Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (26 February 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7735-7748.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
COMMONS DEBATES — February 26, 1981
RESOLUTION RESPECTING CONSTITUTION ACT, 1981
The House resumed debate on the motion of Mr. Chrétien, seconded by Mr. Roberts, for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada.
And on the amendment of Mr. Epp, seconded by Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton)—That the motion be amended in Schedule B of the proposed resolution by deleting Clause 46, and by making all necessary changes to the Schedule consequential thereto.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): In the absence, at the moment, of the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson), whose time will not be lost as a result of this, I will now recognize the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi (Mr. Dionne).
Mr. Gauthier: I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier) on a point of order.
Mr. Gauthier: Mr. Speaker, I merely wish by means of a point of order to seek advice from the Chair on the debate now in progress in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I would like, if I may, to explain my point of order to you and ask for your indulgence and direction. According to the traditions and the customs of this House, bills are usually amendable at the report stage, and it is at least my understanding that the Speaker gathers these amendments, sometimes informs the House that he or she has before him or her a certain set of amendments, some of which are grouped together, and before passing on the suitability of the amendments informs the House that she or he has reviewed these and that they will be taken according to the relevance and substance of the amendments.
We are here dealing with a resolution about which some backbenchers—and I am one of those—would like to get some instructions and information from the Chair regarding the procedure at hand. There has been a series of speakers on the amendment moved sometime ago by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) when he spoke in this House. I understand that the speeches to date have been on that amendment. I also understand that every member of the House is entitled to speak for 40 minutes on this amendment, and while we are
discussing that amendment no other amendment, except possibly a subamendment, may be entertained.
Some of us do have amendments. I suppose Your Honour will appreciate that some of us are not experts as to the receivability of these amendments and, since it is a custom and practice to do these things with respect to a bill, I wonder if it would be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to accept, or if it is possible for members of the House to accept by unanimous consent, that some of us may be allowed to table our amendments to this resolution. This would be for the purposes of informing our colleagues that we intend to move these amendments eventually. Possibly Your Honour could look at them as to their relevancy and substance, and perhaps group them together until some of us get together on issues we feel strongly should be incorporated in this resolution.
For example, I would like to move an amendment to include Ontario under section 133 of the BNA Act. I do not actually have any difficulty in doing that expect that the Table, the legal advisers of the House and everybody tells me there might be difficulty in respect of the receivability of this amendment. To avoid waiting too long I would like to ask for the Chair’s advice, or perhaps for the unanimous consent of the House so that many of us here on both sides of the House who have amendments could have the benefit of tabling them, having them published in the Order Paper and having the benefit of the Chair’s advice.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): We might begin by the Chair indicating that in some sense the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier) is requesting either information or possibly a ruling, but in another sense he is asking a hypothetical question. The Chair ought not to get involved in that because we would not be into debate, but into form of consultation as between hon. members and the Chair. I think there are other methods which may be more valuable to the hon. member with regard to how we might proceed.
I do appreciate the point he raises. I simply confirm to the hon. member that there is an amendment at the moment standing in the name of the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp). That amendment is related to the referendum section of the resolution before the House. Accordingly, any further amendment would have to be, under our Standing Orders, a subamendment to that amendment. If it were not related to that amendment, then the Chair would have to find that it would not be receivable.
I understand the difficulty of the hon. member, which is why I continue, when perhaps I might or should not. The matter which the hon. member really did not raise is the question of relevance. If hon. members were to insist that members rising in debate address themselves to the matter before the House, then they would have to address themselves to the amendment, and accordingly if the Chair felt the mood of the House were to insist on relevancy, the Chair would have to persist in bringing to the attention of hon. members that they must address themselves to the question of the amendment put before the House by the hon. member for Provencher.
However, that has not been our tradition. This is the difficulty all occupants of the Chair have had. The difficulty has been whether we are to insist on the rigid application of the Standing Orders or whether we are better guided by the mood of the House. My impression is that hon. members want the Chair to be guided by the mood of the House in that regard and not to insist too much on relevancy. That being the case, unless the Chair is given some indication of the mood of the House, the Chair will continue to permit hon. members to address themselves in a very wide-ranging way to such subjects as they see fit relating to the Constitution.
I point out to the hon. member that he may wish to attempt to lead his colleagues to an instruction to the Chair to be more rigid in the matter of relevancy. Whether he will succeed is for the hon. member to work out.
That leaves us with the question of other amendments and whether they might be receivable or groupable. Since the Standing Orders prohibit receiving them unless they are in the form of a subamendment to the existing amendment, I need not worry about their being groupnble, because I cannot receive them unless they are in the form of a subamendment to the existing amendment.
There is an exception, and that is why I think the hon. member has raised a very interesting question. It may well be the view of all hon. members in the House that it would be in the interests of the House to be informed of other amendments which might be brought forward. In such circumstances it may well be the wish of the House that some proceeding be permitted which would—and I think it would have to be by unanimous consent—permit and, in fact, even encourage hon. members who have amendments to bring them forward. That then would be followed by the whole business of relevancy, grouping and so forth.
The Chair is not in a position to make a ruling in that regard, but in so far as it may be of assistance to the hon. member, I certainly would say that I understand the desire of the hon. member to see an opportunity somewhere in the system to overcome this problem of relevance, which is in fact prohibiting other hon. members from putting forward amendments. I understand that, so there seems to me to be two options open: One is for the House to instruct the Chair to insist upon relevancy; the second is for the hon. member to seek unanimous consent for some method which would permit other amendments to come forward in this process.
Mr. Gauthier: That is what I am doing.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The Chair cannot make that choice for the hon. member. Because I think his point is very well taken I did go on at some length, but I think that is all that needs to be said at the moment. I should go on and recognize other hon. members in debate. I see there are other hon. members rising on the same point of order. I will recognize the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles).
Mr. Knowles: Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I shall be very brief. Indeed, I shall simply make a suggestion to the hon. member who raised the point. My suggestion is that he discuss the matter with his House leader.
Mr. Gauthier: I have.
Mr. Knowles: The question of how this stage of debate would be handled was discussed among the House leaders. Various suggestions were made. The one we are now following is the one the government chose.
I make the point that we are not debating a bill, so the normal report stage procedure does not apply. We are not even debating a report from a committee. We are debating a brand new resolution put down by the government. I make that suggestion to the hon. member, because I also was concerned that at least it might be possible for hon. members who wish to make amendments down the road to give notice of them, but I do not see that there is any way that the Chair can provide that. However, perhaps there could be another discussion among House leaders.
What I suggest to the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier) is that he speak to his House leader about it. He, of course, will tell the hon. member that we have already discussed it, but there is no law against discussing again something which has been discussed before.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) had not said it, then I would, and I will repeat it. The discussion as to how this aspect of this resolution was to be handled was a discussion which took place among House leaders over a long period of time. This was the choice which was made. In fact, as my friend has said, the choice was made by the government. You know, Mr. Speaker, on re?ection it was not a bad choice.
