Repatriation of the Constitution
Commons Debates, November 30, 1981
Hon. Serge Joyal
(Minister or State): Mr. Speaker, a number of speakers have pointed out the
historical significance of this debate as the last "Canadian" step towards
giving our country the status of a fully independent state, both in fact and in law. This
step, in fact, marks the close of a long series of events which started in 1791 with the
election of democratic legislatures. One of the patently false claims being circulated
most widely today is that the long march towards indepen- dence has taken place and will
end without Quebec. And some people are very upset because at this final stage we are
witnessing a sometimes bitter struggle between two Quebecers, as if this were happening
for the first time.
History gives us an entirely different view. In fact, from Louis-Hippolyte
Lafontaine to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, illustrious Quebecers have always been in the
forefront of Canada's long and lengthy struggle towards independence. It is also true,
unfortunately, that from Louis-Joseph Papineau up to Rene Levesque, there have always been
Quebecers who opposed this process and who defended the status quo with fierce
determination. I think it is appropriate to recall these events today, in order to put the
present debate in its proper historical context.
It was Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine who, in the 1840's, took on the task of
repairing the political damage caused by Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the 1837-38
rebellion, and who, through his alliance with Robert Baldwin, succeeded in reinstating the
use of French in the legislature and in obtaining responsible government. Nevertheless, he
was constantly and fiercely attacked by Papineau upon his return from exile and by his
followers, then led by Nielson and Viger. Joseph Cauchon said the following about Papineau
in 1848, and I quote:
Some men are bent on destruction but have never built on the ruins they left
In 1867, there would have been no confederation or Canadian federalism, and
Canadian federalism would not have been as decentralized as it is without George Etienne
Cartier. Once more, it was Papineau and his followers, this time led by Antoine-Aime
Dorion, who were opposed to the federation plan and violently attacked Cartier. However,
it was George Etienne Cartier who initiated the codification of civil law in Quebec and
established the province's exclusive jurisdiction in that field.
At the beginning of this century, Wilfrid Laurier decided to take a
stand against London's imperialist designs and to affirm Canada's political autonomy in
the shipping issue. The shipping bill tabled in 1910 involved, for the first time in our
history, a definition of Canada's status as a country not fully independent of the empire
nor totally integrated in the latter. To Laurier, it was an opportunity for Canada to act
responsibly, while setting itself apart from the Empire. To the Ontario Tories, Laurier's
gesture constituted a serious act of disloyalty to England. To the Quebec Conservatives
and Henri Bourassa's nationalists, the gesture reeked of colonialism. Canada's autonomy
became one of the major issues in the 1911 election. Laurier was defeated by a curious
alliance of imperialist Tories and Quebec nationalists. In an article published in Le
Devoir on December 29, 1911, Omer Heroux confirmed once again that extremes tend to
meet, and I quote:
Laurier's shipping bill was defeated because it satisfied no one,
neither the nationalists nor the imperialists. Both parties were agreed that the hybrid
policy should not be allowed to proceed. It was logical and unavoidable.
After Laurier's defeat, it was also logical and unavoidable that the
views of the imperialists rather than those of the nationalists should triumph.
As for Laurier, at the beginning of 1912 he declared, somewhat
frustrated, and I quote:
As a penance, I have to read Le Devoir every day.
And he added:
As I was saying just now, we have been attacked by all the extremists;
those who were most acrimonious, most violent and most unfair in their attacks were those
who call themselves nationalists in this country. Our policies exasperated them; our
moderation put them in a frenzy and the word conciliation had them foaming at the mouth.
To hear them talk, no good could come out of Ottawa; the liberals, from whom they were
separated, were worthless; the Conservatives
were even worse.
Ernest Lapointe, Mackenzie King's right-hand man, was a dominant figure
in Canada between the two wars. Over the protests of London, in 1923 he was the first
Canadian representative to sign, alone, an international treaty with the United States. At
a federal-provincial conference in November, 1921: Lapointe, as Minister of Justice for
Canada, proposed that our country should have the right to settle its own affairs, both
internationally and nationally, and should have the authority to amend its own
Constitution. Under the Statute of Westminster passed in 1931-Lapointe was one of the
provincial negotiators-Canada's external and internal independence was recognized.
