Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
today I am sure all of us in this chamber would want to recognize one of the
historic moments in the history of our country, and perhaps in the history of
the world: June 6, 1944 - D-day.
Today we reflect not only on what was won 52 years ago but also on what was
lost, and what must be remembered. By the time Canadians in their own country
learned of the D-day landings, more than 359 of their family, friends, and
neighbours lay dead on the beaches and in the fields of Normandy. More than 700
lay wounded. However, as we read our history, the more than 15,000 Canadian
troops who landed on Juno Beach on this day in 1944 accomplished what they had
set out to do.
It is truly impossible to pay adequate tribute to the courage and the
patriotism of those young Canadians who fought for the values of freedom and
tolerance which we hold so dear today; the same values which have kept the name
of Canada synonymous with peacekeeping around the world.
Our strongest tribute to the memory of those fallen Canadian heroes, as I
said two years ago, must be the continuing education of young Canadians about
their history, the history of our country and its defenders, and how young
Canadians fought to keep Canada free, and died in their efforts. Our young
Canadians today must know and understand the strength of such a commitment.
Two years ago, on this anniversary, and in a visit to those beaches, Prime
Minister Chrétien spoke of how a young nation had come of age through the
events of D-day, and how the legacy of that day must be a Canada united from sea
to sea to sea.
It is only through the knowledge and the understanding of the efforts of that
day, the wars that have made our country grow as we have participated in the
harsh realities of the world, and the sacrifices of the past that we can ensure
the protection of a free, united, and independent Canada.
Hon. Orville H. Phillips: Honourable senators, I should like to join
in the remarks of the Leader of the Government in recalling this very special
occasion in Canadian history.
While we refer to it as a "very special occasion," we must also
recall it as a very tragic one, and hope that never again will Canada as a
nation be required to go through such an experience.
On days such as this, many people recall not only their loved ones lost in
the invasion of Europe but friends as well. I think of members from my Boy Scout
troop who did not make it ashore that day; I think of the airmen I trained who
were shot down that day. It is unfortunate that, as time goes by, we tend to
forget our obligation to these people; perhaps we tend to forget them.
I recall attending a ceremony in Holland marking the 25th anniversary of the
end of the war. At a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Knights, a poet laureate
of Holland read a poem. I will always recall this line from it. She said:
Each time I recall you, your face grows dimmer.
Honourable senators, this is something we must avoid; we must not forget the
occasion, and we must not forget those who participated in it. We must not let
their faces or their memories grow dim.
I hope that someday we will have a bit more of our history devoted to areas
such as this, and that it will be accurate; not something gleaned from a film
prepared for the National Film Board, or something of that nature. That history
should reflect the true suffering caused on such occasions.
Notice of Motion to Authorize
Committee to Meet During Sittings of Senate
Hon. Lise Bacon: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next
sitting of the Senate, I shall move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications have power
to sit at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the duration of its study of
Bill C-20, An Act respecting the commercialization of civil air navigation
services, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be
suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Refer to
National Finance Committee Budget Material Received During Previous Session
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that on Tuesday,
June 11, 1996, I will move:
That the papers and evidence received and taken by the Standing Senate
Committee on National Finance during its review of the Main Estimates 1995-96,
in the First Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament, be referred to the
Committee Authorized to Meet
During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Mabel M. DeWare, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
have power to sit at 8:00 p.m., June 10, 1996, even though the Senate may then
be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Contract Granted to U.S. Company
to Mint Canadian Coin-Government Position
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. I was shocked to learn last night on the news
program The National that the Liberal government had awarded the minting
of the Canadian penny to a U.S. firm, a contract worth some $10 million. I hate
to raise this matter, but I am sure a number of questions will be asked of me
when I return home this weekend. I would like the minister to offer some
Does the minister think it appropriate for a foreign country to be minting
our penny? Second, what will she do in regard to this outrageous contract?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the first thing I will do is ask my colleagues about the background of this
decision and the nature of it. I will be quite frank with my honourable friend -
I do not know the details of this matter, but I will certainly find out.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, while the minister is asking
questions of her colleagues, if this contract is, in fact, in place, I wish to
remind the minister to remind her colleagues, in turn, that the previous
government was often accused of cozying up to the Americans. If this contract is
indeed in place, it would stretch the concept of the "Three Amigos" to
such lengths that the previous government's cozying up would not be comparable
Honourable senators, where will this end? We have handed over the Mountie
image to the Mickey Mouse Club, and now our beloved penny is to be minted by an
American company. What is next - the Canadian flag?
Malpeque, P.E.I.-Availability of
Emergency Funds to Aid Lobster Fishermen-Request for Answer
Hon. M. Lorne Bonnell: Honourable senators, about two weeks ago, Senator
Phillips and I asked what the federal government intended to do about Malpeque
harbour and its sand dunes. Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate have
any information that would relieve the situation for the fishermen on Prince
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I have been advised by my colleagues in the House that the Department of
Fisheries and Oceans has approved the funding necessary to carry out the
dredging of Darnley Basin. This is planned to begin immediately after the issue
of the necessary permits. Once the dredging is completed, the fishers in the
area will be provided with a safe access in and out of their harbour during the
remaining weeks of the season.
Cuts in Funding to Quebec Students
Studying Outside of Province-Government Position
Hon. M. Lorne Bonnell: Honourable senators, I have another question for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Beginning in the fall of 1997, the
Government of Quebec has decided that students in that province will not be
eligible for student loans if they wish to study in the English language outside
of that province. That is, with only a few exceptions, the Province of Quebec
will offer assistance to students in financial need who study in Quebec, or
study in French outside of Quebec.
This policy seems to violate the principle of the federal Canada Student
Loans Program. While the Province of Quebec opted out of the initiative over 30
years ago, Quebec has received - and still receives - financial compensation
from the federal government to operate its own student assistance program.
My question for the Leader of the Government on behalf of the students of
Quebec and of Canada is this: What is the Government of Canada doing to ensure
mobility rights for the students of Quebec? What will it do to ensure that these
students receive the federal dollars that are intended to allow them to attend
the Canadian universities or colleges of their choice?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
my honourable friend is correct in stating that the Province of Quebec opted out
of the student loans program in 1964. However, it receives compensation from the
Government of Canada to operate its own student program. Under the Canada
Student Loans Program, such compensation for a province that chooses to opt out
is provided if that plan has substantially the same effect as the national plan.
The Government of Canada encourages and promotes student mobility, whether it
be in Quebec or any other part of Canada. The government is currently looking at
this situation and has sought advice from the Department of Justice.
Hong Kong-1997 Transfer of
Government to China-Human Rights Concerns
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, we have recently read that
in preparation for the upcoming Chinese take-over of Hong Kong, Canada has a
contingency plan to evacuate 150,000 to 250,000 inhabitants from that city
should "civil unrest ensue."
Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that by developing
this plan the government expects China to continue its approach of oppressing
the rights of individuals, Hong Kong being no exception?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I will have to seek some background on the details of any Canadian plans
involving Hong Kong. However, it is the view of the Canadian government that
this transition should take place as peacefully and as democratically as
possible. I would not make those kind of assumptions, nor would the government
wish to make the kind of assumptions that my honourable friend has mentioned.
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, while the Leader of the
Government is getting that information, would she provide this chamber with
information on how the Government of Canada intends to treat immigrants and
refugees from Hong Kong after the take-over? Will they continue to be recipients
of visa-free entry into Canada?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I will seek that information
for my honourable friend.
International Centre for Human
Rights and Democratic Development-Replacement of Director-Maintenance of
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, would the Leader of the Government in the Senate inquire,
if she does not know the answer already, whether or not the government is
complying with the statute establishing the International Centre for Human
Rights and Democratic Development, particularly with reference to the procedure
to be followed in filling the position of director of that centre?