I can understand the position of the hon. member with respect to his amendments, but the rules of the House are designed, as we have seen from time to time, to protect the rights of hon. members, depending upon the matter with which we are dealing. Given the foundation for the rules and the reason for the rules and given the choice after long discussion, I think it might be better if the hon. member found another way to publicize what he wants. I would certainly be interested in knowing what he wants, and there would be another way outside the procedures of the House to deal with that, which would certainly allow the hon. member to make the point he wants to make.
If he had a statement he wished to issue I would be delighted to receive it. I must say that as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre was speaking I recalled the discussions we had. We had lengthy discussions with respect to the procedure that would apply. I see nothing thus far which indicates that the decision taken by the government with respect to the procedure to be followed is unwise or should be changed.
Mr. Collenette: Mr. Speaker, I wish to confirm the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) and by the hon. member for Nepean-Carleton (Mr. Baker). I was present at those discussions. If I am correct, this was a matter which was discussed over a period of months. The government chose to follow this course of action in consultation with the other parties. I think this has been quite apparent, but I would suggest this kind of discussion should really take place in another forum. I hope we will not unduly delay the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi (Mr. Dionne) who has been seeking the floor for the past two days to speak on the resolution.
Mr. Lewis: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not want to interrupt the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi (Mr. Dionne).
Mr. Dionne (Northumberland-Miramichi): You cannot interrupt me when I have not even started.
Mr. Lewis: I would like to reflect back on your comments, Mr. Speaker. As I read Hansard for Monday, the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) was not finished and wanted to go on. The Chair has now recognized the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi. You made some reference, Mr. Speaker, to the hon. member for Burnaby temporarily not being in the House. Am I correct in saying that since you have recognized the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi, I will be the next speaker to be recognized?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): No.
What I was referring to is a situation which sometimes occurs in the House; that is, where an hon. member has the floor then some intervention takes place, such as rising for dinner or something of that nature. There is often some confusion about that practice, to the extent that some hon. members feel that if the hon. member who had the floor prior to the recess was not back at the very next available opportunity in order to resume his remarks then he lost his opportunity. The fact is, that is not correct, he has not lost his opportunity. It is somewhat of a peculiarity of our rules, but he can come back at any given moment and pursue the remainder of the time allotted to him.
That was the reference and the explanation. Simply as a courtesy I did not want to leave the hon. member for Burnaby, in his absence, feeling he had been cut off. In a moment I will be recognizing the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi.
More specifically, I cannot promise to recognize any hon. member. For the sake of the peace of the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Lewis) I will assume he will be the next to be recognized.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Mr. Speaker, I would like to have this point made clear. Is there some right now for the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) or, indeed, any member of this House, to be absent for two or three days and pick up where he left off? ls that what you are saying, Mr.
Speaker? I want to make the point that this is a departure from what I understand the rules to be. I do not know of any rule—subject to correction, naturally, from the Chair or the Table—that allows a member to carry on beyond the next available opportunity. Therefore, as I understand it, the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi (Mr. Dionne) will be next followed by the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Lewis), at least with respect to this amendment. The member for Burnaby can speak on other amendments. I know of no right to reserve the time for him to speak at some later date. If there is such a right then it may have to be argued later, as I do not want to take up the time of the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi. I think the Chair would certainly have to point me to an authority.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): I think the matter can be handled easily. I am relying on my recollection. It is a very clear recollection I have of an incident where this occurred before and, in fact, what I indicated is what happened. But it is not a ruling. I am simply indicating my purpose for making the earlier comment. The Chair will undertake to ensure that I have not lost track of myself, or of the procedures. Over the dinner hour I will verify what I have indicated. If I am wrong then either myself or the next hon. member in the Chair will make sure the matter is corrected. As hon. members can see, I am relying on my memory with respect to a previous occasion.
I now recognize the hon. member for Northumberland-Miramichi.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Maurice A. Dionne (Northumberland-Miramichi): Mr. Speaker, since I waited what seems like a week and a half to start, if I do not finish before the dinner hour I will come back in about a week and a half to finish.
This is an historic debate, Mr. Speaker, and one in which I am proud to participate. I want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for having afforded me the opportunity to participate. Many of those who have participated in this debate have congratulated and thanked the co-chairmen of the special joint committee for the work they have accomplished. I want to add my voice to those who have gone before. I want to congratulate all members who gave so much of their time and talent to this great task. I simply want to say “thank you” to all of them.
I said at the outset that this is an historic debate, so I sought some appropriate sentence with which to begin my remarks on the motion before us. At his inauguration John F. Kennedy said to his countrymen, “Let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof.” Therefore, in my remarks, I shall try to be civil and I will grant to all concerned in this debate the opportunity to prove their sincerity.
However, I do believe it is time to begin anew—time for Canada to take her place in the list of nations which are truly independent and truly sovereign. No longer should we have to go begging to some other nation to amend our Constitution or ask some other nation to be the custodian of our individual rights and freedoms. I do not want to spend much time on the process, but rather on the substance.
I want to say I have no qualms of conscience about the Government of Canada wanting to remove the last vestiges of colonialism from this nation. Neither do I have any qualms about asking Great Britain to divest herself of any custodial charge over our Constitution, our rights and freedoms. Nor do I agree with those hon. members opposite who claim that any provincial legislature can speak for all Canadians, rather than the Parliament of Canada. I am proud that my party and my leader have taken both the initiative and the determination to make my country, at long last, truly independent—truly a nation.
We have heard a great deal about the need for consensus. Like motherhood, consensus is difficult to oppose. However, the arguments we continually hear in this place and in the press would lead one to believe that consensus is solely the responsibility of the national government and that the Government of Canada alone is responsible for achieving that consensus and any lack thereof is solely the fault of the national government. We have seen the continuous and constantly changing positions of the provinces making increased demands on the national government. Premier Hatfield, the dean of the premiers, has stated before the committee that consensus is not now possible and that it is never likely to be possible. But he correctly points out that this motion before us provides a two year period to achieve this consensus if all the players are truly serious. The Minister of Labour (Mr. Regan), himself a former premier, recently had this to say:
I was on the other side of the table as a provincial premier for eight years and I participated in a number of conferences dealing with patriation of our Constitution.
I saw the provinces demand more powers given by the federal government to thc provinces before they would ngrcc to bring home the Constitution.
I took part in the conference at Victoria, where we came closer than al any other time, before or since, to total agreement on bringing it home. In the end, Quebec disagreed and asked for some power which the other provinces wouldn’t agree to. But the significant thing is that this September, when the provinces failed to agree with the federal government after the negotiations had continued all summer long, not one of the issues on which the disagreement occurred had even been a provincial demand or under consideration or on the table nine years earlier in Victoria. And so if we continue to negotiate for another ten or another 20 or another 30 years, there will always be new premiers, there will always be new demands, and there will never be the possibility of total agreement.