Unfortunately, at the time, who was supported by the Quebec nationalists, London retained
the authority to amend Canada's Constitution.
In 1949, Louis St. Laurent, the then Prime Minister of Canada, succeeded in
passing bills by which the Supreme Court of Canada became the court of last resort for all
Canadian cases, with three out of nine seats being reserved for representatives of Quebec,
and in giving the Parliament of Canada the power to amend its own Constitution without
going to London. This time it was Maurice Duplessis, again supported by Quebec
nationalists, who protested these expressions of emancipation. And in 1952, Louis St.
Laurent decided it was time a Canadian was appointed governor general.
In 1964, thanks to a commitment made by Lester B. Pearson
at the insistence of his Quebec colleagues, especially Maurice Lamontagne, the bill to
adopt a Canadian flag was passed by Parliament. Since 1925, attempts had been made to give
Canada a distinctive emblem. Because of the political situation at the time, the
Progressive Conservatives were opposed to this bill. However, today no one, except perhaps
the Quebec separatists, would question the pride felt by the vast majority of Canadians
with respect to our flag. As for Canada's national anthem, adopted by Parliament in June
1980, the music was written a hundred years before by the Quebec composer Calixa Lavallee,
to words by Justice Alphonse-Basile Routhier. The English version dates back to 1908.
Another Quebecer, Pierre Elliott Tiudeau, proposed its adoption.
In giving this short overview of the steps that have led to
the complete emancipation of our country, I wanted to make it clear that Quebecers
have always played a major role. As leaders of the Liberal Party, as ministers of the
Crown and as members of the House and the Senate, Quebec Liberals have always felt that
they had to continue the work undertaken by Lafontaine and bring it to fruition. At times
this was done at the cost of a lost election and sometimes of attacks and insults of all
kinds but always, and today is no exception, they shared the belief that the fight had to
go on. At each stage those Quebecers felt certain of reflecting and expressing the
concerns of their fellow French-Canadians in that process of shaping the country.
Unfortunately, they always met along the way other Quebecers who were afraid of
change and in favour of the status quo for the sake of some
outmoded survival of times past or because of inferiority complex. In that context, the
current bitter fight is better understood. What is involved historically is a conflict
between two groups of Quebecers with basically different views of what is in store for
their fellow citizens "rather than a personality conflict. I for one am proud that
Quebecers at every high point in their history chose the road indicated by Lafontaine
rather than Papineau, which would have led directly to annexation by the United States.
Today, we are on the eve of the most significant step in our constitutional history since
Confederation, not only because we will soon attain full constitutional independance, but
above all "because we are going to ensure that provinces in the future will have the
absolute right to play an essential role in this country's constitutional development,
that Canadians will enjoy basic rights that are protected against the whims of
governments, and finally that Canada will become a country committed forever to equal
status and rights for the French and English languages.
Many of our predecessors attempted to reach that goal. Lapointe, St. Laurent, Favreau and
even this Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), in Victoria and more recently in Ottawa in 1980,
met with failure and had to postpone that last and, fundamental step.
As always they met along the way the supporters of the status quo, knowing or
unknowing successors of Papineau.
Our history was made despite their nationalism based on resistance and mere survival.
Under that philosophy, language 'was once the keeper of the faith and now the keeper of
the people. This new kind of clericalism is nothing but a trap. It might lead us to miss
the Canada of the year 2,000, just as the old one kept us for more than 100 years in a
marginal rural society apart from the development of the industrial society.
The Quebec challenge is not to ensure that the French
language and culture will prevail in Quebec. That goal has already been reached. According
to official figures, 86.2 percent of young Quebecers are now in the French education
system; the number of students in English schools declined from 250,000 before 1975 to the
current 168,000, a 33 percent drop over six years. Even with the "Canada
clause", the invasion of Quebec by English-speaking Canadians from other provinces is
not to be feared anymore. Indeed, the opposite will happen. Quebec's new cultural
challenge focuses on the improvement of the qualIty of our language and culture. This is a
challenge for each and everyone of us to meet. Our proximity to the United States makes it
difficult to reach that aim, but then it would be wrong to suggest that separation from
the rest of Canada would make it easier.
