Constitutional checklist

Parliamentary Reform
-New Senate to include six senators from each province, one from each territory, plus six native senators (68).

-Senate would have absolute veto on new taxes on natural resources; questions of French language and culture require double majority of total senators and of francophone senators; a simple majority against other Commons bills forces joint sitting of Senate and Commons.

-Increased seats in Commons; 18 for Ontario and Quebec, to offset Senate “losses”; 4 more for British Columbia and 2 for Alberta, bringing to 337 the current 295-seat lower chamber. Quebec guaranteed 25 per cent of Common seats.

-Provinces to decide method of election to the Senate.

Canada Clause
-Provides an introduction to the Constitution expressing the fundamental values and characteristics of the country, including parliamentary democracy, respect for human rights, racial and sexual equality, equality of provinces and recognition of the native right to self-government.

-Contains a clause recognizing Quebec as a distinct society.

-Commits government to the development of the English minority in Quebec and francophones outside Quebec

-Court interpretations must be consistent with all the above.

Inter-provincial Barriers

-An agreement in principle to eliminate trade barriers between provinces and a long list of exemptions, but no timetable or mechanism to do so.

Native rights

-Natives, including those off reserves, have an inherent right to self-government.
Governments and native leaders have five years to define self-government before courts can get involved to make final determinations.

-Provinces are assured that natives get no new land rights from this deal and that native laws conform to federal and provincial laws in matters of peace, order and good government.

Division of powers

-Federal money spent on housing, recreation, forestry, mining, tourism, urban affairs and manpower training to be turned over to provinces that so desire. Culture left to provinces, but federal government can still run national institutions such as the CBC, Canada Council, National Film Board, etc.

-Provinces can seek more control over immigration, regional development.

Creation of provinces
-Yukon or the Northwest Territories will negotiate  one-on-one with Ottawa for provincial status.

Supreme Court

-The constitution should entrench the current provision of the Supreme Court Act, which specifies that the Court Act, which specifies that the Court is to be composed of nine members, of whom three must have been admitted to the (civil law) bar of Quebec.

-The Constitution should require the federal government to name judges from lists submitted by the governments of the provinces and territories. A provision should be made in the constitution for the appointment of interim judges if a list is not submitted on a timely bias or no candidate is acceptable.

Amending Formula

-Amendments to provisions of the Constitution related to the Senate should require unanimous agreement of Parliament and the provincial legislatures. Future amendments affecting the House of Commons, including Quebec’s guarantee of at least 25 per cent of the seats in the House, and amendments which can now be made under S.42, should also require unanimity.

-Sections 41 and 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982 should be amended so that the nomination and appointment process of Supreme Court judges would remain subject to the general (7/50) amending procedure. All other matters related to the Supreme Court, including its entrenchment, its role as the general court of appeal and its composition, would be matters requiring unanimity.


Parliamentary Reform Senate


The latest constitutional arrangement is much worse than “not perfect.” It will only work under two conditions: a majority government in Ottawa and a federalist government in Quebec. (Since 1945 almost half the federal governments have been minorities). If this is not the case, government will be paralyzed or become an endless series of compromises.(Robert Jackson, Pol. Science professor, Carleton, lists 10 such scenario’s. Aug.25)


An appointed senate with quotas for special categories of people (sex, race, language, etc) is rejected by almost everybody as “reverse discrimination”, “undemocratic”, “counter productive”, “unworkable”. Yet this is what the Premiers of N.S., Qu., ON, SK and B.C., supported by the Federal NDP, have in mind.

The West

“Reform” of Senate is not a reform. It is a single E instead of a triple E and it id cosmetic in its effects. Does nothing for the West. (Former Man. Premier Harold Pawley.

Sept 2)
Re: Taxing natural resources. The govt. can do many other things in bypassing a Western veto on taxes (freeze price; alter freight rates; use tariffs).

Other questions
Who is a francophone Senator? An English Albertan ho speaks French because his mother was French?… etc.

Interprovincial barriers

– “Despite business and federal government pressure, provincial premier gave only an unenforceable promise full of loopholes- to eliminate provincial protectionism.” Star, Aug.30 (not a single one of the approx. 500 barriers has been removed).

Native Rights

-Ovide Mercredi, chief aboriginal negotiator, insists he is looking for acceptance, not just support. Yet the new deal resembles apartheid, with reserves as the equivalent of South African “homelands,” too poor to sustain viable communities.

-After five years of further negotiations, the role of unelected judges will grow by leaps and bounds in deciding what is what. It will be veritable goldmine for constitutional lawyers.

Division of Powers

-The English version states governments are “committed “ to the development of linguistic minorities. The French version uses the weaker and less binding term “attachment,” instead of “engagement.”

-The details about the transfer of manpower (Section 28) is so ambiguous that there are diametrically opposed interpretations. Quebec commentators believe the province has acquired an important transfer of power; civil servants think it is not so. (Toronto Star, full page of opposing views)

-Clause “c” (distinct society) leaves room for conflict with clause “h” (equality of provinces)

-Under Clause “h2” (the role of the legislature and government of Quebec is to preserve and promote the distinct society of Quebec) the question of linguistic minority rights remain unresolved (Rae, McKenna, Aug 28.)

-Quebec nationalists see federal role in culture as jeopardizing the province’s political and cultural autonomy
Pro-lifers regret continued federal role in subsidizing anti-life media.

Supreme Court

-Six of 10 judges will be controlled by Ontario/Quebec

-No public scrutiny by Senate (avoid American spectacle)

-Nominating process not yet settled. (Does not require unanimity process).

-May require Senate ratification but nobody knows how.

Amending formula

-Giving each province a veto over future constitutional changes means that there can never be any changes. This alone is sufficient reason to reject the deal.

Some costs

-Retirement of old senators: $80 mill.

-Reorganization of H of C, new meeting place for combined H of C- Senate Sessions, additional Mps and new Senators, initial outlay $300-$500 mill. Thereafter, additional expense for salaries, etc. $30-50 mill per annum.

-No one has dared even to guess the cost of aboriginal sovereignty because nobody knows what it entails beyond a new third level of government in over 200 reserves. It includes housing, health, education and essential social services at the expense of the federal govt. It could cost many billions.
Costs of the new regular First Ministers Conferences which must be held at least once a year.

Other point and questions

–    The “deal” is not a deal; it is but an agreement to work out a deal. Some say it is only the beginning of negotiations.
–    Legally the Referendum is not binding. Is it morally binding?
–    What constitutes a majority? 51% across Canada? 51% in each province?
–    The deal can also be re-opened (Rae)
–    The deal does not settle the unity issue (Bourassa see Quebec; Clark ept.13).
–    The question asked is: “Do you agree that the Constitution of Canada should be renewed on the basis of the agreement reached on Aug.28,1992? Yes. No.”
–    “The question has a built in bias in favour of Yes. Agree should be “agree or disagree;” renewed should be “amended.”

Conclusion: No protection of human life

The social Charter – in a fairly general form- is now part of the “deal.” The request from the pro-life movement and RC bishops of various regional Conferences, to protect human life from conception to natural death, is nowhere to be found.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms  which Campaign Life opposed in 1981 is more entrenched that ever.