Letter from the Prime Minister to Honourable William G. Davis [and all provincial Premiers] (19 April 1975)

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Date: 1975-04-19
By: Pierre Trudeau
Citation: Letter from the Prime Minister to Honourable William G. Davis [and all provincial Premiers] (19 April 1975).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

(Same letter sent to all provincial Premiers)



Ottawa K1A 0A2
April 19, 1975

My dear Premier:

I was very pleased indeed at the reaction
of yourself and our fellow First Ministers, during our
dinner on April 9, to my proposal that we should
proceed at an early date to the “patriation” of the
British North America Act with the amending clause
agreed on at Victoria. I am encouraged to believe
that, after fifty years of effort, we may finally
dispose of the last remnant of our one-time colonial
status that is involved in our not being able to amend
our own constitution in totality.

I am enclosing herewith a copy of Part IX
of the Victoria Charter. As you know, there was no
objection to it in 1971 by any government. It was
regarded as the best solution that could be found to
the difficult problem of making changes in future to
those parts of our constitution that cannot now be
amended under either Section 91(1) or Section 92(1)
of the B.N.A. Act.

There are three Articles in Part IX – Articles
53,54 and 55 – which reproduce the substance of Sections
91(1) and 92(1). These were included at Victoria as a
part of the “tidying up” of the constitution that would
have been accomplished by the Charter which, of course,
covered much more than simply the amending procedure.
What I am proposing now, as I made clear, is that we
should not, at this time, get into any questions of
substance or form at all: we should simply “patriate”
with an amending clause to cover those parts of the
B.N.A. Act that are not now covered. This would mean
that we would not now act on Articles 53, 54 and 55
since they involve amendment of Sections 91 and 92 of
the B.N.A. Act. We would move simply with regard to the
other Articles of Part IX. We would leave for future
action under the new amending procedure whatever changes
of form or of substance we or future governments may
want to accomplish in the Canadian constitution.

The procedure for “patriation” was discussed
at the Working Session of the Constitutional Conference
on February 8-9, 1971. It is outlined in pages 399 to
402 of the Secretary’s Report on “The Constitutional
Review, 1968-1971”. As you will see, the procedure
contemplates three main steps: approval by the
legislatures of the provinces and by both Houses of
Parliament; legislation by the British Parliament
and, finally, the issue of a Proclamation by the
Governor General. The legislation by the British
Parliament would provide the legal validity for the
Canadian proclamation and its provisions about the
procedure of amendment. It would also provide that no
future British law should have application to Canada
and would make consequential repeal or amendment of
British statutes affecting the Canadian constitution.

The issuance of the proclamation by the Governor General
would coincide with the effective date of the British
legislation. Once all this had been done, we would
have full and complete capacity to deal with our
constitution in Canada and the British Parliament would
no longer continue to have the powers it still legally
has to deal with the law and constitution of Canada.

I was particularly taken with the suggestion
at our dinner that it might be desirable to accomplish
the “patriation” of the B.N.A. Act just before the
Olympic Games in 1976. The Queen will be visiting
Canada for the formal opening of the Games. It would
be most appropriate if she could be here for some
suitable ceremony in the National Capital, attended by
all the First Ministers of Canada, to complete this
historic process relating to our constitution. Another
alternative would be to hold the ceremonies on July 1.
To meet either of the suggested times, it would mean
that the resolutions of the legislatures and the Joint
Address of Parliament would all have to be passed at an
early point in their respective sessions in 1976. The
British Parliament would then have to legislate in its
1976 session, probably by May or June if that could be
accomplished. This would leave time to plan the ceremony
for the proclamation and whatever other formal arrange-
ments seem appropriate. While all this would require
prompt action, the substance of what is to be approved
by the legislative bodies is brief and simple. I would
hope that we could meet the schedule that would make the
events of 1976 and the visit of the Queen especially

I have asked Gordon Robertson to communicate
with your office to arrange a convenient time to call
on you on my behalf to discuss all aspects of what is
proposed. He plans to have Frank Carter, the Deputy
Secretary to the Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations,
accompany him with the nthought that they could use the
occasion of the visit also to discuss with you, your
Ministers or your officials any other questions pertaining
to federal-provincial relations that you think could
usefully be explored with them.

