acting together could not alter the outcome of an amendment one way or the other without the assistance of either Alberta or British Columbia. Therefore, the proposal creates second-class provinces within the nation and further subdivides the provinces within the regions.
What does the principle of subclasses of provinces do to the idea of our Canadian partnership? I contend that it destroys it completely. Under the constitution of a country, people should be equal regardless of where they live within that country.
The Canadian partnership is further eroded by the fact that one of the partners of our federation is not granted any status at all, not even second-class status. Since the proposal requires that approval be granted by at least two provinces containing 50 per cent of the population of any region, where does Prince Edward Island fit in? If Prince Edward Island combines with any other province in the Atlantic region, it still does not provide 50 per cent of the population. Accordingly, for purposes of constitutional amendment, it will always be necessary for two of the remaining three Atlantic provinces to be involved in the process.
Prince Edward Island’s participation will have no effect one way or the other, and in constitutional change it will be meaningless, Prince Edward Island is a province to which this Prime Minister has kindly granted no status whatsoever. It cannot even lay claim to second-class or third-class status with respect to the amending formula. It is ironic that the home of the Charlottetown conference and the birthplace of our nation is now to be granted the unique distinction of having no status at all. That is a far cry from a partnership of relative equals such as I outlined earlier.
I believe the Prime Minister has taken what I consider to be a destructive course of action in a somewhat cold and calculating fashion. I also believe that this amending formula has been deliberately designed to stem the increase in political power which would flow naturally to the western provinces as the population increases and our importance to the national economy becomes more apparent.
It is abundantly clear that the western provinces are grossly underrepresented in the process of constitutional amendment proposed by the government in this resolution. The requirement that two provinces within a region agree to a proposed amendment opens the door to divide-and-rule tactics by the federal government. In addition, it allows the federal government to maintain its stranglehold over the provinces which, by right, should be relatively equal partners in confederation.
The province of Manitoba is under no illusion that it is able to make the same kind of economic impact as the larger provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta or Quebec. However, the people of Manitoba take very seriously their rights and responsibilities as full and equal partners in our confederation. This proposal could simply take those rights away, and Manitobans like other Canadians in other provinces would become second-class citizens of our country in terms of constitutional changes. If Manitobans become second class citizens under the constitution or, for that matter, if any other citizen in any other province becomes second class, there is no partnership. There is no equality for our citizens and the domination of the national government is complete.
I am warning the Prime Minister this evening that talk about western separation which we hear about from time to time in this chamber is not idle. Westerners are Canadians, and I believe they always will be Canadians in their hearts. But if one man and one party can unilaterally create second or third class status for the citizens of 50 per cent of the nation with a single stroke of the pen westerners cannot help but ask where is the value in remaining Canadian. Until now, the citizens of western Canada have been accorded relatively equal partnership in our confederation. If the Prime Minister insists on making people in the west second raters, it could easily be an action they are unable to accept, especially if it is coupled in the next few weeks or months with export taxes on natural gas, or on hydro. In fact, any unilateral action affecting the area of resources might lead to a real and growing separatist threat in western Canada.
Having made those comments and issued that warning to the Prime Minister, I would like to devote my remaining time to outlining proposals which might help the government out of the situation in which it finds itself as a result of its actions. We on this side of the House believe they would be well received all across Canada, they have been demonstrated to be
workable, certainly from the provinces’ point of view. But before going further, I want to explain once again to the government exactly what is so distasteful about the resolution which has been brought before us. First on the list is the Prime Minister’s partiality not only for unilateral federal change to the constitution, but indeed, for one-man change. This serves only to destroy our hard-won partnership and has inflamed passions all across Canada.
Second is the double standard implied throughout the government’s resolution. It is a double standard because unilateral federal action applies to any amendments proposed by the present government while all other partners in the federation must endure the application of the amending formula. It is a double standard because the Prime Minister, by his actions, creates distinctions and classes among the partners in our country and, by extension, creates second and third class citizens in a country which above all else values the democratic rights of freedom and equality.
Instead of destroying our unique Canadian partnership, I urge the Prime Minister to live up to his commitments made during the referendum campaign in the province of Quebec and propose measures which will renew and strengthen our federation, not weaken it.
