Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Resolution Respecting Constitution Act”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (5 March 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 7929-7961.
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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. David Weatherhead (Scarborough West): Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in this most historic debate this afternoon. In so doing, I join the thousands of Canadians who are following our deliberations in the media,
and who have discussed this important issue with their friends and neighbours. Hundreds more Canadians have participated directly in the committee process, making significant contributions to the final package we have before us.
We can point to the experience of the committee and claim that the parliamentary system of government works well for and with Canadians. Representing groups of Canadians from across Canada and Canadian society, witnesses before the committee found that body receptive to their feelings, resulting in certain changes to the resolution. Most notable among these are the strengthened aboriginal rights. Of the 72 total interventions by groups or individuals, fully 69 of these approved of the ultimate formula we have before us. Forty-one of the 54 interventions were in favour of entrenching minority language education rights in a Constitution, a principle favoured by all provincial premiers as recently as 1978. No one appearing before the committee disagreed substantially with the final form of legal rights.
Much of the credit for the fine work of the committee is due to its joint chairmen, and I would like to join my colleagues in offering my congratulations to the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal) and to Senator Hays. Under unprecedented media scrutiny they performed magnificently, due in large part to the excellent spirit of co-operation among the committee members. Fifty-one members of the other place took part in the work of the committee, joining 132 members of the House of commons who participated in the committee’s deliberations at one time or another.
Before going further, I would like to take this opportunity to dismiss a notion being stated by some members of the Conservative Party. Specifically, they charge that requesting action on this resolution from the parliament at Westminster is an act of colonialism. The Conservatives, while favouring a charter of rights, want this charter enacted in Canada. Frankly, that is exactly what is happening, and I am certain that some members opposite know full well that charges of colonialism are absurd. In addition to the almost 300 witnesses who appeared on behalf of more than I00 groups in Canada, a total of 35 pages were appended to the joint committees report to Parliament, listing the hundreds of written submissions received by the committee.
The substantive amendments, the unprecedented participation of 183 parliamentarians in the work of the committee, and the appearances and intense lobbying by groups and individuals from across Canada, demonstrate clearly that this resolution is a Canadian document, made by Canadians, in Canada, for Canadians. It represents the will of the Canadian people. As the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) told the joint
It is the popular will that we have a charter of rights and freedoms for the Canadian people, embedded in a constitution.
As members of the Parliament of Canada, we should be cognizant of the fact that it is here, in this Parliament, that the will of the Canadian people is expressed. By passing this resolution, we are proclaiming, once and for all, that it is the people who are sovereign, their rights supreme and unchallenged.
So long as most of the provincial governments are willing to hold the rights and dignity of the Canadian people hostage in exchange for greater provincial powers, these rights will continue to be considered secondary. Some provinces argue that discussions on a charter of rights should take place at the same time as talks on resource ownership or communications jurisdiction.
Hon. members know full well that to proceed in this fashion would effectively hold back the charter of rights forever. The two senior premiers in the federation have stated that unanimous, or even near-unanimous, agreement is impossible in a world of competing political ideas. That is why Premiers Hatfield and Davis, both Conservatives, support the position of the federal government in this debate. They speak from the experiences gained in frustrating talks dating back to 1971, when a glimmer of hope was seen at Victoria. They know, as I do, that since 1927 13 first ministers’ conferences, 17 conferences of federal-provincial ministers, and countless meetings of officials have failed to reach agreement on patriation and an amending formula.
Surely, as a Parliament accountable to all the Canadian people, we have a responsibility to seize the political will to end this deadlock once and for all. To persist in holding the charter of rights for ransom, as is the case now, would be to tell the Canadian people that their rights are secondary to communications jurisdiction, or to a reformed Senate.
Some argue that unanimity should be the formula for constitutional change, knowing that it is a formula for failure. What sort of unanimous agreement can we expect if Premier Lyon continues to oppose a charter of rights in a new Constitution? What kind of unanimity can we hope for if Premier Peckford blocks a charter of rights until there is agreement on control of offshore resources? Will we continue to tell the Canadian people that their right to hold and express beliefs is only as important as the number of cod caught on the continental shelf?
What, exactly, did Premier Peckford say about a charter of rights? In a document placed before the first ministers last September entitled “Towards the Twenty-First Century—Together”, the Premier of Newfoundland stated, and I quote:
The people of Canada—as elsewhere—live in an age of continuing, almost radical change. Today there is not the same surety as yesterday that values enshrined in the heart and conscience of a people will be universally respected.
The entrenchment of democratic rights and fundamental freedoms is a means of giving explicit constitutional recognition to values which have served Canada well … Newfoundland, therefore, supports a charter of rights which will entrench the democratic rights and freedoms of Canadians.
To those who argue that legislatures should be supreme in determining and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians, I ask: Where were those rights and freedoms protected when we stripped citizens of their rights merely because they were of Japanese origin? Tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses about the kind of protection given them by Premier Duplessis and his
legislature during the 1940s and 1950s. Try to explain to Chinese Canadians that they were not even considered as persons in the Election Act of 1885.
These points illustrate one of the deficiencies of the Vancouver consensus as well. If, as under the provisions of that amending formula, provinces may opt out of constitutional obligations, the results would be disastrous. Alone among truly democratic nations, our citizens would be unsure of their rights from one provincial jurisdiction in the country to the next. We would have, as has been said often, a checkerboard of rights across Canada. Canadians travelling from one end of the country to the other would be playing Russian roulette with their fundamental rights. We need only look back to the actions of the government of Alberta during the early years of the Social Credit regime, where that government sought to stultify legitimate political opposition through repressive press laws.
Some will say that these are isolated incidents in our history, and fortunately they are. However, to hide our heads in the sand by patting ourselves on the back for our tolerance is to forget that Indian women are still discriminated against. As a group generally, women must still struggle to achieve some level of equality in the workplace and elsewhere. lt is too easy for most of us to adopt an “I’m all right, Jack” attitude when it comes to providing services to the physically or mentally handicapped. Through my personal experience as a member of the Association for the Mentally Retarded, I am acutely aware of the frustrations of people who know that their contribution to Canada is stunted by a society structured to conform to an arbitrary standard of ability.
Some of the interest groups who came to my office represented aboriginal peoples who have grown dismayed by the erosion of their culture and the lack of participation they feel in the building of our country. They sought an affirmation of their rights within a strong and forward-looking Canada. All Members of Parliament share this view, as shown by the unanimous support for amendments strengthening aboriginal rights.
Mr. Speaker, people can deny the rights of others too. We know that throughout Canadian history immigrants were encouraged to come to Canada to escape religious discrimination, or the insidious discrimination that poverty brings. They saw and continue to see that Canada holds the promise of a bright future for them and their families. In all parts of Canada their industry, vision and imagination have added to the diversity and strength of this country.
What is the Canadian way of life, Mr. Speaker? Certainly it is not some narrow perception offered by a few fringe spokesmen. With few exceptions the Canadian way of life has been one of tolerance, enriched by the contribution of people from all over the world.
It has become a truism that Canada is a nation of immi- grants, for, with the exception of the aboriginal peoples,
Canadians can trace their roots to the four corners of the world. Canada owes its development as a peaceful and tranquil nation to its own people, be they new Canadians or people whose families have been in Canada for generations. It is for this reason that the enshrinement and recognition of Canada’s multicultural heritage in our Constitution is so important.
What is easily forgotten is that politicians and political interpretations are transitory. With respect, I would point out to those who oppose this resolution that, as much as anything else, we are building the future. We are building a modern Canada. We would need a knowledge bordering on the divine to forecast the future, and while we would sincerely wish for orderly development, we are scarcely equipped to predict the endless possibilities for the future.
Equally transitory is public opinion and the social conditions which will rapidly change the face of future societies. For many people, Orwell’s “1984” looms as an ominous year, demanding the vigilance of the people in order to protect their own rights. It is significant, then, that in advance of the change that is sure to overtake the future we as a Parliament affirm the rights and dignity of the person.
What are the rights that we seek to enshrine in a new Canadian Constitution, Mr. Speaker? Legal rights will ensure that the citizen is given the best possible protection from arbitrary justice. In attempting to build a sense of mutual trust between the citizen and the law, we seek to make clear rules that will inform the alleged offender of the charges and possible punishment that he or she faces. We want to embed in the Constitution the principle that persons may retain counsel promptly to assist the offender in seeing that justice is done. The new Constitution will effectively outlaw unreasonable search and seizure, keeping Canadian law in line with the provisions of the United Nations covenant, to which Canada is a signatory.
The Constitution will make clear that no one will be prevented from voting in or contesting an election for the Parliament of Canada or a legislature of any province. This democratic right will ensure that one of the most fundamental principles of Canada is clearly spelled out, and that all citizens share in the governing of Canada.
The charter of rights contains provisions for fundamental freedoms that will guarantee Canadians freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion. Canadians will be entitled to associate with people they choose, and to assemble peacefully with fellow citizens.
In a society which values democracy, freedom of the press is one of the most sacred principles that society can hold. Freedom of the press, therefore, is one of the fundamental freedoms this resolution seeks to enshrine in our Constitution.
Let me make it clear that in adopting this resolution, Parliament is not “granting” rights to people; we are merely affirming fundamental rights that we accept as a given fact of life in a democratic society.
By including the aged and mentally or physically disabled among the categories of people who may not be discriminated against, we are saying that all people in Canada may partici-
pate in the task of building our country. Finally, we are correcting an injustice that has gone on far too long. It would be unforgivable if we were to allow this situation to persist.
Among the rights we seek to enshrine in the Constitution are the rights of all Canadians to share in the boundless wealth and opportunity we have in Canada. For many years Ontario shared without complaint its tax dollars to aid in the development of other parts of Canada. Now, as the situation shifts, other areas of the country are able to share the responsibility of delivering the promise of Canada to all Canadians. A child from a less advantaged part of Canada must never lose out on that promise because he or she chooses to remain close to family roots. It is essential that the quality of government services be equal and that job opportunities exist everywhere in Canada, regardless of where a Canadian chooses to live.
Equalization is a principle that is vital to the continued survival of Canada as a nation together. Though regions formerly in need of assistance have found sources of wealth, opportunities will never be completely equal in Canada. But across this vast land, the quality of life may be more important than resources lying underground or in the offshore, more satisfying than life in the industrial cities of central Canada. If we can preserve the beauty that is tradition, if we can save the heritage of families and communities remaining together at home, then equalization will be seen, not just as an economic leveller, but as a builder.
Just as important as equalization is the right of Canadian residents to seek employment and residence anywhere in Canada. Mobility rights are an important guarantee of that opportunity. For many years Ontario’s strong industrial base provided Canadians and people from all over the world with the opportunity to pursue a rewarding livelihood. Ontario’s cities, towns and countryside are enriched by the contribution of peoples from around the world and across Canada who choose to make Ontario home. Once again, the shift in economic opportunity makes it essential that Canada is home to all Canadians.
The western provinces now welcome our sons and daughters to share in the boom that this region is experiencing. For its part, Atlantic Canada stands on the threshold of untold wealth, due in large part to the action of this government to assert Canadian sovereignty over the 200-mile limit.
Mobility, like free speech, is a fundamental right. Anything which would hamper this right flies in the face of the ideals which are Canada. Enshrining this right in the Constitution of Canada tells Canadians that all of Canada is theirs. The mere accident of birth in one area or another has never prevented an individual from sharing in the boundless promise that is Canada. It must never do so, for without the right of mobility for all of its citizens, Canada is a pointless, balkanized collection of communities out of touch with itself.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to give my support to the principle of enshrining minority language education rights for our two official languages, where numbers warrant.
If a constitution is to reflect the make-up of a country, it must have an amending formula which provides for orderly and fair amendment. For that reason, l favour the position advocated by the government. The Victoria formula, as amended, gives all regions, and indeed all provinces, a large measure of protection which will ensure that their interests are not tampered with by a small majority in the country. By requiring the approval of the two most populous provinces, the support of two provinces in western Canada representing 50 per cent of the population in that region, and by needing the endorsement of two provinces in the Atlantic region, amendments under the Victoria formula will represent a consensus from all regions of the country. Of course, the provinces and the federal government have the two years following patriation in which to arrive at a formula by unanimous consent. While this has not been successful in the past, one would hope that the urgency to achieve greater consensus on an amending formula will spur the first ministers to closer agreement.
I spoke earlier of the nightmare that Canadians would face with the Vancouver formula. This formula is really a cop-out, requiring no commitment by the provinces to respect rights in a uniform and consistent pattern across Canada. If we are to remain as one country, we must assert once and for all that Canadian citizenship is one citizenship for all Canadians.
One of the people who came to my office in the past few months represented a group who wanted to ensure that this was not the end of the line for constitutional change. I made the commitment then, and I do so now: there is much, much more to be discussed at the first ministers’ conferences which will be constitutionally required under this resolution. Family law, questions relating to interprovincial and international trade, reform of the Senate, Supreme Court and regional representation on federal government bodies, and the divisions of power, are but a few matters for discussion.
But, Mr. Speaker, all of this means nothing if the people of Canada do not have fundamental rights embedded in their Constitution. We must stop comparing the rights and dignity of individual Canadians to regional representation on the CRTC, important though it may be. Let us stop the horse trading, bartering equality of men and women for a reformed Senate. Let us not wait until the question of offshore jurisdiction is settled before telling the aged and the disabled that, finally, they are part of the process of building Canada’s future.
In this Parliament we are answering the most important question facing Canada since 1867. What comes first, the rights of the people or the rights of governments? Let us answer, loud and clear, “the people come first!” Now is the time to break the deadlock.
Mr. Stan Darling (Parry Sound-Muskoka): Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on this very important resolution and on the amendment which was brought forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp).
First, I want to commend our leader in the Constitution committee, the hon. member for Provencher, as well as the
hon. members from our side who made a great contribution to that debate. I have a special commendation for the co-chairman of the committee, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Mr. Joyal). I also commend other hon. members who have spoken on this topic.
I find this is a distressing time for me. I am compelled to comment upon the arrogance and single-minded actions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) regarding the patriation of the Constitution. I feel it is necessary to draw attention to what surely will be the tragic consequences of these actions. I feel just as strongly that I must apologize to the residents of my riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka and to millions of other Canadians. In fact, all of us in this House should apologize to Canadians everywhere who feel, as I do, that there are other more pressing problems facing this nation, such as inflation and unemployment. These are the matters we should be talking about and doing something about.
It is important that our Constitution be in Canada, but because the Prime Minister and members of his government have now arbitrarily placed this matter before us, we must challenge their approach and their methods. Surely we in Parliament have a very important responsibility, a responsibility to deal with those issues more urgently affecting the daily lives of the people of Canada.
A recent Gallup poll illustrates just how low on the level of priorities stands the issue we are now debating. Fifty-five per cent of those polled cited inflation as the most important problem facing the country today, and 15 per cent cited unemployment. Fewer than one in ten expressed concern over energy problems, national unity or problems connected with government.
Canadians want the Constitution brought home, I will admit that. However, another Gallup poll showed that 64 per cent are opposed to the government’s unilateral position and high-handed decision to bring it home on the basis it has outlined. What they want now is for the government to get its priorities straight.
The Constitution is not going to feed a hungry family. It is not going to put a roof over the heads of people to keep them warm. It will not find or create jobs for anyone. It will not make us all one big happy family. The Constitution is important and can have an effect on living conditions, but let us not forget that we already have a Constitution and we still have inflation and unemployment. The Constitution is a declaration of principles. A proper application of those principles will put this country back on a sound and stable economic footing.
I would be much happier if we were now dealing with real problems rather than ones that have been created artificially. Regrettably, the constitutional debate is before us. I have some important points to bring forward in this regard. This is a fiery time in Canada’s history. It is not a time for hasty or politically expedient decisions by any governmental body.
What we are discussing is not just an ordinary law. We are discussing the fundamental source of the law of the land, the country’s Constitution. Let there be no doubt about it, the outcome of this debate will have monumental consequences for the future of this country. We are talking about the future of Canadians for generations to come. We are talking about the survival of this country as a federal state.
What this government is attempting to do is wrong. I know it, the members on this side of the House know it, the Canadian people know it and the British know it. Everyone seems to know it except the Prime Minister and his puppets. I suspect that, if the truth were known, a good many of them also know it. Despite the fact that the majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic oppose the Prime Minister’s constitutional plans, he is determined to have his own way. I am reminded of a song which the great entertainer Frank Sinatra made famous, and probably made a great deal of money from, entitled “I did it my way”. That seems to be the theme song of the Prime Minister. The time has come for Canadians to stand up to the arrogance of this administration and to yell out loud and clear, “enough is enough!”
