Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (21 April 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 9341-9378.
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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. W. C. Scott (Victoria-Haliburton): Mr. Speaker, I would like to finish the remarks I started some time ago on this resolution. I am mindful of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) in Vancouver that if the country splits up over his constitutional resolution then the country is not worth saving. What an arrogant, narrow attitude for a Prime Minister to have.
Before I leave the first schedule and move on to the charter of rights, I would like to refer to the part of the resolution which would repeal Section 20 of the British North America Act. Section 20 reads as follows:
There shall be a Session of the Parliament of Canada once at least in every Year, so that Twelve Months shall not intervene between the last Sitting of the Parliament in one Session and its first Sitting in the next Session.
I must ask what the Prime Minister’s purpose is in seeking to have Section 20 repealed. Why should we give any Prime Minister, especially the present one, the right to call Parliament into session or not call it into session, as he wishes? Should the Prime Minister be allowed to run the country without having to convene Parliament? In theory and in practice, if Section 20 is repealed, a Prime Minister could run the country for a year, or even longer, as his private fiefdom, substituting orders in council for acts of Parliament.
In the second place, I cannot think of one single reason why anyone would want to wipe this or any other item of Canadian history off the books. To do so would not serve any useful purpose or add anything to the sense or purpose of this document. What it does is point to the sinister purpose behind the inclusion of this schedule in the resolution and, indeed, the whole resolution itself.
For the benefit of those members who still feel that they can vote for this resolution, I would like to read Section 58(2) of Part VIII of this resolution. Those members who tell their constituents that they are voting for this bill so that we can bring home the British North America Act and amend it here in Canada will have a lot to answer for if this resolution is approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and imposed on our country. Section 58(2) reads:
The Constitution of Canada includes, (a) the Canada Act, (b) the Acts and orders referred to in Schedule I; and (c) any amendment to any Act or order referred to in paragraph (a) or (b).
There can be no doubt as to the meaning of Section 58. What we are debating here is the new Constitution of Canada, to replace the BNA Act of 1867 and all its subsequent amendments. Paragraph (c) clearly states that when the Parliament of Canada makes any amendments to our Constitution, assuming this bill becomes law, such amendments will be to the Prime Minister’s Constitution and not to the one we have lived under for the past 114 years.
I would like to voice my objections to some of the specific items in the resolution, in the unhappy event that it should become the new Constitution of Canada. Commencing with the preamble, I would like to address myself to the motion put forward on behalf of my party by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp). I cannot understand how anyone could object to this motion. It is basic and fundamental to the founding principles of our nation. Our motion reads:
—Affirming that the Canadian nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free individuals and free institutions.
In his statement before the joint Senate-House of Commons committee on the Constitution, the hon. member for Provencher went on to say:
—affirming also that individuals and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law.
I have on my desk some of the representations made to me on this subject by my constituents in Victoria-Haliburton. These are in response to a newspaper release that I sent out, in which I noted that the unholy alliance of the Liberals and NDP in this House rejected our motion. I might add that I have to date received not one piece of correspondence supporting the Liberal-NDP position, but I have received well over two thousand responses supporting the position of my party.
I have been a little surprised, but very pleased, that all of the mail I have received in response to the position I have taken on the issues of the supremacy of God, abortion, the right to own and hold property and capital punishment has supported my stand all the way. I feel that I am representing the views and convictions of the majority of my people.
On the question of abortion, I reject out of hand any motion that the expectant mother should be the sole arbiter as to whether she will or will not abort a foetus. That would be tantamount to giving pregnant women decision-making powers that are rightly those of the courts and the medical profession. I am deeply disturbed as it is by reports that some courts have ruled that a foetus does not have the status of a person until it is delivered. I suggest that that is why some people want to specify in our charter of rights that only persons have rights.
It is an established fact that a foetus is a living thing, medically, morally and spiritually, and yet, if we are to accept recent court rulings on the subject, the foetus does not have any rights until it has been delivered. This raises the very serious question as to who is to speak for the foetus until it is delivered. It is we who must answer the question. It is our responsibility, and we must decide how best to protect the foetus until it is delivered and becomes a person under the law.
Abortion must not be allowed to become a political football. It is one of the most serious social and moral issues facing our society. But it is more than just that; it is a matter of life or death. I totally reject the concept of abortion on demand. To me, it is unthinkable. We must not accept abortion as just another method of birth control. Basic standards of moral conduct rule out abortion as a means of escaping the consequences of permissive and irresponsible lifestyles.
To return to the statement on Conservative Party policy, presented to the constitutional committee by my friend, the hon. member for Provencher, I draw the attention of the House to page 6 of his statement, wherein he states our policy with regard to right of ownership of property. This statement seeks to amend Section 7 of the resolution by substituting the following:
Everyone has the right of life, liberty, security of the person and the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with principles of natural justice.
I find it difficult to understand how anyone could quarrel with this statement of principle, especially in a country where the right to own and hold property has been a fundamental right since confederation.
Here again the Liberals and NDP joined forces to oppose this motion, but I was surprised and pleased some time ago to hear that the member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Orlikow) spoke out in support of this motion in his remarks in this House on the Constitution resolution. On page 8135 of Hansard for Wednesday, March ll, the member for Winnipeg North quoted from the fifth amendment to the American constitution. I quote the member as follows:
—no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”.
The member for Winnipeg North might have completed the amendment by adding: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”.
The point is that the member stated that this provision is in the resolution that we are debating, and that he supports it. I am pleased to have his support for the principle of our motion, but unfortunately the right to own property is not contained in the government’s version of the resolution. However, I would like to take the member’s words in Hansard literally and to hope that he will stand by his guns and insist that this provision be included in Section 7 of the resolution, as it now
appears in the late Right Hon. John Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights.
I believe that the rule of law and the strict adherence to this concept offers greater protection than someone’s interpretation as to what constitutes natural justice. Interpretations can vary, according to who happens to be sitting on the judge’s bench at any particular time.
Section 15 of the resolution is too weak and lends itself to abuse by any future government that might want to bestow special privileges or special status on particular groups in our society for political gain or expediency. It would lend itself too easily to quota systems in hiring and appointing, a form of discrimination. I am opposed to discrimination in any form, no matter how it is dressed up in pious rhetoric and legalese.
To stay with that point for just a moment, I would like to cite an example of what I mean. One of our proposals would make it unlawful for anyone to discriminate against anyone else in the workplace, in making accommodation available to any person, and in other ways that have often been referred to as selective placement.
Our motion reads as follows:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Now I would like to move to Section 7 of this resolution. As I mentioned earlier, in the unhappy event that this Constitution is foisted on the Canadian public, Section 7 leaves a lot to be desired. It is here that we can take the first steps towards relegating the Prime Minister’s permissive society concept to the trash heap where it belongs. In fact, it is in Sections 7 through 14 that we would like to lay the groundwork for bona fide, de facto protection for law-abiding Canadians.
Beginning with Section 7, I must again insist that the wording of this section falls short of guaranteeing the rights spelled out in the section. Fundamental justice can mean many things to many persons, whereas due process of law refers specifically to the protection of life, liberty and the security of the person according to established law.
Fundamental justice is a high-sounding phrase, and like just about everyone else I like the sound of it. But for the purposes of safeguarding human and civil rights, I must refer to the precious wording of the law as we have enjoyed it in Canada through the British common law.
Although the phrase “established by law” appears elsewhere in the section entitled “legal rights”, I am concerned that the wording of Section 7 might encourage courts to interpret it to mean something other than what is intended. I think that this is just one more example of the sort of escape hatches, or loopholes, that this government is trying to slip through in this Constitution resolution.
This concern has been expressed by other members who have taken part in this debate, namely the concern that our parliamentary system of government and the British common law will be replaced by something that the average Canadian does not even fully understand. There is a deep and legitimate concern that the role of Parliament and the powers presently conferred on Parliament will be gradually assumed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
We are all reasonably familiar with the basic difference between our constitutional monarchy or parliamentary system of government, and the republican system in the United States. The United States system is based on the Roman triangle, with the executive, legislative and judicial powers at each of the three corners. The Supreme Court of the United States has the responsibility of interpreting the U.S. constitution. However, in the final analysis, the voice of the people is expressed in the House of Representatives; the House of Representatives has the final voice. The final voice of the Canadian people is vested in their Parliament, and that voice and that power must remain here if we are to survive as a parliamentary democracy.
Several months ago when these debates first began, the concern was expressed that if we follow the government’s present course with this resolution, the Supreme Court will not only interpret and rule on law, but will also be allowed to make laws. In my view, that would subordinate Parliament to the courts.
For over 300 years, Mr. Speaker, the courts and Parliaments of Canada and the United Kingdom have resisted pressure to introduce some elements of the United States jurisprudence, in particular their rules with regard to the types of evidence allowed to be introduced into criminal trials. As recently as January of this year the present government attempted to introduce the U.S. exclusionary evidence rule into the body of Canadian law. Happily they were forced to back down.
I have with me a letter from the vice-president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police on the subject of law enforcement which reads as follows:
Further to our conversation of last night, I am enclosing a copy of a news release issued by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, January 27th, 1981.
At an Executive Meeting held by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police on January 28th, 1981, the news release by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in reference to the recent amendments to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was reviewed.
The members, who represent the entire police community of Ontario. were unanimous in their decision to support the stand taken by the Chiefs of Police of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police of which we are members. The fears expressed by our fellow chiefs are not imaginary. You might say we are confused and wonder why this sort of legislation would be introduced which would destroy the fine justice system we have in this country today.
Knowing your background and the stand you have taken in issues involving the safety of the citizens of Canada, I am sure that you would agree that if the American exclusionary rule, commonly known as the “fruit of the poisoned tree rule” were introduced in law in the Dominion of Canada, the quality of law enforcement in this country would degenerate.
We, in law enforcement, and indeed as citizens, are extremely concerned and solicit your co-operation and support in changing or amending the Charter. Yours in matters of mutual interest.
Yours truly, J. G. Wales, 1st Vice-President, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
This matter of law enforcement is causing a lot of concern not only to the police forces throughout my area but, as stated in the letter, to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
Anyone who reads the newspapers and reviews the lenient sentences imposed today by our courts on hardened criminals will know that this is not a time for Parliament and the courts to treat criminals as though they were a privileged class. I have stated many times in this House and in my riding that more tears are shed today for the criminals than are shed for the victims of crime.
This is a time for us to get tough on those members of our society who scoff at our laws, who prey on innocent, law-abiding citizens and who are presently getting the sympathy that should be reserved for their victims. I have always been a proponent of capital punishment and I am more convinced today than I have ever been that we must reinstate capital punishment for premeditated murder and for murder resulting from the commission of other types of crimes.
A few days ago a man was convicted in a local court for the murder of a Catholic priest. It was a heinous, callous, deliberate murder. The evidence was so conclusive that the murderer pleaded guilty. And yet, Mr. Speaker, this convicted murderer was allowed to bargain with the court and received a five-year prison sentence. Was that justice? No, of course not, It was a travesty of justice. I was sickened by it.
In my closing remarks I would like to say that I cannot support this attempt on the part of the government to replace the British North America Act with this Constitution before us today. This document does not contain the elements of an acceptable Constitution, and it contains too many items and provisions that are unacceptable to the majority of Canadians. This is evident from coast to coast. Canadians are wondering what is going to happen to the nation that they have enjoyed in the past, yet the government persists in going ahead with its Constitution—or the Prime Minister’s Constitution, as I would have to call it.
On behalf of mysef I and my constituents in Victoria-Haliburton, I call upon the government to withdraw this resolution and act upon the Progressive Conservative Party’s motion which calls for patriation of our Constitution and its amendment here in Canada.
Mr. Marcel Ostiguy (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture): Mr. Speaker, it is quite an honour and a privilege for me to address the House today in this historic debate. It is a responsibility and a duty for me as a Canadian and a Quebecer, and finally as the representative of the constituent of Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot to take part today in the building of our nation. Indeed, we have been discussing this issue in the House for the past six months. I wish to point it out, Mr. Speaker, because in spite of the fine speeches we have heard in this House, the debate on the patriation of our Constitution has sometimes been diluted in an abundance of electoral and time-serving considerations or has been turned into a mere exercise of political marketing.
I refer, Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the Official Opposition who has tried throughout this debate to use the patriation project to enhance his own image as party leader, while squandering the valuable time of the House at a cost $300,000 per day out of public funds. I also refer to the eloquent silence of the Ontario premier who felt that the anglophone vote was more important than the rights of half a million of Franco-Ontarians. It is essential, however, to keep in mind that beyond all electoral considerations, beyond the provincial boundaries and jurisdictions, Canada’s sovereignty and the basic rights of all Canadians are at stake in this proposed constitutional reform. It is within that perspective that the action of this government must be judged and it is within the same perspective that we must judge the people who downcry that action.
Of course the opposition against the proposed federal constitutional reform cannot be passed over in silence. But as La Presse editorialist Marcel Adam so rightly put it in an article published last February 28, and I quote:
It is not enough to awaken public opinion and have it endorse one’s cause. One must also take constructive initiatives likely to defuse the crisis.
When the Right Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition crisscrosses Canada, warning people that our country is on the verge of breaking up, his statements certainly cannot be described as being “constructive initiatives”. The official opposition dug in its heels unnecessarily to prolong this debate which has now been going on for 54 years, and yet that same party approves the position of the government, if we are to give any currency to this excerpt from the brief presented last January by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, and I quote:
We are tabling our proposed amendments to the government’s proposed resolution, knowing full well that the majority of Canadians want the constitution brought back to Canada. Most of them also want that a charter of rights and freedoms of the people of Canada be enshrined in the constitution.
As I was saying, the official opposition dug in its heels to prolong the debate, in spite of that statement, so their attitude can hardly be called a constructive initiative. Finally, Mr. Speaker, when the Ontario premier categorically refuses to make Section 133 of the British North American Act applicable to his province, although recent polls published in the Toronto Star reveal that 52 per cent of Ontario residents would accept institutional bilingualism, here again we cannot say that his attitude is constructive. And yet, Mr. Speaker, our government did not relent in its efforts to break out of that constitutional deadlock.
Having heard the evidence and recommendations of no fewer than 97 interested groups, having received 1280 briefs, having held 104 sittings and debated the resolution during 263 hours, the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons presented to Parliament a proposed resolution improved by 82 amendments which in many cases greatly enhance the situation and the dignity of all Canadians. And so it is that Parliament today is studying a constitutional proposal which at long last will free Canada from the final remnant of the colonial era and proclaim the full sovereignty of the Canadian people. We now have before Parliament a charter of rights and freedoms which will guarantee at last the basic freedoms and the democratic rights of all Canadians everywhere in Canada.
At long last Parliament is considering an amendment formula which henceforth will enable the provinces to have their say about the changes to be made to our Constitution in the future. This amendment formula once rallied near unanimity in Victoria ten years ago and, as my colleague for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal) indicated, it will confirm the partnership status of the provincial governments and grant them the authority to propose and approve any change which might affect their powers. This amendment formula will at last enable us to break free from the constitutional impasse in which the rule of unanimity has kept us for 54 years. As recently as last week, Mr. Speaker, I entertained the hope that the eight dissenting premiers would propose an amending formula that could form the basis of future negotiations.
Today however, I must confess my great disappointment in the face of this proposal which I think is a backwards step compared to all the hard work done by Parliament over these long months of debate. Not only do the eight opposing premiers reject the idea of entrenching a charter of rights applicable to all Canadians into the Constitution, but their amending formula includes an opting out provision for any province that is dissatisfied with an amendment. Is that the way to build a nation? Is that the way to Canadian unity?
An editorial in this weekend’s Citizen summed up the position of the eight provinces very well. It reads as follows:
A constitution is not a constitution unless it binds the elements of a nation together.
The unlimited opting out provision, the absence of an equalization guarantee and the exclusion of a deadlock-breaking mechanism combine to make this accord not an exercise in nation building, but rather a blueprint for nation wrecking.
That is where the so-called heroic filibustering by the official opposition in the last few weeks has brought us. That is the result of the trade-offs to which the Prime Minister agreed in a last ditch effort to gain provincial agreement for his proposal. Both the government and the official opposition have found unacceptable the proposal made by the eight dissenting premiers. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) qualified it as “incremental sovereignty-association” and in an interview last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) indicated his disappointment with the provincial proposal. That is why, Mr. Speaker, we must stop fooling ourselves with the rule of unanimity and accept the fact that the time for sterile discussions is over and the time to act is now. Parliament has before it a proposal for an over-all constitutional reform which I believe satisfies the aspirations of Quebecers who rejected on May 20 of last year the nebulous proposal of the P.Q. government. Although they re-elected the same government last week, these Quebecers forced that party to abandon any possible move aimed at changing Quebec’s status within the Canadian federation.
In this way, Quebecers have clearly shown in my opinion that they want federalism, renewed federalism which will provide them and all Canadians with the opportunity to develop fully in this land of plenty that is Canada with guaranteed rights and freedoms. However, even with all the good will in the world, this proposal could never satisfy all expectations. It especially does not satisfy the insatiable appetite of the provincial governments who consider the federal government’s initiative an attempt at interference with their fields of jurisdiction. Quebec fears encroachment, among other things, in the area of education. It is important in that regard, Mr. Speaker, to consider the demographic situation in order to fully understand the scope of the education related provisions contained in the proposed resolution. In an interesting demographic study published in La Presse last October 18, Jean Poulain states, and I quote:
. . . the latest data show that in less than 15 years, over 600,000 Quebecers left their province to take up residence elsewhere.
This year alone, according to statistics just released by the Canadian Association of Movers, Quebec ranks first among the provinces for the number of families moving to other provinces, with 54,056 people. Mr. Speaker, these 650,000 Quebecers who have moved to other Canadian provinces are mostly francophones. Every year, they join the hundreds of thousands of other francophones outside Quebec throughout the country who have no constitutional guarantee that they can fulfil themselves in what is nevertheless one of the two official languages of our country. Mr. Speaker, wherever they live, these francophones have the right to use their own language, just as the linguistic rights of the anglophone minority are respected in Quebec. For this reason and because the phenomenon of interprovincial migration is now a fact of life in Canada, I consider fully justified the entrenchment in our Constitution of the provisions concerning minority language rights and minority language educational rights.
Indeed, if mobility is to characterize our future Canadian society, it is incumbent on us to entrench immediately in our Constitution safeguards to ensure the respect of the cultural
and linguistic integrity of both founding peoples of Canada. However, this responsibility does not belong only to the federal government. The provincial governments, which have exclusive jurisdiction in matters of education, must also take their own responsibilities to attain this object. Section 133 of the British North America Act already states that Quebec and Manitoba must provide legislative and legal services to their minorities in their own language. More recently, Mr. Speaker, in a gesture of great wisdom and openness of mind, the premier of New Brunswick also accepted that these provisions apply to his own province. In fact, his proposal was agreed to unanimously last week by the legislature of his province.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I must publicly state my deep disappointment at the obstinate refusal of the Ontario government to follow the example of New Brunswick. Some will say that extending the provisions of Section 133 to Ontario would only be a symbolic gesture without any real meaning. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, this argument is only a red herring which does not succeed in hiding an unwillingness which greatly exceeds the strategic framework of the recent election campaign in that province. And when it is argued that this would result in an anti-French backlash in Ontario, I can only reply that the refusal of the Ontario government is conversely creating in Quebec an even greater anti-English backlash which is even more dangerous as it is only promoting the cause of the independentist separatist movement in Quebec.
