No. It is true that as far as Manitoba and British Columbia were concerned they were on a different footing. As far as Alberta and Saskatchewan were concerned this parliament had the right to vary that representation. They did more than that. If you will read the amendment of 1915, as I imagine most hon. members have done, you will find that parliament not only settled the representation in the senate of the provinces which then existed in Canada, but went farther and actually provided for representation in the senate of a new province which might come into Canada, specifically mentioning Newfoundland, and laying it down that in the event of admission to the union Newfoundland would have an additional six members of the upper house. I do not think those who argue as my hon. friend argues have, in the light of what has been done, a leg to stand on. The whole history of this country since confederation surely points to the fact
that this parliament has the right to deal with representation in this parliament. We do it when we redistribute the seats; we have done it in connection with the senate, and now we propose to do the same thing again in connection with representation in this house. It is, I take it, our right to do it.
May I quote from Sir Robert Borden's remarks of June 11, 1914, at page 5278 of Hansard? Hon. members who have read this debate will recollect that it took place right at the end of the session. There were certain amendments suggested by the senate, and the following year the address came before the house again. There was a short debate and the address was adopted. This is what Sir Robert Borden said in connection with it:
My_ right hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, in the course of the debate upon these bills, suggested-what had occurred I daresay to some of us before-that a fourth division should be constituted, which should comprise the four western provinces of the dominion, namely, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. He suggested to me-
That is, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
-that the better course would be this: that we should not proceed with the bill at this session; but that, inasmuch as legislation was necessary for the purpose of increasing the representation of the province of British Columbia in the senate, we should accomplish that result as to all the provinces in that way; and that, further than that, we should constitute a fourth division and ask for the necessary amendment to the British North America Act for that purpose. My right hon. friend also suggested to me that he thought that, in case of the future constitution of any additional province in Canada, it was desirable that that province should be represented by not less than six members in the senate. We have the power to deal with that under our constitution at the present time.
That is the statement made by Sir Robert Borden. Let us now turn to the same debate and see what Sir Wilfrid Laurier said. I shall quote from page 5280 of Hansard in the same debate on. June 11, 1914. Sir Wilfrid Laurier said this:
There can be no doubt that this parliament as constituted has the power to increase the representation of those two provinces.
That is the senatorial representation of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Therefore I am at a loss to understand why in 1946 we should go back to a position which was not held by the leaders of the two great parties in 1914, or why we should reverse the practice which has been in effect throughout the years, of this parliament passing a humble address to His Majesty from time to time, praying for amendments to the B.N.A. Act when this house felt they were needed, namely, amendments in the interests of all the people of Canada.
I think I have said pretty well all that I wish to say on this matter at this time. But before taking my seat I should like to say that surely if this country is to be regarded as a nation, matters which are assigned to this parliament by our constitution must be within the right of this parliament to deal with. We have no right to interfere with something that has been assigned to one of the provinces without that province's consent. That I readily grant, and with that I agree, But I maintain that we would stifle this parliament completely if we accepted the position that my hon. friends are accepting and agree that, before we do something which, according to Borden and Laurier, in the important debate to which I have deferred, the last time that change in representation was made in one of the two house of parliament, lies within our rights, we should for one moment do other than exercise that right of our own volition, and appeal to the people of Canada when the times comes to validate the action that we have taken.
Mr. FREDERIC DORION (Charlevoix-
Saguenay): I must state at first that I find myself in a peculiar situation regarding this resolution. In fact I am strongly in favour of the principle which is at the basis of it and I believe that it will be supported by the great majority of the population of the country; but I cannot agree with everything that the Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent) said when he introduced the resolution. I am further convinced that any amendment of our constitution should be discussed with and by the provincial governments before it is acted upon, especially when it deals with the representation which, according to the terms of the resolution, must be calculated on a provincial basis. If it had been possible to settle the redistribution without being obliged to amend our constitution I would have more heartily supported the resolution; but when I notice that the result of the amendment will be the disappearance of the grave injustice created by paragraph 4 of section 51 of the British North America Act I cannot do otherwise than admit that, notwithstanding the defects of procedure, the resolution carries with it the remedy to a serious condition for the people of the country.
I wish, however, to take this opportunity to make some remarks on the question of the procedure of amending our constitution. I have listened with great interest to the speech delivered by the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker), and I deeply regret that he did not make a similar speech in 1943, when the constitution was amended in spite
of the opposition of a very few members in this house. We based our objections on the very same grounds raised this afternoon by the hon. member for Lake Centre. At the time he was in favour of amending the constitution.
