February 4, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)


Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

On a few occasions. My right hon. friend said that the referring of these matters to the Supreme Court of Canada would prove dangerous to the preservation of the powers of the central government. As his authority he quoted from a letter which Sir John A. Macdonald had written in 1889 to the then Minister of Justice, Sir John Thompson. It is true that at that time the Su-

The Address-Mr. Lapointe (Quebec East)
prcme Court Act had been passed, but it did not contain section 55 which empowers the governor general to make these references.
At the interprovincial conference of 1888 Mr. Mercier succeeded in having a resolution adopted, section 2 of which read as follows:
That it is important to the just operation of our federal system, as well that the federal parliament should not assume to exercise powers belonging exclusively to the provincial legislatures, as that a provincial legislature should not assume to exercise powers belonging exclusively to the federal parliament; that to prevent any such assumption, there should be equal facilities to the federal and provincial governments for promptly obtaining a judicial determination respecting the validity of statutes of both the federal parliament and provincial legislatures; that constitutional provision should be made for obtaining such determination before, as well as after a statute has been acted upon; and that any decision should be subject to appeal as in other cases, in order that the adjudication may be final.
The question under consideration was the settlement of the Jesuits' estates, a very important matter which had entered the political field. Sir John A. Macdonald did not view with favour the request which had been made, as was indicated in his letter to Sir John Thompson. In 1890, subsequent to the date of the letter of Sir John A. Macdonald quoted by my right hon. friend, the Hon. Edward Blake moved an amendment to the motion to go into supply, which read as follows:
To leave out all the words after "That"- and insert the following:-"it is expedient to provide means -whereby, on solemn occasions touching the exercise of the power of disallowance, or of the appellate power as to educational legislation, important questions of law or fact may be referred by the executive to a high judicial tribunal for hearing and consideration. in such mode that the authorities and parties interested may be represented and that a reasoned opinion may be obtained for the information of the executive."

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