Yet the Ontario government has not lacked opportunities to show its good will. Already in 1969, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism recommended that New Brunswick and Ontario take the initiative in recognizing English and French as official languages and in accepting the linguistic implications of such recognition. Again, in 1972, the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution expressed this wish once again by making it clear that people should be able to use both official languages in the legislatures and in the courts. More recently, at the first ministers’ conference last September, Ontario had another opportunity to show its concern concretely for the 500,000 francophones living in that province.
As you can see, Mr. Speaker, it is not for lack of opportunities that the Ontario government has not introduced bilingualism on an institutional basis; yet, each time, it failed miserably. Today, Mr. Speaker, I strongly urge my hon. colleagues from Ontario, as well as hon. members of the official opposition to avail themselves of all possible means at their disposal to try and persuade the Ontario Premier of the urgency to enshrine the linguistic rights of the Francophones of his province in our new Constitution. Over half a million of them hope to see their government move in that direction, while five million French-speaking Quebecers are monitoring the situation very closely. It is in this sense, Mr. Speaker, that a commitment from the Ontario government to apply to its province the provisions of Section 133 would be interpreted as much more than a token gesture; it would be regarded as a concrete demonstration of national unity, an irrefutable proof for all Canadians to see that harmony between our two main linguistic groups in Canada is more than a worthy goal, a tangible reality.
This proposed Constitution now being debated is to be regarded as the foundations of the Canadian society of tomorrow, a society based on equity, freedom and tolerance, on the respect of minorities which make up the Canadian mosaic, where the basic rights of individuals would be enshrined in a wholly Canadian Constitution. We must carry through this great project together, Mr, Speaker, for the sake of our own generation and of a great many others to follow. We must also carry it through as an example for all the countries which are seeking justice and freedom.
I should like to conclude my remarks with this statement which was made by the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) in Brandon, Manitoba, on February 4, and I quote:
Our Charter is not only a Canadian accomplishment, it is also a victory for the human spirit.
It is with this in mind that I have always publicly endorsed the proposed patriation of our Constitution. Although I am once more deeply disappointed by the failure of the official opposition to press the Ontario government into giving official status to the French language both within its legislative assembly and its courts, I remain nevertheless firmly supportive of the government’s initiative. This initiative is, in my opinion, the first step towards a better Canada, Mr. Speaker, and it is important that we take it together.
Hon. Elmer M. MacKay (Central Nova): Mr. Speaker, before beginning my remarks in this very important debate, I want to pay tribute, as others have done, to the members of both Houses of Parliament who have worked so hard, not only in the special committee but in other deliberations surrounding this important matter.
Surely the object of constitutional reform has got to be unity, to unite Canadians in a renewed, reinvigorated federalism, flourishing under a revised Constitution of which all of us can be proud. Unfortunately, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) conceded, this debate has in fact divided our country. The reasons, in my opinion, are clear. They are based on past mistrust of the Prime Minister and his administration and the obsession that he has demonstrated in the past to push his own concepts of confederation over and around other partners in our country.
The early use of closure in this House and the continuing threat throughout this debate to use it again is a matter that has caused great resentment in this House of Commons and, I think, justifiably so. The poet James Russell Lowell once expressed the feelings of many of us when he described a man who was willing to sink half his present repute for the freedom
to think. There was more to the effect that this same man, “be his cause strong or weak, would gladly surrender the rest for the freedom to speak.”
This is something that is so fundamental to the House of Commons that it has coloured this debate. I believe there are many of our colleagues on both sides of the House who are not going to be able to speak. That is a shame because there were two explicit promises made to make certain that this situation in fact would not occur.
Listening to the Prime Minister in the course of his two-hour plus speech, as he twisted and turned for most of his time, I recalled a verse that I had read once from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam which I think describes part of this problem.
It goes like this: Myself when young Did eagerly frequent, Doctor and saint, and heard great argument, About it, and about, but ever more, Come out by the same door As in I went.
What a pity our Prime Minister did not act earlier on the Constitution. He alluded to this when he spoke on March 23. He said at that time that he had a consensus of provinces in 1971 at the Victoria conference, but that one province held out for something. The irony of it all was that what that province of Quebec wanted it got anyway.
Then the Prime Minister said—and no one has checked him up on this yet, because he has given the impression of single-minded, faithful, dogged determination on constitutional reform—”I let a few years elapse”. He sure did. He waited until April 19, 1975, by his own admission, and by then he had blunted our economic progress and soured our country; and that is why the whole process of constitutional reform is so difficult today.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. MacKay: I agree with the observation “better late than never”. We could have a more bipartisan and more constructive approach, and could have had in the past if the Prime Minister had stopped his standard tactics of confrontation, or as Walter Stewart would say, “the methods of divide and con”, which, by coincidence, is the first syllable of the Constitution.
However, looking back toward yesterday, if carried to extremes, can cause one to lose the visions of tomorrow, so it is not my intention to spend my entire speech rehashing old events. However, there are reasons for the deterioration in federal-provincial relations during the past dozen years, and I want to remind my colleagues in the House that, besides the ones involved in constitutional reform, these past difficulties are very relevant in assessing what is happening in our country today because they affect the present climate and the present mood.
Anyone, for example, reading the current energy policy of this government would automatically have a sense of déja vu, as I did when I listened to Donald Macdonald bringing in his policy on December 6, 1973, which at that time was a very comprehensive one. It was going to do a lot of things for Canada. It was going to provide a national market for our conventional and synthetic oil supported by a pricing mechanism with sufficient incentives to develop our oil industry, pipelines to be constructed to the eastern part of our country and an incentive plan for conserving our energy.
The big news at that time was that we would be self-sufficient in energy by 1980 if all went well. Today, seven years later, there is still no pipeline to eastern Canada, although the Prime Minister solemnly promised that on January 25 of last year. There is chaos in the industry and no agreement on pricing between the government and the producing provinces. This kind of performance does not help to instil any confidence in the Canadian people, and it is only one of the many gross errors of the Prime Minister and his government.
If John Diefenbaker were here today, I could just hear him say, with every justification: “The same old bunch are at it again”.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. MacKay: What can Canadians hope and expect from a government like this as it modifies our Constitution? Will it and can it widen the scope of our freedoms, making us a happier, better nation? I have my doubts, since under our British tradition our Constitution is not the source but the consequence of a large and varied basket of freedoms which we already have as part of our heritage. This government cannot give us rights. We have those rights now. It can attempt to restrict them, define them or enumerate them, but it has no business giving the impression to the Canadian people that it can bestow them. This government wants to keep the residue of power; that is this government’s ambition. But that is exactly backwards. The residue of power belongs to the people, and any country which forgets this does so at its peril.
J. A. Corry, an eminent and able legal scholar at Queen’s University, put it this way: he said the Constitution—
—is never a guarantee of good government: If the Constitution is a good one, in the sense of fitting well with the balance of opinions and attitudes in the country, it makes good government that much easier to achieve. But the main service of a good Constitution is to put obstacles in the way of bad government.
Does this government’s concept of a Constitution match Professor Corry’s description? Does it fit well with the balance of opinions and attitudes in Canada, or will it by the clause encouraging referenda allow a bad government to spend its citizens’ tax dollars for propaganda to influence their thinking? This is a very serious and fundamental concern. The fairness of a government’s approach is absolutely vital if we are to have referenda as a device to be used in shaping the future of our country.
Last October the executive secretary of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, a non-profit public interest group, sounded a warning. He singled out government propaganda on the issues of energy and the Constitution as containing gross errors of fact in the advertising campaigns funded by public
moneys. He made the point as well that the federal government is not subject to Section 36 of the Combines Investigation Act which disallows statements which are misleading or false. He wrote at that time:
Why is it that our democracy has no protection against misleading advertising by government—no avenue to challenge government propaganda? Several weeks ago two newspapers closed, zi hue and cry went out from politicians and journalists about the control of the press by two large chains. Almost immediately, a Royal commission was announced by cabinet.
Let me say as an aside it was to be under that great non-achiever, Tom Kent.
But which is the greater threat to our freedom, Mr. Speaker, the closure of a couple of newspapers or the freedom of government to mislead without any challenge? The hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), who has done such an outstanding job during this constitutional debate, had this to say in the House on February 17, as reported at page 7388 of Hansard:
But I do not believe that there is any provision in this constitutional proposal which is more objectionable than the permanent enshrinement of a referendum to change Canada’s Constitution. This is not just any referendum, it is not asking the people; it is a referendum which could be held in order to break a so-called deadlock, a deadlock wholly determined by the federal government. It is a referendum which will still be controlled by the federal government. It is a referendum which would be uscd to by-pass the people’s elected representatives in provincial legislatures. It is a referendum which could be used by a majority to override the rights of minorities. the very essence which this proposal purports to protect.
When we realize that the government is by far the largest advertiser in this country, spending about $2.50 per capita for this purpose, and when we consider that in the United States, a far richer country, the government ranks about twenty-eighth in terms of national advertisers, spending about 65 cents per capital, we can see the enormous importance referendum advertising provisions have; and this is why I so strongly support the concept put forward by the hon. member for Provencher. I would recommend it to other members of this House. We must have some sort of guarantee to control the government in this respect.
Many Canadians seem to have temporarily lost their capacity for moral outrage; we are a very complacent people, slow to anger, slow to become excited about social issues and abuses. Some of us, however, remain profoundly suspicious about the motives behind some changes being perpetrated in our country. The omission of any reference to the Deity and the absence of property rights do not compliment any Constitution. I trust members of the House will take cognizance of the amendments our party has proposed to the Constitution in the House and will recognize and rectify the mistakes which have been made.
It should be kept in mind as well that there are means other than the Constitution to change a country or shape its future. For example, while the government is commanding the attention of the nation with its ham-handed approach to constitutional matters, it is simultaneously dealing a blow to the destiny of the north and the Atlantic region by appropriating their hydrocarbon resources in a way that is clumsy, arrogant and unjust, While the government is whipping up public concern over the alleged crimes of the petroleum industry, its alleged overcharging and gouging, it is interesting to me that our national petroleum company, PetroCan, is not very competitive, or at least does not seem to be, as I do not see it selling its products for any less than the “seven sisters” in the oil industry. That is a kind of anomaly. As Peter Brimelow pointed out recently in his column:
But the real cost to Canada of Otlawa’s socialization of the oil industry is cultural, not economic. Calgary’s oilmen were an unparalleled area of national self-confidence. They were making Canada’s prcscnce felt all over the world. And all by themselves, without legislation, they were beginning to over-shadow foreign investors by the same natural processes of economics that saw U.S. entrepreneurs grow past the foreign investors who built the American economy.
Now they seem fated to be sacrificed, like the merchants of the Maritimes, to a timid, defensive and ultimately mean-spirited centralism.
That is the tragedy of our country. We have not been allowed to develop uniformly all across this great nation. The government talks about federalism but practises centralism. That is what is holding our country back.
There are many other areas apart from constitutional reform where Canadians have reason to be concerned about their rights. Let us consider the McDonald commission inquiry into the RCMP. It is not so much a commission as it is an annuity. The “E Specials” of the force are today doing what they always did, some of which is necessary, but still without any legal definition, and this is four years later. The latest snag in its procedures I think will find a further interesting revelation. By its decision on January 27 last, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the casc of Franz Colet v. Her Majesty the Queen, officially put to rest the ludicrous proposition advanced by Commissioner Simmonds that as long as their intentions were good the RCMP could break and enter with impunity. The learned judge in that case, Mr. Justice Ritchie, said very clearly that where police officers were acting without authority they were trespassers, and he thus reaffirmed the common law rights of ownership. But this government will not include the common law rights of ownership in the Constitution, which is a very, very serious omission indeed. I hope this House will see fit to rectify that omission, as I mentioned before.
There is another irony. While our national police force is subjected to a four-year inquisition, has anything been done about organized crime in this country except from the point of view of a few CBC programs and a couple of commissions, the Cliche commission and the Laycraft commission in Alberta, which touched on some of these matters? Not on your life. We politicians are investigating our police force and not doing a thing about organized crime.
In my judgment, constitutional reform is not necessarily any guarantee of sovereignty. True sovereignty means more than bringing home a statute, with or without changes. It means being able to exercise control over our country and defend our territory. Are we really able, without the help of our neighbour to the south, to protect ourselves even from hostile reconnaissance by long-range aircraft of the U.S.S.R.? Can we alone effectively patrol and exercise surveillance over one of the
greatest treasures any nation has ever known, our north? Obviously we cannot. Who was responsible, as one of his first acts in becoming Prime Minister, for cutting our NATO commitment in half, and who is responsible for and has presided over years and years of allowing our military capability to diminish? Certainly it is not our party or our leader. In fact, that has been the story of our country. If we do not pay attention to some of the things which involve meaningful sovereignty, we may get our Constitution home all right, but some day we may lose our independence. It is not that simple to bring home a statute without tending to the very fibre and the very basis of what a country should be.
Now the Constitution is being touted as a cure-all. In the midst of our current economic and regional struggles, which are more acute now than when the Prime Minister was first, or even more recently, elected, many people are understandably cynical about taking all this time at this point in our history to discuss and consider a Constitution which, in the opinions of many, has never been that much of a problem.
Some measure of past consistency of purpose and solid achievement in governing would have assisted the Prime Minister to lead and to achieve the trust that is necessary to do something as fundamental as changing a country’s Constitution. I suppose what I am really saying is that people like to assess the track record before they place their bets. This government and this Prime Minister have not had much of a track record.
Even the Prime Minister’s writings before he came into public life are suspect. Few people to my knowledge have said or written more derogatory things about the people in public life in his native province than has our Prime Minister in his salad days. In an essay, “Some obstacles to democracy in Quebec,” published in the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science and referred to in the book “Federalism and the French Canadians”, the Prime Minister referred to the shameful incompetence of the average Liberal Member of Parliament from Quebec and said:
The party strategists had but to find an acceptable stable master—Laurier, Lapointe, St, Laurent—and the trained donkeys sitting in the back benches could be trusted to behave. Even the choice of from benchers very often smacked of shysterism.
That is despicable. I do not think anyone in this House believes that, but I wonder if the Prime Minister still holds those views. I hope not, but let me bring to the attention of my colleagues in the House a very interesting speech the Prime Minister gave on May 19, 1967 when he was parliamentary secretary to the then prime minister. He told a service club in the federal riding of Mount Royal:
Politicians who spend their time and energy complaining about the Constitution are simply trying to find excuses for not doing as good a job as they should. Canada’s real problems are not constitutional ones but concern housing shortages, the cost of living and other serious problems.
Mr. Epp: Who said that?
Mr. MacKay: The Prime Minister. We know that in the meantime the problems about which the Prime Minister spoke in 1967 have not been solved but have become worse under the pernicious inertia he has generated in this country. The Prime Minister went on to say on that same occasion in his riding:
Those who blame the Constitution for their troubles are deluding themselves in thinking that constitutional changes alone will work some kind of miracle on this continent.
Perhaps even then he was speaking with a “hell of a tongue in cheek”, to quote him again more recently.
Don McGillivray, a very respected columnist, in the January 15 edition of the Montreal Gazette, again referred to the Prime Minister’s more recent performance in a column entitled “Pierre is 0 for 5 on Promises”. He wrote:
Trudeau said he would head a national government that uses its strength to realize the aspirations and economic potential of each of our provinces, it would be a national government that builds up rather than tears down, that would make the 1980s a decade of opportunity rather than a decade of doubt.
A year later, as Mr. McGillivray points out, the Trudeau government is almost at war with the provinces. I am not going to list the other failures Mr. McGillivray listed; they are there for all to read. But I do want to give the right hon. gentleman credit-and I mean this sincerely—for finally recognizing that our Supreme Court should have the opportunity to assess and to rule on our Constitution. To do otherwise would have been to deny not only fundamental justice but also to undo in a real way the historic work done in making our Supreme Court supreme in law in this country, taking away the umbilical cord which connected our legal system to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That was a consistent and good thing to do, and I respect the Prime Minister for finally recognizing that fact.
The recognition of the rule of law rather than the experience and expedience of politics has changed, in my view, a great deal of the atmosphere in the House and the country. That is one improvement or concession which I think one should not be afraid to concede. It is something which transcends narrow, legal interpretation of any Constitution and goes to the soul of our nation.
However, there is another matter which I think is very, very important, and that is that it will be difficult for Canada to be a unified and developing nation when it is formally divided by our Constitution into different classes of provinces. Our neighbours to the south once had a great president, Abraham Lincoln, who at the time he was debating the issue of slavery said that, while he did not expect a nation divided would stand, he did not expect the union to fall either. He thought it would be one thing or the other, all slave or all free.
How can eight provinces in Canada feel that they have the dignity and status of full participation in a Canadian federas tion when they are formally subordinate to the Quebec-Ontario axis? I think hon. members will agree that it will be rather difficult and demeaning. Certainly it is not necessary. It is the perpetuation of existing bureaucratic and Liberal government thinking which pays lip service to federalism, as I said before, but really practises centralism. A good rallying cry for Canadians who are fed up, particularly those in the regions of the east and west, would be “federalism, yes; centralism, never”.
If we are to have any hope of changing our inequitable and flawed approach to true regional equality, Members of Parliament from Ontario and Quebec must be willing to abandon party lines and vote according to their consciences with a generosity of outlook which will accept the concept of each Canadian province as an equal in terms of status when it comes to voting on those issues affecting our nation’s destiny in amending our Constitution. To give any province a veto will never work. Even in the United Nations there are not two classes of member states when it comes to voting in the General Assembly. And surely in Canada we do not want to create the equivalent of a Security Council to which only two provinces can belong.
Speaking about regional interests, I have been very disappointed in the behaviour of members of the Senate so far, with a few notable exceptions, some of whom have transcended party doctrines. Most hon. senators have done very little to stand up for our regions. This body was designed to protect the provinces and to be the institution of sober second thought, but so far, because of a discipline imposed by the government, the Senate is proceeding in lock-step with the House of Commons, not even waiting until matters are concluded by elected members.
Some senators from other parts of the country, but particularly, from my point of view, from the Atlantic region, have spoken out; and I want to emphasize again how it was that our former advantageous trading position and independence of spirit was the first casualty of confederation. Our offshore resources are a recent casualty of so-called renewed federalism. Even the transportation imperatives which were once a part of the British North America Act have been allowed to fade away.
Let me speak specifically about the former Section 145 of the British North America Act dealing with the inter-colonial railway, which was a very vital ingredient of confederation. That section, which provided an obligation to maintain a satisfactory railway system in the eastern part of our country, has now been deleted. I would like to put this section on the record but time does not permit. The present policy of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pepin) is to downgrade, close and bypass the rail system in eastern Canada and to ship vast amounts of goods and services directly by water from Quebec to Newfoundland.
Would Nova Scotia or Newfoundland join confederation today? The answer is not all that clear; but changing the rules in the middle of the game is not an honourable thing to do, unless one has at least the consent of the majority of the players. This is what the federal government is doing. I suppose it is fair to say that where one stands on an issue depends upon where one sits. I stand for fair treatment for my region. In so doing, I know it means fair treatment for the west and that ultimately it will be for the good of the country. If the diverse parts of the country which have the drive and the resources are not kept subservient by the votes and the money in the centre of the country, ultimately we will all be better off.
When John Diefenbaker talked about one Canada, he did not mean one Canada with an Orwellian creed—that all provinces are equal but some provinces are more equal than others. All of us in the chamber at various times have talked with great pride about our country: its magnificence, its size, its diversity, the warmth and variety of its societies, and the talents of the people enclosed within its borders. Often we speak about its wonderful potential. Often we use the rhetoric of a great Liberal prime minister who made the celebrated prediction that the twentieth century belongs to Canada. But potential can be lost. Athletes, poets and even countries have had their potentials set back if they lack proper training, proper opportunities and, in the case of a country, proper leadership. Some countries have had their futures affected by war and depression, some by egocentric or careless leaders.
