Monday 19 August 1991

Anishinabek Nation

Sheri Fitz

Ontario Women's Action Coalition



Chair: Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt NDP)

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

Acting Chair: Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton 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)


Carter, Jenny (Peterborough NDP) for Ms Gigantes

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York NDP) for Mr Bisson

White, Drummond (Durham Centre NDP) for Mr Winninger

Wilson, Gary (Kingston and The Islands NDP) for Ms Harrington

Clerk: Brown, Harold

Staff: Kaye, Philip, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1405 in room 151.

The Acting Chair: I would like to bring the committee to order. First of all, welcome to all the people who are watching the committee in its deliberations from all across Ontario. We are glad to have you watch and listen to the deputants today.


The Acting Chair: To our guests who have come here, Joe Miskokomon and Bob Watts, thank you for coming before us today. I wonder if you would introduce yourselves for the record and also indicate the group you are representing today.

Mr Miskokomon: My name is Joe Miskokomon. I am the grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation.

Mr Watts: My name is Bob Watts. I am the executive director of the Union of Ontario Indians.

The Acting Chair: I know we have communicated with you. You know you have an hour for your presentation. I hope you will leave a certain portion of that open for questions and answers near the end. With that, please start your deputation.

Mr Miskokomon: The Anishinabek Nation, represented by the Union of Ontario Indians, is a confederation of 43 first nations whose homelands, in Canada, stretch from Windsor to the Ottawa Valley. Our people number some 35,000 and are members of the Chippewa, Ojibway, Adawa, Delaware, Pottawatomi and Algonquin Nations.

In 1989, prior to the Constitution Act, 1982, the subsequent first ministers' conferences and the proposed 1987 amendment, our chiefs and elders in the assembly stated: "We are a distinct people. We have a distinct territory and our own lands. We have our own laws, languages and forms of government. We survive as nations today."

As nations we have never surrendered our aboriginal rights, including the jurisdiction over our ancestral lands, nor have we surrendered our ability to pass laws with which to govern our people. As nations we made the decision to negotiate military alliances with the British crown that resulted in successful retention against the United States of the lands now known as Ontario. Later, the Anishinabek, acting in the capacity of self-governing nations, signed 44 treaties with the crown which delineated specific obligations to our people. In making these treaties with your forefathers, the crown formalized its recognition of our sovereignty.

Mr Chairman, members of the select committee, I would like to thank you for the invitation to appear here today on behalf of the Anishinabek people. It is clear to me that we all have a great deal of work to do in order to keep this country together. There are undeniably many issues that the settler governments must deal with among themselves. I am here today to state once again that no system of government will operate successfully in this land until the aboriginal inhabitants of this land are dealt with justly. This is not mere rhetoric. The fact is our governments, our laws, our languages, our spiritual teachings and our people are part of this land. This land is the basis of our existence. Our laws are for the protection and the preservation of the land. We are inseparable.


Once again we are asked to try to explain our way of life in terms of our institutions. This is no easy task. However, I will attempt, without violating our principles, to lay before you today our agenda. You must understand at the outset that I believe, irrespective of what happens in this round of constitutional talks or the next, in order for this country to grow in unity, the Anishinabek Nation and the other aboriginal nations must be recognized and accepted into the Confederation of Canada on mutually acceptable terms.

It is clear that in order to ensure meaningful participation of aboriginal people in the constitutional reform, our representatives should be involved in any discussions that directly affect us. Our ability to propose constitutional amendments must be a precondition to participation.

When we address the issues of entrenchment of the inherent rights of self-government, it is clear that the amendment must be worded by us. We do not believe that the government, or any combination of settler governments, has the right to approve our inherent right of self-government. We believe rather that a recognition process would be more appropriate.

The obvious question as to what the amendment would look like arises. I suppose it could be a short statement of principle that would be worked out through negotiation or through court battles, or we could entrench an exhaustive amendment, which would be misinterpreted and would lead us to lengthy court battles at any rate.

We believe the right to self-government is already in section 35, however, we would all understandably feel more comfortable once this is spelled out. The Supreme Court has given some guidance as to how to deal with subsection 35(1). It is clear that the province has no power to effect subsection 35(1) rights and that the federal government can only do so in very specific circumstances. The infringement must be "reasonable, necessary and compelling and substantial." Even if a legislative objective is found valid, the justification of infringement must consider whether the federal government has "pursued the objective in a manner which upholds the honour of the crown."

The process thus begins to examine some of the how-tos arising out of an entrenched right to self-government. Our right to make laws dealing with internal matters should be understood. These range from citizenship, land, resources, health, education and other aspects of governance or, to use the phrase of the US, "internal sovereignty."

Remedies would, as a necessity, need to be put in place to deal with the conflicts and misunderstandings that would arise, as they do when two governments or more attempt to work and live together. Dispute resolution forums can be built into any government-to-government or nation-to-nation arrangements, and we believe laws which are considered ultra vires could be referred to the Supreme Court for its ruling.

The question as to whether 91(24) of the Constitution should stay or go is a complex one. Certainly we believe that the federal government should not have the ability to make laws for and about Indians and lands reserved for Indians. However, there is both the fiduciary and a treaty obligation for the crown to provide certain services, moneys and land to Indian people. Whether or not the provincial crown shares in this responsibility is unclear. It does seem clear, however, that the province has a responsibility to provide services to Indian people, irrespective of residence, that are available to other people in Ontario.

Arrangements will need to be entered into to ensure treaty and fiduciary obligations are maintained and that the appropriate support is given to aboriginal governments. The answer as to whether or not a third or first aboriginal order of government should be recognized in the Constitution is obvious. The answer is emphatically yes. By saying this, we do not accept the notion that third is somehow less or last.

You must understand that aboriginal nations that choose to enter Confederation have their own forms and levels of government. We have our own laws concerning jurisdiction and relations. How we relate to the other levels of government will be negotiated. The Constitution should not make our governments junior or senior. We are different and separate orders of government.

Last year when we made our presentation on the Meech Lake accord, we said that constitutionalizing the notion of two founding nations was a constitutional myth. Today we say the notion of constitutionalizing three founding nations is also a myth. There are some 50 aboriginal nations in Canada, and many of our people live in what is now known as the United States.

It must be recognized that there is no one Indian nation. We are many nations with profound differences in terms of language, custom, cultures, laws and territory. A Canada clause must be constructed in a manner which recognizes aboriginal nations and peoples as a distinctive and fundamental characteristic in the founding and development of Canada.

In the guidelines the committee sent, you asked if section 35 and subsection 35(1) of the charter should be changed. The question is a tricky one, considering that there is no section 35 or 35(1) of the charter. However, sections 35 and 35(1) of the Constitution should be changed. Take the word "existing" out of section 35. Even if the word is meaningless, it is an insult and drags along a lot of unnecessary political baggage. The right to aboriginal government should be explicit. As we said before, clauses 35(1)(a) and (b) should be amended to ensure that aboriginal peoples are represented at the constitutional table as a right and with decision-making capacity.

Aboriginal representatives in the House of Commons and the Senate: This boils down to a question of priority. Our priority now is to have our inherent right to self-government entrenched in the Constitution. At that time the need for aboriginal electoral districts will be determined based on the success of our relationships with the federal and the provincial governments. An alternative that we would put forward is to allow our nations to select individuals, through our own processes, to sit in the House and enter into debates on matters which affect us. These individuals could also sit on the committees and have staff and access to research facilities but would not be members of parliament. In the event of Senate reform, aboriginal senators would be desirable to ensure a linkage between our nations and oversee and scrutinize federal initiatives.

