House of Commons Hansard #275 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


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4:45 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. Hon. members will soon be asked to vote on measures introduced by the Prime Minister of Canada which recognize Quebec's distinct society and offer Canada's regions, in other words, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, the Prairies and the Atlantic regions, a veto on constitutional amendments.

This is a bill of Parliament. It is not a discussion on the Constitution, as members of both opposition parties are claiming. I may remind them that the date set for discussions on the Constitution is 1997, according to the Constitution Act.

Bloc members are of course against our bill, which means the government must be right and must be on the right track. Separatist members kept telling us and all Quebecers and all Canadians during the referendum campaign that they wanted was to be recognized as a distinct society, that they wanted veto powers, so we took them at their word, and we came to the House and told them: "We listened to what all Quebecers had to say, and we will now recognize distinct society as a principle in the Parliament of Canada and we also recognize that Quebec has a veto like the four other regions of this country".

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4:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Put it in the Constitution.

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4:45 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

The hon. member for the Bloc said: "Put it in the Constitution". As usual, they will not listen and they did not understand when I said that according to the Constitution Act, we are to discuss these issues in 1997. This was the action taken by the federal government in response to the commitment made by the Prime Minister during the referendum campaign to meet the needs and demands of all Canadians.

Every day I receive correspondence from my French and English constituents, étant donné que mon comté est bilingue, who although they may have different ideas on how to deal with Quebec the majority recognize the different culture of their Quebec neighbours and recognize the need for change.

The turnout for the unity rally which I attended was a clear indication of the overwhelming support from all Canadians, les Québécois inclus, for a united Canada that includes Quebec.

Why recognize the francophones in Quebec as being a distinct society and not the anglophones? We could recognize the anglophones, but why? What would be the point? The anglophone culture is not in danger of disappearing, I know something about that. The anglophones are not being targeted by the factors threatening the francophone culture in Canada with its demise.

Although Canada's anglophone culture is distinct from American culture, it will always be supported by it. The media and the telecommunications industry will provide an environment that will sustain the anglophone culture. On the other hand, there is no such support for the francophone culture.

When we travel across the country we see the obvious differences from region to region. Nowhere is the difference more obvious than when one travels to Quebec. The difference in that province is accentuated by culture and by language.

Even members of the Reform Party will agree privately, but in the House, for obvious reasons, they oppose it.

There is no denying the distinction of Quebec. That fact is that Quebecers are different from the rest of Canadians. They have always been different.

The country was founded by two very distinct peoples, the French and the English. The idea of a distinct society began with General Murray. Very few Canadians appear to know their Canadian history. Wolfe beat Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. The British won that war. The territory we now know as Canada was British.

Very few people seem to know that when Montcalm died on the battlefield he was replaced by General Murray who knew the practice of military procedures, that when invading a country we should recognize immediately the laws and the distinction of the people of the country we invade. It was practical. The practice was to recognize their laws, their culture, their religion and their language.

Like the Reform Party there were in the British mercantile society those who thought that Murray was going too far. They brought General Murray back to England for a court martial. Very few people would know that General Murray won his court martial, and the British government in 1774 recognized the duality of Canada and distinct society by proclaiming the Quebec Act.

I highly recommend to Reformers and Bloc members that they study their Canadian history. Canada is what it is because of its different and distinct cultures. If we allow these cultures to be eliminated, we will no longer be Canada, if fact, we will be quite close to being American.

No doubt it is the francophone community especially that sets us apart from our American neighbours. I do not want to become American; I want to remain Canadian. Being a fourth generation Franco-Ontarian, I have the advantage of being able to converse in both official languages everyday. Although I am not a Quebecer, I know I am different from my unilingual neighbours, both English and French.

Reform frightens everybody, including western anglophones, by arguing that recognizing Quebec as a distinct society gives that province additional powers that anglophones and the other provinces do not have. I challenge them to tell us what these powers are.

Finally, the reason why the Prime Minister offered to give a veto to all five regions of Canada is to ensure that every province has a say in amending the Constitution.

Quebec, Ontario, the maritimes, the prairies and British Columbia will share the right to veto any proposed constitutional amendment that they feel would not be to the benefit of the residents of a particular part of the country and to all Canadians.

The Liberal government believes that all Canadians should have a say in the future of the country and the regional veto will afford them that luxury. The introduction of a regional veto will assure equal representation across Canada. Each region will have equal power in these matters; no more, no less.

Recognition as a distinct society does not give Quebecers additional powers or take any power away from anglophones and the other provinces. It gives Quebecers what they deserve: an essential tool not only to ensure their survival but also to develop their culture.

A distinct society does not mean a better or more advanced society. The French-language dictionary Le Petit Larousse defines the word distinct'' asclearly perceived; clear, well-defined, different; unmistakable''.

I hear a lot of noise coming from Reform members on the other side of the House. These people who claim that they want to learn French, who have suddenly discovered the province of Quebec and act as tourists, have finally realized that it is different. They tell us as much in the halls, but here, for political reasons and for their own reasons, which I find deplorable, they are opposed to recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes the word distinct as not identical, separate, individual, different or unlike. Those members of the Reform Party who have visited Quebec will know they are different in kind, not quality.

Recognizing Quebec as a distinct society is not a reward for francophones or a form of punishment against anglophones. On the contrary, it is essential to the survival of Canada-repeat, to the survival of Canada-as we know it today. We must recognize Quebec as a distinct society for the benefit of all Canadians and not only for Quebecers.

We as the federal government have a duty to ensure that Canadians enjoy the best quality of life possible.

Every morning, we can see the negative impact our infighting about constitutional issues has on our economy.

The hon. members of the Reform Party should take note that we should act now to give Canadians, not only Quebecers, a better chance to develop as a nation. Only by recognizing our differences will we be able to make any headway and only by recognizing them here, in this House, can we lead the way.

It is high time that we give Canadians the tools they need to see the difference and make their country a better place. Recognizing Quebec as a distinct society and the regional veto are exactly the sort of tools we need.

I refer to an article in the Toronto Star of December 10.

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4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but his time has expired. Unless there is unanimous consent he is out of time.

Does the House agree to give the hon. member a minute to finish his speech?

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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:55 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. members from the Reform Party. Without speaking disparagingly of them, some of my remarks may be directed at their party.

"Reform's hard line hinders unity of effort" was the headline in the Toronto Star of December 10, 1995. The article stated:

But Confederation from the start treated provinces unequally, to accommodate their special needs.

Protestants in Quebec, for example, have the constitutional right to their own school boards, as do Catholics in Ontario. That doesn't apply elsewhere-For 25 years, Canada has been trying to find ways to give constitutional expression to Quebec's special identity-But Manning's visceral opposition to Parliament making any special gesture to Quebec is dangerous and divisive. It lends credence to the separatist argument that the rest of the country really doesn't care. And that gives the separatists more ammunition, at the very time when Chrétien is trying to take it away from them.

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4:55 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, if ever there was an occasion when one should not have been generous in allowing an extra minute, that was one. It is water under the bridge and we cannot veto it, which brings me to the whole point of the discussion today.

Any one of us in the House could have vetoed the opportunity for the member opposite to add that couple of minutes to his presentation. We could have prevented him from coming forward for a host of reasons, some of which could have been petty, some of which could have been meaningful. Any one of us would have been able to prevent that member from finishing his speech. That is the nature of a veto and that is why there is no place in a constitutional democracy for a veto for anybody.

