Guy Bertrand, President, Citizens for a Democratic Nation Movement
DEFENDING OUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Chairman: Gareth S. Seltzer, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
The Rev. Kim Beard, Rector, Christ Church, Brampton and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Bruce McMinn, Barrister and Solicitor; Diane Francis, Editor, The Financial Post; Patrick Monahan, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School and was Senior Constitutional Advisor to former Ontario Premier David Peterson; Ann Curran, Partner, Lewis Companies Inc. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Edward Mills, Partner, Mills & Mills; and Bruce Hillyer, President, Canadian Trial Lawyers Association and Founding President, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
Introduction by Gareth Seltzer
In thinking of how to introduce Mr. Bertrand I asked several of his associates whether I might be able to have an advance copy of his speech or at least an outline of what he intended to say. I was quickly told that everything that Guy has to say is in his heart and in his mind. Short of a dissection, I was not getting any information in advance. But this is also the nature of the topic. It is one of passion, of heartfelt commitment and of common sense.
That is not to say, however, that you have to look hard for an understanding of the importance of the issues that he specifically addresses. In his 1996 book, "Enough is Enough," Mr. Bertrand outlines why he has moved to challenge the legitimacy of the 1995 referendum in the Quebec Superior Court, that, as he alleges, defied the Constitution and the Charter of Rights. Thinking of the title, "Enough is Enough," one has to agree that the issue of Quebec distinctiveness has, to some extent, grown tired among Canadians--and perhaps equally so among Quebeckers who, like so many others in Canada, have a heartier appetite for prosperity than cultural identity. But to many, including those like myself who are in the investment business, the issue of Quebec is very much an issue of prosperity. It is very much an issue of economic sanctity and very much an influence on our success as a nation.
Last night, while watching the Liberal introduction of the Red Book 2, kindly hosted by Preston Manning, it appeared that there is still no concise plan on how the issue of national unity will be addressed with such definitiveness as to provide to our own markets and to those of foreign investors, that Canada has a set of national rules and is a stable meticulous environment in which to do business. From that comes prosperity and from prosperity, comes the means and resources from which to define and enhance one's own cultural character. The Red Book 2, as you will learn again this afternoon when Chretien unveils it, says that a new Liberal government will work with the provinces toward the constitutional recognition of the distinctiveness of Quebec society, which includes a French-speaking majority, unique culture and a tradition of law. "It would finalise a practice reflected in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada." Well, some may remain unconvinced that the next federal government, of any colour, may be any more successful than the last, but one person, one single individual is doing something about it.
And that person is Guy Bertrand. He has decided to fight against the secessionist government before the Supreme Court of Canada--and is doing so in the name of all citizens of Canada. What this country needs is a definitive answer on what the rules are. Declarations of sovereignty by Toronto Island residents, or the Bloc Quebecois must be met with a set of guidelines, a set of rules, as to how these issues should be managed.
Guy Bertrand has practiced law since 1962 and has represented a wide variety of clients on a broad range of issues, always concerned about an individual's right of expression. A founding member of the Parti Quebecois, Mr. Bertrand ran as candidate for party President in 1985. Since then he has, I imagine, "stewed" over the issue of a unilateral declaration of independence. Now he comes to the Empire Club of Canada as a dynamic individual, dedicated to an extraordinarily important cause, and seeking a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada. I welcome to our podium, Guy Bertrand.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be in Toronto.
I start all my speeches with a phrase that represents my new philosophy since I resigned from the Parti Quebecois in February 1985. We cannot spend our whole life trying to separate. In the end we have to learn how to live together. I spent 25 years of my life, day and night, trying to convince the citizens of Quebec that we should separate from this country. I didn't even spend an hour learning how to live together.
Since February 1985 I've been very happy because I found that your problems in Ontario are the same as our own. I rediscovered the country I lost 25 years ago. I rediscovered it and let me tell you today that as a Canadian from Quebec and like many other Canadians from Quebec I'm proud of my country. I'm proud of its values and I'm proud of its accomplishments. We have to recognise that Canada and its Constitution belong to the citizens. It does not belong to the government. It does not belong to the politicians. It belongs to you. It belongs to me. It belongs to the Canadian citizens.
This country, the best country in the world, is in danger because of attacks by secessionists. As citizens, how far are you prepared to save, protect and defend your country? You cannot put your confidence in the politicians anymore. We, the citizens, have to have a plan to protect and save our country.
I don't know how many citizens in this room will question his or her heart and say: "Am I prepared to answer when my country needs help?" Canada today cries for help. At the last referendum Canada saved itself. But it won't be the same next time if you are not there to protect and save your country.
We are not asking you to take up arms when the country is attacked. We are just saying: "Are you ready to do something?" This federal election campaign is the time to do something. We should not wait for a referendum campaign.
Let me tell you that I have personal information from a very good source in the PQ that the next referendum will come as soon as the Supreme Court renders its judgment on the referendum question. That means next year. Don't believe Mr. Bouchard when he says: "In two or three years." It is next year. We will have a provincial election in the spring and as soon as the Supreme Court gives its judgment Mr. Bouchard will warm up the nationalists in Quebec and say that the Canadian institutions are against Quebec. We have been waiting for 129 years to become independent and now the Supreme Court has destroyed our right to self determination. He will then ask the people to answer to the Supreme Court by saying "yes" in the next referendum.