On this side of the House, we are 100 per cent in favour of patriating our constitution, just as we favour any and all procedures and reforms which will strengthen the Canadian partnership in a manner consistent with the social and political realities of Canada. I believe the problem is not so much the idea of a charter of rights or the patriation of the constitution as it is the dangerous effect on our federation resulting from the manner in which the solution is being imposed, and the serious consequences of the amendment proposals which form such a large part of the resolution.
To restore faith in our provincial partners and begin to restore the sense of goodwill which is so necessary, I believe the Prime Minister should make the necessary arrangements to renew the federal-provincial negotiations beginning some time in the early part of the new year. Furthermore, if the Prime Minister is intent on persisting in unilateral action, he could make great strides toward restoring confidence across Canada if he changed this resolution to include the amending formula known as the Vancouver formula which was accepted, at least in principle, by the provinces. It would require that Parliament plus at least seven provinces containing at least 50 per cent of the population, express their approval of any future constitutional change. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that creates more evident equality and more of a partnership than we find under the proposed resolution. However, in certain clearly defined areas, such as the rights of provincial governments, provincial property or the ownership of natural resources, individual provinces would have the option to opt out of the proposed change. An amending formula such as this would have the advantage of restoring the goodwill and co-operation necessary for our Canadian partnership. It is not perfect; I do not think any of us could devise a perfect formula. But it is better in one way; it works.
Finally, I would urge the Prime Minister to call a special constitutional conference of a wider nature so as to implement changes in our constitution and set out the appropriate amending formula as I have outlined.
The irony of the proposal before us is almost beyond description. Not only does the Prime Minister intend to unilaterally impose his own will on the Canadian people, but he wants to accomplish that goal by asking the British government to change our constitution. In order to provide a system for amending the Canadian Constitution in Canada, by Canadians, the Prime Minister proposes to ask the British government for its permission. While that is the legal way at present, Canadians as a people are mature enough to be able to accomplish the necessary changes on their own through the vehicle of a widely based and representative constitutional convention. The British people and the British government are also mature enough to recognize that Canadians have the right and the responsibility to determine the ground rules for their own future.
If it were not for the fact that the government’s proposals are so dangerous, the irony of a situation in which an anti-colonial prime minister is using an essentially colonial vehicle to implement these changes, would be humorous. It is not humorous though. I think it is frightening. This proposal and its possible consequences on the various regions of Canada, along with the intrusion into the provincial domain of natural resources, could together lead to a frightening period in Canadian history.
Hon. Judy Erola (Minister of State (Mines)): Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the arguments and comments of all members in this House who have participated in this debate. I am honoured to rise in my place as the representative of Nickel Belt and to bring what I know are their concerns into this forum.
I am especially happy to comment on the proposed charter of rights and freedoms, a charter which will end all types of discrimination. As a person from a northern community, an ethnic and a woman who has been active in the working world for some 27 years, I have indeed been witness to discrimination. I would like to comment about that for just a moment as a working woman. I know what it is to be passed over for promotion simply because I am a woman.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Tell them the story you told me.
Mrs. Erola: I do not have the time. I am only allotted 40 minutes. However, I would love to tellthat story. I would like to say something to those, women particularly, who say they want something special. I say I want equality, nothing more and nothing less.
Northern Ontario is a hardy land and the people who settled it were equally hardy. They were immigrants from many countries with a multitude of ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds. They came to Canada because Canada offered them
something different. It offered them unlimited opportunity and it offered them freedom—freedom to follow their own dreams and to pursue their own interests.
I grew up in an ethnic environment. I can tell you there always existed a great pride in being a Canadian. Ethnic communities across this land are very conscious of their responsibility to the country which has given them so much. They first and foremost are good Canadians.
Every member who has taken his place in this House of Commons has, I am sure, at one time or another been present at a citizenship ceremony when new Canadians were sworn in. Everyone has seen the shine in their eyes. It is a genuine pride. They are proud to be Canadians, and we were proud as children to be Canadians. They are proud despite the acts of discrimination against many ethnic groups in Canada during the war. Indeed, the Canadian record is not without blemish. Most of us in this House have been made very much aware of what happened to the Japanese in Canada. I should like to tell you something of what happened to people of Italian, Finnish and to some degree German parentage in Canada during the war.
Italian parents of my friends suffered greatly, and they suffered unjustly. Though Canadian citizens with two sons fighting for Canada overseas, these people were marched off to be fingerprinted and their guns confiscated. We were all aware of other injustices against other ethnic groups. As a matter of fact, it happened within the church of my community. Despite it, ethnic communities across this country have persevered. Life goes on and injustice can be corrected.
