Wednesday 7 August 1991

Desmond Morton

Daily Bread Food Bank

Katherine Graham

Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship

Ontario Public Service Employees Union

Continued in camera


Chair: Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt NDP)

Vice-Chair: Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South NDP)

Curling, Alvin (Scarborough North L)

Eves, Ernie L. (Parry Sound PC~

Gigantes, Evelyn (Ottawa Centre NDP)

Harnick, Charles (Willowdale PC)

Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls NDP)

Malkowski, Gary (York East NDP)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

Offer, Steven (Mississauga North L)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Winninger, David (London South NDP)


Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton NDP) for Mr Silipo

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South PC) for Mr Eves

Wessenger, Paul (Simcoe Centre NDP) for Ms Harrington

White, Drummond (Durham Centre NDP) for Ms Gigantes

Clerk: Brown, Harold


Kaye, Philip, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

Wakefield, Ted, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1106 in room 151.


The Vice-Chair: If we can have everybody take their seats, we will get under way with this, the second day in the second week of our hearings in regard to the Constitution. We have with us this morning Mr Desmond Morton, who is a history professor at Erindale College of the University of Toronto. As I understand it, Professor Morton is on a one-year research leave. I imagine you can fill us in exactly. Welcome to the committee.

Dr Morton: Thank you very much for inviting me. I confess I hope it is an honour unsought. Your long-suffering clerk can testify that I was notified that you needed me to attend on 14 July, but I got the notification about five days ago because I was buried in the archives under a pile of court martial records and they only noticed my feet. Since then I have done whatever was possible within the distractions of a couple of lectures and a long weekend and trying to make a textbook sufficiently bland to satisfy the censors at the Ministry of Education.

I was asked to address the specific question of Quebec's future in Canada. Let me, however, take advantage of your patience to make an old-fashioned and unfashionable plea for constitutional minimalism. It happens that the textbook I am trying to write is about the Confederation process in the 1860s. One of the things that struck me again and again was how pragmatic those people were and how perceptive. What an enormous problem they had to solve. Indeed, taking advantage of my position, I have probably tried to describe the Canadas of the 1860s in terms reminiscent of those of the 1990s. They went at the job with some imagination, a lot of experience and a great willingness to leave the future to solve its own problems, perhaps too much willingness. As you probably know, they left out even an amending formula.

Years ago, when I was first looking at constitutions, I was invited to remember the words of a shrewd but unfashionable 18th-century person called Horace Walpole. "Everybody," he said in 1753, "talks of the Constitution but all sides forget that the Constitution is really very well and would do extremely well if they only let it alone." I also recall the warnings of a recent Prime Minister that constitutional reform would be a Pandora's box. How strange that it was the same Prime Minister who unlocked the box and let it all out.

Part of the problem, part of the temptation of constitutionalism, let me suggest, is a very human desire for immortality, the irresistible pleasure of trying to share in the creation of a supreme law that will bind all future generations, to be like the founders of the United States, a common model in constitutions, so common in fact that few people realize it is almost unique, because whatever the parents of any constitution may believe, time and lawyers will make monkeys out of them all.

As I came into this building, I was of course properly respectful of that great advocate of the federal power of reservation and disallowance, Oliver Mowat, who of course in due course would become an equally great critic and opponent of the federal power of reservation and disallowance. Consistency was a hobgoblin that never troubled the Christian statesman, but his inconsistency gave much pleasure to his enemies.

I was to address the issues on page 6 of the select committee's questionnaire. I do so with modest qualifications, a Canadian historian who has inevitably had to deal with the Quebec-Canada relationship, who was exposed to these mysteries by such ruthless antagonists as George Francis Gillman Stanley, who hated J. Murray Beck, who disagreed profoundly with Me Guy Dozois and left this particular student quite confused and capable of confusing others. But confusion is fairly easy to come by, as I am sure honourable members have come to realize.

This is a country whose people assure pollsters, whether they do so in French or in English, that they very much want to stay Canadian. But then English-speaking Canadians overwhelmingly tell us that they want a strong central government, no diminution of Ottawa's powers, even centralization of such traditional local responsibilities as education. Québécois, in contrast, insist with equal fervour that there must be significant decentralization of federal powers, often going beyond the traditional agenda of powers associated with Quebec's linguistic and ethnocultural distinctions.

In short, Canadians want to stay together, but their way of doing so is defiantly asymmetrical. Indeed, that asymmetry can be traced back through most of the years of this century, which leads me to believe, after many reservations and much heart-searching, that if Confederation is to survive, it must do so reflecting the people and their attitudes and will survive on an asymmetrical basis. The alternative would be a painful, incredibly costly, potentially dangerous secession whose only outcome, win or lose, would again be a kind of transcontinental asymmetry.

The alternative to special status -- "statut particulier" -- for Quebec was always special status for all. Indeed, cynics used to argue that this was the policy of the former Prime Minister, Mr Trudeau. If it was, he could trace a virtuous consistency in such a policy all the way back to his constitutional writings of the 1950s, because he argued then, as Eric Kierans has argued since, that Ottawa in the 1940-70 period invaded vast realms of provincial jurisdiction from income tax to health insurance.

I think historically this version of Canada has some foundation, but it also has more than ample justification. The version of war socialism over which Prime Minister Mackenzie King presided with his characteristic mixture of anguish and pleasure gave Canadians, after all, the foundation for the great age of affluence in this country from 1945 to 1975.

By the 1951 census, a remarkable thing had happened in this country because of those wartime policies. For the first time since income figures were collected, suddenly a majority of Canadians were no longer poor. By 1961, in fact, it was possible to become outraged that 15% of Canadians were still trapped in poverty. I think it is not entirely uncorrelated that the proportion of Canadians who are definably poor has increased with the renewed decentralization of federal social and economic policy, because it is politics and economics, not the Constitution, that made it possible for Canadians to establish national standards of education, health care and economic security.

As a supporter and, frankly, as a beneficiary of that development, how can I condemn it? I cannot forget my pleasure through the 1960s as a former Premier of this province, Mr Robarts, was driven successively from free enterprise medicine through OMSIP to OHIP. Has Ontario forgotten that the capital base for 22 community colleges came from the Canada pension plan, a national program with an asymmetrical foundation? Indeed, I sometimes think maybe some of the money may have spilled over to build my own campus out in Mississauga. Because of that, I want the arrangement to continue, and I believe most Ontarians do, and I believe most Canadians do, but I know most Québécois do not, so I think asymmetry makes sense.

Is it really the end of Canada if democratically, and with opportunities for subsequent second thoughts, people of different provinces develop different priorities and different goals? Was it right or was it wrong that Saskatchewan in 1948 took the opportunity and found that it had the right to create Canada's pioneering universal hospital insurance plan? What if the federal government had insisted that, true to its ideological principles, national standards for day care would insist on free market discipline, that day care was a service that in Canada should be provided on a for-profit basis? I know that principle would satisfy some members here present; it would appal others. Should that national standard be imposed on every province in Canada? We have become accustomed, on the whole, to seeing national standards that suit certain ideological frameworks. What if other ideological frameworks were imposed? Would national standards then have the same solid support that, for example, the policies on medicare have enjoyed?

Provinces, after all, have democratically elected legislatures. We have evolved from that day when Oliver Mowat, as a father of Confederation, thought it wise that Ottawa reserve or disallow provincial legislation because in his view and in the view of most fathers of Confederation provinces were really like the colonies, and the colonies, of course, had been run by the colonial office.

Let me repeat: I would prefer if Canada had a strong central government. There are many things I would prefer in this world that bear no relationship to the realities of this world. I think there are many powers, from education to the environment, that might be better managed and could certainly be well managed by a strong central government.

I am one whose schooling dragged through five different provinces and ended in a sixth. I managed, incidentally, in that process to avoid algebra every year until I ended up in an engineering faculty in a small Canadian university. It is possible to do things like that in Canada. More and more Canadians do travel, are pulled from province to province by mobile parents. It is not something we should discourage, but provincially based, indeed even locally based, education systems make that more difficult.

But the idea of a unitary Canada, strong in the minds of Sir John A. Macdonald and some of his colleagues in the 1860s, could never survive the realities of Canada. In the closed sessions in Charlottetown and in Quebec City in 1964 no idea other than federalism surfaced because no idea would have been tolerable to the French-speaking minority in that old Canada, and no central, single unitary government would have been acceptable either to the people in the lower provinces. I think that without Quebec in the 1860s there would have been no Canada; and, in my view, without Quebec in the 1990s there really is not much Canada either.


That is why the arguments for asymmetry, with all their difficulties and dangers and disadvantages, finally appeal to me. I think it does create the possibility for national standards in most of Canada. It creates the possibility of co-operation and integration of services which most Canadians outside Quebec describe as a goal of political reform. No, it does not inspire ecstasy in me, but then I viewed most of the constitutional changes since the Victoria Charter of 1971 with profound misgivings and occasional dismay.

As I look through the full paper that Mr Brown provided me, with its seemingly endless opportunities for self-interest and special pleading, my soul might be chilled if I did not trust honourable members here present to dispose of them with appropriate courtesy.

I wish sometimes, as you may, that Senator Eugene Forsey could be here when I need him. He would probably, of course, denounce asymmetry too, with devastating logic. Unfortunately the late senator was more fertile in devising absolutely flattening and devastating aphorisms than he was in inventing expedients to help the country through its next stage.

Asymmetry would create a distinct Quebec. Frankly, has Quebec been anything other than distinct? Would it be less asymmetrical if it separated or if by some force, unpleasant and unrealistic now to conceive, it was persuaded to abandon its claims and become a province parfaitement comme les autres ?

Asymmetry would, of course, create a precedent for other provinces to demand their own distinctions, but is there a province, including Ontario, that lacks some entrenched constitutional particularity?

I have spoken longer than I should have. I have probably repeated arguments that honourable members here present have heard before. Repetition may at least create an impression of validity.

May I wish you well with your difficult and important task. I hope that you have the success and I know that you have the ingenuity of the framers of that original British North America Act. They too laboured through a hot summer in 1864 to prepare their resolutions. They did not, of course, have air-conditioning or microphones.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Morton, I would love to hear another 30 minutes of what you had to say, I am sure, as would most of the other people of the committee, I think.

Your presentation is obviously well thought out and raises some interesting points to which, I am sure, there are many questions. We will start with Mr Malkowski, and other people, if they want on the list, please indicate.

Mr Malkowski: I was impressed with your presentation and your comparisons in history. I would like to talk about one thing. If you are saying you noticed a relation between less federal powers and an increase in poverty -- is that what you are saying is one of the reasons that it is happening in the 1990s? Can you explain that point a little more clearly, please?

Dr Morton: Correlations are not necessarily causes. I think Canadians have lost a little faith in their capacity as a country to cope with problems. They have indeed elected a government that feels, with perfect legitimacy in its own ideology, that who governs best governs least, and it is a government that therefore wishes to remove itself from a number of activities that its predecessors had taken up.

I think there are many other reasons why Canada has fallen, and they go back a long way. The willingness to take our affluence after 1945 for granted, to assume that it was some God-given inevitability, rather than something that was a blessing to be used and exploited and planned and developed and sustained, those were failures which all of us in this room are of an age to have shared in. We took our blessings for granted, as the blessed often do, and therefore our blessings have, to a degree, been taken away from us.

Since 1978 -- I think the OECD figures are eloquent if not often quoted -- the average real income of individual working Canadians has fallen in most years, a development that is usually concealed in many families by double incomes but is tragically evident in families, particularly mother-led families, that are single. But that is a development of very significant economic magnitude and I do not think has to be related necessarily to a political development. Perhaps one consequence of that sense of frustration and failure has been to blame government for failings that are perhaps more widely social, because after all, we have governments in this country that usually tell us that what is done by government is done badly and that they should be re-elected in order to go on doing it.

Mr Winninger: Some months ago, Professor Morton, near the outset of these hearings, we heard from John Crispo, who appeared to favour asymmetrical federalism at that time and gave it some currency. In light of the Allaire report and Bélanger-Campeau's position, which seems to be more procedural than substantive, just how far will you go in the direction of asymmetrical federalism? Will you repatriate all but, say, four powers to the provinces or would there be a median position in between?

Dr Morton: There would be, I hope, a median position. I hope that this is a matter of negotiation, and by suggesting asymmetry I am trying to do two things. One is to counter an equally common argument I am sure you have also heard: that all provinces must be treated equally and all Canadians with the possible exception of first nations must be treated exactly the same or else it is intolerable. It is not intolerable to me, and I think it is not intolerable in the light of Canadian historical and constitutional experience. That is probably the one simple argument I am trying to make here today other than the usual one, which is, if it ain't broke, don't touch it.

I think we do not have to go with the whole string of Allaire transfers from Ottawa, but I think we have to be realistic in accepting some compromise on the present array of federal powers, and we do not have to say, "Because Quebec gets it, every province must have it equally." We do not have to have special status for all.

Mr Winninger: I suppose what you are saying then is you can achieve equality without treating each province the same.

Dr Morton: We always have.

Mrs Marland: I too want to say, as always, what a tremendous pleasure it is to hear Principal Morton. On the occasions that I have been fortunate on a one-to-one basis to have this discussion on Confederation with you, Des, I have always learned a great deal, and I have learned a lot more this morning listening to you.

One area that you and I have never discussed, and I do not know that you touched on it this morning, is, if we are looking at our nation with its increasingly multicultural mosaic, setting aside the interests of the individual provinces in this whole debate, how would you suggest that the interests of Canada as a nation could be addressed where we would end up that everyone who lives in Canada, fourth and fifth generations and new Canadians of six months, would know what Canada stood for, what a Canadian is, what our ideals and our goals as a nation for people would be?


Dr Morton: We could try to improve the level of understanding. We will never achieve it for all people in all times in all stages of development and understanding, and indeed it would be wrong to even dream of trying. I am always struck, as someone who participates in the media as commentator and of course as reader and listener, by the fascinating range of levels of knowledge on the part of people who, by their position, are assumed to have very wide knowledge. It is amazing how little Canadians know about how their Constitution works or how it has evolved.