In Canada there are some 53 distinct aboriginal languages. These languages require more than just some mention in the Constitution. I believe that our languages should be recognized as a fundamental characteristic of Canada in the Canada clause. However, efforts must be made to preserve the languages and culture that are distinct to Canada. When entrenching languages, we must also take into account the numerous sacred places and burial sites and the need to return sacred objects from museums to the appropriate keepers of these objects. Our languages and cultures are unique to Canada. Canada should celebrate this and make every effort to protect and enhance this, not pretend it does not exists.

I will repeat here for the record a statement we made last year to the select committee on Meech Lake, "Aboriginal societies and languages are distinct and are part of the fundamental characteristics of Canada." Indeed, they are distinct not only in Canada, but in all the world. The Constitution of Canada should celebrate this fact and recognize that aboriginal governments, languages and cultures are not the stuff of museums and history books; they are vibrant, alive and thriving despite all efforts to exterminate, assimilate and negotiate us out of existence. This is our home and native land. Do not pretend that the glory of this country is due solely to immigration. The great tragedy is that we suffered, sacrificed and shared to help make this country what it is and yet we, the original inhabitants, are the most destitute in Canada.


We have before us an opportunity to make the Confederation of Canada truly representative of the political and social realities present within Canada. Ontario can and must assume the leadership role that is so greatly needed in Canada. Together we can accomplish what 124 years of Confederation have ignored. We have a responsibility to those who have gone before us, and to those generations yet to come, to strike a harmonious relationship and build a firm foundation for Canada into the 21st century.

Mr Malkowski: Thank you for your very impressive presentation. That information has been very helpful. Would you mind elaborating on some things in terms of the Canada clause and where the native people would fit in that, in terms of recommendations? You said you did not want to have Canada ignore native people again. Could you talk a little bit about that and how that would fit?

Mr Miskokomon: I will refer this to Mr Watts.

Mr Watts: What we are saying in respect of the Canada clause is that in the last round of constitutional discussions, when we were discussing Meech Lake, there was a notion that somehow or another the Canada clause could talk about the duality that is Canada; that is, French and English. When we made our presentation, we said that would be constitutionalizing a myth, that there is more to Canada than a French and English duality.

What we are recommending is that a clause be inserted that recognizes the aboriginal distinct characteristics of Canada, being that there are some 50 indigenous or aboriginal nations in Canada that have made a contribution to Canada and each makes up some of that distinct characteristic that is Canada. These nations are found nowhere else in the world, and a clause that talks about what Canada is should celebrate that fact.

Mr Malkowski: Okay. Maybe I could clarify my question a little bit more. Would you mind now commenting again about last Friday's decision, the court decision, about getting the word "distinct" and how well that would fit in with the Canada clause? What do you think about that, and going to court to force the federal government to --

Mr Miskokomon: In terms of going to court, what we have is a political problem. We have a problem that cannot be resolved in court. If we attempt to take it to court, there are no laws that help the court in this way, so the courts are then faced with the problem of attempting to give legal interpretation to a political misdirection.

We think cases that are going to be put forward should look at existing laws, to try to build new politics through the courts. In Canada the Supreme Court is not as adventurous as it is in the United States, so we face big problems doing that, and that is not even considering the financial burden that goes with it. Many lawyers make a lot of money and we end up resolving very little politically.

Mr Malkowski: Okay, that clarifies it, thank you.

Mr Curling: I too would like to thank you for your presentation. Each time a presentation is made here, especially from the aboriginal people, it comes more to the forefront how important it is that we have an inclusive Constitution, not an exclusive Constitution, and how easy it is at times, I feel, that some people may be excluded from the constitutional process.

One of the parts that jumped out while you were speaking was when you talked about the need for the aboriginal electoral district that "will be determined based on the success of our relationships with the federal and provincial governments." What type of success were you speaking about, based on the success of those two jurisdictions?

Mr Miskokomon: The issue that we see before us today is one that must deal, as a priority, with self-government. If we go back to saying that we want to move towards having electoral districts and having representation within the House or within the Legislature, it does not seem to really move the issue of self-government along that far. I know it is supported by some aboriginal groups, that they would say, "Yes, we would have preferred to have guaranteed seats within the House." We have looked at their experience through New Zealand and have done some extensive research on that. Depending on who you listen to from New Zealand, either the people within the government or from the government side or the aboriginal people who are not in government, they say that this experience is very limited in its success. It is chancy. At the very best, it has not done well for them politically. Of course, there are arguments to say that -- people say it is a successful experience.

What we are saying is that we do not want to get sidetracked from our main objective. We want to make sure that we move towards self-government and that we look towards having a self-government clause put forward. We want to make sure we have direct participation. We want to be positive, when decisions are going to be made that are going to impact upon us, that we are part of that process. That may very well take place in terms of having guaranteed seats within Houses and within the Legislature -- there is direct participation in that way -- but from our political standpoint it is not the priority that we seek. We seek to have self-government entrenched first, and then we can talk about other processes.

Mr Curling: The other part that concerned me a bit -- you said they would be elected individuals but would not be members of Parliament. If you would allow me to just examine even the present course here now, there are three parties sitting here. In some of the committees we know the government puts forward its policies which it believes, of course -- each government would want you to believe -- are the policies of all people, but we know the government party in power has the majority. Sometimes forcefully, in the sense of debates, we put our case, and many times it is not taken at all to amend or change the policy.

You would be sitting in Parliament or sitting there on committees, not a member of Parliament, hoping that you have enough influence that you can convince the present-day government to change and to be much more attuned to what is happening, to the concern of your constituency. Do you really believe you could have that kind of impact? I am not quite sure if we have as an opposition that kind of impact. We would like, of course, to have that kind of impact to convince the present government of the policies on which we think they are going very wrong, and some things they are doing seem to be right, but some of the wrong policies where we say, "Let us now take another look, and let us take the partisan view out of it and talk about the people." Do you feel sitting there on committees you will have that kind of influence, with the kind of input you are talking about?

Mr Miskokomon: We have seen each of your parties have a turn at it, and I hear the same criticism every time we come in front of a standing committee. Regardless of what party is in opposition, that is the criticism.

What we are talking about, again -- and this is one of the arguments for not having a guaranteed seat put forward -- is would we in fact have the type of influence if we sat with any party? I mean, we look now at the federal system and we see that there are some aboriginal people sitting with government. But in the end analysis when the government makes the decision to advance in a certain direction, even if it goes against what our aboriginal people believe is to be right, the harsh reality of your politics is that if you do not back the government, you are not going to be back next time around. That is the reality of party politics.

Is it any different if we have guaranteed seats of eight or nine or 11, or whatever is being proposed, and they are backbenchers? Do we really have an impact within government that way? I think not. I think all we have to do is look to the federal side. This is by no means a criticism towards the aboriginal people who are sitting in the federal House now, who belong to the parties, but their problem is that they are not sitting in positions of power and positions of influence. I think that is one of the most damning arguments against being within the House.


At the same time, many people are saying, "Well, we have to work within the system," the argument of Meech Lake and how it came down. It was through one aboriginal, Elijah Harper, who said no, who refused to have Meech Lake entered into the Legislature. In that instance it did work, so there are pros and cons, as we argue whether or not.

Again, I want to get back to the thing that we do not want to lose sight of, regardless of whether there are aboriginal people sitting within the Legislature or sitting within the House of Commons. The one thing we do not want to lose sight of is that we need a constitutional entrenchment for self-government so that we determine within our own territories, by our own people, the kind of direction that we want to go. We have not had a lot of luck in the 124 years of working through the Indian Act.

Mr Curling: Even at present now in the House there is one independent, if you so describe that individual. Even in the federal government there are people who have left certain parties and who have no rights. There is no process for them to speak on issues.

Having the individual elected in your electoral area and still having no voice as a parliamentarian there, I just do not see how effective they could be, because even those who are elected within the House today do not speak because of the process, even asking questions of ministers, and policies within the House. Do you not see that as weakening your process, by not having them sitting specifically in the House?