This government is uncaring, indifferent and ruthless. It is not worthy of the confidence of the Canadian people. Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government they can trust, a government willing to act in accordance with their wishes and concerns.
It is with respect for the wishes and concerns of Canadians that I say this resolution before us must be rejected. It must be rejected if we value the foundation upon which this country was created. We pride ourselves on being a secure, independent nation. Why, then, is the Prime Minister forcing the British Parliament into a corner, demanding that the British do something we should be doing ourselves? To place the British Parliament in such a position is an embarrassing and regrettable move. What should or should not be included in the Canadian Constitution is a matter for Canadians to determine, but only after the Constitution has been patriated, not before.
The government’s constitutional package must be defeated for three very important reasons. The legality of the government’s actions is highly questionable, the government’s move to amend the Constitution unilaterally is a violation of the true meaning of federalism, and the government does not have the support of the majority of the Canadian population. These are three sound and solid reasons for the immediate and absolute rejection of this resolution. If the people do not want it done this way, if some of the provinces are taking the issue to the courts and if members of this Parliament oppose the move, why in heaven’s name does the Prime Minister not back off?
The Premier of Saskatchewan has now bolted the government ranks. It has been said that Blakeney now makes the score eight to two against the Trudeau package. However, that should be ten to two because we must not forget the territories. This is certainly worth considering.
Never have we had ‘a Prime Minister who has caused more divisiveness. When we look back we see some who were far from good, but this Prime Minister has put us on more of a collision course than all the other prime ministers combined. We have region against region, province against province,
French against English, and to what end? Is it so that one day we may replace the Queen and pass the crown on to an emperor?
The time has come, not to bestow a crown, but to bell the cat who so arrogantly and flippantly suggests that, if the nation is destroyed over the issue of patriation, it was not worth saving in the first place.
Are we to sit submissively and allow one man to decide whether this country is worth saving, the very man who is pushing this country to the brink of destruction? Are we that placid? Are we that timid? I think not.
The dividing tactic used so effectively in the past is now being recognized, becoming fully understood and being acted upon. There has developed a groundswell of citizens in this nation who are coming forward and volunteering to place the bell around the cat’s neck. Indeed, there are many who have a strong desire to hit him over the head with it. There is no man or woman in this country who should have the power to single-handedly determine what is best for the others. No one man or woman should be allowed to assume such power.
This is particularly true of a man who consciously excludes any reference to a higher authority. This omission, in itself, is highly revealing. The charter of rights, the one that has been proposed by this government, makes no mention of the fact that this country was founded upon the conviction that God and not the government is supreme.
The Fathers of Confederation went back to Psalm 72, verse 8:
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
The Fathers of Confederation, the men who created this nation, had no trouble accepting the supremacy of God. They did not find the acknowledgement of God a threat to the way in which this country was to be governed. They were simply stating and reaffirming the obvious.
As one of the witnesses appearing before the Constitution committee so eloquently reminded us:
—we were made in the image of God, and that our basic human value comes from that affirmation and that we live constantly in the presence of God.
We do live in the presence of God. We swear solemn oaths in His name. Prayers are held each day in this House before we begin debate. Many members attend weekly prayer breakfasts. The Canadian anthem now asks that God keep our land. Easter and Christmas are times we celebrate with humanity and gratitude. The Bill of Rights of the late Right Hon. John Diefenbaker opens with these words:
The Parliament of Canada, 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 men and free institutions—
And so on. The government rejected this party’s amendment that those words be contained in the government’s charter of rights. I believe that any charter of rights which is ultimately incorporated into the Canadian Constitution should make reference to the fact that this nation was founded upon a belief in a supreme being. The charter of rights before us makes no such mention.
Not only does the absence of any reference to God in the proposed charter of rights upset and offend many Canadians; they are also distressed about the lack of mention of a more wordly nature. I speak now of property rights. I have been in the real estate business for many years and I know how important it is to many Canadians to own their own land. People in this country have always worked long and hard—and will continue to do so—and saved money so that they could own a piece of Canada they could call their own.
During my many years in the real estate business many new Canadians came to the area l have the honour to represent from the great city of Toronto. These people were from European and other countries where they had never had a chance to own any land whatever. I naturally assumed they were interested in buying summer cottages on lakes, but that did not interest them in the least. They wanted bigger pieces of land. They ended up buying l00-acre pieces of land with nothing much on them. There might have been roads to them and scrub bush, but that would be all. Some of those lots were purchased for $700, $800 or $1,000. I can see how astute those people were because those lots are now worth ten times or more what was paid for them.
Mr. McKinnon: They had a good real estate agent!
Mr. Darling: That could be correct.
Property rights are a basic desire which creates strength in our nation. That basic desire is inherent in the spirit of free men. It is a basic desire which cannot and should not be denied. This government did agree at one point to accept our recommendation that property rights be enshrined in the charter of rights. Then for purely political reasons the government decided not to honour its commitment. The reason for the abrupt turnabout of the government is very clear. The reason was very opportunistic. The government needed the support of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party informed the government it would not support the government’s constitutional package if property rights were included, so what has been proposed is a charter of rights with a fundamental right excluded. Perhaps the government should correct the title of its charter; it should be the “charter of partial rights”. The government’s proposed charter of rights is not acceptable because partial rights are not acceptable. The very fact that so many Canadians have spoken out against the charter only reinforces the position taken on this side of the House that patriation of the Constitution with an amending formula acceptable to the provinces should be the sole act of Parliament at this time. Only when this is accomplished should the issue of a charter of rights be dealt with. If the constitutional package is divided in this manner, we will avoid the unnecessary difficulties which are now developing in our relationship with the British parliament.
There is no question that the British would be more than willing to respond favourably to Canada’s request. For the life
of me I cannot understand why the Prime Minister is forcing the British in this way. Why does he want to make enemies outside the country? He has enough of them right here at home!
The amending formula is a perfect example. Back in 1867 when the British North America Act came into being and this country was born, the Fathers of Confederation decided that this country would be a federal state. Two levels of government were established and each had responsibility and authority over those matters falling within specific spheres of jurisdiction. lt has been a working relationship which has served this country well for 114 years.
What the government now proposes through its amending formula and referendum procedure is a dangerous move. It is a move which will do nothing more than continue to divide the nation and undermine the federal state system. It is a move taken by the government with the conscious knowledge that it pits region against region, province against province and minority against minority, all because one man wants his way. There has been the suggestion that those members of the government who are uneasy and privately opposed to letting the Prime Minister have his way on the issue are keeping silent because of the “gold watch” syndrome. A departing employee is given a gold watch from his firm and fellow workers for his years of service, The Prime Minister’s gold watch, it is said, will be the patriation of the Constitution and the charter of rights.
Mr. Ellis: A very expensive watch!
Mr. Darling: What my colleague says is quite right. l urge hon. members opposite to consider very carefully what they are doing. If this is what they are doing, they will have to face the fact that there will be no one in the country able to repair this watch when its mechanism falls apart, as it surely will. All the Prime Minister really deserves is a simple watch, probably a Timex. I would be only too happy to supply him with one, especially if it would hasten his retirement.
It has been said that humour lessens pain and that we only laugh when it hurts. Well, it hurts. It hurts me and many other Canadians to see this magnificent nation of ours in such turmoil. It hurts to see what is happening to Canada because of that impregnable barrier of indifference with which the Prime Minister surrounds himself. It hurts to witness the damage he is doing and to know what he wants to do to this once proud and growing land. We will no longer accept the pain, and the time has come to put an end to this headache.
The resolution we have before us must not be passed. It is riddled with injustice. What the government is proposing is destructive. It is time for all Members of Parliament to put their country ahead of party loyalty. We must remember that because of a willingness on the part of all Canadians to co-operate, to sacrifice and to work together for the well-being of the entire nation, Canada, in its short lifetime, has flourished. The Canadian people have not stopped caring; they still believe this country is worth caring for.
Canadians who realize how fortunate they are to be living in such a magnificent country care very much. The riches of this nation are not measured only in terms of forest products, oil, wheat, minerals and other products we use and export; the great wealth of this country also includes its human resources, people who take silent and undemonstrative pride in calling themselves Canadians. It once was fashionable to call such people the silent majority. Well, that silence is being broken. The people who care are now making themselves heard.
The voices of a great many people in this country are being raised in anger about the fact that the government is setting in motion changes to the fundamental structure of this nation which will have grave consequences for the future. There is anger at the fact that such changes are being implemented with complete disregard for the will of the majority.
There is anger that such changes bypass and ignore many concepts Canadians deem important to what may be termed the Canadian identity. The Canadian identity is not as elusive as many people may think. We know what it means to be a Canadian. It means we are part of a nation of free and proud people who treasure that freedom and pride and who work not only to maintain but to assist others less fortunate in the world. lt means we are part of a community of nations, the Commonwealth, whose head is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.
Recognition and acceptance of the monarchy is not a threat to Canada’s freedom or pride. The monarchy serves only to enhance both. The monarchy does not imply a subservient role. The monarchy only serves to reinforce our position of prominence and stature in a community of nations. The monarchy does not seek to intrude; the monarchy only seeks to provide a link for the common good.
Over the years, the Liberal government has attempted, bit by bit, to erode that link. The Liberal government seeks to establish a Liberal identity in place of a Canadian identity. The present resolution before us makes it quite clear. The monarchy is important to Canada and Canadians understand this. Canadians are also beginning to understand that the Liberal government, through its proposed charter of rights, is removing control over certain legislation from the people’s
I will speak now about the issues of capital punishment and abortion. This party proposed that there be included in the charter of rights a new section which would ensure that no provision of the charter would be used by a court to determine the issues of capital punishment and abortion, and that Parliament be allowed to legislate with respect to these delicate issues. The resolution before us offers no such safeguard.
These are two issues the fate of which must be decided by the people through their elected representatives. They are moral issues which cannot, and must not, be decided by the courts. By shifting the responsibility to the courts, this government seeks to avoid dealing with matters under its
jurisdiction and deprives the people of Canada of a voice in the forum of debate.
The voice of the people of Canada is of paramount importance. It is here in the House of Commons that the Canadian voice is heard and acted upon. All too often the government has turned a deaf ear to that voice and to that of members of the House who enlarge on what is being said, and all too often the Prime Minister orders a limit to debate when what is being said contradicts his notion of what is right and what is wrong for the people of Canada. It is highly possible that he is about to act in the same arbitrary manner over the debate on the patriation of the Constitution.
It is appropriate at this time to remind members of the House that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance (Mr. MacEachen) stated categorically that every member of the House would have the opportunity to speak on this issue. I presume such an assurance was not given lightly, and I say to the Deputy Prime Minister and government House leader that we certainly expect that all members of Parliament will have the opportunity to speak. I and my colleagues accept the right to debate the substance and style of the government’s constitutional proposal, a proposal the style of which is as damaging as its substance. Because the issue before us is of such grave importance, it is the right of each and every member to have the opportunity to speak. For the Prime Minister and the government to invoke closure at some point during the debate would be an affront to members of the House and to the Canadian people. I would therefore call upon
Mr. Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have listened with great interest to the point of view expressed by the hon. member during his speech and I have noticed that he has been speaking now for 25 minutes. May I point out that the House leader of the official opposition stated earlier this afternoon, with approval, that hon. members on the government side had limited their speeches to 20 minutes and that only two of their members spoke a day. He stated that this was an example which members on his side would follow.
An hon. Member: That is not a point of order.
Mr. Lalonde: I wonder if members on the hon. member’s side would listen to their House leader.
Mr. Nielsen: Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak on this spurious point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): That is not a point of order.
Mr. Nielsen: Mr. Speaker, l rise on a legitimate point of order. You should prevent such spurious acts on the part of ministers who should know better. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) is trying to smuggle in a point of debate under the guise of a point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): Order, please. I accept the argument that this was not a point of order. The hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Darling) has the floor.
Mr. Darling: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the comments of the Minister of Energy. Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde).
Mr. Nielsen: I don’t.
Mr. Darling: As was mentioned several times here, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources makes lengthy speeches here from time to time, but he has not produced too much. He is probably the member most responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves today. He is responsible for the high cost of energy.
An hon. Member: He is also dishonest.
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: Our leader, the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark)—
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: l am not out of order. Do not worry about that.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Darling: The Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition had made an agreement with the province of Alberta, but over a year later the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has not produced anything.
Some hon. Members: Order!
Mr. Darling: As a result, we are paying through the nose. It is about time he left the House and headed for Alberta. It is about time he came up with a deal and it is about time he started to give in a bit.
Mr. Nielsen: Let him speak to the oil people and the real estate people over there.
Mr. Darling: I know that time and time again all of us have read many comments on this. I will mention the fact that when this resolution was presented to the House by the Prime Minister—I believe it was on October 2—one of the few times in the last few years that he has spoken in the House, our leader walked out. I can still see it. Our leader stated he was against this resolution, and I put my hand up to my face and said “Wow, what is this?” I was very skeptical of the position taken by the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition, I will admit that to the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Irwin) who is pointing to me.
Mr. Irwin: You were right.
Mr. Darling: I was wrong, as the people of Canada eventually decided, because, may I point out to the almighty Cabinet opposite, 64 percent of the people of Canada are against the
government’s unilateral, autocratic, and high-handed way of dealing with this question. Even the great columnists, the $100,000 a year columnists, who were the mouthpieces of the Prime Minister and of some of the hierarchy over there have changed their views.
An hon. Member: Fotheringham and Stevens.
Mr. Darling: Yes, Fotheringham and so on. You can mention all of them. Here is a columnist—
An hon. Member: It must be Lubor Zink.
Mr. Darling: That is right.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Darling: Just a minute, before you clap too much.
Mr. Lalonde: What about Bill Davis?
Mr. Darling: Mr. Lubor Zink is not the greatest advocate or admirer of the Prime Minister. We see here the headline “Not the first lie or the last”. Here is another article in which the Prime Minister is quoted as having said “I am not a dictator”.
Mr. Lalonde: Quote Bill Davis.
Mr. Darling: Here is another one. This is a special one of Mr. Lubor Zink’s, and I ask the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to listen with care. The headline of this article reads “Tyrannical Brat”.
In French, Mr. Minister, in French!
Some hon. Members: Encore! Encore!
Mr. Darling: Mr. Speaker, my French is very flimsy, and very vocal.
I wish I could speak better French. Instead of being taught to speak French in my six years of high school in Toronto, I was taught how to spell the words and to put the accents this way or the other. If I had been taught how to speak French at that time, I would be able to speak it much better now.
Instead of launching into one of his sometimes harsh comments, Mr. Lubor Zink wrote the following article:
On February 9, Le Devoir carried a column which packs more critical punch than anything I have seen printed in English. Even rainmaker Keith Davey will be hard put to dismiss the devastating blast in French as “lunatic fringe extremism,” for neither the paper nor the writer can be branded with that iron. Shaped for years by Claude Ryan (now Quebec Liberal party leader)—
No doubt the hon. Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources knows Mr. Ryan and has considerable respect for him. The article continues:
—, Le Devoir at one time carried articles by Trudeau’s close friend Gerard Pelletier (now Canada’s Ambassador in Paris). By any standards, it is a highly respected and influential independent Montreal daily.
Would the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources concede that? No, he will not concede that. The article continues:
It has no use for separatism. It’s learnings, if you look hard enough to detect any, are impeccably “progressive.”
For those who do not read French or would find it difficult to get hold of the February 9 issue of Le Devoir, I have made a rough translation of a few samples from Jacques Poisson’s “Les fantasmes de M. Trudeau” (Mr. Trudeau’s delusions) column. I tried to preserve the flavor but both the cadence and the punch are better, l assure you, in the French original. Just the same, everything printed in English about our peerless leader pales in comparison.
“It’s becoming more and more evident,” says Poisson, “that our Prime Minister is succumbing to domination delusions which may date back to his adolescent dreams. This may explain the arrogant forcing of his will on Britain while he misrepresents that country as a menace.
“He sees himself dominating the British Parliament and the Commonwealth, the French National Assembly, the international francophone community, nine out of ten of Canada’s provinces, the Liberal Party, the NDP, North-South
relations between the rich and the poor countries—
“Our Prime Minister certainly is a person outside and above all rules. It’s not surprising any more than he plays fast and loose with traditions, customs. concepts and the vocabulary.