We have read and heard1 many suggestions regarding the procedure to be adopted for the amending of our constitution. Different points of view have been expressed by experts, politicians and laymen. But there is one point on which I believe everyone agrees at the present time, namely, that the time has come for our country to adopt, once and for all, a procedure which would enable us to amend our constitution, when necessary, without being obliged to have recourse to another country; provided, however, that this procedure does not come into contradiction with the principle which was at the basis of confederation, namely, a compact between the two races, the French and the English.
The history of the confederation movement, together with the Quebec and London resolutions, indicates clearly that the provinces of Canada could not have united in 1867 except on the basis of a federal constitution, and also on the basis of effective guarantees for the interests of the French minority, especially in respect of language, civil law and religion.
At this time I should like to cite some declarations of persons in authority. As early as 1920 in this very chamber, the then leader of the opposition, now the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), said, as reported at page 468 of Hansard:
But I would like to submit to my hon. friends opposite that perhaps it would be more in accord with the status which Canada has as a self-governing dominion or nation within the British empire if, instead of presenting an address to His Majesty to ask His Majesty's consent to the parliament of the United Kingdom amending the British North America Act in the two particulars mentioned, the government shoul consider the advisability of an address being presented to His Majesty to have powers given to the parliament of Canada, subject to the concurrence of the several provinces of the dominion, to amend the constitution of Canada in such particulars as may be agreed upon as a result of conference between the provincial and federal authorities and approved by this parliament and the legislatures of the different provinces.
I have here a copy of the constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia and of the Dominion of New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand have the right to amend their own constitutions in the particulars mentioned therein. Why should this parliament not have the same powers to amend its own constitution, subject to the safeguards that are necessary to comply with the spirit of the act of confederation, as have these other nations within the British empire?
In the course of the same debate, Hon. Mr. Doherty, Minister of Justice, speaking for the then Conservative government, said at page 479:
Now nobody has ever disputed that legally the legislative power is supreme in the parliament of the United Kingdom and it follows that the British North America Act-though in reality and in substance a compact between the provinces is in form an act of the parliament of the United Kingdom. Such being the case when that act has to be modified we have to go through the form of addressing ourselves to that parliament of the United Kingdom. But to suggest that that throws any doubt upon our constitutional status as a nation within this empire I think only implies a confusion between what may be the requirements of the law and what, side by side with those requirements of law, may be the constitutional rights of the nations or peoples within the empire. We have the two things, we have the law and the constitution, and they do not always agree
sometimes they are in absolute contradiction.
He went on to say:
The hon. gentleman went on to say apropos of this condition, that what we ought to have, instead of what we are asking in these resolutions, is a power in this parliament, subject to the concurrence of the provinces, to amend our own constitution. In that I am most heartily at one with the hon. gentleman.
Since then, many other debates have taken place in this house, and I believe I can state without fear of contradiction that every time this question was raised the official policy of the Liberal as well as of the Conservative party remained the same; that is to say, that to complete our status as a sovereign nation within the British commonwealth we should not suffer the humiliation of being obliged to humbly request another country to amend our own constitution. I did not deem it necessary to report any declarations by members of the C.C.F. party, because it is a well known fact throughout the country that since its foundation the leaders of that party have expressed their views on this matter on many occasions. The late Mr. Woodsworth, first leader of the C.C.F., and also its present leader have not only seized the opportunity but grasped eveiy occasion to claim for our country this element of soverignty.
I deem it proper to recall a principle which is at the basis of our constitution and which has been clearly stated by jurists as well as by political leaders on many occasions. This constitution, like that of all countries connected with the British empire, is partly written and partly unwritten. In the course of the 1926 electoral campaign the Prime Minister took advantage of several occasions to emphasize the soundness of the confedera-tive pact. In Le Soleil, mouthpiece of the
Liberal party in Quebec, we find in the edition of August 24, 1926, the following declaration made by the Prime Minister at Sherbrooke:
We stand for the rights and freedom of the people and I hope that the Conservatives will follow me.
Our opponents talk about annexation and accuse me of such intention. . . . We have but one aim, the defence of the constitution. We desire to be one nation among the self-governing nations of the British empire, no more no less. This British constitution for which we fight is the most precious heritage won by centuries of fighting. The tie uniting Canada to the British empire has been strengthened by the means of war sacrifices and British immigration. . . .
The constitution is something sacred, partially written and partially unwritten. It has its source in a far off past and tangibly shaped itself in our traditions. It is founded on the customary right and is moulded by means of precedents, of grand charters and peoples' rights. Nobody has seen it and nobody can wholly define it; but one can feel its presence whenever peoples' freedom and rights are threatened, because it is the result and the deed of the best British tie born out of secular struggles. Throughout the dominions, it constitutes a component part of loyalty. It is a pendulum against any tendency of severance or annexation.
Sub-subtopic: AMENDMENT TO BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT AS TO RULES FOR READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION