Canadian Unity
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Oct 1964, p. 35-46
Pearson, The Right Honourable Lester B., Speaker
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The need to have institutions and procedures and symbols to emphasize our Canadian status, our separate identity as a nation. The traditional and the national factors in Canada's development. A few observations about the recent visit of the Queen to Canada. Some threats associated with that visit and how that was handled. Solving the problem of unity. Agreement of two matters of historic significance, at a recent Federal-Provincial Conference: to set up a tax structure committee, and a formula to repatriate the Constitution of Canada. Some words and beliefs of the speaker to show how he feels about Canada. Understanding Canada to realize its destiny. Maintaining national and political unity to be the primary objective of all the governments at all levels and all the people of Canada.
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15 Oct 1964
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Full Text
OCTOBER 15, 1964
Canadian Unity
AN ADDRESS BY The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, P.C., O.B.E., M.A., LL.D., PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA
CHAIRMAN, The President,
Lt. Col. Robert H. Hilborn


The career and achievements of our distinguished guest and speaker provide ample material for a glowing and lengthy tribute, but they are so well known that a summary will conjure up the whole.

A scholar, graduated by the University of Toronto and St. John's College, Oxford, where he played hockey and lacrosse-and now holder of over forty honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the world; a lecturer and historian at Varsity, where he coached football and hockey and played baseball; a diplomat, whose genius in the art of the possible has long been recognized in the capitals of the world. As Secretary of State for External Affairs he won wide admiration as Canada's spokesman at the United Nations where his name is still honoured and his presence warmly welcomed. For his constructive achievement as architect of the plans for an emergency force in the Middle East in 1956, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.

Some months ago, disregarding party affiliation, he brought honour to our Club, to my predecessor and to Canada in his appointment of the Hon. Roland Michener as High Commissioner for Canada in India. A well-bestowed favour that is an honour to him who conferred it as it is to him who received it.

I know, Sir, that I speak for all of us here in saying that we have been conscious of, and sympathetic with, the recent problems and strains of your high office. We join in rejoicing, as you must have done, that the real heart of Canada was deeply touched by the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, the centre of our democratic freedom. The New York Times said some years ago that "In Britain and in the Commonwealth the robes of monarchy have become the habits of democracy". We have been recently reminded that it was a distinguished French-speaking Canadian Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent, who, in 1953, witnessed the Queen's signature and approved her new Canadian title: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

During the past week I have been mindful of certain of your concomitant concerns relating to the Royal Visit, and I imagine that as the diamonds sparkled in the Royal tiara, your thoughts wandered to far away and foreign fields and to other diamonds in New York and St. Louis. There was also the domestic struggle you were obliged to miss involving Ottawa and Hamilton about which perhaps the less said the better. Having in mind your diplomatic distinction I thought of another great contribution you might have made, had fate dealt differently, as I watched in the dramatic tenth inning of the fifth game on Monday as Mr. Berra, in his determined way, unsuccessfully attempted to conduct negotiations with Mr. Al Smith, the arbiter at first base.

Provided that it is not subject to misunderstanding, I would say that even those who sometimes disagree with certain of your policies and proposals see you as a man of zeal -or perhaps I should say "unflagging zeal".

Mr. Prime Minister, we salute your courage, particularly in the sense that Hemingway defined courage as "grace under pressure", and your self-deprecating citizenship ofthe world in which you live and to which you have made such a great and lasting contribution. Gentlemen, The Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada.


I am very happy to be here. I see a lot of old friends around me and in front of me and I would like, if I might, Mr. President, to follow your example and single out one, whom we are all so delighted to have with us today, and that is Colonel Sam (R. S. McLaughlin). He's a man who makes us younger chaps seem much older.

I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your refreshing introduction, original and refreshing. But I refuse to follow your invitation to deal with the unflagging controversy.

I am very conscious, Mr. President, of the fact that in other circumstances I might have been introduced by my old friend, Roly Michener, and I hope-in fact I know-you have forgiven me for taking him away from you and indeed from Toronto.

In my job there are a great many appointments to be made. Some of them are pleasant and easy; some of them are pleasant and difficult; some of them are just difficult; but none has given me greater pleasure, greater satisfaction, than the invitation to Roly Michener to abandon private life and take on a very heavy and important responsibility as Canada's representative in a part of the world where our relations are becoming increasingly significant.

I was happy to do this because he was so well qualified for' this, as he has shown himself to be so well qualified for other important jobs. The fact that he belonged, unfortu nately, to the other party wasn't nearly as important as the fact that we used to play hockey together. As a matter of fact neither fact had anything to do with this particular appointment.