I think of Argentina which in the early part of this century had the same potential as Canada. Indeed today it is making progress because of the competitive excellence of its people in many fields of endeavour. I mention Argentina as an example because it is a large, beautiful country; a confederation with 22 provinces and a federal district. It is a country much like ours, with about the same population and many other traits in common, including the production of vast amounts of wheat and the raising of cattle. They have their pampas; we have our prairies. We claim interest in the Arctic; they claim interest in the Antarctic. Generally they are of European stock. They are still having a great deal of trouble with inflation, but I have been told by prominent Argentinians that one of the main reasons for their setback was that their politicians let them down. I hate to see our country fractured and failing to realize its potential because our politicians let down Canada. I do not want to have to say in the future or to hear anyone else say, for example: “What Juan Peron did to Argentina, Pierre Trudeau did to Canada”.
My main concern is that we not subordinate parts of our country, not destroy the feeling of equality between the partners of confederation. If in its so-called wisdom the federal government wants to codify more rights, or wants to bring in other changes to see how they operate, then with some difficulty in the future, if these measures are not satisfactory, they can be changed. But if we give the centre of our country a different and superior status to the rest, how will we ever change it. It will be very difficult and may destroy us one way or another, because although we are proud Canadians, welhave a strong attachment and loyalty to our provinces.
Surely Ontario and Quebec are confident enough and secure enough, in the leading role they play by virtue of their present size, economic strength and geographic location, that they would not want to set their status in stone, to formalize by statute this condition in such a way that other provinces will always be subject to their veto. There will be, to use again United Nations phraseology, a sort of security council built into our country.
However, I want to emphasize it is not fair to lay all the blame for our constitutional impasse on the federal government. As partners in the existing arrangements, the provinces have not been able to formulate or agree upon a plan which has consistency of purpose and generosity of approach.
Our most populous province, Ontario, seems willing to support the federal position for reasons related in part to language, while Quebec, our largest province, is opposed to the position of the federal government for the same reason. If I am right, it is a very shabby approach for both to take, based on political and cynical, short-term self-interest to win elections rather than stemming from any patriotic or idealistic motives. Premier Davis, in return for a less zealous approach by the federal government toward bilingualism, although perhaps he has other reasons as well, supports the Prime Minister. I suspect Premier Levesque is opposed because he does not want any constitutional initiatives to interfere with his own language policy in Quebec. As well, it suits his nationalistic purposes to point to the constitutional issue, if it in not resolved, as a symbol of colonial status.
In the meantime, 800,000 francophones in Ontario see that their access to French language facilities is a privilege and not a right. Twice that many people, at least 1,800,000 non-French-speaking citizens in the province of Quebec, are similarly partly denied access to their language because of Premier Lévesque’s deliberate actions in this respect. I must say that non-English speaking Quebecers may have more rights than Franco-Ontarians. As we all know, this is a very, very bad situation.
What this really means is that probably as many as 2.5 million people in Ontario and Quebec are placed in a very aggravating position. This is happening because their rights are being sacrificed on the altar of short-term political expediency. This is not very heady stuff from which to build a constitution, and it is a poor reflection of any definition of the just society about which we used to hear so much.
I see Mr. Speaker is signalling that my time is just about up, but may I say in conclusion that the provinces have been less than generous in matters of language in the past. They have become increasingly protective and chauvinistic about other matters as well. A good example is the restricting of employment or of mobility rights, which is spreading like a disease across the country.
I do not understand why we have to involve the United Kingdom, to the extent we are, in our constitutional problems. I do not understand why we have dissipated so much of our badly needed energy focusing on a difficult and complex package when we could have merely brought the Constitution home and dealt with it in a mature manner in our own country. It is obvious to the world that we Canadians lack something when we are not mature enough to fight our own battles and make constitutional amendments in our own country.
The Premier of our smallest province, where our nation-building first began, Angus MacLean, summed up the matter very well when he appeared before the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution on November 27, 1980. At that time he said:
We are incapable of understanding, Mr. Chairman, the logic of an argument that purports to remove the last vestiges of 55 years of colonialism by returning us to a status we have not known for 113 years.
We are not impressed by the logic of a federal government that purports to be terribly embarrassed about going to London for constitutional amendments, and yet deliberately seeks from London the most fundamental changes ever to be made to our Constitution—
I have not seen any analysis better than that.
Mr. Ron Irwin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development): Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege to enter into the constitutional debate at this time. The hon. member for Central Nova (Mr. MacKay) referred to former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. It is at the point where he ended that I would like to begin.
As one follows John Diefenbaker’s quest for a bill of rights, it is surprising how often he spoke about the need for a bill of rights before it was actually implemented. On May 16, 1947, he said in the House:
—it would assert the right of a minority to be protected, in the exercise of its rights, against the majority.
On March 24, 1952 he spoke about the protection Canadians needed because of race, religion and colour discrimination. On May 2, 1946 he moved an amendment to the Canadian Citizenship Act to have a bill of rights included in its provisions. He wanted freedom of religion and speech, peaceful assembly and habeas corpus. On April 12, 1948, he spoke again. On June 10, 1948, two months later, he spoke once more at Winnipeg. He pleaded for protection against discrimination because of colour or race. On October 29, 1949, he placed a private member’s resolution on the order paper which asked for a declaration of human rights with fundamental freedoms of religion, of speech and of the-press. Every year in opposition he put a private member’s resolution on the order paper calling for a Canadian bill of rights.
When the Bill of Rights was finally passed, he was quite proud, as he had every right to be. But with it came major disappointments. He knew that it did not bind the provinces; he soon found out that it hardly bound the federal government. He suffered through years of judicial interpretations while his bill was held to be not relevant by the courts, with rare exceptions, such as the Drybones case. He said:
The courts, while never denying the constitutional significance of the Bill of Rights, had shied away from it in their judgments, sometimes indulging in juridical acrobatics to avoid having to deal with it.
He knew that to give a bill of rights full force and effect would mean a constitutional amendment. The opposition say we should go back to the provinces. What did Prime Minister Diefenbaker say? He said:
My experience with the provincial governments indicated that they were too jealous of their jurisdiction over property and civil rights to support any amendment applicable to themselves. I have little hope that their attitude will be altered in years ahead.
Having witnessed last week’s events, what Prime Minister Diefenbaker said was a prophecy of what was to come. He was right.
Some members of the opposition say there is no need for a charter of rights, that we are protected by the common law. This is what Prime Minister Diefenbaker said in this regard:
Some sa that it is unnecessary and our unwritten constitutional rights protect us. They have not in the past. They cannot unless you and I have a right to the protection of law in the courts of the land.
In this debate the hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) said that Parliament is a trustee of the provinces’ rights. He is probably right, but I find it ironical that he would use the word “trustee” in that way. Prime Minister Diefenbaker used it in a different way. He said:
Without a bill of rights, having regard to the experience of recent history, that heritage of which we are trustees will not be passed along to those who come after us.
In the final analysis, his Bill of Rights did not stand up as he would have wanted it to. Only on rare occasions did it bind any government. But in his quest to protect the rights of individuals Prime Minister Diefenbaker was right. We, as parliamentarians, must protect the citizenry from discrimination. There must be certain freedoms that are common to all Canadians. As Prime Minister Diefenbaker said in 1948, there cannot be nine kinds of citizenship in this country. He said that the introduction of a Canadian bill of rights was just one step in a long journey, but that it was a major step forward. I say to this House, let us continue that journey. Let us freely admit that without men like Prime Minister Diefenbaker, and without the men who came before him—the idea did not originate with that prime minister—we would not be taking this step today.
I do not think we should tarry any longer. It has taken us seven months to get this far. Let us enshrine in the Constitution those rights, those ideas, those common decencies which Prime Minister Mackenzie King once said “free men have cherished.” Let us say no more that there is a provincial freedom of speech and a federal freedom of speech. There is only one freedom of speech—a Canadian freedom of speech. Let us say no more that there is a provincial mobility right or a federal one; let us say only that there is a Canadian mobility right. Let us take all the rights contained in the Constitution and not separate them by provincial boundaries. Then and only then can we say that we acted in the interests of Canada and of Canadians as a whole.
The official opposition, and now the Premiers, studiously stay away from the charter of rights. Spokesman after spokesman from the Conservative Party has talked about process—substance is avoided. The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) said:
The aftermath of the adoption of this resolution will have us looking around at the breaking of our federation and, perhaps, at the breaking of our nation itself.
He went on to say:
Our Constitution has been madea source of Canadian shame and division.
Finally, he said:
If public opinion wanted a charter of rights as strongly as this government says it does, then public Opinion would made itself felt.
As a member of the joint committee I listened to public opinion for almost three months as witness after witness came before it. I would like to quote a few of those witnesses. Mr, Gordon Fairweather, the chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said this:
Our thesis is that the charter of rights and freedoms are there to protect the weak against the strong. to protect those who have no power from those who have . . .
Will protecting the weak from the strong be a source of Canadian shame? I say, “Hardly!” Doctor Carole Christinson of the Afro-Asian Foundation of Canada asked that a charter of human rights be entrenched in a patriated Constitution. The Canadian Bar Association presented a brief stating that they wanted an enshrined charter of rights and that they had been asking for it for many years. We have listened to the public and we intend to entrench a charter of rights. I suggest that this charter of rights will not be a source of Canadian shame but rather a shield to protect the ordinary man on the street from legislative oppression and discrimination. It will not be a source of shame, it will be a source of Canadian pride.
I would like to talk about specific rights. Firstly, equalization, which is the concept of sharing between provinces. Mr. Graeme Haig of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce came before the committee. This is what he said about equalization:
The chamber’s view is that the system of transfer payments must be maintained…
This is what Mr. Haig said about mobility on behalf of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce:
The business of hiring preference from one province within a province to the exclusion of residents of other provinces is to us abhorrent.
This government agrees with Mr. Haig’s statement. The support of the Chamber of Commerce on these two items conforms to our concept of Canada. It affirms that one cannot be a Canadian without sharing. It confirms that the individuals under a constitution should be able to work anywhere in Canada notwithstanding residence. This government intends to vote for these rights in this charter. If there is shame, I say shame on the opposition for not voting with us.
Then there was the matter of non-discrimination because of race. Mr. Art Shimizu of the National Association of Japanese Canadians came before the committee. Some members of the committee tried to show that even though there was a bill of rights in the United States it did not help the Japanese Americans during and after the war. Mr. Shimizu said that because of an enshrined bill of rights—
—the Japanese Americans were able to return to their homes a full nine months prior to the termination of the Pacific war, while the Canadian Japanese languished in the internment camps and were being deported, sent back to Japan most likely and dispersed, for almost four full years after the unconditional surrender of Japan when the presumed reasons for their confinement hnd vanished.
We have included that protection in Section 15 and we intend to vote for it. We have included many basic rights in
this Constitution which we intend to vote for. The official opposition can beat their chests and talk about process, insult this party and the leader of it, but in the final analysis what they will be voting for is against the enshrined rights of the average Canadian.
I would now like to deal with the pleas which were made on behalf of the handicapped. In our original draft of the resolution rights of the handicapped were not included. Mr. Gordon Fairweather of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, who came before the joint committe, said this:
The list of grounds presented in that section is incomplete. In particular, no promise of equality under the law is made to the disabled.
Mr. Clarke Macdonald of the United Church of Canada said that the rights of the physically and mentally disabled should also be stated. Mr. David Vickers of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded said:
Our plea to you is not a plea for special rights. Our plea as advocates of people with a handicap is that they too will be afforded the full opportunity that attaches to their Canadian citizenship; in short, a plea that they will not be forgotten in the new bill of rights so that they may become Canadians first and handicapped second.
There was one young man who had a very profound effect on myself. That man was Ron Kanary of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations for the Handicapped. He came in a wheelchair to my office. He spoke quietly. He had appeared before the special parliamentary committee on the disabled and the handicapped and he also appeared before the joint committee.
We are looking for the Constitution to set a tone so that changes may come about, not overnight but over a period of years, that we can become fully integrated and active and contributing as a force of people in society.
He asked no special favours and we gave him none. All we put into the Constitution is the right that the handicapped will not be discriminated against by legislation. When the official opposition votes against this charter of rights, let them make no bones about it; they will be voting against the hard fought rights of the disabled, like Ron Kanary, and his organization. I say to the opposition. the only source of shame among all of us is that we did not do this years ago.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Irwin: There has been a grest deal of debate about referendum. There has been much shaking and quaking by menlbers of the opposition. They fear the use of the referendum.
They look on the referendum process as a deterioration of democracy. Yet, they fail to say what may be done in a democratic society to break a deadlock. Their solution to a deadlock is another deadlock. If the provinces and the federal government cannot agree among themselves on a solution to a problem, it seems to me it would be better to ask the Canadians instead of Westminster to settle the matter. What has the opposition so much to fear from the people? To my mind, no process can be more democratic than consulting the people.
As Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent once said:
As a Liberal. I have always believed in the capacity and judgment of the ordinary people. And I carry that belief to the point of believing that when we do not carry the judgment of the people. the fault is in ourselves and not in the people.
What is remarkable about that statement is that it was his last speech as leader of our party. He “had just been turfcd out of office by the people of this country and he did not blame them. If there is a difference between Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, I say that in defeat we do not blame the people. A referendum should not have to be used.
The mechanism in the Victoria formula is there for the provinces and the government to utilize. However, if it has to be used, then this government is prepared to fully trust the people of this country. It is not our Constitution, it is not the Premiers’ Constitution; it will be the Constitution of the very people who the official opposition refused to trust in a referendum.
On language, it seems that in this House history keeps repeating itself. Many of the problems which plague us today are those which have plagued us for the last half century. I say it is about time that we solved some of these problems. The first one which we should solve is minority language education.
In 1916, the appellate court of Ontario upheld regulation 17 which seriously curtailed the rights of Franco-Ontario children to have schooling in the province in their own language. Prime Minister.Sir Wilfrid Laurier wrote to the Globe: “We French Liberals of Quebec are fighting Bourassa and Lavergne. Will the English Liberals in Ontario fight Howard Ferguson and the extreme Orange element?” John Dafoe replied: “Let our Quebec friends thoroughly understand the situation. We shall not allow them to impose their will on the rest of Canada.”
Prime Minister Laurier went to the House of Commons in an effort to convince Ontario to change that regulation. He had a resolution put before the House irnploring the Ontario legislature of “the wisdom of making it clear that the privilege of the children of French parentage to be taught in their mother tongue be not interfered with”. That was on May 9, 1916. Sixty-five years have passed and the problem is still with us.
The problem of minority linguistic rights still prevails in Ontario. Had it not been for the intervention of the Ontario government, the Penetanguishene school board would have prevented French-speaking children from being taught in the minority language.
There were times in the last month when I thought we had really matured as a nation. I listened to the members of the joint committee and I thought: “That’s my type of Canada”. So many prominent witnesses came before that committee, a cross-section of this country, and their concept of Canada was
the same as mine. The unique experience was that most of them did not have a special interest in minority language education or the official languages. For instance, Professor Irwin Cotter of the Canadian Jewish Congress pleaded eloquently for the linguistic rights of francophones and anglophones. J. P. Nelligan of the Canadian Bar Association came before the committee and said:
The Constitution should guarantee the right of a parent to have English or French as the language of instruction of his children in publicly supported schools in areas where the number of people speaking that language warrants this course.
The National Congress of Italians came before the committee and their spokesman, Antonio Sciascia, said:
Well, if we want to put into effect what we preach, which is bilingualism, then we have to start implementing that policy somewhere, and I think that if we treat the francophone: in Ontario the same way that the anglophones are treated in Quebec, then I think that would be a good start.
His Worship Mayor Dennis Flynn of Etobicoke, on behalf of the national executive of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities went much further than anything in this resolution on the question of minority language rights.
I am not quoting l’Association Canadienne-Francaise de l’Ontario, and I am not talking about what the Council of Quebec Minorities said. I am telling the House what an Italian organization, a Jewish organization, an august board of lawyers and an Ontario mayor with an Irish-sounding name said. We are all Canadians and we share a common understanding of Canada. I left that committee with a good feeling. I thought we all agreed on the merit of two official languages. I thought we all agreed on the merit of minority education.
Then I came back to the House, and on March 3, 1981, I heard the Progressive Conservative member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) say:
Unfortunately, no one pointed out that the Durham report recommended the union of Upper and Lower Canada and the use of one federal language, English. Had this been adhered to, we would not be having this acrimonious debate in the House today.
I could not believe my ears. At first I thought that what the hon. member meant was that in 1867, if the Fathers of Confederation had applied a broader brush, we would not be having a language problem today. But that is not what he meant, and it took me a few minutes to realize it. Many hon. members were in the House that day. What he meant was that in 1867 they made a mistake in making French an official language along with English in certain provinces, and giving certain French-speaking Canadiaans some official status in this country.
Well, he is one Member of Parliament from Ontario and I am another Member of Parliament from Ontario, and I say to him through you, Mr. Speaker, that he is wrong. I say, that the mistake of 1867 will be rectified. I say to the hon. member that the pleas of Sir Wilfrid Laurier will be heard in 1981. I say, that this time, through Sections 16 to 23, we will enshrine in the Constitution, once and for all, the official language of this nation and the minority language rights of its citizens.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Irwin: It is unfortunate that, with the fall of the previous government, the energy negotiations and the constitutional debate overlap each other. I find it hard to believe, especially having sat on the joint committee with colleagues such as the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), various members from Ontario, the west, the maritimes and New Brunswick, that we could be so pedantic and use phrases which will leave scars in this House for years to come. I keep reminding myself that if the Constitution stood by itself, or if the Charter of Rights stood by itself, this acrimony would not exist and we would agree on such fundamental principles as patriation, an amending formula and a Charter of Rights. I hope that I am right.
Prime Minister Lester Pearson once said: “The fundamental principle of Liberalism, the foundation of its faith, is belief in the dignity and worth of the individual.” Notwithstanding our disagreement at this particular time, I think this basic belief is the belief of all hon. members of this House. I say now is the time to entrench that dignity and worth of the individual.
In conclusion, I want to thank each and every member of the joint committee and the support staff who worked for so many months to make this a better document. There is, however, a man I have watched anguish over each and every amendment to this constitution from the day we started to discuss it. Let there be no mistake; if there had not been such It man, there would not be the rights for the aboriginal people that there are in the Constitution now. If there had not been such a man, there would not have been rights for the handicapped. This man’s vision of Canada is stamped on each and every amendment to this Constitution. He fought, he spoke, he convinced. Part of him is this charter of rights. That man is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (Mr. Chrétien).
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Irwin: Finally, there is the man I consider to be the soul of this Constitution, one who is seldom thanked. I refer to the man who spent most of his political life working toward this day and this time; the man who, like the Phoenix of old, rose again to lead this party and this government; the man who best exemplifies our party’s historical past and philosophical future; the man who has shown us the way along a difficult road. The opposition blame him, but I congratulate him. I refer to the
Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. Before I recognize the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Blackburn) and in order to avoid interrupting him while he is speaking, perhaps I could dispose of the proceedings on the adjournment motion for this evening.
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. Derek Blackburn (Brant): Mr. Speaker, before I begin the substance of my speech this afternoon I, too, would like to extend my deep appreciation and thanks to all members of this House and of the other place who sat on the special joint committee which helped produce the resolution which is before us today. Many long hours of hard work went into those committee sittings.
