The 1987 Constitutional Accord – Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Testimony
The 1987 Constitutional Accord
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Thank you very much, gentlemen. It was an excellent presentation. We appreciate your contribution to our deliberations.
We are going to rise for one hour. We will start promptly at 6.30 p.m.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, our next witness is the Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau. I want to extend to you. Mr. Trudeau, a very warm welcome. We are looking forward very much to your contribution to our deliberations.
The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Individual Presentation): Mr. Chairman. ladies and gentlemen, first I want to thank you for having invited me. I appreciate the occasion of presenting my ideas.
As I told you, Mr. Chairman, I am not going to submit a brief. As you say, my ideas are generally known as regards the Constitution. so I will briefly go through the various objections I have to the Meech Lake and Langevin Block accords, and then I would be happy to submit to questions or whatever discussion ensues.
I do not have much to read. but I did want to start with a quote.
I will therefore begin by quoting two of the most brilliant parliamentarians Canada has ever known. Edward Blake, some half-dozen years after the beginning of Confederation, said:
The future of Canada depends very largely upon the cultivation of a national spirit. We must find some common ground on which to unite, some common aspiration to be shared, and I think it can be found alone in the cultivation of that national spirit to which I have referred.
And, almost half a century later, the great Henri Bourassa, observed that there was, in Canada, a distinctive patriotism among people living in Ontario, another in Quebec, and yet another among Westerners. But, he said, there is no Canadian patriotism; and as long as we have no Canadian patriotism, there will be no Canadian nation.
Essentially, Mr. Chairman, I propose to assess the various provisions of the accord in light of those two quotations—in the light of what Bourassa called Canadian patriotism and what Blake called the national spirit. . . Of course, the expression “Canadian patriotism”, and even more so “provincial patriotism” may seem a little passe these days, but I do not believe I am misinterpreting them if I say that what they had in mind was that there must be,
in relation to one’s country, one’s nation and ones people, a greater loyalty than the sum of the loyalties towards the provinces. In other words, there is a Canadian common good that broadens in a way the common good of each of the provinces. There must be some sense of belonging in order to cultivate the national spirit; there must be an attachment to the larger entity we call Canada—an attachment somewhat less sentimental, more rational and broader than just loyalty to each of the individual provinces. In short, they, as I see it, wanted the “Canadian entity” to be more than simply the sum of all the provinces.
Having said that, I would just like to remind the members of the committee of the assessment made by the actual observers, including the First Ministers. the day after the accords were reached. There was talk of massive or extensive decentralization, of the accord representing the greatest victory for the provinces since Confederation—and even before that, in 200 years; and particularly in provincial quarters, much was made of the fact that this represented—and here I use the word employed by Bourassa—a “triumph” for provincial patriotism. But I believe it is more than a triumph for provincial patriotism.
In my view, and I began by looking at three of the amendments—the proposed changes strike at what is, in a way, the very essence of the Canadian federation. They undermine the three fundamental components of any modern democratic state: executive power, legislative power and the judiciary.
They undermine and eat away at our Canadian sovereignty, in a way, by submitting these three fundamental arms or divisions of the modern state to a kind of remote Control by the provinces. Finally, in the case of the legislature, our Canadian Parliament is of course made up two legislative bodies. the Senate and the House of Commons, the House of Commons being an elected body, and the Senate one, up until now, appointed by the federal government. Henceforth, members of the Senate will have to have been nominated by the provinces. In other words, the national government, our Canadian state, loses its ability to choose those who will sit in one of our legislative chambers, both of which, as we well know, are absolutely essential for the passage of all legislation. A veto by the Senate, commandeered by the provinces, which, in a way, are assured the loyalty of their senators, would be enough to ensure that no federal legislation could be passed.
The mechanism for the Supreme Court is the same; only those nominated by the provinces will be appointed to that body. So, once again, provincial governments will be exercising remote control over a body which, thus far. has been entirely the responsibility of the federal government; the Accord transfers that aspect of federal sovereign power to the provinces.
Thirdly, in the case of the executive. we note that there will henceforth be two federal-provincial conferences held annually from now until eternity, as long as Canada remains a nation; a conference on the Constitution and constitutional affairs in general; another on economic and other matters. These federal-provincial conferences are, per se, a good thing in a federation. But to have two per year forced on us by the Constitution itself, particuarly in the light of what happened at Meech Lake and in the Langevin building, and what has been announced for the federal-provincial conference to be held next year. leads us to believe that what we will have is a Prime Minister speaking on Canada’s behalf, and ten premiers speaking on behalf of their individual provinces. So, either it will be 10 against 1, in which case, the odds are that the weight of the majority will be enough to bring even the most courageous federal Prime Minister onside; or else we will have a sort of directory lording it over our federal and provincial Parliaments.
But let us not forget that the legislatures, the provincial executive bodies, will continue to be completely autonomous in governing their own affairs. There is in fact an interprovincial conference held every year where provincial premiers meet. The federal government is never invited to those meetings, because the provinces do not in fact want the federal government to come and stick its nose in provincial affairs. However, the reverse will not be true because of this new amendment.
So, once again, these three amendments weaken—I can find no other appropriate term-federal sovereign power. And certainly, it is glaringly obvious that in no way do they point in the direction that Bourrassa referred to, when he spoke of Canadian patriotism; they are certainly not likely to cultivate the national spirit without which, Bourrassa and Blake felt, there could be no Canadian nation.
Apart from the arguments suggesting that Canada is moving towards of a kind of community of communities, a sort of confederation or directory of 11 First Ministers getting together to try and determine what direction the entire country—not just the provinces, but the entire country—should take, there are four amendments whose specific aim is to work very strongly in favour of provincialism.
Let us begin with the amendment on immigration. Canadians who have come from other countries arrive here, I believe—at least the majority—wanting to become part of a great country called Canada. Henceforth, because of the constitutional accords, they will be in a position to be received by any of the provinces, and certainly will be, at the beginning, by one particular province interested in integrating these immigrants and having them establish themselves there.
Let us just take the example of the Province of Quebec. It is this province that lobbied most to have this
amendment made. The Province of Quebec, by its own statutes, recognizes one official language, the French language. Our Canadian laws recognize two official languages in section 16 of the Charter, English and French; those are the official languages of Canada.
I do not think one has to stretch one’s imagination much to see that provincial officials will be inclined to tell immigrants that they are living in a province where there is only one official language, in a country where there are in fact two; but the Province of Quebec, which constitutes a distinct society—and I will go into that further later on—is different. I am not saying they will be taught nonsense, or that this is a sin; I am simply saying that it seems quite clear the notion of provincial patriotism will become stronger. The same will apply to Newfoundland and British Columbia, minus that linguistic difference.
Certainly, there are provincial officials who will no longer be subject to the federal government’s overview. . . that is another thing that must be stressed with respect to these amendments. They are taking us in a direction from which there will be no turning back. These are not simply administrative arrangements of which there have been so many since the beginning of our Confederation. Nor are they statutory agreements, of which there have also been many and because of which, throughout a certain period of our history, the pendulum swung towards a greater centralization, as was the case during the war and post-war periods; at other times, the pendulum swung towards greater decentralization. And that has certainly been the case in Canada since at least 1955 or 1960, I would say; for administrative and sometime statutory reasons, we have been moving towards increased power for the provinces since that time. We have only to compare federal and provincial budget estimates to realize that.
And there will be no turning back; once these amendments have been ratified, the provinces, with their provincialist views. . . there will be a price to pay. Once again, this is not necessarily a criticism of the provincial premiers; it is their job to try and get more powers, more money, more jurisdiction and what have you for their provinces. All politicians—and you are politicians—think they can govern better than anyone else; provincial politicians are no exception. So, the more they can grab for themselves, the more we see provincialism developing at the expense of what Bourrassa called national patriotism, without which, he said, there could be no Canadian nation.
So much for the amendment on immigration; one could almost say the same about the amendment to federal spending powers. We all know the spending power is a powerful means of developing a sense of national belonging. Whether we are talking about health insurance or the various social assistance schemes funded jointly by the federal government and the provinces, all these plans or schemes are brought into being by the federal
government under the Constitution. and they are good for Canadian patriotism because they give Canadians a sense of belonging to one nation. So, whether we are Quebeckers or Albertans, we have the guarantee that wherever we go. we will be protected by a health insurance plan.
But once—and the constitutional proposals suggest this—every province is in a position to receive compensation, rather than being part of the national legislation—and again, I have no lessons to teach to the politicians I address here tonight—it is perfectly natural that a politician would say: well. thank you very much; I will take the money you get from taxes and spend it as I see fit. And there is nothing wrong with that per se! But once again, it means an even greater tendency, a greater weight on the side of provincialism, at the expense of a federal institution or a chance for federal legislation which, up until now, has given Canadians a feeling of belonging to Canada—in the same way the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was important, as were the patriation of the Constitution and the new Canadian flag. All of those things are important in the sense that they help Canadians to realize that they share with all other Canadians, throughout the country, the same set of fundamental values.
And once we start attacking those fundamental values, well, people will start saying: “We can do it just as well our own way”, say in Alberta or Ontario, when it comes to administering the health insurance plan. And that may be true, but we are again destroying a chance to create the national patriotism I have referred to.
The other example I wish to mention, and I still have two amendments to deal with, is the formula for amending the Constitution. Well, the least we can say about the new formula being proposed is, once again, that it encourages a feeling that whatever consensus there may be in Canada, however broad the general will of Canadians is to bring in a constitutional amendment that will take Canada in a completely different direction, however broad that consensus, we will never be able to take Canada in that direction if one province is opposed to it. It is rather unfortunate for Prince Edward Island—we always use that example—but in terms of demonstrating the consequences of this, the fact remains that were 25 million Canadians to express a national will on an important issue, it would only take 100,000 Canadians saying: “No, you will not take that direction” to prevent us from doing it. Again, I am not saying that Prince Edward Island, since it is to that province that I refer, or even Newfoundland, or Quebec, or Manitoba would necessarily be wrong; I am simply suggesting that that is another mechanism that allows people to say: “Yes, we have our own provincial patriotism back home”. It is a case of the province coming before the common good of all Canada. And that was certainly not the wish of Henri
Bourrassa when he said: We will have to create a Canadian national by developing Canadian patriotism.