Mr Miskokomon: The first part of your rationale -- I feel sorry for the constituents who elected the people who are not going to have a voice within it, if they so choose to not be heard or they sit in the position to not be heard. There are problems associated with it; we understand that. At the same time, our experience has been that -- Ethel Blondin mentioned that from Confederation, of the 11,000 or so people elected to the House of Commons, we have had a representation of something around 27, so our track record has not been great within the election process. As a matter of fact, when there was an active campaign back a few years ago to elect, even nominate, people within ridings, we could not get people nominated. There were record turnouts of people within the riding not to have an Indian run as a candidate. So we come away with very little faith in the process, while at the same time we understand that there are other aboriginal people who say we should be moving in that direction. If that is their wish, that is fine. Our preference is to have self-government entrenched.

Mr Harnick: Joe, you stated in your brief, and I am quoting you: "When we address the issue of entrenchment of the inherent rights to self-government it is clear that the amendment must be worded by us." You have also pointed out to us that there are 50 aboriginal nations. In terms of wording that amendment, is there a consensus among the 50 aboriginal nations, beyond just acknowledging the concept of native self-government? I think everybody acknowledges that. Now we just want to know how to do it. Is there some consensus among the aboriginal nations?

Mr Miskokomon: Yes. In 1987, at the last first ministers' conference that dealt with aboriginal issues, we tabled wording on self-government. It was agreed to by all aboriginal people, that wording. That currently sits in front of the federal and provincial governments.

The issue that we always got hung up on was, how in fact does it impact upon provincial government or federal government rights? I think if we always move in that direction, that we have to answer every question, in terms of how will this do this or how would that do that or how would this impact over here, we will never get beyond that. That is just a simple delay tactic. It comes down to nothing more than stalling.

At the last first ministers' conference, in 1987, that dealt with aboriginal issues, it was clear that many of the provincial governments were not prepared to deal in a substantive way with self-government. It was evident and obvious that the proposals that were being put forward by federal and by provincial governments that were at least moving in that direction only wanted to move towards self-government in a delegated-authority manner. We could not accept that, because our experience with governments has been that, as soon as a treaty is signed, it is broken, and as soon as delegation is given, it can be withdrawn. We wanted it very clear within the Constitution that this is not a delegated power, it is an inherent right, and what we are talking about is rights, not simple delegation of authorities.

Mr Harnick: Is it time, as far as you are concerned, to take a flyer, accept your wording and then see how it sorts itself out down the line? Is that what is going to have to happen in order to move on from where we are now?

Mr Miskokomon: I think much of this centres around some very fundamental principles. I think it centres around honesty, respect for individuals and individual rights, collective rights. I think it centres around honesty. I think it centres around fairness, equality. Unfortunately, during the early, mid and late part of the 1980s we were not at that table and we did not receive that kind of respect and fairness and equality and trust that we sought.

What we are telling Canadians, what we are telling governments in Canada, is that if you cannot trust us by now, when will you ever be able to trust us? If you do not know by now that the very simple thing we are trying to achieve in this country is some dignity, if you do not know by now that what we want is to get government off our backs and telling us what to do and get rid of the apartheid act, the Indian Act, and that we as people elected representatives from our own communities -- our own chiefs, our own council, our own elders -- and have the very basic human rights of making our own decisions, and live and die in that manner and not by the manner of having the Minister of Indian Affairs, if people do not understand that at this point, we have got a long way to go.

Mr Harnick: What do you envision as being the next step that has to be taken in terms of succeeding towards a move to native self-government?


Mr Miskokomon: A step, as important as it is, is not to be shuffled back in a priority to deal with Quebec at the expense of other things, and that is how we were dealt with. In 1987 when we went to the first ministers' conference, it was not to find a way and means of how to entrench self-government. It was an obligation that was accepted by a government that did not want it, that had to follow the process and did so reluctantly. In the closing remarks, the chairman said, "When you find the necessary numbers of seven provinces and 50% to make the amendment, I will reconvene a first ministers' conference." That is not our responsibility. That is the chairman's responsibility. That is the leadership role that the Prime Minister assumes when he takes that seat. He was not prepared to do that. That told us an awful lot.

The government of Canada has to place aboriginal issues as a top priority, as not the first, but one of its top priorities, much like the province of Ontario does, and come out and clearly state it, that, "We are going to resolve some issues with the aboriginal people of this country and we will work to do that."

You cannot have a chairman who convenes a first ministers' conference and then says, "You go find the numbers, you make the wording out, you bring all this back to me and I'll convene a meeting and I'll get your clause for you." He is not getting us anything. We are doing it ourselves.

We have to have that kind of co-operation from the federal side. We have to have the kind of co-operation from the provincial side that Ontario, through Mr Davis and Mr Peterson and now Mr Rae, has taken with the leadership role about placing the aboriginal issue forward and being prepared to move that issue along, not be the type of obstructionist that we found through British Columbia, through Newfoundland, through Saskatchewan, through Alberta. Mr Hatfield was another one who after a period of time came on, said, "I understand what you're saying and I find nothing threatening to what you say," and came on board.

We have to find a way, regardless of how Quebec is going to be dealt with. There are aboriginal people in Quebec and they have treaties with this country. We have to find a way to include Quebec into the negotiations without them feeling threatened that they are losing things to the aboriginal people, no more so than if Quebec is having separate negotiations.

I feel that aboriginal people's rights are being threatened at the same time without our inclusion. It is not an exclusionary process. It is not a closed-door process and it does not rest with 10 men.

Mrs Mathyssen: Chief Miskokomon, early on in our proceedings Chief Peters came to the committee and indicated that there would be a retreat for native leaders after the signing of the statement of political relationship in August 6. Has that retreat taken place, and if so, could you share with us some of the ideas and the concerns that came from that meeting?

Mr Miskokomon: We had an initial round of discussions after the signing of the statement of political relations. As you well know, what we have to move past now is, once we have a piece of paper signed, how do we implement it? What types of things do we deal with? How in fact is the government prepared to roll back some of its legislation that impacts and impedes our jurisdiction?

There are some very fundamental things; education, for one. How do we deal with having the aboriginal language taught within the schools and at the same time dovetail to the provincial system, where the majority of our students and our children leave our schools and go into secondary schools and post-secondary schools? How do we move the issue along of having an aboriginal language taught within the schools, to a large extent in the recognition of elders, when in fact if you do not have a degree and a certificate you are not allowed in the school to teach? We have to move beyond that.

Community-based policing, child and family services, the practical kind of issues that are going to affect our people and our communities are the things that we have now to begin to address. At some point in time, we may be looking at things like an Indian education act. We may be looking at things like a separate Indian health care act or a separate Indian child and family services act, and at that point it will require the provincial government to look at the way your acts and our notions are meeting up and how you have to roll back.

Part of the biggest problem we have faced over the years is that under section 87 of the Indian Act -- it is called the general law of application -- where there is not a section that deals with an issue within the Indian Act, it refers itself to the provincial acts. Oftentimes the provinces pass a piece of legislation with little or no thought to how it is going to impact upon Indian people. We get caught between the bind of the provincial government saying, "We don't want to impede or in any way interfere with the special relationship Indian people have with the federal government," but at the same time passing legislation and making laws that do directly that.

We cannot have it both ways. We have to look at issues like, when the courts have already said the federal government has a legal fiduciary trust responsibility towards Indians, when there was one crown in Canada and treaties were made with one crown, then with the division of the crown, with the federal side taking 91.24, the provincial side taking section 92 powers, did in fact the provincial government, by the sheer dividing of the crown, by virtue of the division of the crown, accept some of those responsibilities when you immediately move into the areas of child welfare and education?