The minister will know that the current director, the Honourable Ed
Broadbent, is stepping down, and a replacement will be needed. The statute
contains a provision to the effect that the board of directors of the centre
should be consulted before an appointment is made.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I would be pleased to look into that matter for my honourable friend, and to get
any additional information on timing that I can.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, by way of a supplementary
question, in light of the news release issued today by the Canadian
International Development Agency to the effect that that agency is contributing
$11.5 million to an environment project in China, could the minister tell me
whether or not the budget that is established for the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development, which comes out of the funds of CIDA,
will be at the same level for this year as it was last year, and that it will
not be reduced by CIDA contributing $11.5 million to a project in China, whose
human rights record, as our colleague the Honourable Senator Di Nino keeps
reminding us, is at a lower level than we would like to see it?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I will pursue my honourable
Changes to School System-Amendment
to Constitution-Motion in Amendment-Debate Adjourned
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of
Tuesday, June 4, 1996, moved:
Whereas section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an
amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by
the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by
resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly
of each province to which the amendment applies;
Now therefore the Senate resolves that an amendment to the Constitution of
Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by His Excellency the
Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the schedule
AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
I. Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada set out in the
Schedule to the Newfoundland Act is repealed and the following substituted
"17. In lieu of section ninety-three of the Constitution Act 1867, the
following shall apply in respect of the Province of Newfoundland:
In and for the Province of Newfoundland, the Legislature shall have exclusive
authority to make laws in relation to education but
(a) except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c),
schools established, maintained and operated with public funds shall be
denominational schools, and any class of persons having rights under this Term
as it read on January 1, 1995 shall continue to have the right to provide for
religious education, activities and observances for the children of that class
in those schools, and the group of classes that formed one integrated school
system by agreement in 1969 may exercise the same rights under this Term as a
single class of persons;
(b) subject to provincial legislation that is uniformly applicable to
all schools specifying conditions for the establishment or continued operation
(i) any class of persons referred to in paragraph (a) shall have the
right to have a publicly funded denominational school established, maintained
and operated especially for that class, and
(ii) the Legislature may approve the establishment, maintenance and operation
of a publicly funded school, whether denominational or non-denominational;
(c) where a school is established, maintained and operated pursuant to
subparagraph (b)(i), the class of persons referred to in that
subparagraph shall continue to have the right to provide for religious
education, activities and observances and to direct the teaching of aspects of
curriculum affecting religious beliefs, student admission policy and the
assignment and dismissal of teachers in that school;
(d) all schools referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b)
shall receive their share of public funds in accordance with scales determined
on a non-discriminatory basis from time to time by the Legislature; and
(e) if the classes of persons having rights under this Term so desire,
they shall have the right to elect in total not less than two thirds of the
members of a school board, and any class so desiring shall have the right to
elect the portion of that total that is proportionate to the population of that
class in the area under the board's jurisdiction."
2. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, year of
proclamation (Newfoundland Act).
She said: Honourable senators, today we begin to consider a piece of business
which does not happen very often, namely, a request by a province for
parliamentary approval of an amendment to alter one of the terms whereby that
province entered into Confederation.
On October 31, 1995, the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly adopted
a resolution to amend Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland and Labrador
with Canada. The assembly then passed a unanimous resolution on May 23 of this
year respectfully asking the members of the House of Commons and the Senate to
consider the proposed amendment to Term 17 at their earliest convenience and to
decide the issue before Parliament rises for the summer.
This resolution, honourable colleagues, has been adopted by the House of
Commons in a free vote of 170 in favour and 46 opposed, and it has come to us
for our consideration. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has asked for
this amendment in order to reform its educational system. The Prime Minister of
Canada, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, assured former premier Clyde Wells
in a letter in January of this year that the federal government "intends to
proceed with the amendment resolution" and debate the matter before the
summer recess, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions in the Senate in
answer to questions from friends opposite.
Honourable senators, this is a bilateral procedure between two governments
only. We have been requested by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to
adopt a resolution under the Constitution Act, 1982 which, to use the language
of the law, provides that:
An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to any provision that
applies to one or more, but not all, provinces...
may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great
Seal of Canada only where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House
of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the
This, honourable senators, is the same provision under which the Senate has
considered and approved three other bilateral amendments in recent years - one
from Newfoundland and Labrador regarding the same Term 17 in 1987 affecting the
Pentecostal Assemblies, one from New Brunswick regarding its official language
status in 1993, and one from Prince Edward Island paving the constitutional way
for the fixed-link bridge in 1994.
This amendment before us has received broad-based approval that crosses party
lines in both the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly and in our other
House of Parliament. Popular support was expressed as well in a referendum in
Newfoundland and Labrador in 1995 wherein 55 per cent of the people voted in
favour and 45 per cent voted against.
Many concerns have been raised, honourable senators, not only in this
Parliament but across the country, which go well beyond the issue of education.
Fears have been expressed about the possible curtailment of both religious and
minority rights, and I am sure that these concerns will be addressed by others
here in this house with various and differing points of view.
This issue has been debated for generations. Since the report of the Royal
Commission on Education, "Our Children, Our Future" in 1992, the
government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been actively attempting to
implement recommendations. The heart of the matter is the proposed changes from
the protection provided in the existing Term 17 which says:
...the Legislature -
- with reference to the legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador -
- will not have authority to make laws prejudicially affecting any right or
privilege with respect to denominational schools...that any class or classes of
persons have by law in Newfoundland at the date of Union, and out of public
funds of the Province of Newfoundland, provided for education,
(a) all such schools shall receive their share of such funds in
accordance with scales determined on a non-discriminatory basis from time to
time by the Legislature for all schools then being conducted under the authority
of the Legislature;
For the sake of brevity, honourable senators, I will not read the existing
Term 17 in its entirety, but simply focus on the most relevant aspects to be
The denominational system in Newfoundland and Labrador had its start in the
first quarter of the eighteenth century and became the foundation of the
educational system in that province. The churches have established and operated
the schools since that time. Basically, each denomination looked after the
educational needs of its own children. As a consequence, the denominational
system evolved over time and eventually was enshrined in many pieces of
legislation, with each denomination being given formal rights to establish and
In 1949, when Newfoundland became a Canadian province, it was necessary to
provide for the jurisdiction of the province over education as had been done for
each of the other nine provinces in a manner appropriate to their circumstances.
The unique circumstances of Newfoundland and Labrador resulted in Term 17, which
applies to Newfoundland in lieu of section 93, which covered the other
Term 17 guarantees rights to several different minority groups in
Newfoundland and Labrador which, together, comprise over 95 per cent of the
province's population. Therefore, unlike the other provinces, there is no
majority denomination in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is an important factor
which distinguishes that province from the other provinces, and is taken into
account when considering the proposed amendment and resolution which we have
The situation is quite unlike that existing in the other provinces, given
that there is no majority denomination in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the
only province in Canada in which there are only denominational schools and no
public school system.
As the Minister of Justice stated last Friday while introducing debate in the
Precedents require similar facts or similar principles and it would be
difficult to find a future circumstance in a different province where the same
principles and circumstances would prevail.
Moreover, both Houses of Parliament have the right and the responsibility to
determine independently, and on its own merits, if any proposed amendment before
them should go forward.
Should we approve this resolution, we will not be creating a rigid rule which
will bind us in all future cases to do the same. As has occurred in the past,
senators have made up their minds on the facts and on the merits of each
Concerns have been expressed that approval by this Parliament could create a
precedent in dealing with the results of a future Quebec referendum. I would
suggest to colleagues that our actions in dealing with a request from
Newfoundland and Labrador to help modernize its education system will not set
parameters for results of a referendum on the breakup of this country.
Concerns have also been expressed about the issue of religious rights. Term
17 constitutionally entrenches denominational rights for Anglicans,
Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, the
United Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies. Since 1969, the Anglican,
Presbyterians, Salvation Army and United Church religious denominations have
acted jointly through a Document of Integration. These rights are generally
acknowledged to include the right to operate separate schools and school boards
for each denomination; funding for school construction distributed according to
denominational population; denominational hiring of teachers, and
non-discriminatory funding for operating costs. The provincial legislature
cannot pass education legislation which diminishes the rights held by the
churches under Term 17.
Since 1949, the government and the churches have updated the school system
from time to time in a consensual manner. At this time, Newfoundland and
Labrador schools operate with government funding and standards but are governed
by councils representing the province's key churches.
It was the churches who were responsible for educational beginnings in
Newfoundland and Labrador, with teaching being provided for many years by the
clergy and by other philanthropic agencies under the auspices of the churches.
When the government became involved in education, it was both natural and
beneficial that it should continue to rely on the churches to provide education
in the province while assisting with financial and administrative assistance in
a cooperative partnership, in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland
The time has now come, which is the reason that this resolution is now before
the Senate, when the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador has
concluded that the current system is no longer viable in terms of its
educational and economic obligations to the citizens of that province. There
have been extensive discussions over the last three years or so between the
government and the various religious denominations. However, to date there has
not been an agreement.
Accordingly, in order to proceed with reforms with a view to reducing the
cost of the education system, including the cost of new schools, of school
improvements, of busing, of overlap and duplication, and also of upgrading the
quality of the education services, the legislative assembly of Newfoundland and
Labrador has passed this resolution.
The amendment would substitute a new version for the existing Term 17. Like
its predecessor, the new version provides for exclusive provincial jurisdiction
over education, subject to the limits it establishes.
One overall fundamental change in the new Term 17 is to define
"denominational rights" within the term itself rather than by
reference to unspecified existing rights or privileges which dictated the
educational structure as it has existed since 1949.
The proposed amendment provides the basis for a school system of publicly
funded schools where all denominational classes that now have rights under Term
17 shall continue to have the right to provide for religious education,
activities and observances for the children of that class. However, these will
be interdenominational schools as opposed to unidenominational schools. This is
the key change, and it is reflected in the following example.
