- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Apr 1981, p. 339-355
- Lynch, Charles, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Personal anecodes and reminiscences since Mr. Lynch's last speech 24 years ago. A current analysis of Canada and Canadians as seen through those historical and political events. Concerns and issues include the constitution, the monarchy, the Supreme Court of Canada, Quebec, federalism.
- Date of Original
- 9 Apr 1981
- Language of Item
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- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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- Full Text
- APRIL 9, 1981
How Stands Our Home and Native Land?
AN ADDRESS BY Charles Lynch, POLITICAL ANALYST
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald Stackhouse
The President welcomed His Grace, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord Donald Coggan, former Archbishop of Canterbury.
Your Grace, ladies and gentlemen, not only is the medium the message, media messengers are now part of the message. Journalists not only re port the news, they make it. Commentators, analysts, pundits have become public persons in their own right, each adding a unique factor to the report he narrates.
Thus the name of Walter Cronkite was almost as well known as any he included in his nightly newscasts. In Canada that is also true of Charles Lynch, the dean of the Ottawa press gallery and our distinguished speaker today. His written reports of Parliament have been circulated from coast to coast, and his television probing of the latest political developments have added to this national reputation. Their unique blend of realism and whimsy, depth analysis and folksy humour, hard-nosed expertise and warm-hearted concern have made the messenger part of the message. Charles Lynch has achieved this stature by a professional commitment to his journalistic craft. Raised in Saint John, New Brunswick--where many a great Canadian has started--he has spent his entire working life in journalism.
During World War II he served as a war correspondent in Europe, and then as a foreign correspondent in South America and later at the United Nations. He became chief of the Ottawa bureau for Southam News Services in 1958, and in the succeeding twenty-three years his reports and analyses of current events have become part of the Canadian scene.
The high esteem in which he is held is evident from such honours as the presidency of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, an honorary doctorate from Mount Allison University, the Bowater Award, the National Newspaper Award and the Order of Canada.
His many interests include fishing, skiing and playing the harmonica in a jazz band. He does not have his instrument with him.
Your Grace, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to present Mr. Charles Lynch.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I don't know whether to be more impressed by the presence of the former Archbishop of Canterbury or by the present president of the Southam Company. Each of them puts me ill at ease in his own way, and each validly so. This is going to be a bigger day in my life than I had anticipated.
The presence of the former Archbishop of Canterbury reminds me of the time I was in Winnipeg when the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, was there. He's the one with eyebrows. I was dining at the Factor's Table at the Fort Garry Hotel and I asked the maitre d', "How does it feel to have the Archbishop of Canterbury in your hotel?" He said, "I sure hope he isn't a phony."
Now, if you remember Michael Ramsey, he looked like the Archbishop of Canterbury even in a sauna bath.
"How could he be a phony?" I asked.
He said, "The last archbishop we had here was a phony. He was one of those Greek fellows, the ones with the whiskers and the funny hats. He was in the hotel for two months. He had his birthday here, and we made a big birthday cake for him. He came out to the kitchen and blessed it, and then we gave a piece to everybody there. It was fantastic. Then he checked out and all his credit cards bounced."
That man took the hotel for four thousand dollars, and Air Canada for five thousand. They finally caught up with him in Belgium and he turned out to be a con man disguised as an archbishop.
Dr. Stackhouse and I were talking about orators. Don Jamieson is one of the glibbest. When he was a broadcaster in Newfoundland, covering the start of a royal tour and the royal plane was late, he had to run down the list of everybody who was present, just to keep the airwaves going. When he came to the very end of the line he said, "and His Arch, the Gracebishop."
I am particularly gratified to see that Their Excellencies Mr. and Mrs. Michener are here. I saw them in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, where they were introduced from the Speaker's Gallery. They were kind enough to say that they had come back to Toronto especially to hear this speech.
That reminded me of the last time I spoke to this club. It was in 1957, when I was at the United Nations. I was invited, at very short notice, to replace Max Friedmann who was the scheduled speaker, who had a habit of not turning up. On this occasion, he had given the club the courtesy of a warning, so I was the late replacement. When I joined the head table group outside the dining room, there was Arthur Meighen, the silver-tongued orator of the century in Canadian politics. I said to him, "Mr. Meighen, I can't tell you how moved I am that you would come to hear me speak."
He said, "I didn't. I came to hear Max Friedmann. But since it's snowing outside, I decided to stay. You'd better be good."