I often get very angry—usually quietly angry—when I hear some members in this chamber try to argue in a spurious way that this is a document that is being forced upon Canadians by someforeign Parliament at Westminster. We all know that the constitutional resolution of 1981 which will become the new Constitution of Canada was conceived in Canada, was written here and was debated, discussed and argued by members of the Canadian Parliament. It will be passed, before too much longer I hope, in this chamber in Canada, It is not a document of another Parliament—it is Canadian-made for Canadian people.
It is with a sense of both urgency and pride that I enter this debate. We are on the eve of passing into law one of the most important resolutions in our nation’s history, a document which will have impact on the lives, the hopes, the responsibilities of all Canadians. It is a document, in my opinion, that is long overdue.
The British North America Act of 1867 has served us, but the time has come for a new constitution, written by Canadians for Canadians; a document deeply imbued with the great traditions of British justice, of fair play, of flexibility, and of common sense. It is a pragmatic document, not flowery and philosophical and not beyond comprehension of ordinary people and the application of elected representatives.
Too often constitutions are written by elitists, for elitists. The constitutional resolution before us is written for people, for our fellow Canadians. It is written not only for the two founding races but for all citizens of our great country. It is written for our native community, for the millions of Canadians who chose Canada as their homeland. It is written for minority groups, I commend this resolution to the people of my constituency, to the people who first elected me ten years ago to sit in this chamber on their behalf. I will be proud to defend it at any time in my constituency.
There are many reasons for my support for the resolution, but because of time limitation I will confine my remarks to just two or three major aspects.
In the first place, Mr. Speaker, I am unabashedly a strong federalist, although I have always recognized and respected provincial rights and aspirations where those rights and aspirations have not adversely infringed the Canadian national ethos. I suggest to all hon. members that the resolution before us reflects my general, philosophical approach to federalism in our country today. It does not, Mr. Speaker, reflect the arguments of those members who would call for the establishment of a Constitution based on the concept that Canada is a community of communities, or, as one wag has put it, a nation of five hundred shopping plazas!
The only free country in the world of which I am aware in which a confederation, that is, a loosely-knit community of sembautonomous states, has effectively worked is the Federal Republic of Germany; that is, West Germany. However, unlike Canada, Germany is a very old country, deeply imbued with an all-pervasive sense of what was once called “pan-Germanism”, whose origins stem from centuries of gradual development. While German states may have strong individual powers, “Germanism” transcends most, if not all, conflicts of a political, judicial and economic nature.
Canada, on the other hand, is a relatively young country whose fragile culture is still weak, whose national identity has only recently begun to reflect a national presence. I suggest that we cannot afford the luxury of establishing a confederation much as some provinces would dearly like. We cannot afford to chance future national growth by giving in now to narrow, parochial and regional interests which would only serve to weaken and destroy that delicate fabric which is so desperately needed if we are to go forward as one nation, one people.
That is why I am a strong federalist. That is why we need a strong national presence throughout our country. However, a strong national presence does not mean, in my view, a highly centralized, over-bearing bureaucracy with a heavy hand on virtually every provincial activity. Far from it. For our new federation to work, there must be specific provincial jurisdictions, shared powers, and federal paramountcy in key areas of an overriding national purpose. This, to me, is co-operative federalism. And, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the proposed resolution provides for that kind of co-operative federalism. Last October, the New Democratic Party caucus was prepared to support in principle the resolution on constitutional change presented by the Government of Canada. We did so because, first, in our judgment, action was needed at this important historical time in our country and, second, because key elements in the proposed resolution were part of established New Democratic Party policy.
We include among these a Bill of Rights, the recognition of the duality of Canada, especially its two principal linguistic groups, and third, entrenchment of the important principle of equalization which is central to a social democratic party. In addition, it provided for, at long last, our own Canadian constitution with a workable amending formula.
Therefore, in supporting this resolution I am supporting my own party’s constitutional policy as passed at conventions by the members of my party from all areas of Canada. However, Mr. Speaker, last October we found some glaring weaknesses in the Liberal proposals in the original document. We were not satisfied with many aspects of the charter of rights, equalization, native and women’s rights, and the exclusion of rights for the handicapped.
Consequently, my party said that we would support the resolution in principle only if two important conditions were met: that regional and federal balance was restored to the federal system: that is to say, in this particular case that provincial control of non-renewable natural resources be firmly established in the Constitution; and second, that a number of specific improvements were made in the resolution apart from this, particularly in the Charter of Rights. In a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), my leader singled out as examples of these specific improvements the strengthening of the provision as it affected equality for women, the strengthening of the position of the native peoples of Canada, along with significant changes to the amending formula.
As a result of constructive negotiation with the government, my party was able to achieve three important concessions from the government. First, affirmation of provincial ownership and control of resources. Second, the provinces, for the first time, will have the right to levy indirect taxes on their resources. Third, the provinces will have the constitutional right to participate in interprovincial trade.
Many have condemned those of us who support the Constitution because of the seemingly arbitrary way in which the process has evolved. To some extent, I agree. The government has at times attempted to push and ram its way through. The Prime Minister has a personal timetable to which we objected. We strongly opposed closure at first reading. We demanded the committee proceedings be televised so the people of Canada could be as close as possible to those proceedings and deliberations. And we vigorously fought to extend the committee’s hearings so that all groups of citizens who so desired would have the opportunity to present their briefs.
But the process has not been negative and in vain. Quite the opposite is true, Mr. Speaker. With very effective fighting both in public and in private, the NDP has been able to achieve positive changes in the original reduction. Among these I include the entrenchment of treaty and aboriginal rights for our native people; and, second, an important change in the provision respecting women in Canada. We now have provided in the Charter that women will be guaranteed not only equality before the law but under the law. Third, the amending process has been changed to make it clear that a referendum can be used only as a deadlock-breaking mechanism.
In addition, there were a number of other changes that members of my caucus fought vigorously to obtain and were indeed obtained. I include the handicapped people of Canada, the recognition of the multicultural dimension of our society and a general toughening up on the Charter of Rights.
As a result of these changes and improvements in the resolution which are quite substantial, an overwhelming majority of our caucus decided to support the constitutional resolution. However, in saying this I want to stress two important points concerning the future disposition of the resolution. We have argued that nothing objectionable be added to the resolution and that there must be a full and fair debate of the resolution in the House of Commons. These final objections have more or less been achieved.
However, I would like to add at this point that the main reason, in my judgment, that there may not have been full and fair debate is that for approximately six weeks this chamber was hung up on one amendment. That amendment was not a government amendment, it was an amendment put forward by the official opposition, the Conservative party. Consequently, if anybody is to be blamed for denying full and fair debate in this chamber, I accuse my friends to the right and not the government.
There are still some members who would argue that one last attempt be made to gain a consensus of the provincial premiers to give the resolution a broader acceptance. In other wprds, some land of national consensus. I would not be opposed to this last minute attempt if I were not completely convinced that such an exercise would be futile. Most of our present and former provincial first ministers have exhibited, over many years of negotiations and deliberations, an inordinate capacity for parochial and regional preoccupation. No doubt most of this “me first” approach is due largely to local political myopia. A great deal of it also emanates from widespread distrust of the Prime Minister. But I do not know why those premiers should allow their personal distrust of the Prime
Minister to stand in the way of bringing forward this constitutional resolution which will give Canada its first, updated and modern constitution. I think it is nothing but another example of this political myopia to which I alluded a few minutes ago that our premiers want to think only of their provinces and regions instead of putting the interests of the nation as a whole first and foremost.
What advantage could be gained from yet another constitutional first ministers’ conference before the resolution goes before the Supreme Court of Canada, if most of those ministers cannot agree among themselves as to what a new constitution should be all about? At their second last ad hoc meeting in Montreal they could not issue a press release because they could not even agree on an agenda. After a half century of fruitless bargaining with the provincial premiers, I say it is fair and reasonable for us at the federal level to proceed I am afraid that another first ministers’ conference would lead only to another first ministers’ confrontation, in spite of the so-called compromise consensus announced last week by eight of the premiers. What is to be gained from an amending formula, the very basis of which is the right to opt out? When human rights are enshrined in a charter, those rights must be inviolate. All Canadians must be protected, not just some.
I would like to draw special attention to the work of two members of my caucus in their successful efforts to give our native and aboriginal peoples a fair deal. If it had not been for my leader and the hon. member for Nunatsiaq (Mr. Ittinuar), these peoples would have been no further ahead in their struggle for rights and freedoms than they were before the resolution was drafted. In the original draft, only those native and aboriginal rights already recognized by the federal and provincial governments would have been included in the document. Thanks to the hard bargaining of my leader and the hon. member for Nunatsiaq, all aboriginal and treaty rights are guaranteed and enshrined in the constitutional resolution, much to the chagrin and extreme displeasure of most of the provinces.
Further, there has been much discussion and debate as to the position of our Commonwealth colleagues at Westminster. Many Tories and other opponents of the constitutional resolution have argued that we are forcing Westminster to do our dirty work for us; that we are forcing them to pass a charter of rights and an amending formula that we could not have passed here in Canada. I find this argument not only spurious but deliberately provocative and contrived. If the argument had any validity at all, I would ask the question; Just what have Canadian parliamentarians in this House of Commons and in the constitution committee room been doing for the last five or six months? Surely the opponents of the Constitution do not think that they can seriously expect the people of Canada to accept their argument?
The constitutional resolution is a Canadian document. It was written by Canadians, here in Canada, for Canadians. All we are doing in sending the document to Westminster is using, because of legal necessity, a traditional and historic technicality, I hope for the last time. It forces the British parliament to pass the constitutional resolution, because in so doing the British parliament is patriating the British North America Act of 1867 which we all know is an act of the British parliament.
As far as the resolution’s fate at Westminster is concerned, I am strongly optimistic that our Commonwealth colleagues in London will appreciate the wisdom of passing it with little or no debate. In my judgment, they have no alternative.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I should set the record straight on one point. The constitutional resolution is not the Prime Minister’s Constitution. Because of the hard work done in committee, the original draft has now become a dynamic, compassionate, effective and reasonable document. The constitutional resolution is the product of many parliamentarians. I have no illusions about its application. As in all other federal jurisdictions in the free world, there will continue to be jurisdictional disputes, there will continue to be differences of opinion, there will be continued differences in adjudication. But I feel that we have a document that is both relevant and workable and that future parliamentarians, prime ministers, provincial premiers and jurists alike will, over time, continue to mould an even better constitutional framework for future generations. For the present, I am satisfied that we have done a good job.
There are two aspects to this debate that I find somewhat difficult to comprehend. One is the argument raised mainly by the Conservatives about the exclusion of property rights in this resolution. It is my understanding, based on the British North America Act, that both property and civil rights are under provincial jurisdiction. When we wrote the charter of rights, we were in effect taking away a very large area ofjurisdiction from the provinces and putting it under federal control. I find it incomprehensible that we would also try to take away the other major area of jurisdiction from the provinces, namely property rights, if we were at all serious in the first place about getting provincial consensus and support for the Constitution.
I would like to state very clearly that in supporting this resolution I am in no way voting against the right to own private property. I simply say that property rights and property ownership rightfully eome under provincial jurisdiction for a variety of reasons. It is much easier and legally feasible if, for example, arguments concerning rights of way, easements and expropriation of private property are adjudicated, along with the legal struggle or battle, among the municipalities and owners of private property under the auspices of provincial governments, rather than taking the legal battle to the Federal Court in Ottawa.
That is one reason why I support this Constitution as far as property rights are concerned. Property rights and ownership of private property belong with the provinces. Let them pass laws dealing with whether governments at all levels can expropriate; and, if the expropriation goes through, there should be fair compensation.
The other point I cannot understand is why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) would for so long support five, six
or seven provinces acting against what I consider to be the national interest. Although I do not want to put words or thoughts into his mind, I am quite sure he has lost that fight, through no one’s fault but his own. It is my belief that the leaders of all parties in this chamber come here, perhaps first and foremost to lead a national party, but through that national party to try at least to represent the entire nation. They do not come here as a mouthpiece for, or the puppet of, two, three or four provincial premiers.
I am happy to have this opportunity to tell the House and my constituents that my party leader, the hon. member for Oshawa (Mr. Broadbent), under great duress and pressure from certain segments of our party in the west, stood up for national rights, the rights and best interests of Canadians, not simply the best interests of our party in one province.
In closing, I would just like to say this. If I have one disappointment with the resolution, it is that in the preamble we did not guarantee to all Canadians the right to live and work in a safe and healthy environment. This challenge still lies ahead. Those of us in this chamber who have worked hard to fight against pollution and polluters, to make our lakes and rivers clean and productive, to make the air we breathe clean and pure, the workplace safe and healthy, will continue our struggle until we win. And win we will.
As I wrote in my last message to my constituents:
Long after the political pundits and commentators have criticized and condemned the process, historians, political scientists and constitutional experts, while not agreeing on all aspects of this resolution, will at least, I feel confident say we did our best to give our fellow Canadians as a reasonable and workable Constitution under very trying and divisive circumstances.
The constitutional resolution is not a perfect document. But then, none of us in this chamber is perfect either. We have just tried to do our best. And I suggest that is all our constituents expect, no more and certainly no less.
Mr. Norman Kelly (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Supply and Services): Mr. Speaker, like everyone else who has risen before me, I am acutely aware of the significance of these deliberations. The opportunity is rarely given to Canadian politicians to participate in a constitutional debate so, unlike many members of the official opposition, I have resisted the temptation to disinter old campaign speeches and will attempt no more than to share with my colleagues on both sides a few relevant personal reflections on the resolution before us and on the nation that possesses my loyalty and commands my conviction.
This House is a legislature, but it also possesses a judicial authority which, although rarely employed, is nonetheless real. I point this out because, although I do not want to avail myself of this judicial power, I do want to evoke its spirit. For in this constitutional debate there is an idea on trial. The idea-and now I am quoting from confederation newspapers—is “the new nationality” of “one people—one in laws, one in government, one in interests”. In other words, Canada, as it was conceived and given form by our ancestors 114 years ago. Admittedly the purity of this idea has been compromised as it has passed through the generations. We tolerate a diversity that our founding fathers did not anticipate and probably would have abhorred, but its core, the realization of an underlying, sustaining unity to our existence and its expression in a vigorous national government, has remained substantially intact until quite recently.
Since the early 1970s, however, this core has been bludgeoned to the breaking point by the forces of cultural chauvinism and economic acquisitiveness. The instrument employed by the agents of these two forces, that is, many of the provincial premiers and most of the official opposition in this chamber, in an effort to legitimize their assault, is an alternate, diametrically opposed concept of Canada as a community of communities, a compact, a consensus, a federalist state, a partnership of two equal sovereign jurisdictions, incapable of being operated except in tandem, unable to be changed at this time save through unanimous consent and fated, through historical and geographical imperatives, to follow a decentralized destiny.
Most Canadians continue to give their allegiance to the traditional concept of the state but the vigour, and at times the flair, with which the assault on its legitimacy has been prosecuted, especially over the last few months, has confused many people and subsequently weakened their commitment to the point where the proposed constitutional improvements appear not only odious but illegal.
Well, are the administration’s opponents correct? Is their version of Canada the appropriate one and ours, on this side of the House, wrong? Let me examine both ideas.
I want to go on record as saying, simply but emphatically, that the opposition’s vision of Canada, this unholy trinity of compact, consensus federalism and community of communities is one of the boldest frauds ever promoted in our political history. It is as intellectually dishonest in its formulation and its propagation as it will be, if victorious, calamitous in its consequences.
These are harsh words, but they reflect my concern with a view that is advanced by its supporters as the original, and therefore the legitimate, concept of Canada. If you read the literature of the confederation period written then, or subsequently by historians, you will find nothing of substance to support their claim. None of our founding fathers believed they had created a community of communities. None of our founding fathers believed that the new state had been conceived through a compact, and none of our founding fathers believed that its future would be sustained or altered according to a consensus procedure, and because they did not believe any of these things, they did not say them.
They did say that the national government undeniably had to be the superior level of government with powers that were independent of and which dwarfed those of the provinces, and they crafted the British North America Act accordingly.
Clearly, Mr, Speaker, the opposition’s idea of Canada’s constitutional origins is a mythological fabrication. But despite this, despite its less than reputable origins, could this idea still
stand on its own merit as a viable, new, radical interpretation of the Canadian state and the people whose destiny it seeks to guide? After all, its proponents insist that it certainly mirrors today’s reality more clearly than does our own.
But what is more illusory and short-lived than today’s reality? Constitutions are designed for the centuries. What is there in today’s reality that would serve future generations of our new nationality? What kind of country would we have when the national government would be perceived and treated, as it is now by many, as a distant, largely irrelevant imperial power by semi-autonomous provinces, eyeing each other suspiciously, eager to take offence, and anxious to exercise retributive power?
What motivation to greatness would there be in a nationality that believed that less is more, that you can come together by pulling apart, or that the ultimate objective is to think small? How will its people flourish with an economy characterized by fragmented domestic markets, a shrunken industrial base and expensive overheads?
If this vision of Canada were ever to be given constitutional form, I would fear for our posterity. The state would survive but it would ultimately become a body without a soul, alive yet lifeless, a Canadian Commonwealth perpetuated not for its own sake but for the convenience it offers its constituent members. In sum, Mr. Speaker, this idea frightens me. It is contrary to the intentions of our founding fathers and its implementation, I believe, would deny the aspirations of most contemporary Canadians.
What of the ancillary ideas which have accompanied this perception of Canada into the constitutional arena? If I may, I would like to comment briefly on the nature of the response our constitutional proposals have elicited in and outside this House.
I confess that I had expected something more uplifting than I have witnessed. After all, the federal Conservative Party is the possessor of a rich political heritage which I thought would have significantly shaped the style and substance of its members’ arguments. But apart from the deliberations of the joint committee and a particularly fine address in this House by the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko), this heritage has been ignored by a strategy that more closely resembles the bitterly contested elections of 1979 and 1980 than it does a productive, reflective debate on the nature and future of the great Canadian experiment.
Admittedly, some Conservatives have advised compromise and conciliation but, at the same time, the party has bent every effort, much of it malicious, to pit west against east and anglophone against francophone, in a futile attempt to force total surrender upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). Yes, some Conservatives have supported, in fact have worked to improve, the charter of rights, but the vast bulk of their colleagues have treated the charter with unrestrained contempt.
These are not the only inconsistencies in the official opposition’s reactions. Consider these as well. On one day it is the protection of the sacred British principle of the supremacy of Parliament; on another day, indeed sometimes even in the same argument, it is a demand that Parliament abandon the debate so the courts might decide. Or some speakers will passionately demand more powers to the provinces or urge the maintenance of existing powers, while others will just as passionately insist that we transfer property rights from the provinces to the federal government in our new charter and they would all have Canadians believe that the British North America Act, without mention of the Deity or the family, was a superb Constitution, while the Canada Act, because at this time it mentions neither, is a seriously, if not fatally, flawed document.
I could go on, Mr. Speaker, to mention the Vancouver formula, a modified Vancouver formula, a modified Victoria formula, no referendum, or a referendum before the package goes to Britain. Ah, the referendum! It strikes such unqualified terror in the opposition, but I confess I do not understand why. It was very obviously lifted from Australia. Since that country’s dedication to democracy and federalism is surely unquestioned by members of all parties in this House, I should have thought that even a cursory examination of the Australian experience would have relieved any initial anxieties of the provincial premiers and their federal allies.
For example, since 1901 approximately 100 proposals have been considered for the purposes of referenda. Only 37 have been submitted to the people; eight passed and 29 were rejected, including every item which would have increased federal power at the expense of the provinces. So much for the tyranny of the majority.