As things stand now, if three neighbouring children on a street belong to the
United Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Church, since each
belongs to a denomination whose members have rights under the current Term 17,
they would each attend a different denominational school for children of their
particular religion, subject to the possible existence of joint schools in some
areas. Under the new system, where numbers warrant, they would all attend the
same neighbourhood school and be provided with religious education, activities
and observances appropriate for each. They would do so within the same school.
Under the current system, the different schools are controlled, for the most
part, by the church to which the class of children being served belongs. Under
the new Term 17, any class of persons having rights under this term, as it read
on January 1, 1995, shall continue to have the right to provide for religious
education, activities and observances for the children of that class in those
For example, the Anglican Church can provide for religious education,
activities and observances of the Anglican children in the interdenominational
neighbourhood school, and the same rights exist for children belonging to other
denominations. However, none of these classes would have the right to
unilaterally control the school to the extent that they now control their own
The amendment also preserves the right to publicly funded unidenominational
schools for those who have rights under the current Term 17, where numbers
warrant, but provided always that the same criteria apply to all schools.
The legislature would be empowered to approve the establishment, the
maintenance and the operation of a publicly funded school whether it was
denominational or non-denominational. It could permit, for example, the creation
of a non-denominational school for the deaf or for aboriginal people.
In unidenominational schools, each class shall have the right to direct the
teaching of aspects of curriculum affecting religious beliefs, student admission
policy, and the assignment and dismissal of teachers in that school. The
amendment also provides there will be no discrimination between different kinds
of schools in determining their share of public funding.
It gives the denominational classes the right to elect, in total, not less
than two-thirds of the members of a school board. This total would be divided
among the classes in accordance with the proportion of the population
constituted by each class in the area under the board's jurisdiction.
Processes whereby denominational rights would be exercised within the board
structure would be established by legislation. Therefore, the denominations
would still have a right to participate in school management.
Thus far, I have concentrated on what the proposed amendment is designed to
do. However, it is also important to note some of the things that it does not
The government is convinced the amendment does not affect official language
educational minority rights in any way. These are constitutionally protected by
section 23 of the Charter, and nothing in this amendment is believed to diminish
Hon. Lowell Murray: Various of those rights are subject to bilateral
Senator Fairbairn: The government is convinced it does not affect
aboriginal rights in any way. These are constitutionally protected by sections
25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and nothing in this amendment, it is
believed, will diminish that protection.
The amendment does not do away with religious education in the classroom; nor
does it single out any religious minority for discriminatory treatment.
The adoption of the resolution before us will enable Newfoundland and
Labrador to change and to modernize its school system to meet the demands of
current times, while preserving the moral teachings of the church as a
fundamental feature of the school system.
Honourable senators, Newfoundland is rich in many ways, as everyone in this
chamber knows. For example, it is rich in history and culture. However, in other
ways, economic ways, it is the poorest of our Canadian provinces. For
generations, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have relied on the fishery
for work and to provide for their families and their communities.
Senator Doody: They also trusted the federal government to look after
Senator Fairbairn: Everyone in this house knows the sad and critical
state of the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador. Naturally, all of us hope
for future restoration. However, clearly, alternatives must be developed for the
citizens of that province today and tomorrow. This means there will be a greater
reliance, not just on basic education, but on new skills, learning and
adaptability, which are demanded by our rapidly changing marketplace and
The children of Newfoundland and Labrador must have the same opportunities
that are available in the rest of Canada in order to help them attain the best
possible opportunities. That imperative lies at the heart of the resolution.
Honourable senators, the government takes its responsibility in the
constitutional amending process very seriously. In this case, it has carefully
considered the proposed amendment and concluded that, on its merits, it deserves
to be honoured.
A number of senators on both sides have expressed the view that this proposed
resolution should be referred to a committee. On behalf of the government, I
would support a motion in amendment to refer this resolution to our Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs so that those with an
interest in this matter will have an opportunity to express their views before
Parliament. I would support such a motion, honourable senators, because
senators, as well, will then be in a better position to judge the merits of this
resolution when it is put to a final vote.
I believe that the Term 17 amendment merits support in this chamber. I am
confident that this will be borne out by any hearings that might be held.
I thank honourable senators for their attention.
Hon. C. William Doody: Honourable senators, I have listened with
interest and attention to the comments of my friend the Leader of the Government
in the Senate in this matter. I respect her opinions and her views in most
Right off the top of my head, I must take exception to the fact that she is
asking that the children of Newfoundland be given the same opportunities in
education that the children of the rest of Canada have. I find that offensive. I
think it is uncalled for. The children of Newfoundland have been treated well by
the educational system that they have experienced over the past years. There are
people in this chamber and in the other chamber, people all across this country,
who have graduated through the ranks of the educational system in Newfoundland
and who have done this country proud since 1949 when Newfoundland became a part
of this country.
I do not think it is necessary for someone from some other part of this
country to pontificate about the quality of the education of the children in
Newfoundland. I do not hear the parents complaining about the quality of the
education of the children in Newfoundland to the school boards with which I have
been speaking over the past months. They seem not only quite satisfied with it
but quite appalled by the steps that appear to have been taken unilaterally by
the majority of the electorate in Newfoundland and which have been
rubber-stamped in the other place under the auspices of the Government of Canada
and now brought to this place.
I have spoken with ex-premier Wells of Newfoundland and more recently with
Premier Tobin and his advisors. I have listened to their explanations and their
reasoning on this matter. I have read with attention and listened with amazement
to the speeches in the other place. The ignorance of some commentators on the
conditions in my province is absolutely appalling. People from other provinces
have the same experience when people who know everything start speaking about
things about which they know nothing.
No one speech or combination of speeches in the other place, outside the
other place, or here today has come close to putting to rest the basic, central,
core issue that is at stake here, and that is minority rights - minority rights
which have been enshrined in the Constitution of Canada by Term 17 of the Terms
of Union of Newfoundland and Labrador.
This article was not agreed upon by accident or by aftersight. Classes of
persons were recognized at the time Newfoundland joined Canada. My honourable
friend has listed them. That was not an exclusive article. It was open to other
classes of people who wished to participate afterwards, as was demonstrated in
1987 when the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland asked to be included as a
class of persons with particular rights recognized by the Constitution of
Canada. They had, with the blessing of the provincial legislature, been running
their own schools since approximately 1954. In 1987, they petitioned the
assembly in Newfoundland to recognize them as a distinctive class, and they were
so recognized. Subsequently, this request came to the Parliament of Canada, was
endorsed by the other place, and came here.
I sat in my honourable friend's place at that time and introduced with some
pride the request of the Pentecostal Assemblies to be recognized as a special
class with the same distinct qualities of the Anglicans, the United Church and
the Salvation Army. My friend and colleague from Newfoundland, Senator Lewis,
speaking from this side, endorsed it immediately, and it was passed unanimously.
Now we have decided that these rights that the Pentecostal people had in 1987
are to be no more. They will be taken away by a simple act of the majority of
the people in Newfoundland and endorsed by the Parliament of Canada.
This right that was so important in 1949 and endorsed in 1987 is not
something that is frivolous or something that is capricious or something that is
to be understated. It was a very important part of the discussions leading to
Confederation at that time, and it is a very important part of the structure of
the fabric of the province of Newfoundland. It is an important right for all the
religious minorities. As my honourable friend has pointed out, all the religions
in Newfoundland are minorities. There is no majority. Each of them felt and
still feels that they have a right to run their own schools in their own way.
The people of Newfoundland and Labrador feel they have the right to have
their children educated in schools that reflect the virtues, ethics, values, and
culture with which they are comfortable. This minority right, agreed to by the
representatives of the people of Canada and by the representatives of the people
of Newfoundland, was placed in the Constitution of Canada so that it would be
safe from the whims and vagaries of legislators.
Now, by a process to which I will refer shortly, that right is to be taken
away from two minorities: Roman Catholics, comprising 37 per cent of the
population, and the Pentecostal Assembly adherents who represent 7 per cent of
the population. These people have vigorously and loudly objected to this, and
who can blame them? There have been no public hearings on this, not in
Newfoundland, and not in the House of Commons. With a shamefully short debate in
that place, it has been sent up here for prompt and, I would assume, faithful
adherence to the government's wishes. These people in Newfoundland, these
minorities, are about to lose their rights by virtue of a vote of the majority.
I remember Clifford Lincoln saying not too long ago in the legislature of the
province of Quebec that, "rights are rights are rights."
Some honourable senators and others have stated that the Constitution is not
a block of granite or a slab of steel that cannot be changed from time to time
as conditions change and as the world evolves or as situations change. They are,
of course, absolutely correct. No one argues with that. However, central to this
is the consent of the minorities affected. If this referendum in Newfoundland
had been held among those classes of people affected, then that would be a
different situation completely. If the various minorities in Newfoundland had
said, "Yes, we agree to abolish Term 17 and exchange it for a new Term
17," that would be an entirely different situation, and I would be the
first one on my feet defending it. As it is, however, I think I am the first one
on my feet objecting.
