Court of Canada, when it has been called upon from time to time to consider matters of these descriptions, has protected some fundamental rights of Canadian citizenship, particularly in those respects I have already mentioned.
While the Supreme Court of Canada has from time to time protected the civil rights of Canadians, nevertheless it seems to us, as I said a few moments ago, that having regard to the circumstances and the times in which we live, the time has come when there should be a clear and explicit statement as to the civil rights of Canadians generally, and that such rights should be spelled out in definite legislation enacted by parliament in order to ensure that they shall not be improperly infringed.
The right of freedom of speech and expression is a right that from time to time has been interfered with, not only by legislative bodies but sometimes by private individuals. Then there is freedom of religion, and again in very recent times there have been cases before the Supreme Court of Canada in which the court was called upon to determine whether or not legislation in a province did interfere with the religious rights of Canadian citizens. Of course two of the most fundamental of all our rights are freedom of association and freedom of the press, and to our way of thinking these rights should be spelled out explicitly in an act of the Canadian parliament.
Then, of course, some of us also remember that a few years ago we had an unfortunate situation-and while the end was probably a good one we believe that the end never justifies the means-when certain citizens of Canada were picked up, held incommunicado, were not given any warning that anything they said at that time would or might be used against them subsequently, and had no access to legal advice.
This was done; and whether or not people believe that the government of the day was justified in some instances in doing what it did, I do not believe there was justification. Ultimately some of those who were charged were judged by the courts to be innocent, but they had been picked up and held in this manner. Consequently it cannot be said that provisions of this description are not necessary within our constitution to protect the civil and legal rights of our people. After all, our freedoms in these domocratic countries, and particularly countries with institutions like our own, are freedoms under the law. The law, of course, is made by this parliament, and in some respects by the legislatures.
It seems to us, consequently, that the law should explicitly spell out what some of these fundamental freedoms really are, so there should be no doubt about them. Then, of course, there is the right of everybody to those things that are private, to a man and his family, which should be protected. There should be no arrest, no arbitrary detention by a government, a minister or any officer of the crown, of this parliament or of any authority, and we should have a provision in our legislation so this could not be done under any circumstances.
I have no doubt that this afternoon something will be said with regard to the centuries old right of habeas corpus, the right of a lawyer or someone to appear in court and demand that a person be produced so that he shall not be improperly detained for any length of time without being brought before a magistrate or other proper authority so he may be accused and at least given an opportunity to make his first plea. It seems to me this is fundamental to our basic rights under the law as we have known it for centuries. These rights should all be enjoyed by every citizen, at least, of Canada- I was going to say every resident, but at least every citizen without regard to race, creed, colour or religion. I need not add that in our own country such rights have been denied because of race, because of colour and sometimes of religion.
I recall very vividly the controversy during the years prior to the first world war when so many of our citizens of Asian origin on the Pacific coast were not treated as first-class Canadian citizens. I recall that because of their religious persuasion a body of people in this country were also denied the right of the franchise in one of our Canadian provinces. I am thinking particularly of the Doukhobors in British Columbia. This disability was, of course, removed later.
Sometimes it is said that Doukhobors have been a nuisance in Canada. I want to say immediately that is only partly correct, because the vast majority of these people professing that religion today are amongst our most law abiding citizens, at least in the province from which I come and to a very large extent in British Columbia. I think it is unfortunate that a whole group of people should be characterized as unlawful and disobedient to the laws of the land in which they live because a small percentage of them commit acts which none of us can condone. However, those disabilities have been removed but there are disabilities that still remain. It seems to me that we should legislate so that beyond peradventure the basic rights of Canadian citizenship should be guaranteed to all our people.
That, of course, is the purpose of this resolution. In former days the resolution was usually talked out. The resolution introduced by the present Prime Minister, I recollect, was talked out in 1954 and the resolution I moved as late as 1956 was also talked out. In a resolution of this description there is no question of confidence in the government. This is not a confidence measure, and I take it that all persons sitting in all quarters of the house would have the right to vote as they think fit, regardless of party affiliations.
I think it is a good thing that from time to time we are able to do this. In fact I am one of those who hold the view that unless a motion or an amendment is of such a nature that it involves an expressed want of confidence in a government it should not be so regarded, and that only when it is so stated as a confidence motion should members be governed by the party affiliations which they may have. In this case we are relieved of that obligation, so every member of the house is free to express himself and to vote according to the way he thinks and feels.
I do not propose to go into this matter to any extent, Mr. Speaker, because as I say I want my friend the hon. member for Van-couver-Kingsway to have an opportunity of dealing with some of the problems. I have discussed this matter in the house so frequently in former years that I thought a fresh approach by one who has made something of a study of this matter would be acceptable to the house.
Before I sit down I want to say that of course I am not pretending that the spelling out of this amendment is entirely my own work. As a matter of fact, in writing this resolution I had the advice and assistance of some of the ablest constitutional lawyers in Canada whose names, if I mentioned them, would be familiar to hon. members and who are regarded as outstanding authorities in this particular field. They assisted me and advised me that this resolution as it stands is entirely within the right of this parliament, and that in their opinion its subject matter should be written into the constitution of Canada.
With those words, Mr. Speaker, I am going to invite the consideration of the hon. members of the house.