Mr. President, I feel it a privilege to be addressing the Empire Club today, addressing an organization which by its name and by its history reminds us in this country of our heritage. It is an asset to a young, relatively young and developing country, to have organizations, to have institutions, and indeed to have symbols that underline the continuity of our history and the depth of our roots. I believe it also essential to have institutions and procedures and symbols to emphasize our Canadian status, our separate identity as a nation. Things that will stimulate our pride in Canada and things Canadian.

These two factors, the traditional and the national in our development should and can compliment and strengthen each other. But there are those who wish to make them, or seem to wish to make them, irreconcilable. I am very conscious of the fact and I am sure you are, because of the events of the last ten days, that these two factors in our national development are complimented and mutually strengthened in a happy way in a Queen who is the Queen of Canada and the Head of a Commonwealth, the heart of which remains Great Britain.

I am prompted on this occasion to make a few observations about the recent visit with which, because of my office, I was closely associated -a visit which gave me, as I am sure it gave millions of Canadians, the greatest pleasure and a feeling of privilege for having the Queen in Canada. A visit which was initiated some two years ago, when it was thought fitting and indeed it was fitting to invite the Queen and her consort to come to Canada to take part in the celebration of events which I believe were worthy of the Royal Presence, the two Conferences of 1864, a hundred years ago, in Charlottetown and in Quebec City, which led to our Confederation.

The invitations were extended at a time when conditions were a little easier in one part of the country to be visited, than they have been in recent months. And because of un happy developments in recent months I, as the head of the government, was under some worry and anxiety and indeed, pressure-whether to put this off and advise that it should be cancelled or not. The pressure came from a few extremists in one part of Canada. And I believe, the more so now that the visit is over, that the purpose of their crude pressuresand I was subjected to them-the very purpose of this pressure was to get the government to cancel the visit. And that would have been a great triumph for them, if it had been cancelled, and would have given them a prestige and authority in their own area which they didn't deserve and shouldn't have.

These threats were made the more significant and, I believe, the more dangerous by the publicity that they received, some of which, I think, was excessive and exaggerated and was just what they wanted. And we read, all of us, phrases such as-"subjecting Her Majesty to awful risks", "slighting the danger", "Is Quebec to be another Dallas?" All that kind of thing which was bound to stir up public opinion, which was what they wanted-the extremists. And I reaffirm that to cancel the visit in the face of threats of that kind would have been their triumph and our humiliation.

It is a fact-an unhappy fact-that the alarm that was created by this agitation and these threats did require unprecedented security measures. This was the kind of situation that those responsible for security couldn't win. If the security was excessive they lost; and if security was not adequate they lost.

It's interesting to me -I say this in no unduly critical way -but it's interesting to me to read that among those who are now complaining most vigorously against the excess of security measures, are those who in some cases brought about by their own words and their own actions a feeling of insecurity which made, if you like, the excessive security measures seem advisable.

When I was in Charlottetown, where everything was very peaceful and serene, as you would expect on Prince Edward Island, especially on the occasion of a Royal visit, there were a great many reporters there, and of course some of them came from outside the country. And those from outside the country particularly, I think, had been perhaps misled a bit by some of the publicity they read in their own countries, and a Canadian columnist was down there-and some of you may have read his column-writing on the eve of the visit had this to say: "One American reporter, captivated by the Island's serenity, was heard to comment that if he wrote about things as they actually are on the eve of the visit his editors wouldn't believe it, much less print it. So he was trying to get himself into the mood to write a tense piece and finally he talked himself into it."

The Royal visit gave us an opportunity, an opportunity of which we will take advantage, unanimously, I believe, in the House of Commons, by resolution. It gave us an oppor tunity to express the loyalty, the affection and the respect of all true Canadians for the person and the office of Her Majesty. But it also underlined in a particularly unhappy way-indeed in a humiliating way-that there is a small minority in one part of Canada that would divide and destroy our nation. This minority, this small minority, violent and provocative minority, must be overwhelmed by the expressed and demonstrated loyalty of Canadians, Englishspeaking and French-speaking, to Canada, to its institutions of which the monarchy is a cherished and honoured part, and to its unity.

The problem of unity has now been dramatically put before us and it must be solved. And in solving it, the mass of the people must not be blackmailed or held for ransom by any small and violent minority. I firmly believe and I know you will join me in this belief, that such a small minority does not express the views of the people of the Province in which it is centred.

Let me read you, and you will be surprised at me using this gentleman as an authority for the arguments I am trying to make. Let me read you what the leader of the Creditistes, Mr. Real Caouette, said yesterday in the House of Commons. And Mr. Caouette will never be accused of slavish support for the British connection or of the institutions we inherited from that connection or to be anything but a strong Quebec and French-speaking nationalist.