In review, how do we account for the advocacy of a radical interpretation of Canada by the Conservative Party? How do we explain the party’s anger and the anomalies of its constantly shifting arguments, including the ones which were made at today’s press conference? How do we explain its irrational fears? Do they collectively reflect the opposition’s traditional view of the state, the nation and the Constitution? I doubt it. There is little in their performance of D’Arcy McGee, Sir John A. Macdonald, Arthur Meighen or John Diefenbaker.
I suggest by way of explanation that all the evidence reveals a party in such intellectual disarray that no one has either the insight to draw on the magnificent traditions of its past or the courage to tame the passions its members have aroused or the prejudices they have exalted. If nothing else, this debate has vividly illustrated just how far a once proud party has strayed from its historical commitments under a leader preoccupied with mutiny and a field commander who mistakes unctuousness for piety.
On the other hand, this government’s concept of Canada flows from the understanding that our founding fathers were creating a state with an identity separate from and superior to the individual colonies whose territories and people it embraced. That is why they proclaimed, proudly and confidently, that they had created a new nationality. That is why they invested the government of this new nationality with powers to control what they very clearly intended to be in a
subordinate legislatures. These men knew that sooner or later, federal state, leaders would arise who would seek their destiny primarily or exclusively within the narrow confines of a province, and they were determined to give the future leaders of this new nationality the tools with which to inhibit or roll back such developments.
Given this background, why do we doubt the legitimacy of the processing of these constitutional proposals? This government—any government in Ottawa-has not only the right but also the duty to protect and promote the nationality in times of great stress with any or all of the tools at its disposal, including unilateral constitutional initiatives. So our idea, I therefore claim, is valid and our process legitimate.
What, then, of the content, specifically the charter? I consider the charter to be the long overdue, logical fulfilment of the promise of confederation. For too long have we tolerated impediments to our right to enjoy the full legal benefits of Canadian citizenship. If our nationality is to be whole, if it is to remain healthy, and if to have a vigorous future as it has had a past, we must transcend the barriers of place, geography and circumstance with this new charter.
If it has a flaw—and it is not without blemish—it may be found in its caution. Simply put, it does not go far enough. I am thinking particularly of its inability to advance more vigorously the interests of a Canadian economic common market. Not only must labour move more freely inside Canada, but so too must capital and goods if we are to maximize our economic potential and create wealth for personal enjoyment and social service.
In addition, sexual discrimination should be totally obliterated. French language rights should be extended further, and a preamble displaying our acknowledgement of the transcendent moral authority of the deity should be reintroduced.
But these concerns can wait. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) when he says that more reforms will follow patriation, and I trust that they will enjoy a high priority on his agenda or that of his successors.
To sum up, although I admit to a modest employment of hyperbole in delineating the choices we face as a Parliament and as a nation, I firmly believe that a fundamental decision has to be made by Canadians within the next few months between the reaffirmation of our nationality as it was originally conceived and historically implemented and the revolutionary visions of its opponents. Obviously, I have chosen to remain with the former, It is a concept of Canada which created one of the largest, most powerful states in the world. Why would it not in its enhanced form prove capable of sustaining that position?
There are occasions in the life of a people when they are offered an opportunity of transcending the limitations of the moment and, by doing so, transform themselves. Our founding fathers had the insight to recognize that moment and summoned the courage, without benefit of electoral mandate or public discussion, to act, and we are the beneficiaries. Such an occasion has presented itself again. Should we rise to that occasion? Of course. Are we lesser people than our forefathers? Can we rise to that occasion? Well, Mr, Speaker, rise we must. And rise we shall.
Mr. Gordon Taylor (Bow River): Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to the preamble of the BNA Act. We have heard speakers this afternoon refer to the Fathers of Confederation and what they intended, and I think we should refresh our minds as to exactly what they wrote into the preamble. I quote:
Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed their desire to be federally united inlo one dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom:
And whereas such a union would conducc to the welfare of the provinces and promote the interests of the British Empire:—
I emphasize the second paragraph. The provinces, by deciding to unite, created a federal government. Little did they realize that that federal government would turn into a Frankenstein a few score years down the road, but that is what is happening. It was never intended that Canada would be a unilateral country. The Constitution sets out that the federal government is not supreme, as one of our members so vividly pointed out the other day, and that the provincial governments are not supreme. Each of their powers is according to what is set out in the British North America Act.
The British parliament is supreme. There is no other government there, but in Canada the Canadian government is not supreme. It has only the powers which were given to it by the provinces, and the provinces retaineo other powers which are set out in the BNA Act.
In 1867 the plan was not to weld the provinces into one country; not at all. Neither was it to subordinate the provincial governments to a central authority. Otherwise, not one of those four provinces would have joined in 1867. The BNA Act established a central government in which the provinces should be represented. The central government was entrusted with exclusive authority only with respect to affairs in which the provinces had a common interest. That was set out in the British North America Act. That is what is causing concern among the provincial governments and the people of Canada to a very large degree today. If we allow this unilateral action by the Canadian government, we will be changing the very nature of this country as we have known it.
Many men and women in this country fought for Canada. Many of their colleagues gave their lives fighting for this country. They did not do that to have the country changed into a unilateral state, which is what we are seeing take place now.
In checking history I could not find one prime minister who would do what the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) is doing by way of unilateral action. I could go back further, but I will go back only to 1925. In 1925 the minister ofjustice, the hon. Mr. Lapointe, made a statement on a proposed enactment by the U.K. parliament of a measure vesting the Parliament of
Canada with the power of constitutional amendment. This is what he said:
The British North America Act itself is not only the charter of the Dominion of Canada; it is just as much the charter of the provinces of Canada—
That is what we are forgetting today.
Would it then be fair for us to arrogate to ourselves the right to change the act which is just as much the Constitution of the provinces as it is our own? . . . Within their sphere the provinces enjoy the powers of self-government just as much as the dominion Parliament does, and if so, surely the dominion Parliament cannot take upon itself the right to change a statute which gives to those provinces the powers which they enjoy—
Unilateral action will change this country. In 1925 the prime minister of the government of that day recognized that.
Let us move to 1946, when a great Canadian, the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent, was minister of justice. He was asked the question whether Section 133 of the British North America Act could be altered without provincial assent. Section I33 is the section which provides French and English language rights in the Parliament of Canada, the Supreme Court and the legislature of Quebec. Mr. St. Laurent was asked if the federal government could force the same thing on every other province. This is what that great man, who has passed on, said:
Legally I say it can. The situation appears to nte to be this. There are persons and nations who reach a high estate in the affairs of men, and the high estate they reach imposes upon them high obligations—I feel—and I believe my fellow Canadians of my race and religion can feel—that a better guarantee than anything that might be found in section 133 is to be found in that respect, for those who have been formed under the principles of British freedom and British fair play, to protect what are our essential rights.
It is not the manner of those who have themselves had, and whose ancestors have had, the formation that comes from that long history which has brought us to this point in the civilization of mankind, to do things which the conscience of humanity at large would regard as dishonourable; and the conscience of humanity at large would frown upon as assemblage in this House that attempted to take from me and from those of my race the right to speak the language I learned in my infancy as one of the official languages in which the deliberations of this House may be carried on. So it is of everything else that is not within section 92. If it is fair, if it is just, if it is proper according to the standards of human decency, it will be done; if it is unfair, if it is unjust, if it is improper, all members of this House will say, “It is not our manner to do such things.”
The great prime minister would not force himself to do something he considered dishonourable, even though it was legally right in his mind. Also in 1950, the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent said the following in his opening statement at the constitutional conference of federal and provincial governments:
—it is, and has always been, the view of the present federal government that the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces which gives a federal character to the Constitution of Canada must be respected.
I should like to repeat again the opinion I have expressed on many occasions that, regardless of the legal position, nothing placed by the Constitution under the jurisdiction of the provincial legislature should be dealt with or altered without provincial participation.
Those were the words of a great prime minister of Canada, albeit he was a member of the Liberal Party.
Then in 1956, in reply to a question by the Right Hon. Mr. Diefenbaker, Prime Minister Pearson said:
My right honourable friend also referred to the fact that we said very little in the Speech from the Throne about constitutional amendment, and that we seemed to have dropped the Fulton-Favrcau formula. We have not dropped it, Mr. Speaker. We shall do our best to put it into effect if and when we get the agreement of all the provinces, but without that agreement it cannot be done.
Then there was the fourth principle of the Hon. Guy Favreau in 1965 which indicated:
That the Canadian Parliament will not request an amendment directly affecting federal-provincial relationships without prior consultation and agreement with the provinces.
I come now to 1979 when the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) said the following at the February 6, 1979, meeting of first ministers:
So, will there be unilateral action by the federal government regardless of the result of this conference? Our priority would he to seek agreement and move in areas of federal and provincial concern where we could move together but if we are not successful I repeat we preserve our constitutional right to change our constitution, the federal one, just as the provinces keep their right to change their provincial constitutions and I do not think either the provinces or the federal government would want to give up that right Our priority is to change this constitution collectively, federal and provincial . . . We will adopt a Charter of Human Rights, we will constitutionalize it. We cannot force the provinces to do it. We are trying to convince them to do it . .. I can answer unequivocally that the federal government intends to entrench a charter of basic human rights and of linguistic rights. Now, this will bind the federal govern- ment; it won’t bind the provinces unless they want to bind themselves but here again we can under our constitution bind ourselves just as the provinces, many of you, have adopted charters of human rights. Well, we have adopted one and we want to constitutionalize it.
Those were the words of the present Prime Minister who has now changed his mind and is imposing items upon the provinces. He has said that conferences fail. I wonder why in 1979 he said that it will not bind the provinces unless they want to bind themselves? In other words, they would have the right to opt in or opt out.
I should like to refer to a book which was written by the Prime Minister entitled: “Federalism and the French-Canadians” which was republished in 1961 in “Social Purposes for Canada”. On page I48, the Prime Minister argued against the centralizing policies of socialists. He stated:
And there is surely some good in trying to improve upon, or modernize, the rational but perhaps aging division of powers adopted by the Fathers of Confederation. I am inclined to believe, however, that Canadian socialists have exaggerated the urgency of rewriting or reinterpreting the BNA Act. Most of the rcforrns that could come about through greater centralization could also follow from patient and painstaking co-operation between federal and provincial governments. And the remaining balance of economic advantage that might arise from forcefully transferring more power to the central government is easily offset by the political disadvantages of living under a paternalistic or bullying government.
He said, “living under a paternalistic or bullying government”; that was back in 1961. How he has changed! He does not mind establishing now a bullying government and ignoring the provinces. He does not mind doing something unilaterally which no other prime minister in the history of Canada would have even thought of doing.
On March 31, 1976, the Prime Minister sent a letter to the premiers in which he wrote:
In practice, of course, the federal government has in the past sought the unanimous consent of the provinces before seeking amendments that have affected the distribution of powers,
Also he wrote:
—our Joint Address and having it included in the British legislation as an enabling provision that would come into effect when and only when it had received the formal approval of the legislatures of all the provinces—
Those were the words of the present Prime Minister. It reminds me of the saying: “Do as I say, not as I do”. Then he wonders why the provinces are not happy with the present situation.
The present Prime Minister has not approached this matter in the same manner as former great prime ministers, such as the Right Hon, Louis St. Laurent. He has used trickery and bargaining in regard to the Constitution of the country. I do not see how anyone, even members of his own party, can be proud of that. Part of that trickery was the inclusion of several items, some of which were good and some of which were bad, in one package so that people have to accept the bad with the good. Rather than separating them and voting separately on them, one must accept the whole package.
Today I heard a member of the Liberal Party say that they would give us rights. The Prime Minister of Canada and the Government of Canada cannot give me rights. They might be able to take some of them away, but they cannot give them. I have all the rights they want to include in the charter and some others. One has those rights if one is born a Canadian citizen. I consider that I have those rights from God and not from the Prime Minister of Canada. If the Government of Canada can give me rights, then it can take those rights away. I do not think we would be fooling the people at all by making them think that they are receiving rights that they do not have today, as the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Irwin) said. They are not receiving any rights they do not have, they are losing some, which is what I want to deal with, This is another subject to think about when one considers the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister taking part in this kind of trickery. I quote from the Kirby paper which says:
There would be a strong strategic advantage in having the joint resolution passed and the U.K. legislation enacted before a Canadian court had occasion to pronounce on the validity of the measure and the procedure employed to achieve it. This would suggest the desirability ofswlft passage of the resolution and U.K. legislation.
This concept is what some members opposite and some members to my left are supporting. It is trickery being performed on the Canadian people. It is no wonder that the premiers of the provinces are upset.
I would like to give you another example of trickery, Mr, Speaker. In the Constitution there is a section which limits, at least to a degree, the control of the Senate. What’ happened is that the Prime Minister sold out to twenty Liberal senators. He sold out for votes; it had nothing to do with principle. Where are the principles which were embodied in the administration of the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent when he spoke about the high principles of people in office and their obligation to apply those principles?
Then there was the bargaining in connection with women. The Prime Minister likes to bargain. When the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands (Miss MacDonald) pleaded for the rights of women a few days ago, the Prime Minister said that he would give her that if she gave him her support. He says that he will give anything if he receives our support. I want to tell the Prime Minister that the rights of Canadian women may certainly be discussed but that their rights are not for sale to the highest bidder. I think the Prime Minister and his party should know this. They should also know that women are not to be traded for political support.
So intent is the Prime Minister on bargaining that he even wants to trade God for lesser things. He has left God out of the Constitution. I heard the Prime Minister speaking on a radio show broadcast from Vancouver a few weeks ago. He said that the premiers were the ones who wanted to leave God out. He said that he wanted the provision but that they would not allow it. He then stopped; he would not go on to say that the preamble which the premiers had rejected included a number of factors. There is not a premier in Canada who would reject having reference to God included in the preamble of our Constitution. But then the Prime Minister goes out and ties this issue to other matters such as language rights, and he says to the people of Canada that the premiers did not want a reference to God included in the Constitution. The Prime Minister is adept at putting items that everyone wants in with items that he wants. To obtain the good, we must accept the whole package. The premiers saw through the Prime Minister’s trick and refused the preamble.
The Prime Minister says and I quote, “The premiers are against God.” I want to say that bargaining has its place with respect to earthly things. I also want to state emphatically that God is not negotiable and we are not out to bargain. He cannot be traded. He is a supreme being, the creator of the world and all that is good. It is inconceivable that we could have a charter of rights without recognizing the supremacy of God. People tell us not to worry about it, it will be in the charter some time in the future. I ask why not now? It is wanted by all the people of Canada.
Someone said that there are a few atheists in Canada. I do not believe there are any. I have never seen one yet. Those who profess to be atheists call for a priest, a minister or a pastor when they are dying. This is a Christian country and we should not leave the reference to God out of the charter. The people of Canada came from far away countries. They came to Canada for many reasons, one of which was freedom of religion, so that they could worship God in accordance with their own dictates. In Standard, Dalum and other areas of Alberta some of the Danish women there built a church while their men prepared the land or went out to work. The Ukrainian women in the Vegreville area built their church. We are now saying to these people that we will be taking God out of the charter. They will be thinking that the next thing we will be saying is that we cannot even recite the Lord’s Prayer in the House of Commons or in schools. If that is what the NDP want to support, and if that is what the Leader of the NDP bargained with the Prime Minister over, then I am sure the people of Canada will not appreciate it very much.
There is another bit of trickery when you look at Clause 15 in the charter. Before the matter came before the joint committee, the words in Clause 15 were “Everyone is equal”. That was quite satisfactory. Then, before the committee, the Ministger of Justice (Mr. Chretien) changed the word “Everyone” to read “Every individual”. The pretext was that “Every individual” does not include the unborn child. What will that change do to our country? I know what it might well do. In 1979 there were over 65,000 abortions in Canada. If the amendment including “Every individual” passes, then provincial and local governments will have people on their backs asking for abortion clinics. They will say that they need to have an abortion clinic, otherwise they are being discriminated against. The first thing that will happen is that our local hospitals will be providing abortion facilities. The minister of health will be forced to construct abortion clinics. All of this could be avoided if reference to the unborn child were included in the charter. We go to great lenghts to protect the whales. I hear members opposite cry out in horror when we want to execute a man who murders a little boy or girl. They say that we must not think of murdering them. Now we will be murdering the unborn children, for that is what abortion is, murder. Can any Canadian in this country, or any member of this House, stand up and say that they would support that type of thing?
Section 12 says that everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel or unusual treatment or punishment—capital punishment—with a view to the fact that the court would decide that executing a man or woman who deliberately plans and takes the life of another human being would be cruel and unusual punishment. Well, here again, with these kinds of words they are trying to fool those who believe that we need capital punishment in this country and, that it is the basis of all our laws. We punish a child for doing something wrong. Then we punish him more severely for doing something more wrong. Then if he does the ultimate crime, he should have the untimate punishment, death, if he deliberately plans and takes the life of another human being. Many problems will arise in this country through that.
As one man said to me, in Standard, “I wonder how those who are opposing capital punishment would feel if their little girl were tortured, deliberately abused, mutilated and killed following a sex act, a little girl who could not help herself.” Do we say that man has a right to live? That man has earned death and he should be executed. But in our charter of rights we are saying, “Oh, no. That would be cruel and unusual.”
Then we come again to this matter which I consider trickery, this matter of aboriginal rights. Why does the government not define “aboriginal rights”? For years, the Prime Minister would not accept aboriginal rights. He said, “I don’t know what they mean.” He said in this House, just weeks before this was put in the charter, “I don’t know what aboriginal rights mean. Define them, and then I might put them in the charter.” But finally he put it in the charter without defining it. What does it mean to the Indians across Canada, to the status Indians, to the non-status Indians, to the Metis, to the Inuits and to all the other groups? Does it mean anything? I am asking, does it mean anything? If it means something, define it. Be fair to our Indian people.
For years and years we have been unfair to our native people, the Indians and the Métis and Inuits. We have shoved them off in reserves. We have shoved money at them and we expect them to live under conditions of starvation. We will not let them do this and we will not let them do that. We confine them in the Indian Act, We send them gifts of money which they cannot receive properly even then. We send them money for water and sewerage, and we send it to them in December when one cannot even think about digging on the prairies or putting in water and sewers. It is unfair, and here we have the perpetuation of the same thing. Our Indian people and our Métis people and our Inuits have a right to fairness; but they are not getting it if all we do is simply put aboriginal rights in the charter, or if we merely say they will have aboriginal rights. They want more than that.
Then we come to the referendum. Again, there is trickery on the part of the Prime Minister. He blatantly fools the people by saying, “We’ll let the people decide,” knowing very well that over half the people are in central Canada. I object to being a second-class citizen because I was born in Alberta. I object to the people of P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick being second-class citizens, or the people of Newfoundland or Saskatchewan, Manitoba or B.C. being considered that. We are Canadian citizens. We each belong to a province. Each of those provinces should have equal rights, They are provinces. If we want counter balances, let us have the same number of people from each province in the Senate. There should be a Senate reform so that there can be a counter balance. However, let us not make second-class and third-class citizens out of people of Canada. How can the members of the NDP go back to Saskatchewan and British Columbia and tell their people that they are now second-class citizens? And Manitoba—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. gentleman, but the time allotted to him has expired.
Mr. René Cousineau (Gatineau): Mr. Speaker, it is for me a great honour to take part in this historic debate on the future constitution of Canada. In my intervention I will not pretend that I have invented every idea set forth thus far, that I am saying something new or that I am coming up with new arguments; although I do not hold a copyright I did associate myself with these ideas over the years. The fact remains, Mr, Speaker, that repetition is the only way to make sure that the people of Canada have had every opportunity, every chance to make up their mind on the patriation of the constitution.