He did stay, and he was kind enough to come up to me afterwards and say that he was glad he did. I didn't know whether or not to believe him.
That was a long time ago, and ever since then I've been on my feet at the sound of a chairman clearing his throat.
I was trying to recall the spirit of those times, twenty-four years ago. You'll find the speech in the annual yearbook of the Empire Club, the most widely read volume in the country, apart from the Senate Hansard.
Toronto was still a big village then. Alberta was just waking up--none of us could see what was going to happen there. Quebec was still asleep. Yet Canada was a giant on the world stage. Those strong Canadian cards that came out of the Second World War were being played by Lester Pearson, the most distinguished of our diplomats, and I think the most distinguished diplomat of that time anywhere in the world. In 1956-57, we came closest to fulfilling Laurier's prophecy about the twentieth century belonging to Canada. We assumed that the upward line on the graph of Canada's place and influence in the world was going to continue.
One of the things that we did anticipate was that we would become richer, that our cities would be transformed, that the Toronto of that time would turn into the great city of today. But we could not foresee that as we became richer at home, our prestige would decline in the world, partly because of the re-emergence of other countries that were then in
eclipse, and partly because we ourselves became confused about what we wanted to be.
As we became richer we turned inward. We began to see gaps in our nationhood that we hadn't recognized before: the French-English gap, the native peoples gap. We became preoccupied by our own affairs and our own differences. We paid less and less attention to the rest of the world.
On that occasion, I talked about the United Nations. It was very much in everybody's mind. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize at that time for his handling of the Suez crisis. He was inventing and putting into place the idea of soldiering for peace, in which Canada has played such a role.
As we have prospered, we have become more and more critical of our own country. Lacking foreign enemies--and we are almost unique in the world in that respect--we have turned inward on ourselves. The confusion and uncertainty that marks our political affairs, and our economic affairs to some extent, have led to the phenomenon that anybody who has acquired anything in the country wants out. We have separatist movements, or incipient ones, everywhere from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island--although I often say to British Columbia separatists, "How can you separate when you never really joined?"
Everybody wants out, to some extent, except Ontario--and all the others seem to want Ontario out! We're the only country in the world where this is true. Of course, we are also the only country in the world that I have known in my lifetime where you can stand up and say, "The country stinks!" and everybody else says, "Great! Fantastic. Tell us more." In the majority of countries in the world, you would be arrested. But we have doted on this kind of thing. We have created a framework of freedom greater in its capacity to accommodate difference than any other country in the world, great enough even to contemplate free discussion on the merits of ending the country altogether.
This calls into question what we do believe in. People ask me this when I visit other countries. We are beginning to get their attention. Those of us who have complained about never seeing any Canadian news in the papers when we go abroad are beginning to wish that we didn't see as much as we see now, because there is so much discussion about the possibility of the disruption of the Canadian union.
It is said that Canada is an increasingly difficult country to govern. Lester Pearson once said to me that, even in his time, we were the most difficult country to govern in the world in his experience, because of our enormous size and our regional differences, and because of the smallness of our population relative to the size of the country.
The question that confronts us, in terms of our federation, is whether governments--particularly federal governments--reflect realities or whether they direct them. We have had examples of both. Sometimes they are ahead of public opinion. Pearson was. Pearson's whole idea of United Nations diplomacy was ahead of public opinion. His break with Britain over the Suez crisis caused a trauma across the country because it was ahead of public opinion. The British tie was much stronger then than it is now, and he defied that. Some people think that the fall of the Liberal government in 1957 was due, in large measure, to that.
Sometimes governments lag behind reality in the country, as I think Trudeau did on the growth of regionalism. I was a very strong central government supporter until it came to my mind, because of events in Quebec and in the west, that we had to loosen the federation, we had to accept the risk of balkanization by changing the rules of the federation in favour of more power for the provinces and more western input into western affairs. Trudeau was late on that. Then when he realized what was happening, he decided to fight for retention of a measure of power at the centre that was greater than the provincial premiers were ready to countenance, having developed the powers that they had.
I made a speech here to the Canadian Club three or four years ago in which I advocated acceptance of the looser federation. I was coldly received, although nobody threw anything. I made a speech in Calgary, a month and a half ago, in support of Trudeau's constitutional position. I said that I felt that the rejection of Trudeau's constitutional package was wrong and that the premiers were going too far in their assertion of provincial power, and I got a taste of the bitterness that exists in the western part of the country about this federal government. They stood on their chairs and booed and screamed.
