Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (18 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 8841-8844.
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COMMONS DEBATES — March 18, 1981
RESOLUTION RESPECTING CONSTITUTION ACT, 1981
The House resumed debate on the motion of Mr. Chrétien, seconded by Mr. Roberts, for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada.
And on the amendment of Mr. Epp, seconded by Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton)—That the motion be amended in Schedule B of the proposed resolution by deleting Clause 46, and by making all necessary changes to the Schedule consequential thereto.
Mr. Al MacBain (Niagara Falls): Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address this honourable House as we embark upon the long and difficult road toward a truly Canadian Constitution, a road with an absence of signposts to give us the assurance at every turn that the direction in which we are heading is the proper one.
In the past, because of this difficulty of which I speak, because of lack of direction and resolve and because of lack of unanimity among all the parties involved in the constitutional scenario, we opted to do nothing. That itself was an option, the worst option of all. The luxury of continuing that option is no longer open to us. This is the time for change, the time for renewal, the time for faith in our people and the time to lay a new foundation for this country. This is a time which may not come our way again.
We ought not to delude ourselves as to why we find ourselves here today grappling with the problem of attempting to put in place in this country a truly Canadian Constitution. It may very well be that there are some people who feel our first legislative priorities at this time should be inflation, unemployment and energy. This is understandable.
We as members of this particular Parliament of Canada do not enjoy the luxury of that option. Each and every one of us sat in this very chamber less than a year ago and said, or stood by as our colleagues, said, to the people of Quebec in their hour of decision, “Separatism is not the answer; change can come about; it will come about; we can have our own Constitution; we can make it all happen.” That is what we as Members of Parliament said to the people of Quebec only a few months ago. The ink on the pages of Hansard which record for posterity those commitments to the people in every corner of the province of Quebec is barely dry. Those are the commitments we made. That is why we are engaged in a constitutional debate here today. That is why all of us must work together until the new Constitution is a reality.
The good work of the joint committee is over. We have before us the product of their months of labour. We are all indebted to the members of the joint committee for their contribution to Canada at this difficult time in her history The resolution of this House which was referred to the joint
committee was returned to us with due dispatch and many improvements. It remains for us now to carry on where they left off.
The committee’s report to this House was another signal to the people of Quebec that our commitments to them were made in good faith and that the Parliament of Canada is fully capable of bringing those commitments to fruition. No one anywhere in this country at this time should be labouring under any delusion on this point.
The commitments of which I have spoken were the solemn commitments of this Parliament, given with the full support of the people of Canada, and they will be honoured. It must also be remembered that these commitments were not given to the government of the province of Quebec or any other province. The commitments were to the people of Quebec in particular, and to the people of Canada in general. This is a very significant point which ought not to be overlooked.
It is a fair question to ask: What was the general nature of the initial commitments made to the people of Quebec and Canada? The Speech from the Throne explained as follows:
Because my government wants to strengthen the spirit of Canadian unity and nurture the seeds of renewal, it promises to interpret a vote of “no” to sovereignty-association as a vote for the rebuilding of the Canadian federation. My government also promises to give effect to a “no” vote by mobilizing all the forces at its command in order to ensure the renewal of the federation in it spirit of respect and justice for all.
Using these words as a reminder, we must remember that all Canadians promised constitutional renewal without delay if Quebecers voted “no” in the May 20 referendum.
It is also fair to set out in general terms some of the things to which we did not commit ourselves in the spring of 1980. We did not commit ourselves to increasing the power of the provinces in the areas into which some of them would now like to venture. We did not commit ourselves to strengthening the provinces vis-a-vis the central government. We certainly did not commit ourselves to 50 more years of colonialism if some of the provincial governments, for their own reasons, attempted to block constitutional reform.
We all fully appreciate that debates pertaining to constitutions, jurisdictional powers and national symbols become very emotional, especially as between the participants. Once outside the forum for such debates, the emotion generated is usually more temperate and subdued.
I offer in support of this proposition the Canadian flag debate. Many of the present members of the House were actual participants therein. To the participants, those debates were highly emotional. To outsiders like myself at the time, they could be aptly and less emotionally described as “the pits”, as our young people say. We ought not to take ourselves too seriously and attempt to generate a lot of steam when there it no turbine that requires it.
While the constitutional problems of this country have top priority because of the commitments we made, we must all co-operate to permit the essential day-to-day work of Parliament to proceed and to keep the constitutional debate in proper perspective.
While the people of my riding expect me to participate in the furtherance of the commitments of Parliament to constitutional reform, I would be misleading the House were I to leave the impression that they perceive the issue with the same emotion and importance some members may be tempted to ascribe to it in the heat of debate. Nothing could be further from the truth. They want the constitutional debate kept in its proper perspective.
As I have indicated, we must not permit the separatist Premier of Quebec, Mr. Levesque, to lead us to a dead end. We must not permit him to lead us and the premiers who follow him blindly to default on our commitments to the people of Quebec. As I said, our commitments were not to the separatist government of Quebec but to the people of Quebec. Of course, that is a real distinction. Mr. Lévesque never had a mandate for separation from the people of Quebec. On his ego trip to become its president, he forgot that the people of Quebec, like the people of British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, for example, are first and foremost Canadians. This is their country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, regardless of the province in which they may happen to reside. We will not bargain away at any price their right to live and to work in the province or territory of their choice.
It has been said, with some accuracy, that politicians make strange bedfellows. Such was certainly the case during the constitutional debate. The Premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, for example, were in bed with Rene Levesque. He is a man whose personal ambitions prevented him from seeing the vision of a great nation from sea to sea, a vision for which the great Canadians who reside in the province of Quebec opted on May 20, 1980. In the year 2000 what will historians say about that unholy alliance? It was an alliance led by a man whose vision of Canada was confined to the boundaries of Quebec, a man hell-bent for election to destroy this country and from whom Canadian history will soon reserve only a footnote. The premiers of those provinces to which I have alluded will find out what Rene Levesque did on May 20, 1980. They are leading, but no one is following.
Mr. Speaker, seldom in u federal state is the process of putting a constitution in place an easy one. For more than 50 years we in Canada have been unsuccessful in this regard. In recent years the growth in the political and economic powers of the provinces has tended to make the process even more difficult. In some provinces, principles which were universally accepted ever since confederation were suddenly put in issue. It became obvious to the federal government that the views of Canada as a nation, as expressed by certain premiers, were contrary to the views commonly held by most Canadians. There was a move on behalf of the premiers of certain provinces—not only Quebec—to delay the process of constitutional development in an effort to destroy or weaken the position of the federal government in its efforts to act aggressively in the national interest when circumstances warranted such action. Thus, it soon became obvious to those watching
the scene closely that the breakdown in the process was being caused by the different view of Canada taken by some provincial premiers.
It is perhaps understandable if provinces tend to act independently in their own self-interest. It may even be normal for provinces to pursue additional powers to protect what they perceive as their own regional interest. However, over and above the regional interest is the national interest; and where regional interest conflicts with national interest, the national interest must prevail. If that is a principle which a particular premier cannot accept, then it is obvious that the concept of a true Canadian nation will not be acceptable to him. If a nation cannot insist that the national interest must prevail in a time of regional conflict, then it will soon disappear.
The legitimate interests of all the people of Canada from sea to sea must be the concern of the federal government at all times. Some of the premiers want a loose association of provinces, free from the ties of a national economic fabric, free from a dedication to sharing, and without a strong, viable and caring national government. This they are not entitled to in constitutional law. This the people of Canada will not permit us to surrender to them. This they will never enjoy. To reach unanimity we will not barter the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Canada.
Our rights and freedoms are not the produce of the marketplace. Our perception of the willingness of the Canadian people to accept the practice of sharing is unbecoming the agenda of a federal-provincial conference. Our independence as a nation with our own Constitution is a commitment to Canadians which calls upon all of us to act now. The time for bargaining is long past.
It has been said, Mr. Speaker, that politics is the art of the possible. As a politician, I am prepared to accept that our legislative handiwork is subject to this limitation. With our legislative enactments, the dream becomes the reality of the times; the perfect clause become the consensus clause; and the ultimate statute is the one which survives the process.
With this particular resolution before the House one might ask the question: What is possible at this time in our development? Everyone will have his or her answer to this question. The witnesses who appeared before the joint committee tended to express the opinion that the resolution was not wide enough. As a result, certain wide-ranging amendments were made during the committee stage. It therefore appears possible at this time for Canada to have the following: patriation of her Constitution; her own made-in-Canada Constitution with a charter of rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined therein, an amending formula, language rights, women’s rights, native peoples’ rights, rights for the disabled, the right of residents to work in any province or territory, recognition of the multicultural heritage of Canadians, and a commitment by the federal government and the provinces to sharing among the provinces, to ensure that all provinces are able to provide their residents with essential services at a cost they can afford. In broad terms, Mr. Speaker, that is what is now possible. It is the minimum. History will judge us harshly if we deliver less. To deliver much more at this point in time may be impossible.
I want to conclude by referring to the historic proceedings of the joint committee of January 30, 1981. That is a day to remember in the history of our country. That is the day we laid the foundation for a new beginning in Canada. I appreciate that every Canadian will find a specific provision in our new Constitution which to him or her will be the cornerstone. That is understandable. For many, Part III of the Constitution pertaining to equalization and regional disparities will be the key provisions. Still others will discover their own preferences; for example, women’s rights, the rights of the disabled and the like. All will understand that the new Constitution is only the foundation for the new beginning of which I have spoken. Much work remains to be done. Still, it will give us a firm foundation on which to build a better Canada.
To the nation builders of the future we will leave a strong foundation; but still the task will not be easy. There will be times in the future when some members will stand in this very House and say that the members of the Thirty-second Parliament were dreamers, that we gave them goals impossible to achieve. To those future members of this House who will be troubled because of the magnitude of what is expected of them—I would like to say, through the pages of Hansard, that while we gave them a foundation for a magnificent edifice, we were also careful to ensure that they had the necessary human and natural resources.
