This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was right.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, it would be very difficult for me to anticipate what a court might do in terms of evaluating what happened at the G8 and G20 summits, on which rights were violated. I think it would be inappropriate for me to prejudge that.

However, it gives me an opportunity to talk about some of the other rights. One of those rights is the rights of victims of crime to be heard. On the Conservative government side of the House, we speak about victims all the time because they have been neglected for decades where the emphasis has been on the offenders and the rights of the offenders rather than on the rights of victims.

I have been so concerned about what is happening at the justice committee, when bills that should be passed quickly are delayed time and time again because members of the opposition refuse to take the rights and the voices of victims seriously, an example being the faint hope clause. We would like to eliminate the faint hope clause, yet the opposition is doing everything it can to slow down that legislation.

I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the House to please start listening to the cries of the victims and understand that they also have rights.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

The debate we are on today is part of a supply day procedure, and I am responding to the member for Peterborough when he said we should be debating other things.

I just want to note that at the end of this debate we will actually be doing an appropriation involving some $4,359,000,000 and change. So this is a debate about the motion itself, but it is followed by the supply day procedures, of which this is part.

I am happy to have a chance to talk about the charter. We do not often get an opportunity to do that. The hon. member who just spoke, the chair of the justice committee, did provide a very useful overview of the charter provisions.

Looking back over the last 28 years, I would have to say the charter has been a pretty fundamental piece of being a Canadian, but I am not so sure it is the most fundamental piece. I rather think our geography and our history are what makes us most Canadian.

The charter is a part of that history. However, it is not actually just history, of course; it is a living document. It shapes us around this place most days.

I was out on the lawn, on the common, as a citizen in 1982 when the patriation of the Constitution and the signing of the charter took place, including Her Majesty. It was a memorable moment, but in looking back, I found that the biggest piece of that day was really the patriation, bringing the Constitution to Canada from the United Kingdom.

The charter was a piece of that. I do not think I understood how big the charter was. The reason that the charter was big is that it kept on living. Every year, the charter lived; the patriation is history. That was 28 years ago.

As the chair of the justice committee just said, many of the rights contained in the charter were already provided for in Canadian law. That law reaches back a long way. We can get a copy of the Magna Carta from 1215; a copy of the 1689 Bill of Rights, which is here in the library; and the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, which the member described. Those are all documents involving rights, and even those documents live today.

I would just reflect on four perspectives that I think were there in the minds of those who debated and enacted the charter in 1982 and in the year or two leading up to it. There are more than four, but I just want to reflect on these four.

One is the fundamental rights of the person. We wanted to get that right.

Second, there were limitations on the state in terms of its ability to resort to arbitrary measures.

Third, there was the place of our first nations in our Constitution, in our Canada.

The fourth was the inclusion of the provinces in all of the processes, the legislative process and in our great national enterprise.

The first two are the ones that I want to come back to, those being the rights of the person as well as limitations on the ability of the state to resort to arbitrary measures.

Most people think of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as being a menu or list of rights. I think, although I do not know this, that in the mind of the prime minister at the time there was a large concern about the role of the state in modern society.

I believe he could see that the modern state, without constraints, had many powers, legislative, coercive and taxation, and there was no end to it, over its citizens. I think he and others saw the need for a charter that would constrain the government of the day, in whatever day, in what it did so that it could not use arbitrary and harsh measures.

Why did he feel that way? Why did he sense that? We note that in our constitution, under the federal powers, section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, one of the powers is peace, order and good government. In order to have peace and good order, historically the state has been relied upon to impose that order, to impose the peace, even if it had to go to war. That federal jurisdiction, that constitutional obligation of the state, to provide peace and order could be seen to fly in contrast with the positions of citizens from time to time, certainly in terms of how it would go about imposing that order.

Around the years 1968, 1969 and 1970, we had the FLQ crisis where the government felt it had to impose the provisions of the War Measures Act on citizens. At the time, looking back, I think it felt those were the only powers the state had to adequately respond to the request of the province of Quebec.

As time went on and in the light of the charter, the War Measures Act was removed and other legislation was adopted to fill in some of the gaps. I think the legislators then saw that the provisions of the War Measures Act were way over the top and there was nothing they could see, if there was a majority government in place, to constrain the use of the War Measures Act.

At the same time, I recall a series of incidents in Poland, where the communist government was repressing a protest that became violent. There were labour unions and civil rights people. I remember people comparing what was happening in Poland to what was happening here.

