Canada, Senate Debates, “Ontario—Bilingualism”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (15 January 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 1521-1525.
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SENATE DEBATES — January 15, 1981
Hon. L. Norbert Thériault: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government, because the Standing Orders do not allow me to direct it to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, although it deals with what I would call the need to recognize the French fact in Canada. So that my English-speaking colleagues may better understand. I shall put it in English.
Honourable senators, my question arises from a headline in the Montreal Gazette of this morning and an article published
in Le Devoir which states that four M.P.s from Quebec have decided to try to meet with the Premier of Ontario in order to see if the premier will live up to a commitment he made last year at the time of the referendum in the province of Quebec. Apparently, at that time and at some other time, he stated that he was prepared to have section 133, as it applies to the rights of French-speaking people in Ontario, recognized.
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate use his good offices in discussion with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to ascertain whether some of his colleagues— English-speaking colleagues, especially—in this house and from the other place wish to join with these four M.P.s in waiting on Mr. Davis to have him change his mind?
Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government): Certainly, the matter will be considered, honourable senator.
Hon. Lowell Murray: By way of a supplementary, would the leader agree that a far more effective course to take would be to get the first ministers back to the negotiating table?
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, if the opposition party in this chamber believes that it has some influence with Premier William Davis—who, after all, is the Conservative premier of the largest province in Canada—it seems to me that a constructive action would be for them to make their views known directly to the Premier of Ontario. Certainly, the official opposition in this chamber is in a unique position to advance its views on this subject of language rights.
Hon. Jacques Flynn (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order, I think it is quite clear where our party stands, and I am quite sure that Mr. Davis knows this.
Senator Perrault: May I urge the Leader of the Opposition to re-emphasize the views of his party on the subject? There seems to be a substantial difference of opinion between two outstanding Conservative premiers, Mr. Hatfield of New Brunswick and Mr. Davis of Ontario, and perhaps the representatives in this chamber of the great Conservative Party can eliminate all doubt in their minds by scheduling a meeting with Mr. Davis.
Senator Flynn: In any event, still on the point of order, it was the government and Mr. Trudeau who agreed not to impose section 133 on Mr. Davis in order to get his support.
Senator Perrault: I take it, then, that the Leader of the Opposition is proposing that language rights be imposed on every province in Canada, which is, again, a position at variance with the representations made by Conservative representatives on the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution.
Senator Flynn: I am only pursuing the matter raised by Senator Thériault. The Leader of the Government should not try to stand on both sides of the question. He can speak from both sides of his mouth, but he cannot defend both sides of the same issue.
Senator Perrault: The Conservative Party has been quite successful in speaking on both sides of this question.
Senator Flynn: Wrong again.
Senator Perrault: When one looks at the pronouncements made by Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Davis, and at statements made on one side or the other by certain other Conservative premiers in this nation—
Senator Flynn: The federal Conservative Party speaks with one voice.
Senator Perrault: I am on my feet, and the honourable senator should have learned the rules by now. One does not rise, as one would on a Friday night at the fights, in an attempt to engage in combat when another senator is on his feet.
The senator’s question was asked in perfectly good faith. He has a point of view which he would like to see advanced in certain political chambers in this country—specifically, in this case, in the office of the Honourable William Davis.
The Leader of the Opposition is a Conservative, and a passionate Conservative at that. Surely, he must feel he has certain rights with respect to Mr. Davis, and communication with Mr. Davis may be of some interest to that premier.
Senator Flynn: On a point of order, I think the Leader of the Government is again confused and is seeking to confuse others. The Conservative Party of Ontario speaks for itself; the federal Conservative Party speaks for itself; Mr. Trudeau speaks as the leader of the federal Liberal Party; and Mr. Ryan, the leader of the Liberal Party in Quebec, does not share the views expressed by Mr. Trudeau.
When I speak for the federal Conservative Party I speak only for that party. Mr. Davis can take whatever stance he wants; thatiis his own business. Mr. Hatfield can do the same; Mr. Ryan can do the same, except that he does not have the courage to come out cleanly against the constitutional package presented by the government.
Senator Perrault: Let the Leader of the Opposition be fair, and let him be frank. The leader of the Liberal Party of the province of Quebec suggested that it would be wrong to impose those language requirements on any Canadian province. The Government of Canada stated that it regretted very much the Province of Ontario reversing its position on this matter, but stated that it was not prepared at this time to impose language requirements on any Canadian province.
Senator Flynn: On Quebec.
Senator Perrault: In the case of the province of New Brunswick, the premier of that province stated emphatically that he wanted this language requirement entrenched.
Senator Thériault: Honourable senators, I am learning every day what a point of order is in this chamber, by listening to the Leader of the Opposition. However, I have a supplementary question to put to the Leader of the Government, based on the answers that I expected this house to receive through the Leader of the Opposition.