Finally, I come to what is perhaps the most interesting point of all: the one dealing with Quebec as a distinct society. I hasten to say right from the outset that this is indeed a sociological reality, and that I see no harm in our thinking it to be true, or even expressing the thought verbally or in writing, if we so choose. But let us also concede right from the start that when we talk about a distinct society, we are, by definition. by the actual meaning of the terms, working towards or promoting. . . what, exactly? Not national patriotism, not the national spirit that Blake was talking about! Provincialism is in again.
Is that regrettable or not? Time will tell. But certainly, if that amendment is added to all the others, you have a massive shift towards provincial patriotisms, towards the idea that Canada is a nice country, but it is made up of a collection of provinces, no more no less, and that our provincial loyalties will be enough. Just put that all together and it will make loyalty to Canada.
Well, many people do not think so, and I am one of them, of course. I think that if we want to have a federal and not a confederal country, we have to have a national government, a national parliament that can speak for all Canadians, since the House of Commons is indeed the only legislature in the country whose members are elected by all Canadians rather than by separate regions called provinces.
Just a word to conclude, Mr. Chairman, because I do not want to go into the legal technicalities—that awful word—but perhaps I shall do so if I am asked to during the discussion; I just want to do what seems to me some fairly obvious reasoning. Does putting this into the interpretative formula, section 2 of the British North America Act, have a constitutional effect? It is a sociological fact, all right, agreed, but is there a constitutional effect? Is it meant to be an interpretative principle for viewing the rest of the Constitution in terms of this distinct society?
I shall take you back to Philosophy I and put a logical alternative to you. Either the phrase “distinct society” means nothing, or it means something. If it is meaningless, I find it rather insulting and I think that is the opinion, if I read the documents correctly, that Senator Murray presented to this committee. If this phrase is meaningless, has no constitutional impact, well, it is rather insulting for Quebec to be told, “Okay, you are a distinct society, you shall have no more powers than the others, basically you are no more distinct than the others.” Because Newfoundland also claims to be a
distinct province, and certainly British Columbia and many others; Prince Edward Island, since people will speak of it. So you will be told that you are a distinct society, but do not count on the Constitution to give you powers to preserve or develop, to protect this distinct society.
When you are told in subsection 3 of section 2:
The role of the legislature. and government of Quebec to preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec. . . is affirmed.
all you are being told is that it is your duty, your role, to govern the province well. The other provinces do not have to be told that, because they are big enough boys and girls to govern themselves properly.
But you Quebeckers are a distinct society, and it is the Government of Quebec’s role to govern that province well. No special powers, nothing extra goes with that; it is just a statement of sociological reality.
Well, all I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, is that you are in for some nasty surprises later on. Because you just have to read what the representatives of the Quebec government have said to their constituents publicly, in the National Assembly and in the newspapers. They see things differently; they feel that if the lawmakers, and all the more so the Constitution writers, say something, they want their words to have meaning. And personally, I cannot blame Quebeckers for thinking so. It is an old legal principle that legislators do not engage in empty rhetoric. That can happen, but not when writing laws.
Well then, we have to take the hypothesis that “distinct society” means something. And what does it mean? Obviously there is much disagreement about that. You have only to read the testimony of some people, of the Premier of Quebec, of his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. Remillard, and you will see that they give it a pretty broad meaning.
I understand, and I do not want to go too much into the technical legislative aspects—I shall discuss them if you wish—-that at least this Canadian Charter, which means that we all share a set of common values and that from now on all Canadians are on an equal footing, whether they be Quebeckers, Albertans, French, English, Jewish, Hindu, they all have the same rights. No one is special. All Canadians are equal. and that equality flows from the Charter.
As soon as you say, “Well, we can administer ourselves, we do not need this Charter”. . . and I think that is the
effect of the distinct society clause. . . what do you do? You eat away and undermine further the Canadian spirit that is so essential to unity, as Blake told us.
There. In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I can just say that the future may not be as peaceful as the present if. . . of course it was said after the Accord that finally peace had been restored to federal-provincial relations. Yes, peace! But at what price? Did the federal government somewhere, with a few commas or ellipsis points, obtain one iota of additional power? I claim the answer is no. Did the provinces receive powers? Well, everything I just named gives more power to the provinces.
So, we have made peace, but how? By giving the provinces everything they wanted. I assure you that I could have had peace, that Mackenzie King could have had peace with the provinces, that John A. Macdonald could have had peace with the provinces, if they had given them everything they asked for. So that peace has been dearly bought. And I predict that it will be a temporary peace, because the next federal-provincial conference already has on its agenda some transfer of powers to the provinces, Newfoundland in particular. And all the provinces will say, “Me too, gimme!”. And that will be the story in the future. Should Quebec one day discover, as the hypothesis presented here suggests, that its distinct society is an empty concept. I warn you there will be howls of protest. And even if it is not an empty concept, that will not be the end of it. Why, when things are going so well, will the provinces not keep on coming, always asking for more powers?
So, Mr. Chairman, I intended to speak briefly, as you asked me. You were kind not to interrupt me. I am grateful to you for that. I hope that you will not hold it against me and that you will not all be too tired, so that we can have a question period.
Some hon. members: Ha, ha!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Order, please.
Mr. Trudeau: It is like old times.
Mr. Kaplan: Mr. Trudeau, I want to be the first to welcome you on behalf of the committee. I think that if you are thinking this is an exceptional crowd here this evening for your performance, I can tell you we had exactly the same crowd for the Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia, who were here just before you.
Mr. Trudeau: The same people.
Senator Perrault: A different speech, though.
Mr. Kaplan: I want to turn to your views about the Meech Lake accord. For me it is important to ask a
couple of preliminary questions. Even though it has been only a few short years since 1981-82. it is worth clearing the record.
You have been accused by Senator Lowell Murray of bungling back in 1981, because you left what is characterized as unfinished business. I think it is worth reminding the Canadian people. who are following these proceedings, of what the situation was in 1981 when the Government of Quebec refused to approve the agreement that resulted in the patriation and establishment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Trudeau: What was the situation?
Mr. Kaplan: Well. the situation was that you had a government in Quebec that would probably not have accepted even the Meech Lake accord.
Mr. Trudeau: The then Government of Quebec? Mr. Kaplan: Yes.
Mr. Trudeau: Of course it would not have accepted. It would not have accepted anything, let alone a new Constitution, a patriation, a charter that would bind everybody. From what we see, even this Quebec government is hoping the Charter will not bind them, so we can safely assume that the then government would have accepted no accord whatever.
There would always be something that would prevent their accord. To agree with what the rest of the country agreed with at that time would have been to admit that Confederation could work. There are some slings and arrows, and it is tough sledding, but in the end people who violently disagreed with each other, like Premier Peckford and myself, agreed to do something that shows that Canada can work. Do you think Mr. Levesque was interested in coming down here to show that Confederation was not such a bad thing when you get down to it?
Mr. Kaplan: Mr. Trudeau, it is one of the pretentions of this government that it was your confrontational attitude that prevented an agreement that Mr. Levesque would have signed, and I want that to be contradicted on the record by you and by me.
Mr. Trudeau: Do you think Mr. Levesque was frightened and offended by my confrontation?
Mr. Kaplan: No.
Mr. Trudeau: Do you think if there had been something good for him in it, he would not have signed, even though I might have been nasty in proposing it?
Mr. Kaplan: I do not.
I would like to get to the accord. but there is one other area I would like to ask you about, and that is a tactic the present government is using against critics of the accord, which can only be characterized as political blackmail. This consists in telling those who would like to see the
accord improved, and even those who would like to see the accord rejected, that their opinions and positions can only be interpreted as being anti-Quebec. I think it is important to hear your views about that. In particular, what do you feel the real reaction of the Quebec people would be if the Meech Lake accord were to be rejected, or if sensible amendments were to be proposed to it?
Mr. Trudeau: Blackmail is a pretty nasty word—and, you know me, I never get nasty. But when you have a party that throughout a large part of the history of the negotiations has always said that it will not let Canada do something that is good for it, such as patriating the Constitution, unless it is paid by grants of more power here, there, and the next place, you can call it tough negotiating, you can call it blackmail. but certainly if one of the parties to the negotiation puts himself in the position of not being able to move unless he makes the other parties of the negotiations happy, he will always get a bad deal.
If two people are buying and selling a house, and if the seller wants $200,000 and the buyer says, gee, I think it is worth only $150,000, but I do not want to make the guy unhappy so I will give him his $200,000, he is in an unequal position.
Mind you, you talk of Quebec. But I say this is what happened through much of the 1970s, through all the constitutional negotiations, with all the provinces, because it is not… Well, Quebec started upping the ante in Lesage’s day, and then in Bourassa’s day in Victoria. But all the provinces were very quick to put themselves in that school of upping the ante.
You just have to begin looking at what the provincial Premiers said they needed in 1976 at their interprovincial meeting, the list of powers that would have to be transferred to them from the federal government before they would permit patriation, and then look at the list in 1978, when I think the conference was held under Premier Blakeney in Saskatchewan. The list had grown longer. And then look at the so-called Chateau consensus of 1980, in September, when the 10 Premiers came to me and said, well, here is our list—I think there were three or four pages of it—we have to do these things, and once they are done we have to have another meeting, and perhaps after that we might patriate the Constitution.
If you say, well, I do not want to be confrontational, you never get anything done, because the other side learns to ask things that are eventually absolutely preposterous and unreasonable.
Mind you, I guess I was a pretty poor negotiator through the 1970s, because the provinces kept. . . I failed
at Victoria, because Bourassa said he had not got enough in the area of social security. So Marc Lalonde and his Minister made some arrangement. But by the next time we met it was no longer social security, it was souveraineté culturelle. And by then each and every other province got on the bandwagon. Mr. Peckford wanted fisheries. Mr. Lougheed wanted the right to international trade on petroleum. Mr. Blakeney wanted indirect taxation, Mr. Bennett wanted his Senate. and so on. All these things had to be given to them because they knew they could blackmail me. they knew I could not bring the Constitution home unless I had given them first satisfaction on anything. . I could not buy the house; I could not make them happy unless I conceded everything.
So at one point I brightened up and I said, well, this is a mug’s game: why should I have to give away the whole country to the provinces in order to get the Canadian Constitution? I am going to go and get it. The Parliament of Canada will ask London. . . and you know the rest of the story.
That is the thing about blackmail.
The beautiful thing about the 1982 accord is that the federal government, for the purpose of Canadian patriotism. to use Henri Bourassa’s words, or Blake’s “national spirit”… the Canadian government had done the things that were essential to fortify that national spirit. We had patriated the Constitution. We had ended those formal colonial links—at last. We had given a Charter of Rights that permitted all Canadians to share in the same values.