We should compare the American constitution with what we are trying to cobble together in Canada. The very fact that a constitution has flexibility allows it to live. The ability to change and evolve over time is the lifeblood of a constitution. That is what allows it to speak to the people and the people to speak to it.

Thomas Paine, in the mid-1700s, was an adviser to Thomas Jefferson. He had a lot to do with the gist of the American constitution. In Thomas Paine's book "The Rights of Man", from which I have quoted in the House in the past, he makes the point that every generation has the right and the responsibility to govern

for its times and should no more bind future generations to today than past generations should have been able to bind today to the past.

A veto to any specific province puts our Constitution into a strait-jacket. It puts the feet of the Constitution into a bucket of cement. It also states that from this day forward future generations will be stuck with what we give them today. For all Canadians watching this debate, wondering why we are debating the Constitution when our country's economy is in such a state, that is the reason we should not have a veto in the Constitution for any province.

If we are to have an amending formula in which a super majority is required to amend the Constitution, we should stick to something like the seven out of ten provinces representing 50 per cent of the population.

Given that we will not be able to change this, because it is not a perfect world, in the Canadian barnyard we are all equal but some of us are more equal than others. It has to do with the residents of our province. We could all have a veto if we all moved to a province with a veto. That would satisfy that little problem. However, that is not likely to happen.

What is the nature of the veto we are stuck with, the effective veto? The government has stated it does not have a whole lot of meaning or effect in some parts of the country. It has stated right here in the House that the next government can simply remove this legislation. However, it states that in Quebec it is extremely meaningful.

I believe it is extremely meaningful legislation because once we have gone down that road and given the commitment of a veto to the people of Quebec, there is no going back. There is no way we will be able to go back on that ground.

The Prime Minister has cobbled this together to try to save his political skin in Quebec or perhaps to save the political skin of Daniel Johnson in Quebec. He has effectively put our Constitution in a strait-jacket, which will make it impossible to change in the future.

Why on earth would any Prime Minister give a separatist government in Quebec a constitutional veto which would prevent change of our Constitution for evermore? Surely if we must give a veto to a province we should give that veto to the people in that province, not to the government or to the legislature.

Most legislatures are elected with a minority of the votes cast. A case in point is this Chamber. The Liberals have a massive majority with 175 seats but received only 43 per cent of the popular vote. The same thing can happen because of vote splits in every legislature. Therefore a legislature with a veto could use that veto even though it has not received a plurality of the votes cast in that province to put it into power in the first place.

A legislature could be elected three or almost four years prior to the constitutional issue about which it is being required to make a decision. Here we have a situation in which a province could have the right to veto constitutional legislation. The legislature could have been elected with a minority of votes cast and have been elected three years before the question at issue came to the floor. Its election, the fact that it is there and has the ability to veto the legislation would have absolutely nothing to do with its popular right to do so.

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5 p.m.

An hon. member

No mandate.

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5 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

No mandate. None whatsoever. That is why in the regions the veto power must rest with the people and not the legislators.

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5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Read the bill.

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5:05 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

A member opposite says read the bill. It does not rest with the people. It rests with the federal government which may at its pleasure make the distinction of how that decision is arrived at. It is not required that it be by referendum of the people in the province, which is what I am saying it should be.

My friend opposite earlier in his comments made brief reference to the distinct society. Very few people would recognize Quebec as being anything other than a distinct society, one which the vast majority of Canadians cherish as a fundamental part of Canadian identity. Most every Canadian recognizes that.

Our amendments essentially reinforce that first, recognizing Quebec as a distinct society would in no way confer on it powers or rights not be conferred anywhere else; second, that there would be no chance to abuse minorities; third, one nation, the affirmation that we are one nation. These were the things we felt must be affirmed in the distinct society status.

I thank the House for the opportunity to share a few thoughts. I ask the government to consider one other change to the legislation: make sure it is a popular ratification by the people.

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5:05 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the report stage and the third reading of Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a Minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to

allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stages.

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5:05 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I tabled a private members' bill the other day, Bill C-362. I take full responsibility. There is an error in the bill. There was a later draft which should have been presented.

I would like to bring the correct draft to the House but first I must have the unanimous consent from the House to withdraw the current Bill C-362. I have agreement from the government side and from the Bloc.

Therefore I ask that the House give unanimous consent for me to withdraw Bill C-362 from the Order Paper.

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5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

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5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Order discharged and bill withdrawn.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments, as reported (without amendment) from the committee; and of Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

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December 11th, 1995 / 5:05 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be debating Bill C-110 and more specifically Motion No. 2 to Bill C-110. Wherein Bill C-110 the veto powers were given to four regions of Canada, Motion No. 2 gives this veto power to five regions of Canada.

Where did this veto proposal come from? Let me take the members back to the referendum. The Prime Minister made certain promises about recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. Having many relatives in Quebec, I find it very incomprehensible that the Bloc Quebecois would vote against the recognition of a distinct society. I hope that somehow, maybe on a one to one basis, it can clarify that for me because I find it shocking.

We have excellent support for the direction the Prime Minister is taking. Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow says the proposals deserve to be carefully considered by political leaders and the public as an honest effort by an honest individual, the Prime Minister, to keep this great country together.

An Edmonton Journal editorial states: To hear some of our politicians'', and we are hearing them today,you would think that the Quebec referendum didn't happen. There seems to be little recognition that Prime Minister Chrétien made necessary promises during the referendum campaign and that he is honour bound to keep them''. That is what we are doing.

The Prime Minister has tabled legislation to keep his promises, and he is known for that. In his 30 years of politics he has never broken a promise, which is why he is so well liked by Canadians from coast to coast.

However, we have to settle this dispute of Quebec separation once and for all. People are fed up hearing about it. People are disgusted. It is affecting families psychologically. Families cannot have a normal relationship anymore. Instead of coming home and talking about hockey scores or other things they get on the referendum and become depressed. I know this from my family. Whether in education, whether they work for the police force, whether in the Department of National Defence, entire families are being affected by this dispute. Let us settle it once and for all and let us settle it quickly.

Some are complaining about why we are pushing this through quickly. It is Canadians who want us to act quickly. When people in Quebec voted no to separation they also gave us an important message to bring about changes but not to bring them about as former Prime Minister Mulroney did, dragging out commissions and committees and joint committees, et cetera. At the end of a one-year or two-year process what did Canada get? Nothing but more frustration, more disputes, more dividing of this beautiful country which was named number one by the United Nations. We do not want that. Canadians do not want that. They want us to act quickly and keep the promise we made during the referendum.

This frustration is not only within Quebec but outside of Quebec. I hear it in my constituency. I held a recent town hall meeting just after the referendum specifically to discuss what happened and where we should go from there. It covered the entire spectrum with frustration across the entire spectrum.

Allow me to quote a constituent, Howard Dunnick: "Dear Mr. Flis, I object strongly to giving Quebec distinct society status. As for the veto, why should the tail wag the dog? We just cannot afford to let Quebec spend our money like drunken sailors any longer. They say they are one of the founders of our nation. If they are so concerned, why do they first lead us to bankruptcy and then break up the nation? In fact, they do not care if they bleed us to death".

That is how strong the feelings are at that end of the spectrum. It is not the majority feeling, nor a feeling I share. At the other end of the spectrum Janet Page says: "Quebec needs to be brought into the Constitution. I do not want to lose Quebec. Bouchard does not have

the best interests of the people in mind. The government should force him to bargain in good faith. We need an end to this".