I am told that is because the subject is boring and therefore nothing should be taught that is boring. I have fairly strong views about how history should and should not be taught in the schools and universities of the province, which I hesitate to bore you with but might be tempted to do so.

But let's remember one thing. Achieving a kind of universal, common understanding of Canada by all Canadians and all people who live here is a chimera. It cannot happen. It does not happen in the United States, where we know a tremendous effort has been put in for a century and more to achieve this melting pot understanding. There is a certain level of pride and a certain level of knowledge of their country that many Canadians might envy. But a great many Americans do not understand their system either, have very little knowledge and have very little share in it. After all, how many Americans vote in elections, which is a fairly significant test of participation and involvement in the constitutional system.

I would like Canadians to be more interested in their own affairs. I think -- obviously because I teach and have a vested interest in promoting the cause of Canadian studies -- they are fascinating. I think they are complex. One of my arguments is that they are adult entertainment. Maybe we make an awful mistake in this province by trying to put a lot of Canadian history at a low level in schools when children are bored by history, cannot understand it -- this is Piaget as applied by my good friend at Queen's, David Pratt. If you do not understand something, it is hard to grasp it.

If teachers themselves hated history when they went to school, are not specialized in it but have to teach it because of the grade 6, 7 and 8 curriculum, they are not going to teach it on the whole very well. Some, superbly; many, not at all. Yet that is the level at which Ontario children learn about their country, and they emerge from that experience -- let me testify as someone who meets them somewhat later -- with an absolute hatred and a profound ignorance. I think history is wasted on the young. It is one of many things that are wasted on the young. I think the curriculum of Ontario would be better structured if it came later in the program and was taught by people with greater enthusiasm for it. But that is only one segment; that is the young. We can always victimize the young.

I think older Canadians should be taught what a thoroughly fascinating and exciting and problem-filled thing our history and our constitutional development is. It is not boring. It is something for specialists. It is quite as fascinating and much more complicated and even more entertaining than American history. Look at the role of liquor regulation in the development of the Canadian Constitution. Look at the role of sex in the development of the Canadian Constitution. There are many lovely, dirty stories. There is a level of possibility of entertainment for every brow, from simian to enormous. You have got me on an enthusiasm obviously, but -- I will stop.

Mrs Marland: You referred to --

The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. I will allow a supplementary and a very short question after because we are running late.

Dr Morton: I am sorry. I go on too long.

Mrs Marland: That is fine. You referred to the United States, and that is part of the comparison we all are faced with. I hear constantly from Canadians, when we are into the discussion of the future of Confederation in our country, about why we do not have the passion in our hearts. We do not grow up with a passion in our hearts for Canada; we do not have our children swearing an oath of allegiance to their God and their country as they do in the United States. We do not have a national identity, and therefore the melting pot that is achieved in the United States is not achieved to anywhere near the same degree in Canada, and the more that we become diverse in all of our interests in Canada, with our changing face -- what I am asking you is, how can that be achieved through the review of Confederation as an overall subject? I agree with the knowledge of history being a very important tool starting in schools, but how do we become nationally proud of our country and know what our country is?

Dr Morton: We could go through the experience the Americans went through, but let me remind you of how the Americans discovered the American way of life. John Ingham's book on American nativism and American pride is worth looking at. It occurred in conjunction with two major American events. Until the 1860s Americans were no more conscious of old glory, American values or anything else than Canadians are. It took the American Civil War and the post-war hostility to immigration, particularly in the 1880s, and the emergence of an American nativism that in more modern language might be called racism, because it did not include black Americans, though many black Americans wished they could have been be part of it. They were not seen as real, 100% Americans.

It took another war, the First World War, when the Americans went through a passion of nationalist enthusiasm which excluded not only blacks, because Jim Crow got worse in the First World War. Black American soldiers who returned were lynched because they had become uppity. That is part of the American experience of developing this so-called melting pot.

Finally, most modern American historians talk about the melt that did not melt. Americans are still hyphenated, so you have communities that are Polish-American, Ukrainian-American and Finnish- and Swedish-American, and Canadian-American communities called the Canuckvilles of New England. You can exaggerate very easily the effect of nativist propaganda because nativism has been a major theme in American history, but the number of people it has excluded is very important and tragic. You can do that in Canada but I am not very enthusiastic about that way of doing it. If we had a Quebec secession, I predict not only violence in that process, but the surviving part of Canada would be narrower, meaner, very nationalistic or else it would dissolve.

One of the great examples of separation is Norway and Sweden. Not a drop of blood was shed. Many were threatened, but at the end of the Swedish-Norwegian breakup Sweden became so intensely nationalistic that it refused to allow any other language to be taught. It compelled its people to go through profound indoctrination in the values of Sweden. They thought if they had only done that to the Norwegians, they would not have dared leave. Even a generally beneficent, lovable country like Sweden, in the reaction to a civil war crisis, lost much of its internal tolerance for ethnic diversity, and I do not think that either is something -- I think Canadians can be proud of being a diverse people, of accepting divisions, and you get to live with it and like it. I wish more Canadians would go abroad to see what a wonderful place this is. It never looks better than when you are looking from outside in.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. This left me a little bit speechless. I am going to allow a very quick question on the part of Mr Offer. We are going over, but --

Dr Morton: Sorry. It is my fault.

The Vice-Chair: No, it is quite all right. What you have to say is important.

Mr Offer: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I do have a very short question. It has got a number of parts to it, but --

The Vice-Chair: At this point, one question.

Mr Offer: I know you are sensitive to this.

Professor Morton, thank you very much for your presentation and indeed your responses to some of the questions. When you spoke about asymmetry, is it your position that there should be a devolution of powers from the federal government to provincial governments but not necessarily the same powers to each provincial government?

Dr Morton: That would be my position. My preferred position would be that Quebec is a different province from all the others. Quebec's people feel differently about how this country should operate from the people of all the other provinces, I think it is fair to say, with the possible exception of Newfoundland. When asymmetry comes up I see it as a Quebec-Canada asymmetry. I do not see it as 10 different provinces with 10 different sets of beliefs, but that too is conceivable to me. I do not regard it as desirable.

Mr Offer: Mr Chair, I wanted to get that just before I asked my question, if I might. I just wanted to truly get your position as to what is the possibility; we have heard this a number of times. If that happens, how is it that the federal government could impose standards on those powers they have allowed to devolve to one or more provinces? Second, what is the feasibility, if not the practicality, of that type of devolution in fact happening?


Dr Morton: To answer the second question first, I suppose if it cannot be managed in the Quebec-Canada context, there will not be a Quebec-Canada context of Confederation; there will be something else. That is my perception of the scene. I hope I am wrong.

How can national standards be imposed? I think that equalization provides the control, and within, equalization standards may be different. That may be one of the consequences you have to accept as part of an asymmetrical Confederation.

As I said earlier, if I had my druthers it would not happen. All the people would be like me, sensible and reasonable. But it is not so and it is not going to happen. We inherit the country we have inherited, with blessings and damnation both. So we have to accept the national standards may be local, but remember one standard we do have: People have the right to change their government, federal or provincial. People have the right, within the framework of equalization, to have what they want wherever they live. If one province devotes its resources to education and another to health, to put a terribly simple case, then that is the decision of the people of that province. They can change the government and reverse its priorities.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. If you have any other last words to share with the committee at this point, Mr Morton --

Dr Morton: I will not rush away.

Mr Curling: I have a quick one.

The Vice-Chair: No, at this point we have another presenter waiting and we are already 10 minutes late as it is.

Dr Morton: I apologize.

The Vice-Chair: No other words at this point, Mr Morton?

Dr Morton: No, except to thank the honourable members for allowing me to come and share my views. If they wish to know more about them, I will leave a copy of this monstrosity, complete with all its typos, for their special benefit. Of course if you wish to talk to me, I will be available in this country until August 13, when I depart to do more research into the Canadian Armed Forces in the First World War, a social history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 610,000 men and 15,000 women, a very unfair balance.

The Vice-Chair: On behalf of the committee, Professor Morton, I would like to thank you for taking the time and coming to present to the committee. As you can see, I have a speakers' list. It still hangs with many, many names of people who are going to come and axe me after you leave because they did not get a chance to ask questions. I want to thank you again and wish you the best in your work in the future.

Dr Morton: Thank you very much, Mr Bisson.


The Vice-Chair: Next we would like to call Gerard Kennedy, who is the executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank. If you would come forward, please.

Mr Kennedy: Mr Chairman, members of the committee, I have already appeared here once, briefly, as part of a four-group submission. One of the main points at that time was how uncomfortable we felt being called upon to represent low-income people. We wondered what the committee had done to reach out and ensure that in its process, if not in its conclusions, the considerations of low-income people had been included. I think at the time people remarked that that would take a special effort on the committee's part. I do not know if that effort has happened. I certainly recommend it to you if it has not.

The point of view I can bring to you, in terms of some of the considerations you have outlined in the questions that were sent around, is basically that of a witness or observer to conditions in this country over the last 10 years that have begotten the rise of food banks, of public begging and of a diminution in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

With specific respect to the ways you have shaped your deliberations up to now, the idea of a preamble and a social charter, or of modifications to section 7 and section 15 to include economic and social rights, is something I think the committee and the country, in terms of its search for definition and for ways to engage the average Canadian, should strongly be considering.

The nature of a social contract or a social charter has to be the definition of some of the deeply held values of the country, yet tempered by the reality of the conditions. We have had a change in conditions and I think we have a sense of elusive values, especially in respect of the rapid economic change of the last 10 and 15 years.

Again, speaking from the perspective of a non-poor person who has been exposed to some of the harsh realities low-income people have to deal with, there has been an exclusion that is fracturing, both for the people who are excluded and the people who are on the other side of the barrier or the fence, if you will. Canadians are shaking their heads and wondering why we have people going hungry in this country.

One of the things a social charter must include is a right to food. Let me explain that to you. Let me dwell on a right to food in this country. We are already a signatory to international covenants that guarantee a right to food under the United Nations, but we do not have a right to food in this country. I want to dwell on how badly we do not have a right to food and what the implications are of inserting a right to food or a right to some basic level of existence that is common with citizenship or with being in this country.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are agreements to which Canada is signatory, but in the international forum they have as yet proven to be ineffective in terms of really having a live-a-day effect on how Canadian institutions regard low-income people.

The right to food is one of the most basic things. It is not a given in this country. Let me explain. In this country we have a deceiving situation where there is apparently the availability of running water, electricity and shelter and where there are modern conveniences. Yet somewhere -- in the case of Toronto, 120,000 somewheres -- there are people trapped in that illusion of an egalitarian society, people who have to pay their rent and their utilities, who would go to jail and who would lose many of their rights if they did not, in consequence of which they go hungry and without the adequate basic nutrition they need for themselves and their children, not on a small scale but on a scale that reaches 300,000 Ontarians and almost 700,000 Canadians every single month.

We have a situation that I have observed over the last 10 years, last night, last week, on a daily basis, that does not fit with Canadians' perception of their values about their country. The gloss we have put on the rapid economic change we have entered into with the free trade agreement, with some of the decisions that have been made around the dislocation of industry, about Canada jumping into a cold-water change in its economic system, has shown an utter disregard for some of the basic human values this country has come to pride itself in. Its work behind the scenes in arriving at some of the international covenants is really thrown up into question by the current condition of our society in respect of people who are economically disadvantaged.

The need to have that, above and beyond, included in some form of guarantee in a charter or in an expansion of section 15, or even of section 7, is something that would require some imagination. It is not obviously apparent that people would support the measures that would bring enforcement to that kind of clause. Something in the order of a guaranteed annual income may not be where the public's attention is focused in the current idea about a government malaise, but if you recognize the ingredients of government malaise, it is a lack of leadership being granted to people such as yourselves who are in positions of power. That leadership is not going to be granted unless some leading steps are taken.


I know the job you have is to define some part of the Canadian imagination, to put forward some part of an ideal. I think we have an opportunity, based on our tradition, based on our sensibilities as a country, to codify some of those instincts, some of those things which paradoxically, and in some people's minds perversely, food banks have come to represent, a certain type of enlightened compassion, the kinds of things that make hundreds and thousands of people exert themselves.

We are finding as we do surveys, for example, outside firehalls, that people donate food not as a beneficent sort of thing, but in a bloody-minded effort to make sure people get their food. The kinds of notes we get with donations these days are of that nature, encouragement to go after the elimination of food banks, to go after some further step which would distinguish this country.

People are bewildered. The people who use food banks find themselves in the most awkward position of their lives. I want to stress that it is hunger they are experiencing. Speaking as an original westerner, the food bank in Toronto, where wealth is at its most conspicuous, is very real. Right now we are giving out less than 45% of the food people need to subsist on. Never mind what they have to do the rest of the month, but on a three-day-a-month basis, which is the allotment that comes through the charitable organizations called food banks, we are giving out only that quantity in total. In respect of children, we are giving out only 25% of the milk requirement that is needed. Definitely those people are depending on that for those three days and they are not getting it. They are not getting it from us and they are not getting it from a system that fails, when you add it all up, with all its twists and turns and the desultory methods by which we assist people these days.

I do not know how many of you have been engaged in some of the so-called assistance systems we have in the country. They are not where rights are revealed. They are not where rights are lived up to. The economic minority of people living in poverty are put through a tremendous usurpation of their rights by engaging these systems. There is a nickel-and-diming of their dignity, and perhaps what we need is a right to dignity in this country. Just as other countries have chosen a right to arms, maybe that is the route we need to go.

There is no recourse. The Canada assistance plan de facto guarantees food, clothing and shelter. It compels the provinces to live up to that basic standard. It is not enforced by the federal government.