If shared, the natural resource base in this country is adequate to complete the task—and we have not really begun to use our human resources to the fullest. We ask the future nation builders to give to women full and equal opportunity in the true sense and meaning of those words. We also invite them in future to look to our native peoples and the disabled for strength, guidance and wisdom. These reservoirs of human resources have been almost totally ignored in the past. They have been ignored not only to the detriment of women, native peoples and the disabled, but to the detriment of our country in general. If this and future generations fail to make full use of the human resources to which I have just referred, then truly the goals that we in the Thirty-second Parliament set will, in fact, be impossible to achieve.
I am sure that on January 30, 1981, the distinguished member of the New Democratic Party for the Northwest Territories also had these untapped human resources in mind when the joint committee voted to include the rights of the aboriginal peoples in the Constitution, and when he said these historic words: “Together we will build a great nation.”
Mr. Lorne McCuish (Prince George-Bulkley Valley): Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great day in my life to have the opportunity now to speak in this House on the Constitution of Canada. The Constitution is not just a symbol of the country, it should also be the working document which would be used to define the relationship between the federal and provincial partners in confederation.
As I rise in my place, I stand to make an appeal to those Canadians who truly believe in our parliamentary system of government and the workings of our truly unique democracy. However, I feel that this democracy is in jeopardy.
Although I represent but a small part of the country, I should not be considered to be any less a Canadian than other representatives in this chamber. I have a great sadness in my heart because this resolution will ultimately cause me to be less a Canadian due to the amending formula therein. Should this resolution become law, British Columbians would become second-class citizens.
I also have a sense of sadness because some time soon, when I rise to participate in any debate in this House, I could well be representing a province which has been given a status much less meaningful than Ontario or Quebec, for example. That status would hurt me and millions of western Canadians who believe in a federal state. Tradition will be changed, convention will be changed, and these qualities will no longer be prevalent in Canada.
Putting political affiliation aside, if we are able to bring our Constitution home and make changes for the good of the people by patriating the BNA Act, there should be no change in the status of Canadians simply because they may live in a certain region. Every Canadian should feel that his or her representative in Parliament has an equal voice and an equal vote in the House of Commons. If this resolution is accepted without amendment, the equality respected by all of Canada will no longer exist because this House is being overshadowed by the singular view of a singular individual who has decided that this is the way it will be done, and he will let no one else try to influence his vision. He says, “We will play my game until I decide the game will finish.” Canadians do not wish to play games with their future or their Constitution.
When one speaks of credibility, one should look at the last federal election. During the 1980 election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) made five basic commitments to the Canadian people on which he sought re-election. First, he promised better management of the finances of the nation. Second, the Prime Minister promised energy security and fair prices for oil. Third, he promised to develop an industrial strategy which would provide jobs, spur growth, and increase Canadian ownership and control. Fourth, he promised a government which would realize the aspirations of the provinces and the economic contributions and potential of each region. His fifth promise was to enhance the security of individuals by helping those who most needed assistance.
If the Liberals were returned to power, the Prime Minister promised an economic package which would bring Canada out of its present recession. There was no mention of patriating the Constitution. The Prime Minister was given no mandate from the people to proceed with unilateral action. Mr. Speaker, would you buy a used car from that man?
This status hurts me. I am glad to see that a few of the hon. members of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party have decided to support the official opposition in objecting to the Prime Minister’s attempt to singularly seduce Canada. We witness the workings of a man who, through his manipulative manoeuvres in this Parliament, has made a mockery of this House. Respect for Parliament and its tradition has been permanently damaged and is now forever mangy. Decisions are no longer made here in Canada, and Canada has lost a place where its interests are protected.
I fear that my words and the words of my colleagues will go unnoticed by the Prime Minister. That is one of the most unfortunate realities of this debate. This government is insensitive to the needs of Canadians. It is a government which refuses to recognize that we are headed for a destiny of complete and ultimate destruction as a nation.
The Prime Minister must dream about the Constitution when he sleeps at night. He must dream about his place in history. He must dream about Canadians flocking behind him, as he has trained his flock of sheep across the floor. However, the Prime Minister’s dream will soon become a nightmare for every Canadian and for generations of future Canadians. I stand here with heavy heart to appeal to those who have unconsciously accepted the dream of the Prime Minister. Members opposite should take a sober look at what may happen to this country.
I would like to quote the point made recently by Manitoba MLA, Sydney Green. He states:
The question now in dispute is whether we are going to continue to enjoy parliamentary democracy as we know it, which presumes that legislators do not confer rights either by staring them or declaring them. According to the common law principles under which we operate, the citizen has every right except that which has been expressly taken away by Parliament.
We are being asked to change to a system whereby Parliament declares rights, and then these rights are not interpreted by Parliament, but are interpreted by an appointed judiciary, which is not responsible to the public, and which, for the future, in the absence of a constitutional amendment—and we know how difficult that is to obtain—has these matters under its jurisdiction.
On that fateful day in December, 1979, when the Conservative government was defeated in this House, hon. members of the New Democratic Party demonstrated their total lack of any semblance of intestinal fortitude. At that time they dismissed out of hand any wish or will to experience short-term pain for long-term gain. Small wonder, then, that just one year later, after a sordid display of political prostitution, they leaped on the Liberals’ three-wheel bandwagon which called for short-term gain for long-term pain—short-term gain for them and long-term pain for the people of Canada. They did this solely to bask in the sordid limelight of the Prime Minister’s constitutional proposals.
Before coming to this House I had a degree of respect for the New Democratic Party. While I did not agree with its socialistic philosophies, I gave it credit for being principled. How naive I was! The little red rump has displayed many traits in my presence in this House, but not one of them is based on principle. This has proven to me that its members, are nothing more than Liberals lap dogs. It is time we supplied Members of Parliament with uniforms, for how else can we distinguish the NDP from the Liberals? Time and time again we have seen the NDP barter here and bicker there, selling their principles for some paltry political gain. But they say that
that is part of the game; that that is what politics is all about. That is fine. Let them indulge in their puny political pastimes with other forms of legislation, but not with our Constitution, our rights, our freedoms or our very future.
Fortunately, there are a few hon. members to my left, and many across the floor, who recognize the fine distinction between the enshrining and entombing of our rights, Fortunately, these members have the courage and forethought to break with their leaders, recognizing that our Constitution should be the product of our people, not the passing fancies and whims of political autocrats.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, before this resolution comes to a vote in this House, other members opposite and to my left will regain their pride and draw courage from the stand taken by their colleagues. Surely they will realize that their constituents, not their leaders, sent them here, and sent them here to represent the electors.
Let me ask you, Mr. Speaker, will we as Canadians be proud of our new Constitution once it becomes totally Canadian? Will we be proud of the fact that there is so much opposition to this resolution? Will we feel comfortable once we see a new and patriated Constitution as law? Can every member in the House say with sincerity that this is a Constitution based on the input and co- operation of all Canadians and elected bodies?
Obviously, the answer to all those questions is an emphatic No! No, this Constitution will not be the result of consultation and co-operation. Canadians will not decide how it is to be done. Unilateralism and the guillotine style of debate has formed our Constitution. Parliament has been left out of the process. This debate is just a formality in the eyes of the Prime Minister. Once this debate comes to an end, the Prime Minister will have his way and will be happy.
He will be able to walk away knowing full well that he again overstepped his boundaries, continuing his manifestation of supremacy. Is that democracy?
For a moment, Mr. Speaker, allow me to comment on three attitudes which speckle—like fly specks—this constitutional resolution. These attitudes are arrogance, duplicity and incredibility.
Arrogance is not something you are born with, it is something that grows on you, like a big, green wart! The author and mover of this constitutional nightmare has a real doozie of a dose of arrogance. The Prime Minister, determined above all else to go down in Canadian history as the midwife of patriation, will do or say anything to force his will on this wonderful country and to hit high “C” in his swan song to the Canadian political scene.
Try on some of these incredible quotes for size, Mr. Speaker. As we all know, the Prime Minister loves to create adversity. He has stated in the past; “The kind of opposition we bring against ourselves, I find invigorating.” Or: “Yes, we are being divisive.” Or: “I must have had a hell of a tongue in cheek.” Or: “I’ll put in any amendment you want, so long as you pass the package.” ln another quote, Mr. Speaker, listing his priorities, he said: “The Queen falls somewhere after skiing and avocados.” The Prime Minister has the gall to say that “Until God comes in and does it, we have to believe in it sovereign people.” The Prime Minister insults our belief in God and says he believes in the sovereignty of the people. Why, then, does he not permit the people to participate and decide how this constitutional question should be handled? The Prime Minister puts the cap on it when he insults our belief in the supremacy of God.
A constitution should be the seed of national harmony, not the funeral rites of respect and understanding. A constitution should have heritage for its father and inspiration for its mother.
Mr. Speaker, let me speak about credibility-credibility in the eyes and ears of the public. Let me just demonstrate with some crystal clear evidence that the public is not so easily duped as the Prime Minister believes.
We talk of human rights. Is the Prime Minister violating human rights by expounding this resolution to us? He choked and will continue to choke the right of representatives to contribute and involve themselves in this debate. He ignores the premiers; he moves into provincial territory and revokes their constitutional rights.
When we speak of fundamental rights and freedoms, it is important for Canadians to know how they may be affected when this resolution becomes law. I firmly believe that Canadians will lose basic rights if this charter is accepted. The first right is the individual enjoyment of property without fear of confiscation by the government. Mr. Speaker, this right is no longer protected.
If we look back in history, the right to own property has always been protected in Canada; it is a right stemming from the Magna Carta. It has been upheld in Canada’s courts and statute law. It was reconfirmed in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights and is protected internationally through the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. The Prime Minister has sold Canadians down the river for the support of the NDP. The Prime Minister has sold the property rights of the people for the sake of NDP support.
Canadians may believe that once they own property the government will never attempt to confiscate that property. That is not true. There is a provision within the proposed charter which makes all previous laws protecting property completely void. Therefore, rights given under past laws that are not included in this Constitution are overridden.