That is the frustration at the other end of the spectrum. We need an end to this dispute, to this debate. At town hall meetings we have to allow the people to share this frustration. What I like about the process of a town hall meeting, at least as I observe in my riding, is that people get educated. They educate themselves. Initially at town hall meetings they are filled with anger, with a let them go attitude. By the end of the evening they ask: "How can we demonstrate to Quebec that to us Canada includes Quebec?" They are good debates and discussions: What is Canada? What does it mean to be a Canadian?

By the end of the evening the same group of people who had those extreme views are making suggestions. They asked me whether when I was the principal of Argentina School and it was twinned with Canada School in Buenos Aires the children learned anything. I said yes. They learned about each other's culture and language. There were student exchanges and project exchanges. That is a suggestion they give for us here in Canada. Others suggest that cities and towns should be twinning. Families should be meeting so they can talk around the dinner table and get to know each other.

I was so pleased that out of the frustration grew these kinds of positive suggestions. If we go in that spirit and we accept the distinct society, if we accept that Quebec has a civil code for its justice system, if we accept that regions should be given a veto power-and I support the fact that this motion allows B.C. to have a veto power.

I was born and raised in Saskatchewan, a third of my life was spent there. When we talked about the prairie provinces we did not include B.C. We included Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and that is a natural region. B.C. has its rising population and its distinctiveness of trading with the Pacific Rim and everything else that the minister mentioned in his presentation. It is natural that B.C. is a region, the prairie provinces are a region, Ontario is a region, Quebec is a region and the Atlantic is a region.

With that kind of check on changing and bringing amendments to the Constitution, we will see this country grow and flower like we have never seen. We have to be willing to share and to support each other, not like the Reform Party where the leader was the one who suggested that we include B.C. as a separate region. What does Reform do now? It is going to vote against this motion.

It is that party which held up five fingers every question period. Why not B.C.? It got B.C. What is it doing? Reform members are not interested in Canadian unity. They are interested in scoring political points. They are scoring political points down to the point where they are 8 per cent in the polls.

I appeal to the Reform Party. I appeal to the Bloc Quebecois. This is Canada. It is the most beautiful country in the world. We are not building Canada for you and you and you and me. We are building Canada for future generations. That is why we were elected. If we believe in that, we will all pull together and pass this motion and the bill.

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5:15 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been saying for a long time that the federal Canada of 1867 was a compromise based on a misunderstanding: the vision of Sir John A. Macdonald, who wanted a legislative union, or a single parliament for all of Canada, and the vision of George-Étienne Cartier, who wanted strong provincial parliaments, as well as powers delegated to a federal legislature that would be a creature of the provinces.

However, the creature decided to become the creator and committed the sin of pride like our first parents, who paid the ultimate price, as will the federal system. Earlier, the hon. member for Parkdale-High Park told us how nice it is to have a resolution that recognizes Quebec's distinct nature, because of its civil law tradition. But we have known that since 1867. Indeed, subsection 92(13) provides that property and civil rights come under provincial jurisdiction. Consequently, we were allowed, at the time, to keep our civil code which, incidentally, was in effect as of 1866 in Lower Canada.

As for our language, one just have to use it in this House to realize that it is different, that it is distinct from that of our fellow Canadians. The same is true for our culture.

Following the speech made in Verdun by the Right Hon. Prime Minister, there was a shortage of Tylenol to bring the fever down, and something had to be done very quickly. Consequently, the government hurriedly drafted a resolution providing that Quebec is a distinct society because of its language, its culture and its civil code. We already knew that. But what comes with that recognition? Absolutely nothing. This is a meaningless statement. No powers are granted along with that recognition.

And to make sure of that, the government has introduced Bill C-110 and told us: under the resolution, Quebec is a distinct society by virtue of its language, its culture and its civil code. That is it. We will not get anything else. And to be sure that nothing will change, Bill C-110 gives veto power to just about everybody. I call that the Colonel Sanders veto power: a big chicken with legs for everybody. That is what our federation with vetoes for everybody looks like.

According to what Mr. Jean Dion was saying last week in Le Devoir , from now on it will take the approval of the equivalent of 91.8 per cent of the population to change anything in the Canadian Constitution. This means that nothing can change any more. And the Prime Minister will be saying: ``There is nothing I can do now for Quebec. I would like so much to be able to do more, but I cannot because of Bill C-110. Heavens, has that piece of legislation ever put us in a difficult situation. I would have liked so much to give French Canadians, to give Quebecers the same rights enjoyed by Canadians in the western provinces and elsewhere''. So we are going to be stuck with that.

The leader of the Action démocratique du Québec, Mario Dumont, was telling us the other day that because of the close results in the referendum, the Quebec government would have to start opening the mail. The one thing we are sure of today is that, with the bill before us, postage will not be very expensive: half a page, 45 cents. And they think that they will buy peace in Quebec with half a page.

As my colleague from Joliette was saying, what Quebec wants is a white horse, not a pony, and I totally agree with that. Let us have something concrete. Before granting veto powers here and there to block any constitutional amendment, the government should come up with concrete proposals involving some devolution of powers to Quebec. It should repeal the preamble of section 91 which authorizes the federal Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada.

This preamble has been used by the courts to grant the federal government unforeseen powers, for example, the general spending power, this national dimension theory allowing the federal government to get involved in almost every area, emergency powers and ancillary powers. All of these constitutional theories were approved by the courts, but were never foreseen by the Fathers of Confederation. If there had been Mothers of Confederation, the women would probably have realized at that time that something was wrong with the Constitution.

The government should also repeal section 91(29) concerning the residual powers. In 1867, it was said that all powers that were not specifically granted to the provinces would come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Think about the development of all the technologies, like broadcasting, cable distribution, television, aeronautics-we are now talking about the information highway-which could not have been foreseen in 1867 and which automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, pursuant to section 91(29). These residual powers should be granted to the provinces retroactively, with a transfer period of no more than 12 months, so that the provinces can recover all of the residual powers which have surfaced since 1867 and the federal government can keep the power to subsidize it will need to exercise the powers the provinces will let it have.

The government should also withdraw from section 91 the federal powers in the area of unemployment insurance and give those powers to the provinces as it withdraws from the field of taxation.

If we add a distinct society clause, it should be enshrined in the Constitution and not be limited to the present clause concerning only language, culture and the Civil Code, or Napoleonic Code, as the Prime Minister said the other day, in a rather revealing slip of the tongue. The Napoleonic Code is used in France. We have had our own Civil Code in Quebec since 1866.

So, we should have a distinct society clause enshrined in the Constitution stating that Quebec is a distinct society. The Constitution of Canada must be interpreted in such a way that the Quebec legislature is vested with all powers inherent to the recognition of its distinctiveness.

We would then have an interpretive clause that would colour the Constitution. We now hace a resolution of the House of Commons similar to the ones we use to vote an anniversary or the end of a conflict somewhere. That is not really what Quebecers want.

Section 95 of the Constitution says that agriculture and immigration are shared jurisdictions. The problem is that in the very same section, we see that federal legislation prevails when federal and provincial laws clash. Section 95 should be abrogated and immigration and agriculture recognized as exclusively provincial jurisdictions. The federal government should withdraw completely from these fields.

We might as well abrogate the sections concerning the Senate. In 1995, we certainly do not need this chamber any more, a non-elected chamber which is now delaying Bill C-69 on electoral boundaries, for example. Non-elected people telling us how the House of Commons should be elected, that takes guts. We could abrogate this at the same time.