I think the case can be made that you do have legal fiduciary trust responsibilities towards Indian people regardless of where we live, be it on reserve or off reserve. That does not make a lot of difference. It becomes a legal question, a political question.

Are we prepared to deal with it in those ways? Are you prepared to deal with rolling back legislation that adversely impacts on our community and saying, "Now we recognize not only the inherent right of self-government, but the things that come with it," the issues that come and impact upon our people? It will require a lot of work, because when people ask us, "What does self-government look like; how is it going to impact?" my question to you is, "Give me a specific instance and then we will work on it." But to say, "How does the world turn?" I mean, we can go for days on that one. Now that we have the general, we have to move to the specific.

Mrs Mathyssen: Which brings us back to your brief and the need for consultation, when we look at legislation consultation, with the people it affects, and ultimately to the delivery of services, the native community delivering services to the native community.

Mr Miskokomon: Absolutely. We can cite a case not so terribly long ago when a piece of legislation was made, the Child and Family Services Act. Section 9, I believe it is, has to deal with Indian representation in the courts in child custody. It came down to a case of an argument between the federal and the provincial government, which is unresolved at this point, and that was some three or four years ago. It came down to the case of, does this fall under the Canada assistance plan, or 50-50, or does it fall under the 1965 welfare agreement, which is split 80-20? The federal position was that it fell under CAP; the provincial position was that it fell under the 1965 welfare agreement; and we have yet to resolve that.

I think this is where we move to those things. I think we move to saying: "What we can resolve with the province now, we will resolve with the province. What we can resolve with the federal government in the bilateral relationship, we will deal with them on that. What requires trilateral discussions, we must identify that agenda and begin to deal with those things." Trilateral becomes a very difficult arena.

The Acting Chair: Are there any other questions from the committee members? I do not see any. I want to thank you for coming before the committee and presenting your brief. The questions, I think, that have been posed by the members have indicated our strong interest in the area surrounding aboriginal rights and the future of the Constitution. So thank you again for coming and being with us today.



The Acting Chair: I would ask for Sheri Fitz to come forward, please. As we are about to begin the next deputation, I am wondering if any people who are speaking would like to go out into the hall as we begin this deputation. Thank you, Ms Fitz, for coming before the committee today. You have half an hour to give your deputation. I hope that you will leave some time for the members of the committee to ask questions. Just for the record, would you introduce yourself and indicate what organization you represent.

Ms Fitz: My name is Sheri Fitz and I am president of Lifeline Communications Group which is based in Ottawa. My company monitors the Canadian news media for both federal and provincial governments. And since the beginning of this year, we have been publishing a daily news analysis on Canada's constitutional situation. During my address to you, I will explore the powerful role the media is playing in the constitutional debate and will elaborate on the distinct messages the media has been relaying to Canadians which have at times been very confusing.

I would like to draw your attention to the very small degree of local media activity in Canada's main regional newspapers. While the high-profile regional newspapers usually carry the most important new stories generated from central Canadian media, we have found very few local new stories on the Constitution. Although the Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future generated some local media activity in the regions as it travelled from coast to coast, there are so few local news stories on the Constitution that some people in the regions must wonder if indeed there really is a constitutional crisis.

Perhaps an exception to the rule would be the Manitoba news media where there has been a significant amount of local coverage of its own provincial constitutional committee, the Fox-Decent committee. As well there seems to have been more news on the Constitution in the Maritimes than in other regions, but Atlantic Canada seems to be more preoccupied with the ramifications of Quebec independence on its own economy than with developing a strategy to deal with Quebec's demands and the future state of Confederation. As well, in Nova Scotia, there will likely be an increase in local constitutional news since the government has just struck a committee to gather public opinion in that province. The same goes for British Columbia which this week struck a constitutional committee and we saw the first stories surfacing in the media just this week.

On a personal note, I recently returned from a trip to western Canada where people there told me there has been minimal discussion of the Constitution in the local print and broadcast media. Most of the westerners I spoke with are unaware of the activities of the various constitutional committees throughout Canada. Also people seem to be confused about the purpose and mandate of these federal and provincial committees.

As you can appreciate, it is difficult even at the best of times for those of us who follow the debate to keep track of the main constitutional commissions in our land. However, when ordinary Canadians are asked their opinion, they usually want a simple answer to the bottom-line question of whether or not Quebec is going to separate. Thus, I believe, their indifference to the current national discussion is reflected in the regional media's waning interest on the issue.

Moreover, people seem to be preoccupied with the subject of distinct-society status for Quebec. As we monitor letters to the editors of the regional press, quite a large volume of letters from the western newspapers tend to exhibit an uninhibited hostility towards Quebec, as well as towards Canada's multicultural and official language policies. However, people writing to the editors of the Atlantic publications tend to be more conciliatory towards Quebec, in addition to minority rights.

Concerning the manner in which constitutional events are managed by both the French and English press, I would submit that these issues are often recorded at variance to one another. The news coverage of the Quebec Liberal Party's Allaire report is a good example. The English print media interpreted the report as providing another chance for renewed federalism. However, the French media predominantly focused on Allaire's recommendation for a sovereignty referendum in 1992.

What is alarming about this type of phenomenon is that it is reminiscent of the media activity leading up to the ratification of the Meech Lake accord, where two different media messages appeared to be communicated: That is, some media observers maintain that Quebeckers were told the Meech Lake accord represented a type of constitutional vindication for Quebec, while the rest of Canada was told that the failure of the Meech Lake accord would mean the end of the country.

In any event, this type of phenomenon occurred just last week. When British Columbia Premier Rita Johnston visited Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa in Montreal, the English press focused on Johnston's so-called softened approach to Quebec, stating that both she and Bourassa had agreed that Quebec was, indeed, a distinct society. Meanwhile, French headlines read that Johnston had refused to recognize Quebec's right to self-determination and distinction. Therefore, one must conclude that Canadians in different parts of the country are getting two very different interpretations of events.

Perhaps one way to clear up the confusion emanating from the media on the "distinct society" clause is for both Ottawa and Quebec to explicitly state what it actually means. Unless this clarification is made, it appears that the issue could deal a devastating blow to Confederation, since a July Gallup poll recently indicated that nearly three in five Canadians said they disapprove of recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. This disapproval rating was the highest recorded in the past four years when Gallup has asked the question. However, as we at Lifeline daily monitor the press, we see various Canadian governments continuing on the course of granting distinct society for Quebec. Consequently, there seems to be very little activity in the media promoting an understanding between Quebec and the rest of Canada. When one compares the enormous volume of news articles emanating from the Quebec media on its own future status, to the very brief discussion of the future of Confederation in the rest of Canada, it is really quite astonishing.

On a similar note, I would like to impart to you the mixed messages the English and French media have been conveying on the ominous subject of the economic feasibility of Quebec independence. In particular, shortly after the publication of the Allaire report, a subcommittee report was tabled on the viability of Quebec sovereignty, which suggested that in the event of separation, Quebec would assume 18.5% of the national debt, even though the province comprised 25% of Canada's population.

In the following week, the French media conducted barely any analysis of the study, and proceeded to simply publish the bare facts of the report. Meanwhile, in the English press, the story ran for just one day. What is significant about this scenario is that it demonstrates a principle of the power of media communication, simply that over a period of time, the perception transmitted by the media becomes reality. In this case, now most Quebeckers believe they owe only 18.5% of Canada's national debt, and it is doubtful that the rest of Canada would agree.

Furthermore, as was evident in the federal government's recent speech from the throne, the federal Tories centred on the theme of economic prosperity and linked it to national unity, that is, if Canada sticks together and becomes more competitive, all of Canada will prosper. It is believed in some circles that this could promote an increased tolerance for one another, and convince Quebeckers that independence is too costly.