From then on, sure, the federal government needed a few more things. For instance, you will recall we tried to strengthen the notion of a Canadian common market to permit at least as much free trade within Canada as some day we may get with the United States, but free trade that was blocked because one province prevented workers from coming into its province from another, another province prevented capital from flowing from one part of Canada to the other, and so on. We did not even have a common market in Canada. So we had other things to request.
Mr. Kaplan: Is the government justified in thinking that Quebeckers will react very negatively and that it will foster separatism if the Meech Lake Accord is not approved?
Mr. Trudeau: I am not enpowered to speak on behalf of Quebecers.
But as an observer I can express an opinion. There may be 2% of the population of Quebec interested in constitutional matters. Two per cent, maybe 4% or 3%? Maybe as high as 5%. I cannot say I have noticed Quebeckers sobbing or feeling somehow hard done by
because of Premier Levesque’s failure to sign the Constitution in 1982. Since I have been in Montreal, I have seen that life goes on. Things are even better than under Mr. Levesque. People obey the laws, they do not say that they are not bound by the Constitution and they pas pay their income tax. Those who cannot afford good lawyers continue to pay their income tax.
Some hon. members: Oh! Oh!
Mr. Trudeau: As far as Quebeckers are concerned, I think that it is a great exaggeration to believe that they feel deprived because of this omission. That does not mean that it would not be a good thing to have Quebec’s signature on a document that binds them already. I think that the undertaking was worth the effort, I made an attempt myself in December 1981 after Mr. Levesque walked out in a huff. I wrote a letter to him and I said that I was unhappy to see that he was not happy. Let us try something else. I wrote him letters which, by the way, were appended to Hansard. I noted that if it was only the matter of financial compensation for those who did not accept an amendment transferring powers to the Federal Government, I was willing to discuss it with him. But I knew from my experience of discussions with him over a number of years, and this was also true for several other Provincial Premiers, that whenever we came to an agreement on a particular point, he came up with something new on which he wanted an agreement. That is the answer I would give to the people.
Mr. Kaplan: As a final question I wanted to turn to the distinct society clause and ask you a question I have asked many other witnesses but have not gotten much satisfaction on, and that is what you think could validly be done by virtue of the distinct society clause. You talked about the vitaine surprise, but there has to be a valid interpretation found somewhere about what measures, what programs.
You talk, for example, about the possibility of immigrants being educated or offered services only in French. Maybe that could be challenged, though, because the distinct society is not defined as a francophone society. It is defined as a society with a francophone majority, yes, but also with an anglophone minority. So one could imagine a one-sided policy like that being challenged.
I wanted just to ask you what you feel could validly be done by virtue of the distinct society clause.
Mr. Trudeau: I know what could validly be done, but I am not sure what validly you people can do because I have heard from the various leaders that the thing is not amendable.
But certainly, between Meech Lake and Langevin Block, subsection 2.(4) of the Constitution was added,
saying that nothing derogates from the powers, rights, or privileges of Parliament or of the Legislatures.
Nothing derogates from powers. rights. or privileges of Parliament. but what about the rights of individuals? I do not care—so much the better if a special, distinct society is not taking things out of section 91. But what about the Charter? The Charter is not a right or a privilege of Parliament or of the legislator. It is a right of the citizen. That is what the whole thing means. Therefore, if section 4 was written after there had been some pretty vehement critics about the Charter being undermined—and I was one of those critics. and, Mr. Chairman, you were kind enough to say that I had been read. . .
They added section 4, but they took great care not to say that nothing in this will preclude the application of the Charter regardless of the distinct society. As a matter of fact, do I have to quote the third official language? Inclusio unius, exclusio alterius. There are three places in the Langevin accord that say the Charter is not affected as regards Indians, multiculturals, and immigration. Why write a long article specifying. . .? Why not have simplified it by saying that the Charter will hold, notwithstanding anything in these amendments? It is very simple. The reason they did not—
Mr. Kaplan: That is an amendment with which I very much agree.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Excuse me, Mr. Kaplan, you have finished your time; you have more than finished your time. We are going to move over to Mr. Duguay.
Mr. Duguay: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want, first of all, to congratulate you, Mr. Trudeau for your moderate and rather philosophical presentation. I want to take this opportunity to comment on what you said about the Accord. You will be able to answer those comments later.
You were mentioning Philo 1; you have stated clearly that it was a matter of remaining silent or saying nothing. We learned another phrase;
Either it is raining or it is not raining; if it is not raining, it must be raining. We use that, sir, as an example of things being not quite as simple as black or white.
If I may give you a very personal reaction to what I read on May 27 and what I have heard you say tonight, I think the most simple thing is that as an individual Canadian I was disappointed and saddened that on May 27 you felt compelled to put others down to make your point. I refer you here to your own text, sir, where you said that 10 provinces “wanted their own special status”. They had “enrolled in the school of blackmail”. “The provincialist politicians are also perpetual losers”; “that
bunch of snivellers”. “Canada might fall into the hands of a weakling” and “eventually we would be governed by eunuchs”.
The point that jumped to my mind as I read that the first time was the old story about the preacher who on Sunday had a note in the margin that said: weak point. shout louder. It seems to me that your points tonight stood on their own, without the put-down you did on May 27.
The second one, which you did not do this evening and you might want to react to that, your May 27 text had quite a few—in my judgment, sir—exaggerations. You talked in many ways about an apocalyptic view of Meech Lake. I just draw a couple of things to your attention. You said he, meaning Mulroney, “has not quite succeeded in achieving sovereignty association, but he has put Canada on the fast track to getting there”:
What a dark day for Canada, this April 30, surrendering to the provinces important parts of its jurisdiction, spending power, immigration, weakening the Charter, the Canadian state made subordinate to the provinces. its legislative powers, its judicial power. . .
That is something I would like to come back to in a minute.
From then on, the advantage
—this is 1982 you were talking about—was on the Canadian government’s side. It no longer had anything very urgent to seek from the provinces. It was they who had become the supplicants.
I think one of my colleagues will raise this in more detail, but there are a lot of things that you have proposed in your life as Prime Minister that you now seem to be moving away from. I just raise one little one in 1971, at the Victoria conference, where one of the suggestions was that no person shall be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada unless the Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of the appropriate province agree to the appointment.
So I raise with you the fact that you did put other topics for consideration, which now you seem to think are unacceptable. But perhaps most of all, as one individual Canadian who read what you have said, who has listened to you this evening, and who respects your contribution to Canada, you have reminded me a little bit that I do not share the vision of Canada you are putting forth. I did not share it before and I do not now. What really has
concerned me are the concepts you use about Canada being a federation where the federal government has to win and the provinces have to lose, or vice versa. I think you have even admitted that in your time here there has been some considerable confrontation.
Mr. Kierans this morning—and I will not read it because it was not very nice—talked about your view of Parliament and your view of centralization and super-centralization. I am sure you can do that yourself. But perhaps I might say what motivates us to support the Meech Lake accord, in the simplest possible terms.
My vision of Canada, sir, is closer to Eric Kierans, who this morning said:
I am for Meech lake because it is the closest that we have ever come to the division of powers enshrined in the British North America Act, and the real spirit of that Act. To recognize that the provinces are independent and autonomous in their own areas of jurisdiction takes Canada off the fast track to a centralism that would have its final stop in sovereignty association.
I quote one more thing to you:
From the foregoing analysis of the British North America Act, it is obvious that intergovernmental co- operation is not only possible but that it is in many ways constitutionally indispensible.
That was something that you, sir, wrote in 1961 on the practice and theory of federalism.
But my vision. sir, is so simple. You have described what you see going on here largely in terms of winners and losers. I came here in 1984 with a feeling that nation-building was based on working together, on seeking agreement, on doing things so that everybody felt they could win out of this—that the provinces would win, that the federal government would win, and that it was not win or lose. The legacy of a loser is always this harsh sentiment that is left behind, which means we cannot get on with building a greater country than we already have. Then, sir, Canadians—the ones who talk to me, and that is not all Canadians, by the way; it is largely the ones in my riding—want us to resolve our differences, not to promote them.
Canadians like the Prime Minister and the 10 Premiers, all three political parties—I hasten to add, yours, the New Democratic Party and mine—want to help build a better nation, and in my judgment they deserve our praise, not the scorn which sometimes I think I hear people heaping on them. So I say this to you, sir, you put forth a vision of Canada. I respect what you say. I respect what you have done. I do not share it. I think what we are building on right now is better for this country.
Mr. Trudeau: I will try to take the points one by one until you rule me out of order, Mr. Chairman.
On the idea that “it is raining or it is not raining”, if you return to your books of logic you will see that there is an answer to that. I do not know if I should spell it out. Can you apply that to my phrase, “Either a special distinct society means something or it does not mean something”? Does that fall in the same category, according to your notion of logic?
Mr. Duguay: I am sorry, sir. . .
Mr. Trudeau: I say the proposition: either a word means something or it does not mean something.
Mr. Duguay: Why do you not just tell me what you think? I am prepared to listen.
Mr. Trudeau: I did, but you bring in some principle of logic. Obviously you learned about the difficulty; you did not learn the answer to that difficulty.
You quote some of the things that you find offensive. I suppose they were. That is the way I write. I am not always a pleasant person.
But I was in Parliament many years, and I have taken a lot of abuse too. I never went home and cried about it. I used to return to Harry Truman: if you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If the Meech Lake people did not want to be criticized. they should not have done anything.
You quote only the bad things I said about your Leader. But I said some good things. I said what a magician he is, what a clever negotiator, what a sly fox. These are compliments to his negotiating skills.
Fast track towards souveraineté association—Mr. Chairman, this is where you ought to call me to order, because this is the whole thing I would like members of this committee and Canadians to understand.
Assuming “distinct society” means something, why does Quebec need a special status? Those who have sat here in Parliament with me for years know I have made this argument a hundred times in writing, in speeches and in the House. I do not feel pleased, as a French-Canadian, that the rest of Canada says, well, you poor guy. you are not as good as the rest of us so we will give you a few more powers to run your province. That is what special status is. That is insulting to the members of the Quebec legislature and government, because they are not good enough to run their province with the same powers everyone else has. I honestly feel a little insulted when people patronize me by saying, well, you in Quebec, you need an extra crutch because you are French and some of you are Catholics, therefore we will give you special status.