According to section 91 there is nothing in the present Constitution which specifically addresses the management of foreign policy. It was inspired by section 132, which set out the powers passed down from the imperial Parliament, the Parliament of Great Britain. We could add to section 91, under federal powers, that foreign policy is a federal jurisdiction, but solely in those areas falling under the legislative authority of the federal Parliament. Section 92 could have the addition that foreign relations are also under the jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures. Lieutenant-governors ought to be appointed by the legislative assemblies, as should senators if we keep the Senate.

Since today's debate is a bit short, I will skip over a few important aspects I was going to mention. When a package, a binding offer, is arrived at by the federal chambers, Commons and Senate, and the legislatures of all the other provinces, for there are many items that require unanimous consent, when that is done, then mail it off to Quebec and the negotiations can start. That can be the basis for negotiation. I do not expect to live long enough to see the day when postage costs will come down to a level that would allow such a document to be mailed.

So the Mario Dumont yardstick of at least reading the mail is no more, and since October 30, since the referendum results, we have had the proof in all ways possible that what the government is proposing is a totally cosmetic change with no substance whatsoever.

At both the report stage and on third reading, I will be proud to rise in this House to vote against Bill C-110, which has the sole merit of making the Verdun speech even more meaningless.

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5:25 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Madam Speaker, let me begin my comments by saying that through these naive and inexperienced eyes, I view the debates on Bill C-110 and our resolution that calls on the House to recognize Quebec as a société distincte as some of the most important debates we have had in our 35th Parliament.

We have just completed another chapter in our collective history and in our search for ourselves. We know that chapters talk about the Vikings. It is absorbing to read about our First Nations, about Jacques Cartier and about New France. When I think about the chicken tracks that really are the depictions of Champlain's voyages across the map of North America in the 1600s, I find that the interest is nowhere near as exciting as the interest which is created when we study the human intrigue we see beginning with the conquest in 1759.

That word conquest is such a terrible misnomer. Our Canada was never conquered in the traditional British fashion. Canada was never a classic British colony. In fact it was quite the opposite. Look at the demographics at that time. There were some 65,000 French living along the St. Lawrence River, compared to only 5,000 or 8,000 British. The first British governor, Murray, had very little opportunity to quash the French culture, its language, its religion, its customary civil rights, its civil approach to property management and property exchange; nor did he want to.

The history books tell us that Governor Murray Murray at the time indicated: "I will govern by the dictates of my heart and my heart dictates clemency and understanding". Those were some of the very first notions of the British governors in Canada. That commitment continued and it became much more formalized in 1774 with the Quebec Act.

The British needed the support of the French against the rise of republicanism in the United States. They needed to ensure that the French were on side. Therefore, with the Quebec Act in 1774 there were very strong and real commitments that allowed for the free exercise of religion, for customary property and civil rights.

Those words are not very different from the words which included in this resolution which calls on the House to recognize Quebec as a distinct society in its religion, language and its right to civil institutions. I do not see the resolution as being anything special, unique or new. Rather, it is a very important reaffirmation of the commitments made to Canadians so very long ago.

Distinct society was understood in a very real sense by my ancestors. They were United Empire Loyalists, loyal to the crown. They came up from the United States after losing the revolution. They United Empire Loyalists came up through the walnut trail into southwestern Ontario and found a society different from that with which they were familiar. Catholicism was being practised. The French language was being spoken. There was no responsible assembly. They did not understand the method of transfer of property. The fee simple method, which was so much a part of the British culture, was not a part of society in Canada.

I suppose my ancestors were the first separatists. The United Empire Loyalists, who just could not make sense of the new community, the new situation, were successful in achieving the split into upper and lower Canada, right along the Ottawa River.

As time went on the issue and the need for responsible government was felt very clearly in both upper and lower Canada. We know about the Papineau revolution of 1837. We know that Lord Durham was sent over from England to complete a royal commission. His decision was to unify the two Canadas. He felt it was the right thing to do. He thought it was appropriate because in his mind it would create a homogeneous society by bringing the two cultures together. However, that is not how it works in Canada. It does not now and it did not then.

When the two first prime ministers, Baldwin from upper Canada and LaFontaine from lower Canada, came together to form the first great ministry, English was not the only language of Parliament. LaFontaine spoke in French. He and his colleagues from lower Canada were encouraged to speak French. As the Parliament moved from community to community, because there was not a set location, its members spoke in both English and French, without translation. Somehow they worked together. They understood each other. They took steps backward. They took steps forward and kept Canada together with two cultures and two languages working together.

I would suggest that it is that very heritage which has made this country what it is today. The acceptance of two cultures coming together to forge a common foundation has created Canada as we know it today: compassionate, humane, understanding, fully cognizant of the fact that to get along, to make progress, one does not have to deny a person's culture or an individual's history.

While it is very difficult to do, we can encourage people to keep what is so important to them, that is, their own sense and understanding of their personal history. It is this that has made Canada different from Britain, different from France. It is what has made Canada the best country in the world in which to live.

We still have difficulties and concerns. We look back and understand that shortly after Canada's 100th birthday in 1968 was the first comprehensive constitutional review. It was just a year after we celebrated Confederation.

From then on, we know the history. It is a litany of referenda, patriation of the Constitution, constitutional commissions, committees. We have been through 20-some years of discomfort, confused about where we are as a country.

Perhaps it is just the 100-year itch. Perhaps it is just a country anticipating a great future in the 21st century. If we step back and contemplate that, pull ourselves out of the reality as we understand it today, we may be able to find some important solutions for ourselves.

As we have noted with the extension of the veto to five regions, Canada as a result of social, economic and technological changes is regionalizing quite effectively. I look to my colleagues in Dartmouth and Moncton and consider the work they are doing to encourage the people in Atlantic Canada to think about a different kind of political unity, the unification of the Atlantic provinces.

Now may be the time and place when Canadians can step back, look at ourselves and ask the question, are we being paralysed by a paradigm of administrative doctrine of provinces that is constraining to us, that is making our clothes fit too tightly? Are we ready to break out and think of our country in a different way?

Can we actually contemplate a Canada of five regions: a strong Atlantic region; a strong region of Quebec with its deep cultural heritage that is so important to making the country unique; Ontario, which leads the industrial engines of the country; the prairies that have such great natural resources and truly are the bread basket not only of our country but perhaps even of the world; and of course, British Columbia, a different and unique part of the country.

Can we step back and allow ourselves to think of streamlining our country, bringing it together so that we can focus on our capabilities, on our strengths to build for a future, to make Canada not the slow moving, happy leviathan that has been treading water both calm and rough, but create ourselves into a darting and flexible space ship with five regions. We would add, of course, our very important First Nations, all under the umbrella of a strong federal government that could direct a comprehensive, cohesive, united Canada into the 21st century.

These are my ideas. We have so much to offer as a country to the people of Quebec, to the people of Ontario, to the people of British Columbia. I have great optimism that we have a strong future together and I would encourage the House to consider that as well.

Constitutional Amendments ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated very much the words that my colleague has just left with us.

When the justice minister appeared before the standing committee when we examined this bill, we were confronted-at least I was-with the fact that in the bill it transfers power or influence to the provinces, yet, there is no definition of province. We do not know for sure to whom we are transferring the power. Are we transferring the power of veto to the provincial legislatures, to the cabinet or to the people of that province? This is very important. We saw during the Quebec referendum that it was not the Government of Quebec that kept Quebec within Confederation. It wanted to take the province out of Confederation. It was not the cabinet or the legislative assembly that kept Quebec in Canada, it was the people of Quebec.

