Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, with the leave of the house 1 would like to say a few words in respect of one portion of the legislative program, and in particular to answer the question asked a few days ago by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard).
This has been a long and, I think, very productive session. There have been more committees sitting than was the case at any time during the years I have been here. I think it would be generally admitted by members in all parts of the house that the work done by those committees has been comprehensive and helpful. The membership of the various committees have been most diligent in the discharge of their responsibilities.
I am not one of those who through the years have advocated the extension of the committee system, but I do feel, while maintaining to the strictest degree our parliamentary system and in no way adopting the system in effect in the United States of America, which meets the needs of that country, this session has shown the benefits that flow from the mobilization of the help of private members everywhere in the house.
I say that as a preface to my remarks in respect of the bill of rights. I am in no way changed in my view as to the necessity of a bill of rights being passed by parliament, and the experience in government in no way has lessened my feelings as to the necessity of such a bill.
As hon. members know, a draft bill was introduced in the concluding days of the last session with a view to assuring that the fullest possible representations might be made by interested bodies, groups and individuals. In that respect there have been many such representations made by private individuals as well as by institutions such as civil rights organizations in various parts of the country and the Canadian Bar Association.
I believe it is generally accepted by hon. members that when the bill of rights finally
passes it shall be as comprehensive and allinclusive as the constitution will permit. Representations and suggestions are being received even now; and while I expressed the view some months ago that there was no necessity, as I saw it then, for a committee of both houses to consider the matter fully in so far as the terms of the suggested bill are concerned, in the light of representations made since I have altered my viewpoint, as I hope I always will when reason demands a change.
I have come to the conclusion that it would be well to have the draft bill of rights submitted to a joint committee of both houses, that committee to consider no other question than the terminology of the bill. As I see it, the question as to the need of a bill of rights would not be a subject for consideration by the committee. Such a committee would provide the fullest possible opportunity for further discussion and consideration, to the end that when the bill is enacted this historic step in the maintenance and preservation of freedom under law will be the most significant that parliament can attain through^ joint counsel and consideration.
In saying that I want to make clear that from the suggestion I have to offer to postpone the introduction of the bill of rights until the beginning of the next session, no one is to take that postponement as any indication of less allegiance on the part of the government and myself to the paramount need of this legislation being passed. Therefore under the circumstances I am going to suggest that the bill of rights already drafted be brought up at the next session at the earhest possible date, and that a joint committee for the purposes I have mentioned be then set up. Even though my views changed during the progress of the present session as to the benefits that might flow from the setting up of such a committee, I realized that with the number of committees that were sitting it would be next to impossible at this session to set up still another committee.
Subtopic: BILL OF RIGHTS
Sub-subtopic: COMMITTEE NEXT SESSION