“It’s not unusual for him to twist words to serve his despotic vision of reality. For example, he accuses Britain of trying to interfere in Canadian affairs at the very moment when the British show profound repugnance of Ottawa’s mix of
supplications and ultimata—
“It is said that our Prime Minister has found pleasure in grimacing behind the back of the Queen, thumbing his nose at heads of slates at international meetings, rump-bumping Mrs. Thatcher, and in snickering at the BNA Act.”—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin): Order, please. I regret to inform the hon. member that his time has now expired. He may continue only with the unanimous consent of the House. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
Some hon. Members: No.
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. Louis R. Desmarais (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, I believe I can shed some light on the debate because of my status as a French-speaking Canadian raised in an English-speaking province without, of course, presuming that either my personal feelings or political convictions run deeper than those of my esteemed colleagues, whatever their vision of the shape of our country’s future. My background as a Canadian whose mother tongue is French, who was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, but who has been a Quebecer by adoption for the past 15 years, entitles me to, offer a perspective based on live experience rather than abstract considerations.
At the outset, Mr. Speaker, let me briefly attempt to answer the basic question around which all subsequent debate must revolve: why does Canada need a new constitution? The reasons—which for so many peoples of the world are self-evident—are, unfortunately, often clouded and confused by our country’s peculiar history, traditions, social evolution and development to nationhood. Unlike the great republic to the south, with which we share the longest undefended border in the world, Canada’s birth was gradual and discreet, without cannon fire or trumpet blast, battle hymn, slogan or philosophy designed to turn the world upside-down. There are even those who maintain that the British North America Act was, in reality, little more than a trade pact, aimed at establishing harmonious interaction between Upper and Lower Canada, while providing a measure of solidarity against the danger of a takeover by the expanding United States.
But whatever the motives of Westminster, the coming of confederation in 1867 marked the beginning of our gradual drift toward the realization of our identity, our uniqueness, our right to take our place among the sovereign nations of the earth. Now it is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that in the absence of armed conflict or violent rupture, Canadians felt no immediate urgency in establishing a distinctive identity, But as the decades passed, the generations came and went, pressures inevitably began to build for a distinctive flag, national anthem, and finally, for our own Constitution, which would reflect the ideals and aspirations of all the diverse elements which have contributed to the building of our nation.
But why, many still ask, do we have to have a written constitution?
Why not just go along with the provisions of the BNA Act which, they argue, has served Canada well for more than a century?
Why not carry on in the British tradition of reliance on precedent, custom and jurisprudence, instead of attempting to enshrine fundamental principles in law?
Mr. Speaker, the initial answer is that Canada is not a nation-state like Britain or many of its European counterparts. This country is a mosaic, made up of people from every corner of the globe, of widely different origins, customs and backgrounds. Thus, to rely merely on implied consensus, deriving from the common ideals of a homogeneous population, is patently unworkable and unjust in this country today.
Moreover, we must realize that, despite our attachment to elements of custom and tradition, deriving from language and cultural ties with our European ancestors, Canadians are North Americans, we are North Americans who have elected to live within a federation. Thus, in defining our political structures realism dictates that, while we may draw on the experience of another federation such as Switzerland, coupled with what we deem most valuable in the systems of European nation-states, the end result must be a faithful reflection of our own distinctiveness. All very well and good, is the reaction of some to arguments such as the foregoing, but, they ask, why not confine our Constitution to a general statement of principle, a declaration of de jure sovereignty to ratify the de facto sovereignty Canada has already established with past actions, such as its separate declaration of war in the last world conflict.
And it is here, Mr. Speaker, that we get to the nub of current opposition to the government’s constitutional proposals. And objections range all the way from global mistrust of constitutional definition of rights under a Canadian charter of individual rights and freedoms, to taking of issue with specific provisions, such as the entrenchment of language rights. In the absence of any specific guarantees, Canada, in fact, tends to follow the British tradition of the primacy of “law, order and good government” when the chips are really down.
So, despite the illusions fostered through the impact of American films, television and the like, but in the absence of specifically defined constitutional guarantees of individual rights, there is a less dramatic but more serious aspect involving infringement.
Recent examples might include imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970 or, in the more distant past, the wartime internment of Canadians of Japanese origin—is deemed bureaucratic expediency at all levels of government.
This lies in the development over decades of a mass of statutory regulations-often constituting a maze of contradictory confusion where personal freedoms are ignored or trampled over roughshod in the interest of what Canadians have to face the reality of just how easily basic human rights can be suppressed or ignored under our existing system.
Most serious consequence of this—as the Canadian Bar Association has pointed out—can be seen in the administration of criminal law. In this area, the Bar Association maintains there are instances where the administration process allows no public debate and, consequently, no consideration of civil liberties involved. As a result, people feel powerless to challenge the system and become either alienated from what they regard as the tyranny of the establishment, or simply bow in resigned, meek deference to authority. Is this how we want our free citizenry to behave? Is this any example to put before the world for a nation which subscribes to the United Nations’ Charter of Human Rights and aspires to a role as mediator and peacemaker in today’s world? While not going quite so far as to advocate adoption of the United States citizens’ basic attitude of resistance and rebellion, when individual rights are suppressed or arbitrary measures become intolerable, I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that we require a drastic change of attitude.
If we are ever to break out of this stifling web of statutory regulations, which may differ not only from province to province, but from parish to parish, if we are to ensure that inequities in administration of criminal law are to be eliminated as far as is humanly possible, we must rid ourselves of the notion that the Anglo-Saxon reliance on decency and fair play is adequate to our needs today.
The reality is that we are a federation, living within a North American context in a very imperfect world.
And we are now, l firmly believe, sufficiently mature as a people to decide exactly what democratic, legal, political, language or other rights we wish and intend to enjoy. And then we should take pride in spelling out these fundamental freedoms in clear and concise terms, so that our convictions are manifest not only to ourselves, but to all peoples of the world.
This brings me, Mr. Speaker, to what is perhaps the most sensitive area of the proposed Constitution—entrenchment of minority language rights. Although the perspective on this question may vary widely in accordance with a host of factors, such as geographic location, ethnic origin, individual goals in life and so on, there can be little doubt today that it remains crucial to the future survival and development of our nation. Over the past couple of decades alone it is safe to say that no other single issue has generated such sustained heat and controversy. Governments have grappled with the problem, some coming to subsequent grief at the polls, following legislative attempts which may have half pleased one segment of the population while infuriating another.
In my own province of Quebec I am reminded of the Union Nationale’s controversial Bill-63, a direct result of the St. Leonard language riots of the late 1960s, of Premier Bourassa’s equally ill-starred Bill-22 language law and, finally, of Premier Levesque’s Bill-101, now a “cause célebre”, the impact and implications of which are still being assessed. Given this record of dissent and disaster, an outsider might well be forgiven for asking the simple question: Why? There is not a simple answer to this question, as any serious student of linguistics well knows. The roots of the matter run deep indeed, drawing their sustenance from the subtle psyche of the people.
But allow me, Mr. Speaker, to offer a more concrete example based on my personal experience. As I mentioned earlier, I was born and raised in Subdury, Ontario. French was the language of my home and I was able to attend elementary school in that language. But when it came time to go on to the secondary level, there was no French school then available in that Ontario town. So my parents were obliged to send me to Ottawa, simply to complete my pre-university education in the tongue they considered theirs by birthright and mine by inheritance. This, you might feel, was no great tragedy in those days, merely a mild trauma common to language minority children everywhere. But Canada was my country. The fact that the language through which I have learned to interpret life had second-class status set me to wondering about the quality of my citizenship.
Again, the Canadian Bar Association has summed up this feeling of alienation very succinctly with the blunt assertion that “constitutional language guarantees are required if Quebecers are to continue to feel that Canada is their country”. This touches the very heart of the matter. It is not enough, nowhere nearly enough today, for French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec to rely on the much-vaunted declarations of intent or expressions of good will in this basic area of language.
Where is the intrinsic dignity, the vital sense of belonging, in such an arrangement? Can we create a proud citizenry out of a segment of our population condemned to receive its identity as a charity from the hands of some latter-day Lady Bountiful?
Of course, it is in recognition of this that governments in Quebec have made their agonized attempts to legislate such dignity. For its part, the federal government has gone as far as it can, giving bilingualism force of law in those fields over which it has jurisdiction. But under the present provisions of the BNA Act these areas are clearly restricted, with the result that access to minority language education still depends on the benevolence of the provincial governments. It is for this reason that we propose to entrench minority language rights in our Constitution as part of the charter of rights and freedoms.
What those opposing such entrenchment apparently fail to grasp is that very much more is at stake here than just the sense of identity and dignity of one of this country’s two founding peoples. Quite clearly the corollary is that Canada’s continued unity itself depends on successful inculcation of this vital sense of belonging. For despite the smokescreens created by the raising of economic and other issues over the recent decades of acute Quebec unrest, the language question is and has been at the heart of the issue.
It has become a truism to point out that, through use of its two official languages both at home and abroad, Canada has managed to maintain a measure of distinctness vis-a-vis the all-pervasive culture of the United States. But if Canada as a whole oft-times fears drowning in this American tidal wave, just imagine the apprehensions of Quebec and our four million unilingual French-speaking fellow Canadians who live there, surrounded by an English language ocean of more than 250 million—the most powerful, technologically advanced and wealthiest society in the world. Just try to envisage the fears, trepidations and uncertainties of the French-speaking Quebecer, and how these fears are increased a hundredfold for his counterpart outside his home province.
Thus there is no doubt in my mind that the language issue has always been, and remains, at the root of any Quebec independence movement, and the continued discrimination against French-speaking minorities in other parts of this land constitutes a major force for national disunity.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, that I must make the point here that French-speaking Canadians no longer believe that this is any particular person’s fault. They realize that there is no devious Anglo-Saxon plot to eliminate their language.
An hon. Member: There never was.
Mr. Desmarais: The threat stems from a historical and geopolitical accident of circumstances, not necessarily from any ill will in the hearts of their English language compatriots or American neighbours, But this realization does nothing to make the danger any less real. And what thinking Quebecers fear most of all is the nightmare possibility that mere force of geographic and economic circumstances could lead to a gradual degeneration of their language to a folkloric level. They are now aware of instances elsewhere in the world where a language, culture and an entire people have slipped into a sort of twilight zone, providing a curiosity for tourists who come to see the natives “who talk funny”.
Again, the modern day science of linguistics has made it abundantly clear that the very quality of our individual thought processes depends directly on the quality and precision of the language we use. All abstract concepts—for example, honour, courage, justice, equity and even love-are intangibles, impalpable ideas which exist only through words and their employment in our syntax. Thus it follows that if this precision is blunted, if this syntax is distorted through deterioration of language, the thought processes themselves inevitably degenerate. And we end up with something less than a full human being.
Now I am not, of course, suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that mere constitutional entrenchment of language rights will solve this problem, any more than will Quebcc’s Bill-101. I have made the point rather as a form of appeal to those opposed to such entrenchment to endeavour to look at the situation from another person’s point of view.
It is, in essence, an appeal—perhaps I should even say a heartfelt plea—for realization that French-speaking Canadians are desperately in need of understanding and support from their English language fellow citizens. And this need, though often concealed beneath truculence and aggressiveness, is as poignantly real today as at any time in our country’s history. From one Canadian to another it is, in fact, a cry for help.
In light of the foregoing, it is difficult to comprehend the opposition to the government’s proposal for a truly Canadian Constitution. At the Victoria conference of 1970, it should be recalled, all provinces agreed to the principle of entrenchment of political rights in a new Constitution. At the 1977 New Brunswick premiers’ conference, all provincial government heads again pledged to set up machinery to ensure access to minority language education facilities across the country, where warranted by sufficient population. This principle was ratified at subsequent premiers’ meetings in Montreal and has since, apparently, remained an avowed goal.
At the same time, Premier Lévesque offered his provincial counterparts a formula for reciprocity covering minority language education rights. Now that such reciprocity is, in essence, being proposed in a constitutional charter which would be beyond the whims of any transitory majority, it is difficult indeed to see how the present Quebec government could find credible grounds for objection; nor are there, as far as I can determine, Mr. Speaker, any serious objections to the principle of placing wealth sharing, through equalization, beyond any such transitory tampering.
Thus we are forced to the conclusion that, with a majority of Canadians in favour of bringing home the Constitution, of the principle of entrenchment of basic rights, including language mobility and equalization, opposition is aimed at form rather than substance. Therefore, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to deal with this aspect in the concluding portion of my remarks today.
Now, examination of the substance of such opposition, in addition to the representations heard by our parliamentary committee, makes it clear that even most hon. members across the floor here are in favour of the thrust of the government’s proposals. And this, in turn, places responsibility for any move to block our Constitution squarely on the shoulders of dissenting provincial governments. But in this respect l would like to make one pertinent observation. This is that, at the time when the Quebec sovereignty-association referendum campaign was in full swing, all other provincial premiers—some through their very silence—quite clearly indicated tacit consent to the
federal government’s pledge to initiate immediate steps for patriation and amendment of the Constitution. Some went further and openly supported the promise that, if the No forces were to win—that is, if a majority of Quebecers voted to remain in Canada and give federalism another chance—they would help see to it that prompt constitutional change was forthcoming.
Well, optimistic Quebec voters took them at their word and the referendum result passed into history. And almost immediately, it appears, the hedging began.
Is it really possible, one wonders, that the rest of Canada really believes that one such referendum vote has wiped out any threat to Canadian unity? Can governments and electorates actually convince themselves that Quebec’s fears, malaise, unrest and the independence movement itself have now been laid to rest and the remainder of the country can slide back into the “good old days?” It would be tragic indeed, Mr. Speaker, if our provincial leaders once again wore their two solitudes blinkers. But even more distressing more potentially disruptive and dangerous—would be realization by Canadians that some provinces are now coldly determined to renege on the pre-referendum constitutional reform consensus for purely partisan, regional or electoral interests.
As a Canadian who remains a convinced federalist and has a sincere faith in the basic integrity of his fellow citizens, I would like to believe that such is not the case. Let us take a look at the substance of the objections to the government’s proposed machinery for bringing home our Constitution and its subsequent amendment by Canadians and for Canadians. First of all, much is being made of what is termed the government’s “unilateral” action in pressing ahead with patriation without obtaining prior unanimous approval of every detail from the provinces.
We have been floundering over this issue for about half a century now and there is no reason to believe that, if we have to wait for total unanimity on every question, we will be any further ahead in another fifty years’ time. Thus I strongly suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the notion of prior unanimity—not only in the constitutional area, but in any fallible, human organism—is an elusive and virtually unobtainable ideal. We have allowed this myth, this bugbear, to block and cripple all our previous attempts to give ourselves a constitution of our own. I sometimes wonder just what we must look like here in the eyes of the rest of the world. This must not be allowed to happen again. Now that we have the impetus, we have got to press ahead, or reconcile ourselves to the realization that we are not really the mature people we would like to believe.
But it has become increasingly clear over recent decades, Mr. Speaker, that if we wait for perfection, we will wait forever. Thus, we have no choice but to bite the bullet and act now, while the majority impetus remains the driving force. And all those raising academic arguments against what they see fit to deem “unilateral” action in this respect, might do well to consider that the alternative to “now” is almost certainly “never”.
This leads naturally to the second area of objection to the machinery-rather than the principle-of the government’s patriation proposals: the amending formula. Recognition of the ever-present factor of human fallibility, of the virtual impossibility of total unanimity and of the need to avoid future constitutional stagnation, provides the basis for the proposed amending formula. But this has been carefully shaped to ensure that regional interests will remain forever protected from arbitrary constitutional change, effected by a simply majority of the country’s population. Now this formula will clearly provide veto powers over certain areas of constitutional amendment for each of the country’s four major regions. Again, it is a break of the futile ideal of unanimity, which past experience has shown all too painfully, would merely hamstring any future constitutional reform. Thus I submit that a formula along the lines proposed by our government has the dual advantage of providing for effective regional veto powers, while still permitting the people of this country to envisage realistically any constitutional reform clearly destined to enhance the over-all lifestyle of all Canadians.
On the question of the use of a referendum for popular ratification of any amending formula or subsequent constitutional change, I should make it clear that basic human rights must remain unaffected. This means that, as laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such provisions could never be withdrawn or altered merely by a referendum majority vote. Improvements, however, could always be made. That is, additional rights and freedoms could be added to the charter, in the light of experience and to meet needs not covered in the present proposals. Thus the charter would remain for all time inviolable, protecting our people, while itself protected from any threat from the transient “tyranny of the majority”.