However, the problem is that media accounts of economic studies and public statements reflecting the consequences of Quebec sovereignty clearly contradict one another. A classic example of this occurred on July 16, as London news sources reported Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's contention that Canada might lose its place at the G-7 if Quebec were to separate. Meanwhile, on the very same day, and in some of the very same newspapers, a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said that even if Quebec left Confederation, Canada would still have the seventh largest economy in the western industrialized world. Furthermore, the OECD noted that the Canadian economy might even be slightly better off if Quebec separates. Therefore, Canadians who read the press are left wondering whom to believe about the economic ramifications of Quebec independence.

In any event, and on a brighter note, over the last couple of months there has been an increase in media activity concerning individual Canadians taking the cause of national unity into their own hands. I was encouraged by reports of Ontario trucker James Taylor, who spent $15,000 of his own money to post billboards in 15 Canadian cities which simply read, "My Canada Includes Quebec." What I found intriguing was a news story where Mr Taylor said he was getting up to eight phones calls a day from French-speaking reporters. That tells me that the rural French media is very interested in learning why this anglophone believes his Canada includes Quebec.

None the less, Mr Taylor seems to be effectively bridging the communication gap between Quebec and the rest of Canada, and thus there must be ways that provincial governments, such as Ontario, can foster such positive communication in the media. Increased dialogue promoting a better understanding between all Canadians must be accomplished, even before Ottawa tables its constitutional package this fall. And, as more individual Canadians take the initiative to do just that, a spirit of goodwill among all Canadians, which was recorded by the Spicer commission, may prove that we are a reasonable people, and that we can work out our differences.

Personally, I believe that any attempt at renewed federalism must be sensitive to what unites us as Canadians rather than what divides us, particularly since it appears that the press pays more attention to diversity than to unity. Therefore, constitutional negotiations should involve only the common fundamental elements of redefining federalism. At a later date, constitutional negotiators can go back and fill in the remaining blanks. I also feel we must be careful not to dismantle Canada to such an extent that 10 years from now we find ourselves gathered around the same tables trying to figure out how to recreate federalism.

Therefore, I think the federal government should be responsible for issues such as medicare, health and safety standards, social programs, energy and the environment, to mention just a few. I also believe that Canada would be more competitive if there was the elimination of overlapping federal and provincial programs, as well as the eradication of interprovincial trade barriers, which could be incorporated in the Constitution. And finally, on the issue of Senate reform, we have concluded from our extensive media monitoring that Canadians earnestly desire a democratic and representative upper chamber.

In conclusion, I would like to mention briefly the constituent assembly concept. Certainly from our perusal of the regional media, Canadians are expressing a deep disillusionment with our political system, and they want ordinary Canadians to participate in the creation of a new Canadian Constitution. Regardless of what action governments take on this issue, ultimately the people of Canada will have the final say on constitutional matters, whether it is through a national referendum, or through a series of federal and provincial elections.

In addition, I am not completely convinced that an exclusive constituent assembly is the answer to our constitutional dilemma, but I do believe that some public participation at the highest levels of the constitutional process would be of no harm. Essentially, I believe Canadians must be asked through a national referendum whether they would endorse a new Canadian Constitution because, ultimately, it is their Constitution and theirs alone.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much for a very helpful presentation of the present media response to this issue around the Constitution and the future of Canada. We will begin our questioning with Mrs O'Neill.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Sheri, I am very pleased you came. We started in, I guess, early February to get your publication every day. Sometimes it comes in groups of twos or threes and then it becomes more challenging to read it.

I guess I find it absolutely essential reading and we do get an awful lot put before us. The reason I find it essential is, first of all it is national, and that is very helpful for those of us who are putting our noses pretty close to the provincial ground every day, and because I think not only do you cover those that are news articles but you do take the columnists and the editorial board views as well. To me that is very helpful because many people think that those are really gospels.

I guess what I have got from it, and your presentation today underlines that, is the complexity of this issue. That is why I am kind of pleased you did not come down too strongly, for instance, on the side of a constituent assembly, simply because I think we have to do a lot more work on that and many people who throw the word into a newspaper article seem not to talk at all about how people would get to a constituent assembly, how the voting would take place, what would happen to the results regarding the elected legislators, whether the delegates would be elected, appointed, all of those things. In your short touch on the subject you indicated there are strong difficulties with the concept once you try to implement it.

I am pleased that you also talked about the economic arguments. When this particular committee began this whole process, and a lot of people have done this process in Ontario before this committee came along, we were told that very first day in our briefing from the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs that the economic issues on this matter would be very much of opinion; that you can prove anything economically. I think, as we have had those presentations, we have seen that.

I would like you to say a little more about a couple of things you stated. I go to page 7 where you talk about your feel for the Spicer commission recording "a spirit of goodwill among all Canadians." I would like you to say a little more about that because I am not sure the report itself, and certainly with its minority reports attached, gave me that same impression. So would you say a little bit more about why you feel that is what you got? You have certainly done a lot of extensive reading.

Mrs Fitz: Yes. As you mentioned, we read the editorials and the columnists and in my mind certain things stick out, a common theme through the writing and response to the Spicer commission. There were just tons of different opinions that came out of that, but one of them was that the findings did seem to indicate that Canadians wanted to sit down and talk and that they wanted to have more involvement with individual Quebeckers. Canadians and other parts of the regions wanted to listen to the interests of Quebec.

It is not necessarily the media's opinion. I do not mean to appear to be coming down hard on the French and English media, because a lot of times what they are reporting is just reflecting what the politicians and different experts might say. At this point there is a lot of constitutional discussion going on, but at the same time there seems to be a gap in communicating between ordinary Canadians -- people in the rest of Canada and in Quebec.

When the federal government produces its report, supposedly in September, I think the report may demand all Canadians to make concessions with one another. Now is the time to promote some type of goodwill in the media. That comes on the part of individual Canadians writing letters to the editor, different provinces going into Quebec, Quebeckers going out into the rest of Canada. I guess my point was just that the Spicer commission did notice a bit of goodwill out in the country, but you see, it is very conflicting, as I said in my speech. Then we read the poll that three in five Canadians do not want a distinct society for Quebec, so all we can --

Mrs Y. O'Neill: But you think there is a base that could be built upon.

Mrs Fitz: Sure.


Mrs Y. O'Neill: That is certainly a good foundation.

Mrs Fitz: I think it ties into the economic arguments, that there need to be more concrete economic studies by provincial governments to take to the people and say: "Look, this is what our deficit is now. If the country splits, it could be worse."

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Very briefly, do you see difficulties arising in Nova Scotia regarding the two committees that are being set up, one basically by the Premier and one with Mr Kierans, as it said, kind of parallel bodies?

Mrs Fitz: Are you referring to the Maritime Economic Union and --

Mrs Y. O'Neill: No. I understand that the Premier is now setting up a group of legislators, three parties, similar to this, and then is having another body that is doing another kind of thing and their paths are not really planned to cross.

Mrs Fitz: Yes, I do, because there is definitely a cynicism in the land by Canadians that the governments are not listening. There has been a lot of discussion about process, about involving Canadians in the debate. What comes to mind at the moment, when the Spicer commission was ongoing and the Beaudoin-Edwards committee was ongoing and then the federal government struck another committee, that really seemed to have the power to take the recommendations from these other two committees and apply them.

There were some media commentators who said, "If you're consulting the people, why don't you wait and see what the people are going to say through these other two committees and then make legislation accordingly to reflect what the opinions are of the people?" It may appear that Nova Scotia is sort of headed down the same path.

Mr Harnick: We have had representations made to us from people in Quebec in the last couple of weeks. Depending on their politics, it depends how depressed you are after you hear them.

What is the mood of the resident of Quebec today? What are the people on the street, not the academics and not the students but the people who go to work every day and who earn a living and who pay taxes? What do they feel about this? What does the media review in those small communities say to you?