So much for the demand by some for one more first ministers’ conference where supposedly all differences will be automatically forgotten, where there will be a love nest, and everyone will get together.
I should like to deal now with the substance of the motion, in particular with two or three items. First I should like to deal with language rights. Early in our history we decided against the melting pot theory of nationhood and opted, instead, for the maintenance of the language and culture of our two founding nationalities. The BNA Act and Section 23 of the Manitoba Act guaranteed language rights within the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba. The Official Languages Act of I969
gave all Canadians the right to communicate with and be served by the Government of Canada in either English or French. While the federal government would like to see constitutionally guaranteed institutional language rights at the provincial level, it will not impose such rights over the opposition of the provinces.
The charter provides minimum guarantees in attempting to achieve the widest consensus possible from provincial governments. Thus, when the provisions for institutional language rights at the provincial level, included in the draft charter tabled at the first ministers’ conference in September, received virtually no provincial support, apart from New Brunswick, the provisions respecting the provinces were withdrawn, However, the status quo is preserved and both Quebec and Manitoba remain bound by existing constitutional rights. As New Brunswick officially requested that these rights apply to that province, this is being done. In addition, the amending formula has been modified to facilitate the opting-in of any other province to any or all of the language provisions listed in Sections l6 to 20 inclusive of the charter.
I should like to quote some comments of Premier Blakeney. He said:
I do not object to the constitutional entrenchment of French and English language rights. The right to use French or English, or the right to receive some government services in either of those languages, is not, after all, a right which we claim as humans. It is an essential fact of Canada, an essential clement of the Confederation bargain, and, as such, is an obvious candidate for inclusion in the Constitution.
The minority language educational rights reflect the unanimous agreement of the provincial premiers in 1978 to the principle that children of the French or English-speaking minority in each province should be entitled to primary and secondary education in the minority language where numbers warrant. The rights provided by the charter are minimum guarantees and do not preclude the provinces from providing greater rights, as some of them do now, such as allowing immigrants and citizens to send their children to minority or majority language schools as they may choose. For instance, this happens in New Brunswick.
I keep referring to the province of New Brunswick because hopefully we, in New Brunswick, are enlightened with regard to language rights.
The federal government agrees that ideally the rights should be extended to all residents of Canada. Although it might be preferable to provide for freedom of choice in language of education, the charter is designed not only to safeguard the interests of the majority, but also to protect the basic rights of the minority. If the majority language group in any province wishes the right to have their children educated in the minority language, they have the democratic means at their disposal to ensure this result.
The minority language education provision is being implemented on the basis of the premiers’ Montreal agreement of 1978. This clearly specified the entitlement on the basis of “where numbers warrant”. Thus, this qualification remains, but it will be a matter for review by the courts. When they determine that the minimum numbers have been set too high, they can direct that they be lowered so as not to render the right ineffective. The charter assures the right to minority language education, but it does not get into the details as to how this will be provided.
I should like to refer to the comments of Mr. Alex Paterson, Co-President of the Positive Action Committee, before the special joint committee. He said:
We have seen what happens when a province like Manitoba wishes to take the fate of its minorities into its hands. It will wipe out with a stroke of the legislative pen a protection for its minority. Everything we can do to strengthen these protections for minorities by cntrcnching them in the Constitution will give more reason for the minorities to feel secure and expose them less to the mercy of their provincial governments.
It cannot be left to the discretion of the individual provinces to dccide. This is a right we wish every Canadian to have no matter in what province he resides. For that reason we think it is essential that rights of these kinds be entrenched and it is not in fact an invasion of the powers and competence of the particular provinces.
Now I should like to turn for a moment or two to the area of equalization. First and foremost, I suppose one should ask the following question: Why should the principles of equalization and regional development be enshrined in the Constitution of Canada? The commitments stated in Section 34(1) of the proposed resolution—to promote equal opportunities, to reduce economic disparities and to provide essential public services across the country—capture one of the most important elements of what it means to be a Canadian: a willingness to share our good fortune and our opportunities so that we can grow strong together.
I should like to remind hon. members that this commitment applies not only to Parliament and to the Government of Canada, but also to the legislatures and the governments of the provinces, although I emphasize this commitment does not alter the legislative powers of the two orders of government. There is great merit in enshrining in the Constitution the concept of equalization so that sharing will be an important ingredient in the future of our national life, but there can be no doubt about the current commitment of the federal government to the principle of equalization. All provincial governments have supported enshrining the principle of equalization in the Constitution. Not only do all provincial governments in Canada support the principle of enshrining equalization in the Constitution, and not only has the federal government agreed to amend Section 34(2) in line with the preferences of most provinces, but I believe there is agreement among the three parties in the House for Section 34.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): You are absolutely correct.
Mr. Dionne (Northumberland-Miramichi): When the joint committee considered this section of the proposed resolution on January 30, the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom) commended the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) for the amendment he introduced to Section 34(2). He said:
But now what he has done is he has enshrined the principle of equalization payments. I commend hint for that; it is a wise move; something that has been going on in this country for a long time; a good thing—
For his part, Senator Tremblay stated: “I would just like to say that for once I am pleased with a government proposal, without any reservation”.
I was glad to see the nods of agreement of members of the official opposition when I indicated that they agreed with section 34 of the resolution.
The importance of the equalization transfers varies from one receiving province to another, but with the exception of Saskatchewan, it represents a large share of total provincial revenue. This share is around 25 per cent in the Atlantic provinces; more than 15 per cent in Manitoba; more than 10 per cent in Quebec; around 2 per cent in Saskatchewan.
So, we ask the question: Why are these rights necessary? I am referring to both language rights and equalization. They are necessary; first to maintain and enhance the special character of Canada; second, to guarantee that no Canadian who finds himself in a minority position will become a second-class citizen, and they are necessary in New Brunswick, for example, to ensure that Acadians have the same rights, privileges and opportunities as the rest of us. They are necessary to ensure that the valiant struggle of our Acadian brothers and sisters over more than two centuries, will not have been in vain.
For two centuries, the Acadians had to fight for their rights, especially for the right to be educated in French. For example, they had difficulty finding text books in French. That was the situation up to recently and it certainly was not acceptable. With this charter they will have the right to be educated in their mother tongue without having to experience the adverse conditions of the past.
The basis for this solution lies in this charter but it is not in and of itself, the solution. The real solution lies in education and job opportunites, in the sense of justice and fairness of those, like me, who belong to the linguistic majority. In vain shall they struggle if we pay only lip service to principles. In vain shall we all struggle if dedication to principles is not translated into determination for action to eradicate economic disparity and to promote—with our money as well as our mouths—equality of opportunity. For as long as an Acadian must learn English to find employment, so long shall he be chained. For as long as he must move from an Acadian community to find a job in Fredericton or Saint John or even Moncton, so long shall he and his children be assimilated, just as surely as if he had moved to the U.S.A.
