That, in the opinion of this House, the government should change the name of the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" to the "Canadian Charter of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities".
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the meat of my presentation today, I would like to spend a couple of minutes describing to the television audience the difference between a private member's motion and a government motion and what is most assuredly going to be happening to this motion in exactly one hour.
A private member's motion receives one hour of debate in the House. Then it is dropped from the Order Paper, never to be seen again, unless there is a spark of interest somewhere and it resurfaces.
This is one of the checks and balances in our parliamentary system. It allows backbenchers and opposition members a chance to get a point of view across. It gives opposition and government members a chance to debate ideas.
If this were a votable bill rather than a motion, it would receive a grand total of, I believe, three or four hours of debate. It would come back two or three times and would be voted on. On a very rare occasion of unanimity in the House on an opposition member's bill, it could become law.
The chances of a bill becoming law promulgated by an opposition member are fairly remote. Hopefully it is something that we in this Parliament could consider, because it is really the essence and the spirit of parliamentary democracy. No one in the House has a lock on good ideas. If we are to use our opportunities as parliamentarians effectively, we would learn from each other and modify each other's bills to meet a common objective.
In any event, my motion was inspired because I felt we were becoming a nation of entitlement. This was very much to our detriment and to the detriment particularly of the younger generation of Canadians.
During the election campaign my fellow candidates and I were doing an all-candidates meeting at a high school in Edmonton. In the question and answer period one of the students got up and said: "What are you going to do to get me a job?"
Through the luck of the draw I was the last person to respond and I got a chance to listen to the other candidates. I listened to them telling this young person in an auditorium full of students that we were going to create a nirvana-poor choice of words-motherhood and apple pie. We were going to spend money here and spend money there and create jobs.
I could just see all their eyes glazing over because they had heard it all before and had no reason to believe it. My turn came along and I thought, I am going to tell these people the truth.
I said to that young man: "Look, if you want to know who is going to get you a job when you graduate from high school, have a look in the mirror because that is the only person in the world who is responsible for you. Your success in life is going to be directly attributable to what you put into it. If you expect me, your parents, your school or anybody else to do for you what you need to do for yourself you are going to be sadly mistaken and very disappointed in life".
I am telling you I was Mr. Dinosaur from the Reform Party. He must have been thinking: "Here is this old-timer who does not have a clue about what is going on. How could he possibly be standing here and telling me I am responsible for myself, like I don't have to show up at school every day. If I come in late nobody seems to care". That is not fair because that is not the way it is in life.
That is the germ of the idea of how we got into this situation. It is not just individuals who feel that there is a sense of entitlement, it is all of us. Our whole society has become one of entitlement. If somebody wants to start a business what does he do? He does not get every nickel he has together and get his friends and relatives together and start a business. The first thing to do is trot down to the bank and see if the government will guarantee a loan. Is there not a grant for doing this? Cannot somebody else risk their capital so I can progress in my life? That is just not the way it works in this world.
We have become a nation of rights, a nation of entitlements. We did not become this way just with the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has been happening slowly but surely. It probably happened perhaps in the 1950s and then accelerated in the 1960s. Here we are today with the single thing that has really codified this whole notion of rights, the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.
As I progress in my speech this afternoon, I am going to be referring to some information that I got from a book entitled: Protecting Rights and Freedoms: Essays on the Charter's Place in Canada's Political, Legal and Intellectual Life . I recommend this book to anyone who has any particular interest in going further into the investigation of the effect of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our country.
I want to acknowledge that I will be quoting from the essays of three individuals, all of whom will be familiar to colleagues in this House and to you, Mr. Speaker. The first is the Right Hon. Kim Campbell when she was Solicitor General. She delivered a presentation at a 10th anniversary conference on the charter of rights. The second person is Lysiane Gagnon, a well-known member of the media from Quebec and Jeffrey Simpson who needs no introduction from me.
As a matter of fact it was interesting that in another part of Kim Campbell's writings she said that Canadians, as compared with Americans, really have a different sense of what government means. We look at government as protector of our rights and freedoms. Government is not something feared by the average Canadian. She compared that with the situation in the United States where the government is seen as more obtrusive by the individual citizen.
Ms. Campbell was comparing the case of our bill of rights and the American experience. The two do not exactly relate, but let me give you the gist of what she was saying as she was talking about the tension that exists in Canada between Parliament and the judiciary. With the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, the Supreme Court has taken on great powers that were not previously in our common law tradition to be vested with appointed judges. It was the role of Parliament to reflect the mores of the time and to interpret what was going on in society. We have evolved into more of an American system where the judiciary has far more to say about what is going on.
As a matter of fact Kim Campbell said: "Courts are now required to choose from among competing approaches and values. The real question therefore is not whether the courts are making policy but rather the appropriate limits of the courts' policy making role". She said that when she was the Attorney General of the country. That is a profound statement.
She further said: "By giving Canadians constitutionally entrenched rights and freedoms and by making these enforceable by the courts, the charter has given the courts a much more powerful and visible role in our governmental system. This has led to some tensions and to questions about the proper scope of judicial review in a parliamentary system".