I remember my parents and grandparents, Finnish born, speaking about the promise of Canada, of the history and especially the future of Canada. I think you will find that across this nation the ethnic communities are in general more tolerant and more sympathetic than any other group on the issue of linguistic rights. They themselves speak a second language in most cases, be it German, Finnish, Japanese, Ukrainian, Croatian, what have you. They appreciate the benefit that a second language can provide. It is an asset, an opportunity, a means through which we can broaden our understanding of one another.
Certainly in northern Ontario, in Nickel Belt, the Francophone community has had to fight long and hard to enjoy linguistic equality. However, I am happy to say that the previously unsettled atmosphere has now changed in my area. Let me tell you what used to happen to the Francophone in days not so far gone by. They fought first of all to have French minority language rights in the elementary schools. That happened. At the end of grade eight, after eight years of French language instruction, these children were placed into an English milieu. What happened to them in grade nine or ten? They dropped out. It was generally accepted that they were ineducable when the fact was they had been educated for eight years in one language and were then expected to sink or swim in another language.
That was changed. Through long and bitter struggles, we developed French secondary schools in our area. I believe we now have five. What happened to them at the end of secondary school? Did they have to go on to an English university? No. The people of northern Ontario did not tolerate that. They turned around and created a bilingual university, Laurentian University. In northern Ontario a student can go from kindergarten right through university in the French language. I am very proud to say that Laurentian University now offers a translators course which is the pride of not only northern Ontario but all of Canada.
I can also state that many of the youngsters have reversed the situation. Many of those who now attend French immersion classes share my own ethnic background, or that of other ethnic groups which help make up my riding. I might add that our courts in northern Ontario are now, for all practical purposes, bilingual. The battle was not an easy victory in northern Ontario. One of my early election promises was that I would fight to have minority language rights enshrined in the constitution.
To my constituents of Nickel Belt and French Canadians all over Canada, I proudly present this constitution, a constitution which guarantees the right to education in the language of the minority.
This resolution beforeus will enshrine in the constitution the rights to linguistic equality and educational choice where numbers merit. They will be protected forever. Linguistic rights are but a small part of this constitutional package. The renewed constitution will be the embodiment of our national purpose. It will define the basic sets of principles by which this nation will be governed in the future. It will be a symbol of the strength of Canada as one nation and the vitality of Canadian democracy.
I would like to dwell on this idea of symbols for a moment. Frankly, I think the beaver has been much maligned of late. I am very familiar with the beaver, there being many of them in my part of the country. Occasionally they are a nuisance. However, it was the only truly Canadian symbol that my mother, as an immigrant, had to offer us when I was growing up. I am rather proud of them. It will be very much easier for new immigrants who come to this country. They will have a flag and a constitution. These are not mere symbols, but real and tangible symbols.
Today we have so much more in our country, a flag, and a constitution that will be our guarantee for the people, a guarantee from their government to protect them from undue discrimination and harassment for all time. Basic human rights will be enshrined, not as mere lip service to well founded ideals but as part of the law of the land. The package of rights will have an effect that is long overdue. For example, upon the passing into law of the provisions of the proposed new Canadian constitution, injustices such as presently exist with respect to the rights of Indian women in Canada will disappear.
This is where I chastise some members of the House, Mr. Speaker. Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act which establishes criteria whereby Indian women are arbitrarily discriminated against has never really been an issue close to the members of this chamber, with the exception of a few, even though it was a blatant example of discrimination. The provisions of our new constitution will not allow such unjust treatment to continue. It is true that there is a period of transition; but the important point to remember is that such an injustice will not have the opportunity to reappear.
For those members who are shaking their heads, may I say that the women of this Parliament took matters in hand last spring and crossed party lines to make a statement saying they did not endorse it. Since then I believe that 42 bands have rescinded that part of the act. I am very proud of them.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mrs. Erola: I should add that all the women in this Parliament participated in the activity of this committee and signed the declaration.
A guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms can do nothing less than make us stronger; stronger as a nation and stronger as a people. If a government is to be judged by those whom it governs, and well it should, one of the main criteria for evaluation must undoubtedly be freedom. The best government is that which provides the maximum freedom for the individual. This document provides the Canadian people with a guarantee of that freedom.
