Canada, Senate Debates, “Meeting of Canadian Cabinet Ministers with British Prime Minister”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (28 October 1980)

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Date: 1980-10-28
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1980 at 981-982.
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SENATE DEBATES — October 28, 1980


[Page 981]


Hon. Martial Asselin: Honourable senators, I would like to put a question to the government leader. When the two ministers of the federal government, Mr. Roberts and Mr. MacGuigan, went to London to meet with representatives of the British government, was there during the discussions a recommendation made by the British Prime Minister to the effect that the Address presented by the Parliament of Canada would be acceptable if the said Address did not contain a Charter of Rights?


Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, I must take that question as notice. As far as my understanding goes, I do not know whether that was discussed.


Hon. Duff Roblin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I should like to ask the Leader of the Government in this house a question in connection with the statement made last night by the Premier of Saskatchewan, in which he indicated several factors of concern to him in the present constitutional package, and on which he expressed an opinion that varied somewhat from the policy so far laid down. Is it the intention of the Government of Canada to respond publicly to Mr. Blakeney’s initiatives in this respect.

Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government): That question will be taken as notice.


Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have some information that has just been handed to me with respect to the situation in the United Kingdom, at least in partial answer to Senator Asselin‘s previous question.

No United Kingdom minister has ever requested Canada to modify the substance of its constitutional package, It is inconceivable that the United Kingdom government, given its respect for the constitutional conventions between our two Parliaments, would do so. ln fact, only yesterday Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, con?rmed in the House ot” Lords that there is no change in the constitutional position of the United Kingdom government: that it would be in accordance with precedent for the United Kingdom government to introduce in the United Kingdom Parliament, and for Parlia-

[Page 982]

ment to enact, legislation complying with a Canadian request to patriate.

Senator Asselin: Patriate? And amend?

Hon. G. I. Smith: I should like to ask the Leader of the Government a question which l suppose might be considered supplementary to that. I have in my hand what is purported to be a quotation from the Manchester Guardian of yesterday. I am sure the Leader of the Government will agree with me that that is one of the more respected newspapers in the United Kingdom. It reports a senior minister of the United Kingdom government as saying:

—“that if the present discussions with Mr. Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Government failed to persuade the Canadians to withdraw their request for a Bill of Rights, there would be a major hold-up in legislation planned for the new parliamentary session.”

“It could wreck the whole thing,” the minister is quoted as saying.

Senator Thompson: What is the name of the minister?

Senator Smith: I am just quoting what is in the report that I have before me. My question is simply whether or not this report has come the attention of the government, and whether they believe there is anything valid in the alleged quotation.

Senator Perrault: Perhaps the Honourable Senator Smith would be willing to provide us with the name of the unnamed minister, if he has that information. We would be glad to know that as well.

Senator Smith: I would do so gladly if I had it. I was merely quoting what is alleged to have appeared in the Manchester Guardian. I would be glad to send it across io the Leader of the Government.

Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, I am aware of the article. The Guardian article was by an anonymous writer, purporting to have had a conversation with an anonymous minister, and I question the value of interviews of that quality. However, it can be said that no minister of the British Crown has ever asked this country to modify the substance of its constitutional package.

Senator Flynn: Not as yet.


Senator Asselin: Honourable senators, I would like to point out to the Leader of the Government that perhaps we should also question the comments made by the CBC reporter in London who yesterday repeated the same story and the same iaets, namely that ministers of the British government had indicated that if the resolution included a charter of rights that part of the resolution might be sent back and they would simply patriate the Constitution with or without amendment.


Senator Perrault: It may be helpful, honourable senators, if some of these reports were to quote the names of the ministers in question, and if in fact, the ministers holding these views, say whether they are prepared to state them publicly. Nothing of that kind has been said in any conversations with Canadian officials or ministers. I think that all members of the Senate and of the other place, and Canadians generally, would resent very much an attempt by another Parliament to frustrate efforts by Canadians to patriate their Constitution.

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