This is what I think a common-sense person will understand. A lot of the politicians are using the special status because they want more power for themselves. As I said earlier, that is what all politicians try to do, get more power. That is the nature of the game. But in a sense, when it is granted to a province, it is really saying two things to the province: you need an extra bit of muscle, because “you ain’t got it yourself”, and it is saying to the federal parliamentarians from Quebec, you come down here but you are really not speaking for your province. You cannot really represent the interests of Quebeckers in delicate matters such as foreign affairs, where you are dealing with francophone nations. You cannot represent the interests of Quebec when it comes to delicate matters such as culture and communications.
Well, I would like to know what the members from Quebec here think about that. when special status is given to the province from which we are, it means the federal politicians from that same province come down here as weaklings—they cannot cut the mustard—so the people back home really have to stand up and defend that province.
I never admitted that. As a matter of fact—you are from the west, Mr. Duguay—it seems to me we used to hear a lot about French power a few years ago. There was no need for special status. Quebec was overrepresented, apparently, by the people in Ottawa. Must we conclude now that it is underrepresented, that the people are not tough enough to defend Quebec’s interests, that we have to give more power to the province to defend itself? If that is the case, then I think it is insulting to the members from Quebec.
When you say I talked about fast track towards sovereignty association, I really meant that. When a province becomes distinct, when it says it is a society different from the rest of the society and it seeks more powers to maintain that difference, it is really saying that in a measure sovereignty is being transferred from the national government to the provincial government, and it is certainly contrary to what the whole Charter of Rights, including linguistic rights, tried to achieve.
When the Charter sort of made a deal with Canadians, it said, look, for 100 years French Canadians have had—and you should know that in St. Boniface; I think it is well known—the short end of the stick. You wanted them to be good Canadians, but they could not live in St. Boniface or Moncton and speak French. They could not speak to their federal government in French; they could not get their kids educated in French. So the French Canadians had the short end of the deal. But after years of discord and misunderstanding, I think we all grew up and we realized that one type of nationalism by the majority results in a defensive nationalism by the minority, which
the French Canadians are, so that was not the road to peace.
So suddenly we made a deal. We said, look, accept the Official Languages Act; put it in the Constitution that French and English will be equal, that French parents will be able to send their kids to French schools and English parents to English schools no matter where they live. If you do that, if you give the rights to the individuals, then we do not need any more special protection in Quebec. Quebeckers will have the same rights and privileges as any other Canadians. French Canadians will be as good as any English Canadian—I am talking of languages. That was the deal: that all we are asking is for you anglos to respect our language and to accept it in the law and in the Constitution.
And, you know, the anglos are beginning to accept it, damn it. They are. Look at the number of schools teaching French in the west. Look at the number of anglos, even in Westmount, for heaven’s sake, who are now speaking French. The thing is working.
After it is working, suddenly you turn around and say, okay. now that we have all of you to accept the French as official language, as equal, we have a little something more to ask; we want to have more powers for Quebec because it is defending the French language here.
I say that is really welshing on a deal. And it makes me unhappy. That is one of the main reasons why I wanted to speak out on this thing.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Thank you very much.
I am going to move to Ms Jewett, please.
Mr. Trudeau: Next speaker?—because Mr. Duguay asked me a lot of other things, about confrontation.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): I am sure you will incorporate them into one of the answers.
Ms Jewett: A very warm welcome to Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. Trudeau: Thank you.
Ms Jewett: Some of our sessions, as you probably know. have been almost like a seminar, and this one, I am glad to say, is taking the same form.
I guess you have said now several times that the distinct society provision has added greatly, I gather, to the powers of the Province of Quebec. I really am having difficulty seeing how it has added to the powers.
Mr. Trudeau: Well, would you agree that if it permits the Province of Quebec to make laws which would not be otherwise valid under the Charter, it has gained some power?
Ms Jewett: If what you are saying is that it could make laws that would not be valid under Charter, it has gained power. First, I do not think it can do it. We disagree on the applicability of the Charter. I think the courts will look at both the new clause 2—distinct society, linguistic duality. and so on, interpretive clauses—in the context of the Charter and the Charter in with them.
Now, there will be a greater degree of subtle interpretation. but I do not see any loss of power there, nor indeed any increase of Quebec’s power. You are making an assumption—I guess we all have to-about judicial interpretation which I do not think is a reasonable assumption yet to make about the interpretation of the Charter and its relation to the new interpretive clauses. Therefore. I do not see where the powers have been increased.
The second thing that is bothering me quite a bit, again in reference to the distinct society, is that as a Canadian—and as I think you know. sir. as a very strong Canadian nationalist, as I am, and as a believer in the national spirit and all the other things you talked about tonight. at the same time I, and many like me, have always thought of Quebec as a distinct society.
One of the reasons we have so loved Quebec is that it is distinct. It has been distinct all of its history. That distinctness was reinforced in the Quebec Act of 1774, again in the constitutional act and so on. It is therefore difficult to share your feeling that it has somehow been given some sort of privileged status, if you have always felt it has been that. You have cherished it and you in fact even brag about it when you are abroad.
Maybe one should not. Maybe that is wrong, but it has been there in the historical agenda of Canada. It is not only in many ways a sociological reality but, as I am sure you would agree, a historical reality. Therefore, in view of the fact that the national assembly unanimously, as I recall, refused the patriation proposals of the Constitution being patriated without their consent, and in view of the kind of feeling I have just expressed, which I think is true of a great many Canadians, if there are no real additional powers given, why is it then, particularly in your article but tonight as well to some extent, you have such an enormous antipathy to it?
Mr. Trudeau: I stated at the beginning of my talk that if you are talking sociologically, yes, Quebec is a distinct society. I remember even at one point offering to put that in the preamble if it would gain any sense, but not an interpretive clause. I wanted to make sure that if it
pleased Quebec to be recognized as a distinct society without any special status, that was fine with me. I thought it was a little bit kid stuff, but if that is what they want. . . They realized it was kid stuff, and said they did not want it in the preamble. It never got into the preamble, not because I did not offer it, but because it was not enough for Quebec.
Ms Jewett: When you say if it pleases Quebec, you fail to say or even to realize that it pleases us.
Mr. Trudeau: Does it?
Ms Jewett: I am a British Columbian now, and have been for many years, and it pleases me; it pleases many other Canadians. You argue, sir, as if somehow Quebec is out here and everybody else is over there, and do not kind of understand our feelings about Quebec, those of us who are not in Quebec. Even when you use a phrase such as “because it pleases Quebec”—that is not where we are coming from.
Mr. Trudeau: I would rather see British Columbia, where you are from, do more for the French-speaking minority in British Columbia than bend over and give Quebec a distinct society. So if you are asking me about my druthers, that is my druther. I believe in the rights of the individual or of the person, as Maritain called him, a social individual.
In my philosophy, the community, the institution itself, has no rights. It has rights by delegation from the individuals. You give equality to the individuals and you give rights to the individuals. Then they will organize in societies to make sure those rights are respected.
You said Quebec distinctness is not only a sociological but also a historical reality. It is. But would you go to Newfoundland and say that they are not distinct, geographically, historically? They came into Confederation very recently; many in this room were born after Newfoundland came in. So historically they are a very distinct society.
Ms Jewett: And they have a third language, I am told.
Mr. Trudeau: All right. So you get back to your original point.
Ms Jewett: No, I think it is quite different.
Mr. Trudeau: You say you are showing compassion and understanding for Quebec. I find that a bit condescending; I do not need your compassion.
Ms Jewett: I find it condescending for you to say that I am showing compassion and understanding. I am saying this is part of the fabric of Canada that matters to a lot of us Canadians. And when we finally do something like bring Quebec into the family, it is to us a great achievement.
By the way, of course Newfoundland is a different; British Columbia is different. But not in the distinctive way that Quebec is different, and has been different, and will I hope continue to be. It is one of our great riches as a society.
Mr. Trudeau: You talk about the Quebec family. I figure that the 75 members from Quebec, 72 of whom voted for the 1982 Accord. are just as entitled to speak for Quebec as the Separatist Party is. I would even say that in terms of Canada they are more entitled to speak of what is good for Canada than the provincial politicians, even those of the Liberal Party of Quebec.
This is not demeaning to them. I can see at the outset it is the role of the provincial politicians to speak for that province.
Now finally you talk about the Charter not being overriden. Let me just quote Mr. Bourassa.
June 18, 1987 Deliberations. The Premier of Quebec;
It must be realized that the Constitution in its entirety, including the Charter, will be applied and interpreted on the basis of the distinct society clause.
There is some impact on the legislative jurisdiction.
not only the Charter but the legislative provisions
This will enable us to consolidate what we already have and to make even further gains.
Read the speeches. Read Mr. Remillard. It is just ridden with this stuff: now we will be able to occupy the grey areas; now we will be able, even in foreign affairs, even in the area of banking, even the area of telecommunications, to get and exercise more powers.
I am not complaining about that. I am complaining about the federal government that permits them to take it all. I think that is weakening Canada. I would say more, and I will say it in French because I think it is important. Well, I think the English is important too, but I want to make sure that the CBC carries me in French on this.
Mr. Bourassa’s five concerns were legitimate. What did he want? He wanted a veto for Quebec. I can understand that he wanted a veto for Quebec, it was a legitimate concern. He had lost that veto in Victoria, as Mr. Levesque had lost it in the West. However, Canada had always acted as if Quebec had a veto: I myself suggested an amending formula, the Victoria formula, which gave Quebec a veto. So this concern is legitimate.
On immigration, we already had the Cullen-Couture agreements. Maybe he wanted to consolidate and strengthen them a little bit… I understand the importance of immigration for Quebec; I also realize the importance of cost-shared programs. Special arrangements had been made with Quebec under various programs, but he no longer wanted any part of them. Still, that is nothing to be ashamed of.
I realize that the same is true for the distinct society. What I do not understand is the other 9 provinces and the Canadian government giving Mr. Bourassa everything he wanted. It is supposed to be a negotiation, for heaven’s sake! That means making some concessions on immigration if you go along with removing the notwithstanding clause from the Charter of Rights. That is negotiating!
Let me quote Mr. Bourassa.
In The Toronto Star of May 4, he said:
We did not expect after 20 years to reach an agreement. Then suddenly without warning there it is—an agreement.
We could have waited until next year. We could have waited until after the next federal election. We were under no pressure. But suddenly it all came into place.