One could not help but sense that while both countries were trying to impose or provide order, and they were both using the mechanisms of state governance using police or military to do it, and while we were two very different countries, we seemed to be using almost the same mechanisms. I think there was a sense generated then that we needed a constitutional change to provide guidance and limits on the use of state power.

This motion was drafted by the opposition to focus on comments that had been made by not so much members opposite, but by prominent Conservatives. I have tried to figure out why complaints about the charter come from individuals who support the Conservative Party.

It has been pointed that this is a country of lawful and reasonable dissent. It is quite okay for people to disagree with our laws or even our constitution if they do so peacefully. I cannot quite figure out why it happens, and it has happened in print and verbally. I do not think these are not miscues. Some of these individuals really believe there is some problem with the charter.

Notwithstanding all of the whining and carping that has come from some of these individuals in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I cannot recall a single instance where any one of them has indicated which part of the charter they do not like or which provisions should be changed. In the debate in this place, I find that almost all the members, in the end, support all the provisions of the charter. However, there is sometimes a reaction to a court decision, et cetera.

In any event, as a citizen, as a legislator and as a lawyer, the charter has affected me, my family and my work in this place and it will continue to do that well into the future for the benefit of all Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member indicated he supported dissent as long as it was peaceful, but then he went on to criticize some individuals who perhaps said negative things toward the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am curious to know how he reconciles that. Is he alleging that the criticism toward the charter has not been peaceful, or does he acknowledge there is some inconsistency in his thesis?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, no, I am not suggesting there has been anything untoward in the criticism in the sense that individuals have every right in the world to be critical. I was trying to point out that in their criticisms they had not been specific enough to identify any particular part of the charter that I might be able to fix or that they might suggest be fixed. I am happy to have members even in the House stand and criticize the charter. I just have not heard it happen yet.

Therefore, I encourage dissent. For all those who criticize it, surely they must realize it has been a vehicle that assures and accords to the poor and marginalized of our country that they are always taken into account when legislation is passed and when policy is developed.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I know my hon. colleague has stated his support for the charter. There is simply no question about the fact that in Toronto this summer we saw mass violations of charter rights.

At the public safety committee, we had credible, consistent testimony from a wide variety of people, journalists, lawyers, students, innocent bystanders. They made it clear that multiple direct violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms occurred. Yet his party refuses to join with New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois in calling for a public inquiry. I also notice that his colleagues provincially, the Ontario Liberal government, passed what was called by the Ontario ombudsman a likely unconstitutional law that would give police wartime like powers and that they were compounded by what the ombudsman found to be police miscommunication.

Is the federal Liberal Party reluctant to call an inquiry because the provincial Liberal cousins stand to be implicated in violations of the constitutional rights of Canadians?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member should go back and check on the issue of who is or is not supporting initiation of an inquiry. I am not too sure he is right about his suggestion. However, having a public inquiry is not a charter right. It is absolutely true that everyone who was out on the street that day had charter rights, as did the police. At the end of the day, it appears, and I have not looked at any individual case but as I read the newspaper, that some people were pushed around that day and some people were arrested.

I am, as I hope everyone in the House is, totally supportive of any process that would look into those events, provide redress to those who have a legitimate legal grievance with respect to the charter or any other statute and develop a process for that. If it needs to be a public inquiry, by all means, but that is an Ontario decision.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I had a couple of questions, but I will pare it down to one. The first one was rather general, so I will omit that one for the time being.

First, I congratulate my colleague on a very informative speech. I have been a big fan of the court challenges program, which I hoped he would comment on as one of the vehicles we used. It was considered a great international model. Could my colleague comment on that program?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the court challenges program was a federally funded vehicle that allowed groups and individuals who were underfunded to challenge the existing law with reference to the charter and enforce their rights. In a period of transition following the adoption of the charter, that was a very useful vehicle. I am not so sure its usefulness had expired. I think this might be a 50 year exercise. I do not care if it is a 100 year exercise, but the court challenges program was a wonderful vehicle to assist the poor and the marginalized, the people who could not afford to take the state on, to take their matters to court and have them judicially sorted out and then to allow members in the House to respond.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I stand here proudly to speak to this motion in support of the pivotal role that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has played in the forging of this modern nation we call Canada, a nation that was, as recently as 2000, repeatedly acclaimed by the global community as the best country in the world in which to live.