That frightened me. Not the fact that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce stood on their chairs and waved their fists--I applaud them for that, for caring. Canadians are usually the most politically apathetic people in the Western world. They usually don't care about anything. But this business of caring so much that they want to tear Trudeau limb from limb, and the hate mail that those of us who support Trudeau are getting which assumes that if you support the constitutional package you are a force of evil--that is frightening. It is partly explained by the fact that there is no western component in the federal government. But it is also explained by the fact that the premiers have become so strong and so convinced of the rightness of their cause and of their mandate, superior to that of the federal government, that they have infected the views of a large number of people.
I mentioned, jokingly, that you can get up and say, "Canada stinks!" But now, when people say this in Alberta and increasingly in British Columbia, and to quite an extent in Saskatchewan, they are saying it with the marrow of their bones. They are saying things about Canada that I find objectionable and I am not ashamed to say so. I have risked their wrath by saying that the country has been better for all of us than they are giving it any credit for and they are associating too much of the current problem with one man.
I oppose Trudeau in many things, including his energy policy. I agree much more closely with the attitude of the government of Alberta than with the federal government or the government of Ontario on that question. But on the constitutional question, I doubt that the concerns of the objecting premiers are valid. I agree with the interpretation of the government of Ontario. The evils that are seen in the package are not there. And I feel that if this opportunity is missed to bring the constitution home, to force action on an amending formula, to embed the charter of rights (in which I see no threat to provincial jurisdiction), if this opportunity is missed, the thing will fall of its own weight. We will go back to square one and none of us will live to see action on the constitution.
Trudeau is the first prime minister who has dared to face the issue totally, and to try to finish the work of John Diefenbaker on the bill of rights. That charter was Diefenbaker's greatest achievement. It seems to me that to embed the charter, which includes many of Diefenbaker's points (although I pleaded with Trudeau to incorporate as much of Diefenbaker word for word as he could in order to promote acceptance), shows that Trudeau's motive is largely and primarily love of country. I say this quite fearlessly in the presence of the publisher of the Toronto Sun!
Trudeau's motives have been suspect and criticized as self-glorification or a desire to see his name in the history books as the principle father of the new confederation. But he has quite clearly identified his fourth term as a period in which he could risk the wrath of objection, risk disrupting our relations with Britain, to get the thing done. After that he can hand it on to his successors and to the successor premiers, who can then argue about jurisdiction.
I think Trudeau knew that he would not get a consensus, that he knew there would be abrasion. He also says he knows, as Premier Davis and Premier Hatfield agree, that the premiers can never come together in a consensus or a majority view. We are going to get a test of that because, through the efforts of the Progressive Conservatives, time has been made available for the dissenting premiers to have another run at it. I have little confidence that they will come up with an agreement.
My record of covering federal-provincial conferences is a long one. Perhaps one of the reasons that I support Trudeau is that I never want to cover another federal-provincial constitutional conference! On one occasion I refused to leave when they ordered us out. Instead of throwing me out, they threw themselves out and held their meeting in an attic. And, of course, failed to agree. Whether they meet in secret or whether they meet in public, they cannot agree on constitutional change. If it is going to be done, it has to be done unilaterally. It is the best chance of our lifetime, and may be the last.
As there always are in bold enterprises, there are risks. There is the risk to the monarchy, which I feel very deeply because I am a Canadian monarchist and have been all my life. I feel that the institution is perhaps even more valuable in the Canadian context than it has been in the British context. The risk is that if we have a break with the British government and the Queen is involved directly, receiving contrary advice from her British cabinet and her Canadian cabinet, the stress on the Crown will be greater than anything we have seen before. There is no doubt that if it came to a crisis, the Crown would retain its British base and would be lost to us. This would be an irreplaceable loss. It is something that those of us who support the constitutional package are anguished by. We have no particular answer, except to hope that things will go smoothly. And we hope, now that the whole question has been put in the hands of our Supreme Court, that this will smooth the passage of the bill here and also smooth its passage in Westminster, and spare the Queen the anguish of having her principle advisers at odds. The other risk is that it puts too much power in the hands of the courts. This doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some people, who claim that the elected representatives of the people, in the legislatures and Parliament, are the only ones properly qualified to interpret the workings of our system.