Another major imperative for Quebecers is prosperity and a balanced economic growth.
Several scenarios, especially that drawn up by Julien, Lamonde and Latouche in their book
entitled Québec 2001, une societé refroidie, predict a growing crisis of
the economic structure in Quebec. It would be deceitful to suggest that Quebec would more
easily overcome that economic crisis by seceding rather than remaining within Canada, with
the huge transfer payments which that relationship implies and which from now on,
following the passage of this resolution, will be made to Quebec as a matter of right
formally guaranteed in the new constitution.
I am afraid that if we devote our best efforts to control that structural
economic crisis, we will not succeed in overcoming it completely. During the two next
decades, jobs will be principally created in Western Canada.
An increasing number of francophone Quebecers will probably decide to take
part in a second large rush to the West. Moreover, the migratory movement has already
begun. From 1976 to 1980, the annual net average of immigration from Quebec to other
provinces was 33,300 people. From 1980 to 1985, the average is expected to be 32,000
according to the task force on the development of the labour force. By extrapolating this
figure to the year 2000, it can be estimated that about 640,000 Quebecers, in net terms,
will emigrate in the next two decades.
In that context, care must be taken to avoid the errors of the first great
rush in the second half of the 1800s when 900,000 of our own people left Quebec
permanently. Another challenge must be met: that of improving considerably the linguistic
and cultural environment of francophone minorities outside Quebec in order to ensure the
full development of those communities. Unfortunately, that challenge has never been the
priority of the Quebec government. On the other hand, since 1963 and particularly during
the '70s, the Canadian government met that challenge, thanks primarily to the courage and
perseverance of the present Prime Minister of Canada. The official languages act, specific
federal subsidies to the provinces and francophone groups, the extension of French radio
and television networks from coast to coast in Canada are among the steps taken by the
Canadian government to improve the lot of francophone minorities.
The resolution now before us is another very important step in the same
direction. Of course it does not go far enough but still the fact is that it enshrines in
the constitution the full linguistic rights of the Acadians of New Brunswick and the right
of other French-speaking people outside Quebec to be educated in their own tongue at the
primary and secondary levels throughout Canada. There will undoubtedly be a lot of work
left but I am convinced that with patience and courage we will succeed. In that context, I
do not understand those who are against this resolution because it does not go far enough,
yet at the same time reject the significant progress it guarantees. Probably without
realizing this, they too are in favour of the status quo.
Finally, there is another right which will be formally guaranteed by the
constitution, namely the right of the provinces henceforth to participate fully in the
constitutional evolution of the country. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled recently that
even though there is a convention which requires a consensus of the provinces with respect
to any constitutional change which affects them, the federal Parliament is strictly
entitled to make such changes unilaterally. In my opinion, that is an anomaly which is
inconsistent with a genuine federalism because a mere convention which offers no legal
recourse is not a sufficient guarantee for the protection of provincial rights and powers.
It is precisely that unacceptable anomaly which will be corrected by the
resolution and the amending formula. This formula is not the best, of course, but at least
it does guarantee Quebec's cultural sovereignty. Personally, like others on this side of
the House, I would have preferred the Victoria formula under which Quebec had the right of
veto. It is unfortunate that Mr. Rene Levesque did not advocate that formula when it was
time, unlike the Canadian government and those of Ontario and New Brunswick. In short, it
is extremely sad indeed that the government of Quebec has not made any real effort to
improve this resolution so as to be able to give its consent without making overstatements
of delivering unacceptable ultimatums. And yet, upon reflection we should have realized at
the outset that such agreement was impossible. The PQ government could not drop the first
clause of its platform which is sovereignty. As was stated in their white paper, they do
not believe in renewed federalism. I quote:
In the opinion of the government of Quebec. the pitiful history of numerous as
well as useless attempts at revising the constitution proves just how delusive it will be
henceforth to think about renewing Federalism in a way which might be satisfactory at the
same time for both Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Not only do the PQ supporters not believe in renewed federalism, but they
certainly do not want to have anything to do with it. In that respect I recall a statement
made to the Canadian Press last November 25 by Mr. Sylvain Simard who was recently elected
Vice President of the Parti Quebecois thanks to the support of Mr. Levesque. I read that
statement in The Citizen of November 26 but, unfortunately, I did not find it in Le
Devoir. Therefore I will quote it in English:
What I myself feared was that Levesque's mission (to Ottawa) would
result in a certain success, an agreement:
The (1980) referendum forced him to play the game (of Federalism), but for us
it was an extremely dangerous game because an agreement would have paralysed us for years.