I commend the government and the Premier of New Brunswick for the right decision they have made on linguistic and minority rights. I regret that the government and Premier of Ontario do not have the same sense of justice. But espousing principles is not enough. I now call upon the government and the Premier of New Brunswick to ensure that those areas of New Brunswick where the minority lives will receive a fair share of the economic activity and growth ofthe province. And I pledge myself anew to that goal and to work for its achievement.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to say how happy I am that native and aboriginal rights will be enshrined. Our past treatment of our original peoples is perhaps our greatest national shame. We must endeavour to eradicate that shame and restore their pride and sense of worth, because in a very real sense they did not lose these characteristics, we have destroyed them. Our paternalism was never justifiable and can no longer to tolerated. Our past insensitivity and arrogance must end now. I want to live to see the day when our Indians, Inuit, and Métis will once again be able to proclaim their pride of citizenship and sense of human worth and dignity in this great land of ours.
Let us look at the positive side of this Constitution as far as this country is concerned. All great and united countries have their own constitution. it is the guiding light of all true democratic nations.
The opposition and certain provinces have been saying that our attempt, as a government, at patriation is creating disunity. They must realize that it is their negativism toward the resolution and personal attacks on the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) that are causing disunity in our country. I hope they will forget partisanship and join with us in making this a glorious event for Canada; a unifying force.
It is time for Canadians to stand up and say they are Canadians first—not westerners first, not Quebecers first, not Acadians first, not British subjects first, but rather Canadians with a rich heritage—Canadians first. The Constitution will go a long way to ensure this; it is the real key to national unity in Canada.
And so, Mr. Speaker, let us here resolve to get on with the task: to end the acrimony and division so that, in a spirit of brotherhood, and with the help of divine providence, we may achieve our natural potential to become the greatest, the freest nation on earth, and the model by which all others will have to judge themselves. If we have that resolve, that determination, then in the words of Tennyson, “Some york of noble note, may yet be done.”
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. I want to recognize the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Lewis) but, before I do so, I have to confess that unfortunately the Chair made a mess on its own doorstep and has to clear it up.
During the last few moments I have reviewed the statement I made earlier about the rights of hon. members to continue their access to the floor and debate if there has been some time intervening beyond the normal hour for rising at dinner or at ten o’clock. There is not even a vestige of a doubt; it would not be possible for me to have been more wrong than I was. Consequently, by the process of rubbing both digits of my I.Q.
together, I want to assure the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) that he has lost his opportunity to seek the floor again. I regret that I misadvised hon. members.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Doug Lewis (Simcoe North): Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the riding of Simcoe North to take part in this historic constitutional debate. Simcoe North was one of the ridings represented in the House of Commons at the time of confederation, 114 years ago. At that time it was called North Simcoe and was represented by Thomas D. McConkey, a resident of Barrie. The original copy of the British North America Act which is lodged in Britain was handwritten by Robert A. Kent, a resident of Medonte township in Simcoe North. At that time he had a dual function as a clerk of this House and also the legislature of the province of Ontario. He had a reputation for outstanding penmanship.
I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the proposed resolution because I was one of the members not permitted to speak at second reading when the Liberal Party invoked closure, cutting off debate in this House. It will not be forgotten by the Canadian people that the Liberal Party cut off debate at a point when more Liberals than Conservatives had spoken. In any event, the proposed resolution has now come back from committee, somewhat improved from the original disaster, but far from acceptable.
I wish to pay tribute to the chairman of the committee, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal) who handled his duties with dispatch and fairness. The disaster from the other place who served as co-chairman shall go unmentioned in recognition of his contribution.
Our committee members, under the leadership of the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), made a noteworthy contribution to the proceedings. Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party were well served by their efforts. I also compliment the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom) who represented his party so well and in the final analysis proved to be a man of principle. llis partner, the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson), the Emile Zola of the NDP, needs no further recognition, much us he may crave it. We on this side were pleased that we were able to bring television to the committee hearings. We regret what it did to the Liberal members of the committee.
Confederation is a partnership entered into freely by the partners operating in accordance with a partnership agreement known as the British North America Act. Partnership decisions are reached after consultation and discussion. They may not need the consent of all partners but they do need a majority. It is normal that no one partner should have a veto over decisions unless at the time of the decision that partner holds over 50 per cent interest in the partnership.
It is not unusual for one partner to have certain decision-making powers which he or she exercises in the interests of the partnership. That type of decision-making power must be exercised wisely, after consultation and an effort to reach a decision. Arbitrary decisions without consultation invariably lead to an unhappy partnership and dissatisfaction with that one partner.
May I call it seven o’clock, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): It being seven o’clock, I do now leave the Chair until eight o’clock this evening at which time, if he is present, I will recognize the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr, Lewis).
At 7 p.m. the House took recess.
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The debate was interrupted at seven o’clock. The hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Lewis) had the floor.
Mr. Lewis: Mr. Speaker, before the supper hour, I was drawing an analogy to the British North America Act and the Government of Canada as a partnership. I would like to carry that argument on, if I may.
In this case, the federal government is suggesting that it is legally, morally and politically proper for the federal government, acting alone, to amend the partnership agreement without the substantial agreement of the provinces, With respect, I disagree. I suggest it is legally improper for the federal government to decide on its own to patriate the British North America Act without the substantial agreement of the provinces.
The Manitoba court of appeal was asked if it was constitutional convention for the federal government to request that Britain amend the Constitution of Canada, as affecting federal-provincial relations, or the powers, rights or privileges granted or secured by the Constitution of Canada to the provinces. The court decided that there was no constitutional convention requiring that the federal government seek the agreement of the provinces.
I suggest that the court applied itself to the situation surrounding individual amendments, such as the unemployment insurance amendment of 1940, and the 1951 amendment regarding old age pensions. In these cases, there was general agreement that these were social measures which would benefit all Canadians, I suggest that the court does not address itself to the fact that the resolution which we are now debating completely revamps the British North America Act. It contains changes and additions such as a charter of rights and freedoms, referendum revisions, mobility rights, equalization payments, and an amending formula.
I am not debating or promoting the merits of some of these provisions, but I suggest they produce such sweeping changes that they will completely change the nature of the partnership, which is confederation, There is no legal justification to allow the federal government to rewrite the British North America
Act completely or substitute something which is entirely different. Surely, the partners; the provinces, must be consulted.
I suggest that it is morally improper for the federal government to decide, on its own, to patriate the British North America Act, without the substantial agreement of the provinces. The federal government hopes to pass this with a majority in the House and with a majority in the Senate. Britain will then be asked to approve a piece of legislation, when it comes back to Canada, which cannot be changed by Parliament using the same method. Other legislation passed by the House and the Senate can be amended or repealed by a civil majority.
