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


Donald James Johnston

Independent Liberal

Mr. Johnston:

-then you must reject Meech Lake. If you believe the Constitution of this country should be a flexible instrument reflecting changing economic and social conditions as our country evolves with a constitutional amending formula to allow that to take place, then you must reject Meech Lake.

June 14, 1988
Constitution Amendment, 1987

And if you believe, Mr. Speaker, that the 11 First Ministers should not have the power to change behind closed doors our fundamental law, namely the Constitution, you must reject the Meech Lake Accord. And if you believe that the judges of the Supreme Court should not be appointed from among candidates submitted by the provincial governments, you must reject the Meech Lake Accord.

If you believe that the Senate should be reformed to reflect the original intentions of the Fathers of Confederation, namely, to protect the regions against an overbearing central authority, you must reject Meech Lake.
If you believe in that, in a federation like ours the provinces should exercise the same powers and that no one province should have a special legal status which entitles it to exercise important powers not available to other provinces, you must reject Meech Lake.

So, Mr. Speaker, if you see our country as one with two official languages and bilingual institutions in every province, in every region, with sufficient protection for linguistic minorities, you must reject the Meech Lake Accord.

For those who look at this Accord and see where it can take the country, I say to those who voted no in the Quebec Referendum in 1980 that you must also reject Meech Lake.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have tabled amendments, which are found in the Order Paper, seconded by the Hon. Member for Laurier (Mr. Berger), which are designed to satisfy the Quebec Government's five demands for moral adherence to the Canadian Constitution. They are virtually identical to those adopted by the Liberal Party at its 1986 November policy convention and were supported overwhelmingly by Liberals from all regions of this country. I say to my fellow Liberal Members in this House and the caucus, regrettably of which I am no longer a member, that if they do not support the amendments brought forward which reflect the mandate given to us by the Liberal Party of Canada, they are turning their backs on the Liberal Party and rejecting not only the Liberal vision of this country of Canada, which we have held through most of the century, but the specific mandate given by the Party at the November 1986 policy convention.
In order to save time, and I appreciate the generosity that Members have extended to me, I will not go through all of these amendments but I hope Members will look at them because they incorporate the Victoria formula, for example for the appointment of Supreme Court Justices. They invoke the Victoria formula suggested by the Liberal Party for constitutional amendments. They put in a preamble which recognizes the distinctive character of Quebec as the principal but not the exclusive source of French language and culture in Canada.
They cover all of those points that were subject to the Liberal resolution of November, 1986.
In conclusion, let me say that these amendments are important because the Meech Lake Accord is not acceptable to Canadians in its present form. Those in this Chamber who think this will pass through all the provincial legislatures, I say that they are dreaming in colour. The answer is not simply to reject what we have, it is to come forward with something that will be acceptable to the Province of Quebec and which will be acceptable to Liberals from coast to coast.
I say to those in this House who argue as they have time and time again that it is necessary to proceed with Meech Lake despite its obvious flaws and that it is necessary to adopt it without amendment, remember the wisdom of William Pitt who said in the British House of Commons nearly 200 years ago:
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom; it is the
argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves.
Canadians are not slaves, Mr. Speaker.

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