Her concern was that unless Parliament and the courts understand and respect each other's role we will evolve toward a system in which the courts, rather than democratically elected legislatures, are seen as the primary protectors and promoters of rights and freedoms.
That has happened. The courts have taken on an increasing role in our society and the role and the responsibility of Parliament has as a result been diminished.
Then the question comes up: Why do we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the first place? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not have one word in the whole thing about responsibilities. The thought of responsibility does not enter into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How can that be?
It was because it was never intended to be anything other, at least according to many people. The introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada was done because Pierre Trudeau wanted it. He believed if we had a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guaranteed individual rights and freedoms we would be able to make a place for French speaking Quebecers in the whole of the country and for English speaking Canadians in Quebec by law, the notion of individual rights. As I understand it the problem was not that we should have these individual rights across the whole country. It was the people in Quebec wanted to feel at home in Quebec. It was maîtres chez nous, not maîtres chez all of Canada, it was maîtres chez Québec, at home.
Quebec was not part of the patriation of the Constitution. It did not sign on and so instead of this becoming something we could all cherish and bind us together, it became yet one more irritant.
These are the words of Lysiane Gagnon: "This was another episode in the long antagonism between two schools of thought. One embodied by Trudeau focused on the rights of French Canadian individuals. Given equal chances and a decent degree of protection for their language they should be able to affirm themselves throughout the country. The second school of thought focused on the collective rights of Quebecers to develop the institutions and increase the powers of the province that was their only true homeland, the place where they formed a majority".
We now have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms without responsibilities covering the whole nation. The intent was to make Quebec feel more comfortable as part of the nation. It did not work. What are we left with? A situation where the courts are now making decisions that should be made in Parliament. They are making decisions that fly in the face of common sense.
I have examples of that. I do not need to bring it out in this case right now. There are many examples. The hon. member opposite wants an example. Let me give an example.
The top court said just the other day that too drunk is a defence in a rape case. A guy gets too drunk, rapes someone and as a defence cannot form intent and there it is.
This is a decision that is made by our courts but it does not reflect the common sense of the common people. What happens? People see something like this and they say Parliament could not possibly understand what is going on. The courts do not understand what is going on and people feel disconnected from the very institutions that they should be connected to and feel comfortable with.
Now we have a situation in which we have rights through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms I submit is with us whether we like it or not because it has incredible symbolism in the country. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a survey done in 1991 had more symbolic significance to Canadians than anything else, including the flag.
I submit that it is going to be part of us for a long time but in the chapter that Jeffrey Simpson wrote, he wrote about Harvard professor Mary Anne Glendon in her book of the same name in its simplest American form, the language of rights is the language of no compromise: "By indulging in excessively simple forms of rights talk in our pluralistic society we needlessly multiply occasions for civil discord.
We make it difficult for persons and groups with conflicting interests and views to build coalitions and achieve compromise or even to acquire that minimal degree of mutual forbearance and understanding that promotes peaceful coexistence and keeps the door open to further communications".
We have seen this in our very Parliament, as last week two members who have very different opinions about things were starting to fight because one has a right and the other feels denied that right. Yet all of life is a compromise of one form or another. It is a means of getting along with each other. Under the guise of rights we are getting ourselves back into corners where compromise is not part of the equation.
I will quote again from Jeffrey Simpson: "A distinguishing characteristic of this rights talk is the degree to which discretionary decisions of government and the normal and sometimes healthy tensions in a pluralistic, democratic society are elevated to those of apparently fundamental human rights. These rights by virtue of being rights cannot easily be compromised. They
can only be defended to the maximum. These rights also seldom have obligations or responsibilities attached to them".
What can we do? Where do we go from here? We are very likely going to have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with us forever. How do we go about making the Charter of Rights and Freedoms more like that which was originally intended, something to draw us closer together, to bind us, to protect individuals from excesses of the states, to protect minorities from majorities and to have rules that we could live by?
I would submit that we could achieve that if somehow we were able to induce the courts to interpret the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a fashion and in a manner that gave some sense to society as a whole so that when decisions were made involving the Charter the justices would not always take the most liberal interpretation as per individual rights and the narrowest interpretation toward the rights of society as a whole.
I do not know how this delicate balancing act could be achieved but it is certainly worthy of the attempt because we have evolved to a situation today in which people think of ourselves as rights and entitlements. We have a situation in which regardless of the colour of the book that the government is quoting from, whether it is the Reform's blue book or the Liberal's red book or the Bloc's book, there are certain things that we have to do as a nation.
We have to start to live within our means. As the money dries up people are going to be backed into more and more corners connected with rights and we are going to have to start thinking more and more in terms of our responsibilities to our nation.
We recall those 17 words that President Kennedy used years ago to discuss exactly this: "Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".
If we could inculcate somehow that simple phrase into our lexicon, if we Canadians could think what can we do for our country rather than what our country can do for us, I think we could go a long way in bridging some of the conflicts that are evident here in this House, the conflicts between those of us on this side of the House and back and forth, and individuals who are concerned with their rights. We should probably show far more concern for our responsibilities to each other and to our nation and far less for our rights to ourselves.