There is no moral justification or principle for what the Liberal Party suggests. I am not surprised by the lack of moral justification for what they are doing, but I suggest to them that the end does not justify the means. By its actions, the Liberal Party is guaranteeing bitterness and acrimony across Canada.
I also suggest that it is politically improper for the federal government to patriatc the British North America Act on its own. The Liberal Party has no political mandate on its own. A political party achieves a mandate as the result of campaigning on a platform, or making a promise and then being elected to office. Once elected, that party has a political mandate for the people to do what it promised to do.
The Liberal Party was elected to office on the promise that it would not raise the price of energy. One year and eight price increases later, the price of gas has gone up 28 per cent, and the price of home heating oil has gone up 36 per cent. The Liberal Party forgot about the promise the day ofthe election. if, indeed, it ever believed it.
How does that promise, followed by that performance, translate into a mandate to completely change the British North America Act? The Liberal Party proposes to change the very foundation upon which this country has grown and prospered for 114 years. Such a proposal demands more than a mere five-vote majority in the House of Commons. It demands a substantial agreement of the elected representatives of Canada, federally and provincially. It demands a consensus throughout Canada, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C.; from Windsor, Ontario to the Arctic Circle. The Liberal Party is proceeding with its rock-hard, “My mind is made up, don’t change my mind with facts” majority of 74 seats from Quebec, joined by what might best be called “political groupies” from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces; and two lonely members from Manitoba, representing the west. Stick around, they are dropping like flies.
How does it pretend to represent Canada? In fact, public opinion is running 64 per cent against what the Liberal Party proposes for Canada. This brings me to the subject of the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Trudeau) actions with reference to this bill.
The Prime Minister berated the provincial premiers for their failure to deal with the patriation of the Constitution and the bargaining which went on. Who will forget his manufactured indignation when he suggested with disgust that the provincial premiers are bargaining fish for rights? Since he made that statement, he has made a few bargains of his own. He bargained for Saskatchewan’s support by allowing his partner, the Leader of the NDP, to introduce an amendment respecting natural resources.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): The little red rump.
Mr. Lewis: Unfortunately, he did not cut too good a deal because the Premier of Saskatchewan has rejected this legislation. He bargained for Senate support by allowing an amendment giving this appointed body veto power when he was faced with Senate revolt. I want to be here when the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) stands on principle and votes for that. But none of his bargaining looked as bad as the treatment of his Solicitor General (Mr. Kaplan). Speaking for the government on a Friday, the Solicitor General gave a commitment to support an amendment enshrining property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. The following Monday, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) reneged on that promise. As a result, the reputation of the Solicitor General was sullied and shattered and members on all sides were saddened to see what happened to this minister of the Crown.
On various occasions it has been suggested that the Liberal Party was fulfilling a campaign promise made to the province of Quebec during the referendum campaign by bringing forward this bill. If this legislation was supposed to fulfil that promise, it is indeed strange that the Parti Québécois, the Union Nationale and the Quebec Liberal Party are all opposed to what the federal Liberal Party are doing.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): So are the polls.
Mr. Lewis: I understand the polls today reflect that same sentiment in the province of Quebec.
Be that as it may, I would point out that this House made no commitment during the referendum campaign. During the time of the referendum, this House and the country were treated to the spectacle of Liberal cabinet ministers from Quebec reciting the litany of things they were doing for that province, and the governing of Canada ground to a halt.
The Liberal party has a duty to all the provinces, not just one. It has a duty to all of the people of this country, not just the people of one province. It has a duty to create a positive attitude in this country, but its actions have poisoned provincial relationships. I implore the government to think of the future of this country and not of the magnificent obsession of one man. I implore the government to seek the approval of the majority of the provinces before it proceeds.
Patriation of the British North America Act has been stalled because no agreement has been reached at first ministers’ conferences as to an amending formula. I say to you, Mr.
Speaker, that prime ministers and premiers of every political party since confederation are to blame for not coming to grips with this issue and deciding it once and for all.
The amending formula which this act proposes provides that amendments may be made by the House of Commons and the Senate which are approved by six out of ten provinces including: every province that at any time before the issue of the proclamation had, according to any previous general census, a population of at least 25 per cent of the population of Canada;—that might just as well read Ontario and Quebec—two or more of the Atlantic provinces and two or more of the western provinces that have in the aggregate, according to the then latest general census, a population of at least 50 per cent of the population of all the western provinces.
The amending formula proposed by the government enshrines a hatred for Ontario and Quebec throughout Canada. What relevance does the general census of 1870 have to the 1980s and the future of Canada? Having 25 per cent of the population of Canada in 1870 is a pretty flimsy excuse for giving a perpetual veto to Ontario and Quebec. The people of Ontario seek to influence the affairs of Canada but we want to do it based on reason, not on the I870 census. The people of Ontario seek to travel throughout Canada, to work and to live everywhere in this great country. We do not need a perpetual veto based upon the 1870 census. We do not want special status. We seek to go as equals, not preferred people. We want to go in peace and in harmony.
Let us look at what the United States does. In the United States amendments to the Constitution require the approval of Congress, the Senate and three quarters of the States. That amending formula allows fortexpansion, for growth and for population shifts without giving veto power to any one state. It is positive in its thrust whereas the formula proposed by the Liberals for Canada is negative.
In 1790. the first census in the United States showed that Virginia, the largest of the l3 states, contained 20.5 per cent of the population of the United States. If Virginia had been given a veto in 1791 it would today control amendments to the Constitution with 2.3 per cent ofthe population ofthe United States, although 13 states now have larger populations. The Vancouver consensus provides for amendments to be made with the assent of Parliament and two thirds of the provinces, with at least 50 per cent of the population subject to an opting out proviso. That amending formula makes much more sense. All provinces are treated equally. No one province is singled out for special treatment. It is positive in its thrust. I agree that the opting-out formula may result in some checkerboarding but, as has been so ably pointed out in this House, Canada is a diverse country and checkerboarding is not new. Besides, the Vancouver amending formula, by definition only, allows for three provinces to make such a decision. lt is my opinion that the Vancouver formula will allow us to change the Constitution more readily to meet the demands of the future. In an excellent article entitled, “The Living Canadian Constitution” by Alan C. Cairns, published in the Queen’s Quarterly Winter Issue, 1970, the author made the following point:
A constitution is not merely a piece of paper. It is a set of relationships between governments and between governments and peoples which has become embedded in the evolving habits and values of successive generations of Canadians.
I submit that we need an amending formula which recognizes the evolving habits and values of successive generations of Canadians and can react to them.