Mrs Fitz: That is a very good question, because I think most of the people in power, federally and provincially, are asking that same question. We do not get a lot of the small rural French papers. We get the main publications, we monitor the French broadcast media, which does give us a bit of insight into that where they might view men on the street. I think Quebeckers are not really aware about what is going on in the rest of Canada. For example, one of them, it might have been le Téléjournal or le TVA, went on to the streets of Shawinigan and asked people what they thought of the Spicer commission, and some people did not know what the Spicer commission was. So that might give you an indication.

It is very hard to know what Quebeckers are thinking. For myself, my parents are from Quebec and I have many relatives in Quebec and I know that in their communities people still want to be a part of Canada, but I would say maybe 65% or 70% of the Quebec media have a tendency to report sovereignty issues rather than promoting Quebeckers staying in the rest of Canada or belonging to Confederation.

So it is very difficult to read what is going on, because some of the French publications have a sovereigntist slant. What we do daily is we take all of the English publications on a particular story and compare them to the French press, and predominantly there is a sovereigntist spin on it. So I think the Quebeckers are being given information that has a sovereigntist slant, but there are Quebeckers who definitely want to stay in Canada.

Ms Carter: I am also very glad that you have raised these points. I think they are very important, and I certainly personally have the feeling that the media were a problem as far as this issue goes. Going back to the Meech Lake accord and the way in which it fell through, my impression was that the media in Quebec were setting it very much as a "We do or we don't accept Quebec as part of Canada," whereas, from the vantage point here, I personally, and I think a lot of other people, did not see it that way at all. We had problems with the agreement that were quite different. For example, the way in which everything had been decided in a closed room, and then when they emerged they said, "You can't change this; you can't do anything about it; it is etched in stone." That did not seem democratic and also, of course, there was the question as to native rights, and women's rights, and so on, that caused some of us to oppose it although we were very much in favour of Quebec remaining as part of Canada.

So I think the media certainly had a bad effect there, and we had somebody talking to this group last week who was saying that, as time goes on, the situation is getting worse and worse because of the bad impression that was left in Quebec, and that the situation there is becoming more and more extreme. I think there are a lot of people in Quebec who are now saying that, really, there has to be separation; there is no other way. Yet if they really understood how we feel, that would not be the case because there is a perception of rejection that I think is largely uncalled for, although of course we all know that there are elements within English Canada that are extreme on that. It was interesting that there was nobody in this group here that goes along with that kind of extreme opinion, and I think most English-speaking Canadians do not either.

Also, as you said, this whole question tends to be a low priority. I think opinion polls have shown that it is not at the top of people's agenda. That is probably because economic issues are at the top, people have lost jobs, say, they do not have enough money, and so on, and, of course, the connection is not made that this is an issue that has economic consequences, that "If you separate, there could be serious consequences." You pointed out that this is not presented in the same way by different media, two different groups of people. We certainly need to get our act together on that in some way.

The question is, what can we do to help influence the way in which the media do seem to be muddying the waters on this issue and to help people to understand it, because everything does seem to point to a basic agreement if only we can make sure that that is not obscured?

Mrs Fitz: I think it would be really productive for provincial committees to travel into Quebec and to speak with Quebeckers, regardless of the criticism that one might encounter, and also for provincial premiers to make the journey to Quebec, because you have to go to Quebec to reach the Quebec media at large. I do not think all Quebec French journalists are out to destroy Canada either and, in fairness, quite often the politicians put the spin on issues through the media as well. I remember watching when the Quebec Liberal Party tabled the Allaire report, and Premier Bourassa did not meet with English media reporters until two or three days after the report had been tabled and he had made his speech at the Quebec Liberal Party convention. So, in fairness, a lot of times the journalists are simply reporting what the political players are saying.

Ms Carter: And the political players are sometimes playing a double game, appealing to two audiences which are separated by the separateness of the language in the media.

Mrs Fitz: Yes, and sometimes I say the constitutional debate is far too political. It really is. The statements people make to the press in the moment of anger or frustration are often very unproductive to promoting Canadian unity. Our country is really at a crossroads, and we have to be so careful about what we say not to offend one another. I think also that there has to be a spirit of humility in the land. You know, every day we watch senior political officials sometimes point fingers at one another for the faults of the Meech Lake accord or whatever, and it is totally unproductive. It really just does more damage to the debate. Thank you.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. I appreciate your coming before the committee. Your presentation has been very helpful to us today. Thank you.



The Acting Chair: I am wondering if members of the Ontario Women's Action Coalition are here and if they could come forward please. I would like to welcome you both here today. I believe you have been in contact with Mr Brown, the clerk of the committee, and he has indicated to you that you have half an hour to present your report. I hope you will leave some time for the members of the committee to ask questions. You could begin by introducing yourselves and the organization you belong to.

Ms Maher: Good afternoon, my name is Janet Maher. This is Marie Lorenzo. We are on the co-ordinating committee of the Ontario Women's Action Coalition.

We actually were quite careful this time. When we did our presentation last time we came, we had about an hour-long brief, as a matter of fact, that we tried to cramp into 15 minutes. That was on March 1. But I think that there are a number of reasons today why we would like to engage you on just a couple of very specific things. We have prepared for your information, or for your assistance, this set of notes.

I would just like to say thank you for inviting us to this stage of the select committee hearings to present our most recent views. We have the list of questions which Mr Brown made available to us and we are using them in a broad, general sense as a guide for today's presentation. At the same time, we are very specifically not wanting to respond to the questions in a technical way, and to the specific technical questions. We think our most useful contribution can be made by outlining general principles and applications of the Constitution. Once consensus has been reached on those principles, we think that their rendering in appropriate constitutional and legislative language is a technical matter that should be left to the people who are experts in those matters.

We have reviewed the interim report and we are pleased to see that many of the points that we raised in our brief in March are acknowledged in that interim report. We continue, however, to have a number of concerns which we hope to see you address in the future.

First of all, and again, this is to some extent reiterating the point that we made in our brief in March, we think it is critical that the concerns of Quebec and the first nations, and their timetable, be immediately addressed. For Quebec and the first nations, the constitutional debate has dragged on much too long. At the same time, it is clear that the rest of Canada has not satisfactorily debated its own constitutional agenda, and we think that those two issues and the timetables for them have to be treated separately.

The following is a summary of our concerns for each of the separate timetables, and as I say, I think it will become clear as I go along that we really think the two sets of issues must be treated completely separately.

First of all, Quebec and the first nations: Regarding Quebec we support the position recently adopted by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, which endorses the right of self-determination for Quebec. We think this aspiration can be accommodated in a number of ways, either within or outside of Confederation, and we think that is a matter for the people of Quebec to decide. We do not believe that in a renewed federalism which incorporates Quebec, the powers accorded to Quebec should necessarily be equally accorded to all the other provinces and/or territories. That is, we do conceive of an asymmetrical Canada wherein Quebec's autonomy is assured. Therefore, we do not believe that the question of Quebec's future in Canada should be confused with the issue of maintaining national standards or the roles of federal versus provincial governments as it is in the discussion guide.

Second, with regard to the first nations, we support the position recently adopted by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, which also endorses the right of self-determination for aboriginal peoples. Similarly, we think these aspirations may be accommodated in a variety of ways. It is our view that the specific responses to the questions raised in the discussion paper should be a matter of negotiation between aboriginal peoples and the national, provincial and territorial governments involved.

I think it is fair to say that although we support the right of self-determination, we think it is not our place to say the ways in which that self-determination should be exercised. For a number of those technical issues, we think it needs to be a matter of negotiation.