That is the vice-chairman of the Parti Quebecois. If one wants to discuss an agreement
with the present representative of the Quebec government, then it is better to have that
That is the naked truth. The PQ government never really wanted to enter into
an agreement. Mr. Levesque would not accept to scuttle his party to meet the Canadian
challenge. And in his effort to convince Quebecers to favour independence, he uses every
means at his disposal, even deceitful propaganda against the Government of Canada which
lit claims is responsible for all kinds of evil, treason and encroachment. In this
respect, the recently published PQ pamphlet entitled "C'est souverainement le
temps" provides a good illustration of this dishonesty which few of the so-called
impartial observers in Quebec have the guts to point out.
The PQ pamphlet states, and I quote: The very same year, 1927, Ottawa
grabled an area of Quebec jurisdiction that of old age pensions.
To say that Ottawa grabled that area is wrong. The fact is that the Quebec
government established its own retirement scheme in 1965. Moreover, when the Government of
Canada proposed its old age security program in 1950, it did so through a constitutional
amendment agreed upon by all the provinces. Mr. Duplessis, the then Quebec Premier, made
theg following statement in English during the federal-provincialtl conference which had
been called for that purpose:
We are willing, indeed pleased, to co-operate
with Ottawa. If any modification of the constitution is appropriate in the circumstances,
well, we would be willing to consider in a most friendly way the possibilities of
modifying the constitution in the matter of old age pensions.
As one can see, the federal government did not act by force, as the
Parti Quebecois now maintains. Elsewhere in its publication to PQ states, and I quote:
In 1941, Ottawa invaded a social field which belonged
exclusively to the provinces: unemployment insurance.
What that document fails to point out, however, is that at that time also, the
Constitution was amended with the agreement of all provinces including Quebec. So how can
they speak of encroachment when the Constitution was amended, with unanimous consent, in
order that all Canadians could benefit from this great social measure? Might I also recall
that the sollicitors for Quebec themselves, when arguing their case before the Supreme
Court last April, stated that Quebec had always freely agreed in the past to
But these contradictions do not bother the Parti Quebecois, The PQ
pamphlet contains the most far-fetched and deceitful statements to try and make people
distrust the federal government, while it has given our country, always in the interests
of Quebecers, one of the most generous social security systems in the world, within
the purview of the Constitution. Yet, the PQ party maintains that Ottawa is taking over,
encroaching, grabbing, envading. It is with this type of propaganda that the Parti
Quebecois government is launching its campaign for an independent Quebec which could,
apparently, come close to civil disobedience. It is getting ready to repeat the
unfortunate experience of Papineau, in which most Quebecers were never involved but which
nevertheless lead temporarily to a deadend.
I have listened attentively to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr.
Epp) and the sub-amendment introduced by the hon. member for Oshawa and leader of the New
Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent). Both proposals are sincere attempts at arriving at some
sort of arrangement or compromise acceptable to the province of Quebec. The Canadian
government is not in principle opposed to fiscal compensation. Hon. members will indeed
recall that the constitutional resolution tabled last November 18 by the Minister of
Justice (Mr. Chrétien) provided for fiscal compensation in the fields related to
education and cultural affairs. But the Right Hon. Prime Minister explained last Friday in
the House the position taken by the premiers who signed the accord on November 5. We
therefore cannot ignore their views in this regard. I would also point out that there is a
flaw in each of the proposals introduced by the hon. member for Provencherand the hon.
member for Oshawa.