Bourassa said he had obtained more in the field of immigration and in the appointment of Supreme Court of Canada justices than he had been seeking. Great negotiators we have here!
Mr. Gauthier: Mr. Trudeau, I welcome you to the committee.
I was against the agreements in 1984, you were in favour of them. I am in favour of the accord in 1987 and you are against.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Gauthier: We may never see eye to eye on constitutional matters but I am still ready to listen to your arguments.
Mr. Trudeau: Congratulations.
Mr. Gauthier: One thing I learned in the 12 years I worked with you is your attachment to the principle of weights and balances. You often rode against the current;
you sometimes urged your members of Parliament to do the same.
In your political negotiations. you developed the art of compromise; you have given us some examples this evening. When you advocated a balanced form of federalism, you often said that everything is negotiable except patriation and the Charter of Rights. I am 100% behind you on this.
As I remembered, you mentioned restricting the federal government’s spending power; you talked about granting effective concurrent jurisdiction in the field of immigration and in Quebec. there were the Cullen- Couture agreements. You suggested provincial participation in Senate appointments in this very room in 1978. This is where we met to discuss Bill C-60 which contained a proposal for 50% provincial participation. Your aim, expressed in different bills and your personal convictions, was to allow the regions to have a voice in Parliament. You recognized the collective rights of peoples, including those, let me emphasize, of the native peoples, the conservation of our multicultural heritage, constitutional equality, section 28 along with a number of other things… All this, at times for the sake of compromise.
Everything is up for negotiation, you said. I could list what was done for balanced federalism; you accepted the notwithstanding clause, for instance. I know that along with many of us, you had to hold your nose to do so. You had to make trade-offs with the provinces in return for the 1982 constitutional agreement. As you know, I was in favour of patriation and the Charter of Rights. At the time, I reproached you with not obtaining a little more from the provinces with respect to minority rights.
The Lake Meech accord goes farther than the 1982 constitutional agreement. However, you are, to say the least, dissatisfied. In my opinion, we have been successful in obtaining from the provinces a bit more for the protection of minorities. Promotion is a different matter. We have not succeeded in obtaining it; I would like an amendment to be made attributing the responsibility for promotion to the federal government, making it a national obligation. If the provinces want to take it on at a later date. . .
Mr. Trudeau: It is section 16 of the Charter.
Mr. Gauthier: Yes, it would be made a requirement, the requirement to protect and promote strikes me as having merit. In light of Mr. Bourassa’s five conditions and your experience as a negotiator, here is the question that comes to my mind. How would you have gone about matters differently to get Quebec to sign the constitutional agreement? What would Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s response have been to the Quebec conditions?
Mr. Trudeau: Your question is easy to answer; you have recalled a number of historical facts that constitute the response. You have reminded the committee members
that during some 15 years of negotiations with the provinces, I recognized that it made no sense for the Supreme Court, the supreme arbitor among the parties, to be the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. Mr. Duguay made reference to this a while ago. A way must be found to avoid having the provinces feel that this is a court appointed and set up without their involvement. In Victoria, I made the proposal mentioned by Mr. Duguay. I agreed with it. The Attorney General of Canada and the provincial attorneys general would have to agree on one of the three names submitted by the federal government. If they did not agree, there would be a college of arbitrators, etc.
So I think it is to be expected that Robert Bourassa would ask for the provinces to have a say in the Supreme Court. But I would have negotiated it, for heaven’s sake! I would not have given him more than what he was asking, as he said was the case for the Supreme Court and immigration; he got more than what he asked for. Maybe he wanted something like the proposal put to him in Victoria.
You talk about the spending powers. I remember around 1970-71, when I was a newcomer to national politics, just as for the Supreme Court, it struck me as rather odd that the federal government was able to spend in an area of provincial jurisdiction without permission from the provinces. I said that it might well be constitutional but was it really fair? I suggested a formula whereby the federal government could exercise its spending power provided, if I recall correctly, seven provinces representing all the divisions of the Senate were in agreement.
You also talked about immigration. Under the Constitution, immigration is an area of concurrent jurisdiction with federal supremecy. It was our government that, on two or three occasions, gave Quebec in particular, as a result of administrative negotiations, the power to have a more direct say in immigration matters. But it always remained under the jurisdiction of the federal state with its overriding jurisdiction. If it has started preaching separatism to immigrants, we might have decided to put an end to the agreement. You tell me that it was necessary to negotiate. I think, without offence to Mr. Duguay, that all these examples tend to prove one thing: I was quite reasonable. I offered a lot to the provinces. In 1979 I even said: I am giving you the whole shop. But the response from the provinces was always no. They have this power, I would not say of blackmailing, but preventing further progress; they wanted even more. I am delighted that you raised these points.
It shows I was not as difficult as was claimed and that I made a sincere effort to negotiate for 12 years, for heaven’s sake, until 1980. And then, I was still negotiating. The proof, as you say, is that I accepted the
nothwithstanding clause. But when I negotiated. I asked for something in return, did I not? I asked for the Charter. the patriation of the Constition. the strengthening of the Canadian common market. What did the Canadian government get in exchange for the Meech Lake Accord? You think the notwithstanding clause is hard to put up with. What effort did the present government make to do away with it? It gave the provinces the Senate, the Supreme Court, Immigration, a veto. Could it not have asked for something in exchange? That is what I call negotiating. And do you committee members have any obligation to approve this kind of negotiation? You cannot help, seeing that the negotiation was not to the advantage of the federal government.
Thank you for letting me answer Mr. Duguay’s question about the Supreme Court.
Mr. Hamelin: Mr. Trudeau, I cannot remember what Latin author it was we read in high school who said that one is born a poet and that one becomes an orator. I feel like saying that one is born a nationalist. in the provincialist sense you give to the term, but that one chooses to become a federalist. When you talk about the feeling of national patriotism. it must flow through our roots. Such is the case in the region I represent. I am part of the tribe; I come from the land of Felix-Antoine Savard, the land of Menaud. . . and Gabrielle Roy.
There are of course historical considerations as well. In 1980 there was a referendum, Mr. Trudeau. When this referendum was over, you said that the voters voted no because they put their trust in Canada. They voted no because they accepted assurances of Mr. Ryan of the Liberal Party of Quebec and from other federalist formations in the province. They accepted the assurances of the premiers of other provinces of Canada, of the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. You said the change was not only possible within the framework of Confederation, but that the refusal of the Parti quebecois option would break the deadlock and make possible a much awaited renewal of our political system.
Later on you said, and I quote:
However it would be a mistake to believe that it will be easy for us to honour this commitment.
But you added;
We must count on the support of the people of Canada and their representatives in this Parliament, we hope to obtain the co-operation of all the provincial governments including Quebec. We must all agree on the basic principles underlying our efforts. We must be mindful of the needs and aspirations of all Canadians and work together at finding methods and mechanisms as efficient as those we have used up until now and be ready to devote whatever efforts are necessary to bring this undertaking to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Trudeau: Poetry?
Mr. Hamelin: It was not poetry, those are your very words.
Mr. Trudeau: Yes.
Mr. Hamelin: Is not the Meech Lake Accord the outcome of this type of concerted effort? You talk about patriotism, we must remember that the Accord was drawn up by 11 First Ministers; it also met with the approval of a man called Broadbent, a man called Turner, a man called Ryan, another man called Garneau, people who fought with you against the Parti quebecois and its plan for independence. Are they not patriots? Are these persons idiots who have no patriotic vision of Canada?
I do not understand. I have always had a great deal of admiration for you, and I say that as a true Quebecker. With your keen intelligence, your free and easy manner and your presence here in Ottawa, we felt safe. But, Mr. Trudeau, the feeling did not last long. When I hear you talking about kids’ stuff and crutches in reference to the distinct society, I beg your pardon, Mr. Trudeau. but this has been a historic demand of Quebeckers something that goes back to our roots.
I saw some smiling and a bit of laughing when Mrs. Chaput-Rolland said:
The day when I found out about the Meech Lake agreement, for the first time in seven years, thanks to this meeting at Meech Lake, I felt able to lift up my head in pride.
Is Mrs. Chaput-Rolland not also a great patriot? How can you come here today and tell us that we are dealing with a bunch of suckers, poor negotiators playing around with kids’ stuff and who have no idea of what Canada is.
Mr. Trudeau, have you perchance become the new Galileo of 1987? [Applause—Editor]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Order!
Mr. Trudeau: If you think they are good negotiators, Mr. Hamelin, to reply to your last point, tell me what the federal government or Canada as a whole has got out of it. I am talking about the Constitution, I am not talking about elections or applause after a well-turned phrase. If they are good negotiators, it seems to me that the essence of negotiation is not to give everything away. Would you not concede, for example, that it is desirable to have the notwithstanding clause removed from the Canadian Charter?
Mr. Hamelin: Mr. Trudeau, this country is the result of a collective will to live together. Since the Accord.
thousands of Quebeckers. or even millions of Quebeckers. and probably millions of Canadians. regardless of sections 2(b) and 3(a). . . we could spend a long time discussing it; and on this point. you are way ahead of me. I am not a constitutional expert. But I have the feeling that since the Accord, Mr. Trudeau. it is not the type of escalation seen in collective agreements. I have noticed in my constituents. I have felt this in Baie Comeau and in Charlevoix, they are satisfied with the agreement; they are glad to be truly participating in the life of our country; and I have felt the development of Canadian patriotism in our province. It is something I have felt. is it poetry? I do not think so; when I go back home. Mr. Trudeau, instead of talking about confrontation we talk about co-operation. It is interesting. Instead of talking about bargains and kids’ stuff, we talk about a collective will to live together. And I defend Quebeckers’ interests; I am also able to defend. to the best of my limited means, the interests of the Canadian Federation.
When Ms Jewett tells us that she loves us, I say to her that I like her even more since we have grown to understand each other
Mr. Trudeau: You tell me. and on this you are a better authority than I, that the people in your area are happy about an agreement being reached. Certainly, and they are right to be happy; people do not like bickering!
Mr. Hamelin: Even you?
Mr. Trudeau: People do not like bickering! In November 1981, when I came down from the room where we were negotiating and said on television that there was an agreement between Mr. Levesque and me and that we would be drafting an amendment to be submitted in a referendum, people were pleased. I had come to an agreement with Rene Levesque. I have always thought. like you probably, that Quebeckers have always respected a strong government in Quebec City and a strong government in Ottawa. They voted for Levesque, and they voted for our government just as they voted for Mercier and for Laurier. But I agree with you. Millions of Quebeckers must have been happy. They will stop squabbling.
