Mr. Mike Landers (Saint John):
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this historical debate and to read into the record a letter I received from a constituent
whose view of Canada is totally compatible with my personal view. The letter, dated May 16, 1980, reads as follows:
You may remember that we met several years ago before an election when you were touring the Ridgewood veterans wing of the Saint John regional hospital.
I am writing to you as my member of Parliament from Saint John, New Brunswick, in hopes that you will do everything in your power to expedite negotiations between the federal government, the other provinces and the province of Quebec as soon after the referendum is over as is possible. I am assuming that Mr. Claude Ryan's forces are going to be successful. And I feel very strongly as does my family that we not only want Quebec to stay in confederation, but we want them to know that they are as equal as any other Canadian in every way, shape and form. We want them to know that as a founding people of this nation that their culture and aspirations can be met and protected in our confederation of Canada. We want them to know that it enhances our culture and will make for a stronger Canada if their hopes and aspirations can be met within our union. There is no need for any bad feeling among anglophones and francophones. This country has plenty of room for us all to flourish in peace and prosperity.
I had the good fortune to study medicine at the University of Ottawa in the late 40s and early 50s-then to practice among the Acadians in Shediac, New Brunswick for five years. They are wonderful people and it is my hope that they will be able to develop in every way in a united Canada.
I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr. Ryan so he will know the feelings of the Creamer family of Saint John, New Brunswick. While we do not intend to sell our own English heritage short we do not intend to sit idly by and watch our French Canadian cousins lose all the things they hold dear.
Yours very truly,
(Dr.) Roy Creamer
What I would like to ask Dr. Creamer to do is keep writing.
Mr. Speaker, not all of my constituents are as fair and broadminded as Dr. Creamer. The worst comigent-and when I say worst, I mean the slimiest comment I have heard since the introduction of the resolution on the Constitution in Parliament-was from a constituent who, to protect the narrowminded and ignorant, shall remain anonymous. His comment was to the effect that anybody supporting the resolution was, "a French Canadian papist". The only reason that 1 would condescend to even repeat such a dastardly remark is to point out that there are some prominent New Brunswickers whose ancestors would be quite surprised to hear their descendants referred to as "French Canadian papists".
Three New Brunswickers who have given solid support to the resolution on the Constitution come to mind immediately. Imagine the look on the faces of the English protestant ancestors of Premier Richard Hatfield to hear him being referred to in the manner previously described. Imagine the look of astonishment on the faces of Gordon Fairweather's English Anglican ancestors, or the look on the faces of the British Anglican ancestors of the hon. member for Moncton (Mr. McCauley).
Turning to the substance of the resolution, a Canadian charter of rights and freedoms will guarantee that Canadians are entitled to the following rights and freedoms with respect to all matters of federal, provincial and territorial responsibility: fundamental freedoms, which include freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of
March 11, 1981
information, and freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
With respect to democratic rights, which comprise the right to vote in the election of the members of the House of Commons and of a legislative assembly, the charter will include the right to stand for office in either of these institutions; the requirement that no House of Commons and no legislative assembly continue for longer than five years except in extraordinary circumstances; and the requirement that there be an annual sitting of Parliament and of each legislature.
With respect to mobility rights, the charter will enshrine the right of every Canadian to move freely from one province to another to establish a residence and to seek a job anywhere in Canada, as well as to enter, remain in or leave the country.
Regarding minority language educational rights, the charter will provide that citizens of the English-speaking or Frenchspeaking minority of a province have the right to educate their children in that minority language, wherever numbers warrant.
Finally, respecting legal rights, the charter will include the right to life, liberty, and security; the right to equality before the law; protection against unlawful search or seizure, detention and imprisonment; protection against denial of counsel, undue delay of trial, and cruel or unusual treatment or punishment; and the right to the assistance of an interpreter. Also included are non-discrimination rights, which protect citizens from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or sex.
Hon. members may ask themselves why there is a need to entrench rights of Canadians in a Constitution? As a Canadian first, but as a Canadian of Irish Catholic descent, I am all too familiar with the British penal laws which reduced Irish Catholics to chattel status without human rights. Under these penal laws, no Catholic was permitted to own land; no Catholic was permitted to vote; no Catholic was allowed to hold public office; no Catholic was allowed to work in the civil service; no Catholic was allowed to own a weapon; no Catholic was allowed to own property of value over 5 pounds; no Catholic was allowed to be educated in or out of Ireland; no Catholic could earn more than one third of the value of his crops; and no Catholic was permitted to practice as a lawyer, doctor, trader or professional. The Catholic religion was largely forbidden, with no facility to train new priests, and foreign-educated priests were outlawed. All Catholics were compelled to pay a tithe to the Anglican protestant church. This brought on secret masses, and priests, returning from the continent, were hunted down, hanged, drawn and quartered in the diamonds of Ulster townships. We all know what long-lasting effects these dastardly laws had, and are still having in Ireland today.
If the joint resolution before the Canadian Parliament were taking away rights the way the penal laws did, then I could understand why the Right Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) would be opposed to it.
Some hon. members opposite may still think that the penal laws were appropriate. And no doubt, there may be a fringe
element of Vancouverites who believe that no Canadian of oriental extraction should be permitted to own land. There may be a small ill-advised segment of Albertans who believe that no native person should be permitted to vote.
If one believes the media coverage, there seems to be a minority of Torontonians who believe that no Pakistani should be allowed to hold office. Some misguided Quebec separatists may believe that no anglophone should be allowed to work in the Quebec public service. Yes, there may even be the odd Haligonian who might believe that no black should be allowed to own a weapon. I know that hon. members may find it hard to believe, but there may even be a closet bigot or two in the fair city of Saint John who might believe that no francophone should be allowed to own property over a certain value.
It is because extreme right wingers continue to reside in Canada, or, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) refers to them, red-necked yahoos-although no doubt they are few in number-that we are entrenching human rights and freedoms in our new Canadian Constitution.
In closing, may I point out that a substantive measure in the resolution, of the utmost importance to the Atlantic provinces, provides that the Parliament and Government of Canada will be committed to the principle of making equalization payments to the poorer provinces. Both orders of government will be committed to promoting equal opportunities for Canadians, furthering economic development to reduce disparities, and providing essential public services at a reasonable level to all Canadians.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: THE CONSTITUTION