We support the aspirations of the first nations, whether it be for self-government and/or the settlement of land claims. Should negotiations lead to an integration of aboriginal self-government within Confederation, and we think that is possible, we would support guarantees to political representation and the protection of aboriginal language, heritage and culture, as expressed by their legitimate representatives.

As I indicated, and I think this is probably the first and strongest point we want to make, we think the concerns of Quebec and the first nations need to be dealt with first and separately from concerns, if you like, of the rest of Canada.

Debates of issues such as the maintenance of national standards, the roles of federal and provincial governments, delivery of services, taxation, charter rights, reform of political institutions and so on have barely been discussed, we believe, outside the context of the struggle of Quebec and the first nations for self-determination. We think the rest of Canada must have these debates in a thorough and timely fashion. We do not believe, as I indicated, that they can take place within the same timetable as that for Quebec and the first nations.

At this point we would like to stress our concern, previously expressed to you in the March brief, about the weakness of the process of consultation and the mechanisms for accountability exhibited to date. We have also attached to this brief for your information a letter that was sent to the former Chair and members of the select committee in July regarding the process of consultation.

Particularly since the constitutional debate has been clouded by the imminent concerns of Quebec and the first nations, we do not believe there has been adequate attention paid to formulating the methods of finding out what the rest of the people of Canada want for themselves.

We support the notion of a constituent assembly to express the different aspirations of the people of Canada. The process of constituting such a constituent assembly must also be through a process of careful consultation, in order to allow for each community, and particularly those communities traditionally underrepresented in the political process, to select their own representatives and their own mechanisms for accountability. It is within such a process that we believe many of the questions raised in the discussion paper, such as the Canada clause, multiculturalism, charter rights, national institutions, the role of French and English language and so on, should be answered.

This process will take time, energy and resources. It will not suffice to engage in token hearings or consultations. Instead, it must be recognized that part of the reason certain constituencies, such as women, for example, have had limited participation in such processes is due to an unequal access to resources, and we think it is time now to begin to address that issue.

As far as the aspirations of women are concerned, the Ontario Women's Action Coalition/Coalition des femmes de l'Ontario has already set in motion a process to consult with women from different regions, communities and constituencies in Ontario to begin to address some of these questions and to begin the process of building a consensus on the structure, principles and division of powers needed to ensure women's equality in Canada. This will necessarily take time, but we expect to be able to report in a preliminary way on our own findings by the end of this year.

One thing, though, we feel certain is key for women, and it refers in fact to the announcement last week of the latest Supreme Court ruling on federal Bill C-69. We are quite concerned that women and others will want to know, given that ruling, what real guarantees there are in a constitutional process or in a legislative agreement on their rights within society.

We thank you for your attention to our presentation and we would now be quite happy to hear your comments and answer your questions.

The Acting Chair (Mrs Y. O'Neill): Thank you so much for bringing us up to date on your work. It sounds like you have really dug your heels in and that you are going to continue to communicate with us, and I hope you will do that.

Mr Curling: I want to say thank you too for your presentation. One of the concerns I have been hearing in regard to the women's movement is that certain women's groups feel excluded from the overall women's movement, so to say. They feel that, surging along in this process, they may be left out. I just want to ask you, have you heard those kinds of concerns and rumours too?


Ms Lorenzo: Certainly, and it is something we are quite aware of and conscious of in our own organization, and that is why we think it is very important that the select committee, as well as any other governmental committees looking into matters that affect the people of Ontario, take special attention with representation. It is not enough to say we are here representing the women of Ontario. There are other organizations that represent different sectors of women: the Coalition of Visible Minority Women, Disabled Women's Action and so on.

I think that the more you examine this issue, the more you see that it is also a question of resources. Women are held back by limited resources, but women of colour are held back even more, and disabled women even more. So I think there is a question and almost, if you like, a degree of access to political institutions that needs to be remedied in order for people to feel comfortable that this is a process they can identify with. So, yes, we think it is a very important issue.

Mr Curling: The reason I raise this issue is that some of the concerns and some of the struggles that the women's movements are putting forward are the present form now, some of the women of colour, as we put that, or who say the women are fighting what they said a long time ago. In other words, they were the women who had the single families and therefore the fact is that seemed to be put on the back burner itself. The movement itself has not come out and carried that forward as a primary cause, a primary struggle within that group. My point is -- and I want to bring it back to the Constitution -- they felt that they would then have to wait.

The same concern is being voiced in the French-speaking area, where the French struggle of language and all that seems to be the Franco-Ontarians or the Quebec French. They feel that that struggle should come forth and then the other French-speaking people's struggles will come after.

I know it is rather complex how I put it, but do you see, as I said, that primarily what we put forward are those struggles that are ahead and should be put forth much more strongly so they feel inclusive or a part of the overall struggle of the women's movement, like a French movement too, or the French-language struggles?

Ms Lorenzo: I can answer that. I am not sure how it relates to the constitutional question. I mean, if you are asking me how the women's movement is constructed --

Mr Curling: They feel it was a move forward, but their struggles will not be included, and we are talking about the Constitution where we get all the people involved. Would their concern be carried along?

Ms Lorenzo: I think so. This is why we are in favour of actually a constituent assembly that attempts to represent as many people as possible, and not only different people but different concerns that the same person might have. We are quite in favour of a very representative group being constituted and time being allocated to find it, find those representatives. We believe the communities themselves should choose them and that there should be also mechanisms of accountability.

I mean, maybe part of what you are saying is, "Who do you represent and where do you go back to account?" We think it is very important that different sectors select their own representatives, but also mechanisms of accountability and feedback, so that if there becomes a problem where they do not feel represented, they have the power to take a person back and replace him or her with somebody who does represent them.

This is what we are trying to say. We think there has to be a lot more time and resources allocated to the whole question of the different interests and concerns that people in Canada have, because it is a very complex nation in that sense.

What we feel, I guess, is that because of the specific nature of Quebec and because of the specific nature of first nations, they have had the time to discuss so that they can come to a fairly large amount of consensus and we do not feel the rest of Canada has gone through that process.

Mr Harnick: I am interested in your belief that there are some priorities here. The issues dealing with Quebec and with the first nations have to be resolved first before we can move on and start looking at the myriad of other issues and other interest groups who have a position that they want resolved.

The position you have enunciated in your brief is really contrary to everything we have heard from groups that have appeared before us. Everybody seems to believe that this round of the Constitution has to solve all the problems. Certainly, I have been finding, and I suspect many of my colleagues on this committee have been finding, that having so many issues before us is making this task very, very difficult. How can we articulate, if we so desire as a committee, the idea of doing this on a priority basis such as you have set out without offending all the other people who feel strongly about other issues?

Ms Lorenzo: We believe that because of the specific nature of Quebec and of the first nations, they in fact have a high degree of consensus in that society. By saying there is this priority we are saying we recognize they have the right to decide for themselves -- that all we have to decide in this committee, for example, is to give them that right and to go with whatever they decide. We cannot say this is where Quebec belongs. Quebec has to say where Quebec belongs and how its relationship is defined.

So, in a sense, it is not that you are going to settle it for Quebec. It is that you are going to settle your participation in it by saying, "We accept your right to self-determination." It is then up to the people of Quebec to take as much time as they like or they need. However, we do not feel the same situation exists in the rest of Canada. We think the rest of Canada is bound by a common structure where there has not been a chance for exchange. We think more time is needed for that. In other words, we think the decision to say that aboriginal peoples and Quebec can decide for themselves is a simple one and therefore it does not take a lot of time. Furthermore, we believe they are alone in that determination.

Mr White: Thank you very much for your presentation. Some of the points I find to be very surprising, particularly those regarding recognition of Quebec and its distinct rights as a province.