Finally, speaking as a Member of Parliament from Ontario, I would make one further point with respect to the amending formula. If this government intends to plunge ahead with the unfairness of the amending formula contained in the bill, I say please spare Ontario the grief of special status and, change it to read: the province of Quebec; two or more of the Atlantic provinces and three of the five provinces west of Quebec. We in Ontario believe in the equality of all Canadians.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Lewis: The people of my riding, Simcoe North, want a constitution made in Canada by Canadians. We reject the theory that the Liberal Party, without a mandate, should be asking Britain to amend Canada’s Constitution. We reject this government’s effort to make Britain a fall guy in this affair. Since the passage of the Statute of Westminster, Britain has been the trustee of the British North America Act. It has not had the right to amend the act except at the request of the Parliament of Canada.
It is a fundamental concept in law that a trustee shall conduct itself in accordance with the terms of the trust and that the trustee shall not suffer personal harm from acting as trustee provided it conducts itself in accordance with the terms of the trust.
Thanks to the diligence of the media and questions pursued in this House by our party, it is clear that the government told Britain it would do one thing in June and then did something else in October. If anyone is to suffer from deception, surely it should not be the innocent party.
Britain should not be embarrassed internationally because of Canada’s internal differences. That is hardly fair. It is a traditional course of action for the Prime Minister to cover a failure of reason by picking a fight to divert attention. He has been doing it to the west for years. Now is the time to take the course of honour, not deception with Britain and with Canada.
The concept that Canada should not embarrass Britain internationally goes hand in hand with another theory. Canada is a sovereign nation. If we manage our own affairs, we control our own destiny. Whether or not we agree with what the Liberals are doing, l join my colleage, the hon. member for St. John’s East (Mr. McGrath), in suggesting there should be no meddling in our affairs. When the Constitution gets there, it should be passed as presented, quickly, with no amendments. Briefly, I wish to discuss the charter of rights and freedoms. I want to talk about the concept of such a charter, the content of the proposed charter, the mechanism for change and two specific improvements.
My ancestors and the ancestors of many of my constituents fought the lords and kings of England to establish their rights. They came to Canada as free men and women. They did not consider it necessary to draft a bill of rights. They considered that the individual had all the rights and freedoms necessary. They were prepared to delegate away certain rights and freedoms to the government in order to operate an orderly society.
Mr. Blais: Tell us about Penetanguishene.
Mr. Lewis: The minister asks me about the town of Penetanguishene. The situation there has split the community. The minister is not in agreement with many members of the Liberal Party in that community who feel that the community does not need a school which is going to split the community. The riding president of the Simcoe North Liberal Association told me that. I appreciate the minister raising the matter.
The Criminal Code is an example of such a delegation. It defines crime and stipulates punishment for citizens who commit crimes. Elected representatives of the people decided to take away an individual’s freedom if he or she could not live within the rules of society. In certain other instances, rights were affirmed by documents such as the Magna Carta written in 1215 which enshrined the writ of habeus corpus confirming that the state must appear in open court and show just cause why an individual should be deprived of his or her freedom. I submit that the individual has all the rights and freedoms and, through his or her elected representatives, may delegate away certain rights.
I understand the concerns of my constituents who have come to Canada from other countries where the individual’s rights and freedoms are not as sacred as they are in Canada. These people are concerned about the protection of their rights because they were deprived of them, in some cases by governments in countries which have a bill of rights. In no way should they feel that any individual right is threatened in Canada. There should be a certainty to rights. For that reason, I am personally prepared to support a charter of rights and freedoms.
If we enshrine our rights and freedoms as defined in 1981, we must be sure that the charter contains all the rights and freedoms now considered to exist and allow for quick, easy amendment to improve the charter. No one in this House is a Solomon who can state unequivocally that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains all the rights and freedoms that presently exist or should exist. The values and attitudes of society change. That is the nature of things. I have suggested to many audiences that anyone writing a charter of rights and freedoms in 1900 would not have included the proviso that women have the right to vote. Would such an amendment have passed in later years if it had to go through the government’s proposed amending formula? If the amendment was considered premature by one province or another, it would have failed. Rancour, disappointment and discontent would prevail.
I am also bothered by the fact that my rights as an individual are to be determined by a judge, not an elected representative. As a lawyer, I have great respect for the judicial system, the judiciary and the rule of law, but I do not want to tell a citizen that a constitutional amendment is required to assert the rights which he thought he had. Government should be of laws, not of men. Rights not defined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be capable of definition or improvement by elected representatives, not judges.
I appreciate that the point I am now about to make is not constitutionally fine tuned. I ask the government to consider some method whereby the charter of rights and freedoms could be amended by a vote in Parliament, improving and expanding the rights contained in the charter by a simple majority of Parliament. But if rights or freedoms are being reduced, they must be subject to the amending formula.
In the spirit that it is the duty of the opposition to suggest improvements, I wish to comment on two possible amendments to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is a glaring deficiency for the proposed charter of rights and freedoms not to contain a guarantee of an individual’s rights to own property. The Progressive Conservative Party has proposed that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof, except in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
The Liberals and NDP have rejected protection for an individual’s property rights. That is a glaring error. The right to own property and not have it taken away except by natural justice is a fundamental right of all Canadians. That right should be enshrined. We do not seek to prevent government from expropriating a citizen’s property where it can prove a specific need that is fair and in the interests of society. But we are concerned that by omitting entirely any reference to property rights, the Liberals will be inviting a judicial interpretation that citizens have no right to own property. Socialists will rejoice.
I wish to put on record a letter I received from the Midland-Penetang District Real Estate Board. I quote:
Our board and its 86 members cannot condone and further condemn the Liberal governments action of refusing to entrench property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Property rights as presently provided for in the Canadian Bill of Rights should be included within any Canadian charter of rights and freedoms.
We do acknowledge and commend the cfforts of your party regarding the necessary inclusion of property rights within the charter of rights. Our board further endorses the Conservative party’s wording of this proposed amendment.
In today’s society, a person’s privacy faces countless intrusions. Property ownership preserves a feeling of privacy. It allows us to “get away from it all” with a sense that we are retreating to something which is “ours” and cannot be confiscated by the state. That concept is precious to Canadians. It is a concept of personal independence. It also fosters a sense of permanence. Mark Twain once said, “Buy land, they stopped making it”.
Surely the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be expanded to include this basic concept enshrining the right of every Canadian to own property.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I deeply regret that the Liberal Party and its members do not understand the necessity for an affirmation of the principle of the supremacy of God in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; because it is God, and it is not one political party, not any one man, it is not a charter of rights and freedoms, to whom Canadians should look for guidance. Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life. That principle should be enshrined in the charter of rights and freedoms.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I wish to comment on the unseeming haste of the government in this matter. I reject the suggestion that there has been a 54-year delay in settling the matter of constitutional reform, just as I earlier criticized the premiers and prime ministers who have not applied themselves to this important subject. I am, however, in favour of telling the provinces to get on with their proposals. Instead of press conferences and premiers’ meetings, they should decide on an acceptable amending formula, introduce the appropriate resolution in the provincial legislatures and give some finality to those things which they are so free to talk about at press conferences. There should be some finality to the provinces’ position.