I stand here unabashedly and proudly to affirm that the Liberal Party is the party of the charter, which fully brought to Canada its ability to be a sovereign nation, where we could have full control of our ability to amend the fundamental laws of our land without seeking permission from the parliament of Great Britain.

As Mr. Trudeau said in his speech on the proclamation of the charter:

After fifty years of discussion we have finally decided to retrieve what is properly ours. It is with happy hearts, and with gratitude for the patience displayed by Great Britain, that we are preparing to acquire today our complete national sovereignty. It is my deepest hope that Canada will match its new legal maturity with that degree of political maturity which will allow us all to make a total commitment to the Canadian ideal.

The charter was born from that. It set out for us to develop a Canadian ideal.

The charter is about change. It is about ideals. It is also about a vision of a global nation growing, maturing, learning to accommodate to differences, whether regional or demographic and, by this very act, learning to negotiate, to find resolution to different opinions, cultures and beliefs and eventually learning mutual respect. It has made Canadians a people who have learned to be negotiators, who have learned to accommodate, who have learned to live together and understand each other. Mr. Trudeau also spoke to that goal. He said:

I speak of a Canada where men and women of aboriginal ancestry, of French and British heritage, of the diverse cultures of the world, demonstrate the will to share this land in peace, in justice, and with mutual respect. I speak of a Canada which is proud of, and strengthened by its essential bilingual destiny, a Canada whose people believe in sharing and in mutual support, and not in building regional barriers. I speak of a country where every person is free to fulfill himself or herself to the utmost, unhindered by the arbitrary actions of governments.

This is key, arbitrary action of governments, governments that live within different ideologies, governments that change their ideals readily.

The whole concept of the charter was that it would be a living thing. It would be the road map for Canada's passage and navigation through turbulent and rapidly changing times.

Every politician in every society has to adjust to change. As Otto von Bismarck said “Leaders of states travel in a stream of time which they can neither create or direct but upon which they can steer with more or less skill and experience”. The charter is that navigational guide. It is the tool that allows the state to adjust, to adapt, while keeping its eyes firmly on the shore, firmly on the ideals, goals, values and objectives of the state. Over 82% of Canadians support that vision, those ideals and those goals, values and objectives that are embodied in our charter.

“The Charter was grounded in the supreme importance which was attached to the dignity and the rights of individuals”, as Tom Axworthy and Pierre Trudeau explained in the preface to their book Towards A Just Society. This has to be the mission statement of any society, where people are equal and share fundamental values based on freedom.

We must remember that the charter sought to create those ideals that Canadians are proud of, which are peace, order and good government. The concept of peace, order and good government is spelled out in section 15 of the charter where we speak to minority rights, where the authors of the charter believed that if people were second-class citizens, and if small groups in society were not going to be equal, then, by the very nature of the human spirit, they will strive for that equality, insurrection will occur and people will rise up against the state in order to find that equal access and that access to justice.

The charter understood this and said that in a nation of a diversity of peoples, of regions and provinces, we need to ensure there is that balance, that there is an ability for everyone across the land to have full access to justice and to the equal rights as other people.

What bothers me is that we sat here yesterday in this House recognizing a group of people that are transgendered, which is, as we well know, in the DSM of psychiatry an actual medical condition. The government, however, stood and voted against allowing those people the right to have access, not only to medical care but to justice. This is a group that is defined in our society by poverty, by high suicide rates, by illness, by discrimination, by hate and by violence, which is unheard of among other groups in our society.

To understand the charter is to understand why we needed to have voted for that, so those people can play a full role in this nation and do so knowing that they are equal to all and actually respected by society.

If we are going to pick and chose who will be the preferred ones and who will not be the preferred ones, we will never have a peaceful society. We see the history of the world. The history of the world tell us, even now, that the source of war in every nation is civil strife: people who are struggling to be given equality, to have access to justice and to freedom, very fundamental human rights. All human beings have the right to realize their potential, to participate fully in society and to truly belong in their nation and in their society. The idea of belonging allows people to be free, to build a nation, to join society, to participate and to make society a better place because they would not need to worry about their place in society. They want to live in a society where everyone has opportunity and where everyone has compassion.