Mr. Gauthier gave several examples a few minutes ago that demonstrate I was trying to put an end to the squabble. I was giving a little bit in Victoria. Mr. Lesage had made considerable concessions with the Fulton-Favreau formula. Mr. Levesque, who was a member of the Lesage government at the time came to the University of Montreal and said it was a good thing. And suddenly, they started kicking, they changed their minds. They had given their words on the Fulton-Favreau Formula and now, they were pulling back. Again in Victoria, it was the same thing. The formula had been proposed by the premier of Quebec. Mr. Chouinard, then Secretary of the Council in Quebec, had worked with Mr. Robertson here in Ottawa. They had worked out this formula together. And Quebec decided to reject it. Every time an agreement was reached.
Quebeckers were happy. But Quebec changed its mind a few times.
If I come back to Mr. Gauthier, to the assistance he provided me, I have made quite a few concessions as far as the Supreme Court, the spending power, immigration and the amendment formula are concerned. People liked that, but the provincial government has its priorities. I am not blaming them. and I will repeat it over and over. It is a priority of the provincial government to develop a strong loyalty towards the provinces. It is the history of the country. Macdonald was already complaining about that in the 19th century. This is what Canada is all about. It draws upon creative tensions between the two levels of government. They often squabble. Read your history of Canada. You will see that there are not that many prime ministers throughout the history of the country that have been as popular as Mr. Mulroney is.
Mr. Hamelin: Mr. Trudeau, the country almost exploded in 1980.
Mr. Nystrom: Mr. Chairman. I too want to welcome Mr. Trudeau to the committee. Welcome back to Parliament Hill. I guess some people might wonder if you will fall in love with the place and come back.
I wanted to pursue the questions of Ms Jewett on the distinct society. You made a comment back in 1982 that 73 Quebec MPs had voted for the patriation package and that they spoke for Quebec. I remind you now that 73 of the Quebec MPs are planning on voting for the Meech Lake accord. so the same logic, I think, would apply.
The other comment I would like to have from you is that you made a comment that it is a bit of an insult when we say to Quebec there should be a distinct society. I remind you that the National Assembly in Quebec has asked us to have it stated in the Constitution that it is a distinct society.
I also say to you, as a westerner, that we now have all political parties saying that Quebec should be recognized as a distinct society in the Constitution. We have all provinces, including the four western provinces, including Mr. Vander Zalm in British Columbia—which is a bit of surprise, knowing what he stood for a few years ago.
We have had many women’s groups and we have had many very distinguished Canadians, such as Mr. Pickersgill, Mr. Kierans, Madam Chaput-Rolland and so on. Almost all of the witnesses and groups who have come here have said they agree with the part that says Quebec is a distinct society.
We have even had some people come here to say they do not like the package because of A, B and C, or they want to change C, D and F, but they like the part about Quebec being a distinct society. So I ask you, Mr. Trudeau, are all these people wrong while you are right?
Maybe Canada has changed in the last few years. I think we have a national consensus here that is evolving. We are getting this consensus that Quebec is a distinct society coming from all corners of this country. This is something I would not have expected a few years ago. Are all these people just weaklings and snivellers?
Mr. Trudeau: I think I can answer it pretty well. Has it ever come to your attention that a lot of Canadians. . .? Mr. Vander Zalm may be one of them; I do not know. I asked Ms Jewett why he was not doing more for French schools in British Columbia instead of recognizing Quebec as a distinct society.
I am asking you whether it has ever struck you that a lot of Canadians prefer the kind of Canada that some Quebec politicians prefer, in which Quebec will be French, Canada will be English and we will all be friends. This is what Mr. Levesque used to be preaching: you speak English in your provinces, and we will speak French in ours—this stuff of bilingualism was a noble dream. It was a bit of poetry, but it is not realistic.
I had a member of my own party from Winnipeg—we remember him well—who believed in that kind of Canada: one country, one language. Quebec? It will be a distinct society; it can speak French. But let us run Canada, let us run business—we in Ottawa, we in Toronto—and Quebec can have its distinct society.
First point. That is why a lot of people who do not believe in a bilingual Canada are happy to see Quebec go the distinct society route.
Second point, I do not think they were doing it only out of anti-bilingual ideology. I think there was something in it for them. After all, now they get to name the Supreme Court judges. They get to name the Senators. They get to have opting-out money when they do not go along with a national program. So why would they not make a deal? That is what the provincial governments are doing all the time when they meet amongst Premiers every summer. You scratch my back, I will scratch yours—and if you do not scratch my back, I will scratch your face.
All right; that is the game. And it has been the game since John A. Macdonald’s time. Somehow it has got into people’s minds that I was the only confrontationist; I was the only one who was saying no to the provinces. Read your history, man. That is the history of Canada. It began, you will recall, in the 18805. Then in 1905, or 1906 or thereabouts, British Columbia was going to Westminster, for Heaven’s sake, to get more money out of Confederation. It was the story under Macdonald, under Laurier, under Mackenzie King, and so on.
Maybe I am passé. Maybe there is a new Canada now. Maybe some Canadians are not happy with a bilingual
Canada, where all have equal rights. Maybe they would rather have Quebec out on its own. with special powers.
I hope this is not sounding too shocking to you.
Mr. Nystrom: You know, Mr. Trudeau, that I agree with the bill on official languages. The New Democratic Party is for a bilingual Canada.
Also, you talk about reading history. But if you also read the Meech Lake agreement, there is a very important part in here that talks about the duality of ,Canada. It recognizes linguistic rights in clause 2.1, and it says there is a recognition that French-speaking Canadians are centred in Quebec but also present elsewhere in Canada and English-speaking Canadians are concentrated outside of Quebec but also present in Quebec; that constitutes a fundmental characteristic of Canada. So they are both in there. We have the bilingual fact. We have duality in there; and we want it in there. We also applaud it in there. But we also have the distinct society. So we have both of them.
I suggest to you, sir, that what we are hearing across this country is perhaps a new Canada. What I am hearing is English Canada reaching out to Quebec and saying that we want you as part of us. And for the first time in my life I have seen Quebec accept in the National Assembly a constitutional package. I think that is rather significant, do you not?
Mr. Trudeau: I think it is very significant; but not in the same sense as you think.
Let me ask you—and we are all comrades in arms—do you think it is easier for Mr. Vander Zalm to accept the notion of what I believe you call “duality” than to accept the notion of bilingualism? When we passed section 16 of the Charter, we said French and English will be the two official languages of Canada. We went on, I think in the next section, to say and other provinces will be able to opt into this section. How many have opted in? If they are all so understanding of this duality, as you put it—and I prefer to call it bilingualism, because to me duality has shades of “two nations” and is something Mr. Diefenbaker, from your province, I believe. never accepted, and something I never accepted—if suddenly there is a new understanding in Canada, are they accepting dualism in the sense that I fear they are, that it will be French in Quebec and English elsewhere? Then, if it is not—and you both shake your heads—if they really understand dualism to mean bilingualism, why the heck are they not opting into section 16 and making French and English the official languages in British Columbia or Alberta?
Mr. Nystrom: You said that Mr. Pawley in Manitoba tried very hard to make Manitoba an officially bilingual province—
Mr. Trudeau: When?
Mr. Nystrom: Mr. Pawley in Manitoba tried very hard to improve the French fact in Manitoba. This accord also says that it is now the role of the provinces and the legislatures to Preserve the fundamental characteristic of Canada. I think that is an important accomplishment.
An hon. member: But not promote.
Mr. Trudeau: You are preserving that fundamental characteristic, but ask the people from St. Boniface whether it is good enough for them. You accept—
Mr. Duguay: It is a darned sight better than what we had.
Mr. Trudeau: It would have been a darned sight better if you had been able to get what Mr. Nystrom says Mr. Pawley was trying to get for you with the help of the federal government, but you did not.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Duguay: It is a darned sight better than what we had.
Mr. Trudeau: Did Mr. Mulroney try to get that for you Manitobans in the negotiation or did he get something about duality, which does not force Mr. Vander Zalm to—
Mr. Duguay: If he is in order, I am in order.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Excuse me. Let us maintain some type of level of civilized discourse. Mr. Daubney, would you please ask the questions you have to pose?
Mr. Daubney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I too would like to welcome Mr. Trudeau. It was good of you to come, sir, and give us the benefit of your long experience in constitutional matters and your great intellect.
The committee really has benefited from the advice and wisdom of a great many distinguished Canadians. I think you know almost all of them. You worked with a number of them. In fact, we had Eric Kierans this morning, a former member of your Cabinet; Bob Stanfield, whom you have had occasion to meet from time to time over the years; Jack Pickersgill, who I guess served four Liberal Prime Ministers of Canada; Gordon Robertson, who served you, Louis St-Laurent, Mr. Pearson, and others; Laurent Picard; Yves Fortier; members of the Pepin-Robarts commission, such as Ron Watts and Solange Chaput-Rolland—all of whom expressed enthusiasm for this Meech Lake accord.
We have had dozens of academics, as you know, all of whom or certainly the great majority of whom have been positive about the accord. To say that you do not share that enthusiasm is clearly an understatement, but after two hours I am still somewhat puzzled and even troubled by that. When I look at the various constitutional offers you were prepared to make as a Prime Minister over the years, some of which have been referred to, some of which you have already responded to. . .
Let me just mention a couple more and give you a chance to respond to them. You mentioned the spending power. You were willing in 1969 in that discussion paper, “Government of Canada Working Paper ‘on the Constitution”, to make Parliament’s ability to introduce new programs through the spending power subject to provincial consent and, as I understand it, to provide compensation to individuals in non-participating provinces with no requirement that the non-participating provinces undertake anything compatible with national objectives.
Second point. We discussed the amending formula peripherally, but when you wrote to the Premiers in March 1976, you suggested unanimity as the amending formula for all constitutional amendments. Then in September 1980 you mentioned the offer of the recognition of “the distinctive character of Quebec society with its French-speaking majority”—admittedly in the preamble to the Constitution, but preambles to constitutions are interpretive clauses as much as interpretive clauses are. You now oppose recognition of Quebec’s distinct society, even when it is coupled with a recognition of the Quebec Assembly’s role in preserving the presence of English-speaking Canadians in that province.