Then, Mr. Speaker, the question of equalization arises. Again, tucked away within the resolution is the provision that the central government has given itself the right to do what it pleases under the so-called equalization scheme.
Should this resolution pass into law, the Government of Canada could redistribute provincial revenue without the consent or co-operation of any province. The federal government could walk into my province of British Columbia and redirect resource revenue for the sake of central Canada. Equalization
can be beneficial only if it is carried out in a manner which benefits everyone. The present plan will give the central government the right to take without justification.
Not only property rights are omitted from the Constitution. By omission we will also lose the ancient, democratic right of trial before a court that is independent from government interference. Even the infamous War Measures Act is incorporated in the new Constitution. Under that provision, the government can send anyone to prison for mere political agitation. One need not break the law; if one even apprehends insurrection, the government can act.
Even if a person is accused of an unproven crime, the right to a quick and lawful trial is no longer guaranteed. Habeas corpus, the ancient guarantee of trial, is gone and is replaced by Section 11(b). The government may now decide what is a “reasonable” time to bring about a trial.
Nor can one count on being humanely treated in prison. The term “cruel and unusual treatment” contained in Section 12 is very ambiguous. A daily beating is not considered “cruel and unusual” in many countries.
The loss of those vitally important rights that have been enjoyed in this democracy will be disastrous for all Canadians. However, western Canadians will suffer much worse results. Western Canada will become the colony of central Canada. The amending formula gives Ontario and Quebec a permanent veto over the wishes of the rest of Canada. I suppose, Mr. Speaker, that permanent agitation between the west and the east will prove to be the most destructive element of the Prime Minister’s resolution.
There is not a totalitarian country in the world which allows property rights; there is not a free country in the world which does not allow property rights.
These are but a few of my concerns, but they point to the grave dangers of entrenchment. A government which would damn the torpedoes and ram this horrendous piece of legislation down the throats of Canadians would use a Model T Ford plan for a moon shot.
Let me illustrate the fallacies contained in this constitutional package. We have witnessed a major confrontation over the control of resources which were retained by the province of British Columbia ll0 years ago when it became a full partner in confederation. in l867, the provinces retained control of their natural resources under Section 109 of the British North America Act. In addition, the Constitution further provided that those resources belonging to the provinces were not liable to taxation. Provincial control made good sense then and it makes good sense now. The federal government now appears to be saying that our resource revenues should be pre-empted in the national interest. The problem is the difficulty in understanding their definition of the national interest.
Canada is a diverse partnership of peoples with linguistic, cultural and regional interests. The survival of that partnership is now being subjected to considerable strain because of the absence of economic, political and legal recognition of those interests.
When we talk about introducing a charter of rights, we should remember that one of the most basic rights in a federation is for the component parts to participate in any change. The provinces are part of the Canadian democracy. To reject their views in the ultimate decision is a fundamental breach of a democratic right.
A serious problem is bound to occur where provincial legislation will be invalidated under the proposed charter of rights. If such a provision is tested, will the courts find that the federal government succeeded in unilaterally altering the basic law affecting property and civil rights, or of any rights of any province without the consent of the provincial government which is required by convention? That is unlikely. Do we accept the view of the current Minister of Justice of Canada (Mr. Chrétien), who does not wish to refer the issue to our Supreme Court “because the Supreme Court is very unreliable—?”
Being supportive of provincial rights is part of being a Canadian. Our nation is composed of both federal and provincial governments. Indeed, the provincial contributions have been an integral part of making our country what it is today. I take exception to being the target of those who wrap their policy and political acts in the flag of our country and, by implication, demean members who were elected to speak on behalf of a federal state within the confederation of Canada. My objective and duty is also to defend those rights retained by our province as a term and condition of entering confederation.
The political reality in Canada is that our federal government is elected or defeated east of the Manitoba border. The western provinces, in the national context, are in a political wilderness.
Since the Prime Minister failed to secure even a majority consensus in Canada, he now asks the British members of parliament to interfere in the internal affairs of Canada by amending our federal Constitution without agreement of the partners in our confederation.
How can one who is prepared to sacrifice provincial rights be a Canadian federalist? Where is the massive public acceptance of the Prime Minister’s initiative?
We must remind ourselves that for a Constitution to endure it must be built on the broadest possible consensus. Confederation was framed accordingly. Further, it has been built on trust, equity and fairness. The Prime Minister cannot prosper in the absence of an atmosphere of strife and bickering. Does he have in mind the same polarization in the west that was authored in Quebec? The question really is: Are the western provinces to be full partners in a federal state or are they to be reduced to quasi-municipal status effectively controlled by the government in Ottawa?
The combination of no federal representation on the government side from the three most western provinces and no participation by those same provinces in formulating either a
national energy policy or constitutional changes results in these provinces effectively being left out of Canada. It seems so strange that our federal government, a regional government electorally, would precipitate such a move. In the three most western provinces there is not one member of Parliament elected on the government side. Why is that? The answer may be that the federal government espouses a centralist policy which consistently imposes tariffs to protect industry in central Canada, subsidizes production and finances exports of products manufactured in central Canada, imposes import quotas on western Canada, and continually frustrates expansion of a transportation network.
The resolution places importance on fundamental freedoms and human rights. I am the first to accept their importance but I must raise a major issue with their concept because they may well be infringing on the rights of citizens in the west by the introduction of a discriminatory tax on western resources.
I have some difficulty in drawing a distinction between natural gas and oil in British Columbia and Alberta, potash and uranium in Saskatchewan, and iron ore and nickel in central Canada. Petroleum products are not different from mineral products other than in their physical characteristics. How do you reconcile differences of such magnitude?
Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Prime Minister, whether he has given sufficient consideration to what he may well precipitate? Consider the scholarly opinion that—
—it would be unwise to proceed with patriation of the Canadian Constitution in the absence of agreement on an amending procedure.
Consider the judicial opinion that the Constitution—
—embodies a compromise under which the original provinces agree to federate. As the years go on legislation and court decisions ought not to be allowed to dim or whittle down the provisions of the original contract upon which the federation was founded.
I was truly impressed with the thoughtfulness of the 1972 Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, which held the view that patriation without provincial consent would be most unwise. The authors of that report were further compelled to express—
—the fear, on the other hand, that, if it was not so grounded, there might be a legal gap which might conceivably lead to a court’s invalidating the whole new Constitution.
One of the joint chairmen of this report was the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. MacGuigan), a legal scholar, the man who led the Canadian delegation to London to seek unilateral patriation with a federally imposed amending formula.
The Prime Minister seeks to persuade us that the economic pie is larger and that the western provinces are greedy not to share. The fact is that the economic pie is exactly the same size, but the federal government wants a larger piece. This is a power struggle and a struggle for economic control. We are foolish if we let it appear to be an exercise in national unity with the west being fractious rebels. The west need not apologize. British Columbia and Alberta are the major contributors to equalization. We share our prosperity with our partners in confederation.
British Columbians alone now pay $1 billion annually in protective tariffs toward eastern manufactured producs, textiles and footwear, not to mention additional consumer costs attributable to import quotas. Alberta is subsidizing the industrial base of central Canada with oil at less than one half the world price.
I raise these constitutional policy concerns to emphasize the need to return to the bargaining table. It is like a work stoppage in an essential public service. The best solution to prevent public harm is an agreement between the parties who, when they come together and reason together, always find a solution. The package which the Prime Minister seeks to impose unilaterally will lock in all governments forever more. It can only be undone by his self-imposed amending formula.
It troubles me deeply to say what I have said, but then we all know how forceful are honest words. The federal policies are a bitter pill for me to swallow because I, for one, will not support any movement to divide my country.
I am no constitutional expert, I am a Canadian. I can only speak from my heart. My heart tells me that this country will not be the same as it was prior to the Prime Minister’s vision. One must look to the heart for guidance. Somehow I believe the Liberals have not searched their hearts and their Consciences to find the true definition of Canada.
The Prime Minister addressed students at Osgoode Hall in Toronto a while ago. I was shocked when he said:
If the people of Canada are not prepared to assume their burden and duty in speaking their will over the heads of their elected premiers, I say they are not n nation.
That makes my blood boil, Mr. Speaker. Is the Prime Minister suggesting by that statement that Canadians should ignore their elected public leaders and heed only his own personal view? What will happen? Will the Prime Minister abolish the municipal, regional and provincial governments? Are we really on our way to a singular form of government? It was stated in an editorial in the Edmonton Journal that, as he has before, the Prime Minister had admitted his willingness to barter away principles to achieve his own end. He has said, “I am a political realist, it is as simple as that.” If that is political realism, the Prime Minister would sell his soul to be remembered as a great Canadian. I assure him that we will remember him but we will not forgive or forget.
The Prime Minister has launched an attack on the Prime Minister of Great Britain and suggested that the British are interfering in our affairs. Mr. Speaker, the government is asking another government to rubber stamp legislation that has no public support in Canada. If Britain passes this resolution unchallenged and forces us to accept its action in the knowledge that the majority of Canadians are not in favour of such legislation, then I would say that Britain is interfering in our affairs.
Britain will have a say in the matter whether the Prime Minister likes it or not. However, I feel it is wrong for the government to thrust a resolution on to the British parliament and ask it to rubber stamp his request simply because he has decided that he wishes it to be done that way. Britain should not decide what should happen to our Constitution. We want to patriate it, so let us do it. The only request that should be made of Britain is: Send our Constitution to Canada and let Canadians include whatever changes they want. Let Canadians decide how they will form their future. It is our Constitution and we should treat it as such.
I pray to God that this government will realize the mistake it intends to make. However, Mr. Speaker, this government will not accept God.
* * *
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.
Miss Coline Campbell (South West Nova): Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and privilege to rise and take part in this historic debate concerning the proposed resolution for a joint address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada. I would like to say how much I enjoyed the experience and challenge as a member of the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada and I, too, Mr. Speaker, would like to add my congratulations to the joint chairmen on a job well done.
