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SCHREY80.L10 = Letter to Schreyer, Trudeau and Romanow; 1980-11-10

                                         Box 15,
                                         Eldoe's Mobile Home Park,
                                         Grande Prairie, Alberta. 
                                         November 10, 1980        

Ed Schreyer, Governor General of Canada,
Parliament of Canada,
Ottawa, Ontario.

Pierre E. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada,
Parliament of Canada,
Ottawa, Ontario.

Roy Romanow, Attorney General of Saskatchewan,
(Provincial Representative on the Constitution),
Saskatchewan Legislature,
Regina, Saskatchewan.

Dear Sirs:
I have been following the constitutional debate with growing apprehension. Throughout the summer of 1980 there was a series of meetings of ministers of the various provinces and the federal government. Substantial progress was reported. Next, the premiers of the various provinces and the prime minister of Canada met at a constitutional conference, in Winnipeg. Violent disagreement on several subjects was reported. Lastly, the federal government has set the wheels in motion to make amendments to and patriate the Constitution "unilaterally".

To me, a constitution is a document drawn up by the people of a country defining the rules by which they wish to live. It defines the structure and roles of the institutions which are to implement the wishes of the collective. In a federal system this would include the structure and definition of powers of the federal and provincial governments and could include municipal governments as well.

It must be re-emphasized that in a democracy, such as Canada, the structure and powers of governments are defined by the people via the constitution. It follows that, in a democracy, governments may not change the constitution; only the people can. A country where governments change their powers unilaterally ceases to be a democracy.

Over the past several years it has become obvious that the present BNA Act is ill-suited to serve the needs of modern Canada. The present controversy over oil-pricing provides glaring evidence of this. Since the election of the Parti Quebecois, in 1976, and the Quebec referendum, in 1980, there has been a growing consensus that substantial revisions to the Canadian Constitution are necessary. Some bold initiatives in this direction have been proposed by the Task Force on Canadian Unity. In particular, the suggestion of a house of Regional Representation to replace the Senate appears appropriate at this time.

Before proceeding, I would like to deal with two fallacies which appear to be in vogue at present:

     Both federal and provincial politicians have recently
     intimated that even the concept of a referendum in the
     constitutional context is bad. Apparently, they fear
     manipulation by the other level of government or that this
     may mobilize separatist forces within the Country. I wish to
     point out that only by means of a referendum could a new
     constitution be made binding upon the people. I, personally,
     would feel morally obligated to disobey or ignore any
     constitutional legislation imposed upon me by the state
     without my consent. In addition, I would not recognize the
     right of the state to penalize me on this account.

     Secondly, I feel that "patriation" of the BNA Act is a red
     herring. It is not really necessary to patriate the
     constitution. One could just as easily, and perhaps more
     logically, write a totally new constitution. Once this
     constitution were ratified by the people of each individual
     province and territory, the old BNA Act would lapse. No one
     questions the validity of the Constitution of the United
     States of America and I do not believe that its constitution
     was ever patriated from Britain.
Who, then, should be in charge of formulating a new constitution? Certainly, it should not be any elected member of parliament or member of the legislature since they are directly involved in running the country and would, thus, be in a "conflict of interest" position. They can provide comments and advice but they must not be in a decision-making position.

The logical personage to head the constitutional question is the Governor General of Canada. As head of the country, he represents every Canadian and, yet, being divorced from the executive, he has no vested interest in political power. His counterparts on the provincial level are the respective Lieutenant Governors.

The Governor General, in co-operation with the Lieutenant Governors, would be responsible for the establishment of National and Provincial Constitutional Councils which would set out the goals, terms of reference and time table for the new (or amended) Constitution. Members of the Councils would be chosen from as wide a cross-section of Canadian society as possible. In addition, on the National level, international experts under the auspices of the United Nations could be invited.

Within each province and territory, interested groups would register with the appropriate Constitutional Council indicating their desire to make submissions. A minimum of, say, 1000 adherents would be required for each group to qualify to make an official submission. This would encourage each group to discuss and promote its view as widely as possible. On its part, the Council would advise these groups as to appropriate format, content and timing. Each Provincial Council would synthesize these submissions and prepare a provincial submission to the National Council. The National Council would prepare the new (or amended) Constitution to be ratified by the Canadian people.

If this plan could be set into motion by early 1981, an Interim Constitution could be in place by the summer of 1983. Thereafter, the Constitution would be re-worked and re-ratified every twenty years or so as a matter of principle. Amendments would be made more frequently if, and as, required.

I am addressing this letter to the three people who can, most logically, facilitate the implementation of the above proposals. Such implementation would diffuse a highly dangerous confrontation between the federal and provincial governments by removing the main protagonists from the centre of the debate. Democratic principles shall be re-enforced by encouraging Canadians in every part of the country to become involved in establishing the ground rules of their society. Finally, precedents as to appropriate procedures for future changes and/or amendments to the Constitution will have been set.

I hope that you will discuss these proposals with the seriousness with which they have been written. I expect a response from you, gentlemen, either individually or collectively, and would be more than happy to expound upon my proposals further.

Yours very truly,
William W. Zuzak

SCHREY80.L10 = Letter to Schreyer, Trudeau and Romanow; 1980-11-10
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