We talked about the Supreme Court. On three different occasions, you indicated you were prepared to share the appointment to that court, starting with the Victoria Charter. Senators, we have not talked about it much, but I think of Bill C-60 in 1978 with the House of Federations. Half of the seats in that body would have gone to the provinces with no requirements that the provincial members be acceptable to the Government of Canada, which is the case now.
On distribution of powers, there is some reference to that in the exchange so far—Cullen-Couture on Immigration in 1978. You have certainly indicated over the years that you were willing to contemplate other extensions of power in areas like communications, family law, and Fisheries. I think of what Gordon Robertson, who was part of that process, told us:
Another question is whether the agreement weakens the federal government in any significant and important way. Here one has to note that the accord does not change the distribution of powers in any way. Nothing is changed in sections 91, 92 and 93.
He goes on to say:
During the constitutional negotiations in 1968 to 1971, and later up to 1979, it was fully expected that there would be changes in the distribution of powers. Quebec sought a number of changes in the distribution of powers. This accord does not change that distribution in any way.
In summary, the record is clear that you were willing, sir, to go further than the Meech Lake accord does in granting greater roles to the provinces. Yet you criticize this accord vehemently. I have difficulty reconciling that with what you have said today, particularly with the test that you imposed in the first words of your opening statement, the twin tests of Blake and Bourassa.
If something less than the offers you made, the Meech Lake accord, did not meet that test, then how did your offers meet it? I close in adding parenthetically and reminding you that Blake, after his failed career here in Ottawa, became a member of the British House of Commons and died in the United Kingdom. So much for his sense of national spirit.
Mr. Trudeau: You are asking me how I can reconcile those offers with what I call national spirit or Canadian patriotism. It seems to me you are helping me make the point that I made a little less amply when Mr. Gauthier asked me that type of question.
I think what you have recited—and some of it is erroneous—is a story that the federal government, beginning in 1968, made various substantive offers to the provinces, including some amendments to the distribution of powers. They were accepted by everybody in 1971 because, in return for the offer of some limitation of the federal spending power, we had achieved Canada’s patriation, an amending formula, and very substantial parts of a Charter of Rights, including language rights.
So you are saying that I was a very reasonable person during those years, offering the provinces pretty handsome powers and substantive rights. In exchange, in 1971 I got something, at first. That is, I got it only temporarily: one province, as you remember, backed out of the deal.
Subsequent to 1971 nothing ever happened, although there was an increasing crescendo of offers to the provinces of substantive and institutional rights. Therefore, I was a very reasonable person; I was not looking for confrontation.
I suggest that if the story is read, it will have to read that Trudeau went overboard, with the help of his Cabinet
and government, to please the provinces; and he was never able to achieve patriation until he decided to stop giving them things and do it himself.
Now let us get to the specific points. I have already dealt with the Supreme Court. I indicated the mechanism whereby the provinces could have some say in the nomination of judges to that body which was to arbitrate between the two levels of government. I think that was sound federalism.
On the senators, you made the point I offered goodness knows how many different schemes. but one of them was the Chamber of Provinces, I think it was called, where there was an increased number of senators and where half of them would be named by the federal government and the other half by the provinces but—another subtlety, a kind of proportional representation scheme—they would be named according to the results of party standing in the last election. So if, for instance, the Conservatives had 16% of the votes in Quebec but zero of the seats and the Liberals had zero seats in Alberta but 22% of the votes, there would be some senators named by the other party from that other part of Canada. I thought that was conducive to having an upper House which would be more representative of the provinces than we have now.
Even in the 1980s I was proposing an elected Senate. I hope that some day we will have one and that it will be something closer to the triple-E than certainly we are now. But that will call for a national spirit which will oblige, for instance. Quebec and Ontario to realize that when they say that all provinces are equal they should mean it. So I think I was pretty reasonable. and each time I offered something I got something in exchange.
The distinct Charter in the preamble—you seemed to slough it off, as though whether it is in the preamble or in the interpretive clause really does not matter; I was offering it anyhow. I think it does matter. I think in one case you are describing a sociological reality. and if you look at my preambles in those days. they were poetry. I am excusing myself. The press turned them down as well as the provinces did, because it talked of the meeting in this land where the aboriginal people were there before use—and, incidentally, I think we have to take care of them before taking care of the provinces again, whether it be fisheries or anything else—this land where the meeting of two great French- and English-speaking peoples came which were added to by millions of others from other lands, and so on, and it went on in this vein. I was prepared in that context to talk of a distinct society in
Quebec, but I was also making sure I would talk about the other people too so that each had its own distinctness.
But that perhaps is a minor point to the one you make about unanimity. I understand it was made by Mr. Murray in his presentation. I think he said exactly the same thing as you did, about me offering simple patriation.
So I went back to the files and I got my letter sent to all the Premiers on March 31, 1976. It is a 12-page letter, which I will spare the reading of to the committee, but I will tell you that in essence there was no offer of a unanimous amending formula. The phrase was—I am looking at the various options for patriating the Constitution, and one of them is “One could”—I am not offering; it is not a very firm offer—”provide in the address to the Queen… unanimous consent until a permanent formula is found and established”. Therefore, that is one option. It was not mine—I would show you what mine was later—but it was one option and it was temporary.
“The second and perhaps preferable alternative would be. . . enabling provision that would come into effect only when it had received the formal approval of the legislators of all the provinces”. All the provinces would be needed in order to patriate the Constitution, which everybody tried from Mackenzie King until myself in 1978, until the Supreme Court said you do not need unanimity any more.
But until then we all said, let us get everybody to agree; it will be better—that was certainly Mr. Robertson’s view—but once we have the agreement, then we will not ask unanimous consent. Once everybody has agreed to an amending formula… It was not an amending formula that provided for unanimity. As a matter of fact, the letter goes on to say:
A third and more extensive possibility would be to include patriation. . . and the amending procedure.
And if you read the rest of the text, that amending procedure is the Victoria one, which is not based on unanimity. It is a fairly rigid one, but it is not unanimous—the conception being, you see, that in every case. . . I was giving here the various alternatives, and our preference was not for the unanimity amending formula, it was for the Victoria amending formula. But so much for quibbling. [just wanted to set you right on that point.
Senator Perrault: Mr. Trudeau, it is good to have you back in Ottawa again, and it is good of you to come to this committee. You have expressed serious concerns and
trepidations about the future of this country, should this accord be adopted. Others have come before us and they have been positively euphoric in their support. Some of them can hardly detect a blemish. You have, in a sense, drawn a parallel between the present situation and that which existed in 1938, when Neville Chamberlain flew back from Munich and waved a pathetic piece of paper and said, I have won peace in our time; and we were at war within 12 months.
When you said we have only a temporary truce, what were you suggesting? Were you suggesting there will be an impetus to separatism in Quebec and western Canada? What is on the horizon?
Mr. Trudeau: No. First let me say that I understand the euphoria. It is a great day if Quebec suddenly comes along with the rest of the country and says it will put its signature to something that is already law. I agreed with the gentleman from Charlevoix that there was probably happiness. When the Fighting stops, people are happy, because they vote for the feds and they vote for the provincials, and they are rarely the same party, and they are happy when they are justified in themselves that they were right in voting for both, because both agree. It is human nature. So there was euphoria, sure.
But there were also a lot of second thoughts, and I suppose in the case of 80% to 95% of the population, a great deal of indifference—okay, they have settled it; let us go on to something else—until the academics began examining it, and former civil servants. You have Mr. Gordon Robertson, on the one hand, and you have Al Johnson on the other hand, also a great deputy minister, who was in charge of federal-provincial affairs for a great many years; and I understand he came before you and he made a pretty damning indictment of the accord.
So none of us are going to gain much by quoting people who are happy or unhappy about it. I think we all have to make up our own minds on what direction this is leading the country in.
What are you asking me, Senator Perrault?
Senator Perrault: You say this could only be a temporary truce. What kind of fireworks do you anticipate?
Mr. Trudeau: I read what Mr. Bourassa and Mr. Rémillard are telling the Quebec people, the Quebec Legislative Assembly.; And I understand them for going a bit overboard, because they are faced with the PQ, which is not a very nice prospect, and they realize their opposition is a party that still has separatism in its platform. 80 they probably have to build a strong case. I understand that.
But having built the strong case, if the rest of Canada does not deliver, if “distinct society” really does not mean anything, as I have heard some of the members here tonight say, then they are going to be pretty darned
disappointed over there. Mr. Bourassa, when he was prodded. reminded the opposition that self-determination of the province was still part of the Liberal program in his province—something I do not think is very nice, but he has his own enemies to fight. and he is certainly an able man and he can do it in the way he wants.
But I am not reassured when I know that one half of the negotiators or of the witnesses or of the members around this table are saying that a distinct society means something, and the others say it does not mean anything except a sociological and historical reality. It seems to me that is a guaranteed formula for trouble. And it could be so easily cleared!
It could be either put into the preamble. or it could be stated that “distinct society” is a sociological description but it is not meant to permit the judges to give it interpretative force. But if that happens, Quebeckers, particularly the Quebec politicians, will rightly say, we have been had; we have been fooled once again. Then they will come back with a vengeance, and the peace in our time will be worth the scrap of paper you are referring to.
Mrs. Blais-Grenier: Mr. Trudeau, I wish to thank you for coming here.
I would like to quote the Meech Lake accord in its historical context. I will try to be brief. You have a talent for scintilating retorts. For many years we have watched your verbal sparring with the provincial governments, and particularly with Mr. Rene Levesque.
We may tend to forget what the distinct characteristic of Quebec society means for Quebecers. I think that you understood it following the referendum. But in all this talk of games and deals, two terms you have used a lot today. . . for me, Quebec nationalism is not a game nor is it a deal. It is something real and it has been around for a very long time. It has been in existence from the time that French society in North America lived under another Crown than the British one. The distinct society of Quebec is a reality and it was recognized in 1774 by the British authorities who allowed it to keep its language, religion, property rights and be administered by its French civil code. Mr. Trudeau, this was an unprecedented example in the British Empire, the only such one of its kind. The British authorities at the time had the wisdom to recognize the distinct nature of Quebec. Looking at it from the historical perspective, we cannot describe this as kid’s stuff.
It was recognized in 1774 and afterwards there were historical movements that you are more familiar with than I. But it may be that they are not as well known to the people listening here today who are very supportive of your comments. There was one attempt, among others, to do away with the language and the culture of the French
people. An attempt was made to rob French Canadians of their identity. Fortunately, a Canadian Parliament with an English-speaking majority, hastened to restore the use of the French language only a few years after it had been suppressed.