I would also suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if they applied a similar process to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians would benefit and we would then truly have something of which we can all be proud.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Gilbert Parent (Welland): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Lewis) has stated, we in this House of Commons cannot play the role of Solomon. We all come here with different perceptions of Canada, and I think it is time for each one of us, in his or her own way, to share with the others his or her vision of Canada.
I remember from the play “Cyrano dc Bergerac” where the hero was once asked to write something which was flattering but untrue, and he stated in the play: “A man should neither utter nor write a word which he first has not heard in his own heart.” Tonight, Mr. Speaker, I share with all of my colleagues in the House words that I have heard for the first time in my own heart.
With the return of the landmark constitutional resolution from committee, it is at last appropriate to speak of Canada entering the early minutes of a new era; in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, a splendid new era. The yeoman work of creating a new constitution has now been completed. Oh, there will be more debate and perhaps some important amendments; but with this major body of philosophical and technical work complete, it should now be possible for all of us to begin exploring the vital prospects that flow from constitutional renewal.
In our quiet moments, Mr. Speaker, many of us have wistful yearnings for a new way to articulate our nationhood. There are ordinary people everywhere in this country who feel something for Canada. They have been seeking a way to describe vague, but powerful, stirrings virtually bursting for release and each, in his or her own way, has wished to pay this amazing country its full due. But, somehow, in 113 years of confederation, we have not quite found the right words.
The Canadian nationalist, the person moved by an explicit love of this country, has been the exception, rather than the rule, through much of our history. Since the first European explorers staked claim to this part of North America, people living here have been inclined to focus attention outside of Canada. We have been shaped by foreign symbols and events, many of them from the distant past. With each generation, this focus has been less appropriate; and with each generation a sense of unease has increased for the substantial body of Canadians, like me, with deep roots in this country.
There have been no words to describe our place, those of us who were born here, maybe two or three generations of us. This is our land. There have been few symbols to which we could attach our meanings; the 69 years before we could proclaim our Canadian citizenship; the 97-year wait for our own distinctive flag, which is to your right, Mr. Speaker; and the 113 years without an official anthem served as much to underline this point as to correct it.
I have discovered, Mr. Speaker, that the stirrings that I feel—the stirrings that I share with so many Canadians—are those of the nationalists. I am a Canadian nationalist. I am not an Ontario nationalist, or a Quebec nationalist. I am not a western nationalist, and I do not put the maritimes before everything else.
My nationalism is reserved for what distinguishes all 23 million of us, from Swedes, or Frenchmen, or Britishers, or Americans. I am not talking here about the sort of nationalism that isolates a people, that makes them arrogant or narrow-minded or exploitative. That is the nationalism of ideologists. I am talking about the sort of nationalism that makes it possible for a people to reach out, to be magnanimous, secure in the knowledge that they have something unique and precious to give to the world.
This nationalism flows from a feeling of belonging, from a sense of national commitment. It hinges on the ability of thoughtful citizens to capture the inspiring essence of nationhood in words and in symbols. Without a sense of national commitment, without a pride that rises above local boundaries, what remains? The answer is painfully clear because it is currently being demonstrated in our beloved Canada. What is left is competition for spoils fostered by wealth that has not been committed to greater common ends. Without a sense of national commitment we could vigorously exploit our material treasure for a thousand years, and still be impoverished.
I want Canada to excel in spheres in which we are particularly gifted. I want us to produce goods better than anyone else. I want us to celebrate the forms of artistic expression that best reflect our soul. I want us to pioneer new branches of knowledge and to develop an even more humane social system.
The principles that will make those ends possible are now clearly stated in a constitution that will soon be entirely our own. I believe that the great symbol of a home-forged constitution embodying our most cherished conceptions, our most prized rights, is a great breakthrough. In swift chain reaction, it will urge us toward a quiet but a profound revolution of spirit. Let me look briefly at the elements of the constitutional resolution that I believe will be the active ingredients in this revolution of spirit.
To my mind, one of the most important aspects of this resolution is that it guarantees that all Canadians will be free to settle where they want in this country. How can we have a nation if its citizens are not free to move around as they wish? Only if we can look for work, put our children in schools where they will not feel out of place and become home owners and build in any area of the country will we consider ourselves citizens of a great nation. Otherwise, we shall only be residents of hostile and restricted feudal kingdoms.
Physical obstacles to travel have virtually disappeared. We can go nearly everywhere in Canada in a single day, and in most cases, much more quickly. The only real obstacles are psychological and legal. The psychological obstacles reflect fear, apprehension and uncertainty, fuelled by perceived regional divisions. The Constitution we have been offered can only eliminate such perceptions by guaranteeing unequivocally the freedom of movement and communications. The legal obstacles are those which give special employment and ownership rights to local residents. These are certainly the most insidious obstacles, as they discriminate between citizens from one area and those from elsewhere. This can be the cause of serious divisions and great bitterness. Without mobility rights, there can be no question of the national commitment to which I referred earlier. For this principle to prevail, all Canadians must feel at home everywhere in Canada. This will promote an enlightened nationalism.
The ideal with regard to language rights would be for each person in any part of this country to choose freely which of the official languages he or she wants to use, but in reaching this ideal there must be no hint of compulsion. This, as much as anything, will be the test of our wealth of spirit in the post-patriation period. If some provinces object and say that meeting this challenge of spirit will be inconvenient, that it will involve extra expense or that it may enrage some sections of the community, then that too will be a measure of our spirit.
The third principle, that of equalization, is also to be formally recognized in the Constitution. This is a mechanism operating largely outside the glare of publicity, but it too mirrors and emphasizes the principle of mobility, in this case a mobility of opportunity. You see, the freedom to move from one place to another is the flip side of freedom to remain in one’s ancestral home without penalty.
Some have argued that without protection against movement each new discovery of wealth will mean a disruptive migration of Canadians from one region to another, but this need only be a fear if Canadians do not share equally the riches they jointly own. Equalization ensures a fair distribution of wealth through the mechanism of transfer payments. This enables Canadians with strong emotional attachments to their homes to enjoy continued residence without punishing tax burdens or confined horizons. To such Canadians equalization is the tangible evidence of the neighbourly concern of their compatriots in other provinces.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): That is well said.
Mr. Parent: In my view it is right that individuals should have rights which cannot be arbitrarily tampered with by government.
Mr. Epp: Hear, hear!
Mr. Parent: In a sense this puts the individual above government, but it also gives the individual greater responsibility.
Responsibility and spirit are linked. What person could freely declare himself in love with his country if it offered him no fundamental rights and gave him no personal responsibility for exercising and protecting them?