Since the release of this proposal we have heard ominous statements of gloom and impending doom. There is concern in some provincial capitals that certain clauses of the new constitution will deprive them of their protectionist attitudes and practices. To this argument I can only say that this is Canada; we do not require internal passports in this country or papers and dossiers to travel from region to region, to work in one part or the other. This is Canada, a free land; a land where every Canadian is given the choice to choose his or her residence, occupation and lifestyle.
I have been behind the Iron Curtain where checkpoints are established on all access roads to cities to control the movement, not just of visitors, but of their own people. They do not enjoy freedom of mobility. To deprive our citizens of their freedom to live and work unhindered in any region of Canada is clearly an unacceptable option. Democracy demands better.
As a mother of two young people and through my contact with other young people, I am continually encouraged by their openness and candour. Something that young Canadians have done a great deal of—and I applaud them for it—is travelling. Every summer we see them on the road, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, discovering their country—discovering places in which they might like to live and work in the future. It is difficult to explain to them the artificial barriers to their mobility that have been created by narrow regionalism.
I met with several senior mining industry officials in Ottawa over a week ago and the first thing that they commented on to me was the importance of the mobility clause to the future of the mining industry. Unfortunately it seems that some of the provincial premiers—and some hon. members opposite—think industry can operate in a vacuum. I must inform them that it cannot
At this point, Mr. Speaker, I think I should read from a brief they presented to me, part of which they will be presenting this weekend to the conference of mines ministers in Halifax. The brief states, in part, as follows:
There is no doubt that Canadian unity is being seriously eroded, not only by the continuing dispute between governments over the distribution of powers, but also by the economic barriers that the provinces are setting up against each other. This contributes to the fragmentation of the Canadian common market and impedes the movement of capital, labour and products. Further, the climate of uncertainty thus created has affected business decisions. The result is to raise the cost of doing business in Canada, making it less attractive to new investment, both domestic and foreign. at the very time when massive amounts of capital are required to finance the many major projects which this country needs if it is to fulfil its destiny.
They went further, to urge all governments to give earnest consideration to these concerns which are shared by all productive sectors of the country.
Ultimately, the decisions on the future of this country will be made by the people. It is the people who will choose a formula for future amendment if the first ministers fail to reach an agreement. It is the people whose rights and freedoms are being protected, and therefore it is the people who must be the final authority. The people of Canada deserve and want a Canadian constitution, not a constitution that is an act of the British House of Commons. This last remnant of colonialism is an embarrassment to Canada and to many Canadians. Are we not a mature enough democracy to be trusted with our own constitution? Can we not be trusted to responsibly protect the rights of all Canadians?
I am a proud Canadian; the people of northern Ontario are also proud Canadians. The people of northern Ontario, like most of the people in this country, want to see action now—for us, for our children, for their children and for all future Canadians.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River (Mr. Oberle).
Is the hon. member for Dartmouth-Halifax East (Mr. Forrestall) rising on a point of order?
Mr. Forrestall: I should like to ask the hon. member a question, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River.
Mr. F. Oberle (Prince George-Peace River): Mr. Speaker, by now the phrases, “constitutional reform”, “renewed federalism”, “amending formula” and “charter of rights” must be etched in the minds and souls of many Canadians. But most
Canadians, just like some of us here, must be wondering what this all means and what has rendered our constitution so useless in the face of certain events which have happened suddenly and other events which have taken some time to develop.
There is a whole series of such events but I want to mention just two or three which have occurred over a period of time placing certain strains on the framework of our institutions and the fibre of our country.
The first event is the so-called “quiet revolution” which has been taking place in the province of Quebec for some time. Revolutions are really a short cut to evolution and the results of a revolution demand sudden and rapid change. It is really not the fault of English Canada, which was not a part of the revolution in the province of Quebec, that this change is now required so quickly. A lot of my friends from the province of Quebec do not realize that one of the problems there was that the provincial government paid very little attention to the most basic concept in the evolution of a culture—education.
It was only in the mid-sixties that the government of Quebec established a department of education and assumed that jurisdiction for itself, having earlier left it to the church. As I have said, the revolution made quick change a necessity. This change was proposed in two forms, and those two forms were pursued simultaneously. One of them was separatism, something that is totally unacceptable to the majority of the province of Quebec itself, and certainly to the rest of Canadians. The other form of quick and sudden change was the spreading of certain rights, which our compatriots in the province of Quebec legitimately desired for themselves, to the rest of the country.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) can never get it through his head that those of us who stood in this House voting against another resolution dealing with the Official Languages Act were not so much against the Official Languages Act rtself but, rather, against the way in which it was being implemented. It was to be implemented over a period of time which coincided with the Prime Minister’s own personal timeframe which was too quick for the rest of Canada to accept. However, do not want to dwell on the revolution in Quebec because it is not as germane to this debate as are certain other factors.