Let me now tell you the strategies of the PQ. Their plan is to get Quebec out of Canada by using the self determination right for the separatist forces. Self determination right means secession unilaterally using international law. That's the pretence. They need 50 per cent plus one and will use the National Assembly to declare that Quebec is independent. We have decided to oppose that plan.
Our plan has three steps. The first step is going to court. I decided in July 1995 to go to court because the court is the guardian of the Constitution. The court is the guardian of my rights and my freedoms and I decided to say: "You have to protect me." The Quebec government put up a motion for dismissal and after they lost they left the court. Now the case is in the Supreme Court.
The second step is to ask the Supreme Court to clarify the federal government's constitutional obligations. The federal government has four constitutional obligations. The first is to respect the Constitution. The second is to defend and protect the Constitution, the rule of law, the authority of the Court, the integrity of the Canadian territory, the rights and the freedoms of the citizens and also the rights of the aboriginal people. The third obligation is a constitutional one to oppose and contest any illegal scheme in the future. The fourth is never to participate in an illegal referendum in the future.
The third step of our plan is to force the federal government to impose certain conditions in case of legal secession. Do you know that, of 89 constitutions in the world that we presented to the Supreme Court, 82 prohibit secession directly or indirectly. All prohibit what Quebec is doing now by proceeding unilaterally. The other seven have rules in the case of secession. Don't you think that the majority in this country and the majority in Quebec (because we are a majority against secession) should determine the rules? What are the rules that we propose? Who is going to determine the question? We propose the federal government and the Quebec government agree on a clear question. What would be the percentage necessary? We propose that if a region does not get 50 plus one the region should remain part of Canada. Who is going to vote? Should we have a national referendum or a Quebec referendum? All these things have to be determined. What happens with transport between Ontario and the Atlantic provinces? What happens if secession occurs? We have to determine that before voting. What happens with minority rights in Quebec? They have to be determined also.
Quebec has a plan to get Canada out of Quebec. This plan was started in 1970 when the Parti Quebecois was founded. The object is to remove all Canadian symbols from Quebec. There will be no Canadian flag in Quebec, no national anthem, no Canada. It's Quebec people, not Canadian people. Linguistic questions are used to build ethnic nationalism. The Parti Quebecois destroy the reputation of Canadians going to war to represent their country. If you identify yourself as a Canadian as I have done for three years I'm an opponent, I'm a traitor. I'm against Quebec because I describe myself as a Canadian instead of saying I'm a Quebecker. They create myths. They say we don't belong to Canada because we didn't sign the 1982 Constitution; the Constitution is a bad thing; Canada is a bad thing; we have been rejected by Canada because of the rejection of a "distinct society." And whom do you think are the leaders of this movement? Two-hundred people. No more than that. If you read my book you will see that no more than 200 people are trying to force this option. The ordinary people in Quebec don't want secession. The separatists are from the government, the Bloc Quebecois, and are union leaders, student leaders and artists.
The PQ unfortunately have accomplices in the Liberal Party and Mr. Charest from the Conservative Party. The Liberal Party in Quebec plays the same games. That party decided to abolish English as an official language in Quebec. It was the Liberal Party that decided to remove the Canadian flag from the National Assembly. It was the Liberal Party that decided to abolish English on signs in Quebec. It was the Liberal Party in 1991 that decided to pass a law saying that self-determination right meant secession and after 365 days after the referendum Quebec was entitled to proclaim the independence of Quebec.
My friends we opposed their plan by promoting Canada and its Constitution. I think it is not the Constitution that we should change; it's our mentality. In a poll more than 75 per cent said yes we should change our mentality instead of changing the Constitution. Our Constitution is not perfect but it's the best in the world. We found there is no perfect Constitution in the world but in other countries they are not trying to destroy their country just because their Constitution is not perfect. I re-discovered my country and I found that we built it with others. We founded it. We made it grow. We gave a name to this country. We wrote the words and the music of the national anthem. This country belongs to us and if we lose this country we will lose part of ourselves. We have to realise that. It would be a terrible tragedy from which we will never recover.
My friends, this country is not an accident. Through Canada we have expressed our will to live together, to survive and to achieve great things as a nation. Some politicians (Mr. Bouchard and Mr. Johnson) will tell you that it does not work, it is a bad thing. Tell them they are lying. Everything that we have in this country is an extraordinary contribution from every citizen in every province. In all fields of society, industry, commerce, education, justice, health, telecommunications, culture and sports, we have made progress together. We have together learned sharing. We have together learned peace. We have an exceptional quality of life and we should keep it going to give to our children--a country that will be the avant-garde of justice and democracy.
Be sure that you won't forget the phrase that I mentioned at the beginning: "We cannot spend our whole life trying to separate. We have to learn how to live together as equal partners within the Canadian Federation." God bless my country and God bless Canada.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Ann Curran, Partner, Lewis Companies Inc. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.