If a veto is granted to the provinces surely it ought to be to the people of the provinces. The recent history of attempts to amend the Constitution shows very clearly that politicians will not represent the will of the majority of their people, as was the case in Alberta and in a number of other provinces on the Meech Lake accord.

The people of my province had the Meech Lake accord forced on them simply because our premier had signed an agreement. He then came back, laid down the law to his cabinet and caucus and that is what we were going to be stuck with.

If we want to maintain the unity of this country, as the hon. member has just so eloquently spoken about, if we want to appeal to those people who have vital reasons for staying within Canada and remaining united, then we ought not to leave the power to tear our country apart in the hands of the politicians. We must place power in the hands of the people who have a common sense feeling for this country and do not want to engage in these enormous social engineering experiments.

I asked the justice minister when he was before the committee to whom this bill was transferring power because there is no defini-

tion of province in this bill. He said that it could be the legislature who could then transfer that power to the people by way of referendum. However, there is nothing in this bill that mandates that the provinces go to their people.

It is a little bit like the Charlottetown accord where there were provisions within the accord for the provinces to elect senators. However, some of the provinces, including Quebec, were not going to allow the people to elect the senators. It was the legislative assembly that was going to elect them. In other words, the power of appointment was being transferred from the federal government to the provincial governments and they were going to do the appointing. We cannot unite a country that way. If we are going to keep Quebec within Confederation we must transfer the power that this bill is going to provide to the people and not to the politicians.

I have heard hon. members say that the people of Canada want us to move forward on this, that they support this. That is not what we heard from those who appeared before the standing committee. We had four distinct groups of aboriginal peoples who do not support this bill. These people are referenced in the Constitution. They should have been contacted and consulted just as the governments of the provinces should have been consulted. They are referenced in the Constitution as well.

However, the government of the day did not have time for that. It rushed this thing through and it is still rushing it through. We were given 48 hours, as my colleague mentioned earlier. We were going to sit until midnight to hear witnesses if enough witnesses came forward on such short notice. Some of them would have to prepare with only 24 hour's notice. Is it not amazing that we were going to rush this thing through and we are being told that the people of Canada want this bill, yet we are not giving the provinces sufficient time to prepare, attend and express their views about this bill?

We had the justice minister appear before the committee and tell us that this bill was constitutional. Some witnesses could not appear in person but appeared using a video hook-up in their own areas. Professor Morton, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, stated the following concerning the constitutionality of this bill:

The Chrétien veto law is unconstitutional, in as much as it proposes to legally change the amending process, without following the rules of that process. Section 41(e) of the Constitution Act, 1982, states explicitly that there can be no amendment to the part V amending formulas except with the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces and the federal government. The government's position is that because the "veto law" is not a constitutional amendment, it need not follow the amending formula. But this misses the crucial point that the amending process will have been changed and that this change will have the force of law.

He said that is the key point.

The justice minister is telling us it is constitutional. This professor, and I am sure others if they had had time to prepare and

appear before the standing committee, are telling us that there are very serious concerns about the unconstitutionality of the bill. There is an inconsistency in legal opinions on the constitutionality of the bill.

I want to touch on some of the testimony made before the committee and some of the concerns raised by the aboriginal people. There were four groups. Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come of the James Bay Cree appeared. Ovide Mercredi, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations appeared, as did Rosemarie Kuptana of the Inuit Tapirisat and Wendy Moss, her legal adviser. There was Zebedee Nungak from the Makivik Corporation. They all spoke against this bill. Why? They said it is going to affect their constitutional rights that are guaranteed under section 35 of the act. In fact, Rosemarie Kuptana said:

Last week the Globe and Mail reported on a leaked federal memo that explicitly recommended our exclusion from national unity and constitutional discussions as well as recommending the means to achieve that exclusion. It was based on a cynical and wildly inaccurate view that our silence or acquiescence on national and constitutional issues could be bought by making financial commitments at the local level on unrelated files. In its worst light, this strategy can also be viewed as a form of blackmail, progress on matters outside the Constitution or national unity will only come in return for silence on our constitutional rights.

That formed part of the presentation from the leader of that aboriginal group. I do not have time to go into all of these comments, but the Grand Council of the Cree indicated this:

Bill C-110 is inadequate and unacceptable from an aboriginal perspective and we think will be found to be inadequate and unacceptable from the perspective of all Canadians.

We did not hear that many witnesses, but we heard many things said about this bill. The individual who spoke the most and made the most fundamental comment was Ovide Mercredi, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who said: "No autocrat is going to unite Canada". He pointed out very clearly that Bill C-110 has not united Canada; it has divided the provinces. It has not brought the aboriginal peoples in; it has divided them.

I simply cannot support the bill for the reasons given.

Constitutional Amendments ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Judy Bethel Liberal Edmonton East, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion presented by the hon. Minister of Justice proposing amendments to Bill C-110 to add a regional veto for the province of British Columbia.

The amendments to Bill C-110 reflected in this motion are not only a step forward for the province of British Columbia, but recognize the importance of the province of Alberta within Canadian federalism. These amendments show that Canadian federalism is flexible and dynamic. It is an example of our commitment to make federalism work for all Canadians.

With Bill C-110, the motion on distinct society for Quebec and the recognition of the essential provincial role in labour market training, our government has taken the initial steps to respond to the aspirations of Canadians within our local communities for change. It is change to make our national institutions more responsive to the diverse regional interests and on the basis of our unique federal state and change to deliver on the commitments made by the Prime Minister to the people of Quebec and to the people of Canada to involve Canadians at the grassroots level in building bridges of accommodation and mutual respect for diversity that will serve to bind our nation together in a common purpose as we approach the 21st century.

The unity package is a recognition that the province of Quebec is a vital part of our Canadian identity, an identity which has as its basis the principles of understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity.

The motion on distinct society reflects an important part of the Canadian reality, the unique character of Quebec within our federal state. The Government of Alberta has recognized the unique nature of Quebec's language, culture and civil law traditions. The March 1992 report by the special select committee of the legislative assembly of Alberta advocated recognition of Quebec as a distinct society with recognition to include matters of language, culture and civil law.

Leadership candidate Ralph Klein was a member of the provincial government in 1992 and campaigned in favour of the Charlottetown accord which contained the principle of distinct society within Canada. Premier Klein has acknowledged that the province of Quebec is distinct within Canada: "There is something distinct in terms of civil law, language, tradition and culture that makes Quebec distinct". That is from the October 24 Calgary Herald .

The regional veto formula contained in Bill C-110 is in accord with the Reform Party's vision as expressed on October 15, 1995 in its 20 measures to modernize Canada. The Reform Party supported the concept that all future constitutional amendments be approved by majorities in all regions of Canada through a referendum. I would remind the Reform Party that Bill C-110 leaves the regions with an option as to how they would apply their regional veto as an expression of the will of the people. As an Albertan I would expect the province of Alberta would use the referendum act passed in 1992 to reflect the will of Albertans.

The residents of my constituency of Edmonton East may not have developed consensus on the nature of changes required to renew Canadian federalism but make no mistake: passion for this country and the resolve to ensure its unity is felt by all in Edmonton East. Residents in Edmonton East share with Quebecers the same values of seeking constructive and positive changes to build a more effective Canada for the 21st century.

Let me stress for the record that this package is the first step and only a first step. The next step must involve Canadians in defining the change. Dictating the 20 terms of secession from Confederation from the political backrooms as Reform did without the active involvement or participation of Canadians in our local communities is not consultation. We must begin the process by sitting down with Canadians in our cities, in our towns, and in our communities to come to a better understanding of our similarities and our differences as Canadians and how we can work together to meet the aspirations for positive and constructive change that will make Canada work more effectively and efficiently for all Canadians.