At least two of these minority groups whose rights will have been taken away
have objected strenuously to this course of events. In fact, as can be seen in
any record of the events, the districts of the province of Newfoundland which
are predominantly Roman Catholic or predominantly Pentecostal voted
"no" in the referendum. That does not matter - the majority voted
"yes", and the rights of the minorities are submerged. The argument
has been made that 95 per cent of the people of Newfoundland were represented in
the vote, and that is absolutely correct. However, if you run minority rights on
that principle, there are no minority rights. They are submerged by the fact
that the majority decides what they want to do.
Honourable senators, I will refer to the referendum process a little later,
but first let me emphasize how important it is to everyone involved in this to
hear the honourable Leader of the Government say that public hearings will be
held on this in a committee of this house. This is the last resort the
minorities in Newfoundland have on this situation. If the Senate has a function,
this surely must be it.
These hearings must be held, not only here in this place, for the sake of
those "interested stakeholders," I think is the current phrase used
across the country, but also in the province of Newfoundland, or at least in St.
John's. I would not be presumptuous enough to say elsewhere, although I would
like to see them held in other major centres, but certainly in St. John's. These
hearings must be televised. The people in Newfoundland and the minorities in the
rest of this country must see and hear for themselves how this process works. If
there is to be any justice in this country and if the minorities are to see that
there is justice in this country, then a public display of the Senate's work in
this regard must be held. Open hearings, as wide as possible and publicly
televised, must be seen in our country.
Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs is the obvious vehicle for this, and I am delighted to
see that my honourable friend opposite agrees. If there ever was a legal or
constitutional affair to be considered, this is it. If a precedent is to be
established in this country in which the legislature votes to take a right away
from a minority, then certainly the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs should be the one charged with the responsibility for
looking into it.
Honourable senators, I wish to point out the concern that this issue has
raised among the Roman Catholic community and among the Pentecostal community. I
worry more about the Pentecostal community than I do about the Roman Catholic
community. The Roman Catholics have some clout at the ballot box. At least, if
this abomination goes through, when the time comes for an accounting, the
"micks" in Newfoundland and the rest of this country can let the
public know where they stand. The Pentecostals, who represent 7 per cent of the
population of Newfoundland, and I know not what percentage of the population of
this country, will have little or no recourse at all.
It is important, I think, that the record show how the hierarchy of the Roman
Catholic Church feels about this issue. Cardinal Carter, who is probably one of
the most respected members of any denomination of our country, wrote to the
Prime Minister on May 21. He expressed his concern in the first three paragraphs
of his letter. However, in the fourth paragraph, he writes:
The Constitution of Canada recognizes and protects certain minority rights
such as the language of debate in Parliament and in the Courts of Canada,
Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick. There is also protection for minority
language educations rights, denominational education rights and aboriginal
rights. Even the commitment in the Constitution to the principle of equalization
payments from richer provinces to poorer provinces is a form of constitutional
protection for minorities.
The reason why minority rights are protected in constitutions is so that they
cannot easily be removed by majorities, who can sometimes behave in ways that
are profoundly undemocratic. Would French-language rights survive outside of
Quebec if they were subject to a referendum? Consider the debate over bilingual
road signs in Ontario in the past. Would English-language rights in Quebec
survive? What about aboriginal rights? Would the Roman Catholic minority in
Ontario at about 30% of the population retain Catholic schools?
In difficult economic times would the obligation to provide equalization
payments survive a referendum? Consider the resentment in Western Canada over
the GST harmonization deal for Newfoundland.
There is a natural reality that occurs because of population imbalances. And
that is why minority rights are protected in the Constitution. That is why the
federal government is expected not to simply be the rubber stamp for changes to
minority rights sought by provinces, but is expected to be the guardian of those
The government of Newfoundland and representatives of your government have
pointed to the September referendum result as moral justification for the
amendment to Term 17.
The referendum was fundamentally flawed. You and your colleagues were
especially critical of the question in the Quebec referendum. The same criticism
applies to the question in the Newfoundland referendum. The question was:
Do you support revising Term 17 in the manner proposed by the government to
enable reform of the denominational educational system. Yes or No.
Is it a simple question? Is it a clear question? Is it a fair question?
The question was carefully crafted to imply falsely that amendment of the
Constitution was necessary in order for reform to occur at all as a matter of
law. That was an incorrect proposition.
And who could be against reform? Who thinks that education in the province of
Newfoundland or elsewhere in the country is not ripe for reform? The question
pitted this desire for reform and effective education for children against a
constitutional right - a conflict that does not exist in law at all.
Honourable senators, Cardinal Carter goes on to write:
If each of the denominational classes of persons protected by Term 17 had
voted to give up their own rights, no one could seriously object to the proposed
amendment on the basis of principle. But that is not what happened. Roman
Catholics did not vote to give up their rights. Nor did Pentecostals. The
referendum vote was nothing more than a simple case of the majority voting to
take away the rights of two minorities in Newfoundland. Is it any different in
principle than the English voting to take away the rights of the French?
Consider the precedent.
The amendment process under the Constitution requires your government to play
the role of guardian of minority rights. If your government rubber stamps an
amended Term 17, how can it in principle resist similar requests from voting
majorities in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec? Worse yet, the approach taken to this
question is a denial of the ideals of the tolerance and pluralism on which this
country is founded.
It has been said by supporters of the Newfoundland amendment that it does not
form a precedent. I disagree, along with many others including members of your
caucus and your party. Asked to comment on this point, Professor Patrick
Monahan, Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School said:
I agree that a constitutional amendment to Term 17 that is not supported by
all the classes of persons protected by that guarantee could be seen as a
precedent that would permit other provinces to seek similar changes.... There
is...no basis in principle for the proposition that a person who chooses to give
up his or her own denominational rights as a member of a class of persons should
be permitted to adversely affect the rights of other individuals who are members
of another class of persons altogether.... The amendment to Term 17 would create
a risk to denominational school guarantees in other provinces that did not
Honourable senators, that is what Cardinal Carter had to say about this
Ex-premier Wells and his people have insisted in the four or more years that
this file has been active that progress and negotiations with the three school
authorities involved in our province seemed impossible. There are three school
authorities, not the bureaucracy that has been described in other places at
times. There are three -
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Doody, I regret to inform you
that your 15 minutes have expired.
Senator Doody: I thought that I was allowed 45 minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker: The 45-minute time period only applies to a
bill. This is not a bill; it is a motion.
Is leave granted, honourable senators, for Senator Doody to continue?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Doody: Honourable senators, I appreciate the opportunity. I
sincerely thought that I was allowed 45 minutes.
Honourable senators, a letter from His Excellency the Archbishop of St.
John's to the Prime Minister tells us quite clearly that the main points in
contention dealing with administration and costs - which have been pointed out
here earlier - have been addressed without recourse to the divisive and
unnecessary proposed amendment before us now.
If honourable senators wish me to table the letter from Archbishop MacDonald
to the Prime Minister, I will do so. I should add that he received no reply.
Four days after Premier Tobin formed the new Government of Newfoundland, he
set up a committee of government officials and representatives of the three
religious denominational committees to try to find a solution to this vexing
problem. In four days, under the inspired direction of Newfoundland Education
Minister Roger Grimes, they came up with answers to all of these problems.
I am told that some of the signatories to this framework agreement are
unhappy. To them I say, go back to the table. If all this, which had not been
accomplished in four years, was done in four days, then certainly a few more
days at the table would be far preferable to the situation in which we now find
I wish to address the bizarre situation in the House of Commons where the
Reform Party, for its own divisive reasons, and the Bloc Québécois, for very
obvious reasons, have supported the government's position on this resolution.
The Bloc Québécois, to its credit, has made no secret of its cynical reasoning
for supporting the resolution. A cursory reading of the speeches of the members
of the Bloc Québécois in this regard will make it perfectly clear to all who
are interested. It shows clearly what the separatists propose doing with this
issue come their next referendum. This affair is grist for the separatist mill.
They will show the Government of Canada and the people of Canada what can be
done with a paper-thin majority and a loaded question, and to hell with the
rights of minorities.
The referendum question in Newfoundland asked if the public agreed with the
concept of education reform. Of course they do; everyone does. The question
earned the approval of 54 per cent of those who voted. Only 52 per cent of the
electorate voted. This means that 28 per cent voted in favour of the question.
If you accept that a small minority, with a stacked question, is a binding
and reasonable way to operate a country, then I can see a very interesting time
ahead for us here in Canada. The Conference of Catholic Bishops point this out
very clearly in the letters they have sent to the Prime Minister.