Before concluding, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully urge all members to reflect seriously, until we vote on the proposed constitutional resolution, upon the words of the outstanding parliamentarian Lord Acton, and I quote:
The maturity of a society is measured by the maturity with which this society treats its minorities—
In concluding, I appeal to the maturity of all members to get on with the work. Despite our differences and endless debates in certain areas of disagreement, I remain convinced that there is infinitely more to unite than to divide us. Our future, our potential in people and resources sometimes staggers the imagination. What we are striving for now is some sort of common denominator which can bring it all together for the common good.
Madam Speaker, if there is one thought which I would like to emphasize and to leave with you in concluding my remarks
today, let me repeat Lord Acton’s words: “The maturity of a society is measured by the maturity with which this society treats its minorities.”
Despite our differences and seemingly endless debate in certain areas of disagreement, I remain convinced that there is and has always been infinitely more to unite than to divide us. Our future, our potential in people and resources, sometimes staggers the imagination. It is all there. What we are striving for now is some sort of common denominator which can bring it all together for the common good.
Let us get started. Let us get to work.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): A very good speech. A very useful contribution.
Mr. Jim Hawkes (Calgary West): Mr. Speaker, I should like to begin by congratulating the previous speaker, the hon. member for Dollard (Mr. Desmarais), on his remarks. He expressed in his speech considerable wisdom and the strength of feeling was evident to us all.
My congratulations, however, centre on the fact that he followed a spurious point of order interjected by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Lalonde) which bothered me a great deal. The minister said to the House that the 147 members who represent the Liberal party would be restricted to 20-minute speeches on an issue that is so important. I congratulate the hon. member for Dollard for taking almost the full 40 minutes to which his constituents are entitled. I think he used the time well to express a point of view which I cannot share in most respects, but which I can honour. I hope future speakers from the other side will take their responsibility to their constituents and to this Parliament seriously and take the time they need to bring to the floor of this House the message that they think they have to give. I hope they will not be muzzled by the wishes of cabinet ministers or the House leader.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): Well said.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Hawkes: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak as a Canadian from Alberta. I rise as a citizen within this federation, someone who values my freedom, my right to vote for a school board, a municipal or county government, a provincial legislature or this federal House of Commons.
In my province exactly 100 people are elected to serve in the legislature and the House of Commons, 79 in our provincial government and 21 in this House. I rise to report that 99 of those 100 people who represent the people of our province in a free, democratic way are totally and unalterably opposed to the present process and to the consequences of that process.
The hon. member for Dollard talked about national unity and the need for some changes relative to the people who live in the province of Quebec. In my brief intervention before this House today I will talk about the threat to national unity which this proposed constitutional amendment carries with it in my province and in my riding. That threat is real and it must be attended; it must be given consideration before it is too late.
Last night I attended Baltic night, an event which occurs once a year on Parliament Hill. The thrust of Baltic night and the message which is delivered to parliamentarians by the Baltic people centres exclusively on the need for vigilance, on the protection of our freedom. That is the message from Baltic night and it is particularly appropriate that I have the opportunity to speak on the Constitution of Canada the day after attending Baltic night. I had the opportunity to listen to the refugees from unitary, totalitarian states warn us about the dangers to freedom and to see that concern is passed through generations to the young people who belong to the Baltic states.
I rise in this House today to clarify a couple of matters. First, I attended 50 of the 56 sitting days of the committee which met on the Constitution of Canada and for a whole year prior to that I spent at least as many hours outside of that committee tyring to comprehend the nature of constitutions and the impact which they might have on a nation such as Canada. Through that kind of diligence I think one deserves the opportunity to speak in this House.
Second, this debate, in its initial short time in this House, in the Constitution committee itself and now at this phase, has demonstrated a great deal of difference between the members opposite and the members who serve in the official opposition. I believe the difference relates to the fact that members of the Liberal Party will give speech after speech centring on goals. On this side of the House we have no quarrel with the goals, but whether I appear on television with ministers of the Crown, in committee with Liberal members or whether I listen to speeches in the House of Commons, I think it is curious that members opposite seldom deal with the fine print. They seldom deal with the reality of what is written in this resolution. They seldom deal with the nature of Canada and the way we are governed; nor do they deal with the intrusion this particular legislation will make into our lives.
I think of this resolution we are debating today as a secret revolution. That it is a revolution, I have no doubt; and I will expound on that later. The fact that this is being done with a measure of secrecy, though not total secrecy, I also have no doubt; and I shall expound on that also. The revolution occurs in two ways. One way has been talked about a little, but the other way is seldom talked about. The revolution in the way we will be governed in the future will hit anyone who gives this measure serious study. It is a revolution related to the power of the people and to the supremacy of the voters of this country. This resolution will take away those powers from the people. That in itself is a revolutionary concept in its magnitude and repercussions.
It is also a revolution in both its process and its substance which attempts to dismantle the federal system. I wish to deal
with both of these in what I hope might be understandable ways, not only for members of this House—and I have found it helpful in achieving my own degree of clarity—but also for those who watch our proceedings from time to time through the medium of television. What I say may help them.
The principle on which this nation was founded, one which continues to this day, is that the voters are supreme. When we elect our school boards, municipal and county councils, our provincial legislatures, or this House of Commons, what we do is elect juries or peers to represent us in a decision-making process. In these forums the majority rules and we are governed. But critical to that is the notion that periodically, every three, four or five years, the voters of this country for each of those bodies have the power and the responsibility to decide whether or not the same people shall continue to govern in their areas of jurisdiction or a different group of people shall govern.
For instance, in the recent municipal elections in the city of Calgary, the latter course was chosen. The entire public school board was changed; half of the separate school board was changed, half of the city council was changed and a new mayor was elected because the voters of the city of Calgary had that democratic right and power to change the jury. I think for those who care about freedom there is nothing more important to protect than that power which lies in universal suffrage in the ballot which all of us enjoy.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Hawkes: The Liberal Party, aided and abetted by some members of the New Democratic Party, is attempting in secret to take that power away from the people and to give it to a jury of nine people, of which five of the nine shall rule. The government is not changing the process of the selection of the nine. That process today, and in the fine print of this resolution, which will be continued, is the selection of those nine people, largely in secret and chosen essentially by one person. That is the nature of the revolution.
There may be value, and l would assert there is value, in handing over to the courts some additional responsibility. But I think that should be matched by a great deal more care and attention. As we increase those responsibilities, then we need to deal with the mechanism of selection to ensure that we, as free people, retain control of that jury as well. Certainly when we attempt to take away from Canadian voters the power to choose who shall govern them, we should do it with a great deal more care, attention and time than we are devoting to the way we are doing it now.
Do I find this denial of the supremacy of voters to be discrepant through the last 12 or 13 years? I do not. There is a school of thought in philosophy and political science which must be described as an attitude portrayed by those who believe in oligarchies, those who believe that somehow there is an elite class of rulers who somehow have more wisdom and knowledge than others, and that this elite class shall rule. If we look back over the last 12 or 13 years, those years which bring us to this point in constitutional revision, we can see that mind set in operation. The growth to 400 Crown corporations in its basic element represents the fact that we have turned over jurisdiction in 400 areas of our lives to small boards of directors who are not chosen after public examination but are simply appointed.
We get into great debates in this House about patronage appointments, but we cannot have access to information from Crown corporations. These are hot topics for a day or two and then forgotten, but the sum total of 12 or 13 years is the fact that just at the federal level alone we have over 400 of those kinds of groups. That is the consequence of a philosophy which believes in oligarchy.
One of the big issues faced in this House with great frequency in recent times is the energy issue. We argue occasionally about Petro-Canada, its growth, and its development. I ask members of this House how the directors of Petro-Canada were chosen. Do they know their names? What are their qualifications? Are they good at what they do? Hon. members choose to expand that organization and its influence over our lives without the kind of careful consideration that should go into the selection of those people.
How is it that a corporation that is worth $3.5 billion only had a profit of $13 million at a time when other oil companies are being accused of excess profits? Does it relate in any way, shape or form to the method we use in choosing who shall govern? Why do we so willingly give those few people such an expanded role? Have they earned it? Are they subject to recall?
I would like to read the first paragraph of Beauchesne’s. Soon after I was elected to this House in May, 1979, I was given a copy of Beauchesne. For those of the general population who do not serve in this House and may not know Beauchesne, it is a book which attempts to tell members of Parliament, new or old, their rights and responsibilities. The first paragraph deals with the principles of parliamentary law and reads as follows:
The principles that lie at the basis of English parliamentary law, have always been kept steadily in view by the Canadian Parliament; these are: To protect a minority and restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority; to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every member to express his opinions within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time; to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure; and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse.
That is the responsibility of each and every member who serves in this House. We should put that in perspective and just deal with two of the key points, to “restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority” and “to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse.” If all members, regardless of party affiliation, who accept the responsibility of sitting in this House, were to take those responsibilities seriously, how would we feel about the process in which we are presently engaged? I suggest we should at least
be nervous about the extent to which we are discharging that responsibility adequately.
I said there were two aspects to the resolution. One was the denigration of the power of the individual voter. The second was the dismantling of the federal system. Of those two issues, the most difficult to comprehend is the dismantling of the federal system.
The Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) and others on that side indicated that there is no rearrangement of powers in this country. I think I have built a reasonable case to show that the powers of the voters have been diminished. However, those on the other side seem to leave us with the notion that the rights and privileges of the governments elected in the provinces are not seriously affected.
I ask members opposite, and anybody watching us today, to get a copy of this resolution. It will be seen that the provinces are specifically referred to 31 times in the resolution. If their powers are not to be significantly affected, why is it necessary to refer to provincial legislatures 31 times?
A federal system is not built on a principle of decentralization. If you examine the experts and constitutional theory, you find it is built on the principle of non-centralization. It is a form of government which does not exist universally throughout the world, or even universally throughout the free world, but it exists in some countries, not because it is preferred but because it is the best of government for a particular nation and its people.
The Fathers of Confederation and those who up to this point have been responsible for the affairs of the nation were and have been wise in the extent to which they have done their best to pay attention to the fact that any successful federation will adhere to the principle of non-centralization. Within that concept it is important to note that the various political entities, the various kinds of government in a true federation, are sovereign in their areas of jurisdiction. That has been the understanding in this nation until this point, that that sovereignty of jurisdiction exists constitutionally. It does today, and it cannot be taken away unilaterally without the agreement of those who are affected. To do that constitutes a revolution. It runs counter to any basic understanding of what a federation is all about.
The importance of the notion of a federation in a nation like Canada is twofold. This process we are engaged in today demonstrates clearly the importance of protection from arbitrary action by a transitory majority in a single level of government. Where would we be today if we did not have more than one level of government to object to the revolution which is being attempted in this I-louse? The voters of this country need to be protected from the tyranny of transitory majorities, and I suggest that it is our federation and the interplay between the different constituent elements which provide us with that protection. Because of the size of this nation, territorial democracy is an important concept, and those who would deny the importance of that concept invite us all to run the risk of separation of the nation.
The true nature of a federation involves legal jurisdiction, and hon. members opposite, today and on other days, in addressing themselves to the amending formula have talked about its fairness because every region is represented. Where in this federation is there a regional government? In this federation we have ten provincial governments, the government of Yukon, and the government of the Northwest Territories. We do not have regional governments. We have provincial governments. That is the nature of this federation, and those are our nation’s states. The provinces have legal jurisdictions guaranteed in the Constitution of Canada, and it is the Liberal government which is unilaterally trying to take those guarantees away from the Canadian people. I suggest that will not wash.
It is interesting to note also that scholars of federations talk not just about legal jurisdiction, but they also talk about the spirit and the practices of a federation. The spirit involves honouring the partnership and acknowledging that we are a federation, and to ignore the spirit is to weaken the spirit and weaken the will to survive. It is like a marriage. A marriage licence is a very simple, straightforward document. Not much is written on it. The terms and conditions are not specified, but those evolve and marriages last and prosper if the partners work at it. They decay and split apart if the need for partnership is not acknowledged and partnership is not worked at.
Today we have a situation in which eight of the ten provincial governments and the governments of both the Yukon and Northwest Territories—ten of the 12 governments which represent the areas of this country—are opposed to these constitutional amendments. I think it behooves all of us to think of that. If that opposition can be overcome by legal means which do not pay attention to the spirit and the practices of the federation, then what will happen to this nation? Are those risks worth running for all parts of this package?
I have said in committee and to the Minister of Justice that this proposal attempts to separate Canadians from their governing traditions, their legal traditions, and their economic traditions. The best word I can think of to describe those who support it is “separatist”. Those who seek to separate are in fact the true separatists in this confederation of ours.
In my attendance at the constitutional committee hearings I thought that perhaps with the passage of time and process we might arrive at a Constitution which I felt was supportable, but in my attendance at those committee hearings I was an unwilling participant in a bad process, and we have produced a bad resolution which will not do good things for Canada.
I have sat many times and thought about what would constitute a good process. Perhaps l will just sketch that out briefly for the House. I think a good process of constitutional renewal would begin with an invitation to Canadians in all walks of life—whatever their responsibilities or stations—to submit to some central place their ideas on the constitutional problems which exist in the country, and their suggested solutions. Armed with that kind of input l suggest that a
constituent assembly composed of representatives of all Canadians—elected politicians, ethnic groups, women, men, labour, business, academics and others—could consider those statements of problems and proposed solutions and, after some considerable period of time and examination, make recommendations to the partners in our federation. With the moral authority of such a body I think we could end up with a good Constitution.
When I have those thoughts in my head, l run them against my personal experience in this Parliament in dealing with the Constitution of Canada. I read a memo which advised the Prime Minister (Mr, Trudeau) and the government opposite that it seemed unlikely that the partners in confederation could agree to the federal perspective or buy totally what the Prime Minister wanted them to, and in that event it was important to turn the September first ministers’ conference into a public relations platform designed to convince the Canadian people that it was the provinces which were to blame and not the federal government.
The next piece of advice in that memo of 59 pages was that the federal government should then move quickly to ram its ideas through, and the federal government was warned that if it took too long, the opposition would grow. I refer to that as the strategy of speed and secrecy. Step one involved closure, the denial of free speech in this House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada after 24 hours of debate. After one full day of debate, closure was invoked. That fits the strategy of speed and secrecy.
Step two was to move the resolution to the committee. In the committee there were 15 Liberals, two New Democrats, and eight Conservatives. The memo advised that this step be taken because it would make it easier to control the committee. We think that committees are masters of their own destinies and that majority rules, but when there are 15 votes for the government and ten for the opposition, we can see that that control is evident. Was that control put to use? I suggest it was.
We started out with a 30-day time limit, no television, no broadcasting, and long hours. People became tired. We fought, and some of those things were amended slightly. However, hidden in the background was the exercise of control over the choice of witnesses and the length of time they had to appear before the committee. There was the warning that closure was everywhere we turned. As one member of this House who sat there for a long, long time, I have no sense of pride. I carry something more akin to a sense of shame that a-free and democratic institution like the Parliament of Canada forced me to participate in something which had many elements of a charade rather than a true inquiry.
I sat there and I heard the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) and others in our party move an amendment, and before it was out of their mouths, the Minister of Justice said that the government would or would not vote for it. Before the arguments were heard, before the wisdom of that amendment was apparent, the minister said the government would or would not vote for it, and the 15 members did what the Minister of Justice told them to do.
An hon. Member: Shame!
Mr. Hawkes: Then they had the gall to come to the House and say this was a resolution sponsored by the Parliament of Canada. It is not; it is a government initiative supported by government members and by some of their marriage partners from the NDP.
In early October I took great pride in the fact that the leader of this party said on national television that this was a bad piece of legislation. That was on Thursday night. The Leader of the NDP (Mr. Broadbent) and the Prime Minister said it was good. But what are the facts, Mr. Speaker?
We have a resolution before us in the House today. The resolution we saw in early October had 59 clauses. The resolution we now have before us has 68 amendments: 67 mandated by the committee and one moved since then which nobody seems to have noticed. What does an amendment mean? When the government agrees to it, it means the government acknowledged the mistake. There were 67 mistakes which the government was willing to acknowledge in a bill which had 59 clauses. Have there ever been in the history of this Parliament 67 or 68 amendments to a 59 clause bill? It was the worst piece of legislation that this Parliament has ever considered, and the leader of our party told Canadians that.
I heard the Leader of the NDP stand up in the House the other day and say that this is the best we can hope to have. But the leader of that party and his caucus proposed 43 amendments to the resolution. They saw 43 mistakes in the bill. Two amendments were accepted and 41 were not—there are still 41 amendments which he identified, and now they call it the best that this country can do. I am ashamed of them.