We are a better nation when we pull together, building on our common aspirations for change and respecting our diversities. We are a better nation when we work for the common Canadian interest rather than the narrow regional or provincial self-interest. History proves it. Over the past 128 years Canadian federalism has shown an amazing resiliency. While federalism may have bent at times, it has never been broken. That is a tribute to the generosity of the Canadian spirit to adapt to changing circumstances through creativity and innovation.

We have successfully met all the challenges over the past 128 years. Our network of social programs are the envy of the world. Medicare, the Canada pension plan, support for the disadvantaged and the disabled; these were all implemented through the process of consensus and agreement among Canadians.

We can meet the challenges of renewing Canadian federalism as long as we work together as Canadians in a spirit of mutual respect, understanding and co-operation. That is the genius of our federal system.

I welcome constructive dialogue with the people of Alberta on the implications of change. I believe it is important that Albertans be able to speak out on change. That is the basis of our economic and parliamentary democracy.

Our Prime Minister has acknowledged the need to involve Canadians in the process of defining change. That is why he has indicated that Bill C-110 will serve only as a bridge until the formal review of the amending formula which is required by April 1997. As we lead up to that formal review, our government is receptive to new proposals by Canadians that will better reflect the principles of regional equality and equity in the process of constitutional amendment.

I will be consulting with the people in the communities of Edmonton East as to what steps we can take as a government to better reflect the principle of provincial equality within the amending formula and what steps we can take to build bridges of

accommodation between the people of Quebec and all regions of Canada.

I would like to talk about a series of unity initiatives that were held in Edmonton East two weeks ago. The purpose of the forums and the round tables was to develop a better understanding of the issues of distinct society and regional veto and to provide Edmonton East constituents with an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings on Canadian unity, to define the desired changes to federalism and to develop actions that individuals, our government and groups can take within our communities to enhance Canadian unity.

These forums involved a wide range of participants within Edmonton East: school children, families, the business community, francophone Albertans and representatives from our multicultural communities. I invited the member for Vaudreuil to discuss with the constituents of Edmonton East what the people of Quebec want and need from Canadian federalism and to explore the changes that are required to respect and value our distinctiveness and to enhance our shared aspirations for change within a strong and united Canada.

We examined four questions: How are you feeling and what are you thinking about the Quebec referendum and Canadian unity? When we talk about language, culture and institutions, how are the people from Quebec and Alberta different and how are they similar? Given our differences, what changes to our Confederation do we need to make to accommodate the needs and aspirations of both the people of Alberta and Quebec? What can you and I as individuals who live, work and go to school in Edmonton East do to enhance Canadian unity? It would be useful and interesting for us to ponder some of the responses to these four questions. I would be happy to share the report with anybody who is interested.

On the Quebec referendum and Canadian unity: "There is a great anxiety as to what is going to happen next. Canadian unity is fragile. The referendum was a real wake-up call for all Canadians". A second quote: "We must explore comprehensive change to Canadian federalism. We cannot continue to apply band-aid solutions".

To the question of how people of Quebec and Alberta are different and how they are similar: "The differences between us are well known. We have diverse cultural aspirations. The real test is whether Canadians are prepared to accept these cultural differences and aspirations in a spirit of respect and understanding".

To conclude, these are not the comments of people who are preoccupied with secession and separation as are the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois. These are the comments of people who want to be involved in a process of defining changes that are necessary to respect our distinctiveness, value our diversity and reflect our shared aspirations for a strong and united Canada.

Frankly, Canadians are tired of the politics of discord and division that seem to be the agenda of the Reform Party and the Bloc. I can give my assurance to the residents of Edmonton East that I will continue to take their suggestions for constructive and positive change to Ottawa, to our Prime Minister and to the unity committee.

Let us acknowledge what the unity package is, that it is the first step. Let us move on to the second step, to build bridges between our communities, between our provinces and between our regions. Let us build the case for Canada by involving all Canadians.

Constitutional Amendments ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-110 introduced by the federal government. This bill is suppose to legislate the changes the Prime Minister promised during the referendum campaign. In addition to Bill C-110, we also have motion No. 26 on the distinct society and the changes in manpower training.

Quite a menu, all these changes, at least the federal Liberals seem to think so. Just think, the Prime Minister went on national television during the referendum to announce sweeping changes if the no side won. Quite a menu, according to the federalists. But Quebecers feel they are looking at an empty plate. There is nothing here to satisfy Quebec's legitimate demands. Nothing to meet the expectations of Quebecers who believed the Prime Minister's promises made in haste towards the end of the referendum campaign and served up with a catch in the throat and, almost, a tear in the eye.

The no side won in a photo finish: 50.6 per cent of the voters said no, and many of them believed in the last minute national farce produced by the little guy from Shawinigan. On the other hand, 49.4 per cent of Quebecers said yes, in fact 56 per cent said yes in the little guy's part of the country. Most revealing.

The message from Quebecers was clear, and it will be even more so next time. Meanwhile, we have to live with the Prime Minister's initiatives which clearly show he did not get the message. In fact, will he ever get the message? Will he ever understand what Quebecers really want? In light of the changes he proposes and of his previous actions toward Quebec, it is easy to conclude that the Prime Minister is out of touch with Quebec and that his roots are Canadian from coast to coast first and foremost.

Let us not forget that the hon. member for Shawinigan is following in the footsteps of the illustrious Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who has always advocated Canadian unity, equality among the provinces, and individual rights and freedoms above all, especially

with a view to checking Quebec's momentum. These Liberal politicians have always believed in 10 little provinces that are equal and subordinate to a dominant central state, the Government of Canada.

How can someone who has been soaking in this kind of atmosphere for 30 years not become contaminated? Can we hold this against the Prime Minister? Of course, it is not easy to break from the past and the illustrious Trudeau and to amend this outdated concept that lives on in federalist minds. Too bad for them. But is it their choice and their problem.

In this regard, I recently had a discussion with a remarkable constituent of mine, Bernard Gilles Grenier, whom I salute, who remembered a time when he rubbed shoulders with eminent Quebec federalists. He told me: "They have always wanted to clobber us separatists. From Trudeau to the current Prime Minister. But we should not worry, because Quebecers evolve much more quickly than those people. Problems cannot be resolved by using such gutter language or by stooping to that level. I can tell you from experience".

We must also acknowledge the giant step taken by Quebecers between the 1980 referendum and the one held in October. With popular support having grown from 40 to 50 per cent, Quebec's sovereignty is at hand, and Bill C-110 as well as the other meaningless measures improvised by the Prime Minister will certainly not quash Quebecers' will to build a country of their own.

In this regard, editorialist Alain Dubuc wrote the following in the November 29 edition of La Presse : ``But this beginning of a reform remains too modest and too uncertain to represent a proposal acceptable to Quebecers and constitute a credible alternative to the sovereignist movement''.

In his editorial comment entitled "Quebecers want more, much more", Alain Dubuc goes on to say: "Let there be no mistake. Had the Prime Minister declared during the referendum campaign that all Canada had to offer in terms of prospects for change were the three proposals put forward on Monday, the yes side would have won". It is interesting to note that Mr. Dubuc had sided with the no camp throughout the campaign.