The second event which occurred, again over a long period of time, it could be said, was the incredible technological revolution which took place after the Second World War. Things which happened with respect to the electronic media altered very dramatically and fundamentally our very lifestyle in this country, as they did throughout the western world. Development in this field gave the federal government direct jurisdiction over something which was formerly entirely in the domain of the provinces. The television set is now, for better or worse, the focal point of all our cultural activities. That is probably stretching it somewhat, but it certainly is the focal point of much of our culture, and it is no longer just an entertainment medium. It is no longer just an information medium, either. It is certainly and most profoundly a medium of education.
As we all know, Canada would never have been possible in the first place if the provinces had not received an ironclad guarantee that they would always be in control of education and culture. John A. Macdonald was a fierce federalist, and he wanted to keep education in the domain of the federal government, but none of the partners would have joined if he had insisted on that. So, with the evolution of radio, television and other means of communication, the federal government, through its residual powers, retained jurisdiction over the regulatory control of these media and, in so doing, asserted itself very clearly in a provincial jurisdiction. This caused all kinds of problems, with which we are still trying to wrestle.
Then, of course, there was one other event which occurred rather more suddenly. That was the energy crisis, all the problems which were associated with that, and the obvious need to develop a strategy which would deal equally and fairly with all Canadians regardless of whether they lived in the producing or consuming provinces.
If we look at the three events I have mentioned, we might ask: why was it that our constitution was not adequately equipped? What were the weaknesses in the constitution which made it inadequate to deal with mounting tensions? First, the constitution was inadequate in that it did not provide a formula to redistribute the residual powers which were granted under the British North America Act to the federal government. In other words, in terms of the electronic media and federal intrusion in that area the constitution was not sufficient to bring the partners of confederation together and to redistribute these powers and give some of this regulatory jurisdiction back to the provinces where it belonged. The provinces did not take the initiative of bringing the matter before the Supreme Court for adjudication there.
There is a very weak and vague definition in the constitution with respect to the relationship between the individual and the state, and the constitution is rather weak, as I have said, with respect to the relationship between the provinces and the federal government. There is a lack of a formula whereby meaningful change could occur without creating tensions. The constitution also provides for an electoral system which is not suitable for a modern democracy, particularly one functioning within a framework such as ours, so rich in geography and so diverse in culture and demography.
Institutions failed as well. In particular—and I mention only one example—the Senate did not fulfil the role which was intended for it by the Fathers of Confederation. The Senate, as hon. members know, was to be a regional forum where sober second thought was to be given to what happened in the House of Commons and regional concerns were to find expression. However, as the different provinces joined confederation they had different priorities. The province of Prince Edward Island wanted many senators. The province of British Columbia wanted the railway. As it happens, in British Columbia we have 12 per cent of the population and only 5 per cent of the
senators. Those five or six senators who sit in the upper House representing British Columbia are all from the lower mainland, which represents one-fifth of the land mass of British Columbia. Even if that were different, I do not believe the Senate, since confederation, has ever fulfilled its role.
The prerogative of government leaders to appoint senators has always been abused by all prime ministers, and the other place has failed to assert itself in a way which would have eased the tensions and crises we have experienced from time to time. So, people ask themselves, “What can we do now to correct all these crises which are with us?” The people in the province of Quebec can say legitimately that something will have to happen if they are to stay in confederation. There is dissension in western Canada as well. There are feelings of alienation and, as we have heard in the last few days from some of our friends here in the House of Commons, sentiments of separatism are being expressed even there.
Among the people I represent there is certainly a clear consensus, if not unanimous accord, that we should undertake this first and most symbolic act of patriating the constitution. Some questions come to mind right away which would have to be answered, of course, but certainly all of us want to carry out this symbolic act. The questions to which I have referred include: Who would be the guardian of the constitution when we get it to Canada? Will it be the Governor General, will it be the Queen, or will we choose a president to be the guardian of the constitution? When Britain surrenders its jurisdiction over the BNA Act, what will it mean to our relationship with the Commonwealth? I happen to think that our attachment to the Commonwealth and to Her Majesty the Queen is so strong that not even the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) would have the gall or the courage ever to tamper with that.