Nor do I claim to have a monopoly over truth, because for us the absolute very seldom exists. Today I am expressing my opinion honestly, openly, without duress from or obligation
toward anyone, whatever the people across the aisle or the separatists in Quebec may say. I urge the people of Canada to pay very close attention to everything that has been or will be said in this House about the constitution and to everything that has been or will be written on the subject because some day Canadians will have to make a decision either in an election or in a referendum. I said a moment ago that the absolute very seldom exists, but something which is absolute, Mr. Speaker, is my full support, my unconditional devotion for my leader the Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Trudeau) and for the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien). When this debate has become a thing of the past, I want my descendants and the children of my descendants to be governed by Canadians under a Canadian statute, a legislation and a constitution of our own.
Mr. Speaker, nowhere else in the world do we see such an effort to have a country’s constitution taken out of alien hands. Nowhere else do we witness elected representatives, seven provincial premiers and the Progressive Conservative opposition in this House fight so strongly against patriation of the constitution as it is now proposed. The point to remember, Mr. Speaker, is that if their efforts and their tactics are successful, perhaps I will never get to sec that and other hon. members will never get to see that constitution.
Mr. Speaker, I remain confident still, I believe I have the same confidence felt by Mr. Pearson and all hon. members during the flag debate, the flag which we are so proud of today. When we look at it we can say with pride that it is Canadian, it is ours, and that brings warmth to our heart.
Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of this debate I have heard a lot of discouraging words on the opposite side, words which say the resolution is a dangerous document, words about destruction of partnership, threat to the unity and health of this country, personal attacks against the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and attacks on bilingualism and the French fact. What makes those members so right and us, Liberal and NDP members who favour the resolution, so wrong? Why do those members call the Liberals the oppressors, and through you, Mr. Speaker, call the Conservative members the great defenders of democracy in this House?
I have here in my hand a letter from one of the Tory members.
May I call it six o’clock, sir?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. It being six o’clock, I do now leave the chair until 8 p.m. At six o’clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. With the consent of the House, I shall take this opportunity to inform the hon. members that pursuant to the Order of the House made on Wednesday, April 8, 1981, the Clerk of the House has received from the House leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the government notices of amendments which will be printed in tomorrow’s Order Paper. The Order states that these amendment are deemed to have been moved and they can therefore be debated immediately.
I understand that the members who have already taken part in the debate can now speak again about the amendments if they are recognized by the Chair.
When the House rose at six o’clock, the hon. member for Gatineau had the floor.
Mr. Cousineau: Mr. Speaker, at six o’clock I was saying that I had received a letter from an hon. member of this House. I do not intend to read it all but I should like to read part of it. I am sorry to say that I do not think members of the opposition received the letter from their colleague, becaiise it was sent to the Liberal caucus and senators. The letter says, in part that “A sheep-like loyalty from his followers was all that Adolph Hitler needed to seize power in the 1930s. Please don’t tell me that it couldn’t happen here.” That letter was on notepaper headed “House of Commons, Canada”. The comparison it made was to one of the greatest murderers that mankind has ever produced. I do not think this sort of thing has any place on Parliament Hill, Mr. Speaker. I am quite sure that many members on the other side feel the same way, deep down in their hearts.
After I received the letter, I asked the member concerned if he agreed with everything he had signed and he said, “I honestly believe in what I said in that letter”. I answered that that was just too bad in the circumstances.
I heard some speeches in this House a couple of weeks ago. One in particular was made by the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko) who spoke in favour of the resolution but made no personal attacks on anybody. A member of the NDP spoke against the resolution but made no personal attacks. One of my colleagues, a Liberal, also spoke against the resolution but did not draw any comparison with Soviet Russia and made no mention of Adolph Hitler. Those were true, honest and sincere opinions and that is what we want to hear in this House. I respect those hon. members. That was Parliament at its best, with an expression of opinions.
Is it dangerous to think of preserving and reinforcing the human rights of Canadians? Is it dangerous to try and find an amending formula? Is it dangerous to talk about equalization? Is that the destruction of parnership? Is it destructive to permit any Canadian to continue his education in English in
Quebec? Is it destruction of partnership to permit any French Canadian to continue his education anywhere in this country? I ask hon. members to think about that.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are bewildered during this debate by certain allegiances, nay, by some alliances. They wonder why there was a union to fight separation in 1980, and why there is now this allegiance to and this union with the very person who wanted to break up the country once and for all?
On May 20, 1980, Quebec wanted a change. The status quo had to be broken after 54 years, and in the meantime, the Quebec people gave a mandate to the Parti Québécois on April 13, 1981, to continue to govern and to build Quebec and not to destroy Canada by separating. I hope that Mr. Levesque will keep his word: no referendum or elections before three or four years. Quebec has shown confidence in him and we have to respect this decision. However, I urge him not to betray this confidence and to work in the interest of Quebecers toward the welfare of the Canadian people as a whole.
All Canadians, and all the Premiers of the nine other provinces promised in 1980 that there would be some changes. What are the changes suggested by this government? To patriate our Constitution, to entrench in it the basic freedoms of Canadians, to provide a constitutional amendment formula if the provinces cannot agree within three years, and to enshrine the principe of equalization of wealth by the federal government from the affluent to the less prosperous provinces. Mr. Speaker, Canadian history is characterized by the concept of sharing and of helping the various regions which, for whatever reason, do not have an equal share of the natural resources of our country. The members of this government believe that it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to see to it that no region of Canada be forgotten in the sharing of the wealth or the advantages brought about by these resources. Sharing is part of our history and it is this spirit of sharing which will ensure the future of our country, sharing of our poverty, of our troubles, sharing of our dark moments but also of our joy and our wealth.
In 1867, Mr. Speaker, French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians entered into an alliance which granted certain rights to the provinces thus created. In Quebec, for many years, for almost a century, the main language used in business and in industry was English. I learned English as a youngster because we had Slovak neighbours who had just come to this country.
And these young fellows, Simurda, Kolesar, Milchak and Kopil, could not speak French at that time. Their fathers worked at the CIP mill in Gatineau, Quebec. In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s the working language at the CIP mill, which is just one mile from the capital city, was English. Why did I learn English? Because I wanted to communicate with these fellows. Today one is a prominent surgeon, one became a colonel in the Canadian army, and the rest are working at the CIP mill. They also wanted to communicate with their francophone friends and today these people are trilingual. They can speak French, English and Slovak, and I do not think they are any poorer because of that.
As I grew up, I continued to learn the English language and I worked at the CIP mill during the summer months. Although 85 per cent of the workers were francophone, the working language was English, the majority of the bosses were English and the majority of the orders were given in English. That was the way of life. We accepted that, and I do not think we had any choice at that time.
However, the frustrations became more apparent in the 1950s and these frustrations resulted in a PQ member being elected in our riding in 1976. Today the working language is French. Yet 90 per cent of those people working at the CIP mill are bilingual, and incidentally, 90 per cent of the anglophones working at the CIP mill are also bilingual.
The coats of arms with the inscription “A mari usque ad mare” became official on November 21, 1921. On our coat of arms there are two flags, the Union Jack and the fleur de lys of France originating in the reign of Louis XIV, which recognized the two origins and the two founding cultures. What I heard from the hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) disturbed me greatly. I never thought it was possible to hear these things in the House. If the hon. member and some of his colleagues do not want to learn French, that is their business. In fact, I respect their decision.
I have a story to put on the record. Once I was fortunate to visit the Canary Islands. One night I was served by a Spanish waiter with whom my wife practised her Spanish. I learned that this young waiter could speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Hon. members might ask why he could speak five languages. He told me he wanted to communicate with the tourists and that he wanted to make enough money to be able to come to Canada to live and become a Canadian citizen. He is not alone, How many immigrants come to Canada today knowing two, three, and sometimes four, languages?
Some people feel that bilingualism is forced upon them. I had an argument with the hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Lambert) during a committee meeting and told him that that was not the way we saw it in Quebec; for us, bilingualism means understanding, communication, equality within the country, and also acceptance. It is an acceptance of the fact that there are some French-speaking citizens of this country who want to be Canadians, neither French nor English, but 100 per cent Canadians.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is one French-speaking member of this House who would refuse to speak to an English-speaking member just because he or she does not speak French. It is rather the opposite that occurs. Those who
want to make the effort, and there are some now who do, can communicate with the French-speaking members of this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) has done it as well as others, and they still do. During the 1980 referendum, I had the pleasure of hearing in the same forum the hon. member for St. John’s West (Mr. Crosbie) and the hon. member for Burin-St. George’s (Mr. Simmons) speak not of Newfoundland, not of Quebec, but of Canada.
Is it known, Mr. Speaker, that these two hon. members from Newfoundland are now learning French? I congratulate both of them. The assurance that Canadians may use either French or English anywhere in Canada, A mari usque ad mare, as I was saying a while ago, is one of the responses to this threat. In the past few years, Mr. Speaker, several young Quebecers have gone west because of the economic instability and political uncertainty in their province. And I should like to quote a headline in last Saturday’s issue of La Presse:
The exodus westward kept up in ’80:
30,572 QUEBECERS HAVE LEFT
This is not a fabrication, Mr. Speaker, it is a reality. I hope that this exodus will end and that the results of April 13 will not intensify it. Thanks to this charter which will include the right to get an education in French, these young Quebecers will be able to return to their home towns with children who can speak the language of their grandparents.
In the past hundred years, many Quebecers have left their province to go to the United States because they hoped to find work and a future there. Some 1,600,000 Franco-Americans are now living there and they do not all speak French. One of the best examples I can give you is that of Tom Cousineau, an “All-American” who is one of the best players on the Montreal Alouettes football team and who cannot speak a word of French.
Mr. Speaker, in the past few years the Canadian economy has shifted to the West as in 1880 the economy was in northeastern America. I would like our young people to have the opportunity and the privilege to educate their children in the language of their choice. Am I asking too much, Mr. Speaker?
I think that as the result of that important reform, Canada will be a country much more effective and better governed, a country where governments at every level will be more receptive and more sensitive to the needs of the people. I think that the rights of every Canadian should be protected under a charter incorporating individual, political and democratic rights. Even with our traditions, Canadians make a serious mistake when they take those rights for granted. Such a charter will protect us all individually and collectively from a government anxious to impede or deny civil freedoms. Equality before the law, protection against illegal arrest, freedom of expression, of speech, of peaceful assembly, of thought and religion are at the basis of a free society and the way to provide those freedoms to society is to incorporate them in a constitution which cannot be altered nor left at the mercy of a parliament or a legislature.
I feel that the right of all Canadians to move about freely from one province to another to find work must be guaranteed. Fundamental rights, Mr. Speaker, cannot be bartered for specific and varying claims from the provinces, If we wait for unanimous agreement, we shall run into a wall, a deadlock; that is what will happen, and the past proves it. Unanimity might be reached tomorrow, or the day after, or perhaps never.
If we accept the April 16 proposal of the eight provincial premiers, the country will be made up of ten provinces and, as the leader of the opposition once said, it will be a community of communities. Each province will have different rights: we will be Ontarians, Albertans, Newfoundlanders, Quebecers living in a country north of the United States and called Canada. ls that what we want or do we want a country made up of ten provinces, whose citizens are equal, who have the same rights and privileges from the Atlantic to the Pacific, A mart usque ad mare, Mr. Speaker? If we go ahead with the proposed resolution now before us with amendments, there will be ample opportunity in the near future to work in a Canadian context with a view to finding an equitable solution to the other constitutional problems.
Mr. Speaker, I want to close by repeating the words of the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development, and I quote:
Canada is a beautiful land, but we have the opportunity of making it even more fertile, and of leaving to our children and the children of our children a country in which the diversity and the equality that must exist in our society are recognized.
To my mind, the constitutional debate of 1981 is a historical time which, once the quarrels, the discord and the insults have been forgotten, will be of benefit to all Canadians. We will have a country that guarantees the weakest in our society equal rights and protections the like of which are to be found in very few democracies. Mr. Speaker, those words spoken by the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development are now part of the history of this beautiful and great country, a country that will have grown through this historical debate.
Hon. Jake Epp (Provencher): Mr. Speaker, in rising today I intend to place before the House the various sections of the omnibus amendment introduced earlier today to the public by my leader. Before I do that, I think it important that we take stock of where we are in terms of the debate on the Constitution thus far.
What we have to do in the remaining three days of this debate before this matter is adjourned for a ruling by the Supreme Court is to remind ourselves as members of this House what in essence we are debating, We can get caught up
with the various details of the proposal before us, but I think we have to come to grips with the issue that has now taken so much time in this House of Commons.
Whether the proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) is of such merit that it will not only change the Canadian constitutional framework but renew the federalism as it is sometimes called, or whether we can achieve the same result without the division and acrimony which now surrounds this exercise is the question we have to address. Is there a better way?
What has to be kept in mind and cannot be said too often is this: the Constitution of Canada, the fundamental law of the country, should be changed in such a way that it unites Canadians rather than becoming a source of division. A constitution, once it passes this Parliament, the provinces, the Supreme Court and the Parliament in Great Britain, remains a living document. It is not placed on a shelf somewhere as an achievement and then remains there for everyone to look at and to take pride in. Rather, it becomes a working instrument for the federation, the country, If that working instrument is flawed, then the integrity of the nation, its ability to function, is put into serious jeopardy.
No matter what our different views might be on the best approach, all of us must accept that the fundamental rule under which we are going to operate will be that the Constitution is to be used by Canadian rather than be a source of division.
There are three things we try to do in our amendment. First, we have attempted to define the necessary consensus required here in Canada before we undertake the adoption of such important matters as a charter of rights, the equalization provisions, the amendment on resources and the way in which we will change the Constitution in the future.
What we are suggesting is that Canadians want an alternative between the tyranny of unanimity on the one hand and the tyranny of unilateral action on the other. We must address ourselves to whether there is a middle ground, or compromise solution which, while we might have our differences, will allow the Constitution to work for Canadians in the future and will reduce the division and acrimony which now exists because of the constitutional exercise.
Second, we are offering a compromise position on the amending formula which seeks to meet the concerns of both the federal and provincial governments and which, unlike the government’s amending formulae, represents a potential consensus.
Third, we are offering in our amendments a series of amendments to the charter of rights to ensure that the document truly reflects the guiding principles and fundamental values of Canadians. That is the context in which we bring forward our amendments.
What must also be kept in mind is that had it not been for the work of this party, this matter would already be out of the House of Commons, out of the Senate, would have been passed and be in England. What would have happened had this party not taken its responsibilities is that a constitutional amendment would have been born in division, sent to England, done an end run around Canadian institutions without the benefit of either this debate or, what is more important, without the Supreme Court of Canada being able to rule on its legality before the matter was finally disposed of in this House. It was because of this party and no one else that more time was bought, We bought that time at some risk to ourselves. However, as our leader said on October 2, there comes a time when an opposition party must stand up and defend that which it believes to be right and oppose that which it believes to be wrong, even though for the moment public opinion might be, as it was back in October, that the Prime Minister’s proposal had a lot of support across the country.
From the beginning we have opposed the arbitrary, unilateral, divisive approach of this proposed resolution. We have said it before and we have to say it again: we want this Canadian Constitution changed here in Canada and we want to have consensus here in Canada.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Epp: We have a serious reservation over the effectiveness of the charter of rights and the proper operation of the amending formula, both of which are being imposed unilaterally by a regional majority in this House of Commons.
We have doubts about the charter and the amending formula, not because of the principles of an amending formula or a charter, but because they are being imposed and do not reflect all the regions of the country, and I say this with all sincerity to members opposite. No matter how you want to explain it away, I say to you that in many parts of the country this proposal, because of the unilateral element, is becoming the source of serious division in the country,
The Prime Minister, as I have said before, says he is justified because there cannot be agreement, and therefore he must move ahead unilaterally. Let us consider that for a moment, The Prime Minister, as he likes to do so often, has placed matters in stark terms—not stark realities, but stark terms. On the one hand he says unanimity does not work; you cannot have the support or the agreement of the 11 governments, the federal government and the ten provinces. Speaker after speaker on that side has been saying to us that the Conservative Party wants unanimity. That has not been the position. That is the position they would like us to take, but that has not been the position of the party.
On the other hand, we have said that unilateral action is not acceptable. The Prime Minister says: if you cannot get unanimity, you then swing the pendulum all the way over and accept the unilateral action. He says he is now justified in that unilateral action because he cannot get unanimity. Surely there is a middle ground. Surely there is an amendment to which we can agree in this House.
We have proposed, under section 63, that such an amendment be made possible, namely, that, for the first time in
Canada, we define what is an adequate consensus. We suggest that an adequate consensus could fall between those two extremes, which would be a consensus composed of two-thirds of the provinces enjoying at least 50 per cent of the population. People could argue that the consensus should be wider. I accept that argument. What I am saying is that you cannot have a consensus which ignores or refutes either extreme. It is because of that attempt by us to define consensus that we have moved an amendment to Section 63.
Let us consider the amending formula itself. In order to reach agreement, obviously both sides to an issue have to give, to compromise somewhat. It has been interesting to note that the premiers took that first step by putting forward an amending formula which, they believe, both reflects the consensus and represents an amending formula that will work.
How many members of this House remember the day, and I will not give the entire quotation, when the Prime Minister asked if we had heard Premier Peckford say we could patriate before he got jurisdiction over the offshore resources? He talked about Premier Lougheed. He asked whether Premier Loughecd would be willing to patriate with an amending formula before he got jurisdiction over resources. He went on to refer to the various premiers. I say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Prime Minister and members of this House that the premiers did just that. What they did was to say they are willing to accept an amending formula with patriation. It is now up to the Prime Minister, I would suggest, there being other issues which have to be discussed in terms of a renewal of the federation, to sit down and see if that compromise cannot, in fact, be found.
Let me refer now to the amending formula. I will not go through all the flaws of the Victoria formula, but on running through them very quickly one sees immediately that there is to be a veto for two provinces, Ontario and Quebec. In a federation there is to be a veto for two members; the other eight do not have the power of the veto. Even if the population of one of the two provinces falls below 25 per cent of the national population, having once had the veto the province will always has it. The unfairness of the situation becomes evident very quickly.
I would ask members of the NDP, most of whom come from western Canada—26 of their 32 members—when they go back to western Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, do they say to their constituents they must accept third-class status? Do they say they feel an amending formula is right which creates different classes of provinces and through that different classification of provinces different citizens? How do they defend that? They do not defend it because they cannot.
The Victoria formula not only is outdated, it is wrong, it is unfair and it does not work. If members opposite want to continue with that formula, I say to them what they are perpetuating is a centralized system which, in a sense, drives the far reaches of the country away from the centre. For those of us who want a strong national government it is wrong to just give lip service to a strong national government without giving the regions a reason to feel they are part of the central decision-making ability. They must have that ability.
The hon. member for Kitchener (Mr. Lang). who is a jocular fellow and does not see beyond his own nose, can see this only in the perspective of his own province. I suggest that he see it in the perspective of Atlantic Canada, in the perspective of western Canada and see it in the perspective of Canada itself.
I have said earlier, as have other members of our caucus, the Vancouver formula needed further refining. It has gone through further refining. What it does is create an amending formula whereby all the provinces are regarded as equal. It is not only important that the provinces be regarded as equal, it is important that Canadians be regarded as equal.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Epp: On the question of opting out, I hear members opposite say some would opt out and we would have a checkerboard Canada. That is a very glib and easy term to use. Was it the government of hon. members opposite which brought in the Canada Pension Plan but also allowed for the Quebec Pension Plan? Are hon. members opposite who come from Quebec in the Canada Pension Plan or in the Quebec Pension Plan?