Legislatures and Parliament, in this country, are held in as low esteem as they have ever been in our time. I hold my profession partly responsible for that. The way in which we have covered Parliament has, by tone, by commission and omission, contributed to the low esteem with which the members of the general public regard our elected bodies. The politicians themselves are also to blame. Very seldom does a government implement the policies on which it ran for office. It is much more frequent for a government to bring in policies that were not even mentioned during the election campaign. Pierre Trudeau is certainly among the most guilty in this respect. We all remember the wage-and-price-control election when he ran against controls and then, during the mandate that he was given, he implemented them.
In the last election, when he upset the government of Joe Clark (and thus denied me my ambition of covering something besides Liberal governments before I die), the election was run with Trudeau under wraps. We couldn't even find him! When we finally found him for one press conference, he spoke for forty-five minutes and nobody got in a question. He was like Howard Hughes. In fact my wife has a theory that Trudeau is Howard Hughes. He ran on a nothing platform, except that we must get rid of these rascally, mean, stupid Conservatives. And he won, largely because of the change of heart of voters in this part of Ontario. There was not a mention of the constitution, not a mention of the energy policy, in the whole election campaign. And yet with the "restoration" of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, things began to happen that would never have happened had the Conservative government continued in power.
The whole constitutional initiative, which has stood the country on its ear and which has become the issue before us, is largely a dream of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It wouldn't be happening without his restoration to power. Similarly, had the Conservatives remained in power with their western component, the west would have been much more amenable to the kind of energy policies that government would have brought in. The risk was that it would be seen as a give-away to the west. But I don't think that was a serious risk. I think that Joe Clark was trying desperately, despite his Alberta antecedents, to be a coast-to-coast Canadian. Certainly he tried desperately to be acceptable to the province of Quebec.
How hard it must have been for a young man, the youngest prime minister in our history, to learn French and to become as fluent as he did. He was rewarded with one seat in the province of Quebec. It calls into question what some of us thought, which was that you have to be totally bilingual to be prime minister. That gives promise for the future to people in the Conservative Party, particularly to Mr. John Crosbie, who speaks neither of our maternal languages.
If we have put this power in the hands of the Court--and we have--the bottom line is that the Supreme Court is going to get a chance to render a decision on Trudeau's package before it is finally voted on in Parliament and sent to Britain. This gives to the Supreme Court power of a kind that we have not been accustomed to in this country. The Americans have. It gives us a preview of what our federation could be like under the new constitution, assuming that it passes. If the Supreme Court says yes to Trudeau, then it creates for itself a continuing new role as the interpreter of our laws, and as an adjudicator of where the powers lie under the new constitution as between the federal and provincial governments.
This is a tremendous power and a tremendous load on the Court that was not there before. Heavy though the responsibilities of all judges are, this kind of load is very onerous. There have been small tastes of asking the Supreme Court for its views on constitutional items, but never one of this dimension. Bora Laskin has carried a heavy responsibility since Trudeau appointed him to be the Chief Justice. He carried on as the administrator during the illness of Governor General Leger. He was virtually the Governor General. He has all kinds of other duties in addition to his work at the Court. He has had successive heart attacks which almost killed him. Yet he had a determination to hang in. Some of us were puzzled about why, as ill as he was and as tough as he was, he should want to further jeopardize his health by staying on. I think the answer is that he foresaw a watershed situation in which the Court would suddenly be asked to assume a role as part of what they call the "checks and balances" in the American system.
This is patterned on the American system, like it or not. I am not shocked by the increasing responsibilities for the Court. I am not shocked by taking some of the best things from the American system as we shuck off the British system, which we have been in the process of doing for the last fifty years. If you are in awe of legislatures and you think that they are allwise while the Courts are stupid, you will want to resist this development. But I have seen too many manipulations and stupidities in our Parliament and in our provincial legislatures to be in awe of them as the sole arbiters of what the public expect. I am not shocked by the insertion of the Supreme Court into this decision, nor, if it decides yes to the package, into making a whole succession of decisions under the new constitution that will affect the nature of our federation. But I think if we go this far with the importance of the Supreme Court, then the appointments to the Supreme Court should be subject to ratification by the elected representatives of the people. This is in most of the proposals for constitutional reform.
There should also be some provincial input into the appointment of a revised Senate. I think everyone agrees on that. And that revised Senate would have a role in ratifying the appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court.