The first proposal, by the hon. member for Provencher, is for full fiscal compensation.
However, the hon. member for 0shawa would like to see this restricted to Quebec. In fact,
both ignore the basic objection that it is desirable to ensure and guarantee that
constitutional amendments aimed at establishing Canada-wide programs consider the specific
option open to some of the richer provinces, namely to opt out of these programs.
The hon. member for Oshawa answers that he would rather keep full compensation, with all
the drawbacks it entails, restricted to Quebec. However, and I am expressing the position
of the government of Canada, at the next stage in our Constitutional reform, the
government will always be willing to consider proposals for meeting this objective, which
would also enable us to meet the objective pursued by the hon. members for Provencher and
Oshawa. However, I should like to point out to both hon. members that at this stage, where
we have a commitment from nine provincial first ministers to discuss further amendments in
the near future as soon as the Constitution has been patriated and the amending formula
established, we can draw satisfaction from the fact that the objective or concept of
fiscal compensation has been accepted in the present constitutional resolution, and that
the Canadian government undertakes, if such is the desire of the other provinces, to
discuss the matter at the next federal-provincial conference and to seek a formula that
takes into account the objectives pursued by the hon. member for Oshawa as well as of the
objections we have already expressed in this regard, namely that the automatic withdrawal
of any province would jeopardize the establishment of programs that should normally be
accessible to all Canadians.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I can say once more that I am convinced the vast majority of
Quebecers will not be blinded by the false promises of the Péquistes who, in fact, have
no respect for the people of Quebec. They do not know the people. It is true Quebecers
will not let their leaders forget their distinctiveness, but neither will they tolerate
the neglect of other equally important aspects of their individual and collective
existence which they share with their North-American neighbours. Quebecers want to
preserve their special status, but they do not want to be isolated in the process. And
especially, they do not want to be governed solely on the basis of their differences. That
is exactly what the pequistes refuse to understand and what we, Liberal members for
Quebec, always try to realize. In this respect, at least, we can claim to be closer to the
people than the Parti Quebecois, even if the PQ accuses us of betraying Quebec.
It is of course unfortunate that during the last
negotiations there were no true representatives from Quebec on the provin- cial level. But
this in no way means that the last step on the road to this country's emancipation will be
taken without Quebec. We, Liberal members from Quebec, following the Right Hon. Prime
Minister of Canada and the hon. Minister of Justice, have been full-fledged participants.
We are convinced that in supporting this resolution, we are following in the footsteps of
our predecessors. We also believe we are expressing the wishes of a great many Quebecers
and respecting both their personality and the strong ties that bind them to a greater
country. I for one am grateful to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice for
having associated me to this historic task, and I am proud as a Quebecer to have been one
of its participants.
Mr. Broadbent: Mr. Speaker, I listened closely as
the hon. minister placed in their historical context the two traditional attitudes that
have prevailed in Quebec. But finally, in that exercise he chose to launch into an attack
against the Parti Quebecois. In this debate this afternoon, neither the Progressive
Conservative member nor myself have dealt with that situation. Generally, I feel we are in
agreement with you on this.
My question is therefore the following, concerning
federalism. Does the minister think that Mr. Ryan, as a Quebecer, as a federalist, is on
his side on this issue, or on ours?
Mr. Joyal: Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased that the
hon. member for Oshawa refers to the position taken by Mr. Ryan on this.
I would remind him that in a telex he sent to the
Right Hon. Prime Minister on Monday November 9, Mr. Ryan suggested three ways of settling
the dispute which developed at the time the constitutional conference of November 5 was
His first proposal was that financial compensation be
granted with respect to education cultural affairs. He also suggested that, where other
fields of provincial jurisdiction were concerned, we begin discussions immediately or make
such discussions the very first item on the agenda of the following constitutional
conference. I am referring to the telex of November 9. He suggested two other solutions
for the other two points, namely the Canada Clause with regard to Section 23 and a
reassessment of the mobility clause.