If we looked around us, we would also find that in the process of federal-provincial consultation there was a 12-item agenda and agreement was reached in large part on such items as communications, offshore resources, fisheries, and family law. They agreed on a different amending formula, they agreed on something different on resource ownership, different from what we find in this resolution. Why is that? Why do the NDP and hon. members opposite sit here so willingly intending to vote for this resolution, when in fact they know that such a large part of what is needed in the way of constitutional revision, such a large part of what was agreed to, does not appear in this resolution? What does appear is a number of things on which there was never agreement or discussion.
I see that my time is running out, Mr. Speaker. When I began my comments, I was wondering whether I would be able to speak for 40 minutes. I see now that I have dealt with only one third of the items I had prepared for my speech today.
An hon. Member: Carry on.
Mr. Hawkes: I suppose that all I can really do in conclusion is to express, as clearly and as succinctly as I can, my belief
that the people of my province, the people of most western Canadian provinces, will not, in the long run, want to belong to a federation in which they are treated as second-class citizens. They will not want to belong to a unitary state. They wish to be partners in a federation. They will not be victims.
We are on a very dangerous cliff. I hope that perhaps in the quietness of the caucus, in the quietness of the halls and of the offices, hon. members opposite, before they vote to impose this resolution on all the people of Canada, will take at least a little time to speak with us and will come to our province to meet with our people and to judge for themselves the seriousness of what is facing Canada today.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Ian Deans (Hamilton Mountain): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I suppose that at some time in the future people will look back and they may even read the comments made by members of the House of Commons and members of the Senate and give some consideration to what was the truth in the views various members put forward of what is likely to happen to Canada as a result of this debate and of this action by the government.
I have listened to many points of view, and I have found it sometimes difficult to determine exactly how much of what is being said is real, how much is partisan, how much is misinformation. I assume it is all said honestly, but it worries me because many of the things that have been said about the consequences of the passage of this piece of legislation could not and will not come to pass. This measure will not destroy confederation. It will not take away the rights of people to have a democracy where they will be able to elect Members of Parliament and where those Members of Parliament will represent them and, in some way or other, deal with the issues and the problems of the time.
I listened with interest to my friend from the Conservative Party who spoke before me as he said that going to the courts was such a terrible thing. Yet every single Member of Parliament knows that every piece of legislation we pass will, at some point, be interpreted by the courts, and the court interpretation will set the precedent which will be the benchmark against which the legislation will be applied. Every Member of Parliament knows that the legislation which we will pass from this day forward, as on any other day, will be subject to amendment in the House of Commons.
The one thing that has not been said by those who suggest that what is happening destroys democracy is that until today, and until this bill finally becomes law, if we wanted to make any change to the existing Constitution of Canada, we could not have gone to the courts of Canada; we had to go to Westminster and ask another Parliament, far removed from the concerns of Canada, with little, if any, interest in the day to day activities of our country, to approve or disapprove of the changes we would like to make. Frankly, I do not think it is all that bad to have the court in your own land, appointed by your own Parliament, make the final decision.
Mr. Andre: It is not appointed by us. That was the whole point of the speech.
Mr. Deans: It is appointed under an act of Parliament, and therefore appointed by Parliament.
Mr. Andre: No, that was the whole point of the speech.
Mr. Deans: The point of his speech was wrong.
Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton): How do you know it is wrong since you did not understand it?
Mr. Deans: The greatest part of the debate I have heard outside the House of Commons has been centred upon why we are doing this right now, why we are not dealing with the economy, with employment, with energy. I think there is a certain validity to that. Perhaps on balance it might have been better to spread out the discussion of the constitutional change over a longer period of time. This would have afforded an opportunity to deal with some of the problems which more evidently touch the lives of the vast majority of Canadians. But given that that was not to happen, it is appropriate that we should be dealing with the Constitution here in Canada and putting to rest, once and for all, the idle argument that this Constitution is to be made in Great Britain. What utter nonsense! What utter nonsense!
The committee sat countless hours listening to representations from Canadians. Members of Parliament and Senators deliberated carefully over the matters put before them. The House of Commons debated at great length the Constitution and the consequences of it. How can anyone say that this Constitution will be made in Britain? Yes, it will be approved in Britain for the last time, but it will be made in Canada by Canadians on behalf of Canadians.
Mr. Andre: Are the premiers involved?
Mr. Deans: When I return to my constituency, the people ask why the Conservatives are so naive and nasty. I say that it is their nature. Also they ask me what it is about this matter that I support. I should like to tell them that any time a discussion took place about the Constitution of Canada during my almost 15 years in politics, the one matter raised most often was that we ought to have our own Constitution, that we should have the British North America Act brought to Canada, since it was made here in the first place, and that it should be located here as a Constitution for this country. Perhaps I am one of the few members of the House who has looked at and read the actual British North America Act in Westminster. Therefore I think we are responding to the wishes of the vast majority by moving to bring the Constitution back.
What good would it be to have the Constitution in Canada with no way of amending it? The argument then centres on how it should be amended. Should we use the amending formula which was worked out in committee? Should we use
another formula, perhaps the one proposed by the Conservative party which is supported in part by some of the premiers? I asked myself those questions, and I came to the conclusion that it is better to have this formula, deficient though it may be, than one which allows the provinces to opt in or out of the constitutional provisions and thereby deny Canadians equal access to the rights that are being given, recognized, and written in this Constitution.
Surely it is better to have this amending formula, although it requires some change. Surely it is better to have this amending formula for the next two years and to allow the premiers of the various provinces and the government to come together and look for a formula which has their total support, one which reflects the concerns of western Canada.
Mr. Andre: At least blush when you say that.
Mr. Deans: I say to the hon. member for Calgary Centre (Mr. Andre), who speaks often but rarely rises, if what the Conservative Party is saying is true, that there is a willingness out there to find a way to resolve the differences of opinion, then within the next few years that willingness will rise to the top and there will be a new formula, if it has unanimity, which will be acceptable to everyone.
Mr. Andre: Why would Trudeau give up his power? You are an old union negotiator; use your head.
Mr. Deans: Despite the nattering of the hon. member for Calgary Centre, I should like to indicate we have almost agreed unanimously that we want to bring the Constitution to Canada and that we must have an amending formula. We have both those things in place. They are not absolutely perfect, but who would expect that they would be?
Then we hear arguments about the bill of rights. Who in Canada wants to perpetrate the system which exists in terms of dealing with the disabled? Who wants to deny the section dealing with the rights of women? Who in the Tory caucus, or out in the country, wants to deny natives the rights we have been able to negotiate and include in this bill of rights? Who says that we should leave the system as it is? It is not I, not I. I do not want to leave the way in which we deal with our disabled and handicapped as it has been over the last half century or more. I want to see it changed. I want to see some rights. I do not want to leave the question of women’s rights hanging in the air for the next 15 or 20 years while discussions take place. I do not want to turn to the natives in this country who have placed so much trust in us, and say that for the sake of expediency and political gain, as the Conservatives have said, “we will back away; we will not guarantee your right to a place at the table.”
It is difficult to come up with a constitution; it cannot be perfect. It must be a living document, not one which writes about history. It is a document upon which the future will be developed. It is a document which sets out the accepted norms and the parameters within which the majority of people feel comfortable in our society.
The question as to whether the bill of rights should be entrenched is a difficult one to answer. Although I have never been particularly in favour of a referendum, given the opportunity in the final analysis to have such a referendum, I suppose a bill of rights could be entrenched. We must bear in mind always that this bill of rights is not the final one, that it will change with the times and will reflect the concerns of society as society evolves.
I should like to refer to the report of the Royal Commission Inquiry Into Civil Rights written by former Chief Justice McRuer a number of years ago. He wrote the following about a bill of rights:
When people demand a comprehensive “bill of rights” declared or defined in some authoritative legal form, what is it they seek? ls it not the age old demand for “justice”?
To write a bill of rights is to express in general terms the expectation and claim of citizens that the legal system under which they live shall be just.
He went on to write:
It is to be appreciated that the definition and implementation of a bill of rights cannot be done in one simple operation. Adherence to the standards set out in a bill of rights is a very complex process. It must allow for and promote continuous progress involving legal change, together with adjustment through the decisions of impartial courts and the legislative action of democratic legislatures.
Also he wrote about constitutional law as follows:
As Sir Ivor Jennings has said, in a sense all law is constitutional law.
This is because it is in fact written within the constitutional framework of the country.
It is interesting to look at the arguments which have taken place here about constitutional law and whether certain things should or should not be included in the Constitution. One argument put forward by the Conservative Party—and I assume it was in good faith—dealth with property rights. But I should like to refer to what former Chief Justice McRuer wrote when he dealt with the matter of property rights. It reads:
The laws against trespass and violence safeguard the free enjoyment of the ownership of land—
In fact it has been generally recognized in this country that property rights are the responsibility of provincial jurisdictions and that to write some vague reference to property rights in the Constitution can only serve to complicate further an already very complicated situation and to create even further problems in terms of whom has the ultimate jurisdiction to determine the right of individuals to quiet enjoyment of their own property. The fact that we pointed that out and said that this is an inappropriate place to put it cannot, and ought not, be interpreted to mean that somehow or other we are opposed to someone owning a home. I doubt that there is a political party anywhere which has spoken more often, more passionately and more carefully about the need to provide the opportunity for people at all income levels to have accommodation at a price they can afford, to buy a home of their own and to live in dignity. I do not think any party has any more claim to that than we do.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Deans: When I listen to Conservatives talking about what they put forward, they do not tell you the implications of it. The implications would have been a continuous harangue through the court system trying to determine whether, indeed, it was a provincial or a federal responsibility, whether the Constitution would take precedence over the rights of the provinces. That measure would have served no one. In fact it would have served only to frustrate and aggravate. It would not have made any sense.
So, when I look at those kinds of things I wonder why it is that we have allowed, at least what appears to me to be, a step forward toward establishing the Constitution in Canada with the rights of individuals written so that they can look at them and read them and so that they do not have to rely on something which is called “common law tradition” to determine what it is they are entitled to and what it is they have every right to expect.
When we refer to common law, of course we are not referring to Canadian common law. We are referring to British common law. Canada has not been a nation long enough to have established a sufficiently strong tradition in common law. Thus, when we try to make an interpretation about the rights of individuals, using common law, we are actually basing it on the common law traditions of Great Britain. Great Britain has centuries of history behind it, an evolution of a process which we have never had, an evolution which allowed for all changes that took place through many different systems, through the industrial revolution and through the emergence of the common man or woman into prominence in the state.
We cannot really base our tradition on that because our tradition is a different one. It is the North American tradition. It has a good core in British law but it is not necessarily governed by British law only. Therefore, to suggest for a moment that it is better to rely upon common law tradition than to rely upon a bill of rights, is a matter of opinion.
For many of us, having looked at it, opinion comes down more heavily on the need to say it to people in writing so that they can read it in any part of the country. This enables them to understand what it is that their laws are about and what their rights are. That does not take away for one moment the existing law and the weight of it. It does not depreciate for one moment the laws that we have already written into the books, the laws which have stood the test of time. They still remain. It is not as if you are starting all over again and eliminating all the other laws because you are writing the guidelines. You continue to use those laws. The laws that protect people still remain in place. The laws that give them the rights I have mentioned with regard to property still remain in place.
Therefore, it is not a matter of starting over. It is a matter of having reached a point where the growth of the country indicates that we are now capable, as Britain thought we were some years ago, to stand alone, not to be isolated but to stand alone to develop new friendships and to help strengthen old ones. The fact that we ask of Britain that she give us our Constitution back now does not mean that we do not want to continue to associate with her. It means that we want to have a relationship of maturity, of equality. That relationship will be strengthened by actions on both sides of the Atlantic. It means we will be doing what so many much smaller countries in the world decided they should do for themselves years and years ago, that is, to be masters in their own homes.
I just returned from speaking to the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, and to some people in another part of the world. They listened with almost incredulity to the discussion that we might not want to be independent, that we are not really sure that we are ready for it yet. They do not believe it—neither do I. I think we are ready. In fact I think it is time.
As I talk to people across this country, all I can find out from them is that they are upset by the constant wrangling. They cannot differentiate between the charges and the countercharges. They do not have sufficient in-depth knowledge of the subject to be able properly to evaluate what is the truth, as I said at the beginning. As I see it, the truth is simple.
We will bring back the British North America Act, which was written here. When we have brought it back we will have a way to amend it. As part of our Constitution we will have decided to put down on paper what the rights of individual Canadians will be—each Canadian, not just Canadians living in one part of the country or another, but all Canadians no matter where they live. The Canadian living in Prince Edward Island, whose family lives in Alberta, will have the same rights as all others. A Canadian living in Ontario or in British Columbia will have the same rights, because they are all Canadians. If they decide to up and move, they can do that. They will not lose the rights that they have, as would be the case if we allow the opting in and out formula, as would be the ease if we left it to the jurisdiction of each province to write its own bill of rights.
Surely to God being a Canadian means something. Surely being a Canadian in any part of this country is the same as being a Canadian in any other part. Surely the rights that you have in one part of the country are the same as the rights you have in another part of the country. You cannot have them denied because of the whim of one jurisdiction. That is what this is all about. That is what we are trying to achieve.
If I had my way, and I suspect maybe this will happen, I would have included the recognition of the supremacy of God in the preamble. We supported it. My good friend, the hon. member for Saskatoon East (Mr. Ogle) spoke about it in committee and he proposed it would be a good thing. I suspect we may see it yet.
If I had my way I would see the amending formula changed in order to correct an imbalance which exists in western Canada as a result of the formula we now have. Maybe we will get that. I do not want to risk a return to the inequities which exist across this country, the inequality which exists across this country in terms of the way individual jurisdictions deal with Canadians. I do not want to run that risk any longer.
In closing I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I have great respect for the views that have been expressed by the many premiers across this country about what would be best for their jurisdictions. I must say that among all the letters I have received I have not received one from any premier. What I will say, because I am a Member of Parliament, is that in looking at it I do not doubt for a moment their sincerity as they speak about what is best for their jurisdictions.
I think what we must understand is that we are not talking about a jurisdictional dispute at the moment, We are talking about the rights of Canadians, regardless of where they live. We are talking about what is best for each of the component parts since, when added together, it is not necessarily best for the whole. That is the dilemma which confronts us. I wait with interest to hear the reasons why what we are doing is wrong, because I hear, from people on all sides of the House, that they support the constitutional package, bringing it back to Canada, having an amending formula, albeit we may disagree as to what it should be. They even support the bill of rights. Well, damn it, if we are supporting all these proposals, what are we fighting about?
One final point comes to mind. When this is over—and God knows that it will be over some day—and we have sovereignty in Canada, which we are striving for, and the Constitution is here, and the bill of rights is printed, and members are shipping them out by the hundreds to their constituents across the country, pointing out the good things contained in them, I hope we will be able to come together as a House of Commons and say to the people of Canada, “Look, in spite of our partisan differences and some reservations, this document is a good foundation upon which to build. If we work together, we can make it even better. It affords a good opportunity to preserve those items which are of value, and guarantees that you will receive a high quality of treatment, no matter where you are”.
But what we will say to the people of Canada is, “Alongside the flag and the national anthem, you will have a Constitution which tells you, in the type of language that we can all understand, that being a Canadian is the best thing in the world, and that together we will have a better nation”.
Mr. Thomas Siddon (Richmond-South Delta): Mr. Speaker, in listening to the concluding remarks of my hon. colleague from Hamilton-Mountain, I can only hope that the day will come when the Constitution adopted for Canada is the right one, and that there will be peace and harmony in the country arising from that document, whatever form it takes.
I reflect back to the summertime and to the month of September when we saw signs around our country admonishing Canadians to work together. I believe one sign said, “Let’s work together to build a better country, now.” I remember that sign quite vividly, and another sign which said, “A new Constitution: Make it right, make it work, make it ours.”
I am sorry to begin my remarks this evening by suggesting that the present government initiative defies these slogans. Is it right to discriminate against some provinces and to favour others through a biased amending formula? Will it work if we set region against region, as some of these proposals do? Can it ever be ours, in our hearts, if the British government is to be blackmailed into passing amendments which are unacceptable to many Canadians and to many provinces—in fact, eight provinces?
Canada is a marvellous country, and we are all very thankful for having the opportunity to live here. We have a country where we respect the differences of one another, and that diversity makes us stronger; interdependency allows the country, collectively, to be much more than the sum of the individual parts. It is a team effort, and not everyone can play goalie and not everyone can play forward, but we all have a part to play in the future of our country.