I was really hoping that the senator from Ontario who sits in this house—who has been a resident of New Brunswick for three years and knows what importance the French-speaking
people of New Brunswick and Quebec attach to this question-might use his good offices, as a senator from Ontario, to approach the Premier of Ontario on this matter.
Senator Murray: It is suggested that the Government of Canada get the provincial premiers back to the negotiating table, and I feel that that is a far more effective course than sending four backbenchers to Toronto airport to ambush the Premier of Ontario, or anybody else.
Hon. H. A. Olson (Minister of State for Economic Developtnent): That’s a terrible comment.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, that truly is a dreadful comment to be made by one of the leading strategists of the Conservative Party of Canada whose mentor is Mr. Joseph Clark, the leader of the Conservative Party.
Senator Flynn: Why do you say that?
Senator Perrault: This mentor certainly would be offended hy a statement of that kind. Those four members are not being sent to Toronto by any level of government. They are acting as members of a parliament, in their own right, who have decided to make representations to one of the provincial premiers. For the honourable senator to frame his remarks in that style is teally most destructive and not to his credit.
Senator Flynn: They are being sent by the Liberal caucus because it is unhappy with the present situation.
Hon. Orville H. Phillips: I have a question to put to the leader of the Government in the Senate. I wonder if he, Senator Thériault and other supporters interested in bilingualism in Ontario would call on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to persuade them to include this in the legislation. After all, it is the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice who are introducing this legislation in this Parliament; it is not the Premier of Ontario.
Senator Perrault: The position of the government is clear: the government will not impose it. May I suggest to the honourable senator that he use his persuasive abilities to encourage Conservative representatives on the special joint committee to be more forthcoming, and, furthermore, that he contact the Premier of Ontario, who is one of his great Conservative allies, to see if he can convince him to live up to the commitment he made a few months ago?
Senator Phillips: I have been using my persuasive powers on the Leader of the Government in the Senate for some time, with very little effect. I do not think I have any persuasive powers left to use on the Premier of Ontario.
Senator Murray: Honourable senators, I was going to ask a question on another matter, but if Senator Roblin has a supplementary, I will defer to him.
Hon. Duff Roblin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I should like to draw the attention of this house to the nature of the government’s policy on this matter, because I think it requires some explanation. We were told by the Minister of Justice yesterday that it was not the policy of the government to impose section 133 on the Province of Ontario. He went on to challenge the committee, by their action, to impose section 133 on the Province of Ontario. He stated that if the committee did so he would support it.
I ask honourable senators what the government’s policy is in this respect. That is what the Minister of Justice told us yesterday. He does not want to be regarded as the person committing the act, but apparently he is willing to be regarded as an accessory after the fact. That is the situation that was presented to us in the committee the other day, and you can see the headlines in the newspapers which reflect that. The minister said, “I won’t do it”; but he said to the committee, “You should do it, and if you do, I will support it.”
Now, what is the government policy in that respect?
Senator Perrault: Well, of course, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is again engaging in unparliamentary language.
Senator Flynn: Oh!
Senator Perrault: To attack a minister for a statement made in a joint committee without the statement being available to all members of this place in its entirety, and without the minister being here to defend himself, is most unparliamentary. It flies in the face of a ruling which was made on November 13, as follows:
A question, oral or written must not seek information about proceedings in a committee which has not yet made its report to the House.
We are getting into a statement made by the minister to that committee. You have ascribed to him what I suggest are incorrect motives, and you have construed that statement in a style which is totally contrary to what the minister was attempting to say.
Senator Flynn: How do you know? You haven’t got the text in front of you.
Senator Perrault: There is no mystery about the position that the government is taking on this.
Senator Flynn: You do not have the text—
Senator Perrault: Honourable senator, would you mind sitting down.
Senator Flynn: Come on; that’s enough!
Senator Perrault: Would you sit down. For the Conservative Party, which has placed itself in a very dishonourable position in this entire issue-
Senator Flynn: You are in no position to speak of anyone else’s being dishonourable—
Senator Perrault:—to attempt to place blame for this position on the government—
Senator Flynn: You are misleading the house.
Senator Perrault:—is most unworthy of that great party, and is certainly unparliamentary.
The fact is that this government commended the Government of Ontario months ago for stating that, voluntarily, they
would subscribe to the notion that language rights be enshrined in the courts and in these other matters. The Province of Ontario, for policy reasons known to itself, has changed its position, and the government states that it is not going to impose this on the Province of Ontario.
If there were an attempt by the Government of Canada to impose these language requirements on the Province of Ontario, the opposition would be up on their feet screaming about unilateral action by a national government contrary to the interests of provincial governments, and so on.
