Memorandum from R.G. Robertson [Amending procedure and “patriation” of the constitution] to Mr. Gravelle (19 February 1975)
By: R.G. Robertson
Citation: Memorandum from R.G. Robertson to Mr. Gravelle (19 February 1975).
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February l9th, 1975.
c.c.: Mr. Haney
MEMORANDUM FOR MR. GRAVELLE
Amending procedure and “patriation”
of the constitution
Attached is a copy of a memorandum I
am sending to the Prime Minister to give him the
“nub” of our conclusions in the meetings we had
on Monday and Tuesday. I note from my distribu~
tion list that I had neglected to send you, Bill
Haney and Nick Gwyn copies of my memorandum of
February 11th to the Prime Minister. A copy of
that is also attached.
I gather from Mr. Carter’s note
that you will be assuming the leading responsi-
bility for coordinating things on this question
in the FPRO. I would welcome particularly any
thoughts you may have at any time on the parti-
cularly delicate question of Quebec reaction.
I think we must do everything we can to avoid
causing any unnecessary difficulties there
while at the same time moving effectively ahead
to achieve the result that the Prime Minister
February 18, 1975
NOTES OF WHAT WE DECIDED ABOUT “PATRIATION”
A. Proposed Sequence of Events
1. Put before the P.M. by March 15 (i) a first
draft of possible addresses by the two Houses of
Parliament proposing the adieu to be taken by the U.K.
Parliament, and (ii) a memorandum on the problems, pros
and cons, and suggested procedures.
2. The P.M. would raise the matter informally with
the provincial First Ministers either during the April
Conference or, perhaps better, soon after it by phone or
letter, proposing that R.G.R. and one or two others visit
each of them to explore informally the possibility of
some move toward the patriation of the Constitution
together with some understanding of how an amendment
formula might be incorporated into it if the provinces
3. R.G.R. would subsequently visit the provincial
First Ministers as soon as the time was considered
propitious to discuss this matter and perhaps others.
(Some attention should probably be given to the order of
the visits. It might be well to start with Alberta to
ascertain how much trouble might be expected there, then
go to Ontario in the hope of getting some possible support
“such as Mr. Robarts provided” and then to Quebec when it
had been decided whether a strong line could be taken to
move quickly. After that, others could be met in the
West and the East.)
4. Assuming that no unexpected serious reactions
were met on the part of the provinces there would be some
proposals made publicly which would lead to public provincial
reactions. We did not discuss whether there should be a
conference of First Ministers. That may be necessary or
5. The matter should then be put before Parliament
as promptly as possible (July or October?).
B. Substance of Proposals
1. Parliament would be asked to approve formal
Addresses to the Queen, which would ask her to cause a
bill to be laid before the U.K. Parliament on Canada’s
2. The U.K. Parliament would be asked: (i) to
amend the BNA Act to change the title to, say, “The
Constitution of Canada Act” and to incorporate into that
Act a new Part containing in essence Part IX of the
Victoria Charter (together with those details of Part X
of that Charter that would remove the duplication in the
powers to amend, e.g. 91(1) and 92 (1), with a proviso
that this new Part would only take effect where it had
been approved bv the legislatures of each province (the
approval should not be revocable). There might also be
a further proviso that before the new Part comes into
effect, any part of the Act that cannot otherwise be
amended could be amended by concurrent action by
Parliament and all ten provincial legislatures; and
(ii) to amend the Statute of Westminister l93l to delete
paragraphs (l) and (3) of Section 7.
(Question — do we ask U.K. to amend various other U.K.
acts set forth in the schedule to Part X of the Victoria
3. When the Address is before the House of Commons
the P.M. would table what the government would propose as
parts of the first amendment to be made to the Constitution
of Canada Act once the proposed amending formula had
received the assent of all the provincial legislatures.
This would presumably include as much of the Victoria Charter
as the government feels would be acceptable as a package. It
might also announce its willingness to negotiate with the
provincial governmentsfurther changes to be incorporated in
the first package of amendments once the amending formula
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