Certainly, during the imbroglio that led up to last year's failure, there was a great deal of conversation about if Quebec's rights were recognized. Perhaps that would mean that the rights of the minorities in Quebec or the rights of equality-seeking groups such as your own in Quebec would also suffer. I thought you raised that point and dealt with it very well. As you were saying, it is in Quebec in fact where some of these issues have been dealt with much better than perhaps in the rest of Canada.

I am most interested in the question of what a women's group such as your own would like to see in the Constitution. You mentioned access to political institutions. You talked about the process of constitutional change. But I am also interested in equality-seeking. How that could be strengthened in a constitutional frame? You mentioned at the very end of your presentation the recent ruling on Bill C-69 and the impact it would have on women. I am wondering if you could expand a bit on what you would like to see in the Constitution.


Ms Lorenzo: We think a lot of consultation has to go on still. As a fairly new group, we secured the resources to have some of these consultations among our own constituency. But as I think we say in the brief, and I want to emphasize, we feel women will be very concerned that if we engage in a lot of struggle to get different aspects of the Constitution strengthened for women's benefit, we want to know what guarantees there are that they cannot simply be overturned by a new government or a provincial government with a notwithstanding clause, etc. So one very key thing is that in the process of doing this we need to be assured that it is going to be worth while and that a new Parliament does not come along and basically say, well, we won't abide by this because of this or that reason.

These are concerns that women have addressed in the context, for instance, of Meech Lake and also the free trade agreement and so on. We concerned about securing certain equality rights in the Constitution that cannot be abrogated by future governments, that are guaranteed rights. That is one concern we have and is perhaps something new to our country because we have very special constitutional arrangements. In some ways this is creating something for the future.

Obviously, even if we have enshrined legal rights, how women can claim them is affected by their socioeconomic position. So we are considering in our debates with women how, for instance, we want to have economic guarantees to access our legal rights. Those are the kind of things we are looking at in consultations we will be conducting in our constituency from now to December. One of our principal concerns is to be sure that what we can win from governments will be ours to keep.

Mr White: So, you are looking --

The Acting Chair: Mr White, I am afraid we have to move on. We have quite a number of people on the list. Mrs O'Neill.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I really want to thank you. This is refreshing. It is compelling. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women, I think, did outstanding consultative work. As you know, they did send a representative here, and I was deeply impressed that afternoon with the quantity and the quality of it that had gone on with the women of Quebec. That really is the only way to understand. Certainly the previous presenter stated that. The only way for us to really understand what the question is, is to consult with those people who are posing the question.

I just wanted to tell you that I hope you have been watching, and if not that, reading our Hansard. I think you, and all women -- and I do not often make the distinction -- should be very proud of the expert women who have come before this committee in this second round of our hearings. Whether it was aboriginal, whether it is economic, whether it is language, we have had some outstanding presenters. This committee, with intent, tried to balance the presentations so as to be very conscious of the reflection of Ontario as it exists and the demographics as they exist.

I hope that you will be present in numbers at our conference in mid-October and that by then you will have done some of the work. I think the direction of the work you are taking is certainly the correct direction. I hope that your brief will be heard because I think the previous presenter, who certainly seems to have a feel for what is going on in the country, challenged us -- and that is the first time we have been challenged and it is not an easy challenge for parliamentarians -- to be humble. Certainly to solve the problems that you have presented as priorities does require humility on the part of a lot of Canadians.

Mr Malkowski: Thank you for your presentation. It was very clear. I wanted to ask about the concept of a constituent assembly. What is your sense and what does it mean to you if you have native people and women's groups, or disabled women, or visible minority women, or different groups sitting as representative; and then the same would apply for the native groups as well -- that you would have different representation to each of those kinds of constituent assemblies. Is that what you are talking about in your paper?

Ms Lorenzo: Yes. Unlike the constituent assembly, as I understood it to be presented in the interim report where it did seem to still take the route of elected representatives electing other representatives from provincial sectors, we understand constituent assembly to be something quite different. We are conscious it would take not only time and resources but a lot of creative energy to come up with a good one. But we think it is worth while that different constituencies, such as those you have enumerated, be able to elect their own representatives to represent their concerns and also select their own mechanisms of accountability so there is a way that the representative comes back to the community and gets feedback and goes back and so on and so forth. So we think it is a new thing, but a very worthwhile thing that would democratize the whole procedure.

One thing we have been concerned about is that, during all these processes for constitutional reform, it has not really been very democratic; like the previous speaker said, there has to be a lot more reaching out to people and trusting them, and maybe part of that has to be that some of this consultation and exchange go on, not just in legislative committees, but within popular groups that represent those sectors, in local communities -- organized by the local communities themselves, and so on. So, we really believe a lot of time and attention is needed to come up with very many different ways for people to express themselves and feel they have really had a hand in creating a new constitution that will represent them.

Mrs Mathyssen: Thank you for coming to our committee. One thing that struck me was your reference at the end of your report to Bill C-69 and the Supreme Court ruling there. Since that ruling I have read a number of things and there has been quite naturally a wide variety of reaction to the ramifications of that Supreme Court ruling. Could you comment on what you perceive to be the ramifications for women and others and what the constitutional ramifications of that will be?

Ms Lorenzo: I am going to ask Janet to take this one because she is a lot more expert on it.

Ms Maher: I think there are a number of things. Traditionally, even though we talk about needing to have a whole lot more consultation about what women want, what women need and so on, I think it is fairly clear, through all the work of women's groups across the country since the war at least -- and that would be an experience that I might be able to talk about -- women have favoured a strong central government because, in general, their economic vulnerability has made them need to have more access to social programs and so on and so forth.

I think what we have witnessed over the last eight, 10 years -- since about the Breau report, 1983 -- is successive federal governments devolving responsibilities to the provinces. I guess there are a number of things: We do not think, just because services are delivered at a provincial level or even at a municipal level, that necessarily means the provinces should come up with the money for them. As a matter of fact, I think even in Ontario, the Premier last week, when he talked about the decision, talked about the fact that Ontario contributes, through its tax revenue, some 45% of the money that goes into social programs while taking back only 30% of it. I think we have been happy in Ontario with that for a long time because our recognition is that we are not just here for the people of Ontario; we are here for the people of Canada.

The big problem with that C-69 decision, I think, was that it removes predictability. Although we understand -- and certainly over the period since the war governments have looked at revisions of federal-provincial arrangements, cost-sharing arrangements or funding arrangements that relate particularly to social programs, and there may be some need for changing those. But the point of C-69 -- that one could unilaterally change it -- means that the kind of predictability that would allow a provincial government to shift its tax and revenue-collecting measures to be able to take care of that withdrawal in the federal sector, is abrogated. You find yourself in a situation like last spring, for instance, when the province, responding to the needs of women and other people who are economically vulnerable, said it would support the social programs and incur a deficit in order to do it. Had there even been a year or a couple of years of co-ordinating those kinds of things, I think (a) the deficit problem would have been a whole lot different, and (b) we would not been left with that bad taste in our mouths about the poor people of Ontario being centred out in the way they were by this particular decision.

The Acting Chair: I want to thank you very much for your answers to the questions by members of the committee. Thank you also for your presentation before the committee. We really appreciate your coming and taking the time to present it to us today.

Ms Maher: Can I just say one word? I think the experience of the women's movement in addressing these issues has actually been quite interesting. It has taken us a number of years, probably the three or four years that I have had direct contact with the National Action Committee, to come to the kind of position that Barbara Cameron talked about when she came here a few weeks ago and I think there are lessons to be learned. We hope we will be able to kind of work with other constituency groups to see that happens.

The Acting Chair: Thank you. That ends our committee hearings for today. I would ask members of the subcommittee to stay for a short meeting, if they could. Mr Malkowski, if you could help by taking Mr Bisson's place, that would be helpful. Until tomorrow at 10 o'clock in the morning, this committee stands adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1552.