I love this country as much as every other Canadian and every other Member of Parliament here this evening. I respect the fact that we come from different backgrounds, languages, and geographical locations. We are not all the same. I can only say, “Thank God for that”.
I am reminded of a statement made during the confederation debates, in 1856. Sir George Cartier said:
I view the diversity of races in British North America in this way: we are all of different races, not for the purpose of warring against each other, but in order to compete and emulate for the general good.
I must conclude that no one man or political party has the wisdom to surpass that of all others; that of the premiers; that of the people who are calling phone-in programs and writing letters to Members of Parliament these days, to express their views on the government’s constitutional proposals.
I think of the closely knit family, much like the one I know so well, where the parents sometimes get a little bit out of control, but generally we try not to “talk down” to our children. Parents do not order them around, although they might get carried away from time to time; instead, parents attempt to teach by example and speak softly to their children in order to cultivate respect. In that process, the family spirit strengthens, and the family grows in its understanding of all its members, and learns from one another. Parents often learn a great deal from their children.
I would like to see our country come together as a family—a family which has the power to last. My fear this evening is that the process of constitutional reform is not bringing about that family spirit which I consider to be so important.
I would also like to remind members of the spirit of the Constitution enacted in 1867 and reflected in 1871 when my province joined this wonderful country. After all, “constitution” really means the putting together of a country. This is the way British Columbia felt on the morning of July 20, 1871, as reported in The British Colonist of Victoria, under the headline, “Confederation Complete”, and I quote:
Today British Columbia passes peacefully and, let us add, gracefully into the confederated empire of British North America . . . To-day British Columbia and Canada joined hands and hearts across the Rocky Mountains… let us join
hands in a friendly but firm resolve to begin our new political life a united and harmonious band.
I only wish that were the spirit in the chamber this evening, but I am afraid it is not; and that suggests that there is something seriously wrong—not necessarily wrong with all of the detail in the document we have before us at present, but something seriously wrong in the government’s approach to this matter, and it concerns me deeply. After all, Canada has not consented to this process.
I must turn to the preamble of the resolution we have before us, and it states that, “whereas Canada has requested and consented to the enactment of an act of the parliament of the United Kingdom—”
Mr. Speaker, Canada has not consented! Most Canadians have not even been consulted on this matter! Our hon. colleagues to the left and across the way can talk about all of the delegations and individuals who appeared before the special committee that did such fine work for all of us, but the people of Canada have not been consulted and are in fact being ignored in this process, by not being allowed to be involved in deciding this issue.
It was the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Clark) who had the courage on the evening of October 22 to stand alone. The Leader of the NDP (Mr. Broadbent) did not stand alone. He hopped quickly into bed with Mr. Trudeau and he has been there ever since.
Some hon. Members: Order, order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): I am sorry I must interrupt the hon. member, but there has been a developing trend to refer to hon. members by their names rather than by their office or riding, and I would remind the hon. member of the necessity to refer to members by title.
Mr. Siddon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I suppose those notes were appropriate for speaking across the country. I meant the Right Hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
Now, more than two thirds of Canadians agree with the position the Leader of the Opposition has taken, that the process, at the very least, is wrong, and the approach being taken by the Prime Minister in reforming our Constitution is wrong.
What is the correct course of action? I believe that was laid out very clearly by my leader, the hon. member for Yellow-head, and by our principal spokesman on the joint committee, the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Epp), and other members of the Progressive Conservative Party, as that committee deliberated through the months of December and January.
First of all this party has a respect for the federal nature of this country; for the federal-provincial partnerships and division of powers as clearly set out in our existing Constitution, the British North America Act. In a few moments I will elaborate on this and show how the present document changes that arrangement of federal-provincial powers in a very profound way.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, this party believes we should bring the Constitution home and bring it home now. The hon. member for Edmonton East (Mr. Yurko) initiated this process many months ago. I can only ask why it has not been brought home to date, following his motion which was passed in this House many months ago. This party also moved another motion on October 22 urging upon this House the immediate patriation of our Constitution on a very simple basis, so that we might make the subsequent and very important amendments in Canada.
This party advocates a bill of rights and advocates that it be entrenched in the Constitution. But it must be a practical bill of rights, a Canadian bill of rights. We are not prepared to accept a Constitution and a charter of rights on which the Canadian people have not had adequate opportunity to offer their input.
We believe that the amending formula by which this Constitution may be changed in the future has to be fair to all the parts and regions of Canada, by treating all provinces as equal. That is why we put forward the Vancouver amending formula which does not contain the outright discrimination that the government’s amending proposal contains. We believe that all amendments to the Constitution in the future must be debated and adopted in Canada by Canadians, not by Great Britain. Canadians should decide on Canadian questions, as my leader has often said.
We put forward the proposal for a constituent assembly which would be given a certain period of time to recommend the appropriate changes to our Constitution, in the assurance that they would have the support not merely of the Prime Minister and his colleagues but of all the provinces and people as well.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we believe that the referendum method which is being proposed as a means of amending our Constitution in the future is contrary to our parliamentary traditions, but, more seriously, it is divisive and threatens the rights of minority groups in this country. I will give some further explanation of this in a few moments.
We have put forward an amendment calling for the deletion of Clause 46. It would delete the use of referenda which could be abused to the extent they would deny rights to minorities and Canadians at large; given a certain spirit and time in the country. Senator Roblin in the other place often says that we must do things in the right way if they are to be done right. I heartily echo that sentiment.
What is wrong with the government’s approach? First of all, this government has no mandate from many Canadians. It received no mandate on February 18 last year to change our Constitution in substantive ways. It has a mandate from members who come largely from two provinces, and it has the implied consent of two other provinces, one of which is a common province, the province of Ontario, but the rest of the country is being bypassed in this process. Neither does this
government have a mandate from the people of Quebec, as it often claims to have.
I am reminded of statements made by a well-known and respected political scientist in the province of Quebec, Dr. Leon Dion. As reported in the Edmonton Journal on October 3, 1980, the day after the Prime Minister presented his proposal, Dr. Dion said: “It’s a sad day for democracy in Canada”. He went on to note that the Prime Minister was using his promise made during the Quebec referendum to renew the Constitution as a reason for proceeding on the present path. He said in fact that Quebec had precise demands which were expounded during the referendum campaign and that the Prime Minister’s plan for patriation and a bill of rights does not meet these precise demands, and does not meet the aspirations of Quebecers. I think that view is reflected when many of the hon. members opposite return to their constituencies each weekend.
Mr. Lalonde: He voted Yes on the referendum.
Mr. Siddon: The article in the Edmonton Journal continues:
Trudeau’s stubborn desire to impose his views on the provinces’ will create confusion, and might also create more antagonism, Dion predicted. A constitution must exist on consensus, not on force and constraint.
The third reason for believing the government is taking the wrong approach is the pace at which it is moving. The government is in a big rush, for some inexplicable reason. Perhaps this has something to do with the Prime Minister’s personal timetable. Especially and above all else, I think the government is perpetrating a fraud and a deception upon the Canadian people. To be more specific, it is perpetrating a power grab on the provinces. That is what unilateralism is all about and it leads ultimately to a unitary state. I hope hon. members will hear me out, Mr. Speaker.
I believe that Canadians are being deceived, fraudulently, in three key areas. First of all, this government is substantially altering the nature of federalism. It is substantially altering the relationship between the provinces and the federal government. I shall elaborate on that in a moment.
Secondly, the government is using the government of Great Britain to enact changes in our Constitution in a manner which would not even pass the test of its own amending formula here in Canada. If it is so confident that this initiative will be widely accepted by Canadians, then for the life of me I cannot understand why the government would not put the question before Canadians, even using its own biased, amending formula, before sending the joint address to Westminster.
Thirdly, the most significant fraud in all of this, I believe, is the sham that minority rights and human rights are being proclaimed as reasons for this initiative. In fact, those rights are being abridged within the text, A referendum mechanism is being proposed which could, in many cases, be used to deny those rights later and to assert the will of the majority, in the face of the needs of minority groups.
I want to turn now to the British North America Act. Clause 55 of the resolution before the House removes the Guarantee of provincial rights which was clearly asserted in Section 91.1 of the British North America Act. Clause 55 of the resolution essentially repeals Section 91.1 of the British North America Act. This section gives to the federal government the power to amend, from time to time, the Constitution of Canada “except as regards matters coming within the classes of subjects by this act assigned exclusively to the legislatures of the provinces”. In other words, through the use of Clause 55 to repeal Section 91.1 of the British North America Act, the government takes away the guarantee the provinces have enjoyed since 1867. The provinces which joined confederation after that date also enjoy that guarantee. Now it is being struck and the federal government is giving itself the power to change the Constitution of Canada in any matter whatsoever—in any matter pertaining to provincial rights as set out in Section 92 of the British North America Act. This deals with the right of the provinces to borrow money, to manage and sell public lands, to operate hospitals, municipal institutions, to undertake local works, to operate canals, telegraphs and other communications works, to alter provincial responsibility with regard to the solemnization of marriage, and with regard to property and civil rights.
To go further, Mr. Speaker, Clause 55 would deny the provinces the power over education as set out in Section 93, and control of resource ownership as set out in Section 109 of the British North America Act. In many other respects it would alter the powers and privileges that provincial governments have enjoyed since confederation and for which other provinces that joined later have worked and fought. I believe Clause 55 is unconstitutional, Mr. Speaker, as it frees the government to change the Constitution unilaterally, that becomes clear when one reads Section 91.1 of the BNA Act.
We all know now that the amending formula which is proposed creates not only two classes of provinces, but three or four. The western provinces will rank as at least third class. I believe this discrimination threatens the very future of our nation. No member opposite, except to hide behind the premiers at Victoria in 1971, has convinced me there is any good reason for implementing the present biased amending formula. Perhaps it is to secure and maintain their mandate and support from the two most populous provinces, to forget about and to deny completely the future I want for my children, and the development of communities in the less populated part of Canada, from where I come.
The present government is using Britain to do its own dirty work. The government’s proposed constitutional amendments would not even stand the test of its own amending formula here in Canada. The resolution could not be passed in Canada. For one thing, whether or not there was a referendum, at least two of the western provinces would reject these proposals outright. There is a very good chance, and I am sure our colleagues from Quebec could confirm this, that Quebec, either through an act of the legislature or a referendum, would reject this act if the proposed amending formula were applied as the test as to whether it should proceed to Westminster.
Quebec would reject it because of the language rights situation in Ontario and Quebec. Therefore, the Prime Minister is asking the British parliament to prostitute itself by enabling, with the principal support of only two provinces, himself to accomplish his personal goals, even though two thirds of the Canadian people object to the process being put forward. Surely this had to be a form of dictatorship.
This act, which is being perpetrated, has the potential to become a major embarrassment to the parliament in Westminster. It could well be that Westminster might be blackmailed into passing this legislation, only to subsequently learn that it has been a party to something illegal, if and when the Supreme Court of Canada finds that the cases being brought by the provinces are right and proper and that the federal government is acting in an unconstitutional manner.
On the question of minority rights, and I have alleged that this is a sham perpetrated on all of the special interest and underprivileged groups in our nation, I believe these groups are being deceived into believing they will get certain rights which they do not already enjoy. However, in so far as the rights of minority groups are concerned, many of those rights as set out in the resolution are qualified by a limitation clause which empowers the Supreme Court of Canada to restrict those rights in any way it deems to be proper. Once those rights have been delineated and interpreted by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, minority groups will have no further recourse to this Parliament, to their provincial legislatures or to seek redress in any other way for a perceived injustice arising out of a misjudgment by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In spite of the fond notion which comes from one or two of the members opposite, that Canadians should have the opportunity to litigate rather than to lobby, in fact they will not have the opportunity to litigate because once those decisions are rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada it will be virtually impossible to have them altered. It is not a matter of litigating or lobbying. Canadians will not be able to lobby because we Members of Parliament will not be able to help them. Neither will they be able to litigate, even if they had ample financial resources at their disposal, because the court will have made its determination.
For the sake of these various minority groups, I want to refer to Clause 6 of the resolution which contains the so-called mobility provisions. It has a limitation. Section 6(3) reads as follows:
The rights specified in Subsection (2)—
That is the right to move from province to province and enjoy and seek employment, are mitigated by what follows. We read on in that Section 6(3)(a) that those rights are limited by:
(a) any laws or practices of general application in force in a province other than those that discriminate among persons primarily on the basis of province of present or previous residence;—
These people are being led to believe they can move back and forth between provinces and seek employment. But if you read the Subsections of that clause, people will be denied that right, if there are laws or practices in general force which would deny that right. So it is a sham.
Similarly in Clause 7, which reads:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
—we are qualifying everything. We are pretending we are granting people something which, under our system of common law, they have enjoyed in this country for decades.
We could also refer to Section 15(1) which talks about equality. All Canadians are equal under Section 15(1), but under Section 15(2) we are not all equal. Some are more equal than others. Some of us are very concerned about that.
It is not a matter of litigating or lobbying. It is a matter of locking people, in perpetuity—other than through the use of the referendum method, which I will come to in a moment—into judgments rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Even more alarming for these minority groups is the proposed use of a referendum contrived by the federal government to amend those minority rights, if the majority should so choose. The referendum method of Section 46 is completely inconsistent with rights. It is completely contradictory to the spirit of the charter of rights because it can sweep those rights away at a moment’s notice. If this country were swept by a wave of national emotion—it might last two, three, four or five years, as the Second World War did-the rights of any minority group could be denied very quickly. The will of the majority could be used to take those rights away. This is dangerous and divisive. This is why our amendment, deleting all reference to the referendum as an amending procedure, ought to be supported by all members in this House.
l want to speak for a moment of the virtues of the parliamentary system, as I see it. When I was younger I could not understand why a referendum or a simple ballot was not the best means of making all decisions in our country. But I have learned in my two and a half years here that there is much more to making important decisions than that. There is the important process of doing our homework, of listening to our colleagues from all parts of Canada and of sometimes tempering our strong regional feelings against what other members bring to my caucus or to this House. Often I will change my mind two or three times before I am sure.
The referendum procedure mitigates against all of that soul searching because people make their decisions on the basis of a moment’s whim, a moment’s instinct or a two-week campaign. I suggest that is what is seriously at fault with this proposed referendum method. I believe the notion of consensus and compromise is better. his is what I experience in my caucus, whereby members from all parts of Canada give me a much greater appreciation of what our country is really all about. Their views encourage me to tread more lightly than I might otherwise do, especially when a matter of entering into someone else’s area of jurisdiction is involved.
This is a lesson which is probably more difficult for members opposite to appreciate, because they do not have enough
representation in some parts of the country. As a result, they are not able to sense these important regional feelings which we often try to express from this side of the House. As my good colleague, Senator Tremblay is fond of saying: “The approach of consensus is much more human than the approach of deadlock-breaking mechanisms”, which is how this referendum method is being described.
I believe the government is perpetrating an intentional deceit on minority groups. We often hear from hon. members opposite, for example, the minister for propaganda and others, about the Japanese Canadians. We all sympathize for the way they were mistreated during the Second World War. We hear that they somehow might have been saved from discrimination had this charter of rights been enacted. I say that is rubbish. in a fit of national emotion those rights would be denied one way or the other and the dangers would be even more severe, given the referendum method which is included in this resolution.
Mr. Fleming: What do they say? They say they want it. Ask them.
Mr. McDermid: They had it in the United States and it didn’t do them much good.
Mr. Siddon: It is not beyond the realm of possibility that, given the current climate between western Canada, Alberta in particular, and the national government, a referendum, if this mechanism were in place, could be used to take control of the resources of that province. It could take control of the timber of British Columbia, the uranium of Ontario or the gold and hydroelectric power of Quebec. That is symptomatic of the divisiveness which this referendum device can introduce to our nation. As a person born in Alberta and resident in British Columbia I can tell you; that is where my bottom line would come. If, through a national referendum, there as a vote to deny the people of Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, or any other province their natural birthright, as clearly set out under the Constitution of Canada, hen I would feel this country was no longer worth saving. I say that quite seriously.
We might also see a time when the referendum could be used to deny underprivileged Canadians of the unemployment insurance benefits or of welfare benefits. I would suggest to you that a majority of Canadians, if given that question to answer, would probably sweep those programs away at a moment’s notice. So there is another danger here because a referendum might discriminate against a very significant and important minority group which receives a very important service from this government, such as welfare. We could conceivably have a bad government in Ottawa, as many believe we do at present, which would perpetrate these types of actions upon the people. With the benefit of government advertising this could lead to a situation where the will of majority would sweep away the rights of those important minority groups with which we must concern ourselves.