Here is the opposition, which in recent weeks has interminably been stating that provincial rights are not being taken into account, that there is an attempt by the national government to circumvent the legitimate rights of provincial governments, today asking, “Why doesn’t the national government. impose this on the Province of Ontario?”
Senator Flynn: Senator Thériault said that. Stop distorting everything.
Senator Perrault: This is what the substance of—
Senator Flynn: You are completely out of order. I rise on a point of order.
Senator Perrault: Sit down.
Senator Flynn: I rise on a point of order.
An Hon. Senator: Sit down.
Senator Flynn: You are making a speech, and this is not the proper time to make it. You are making a speech, and you are entirely out of order.
Senator Perrault: That is not a point of order at all.
Senator Thériault: Honourable senators, I rise on a point of order—
Senator Flynn: There is one point of order already before His Honour the Speaker. Once that is disposed of, you can then rise on your point of order.
Senator Thériault: Who said there was a point of order?
Senator Flynn: I rose on a point of order, and I want His Honour the Speaker to decide whether the comments made by the Leader of the Government are proper at this time. If you have a point of order, you can raise it afterwards.
Senator Thériault: I rise on a point of order with respect to a statement you made in your point of order. You got up and said that I stated something which I did not state. That is my point of order.
Senator Flynn: When I rose on my point of order, I criticized only what the Leader of the Government was saying, not what you said.
Senator Thériault: Look at the record.
Senator Flynn: You can look at the record.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like things to come back to normal. If you want to know, according to my estimates, our rules have been disregarded at least 15 times since this discussion was initiated. In any case, I will not rule on this point of order and I would like us to go on in a more proper manner.
Senator Roblin: A quiet and humble word in self-defence, honourable senators. My honourable friend, the Leader of the Opposition, I think on reflection and on reading Hansard, will agree with me—
Senator Perrault: Leader of the Government.
Senator Roblin: I am sorry, the Leader of the Government. I apologize. The wish is father to the thought. That is obvious enough. I think that once he reads in Hansard what I said, he will agree with me that I really did not propose the unilateral imposition of language rights on the Province of Ontario, or on anybody else. I did not propose that, and I think that on looking over Hansard he might agree that that is so.
Senator Perrault: Perhaps I am confused, then. Mr. John Fraser, the member of Parliament from British Columbia, advanced that idea of imposition, then. I could be wrong.
Senator Flynn: Irrelevant again.
Senator Roblin: It is perfectly true that various members had various things to say, but I happen to be speaking for myself.
As to my friend’s point that I indulged in dishonourable conduct—I think that was his expression—I am not going to challenge that as being unparliamentary. If my honourable friend wishes to think that, it is no use my trying to disabuse him of that notion. I certainly do not intend to act in a dishonourable manner. However, I would say to my honourable friend that if he will take the trouble to read the committee proceedings tomorrow, I think he will find that my description of what went on there is not inaccurate. While it may be that in the heat of the committee proceedings the minister said things that he perhaps would like to change later on—and he has the right to do so—he did leave that impression with me, and I think if my honourable friend will read the committee proceedings he will find that I am not too far off the mark.
So, in that respect I think I have given the Senate correct information on the matter, and I would not like to be accused of improper conduct in that respect.
Senator Perrault: The point that I think is rather essential here is that it is improper for members of this chamber to discuss deliberations in the other place to which we have not had direct access, and to ascribe motives to a minister when he is not here to defend himself. I suggest that that is unparliamentary.
Senator Flynn: There are no motives.
Senator Perrault: The ruling that we received on November I3, when a question was asked about the limits of discussion on this matter in the Senate—and perhaps I should quote again the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. It was as follows:
Honourable senators, now that we are blessed with the presence of Senator Hays, the Joint Chairman of what I suppose I can call the Constitution Committee, I wonder if I could ask him to inform the Senate of the main decisions taken at this morning’s meeting, and whether they are positive or negative.
This is similar. This is a discussion about what transpired in that joint committee yesterday.
I quote from the Speaker’s ruling of November I3:
Whereupon the Honourable Senator Frith raised a point of order based on citation 357, paragraph (1) sub-paragraph (hh) of Beauchesne’s, Fifth Edition, found at page 130, which reads as follows:
A question, oral or written must not seek information about proceedings in a committee which has not yet made its report to the House.
Senator Flynn: Look at the decision given by the Speaker. Look at it!
Senator Perrault: Honourable senator, you have conducted yourself like a third-rate carnival barker this afternoon—
Senator Flynn: But in your company, it doesn’t show.
Senator Perrault: Would you please maintain your decorum. I urge you to do so.
May I suggest that on page 1216 there are words which should be helpful to all of us on the question of how appropriate it is to discuss the events in a committee—
Senator Phillips: I am sure that the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate will realize that the rules apply to him, too. I am thinking of his reference to the remarks made by the Honourable John Fraser.