Mr. Clark: Checkerboard.
Mr. Epp: A checkerboard. Why? Was it because it was convenient, because it worked, or because we would not have had a Canada Pension Plan without it? Of course all of us want a strong national government, but let us be realistic; those kinds of checkerboards have existed in the Canadian federation.
What is opting out? I think it is important for us to define that as well because hon. members opposite are now using a new term, which is “incremental sovereignty-association”. I think that new term has been in vogue since last Thursday. The provinces are saying that if the amending formula is used to take powers away from the provinces—not powers granted to them but powers agreed to at the time of confederation-at that time and at that time only can they opt out of those amendments, In dealing with such matters as resources or provincial boundaries are hon. members saying, for instance, that should the Labrador boundary be changed, Newfoundland should not be able to opt out of that kind of arrangement?
So the one question which comes up is the question of the charter of rights. I want to say here again—I have said it before and other members have said it—that not just since this discussion came up but back in the days of the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker and in the days of the general conventions of this party this federal party has endorsed an entrenched charter of rights. That is not a new position. That is a position this party has taken for a long time.
So the question then becomes, “what about the opting out of the charter of rights?” Today the Canadian Press said that we had reversed our position on the charter of rights with respect to opting out. In our amendment we have said very clearly that there would not be an opting out of the charter of rights. Why not? Because I believe rights are universal. They apply to all Canadians, and this is why there cannot be opting out. However, I think the point must be made that when the Vancouver formula was discussed, a number of the provinces did not accept the concept of an entrenched charter of rights, and so they did not discuss whether the opting out of a charter would be operative. Obviously for us in this House who are facing a proposal which includes a charter of rights that luxury does not exist. We have to deal with it, and so, as a party, we are saying—and we have said it before—that rights are universal, that they apply to all Canadians and that the opting out formula does not apply. The opting out formula applies, and always did, in those areas—and I emphasize this—where the provinces have had rights since the time of confederation, period.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Epp: What about the question of safeguarding Canadian institutions? If one takes a look at clause 54, one sees a number of areas which could be the subject of amendment. How can there be amendment? We have said clearly that unanimity should apply in three areas. Let us look at those carefully. We believe unanimity should continue to exist with respect to any change to the monarchy and the office of the monarchy. In other words, all 11 governments would have to agree to any change in that respect.
Second, we believe that unanimity should continue with respect to what is known as the guarantee of members in the House, depending on the number of senators when a province has the so-called senatorial floor. In other words, the province of Prince Edward Island would be protected and would not have fewer members than it is now guaranteed.
Finally, and obviously, an amending formula should also require unanimity.
What about the process we put forward? I will not go into the details of removing the interim amending formula. If there is consensus, an interim amending formula is obviously not needed. I know the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Mackasey) likes to talk about the two years, but I do not think those two years will bring any positive results. The reason I say that is that, because of the acrimony in the country with respect to federal-provincial relations, I think it will take much more than two years to bring the country together again.
We have talked about a referendum and the fact that we do not need a referendum. That amendment is before the House as well. What we have said in terms of process is that we need an amending formula which is fair. I have explained that very quickly today. A package could be approved if two-thirds of the provinces having at least S0 per cent of the population are in agreement. That is consensus. That would rid us of the spectre of unilateralism as well as the spectre of unanimity.
What about the Canadian charter of rights? We have offered a number of amendments to the Canadian charter of rights. One is with respect to the sovereignty of God. I noticed very quickly that in its amendment the government has accepted the supremacy of God and that it will be brought forward for a vote this Thursday. I commend the government for seeing it that far, but I want to read the words because I think the matter goes far beyond what the government has done, even though, as I say, I commend the government. The words are the following:
(a) the Canadian nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free individuals and free institutions, and (b) individuals and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law—
As I take a very quick look at the government amendment, I say that it embodies some of those aspects, but I feel that in our society today we should also include the integrity and the role of the family. I wish the government had also seen the necessity to include that in its amendment as well.
What about the matter of property rights? I know that the first argument which will be raised is that we are now in the provincial sphere and that property and civil rights are provincial matters. What did the Quebec Court say? In a five to zero decision the Quebec Court said that the proposal of the government affects provincial rights. That being the case and if this matter is going to the Supreme Court, why not include property rights? I know hon. members opposite debated this in their caucus. Was it a matter of the price of NDP support? Members of the NDP have said time after time that they are against property rights. They have said that it would be more difficult to nationalize resource industries if property rights were in the charter. What we have said is that property rights should be in the charter, but we have also included the words “in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”. Having checked, I believe that the matter of Prince Edward Island would be covered because of the wording we have included.
What about the matter of the charter applying equally to men and women? We have moved an amendment, and I am glad that the NDP has seen the wisdom of it. We have done it in the Senate, we have done it here and I am glad we are following it again. We have moved an amendment whereby the charter would apply equally to male and female persons. I think it is important to note that in 1929 it was finally recognized that women were persons and had equality.
Another important issue is the matter of the right to life, or the so-called abortion question. In the committee and in this Housethere was one general attitude, no matter which side of the issue hon. members were on. It was that the charter should not affect that issue and that the courts should not have the power to come down on one side or the other, as was done in the United States supreme court.
We believe that Parliament and the representatives of the people should make those decisions on moral grounds. Therefore, we are moving the following amendment:
Nothing in this Charter affects the authority of Parliament to legislate in respect of abortion and capital punishment.
We believe we have given to the House and to Canadians a way out of the division, to reach consensus, to improve the charter, and once we have a certain amount of consensus, to bring the Constitution home.
I should like to take a look at the NDP amendments. They have the one on equality of men and women and also the one on aboriginal rights. When I take a look at my telegrams I see that in no way do the aboriginal people of Canada feel that the NDP is protecting their rights by its amendments Not one group does. Why not? It was because they either wanted a consent clause or to be part of the amending formula. The hon. member for Oshawa (Mr. Broadbent)—
Mr. Clark: Speaking for the west.
Mr. Epp: I suppose he speaks for the west or for whoever. He said to the Indian people, “I see why you feel you are not protected, but I will move nothing which does not first enjoy the approval of the government”. That was his position and remains his position today. That is called parliamentary courage! The aboriginal question will not be resolved by a simple amendment. It will not be solved because of its history and its complexity. Therefore, the only way we will get to a satisfactory amendment is to sit down, either in a constituent assembly or at a first ministers’ meeting, and bring in the aboriginal people in order to come up with a compromise and a negotiated solution. It will not happen with the NDP amendment, and it will not happen during these three days on the floor of the House.
I am sorry I do not have sufficient time to go through the various nuances of the amendments, but in conclusion I say that what we have proposed is consistent with our view of federalism, namely, that change must come and we welcome change.
Mr. Broadbent: Not yet.
Mr. Epp: Yes, we do. I enjoy the interventions of the hon. member for Oshawa. He made as much sense today as he ever has, so we do not have to measure it for very longs We believe that federalism is better served by a compromise and by defining consensus, and once having done that, we can improve the charter. If members of the government search their consciences, I believe they will see the merits of the case. I know from speaking to many of them that they are seeking the way to get around the division which they see arising because of the manner in which they proceeded. It is for that reason and for Canada that I believe these amendments should be passed.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member.
Mr. Peter Stollery (Parliamentary Secretary to Secretary of State and Minister of Communications): Mr. Speaker, I have listened for the second time to the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), and I must say that I am as confused as I was the first time I heard him some months ago.
An hon. Member: As always.
Mr. Towers: So what is new?
Mr. Stollery: Hon. members opposite are laughing. I would presume they are laughing at anybody who, at this point in our undertakings, suggests that we should go to a constituent assembly after five or six months of consideration. After the spectacle of last week, the member suggested that we should sit down with the first ministers once again. What can one say? It is very difficult to take seriously the proposals of the hon. member for Provencher. I am sure the Minister of Justice (Mr, Chrétien) will deal with this more thoroughly in view of the fact that the Conservative Party has tabled an omnibus amendment which contains a series of proposals that they know perfectly well cannot pass. In fact, during this debate they have spoken out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand they said they were in favour of a charter of rights, and on the other hand they put conditions which make it impossible for Canadians to have a charter of rights.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Stollery: This is the sort of spectacle to which we have been treated since last October. Now the leading spokesman of the Conservative Party suggests with a straight face that we should go to a constituent assembly.
Mr. Baker (Nepeau-Carleton): You did not even read the proposal.
Mr. Stollery: As other hon. members have pointed out, it is a great privilege to participate in this historic stage in the evolution of Canadian constitutional development. Here we are in 1981 taking, in the Canadian House of Commons, the long overdue final steps toward becoming a complete nation. We are succeeding in Canada at what few, if any, nations in the world have achieved. When we pass this resolution, we will have become a nation with our own Constitution which reflects our federal nature in a manner consistent with a great nation, the sixth or seventh most industrialized country of the western world, with two languages, English and French, representing two of the great cultures that have developed in the western world since the fall of Rome.
Mr. Stevens: Who wrote this?
Mr. Stollery: We will have guaranteed future generations of Canadians an important charter of fundamental rights and freedoms, consistent with what we as Canadians believe our country stands for.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Stollery: Our country stands for freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression—
Mr. Stevens: How about property?
Mr. Stollery: —including freedom of the press and other media communication, freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Canadians will be assured through the charter of the rights to move freely across the country from one province to another, take up residence and pursue employment in any province.
An hon. Member: On freight trains.
Mr. Stollery: I presume hon. members opposite do not believe in these fundamental freedoms which are being guaranteed in the charter of rights. Certainly they think they are pretty funny; I guess they will vote against them. Canadians will have legal rights which include the right to life, liberty and security; the right to equality before the law; protection against unreasonable search or seizure, arbitrary detention and imprisonment; protection against denial of counsel, undue delay of trial and cruel or unusual treatment or punishment; protection against self-incrimination, and the right to the assistance of an interpreter.
Mr. Stevens: We have all those.
Mr. Stollery: Canadians will be protected from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, physical or mental disability. Those Canadian citizens of the English or French language minority in a province will have the right to educate their children in that language wherever numbers warrant. The charter recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Mr. Taylor: What does it mean?
Mr. Stollery: The charter attempts to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians. We will have done all of this to continue the shaping of a free, orderly and humane society, which is the envy of the world, without a civil war or a bloody revolution. In other words, we have done all of this peacefully. You would have to search long and hard, Mr. Speaker, to find another people who can say the same. Last week the eight premiers, after months of talk and promises, once more attempted to hatch a stone. One of the characteristics of this constitutional debate is the need for those, like myself—and I see a member opposite shaking his head—to continually restate the obvious. It is obvious that the premier’s position would be unacceptable to any responsible national government. I add that the Conservative proposal presented tonight would be unacceptable to any responsible national government. For example, it is obvious that you cannot have a country if different rights for citizens apply in different provinces of that country. Yet that is what the premiers propose—
Mr. Taylor: Why not?
Mr. Stollery: The hon. member opposite asks why not.
An hon. Member: That is what you do with your amending formula!
Mr. Stollery: If the members opposite would show the same courtesy I showed when I listened to their spokesman when he presented his proposal a few minutes ago, I would appreciate it. I think I deserve it. I have listened to this kind of nonsense for five months and I have not taken the opportunity to be as difficult with members opposite as they have been with me. It is called freedom of speech, something members opposite say we have already. But they were not so willing to give it to us two weeks ago when we were not even allowed to debate the question at hand.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Stollery: If the proposal of the premiers were accepted, it would inevitably lead to disintegration of this country. They propose that if a province does not like some part of the charter, or if in the future a province does not like some constitutional amendment adopted by a formula agreed to by the provinces, then that province should simply ignore that constitutional amendment or right. How could the country possibly survive that? The premier of Newfoundland would apparently like jobs in Newfoundland to be preserved for Newfoundlanclers. If Ontario was in economic difficulty, the next step would be that it might decide jobs in Ontario are to be preserved for the residents of Ontario. Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta could easily decide the same thing. That is what eight premiers of this country are proposing. It is not far-fetched to believe that some provinces in this country might not be enthusiastic about aboriginal rights. Well, they decide that they will just opt out of that section of the charter of rights so that the native peoples of Canada will have some rights in some provinces and other rights in other provinces. As I said, it seems characteristic in this debate to restate the obvious, to show that that kind of approach to nation building is doomed to failure.
Political rhetoric aside, I know that many members opposite, including members from western Canada, including members from Alberta, think that the constitutional proposal is not such a bad one. What must they think of the antics of their premiers? How can the premiers come out after all these months with virtually the same negative position that they had last September?
Mr. Taylor: Speak for yourself.
Mr. Stollery: How can they really say that Canadians should not have the same rights in all parts of Canada? How can they seriously propose that provinces should have the right to opt out of any future amendment to the Constitution which
a provincially elected group of politicians happened not to like? The greatest fraud of all perpetuated by the Tory party lies in their not explaining that it is quite possible that, in the future, a provincially elected government might hold quite different views on a narrow constitutional question from the majority of the people in the province. That happened last year in Quebec, But the premiers tell us that they, and not the people, will decide what rights the people in a particular province shall have. I find it hard to believe that the majority of the people in Manitoba are against the rights which are outlined, or that the people of Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia are really against the charter of rights. It is just not believable.
Nothing which has been presented to this Parliament in the nearly nine years that I have been a member is as easy to understand as this constitutional proposal which we have been discussing for five months, or for rnuch longer. I would point out to members opposite that the original debate on confederation lasted only five weeks.
Mr. Taylor: So what?
Mr. Stollery: This constitutional proposal is simple and clear. In my opinion it is a good thing for future Canadians, a good thing for this country. The members opposite obviously say no.
The hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Taylor) has been very vocal tonight. He is opposed to the charter of rights. He opposes everything.
Mr. Taylor: Speak for yourself.
Mr. Sollery: He has a great deal to say tonight. The members of the Conservative Party have been tyrannizing the House of Commons. They have made it impossible for members to speak. They have acted in what I consider to be an anti-democratic fashion. Meanwhile, members of the public have been saying to Members of Parliament, and possibly to the hon. member opposite, “But how can you be against a charter of rights for Canadians? How can you be against a constitutional amendment proposal which is the only one that all of the provinces have ever agreed on?” To those questions the opposition have no answers for the Canadian people. For six months or five months they have had no answer to the Canadian people.
Mr. Taylor: Wouldn’t listen to the premiers.
Mr. Stollery: They have proposed an amendment tonight which is no answer to the Canadian people, for that has been another characteristic of this debate: mindless opposition, without ever giving anyone a reason why they are opposing what they are opposing.
Mr. Taylor: That’s better than being a sheep.
Mr. Stollery: They all agree in the committee that the charter of rights needed more strengthening. Then they opposed passing it.
Mr. Taylor: They are gaining progress.
Mr. Stollery: How can anybody understand that? What a ridiculous position. The official opposition apparently opposes the only amending formula that the provinces and the federal government ever agreed on, and proposes an amending formula on which even the provinces do not agree,
Mr. Taylor: Why didn’t you patriate the Constitution, then?
Mr. Stollery: It simply does not make any sense.
Mr. Taylor: Because its a Liberal MP and Liberal premier in Quebec. That’s why. Why didn’t you patriate it, then?
Mr. Laniel: Your new friend!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. The hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Stollery) has the floor.
Mr. Stollery: Mr. Speaker, I was in the Chamber on the day that the petty, melancholy corporal’s guard of Conservative MPs applauded the first speech of the hon. member for Provencher. The hon. member for Provencher talked at length about rights of all Canadians and then proposed a formula ensuring that all Canadians will not have those rights.
Mr. Taylor: Baloney, baloney!
Mr. Stollery: Imagine, the irony; such an empty, frightened flat remedy from a Member of Parliament for Provencher, the constituency which twice acclaimed Louis Riel. The hon. member for Provencher said at the time that Confederation works. Well, the Quebec referendum apart, the problems of increasing western alienation apart, the fact that for ten years federal cabinet ministers have not been able to make decisions without meetings with their provincial colleagues—including the harvest of moss off New Brunswick which must be decided by a federal-provincial conference; the temperature at which Chinese barbecued meat must be sold in Toronto’s Chinatown, which must be decided by a federal-provincial conference—apart from all of that, a situation has developed in this country where a majority of the premiers are prepared to state their position publicly that Canadians should not have the same rights across Canada, including the right to work in other provinces.
How can the hon. member for Provencher claim that the present rules of Confederation work? I can only presume that when that vote was taken during the snowstorm in Quebec City on March 10, 1865, in view of his attitude, the hon. member for Provencher would have been one of the 33 members who voted against Confederation.
I think that the Canadian public should know that after he delivered his speech here in the Chamber, explained it to us at length, the importance of the debate, the need for every Member of Parliament to be heard on the subject, the long term importance of this constitution for Canadians of the future, the hon. member for Provencher showed his interest in this tremendously important debate by going off to South Africa for three weeks. I believe the Canadian public—
Mr. Taylor: That is where they have entrenched rights.
Mr. Stollery: The hon. member says “shame” to me. Why should he be ashamed of the public knowing where the leading spokesman for the Tory party went after he delivered his speech? Surely he is not ashamed of the fact he went to south Africa, or is he? To study human rights, yes. To study the charter of human rights in South Africa. Mr. Speaker, that is an opting out position.
Mr. Taylor: You don’t mind them opting in, though, do you?
Mr. Stollery: I believe that the Canadian public has every right to ask: why are the Conservatives afraid to unlock the future? Why do they not dare take on the forces of provincial self-interest in the name of the nation? Why do they say, “Yes, I am for human rights; in fact, I am for a tougher charter of human rights than you are,” and then put conditions that make progress impossible? How can the Conservatives say they want to discuss the economy and then filibuster their own constitutional amendment for weeks? Why did they tyrannize the House of Commons for several days and make it impossible for Members of Parliament to speak?
Mr. Taylor: To stop closure.
An hon. Member: Rule 75C.
Mr. Stollery: Why are they so bitter?
Mr. Taylor: We don’t like dictatorship.
Mr. Stollery: We know about the hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart). He sits right over there and he is there tonight. He told us why he is against it. He hates French. But I suspect that he was speaking for a small group-
Mr. Taylor: Another misrepresentation.
Mr. Stollery: —and not for the majority of members of Parliament opposite.
Mr. Taylor: Why don’t you tell the truth once in a while? That’s another misrepresentation.
Mr. Stewart: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) on a point of order.
Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, I challenge the hon. member across and I ask for an apology. Nowhere in my speech did I ever speak of hate of the French Canadians. I demand an apology in this House, from the hon. member, which he should offer if he is a gentleman.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. It is very difficult to find a point of order. Perhaps the hon. member, after reading the debate of the night, may seek to raise a question of privilege, but certainly not a point of order. The hon. member for Spadina.
Some hon. Members: No, no!
Mr. Stollery: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please.
Mr. Stewart: A point of privilege?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) on a question of privilege. Mr. Stewart: Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member just accused me of, in attributing the word “hate” to me was unparliamentary. As a member of this House, I hate no one; and I teach that to my children. If this fellow over here with his diatribe—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. Again, the hon. member has made his point, and I think it is clear, and the whole matter is now clarified.
Some hon. Members: No, no!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. The hon. gentleman for Spadina (Mr. Stollery) has expressed his views. The hon. member has made his point and I think the Chair has heard it.
Mr. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the hon. member told a lie.
Some hon. Members: Order, order!
Some hon. Members: Withdraw, withdraw!
Mr. Taylor: It is a total falsification and he did it rudely. The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please I will hear the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Taylor) on a point of privilege, but if it is to make accusations which I just heard, that the hon. member has told a lie, that is not parliamentary; but I will hear him on a question of privilege.