Let us talk for a moment about the entrenched bill of rights. What should it contain? Should it be simple or complex? Should it be rooted in the system of common law or civil law? Where do the rights of one person end and the rights of the next person begin? These are important questions which have not been clarified. That is why many of us believe the present charter of rights is flawed and premature.
Under the present proposal for a charter of rights, the only rights and freedoms which will exist after the charter becomes law are those which are presently recognized, as set out in Clause 26, and those other rights and freedoms which are clearly delineated in the charter.
This is the civil law approach. It is fraught with danger for minority groups, provinces and all those free individuals and community groups which enjoy certain privileges in this country.
I favour, as I believe most Canadians do, the common law approach, based on a thousand years of history, which grants to every citizen in a free democratic society all the rights in the world, all the rights in the country that they should wish, except in so far as those rights are restricted by law.
All rights are not absolute; of course some of them are. The basic fundamental rights most definitely are; but many of the things we call rights actually lead to areas of conflict. It is a very important principle in every phase of civilization that the rights of every person should in theory end where the rights of the next person begin. That is generally the case for the so-called fundamental rights; rights to freedom of worship, freedom of speech and the others listed under the fundamental rights definition. In reality, however, there will often be an overlap. If there is an overlap, the rights of one person or group will supersede those of another person or group. Then we can ultimately expect discrimination, arguments and ultimately personal conflict because we are setting up various classes of citizenship. I am not suggesting we should not do that in special cases.
I am going to suggest in a moment that affirmative action is important in some cases, but if rights are written down and become too complicated they will lead to trouble. We saw that before the committee, with many special interest groups lining up, wanting to be named in the body of the Constitution.
In cases where special status is perhaps required to redress an imbalance, such as affirmative action for women in the work force, or affirmative action with respect to the use of French language in the House of Commons or in the governments of the land, maybe there is a case for these special rights being accorded. However, we must always remember that if those affirmative action measures ultimately have their desired effect, then one day you will want to eliminate that special status. You will want to do that because you have corrected an inequity, an injustice within society. Such a correction or reversal from special status will be required from time to time and must be accomplished, not by referendum, but by a wise
deliberation in the democratically elected Parliament and legislatures of our land.
The proposed charter of rights will in fact entrench permanent discrimination against certain persons and groups, in perpetuity. Those whose rights are abused; those who are given second-class status by a decision of the courts, must have recourse to review by their democratically elected representatives. There is no other way to ensure justice for them.
This charter of rights would perpetrate second-class citizen- ship upon many Canadians; young and old, men and women with various special interests. Let me give a few examples of rights that come into conflict. There are the rights of smokers and non-smokers in a closed room. There is the question of the rights of the unborn child contained within his or her mother’s womb. Who has the right to life; the mother or the child? Who has the final say?
What about the rights of those who happen to know both our official languages and therefore qualify for a better job? What about the rights of the unilingual person who does not qualify for the better job? Those are rights in conflict. On the use of property, should the owner have the right to obtain the highest and best use of his property or do the neighbours have some interest in that question?
There is the question of environmental concern versus industry, of development; the question of the right to strike versus the right to work. With regard to denominational education, should a teacher be able to insist on teaching in a Roman Catholic school even though he or she may not be a Christian? I say no, of course not! That is what this concept of special status would produce. One way or another a determination by the Supreme Court of Canada would fix and entrench into the future of our country for a long, long time, various degrees of discrimination.
What about the rights of the employer as distinct from the employee? We talk about individual rights. The person who may be alcoholic or have some other personal anomalies may not be viewed as employable by the employer. Should the employer be forced to hire that person? What about landlords versus tenants? Does the landlord have any say over who shall be allowed to rent and occupy his premises? These are examples of rights in conflict.
My assertion is that we need a simple entrenched bill of rights which covers the most fundamental rights, and a subsidiary list of special rights. I would not call them secondary rights, but special rights. We must make a distinction between special rights and these fundamental rights, because special rights are there for a special purpose, that is to right inequities; to give special advantage and status to the handicapped, the native people, women in the work force and the francophone minority in a particular province. They would get special status and special rights, but they would not be entrenched and engraved in stone forever and a day.
There must be a mechanism of flexibility which would allow for those special rights to be altered and adjusted with time so as to eliminate inequity, at the point where the other party becomes second-class. The present charter does not allow for this. It is rigid, inflexible and ambiguous.
I believe that the main elements of our Canadian Bill of Rights, John Diefenbakers’ Bill of Rights as passed in this Parliament some 20 years ago, should form the main body of those fundamental rights which we enjoy in Canada. That Bill of Rights should be entrenched and the Constitution should incorporate the following words:
The Parliament of Canada, 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 men and free institutions;
Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;
It is hereby recognized that the fundamental rights of every person, as clearly set out in the Canadian Bill of Rights include:
—the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;
the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law:
freedom of religion; freedom of speech;
freedom of assembly and association; and
freedom of the press.
Those are the sort of fundamental rights that are unambiguous. Such simplicity will avoid a hornet’s nest and we will not end up creating anomalies in our society, with some people first-class, and others second-class, in perpetuity. I suggest that this government should consider very carefully some of these questions: The abuses to which a referendum can be put, the question of whether or not Canadians are indeed all equal as we pretend they ought to be, and whether the process the present government is following is right and proper.
In closing, I want to observe that one evening in January I was watching a delegation of Metis from northern Saskatchewan as they appeared before the constitutional committee. One of the witnesses, perhaps inadvertently, said “But if we are named in the Constitution, we are going to be singled out in perpetuity as requiring special status and that will guarantee discrimination against us.”
I make that assertion very forcefully this evening. Entrenchment of special status guarantees discrimination. It is not true that the natives all want to see their rights reflected in the Constitution. They want their claims resolved. The Union of B.C.Indian Chiefs has certainly made that clear. It is not true that all Canadians want to have this great gift which the gods across the way are going to give us. They want the kind of standards and values on which our country was founded; respect for God, moral decency, spiritual values and the ability to own property and enjoy freedom.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The Chair will recognize the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) who is seeking to be recognized. That will take place at eight o’clock.
It being seven o’clock, I do now leave the chair until eight o’clock.
At seven o’clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at 8 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. When the House rose at seven o’clock this evening, the Chair had recognized the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle), who had not yet begun his contribution to the debate. Accordingly, I will recognize him again for the full 40 minutes allowed.
Hon. Roch La Salle (Juliette): Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to take this opportunity to take part in this debate which I believe to be vitally important for our country. I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian people are now aware that this debate is of major importance for the future of Canadian federalism. There is every reason to believe that our fellow citizens throughout the country have understood the determining nature of the changes proposed by this government. Up to now, several Quebec members of the government, of course, have spoken in favour of the package deal proposed by the Prime Minister.
For my part, I wanted to take part in this historic debate so that those who follow our proceedings closely may have a true picture of the Quebec reality. I want the dissenting voices of hundreds of thousands of Quebecers to be heard strongly and vigorously in this House. I wish to thank my colleagues of the Progressive Conservative party for allowing me today to accomplish this mission on which I had set my heart. I greatly appreciate this gesture of friendship extended to me and this act of courtesy towards the Quebec people.
I want to make myself quite clear at the outset, Mr. Speaker. I am speaking today not only as the member for Joliette, not only in my new capacity as leader of the Union Nationale Party in Quebec, but first and foremost, I am speaking today in this imposing chamber as a French-speaking Quebecer, a Quebecer who stands by the hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens who reject the resolution proposed by the Liberal government because it goes against their concept of Canadian federalism.
These Quebecers are not only Union Nationale members, Mr. Speaker. Nor are they only from the Parti Québécois. Many of them are very active supporters of the Quebec Liberal party. I believe it is important that Canadians everywhere understand that the opposition of Quebecers, as confirmed by many polls in the last few months, goes beyond traditional party lines. The reason is very simple for anyone willing to see beyond the partisan rut. The proposed resolution of the Liberal government is even worse that the status quo; it is a definite step backward for Quebec society as a whole and a tremendous insult to Quebec federalists. It is quite obvious that the Liberal government wants to claim ownership of the Constitution, This goes against our constitutional traditions.
Canada is not limited to Ottawa. It includes all the provinces. Until further notice, these provinces have sovereign governments in their own jurisdictions. When an amendment to the Constitution changes these exclusive jurisdictions, the provinces must not only be consulted, but they must also give their agreement. This is the true nature of our Canadian federalism. Instead of trying to agree with the provinces, instead of negotiating in good faith with an open mind, the Liberal government seeks confrontation, stirs up division, and successfully moreover, to better impose its centralizing concept of federalism and it narrow vision of the future.
Members opposite submit that the proposed resolution takes nothing away from the provinces. I say that this is not true, Mr. Speaker. First, it directly erodes the exclusive provincial jurisdiction over education and the language of instruction without the consent of a majority of provinces. Because of its distinctive nature as the only Canadian province with a francophone majority, Quebec cannot accept that its jurisdiction in this regard be curtailed in relation to the present status quo.
This evolution goes against the wishes of most Quebecers who have always fought to improve their condition in relation to the status quo. Second, Mr. Speaker, through the charter of rights and freedoms, the proposed resolution threatens to make inoperative about 100 Quebec statutes. At least, this is the legal opinion expressed by a group of Montreal lawyers at the request of the Quebec government. As recently as yesterday, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Chrétien) agreed that this was so. He even suggested that it would be a good thing, as though the statutes involved were necessarily discriminatory, when it is quite possible that they do not comply with the provisions of the charter not because they deny these rights and freedoms, but because they reflect a different concept of their application. Third, the proposed resolution represents a step backward for the provinces because of its unilateral nature.
By moving unilaterally, by moving against the explicit will of eight provinces out of ten, the federal government is dealing a very hard blow to all Quebec federalists, who still believe that our federal system must recognize equal constitutional status to both levels of government. Every political party in Quebec, Mr. Speaker, accepts that principle. Indeed, it is important to note that it was included in the recommendations of the late Pepin-Robarts report. That recommendation reads as follows:
Since we view the provincial governments as equal in stature and maturity to the central government, we have no difficulty in stating that in a restructured, genuinely federal union, the provinces should be recognized as having a constitutional status equal with that of the central government.
Ottawa’s unilateral action, if it passes here and later in London, will give a de facto, if not a legal status, a status of legal seniority to the federal government. That unilateral action will automatically destroy the beautiful dreams of equality of constitutional status between the two levels of government. The dice will be loaded once and for all in favour of Ottawa, and there will be nothing left for the provinces to do but to bite the bullet. And fourth, as if this were not enough, this Liberal government changes its bold stroke into a coup d’Etat. It establishes on a permanent basis unilateral action by the federal Parliament over the heads of provincial legislatures.
In this matter, I come more precisely to the amendment moved by my colleague from Provencher (Mr. Epp), which aims at deleting from the Liberal package the referendum as a permanent means of constitutional change. I wholeheartedly support that amendment. In a British parliamentary system as ours, Parliament is the ultimate expression of the sovereignty of the people. In a federative country like Canada, this sovereignty is also divided between two levels of government. I cannot accept that all of a sudden, without consultation. without previous study, and especially without the agreement of the provincial governments, a procedure such as a referendum be introduced as an ongoing amending formula in order to amend among other things the future division of this sovereignty between both levels of government.
On two occasions, the Liberal government is infringing upon parliamentary sovereignty. First of all, by shifting the responsibility for basic freedoms from the legislative power to the courts. Second, by ignoring the provincial legislatures with regard to constitutional amendments and by consulting the people directly. In addition, with a referendum, the right of veto that can be exercised by a province, whether Quebec or any other one, becomes totally useless. Should this right be exercised, the federal government would still be in a position to give the deadlock of its own making as a pretext pursuant to the rules required by the Canadian Parliament under a statute, to launch a referendum in order to settle the matter.
Let nobody tell me, Mr. Speaker, that the amendment made by the joint committee alters the basic principle of this proposal. The purpose of this amendment is to establish a referendum rules commission with a membership of three, one of them representing the provinces. This does not alter in any way the basic principle, since this commission has no authority to make decisions. Even though the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) may say that those who are opposed to his package deal are stuck in a status quo, no one will take him seriously from now on. Indeed, what he is proposing is worse than the status quo and goes against the concept of federalism now prevailing in Quebec.
Quebecers have understood it, and that is why a majority of them reject the proposed resolution. Mr. Speaker, I say a majority of them. I know that present Quebec members have concealed from the rest of the country the reality of Quebec and the Quebec majority that will not be fooled by the proposal now before us.
An hon. Member: That’s true!
Mr. La Salle: And I wonder why they do not have the courage to tell the Prime Minister to his face and the Canadian people that the majority of Quebecers are against this proposal.
But what I do not understand, Mr. Speaker, is why of the 73 Liberal members from Quebec, only one, the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Duclos) had the courage to stand up and say out loud what he thinks down deep and what several of his colleagues think also. Considering the mood of rejection which prevails in Quebec on this issue, should not those who supposedly represent the opinion of Quebecers have the decency to reflect the mood of the people of Quebec and do so without political partisanship? This issue is too crucial, Mr. Speaker, and will have too much of an impact on Canadian federalism to be confined to the narrow limits of party politics. Is it possible that only two out of 74 members of this House representing Quebec dare say what thousands of their fellow Quebecers think? If so, it is shameful and should be forcefully denounced.
I fully agree with the words of wisdom written by Marcel Pepin, editor of Quebec City’s Le Soleil. This is what this prominent journalist wrote because of the way Liberal members of Parliament appear so powerless and idle:
Liberal members of parliament—
For Quebec of course.
—must fully realize the extent to which they will be stabbing their province in the back by voting for the Liberal proposal. By doing so, they will be enshrining the principle of federal supremacy whereas in a federation all partners are supposed to be equal. Second, they will be endorsing the legitimacy of a unilateral action when the essence of federalism presupposes agreement between the two levels of government. Third, they will be giving the federal government the authority to alter unilaterally the balance of power between Ottawa and the provinces by means of a referendum whose rules would be set by the central government. And finally, they will be allowing the federal government to unilaterally establish the time-frame of an amending formula, The only ones who can stop irreparable damage from being done are the members of Parliament for Quebec. They must be rcminded of their duty and told that their first loyalty is to the people who send them to a parliament which they do not and will never control but which they can still influence.
There is something I would like to ask the members from Quebec. In the last two months I have met thousands of Quebecers and they are concerned because they do not understand why, while you are sitting here, you do not express the views of the majority of Quebecers on this issue. They fully realize that the Prime Minister has decided to create a Canada in his image. But the majority of the Quebec people think that a group of Quebecers could stop this proposal. The greatest service you could do your province and your constituents,
would be to stop this Prime Minister before it is too late, before he completely tears this country apart, this country which is yours and mine. What I am asking my colleagues opposite is to show some courage, of course, and also some honesty and to let their heart speak out. I cannot believe that these 73 Liberal members from Quebec, 72 pardon me, there is one who wants to object to—
An hon. Member: 74!
Mr. La Salle: The member for Lévis is not yet elected. I ask them: Please be sensitive to the interests of the voters in Quebec who sent them here to represent them and not to carry out the dictates of an obsessed Prime Minister who refuses to take into account the Canadian reality. What I ask my Liberal colleagues opposite, Mr. Speaker, is to convince their Prime Minister to immediately return to the bargaining table with the provinces.
Patriation of the Constitution and amending formula, which must of necessity accompany it, must come about through negotiations between equal partners. Never should steps of such vital importance to the country be taken unilaterally as is the case in this instance. That is what Quebec public opinion wants: an opinion that has been expressed not only by the government but also by all political parties in Quebec; an opinion that has been expressed by many editors and renowned constitutional experts; finally, an opinion that has been expressed through a petition signed by over 750,000 persons from all over Quebec.
This, Mr. Speaker, is my last speech in this House as the Progressive Conservative member for the riding of Joliette. As I promised and, of course, as the rules would have it, I shall resign, and this I intend to do when the next provincial election is called. Still, I should like to remind my colleagues from Quebec that some of their speeches have made me very sad; I have read several though not all of them. But I should like to appeal to their sense of honesty and objectivity and ask them to tell this House the truth about Quebec, to tell this House that the Liberals in Quebec do not agree with the Liberals here, so that Canadians might be aware of it. The leader of the Liberal Party, who failed to appear before the Joint Committee on the Constitution of Canada—the committee would have been happy to see him there—went as close as 150 feet from it, where he stated his opposition to the proposal at a press conference, I believe, in which he delivered a message from his fellow-members from Quebec to the effect that the majority of Quebecers refuse to support this unilateral exercise and the idea that we should become a unitarian state.