I am therefore in favour of entrenching basic rights in the Constitution. I am also in favour of an amendment procedure which ensures the participation of a great majority of Canadians to any constitutional reform. Indeed, as far as the Constitution is concerned, as it is so essential to the articulation of our national spirit, the greatest number possible of citizens must be involved as directly as possible. When we have finally patriated our Constitution, we shall have a solid legal instrument to protect and promote our rights and freedoms. However, as I said earlier, it is perhaps the symbolic aspect of the Constitution which is the most important.
This is not to say that we are currently without home-grown symbols. As I mentioned, our flag and anthem are now recognized around the world as distinctly Canadian symbols.
Mr. Blais: Hear, hear!
Mr. Parent: Niagara Falls, the Centre Block we are in now, Lake Louise, the old quarter of Quebec, the Vancouver skyline: all of these have high recognition value and symbolic content. Our current leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) and the Leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent) are all three united by a vision of a fully independent and responsible Canada. They differ on details.
With the patriation of our Constitution it is my belief that we will draw more fully on symbols and visions like these in forging our very own identity as Canadians. A Canada trans-
formed by a revolution of spirit will not be a Canada without disagreement. Passionate argument in the open over matters of consequence and aimed at peaceful resolution is one of the glories of our system here in Canada. Indeed, I see the vehemence of the debate over the Constitution as an awakening of passions rooted for all of us on all sides of this House in a deep love for this country. Who would want to argue in so lively a way over something worthless? And, to be sure, argument will not end with the passage of this resolution. Circumstances change, attitudes change and constitutions change. Nothing that is truly alive is cemented immovably in time.
The hon. member for Simcoe North mentioned that in 1790 the state of Virginia had 23 per cent or 25 per cent of the population of the 13 colonies. He pointed out that in subsequent years all the other l2 states became more populous than Virginia and that under our Constitution “Virginia” would always have a veto power. I believe this Constitution will change before 200 more years pass. It took us I14 years to get this one turned over.
Mr. Lambert: Why put it in there?
Mr. Parent: I believe what we should be looking at is not only a country that is growing but also a country that is flourishing, a country of which we and our children can well be proud of being part.
Argument will be required to establish the shape of that document in the years to come, but we must remember that argument is not the heart of the matter; it is merely the mechanism. Commitment and respect and love of country are the heart of the matter.
Outside this country there are no hyphenated Canadians. There are simply Canadians. There are no French Canadians, English Canadians, Hungarian Canadians or Japanese Canadians, but Canadians. That is how we are looked upon outside this country.
Is there a separatist sickness stirring in the west? I was out west, and I can tell hon. members that there are feelings of anger and frustration. I experienced them first-hand, but if there really is this separatist sickness, as our global neighbours look on us what is this compared with our united pursuit of excellence in all fields?
Is there a premier in Quebec who would like to build a fence around his portion of Canada? Outside this country he barely merits mention compared to the heroes and remarkable people who live here; the Ken and Pat Taylors, the Terry Foxes, who right this minute is fighting for his life, the Karen Kains and the Legers of today, or the Frederick Bantings, Norman Bethunes, Billy Bishops, Marshall McLuhans, and the Nellie McClungs of yesterday.
Where are the Rocky Mountains; not in British Columbia or Alberta but in Canada. Where is Niagara Falls? It is in Canada. Where is the Beaufort Sea, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Louisbourg? They are all in Canada. They are in provinces, but they belong to all of us. They are here in our Canada and, by God, they are ours.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Parent: Inside this country it could be the same. There is no need to reduce our cultural richness to averages. We do not all have to sing the same song. There is good reason to acknowledge the qualities unique to Canada which transcend political boundaries and political parties and make us one with our fellow citizens. Such are the qualities of the enlightened love of nation of which I speak. We perhaps back away when we speak of love of country. Perhaps these are words which should not be used by parliamentarians. Perhaps we should use the jargon of the bureaucrats in order to hide our feelings and not let anyone know what this land means to us. For me this love of which I speak, this nationalism, this love of country, is a statement which I have carried with me all of my adult life.
Each and every Canadian has the power to contribute mightily to this revolution of spirit. Let us not waste such potential by dividing our energies and battling among ourselves. Such is the importance I place on the constitutional resolution. It has been the unique opportunity of this Parliament to give it shape. Now it is our historic duty to give it a permanent place in the very soul ofthe Canadian nation.
Some three years ago, Mr. Speaker, I was at a dinner which was attended by the present Speaker of the other place. I take the liberty to name him-the Hon. Jean Marchand. At that dinner he was asked if he had his whole political career over again what changes he would make. He said if he had it all to do over again he would take one hour out of every week and he would speak to one of us, one of his colleagues, and we could tell him about our Canada and he could tell us about his. Perhaps if we did take one hour out of every week, we did talk about our Canada together, sharing our Canada without yelling at one another, and if we could truly sit down and listen to one another, perhaps then there would be the Canada that all of us visualize. After looking carefully into my own heart and to my own soul this is the significance I have of Canada, a Canada founded and growing and flourishing under God. Indeed, I believe that God is watching over and looking after Canada. I now ask myself a rhetorical question after these few minutes of sharing and I ask you, all of you, my colleagues, is my vision of Canada so very much different than yours?
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. S. J. Kerchinski (Mackenzie): Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member for Welland (Mr. Parent). He ended on a note which many of us on this side in the official opposition subscribe to. In the few remarks he made toward the end of his speech he recognized that there is a God. We in this party believe in the supremacy of God. We believe the concept should be entrenched. We will welcome him to join with us in opposition when the final vote is taken on this constitutional resolution which is not complete.
Practically everyone in Canada is in favour of patriation. Not everyone, indeed a vast number of Canadians, are not in favour of unilaterally entrenching this particular bill of rights in the way this government is proceeding. The entrenchment of the Senate veto and the formula for amending the Constitution by the provinces are matters which I oppose. I oppose the referendum proposal in the constitutional resolution. I oppose the veto to be given to the two provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It is a fence those two provinces are building around themselves. If you lived in any one of the other provinces in Canada, Mr. Speaker—and we have eight others—you, too, would subscribe to the theory that somehow we are secondary Canadians by the entrenchment of that veto for the two provinces. The failure to recognize certain Metis organizations, the failure to put the property rights, in fact, the failure to meet with and consult with the Metis and the insistence that certain Metis organizations and certain Indian organizations must belong to particular organizations before they will be heard, causes me to stand and oppose this resolution.
The absence of the supremacy of God is another reason which causes me to be in opposition to this particular bill of rights. In fact, I see nothing in this constitutional resolution but a divisiveness which will be in place forever and a day. Nothing short of separation or revolt will extricate Canadians from the mess we are in today.
Mr. Speaker, may I call it nine o’clock?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It being nine o’clock, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members’ business, pursuant to the Chair’s decision of Thursday, February 19, 1981.