Earlier, I commented on the Prime Minister being out of touch with Quebec and not understanding Quebec. Mr. Dubuc, a federalist editorialist at La Presse , a newspaper owned by Paul Desmarais, who pulls the strings of this Liberal government, supported my position on occasions in recent articles. First, on November 29, when he wrote: ``This first and rather timid effort shows mainly that the Liberal government is having a real hard time understanding what is going on in Quebec''.

And second, on December 8, Mr. Dubuc wrote: "The Prime Minister is showing that he does not understand all that well the country that he is seeking to save and that he is not living in the same world as the Quebecers he has to convince".

Mr. Dubuc is quite clear: the Liberal proposals just do not cut it. That opinion is clearly confirmed by a SOM -La Presse-Droit de parole poll released on December 8. The results of that poll are very telling, since 53 per cent of Quebecers find the proposals inadequate, and 30 per cent even find them totally inadequate. Is that clear enough?

Then there is Claude Ryan who, on Friday, during Radio-Québec's Droit de parole , said that he too felt these offers were inadequate. Coming from such a firm believer in the Canadian cause, this is quite the statement.

The veto proposed by the Minister of Justice is part of that last minute plan. That second element once again created a circus-like atmosphere, something at which the Liberals are expert. That second element, that proposal to "loan" the federal veto, was condemned by just about every major stakeholder in Canadian politics. From coast to coast, opponents rose to strongly condemn that proposal. The Mercredis, Filmons, Romanows, as well as the Reform Party leader and, yesterday, the Conservative leader, all condemned the plan.

We, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, will have nothing to do with this bill, which contributes nothing to the debate. As pointed out by our leader, it is, at best, a diversion used by the Liberal government to silence those who criticize it for not doing anything about the constitutional issue, for making promises and for misleading the public.

This bill, which, following the minister's amendment, gives a veto to five regions, is a political maneuver that does not change in any way the substantive issue that concerns Quebec and Canada. The Minister of Justice himself has said that it does not change the Constitution and that it is primarily a form of self-discipline on the part of the federal government. Actually, the federal government is resorting to self-discipline in order to avoid giving too much to Quebec.

Suppose that the federal government acted as if it wanted to give an advantage to Quebec by transferring new powers to this province, for example under Motion No. 26 which recognizes Quebec as distinct. What would happen? Wham. The power of veto of the other regions would be invoked immediately to put a stop to any such intentions on the part of the federal government. This is the new self-discipline the federal government is resorting to. Yet the federal government is getting itself of the hook with this measure. It will be able to open doors to Quebec without any fear, knowing that the veto of other regions will slam those doors shut.

Therefore Bill C-110 will have a perverse effect. While solving none of our present problems, it will make it even more difficult for the federal government to transfer powers to Quebec, though I strongly doubt it intends to do so.

In this morning's issue of Le Devoir , Jean Dion wrote the following on this issue: ``The constitutional amending formula requiring the approval of seven provinces constituting at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population was already considered very restrictive. Yet, this formula will now require the prior approval of seven provinces representing 92 per cent of the Canadian population. One can already imagine a few crafty persons coming to the conclusion that the approval of 14 provinces representing 142 per cent of the population of Canada will now be required. After all, this would not be the first incongruity for this country''.

In other words, Bill C-110 is a yoke, a straight jacket, which this country is putting on itself. The whole thing is becoming so complex that nobody believes in it, except of course the leader of this national farce, the Prime Minister himself.

Those of us in the Bloc and many Quebecers are left cold by the federal proposals. We are light years beyond them, and Quebec sovereignty alone is acceptable and inevitable. This real change will take place soon.

Constitutional Amendments ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Len Hopkins Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, the more I listen to the debate, the more I am reminded of Sir Winston Churchill's statement that democracy is the worst of all kinds of government except all the others.

Today we have heard many views of the solutions to the national unity problem we are facing in Canada. Regardless of how much we talk about it and to what depth we go into it, we must focus on the larger picture. The larger picture is that of a strong, united Canada. It means unity at the local level, loyalty to the community, loyalty to the province and loyalty to the nation as a whole, all blended together. That is what was intended by the Fathers of Confederation and great Canadian statesmen who put the country together.

We are now 128 years old. In terms of years and of the history of other countries that is not very long. However, we are still experiencing growing problems whether or not we recognize them as that.

The ongoing project for us today is that of being pioneers of our era and building a nation that was the dream of Canadians in the past and is the dream of Canadians in the future by bringing national unity into reality in a continent-wide country by bridging the challenges of geography, by bridging diverse peoples, by going against the pull of American influence, by bridging regional and cultural differences and by relationships between French speaking and English speaking communities.

A book that I depend upon a great deal is entitled Canada: A Story of Challenge by historian J. Mr. S. Careless. In one sentence he goes into the diversities of the country but ends up by saying the book is a surprised and measured satisfaction that so much has been accomplished in the face of such grave difficulties''. He wrote that more than 40 years ago. He ended by saying: ``Nevertheless, the author's awareness that Canada throughout her history has met and survived repeated and rigorous challenges still gives him a basis for believing that she will continue to do so''.

As we debate the issue today we must look at the larger picture. Instead of getting ourselves all tied up into knots about regional matters and who has a veto and who does not, let us be fair to the various regions of the country. Let us develop more and more a stronger and a more meaningful, deep and abiding national pride in the country as a whole. The depth of that feeling is called a national spirit or it is a feel for one's country as a whole.

We saw a good example of that in Montreal during the massive rally when Canadians came together. Our loyalties are a three-tier system: the community, the province and the nation. It is a pride in the entire nation that will pull the regions and their peoples closer together. Canadians can and should have love for their community and admiration for their province and their nation at the same time. But we must tie it all together with the words and the term, "love of nation-Canada".

Premiers have a responsibility to their individual provinces but must not think of becoming a power unto themselves. A few weeks ago the premiers were going to meet without the Prime Minister because they wanted to discuss what the provinces wanted. This is why Canada should have a strong national government. It will pull the nation together. It is why the premiers and the Prime Minister must work closely together, not separately as the premiers were attempting to do. Everybody must see the national picture if we are going to succeed. We must have good communications and good transportation links.

I have been disappointed with the Reform Party's tunnel vision on this, particularly the statement made by the leader of the Reform Party on October 28, when he said: "the less the politicians themselves get involved, the better. We have a lot of work to do on how to handle the morning after". The people of Canada expect their politicians to show leadership on this issue and it is what the government is attempting to do.

The B.C. premier complained about other items in order to get his point across, but he sounded more like the captain of a sinking ship.

If we were not going through this process now in the House, then the government would be accused of not being interested, not living up to its commitments. Our response to Quebec is a necessity. In my view, our response to B.C. is a necessity. I have always considered B.C. a very unique part of the country. I have

visited there on many occasions and have a great sense of appreciation for it.

This legislation is a response of support for those people in Quebec who want to stay in Canada and also to persuade others to change their minds, to come back and stay with the nation.

The leader of the Bloc states that he does not want any changes at all, that he is not going to accept any changes at all. That too is tunnel vision. Is it not surprising that it comes from a man who changes political parties like he changes his clothes?

I believe today and I have believed in times past that B.C. is a different region of the country. I have visited on many occasions and travelled through the Rockies on various occasions. I have visited the site where the last spike was driven for the CPR. Our country should put up a sign there 40 metres long and 20 metres high. If this had taken place in the United States it would be advertised. It is a big part of our history. Let us be proud of it.

After 1871 Canada were committed to building a railway across the country to tie it all together. The settlement of the prairies took place thereafter. I have visited the prairies on many occasions. People say that they get bored travelling the prairies. I do not at all. I think it is wonderful. As a person who grew up on a farm I have a great sense of appreciation for that great part of Canada.