As things stand now, honourable senators, with no change at all, the province
still has control of the funding of all the schools in Newfoundland, regardless
of denomination. It has control of the curriculum and control of most other
facets of education, including text materials, student-teacher ratios, funding,
teacher education and performance standards. The three denominational education
committees want to maintain control of the ethical standards, the moral values,
and the cultural and decent approach to education that has been the hallmark of
the administration of education in that small province on the east coast.
The religious climate in which the schools are operated will remain, Premier
Tobin tells us, as they were prior to this amendment. I and others have asked,
if this is indeed the case, why put the people of Newfoundland and Labrador
through this emotional wringer? Hopefully, the committee will be able to ask
these questions of the experts who are called and they will be able to resolve
this question for me.
As I said, I have spoken to ex-premier Wells and to Premier Tobin. They have
discussed the matter with me but, quite honestly, they have not satisfied my
concerns nor have they satisfied those of the minorities affected in
I have received briefs from the Pentecostal authorities in Newfoundland, the
Roman Catholic authorities, the school boards, the parent-teacher associations
and groups of students. I have received briefs from the Ontario Separate School
Trustees Association, from the Ontario Catholic Teachers Association and from
groups and individuals all over the country, as I am sure other senators have as
well, all expressing concern with this process and, perhaps more important,
expressing concern with the end result of this process if it continues to
We have been told time and again that the situation in Newfoundland is
different from that in the rest of Canada because there are no public schools;
there is only the denominational school system. That is absolutely correct,
there are no public schools because the Government of Newfoundland has never
elected to establish public schools. The Government of Newfoundland, like every
other provincial government in Canada, has the right to put schools wherever it
wants to put schools. If it wants to put public schools in every community in
Newfoundland, it has the right to do so. There is nothing in the present law to
prevent the Government of Newfoundland from building as many schools as it
wants. If parents in Newfoundland want to send their children to public schools,
they can do that. The religious denominations do not object to this in any way.
The religious denominations are asking that their rights to their own systems,
with their own elected school boards, be safeguarded.
The Honourable Leader of the Government mentioned earlier that they are
looking forward to having two-thirds elected to the school boards. Two-thirds
are elected to the school boards in Newfoundland now. One-third are not elected
in order that the minorities in these various denominations will have
representation on the board. If the boards were elected entirely by the
communities, they would represent only the majority in the community. The
Government of Newfoundland has, over the years, reserved the right to save
one-third to be named in order that members of different denominations will have
a say in the running of the schools in their areas.
The three denominational educational committees have already conceded many
points to the government. I understand that these points will come into effect
on July 1 through legislation in the House of Assembly in Newfoundland.
Education is a provincial jurisdiction and the Government of Newfoundland has
the right to legislate.
Among the items agreed to are a united, centrally administered bus service to
operate interdenominationally between all the schools under one joint authority
to cut costs in this area as much as possible. That has always been a bone of
contention in Newfoundland, as it is up here. Everyone talks about all the
school buses on the road carrying only three or four kids. Well, you must keep
in mind that at some point on the route, there has to be only two or three kids
on the bus. They cannot let them all off at one stop for the sake of
administrative efficiency of the system. Therefore, you can still look forward
to seeing only one, two or three kids on the bus, but the buses will be jointly
administered and interdenominational. They will carry children of all religious
denominations, as is most efficient.
What is most important, perhaps, in terms of costs saving is that they have
agreed to set up a company to supervise school construction and maintenance, and
distribute funds on the basis of need. There will be an interdenominational
committee consisting of three representatives of the government, one
representative of the integrated school system, one representative of the
Pentecostal school system and one representative of the Roman Catholic school
system, with an independent chairman to be agreed upon. The allocation of funds
for school construction and maintenance will be decided by this
interdenominational committee. Ten years ago, that would have been unthinkable.
Now, it is a fait accompli.
In discussions with government, the denominations have agreed to reduce the
number of school boards in the province from 27, which we have heard so much
about, to 10 interdenominational boards. They have agreed to examine the
viability of the current number of schools. They are estimating the closing of
approximately 100 schools over the next five years.
Other concessions can be found, and other points of agreement can be reached,
if the Government of Newfoundland would only go the negotiation route and get
back to the table, as I said earlier.
Honourable senators, before I close - and I thank you for your indulgence -
let me comment on just two of the many strange articles that I have read in the
national press on this issue. One of them summed up the situation in my province
by saying that what Premier Tobin is doing is simply trying to make the
Newfoundland education system the same as Ontario's. I say,
"Whoop-de-doo." If that is the ultimate goal for which we should all
strive, then count me out. I do not see the policemen in Ontario going around
without guns strapped to their hips. I do not see any concern in Newfoundland
about gang warfare. I do not hear about comparable murder rates. That is because
we have insisted on having the moral and ethical dimension in education in the
schools of Newfoundland. That is what the people of Newfoundland want to
Our system has worked well. With all respect to my friends in Ontario, it is
a great place to live. I have tried it and survived. My friend Senator Murray is
also acclimatizing himself. It is a wonderful province, but in terms of the
educational system, I will opt for the one back home.
Another national columnist from Vancouver was horrified that the people in
his province should be expected to comment on the educational system in
Newfoundland. He, like many of his colleagues, as well as many others, have
missed the point completely. This is not about the educational system in
Newfoundland. Education is a provincial responsibility, and the people in each
province will decide upon the education system that they want. This is about
minority rights, the minority rights of the Roman Catholics and Pentecostals in
Newfoundland - it has nothing to do with the education system. They will do what
they want to do in terms of education. We are all involved in this matter;
people in Vancouver, people everywhere.
It is just as John Donne said a long time ago: "Ask not for whom the
bell tolls." Believe me, honourable senators, every minority in this
country should ask where the bell is tolling on this issue.
Hon. C. William Doody: Honourable senators, I move, seconded by the
Honourable Senator Kinsella:
That the motion be not now adopted but that it be referred to the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is it your pleasure to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Is it a debatable motion, Your Honour?
The Hon. the Speaker: Yes, it is a debatable motion. I believe Senator
Kinsella, who is the seconder of the motion, wishes to speak on it.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Senator Doody said that he would willingly
table a certain letter. Could he also table Cardinal Carter's letter from which
he quoted extensively?
Senator Doody: I would be pleased to do that, honourable senators. I
will also table the letter from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops,
which is also pertinent.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella: Honourable senators, I rise to support Senator
Doody's motion not to adopt the proposed constitutional resolution now but,
rather, to have it first examined by a Senate committee.
Honourable senator, I preface my remarks by making an observation concerning
the quality of education in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. For the
past 32 years, I have been a university professor in Atlantic Canada. Over those
years, students from high schools in the province of Newfoundland have been
among the best prepared for university work.
Honourable senators, it is my opinion that a number of very important
questions of national interest need to be answered before we in this chamber
could be in a position to have an informed debate on the proposed resolution.
Some of these questions include the following:
First, is the proposed constitutional change consistent with Canada's
obligations under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights and, in particular, Article 13(3)? Honourable senators will
know that Canada ratified that covenant in 1976 with the agreement in writing of
every jurisdiction in Canada: federal, provincial and territorial.
Second, is the proposal congruent with UNESCO's Convention Against
Discrimination in Education? Is the resolution compatible with the 1989
Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Third, does the proposed constitutional change have any bearing on the matter
of minority rights? Does the phrase contained in the actual text of the current
Term 17, namely, "class or classes of persons," which phrase was drawn
to our attention by Senator Doody, define minority rights as they are presently
Fourth, what are the constitutionally protected rights which will be affected
by this proposed change?
Fifth, do the classes of persons who currently possess the defined rights
have a claim to be at least consulted, if not a moral veto over the exercise of
the state power which will strip them of their present constitutionally
Sixth, is there any evidence that the process to date involving the
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, on the one hand, and the House of
Commons, on the other hand, reasonably raises for members of this chamber the
suspicion of an abuse of power?
If one were to apply the test which we use in Canada to determine whether, in
a free and democratic society, certain of our Charter rights can be limited,
then what would our judgment be if we were to assess this proposal against the
question: Is it a measure that is necessary?
Honourable senators will recall that the test which the court uses to
determine when, in a free and democratic society, we can legitimately limit
rights was established by the Oakes case. Senator Doody has argued and
presented evidence to show that it is a measure that is not necessary.
The next question is: Is the measure proportionate to the laudable objective
of reforming the educational system? Further: Does the measure impede the
currently held rights of classes of persons in a minimal way?
The committee needs to hear from experts on whether the desired objective to
reform the educational system can be met within the current framework of Term
17. Many observers today have suggested that it can. Our committee needs to
canvass that issue if we are to have an informed debate in this chamber.
Indeed, honourable senators, I suggest that our committee would be helped by
hearing from the Honourable Mr. Grimes, to whom Senator Doody has alluded; Mr.
Grimes being the Minister of Education for Newfoundland and Labrador. We were
reminded that it was Mr. Grimes who spoke of a framework agreement that he was
able to reach with the stakeholders.