I know all Canadians feel strongly that we must have our own Constitution here in Canada and that we must patriate the British North America Act. I also know that there has been unanimous agreement in this House on the need for patriation with an amending formula. That is why I doubt that any Canadian would say no when asked whether or not the BNA Act should be patriated. I feel equally certain that no Canadian would say we should patriate without an amending formula.
What is this proposed resolution that we have been discussing and debating in committee and in the House for the last five months? What are we asking the British parliament to do? First, we are asking them to patriate the BNA Act. Second, we have the amending formula and, third, the charter of rights and freedoms as well as equalization. We will be asking them to pass a package called the Canada Act. They do not have to discuss the substance; all we want is for them to return our Constitution with the right to amend it here.
For many years now the federal government and provinces have been studying the various amending formulae. The proposed resolution contains the government’s position on the Victoria formula. Dr. La Forest, who appeared before our committee, headed a study group which, after four years of searching and studying, came up with this formula. It was accepted and agreed to by the ten provinces and the federal government at the I971 federal-provincial conference as being the best formula. What does the Victoria formula provide? It provides, Mr. Speaker, that six provinces—two in the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, and two western provinces representing 50 per cent of the population of the west—must agree in order to pass a constitutional amendment. That is the Victoria formula.
The opposition has wanted from the very beginning patriation and an amending formula. The government does not differ with them on what we want from the British parliament. However, they say we should use the Vancouver formula. Well, what is the Vancouver formula? There must be the agreement of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population.
The opposition is beginning to find out that this formula is not too popular. Why? Because the provinces only last summer reached consensus on further study of the Vancouver formula. Why? Because in that formula, Mr. Speaker, there is a provision that a province which does not agree with an amendment may opt out. In other words, not all provinces of Canada will be the same. What about the Supreme Court? How would they interpret the rights of one province compared to another? Where is equality of rights across Canada if the provinces can opt out?
Let us compare the two formulae as they relate to the Atlantic provinces. Under the Victoria formula three provinces from the Atlantic area may veto an amendment. Under the Vancouver formula four provinces, all the Atlantic provinces, would be required to agree in order to veto an amendment. I say that that is a poor position in which to put the Atlantic provinces.
I would also like to point out that under the proposed resolution of the government there is a two-year period for the provinces to come up with an alternative formula. If there is disagreement between the parties at that time, a referendum will be held to break the deadlock on an amending formula. Ultimately the people will have to decide if the provinces and the federal government cannot agree on an amending formula. There is nothing wrong in this. Why should the people not break the deadlock of their governments? In my view we must proceed with the Victoria formula.
Recently when the minority report was submitted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) said that he would accept a one-year period to work out the difficulties in the Vancouver formula. I have already demonstrated that those difficulties exist, and I am sure there are many others of which we are not aware because of lack of study. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition now realizes that there are many unresolved problems with respect to the Vancouver formula.
But who will decide the deadlock after one year has elapsed? Under the Vancouver formula the people will not. Thus the question is whether a province can opt out of an amending formula if it does not like it.
If the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party had not made this constitutional proposal into a political issue but, rather like the New Democratic Party, tried to attain the best proposed resolution, I am sure we would have seen Parliament at its best, with the true concerns of all Canadians at heart, bringing our Constitution to Canada with an amending formula and thus standing firm for a strong central government and strong provinces. This is not a matter on which there should be so much disagreement among national parties.
Let me turn now to the other area which is in this proposed resolution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and equalization. It was in this area that I feel the committee was most effective in its work. The committee was faced with a document which the government had prepared in an attempt to meet the concerns of the provinces. The committee listened to the many witnesses who appeared before it. Revisions were made and the document before us represents some 60 major amendments—not technical amendments, but major amendments—which the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) accepted.
The vast majority of the witnesses who came before us from all parts of Canada favoured an entrenched charter of rights and freedoms. They proposed amendments and at times asked the committee to go further than the proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms went. They asked that it be entrenched because they felt that after patriation and an amending formula there would never be an opportunity again to put into place a charter of rights and freedoms which would express the basic rights of all Canadians.
The official opposition would now like to see a charter of rights, but only after patriation and an amending formula have been returned from the British Parliament. But how can we entrench a charter with the Vancouver formula, which allows for opting out?
The committee heard witnesses from across Canada. They were representatives of the Canadian public. They were Canadians who demonstrated their interest by coming to the committee or writing to the committee. These representations enabled the parliamentarians of Canada to respond and to improve the charter. The demand of the official opposition today is to do away with all that and to start all over again. That would be a regressive step. It would take away from the public the process which was so effective before our committee. It would leave rights and freedoms in the hands of the provinces to barter and trade them off behind closed doors.
What we have accomplished is a charter made in Canada incorporating the basic rights that belong to the people in every part of Canada. They are not to be denied by any legislature unless a court deems that such legislature has shown a justified reason promoting the greater good. In fact, one of the greatest accomplishments of the committee was the changing of clause 1, which gave power to the courts—and not to Parliament or the legislatures—to define or make rulings with respect to the rights of Canadians. I will read Clause 1 into the record again today:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
I return again to the idea of this Charter of Rights and Freedoms having been made in Canada. We have the Official Languages Act now. We have equalization. We have a bill of rights. Unfortunately, the clause I have just read is not in that
bill of rights, which renders it ineffective in overcoming Parliament’s intentions with respect to other acts.
We have human rights legislation. There should be mobility rights for all Canadians. Only recently have Canadians been stopped from working in a province because they did not reside in that province, Again I say that this charter has been made in Canada. All we are asking is that when an amending formula is being passed in the proposed Canada Act, we entrench these basic rights as well as the amending formula.
Let me once again review these basic rights and freedoms which the charter guarantees to all Canadians. There are the fundamental freedoms, which include freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, freedom of the press and other media of information and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. We have democratic rights which ensure the continuation of elections and that every person has the right to vote in an election. We have mobility rights which enshrine the right of every Canadian to move freely from one province to another, to establish a residence, to seek a job anywhere in Canada as well as to enter, remain in or leave the country. We have 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.
Official language rights will be entrenched, which will provide for the right to use English or French in Parliament, in federal courts and in communications with any head or central office of the Government of Canada. We have legal rights, among them the right to life, liberty and security and the right to equality before the law. We have non-discrimination rights, Clause 15, which has been called the “equal rights”clause. It protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex or physical or mental disability.
I would like at this time to take a few moments to talk about the question of sex and Clause 15. I think I put my views forward as many times as possible to all the groups which came before us. My preference would have been the specific recommendation put forward by the Human Rights Commission, which was to add a subclause to Clause 1 of the proposal which would have provided that this charter guarantees the equal right of men and women to enjoy the rights and freedoms set out in the charter. I felt we would have come a long way if we had accepted that type of statement without having to put it into the equal rights clause, Clause I5. I felt that would be a broader way of registering rights for all men and women. However. many of the groups which came before us—the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and some of the others—felt that Clause 15 was a more plausible approach.
I would also like to say that had that recommendation been accepted, we would not have to wait three years before stopping any infringement of the rights of women. That provision would have become effective immediately. I say that because I have an interest in that area.
The next area has to do with the handicapped, and again the provision dealing with the handicapped was shown to be truly effective. The groups which came before us all thought the handicapped in Canada should have their rights included in the charter of rights, and that physical and mental disabilities should be included in the provision on equality rights in Section 15.
The committee also decided to add to the charter a provision having to do with the multiculturalism heritage of Canada. The provision states that the charter shall be interpreted in such a manner as to give consideration to the preservation and enhancement of the multiculturalism of the people of Canada.
Finally, although this item is last on the list it is probably one of the most effective provisions of the committee. I wish to refer to the fine work done by the native people of Canada in their presentation to the committee and to parliamentarians who were not members of the committee. They asked that recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indian, Inuit and Metis people of Canada be included in the charter.
The next matter to which I should like to refer deals with equalization payments. It goes without saying that the Parliament and the Government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to the poorer provinces. We call them the “have-not” provinces. I come from one of those provinces and I can say we have benefited greatly from the whole process of equalization. The provision states that both orders of government will be committed to prompting equal opportunities for Canadians, furthering economic development to reduce disparities, and providing essential public services at a reasonable level to all Canadians. This was the best draft agreed to by the provinces in September, 1980.
The resolution before us, Mr. Speaker, gives rights to the people of Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms takes rights from the legislatures and Parliament, and gives them to the people. In my opinion, these rights and the amending formula cannot be bartered for, They are areas which concern all Canadians and they must be incorporated in the Constitution so that neither the weak nor the strong areas in Canada need compete for those things which should be basic rights and privileges for all Canadians.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, may I leave you with one thought. There is a consensus across Canada that constitutional change should be made. This is the first step and there will be many more in the future of Canada, but there is consensus on patriation with an amending formula and a charter of rights and freedoms. Once we have achieved a workable amending formula, we will be able to tackle some of the problems involved in the redistribution of the powers between the federal and provincial governments, without taking away basic rights that belong to the Canadian people. This could include redistribution in areas such as communications, where there is almost an agreement between the federal government and the provinces, and in the area of family law. If we had an amending formula, we would not have to go back to the British parliament to amend our family law, or provisions regarding
communications in the British North America Act. All we are doing is taking the first step. We are making it possible for future amendments to our Constitution to be made in Canada.
Inevitably there are differences as to the substance of these changes, but there is also a great deal of harmony of thought. We as Canadians have to start this process of change. As Disraeli said, “Change is inevitable in a progressive country, change is constant.”
I am pleased to have been part of this process of change, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Bob Corbett (Fundy-Royal): Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak in this immortal debate on the Constitution on behalf of my constituents in Fundy-Royal. Before starting my comments, I should like to congratulate, the hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley (Mr. McCuish) for his fine presentation this afternoon on this vital issue, and for his representations on behalf of his constituents. I should also like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Niagara Falls (Mr. McBain), and the hon. member for South West Nova (Miss Campbell), both of whom did a creditable job of putting forth their points of view. Unfortunately, I believe they are misdirected and misguided. However, they spoke with sincerity and with the wish to serve the interests of this nation.