One of the vital pieces of the charter has not only taught us compassion, but it has also taught us a huge number of things. The charter also talks to us about the rights of the provinces. It has defined a country in which, while provinces have linguistic rights and all other rights, we must remember that the federal government, through its charter, is the glue that allows us to ensure that every Canadian, no matter where they live, will have access to equality, freedom and justice that we believe are the rights of every individual in our society.

Our society is a peaceful society. Throughout our society, we have looked at how countries have emulated us. South Africa built its constitution based on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Australia borrowed much of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those were diverse societies. South Africa had a society that was torn apart by strife and by inequality between people based on colour and race and it did not want that to continue. The great Nelson Mandela knew full well that if he looked at our charter and emulated the essence of our charter, he could begin to create a peaceful society. He could do away with all the tragedy of apartheid and no longer seek retribution. A new society could be built based on equality and equal rights, a society where all groups, no matter how small, can have the ability to succeed and to build.

What we see today, by that very act of not only borrowing the Canadian charter but by building on it and strengthening it, is a South Africa that is forging ahead and doing away with the hate, the anger and the violence that typified much of its growth over the last 100 years. It is becoming a society in which people are indeed equal and in which people are able to build a new nation full of hope, dreams and vision.

The charter is all about the aspirations of all peoples in this society to create a place that would become the global nation. Today, as we see barriers being broken down across the world, we can show how it is done. We can show that this country can be a leader. We can show that people can--

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage,.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I want to pick up on a question that I asked the hon. member for Toronto Centre a little while ago.

I talked about priorities and asked why we were discussing 1982 here today when I think people at home want us to be looking forward to the future. The member from Newfoundland indicated that we spend 75% of the time in here debating justice bills. That is right, because we have a vision for a safer Canada, one where victims are protected from violence. I wish we did not have to spend 75% of the time in this House to fight for that. We could pass those justice bills today, except the opposition parties stand in the way of them.

At a time when, globally, people are concerned about the economy, why are we having this debate today? People at home must be saying that Parliament is not even relevant to them today. We need to wonder what is going on with the Liberal Party. Where is its vision for the future? Where is its vision for Canadians?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the reason we are speaking about the charter today is that we have seen this country, under the present government, shifting away from those ideas and that vision of equality. It is shifting away from the people who are living in poverty and the groups who are marginalized in our society. This is what this charter is about.

We want to redirect the government to look at the charter and to understand what Canadians' dream and hope for. Eighty-two per cent of the people of Canada bought into this charter and it is time the government represented the people of Canada.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, since the beginning of the presentation, the Liberals have been cloaking themselves in the virtues of rights and freedoms. I would therefore like to point out to the hon. member that, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were problems with violence, terrorist acts and rebellion everywhere in the world. And yet, no government in the world suspended civil liberties to fight terrorism except one. Only one head of state suspended civil liberties and that was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party, who imposed the War Measures Act and imprisoned hundreds of people without reason or motive. Why? Their crime was their political opinion. Only one head of state suspended civil liberties to attack a legitimate and democratic political movement. It is simply disgraceful.

Is that not doublespeak—

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sorry but I must interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, this is a very important question because while Quebec did not at the time support much of the charter, we know it has benefited a great deal from this charter. Inherent in the charter is bilingualism, the cultures of Quebec and a respect for the status of Quebec.

If we look at 1982, it is interesting to note that 73 out of 75 members of Parliament from Quebec voted for the kind of Constitution that was embodied in the charter. If Quebec had any political spokespersons at the time, they were overwhelmingly in favour of the charter.

It does not mean that everybody was converted to bilingualism but it did inherently speak to bilingualism, to the culture of the Quebec people and to respecting that culture.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I will stick to the common theme that I spoke to with my other colleague. Given that I only have a short minute. I want to talk about the court challenges program, which was a fantastic program in and of itself. It was a fantastic vehicle by which some of the most vulnerable in our society were able to get their rights restored to them through the court system. I was hoping my hon. colleague would comment on that.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, one of the fundamental things the Liberal Party understood and Pierre Trudeau understood when he brought home the charter was that the law's mission statement only tells us what we hope to achieve as a society. However, if that law is not supported by programs and by policies that allow people access to justice, then the law is a fool.

The bottom line is that is what the court challenges program did. It allowed the voiceless and the vulnerable to have access to justice--

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Joliette.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, today's debate proves the importance of having the Bloc in the House of Commons. It is clear that the Liberals and the NDP are going to get behind this motion primarily for partisan reasons, in other words, to highlight the fact that the Conservative government does not like rights and freedoms, something we totally agree on. However, we cannot adhere to this Canadian consensus on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the process leading to its adoption was deeply flawed. I will come back to that.