But Mr. Caouette said this, and I am quoting-I don't think I've ever done this before in a speech outside Ottawa -I mean, quoting from Hansard, let alone quoting Mr. Caouette- And now, as we say in the House of Commons, on page 9025-that shows how much talking they do in Ottawa-page 9025 of Hansard for August 14th. The member from Villeneuve was recognized by the Speaker and had this to say-and I am only quoting one or two sentences from what he said.

"Her Majesty," said Mr. Caouette, "being the guest of the Quebec government, no one has the right to insult her, even under the guise of separatism. The freedom, or licence, demanded by some of our fellow citizens would surely be the last thing that they would grant to others if they were in power." And, he went on: "Her Majesty is for us"-this is Mr. Caouette speaking-"Her Majesty is for us a symbol of a way of life which enabled us to grow by our own means and according to our own wishes. If it be true that unity is strength, it is time for us to achieve it in mutual respect. And we French Canadians of the Province of Quebec have undeniable rights, but in addition to those rights, which we claim, we also have duties to fulfill toward ourselves and for others. It is not in anarchy that we will succeed, but in mutual trust and understanding. Those were, Mr. Speaker," Mr. Caouette concluded, "the few ideas I wanted to express at the close of a Royal visit which I believe will serve to let reason enter into circles where everything seems so confused." I think those words of Mr. Caouette are abundant justification for the Royal visit in spite of some of the unhappy episodes that took place on certain occasions.

In addition to Mr. Caouette's statement and the statements of Mr. Diefenbaker and Mr. Martin and other leaders in the House of Commons yesterday, there was something else that happened in Ottawa, related to what I have been talking about, that gives us grounds for satisfaction and encouragement as Canadians. We had a Federal-Provincial Conference at which all the heads of the provincial governments were present and some of my colleagues and myself, and within the space of a few hours we came to unanimous agreement, on two matters which I think are of historic significance in the development of our country.

We have been plagued in this country-as indeed we were bound to be plagued-as every federation is plaguedwith problems arising out of the financial relationships of the provinces and the federal government, and how to meet these problems in a way that will maintain the strength that the central government must have, and yet, make the kind of adjustments to provincial needs and provincial requirements that the provincial governments must have through the resources available to them, if they are to meet their obligations, and discharge their duties.

It won't be long now, before, in a few years, we will have to face a renewal or readjustment or alteration or abandonment of the tax arrangements which have been made some years ago with the Provinces, and yesterday we agreed unanimously, in Ottawa, to set up a tax structure committee. The terms of reference are very important, such as to enable us to work together, provincially and federally; to work out new tax deals; a new relationship between the federal and provincial governments which will reconcile the two things I have just mentioned, which exist in our federation.

We were all very heartened by that development in the morning. And then in the afternoon, after two or three hours of discussion, on a report -a unanimous report-from the Attorneys General of the Provinces and the Minister of Justice, who presided over the meeting of the federal government, again, we agreed unanimously on a formula to repatriate the Constitution of Canada -a formula-and I am now reading from the communique, which when it becomes lawand it will become'law shortly-and all the Provinces will subscribe to it. It will mean that any future amendment to our own Constitution will be made in Canada, instead of by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which has been doing this job for us for too long. That, by the way, isn't in the communique. And not through their fault but through our fault. As a result, the communique went on to say, our Constitution becomes, for the first time in the history of Canada, truly and wholly Canadian.

And this is a milestone, in the evolution of our constitutional development and it is a culmination of a series of discussions over the years between the federal and provincial governments, brought to a very happy conclusion yesterday. A conclusion which will provide for the Provinces, having the responsibility for changing the Constitution with federal co-operation in respect to those items which concern them; for the federal government having the responsibility for changing matters in the Constitution which concerns it; and in respect to those matters, and there are an increasing group of questions, where the provincial and the federal governments have a joint interest, we have agreed on a formula for change in the Constitution to be made in Canada, if the proposed changes are passed by the Parliament of Canada with the concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Provinces, having at least fifty percent of the population of Canada.

I think we can take a great deal of satisfaction out of this. I think we can take even more satisfaction out of the way this agreement was reached, the spirit, if you will let me use the phrase, of co-operative federalism, which was shown in coming to that agreement.

We realize, of course, that in a Constitution in a country like Canada, in a federation like Canada, nothing should be fixed. There should be as much flexibility as possible. We realize it may have to be changed in the future. Constitutions should adapt themselves to growing countries, growing peoples and differing constitutional requirements. And so, we put in at the end of our communique: "The FederalProvincial Conference agreed that the Government of Canada and the Governments of the Provinces would from time to time study, in the light of experience, the working of the Canadian Constitution and any revisions which may be submitted by any of the governments."

This was an encouraging day. It was a great day for our country and all the provincial heads of governments felt that as I felt it. We left the Conference this morning after our final meeting convinced and encouraged that we can work together, federally and provincially, to build this country into the great nation that it is bound to be, if we wish it to be.