I was interested this afternoon to hear the motion put forward under Standing Order 43 by the hon. member for Kitchener (Mr. Lang) that this House extend its hours of sitting so we could conclude the debate on the Constitution. Unfortunately, it is only too obvious to Canadians and to those of us who serve on this side of the House that the government would like nothing better than to conclude the debate on the Constitution. I can tell the hon. member for Kitchener that one of the ways in which the government could settle this issue once and for all is by holding a referendum in Canada now; a referendum which would make clear what should be written into the Constitution. But, of course, the government will not do that. I will go further, Mr. Speaker, and challenge the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and the government to call an election on this vital and important issue. But of course that will not happen either.
An hon. Member: Chickens.
Mr. Corbett: They are aware that the position they have taken is extremely unpopular in the constituency of Canada, and that they would not stand a chance of winning an election were they to go to the people on this vital issue. There is no question in my mind, nor is there one in the minds of the majority of Canadians, that if an election were called on this issue the Progressive Conservative Party would win it and would form a government under the leadership of the hon. member for Yellowhead (Mr. Clark). The reason the government will not call an election is simply that the name of the game is power. The goal of the Prime Minister is, first, to obtain power for himself, and second, to obtain power for the government.
In starting my remarks on this constitutional issue I should like to read an unsolicited song that was sent to me by a very important constituent of mine in Fundy Royal, a girl in grade 11 whom I have never met. She wrote:
Canada, my homeland fair,
I’d give my life for thee,
If by my humble death I’d save
Our country’s liberty.
Canada, with hand on heart.
We list to hear thy call,
We’ll serve thee, faithful to the end,
We shall not let thee fall.
Canada, my Canada,
United as one we stand,
As thou wast found so thou shalt remain—
Give us thy command.
Canada my native land,
With freedom, rights for all,
We’ll serve thee, faithful to the end.
We shall not let thee fall.
Shelly Tucker wrote:
I may only be 16, but I’m very much concerned with the welfare of my country. I feel people must be more patriotic toward their homeland, and appreciate it more. This song simply expresses my love for my country.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Corbett: It is to people of this country like Shelly Tucker that we owe our debt, our allegiance, and our determination to make Canada a better place in which to live. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that will be the case, should this constitutional package be passed.
Let me review briefly how this confederation all came about. The country of Canada is a federal state. It is a federation which is controlled and has been controlled since 1867 by the British North America Act. This act was designed for Canadians by Canadians. It outlined the responsibilities of the central government, as opposed to the responsibilities of the provincial governments. It fulfilled a necessity within our federated system. It dictated that divisions beyond reach or easy access to consensus of opinion would not alter the way the country was designed to be run.
There were some very good reasons why the British North America Act was designed in that fashion: So there would be control, and so that not one of the 11 involved governments would be able to act unilaterally to change the direction and the intent of the BNA Act. It ensured that one government would not be predominant in all things. The decision was a Canadian decision, and it was respected by the British parliament.
Discussions began to take place as to how we might better control our destiny. This has been discussed for a good many
years. Discussions which took place in which Canada played a major role, this being the senior dominion, and the Statute of Westminster became a reality. It was written in that statute that the British parliament would henceforth have no further direct control over the “Dominions” included in that statute. Canada was a motivating force in the writing of the Statute of Westminster and, interestingly enough, Canada was to be the only exception.
It is pertinent to ask ourselves as Canadians: Why was Canada, at Canada’s request, the only exception to this rule? The answer is, quite simply, we were concerned in that day and age, just as we should be today, that no single government would have the opportunity to override the jurisdiction of another. Much to the chagrin and the sorrow of Great Britain, we insisted that Canada be made an exception to the Statute of Westminster and that we continue with the jurisdiction given under the British North America Act. Because of a lack of agreement among’ Canadians themselves and the various levels of government in Canada at that time we were unable to see our way clear to cutting the colonial cord. Without the protection of, or the resource to the United Kingdom, some Canadians were concerned that their federal government or various provincial governments would have difficulties coming to agreement and, indeed, that something disastrous might happen to the country as a result.
However, progress was made and, as time went by, we recognized it would be a good thing for Canada if we were able to bring our Constitution home, but there was a mechanical difficulty as to how that would come about. I think there is certain validity to the arguments that the current system serves Canada well, that there is no reason why we should bring the Constitution home, and that the British North America Act has served the country well for the 114 years it has been in effect. But, that is not my position, nor is it the position of the Progressive Conservative Party. It is important for Canadians to recognize that certainly all members who sit in this House of Commons now agree the time has come to bring the Constitution home to Canada, but we decidedly disagree that it should be on the terms of the Prime Minister alone. Trudeau—the Prime Minister wishes—
Mr. Cousineau: On A point of order, Mr. Speaker. If at all possible, I would prefer that the Chair ask the hon. member to respect the customs and traditions of the House, and to refer to the title of the Right Hon. Prime Minister and not to his family name.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): The hon. member for Gatineau (Mr. Cousineau) raised the point that the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) should be addressed by his title, but I thought I heard the hon. member for Fundy-Royal (Mr. Corbett) correct himself.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: He corrected himself.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): The point has been made. I recognize the hon. member for Fundy-Royal.
Mr. Corbett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I respect the position of the Prime Minister, even if I have questions about the validity of the present person. If the hon. member for Gatineau (Mr. Cousineau) was paying closer attention to the substance of my remarks rather than being picky, he would have recognized that I withdrew my reference to the Prime Ministers surname.
The Prime Minister proposes, among other things, to allow changes by referenda, yet he will not take advantage of the present opportunity to go to the people with a referendum and ask them if, indeed, this is the way they want to see their Constitution brought home. This referendum proposal would only allow changes proposed by Ottawa to be put to a referendum call. Obviously this is designed to allow the power to remain with the federal government. Only the federal government would have the right to call for a referendum. Under this proposal, rights could be written in or written out. Rights have always been present to protect the minority, but if we put a question designed to meet the desires and architectural requirements of the federal government, what chance would the minorities of the country have to voice their opinions in such a referendum? The proposition in the referendum would be written and financed by Ottawa; it would be financed by the taxpayers of this nation. The provincial governments would not be required to ratify any amendments which might be made.
I should like to refer briefly to a speech made by a prominent Canadian back in November, 1980. In part it read:
Referendums don’t work too well in a parliamentary democracy, particularly in a federal state—
—The referendum procedure undermines representative democracy under which we elect men and women to study these questions and decide them for us… If an issue is important enough, the will of the people can be tested at any time in a general election—
This is why I put the challenge to the Prime Minister to call an election on this issue. Those words were spoken by John Turner in his address to the annual dinner of the Administration Society, University of Regina. I am certain the words of John Turner were well taken by hon. members opposite.
The question of the Victoria formula, as opposed to the Vancouver formula, is also extremely important. I would like to comment briefly on this subject. Under the formula suggested by the government, Ontario and Quebec must be supportive of any changes to be made to the Constitution. In effect, this gives them a virtual veto. With all due respect to those two provinces, I fail to realize why they should be given the powers of a veto in perpetuity, since indeed this is what it would be. This would be the case regardless of any future movement of the population, either west or east, and despite the fact that those provinces at some future date may lose their position of power, as far as population is concerned. Those two provinces would be forever given the power of a veto. I believe that
smacks of discrimination to the rest of Canada. I believe Canadians generally disgree with that proposal.
Our party, and most of the provinces, support the Vancouver consensus in which Parliament and seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population have the opportunity to change the Constitution, if that is the will of the people involved. In the Vancouver formula there is an opting-out provision. I think that is only fair since the provinces have historical rights under the British North America Act, which this government should not have the right to unilaterally take from them. Those provisions set out the powers and rights of the legislatures, ownership of natural resources and the property of the provinces.
The debate this government is so anxious to terminate involves the most important issue which has been debated in this House since confederation. Any unilateral action which this government will perpetrate on the rest of Canada will only create dissension and hostilities among all Canadians It is these people who must accept the responsibility.
Mr. Laniel: What about the flag debate?
Mr. Corbett: When the unilateral action was taken at the time of the flag debate there was no thought in this House that a matter of that magnitude would dare be presented to the people of this nation in such a blatant and arrogant fashion. No doubt at that time there was no other issue which could evoke as much feeling as did the flag debate. But that flag debate is behind us and we are dealing now with a matter which affects all Canadians. They will have to live with it, as will their children’s children and the children of those children for years to come.
The action taken by the federal government will ensure for some time to come that this Constitution will not serve in the best interests of national unity. Indeed, there will be more divisiveness than positive effects. But, Mr. Speaker, we will have it, since the government will invoke closure. The debate will be terminated, and I can only hope the majority of people who sit in this House have the opportunity before that happens to express the viewpoints of their constituents, as I am doing today.
In my constituency the matter of closure is something which is not taken lightly. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that in a recent poll I conducted in my constituency 78 per cent said “No” to the question:
Do you feel the government should have the right to invoke closure on any matter it wishes to terminate parliamentary discussion on?
I suggest that 78 per cent is a representative figure from across this nation. At any rate, it is a fact in Fundy-Royal. The purpose of the Constitution is to establish the game rules, the framework from which we can enjoy freedoms which will become an integral part of our democracy. If it is to work, the Constitution must be the result of honest communication and an honest attempt to reach an agreement amongst all the partners of Confederation, not just between one man and the party he leads. This resolution should not proceed until we have the word from Canadians as to whether or not this is, indeed, the way they want to see the future of this country formed.
Again, speaking for the people of Fundy Royal, I can tell you that 72 per cent of the people replied “No” to the question:
Do you agree that the federal government should move unilaterally to patriate the Constitution?
An overwhelming 72 per cent replied “No”, Mr. Speaker, That is indicative of the beliefs of the people who live in this nation of Canada.