What is more, the charter addresses individual rights to the detriment of collective rights and interprets the few collective rights included in the charter in the same way, coast to coast to coast, as our colleagues from Canada say. The indiscriminate interpretation of collective and individual rights has resulted in the butchering of the Charter of the French Language, which is the fundamental legislation in Quebec for the protection and promotion of our common public language, French.

Despite how much sense this motion might make to Canadians, it does not make sense to Quebeckers and we cannot support it. I will read it:

That the House recognize the vital role played by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in ensuring justice, liberty, equality and fairness for all Canadians and call on the Government to reject the views expressed by several members of the Conservative Party of Canada that belittle and criticize the Charter’s impact on Canadian society.

This motion moved by the Liberal Party has two parts. The first part is a sort of eulogy or appeal for the charter, which would be extraordinary. This charter is not all bad, but to Quebec, it has had and always will have many negative aspects. The second part might tempt us into supporting the motion. It points out the fact that the Conservatives do not like what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms defends, namely ensuring justice, liberty, equality and fairness for all Canadians, newcomers and Quebeckers.

We will therefore not support this motion. The defence of rights must not be confused with the unconditional defence of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: they are two different things. I will come back to this. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin gave a brilliant presentation this morning. The Quebec charter does not have constitutional status like the Canadian charter, but it does have quasi-constitutional status since it goes one step further and recognizes collective rights that are not recognized by the Canadian charter. This is one thing that makes the Quebec charter unique.

I am not going to focus on the differences between the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as did my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin this morning. Instead, I am going to review the positions that the Bloc Québécois took on some issues and defended by standing up to the Conservative government, positions that defended the fundamental rights that any democratic society should have. We are of the opinion, like the Liberal Party, that the Conservatives do not adequately defend rights and freedoms.

I would first like to remind the members of the circumstances under which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into being. The charter was imposed as part of a constitutional debate on the repatriation of the Constitution. My colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber spoke about it earlier. At the time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the head of the Liberal Party and the government. He wanted to repatriate the Constitution, which, at that time, was a British law, the British North America Act. Everyone agreed that, in order to do so, the consent of all provinces, particularly Quebec, was required. We know what happened next: the other Canadian provinces ganged up on Quebec.

The Constitution was unilaterally repatriated, without the approval of the Quebec government or the National Assembly. I remind members that the 1982 Constitution has still not been signed by Quebec. That is an extremely long period of time between 1982 and today, and during that time, Quebec has alternated between federalist and sovereignist governments. But none of these governments, not even the government of Jean Charest, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, dared sign that Constitution, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The charter was forced on us and we did not want it. We wanted it in terms of the rights and freedoms, but we did not want it to be forced on us like that. As a nation, we were not able to make any concrete contributions. Of course, some of the values in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are values shared by the Quebec nation and society, but they were forced on us through a Constitution that was unilaterally repatriated.

Louis Bernard, who was secretary general of the executive council of Quebec at the time and who participated in the talks when Quebec was led by René Lévesque, wrote, on February 6, 2007:

The Constitution Act, 1982, gave birth to the Canadian charter and plunged Canada into a constitutional crisis that it is not about to climb out of. There were attempts to repair the damage with the Meech Lake accords, but they did not work, since some provinces reneged, once again, on their initial commitment. Any kind of constitutional progress became impossible.

In the same piece published in Le Devoir he said:

Therefore, we cannot do anything about either the charter or the rest of the Constitution. If the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ever evolves, it will not be by legislative amendment, but only by judicial interpretation, which I believe shows the charter's limitations.

It could be said that the point made by Louis Bernard is shared by the Conservative Party. When we see the Conservative Party trying to make changes to the Senate through the back door because it is not able to do so through the front, that is, constitutionally, it is obvious that the Canadian Constitution effectively paralyzes the development of Canadian society and the Canadian nation. Obviously, if it paralyzes the Canadian nation, it also paralyzes the Quebec nation.

Later on in that same article he said:

Adopting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 was part of the strategy of the federal government of the day, a strategy that consisted of solving the problem of national unity by focusing on individual rights rather than collective rights, and by hoping that, with time, the former would substitute for the latter. Adopting the charter was motivated by political factors that irreparably tainted its image in the minds of many Quebeckers, especially because of the illegitimate and immoral way in which it was adopted.