I was very glad to have had the occasion on
April 9-10 to join with you and the other First Ministers
in the discussion of the important problems that were
before the Conference. It may well be, however, that
the history books of the future will regard the
discussion at our dinner on April 9 as a more memorable
part of our meeting.



The Honourable William G. Davis, Q.C.,
Premier of Ontario,
Parliament Buildings,
Toronto, Ontario.



Art. 49. Amendments to the Constitution of Canada may
from time to time be made by proclamation issued by the
Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada when so
authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of
Commons and of the Legislative Assemblies of at least a
majority of the Provinces that includes

(1) every Province that at any time before the
issue of such proclamation had, according to
any previous general census, a population of at
least twenty-five per cent of the population
of Canada;

(2) at least two of the Atlantic Provinces;

(3) at least two of the Western Provinces that
have, according to the then latest general
census, combined population of all the Western

Art. 50. Amendments to the Constitution of Canada in
relation to any provision that applies to one or more, but
not all, of the Provinces may from time to time be made by
proclamation issued by the Governor General under the
Great Seal of Canada when so authorized by resolutions of
the Senate and House of Commons and of the Legislative
Assembly of each Province to which an amendment applies.

Art. 51. An amendment may be made by proclamation under
Article 49 to 50 without a resolution of the Senate
authorizing the issue of the proclamation if within ninety
days of the passage of a resolution by the House of
Commons authorizing its issue the Senate has not passed
such a resolution and at any time after the expiration of
the ninety days the House of Commons again passes the
resolution, but any period when Parliament is prorogued or
dissolved shall not be counted in computing the ninety

Art. 52. The following rules apply to the procedures for
amendment described in Articles 49 and 50:

(1) either of these procedures may be initiated by
the Senate or the House of Commons or the
Legislative Assembly of a Province;

(2) a resolution made for the purposes of this Part
may be revoked at any time before the issue of
a proclamation authorized by it.

Art. 53. The Parliament of Canada may exclusively make
laws from time to time amending the Constitution of
Canada, in relation to the executive Government of Canada
and the Senate and House of Commons.

Art. 54. In each Province the Legislature may
exclusively make laws in relation to the amendment from
time to time of the Constitution of the Province.

Art. 55. Notwithstanding Articles 53 and 54, the
following matters may be amended only in accordance with
the procedure in Article 49:

(1) the office of the Queen, of the Governor
general and of the Lieutenant-Governor;

(2) the requirements of the Constitution of Canada
respecting yearly sessions of the Parliament of
Canada and the Legislatures;

(3) the maximum period fixed by the Constitution of
Canada for the duration of the House of Commons
and the Legislative Assemblies;

(4) the powers of the Senate;

(5) the number of members by which a Province is
entitled to be represented in the Senate, and
the residence qualifications of Senators;

(6) the right of a Province to a number of members
in the House of Commons not less than the
number of Senators representing the Province;

(7) the principles of proportionate representation
of the Provinces in the House of Commons
prescribed by the Constitution of Canada; and

(8) except as provided in Article 16, the
requirements of this Charter respecting the use
of the English or French language.

Art. 56. The procedure prescribed in Article 49 may not
be used to make an amendment when there is another
provision for making such amendment in the Constitution of
Canada, but that procedure may nonetheless be used to
amend any provision for amending the Constitution,
including this Article, or in making a general
consolidation and revision of the Constitution.

Art. 57. In this Part, “Atlantic Provinces” means the
Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward
Island and Newfoundland, and “Western Provinces” means the
Provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and

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