Honourable senators, our committee should hear from constitutional experts on
the kind of agreement which could be reached, and which would meet the terms and
conditions of the present Term 17 and, therefore, obviate the need to place in
jeopardy constitutional guarantees that have been part of the compact with
Canada since 1948-49.
Our committee, I would hope, would ask what precedent is being set in terms
of minority/majority relations with respect to rights. Our committee will wish
to ask what effect the referendum held on the question in Newfoundland will have
on the rest of Canada. After all, the perspective which Parliament brings to
this analysis is the national perspective; the resolution in the province of
Newfoundland and Labrador was a provincial perspective. Our judgment is
qualitatively and quantitatively a different kind of judgement. We can only make
that judgment if we are assisted in our analysis by the detailed study of these
kinds of questions by the committee, and there are a number of experts who could
be heard on that particular topic.
Given the fact, honourable senators, that the present Term 17 provides that:
...the Legislature will not have authority to make laws prejudicially
affecting any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools, common
(amalgamated) schools, or denominational colleges, that any class or classes of
persons have by law in Newfoundland at the date of Union...
is it not reasonable and fair that the Senate should hear from the
representatives of such class or classes of persons, as defined in the
Constitution of today? I suggest that we can best hear from such representatives
through the committee process.
Also, given the fact that the Senate has, as Senator Doody reminded us, as
recently as 1987 adopted a constitutional resolution establishing for the
Pentecostal Assemblies for Newfoundland and Labrador the same rights, is it not
reasonable and fair that we should hear from that class of persons whose rights,
clearly, will be affected?
The Senate committee will need to canvass the constitutional impact or import
of the Supreme Court of Canada in its decisions relating to what it has called
on several cases the obligation to respect "the basic compact of
Is it appropriate for a referendum, which determines the expression of
majority opinion, to be used to extinguish the rights of classes of persons who,
by themselves, individually constitute minorities? The committee might well
reflect on the question of whether the referendum should have been conducted in
a manner in which each of the seven classes or the main three classes of persons
whose rights are being affected could have indicated their respective decisions.
In conclusion, there are many other kinds of questions, but it seems to me
that the question which surrounds the basic compact which brought Newfoundland
into Confederation and how it is being breached by this present proposal must be
canvassed, and it must be canvassed in a manner in which we can hear from those
citizens whose constitutionally guaranteed rights are in jeopardy, and indeed
will be completely annulled should this measure pass.
What pressing national interest of Canada, as a whole, would be harmed if the
Senate indeed were to reject the proposed resolution?
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I do not intend to take
part in the debate for very long, and you will see why. Unusually for me, I am a
bit short of breath today.
Honourable senators, you are all aware of my interest in this question.
I have shown my interest because, as a Canadian, I believe that we do not
have a Constitution simply for the pleasure of having a Constitution.
When the people of Newfoundland started to talk about amending Term 17, my
sensitivity to people and the rights of people in this country urged me to pay
great attention to the debate. I did not wait for the presentation in the Senate
or in the House of Commons. I went so far as to go to Newfoundland during the
referendum. I was very kindly and well received by a fine gentleman, Mr. Wells,
and we had more than an hour of very flamboyant discussion. We have the same
character when we debate, in that we are very passionate, but we had a very
civilized discussion on this issue. Since then, I have paid great attention to
the development of what is now taking place today in the Senate.
I have always felt strongly that the Senate exists exactly for these great
events and times that are taking place in this country. Why do we have a Senate?
Why did they invent the Senate when the Fathers of Confederation decided that
there would be a country? There was an elected house. I was there for 30 years.
I always defended the Senate, never believing that I would come here. All my
speeches in the House of Commons prove my past. I said that it will be for
Canadians to decide what to do with the Senate eventually, but while the Senate
is there, it has a constitutional right to look at matters such as that which is
facing us today.
The Senate was invented and created to defend minority and regional rights. I
was very pleased to hear the Honourable Senator Doody refer to Mr. Lincoln and
his very famous speech in the National Assembly, when he felt that the rights of
the English-speaking minority in that province were affected, and he said that
rights are rights are rights.
I was there and I applauded him. Even the separatists applauded him. Of
course, they disagree with him, but they were absolutely taken up by the passion
that he showed in his attachment to rights.
I share that same passion today. I have always done so. I say that you do not
touch a Canadian because of his colour, because of his opinion, because of his
religion. Anyone touches one of my Quebecers because he is black, because he is
Protestant or because he is Jewish, then he touches me. If he touches me, then I
shall stand up in defence. Today I intend to do that.
I must rejoice, after having raised the issue here, that we will hold
hearings as I have been requesting. We will listen to what people have to say. I
fully endorse the opinion expressed by Senator Doody. Yes, hearings should be
held in Newfoundland. I do not agree with Senator Doody's comment, "at
least in St. John's." Hearings should be held all over the province; it
will be easier for people to be heard. They have the right to be heard because
they joined Confederation in 1949 with conditions.
One of those conditions, honourable senators, was Term 17. If I were a
Newfoundlander and a little older, I would probably remember having voted in
Some voted because they wanted to have a ferry system. We may change those
conditions, but we will honour them. I am sure Senator Doody will correct me if
I am wrong in that statement. We cannot compare touching the education system to
the fact that, three times so far, the Senate has accepted changes to the
Senator Doody: Those changes did not take anything away.
Senator Prud'homme: Exactly. I was very suspicious when I voted here,
in one of my first votes, on a new link with PEI. That was adding, honourable
senators, not subtracting. When the Pentecostal matter was before us in 1987,
the amendment did not subtract rights, it added rights. The same comment applies
to the situation involving New Brunswick; we were adding rights.
Now we are in the process, most likely, of subtracting rights. It is
important for us to hold committee hearings on this proposed amendment to learn
more about it.
Why should we know more? I followed the debate in the House of Commons on
Friday, May 31, beginning at ten o'clock. Honourable senators, the matter was
debated in the House of Commons from ten o'clock until eleven o'clock on Friday
last, and then from 12:05 to 1:30. That was it.
At no time, for instance, was there a quorum, but no one raised that problem.
That shows how interested people are when you touch something as fundamental as
taking away the rights of a class of people. I can tell you who was there and
what they did. The press was not there. They cannot understand who would be
interested in the debate. I sat in the press gallery because, from that vantage
point, I could see both sides and count the members in attendance.
At 10:07, 14 members were present, and by 10:20, they were down to 13. At
10:25, there were 15 members. On and on it went. This may be sound trivial but
it shows that they did not give this matter much attention. Yet, one member
there was so eloquently in favour of what was taking place that it raised my
suspicions. I am referring to Mr. Bellehumeur, a young, dynamic, outspoken
member of the Bloc. Listening to him attentively, I detected the major
motivation of the Bloc, giving their entire support to their new-found friend
and ally Mr. Tobin and to my friends in the Liberal Government of Canada.
Honourable senators, I suggest that during the weekend, you read the comments
of Mr. Bellehumeur at page 3247 of the House of Commons Hansard of May
31, 1996. He told us exactly what their motivation was. He said he wanted to
establish a precedent that 50 per cent means 50 per cent. Then, eventually, when
there is something else that will take place in this country, 50 per cent will
mean 50 per cent too. What a great motivation for giving their support to such
an unbelievable piece of legislation.
I must ask always myself: What is a Constitution? Why do we have a
Constitution? I am a Canadian. I trust that the Constitution will protect me as
a full Canadian. That is the importance for those who ask: What is a
Constitution and why do we need one?
The purpose of a Constitution is to protect people and to lay down how we
will behave with each other. We cannot tamper with the promises which were made
to win Newfoundlanders over to vote for Confederation in 1949, promises of old
age pensions, of family allowances, of a ferry system and, just to make sure the
votes would reach 50 per cent - read Mr. Bellehumeur's speech - Term 17 was
I see three prominent senators from Newfoundland here. I stand to be
corrected by them and if I am wrong, I apologize.
Those promises were made. The contract was signed.
As I listened attentively to both sides, I became more and more confused.
I suggest, honourable senators, you also read the speech of Mr. George Baker,
MP, from Newfoundland. He raised good points which must be answered.
I would further suggest that honourable senators read the speech of Mr. Mills
who used to be a proud Liberal. He is still a good friend of mine and, I know,
of many Liberals. He offered an amendment which should be refined. I am sure we
will have that in committee.
Honourable senators, if there was a time when the Senate had a job to do, it
I have read the royal commission report. I do not suggest that for summer
reading to any member. It is a very thick document, but it is one way to inform
yourself about a province. There is much food for thought. Much of what has been
suggested in the report is already taking place. Fewer school boards and common
busing were reasons put forward for a constitutional amendment. These changes
are already taking place and, with public pressure, they could take place much
What is preventing people from having public schools? We will find out at the
hearings. Senator Doody will be there, I am sure, with other senators. We will
listen and we will find a way to address the concerns of all Newfoundlanders
without an amendment to Term 17.