Quebecers, the descendents of those French speakers have never forgotten this attack on their rights. All the governments, Mr. Trudeau, not only Mr. Levesque’s one, not only the horrible pequistes who, it should be pointed out, proceeded with the 1980 referendum in a very democratic way. Carrying out a referendum on the possible separation of Quebec with a commitment to accept the will of the majority was something unprecedented. But we have never forgotten; Quebec’s motto is: I remember.
The day after the referendum you said that Quebeckers had rejected independence and sovereignty-association, but had expressed a massive desire for change in Canada’s federal framework. Quebeckers will no longer be content with crumbs.
You mentioned crumbs of independence. Later, you referred to your remarks in the House of Commons, that is, the need to point out that a great many Quebeckers—not 2% or 3%, but 40%— who had voted yes the previous day, were not at all lost to the federalist cause. Many persons who were proud and enthusiastic supporters of the yes movement had lost faith in federalism.
An entire social group, centred in Quebec and including nearly 60% of Quebeckers, is delighted. Canadians are proud to welcome Quebec. Quebec was left out in 1982. With patriation of the constitution in 1982, two Canadas were created: one made up of nine cohesive English-speaking provinces, and one made up of a single French-speaking province that did not belong.
After all these years, since the fall of Quebec to the British Empire, and after witnessing identical demands from all Quebec governments, why, today, do you minimize the importance for Quebeckers of recognition of their distinct character? Why do you try to compare this recognition to poetic illusions, nonsense, or “kid stuff”? Mr. Trudeau, is Canada’s destiny really at stake as you often state? Does your attitude not indicate a profound contempt for what you have often described as a Quebec ghetto? Is your province a Quebec ghetto? Those are the terms you use. Mr. Trudeau, this Quebec ghetto is your province. It is my province. Its inhabitants have fought for more than two centuries to survive. It wants security in terms of available authority: it wants moral security and political and constitutional recognition of a perennial sociological fact that we have always denied and never been willing to recognize.
Mr. Trudeau, I want you to examine your conscience.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Mrs. Blais-Grenier, please, would you pose the precise question and allow Mr. Trudeau.
Mrs. Blais-Grenier: As the chairman has requested, Mr. Trudeau, I ask you to examine your conscience. Does your attitude not indicate some misunderstanding of the entire history of Quebeckers, of a whole sometimes poignant heritage they have always brought to this country, in which they believe? And does your attitude not show a certain petty resentment that the accord was accomplished without you?
Mr. Trudeau: Madam, your historical notes are reasonably accurate. I agree with you. I even think you are rather generous in speaking of the wisdom of the British in 1774. As you will recall, that was two years prior to the secession of the United States. Most likely it was assumed that this small population of 60,000 people along the St. Lawrence would soon be assimilated into English-speaking North America. So little was risked by allowing them to keep their dialect. This was probably what was in the minds of those you refer to as wise.
Indeed, as you also note, six decades later, the Durham report stated that these people were to be assimilated. So the government had changed its mind somewhat. I know this story as well as you do. I have always held that the nationalism of minority populations or colonies—in Africa, too—is a defensive stance that is required to counteract aggressive nationalism on the part of the majority, the colonial power or what have you. I know the history of the Province of Quebec, and I am not at all scornful of it. I simply say that for us as Quebeckers, it is advisable to leave behind this black nationalism that is based on the fact that we have not always been treated justly in this country.
However, the role of governments is not to try to correct yesterday’s injustices, which are now part of history. Rather, it is to try to correct tomorrow’s injustices. Not all these Quebec nationalists you mention thought along the same lines. For example, Henri Bourassa was a great Quebec nationalist, but one who had a Canadian point of view. His vision, which I have tried to some extent to adopt, is one of a Canada in which francophones would be treated fairly throughout the country, without having to retreat to what I called a ghetto. By that, I did not mean to insult the people of Quebec, any more than we insult the Israelites when we say that they lived in a ghetto in Warsaw. Rather, it is insulting to those who impose this situation on them.
The option that I adopted and referred to soon after the referendum, in saying that constitutional change was needed. . . people say that I made all sorts of statements following the referendum. What is true is that I did not change the ideas that I had carried with me since leaving college, the ideas I wrote about in magazines and expressed in speeches. Good heavens, for 12 or 13 years I had advocated in Parliament that we demand equality for French Canadians in this country! Do not make us retreat to a ghetto; we want to be at home everywhere, in Saint Boniface, in Maillardville, in Moncton, in the Annapolis Valley. Perhaps this is an impossible dream, but it is neither a dream to be scorned nor one that expresses scorn. It is the idea that this country belongs to us as francophones as much as it does to other groups.
This is why the option I suggested soon after the referendum was to write a constitution. At the time, I was consulting my colleagues in the English-speaking provinces. Certainly, Quebeckers voted and said that they believed in Canada. They did not say that they believed in a form of separatism or in a rigged question. You spoke of the referendum as a democratic option; it would have been more democratic if people had understood the question. Nevertheless, people voted no. And they did not vote no to obtain a bit of special status, they voted no because they wanted to be full-fledged Canadians. This is the option I had advocated since 1968; and this is the option that I continued to advocate after the referendum. It is also the option that is now being demolished by the Meech Lake accords, in which there is no longer any mention of bilingualism in Manitoba or in New Brunswick… I beg your pardon, New Brunswick is a fortunate exception.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): Thank you, Mr. Trudeau.
In concluding, I am going to ask my co-chairman, Senator Tremblay, to wrap up this session please.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Tremblay): “Wrap up” are words I would not like to use to describe what I will say.
My first duty is to thank this evening’s star witness. However, before doing so, I shall take the liberty of sharing with you a thought that occurred to me during the course of this lively debate. Mr. Trudeau, I had the impression that there were two stages to this debate.
In the first stage, you showed us everything catastrophic in the Langevin Accord: immigration, spending power, the amending formula, and the distinct society. Later, by the way, you said that you acknowledged the distinct society from the sociological point of view and had even proposed that it be recognized in a preamble to
the Constitution. although an interpretive clause was something else again!
At one point, you asked whether it meant something or nothing. In saying that you would have no objection to this phrase in a preamble, you are saying that in a preamble it would not mean very much. However, it means a great deal as an interpretive clause. So you yourself have answered your first-year philosophy question of logic.
This brings me to what I saw as the second stage, beginning with the way in which you answered Mr. Gauthier. In the second stage, you showed us, rightly, what great efforts you had made on immigration, spending power, the amending formula and the distinct society, to provide the provinces, especially Quebec, with advantages that are quite similar to those in the Meech Lake and Langevin Accord. You explained that at that time, however, the provinces always refused, saying these offers were insufficient. That appears to be what blocked those efforts you describe. which I myself observed at the time.
With the Meech Lake and Langevin Accords, what has specifically happened is that Mr. Bourassa’s current Quebec government, having set out a number of points in its election campaign—five, which resurfaced later—and having thus obtained an unquestioned mandate from the Quebec people, embarked on the process which has brought us to the Meech Lake Accord; in exchange all the other partners were obliged to make a major concession: specifically, to respect these five points. This process avoided the difficulty you faced of never knowing when the list would end; it also may explain why your efforts, which I acknowledge, were not as successful as you wished. It happened that the reasonableness of Quebec’s proposals made it possible for an accord to be reached. Of course—and I do not think it is inappropriate to point this out—the Accord was also possible because of the opening Quebeckers perceived in the Sept-Iles speech. A consensus had been reached.
I am somewhat perplexed by the discrepancy I discern between what I would call the catastrophic approach of the first stage of your presentation and the goodwill approach you took later.
I had the clear impression that the first stage was a flat rejection, an absolute and final rejection of everything in the Meech Lake Accord. However, as you explained to us, the Meech Lake Accord includes a great many points toward which you had worked. Now I wonder where we have got to.
If your efforts of former years have now come to fruition, it would seem reasonable to me that most of your objections to the Meech Lake Accord should be weakened. On the other hand, if the Accord includes so many catastophic elements, what was the purpose of your work toward many of the points we find in the Meech Lake Accord? That is a thought that occurred to me. I do not want to start a debate that would extend our discussion unduly. I simply point out to you an impression I had during the discussion.
I leave this digression to return to my duty of thanking you most warmly for your contribution to our deliberations.
Mr. Kaplan: On a point of order!
The Joint Chairman (Senator Tremblay): I would like to add that all in all, although it was lively at times, today’s discussion has remained within the bounds of decency. As Joint Chairman of the committee, I think we should all congratulate ourselves on the way in which the meeting has been handled. I do not need to point out that particular congratulations are due to those whose temperament might have led them to use more forceful language. I extend special congratulations and thanks to those persons.
Mr. Kaplan: Mr. Chairman, I feel that the Chairman’s remarks are not only thanks, but also a series of topical comments, and so I think our guest should have the right to respond.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): I think Mr. Kaplan’s point is well taken. I will give Mr. Trudeau an opportunity to reflect on the comments of Senator Tremblay.
Mr. Trudeau: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have such respect for Senator Tremblay that I certainly will not take more than a moment to point out that there is a great difference between telling the provinces on the one hand they will be able to choose between three names put forward by the federal government to the Supreme Court, and on the other hand saying the only names of people who will go to the Supreme Court are to be named by the provinces. Each one of the points, which I offered over a period of some 12 years,
which I offered over a period of 12 years to the provinces, it was first one thing and then another. There was always give-and-take. If one option was unworkable, it did not stay on the table. You are familiar with labour
negotiations, during which many offers are made. When something does not work. it is withdrawn: if salary discussions are deadlocked. you go on to discuss the pension fund, and so on.
I did that for 12 years and each time, as I think I have shown in answering Mr. Gauthier and the member for Charlevoix, each time I offered something different. But at that time, I offered things that were in keeping with national patriotism and the national will to survive. not supremacy of the provinces. That is all I can say. You have only to look at the offers, one after the other, including the offer to limit spending power. But I do not want to go into detail.
I appreciate the tone of your thanks. I was going to say, derisively, that it was something like we used to call the word from the chaplain at the end of a meeting. But I say it kindly, as a friend; senators should always set an example of calmness and wisdom, and I thank you for having been just such an example.
Some hon. members: Ha, ha!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Speyer): We will rise until Monday at 8:30 a.m.