So I say, let us patriate the constitution. Indeed, sir, that is the feeling expressed by all the spokesmen who have participated in the debate so far. I also feel, and the people whom I represent feel, that it would not make much sense to patriate the constitution without finding a key which would unlock it so that it can be amended when we do get it.
We have talked about a number of scenarios and proposals which the first ministers of the provinces have discussed with the federal government regarding an amending formula. There are two proposals in particular which come to mind: the Victoria charter and the Vancouver formula. I happen to think that the Vancouver formula would be much more fair and equitable, as was so eloquently stated by my hon. friends, and indeed it is the expressed opinion of our party that the Vancouver formula would provide us with that key which has proved so elusive.
The resolution which is before the House does more than just patriate and amend our constitution. It is in the area of the entrenchment of rights that I personally have serious reservations. I should like to say a few words about what it means to me and to the many people to whom I have talked to have a charter of human rights entrenched in the constitution.
I should like to agree at the outset that no one, either in this chamber or outside it, has a monopoly on the ideals which have been referred to here—freedom, liberty and human rights. But it becomes painfully obvious that some of us have different definitions of those rights and different perceptions as to whether these rights should or should not be entreanched in the constitution. Are we so naive as to think—as obviously the hon. member for Nickel Belt (Mrs. Erola) who spoke before is—that with the entrenchment of human rights in the constitution we will end all discrimination for all time? Are we so naive as to believe that with this one act we could end all discrimination forever? The hon. member for Rosedale (Mr. Crombie) was probably nearer the mark when he said that the constitution is not the source of our rights and freedoms but that it is the consequence of history in practice. You cannot legislate attitudes of people.
Basic freedoms and human rights have different meanings in different parts of the world. There are constraints to people’s rights and freedoms for reasons of space and reasons of geography. The country in which I grew up has at present 66 million people, yet it is only as big as my constituency in north eastern B.C. Obviously in such an environment one cannot exercise the same rights and freedoms as one can in a country like Canada.
Then there is intellectual freedom. Again, not all of us are as mature and free intellectually as some others are. There is also economic and political freedom. Some say there are no political rights without economic freedom, and they relate that to free enterprise. Some of us did not feel free until we started our own businesses, when we became free to make our own mistakes. I was always under the illusion that I was also the benefactor of things I did right. However, that is no longer the case. We are now more of a collective society and we talk more about collective freedoms.
In a society such as ours we have obligations towards our neighbours. This confines our rights and freedoms. There is also the perception of our neighbours which should be taken into account because, as it is said in the Bible, if your neighbour does not think you should be free, then indeed you are not.
In some countries in the western world today there is conscription and people have to join the armed forces and train in case of war because they are close to a flashpoint of international tension. In this country, after we have entrenched our rights and freedoms, we should no longer have to do this. Certainly our Prime Minister has never felt he should ever have to join an army to defend our country. What would the freedoms whichwe have entrenched in our constitution mean if some day it should be the intention of a country with a different political ideology to attack and overrun our soil and we all sat back and exercised the right, which the Prime Minister seems to have reserved for himself, never to have to take up arms to defend our nation? What would happen to our entrenched freedoms if the communists were ever to take us over? I grew up in a country where there was an entrenched bill of rights which was written by Adolf Hitler. What did
these entrenched rights mean when it was all over? I can tell you, sir, what it meant to me at the tender age of 12. It meant to me that I wanted to leave that country and start a new life some place else. Certainly when I came over here I had some real expectations about how this country should evolve.
From time to time there must be change. Indeed, one of our formenprime ministers, the Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson, said this_about the entrenchment of rights when he spoke at the constitutional conference in 1968:
If a mistake is made in an ordinary statute, it can be remedied at a subsequent session of Parliament or the legislature. But a constitutional error may be almost irremediable and the consequences serious in the extreme.