The British have a responsibility, whether or not the members of the government want to realize it. Their responsibility is under the Statute of Westminster. I suspect the British parliament wishes it did not have that responsibility, but it does. The problems now are the same as they were back then when we decided it would be in the best interests of the people to leave the British North America Act intact. The problems are the same now as they were then. The government’s determination to move unilaterally and to ram it down the throats of all Canadians just exemplifies that very fact.
Let us look to see what this action will mean to us as Canadians. What is it that the Prime Minister wants the British parliament to do which he knows he cannot get this Parliament to do? He knows he could not get this done here in Canada. There is no overwhelming argument which validly says we need the amendments the Prime Minister is suggesting. We have always been able to solve our problems here at home through compromise, consultation and agreement. What is the Prime Minister’s purpose and reason? I say they must be suspect. This is the Prime Minister who has created crisis after crisis to serve his own purpose and to determine his own course. I can cite the War Measures Act as an example of what I am talking about. It should be pointed Out that this measure will be included in the Constitution, should it pass. The Prime Minister utilized the War Measures Act and said he would justify that action at a later date. That justification has never come. This is the individual who, over the serious objections of many conscientious people, implemented the gun control provisions. For what reason, I would ask? Flies do not create garbage. Those guns he wants so dearly to control are still in the constituency. The difference now is that people who were under his direction have access to them without having to take the proper procedures through the courts of this land. It was wrong to implement that particular piece of legislation in the manner in which he did, and it should be withdrawn.
This is the same Prime Minister who campaigned on an anti-wage and price control issue back in 1974, but, as soon as he was elected went on his merry way and implemented wage and price controls. This is the man who, as head of the government party, insinuated there would be no increase in gasoline prices if that party was elected in 1980. The facts speak for themselves.
There are many suspect matters respecting the motives of the present government and its leader. It is known that his
preference is to have a republic rather than a monarchy. We know his attitude regarding the role of the Queen, and the sort of disrespect which he has shown on past occasions.
An hon. Member: When was that?
Mr. Corbett: This charter will do nothing for the rights of Canadians. It will do nothing toward enshrining rights for people. It will enshrine rights for the government only.
There is an unequal application of various proposals across the country. Why is it that the Prime Minister and his government refuse to incorporate the very basic right to the ownership of property, the right of an individual to work for a piece of land so he can have a home in which he can house and shelter his family? What is wrong in our society with having something as substantial and as basic as the right to property written into the Constitution? We have not had a satisfactory answer; we have had no answer at all, and we are not apt to ever have one.
What is wrong with the basic premise that God should be respected and written into our Constitution, as He has always been an inspiration in our society? Why is it that God, the cornerstone of our heritage, has been so blatantly left out? The founders of this country fell down on their knees and praised God for helping them find the land, and they thanked God for all the bountiful gifts He bestowed on them. What is now wrong with referring to the role which God plays in the lives of Canadians?
An hon. Member: Communists do not accept the concept.
Mr. Corbett: What about the rights of the elderly in this country? Why have we not made some allusion to them, particularly the rights of the elderly poor? Why can we not pay some attention to these people who so desperately need help as a result of the mismanagement of funds, the fiscal fiascos this government has perpetuated upon them, inflation and their inability to cope with it? What is wrong with writing in the dignity we have or should have in this country for our elders, the people who laid the foundations of this great nation? They have been left out, just as it is obvious that the rights of those who are yet unborn in this country have been left out. I speak about those people who will not be born in this country because of a very serious lack of appreciation of the basic component of life itself, something these people seem to be so determined to overlook and forget.
What about the rights of the unborn children who will never see this country and will never have the opportunity to participate as we do? There is no one but God—whom they refuse to recognize—who should have the right to take an innocent life, whether it is in the womb or outside of the womb. The fact that this charter of rights does not recognize the right to life and the right of the unborn child is a very serious shortcoming.
We can look back upon and be proud of many things in this country, including the heritage of the two founding people whose forefathers came from France and Britain. But for some reason or another, we cannot agree that one should be as equal to the other. I find it strange that all the efforts which have been made in one direction do not seem to be applicable when we ask for the same rights in the other direction.
For instance, why is it necessary to change the name of Dominion Day to Canada Day? What does that particular piece of wisdom emulate? I suspect it is to try to satiate the insatiable appetites of the minority of people in this country. That bothers me because, if that is not the case, certainly that group is being tabbed with the responsibility, and this cannot have gone unnoticed. Why can we not have an explanation?
The present government seems to feed and thrive on the alienation of this country, the alienation of the French against the English, the alienation of the English against the French, the alienation of the west against the east; it goes on and on.
How is our Constitution to be determined? How is it to be designed? The powers of this House of Commons are to be diluted. The powers of the provincial legislatures are to be diluted. It will be determined by the courts of this land which will be staffed by federal judges appointed by the government. One person will have the opportunity to lend the most weight as to who will make the decisions that will affect the lives of Canadians. The government will decide the role of judges and who the judges will be. It will control the referendum process, and even Parliament will be set aside.
Dealing briefly with that, I want to allude to the responsibility of those who create, or who will have created such a system in Canada. I refer to all those government members, including those who would like to do differently—and there are several over there—but cannot because they are being directed and orchestrated by their leader. The responsibility must also fall upon the shoulders of members of the New Democratic Party who chided, but lined up so willingly behind the government. There are obviously some dissenters in the New Democratic Party. Those people are to be credited, because in a party of 28—
An hon. Member: Thirty-two.
Mr. Corbett: —thirty-two, there were four who had the courage of conviction to stand behind what they know to be right. However, on the government side of the House there is only one man with enough courage and conviction to vote in a way which will provide the future of this country as it should be. I am not surprised these people have taken the direction they have taken. Some of them have shown their arrogance, and it certainly has been significant enough to be noticeable.
When the President of the United States was in this chamber not too long ago the performance of a number of the members of the New Democratic Party was shameful. The way they displayed their arrogance and intolerance for a man who leads the most powerful nation on the face of this earth, not even standing up and giving polite applause, was a disgrace. Their mentor, the ambassador from the U.S.S.R., had the common decency to stand in his place in the gallery when the President of the United States walked into this chamber.
That was a despicable display of arrogance and ignorance by an undisciplined gaggle of nincompoops.
This nation and its future should be determined by harmony, not discord; it should be determined by co-operation, not confrontation; it should be determined by understanding, not bull-headed determination. The future of this nation should be based on patience, not pressure; it should be based on good will, not suspicion and it should be based on thoughtfulness, not deceit. Most of all, it should be based on compassion and thoughtfulness for all Canadians.
I started my speech with a song presented to me by a student, a girl in grade 11 from Hampton, New Brunswick. In closing I would like to read into the record a short essay presented to me by a grade 8 student from Norton in my constituency. It is entitled “I Love Canada” and reads as follows:
Have you ever stopped to realize how beautiful a country Canada is? The picturesque fishing villages, golden plains of wheat,small villages nestled between the high Rockies and the frostbitten regions north of the Canadian Shield exemplify the true beauty. This is one reason why I love my country. I think that Canada deserves our love and patriotism for many reasons.
Canada is a free country. We are not under communist or tyrannical rule. Canadians can choose their own religions, are not restricted by the government in any illogical way and have a right to say what they feel.
Canada has become a new home for many immigrants who have found a better life here. These immigrants have brought their customs and languages making Canada a colourful country.
We in Canada also have the privilege of a public education and a chance at a good job which we should really be thankful for. Canada is a rich country. We have wheat and other produce, oil, wood, and 1/3 of the world’s pure water.
I think that what I love best about Canada is that it is a paradox. So many of Canada’s features contradict each other. The mountain regions of the west differ from the flat prairies. Languages are different also. Contrasts in population are also evident. Large cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal differ from the sparsely populated cities in the Northwest and Yukon territories.
Canada is a wonderful, beautiful country. The last two lines of our national anthem is my prayer for our great nation:
“God keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee”
Mr. Speaker, we all should dedicate ourselves to Veronica Barton.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Rod Murphy (Churchill): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to speak in this constitutional debate. Last May 22, I took advantage of a similar debate, which my party initiated two days after the Quebec referendum, to say some things about Canada’s past and its future. The motion before the House that day was as follows:
That this House welcomes the result of the referendum in Quebec and pledges itself to interpret that vote as a clear call for constitutional change.
That motion was endorsed by the speeches of members from all parties in this House. Many of those speeches called for the government and others to make sure we grasped the opportunity to change our Constitution and to make use of the good will there was throughout Canada at that time. I should like to quote something the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) said, as reported at page 1315 of Hansard as follows:
So at this time of good will we also face a serious peril—a real threat that disappointment and anger can replace this good will if we fritter away our opportunities. All of us recognive how quickly good will can be replaced by anger and accusations. We must avoid giving any comfort to the separatists, wherever they may be, to conduct our activities in such a way that the talks would not lead to new satisfactory arrangements. There are obviously people in this country who are hoping that these talks will end in failure. This cannot happen. The talks must be real and they must bear results.
Note the phrase used by the hon. member for Provencher, Mr. Speaker, “fritter away”. There is a real danger that this is exactly what we will allow to happen, but, Mr. Speaker, we must not. I am not trying to lay the blame on one doorstep. In reality, that blame must be shared by many across the land, by some in this House and in the Senate.
Last spring, I followed the Liberal government’s attempts to negotiate a new Constitution. I listened to the premiers at their conference in the summer and I watched the federal-provincial conference in the early fall. I could hear, feel and see that the good will generated by the vote in the Quebec referendum was dissipated. As these events and the backroom manoeuvring that accompanied them occurred, Canadians lost faith in their politicians. These actions by so many of the major actors on the federal and provincial scene gave many Canadians it feeling of disgust. As a history teacher, when I sit back and think about Canadian history, I realize this has always been the case. It is something we do not brag about and it lit something we do not clarify when we talk about our past. We cannot clarify it now.