When the Right Hon. Prime Minister spoke before the Quebec section of the
Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec City two weeks ago, following the representations
contained in a letter to him from my hon. colleagues of the Quebec caucus, he proposed
acceptance of Mr. Ryan's first suggestion which is now included in the constitutional
resolution tabled by the Hon. Minister of Justice on November 18. Afterwards, the Hon.
Minister of Justice had to consult with the premiers who had already signed the accord to
obtain their consent. In the meantime, Mr. Ryan had further discussions with his officials
and advisors, and he asked that the financial compensation provision be reviewed with a
view to extend it to communications, and also to social affairs among other things.
Meanwhile, during the discussions that followed on reinstating in Sections 28
and 24 the provisions related to native rights, the premiers indicated to the Minister of
Justice that this was the accord which they were willing to accept in order to meet at
this point the representations submitted by the province of Quebec, the official
opposition in Quebec and this side of the House. The Prime Minister has therefore
partially met the request for full financial compensation. What I have stated today is
that the government does not object to extending this compensation in principle, but that
for the moment, it is bound by the telex and the agreement expressed by Mr. Bill Bennett
who, as chairman of the first minister's conference, who clearly told the government: We
hope that the House and the Canadian Parliament will complete the debate on the Accord as
quickly as possible, and that patriation can be effected without delay, and that we can
meet again to resume our discussions on this matter .
This of course is in response to the objections or the wish for
compensation expressed by Mr. Ryan later on and takes into consideration the objections
raised by the hon. member for Oshawa himself ten days ago in this House when he said:
"As concerns social programs, an opting-out clause with full financial compensation
could cause considerable difficulties in implementing new programs designed for all
Canadians". It would therefore probably be possible to have discussions and to
develop a formula which would meet both Mr. Ryan's suggestions and that the hon. member
for Oshawa and ourselves have been saying during this debate. I therefore believe that the
wise thing to do today, tomorrow and Wednesday afternoon would be, of course, first of
all, to go on with this debate because opinions are not cast in cement in this regard, as
the hon. member for Oshawa has admitted. As far as we are concerned, on the government
side, we are willing to discuss this matter during a forthcoming constitutional conference
where we would try to define it better, but we do not want to prevent this resolution from
being agreed to as soon as possible so that we may continue meeting Mr. Ryan's objectives
which are those of the Quebec Liberal Party, the objectives of the hon. member for Oshawa
and the most sincere objectives of the hon. member for Provencher.
I therefore believe that it is in such a climate that the debate must continue
during the next few hours and not in a context
of outbidding where everyone would try to add a bit more to the resolution to make it more
attractive to the Parti Québécois government since the hon. member and myself both know
that, in this regard unfortunately, we have to consider the statements made by the duly
elected representatives of the Parti Québécois at their conventions and at public
So I feel it is our duty to look after francophones in Canada. I am
delighted to see that the hon. member for Oshawa is doing his utmost in this respect, and
that is exactly the trap the PQ would like us to fall into, namely, to refuse from now on
to meet the particular needs of Quebecers. And as I illustrated this afternoon, our
predecessors have always done everything possible to meet the specific needs of Quebecers.
I will not repeat either what Cartier, St. Laurent and Pearson proposed, or what we
ourselves are proposing now in this regard.
When the next stage comes, the hon. member for Oshawa, whose party has made many
constructive suggestions throughout this Constitutional debate, will be able to continue
taking part in these discussions. And I emphasize that one of the fundamental aspects
which has been changed, compared with previous Constitutional conferences, is that the
Government of Canada will no longer take part in them, as it used to, without the support
of a resolution passed by the House, without having involved the Parliamentary committees
of both the Senate and House of Commons; and from now on, when we take part in
Constitutional conferences, under new precedents which proved very useful over the past
few months, we will be able to accept the participation of hon. members from all the
parties in the House. And I think that in this way, we will be able to respond positively
to a request which the hon. member has made and which Mr. Claude Ryan, the Leader of the
Quebec Liberal Party, has supported.
Mr. Joyal: Mr. Speaker. I
thank the hon. member for Provencher for his question, which will give me an opportunity
to clarify one aspect of the answer I gave to the hon. member for Oshawa.