In the context of the deliberations you have before you around the devolution of powers, around the aspirations of Quebec to find its own milieu, it is even more important to see if the concordat between the French and English constituent representatives of the country cannot include some overarching social purpose. As a Canadian, as someone who took Canadian studies, who has had something of an involvement with different aspects of Canadian society, it would be my estimation that if there is no social purpose to a country such as Canada, which is founded, at least in its last 50 years, on some measure of social achievement distinct among civilized countries, then there probably is not going to be a purpose. You cannot just have a clinical accommodation.

I speak not then just for the low-income people who conceivably might benefit, but for the larger group of people who are interested, who form a constituency of concern in this country. Instead of that being palpable and evident, that is not the first thing you list when you are asked your priorities -- the needs of other people, the poverty that exists in our various communities. But when other questions are asked, when it is revealed, it zooms to the top of the list in terms of people's concern.

That concern can turn into apprehension. There is no question that the economic uncertainty makes your job that much more difficult. The challenge we have in terms of economic turnover makes it even more important and more viable to consider some form of economic right that entitles someone to basic food, clothing and shelter. A right to food would suffice. If you guaranteed a right to food, you would have to guarantee the conditions under which that could be attained, because everything else is purchased ahead of food. Food is a flexible item in this country.

Several weeks ago, someone called me who has worked for 12 years: A young woman who has a disease, is unwilling to reveal the condition to people and went for five days without food, five days living in her apartment in the Yonge and Eglinton area without food because she could not contend with the systems we have.

The codification of that right is practical, yet it is perhaps more importantly symbolic. If we, and if you as the representatives who have been given this job, do not pull together some kind of definition which says that people are of worth, that the equality provision includes people who do not have economic wherewithal, then the attitude that has someone go without food for five days, when it is the converse of what she needs for her health condition, will prevail. We have this isolation of the pride of the individual on the one hand, and the denigration of society on the other, and so you have one of those Canadian secrets. It is about time to bring it into the open.

I think you are properly dealing with the rights and the needs of aboriginal people. As someone who grew up in The Pas, Manitoba, I am certainly aware of what a poor reflection that is of what would tend to be the stated, shared values of Canadians. But I am similarly taken with the idea that the hidden poverty, our inability to acknowledge it and address it, is another malaise we cannot contend with for that much longer.

The recession puts us in a position where people may choose to believe that the state, the country, the politicians, society cannot do anything about it, and that path is perhaps the one that has been taken south of the border, where we cannot do anything about poverty, where we cannot ameliorate the situation, where we simply accept it, a country that accepts people going hungry for no good purpose.

People go hungry because the mail is late. People go hungry because bureaucrats do not have the ability to make decisions. Fifteen per cent of the people we serve are sent directly from a social worker's office, who spends as much time referring that person in terms of cost to the government as he could in terms of issuing the value of the food we give them. There is a whole illogicality that I wish I could take more time to interest you in, because it is a tyranny of absent-mindedness in its kindness, that after ten years of food banks, we are really learning whether it is a lack of knowledge on the part of the Canadian public or whether there really is some kind of basic sensation that we need to have poor people that perpetuates the situation.

I think the existence of food banks, the emergence of conspicuous poverty in places like Montreal, Moncton and parts of Toronto is something that is on people's minds. It is something that undermines their confidence in the institutions of this country. However, because it only affects directly a minority of people, someone has to declare that in the public interest. Someone has to overarch the arguments that define a certain group of people as particularly lazy, and therefore worthless and deserving of a different code of civility than anyone else. There is the presumption of guilt until innocence is proven in the instance of the welfare system, or increasingly the unemployment insurance system.

Whatever wording is taken in terms of a social charter or an inclusion should be ensured to be a positive wording, to be one that ensures to people the ability to live a basic existence. That reference should be to some form of adequacy that meets social norms.

People talk about this society as having poverty that is relative. What Mother Teresa says about Canadian poverty is that it so relative it is worse than anywhere else, that the relative poverty of somebody who sleeps on a grate at Shuter and Jarvis, or someone who, more insidiously, lives in a basement apartment with a five-foot clearance, with her three kids, with a toilet beside the sink because it is the only plumbing, and with all manner of harassment and aggravation from the landlord, is worse.

It is private. It demands the intervention of the state. It demands the recognition of the state. The dialogue that is happening at the community level has advanced to a sufficient degree that elected officials would find, I think, receptivity to that leap of imagination that would try and define that as a shared common value.


Mr White: Mr Kennedy, there are a couple of things I want to pick up on from your commentary. One is the issue of rights, how the committee has involved the extremely poor. I think that is particularly problematical. I think you are absolutely right with regard to the social services systems, the way in which they have worked traditionally, "We have all these marvellous services, but we are not going to tell you about them," so if there is an appeal, the comment can be made that the service was available. It is somewhat like the wounded who have to apply for aid not being told of it.

I am aware that in the last while there are a number of steps in that regard, in terms of the welfare reform the ministry brought in, and there are active steps that would make people aware of their rights, of what their range of programs is, and of course there is the Advocacy Act.

We had a presenter last week who spoke in great detail about some rights issues that she had enabled at the Supreme Court level. However, there was not a discussion about how the Constitution, or our contribution to that, could be amended to reflect the need to empower people, the need to have people of all walks of life and circumstance reflected.

Very obviously, if you are hungry, you are not going to be coming to Queen's Park and participating in the lobby; you are going to be worried about, "Where will I get food?" the basic stepping stones of life, which is why you have people like myself and people like yourself, who are middle class in background, being the people who are most vocally representing that constituency of concern you mentioned.

I am wondering how you would see an increase in empowerment of participation for the poor, an enabling in terms of their rights brought into this process, and possibly brought into a statement of what we are as Canadians, a more visionary statement.

Mr Kennedy: In the instance of rights, if you look at the charter, most of the things that exist are protections, protections against discrimination on certain grounds. Economic disadvantage is being tested through the charter challenge program as to whether that is included in that level of discrimination. Making that clear would afford people in poverty some protection from the kinds of conditions they experience now. There is no protection, because ultimately the guarantees we have now are whimsical.

What exists in Ontario, the recent reforms notwithstanding, still does not match some of the things that were done in Alberta many years ago. The steps taken in Quebec to introduce a level of workfare are aggressive steps. The steps taken by British Columbia, when learning under a charter challenge that single and married people had to be treated the same, were to cut everyone back to the same level.

The way is to reference that to some kind of objective standard under which it can be set. In no jurisdiction in this country, Ontario included, is the level or type of assistance referenced to some kind of objective standard, in respect of which you have within that some kind of very basic reference to an adequate standard of living, to something of that nature.

The question you ask around opportunity, or at least define it around how to empower people: The main empowerment that most low-income people need in my observation is protection, is to change the condition of poverty from one that drags them down. It is a self-fulfilling condition, the way we define it in this country, and the way we focus things, because you do not have the ability to fight back. You have to put up with an illogical system, as you encounter it systematically and also attitudinally.

In terms of the other aspects of how to empower people, the right to education, in terms of that being a lifelong right, in terms of that being an expansive right from where we have it now -- the people have their first or second, their third and fourth chances, which is not at all clear, for example, when people on assistance are not able to go back to school and receive assistance in many cases, when that is exactly the kind of thing they need to adapt in terms of the changed circumstances in the economy. Other things that could be included in a social charter, but especially education, would address the need for people to expand their opportunity.

But I cannot emphasize enough how some positive statements around the rights of the economically disadvantaged, in other words, to not be discriminated against, or a positive statement around the standard of living for all Canadians, would allow people a totally different environment, at least legally, than they exist in right now.

It is a nickel-and-dime situation. Battles are being fought, in the case of the Finlay decision in Manitoba, about a $25-a-month benefit, and it has taken the gentleman, who carries his legal books around with him on the street, 12 years to get it to the Supreme Court, which has reserved judgement on the efficacy of the Canada assistance plan.

I guess the perspective I am presenting is that, in totality, the overall thing is a desultory process. It is not just a bureaucracy. It is a denial of what it is supposed to achieve in the first place, and it is because I think the laws that have been arrived at up to now are not prepared to state clearly that being in this country means you have certain inalienable economic rights. You can drop as far as humanly possible in this country, given the systems that exist right now.

Mr White: One small question further, and that is very simply that it struck me that the countries where there is a social charter in regard to a right to food in Europe are countries which are actually objectively the poorest in Europe. Those things are taken for granted perhaps in some of the more northern European countries, but in Spain and Greece, which are certainly not the wealthiest of countries, it is accepted. It is part of their charter. It is part of their Constitution. Yet we seem to have a tremendous opposition in this country, in this province, in this community, to such basic nutrition. Do you have any reasons why you think there would be that opposition?

Mr Kennedy: First, the inclusion of a right to food, as I say, is basically someone deciding an argument. Are people who find themselves in disadvantaged situations there largely through no fault of their own? Do we systemically produce people, or is this a class of people who fail, who are there because of foibles of their own? That is where a lot of the resistance in this country arises from.

What I am encouraging towards is some positive definition of people in general that would encompass low-income people. They need to be specifically included and regarded positively. In other words, you cannot in the main overcome that opposition where it is deeply seated, but also in the main, 84% of the people in Toronto are deeply concerned about the fact that there is hunger in this country, according to a Gallup poll last year. It is a startling kind of recognition that is out there. It speaks a real -- not just concern, but people are somewhat frightened by that change in their society.

What I am recommending to you is that while it is not smooth sailing, a large body of people out there will support that kind of positive thinking, and someone has to take a stand. We cannot equivocate without doing damage to the fabric of this country, because it is precisely the institutions that make economic decisions that have brought about so much change so rapidly that have gathered up a whole other group of people into the conditions of poverty.

Mr White: So you are suggesting it is only a minority of people who are --

The Vice-Chair: I am sorry, Mr White. At this point, unfortunately, I have to go to another questioner. We are running out of time. Does the committee wish to go a little bit longer? There are still two other people who indicated they had short questions. Do you want to go on for an additional five or 10 minutes?


Mrs Marland: I think at least each caucus.

The Vice-Chair: That is what I was going to do. That is why I am asking. Okay, Mr Curling.

Mr Curling: Mr Kennedy, I agree with you. There is no doubt that in this country there are people who are homeless, people who are poor, people who are illiterate and people who are discriminated against. How would you respond then to the fact that Principal Morton stated earlier on -- which struck me; I want to believe this -- it is not really the Constitution that creates wealth or poverty, but policies and economics of governments or whoever creates those policies and economic theories that people follow that create this advantage situation?

Mr Kennedy: I think the idea of a legal protection is more a direct encouragement to government and a reminder of its responsibilities than it may be in terms of practical effect upon the rest of society. There is a supposition about government that, beyond protecting private property and preserving the public order and so on, is the public good. That has quite often encapsulated a special responsibility towards the disadvantaged in society. In other words, we have tempered our market economics here with a role on the part of the state to offset the kind of things that are brought about by the market. To relegate what is basically, as I said, an act of imagination, of faith, of values, to only economic terms is a loss. Here is a place that you could see Canadians come together through some form of agreement about what their country can achieve for every individual in it. It is not simply in terms of economics that that can be achieved, whether it is full employment policies or whatever.

I think we are in an age of uncertainty around everyone's personal economic status, almost no matter where they stand. It is disheartening to see, and I think as more people become exposed to it, as poverty becomes more visible, that disheartenment will spread, the way we are losing so much potential on people's part because we are not able to make that jump of faith to say, "This is a moral decision, this is a value decision on the part of the country, to say that in this country of wealth, everyone is entitled to at least a minimal share."

That has nothing to do with the marketplace, because the marketplace, unless you believe entirely in an economic man, in Milton Friedman, is not going to deliver that. It is not delivering that now in spades. The average education of someone using the food bank in 1987 was at 13% having graduated high school. Now it is 43%. The income last year went up by 17%, but the average rent up by 32%. So people's income actually dropped 15%, as it has for every single year.

In other words, it really is a time at which, without judging the marketplace, we recognize what is a long-established Canadian tradition, but in some effective way. I think that the federal government, and in the federal government's absence the provincial governments, have abdicated much of that necessary responsibility. There is a whole re-education that could come with the elements of a social charter that is badly needed in this country.

People are wondering why, for example, rinky-dink organizations like food banks are the only ones to respond to an apparent problem of this nature. Is this not everyone's concern?

I think this is the kind of thing that the Charter of Rights, the repatriation of the Constitution in the first place, was supposed to address. Beyond the pragmatic clauses, there is some allusion to the shared value of Canadians. I think that set of values needs definition and it needs inclusion. I think we need to be telling people that being remaindered economically does not reduce your worth as a person and hear other provisions that say so and protect that. You can only fall so far in this society.

Mr Curling: Are you not concerned too in looking at other situations -- and I go to the point of saying racial discrimination or individuals who are discriminated against because of sex or religion or colour -- although all these things are written in many documents, and as a matter of fact I am running out of walls to put up all these statements that are written in constitutions, it really does not change things as much as possible, as when governments sit down and go beyond that.

I know it is wonderful to have, whether it is in the preamble, whether it is section 15 or whether it is section 7 amended -- and the individual who wants the bread and the nutrition in his mouth or just wants an opportunity to participate and not be discriminated against because of colour, class, creed or what have you -- it is policies it comes down to that government must make. If the accountability, the democratic process is not done, then they will seek other parties or what have you to do that. Do you take that into consideration, that as we go through all this -- I would call it an academic exercise -- eventually the food still did not get to the mouth of the individual because of government policies?

Mr Kennedy: I certainly agree that the organic process of coming up with the policies of the interaction needs to happen, but if you look at the current malaise that you are addressing as larger than just a discontent over constitutional arrangements, there is palpable feeling, and somehow we have become a lightning rod for some of that, of discontent in where the country is going. We seem to lack the ability for definition. There needs to be an energizing that does come with some form of symbolism.

I think if you look at where the charter has led, it has delivered for some groups of people, but it is not in any kind of hope of an apocalyptic change coming from these kinds of equality-seeking groups incrementally pushing the barriers, trying to define. That is not what low-income people need. Obviously they need more than that.