From time to time we must make changes to our constitution and from time to time we must expand it. Who knows, maybe we might even find it necessary to restrict certain rights and freedoms for a short period of time. The Prime Minister should know that. In 1970 he found it necessary to impose the War Measures Act. Will he now say that no such thing will ever happen again when our rights are entrenched? Can we all gain access to the Supreme Court tomorrow morning if anything should threaten us individually or as a society? I say that such thinking is naive in the extreme. Our constitution should be flexible enough to expand on occasion the rights, liberties and freedoms of individuals, and, if the need arises, to ask individuals in our society to join a collective cause to defend the greater goals of our country. Is it not one’s basic right to bring up one’s children in a safe, wholesome and congenial environment and to protect them from influences which would adversely affect them in their formative years? But as proposed in this formula, there is also the right, now to be entrenched in the constitution, to express oneself in any way one wishes. If we draw upon the experience of the United States where freedom of expression is entrenched as the cardinal principle of democracy, we must accept the fact that our newsstands will be cluttered with smut and pornography because there are people in our society who like to express themselves in that way.
Is it not one’s right to receive services which are essential to sustain oneself as a useful and full member of society, services that are provided by the government? The Post Office is an example. Does that right not conflict with the right to strike and withhold such services which is to be entrenched in the constitution? What about this most fundamental principle of democracy, the freedom of association, which is also to be entrenched? Freedom of association is really the very basis or foundation of our political system. One is free to associate with political parties and to express oneself publicly. How is the Supreme Court to interpret that after it becomes entrenched? The NDP, our friends to the left, might be wise, before they jump into that bath-tub, not only to check with the Saskatchewan premier who has some reservations with respect to resource questions, but also to check with “god” McDermott as to how he feels about it, because if freedom of association is interpreted in future in this country the way it is in other more advanced industrial nations, it means one can no longer be compelled to belong to a union. Not only is one free to belong, one is free to withhold membership. I wonder whether the NDP has given any thought to that little goody before they run away with their enthusiasm in support of this resolution.
For a few minutes I should like to talk more specifically about the latest attempt of the Prime Minister at social engineering in terms of two separate and distinct groups of minorities which will undoubtedly suffer very serious adverse effects. The first of these groups is our native Indians. In this connection, a group of native Indians will be going before an international tribunal in Amsterdam in the next little while to charge the federal government with ethnocide, which is a form of cultural genocide. One wonders why people in a society as free and generous as ours would have cause to seek redress in an international tribunal against the obvious and blatant discrimination they are suffering.
In this resolution we are talkingalso about the entrenchment of certain cultural and linguistic rights. I happen to think that if there are any cultural and linguistic rights which should be entrenched in any constitution, it should be those of the original people of this land, the rights of people who have no other place to go to replenish their culture. The fountain of their culture is mother earth on this North American continent. It is not derived from French, English, Italian or German—languages and cultures in evidence throughout the world. Their culture is indigenous, it is right here and there is no place else to go.
The Minister of Finance. (Mr. MacEachen) spoke in emotional terms about his experience when he visited with the Acadians in Nova Scotia who were celebrating 375 years of presence and culture in his native province. He said in glowing terms that this culture is still very vivid and alive. I wonder if the same thing can be said for Indian culture. If native Indians could look back 375 years, I wonder if they could make the same claim—that the culture which existed then is still vivid and alivein our country today. I say they could not, and I say we must do something to ensure that whatever change we make to the constitution and whatever we entrench in the constitution it must make provision for some of the legitimate aspirations and, indeed, the legitimate rights of native Indians of our country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Oberle: In his early culture the native Indian always understood the important relationship between rights, freedoms, responsibilities and restraints. The native Indian in North America gathered material goods only to be given away as gifts and in so doing he ensured the protection of the society in which he lived. We could have drawn a lesson from that, but unfortunately we did not. Not only have we denied native Indians their traditional rights, but we have fractured and broken the treaties we made after we came. We promised native Indians that as long as the wind blows, the water flows and the sun shines, they would be able to hunt, fish and live in harmony with nature as they had before, even though we knew at the time we signed the treaties that there might be some day
when rights of this kind could no longer be exercised as they were then. But even today we have not yet told the Indians that that is indeed the case. This resolution tells the Indian population, the Inuit and the non-status Indian population, that the Prime Minister is as committed now to the white paper of 1969 as he was then, and that today he is committed to a course of assimilation and integration at the most rapid pace possible. His opinion on it has not changed since 1969. Why does he not consult with native leaders before making these amendments to the constitution? In answer to my questions in the House he said, “We will patriate the constitution, we will bring it home, and then we will consult with Indians and other interested groups.” He forgot to say that the rights of certain minority groups would be entrenched and that the rights of other minority groups would be very much in a secondary position.
