March 25, 1965 (26th Parliament, 2nd Session)


John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago I raised a question of privilege regarding the regularity of an action taken in connection with the repatriation of the Canadian constitution. I now want to add to what I said on that occasion, for no further opportunity will come, and unless action is taken now it will be too late.
What I am referring to is an act before the legislature of the province of Quebec in connection with the repatriation formula. In order to found my question of privilege I must place before the house the wording that now appears on the order paper of the legislature of that province, which reads as follows:
Mr. Lesage-Quebec Parliament Act-Motion-
That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen in the following words:
To the Queen's most Excellent Majesty:
Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the legislative assembly of the province of Quebec, in parliament assembled, humbly approach Your Majesty praying that you may graciously be pleased to cause a measure to be made before the parliament of the United Kingdom, to be expressed as follows:
Then the act is set out to provide for the amendment in Canada of the constitution of Canada in the terms that appeared in the white paper.
I rise, sir, to say that it is not constitutionally proper for any province to be placed in a position of exercising the right of address to the sovereign. Such addresses to the sovereign, asking for action in the British parliament, cannot, according to constitutional authorities, be made by a province or any of the provinces. To do so would be to permit the provinces to circumvent parliament, which alone can pass such addresses.
I raise this question because it is a matter upon which we must have a clear and unequivocal statement from the Prime Min20220- 808i
ister. Has there, on the part of the Prime Minister of Canada or the government, been any arrangement made with the premier of Quebec whereby an address regarding the repatriation of the constitution shall be made directly by the legislature of that province? What will be the position of the Prime Minister when this matter is brought before the Sovereign? Will he, as her adviser, inform her that it is in order for her to accept an address from the province? If he will not, then all that will be done, should this be passed, would be a nullity. If, on the other hand, as her adviser he informs her that it is in order that any one province may do this, rather than that the consent of the provinces shall be made known to the parliament of Canada, then in effect by this advice he will have accepted the theory that there can be sovereign states within this nation.
It is a matter that must be raised now before this-I was going to say anachronism- before this unusual step can receive the fullest consideration of parliament. I raise it at this stage because on the face of it the Quebec parliament act and the address being directed to the Queen of Canada, in her dual capacity as Queen of Canada and Queen of Great Britain, would bring about a constitutional difficulty in this country that needs no further explanation.

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