But the question is, as we consider the fundamentals of this country, will the people who are most disadvantaged in this country in respect of this modern, consumer, material-oriented society be included? Will they be front and centre? It is consistent with Canadian standards and values that they be included. It will not change their lives. It will raise their expectations. But it also may embolden society to demand more rights for those people on a day-to-day basis, on a policy basis.

Yvonne O'Neill was the Chair of a committee here that sat and debated food banks for a period of time. There are other members here, Dennis Drainville conspicuously, who know all about that. There are members in government who have that knowledge, some of whom were and some of whom are in a position to effect policy change, but there is a context that is missing.

I guess the hope is that, as you define what almost seems sometimes to be a defensive posture to the changing conditions, we can afford to be aggressive somewhere, we can afford to push and say: "Here is what Canada is about. Let's debate this. Let's get that on the table," because the insidiousness about this type of discrimination is that it is not on the table. It happens, it occurs at every level of people's lives, and it is not there. We still have almost a punitive attitude about low-income people.

So that would be my argument: full recognition of the reality that things will not change overnight, that it is an academic exercise unless you take it down to some of the community centres, and even then it is not going to draw a lot of people's attention. But I think it is your job as politicians to try and see whether the framework of the laws is going to provide something. I am just saying the framework does not do that now and whatever could happen will happen much more quickly and with more definition if this is part of the current re-evaluation of where the country is at.

Mr Harnick: I do not know how different my question really is, but what you said is that the codification of the right to food is practical as well as symbolic. In terms of the practical, what do you envision would happen or would be permitted to happen by government or through government if the right to food or a social charter of some sort was able to be written into the Constitution, from a practical point of view?


Mr Kennedy: A practical point of view would be, for example, if people were faced with eviction, if they were objectively in the position where their income was such that they could not afford food, that they could not be evicted, that there would be protection for people living in states of marginalization, something that would put forward the primacy of their integrity as individuals.

In other words, you cannot degradate yourself by not feeding yourself just to subsist in society. The nature of the obligations that attend that right would have to be defined, but the implication now is it is very easy for someone to go hungry, to become unhealthy, to become a burden on the state in this country. It is ludicrous when you look at the kinds of resources that go chasing their tail trying to make up for it afterwards. There would be a right that people could invoke, a threshold, a floor which they could not fall below. For example, municipal laws: When you have a situation like Toronto where you do not deliver housing for people of a certain background, where cabinet ministers actively talk about possibly moving people to other parts of the province, they have lost their right to participate in that society.

There are municipal governments and so on that might have to meet the test of inclusion for people who really have been treated very hostilely over the last six or seven years. So I can see it having that kind of effect, that where you have now an environmental procedure, you would have a social procedure perhaps for various projects of different scope as they change environments around people. In terms of the effective remedy for that right, you would probably have some form of guaranteed annual income at the cornerstone, so there is an objective standard that is met in different parts of the country according to the costs of living for people.

Mr Harnick: Let's assume that government does not enact that kind of policy. Is it your vision that a social charter and the policies related to it would essentially be enacted ultimately by the courts? If you included the right to food or a social charter in the Constitution and the government did not enact the policy, perhaps of a guaranteed income, would you envision that as being something that a court would ultimately do when challenged? How far do you go?

Mr Kennedy: I think the first onus would be on governments to try and define, and if they fail, then yes, the redress to the courts would be there. It is there now under the Canada assistance plan, under the international covenants. It is very inaccessible to low-income people. The first court challenge has only happened eight or nine years after the Charter of Rights and only because of a special initiative by various poverty groups around the country to try and see that it happened.

The courts are an invidious place for low-income people to participate. However, those actions are already taking place. They are seeking and trying to find things without the tools to do so. The idea would be that in an environment where the live-a-day practical powers may be changed and dispersed, that there is a standard that all governments who exercise those powers would have to meet and that test would probably arise over time. Once that law is in effect then each government or the federal government, which would be my preference, would be given the chance to define some basic standard.

I would like to touch upon my experience as a national spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Food Banks which leads me away from what I thought before, that each jurisdiction, each community, was in a better position to define what those basic economic rights might be. I no longer think so.

If you look at the conditions that exist in Newfoundland, in some of the places in New Brunswick, this country is not going to advance or progress until there is some floor that is common in its effect, in its standard. In other words, what people are able to attain in terms of food, clothing and shelter and something minimally beyond, unless the reference point is set nationally, because the degree to which local governments and the three provinces where they control it can tyrannize people, and the effect can be so conspicuous. The difference is incredible. Therefore, at least the standard should be set and perhaps the charter, because of other changes, may be the place where it has to be done. Perhaps also that kind of program could be put into effect by the federal government.

I would like to leave off where I started, that it is a very difficult thing to do, but it is not impossible, and it is certainly not beyond the reach of this committee.

If you have not already sought the perspective of people who are living in poverty, nothing I could have said today would be of the least value if that did not occur in the course of your deliberations. If you are not including low-income people, and making a special effort to that effect, there is no point in writing a law for it because the nature of low-income people, the job of growing up on low income, is such that you are not going to attract as many people. Even the organized groups that represent low-income people, of which food banks are not one, although we include people, cannot be fully representative. There is a need to reach people who live that experience. I cannot believe that you will be otherwise adequately informed about the whole thrust of what I was talking about.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Kennedy. With that the committee will be in recess until 2 pm.

The committee recessed at 1226.


The committee resumed at 1408.

The Vice-Chair: The committee will come to order. We are heading into the afternoon hearings. We will be hearing from a variety of witnesses speaking on a number of issues facing us in regard to the Constitution.


The Vice-Chair: We have with us this afternoon Katherine Graham, who is an associate professor at the school of public administration of Carleton University. Mrs Graham will be speaking to us on aboriginal issues. Would you like to begin at this point.

Mrs Graham: Thank you very much for inviting me to speak this afternoon. I want to make a couple of things clear before I begin my formal remarks and then I plan to talk for 10 or 15 minutes. Perhaps you will have some questions or some discussion that we will want to engage in.

Perhaps the first and most important thing you should realize is that I am appearing before you, at your invitation, as an individual. I am not here to represent the school of public administration at Carleton University, Carleton University or any particular group. I guess I am here, in part, because of my experience as someone who has been active in the field of research on not only aboriginal issues but also northern issues for over 18 years. I will speak, then, as an individual who has an interest in these areas and I will speak about both areas, aboriginal issues per se and the territorial north. I will also not only address my remarks to the position I think Ontario should take in the current discussions about the Constitution, but I will focus my remarks on what I think the general provincial role and stance should be vis-à-vis aboriginal peoples and the north.

I must say that from my perspective I am very pleased to see the strides that Ontario seems to be making in recent years and in recent months vis-à-vis aboriginal people particularly. I think some of the initiatives the government has undertaken, both at the constitutional level with respect to aboriginal claims and with respect to other arrangements regarding aboriginal communities and aboriginal people, are to be lauded. However, I am sure you realize there is a variety of perspectives on aboriginal issues emanating from all 10 provinces, and indeed the two territories.

There is also a variety of perspectives, from a provincial perspective and from the federal point of view, on what should happen in the north. I think my role is best put as one of speaking generally to the issue of where I think provinces should go and where I think the federal government should go vis-à-vis aboriginal peoples and the north.

My remarks will focus on four areas. Courtesy of Mr Brown, I received the discussion questions you have put out to people who are speaking before you. There are a number of questions. I selected four that I thought were perhaps most important for me to speak to, given my background and experience. I will speak to those and you are welcome to talk to me about those. I am also quite willing to speak about any of the other issues you have before you on aboriginal and northern issues, but I have just spoken to four in terms of my formal remarks.

The four I would like to speak to relate, first of all, to the first question on your agenda relating to aboriginal people, and that is the question of the representation of aboriginal people and territorial governments in the process of constitutional reform. Second, I would like to speak about the right to self-government, which is, I believe, the second question you have on your aboriginal and northern agenda. Then I have some modest proposals or suggestions with regard to the third and fourth questions on your agenda; namely, how should responsibility for Indian and Indian lands -- by which, I believe, you mean status Indians and Indians reserves under the auspices of the Indian Act -- how should they be dealt with? Finally, I would like to speak about the territories. That is the particular orbit of my concern for today. As I said, I am happy to talk further with you about these things or any other things on your plate.

First of all, with regard to the question of whether or not, or how, I guess, aboriginal people and the territorial government should be represented in the current process of constitutional reform, let me begin by setting out what I see to be a basic premise, and that is that aboriginal people and the territorial governments have a different claim to the process than other groups. I think we have all read and heard a lot about ideas of constituent assemblies involving all Canadians and so forth. Obviously, the federal government and the provincial governments are very intimately involved in the current discussions related to the Constitution, but setting aside the federal-provincial relationship and the discussions of popular assemblies, as groups or as entities, aboriginal people in Canada and the territorial governments have a unique claim to being involved in the process of constitutional reform.

I argue that in the case of aboriginal people that right, if you will -- and I am using the term loosely, not in a legalistic sense -- to be an integral part of the process stems from the very fact these are indigenous people in Canada. They were here certainly before my ancestors, and I suspect before any of yours. As such, it is my view that they do have a fundamental right to be involved in the discussions of our overall political arrangements, particularly those arrangements that affect them. They have a fundamental right, I believe, to be involved.

With regard to the territorial governments, I think they also have a particular right to be involved in the process other than as observers or as second thoughts, which was certainly the case during the Meech Lake round. I think there is a temptation, if you look at the various territorial acts and the historical relationship between the federal government and the two territories, to think of the government of the Yukon Territory and the government of the Northwest Territories simply as some sort of supermunicipal government, maybe analogous to regional governments in Ontario. I argue that is not the case. Admittedly they do not, at the present time, have the status of provinces. However, I think their role and their responsibilities, as they interpret them as governments, and also as the public they serve interprets them, are considerably different from the role that most of us would attribute to our municipal governments. I say this also as someone who has some experience with regard to municipal and local government in Canada. Mrs O'Neill, I believe, is aware of that.

I argue that the territorial governments are not supermunicipal governments, that they indeed have a designated responsibility on behalf of their residents to represent them on the national stage. They are seen by the residents in the two territories as their analogue, if you like, to a provincial government in terms of national issues. They are increasingly dealing with the federal government on a government-to-government basis. I think this is increasingly being seen as legitimate on the part of the federal government. I argue that the territorial governments, regardless of their fiscal relationship to the federal government, have, in almost a quasi-constitutional sense, a responsibility designated to them on behalf of their residents to deal with national issues. Therefore, they should be involved integrally in the current constitutional process.

We cannot talk about the role of aboriginal people, aboriginal communities and the territorial governments in the constitutional process without acknowledging the current proposals that are extant, and that, I believe, have received some sort of warm reception on behalf of at least some aboriginal leaders, of parallel panels to the federal-provincial discussions on the Constitution. I am referring here to the ideas put forward by Mr Clark in recent weeks. I think this notion of parallel panels, as he has suggested it, specifically related to the needs and interests of aboriginal peoples, is worth while and important. I welcome the support it has received from aboriginal leaders. However, I think we must be aware that this is going to be a useful approach only up to a point and that whatever process of constitutional change we engage in we must ensure that aboriginal peoples and the territorial governments are fully engaged in that process up to the end of the deliberations. That is a concern I have about the proposal for parallel panels.

I think there must be an entrenched role for aboriginal peoples and the territorial governments in the final stage of the current discussions of constitutional reform. Otherwise, we will find ourselves once again up the creek. Without being either laudatory or critical of the stand taken by Mr Harper in the Manitoba Legislature, I think the fact that this initiative by Mr Harper was able to occur and was successful in terms of blocking the passage of the Meech Lake accord is illustrative of the fact that aboriginal people, and perhaps to a lesser extent the territorial governments, have a will and an ability to block the constitutional reform process if they are not given full partnership in that process. While I say that the notion of parallel panels may be very worth while and very constructive, I urge the committee to consider how aboriginal peoples and the territorial governments can be involved up to the very end of the constitutional discussions. That is my first point.


Second, I would like to deal with the right to self-government. My view is that the right to self-government should be entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, in the broadest sense of the word, in the context of Canada as a nation-state. We see aboriginal peoples referring to themselves as first nations. I think this is a legitimate phraseology to use. However, if we are going to conceive of Canada as a nation-state in terms of the recognition of the rights of aboriginal peoples to self-government, there has to be some context put to that right. The only context that I can see as legitimate in the context of Canada as a political entity is to entrench the right to self-government as part of the Canadian state rather than as an independent nation. Having said that, I would want to emphasize my enthusiasm for the adoption of the concept of self-government in its broadest context, without putting further strictures and definitions to the phrase in the Constitution.

I believe that by now you will be well aware of the discussions that went on in the mid-1980s, following patriation of the Constitution, in the first ministers' conferences on aboriginal issues. You will also be aware that those conferences foundered, in part, because aboriginal peoples were pressed to define what they meant by self-government. Some provinces were particularly concerned that there be some definition put to this phrase. I believe that at this point it is virtually impossible to define what we mean by self-government. The implication of this, if you accept the notion of self-government in the context of Canada as a nation state, is that self-government can evolve to meet the varying needs and interests of different aboriginal communities. I would want to stress to you that, at least from my perspective as a non-aboriginal researcher, the needs and interests of aboriginal communities are extremely varied and will change over time. That is only appropriate. That is no different from the needs and interests of other communities in Canada. We should recognize that and stop trying to force aboriginal peoples to define their end state in 1991. That is placing extremely onerous and, indeed, impossible demands on aboriginal people and their leadership to fulfil. I would argue then in terms of an inclusive phrase without definition but with an understanding that there is a will to allow the concept of self-government to evolve.