This paragraph is an excellent summary of the Bloc Québécois's attitude towards the Liberal Party motion. The very birth of the charter is problematic and so is its content. Clearly, Louis Bernard agrees with our conclusion that there is an imbalance between individual rights and collective rights, and that certain rights are not being explicitly recognized and in fact are not recognized at all.

As I mentioned, my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin very clearly explained the difference between the two charters this morning, so I will not repeat that. The important thing to remember is that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is what made it possible to butcher Bill 101. There is a debate right now in Quebec regarding Bill 103, which would correct a Supreme Court of Canada decision concerning so-called bridging schools, which allow wealthy people to send their children to unsubsidized, unregulated, English private schools temporarily, only to later transfer them to the subsidized, regulated, English public system.

This is a serious breach of the Charter of the French Language, all made possible by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

My hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is definitely in a better position to talk about that. We know of at least 15 or so instances of interference with Bill 101 since it was adopted, always based on the Canadian charter.

When the Charter of the French Language was adopted, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's reaction was reported by Lise Bissonnette in Le Devoir on April 6, 1977, a few days after Bill 101 was adopted.

He believes that [the charter] “takes Quebec back centuries” if not to “the dark ages”, and he...slammed the “narrow and backward” way in which the government of Mr. Lévesque has protected a culture, and generally found that the Parti Québécois was finally showing its “true colours”, as a party that wants to establish an “ethnic society”...that even goes against freedom of speech and expression.

That was Pierre Elliott Trudeau's view of the adoption of the charter by the National Assembly, as proposed by the Parti Québécois party led by René Lévesque. That is how he felt about this charter for which, I would remind you, just like Bill 101, there is support among all political parties in Quebec, and which, for many, is surely one of the jewels in the body of fundamental laws of Quebec society.

At the time, no one in Quebec, especially among the sovereignists, was deceived by the justification put forward by Pierre Elliott Trudeau for the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In June 1981, in his inaugural speech at the National Assembly, René Lévesque said:

Under the pretext of giving citizens a new charter of rights, Ottawa's project is in fact an unprecedented attack on the powers of the National Assembly of Quebec, which it would limit and oversee, especially in the areas of language of education.

I gave the very recent example of bridging schools, which were legalized by a Supreme Court ruling. There is currently debate about Bill 103, the response by Quebec's Liberal government to the Supreme Court's concerns. It is a completely unacceptable response for the vast majority of Quebeckers. It explains, in part— although it is not the only explanation—the success of the Parti Québécois in the riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata for the first time since 1985. We would like to congratulate the newly elected member, Mr. Simard.

I would now like to talk about the second part of the motion, which is a motion we can all support. At the beginning of the debate we proposed an amendment to try and find some common ground. This amendment conceded that the charter has had positive effects on some levels, but that its negative effects—notably on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction—should not be forgotten. In this respect, I would refer to the previous quotation from René Lévesque's June 1981 inaugural speech in the National Assembly, about Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, particularly in terms of its language laws.

As for the Conservatives' and the Prime Minister's attitude towards the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I would point out that the Prime Minister has already said that human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society, and that they are in fact totalitarian.

In my opinion, this statement from the current Prime Minister is an accurate reflection of this government's general attitude towards rights. For example, when Canadians have problems overseas, whether or not they are defended depends on whether they are considered to be good or bad Canadians. I am referring to the attitude that the government has had towards a certain number of Canadians who were imprisoned or even sentenced to death. It refused to help them at all., even though, traditionally, the government would try to help them avoid the death penalty and repatriate them so they could finish serving their sentences here.

Since the Conservative government has been in power, such transfers have been drastically cut or slowed down. In my own riding, there are cases of people who have committed relatively minor crimes in the United States. I wrote to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety, but I did not even receive an acknowledgement from them. When I have received one, it has usually been after the person has finished serving their sentence in the United States and has returned to Canada or Quebec.

It is abundantly clear that this government is not a fan of rights and freedoms. Its vision of justice is repressive and will not result in safety and social cohesion. The Conservative government is following the American model, which has proven ineffective. Crime and incarceration rates are much higher in the United States than in Quebec and Canada.