Mr. Taylor: Well, Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, then. The hon. member for Spadina (Mr, Stollery) said that the hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) had said that he hated the French. The hon. member for Simcoe South did not say that. I heard his speech. He did not say that, or anything like it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. Again that is quite argumentative. One hon. member says something that another hon. member has said. Where does that put the Chair in this debate?
Some hon. Members: It is on the record.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member for Simcoe South said to the House that he had not said that. Now we will wait for the hon. member for Spadina. If he wants to withdraw what he said, the Chair and hon. members will accept that. If not, the hon. member for Simcoe South
would perhaps have a question of privilege to raise at the next sitting of the House with Madam Speaker in the chair.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Withdraw it, Peter.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member for Spadina.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Stollery: I am not clear on this point. If hon. members opposite—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Taylor) on a point of order.
Mr. Taylor: If the hon. member is going to withdraw one untruth he had better withdraw his whole speech because three quarters of it is—
An hon. Member: The truth hurts.
Mr. Stollery: Mr. Speaker, the truth seems to have touched some raw nerves over there tonight.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Mayer: How would you know? You would not know it.
Mr. Stollery: For months I have listened to the speeches of the Conservatives.
Mr. Gamble: You have not been here.
Mr. Stollery: I was here when the hon. member who just spoke was out organizing the campaign to dump his leader. I was here.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Is the hon. member for York North (Mr. Gamble) seeking the floor on a point of order?
Mr. Gamble: Yes, Mr. Speaker. It is regrettable that while the nation seeks to deal with a matter as significant as the Constitution, we should hear comments of the kind we have just heard, comments that are untrue, made with respect to—
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Gamble: That may be amusing but on two specific occasions—
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. I should like to hear the hon. member on a point of order, if that is possible.
An hon. Member: That means he has changed his mind.
Mr. Gamble: It does not mean anything of the kind. It simply means that it is inappropriate that I should be quoted as having endeavoured to do something which I did not endeavour to do. As part of a speech—
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Collenette: You are a failure!
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. The Chair fails to recognize a point of order. The hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Stollery).
Mr. Stollery: Mr. Speaker, I hope that the time which hon. members used for their interjections will not be taken from my time.
For months I have listened to the speeches of the Conservatives opposite. I have watched the faces opposite. They show the scars of their national convention at which one third of the delegates said that they favoured a leadership convention. Faces opposite have grown longer and longer as they wonder more and more if they are not being used in a skin-saving attempt by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark). We know that the Leader of the Opposition is desperate for a national election.
Mr. Taylor: At least he is not a dictator.
Mr. Stollery: He will do anything to save his neck. He has had it. He is finished. The only question remaining is whether or not he will take the Tory party down with him.
Mr. Gustafson: But he is honest!
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Stollery: The hon. member opposite says, “But he is honest”. He admits that he is taking the Tory party down with him. That is why the hon. member opposite sits opposite.
Mr. Nystrom: Stollery for leader.
Mr. Stollery: The Leader of the Opposition is about to go down in history as the man who ran a national election campaign in a world petroleum crisis against Petro-Can and is now running his leadership campaign against the Canadian Constitution. If you did not see it, you would not believe it! I have been a Member of Parliament for nearly nine years.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Too long.
Mr. Kempling: You would never know it.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Nystrom: Resign.
An hon. Member: Motorcycling to Ottawa!
Mr. Stollery: I have been a Member of Parliament for nearly nine years.
An hon. Member: Taxi!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): You should do the decent thing and resign.
Mr. Stollery: Since I have been here, this chamber, reflecting Canadian life as it has been in the 1970s, has seen many debates on complex issues such as energy and economics, including employment and inflation. We are now contemplating pension reform. These have been increasingly complicated issues resulting in an exponential increase in the need for study and knowledge by Members of Parliament. They are issues which have reflected the revolution that started with the oil crisis of 1972, a revolution that has put a stamp on the 1970s. It is again an irony that this simple constitutional resolution that many Conservatives say is unnecessary because the British North America Act works, is in fact a vital element in the ability of the national government in Canada to govern and to resolve the issues of energy, unemployment, inflation, pension reform, etc.
At the beginning of this debate the super patriot from Athabasca stood here and shouted “O Canada” while the provincial government in his province of Alberta closed down his own town and put his constituents out of work.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
An hon. Member: Lies.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but this allotted time has expired.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. F. Oberle (Prince George-Peace River): Mr. Speaker, since I last spoke in this debate—in this important, historic debate—certain events have taken place. As my colleagues have done, I want to join in paying tribute to members on all sides of the House who spent weekends and many hours serving the nation and serving Parliament in a committee which did an exemplary job of presenting to the nation, in living colour on television, the debate which now comes to another conclusion.
Certain events took place in Parliament itself. We have been accused of all kinds of things, such as delay, obstruction and filibuster. I happen to think that certain people in Parliament learned an important lesson, that is, that this institution will actually work in times of crisis and in times when the sensitivities of Canadians throughout the country are aroused over matters that take place here. I will never apologize for my contribution to whatever that was called, be it filibuster of delay.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) learned an important lesson. He had to learn that the timetables he had set for himself and for the nation in bringing about his version of constitutional renewal, had to be sacrificed to the will of Parliament.
We gained some important time; time for parliamentarians to reflect on what is happening. We gained time for provincial premiers and provincial legislatures to address the problem and we gained time for all Canadians throughout the country to become better acquainted with what is about to happen in Parliament in this crucial period in our history.
I welcome the opportunity to speak once more. I thank my colleagues on this side of the house, some of whom will not be able to speak because there is not enough time and so I thank them for giving me the opportunity to speak a second time. Like every member in this House, I receive mail, not just from my own constituents but from people throughout the country who live in wonderment who are bewildered and confused because they no longer understand what this debate is all about. They no longer understand what the Prime Minister, this great social reformer, this great institutional engineer, wants to do with Canada. They have developed a certain respect for the institution of Canada, the important and crucial components of which are the provincial governments. People have learned to respect their provincial premiers. Our provincial premiers came to Ottawa and participated in a public dabate last weekend. The provincial premiers were on one side and the Prime Minister on the other. There was a breakdown of communications. People cannot understand for the life of them why Canadians are diametrically opposed over a matter which my friends on the other side say is so simple, straightforward and so easy to understand. There is a reason for this bewilderment and confusion. People participating in this debate no longer address themselves to the questions which were initially debated after the Quebec referendum which prompted the urgency and indecent haste now demonstrated. The people of Quebec were provided with an opportunity to choose whether they still wanted to be part of this confederation of this great nation, which Sir John A. Macdonald could see 114 years ago as becoming one of the greatest in the universe, or whether their legitimate aspirations in terms of industry, culture and religion would be better met with a separate state.
Certain things were wrong and were discussed at the time of the Quebec referendum. Many of us travelled to the province of Quebec. Several of the premiers who participated in last weekend’s debate also travelled to Quebec at the time of the referendum as did the Prime Minister and some of his ministers. They promised the people of Quebec there would be fundamental and immediate action if they once again chose to stay in confederation and played the important role which Quebec had always played in the union.
We did not talk about a charter of rights. We did not talk about the things which now predominate in the debate. In fact, we talked about things much different than that. For instance, we talked about such things as the reform of the Senate. We talked about electoral reform. We talked about better equality
and regional reflection in some of the regulatory boards which play such an important role in this country. We talked about reform of the Supreme Court. We talked about reform of this institution. We talked about restoring the role intended for private members when this institution had its beginning, allowing them a meaningful contribution to the policy-making process and allowing them to keep an effective check on what the government was doing. But I ask hon. members whether they have heard any speaker over the last five weeks talk about these things. I say we have not.
We are talking now about a charter of rights which is to be the solution to all problems which have faced this nation since confederation. We no longer talk about the need and the failure of the Senate to fulfil this crucial role intended for it under confederation to represent minorities and protect them from the tyranny of the majority inherent in a direct democracy process, such as that which is the usual role of the House of Commons. The Senate was to bring a regional voice to represent regions in a different way from what Members of Parliament can do. As well, the Senate was to be a conciliator between the central government and the provinces in cases where there is an impasse in certain matters. The Senate has never filled that role, and so we have these problems throughout Canada because there is no effective spokesman for legitimate regional concerns.
We talked about electoral reform. Why did we talk about that? Obviously we talked about it because it is not right for a government to have no representation in half of the country. In the government there are only two representatives of one province of western Canada. That is not a good situation.
There are better ways of electing a parliament to ensure that the vote a government or a leading political party receives in a certain region is adequately reflected in terms of representation in the House. It is not a healthy situation for the Official Opposition not to be represented in one province which has over 25 per cent of the population. That is why we talked about electoral reform and that is why we made promises to the people of Quebec during the referendum.
We talked about reform and equality in terms of regulatory bodies. We talked about the inequity of having Supreme Court judges appointed disproportionately from certain regions of the country while other regions are almost completely shut out. We talked about reforms to the procedures of the House of Commons. That debate is no longer relevant nor is it going on. We have now found another solution to the problems of Canada. That solution is something termed by our Prime Minister some time ago as “a new society.” We no longer concern ourselves with the fundamental things that I have talked about. We are now making some fundamental changes in terms of a charter of rights, a new contract, which will profoundly and fundamentally change the relationship between the individual and the state.
The problems which the Prime Minister is trying to solve with his charter of rights are now new. The tensions and crises we are trying to overcome are not new. They have been with us since confederation. In terms of nationhood, 113 years is a short period of time. It is fascinating to read our history. It is fascinating to learn that Canada has lived in a sort of suspended state of disintegration ever since confederation. For instance, in 1868, one year after confederation, one of the four partners, namely the province of New Brunswick, held a referendum and voted to leave confederation. It was not satisfied with the results of the arrangement. My province of British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871. We were not an unorganized territory as were some of the other regions which joined confederation later. British Columbia was a Crown colony, as was Newfoundland when it joined. All of our political leaders felt, as most of us now feel, that the interests of British Columbia would be much better served through the wider concept of a great confederation of which the then prime minister spoke at the time. There were tensions even then. We all know that British Columbia did not pay as much attention to the fact that it should be properly represented in the Senate as part of the deal to join confederation, such as the other provinces did. We joined confederation on the promise of a railway from coast to coast, reaching all the way to Victoria.
Few people today know that the Liberal government which followed that of Sir John A. Macdonald tried to renege on that promise to build a railway to British Columbia. In fact, an offer of settlement was made to British Columbia to buy back that promise for $750,000. B.C. rejected that offer and insisted that the terms under which it joined confederation be met.
There were threats of secession even then. There was uneasiness in British Columbia. We felt we had been cheated and that central Canada really was not serious in making us an equal partner in confederation. So serious were the noises from the west that Lord Dufferin was despatclted to British Columbia to ease the tensions and to settle some of the disputes that had arisen. He wrote the following to the Prime Minister:
At this moment British Columbia is obsessed by a frenzied sense, however unreasonable, of injury and wrong.
This frenzied sense of wrong still exists in Canada today. It exists in the west and is aggravated by the colonial attitudes, which have developed over the years, of central Canada toward the west. There is preferential treatment for consumers in central Canada. They were protected by preferential freight rates against high costs of east-west trade. There has been preferential treatment for central Canadian businesses. They were protected against the high costs of shipping to the west by tariffs and trade restrictions.
So serious was the dissension in western Canada at that time that one of the people who led the movement to bring the colony into confederation, Amor De Cosmos, said in this House as a Member of Parliament that he hoard, as we do now, his province described as greedy and insulted in many other ways. This same man said the following on February 13, 1879, and any member can go to the Library and look this up at page 1079 of Hansard of that date:
I move for leave to introduce a Bill, entitled an act to provide for the peaceful separation of British Columbia, seconded by any gentleman opposite who thinks it proper to do so.
As this frenzied sense of wrong is still alive in British Columbia, there is a movement of separatism which is gaining momentum and is very much alive in British Columbia. We should not ignore that. It is not a charter of rights and the entrenchment in the Constitution of the cardinal principles of democracy which are the hallmark of western democracies everywhere which will allay and correct this frenzied sense of wrong that we in the west still feel.
What is it about this charter of rights which causes all this controversy? First, I do not believe that we who are elected to this institution through the democratic process have a mandate to make the changes which are contemplated in this charter of rights. We do not have a mandate to surrender the supremacy that rests with this institution in favour of another institution. This place was created by men of history and by the people. We are the servants of this institution, not its master. It is not for us to decide on changes that should be made to it. I defend my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), when he says that changes as fundamental as those that the Prime Minister has designed for us should be made by the people themselves in another forum than here. When he mentions the constituent assembly, that is the preferable way. Indeed, that would be the way that most modern countries which change their constitution would go about it.
We are now rewriting the Constitution completely, starting from the beginning as if this were a new society somewhere on the moon with no history, nothing to start from, and entrenching a charter of individual rights. As my friends on the other side have said, it is reasonable to question what is wrong with entrenching in the Constitution certain political and democratic rights which were, after all, the cornerstone of all the ideological foundations of the parties represented here, with the possible exception of one. The right and the liberty of the individual is the cornerstone of the ideological base of my party. I suppose it is the ideological base of what was once known as the Liberal Party.
On the surface the objective of entrenching these cardinal principles of democracy such as freedom of speech, freedom of action, freedom of thought and freedom of religion is a very laudable goal. I go further by saying there would hardly be a member on any side of this House who would not fight to protect to preserve the individual rights which are inherent in these cardinal principles of democracy.
Every one of us is almost daily confronted by a constituent who feels his rights have been offended. He asks for help in going to battle. Once we entrench these rights in the Constitution, there will be a change. If an individual phones his Member of Parliament because he has been aggrieved by an act of bigotry, that member will no longer be able to stand in this House to come to his defence. The member will probably have to tell his constituent that his rights are now entrenched in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over those rights and he had better go and fight for them. Of course, the constituent will not know that it costs a lot of money to have his case heard in the Supreme Court. So far the Member of Parliament has been able to stand up for his rights without having to send him a bill.
What is wrong with this charter of rights that we are about to entrench in the Constitution is that it is not simply dealing with the cardinal principles of democracy. It goes much further. That is what the debate the premiers were involved in was all about. Not only does this charter of rights entrench the cardinal principles of democracy, the political rights, it also entrenches certain rights that are not within the jurisdiction and mandate of federal politicians. It entrenches certain rights of individuals in our country which are under the control of the provincial governments.
Is it not the right of provincial premiers to concern themselves about that? Should the premiers not ask what it would be like after these rights have been entrenched in the Constitution? The language right, for example, says that a person is entitled to be educated and to have his children educated anywhere in this country in English or French. It is a laudable goal to become at some future time a country that is truly funcationally bilingual. This is no longer just a dream. The young children in most European countries on graduation from school are functionally bilingual. They converse in many languages, many of them are multilingual. However, to take one language and throw out all the great things we have strived for and pride ourselves in, including the concept of multiculturalism, and say that henceforth we shall be a bilingual and bicultural country is something that certainly offends me.
Not having had the privilege of being born in this country, I chose Canada and I thought I came here under certain conditions, Approximately one-third of our people living here today arrived in this country believing they did so under certain conditions, one of which was that this was a multicultural country. That is no longer so.
That is not the matter about which the premiers are concerned. They are concerned about the fact that there could be certain areas in eastern and western Canada where, as a result of the entrenchment in the Constitution of these rights to education, the taxpayers will have to build French or English schools, as is the case in the province of Quebec. That may not necessarily at that particular time be one of their priorities. There are small communities in the constituency I represent that do not have water or sewer; they do not have a hockey arena, a library or a cultural centre, and those may be greater priorities at a particular time. We are leaving a certain vagueness in this whole scheme because we say “where numbers warrant”. We say we are going to be very reasonable about this. However, it is the Supreme Court that will decide what the numbers will be. Will the numbers be 5, 7, 15 or 500 children? No one knows. The premiers and the taxpayers must know because they will have to pay the bills.
It is just not good enough for people opposite to say that because of a concern which has been expressed about certain
aspects of this charter of rights that we hate the French. Why is it that the premier of the province of Quebec, newly elected with a large mandate, is against this charter of rights? Is it not a strange twist of fate that it is precisely for the same reason the people of Quebec who have acquired certain advantages and gained certain momentum in restoring a certain cultural integrity in their province now feel oppressed by the very person who portrays himself as the king and the saviour of the legitimate rights and aspirations of his compatriots?
These are the things that are wrong with this charter of rights. It is wrong to believe that just because we now entrench in the Constitution a charter of rights and give the Supreme Court jurisdiction over the rights of individuals that all will be solved and no one will ever again be discriminated against. Some members on the opposite side have stood up and said just that. One minister stood the other day and said: “Is it not beautiful to know that we shall wake up one morning, having done this deed here in Parliament, and there will never be any discrimination in this country again?” How naive can those people be? Do they really believe you can legislate the attitude of people, that you can prevent bigots from acting like bigots by simply making a law? Of course you cannot.
We have a great history in this country, a history of pride, freedom and a belief in all that is beautiful and great brought to humankind through democracy. Why is it so urgent that we now entrench a charter of rights? What is so wrong with our Constitution or so wrong in the country that we have to take these very dramatic steps?
What is wrong is that we have a Prime Minister who has a certain vision about his country that does not coincide with the mainstream of life and does not coincide with the history and the tradition on which this country was built. He is not so concerned about a repetition of certain events which took place in 1970 when he imposed the War Measures Act. He is not so much concerned with that. What our Prime Minister wants to do, and he has said this in many speeches to his fellow Canadians in the province of Quebec, is to attain two objectives through his charter of rights. To do so he is prepared to sacrifice everything else that forms part of this constitutional package.
The Prime Minister believes in a unitary state as opposed to a confederate system. He wants to lay the foundation to allow for the evolution of a unitary system of government in this country.
Secondly, as he has said on so many occasions, he is going to bring the French fact in Canada beyond an irreversible position. He is devious and sinister in the way he is going about that. I am not saying this is bad or good, but those are the two things the Prime Minister has in mind in respect of this charter of rights, and that is why he, with all the political skill and deviousness he possesses, has managed to divert this debate away from that about which we should be talking to a discussion of nothing but his charter of rights.
Is the entrenchment of my freedom of speech in the Constitution going to redress this frenzied sense of wrong which exists in the west, this threat of separatism? Of course it will not. Is the protection against discrimination on grounds of race, religion, colour and all these things going to redress this frenzied sense of wrong in the west? Of course it is not.
Let me conclude with this comment. I would tell you what this constitutional debate we are engaged in and now completing will do. It will destroy the dream which has been laid out for us by Sir John A. Macdonald.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but his time has expired.
Some hon. Members: Go ahead.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): The hon. member may continue with unanimous consent.
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Oberle: Thank you, Sir. I do not wish to abuse the courtesy of my friends, so I will conclude. What I am saying is that if we continue with what we are doing, in ignoring the real things we should be talking about, namely, the changes to our constitutional framework, we will destroy the dream held out to us by Sir John A. Macdonald when he said we are a great country and we shall be one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve unity in this country and if we preserve confederation. We shall sink into insignificance and diversity if we suffer to be broken. There is a message there. I have a great feeling that if we continue with what we are doing right now, we shall suffer the breakup of our great country.
Hon. Jean Chrétien (Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Social Development): Mr. Speaker, with the permission of the House, may I point out that it is 9.59 p.m.? I could begin my speech tomorrow.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): Permission has not been granted.
Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member For Edmonton wants my wisdom very badly, especially during those hours when we have to deal with some of the propositions I will have great pleasure dealing with tomorrow, because some of them are rather funny.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ethier): I regret to interrupt the hon. minister, but it is now ten o’clock.