I would ask all Canadians throughout the country to move forward despite the regretful actions of those who have acted in such a petty manner and so selfishly. We must work together regardless of the process through which some people have dragged us. I should like to quote my own words if I may, Mr. Speaker. On May 22, 1980, as reported at page 1317 of Hansard, I said:
This opportunity is also a challenge, because if we do not make significant headway now the negative feelings the previous speaker mentioned, which tire real, and the feeling of hopelessness on constitutional talks, will be felt not only by the Quebecois but by all Canadians. There is presently a hope in our ability in overcome the obstacles which have created roadblocks in the past and that we now must meet in order to face the challenge we have as a nation.
I now read from page 1319 as follows:
In this respect I would like to remind hon. members that historically what has been called English Canada has always been a generation behind French Canadians in determining its own aspirations.
At the beginning of this century Henri Bourassa, as an MP in this House, rose to call for a Canadian identity. He was rebuked by those who wished to remain part of the British Empire. Twenty years later we accepted the wisdom of Bourassa’s remarks. When Quebec premiers called out for the strengthening of the role of the provinces within confederation, the rest of the country ignored them and was appalled at the thought. A generation later we heard the same call coming from each and every region of this country. In the sixties when Quebec was asking to be maitre chez nous or master of their own destiny, the rest of Canada was accepting increased foreign control of our resources, our industry and our future. It has often been said that Quebec wants too much independence and that English Canada wants none. We are now in the 1980s and another generation has passed by. It is time for all Canadians to be asking to be masters of their own destiny.
At the bottom of page 1319 of Hansard, I said:
The mood of the country is open to changes in the constitution, especially after the decision of Tuesday night. This openness to change, however, might well dissipate if all points of view are not aired in an open and non-partisan manner.
Unfortunately, when I said those words last May I did not expect to be a prophet. No politician should ever claim to be a prophet, but that is exactly what happened.
Talks on the Constitution were held between the premiers and the federal government. Politicians from all parties held discussions. But these discussions certainly were in a partisan manner. People did not want to overcome their own political selfishness, no matter who they were, to work toward a Canadian future. I regret this partisan approach we have had in the last ten months. As I said earlier, it is not just the Tories—but all people—whether they are Liberals, premiers, interest groups or even, on occasion, members of our own party—have not acted in a non-partisan manner.
Many of the speeches in this House have been deplorable. Many of the speeches made outside this House have been just its bad. As in cases of war, people have tried to bring God in on their side. People have brought in regional hatred and all sorts of divisive forces to justify their own partisan needs. I would like to use just one example to prove this point. Like other Canadians, I am aware of many examples that prove we have not handled this situation in the manner in which we should. I refer particularly to the Conservative ad which appeared in many western newspapers.
Mr. McMillan: It was a good ad.
Mr. Murphy: It reads:
Broadbent just gave your vote to Trudeau.
The Liberal-NDP deal will make westerners second-class citizens.
Then there is a little “Pierre” with an “X” beside it. The ad continues:
If your riding elected an NDP Member of Parliament to fight for your interests in Ottawa, you’ve been betrayed. Instead of fighting for you, he—
They forget there are women in the House. The ad continues:
—has sold you out to Pierre Trudeau.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Beatty: Read it again.
Mr. Murphy: That is the whole problem. The Conservatives in this House are proud of that ad and yet it appeals to all the prejudices. By its very nature it is calling for more hatred, for more regional division and more separatist sentiment in this country. It is a disgusting, a partisan and a small-minded effort. Conservatives who disagree with the constitutional proposals have every right to do so. They have every right to speak out on the issue. They have every right to advertise their position. But, really, members, can you honestly say this ad addresses issues instead of prejudice?
Mr. Beatty: Yes.
Mr. Murphy: Can you honestly say it dealt with difficulties rather than personalities—
Mr. Beatty: Yes.
Mr. Murphy: —or that Canadian unity was asked for rather than regional alienation?
Some hon. Members: Yes.
An hon. Member: You are learning.
Mr. Beatty: Listen to your constituents.
Mr. Murphy: Hon. members convict themselves. I do not have to say any more. They used a stupid, narrow-minded ad which they brag and gloat about. It is the worst advertising anyone could ever promote.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Murphy: It does everything possible to work against Canadian unity, and they wonder why they are losing the respect of all Canadians. They do it to themselves.
Mr. Beatty: What do your constituents say?
An hon. Member: Read the polls.
Mr. Murphy: One of the hon. separatists asks what do my constituents say. I have a two-two vote. Two for the issue and two against. I have talked to people throughout my constituency. They have not felt the need to have a big letter-writing campaign. As I said, I have two letters for the issue and two letters against.
Most people would like us to bring the Constitution home and to work toward our future, not build more hatred.
An hon. Member: You are not getting your mail.
Mr. Murphy: It is not just the Tories who have taken the narrow and low path in this debate. Many others have done so. The most forceful arguments made against these proposals usually relate to unilateral action. There is no doubt in my mind this is basically a unilateral decision. I face that fact and I accept it. I do not like it. I recognize that most Canadians do not like it. Yet, I have not seen any willingness on the part of provincial or federal politicians to work this out.
An hon. Member: Do you include Saskatchewan?
Mr. Murphy: The record of the provinces and the federal government is one of failure. Neither Canadian history, Canadian or British law, nor the interpretation of that law give us answers how to proceed to amend our Constitution. Because of that there is a deadlock. Needless to say there are antagonists on both sides of the question who will and do quote from different legal opinions and different legal precedents to justify their own position. But our Constitution, as it presently stands, and the Statute of Westminster are silent on how to amend this Constitution. This was deliberately the case. We as Canadians then and we as Canadians now have not found an
amending formula satisfactory to everybody. It is an unfortunate situation, but that is the situation we face.
Premier Lyon of Manitoba who occasionally parades himself as the leader of the premiers, has gone to Britain to suggest his own unilateral action. A press release put out by his own government’s news service on February 6, 1981 reads:
He suggested the U.K. parliament consider relieving itself—in accordance with accepted constitutional practice—of the trust relationship with Canada by divesting itself of its power to amend the BNA Act and by recognizing the present constitutional requirement that amendments affecting the powers of the two levels of Canadian government be made only with the unanimous consent of the provinces and the Canadian Parliament.
In other words, Premier Lyon’s unilateral action is that the British throw the whole thing back in our face and that each province should have a veto over any future amendments to the Constitution. That unilateral action suggested by the Premier of Manitoba is no different to the package which is being proposed here. Certainly there is different substance but the method of how they want to change our Constitution is the same. It was not only the Premier of Manitoba but others, representing both sides of the argument, who have gone to England asking basically for their own unilateral package. People forget that. What Premier Lyon is asking for is just as unilateral and just as much a change to our Constitution as the package which is before this House. Any Constitution which comes back to Canada and gives each and every province a veto will never be changed because no province will ever willingly give up that power of veto. It will not happen and it will not work. lf the British were to accept Premier Lyon’s unilateral action, we would never be able to amend this Constitution no matter how needed or how valuable an amendment would be.
That is not the only provincial suggestion as to how to amend the Constitution. There is the opt-out Vancouver formula which would allow each province to more or less make up its mind what it wants in Canada. In other words, some will add civil rights to a charter, others will not. Some will have resource control, others will not. Some will work toward the future of the country, others will not. When you get right down to it, despite the glossiness of the Vancouver formula, that is what it is all about. It says that we as Manitobans, as Albertans, as people from any province, will decide our options within confederation, we will decide to what extent we want to help other provinces or regions.
An hon. member has called it a drop-out formula. It is not only that, Mr. Speaker, it is a formula which will automatically create a breakdown in the unity of Canada because no part of the country is going to stand by and watch another province say: I am sorry, but I am not going to contribute to medicare; you cannot use our resources; we do not believe in a charter of rights or that your pension plans are not applicable in my part of the country, because that type of unilateral action by a province can only create more divisiveness, disunity and confusion as we progress as a nation.
There were a number of other points raised in the attack on the present procedures, one of which was alluded to in that infamous Tory ad, which suggest that somehow western Canadians become second-class citizens under this formula. Yet what it does is give each region and the federal government a veto, but, because of the differences that exist within this country now, the veto works differently.
Ontario is a region, therefore it has a veto. Quebec is the same. For historic reasons we are giving Prince Edward Island a bit more power in the Atlantic region, but basically there must be agreement of two provinces out of the four before there can be an amendment. It is a bit different in the west again, but basically there must be agreement of two provinces with 50 per cent of the population before there can be any change. They must agree before there can be any change in the Constitution, and that is a pretty substantial veto by any region, which makes it very difficult for anyone to ram an amendment through. There must be this agreement, therefore, the people of those provinces still have protection.
The argument that it is not fair has been made about each and every amending formula presented to us. There will always be someone who says: Oh, that is not quite as fair to me as it is to him or her. There will always be some province or region that says: It could be better for me. However, I hope we are going to get through this time, and whatever future we have as a country, with a less selfish attitude.
As I said earlier, the Tory ads play on regional separatism, alienation, small-mindedness and prejudice, but if that is to he the attitude taken in the future by any political party, then we are going to have trouble developing our future as a nation. We must work together, we must have a willingness to accept others views, and when we disagree it is better to take the high road, talking about the substance of our disagreement, rather than picking on one or another region of the country.
In the charter of rights we add something new to our Constitution, something that many of the provinces do not want, but something wanted by many Canadians. We will for the first time have civil rights in a charter. We have had civil rights in the past but we have also had examples, and we are not going to go through the list again, of how they can be ignored by governments, whether provincial or federal.
We will have a better, but not perfect, recognition of native rights. That is important to my constituency. It will recognize equality of men and women; again, it is not perfect but it is better than what we have at the present time. There are other groups such as the handicapped who will for the first time have recognition in a Constitution. This might be the best package that exists at the present time, but it is still not perfect and there are interest groups in this country who want changes. They have a legitimate right to work toward those changes, but because every interest group is not satisfied now is no reason not to go forward. We cannot even satisfy every province so how do we satisfy every interest group?