In fact, if the current prison population in the United States were taken into account in calculating the country's unemployment rate, there would be 3% more unemployed people. The rate would not be 9%, as it is now; it would be 11% or 12%. Most of the people in jail are black African Americans.

Behind their repressive brand of justice is social and political bias. That is what the Conservative government is trying to do.

The government introduced the idea of security certificates in a bill. We do not disagree with the idea, but there has to be at least some balance between the rights of an individual listed on a security certificate and the state's responsibility to ensure public safety. In general, a person listed on a security certificate does not have access to the evidence or the reasons for which the government requested the security certificate. As a result, the person does not have an opportunity to plead innocence. This is a totally unacceptable reversal of the onus of proof. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with us and with those who oppose the existing security certificate mechanism.

Following a Federal Court of Appeal decision, the Supreme Court said that the constitutional rights of Omar Khadr, a young Canadian who was captured by the Americans at 15 years of age as a child soldier in Afghanistan and who ended up in Guantanamo, were being violated and that the Government of Canada had an obligation to make reparations and compensate him. The Supreme Court did not go as far as the Federal Court, which said that the only way to compensate Omar Khadr was to repatriate him. The court said that his constitutional rights had been violated and that Canada was responsible for repairing the damage that had been caused.

Yet the government did not respond and refused to listen to its own courts. That is how the Conservatives view justice, rights and equality. That is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois and to the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians. The Conservatives are in no position to teach us anything about justice.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I followed what my colleague was saying with respect to the application of the charter in terms of human rights. Then he got into language rights and he went from that into the rights of those who have been convicted in other countries.

Does the Quebec charter deal more expansively with language rights? Does the Quebec charter kick in when Quebec citizens are facing issues in other countries? I would be interested to know how the Quebec charter applies in that particular instance. I think the House would be interested in that also.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Clearly, my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin would have been in a better position to answer that interesting question.

The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which passed in 1975 and came into force in 1976, so before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, includes 15 additional rights that do not appear in the Canadian charter. As my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin mentioned this morning, section 2 of the Quebec charter establishes the duty to provide assistance, section 40 guarantees the right to free public education and another section guarantees the right to a minimum income level to survive. These rights are not guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I can therefore say, without bias, that the Quebec charter is far superior to the Canadian charter.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have eight minutes left when debate resumes.

Afghan ChildrenStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to express deep concern over cases of sexual exploitation of boys in Afghanistan, particularly the practice of bacha bazi.

A few minutes ago, the international human rights subcommittee passed a motion condemning bacha bazi and asking our government to call upon the Afghan government to help protect vulnerable boys.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has recently raised concerns with the Afghan ambassador about this illegal exploitation.

Afghanistan has enacted laws to address children's rights and criminalize sexual abuse.

Canada now calls upon Afghanistan to continue to strengthen its laws and to ensure that they are fully enforced in order to protect Afghan children.

We are proud to invest in the future of Afghan children through development programming in education and health as part of our mission in Afghanistan.

Caesar CocktailStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, many symbols represent Canada, from the maple leaf to the beaver. Thousands of Canadians are calling on us to make room for a more recent symbol.

An innovation as Canadian as the goalie mask, the Caesar was created some 40 years ago in Calgary by Walter Chell. There are now some one million Caesars poured daily in Canada.

This serves to remind us of the importance of celebrating safely during this holiday season. To that end, the people at Canada Dry Mott's, owners of the Caesar, have made a generous donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Let us applaud this gesture and hope that every Canadian celebrates the holidays safely.

Let us recognize the Caesar as our very own, as Canada's national cocktail.

Albert SocquéStatements by Members

December 9th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to pay tribute to Albert Socqué, a man from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield who was recently inducted into the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, a rare feat for a civilian who never went to war.

The courage, bravery and level-headedness Mr. Socqué showed on July 23, 1941, earned him the King George VI medal the following spring. On that day, Mr. Socqué, who was working for the company now known as General Dynamics, saved a colleague from certain death. The newspaper Le Soleil de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield reported, “When he was unloading nitrocellulose at the incineration site near the St. Lawrence, the highly explosive material caught fire and his colleague Roger Gareau was trapped in the inferno.”

Mr. Socqué did not hesitate to risk his own life in order to tear Mr. Gareau out of the flames and plunge him into the water. The two men survived despite their burns. Albert Socqué passed away in 1989. Today my thoughts are with his family, who were quite emotional upon receiving this posthumous distinction.