March 12, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Louis Philippe Demers


Mr. L. P. DEMERS (St. John and Iberville).

(Translation.) Mr. Speaker, according to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Maclean), who has just spoken, our constitution, which is hardly thirty years old, is in sore need of being revised. Why, Sir, one would think from what he said that he was just hailing from France, where they talk of nothing else but constitutional revision.
I think that if there is anything which places the British constitution before every other constitution in the world, it is that it progresses very little and in an almost imperceptible way. Clearly, my hon. friend from East York (Mr. Maclean) does not share on that point the ideas of the great English parliamentarians. But it seems he would fain import his ideas from France, a country whose law-makers, when they are not busy with framing a new constitution, which occurs every twenty years, make up for it by agitating every year the question of constitutional revision, so as to keep abreast of the times.
The hon. member from East York (Mr. Maclean) in his comments upon the Bill I have introduced this afternoon, stated that I was aiming at the overthrow of our constitution. The hon. gentleman may rest assured that I have no such ambition, as I am perfectly satisfied with the constitution as it is now. This Bill aims at restricting appeals to federal matters. The constitution provides for the constitution of a Court of Appeal and of lower courts for construing the laws of Canada.
All legal authorities agree that it was open to doubt whether, under our constitution appeals could be heard by the Supreme Court in matters coming under provincial civil law ; and yet, that point was decided in the affirmative by the Supreme Court.
The object of the Bill which I have introduced is not to amend the constitution, but merely to constitute the Supreme Court into an exclusively federal court ; or in other words, as a tribunal which would pronounce judgments on all matters except such as did not come under the civil laws of the provinces. In all cases where the Dominion government or the provincial legislatures, or again, private individuals bringing an action against a province were the interested parties, this- court could hear such appeals. Therefore it is not contemplated by this Bill to change the constitution of Canada.
The hon. member for East York lias made references which are far from bolstering up his claims. There was a time when people used to sneer at the United States. And no less an authority than the illustrious Joseph de Maistre once said that the United States of America was yet a child in swaddling

clothes, and that it must be allowed to grow and develop, before pronouncing upon the merits of its constitution. But later events have given the lie to Joseph de Maistre, and all the European powers agree that the American Republic is now occupying one of strongest positions in the eyes of the world. Through their federal system of government, and through their own exertions, they have reached one of the proudest positions as a nation, not only in the new world, but in the whole world.
My hon. friend has also scornfully referred to federation. Why, Sir, does the hon. gentleman forget that the Imperial parliament, which is the embodiment of the ideas and feelings of the English people, which is perhaps the most practical and the wisest of all peoples, has just granted to the Australian colonies a federative constitution, and that parliament did so, in the light of the experience of the working of the Canadian constitution ? And yet, the nation they had to deal with was a perfectly homogeneous people. Unless you should pretend that we are to be treated as outlanders in this country of ours, you will agree that it is necessary that our laws should not be interfered with.
But, Sir, England is not the only country in Europe from which we may take an object lesson in this matter. And that lessou, we learn it from a country which successfully competes with the United States and Great Britain herself ; a country, I say, that has taken the lead in literature, in science, in political economy, and that country, Sir, is Germany. Since Germany has evolved into a confederation, she has reached the status of one of the greatest world-powers. From the example of Germany we may gather that the fate of Canada is not so much to be pitied after all, and that there is no reason why we should hasten to do away with the covenant entered into by our fathers in 1867, by which the French minority has been guaranteed the rights secured under the treaties.
At six o'clock House took recess.
After Eecess.
House resumed at eight o'clock.

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