I would like to make the further point, in the context of self-government, that, understandably, the constitutional discussions are focusing on self-government. There is no question of that. But I would ask the committee to remember that, in terms of achieving self-government today, my estimate -- and this is my estimate; it is not out of any sort of documentation or whatever -- is that among aboriginal people in Canada today probably only one third are resident in communities that have an immediate hope of achieving any form of self-government as we now might conceive it. The reason for that is because of the appalling economic circumstances that aboriginal communities face. There are the appalling economic circumstances that communities face when they are isolated as aboriginal communities in either Ontario or other provinces or in the territories, and there are the circumstances that are faced by aboriginal peoples who live in urban areas, who may be part of a community in a social sense but may be very much part of a broader economic environment.

The evolution of self-government is not only tied to the political needs and interests of aboriginal peoples; it is also tied to the evolution of the economic circumstances of aboriginal peoples. I would suggest to you that that fact reinforces the idea that we cannot force a definition of self-government on aboriginal peoples in the Constitution beyond endorsing the concept of self-government as part of the Canadian nation state.

The third point I would like to make relates to the third and fourth questions on your agenda, and they deal with the responsibility for Indians and Indian lands: "Should responsibility for status Indians and Indian lands remain with the federal government?"

I would argue that formal responsibility for status Indians and Indian land should remain with the federal government. I am not a lawyer but I believe that there is a substantial base of legal opinion, beginning with assertions about the validity of the proclamation of 1763, to suggest that this is indeed a long-standing and a permanent responsibility of the federal crown.

I also believe that in a federal state it is important that responsibility for status Indians -- and I am going to expand my comments here to include aboriginal peoples generally -- should rest with the federal government in order to prevent capriciousness on the part of individual provinces.

I indicated in my preliminary remarks that I am addressing my comments not necessarily to the role that just Ontario should play in Confederation, but to the role that all provinces and, indeed, the federal government should play in Confederation with respect to aboriginal peoples in the territories.

I am sure, by virtue of your casual reading and perhaps some of your own observation and experience and discussions with colleagues, you will realize that there is a wide spectrum of opinion among Canadian provincial governments about the validity of aboriginal claims, not only to land but to other aspects of life, and also a wide range of preparedness on the part of provincial governments to engage in arrangements with aboriginal communities and organizations to provide services or to undertake initiatives.

Ontario, I would argue, is among the forefront in terms of trying to engage in those issues, but there are other provinces that are perhaps not so far advanced in their preparedness to deal with aboriginal issues.

I would argue that responsibility for status Indians, if you will, and perhaps overriding responsibility for aboriginal peoples should remain with the federal government. However, this should not be seen as preventing provincial governments from dealing with aboriginal issues and communities. I think that the example of provinces like Ontario and Alberta, which have very different histories in terms of the way they have gone about dealing with aboriginal communities and the kinds of aboriginal communities they have dealt with, is very illustrative in terms of the range of initiatives that can be undertaken by a provincial government and that can be seized by aboriginal communities as something which is worth while to the main endeavour they are about, which is improving their lot in the world.

By saying that responsibility for status Indians and Indian lands and perhaps for aboriginal people overall should remain with the federal government I am not precluding initiatives by provincial governments. I would argue, and I have argued with a colleague in print, that high politics is not enough; that there is a need for constructive and concrete initiatives by individual provincial governments and by the territorial governments with respect to aboriginal communities and aboriginal individuals.


Vesting responsibility for aboriginal peoples and aboriginal lands in the federal government is not an excuse for provincial governments to duck out, nor is it a straitjacket for aboriginal communities and provincial governments to see themselves as confined in the kinds of relationships they have. I think that in the interests of maintaining some basic standards, some basic commitments to seeing the rights of aboriginal peoples and the improvement of the conditions of aboriginal peoples realized, there is still room for the federal government.

What should be the federal role? I would argue that the federal role falls in three areas. In one area particularly there is an interesting scope in terms of the current constitutional discussions for a joint role between the federal government and provincial governments, but let me deal with the first two first.

What should the federal role be? First of all, the federal role should be to continue to exercise the trust relationship it has with respect to status Indians and Indian lands. By saying that there is a federal responsibility to continue to exercise that relationship, I am not saying that the relationship should necessarily remain in the same paternalistic vein as it is now under the terms of the Indian Act, but I believe, and again I will reiterate that I am no lawyer, that relationship is there. The trust relationship is felt very keenly by particular Indian communities in Canada. It may not be felt so keenly by Indian communities in Ontario, although they do feel it, but if you were to travel around as a legislative committee in the prairie provinces you would certainly see Indian communities embracing that relationship very strongly. So in the interests of making proposals and suggestions in the context of all of Canada, I would suggest that there is a federal role vis-à-vis the trust relationship.

The second federal role I would set out is to fulfil traditional financial responsibilities that the federal government has vis-à-vis Indian governments. Again, I would not want to restrict the kinds of financial relationships which have characterized past practice as necessarily indicating what should occur in the future, but I believe that the federal government does have a financial responsibility vis-à-vis status Indians and that financial responsibility should be retained by the federal government. Again, this does not preclude provincial governments or the territorial governments from engaging in their own financial relationships with aboriginal communities and aboriginal peoples, but there is a basic relationship there and I think it should be retained.

The third area where I think there is some room for thought, some room for experimentation or at least for experimental thinking as one thinks about how we might change the Constitution and how we might deal with aboriginal peoples and indeed territories in the Constitution, is in the area of oversight. What do I mean when I say "oversight" with respect to aboriginal peoples? If you look at the history, and I am sure you have, you will see that there is a history in Canada of broken promises, and these are not broken promises that just emanate from the rhetoric of particular aboriginal leaders or aboriginal communities or whatever.

There are demonstrable instances of broken promises between the federal government, between provincial governments, between even territorial governments and aboriginal peoples. It strikes me then that in the context of designing a new Constitution and of ensuring a full and satisfactory relationship between aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada in the constitutional context, we need to define some new way of dealing with the exercise of responsibilities by the federal government, by the provincial and territorial governments and by aboriginal governments vis-à-vis each other, because I think that the relationship between all of these parties has become clouded by past practice and by new promise. So we need to have some mechanism in place to deal with oversight, or at least with the possibility of oversight: with the possibility that some government, be it the federal government, a provincial government, a territorial government or an aboriginal government, somehow does not live up to its commitments vis-à-vis the other party or other parties in the country. It is a trust relationship not just between status Indian governments, but increasingly between aboriginal governments and other governments in Canada.

As I said, I believe that trust relationship, as it is emerging, is clouded by past practice and by suspicion on the part of all of the parties involved. I suggest that, as part of the constitutional package that is put forward, the committee consider establishing some sort of independent aboriginal commission to report to Parliament, to the provincial legislatures, the territorial legislatures and aboriginal governments and indeed to the Canadian people on the disposition of Canadian governments, including aboriginal governments, on aboriginal matters.

There are limited precedents in the Canadian context. The Indian Commission of Ontario is perhaps one example. The proposal to establish a commission on native claims in British Columbia is another example. The Prime Minister's proposal to establish a commission on aboriginal claims for all of Canada is another example. But I would argue that these individual examples which have been put into existence or which are proposed are limited in their focus and that we need to take a new approach to regulating the relationship between aboriginal governments and other governments in Canada in the context of the interests of the Canadian people. I suggest this independent commission is one way that might be feasible to do this.

This would not be a court. Obviously there are still going to be matters of a criminal nature and a civil nature that affect individual aboriginal people, individual Canadians, non-aboriginal Canadians vis-à-vis aboriginal people and so on. Rather, this would be a body that would have responsibility to monitor the arrangements between aboriginal governments and other governments in Canada and to report on the disposition of those arrangements.

You will probably be aware of the reviews, for example, of the disposition of the James Bay agreement and the Quebec and Canadian governments' failure to live up to the terms of that original agreement. One hopes that kind of failure would not occur again, but one possible responsibility of this aboriginal commission would be to review similar agreements, similar arrangements between aboriginal governments and other governments in Canada, and to report on the implementation and disposition of those agreements.

The final area I would like to comment on is with regard to the territorial governments. Your ninth question is whether or not the territories should be considered as potentially becoming provinces, or should they become some sort of supermunicipal government, or what should happen to the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments. My suggestion would be to let the territorial governments evolve on their own. I have already indicated to you my view that they are more than superlocal governments. They do have, I believe, a responsibility that is given to them by their constituents, by their residents, to represent them on a national level. Regardless of their financial relationship vis-à-vis the federal government, they are not just supermunicipal governments and they will evolve into more than they currently are as time goes on.

I think it would be a mistake in terms of this committee's recommendations, or indeed the recommendations of any constitutional forum, to designate that the two territorial governments will become provinces or to designate that they will remain territories. I think the court is wide open at this point. They could remain territories, they could become provincial governments, they could become something else. Again, as is the case with aboriginal self-government, we do not want to limit the possibilities for the future. I am sure you are well aware that in the future we may in fact have more than two territories. We may find that the Northwest Territories splits. We do not want to foreclose on any options with regard to the territorial governments. I argue that the appropriate role of this committee is not to prescribe but merely to recommend that all options be kept open with regard to the evolution of the territorial governments.


Those are the main areas I wanted to comment on. I would just like to offer a couple of concluding remarks.

The first, and I think most important, point is that in our enthusiasm to deal with aboriginal issues and issues with regard to the future of the two territories in Canada, we tend to gloss over differences among aboriginal peoples, between the two territories, among aboriginal communities. I think this tendency, and in fact the pressure that has been exerted on aboriginal communities, particularly in the past, to gloss over their own differences, leads to an unrealistic and unfair search for the perfect well-defined solution.

I strongly urge the committee not to do this, to leave options open. I think this is especially crucial in the area of constitutional reform. I think that if we prescribe and try and force definitions on aboriginal communities, on the territories, this will only exacerbate the tensions that already exist and exacerbate the divisions and tensions that exist among aboriginal people and the two territorial governments. This will block the creative process I think we can engage in to bring about solutions to the problems of aboriginal communities and aboriginal peoples and the two territories that are now becoming more commonly acknowledged.

Finally, I think we must recognize the link between aboriginal rights, aboriginal self-government and economic development. These three things are inextricably and inevitably and eternally entwined. Your focus is the Constitution, you focus is on government, and perhaps rights, but I urge you to consider the issue of aboriginal rights, the right to self-government, in the context of the economic circumstances that aboriginal people and aboriginal communities now find themselves in and to think about where one wants to go and where Canada wants to go in terms of aboriginal rights, self-government and aboriginal self-sufficiency in an economic sense.

These three things are entangled in such a way that either they will be a Gordian knot that will end up choking the country as a whole or else they may become indeed a very strong rope or cable that can pull us very positively into the future, but if we ignore the relationship among these three things, we do so at our peril.

Those are my formal remarks. I welcome any questions or comments, or any questions you might have about other issues on your agenda, aboriginal or otherwise.

The Vice-Chair: I would like to thank you very much. We have gone a little bit over the 30 minutes as it is, and we have other presenters. I will allow one quick question from Mrs O'Neill and we will have to move on.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Thank you so much for bringing such extensive expertise on an issue that I think is of interest to almost every Canadian at this moment. I am sure you have sorted out some things for the people who are watching this show today and I am sure your remarks are going to be referred to.

I have two or three things -- very short, though. Could you say a little bit about what you think about what is going on in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia regarding guaranteed representation?

Mrs Graham: I am following the proposals that are extant in those two provinces. I think the idea is interesting. I am not sure it is the way to go. It may well be that having guaranteed aboriginal seats in a provincial Legislature may provide continuous access for aboriginal peoples to the Legislature, a continuous voice. Again, I would be wary, though, that including this as the cornerstone of dealing with aboriginal peoples distorts the diversity of aboriginal needs and interests even within a single province and may deflect attention from the real issues that have to be dealt with. While I see this as positive on one hand, I would caution against seeing this as the solution. It is not the solution. It may be a beginning. At its very worst, it may be tokenism. If one is a Pollyanna, as I am, one looks at it as a beginning, but it is not the end of the process.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: From what I have been able to read about it, it does look like a beginning. I am hopeful for that.

One other major event that I watched with some dismay on the weekend was Mr Clark's encounter, meeting, whatever the term is, with the Metis communities. I wondered how that would fit in with the parallel assembly concept. I wondered what you would think that whole experience would do to the mix. The Metis seem not to feel somehow that they are part of the proposal Mr Clark has already come to. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Mrs Graham: The Metis in Canada represent a very particular problem. They do not have a defined land base, they do not have reserves, they do not have the territories as the Inuit and the Inuvialuit have, and so forth, so I think it is quite natural for Metis people to think of themselves as particularly disenfranchised. They do not have the rights of status Indians. They are landless, and so to define a community is very difficult for them.

I suggest, though, that Metis communities do exist. It is a question of defining them in a different way than we traditionally define communities, and the problem that Metis people are experiencing vis-à-vis the current constitutional discussions I think is symptomatic of the difficulty if you enforce the entrenchment of a particular concept of self-government in the Constitution, because my sense is -- I am not the one to speak of this, but my sense, as a non-aboriginal person, is that the Metis people are evolving their sense of community and what community means to them, and how they end up vis-à-vis self-government or their own conception of a community may change from contemporary visions of Metis life and Metis community.

I cannot offer any solutions to the immediate situation of Metis people vis-à-vis the Constitution. I suggest to you that they are perhaps the most in danger of all of disenfranchisement in the current constitutional discussions, but I also suggest to you that their situation vis-à-vis the current constitutional discussions is illustrative of the problem of trying to force static definitions on aboriginal people and their communities.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, we have run out of time. We have other presenters. I know there were some other questions. Maybe a little later, I think Mr Malkowski will want to speak to you for a couple of seconds. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much.



The Vice-Chair: Next we have the president of the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship, Hanny Hassan, and the executive director of that particular branch, Henry McErlean. Any time that you are ready, you can start.

Mr Hassan: The Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship appreciates the opportunity of appearing before your committee to express our views on the important issues that are before us.

We appreciate that our remarks should be focused on the issues of multiculturalism and perhaps values, as was identified in the request to appear before the committee. However, we would like to point out that as an organization and in fact as representatives of multicultural communities, we are in fact concerned about all of the various issues that arise with respect to the constitutional questions. We would like to highlight very briefly some of our positions on other questions towards the end of our talk.