Obviously, this cannot be done prior to the great decision that the Supreme Court is now going to have to make. But assuming that the Supreme Court says yes to Trudeau, and assuming that this ends the debate here in Canada and makes it possible to send the package to London in a way that the British Parliament can accept it with a minimum amount of debate, then we will get the constitution home. But it's a gamble. I don't know how the Supreme Court is going to act on this package. Trudeau and his cohorts say privately that they are sure that their cause is so correct that the Supreme Court is going to ratify it. But if Trudeau is so sure of that, why did he try so desperately to get his measure through before it could get to the Supreme Court? He couldn't have been that confident.
Ed Broadbent says that he is ninety-nine per cent sure that the Supreme Court will say yes to the package. When I asked him why, just yesterday afternoon, he replied, "Because I'm satisfied that it's legal!" But he said that if the Supreme Court says no, then it's game over, finished. His party would not support the package after that. I gather, although I was not able to get such an unequivocal statement from the Liberals, that they would do the same. So that would be the end of it.
If the Supreme Court thinks that the government has acted illegally, then everything goes back in the drawer, including the BNA Act. And none of us will ever see it extricated.
It makes for interesting talk. Some people say that's the only reason Trudeau brought the subject up, that it's not going to change things much. They say it is not important and that if he hadn't brought it up, it would not be before us now. Certainly the Conservatives would not have put it before us. It would be nice to get back to talking about inflation and unemployment and Joe Clark's future. Maybe, if you should invite me to speak to you in another twenty years, that will be the topic of my address.
As it is, I would like to leave you with one further thought. I talked earlier about our emotions about the country and how disturbing it is to hear people bad-mouth the country from one end to the other. Newfoundlanders are beginning to talk like Albertans before they even get a drop of oil out of the ocean.
My friend Don McNeill of CBC was interviewing a Newfoundland fisherman. He said to him, "What do you think of the offshore oil?"
The fisherman said, "They're going to bugger it up, bye."
"Who's going to bugger it up?"
"The mainlanders. They buggers everything up when they come here."
"How are they going to do that?"
"Well, I'll tell you how they're going to do it. They're going to drill ten feet too deep and the whole goddam thing's going to go out through the hole."
I have this jazz band and we go around the country playing benefits for symphony orchestras and theatres. We regard ourselves as the poor man's Canada Council, but we're more reliable. Don Jamieson once said, when he heard we were playing a benefit for the Edmonton Symphony, that it was like a whore house doing a benefit for a cathedral! We do some political mimicry and satire. We have our Press Gallery dinner this Saturday night and we will do our songs, in which we make fun of our politicians. We also take the show across the country and we have a little mickey of message that we slip to people at the end of our program. I'd like to leave it with you.
It is based on the fact that so many of the songs we sing are from other countries, from the United States and Britain, from France and from Germany. We have very little of our own of an inspirational kind. We always said it was déclasse, that the Americans were much too emotional about their country, only to find that when the heat is on, the joke is on us because we run short of things to say about our country. Let me just give you these few lines, that I wrote, about the way I feel, and see if they ring a bell with you.
A land so vast it's best seen from far off To catch the wholeness of it,
And to see how it compares with all the other lands
That people who live in them love. It's said they love our land the most Who have been most away,
Including those who have served her colours far,
In war as well as peace,
Ensuring that our hallowed battle places exist in other lands,
On other continents, where we have fought our wars and dreamed of home
And stood on guard, O Canada, for thee.
Our songs have rung through Europe sixty years, We've sung them in Korea and Hong Kong, amid the guns.
And then, to keep the peace,
And in the name of order and good government,
We have sung and served from Suez to Kashmir,
From Congo up to Cyprus,
From Vietnam to Sinai's dusty plain,
And in the smoky skies and lush terrain of Germany,
While ships of ours have sailed the seven seas That we might share our peace and unity with all.
How stands our home and native land, terre de nos aieux?
Is her brow girded with garlands glorious? Does she command true patriot love in all her sons and daughters?
Or is she sore beset, as lands in which we've sought to save the peace.
It's said that to describe our love of land,
A minute is too long, a lifetime not enough, That if we love in happy joyful ways, we'll keep our heritage intact,
Though time be short and we are wracked by doubts about our worth.
What good is done if we have served mankind and failed ourselves?
The thanks of the club were expressed to Mr. Lynch by Nona Macdonald, a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.