So we should not, to use the expression of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), hold our noses and pass it; we should look at the substance, at what we see as a reasonable charter, a
reasonable amending formula, a reasonable constitutional package and accept that. To do otherwise is to be unfaithful to Canada’s future because a Constitution sets the groundwork for where we go as a country. It recognizes our past, the significant events in our history, and our geography. It recognizes that we have to work within that framework, we have to recognize regional and ethnic differences, the different economic aspects and needs of our nation. We do that through resources, equalization and taxing formulae. That just sets a framework, because what happens in the country is based only on the Constitution. A Constitution cannot force a country to take hold of its future, force a government to pass good laws, or force the provinces to respect everyone. It can, through appeal to the courts, force them to respect human rights, but it does not guarantee they are going to offer the educational, medical and social service facilities that will enable every Canadian to live a successful and happy life. It may not do that, but it does set that framework. It is a framework which we can use only if the provinces and the federal government are willing to take hold of it, pass the laws and take the actions which will lead to a greater future. Our future depends on something else. It depends on good will. It depends on honest efforts. It depends on people being willing to work together to try to solve the problems we face.
Earlier I said the process we have gone through has not enjoyed that good will. There has not been honest effort. I also mentioned that this is not something unique in the last ten months since the May referendum. That has been the situation through every generation of our history. It was the situation prior to the BNA Act being accepted. There were separatists then. There were people with regional differences then. There were politicians who played on those regional differences then. Throughout our history we have had those problems. Throughout our history Canadians have not always taken the high road. That is the situation again now, but I hope people in this House and throughout the country will feel the package is good as far as it goes and that while some Canadians may not like everything in the package, if it passes we will have to live and work with it within the Constitution. We should do everything we can to make our country the greatest it can become, and to make sure it respects the rights of individuals to the greatest extent possible. if we do not do that, then it does not matter what is on paper. Everything really depends on good will and the proper exercise by governments of their powers, whether those governments be provincial or federal. They should do all they can to help Canadians in every walk of life.
Mr. Chuck Cook (North Vancouver-Burnaby): Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in this constitutional debate not only to my colleagues on all sides of this House, not only through television and Hansard to the country and to all Canadians wherever they may be, but to speak on behalf of our children and grandchildren. If the Lord be willing down the path of time my grandchildren will ask me where I stood and what I said when I held the floor on an issue which may Substantially alter their lives and their country. I want them to know that at least I tried and that my party made every effort to speak out and persuade the members of the government party that what they were doing was wrong and would have implications far beyond their narrow thinking at the moment.
I speak from the heart. I wish to express my fears and reservations about a Constitution which will divide us, not unite us, a Constitution with built-in conflicts which can lead to chaos and a Constitution which easily may lead to the end of Canada and possibly the birth of several smaller, independent nations in what should and could be a far greater nation.
I first ask whether the people are in favour of this document. Do Canadians from coast to coast endorse it? Is this what Canadians want? Let us examine the score card at the present time.
The last Gallup poll on the subject showed that 64 per cent of Canadians disapproved of the government’s unilateral action in trying to bring an amended Constitution to Canada from Britain. Only 22 per cent approved. Eight of ten provinces—Ontario and New Brunswick being the two exceptions—are against this action. Six of the ten provinces are fighting this action in the courts. Quebec Liberal leader Claude Ryan is totally opposed, as is the present Quebec premier, The NDP provincial parties in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec have publicly spoken against it. Four NDP Members of Parliament have broken with their party leader and have stated they will vote against the Liberal package in the House of Commons. The Ottawa West NDP riding association has called on the federal party to withdraw all support for the Liberal package. Four Liberal senators— the hon. senators for Lauzon, Dovercourt, Harbour Grace and, most recently, the hon. senator for the Ottawa Valley—so far have spoken against the Trudeau proposal in the Senate.
Two Liberal members of Parliament, the hon. member for Montmorency-Orléans (Mr. Duclos) and the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier), spoke out at the constitutional committee hearings against parts of the package. Gordon Robertson, former secretary to the cabinet for federal-provincial relations and for many years Trudeau’s top constitutional adviser—
Some hon. Members: Order.
Mr. Cook: —has spoken out against the referendum
Mr. Collenette: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I hate to raise this at this late date, but the hon. member has been using unparliamentary language. He may be quoting from a newspaper or other documents, but I would advise Your Honour, and we have done a bit of work on this, that Beauchesne’s fourth edition Citation 175 states in part:
It is out of order to read extracts in a debate if they… contain unparliamentary expressions, as no language can be heard in quotation if it would be disorderly if spoken—
I ask Your Honour to admonish the hon. member for North Vancouver-Burnaby (Mr. Cook) for trying to get around the rules in this manner.
Madam Speaker: I am sorry, but I was discussing something with the Clerk at the time and the expression used by the hon. member escaped me. The parliamentary secretary is right in saying that hon. members cannot do indirectly what is not allowed directly. That must mean that if there is a word which is unparliamentary, the hon. member cannot use it even if he is quoting from an article or from something else.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I think in all fairness, and I understand that Your Honour was discussing a matter with the Clerk, it might be worth while for Your Honour to read the transcript before making a final decision. It strikes me that there may be a number of occasions when it would be appropriate and quite permissible for a member to read from a transcript, to make a point. We have to look at the context within which that is done. I think it would be appropriate that the hon. member be allowed to continue with his speech and, possibly tomorrow, we can at more leisure consider the point of order raised by the parliamentary secretary.
Madam Speaker: I have to say in response, that hon. members cannot use words which are unparliamentary just because they are quoting. If the words were unparliamentary, they must be withdrawn. I did not hear them, and I am sorry, but if the hon. member for North Vancouver-Burnaby (Mr. Cook) feels he has probably gone beyond what he wanted to say or what he meant to say, perhaps he could withdraw now and the incident will be closed.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: Madam Speaker, the word in question was “Trudeau”. If that is unparliamentary, I apologize, but I do not think that particular word is unparliamentary.
Mr. Cousineau: We know what you are trying to do.
Mr. Collenette: Madam Speaker, we have sat here patiently through the last five weeks. We have seen the rules of debate transgressed by members of the Conservative Party, and I think it is time we put a stop to it. No member may refer to another member by his name. We must refer to hon. members either by their titles as ministers, such as the Prime Minister, or by their constituencies. This transgression has taken place for the last four or five weeks, and I wanted to bring it to Your Honour’s attention. Your Honour usually does not sit in the chair during the normal debates because of other duties. I know Your Honour is here because of royal assent, and I wanted to bring to Your Honour’s attention that this has been going on. I respectfully ask that the hon. member for North Vancouver-Burnaby refrain from using the unparliamentary practice of calling the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) by his name. That is not permitted in debates.
Mr. Hnatyshyn: He was reading from a transcript.
Mr. Collenette: Same thing.
Mr. Cook: Madam Speaker, I have been reviewing my notes thoroughly, and I did not refer to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). The only name I have used in my comments to this point is the name Gordon Robertson, and I do not believe he is a member of this House.
Mr. Collenette: Trudeau.
Mr. Cook: I will have to see the blues before I am prepared to withdraw because I do not believe I said that.
Madam Speaker: Since there is a divergence of opinion as to what was said, I suppose the only recourse we have is to wait for the blues.
Mr. Beatty: I don’t think anybody should mention Trudeau’s name either.
Mr. Cook: Madam Speaker—
Mr. Knowles: Question.
Mr. Cook: I will wait for a decision tomorrow as to whether unparliamentary language was used. If there was, it was not intended.
The people of Canada are having a great deal of difficulty understanding this constitutional reform package now before Parliament. This may be because of the persistent campaign of innuendo and false rhetoric about what is proposed and how the Constitution is going to work.
The most outrageous statement being made is that our Constitution will be patriated to Canada. In a statement released on October 2, 1980, the Prime Minister said that the resolution proposes first that the Constitution be brought home. At long last, he said, we will have a Constitution truly our own. Freed of the paralysis of the past, with our Constitution home, with our independence beyond question, with our rights and freedoms guaranteed, the process of reform and renewal can truly proceed, the Prime Minister said.
The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) said, “I am proud to have the opportunity of introducing a motion in the House of Commons which will be able to bring the Constitution home. After 113 years of nationhood, Canada at last will be able to bring its Constitution home.”
In addition, we are being brainwashed with our own tux moneys. Accompanying a copy of the resolution, are two government published pamphlets entitled respectively “Highlights of a Proposed Resolution Respecting the Constitution of Canada” and “An Explanation of a Proposed Resolution Respecting the Constitution of Canada”. The first contains the following statement: “Canadians are now witnessing a truly historic event as Parliament is being asked to take steps to patriate Canada’s Constitution. The Government of Canada has placed before Parliament a proposed resolution to bring the Constitution home.”
The second is even more enthusiastic in its misstatements. lt says, “In view of the fact that there is now a widespread belief that patriation has become essential for reasons of both national pride and practicality, the Government of Canada has laid before Parliament a proposed resolution designed to bring about the patriation of the Constitution. When these proposals come into effect, they will signify the passing of the last vestige of Canada’s former colonial status.”
These statements, Madam Speaker, are not true. There is not a clause, a sentence, a word, a period, a comma or a semicolon in the resolution which can be construed as establishing a Canadian Constitution at home in Canada. Our Constitution will continue to be a collection of acts of the British parliament, and it must not be forgotten that what a Parliament enacts it always has the power to repeal.
This government’s suggested creation of a Canadian Constitution, by a British act, will still be capable of repeal by the British Parliament. There is no provision whatever for the establishment of a Canadian-based Constitution, and anyone who says otherwise has not read or understood the resolution, or is attempting to deceive.
Let us turn to the so-called Victoria amending formula. This method of amending the Constitution which in perpetuity gives the right to Ontario and Quebec to individually block any constitutional amendment—
An hon. Member: The messenger is knocking.
Mr. Cook: I am a westerner and I say this is totally unacceptable to the west. It is a continuation of the domination by the central provinces over other rapidly growing, expanding and vibrant regions of this country.
Mr. Knowles: The Tories have no respect for the Crown.
Mr. Cook: Population is important, but the rights of the minorities—
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I believe we have a message from the other place.