I would like to tell you briefly about the advisory council. The council is an arm's-length agency of the government of Ontario, appointed by order in council and reporting to the cabinet through the Minister of Citizenship. Our membership consists of up to 60 members representative of the geographic and ethnocultural demography of the province. We are organized into regional committees to permit the council to consider issues of province-wide as well as local concern.

The mandate of the advisory council includes: responding to specific government requests for advice relating to policy formulation and program development and delivery; examining and commenting on the effectiveness of the policies, programs and service delivery mechanisms of the ministries and agencies of the government of Ontario; and assisting in promoting the concept of a multicultural Ontario as set out in the government's policy, with reference to equality, access and participation, cultural preservation and sharing.

At our spring council meeting and some of our regional committee meetings, our membership had an opportunity to review the public discussion paper, Changing for the Better -- An Invitation to Talk About a New Canada. While members of our executive committee have reviewed the interim report of the select committee, our membership has not had an opportunity to discuss the report. We have, however, discussed the evolving nature of multiculturalism and hope to prepare a comprehensive position soon.

Today, we would like to highlight some of our positions. Obviously, in a council as diverse as ours, it is not possible to get unanimity on all issues. We do believe that the views we are presenting today, however, are representative of the sense of the council and of the constituency that we represent. We hope that in a future written submission to your committee, which will have been discussed by our membership, we will be able to amplify our comments.

The council applauds the committee's emphasis on the common values we share as Canadians, as expressed in the interim report. We do believe there should be a Canada clause touching on such issues as the two languages, Quebec's distinct role, aboriginal self-government, the diverse cultural heritage we share, and a broad general statement on equity issues that should be sufficiently broad to encompass issues of equity that, perhaps, are not envisioned in our current programs.

The interim report clearly and concisely identifies the various concerns that are present in our society about the multicultural policies of both our federal and provincial governments. The Spicer commission report also discussed the input it received on those policies.

Current media reporting on multiculturalism has, generally, portrayed it as being divisive, leading to social tensions, lack of unity and fiscal irresponsibility. However, the diversity of our population is an indisputable fact. Immigration trends are likely to increase the diversity. Given the differing needs of segments of our populations, our governments must provide for equality of access and opportunity in a proactive sense.

Multiculturalism is evolving from the initial concept of folk arts, cultural retention and sharing to one which includes an acknowledgement of the differences that exist in our society, the provision of equal access and opportunity for all citizens and, perhaps more fundamentally, cross-cultural understanding and intercultural co-operation.

We are committed as a society to fairness and equity. Identifying with one's cultural roots does not diminish one's capacity to be fully participatory in Canadian society. It may require abandoning some inherited cultural values in favour of core values that we share as Canadians; that is, there may be values that we bring with us in our transition to Canadian society that are at variance with and perhaps unacceptable in the context of Canadian society, that will have to be given up.

On the other hand, there are values that are benign and neutral with respect to how we live in this society. They may, in fact, be values that would augment and enhance our participation in Canadian society and should be retained if that is the wish and interest of the communities and the individuals involved in the transition as they move into Canada.

We believe the Charter of Rights should have primacy over all other legislation and the Constitution and that it should identify within it particular characteristics about the nature of Canada.

With respect to the division of powers, it is our view that the federal nature of our government requires it to articulate the standards across the country, recognizing the diverse capabilities of the various provinces of Canada. We believe Ontario is especially endowed and has a special responsibility for those provinces that are less able to take care of themselves. I speak primarily of the Atlantic provinces and of Saskatchewan.

The arrangement we have made in this country is very much like a family, in which we have agreed that we are going to be a sharing nation. Consequently, I believe Ontario has a major role to define in the relationship between the federal government and the provinces. How that relationship should evolve is one that, as a committee, we have not yet been able to discuss fully, but we would hope it would recognize the need for a federal government that has clearly defined responsibilities, but in areas in which service delivery is primarily a provincial responsibility, that those areas of jurisdiction would be part of the provincial mandate rather than the federal mandate.

In the area of distinct provincial rights, we are concerned that there be differential treatment of one province vis-à-vis another in terms of constitutional arrangements. We would hope that any arrangement made in the Constitution would recognize certain powers that would be shared equally among the provinces.

We believe it is important that the relationship we develop through the constitutional discussions be as open as has been displayed by this committee and the other committees that have been traversing the country. However, we also feel it is important that our legislatures take on the responsibility of making the final decisions that are the responsibility of elected representatives of the people.

It is our position that elected representatives should be entitled to have a free vote on issues that are of paramount concern to the country, that they be free from their partisan relationships to be able to make decisions and judgements that reflect the kind of feedback they receive from within their own community, so that on those questions of primary importance to the nature of our society we have the true parliamentary tradition in which parliamentarians are free and able to discuss and vote as their consciences and their own local constituencies dictate.

That pretty well summarizes in capsule form many of the issues we have already discussed. As I indicated, we would like to make a more formal submission to the committee at some future date. Our full council will be meeting later next month in Thunder Bay, and we will be having a consultation with the native community of the southern part of northern Ontario.

We hope to prepare our position on that as well as to have concluded our discussions on multiculturalism and the constitutional issues by that time. Thank you, Mr Chair.

The Vice-Chair: When your position paper is put together, would you make sure that the committee gets a copy? We have a number of questions. Mr Malkowski first and Mr Offer afterwards.

Mr Malkowski: Thank you for your presentation. It was very informative. I have a couple of specific questions for you. You mentioned the importance of the rights of equality for all the provinces, and that is true. Do you feel it is important, then, for multicultural groups to have access to the right information within their own cultural language, or have cultural interpreters when it comes to health services or education, so that they get full access to information for all the services provided by government? I would like to hear your comments on that. That is my first question.

My second question would be: When it comes to multiculturalism, what is your stance on the concept of the melting-pot approach? I understand that some groups do not feel very comfortable with that concept. Are there other options available to multicultural groups?

Mr Hassan: We believe that access is a cornerstone of service delivery within the government, whether it is the government of Ontario or the federal government. That implies, therefore, that all government agencies should be able to deliver services in an appropriate context, whether it involves providing services in the language of the recipient or providing the service in a culturally appropriate sense for the members of that community.

For instance, in the area of making provision for the care of seniors, many cultural communities feel it is more appropriate for the service to be provided in the home rather than in an institutional setting. Our programs should be sufficiently flexible to permit that sort of accommodation.

In the area of cultural interpreter services, again as an illustration, there clearly is a need in the education system for cultural interpretation as compared to translation services, inasmuch as many cultural communities do not respond to the educational system in the same way as is traditional within Ontario.

Discipline problems may often be resolved if there is an interpreter available who can translate to the system the cultural ambience of the student and his family, and also translate to the family the cultural norms, the acceptable types of behaviour within the context of Canadian society.


With respect to the second question on the melting-pot concept as compared to the mosaic, certainly the idea that one should immerse oneself totally in a monolithic or unified culture is contrary even to experience in the US which is deemed to be a melting-pot society, because even within that society there are very, very vibrant ethnocultural communities. Consider the Irish community in New York, a very strong Polish-American community in Hamtramck, Michigan. And other communities have distinctly identifiable communities. So in my view, the melting pot concept for the United States is a myth. They have not acknowledged a multicultural approach within their government policies, but in fact, in many jurisdictions that is what is happening.

I believe it is interesting that the evolution of our cultural identities is one in which we may carry a diversity of cultures as individuals, whether we come from a ethnocultural community or not. In the workplace we have a workplace culture, and we behave in a certain way which is the acceptable norm within the context of that workplace.

We may have a cultural ambience within our religious community which calls on us to behave in a certain way. We may have within our ethnocultural community a cultural bias that is somewhat different from the expectation of Canadian society. Within all those cultural variants, there is a core value system that each of us has, and as long as we do not digress from that core of values, then it is all right for us to behave differently in different contexts.

I suspect that as time evolves many people within our ethnocultural communities will find their core values incorporate values from their ethnocultural traditions as well as values that they have absorbed and inherited from others around them, and at the same time they will be able to project other identities when it is appropriate.

Mr Offer: Thank you for your presentation. I have two questions. The first deals with your statement that you believe the Charter of Rights should have primacy. I am wondering if your council has taken a position as to whether in these upcoming constitutional discussions, or in terms of the advice you give to government, that the override clause contained within the charter should be done away with. That in itself takes away from the primacy of the charter. I would like your thoughts on that issue.

Mr Hassan: Our council has not specifically discussed that question. The perspective I give you is a more personal one, that if the override provision, the "notwithstanding" clause, is retained, then the equity provisions and others we seek to enforce may be whittled away by provincial governments. There would then be no recourse, as we have seen with the French-language issue in Quebec.

Consequently, my view is that certain key values have to be protected within the charter, and if it is to be a document that has primacy over the Constitution, then at least in those areas where we are talking of primary concern, the equity issues and the other issues that deal with perhaps the crux of the questions that have had the most controversy in the recent constitutional debates, once we have reached some decisions on those, they should perhaps have some status that is superior to the Constitution and not at the liberty of the provincial governments to change.

Mr Offer: On a more general note, over the last while there has been emerging re-examination of the whole issue of multiculturalism: what it was, what it is and what it might be. I am wondering, from your position, how do you see the whole issue in a fairly general sense as to the evolution of multiculturalism?

Mr Hassan: In my view, the two cornerstones of the policy are likely to be, if I could use the jargon that I used in my talk, cross-cultural understanding and intercultural co-operation.

Perhaps I could just amplify on those two. Not only do we see conflict between ethnocultural communities and the mainstream, if you will, but there obviously is conflict among and between ethnocultural communities, conflict that has arisen primarily because of the histories of those communities and the conflict that arose in their native lands when they came here. That I think is somewhat subdued, but the tension is there. We do not see it in the kind of violence that is occurring, for instance, in Yugoslavia today, but it is a fact that there are biases and prejudices within the ethnocultural communities, just as there are in the greater part of our society.

I think that we have a responsibility for conflict resolution. We have a responsibility to ensure that one of the core values that people have as a part of their retention is that in fact those are left behind. It is all right to retain a cultural identity, but it is not all right to bring hatred and bitterness and political ideology that is alien to our society into Canada as a part of that cultural tradition. So in terms of the policy directions, I think there is some bridge-building to be done, some overt kinds of bridges to be built between communities.

I might just illustrate that with my own community. I happen to be from the Arab community. During the Gulf crisis, the Arab and Jewish communities within the city of London, in which I reside, got together and had some conciliatory dialogue. It was relatively informal. It has not continued, but the intention is that there should be some ongoing dialogue between those communities. I only use those two communities because I happen to be a part of them. There are obviously other communities that have the same sorts of tensions and they exist in solitudes between each other, and it is important that that happen.

The second aspect of it is the intercultural co-operation that I mentioned. We spoke earlier about the cultural interpreter program. It is a pilot program that the Ministry of Citizenship is currently running. I do not know whether it has now evolved into a full-fledged program, but it illustrates the kind of intercultural co-operation that can happen.

We also spoke about service delivery. Obviously the government cannot deliver all the services in all of the cultures and all of the languages. I think that is clearly understood. On the other hand, there are small communities that have similar or common problems, and there is no reason why they could not get together and share infrastructures and share resources and deliver services. In fact, as I understand the recent ministerial announcement in the area of social service delivery, there is an intent to do some of that by the current government of Ontario.

But in fact the cultural interpreter program is one of those programs. To develop an infrastructure, deliver translation or cultural interpreter programs and certain delivery services from very small communities was hopeless for that community to provide. On the other hand, a half-dozen or 10 communities could get together where the infrastructure was developed for all the communities, a bank developed so that service providers had easy access to the service, and each individual community then would only be responsible for providing the interpreter to the bank -- the name of people -- and to assist in the training. Now we have a service delivery mechanism that in fact involves a basket of communities in delivering a needed service in a sensitive way. I think that particular model provides us opportunities to deliver services sensitively.


The Vice-Chair: I would just like to note to the committee we have about maybe 10 minutes at the most, so if we can try to limit, as Mr Harnick would like to get on as well.

Mr Curling: As I heard your presentation, I thought very much about, again, what is multiculturalism, and I focus on two things you have mentioned. One, you talk about the fact that as we go along the diversity will increase, and I thought that especially in Ontario, for instance, we have all ethnocultural groups represented. I do not know how much it could increase. I presume you mean by numbers.

My feeling is that when the immigration policies are being applied, we attract from just certain parts of the world. I remember someone asked me at one stage if they should change the quota system or relax it for French-speaking for Quebec in order to attract more French-speaking people in Quebec, and I said: "I don't think you should, really. What you could do is direct it to other countries, maybe specifically countries where there are French-speaking blacks: Dominica and Martinique and Guadeloupe." Therefore, when the policies have been implemented, it seemed to attract just a certain amount of people. So I would say there may be increased ethnic groups that are coming in, but I do not think it will be more diverse in any respect from other areas.

When you spoke about ethnocultural communities, it seems to me you keep on referring to them-and-us type of stuff, and if I dare say, the whites themselves are people outside of the ethnocultural community. Could you respond what it meant about the ethnocultural community and the others?

Mr Hassan: We unfortunately get caught up in the jargon. I indicated at one point in time -- maybe I did not at this committee -- I think it is important when we speak in terms of ethnicity that we are dealing both in terms of racial, that is, visible minority members, as well as the "mainstream." We are a nation of minorities. There is no majority community. So those who say that there should be an assimilationist trend in fact are inviting us to join in to an assimilation of I do not know what, because there is such a great diversity.

It is very difficult to speak in terms which are not exclusive and I guess we should be more sensitive to that, and I acknowledge your comment. The intent is not to exclude but in fact to say that we are dealing not only with those who come from the very small communities overseas but in fact the francophones, the anglophones and the visible minorities. Those are the terms of the mandate of my council. It is all-encompassing.