I was sitting down the other night, trying to think of what I should say today and to put down some of my thoughts in writing, as to how I felt about Canada at this difficult and troubling time and yet stimulating and inspiring time in our history, too. And this is my creed and my belief in our country. I believe in our country as you believe in it. I honour its past and I have faith in its future. I reject the views of those men of little faith and mean spirit who by their pessimism about our future, diminish our present and betray our past.

No country in the world is so envied and with such good reason to be envied, as Canada. If you want to get evidence of that, travel abroad. No country has a greater destiny ahead of it, if we wish to make it so. Other countries would be very happy if they had not only the reality of our present but the promise of our future. Nothing can prevent us becoming one of the world's great nations except international chaos and the ultimate catastrophe of nuclear war. We have a part, but only a relatively modest part to play in Canada, in preventing that tragedy. Or, secondly, our own failure to meet the tests and exploit the opportunities that face us-the test of unity and the opportunity of national growth. And this is entirely our own responsibility and no one else's.

Canada, however, will not realize its destiny unless we understand the nature of our nation-its origins, its history, its problems, its possibilities.

When I had the honour of speaking to a combined meeting of The Empire Club and The Canadian Club just almost a year ago-and I think it was in this room -I said to the Clubs then, "There must be a determination to understand the real nature of Canada and the forces eroding that nature; to recognize the peril of serious internal divisions; to recognize also the competition of the changing world community and the competitive world markets; to realize the opportunity of national strength through unity and the fatal weakness of division and discord." And that certainly remains true today.

Geographically, we are satisfactorily huge but in economic terms, we are merely a long narrow ribbon clinging to our United States boundary. We must widen that ribbon by pushing development northward and bringing in the people and the capital which can make that push possible. Yet it must be essentially a Canadian development under Canadian control. These are things we have to reconcile in government and in business; insistence on Canadian nationalism not being allowed to obscure the necessity for cultivating the best possible relations with other countries, especially the United States and our two mother countries, Britain and France. No country depends more on other countries for prosperity, and indeed even for survival, than Canada. And the lesson of that is obvious. You don't fight the hands that are helping to feed you.

We must also understand the constitutional and racial structure of our country, and the implications of that structure on our political development. Canada is a federation of Provinces based on two founding peoples, English-speaking and French-speaking, but which has subsequently developed as a multi-racial society. Canadian national unity, which is essential, rests on the recognition and the acceptance of this dualism in our origin and this diversity of our development. This dualism must not, however, be permitted to weaken or destroy us. It can be made to strengthen our nation. Canada is and must remain a sovereign political entity. In that' sense it is and it must remain one nation! Let there be no misunderstanding on this score.

Inside this entity, however, there is a French-speaking element which socially, culturally and historically has the nature of a national community, with the Province of Quebec as its heart and its centre. Now that fact must also be recognized, as must the fact of national unity be recognizednational unity politically and national unity before the world. And to maintain that unity, on the basis that I have just mentioned, must be the primary objective of all the governments, at- all levels and all the people of Canada. This doesn't imply subordination in any way of provincial rights, or the alienation of provincial authority. Far from it. It does require a government at the centre, strong enough to serve Canada as a whole. Its full realization demands a strong Canadian identity with the national spirit and the national pride that will sustain and strengthen that identity. To strengthen national unity then, the Federal Government and the Governments of the Provinces must use all the means at their disposal. They must, in particular, endeavour to further and deepen among all citizens and individuals and members of associations and communities, the understanding of and the support for the principles on which the Canadian confederation is based. All Canadians must actively support it as a matter of individual responsibility, because after all, it all goes down to the individual citizen.

So all Canadians as individuals must support policies designed to promote national confidence, national unity, national identity and national purpose. A national purpose which does not betray our past, but does not permit our past always to determine our future. Again, it's a question of the reconciliation of these two foundations for national development. A policy which will keep our nation and our union strong, keep our federation healthy and keep our country united as one country before the world.


Thanks of this meeting were expressed by Mr. Arthur Langley, President of The Empire Club, during our Diamond Jubilee Year.

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Canadian Unity

The need to have institutions and procedures and symbols to emphasize our Canadian status, our separate identity as a nation. The traditional and the national factors in Canada's development. A few observations about the recent visit of the Queen to Canada. Some threats associated with that visit and how that was handled. Solving the problem of unity. Agreement of two matters of historic significance, at a recent Federal-Provincial Conference: to set up a tax structure committee, and a formula to repatriate the Constitution of Canada. Some words and beliefs of the speaker to show how he feels about Canada. Understanding Canada to realize its destiny. Maintaining national and political unity to be the primary objective of all the governments at all levels and all the people of Canada.