The point I want to make is that the government is not opposed to the
principle of full compensation because the government has already accepted the
implementation of that principle in relation to education and cultural matters. I think
the hon. member will clearly understand that.
What I said clearly to the hon. member for Oshawa was that at this stage
al1 members and parties in this House have unanimously agreed to conclude this debate not
later than Wednesday at three o'clock.
The chairman of the premiers' conference very clearly stated in a telex to the Prime
Minister last Friday that at this stage the premiers of the provinces are not in a
position to reopen the discussions in relation to that very aspect. The position that I
expressed today in the House is that we agree there might be progress, change and
suggestions to be considered which could probably be entrenched in the Constitution at a
later stage. However, at this point it would be much preferable to conclude the debate by
continuing to discuss the implications of full compensation in the manner which has
already been raised by the hon. member for Oshawa and the hon. member for Provencher. We
know that within a year, according to Section 36, we are committed to a constitutional
conference concerning at least one item, the aboriginal rights issue. We wil1 be in a
position at that time to discuss that aspect again. If there is a need and a consensus
reached to entrench that matter in the Constitution, we will then have the kind of
amending formula and constitutional process to achieve that result. I am quite sure that
if we keep the good will existing between the Prime Minister of Canada and the premiers of
the provinces which was just mentioned by the hon. member. we will be in a position to
If we cannot comply with the suggestion made by Premier Bennett at this stage, and we try
to improve it without, being in a position to obtain unanimous agreement in the last hours
of debate, a kind of pressure might be created which would be counterproductive. Good will
should be kept. I think the hon. member understands that the best way of continuing to
make progress, as demonstrated in the past weeks and days, is essentially to debate the
issue as hon. members have done. However, we should make sure that that objective will
still be in the minds of the premiers and the Prime Minister of Canada at the next
constitutional conference so that they will be in a position to reopen discussion on that
very subject. I think it is pretty satisfactory in terms of the consensus in arriving at
Mr. Joyal: I would like to thank the hon.
member for his question. I think one aspect of his suggestion could be adopted. However,
as I have already replied to the hon. member for Provencher and the hon. Leader of the New
Democratic Party, I think that those aspects can be debated. At least, it would meet with
the agreement of the premiers of the provinces who signed the accord on November 5.
I think the hon. member will recognize that if we consider changing anything
at this stage, it will create a pressure. In the context of the good faith which we must
keep and the statement made by Premier Bennett, at this stage we should continue to
discuss the amendments and subamendments, attempting to find out all the implications of
their adoption, but we should keep things as they are now. In this House there have been
unanimous amendments to the resolution as it affects the issues of aboriginal rights and
women's rights. I think that we are satisfied with the resolution at this stage concerning
compensation, education and cultural matters. I think that all Canadians, especially
Quebecers, understand that there is the possibility of further discussions. However, I
think that changing anything concerning the objectives we have already reached would
really jeopardize further progress at the next constitutional conference.
Mr. Broadbent: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the
minister, to make the matter perfectly clear. He is saying that the government is prepared
to look to at least two options and conceivably others. One is the general opting out
formula which has been proposed by the Conservative Party, and the other is the proposal
we have made today concerning the possibility of an opting out formula which would
recognize the unique place of the province of Quebec in confederation. Is that the clear
understanding that the minister attempted to convey?
Mr. Joyal: Mr. Speaker, I think that any kind of
suggestion which could be made in the House in relation to general compensation is
something which would be helpful at one stage or the other in order to attempt to arrive
at some kind of a conclusion to those proposals. I am quite sure that the proposal, the
subamendment put forward by the hon. member for Oshawa, is a valid one. However, it is
necessary to study and debate its ramifications, as well as the one put forward by the
hon. member for Provencher. What I want very clearly to state is that the government is
not opposed to the principle of compensation because compensations are already entrenched
in the present resolution.
However, the principle of full compensation is another
matter. It concerns matters which encompass all of the jurisdiction involving Sections 91
and 92 of the British North America Act. It then raises many questions, as hon. members
know very well. Therefore, on that ground I would think that further debate could take