Mr Curling: One other question to you. Earlier on Professor Morton was here and he stated that it is not the Constitution that really would create wealth or poverty but policies and economics that would create wealth in any country. I tend to agree with him.

Yesterday there was an article in the Globe and Mail that said 6% of the population in Ontario are blacks but that 26% -- the correct statistic would be 28% -- of the black community uses the child care system.

When you look at policies of government itself and where money goes, not the Constitution but where the money should go, places like the Harambee Foundation gets -- I stand to be corrected -- about maybe $400,000. I just take a quick look at that, that one in four people in the child care system gets that amount of money to service that group of people. Do you really feel that a reflection of, as you said, an equal opportunity for all, even though it is stated inside the Constitution, will ever make a difference?

Mr Hassan: I believe there is an important symbolism that is attached to constitutional documents and in fact to legislative positions. I think it needs to take more than that. I think we are talking not so much about policies and programs but attitudinal change. Somehow we have to do something that will change attitudes, make people more receptive to others, and also, quite candidly, and I think you are identifying it, power-sharing, because in the end, and I alluded to this when I spoke about interprovincial sharing of wealth, if we are going to provide for some people, it may be that in the tradeoffs others will lose. It is that sort of fairness that I think we have to bring society to accept, that we have a responsibility for others who are disadvantaged at the outset and that some accommodations have to be made in the way we deliver programs and we fund programs to compensate for the initial disadvantage.

Mr Harnick: I hope you can help me answer a question that I get asked an awful lot. It is a difficult question, and it is a question where I do not intend to portray any insensitivity on behalf of any individuals, but people will say to me as a politician: "How can you politicians justify spending so much money on multicultural? How can you justify spending all of that money to make life easier for people in terms of their multicultural background instead of promoting life as a Canadian? How do you justify those expenditures that governments are making?" To me, that is the question that begs to be answered every time we get around to discussing the future of multiculturalism in this country. I have difficulty answering that question, beyond the fact that you like to say to people, and I believe it is right, that people are entitled to maintain their identity and we should be facilitating that type of life. It is not contrary to being a good Canadian. How do you justify it? How can you give me a better, more complete answer?

Mr Hassan: I do not know what the provincial figures are on expenditures on multiculturalism, but I do know that federal expenditures are less than $2 per capita. If you were to drop the entire federal multicultural program, it would not have any sort of impact on federal expenditures.

That is not the rationalization for multiculturalism or the expenditures. What I would like to suggest to you is that we have within our society values that we consider important. We make contributions to a whole series of programs that enhance, continue and perpetuate those values. We contribute significantly to art museums and libraries, and even in the area of sports, significantly more than we do to the multicultural program. So in the context of other expenditures that relate to the nature of our society, multiculturalism is a very small component.

But I think perhaps even more significant than that, if you hark back to the responses that I made to the earlier questions, in fact for a long time in Ontario the thrust has not been for cultural retention. The policy statements going back almost 10 years do not include significant components. The primacy has been primarily towards equity and access. That is where the multicultural funds in Ontario have been spent. It is important that that continue, because that is really the nature of our society; that is, we want everyone to have a fair chance and as long as inequities exist in our province, then we have to spend some money to change that.


I also alluded to the directions multiculturalism was going in. Certainly, if we are going to continue to bring new immigrants into Canada and into Ontario -- into Ontario a disproportionate share, actually -- then we have to have programs in place that ensure their reception is one of harmony, at least of harmonious relationships with others as they come in, and that we not have conflictual race relations or conflictual relations among other groups within our province. That means we need to make a commitment to the reception of new immigrants and their adaptation to our province.

Finally, if we are not going to have long-term problems, our service delivery programs have to be effective, and if they are to be effective, they have to speak in the language and the culture of the recipients of those cultures.

There may be savings. I alluded to seniors' programs that could be in tune with cultural ambiences that could have significant savings for the province; that is, if you were to take a senior and have him reside at the children's wish in the children's home, the cost to the province of supporting that senior in a home would be significantly lower than the institutional costs.

Those are some of the tradeoff costs that could justify an expenditure in the multicultural area. I would hope that we have been able to convince you, in the presentation we have made today, that the real thrust is not cultural retention and that multiculturalism does not mean only cultural retention and that the money is not going to the preservation of a dance step that is perhaps 50 years old from a culture that is evolving even in the native land.

The Vice-Chair: Do you have any closing comments at this point?

Mr Hassan: No, other than the fact that we will get a report to you through Mr Brown. We do have with us a couple of kits on the council and a booklet on citizenship in the Canadian context which I can leave with Mr Brown. That is the other part of our mandate. We view multiculturalism as being the rights side of our mandate and citizenship as being the responsibility side of our mandate.


The Vice-Chair: Next on our agenda we have, from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Ms Isla Peters and Ms Beverly Dalys. Come forward, please. For the benefit of the committee members, this presentation will be about an hour, which we have allotted to this.

Ms Peters: First of all, we are very pleased to be here on behalf of OPSEU. This is Beverly Dalys. I am Isla Peters. Beverly Dalys is an education research officer with OPSEU and I am head of the education and campaigns department in OPSEU.

The work of this commission we believe to be very valuable, particularly valuable in that it allows a forum for considerable discussion and debate. We would also in opening, since we think it is so relevant, like to say congratulations to the government on its signing of an agreement between governments with the first nations. We think that is extremely significant and very exciting and extremely relevant to the Silipo commission. As OPSEU members and staff, we bring this message to the government, that we are very proud today to be Ontarians.

In terms of our response, we too, I think in common with the last presenter, have not had a tremendous amount of time to research and canvass the views of our membership in reaction to the last report of the Silipo commission. However, what we bring to you are the critical positions and principles that we hold dear in policy and in discussions with our membership. We may not have the details, particularly in terms of the framework of the charter, but as it is that is what we can do within the time frame, and I sure for your part you have your own struggles with this kind of time frame in the middle of the summer.

I would like to hand over to Beverly, who will make our presentation, and we look forward to your questions.

Ms Dalys: We were asked by the committee to specifically address the questions posed on the Charter of Rights and social and economic rights and will do so in just a minute.

A number of the other headings in your package struck us as very interesting. Certainly one of the sections this committee has addressed itself to is that dealing with aboriginal peoples in the Constitution. I am sure I am repeating what my colleague has said when I say that we emphatically support the right to self-government for first nations and that we believe this right must be clearly enshrined in the Constitution. We also believe that aboriginal languages, heritage and culture must be recognized and protected in the Constitution.

In addition to our consideration for aboriginal peoples, this committee is looking at Canada's multicultural heritage, as well as women, disabled persons and the economy. All of these areas are of primary importance to OPSEU because they are all tied into employment equity, which is very important to us. We are very proud to be committing significant resources to implement equity, and we commend the current government of Ontario for doing the same. It is unfortunate that the employment equity initiatives that are about to be taking place in Ontario will amount only to a small battle in the larger war on discrimination. For employment equity initiatives to succeed and for this one component of discrimination to be eliminated, these principles have to be applied universally and proactively.

The question of how to universally and proactively apply and enforce any rights is problematic. I am sure a lot of us remember a few years back when the federally regulated industries were asked to report on how they were doing and the results were really disappointing. Women, disabled people and minorities were not being hired to any great extent in upper level positions at the CBC or in financial or transportation industries, or anywhere else in that jurisdiction.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is another example of an area that has failed to deliver on its agenda. There is currently a backlog of human rights cases that are nowhere near being heard. There are also a lot of potential human rights cases that are never brought to the attention of the commission, either because the persons who are being discriminated against are unaware of what the Ontario Human Rights Commission should be able to do for them, or because like workers who do not organize because they are afraid they will be fired and there will be no recourse, they are afraid they will have no protection under the system.

These are only two examples that indicate the weaknesses of general and complaint-based mechanisms which are brought in to deal with discrimination and to fight it.

One issue that the select committee on Ontario in Confederation has to deal with, then, is how the charter is going to address equality rights for those who need them most and are least able to pursue them. Perhaps a Canada clause, which defines Canada as a nation in which institutions, public and private, actively pursue goals in harmony with the principles of employment equity, would achieve the desired result. Maybe it would not. Maybe to overhaul subsection 15(2) of the charter would do it, so that instead of allowing employment equity initiatives, you actually require them.

OPSEU cannot come before this committee today with a list of changes to the charter that would guarantee members of visible minorities protection from racism, or that would guarantee women protection from poverty. We cannot even come here convinced that a rewritten charter would be effective in helping us to realize any of these goals. We certainly cannot come here today to give specific advice as to why any particular section, instead of the preamble or instead of another particular section, should be rewritten or how it should be rewritten. All we can do is discuss our view of equality and what kinds of protections Canadians ought to be able to expect.


Above all else, I think Canadians should be able to expect that they will not be abandoned by the public institutions they have come to rely upon. Canadians are justifiably proud of their distinct accomplishments in the area of social and public programs. Canada was built on public services. Consider, for example, the building of the CNR.

Public services remain the lifeblood of Canada. Perhaps our system of universal national health care stands out as the most cherished program to which all Canadians have access. Similarly for Canadians post-secondary education is an option for more than just the well-to-do. There are other examples. There is public broadcasting, unemployment insurance, public transportation networks and so on. They all contribute to the distinct nature of Canada.

The public services that Canadians grew up with or struggled for are services which define Canada's responsible, caring nature and are services to which Canadians have absolute rights. These rights, however, are currently being eroded by federal programming cutbacks coming out of Ottawa. Universal health care, which is Canada's flagship program, is being dismantled as the result of Bill C-69. The federal government will now be providing less funding and eventually no funding at all for health care. Consequently the federal government will not be in any position to regulate and ensure that a set standard level for health care is available in all provinces.

Another similar example is the recent changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act. Here again the government has been removing itself from the costs of unemployment insurance and has been passing it on to employees. It now takes longer to qualify for UI. The most frightening thing in all of this is there is no definitive guarantee that UIC will not be dismantled entirely.

How can Canadians have enshrined rights to public services, to the safety nets to which they are accustomed? Could it be accomplished with a Canada clause in the charter or elsewhere in the Constitution? If such a clause were to define Canada as a nation in which, among other things, every citizen is entitled to free quality medical care regardless of geography or income, or to sufficient social assistance during periods of unemployment, would these rights be protected? Would such a clause force the federal government to continue direct federal funding of health care and to reconstruct UIC as we knew it not so long ago?

We do not know the answer to this. We do know that if the answer is yes, then clearly we need such a clause. We also know that we see public services as the lifeblood of Canada and if the Canada clause is drafted, it must incorporate a strong statement about the rights Canadians have to public services. A Canada clause would also have to recognize Canada as a nation whose heritage is based on three distinct cultures, each of which is guaranteed its own needed protections.

You posed a question about whether Parliament and legislatures should have the power to override rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. This is a difficult question to answer, because among other things we cannot foresee every situation where the override might be applied. This is a question that would probably be determined by the courts if it came up a lot, but in this context court decisions would have to reflect the spirit of the charter. The charter would as a result have to recognize the special status, needs and autonomy of the two founding cultures of Canada that have been the most overlooked, and I mean of course aboriginal peoples and the Québécois.

The charter would also have to strictly define and defend Canada as a nation with a responsibility to its citizens for truly equal opportunities in education and employment, and for further responsibilities to uphold basic standards in social and economic welfare for all Canadians.

The sceptical tone of this report is based on OPSEU's concerns about how effective the charter could be in turning, or even stemming the current tide towards the elimination of public services. The erosion is taking place before our eyes in a lot of ways. The federal government backs away from its responsibilities but passes them on to the provinces. The provinces pass their responsibilities on to the municipalities or on to transfer agencies. At the last step, cost-cutting measures like privatization or service cuts are brought in. Suddenly, Canadians find that the services upon which they have relied are watered down and there are difficulties in finding a level of government or anyone who will take responsibility.

Our other source of doubt comes when we consider who the charter really protects and even who a new and improved charter would protect. The Charter of Rights is essentially a document concerned with the protection of individual rights. As a union committed to the principles of democracy, we find this alarming.

We talked earlier about individuals who are afraid to organize unions or who do not know they can go through the Human Rights Commission when they have a problem. These are the same people who would not necessarily have recourse through the charter. They would not know how to, or they might not have the resources to start off the complaint. They would not necessarily have the wherewithal. If the charter is truly to defend the rights of these citizens, it has to begin by setting up, recognizing and enshrining the basic services to which all Canadians are entitled and by determining and enforcing the basic programs and initiatives that are required as a foundation for true equality in Canada.

We thank you and welcome any questions you might have.

Mr Offer: I have listened closely to your presentation. Just to begin, what you have spoken about that should be contained in the charter, without getting into the basic rights, is that trying to provide what is really the responsibility of provincial governments, in fact sometimes municipal governments, regional governments or indeed the federal government -- in your last sentence I think you said there must be these types of programs found in the charter. I am wondering whether that might be argued as going beyond what a charter should contain or have as its objective. There is the obligation and the responsibility of other governments to set priorities and what they wish to do. The rights are found within the charter. Maybe the programs and services should not be, but should be left to local forms of government.

Ms Dalys: Obviously, in essence, all our members provide public service of one sort or another in Ontario. When we think about Ontario and when we think about Canada, what we are thinking about is a quality of service and a quality of life we all depend on. If we are to talk about a Canada clause and the kinds of rights and the kind of quality of life we expect for Canadians across the country, whatever nation or group they come from, what they can expect, we want to see how those are guaranteed.

Right now we would say they are not guaranteed. In fact, they are on their way down the drain in terms of the trends of what we call increasing provincialization. That is the federal government getting out of the responsibility of governing and handing it over to the provinces, many of which simply cannot bear the brunt of that kind of financial load of service and who in turn are handing it over to municipalities who in turn are privatizing. That is not our idea of Canada.