I, too, take strong objection to what the press is writing in Quebec and in The
Globe and Mail. They are not following the debate exactly as they should. I
share what the Honourable Senator Doody said with respect to the downgrading of
the educational system in Newfoundland and the fact that some members said that
Grade 12 in Newfoundland is equivalent to Grade 8 in Ontario. How do you expect
to build a friendly country by advancing stupidities of that kind? I am glad
that Mr. Baker set the clock right.
There were only two days of debate on this issue in the House of Commons. It
does not take long to read two days of debate. On Friday, May 31, the subject
was debated for two hours and a few minutes. On Monday, June 3, there was a
day's debate that terminated with an amendment and a vote. I read the French
Debates last night, and a minute ago I asked for the English Hansard.
Honourable senators, I am not here to convince you one way or the other. I am
not here to say that we, as senators, should vote against this resolution or
that we should vote for it. However, I must change my approach since Senator
Fairbairn has said that this matter will go to committee. She knows that this is
what I really wanted to hear. I want to give people a fair hearing. I am
Of course, I am not a member of the committee. I keep repeating the same
thing. Perhaps I will become a member of a committee some day. Must I join a
party to be a member and do my work? I do not know. For the moment, I hope not.
If the committee travels to Newfoundland, I will definitely go at my own
I will conclude by saying that the more we hear about this issue, the more
confused we become. The more new opinions are expressed, the more convinced I am
that this committee should take its time and do a good job for Canada. Those who
said that nothing has taken place since 1949 are not correct. As recently as
1987, we discussed Term 17. I was in the House of Commons at that time. No one
raised the issue that it was the worst educational system in Canada. Has it
become the worst since 1987? No one has made a speech saying that it is
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I regret to inform the
Honourable Senator Prud'homme that his time has expired.
Senator Prud'homme: Perhaps I could have your indulgence for two
minutes, honourable senators.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted to allow
Senator Prud'homme to continue?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I am extremely happy for the
people of Newfoundland because I now know that they will be given a fair
hearing. It must be a fair hearing and not a "bang-bang" hearing.
I trust that the three letters put forward by Senator Doody will not merely
be tabled. Tabling these letters does not mean that all senators will have time
to read them if they want to do so. I would ask that they be appended to today's
proceedings so that we will have a complete picture of what is being said. The
government has had time to put its views in a booklet, a catechism. Now we will
hear from the other side so that we will be better informed when it comes time
to vote on this matter.
Honourable senators, I urge you to pay enormous attention to this debate. It
is one of the most important debates in the many years that I have been in the
Senate because our decision could have many repercussions.
Honourable senators, our deliberations on this matter will bring honour to
the Senate. We are in the position to hold hearings, regardless of what the
press tells Canadians. I will resolutely defend that position. I was asked,
"What is the Senate doing?"
Why is the Senate getting involved?
It is our duty to look into this matter. As I said to the CBC -
It is our duty to get involved in this important issue.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I will take the adjournment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Robichaud, do you wish to
Hon. Louis J. Robichaud: Honourable senators, quite frankly, I had not
intended to say anything today.
I had not intended to say anything, but I was impressed with the speeches
that I heard from both sides of the house. I was particularly impressed when the
point was made, rather strongly, that minority rights will be taken away from
people. If that is the case, I am definitely opposed to any changes. I am not
opposed to changes per se because I was responsible for massive reform in the
educational system in New Brunswick when I was premier. I am not opposed to
reform, but I made sure that minority rights were protected. If the amendment to
the Constitution in this case withdraws minority rights in Newfoundland, then I
would be deadly opposed to it. I am not convinced yet that it does; only a
committee can determine that.
I approve of the matter being referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I approve travelling possibly to St. John's
because the facts must be known to the Senate. Senators were appointed to
protect minority rights. I would approve a budget to travel to Newfoundland if
it ensures that minority rights will be protected.
As I say, I did not intend to speak today. Perhaps I am disappointing
someone, but I had to say something about the question of principle.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report of the Standing Joint
Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations (amendment to the Canada Business
Corporation Regulations), presented in the Senate on May 30, 1996.
Hon. Richard J. Stanbury, for Senator Lewis, moved the adoption of the
Resuming the debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Bonnell, calling
the attention of the Senate to the serious state of post-secondary education in
Canada.-(Honourable Senator Berntson).
Hon. Dalia Wood: Honourable senators, I rise today to take part in
Senator Bonnell's inquiry into the state of post-secondary education in Canada.
The time is long past in this country when one could come out of high school
with a grade 12 diploma, find a decent job, get married and have children, and
be almost assured of living happily every after. In those days, only the
privileged could attend a post-secondary institution, but at least those who
could not attend for financial reason could provide for themselves and their
However, due to many factors, including technological and medical advances,
and the broadening of Canada's market and economic base, a grade 12 diploma
becomes less and less adequate. Our economy has created a demand for a better
trained labour force. Young people with only a secondary school education find
getting a job more and more difficult. The government realized this, and
encouraged youth to go forward in this more specialized work environment by
instituting and funding student loan programs, and by making post-secondary
education more accessible to young people wanting to attend college and
Honourable senators, the structure of our economy and fabric of our society
is changing once again. Jobs are few and far between and job security and
stability are things of the past. Even those who presently have jobs will always
have to consider retraining if they want to keep the job they currently have, or
be able to obtain another one when told that their position is redundant. As
well, higher tuition fees and cuts to student loan funding are once again
teaming up to make post-secondary education an option available only to the
elite in this country.
An article by Ross Finnie and Gaetan Garneau entitled "An Analysis of
Student Borrowing for Post-Secondary Education" informs us that students
who graduated with a four-year Bachelor's degree in 1994 would have paid
approximately 53 per cent more than the same student would have paid had he or
she graduated in 1990. The class of 1997 will probably pay somewhere in the area
of 76 per cent more than the class of 1990 if tuition rates remain at the
1993-94 levels. Honourable senators, that amounts to dollar increases of
approximately $2,400 for 1994 and $3,500 for 1997 graduates.
There is also the question of repayment of student loans and the interest
applied thereto. In 1995, major changes to the Canada Students Loans Program was
announced by the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Human Resources
Development. These changes were to respond to serious problems with
accessibility, flexibility and accountability.
Mr. Axworthy said at that time:
What is needed is greater assistance to those most in need and increased
flexibility in repayment to make post-secondary education more accessible and
What perhaps was not foreseen at that time was that the banks, which are now
providing the loans, would have the students repay the loans with interest rates
fixed at prime plus 5 per cent. This places an extra burden on students and
poses another hurdle to post-secondary education.
Honourable senators, repayment problems are directly related to labour market
status for graduates. In other words, a student who does not find a job, or only
a part-time job, after graduation will not be able to make the required payments
on their student loans. A study of alternative solutions to such repayment
problems, such as repayment in community service, would be in order.
Another related issue is that of mobility. In today's economic times,
students must not be hindered in any way. On May 29, 1996, the Montreal Gazette
reported that the Government of Quebec had decided to cut off financial aid to
students who choose to study in the English language outside the province of
Quebec as of September 1996. This province will, however, still fund
out-of-province studies for those wishing to study in the French language.
Honourable senators, this is an absolute affront to the principle of equality
and mobility as defined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No other province
discriminates against students in this way. The Senate of Canada should take
such matters into its cognizance.
In a speech to the fourteenth Annual Plenary of the Interaction Council of
Former Heads of State and Government on May 19, 1996, in Vancouver, Prime
Minister Chrétien said:
If we expect our citizens to be adaptable in this rapidly-changing world, we
should be prepared to provide the right training and education to help, because
we know that future generations in a globalized economy cannot be guaranteed
good jobs without a higher education. We must also provide an adequate social
safety net, especially for the most vulnerable, to reassure them that those who
cannot adjust can be afforded a measure of protection.
Honourable senators, the younger generation is being forced to adapt to the
demands of an unforgiving marketplace and to use their talents and knowledge as
best they can without the benefit of access to colleges and universities which
could give them a fighting chance at economic survival. We, as parliamentarians,
must ensure that the knowledge and training they need is at their disposal. The
Senate must examine the post-secondary institutions that it funds and inquire as
to how those funds are being used.
I have been listening to the debate in this chamber on this issue, and I
realize that education is within the jurisdiction of the provinces. However, I
believe that Parliament has a duty to monitor what is being done in the field of
education for it has an impact on employment insurance and other areas of
federal jurisdiction. The future of our youth is an issue of national concern
that deserves our attention. If the current post-secondary system is not
functioning, perhaps it is time to reconsider the way Parliament is spending its
money. For example, we could be providing more financial assistance directly to
students. We have an obligation to consider other options, options that would
allow us to maximize our resources and better respond to the needs of our youth.