Ontario and Quebec have an industrial base. They have beauty, tourism and culture. I have visited different areas of Quebec with my family on many occasions.

The region of Atlantic Canada is unique, friendly, hard working. They believe in tourism and practice it well. The people have a wonderful sense of humour.

Come on Canada, look at what we have. Be positive. Be grateful and satisfied. The good Lord has been kind to us. It is time we showed some appreciation for the gift He has given to us. For heaven's sake, let us appreciate it. Let us build bridges through understanding, not hate. Let us stand up for Canada and be proud. Shout out our national pride and look to our opportunities and our good fortune.

Anyone can hate and criticize, but it takes a good solid Canadian citizen from anywhere in Canada to stand up and say: "I love my community, I love my province and I want Canadian unity and a Canadian spirit that works together in a dedicated way so that we can move forward and do good things for Canadians today, tomorrow and the next day" and send the message to the whole world that we have a Confederation success story to tell everybody. We have that great purpose and vision in our hands right now as we discuss this issue in Parliament.

Let us do it. Let us join with the Canadian people who showed their great unity at the major rally in Montreal and who sent messages across Canada when they could not be there. Let us show a sense of appreciation by coming together and finding a solid solution to the national unity of our beloved Canada.

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6:20 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to make a few comments on Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments.

I believe and a lot of people in this House know that this bill was concocted in haste. It was concocted to please the wrong people, to please the separatists. It has already been criticized by other provinces that are supposed to be pleased by it: B.C., Alberta and Quebec are not happy with this bill.

An amendment to Bill C-110 was introduced today recognizing B.C. as a separate region. We knew that right from day one. Where has the Prime Minister been? Why did he not include B.C. in the first place?

The hon. member for Renfrew-Pembroke-Nipissing spoke eloquently. He says that B.C. is such a wonderful place that they should have signs 20 feet by 20 feet. Where was he a week ago when the bill was brought forward? Why were they all sitting there so quiet, kowtowing to the Prime Minister who only consulted a few people when he brought in this bill?

The issue is not five regions or four regions. We know that B.C. is a region. We have always known that. All the members of the Reform Party from B.C. have known that. The issue comes down to the Constitution and what this Prime Minister and a very few members of his cabinet are doing to it. This is what the Canadian public does not understand. This is what I feel is important for us in the House to point out, especially in opposition.

The Constitution Act of 1982 has rules on how to make changes to it. If we wish to amend the Constitution, wherever it starts from, here or in the provinces, it requires the approval of seven provinces out of ten representing 50 per cent of the population. That is in order to approve an amendment. It also requires the approval of the federal government, the House of Commons.

The government is now trying to share. It is arguing that it is sharing the federal government approval along with the seven out of ten provinces. It is going to share that with the provinces but it is not clear what "provinces" means, whether it means legislatures or whether it means the people of a province. It divides the provinces into regions and lumps them together.

I do not wish to address five regions versus four regions. I want to argue that the government is tinkering with the amending formula. By tinkering with the amending formula I am afraid the bill is going to be ruled unconstitutional and this is all a waste of time. We should be addressing what is on most people's minds--

and the very reason this party got elected supposedly was to create jobs-the economic agenda and the criminal agenda.

The bill may be struck down as unconstitutional. As my colleague from Calgary West pointed out earlier, this bill violates the principle of the seven provinces out of ten representing 50 per cent of the population. By sharing it with the regions, whether it is four or five is irrelevant. The bill is now requiring the approval, before the federal House gives it, of 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the population. Therefore, it is tinkering. It is tinkering at its worst.

It is all a waste of time to please some people in the country who will never be happy. They are called separatists. The more we give them the more they want. Why do we not stop the game, please Quebecers and please all Canadians and get on with making laws which are important? In fact, the Prime Minister was elected to not talk about the Constitution and constitutional amendments, and here he is doing it.

If the federal government wishes to share its vote, why not give it to the people? Why not be clear about it? Why not give it to the people of the five regions? No, government members voted against that in committee. They want to give it to the legislatures again. The legislatures already have a vote through the seven and fifty formula for constitutional amendment. Now, whether the federal government approves or denies, the legislatures will be given another vote based on regions. That is ridiculous. It is a double veto. I do not understand that. If it really wants to have more input, if it wants to share its veto, if it wants to share its vote, then why not share it with the people of the regions as opposed to the legislatures for a second time?

The reason we are criticizing this is that the legislatures already have a say. They have one say. That is great. If they do not get their way, then they will go behind closed doors and the leaders of the provinces of the five regions will make a deal. We want to protect the Canadian people against that. If Canadians are going to have a say, they should have it through referenda. That is why we are barking, loud and clear, about what we mean. I hope the government is listening.

It is a double veto and a direct legal instrument. The government, instead of the House of Commons where it has the majority, is now going to share its veto with five regions. It gets worse. With the legislatures of the five regions it is a double veto. Now the government is going to give its veto to a separatist government from the province of Quebec. How in heaven's name are we ever going to make changes to the Constitution? How in heaven's name are we ever going to unify the country if the government gives the Parti Quebecois a veto? That party will never vote on anything for Canada. It does not want to build a nation; it wants to tear it apart. I cannot believe how such a passionate plea can comes from the government side with such stupidity. It has failed to recognize who it is giving the veto to. It is giving it to the Parti Quebecois, which wants to break up the country. That province should not have a veto.

The people of Quebec should have the veto. The people of Quebec should be able to stand on any issue which affects their Constitution and which drastically changes the rules of the Constitution Act. The people of Quebec should have a say. I trust the people of Quebec. They have voted already. Yes, it was close, but they voted to stay in Canada. That is who we should be pleasing.

Why does the government not give them the same right if it is going to share? It should share with the people who helped government members stay in their seats. It should share with the people who helped to save the Prime Minister. It should share with those people who want to keep the country together. Do not give it to the Parti Quebecois which wants to tear the country apart. That is absolutely ridiculous.

The people of the country are smarter than what we become after being in this closed box for a year or two. That is why we need input every once in a while. That is why we need a little jab in the back or a pinch in the behind to wake us up. A little cool water, running fresh over our faces, will make us pay attention to the voters who sent us here. It gets too easy when we talk to ourselves.

I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that the government will not listen. It plays politics with everything. The issue is the people versus the legislatures. We are making meaningful amendments, such as the amendment of the hon. member for Calgary West.

It says in the bill that no changes can be made unless the amendment has first been consented to by a majority of the provinces. We understand that is the seven out of ten. It is kind of funny rhetoric-and the member for Calgary West has studied the Constitution extensively-that replacing two-thirds of the provinces would clear up the mess. It would clear it all up and we are down to the issue of whether we mean the people or the legislatures.

If we give it to the legislatures we are giving it twice. We are giving it to the party in power right now for the next two years. If saint so-and-so gets elected as a leader of that party, who knows how long he will be leader? The country will be held up for ransom for time immemorial. A no vote means never and a yes vote will mean forever. Just once we have to lose a referendum and we lose the country.

This is how serious it is, and the government laughs. It makes snide remarks at the Reform Party. I call the government to task. I am not here playing politics. I am serious about what I am saying. I am serious about giving a veto to a government that can never ever allow change. It should be difficult to make changes to a constitution. There is no question about it, but change should be possible with reasoned arguments and reasoned debate.

I will end my comments on that note. I hope the Prime Minister is listening somewhere in the world.

The House resumed from December 7 consideration of the motion and the amendment.