I should like to say a few words about another minority group to which I belong. It is not as small or as helpless as the others I have mentioned. It has always been reluctant and perhaps somewhat afraid to speak out. Most assuredly it does not have the same kind of claim and right to speak out in this particular debate. I refer to the one third of our population consisting of new Canadians who did not inherit this great land by birth. All of us in this Housewith the exception of my hon. friend from the Arctic have belonged to this minority group at one time or another, or our ancestors have. People come to this land for different reasons, mostly for reasons of economic opportunity, which compelled them to make the move. But in many cases it was to escape political persecution and tension. They came to this country to seek political freedom. By accepting citizenship in this country they felt they were entering into a contract, a contract to which they had contributed the assets they had brought with them, such as their education, the skills they had acquired and brought with them and which someone else had paid for. They made a commitment to totally embrace the practice and way of life which was in evidence in Canada when they came. In return they expected the kind of freedom which was in evidence here, the kind of democracy that is the envy of the world. And they expected it would be assured not only to them forthe rest of their lives but to their children as well. So they have a very clear stake; they entered into a contract and I, as one of this minority group, think this contract is now about to be broken.
As I said earlier, most of these people came from countries which do possess an entrenched charter of rights. Probably the most beautiful and philosophical charter of rights is that contained in the constitution of the Soviet Union. But what does it mean? It does not mean anything unless it is entrenched in the hearts and minds of the people who interchange with each other. Immigrants expected they would be accepted as full and equal members of this society and that there would be no disadvantages for reason of race, religion or colour. Again, the hon. member for Nickel Belt (Mrs. Erola) spoke in glowing terms of the immigrants with whom she came in contact and told us how they had been discriminated against. Well, sir, to entrench rights creates nothing but expectations which sometimes cannot be fulfilled. What, for instance, does freedom of religion mean to some of us? Does it mean that an immigrant family can come from India and bring with them their sacred cow and walk it down Yonge Street in Toronto? Of course not.
I can honestly and truthfully say, sir, that I have never been discriminated against. But my commitment was very complete to this country the very first day I arrived here. I was under no illusion that my children could be taught my native language in school. I was under no illusion that I could for ever practice my culture. I knew I had to attune myself to the mainstream of life which was practised here. Indeed, that was the reason for which I came. Certainly I have been in contact with bigots, of whom one has to be charitable and understanding, and it will probably be only my children who will become full members of this society.
Honestly, though, to talk about the generosity of this country one has to look at my experience as an example. Here I am, a member of Parliament. If someone had told me when I landed in Halifax on October 15, an immigrant at the age of 19, that some day I would be a member of the House of Commons, well, sir, I would not have believed it.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Oberle: Nevertheless, there are members of ethnic groups in my constituency who are being discriminated against every day and were discriminated against after the First and Second World Wars, as well as in between. The reason they are sometimes discriminated against is because they have unreasonable expectations about the relationship between the old country and the new country and their own relationship with this country.
An immigrant knows better than anyone else that one cannot legislate, the attitudes of people. Immigrants are most tolerant of those who are narrow minded and who have no understanding. Our immigrants know that only time can heal and that the only rights one has are those which are entrenched in the hearts and minds of the people with whom you live, the people who are your neighbours, the people who share your community. Entrenching the laws does not and will not help the immigrant, or the Indian, to make accommodations for bigotry and insensitivity.
What can we do as a government other than entrench rights? We can create a climate in which hostile attitudes will change. We can assert ourselves in the field of education. When I entered Parliament in 1972 multiculturalism was one of the identifying features of our country. Now we seem to be saying that multiculturalism is a secondary objective, that there are only two cultures and two languages with official status, the others being in a secondary position.
Sir, I know my time is running short but if you would permit me I would like to read a statement by the present Prime Minister when he spoke in 1969:
One must be in the wheelhouse to see what shifts are taking place. I know we have spun the wheel and I know that the rudder is beginning to press against the waves and the sea—perhaps the observer, who is sitting on deck sipping his tea, sees the horizon much in the same direction and doesn’t realize it, but perhaps he will find himself disembarking at a different island than the one he thought he was sailing for—
When I speak to my friends in the native community and my friends in the ethnic community I say I have the sinking feeling that we shall be landing on an island to which we did not think we were headed if we allow this resolution to go ahead, amended by a foreign country with entrenchment of special rights for some and not for others.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Mr. Henderson: May I call it ten o’clock, Mr. Speaker?