June 14, 1988 (33rd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Donald James Johnston

Independent Liberal

Mr. Johnston:

As far as Saskatchewan is concerned, Meech Lake was in effect morally, it being the second province following Quebec to accept it. However, if one reads Meech Lake, which most people apparently have not, it clearly states that provincial legislatures have a role to "preserve the existence of French-speaking Canadians elsewhere in Canada". There is nothing in there referring to the preservation of rights, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister said that today and the Leaders of both opposition Parties said the same thing. One final nail in the coffin of that argument is that Section 2(4) of Meech Lake is absolutely clear: No power with respect to language that belonged to a legislature prior to Meech Lake is affected by Meech Lake.
The Supreme Court of Canada told Saskatchewan it had the power to do what it did, but it would seem the Prime Minister and the spokespersons for the opposition Parties are offering us legal opinions that even a layman would reject reading the text of the Meech Lake Accord itself.
Finally, I ask them this question. If Meech Lake is intended to protect existing rights, then French-speaking Canadians elsewhere in Canada would have more rights in Saskatchewan or in Ontario than they would in British Columbia. Mr. Vander Zalm presumably feels that he would be discharging his role to "preserve the existence of French-speaking Canadians" without adding any rights to his statute books. Why should not Mr. Peterson and Mr. Devine be entitled to discharge their roles at the same level as Mr. Vander Zalm? Some day the courts will answer these questions, but please do not then turn and say that we were not warned about the disastrous consequences of Meech Lake on the linguistic rights of Canadians from coast to coast.
June 14, 1988

Finally I turn to some of the remarkable comments of the Minister of Justice speaking on behalf of the Government, Mr. Speaker. He assures us that the territorial division of Canada into a distinct society of Quebec on the one hand and the other distinct society in the rest of Canada is not to be feared by minorities in Quebec. He said:
When we say that Quebec constitutes a distinct society within Canada, it is
understood that all residents of Quebec are an integral part of that society ...
Those Quebecers from a multicultural community are part of it. Quebec's
English-speaking community is an integral part of the Quebec's distinct
That is an interesting comment. Is that what Premier Bourassa meant when he said in the National Assembly:

For the first time in 120 years of history, the Constitution will recognize Quebec as a distinct society. The Constitution will provide Quebec with the means to preserve and promote its distinct identity and will give a constitutional basis for the French fact in Quebec.

Is the Minister of Justice really telling us that the Quebec Government sees itself as having a role to preserve and promote the English presence in Quebec? If so, how does he view the current policies which forbid the use of English on commercial signs, which limit access to English schooling, which insist on French dubbed films before general film distribution and so on? Does he see all this as changing after Meech Lake when Quebec will set about to promote all elements of its distinct society including the English component? If he does, then the Minister of Justice-

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