Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Communications, Notes for a Statement by Quebec (8-11 July 1980)

Document Information

Date: 1980-07-08
By: Quebec
Citation: Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Communications, Notes for a Statement by Quebec, Doc 830-82/011 (Montreal: 8-11 July 1980).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

The HTML Text Below Has Not Yet Been Edited

This document has not yet been edited for mistakes. Help us out by correcting the text and mailing it as a text file to Your help will make the most complete word-searchable electronic repository of documents relating to the Canadian constitution. For more information consult our Be a Contributor page.

Read the unedited text

DOCUMENT: 830-81/011
Secretariat Translation
Notes for a Statement by Quebec
Montreal, Quebec
July 8-11, 1980

1-, The Problem
The BNA Act does not contain specific provisions
determining legislative authority in relation to communications.
However, to justify federal intervention in this area, the
Courts have used Section 92.l0(a), under which the central
government may legislate on “Telegraphs, and other Works and
Undertakings connecting the Province with any other or others
of the Provinces, or extending beyond the Limits of the Province”,
as well as Section 132 regarding obligations arising out of treaties
More recently, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized
that the federal legislative power extended to the regulation
of (able TV signals from outside Canada and the regulation
of the carriage of these same signals within (anada. The
Supreme Court also decided that the Parliament of Canada had
exclusive legislative authority with regard to the regulation
of Cable TV stations and their programs, at least when the TV
signals broadcast over hertzian waves are intercepted and
rebroadcast to subscribers to a cable company.
The fundamental importance of communications in Quebec
explains the persistence shown by Quebec governments nuasserting
their responsibilities in this area. This is also explained,
as has been said so often before, by the fact that Communications
constitute for a community, a privileged, essential instrument
of cultural expression and development. The importance of
communications (radio, TV, etc) in the daily life of citizens
is such that there is no need to stress its concrete extent.

II ~ Quebec‘s position
During the constitutional talks of February 1979,
the Prime Minister of (anada declared‘ “On the basic philosophy,
we recognize obviously that the French-Canadian community is
a distinct community culturally and linguistically from the
English Canadian community, and it is certain that this duality
you mention, which we have referred to, which the Pepin-Robarts
Commission referred to, must be respected”. Consequently,
with all the respect due to that duality, Quebec, heart of
French Canada, feels justified in reasserting with insistance
and conviction its will to assume the development and control
over all communications in its territory. Communications
are all the means or

_ 2 _
resources through which the specific values of a community
are transmitted, such as its language and culture, its
attitudes and way of life; it seems senseless to us to
entrust to another majority the task of developing a
communications p?icyfor Quebecers.
This view has often been expressed by previous
Quebec governments. We ourselves have repeated it on many
occasions. We reaffirm it today.
Out of the many meetings which have been held over
several years, among other things have emerged four quite
distinct aspects of Communications: radio—television,
cable distribution, telecommunications companies and
frequency band management. The search for true constitutional
reform requires that this work be approached from an overall
standpoint in which the parts are truly indissociable.
This means that, to us, the field of communications should be
considered in its totality and not in its parts. We approach
the negotiations in this spirit.
Since the Supreme Court decision of November 1977,
the federal government has sought to concentrate discussion
only on cable TV leaving aside till now the other aspects
of communications. The federal proposal, while recognizing
the provincial role with regard to the delivery of permits,
establishment of rates and the qmortioning of territory,
was nonetheless unsatisfactory, ?ve” that it Confirmed
federal supremacy over programming, limiting provincial
authority in that respect. The problem is not therefore
knowing how policies initiated by the Government of Canada
could be managed by the federal and provincial governments,
but rather to have the federal government accept the recognition
of the provinces‘ rights to adopt and apply policies in accordance
with their objectives and priorities.

The position that Quebec is putting forward today
is an extension of the positions defended by previous Quebec
governments and basically restates a joint proposal drafted in
1976 by Quebec and Saskatchewan. We present it again today
with precisions,to take account of discussions since then.
Iccording to this proposal, legislative authority in
relation to communications would be granted to the provincial
and federal governments. However, the provinces would have
legislative primacy over all communications and communications
systems within their respective territories,

_ 3 _
as well as over signals originating in the province and
broadcast outside that same province, including the
reception and redistribution in the province of signals from
outside that province.
In short, this means that provincial authority would
cover namely the ownership and administration of communications
and communications systems, as well as programming, including
commercial advertising. The provinces could also allocate
frequencies and issue permits to use these frequencies to radio
and TV companies and telecommunications firms operating within
their territorial boundaries. They would also be responsible
for the area of interprovincial radio and television and could
agree to the setting up of joint mechanisms to ensure the
consistency of their policies in this respect. Is radio and
television constitutes a privileged instrument for collective
expression in a community and a vehicle for the expression of the
identity of a majority, we consider it essential to reaffirm
the importance for Ouebec of assuming full responsibility for
educational television in its territory, which corresponds anyway
to the exclusive nature of provincial jurisdiction in relation
to education.
The Parliament of Canada would have the power to legislate
on communications, but on the express condition that its legislation
is not incompatible with legislation enacted under provincial
prerogatives. It would maintain exclusive power to legislate
in certahiareas such as the general management of the frequency
spectrum, the use of communications and communications systems
in the air, defence or national emergency, and questions relative
to the €BC, provided that CBC development plans are approved
by the government of a province with regard to activities in that

It is important to stress that in addition to meeting
Quebec’s fundamental demands in this area, the approach advanced
here would enable any province that does not have the same
requirements as Quebec to leave legislation in this area
up to the federal government,if it so wishes.
These are, therefore, in substance the provisions
that Quebec proposes to include in a new constitution with
regard to communications, from the standpoint of the four
categories mentioned. The attached text expresses our
concerns in this regard.
Certain other sectors in the field of culture, such
as fi1m—making and publishing,will be the subject of concrete
proposals by Quebec when we reach that item on the agenda of
the constitutional talks.

Quebec’s proposal
1. In each province the legislature may make laws,subject
to section (3),on communications and communications
systems within the province, including the reception
and redistribution within the province of broadcast
signals from outside the province and the distribution
outside the province of broadcast signals originating in
the province. Without limiting the generality of the
foregoing, the authority of the legislative on communications
and communications systems will cover:
a) their ownership and administration;
b) programming, including commercial advertising;
c) the delivery of operating permits, as well as the specific
allocation of frequencies or other technical standards.
2. The Parliament of Canada, may, from time to time, enact
legislation on communications and communications systems,
but no law thus enacted may affect the application
of any existing or future law enacted under Section (1).
3. The Parliament of Canada may legislate on any of the
following areas:
a) the general management of the frequency spectrum;
b) the use of communications and communications systems
in the air, defence or national emergency;
c) Questions relating to the (BC, whose development plans
shall nevertheless be subject to approval by the
government of a province with regard t0 activities
in that province.
July 1980

Read less

Leave a Reply