After 13 years, Mr. Speaker, I could not leave this House without saying also just how sorry I am to realize that the Prime Minister who is leading the country to its demise is responsible, first and foremost, for the tearing apart of Canada, for the rising tide of alienation, not only in Quebec but in other provinces as well. I imagine he says there are still some Quebecers who have been encouraged to expose this unacceptable resolution the results of which will be unfortunate. It can be felt, it can be seen, but the stubbornness of that Prime Minister, and the lack of courage of those people who should reflect the Quebec views—I am referring to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pepin), who was reprimanded for his extremely interesting study which reflected the Canadian reality and recommended remedial measures which, I think, would have solved some of our problems, a study that was shelved in no time flat, so that the Minister of Transport was unable to support and even respect his signature on that extremely important document which recommended solutions to the problems raised by the Constitution of Canada. The Prime Minister snuffed it, and a pity it is, Mr. Speaker. Still, there are people opposite who recognize the great value of that study which we no longer hear about. Instead, there is only the vision of one man, and his concept of an artificial Canada that does not exist, and that never will as the Prime Minister would like to invent it, and we all know that.
As a Quebecer, Mr. Speaker, I am ashamed to ask a foreign government to legislate on my basic rights. This is most shameful. You can laugh, you have been doing that for the past 13 years and you stoop so low as to ask a foreign parliament to do something that you should do yourselves if you were brave enough, but you refrain from acting because you know quite well that it would be difficult to induce most Canadians, through legally established procedures in Canada, to approve the proposal which you are asking a foreign government to support. It is embarrassing, Mr. Speaker.
I hope that some Quebecers—we are not against the patriation of the Constitution nor against an amending formula—we all agree on that. I urge you to patriate them and you will get our support. I urge you to bring them back to Canada and to amend that Constitution with Canadians by Canadians. This is what we are asking you to do.
Miss Bégin: This is what we are doing.
Mr. La Salle: The minister says: “This is what we are doing.” No kidding! This is what we are doing! They say that to the people of Quebec who are unknowingly deceived by such comments, I think that it is sheer madness. I will not say anymore.
An hon. Member: What were you doing on May 20?
Mr. La Salle: On May 20, I felt that you were hypocrites, and I was right, Mr. Speaker. I was standing up for Quebec and rejecting a proposal which suggested what I now feel is a constitutional reform of sorts that is a true reflection of the views of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). I am being thanked for not supporting such a commitment. Moreover, you forget to mention that the leader of the Liberal Party in
Quebec has clearly stated that if he had known that he would be misled as he is now, he would never have chaired the No committee. Those Liberals did not perhaps deserve such a fate and all Canadians should be aware of that.
An hon. Member: What is your position?
Mr. La Salle: Mr. Speaker, for those who are still unaware of my position, I support a principle, the protection of provincial autonomy. My position is clear, I wish to keep my province within a Canadian federation respectful of the aspirations of my province and of provincial aspirations generally, respectful of regional identities and based, and I do not hesitate to say so, on the Pepin-Robarts report. I find in this report some very good recommendations which could bring about this national harmony we are seeking. But it is neither through unilateral action such as the one you are taking, nor with intentions such as those which the Quebec government is entertaining that we will achieve it, but by respecting provincial jurisdictions and favouring a wider provincial participation in major national decisions, by convincing the provinces to co-operate in building this country, working together and not going their separate way as they do now.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to send this message to my fellow Quebecers, and I hope others will oppose such an unacceptable measure. There is one among you who has already done so. Those hon. members were ready to stake their seats on the referendum. Well, let them do so, for this is the way you will secure your seats. The people of Quebec are waiting for you. Mr. Speaker, it is not without emotion that I must bid farewell to my colleagues of the Progressive Conservative Party. I salute also my colleagues on the government and NDP benches, as well as the support staff of the House.
For the past 13 years, Mr. Speaker, my electors in the federal riding of Joliettc have renewed their trust in me.
An hon. Member: It won’t last!
Mr. La Salle: I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for this demonstration of friendship and faith in me. I want to tell them that I am not leaving them. In the contrary, I want to get closer to them to fight for their interests, certainly in a different way, but always with the same dedication, sincerity and enthusiasm. I consider accepting the leadership of a party in Quebec like a new challenge which is not inconsistent with the actions I have taken in the federal political arena over the past 12 years. I feel that it is a normal development, in view of the political climate which has existed in Quebec for the past few years.
I wish to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Clark) for the trust and support he bestowed upon me from the moment he became leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. That man stood out in the minds of several Quebecers and Canadians as an outspoken supporter of provincial rights and of a renewed federalism in keeping with our constitutional traditions and the Canadian reality such as it is experienced today in the various regions of this large country. To me, Mr. Speaker, he will always remain a politician who deserves our respect and admiration.
Mr. Speaker, during the 20 seconds I have left, I appeal once again to all my Quebec colleagues to ponder over the best way to serve their country and their province. Tonight I detected the same old arrogance I have felt for 13 years, and I forgive them before leaving, Mr. Speaker. But that is the kind of feeling which makes it easier to say goodbye to such people. For years I prevailed upon them to join with those who understood the importance of a real constitutional reform which would respect the integrity of the provinces and of the present-day Canadian reality.
I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that a majority in this House will succeed in defeating that diabolical scheme which can only tear this country apart. I hope we are going to revert to a better arrangement, and I trust the British government will understand we want our provinces respected and will not yield to the proposal of this government. I think this will be the most positive action we could take for the Canadian people whatever their languages, whatever their walks of life and I think this will be the greatest gesture we can extend to our provinces, and that it will make it possible for Quebec to retain its place within this confederation, a confederation respectful of the rights of all Canadians, within which Quebec will feel more at ease and very happy.
An hon. Member: As the hon. member for Simcoe-South (Mr. Stewart) said, only one language. Tell that to Quebecers.
Miss Bégin: I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): The hon. Minister of National Health and Welfare on a point of order.
Miss Bégin: Mr. Speaker, would you allow me, as a Quebecer, as a Canadian, on behalf of all of us on this side of the House, perhaps for the benefit of all those in the galleries who sometimes witness our shouting matches and wonder whether our hate for each other is equal to the pitch of our voices, to point out just the same that tonight we have heard the last speech of the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) who will be leaving this House. After all, the task of all members on both sides of the House is thankless, and whatever we may think, sometimes we get carried away, but one can impute to other members but one motive for their actions, namely that once elected, they came here to do their best for all those who voted for them. I would like to urge all my colleagues to join with me in wishing the hon. member for Joliette all the best, not in his political life, because I cannot go that far, but in his private life.
Mr. Cousineau: Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) allow a question from the hon. member for Gatineau?
Mr. La Salle: Certainly!
Mr. Cousineau: Instead of criticizing the Quebec members who are fighting for bilingualism in this country, does the hon. member for Joliettc intend to reject and dissociate himself from the position taken by the hon. member for Simcoe South (Mr. Stewart) in his speech last Tuesday?
Mr. La Salle: I am pleased to answer that the hon. member did not fight against bilingualism. He discussed the manner in which it has been implemented. There are always two ways to implement something. l have read the hon. member’s speech. He condemned the manner in which bilingualism has been implemented not its principle.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order!
Mr. Andre: Go drown in the Gatineau River.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): It would be much easier for the Chair to—
An hon. Member: The only thing you want from Quebec is their vote. That’s all you want.
Mr. Andre: Why don’t you ask Jack Horner his view, you jerk?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order. It would be much easier for the Chair to recognize hon. members who, if they wish to speak, might stand up.
Mr. Forrestall: Do you want me to stand up?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): If the hon. member wants to be recognized, he should learn to stand up. I intend to now recognize the hon. member for Brandon-Souris (Mr. Dinsdale) unless l have a point of order. The hon. member for Dartmouth-Halifax East (Mr. Forestall) on a point of privilege.
Mr. Forrestall: Mr. Speaker, one wonders what it is that this House is all about when, on the eve of an hon. member’s distinguished career in this House, when he is making his last comments to this assembly, we witness a cheap, cheap, low question such as that posed by the hon. member opposite, among witnesses.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker): Order, please. Now the difficulty grows because, if the hon. member has found some fault with comments that have been made by a member on the other side, then I am sure the other side can easily find fault with comments being made now. Perhaps we can settle it in the following fashion:
I am reasonably sure that everybody wishes the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) a brilliant career and a long and happy life, as others have already said.
That is sufficiently non-political, to wish the hon. member well.
Mr. Nostrum: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to join with the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Miss Begin) in wishing all the best to my good friend Roch La Salle who has just made his last speech in this House. I have known the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle) for a long time. He was elected to this House in 1968 along withNostrum mc and many others. He was re-elected in the next five general elections. The hon. member for Joliette has always been strongly motivated and strong—minded and l want to wish him, on behalf of all New Democrats and on my own behalf, great success in his private life. We have been friends ever since we were elected to the Canadian Parliament, that is almost thirteen years ago.
Hon. W. G. Dinsdale (Brandon-Souris): Mr. Speaker, I begin my remarks tonight following those of the distinguished member for Joliette (Mr. La Salle). I think the members of this party view his departure with a certain degree of poignancy and regret, because he has been the “Lone Ranger”, if I may use a western expression, and we have been able to make the proud boast that the party of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has been represented in every province and in the territories, from sea to sea. With the departure of the hon. member, we can no longer make that claim. However, I am sure that in the days ahead, after we have overcome the madness that has generated this divisive debate, there will come a time when the people of the province of Quebec will come back to that old blue party. the party of confederation; the Conservative Party which made confederation happen and which now is engaged in the most critical debate in respect of the continuation of this nation, from sea to sea, we have ever experienced.
In my 30 years in Parliament, this has been the most extraordinarily confusing debate. It is the first time I have faced a government which is doing everything possible to divide the nation. It is beyond understanding why they should pursue this divisive course.
I sat under Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, who had the image of the father of the nation, so much so that he was known as “Uncle Louis”; what a contrast between Uncle Louis and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau).
I sat under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who initiated the policy of cooperative federalism, and when everything possible was done to make this country, which historically has been a difficult nation to govern, function as a united nation from sea to sea. I sat under Lester Pearson, who carried on that same spirit of cooperative federalism; and then, more
recently, the right hon. member who led the Conservative government for a short period.
It is a puzzling circumstance which finds me taking part in this debate, and I want to spend the time l have tonight trying to impress upon hon. members opposite that if they persist in this course, they will completely fracture this nation.
It would be different if the government had a mandate and a power base that was representative of the country; but this government has no such mandate. During the recent runoff election in 1980, not one word was mentioned about constitutional affairs. lt was sort of a peek-a-boo, Goldfarb oriented election, where the main concern was keeping the leader of the Liberal party out of sight. ln 1979, large areas of Canada had voted the Liberal Party out of office because of the right hon. gentleman’s increasing unpopularity. So we have a government which has no mandate, its power is located in the two central provinces, using that power to force a constitution through Parliament that is opposed by 64 per cent of the people of Canada-by eight provinces—and what is most important, by the four western provinces and two territories.
As a matter of fact the two territories are not even mentioned in the Constitution. They are going to remain in a state of limbo. Their problem is to get into confederation, not to get out of it. The government is going to endeavour to enshrine in the Constitution the domination of this power base, Quebec and Ontario, in the Canadian body polilique in perpetuity because of the veto power of the Victoria amending formula.
I think you will understand, Mr. Speaker, why the feeling of alienation in western Canada has been growing by leaps and bounds. Just before I came into the House tonight I was reading the Brandon Sun from my home town. The city of Brandon and western Manitoba never succumbed to all the problems of alienation there were in the early thirties with the party splintering, that saw the emergence of the CCF movement in Saskatchewan and the emergence of the Social Credit movement in Alberta. My own particular bailiwiek in Manitoba never succumbed to that feeling of alienation. When l came to this House the CCF was known as “the crazy Canadian farmers” because it was part of this western agrarian protest.
An hon. Member: And the Progressives.
Mr. Dinsdale: The Progressives were earlier, in the twenties. I am referring to the thirties. The Progressives was a party of the twenties if we want an historic reference.
Last Thursday evening in the city of Brandon 750 people attended a meeting of West-Fed in the Keystone Centre. I would be lucky to get a hundred people out to a meeting, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. MacLaren: That is easy to understand!
Mr. Dinsdale: I want to tell the hon. member that even when the Prime Minister was out there two weeks ago he did not get that size audience either. The article in the Brandon Sun on February 27, reads in part:
During his speech, Mr. Knutson was interrupted several times by applause from the enthusiastic audience, one of the largest crowds he said he has drawn while criss-crossing western Canada in the one year since West-Fed was formed as a separatist movement.
I want to inform the hon. member for Etobicoke North (Mr. MacLaren) who is from central Canada and does not appreciate the degree of alienation rampant in western Canada at the present time, that what the government he supports—
Mr. MacLaren: I am from Vancouver!
Mr. Dinsdale: —is contemplating through its unilateral action to force a constitution over the united protests of the four provinces will contribute in a special way to the growing alienation in western Canada.
I do not know why the Prime Minister is doing this. Perhaps he anticipates what is going to happen should his Constitution pass by the use of his central Canadian based majority. He is already behaving as if Canada were a unitary state. What would happen if unitary-statism were ever imposed on the Constitution? It causes one to shudder.
The present critical imbalance of power resulted from thrusting Canada into an election six months after the people had voted for a change. The inevitable result was to split the country right down the middle. As all hon. members know, there are no government representatives west of the Red River. It is not the first time the Liberal Party has used the divide and conquer formula. lt was used by the late Right Hon. Mackenzie King. He managed to keep his Upper Canada and Lower Canada power base pretty well intact during most of his long reign.
A moment ago l referred to the splintering of parties in Canada during the thirties. An hon. member seated behind me asked, “What about the Progressives of the 1920s?” lt is not a happenstance that all the protest parties, all the splinter parties have had their origin in western Canada. During the twenties, thirties and forties it was possible to play these divisive political games without threatening to destroy Canada as a federal state because finance, industry and population were concentrated in the golden horseshoe area of Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor. This is no longer true. Economic power has moved to western Canada. Unfortunately, political power remains in Ontario and Quebec. The unilateral action of the Prime Minister who has changed the rules in the middle of the game, is designed to ensure that it will remain there forever.
It is not a coincidence, for example, that in the two-pronged attack on western Canada, almost the same vehemence is given to the government’s support of the National Energy Program and that will make it possible for the central government to invade the economic prerogatives of western Canada.
The Prime Minister moves unilaterally, using his majority based in central Canada. Unfortunately, at the present time the numbers in the other place support him, although it is encouraging to note that some very responsible voices in that other place have been heard to warn against the foolishness of unilateral action of this kind. It is becoming increasingly clear from the debates in this House, and reports in the newspapers, exactly what the Prime Minister is doing to Canada.
In a recent visit to British Columbia the message was made abundantly clear. A front page story in the Ottawa Citizen under the byline by Iain Hunter, national editor, put that situation in focus. In part the article said:
Prime Minister Trudeau admitted Thursday he is dividing Canadians by pushing through his constitutional reforms. He’s not sorry about it, he declared—in some cases he finds it ‘exhilarating.’
How can a national leader find a fundamental division in Canada exhilarating? In my experience in the House up to this time, I have observed that the main purpose of a prime minister has been to find the modus vivendi, some common ground, so that the process of reconciliation can go on, rather than the process of divisiveness. The newspaper article goes on:
Trudeau told more than 200 cheering Liberal supporters—
The hon. member for Etobicoke North referred to the 100 that came out to cheer me. I do not know whether or not there are any more than 200 Liberals in British Columbia. The story goes on:
Trudeau told more than 200 cheering Liberal supporters here that if the country breaks apart in five or 50 years because of his unilateral action to patriate the Constitution with an entrenched charter of rights and his own amending formula—
I am quoting now from the press article:
—”then I say it wasn’t worthy of living another day”.
In other words, “après moi, le déluge—lf I don’t get my way, the country is not worth saving.”
I have heard of other political leaders in fascist countries who have expressed almost the same thought. I propound the question, why would a national leader deliberately want to create division in Canada? It has taken us a long time to reach the point of unity out of the diversity that we have at the present time. It has resulted from a spirit of tolerance and good will.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. BIaker): Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but, as he may know, under the extended hours provisions of the House order we are expected at this time to proceed to private members’ business.
It being nine o’clock, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members’ business as listed on today’s Order Paper, namely, notices of motions, private bills and public bills.