At the moment we do not see the guarantees offered by giving those responsibilities to different levels of government. What we see is the spectre of New York City. New York City is going bankrupt and is privatizing like crazy. Toronto is in trouble. Perhaps down the road we are a New York City. The Maritimes are in very poor shape. The poverty is appalling. It is not what we expect in terms of Canada, the kinds of services and the kind of life we want.

Mr Offer: We have heard submissions that have spoken to the possibility of more powers being given to the province from the federal government, a devolution of powers from the federal government to the provincial government, not necessarily that each province receives the same powers. It will be potentially up to them, in terms of their negotiations, what they feel they are best able to be responsible for. Is it the position of OPSEU that you are, first, in favour of a strong central government; and second, against a devolution of powers from the federal to the provincial governments?

Ms Peters: We believe strongly that there has to be a form of centralized government that offers the guarantee of the public service network. However it devolves, the responsibility for the guarantees has to be central. The devolution we already see, we anticipate it and we see that it does not work.


Mr Offer: So you have a concern, as more powers go from the federal to the provincial governments and as less funding moves from the federal to the provincial sphere, and you see this as a problem in terms of the service across the country that may be provided.

Ms Peters: Yes.

Ms Dalys: I think I made the point in the brief that as the federal government gets out of funding health care, it can no longer say: "Okay, here are your funds. This is a basic level of health care that is expected in Canada." If they pull out of funding it, then they can no longer set minimum standards. You end up with a fragmented health care system which is poor in poor areas. That is not Canada.

Mr Offer: The alternative is that you are calling on more funding so that it would legitimize the setting of standards across the country.

Ms Dalys: We are certainly calling for a reversal of the trend away from it. There is definitely a trend away from funding, which is not good, so yes.

Mr Drainville: Thank you very much for your presentation today. There are a couple of issues you did not touch on but which I am interested in. As we all know, OPSEU is a very significant union in the province. Because of that you probably do have some sense of the future of Canada vis-à-vis our relationship with Quebec. I was just wondering whether you might elaborate a little in terms of the position of OPSEU on relations with Quebec, questions about bilingualism and how that is viewed in terms of any policy OPSEU has.

Ms Peters: In our membership we have had a fuller discussion of the rights of first nations, and even that discussion, to be absolutely frank, is only just beginning.

In terms of Quebec, we have not had a full discussion, although we would say we agree with Quebec's right to self-determination. Going beyond that, in terms of representation of our membership, we would be predicting what they may say. But as we said today, we certainly can go so far as to recognize the rights of different cultures and the right of Quebec to have its own culture, have that protected and in fact have it flourish, and have Quebec have its right to self-determination. I know for you that is not going too far.

Mr Drainville: That is fine. I understand. I would not want you to say anything more than you felt comfortable with, representing OPSEU. Also, the issue about bilingualism is perhaps an issue you have had to deal with as a union in the province of Ontario. Is there a position right now?

Ms Peters: Our position around service, bilingual service and access to public service in Ontario is very definitely that the public should have access to the service in a language that is meaningful and reflective of the community. I think our problems around that issue would be in terms of implementation and government policy and we would say the same thing about employment equity. Historically, policies have been implemented rather brutally in some ways. They have pitted our members against the community and the interests of minority groups. We have raised that with the government and have had very productive discussions, in terms of employment equity, with this new government around the interests of minority groups, in terms of employment equity and in terms of the rights of aboriginal people of access to public services, access to jobs within the public service and of course access to the jobs themselves as self-government unfolds.

For us those are very difficult questions in our membership, but that is what we are committed to. Our experience so far is that when we start off, none of us are ever quite sure that education will work. In fact, we have found just recently that education does work. When our members understand the politics and history of different groups and different peoples in this country, then it is very easy to sort out conflict where conflicts have been set up historically in the workplace. We have been very pleased with our success in that regard.

Mr Curling: Thank you very much. As you spoke, many things came to mind. I will touch on one first. You spoke about the unemployment insurance reduction. The program that was brought into place by the Conservative government is looking at expansion and at more money going towards training. The federal government felt that if it shifted its policy from the present UI time frame to a reduced period of training, it would change the focus and it would be more productive in that sense.

We did not see that, as a matter of fact. What we have seen is that it not only reduced, but also that training money did not go into place. How would you see, in the Constitution, holding the federal government to its responsibility in that way? This is something I am wrestling with. You are moving now from policy to constitutional statements within the Constitution.

Ms Peters: That is a question we are wrestling with too. I guess, when we go beyond the principles to how we would get the Constitution or the charter to work, we have not had enough chance to discuss that in any form or way with our membership.

Our experience that the charter itself works is not good. We have been on the receiving end of it. It is not something that in our experience puts into place proactive obligations or responsibilities on people. We are not convinced that a piece of legislation will oblige a government like the Mulroney government, for example, to reverse the trends we see. The training situation is one we are struggling with right now as well. We see the assignment of UI moneys and dismantling the UI system. The Maritimes are already suffering from that policy.

To be perfectly frank, we do not have an answer for you. If you can say that changing the Constitution can oblige a federal government not to go down the road of dismantling essential services, then I do not know that we would believe you, but we would certainly watch.


Mr Curling: You also mentioned in your presentation about employment equity. Usually I am not one of those who are really excited about all these fancy political statements about pay equity, employment equity, affirmative action. I think, sooner or later, we come up with another word, another nice cliché, and then we find ourselves trying to define that. I remember the time wrestling about equal pay for work of equal value. By the time we said that, we were shaking our heads and saying, "What does that really mean?"

Ms Peters: We still shake our heads, I think.

Mr Curling: Yes, and that raised expectations or the hope of those who are being excluded out of the process itself. You said that you do believe in education and it does work. I also believe that it works. How long does it take to convince people that access to employment, regardless of class, culture, race, is important to the individual, and how long do we wait for that person to be educated? While I am saying to you that I do believe in education, do you believe in a quota system, then, that should be there?

Ms Peters: In terms of education, I spoke about education simply because we have just gone through a process of education on native rights, and it was actually funded by the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat. The education was for our local leadership. I would say that in the absence of any proactive legislation, we have to have a political will, we have to have legislation, we have to have change.

Sometimes there are many people who do not understand the need for change, and I think education is good for that reason. I would never say that education will solve all the problems and I would not want anyone to misunderstand me. I think education is a great complement to legislative change, and I also think education is a great way of people coming to terms with their rights and the limitations on their rights.

In terms of employment equity and quota systems, we believe strongly that, whereas we have strong public service, or we have had strong public service systems across this country, access to any services, access to jobs, access to any number of services is not equal, and there are groups who have been strongly disadvantaged in our society, and that extends beyond Ontario.

People can be put right. They can get the access they should. Education is not the answer. The answer is accelerated goals and timetables. There is a difference between goals and timetables and quotas. We believe that we have to put obligations on employers in this province to start hiring properly and fairly, just as we felt in pay equity that we had to put obligations on employers to pay fairly and properly.

We felt there had to be proactive legislation -- and that was the debate, I think, in pay equity, that we did not want a complaint system where individuals get to complain, much like the Ontario Human Rights Commission where you get to put in a complaint on an individual basis -- that put fair and square obligations on the shoulders of employers, on the shoulders of government and on the shoulders of unions to negotiate a better deal for groups who have been disadvantaged in the past and to put things right. That is our position on employment equity, that was our position on pay equity and that would be our concern about the limitations of the charter as well.

Mrs Marland: I am sorry I missed your actual presentation. I was in at another committee but I came back in time to hear you using "privatization and the problems in New York" as an example. I wondered if you would like to elaborate more than that. I could not understand the relativity of what you were saying.

Ms Peters: We are concerned about a trend that we see happening in Canada and in fact, that has been happening internationally, which is that governments tend to be getting out of the business of governing. They are moving money into the private sector.

One way in which we see this happening, particularly with the Mulroney government, is that there is a devolving of government responsibility to the next level down. At the federal level it is called "provincialization." So the province then turns around and says, "We can't afford to carry this alone." That is happening very clearly in the Maritimes, which simply do not have the resources to carry the kind of services that perhaps Ontario could get by on. At a lower level --

Mrs Marland: What is an example?

Ms Peters: The unemployment insurance system is one example; the health care system is another example. These systems in fact are disintegrating.

Mrs Marland: Could you give me a specific example?

Ms Peters: Bill C-69.

Mrs Marland: What does it do? What exactly is happening?

Ms Peters: What it does is devolve responsibility for services on to the next lower level of government. In Ontario what we see at the provincial level, and we have seen this for the last 10 years, is the integration of family benefits at the municipal level. So the whole welfare system is being shifted down to the municipal level. At the municipal level, of course, the municipal governments are unable to cope with strained resources. That is why we quoted New York City, which is now facing the prospect of privatizing an awful lot of what we would call critical public services because it is simply unable, at that level of government, to carry the load.

Mrs Marland: Are you suggesting that if it is less expensive for the public purse at any level of government, whether it is federal or provincial, if it is less expensive on the public purse for some other organization to provide those services, in spite of it being less expensive governments should continue to provide services even though it costs more for government to do it?

Ms Peters: We represent members both in the public service and in transfer payment agencies across Ontario. We do not find that in fact it is less expensive. What we find is jobs with cut-rate pay, so we certainly find workers who are doing the same job as those in the public service being paid far less. Those workers for the most part are women, and what we see in terms of this kind of funding is a systemic discrimination operating that you get a cheaper labour out there on the backs of women and increasingly on the backs of minorities.

Mrs Marland: I will give you an example that I would like you to comment on.

Ms Peters: If we can.

Mrs Marland: The provision of child care services, which you would be very well aware of. An earlier speaker today was talking about that being a national issue, which indeed it is. It is a national issue. If you have a government that subsidized the workers in public day care agencies and, therefore, pays them a going rate for their work, then you immediately put the private sector people into tremendous difficulty because they cannot compete because they do not have the government subsidization.

In other words, do you agree with government subsidizing one sector of a public service and not another? If you are asking for this to be a consideration when we are discussing Confederation -- and it was you who brought in the example of privatization -- then I think you have got to be able to say on the one hand, yes, you want workers to be paid more. But are you saying that those workers who are paid more are only workers who are employed by government?


Ms Peters: Of course we want workers paid, because they are our community as well, and we want people paid fairly and we do not want it discriminatory. On the other hand, we do not see it as an effective way of delivering public services, whether it is child care or counselling services, whatever, education, social services, the full gamut of those sorts of services. We do not see it as effective to put the responsibility for those services in the hands of private operators, commercial groups, corporations. We simply do not see it as appropriate or efficient.

The Vice-Chair: At this --

Mrs Marland: I just want the equal time my colleagues had.

The Vice-Chair: One very last point, please, Mrs Marland.

Mr Curling: Oh, you are good at this, Margaret.

The Vice-Chair: It is that the Chair is very lenient.

Mrs Marland: You gave an example in the health care field. The other lady said we would end up with inequities in the health care field across Canada, and you said in poor areas they might not have access to the same kind of medical services.

Is that not now the case? Is that not why so many people from across Canada come to a province like Ontario to live, because of the health care service that exists, but also who come on a transient basis for certain medical procedures, operations and so forth?

Ms Peters: As well as jobs.

Mrs Marland: Sure. But how are you suggesting in your presentation that you can unify the access to health care across the provinces through a federal intervention when health care services, by their very nature, in order for them to be economically affordable are reliant on density of populations? We cannot have highly sophisticated hospitals in every corner of this country.

Ms Peters: No, that would not be appropriate, and I do not know that communities ask for highly sophisticated, large hospitals on every corner of every street, or I would certainly hope they do not.

There are a variety of health care services. You raised the issue of density of population and urban versus rural. Possibly it amounts to the same thing, but in our remarks we are looking at the rich and poor provinces, how we have to get beyond having rich provinces that people come to, people who cannot live in their own provinces. We agree with you. We cannot have that sort of situation. The answer is not to turn them away. The answer is to look at how to develop the poorer provinces.

Mrs Marland: But how do you provide services in --

The Vice-Chair: Mrs Marland, I want to point out that we have representatives waiting outside.

Mrs Marland: I know, but this is my last question.

The Vice-Chair: That was two questions ago.

Mrs Marland: How do you provide services in a province like Manitoba with one million people versus a province like Ontario with 10 million people?

Ms Peters: There has to be a way of equalizing. Perhaps the issue is not equalizing; the issue is righting the situation so that the resources can go to Manitoba that Manitoba would need in order to have the level of health care service we have in Ontario, for example. Mrs Marland: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your co-operation. I thought we were in the Legislature today.

Mrs Marland: The next time I am going to get to speak first.

The Vice-Chair: You have the opportunity to wrap up with a quick closing statement at this point.

Ms Peters: I think we have made our points. We do have a copy of our comments.

The Vice-Chair: We would ask you to give that to the clerk on the way out.

Ms Peters: Thank you for your time.

The Vice-Chair: We thank you very much.

That brings to a close the open or camera part of our presentations. We have one other presentation, which the presenter has asked to do in camera, wanting to present just to the committee itself, so we will adjourn from TV --

Mrs Marland: Just before we adjourn, I know I am a substitute on this committee today, but as a substitute I am a legal member. Why is the next person being heard in camera?

The Vice-Chair: It was the wish of the presenter to present to the committee in camera.

Mrs Marland: I see. Have you had other witnesses before the committee in camera?

The Vice-Chair: This is the first time, if my memory serves.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I think there will be an explanation given by the presenter.

The Vice-Chair: So people are clear, what happened is that one of the presenters who was contacted to present wished to do the presentation to the committee alone, off-camera. We respect that wish and decided as a committee that we would do so to accommodate them.

Mrs Marland: So there will be no record on Hansard, or just no TV?

The Vice-Chair: No Hansard either. It is in camera.

Mrs Marland: It is very unusual for a standing committee to do this. I just want to put that on the record.

The Vice-Chair: It was a decision of the committee, and the committee made the decision among all three parties that it was the way we were going to go. As you were not here, that is obviously why you are asking those questions. With that, we will be moving into closed session. We will be coming back on air tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.

The committee continued in camera at 1607.