Honourable senators, today's youth is tomorrow's hope for prosperity. We can
no longer afford to leave the consideration of post-secondary education to
others. Study is needed. I support Senator Bonnell's initiative to have the
Senate examine these issues. Let us not forget our youth.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I want to begin by
thanking Senator Bonnell for his inquiry on this matter. In considering the
remarks that I would like to make, I began to think about the historical
perspective of just what is a public education in Canada.
I think we should cast our minds back to the early history of this country
when public schools were first established. No matter what province we are
speaking of or, indeed, the territories, schools generally, in their first
instance, covered only grades 1 to 6. Sometimes, they covered grades 7 and 8.
Students then entered high school.
In the early years of high school education in Canada, high school was
considered to be the purview of the very bright and the academically talented.
Generally, it was available to those whose families were wealthy or whose
families placed an extremely high value on education.
Gradually, grades 9, 10 and 11 became totally funded from public revenue.
However, many of you in this chamber will remember, as I do, the days when we
paid for textbooks in grades 9, 10 and 11. We did that because those grades were
not considered to be quite as important as grades 1 to 8 and therefore were not
as generally available.
In some provinces, the addition of grade 12 was late in coming. I again ask
honourable senators to cast their minds back to when we had that interesting
phenomena called junior matriculation and senior matriculation. Junior
matriculation was grade 11; senior matriculation was grade 12. I remember the
shock of my high school students when I admitted that I had not graduated from
high school. They said, "What do you mean you did not graduate from high
school?" I said, "Well, I chose to go to university after grade 11,
after junior matriculation." Indeed, because grade 12 was the graduation
year, I did not graduate from high school.
That process resulted in a very strange anomaly in Nova Scotia in those days.
If you remained in Halifax public high school or Catholic high school for grade
12, you of course paid no tuition. However, if you left after grade 11 and went
to first year university at Dalhousie, then you had to pay tuition fees. In my
case, it did not make any difference because I was a student at the Convent of
the Sacred Heart. I was already in a private school system and my parents were
paying tuition fees. However, those who shared that similar convent experience
will recall that it was a rather restrictive environment. Although I was only 15
at the time, I could hardly wait to get to a public university. I persuaded my
very reluctant father that I should be allowed to go to university and not
complete grade 12. To me, university represented a great deal of freedom and, I
must say, my marks in first year reflected that.
Honourable senators, it is important to reflect on the reasons why public
education became more and more an obligation of the public purse. As society
became less rural and more technologically driven the need for young people to
be better educated became more and more apparent. I remember classmates in
Halifax who left school at the end of grade 8. The boys left to become
messengers for CNCP Telecommunications. Others left to go to work on the Halifax
docks, and I knew of many who went to work in the mines. Some of the girls left
to go into domestic service. Others worked at the Moir's chocolate factory
dipping chocolate, which was also located in Halifax. Others left to attend
Halifax Vocational School which, in those days, did not grant a high school
diploma. It granted diplomas, but they were not high school diplomas. They were
certificates for secretarial science, electricity or plumbing, and it was not
until much later that those certificates actually resulted in a high school
All of that has changed, honourable senators. Almost all Canadian children
attend high school today. We often hear of drop-out rates of 25 per cent; but,
in reality, that does not reflect the drop-in rate. Although some leave for a
year or two, many return. Approximately 80 per cent of young people today
actually graduate with high school diplomas. More and more of them are finding
that that is simply not adequate. Because our society has become more complex,
more technologically driven and more information driven they need to pursue
their education even further.
Who gets to attend this further education in our community colleges and
universities, honourable senators? If you were to conduct a survey of any group
of students, you would discover, to my dismay at least, that those who come from
affluent families, those families whose annual income is above the Canadian
average, are represented in a disproportionate amount. The young people whose
family members have a higher level of education, often just because they have
that value, are there in very high numbers.
Let me take my own family as an example. Neither of my parents had the
opportunity to attend university. My mother was a graduate nurse. My father had
dropped out of university after first year because his father was killed as a
result of the Halifax explosion. They were insistent that their children attend
university. Indeed, my mother was insistent that her daughters promise her
faithfully on the Bible that we not marry until we received our second degrees.
What about those young people who do not have the perspective of either an
affluent family or a family which values education? Many of those young people
realize that in our society today they must continue along the educational path,
but many of them do it at a great deal of personal sacrifice.
It is imperative that a major review of access to post-secondary education
takes place in this country.
Among the questions that we must ask is whether the federal taxation system
should be used in the way in which it is used in Australia. There are no tuition
fees in Australia, but once you graduate from a post-secondary institution,
whether it be a community college or a university, you pay for the privilege of
having achieved that academic experience through the taxation system. In some
ways, they are more fortunate than we are in Canada because their students do
not have ready access to moving south of the border. If you move south in
Australia, you just about drop off the globe. However, the reality is that they
have instituted a system that works and makes post-secondary education
accessible to all who wish to achieve it.
Another area which I think requires examination in this country is the role
of community colleges. For many, these are the first steps after high school,
and they vary terrifically from place to place in this country. Cégeps in the
province of Quebec, for example, tend to focus on academic programs, although
they have other programs. My province's experience is almost entirely of a
technical nature. Community colleges in Manitoba, Red River, Kewatin, and
Assiniboine are used primarily for training in specific occupations. They vary
in the credits they give from child care to drafting, mining and agriculture.
Regrettably, there are insufficient places for the students in the province of
Manitoba who wish to attend.
Former Senator Duff Roblin, along with Kevin Kavanaugh and Kathleen
Richardson, in a significant report done on post-secondary education in Manitoba
just a few years ago, pointed clearly to the lack of potential for young people
to attend community colleges in the province, as well as the need for the
courses in those schools to be both planned and flexible.
I understand that similar problems exist within our universities. Surely it
can be the role of the federal institution to identify our strengths from coast
to coast to coast in post-secondary education and to encourage the further
evolution of our post-secondary experience.
There are also problems at our university level. If we lived in an ideal
society in this nation, every province would be able to offer the optimum in
programs to all of their students. However, we do not live in an ideal society
because our provinces vary greatly in their size and therefore in their
potential to offer the broadest possible education to their students.
The University of Manitoba, for example, has a school of dentistry. Students
from across the country are educated in that discipline at the University of
Manitoba. In fact, I have been told that the majority of them come from places
other than the province of Manitoba. This is the most expensive university
education that we offer in Canada. It is more expensive than medicine. Yet, we
do not appear to be doing an evaluation of the number of places that we require
in dentistry across the nation so that we can identify whether we have too many
places, or too few places, if that might be the case. We have done that, for
example, in the field of veterinary medicine, where we have regional schools
rather than provincial schools, yet all provinces have certain quotas that they
can send to those schools.
I think that the recent decision made at the universities in Halifax is truly
exciting. Dalhousie, King's, St. Mary's, the technical University of Nova Scotia
and Mount Saint Vincent University have got gotten together to realize that they
can take a cooperative approach to the running of their universities. Imagine!
Five universities in the same city, and they will be allowed to take courses at
one another's institutions. How revolutionary!
I attended a university in Massachusetts in 1962 that allowed me to do that.
I attended Smith College, but I was allowed to take courses at Amherst, the
University of Massachusetts, and Mount Holyoke. A bus ran between the four towns
in which these universities were located.
Up to this point, if you were a student at Mount Saint Vincent University,
you had difficulty getting your credit recognized at Dalhousie University. I see
some of our pages smiling because they know the experiences they are having in
similar circumstances. What they are doing in Halifax is progressive - long
overdue, but progressive.
It is that kind of experimentation that we could examine in a Senate
committee and then share that information with the provinces. Of course, we do
not have control of education. That is a provincial responsibility, and it
should be a provincial responsibility. However, there are steps that we can take
as a federal institution to ensure that there is an understanding of the
educational experiences across the nation, and we can share that knowledge.
I hope that Senator Bonnell's study goes forward because, honourable
senators, our young people deserve better than they are presently getting. They
need better counselling as to the programs that are available to them. They need
better programming. They need enriched academic programs. Our country needs to
maximize the talents and abilities of every single young person that we have the
privilege of having live in this country.
On motion of Senator Kinsella, for Senator Berntson, debate adjourned.
Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of Thursday, May 30, 1996:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the child abuse and neglect
(CAN) death of six-month old Sara Podniewicz, known as Sara Olsen, at the hands
of her parents, Lisa Olsen and Michael Podniewicz, on April 24, 1994 in Toronto,
Ontario; and to her autopsy; and to her parents' conviction and sentence for
second degree murder; and to their treatment of their other children; and to the
actions of the Catholic Children's Aid Society, the Canadian Mothercraft Society
and Corrections Canada in this case.
She said: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the terrible and tragic
child abuse neglect, CAN, murder of six-month-old Sara Podniewicz of Toronto.
This particular case drives home the fragility, vulnerability and dependence of
children and their need for protection.
On April 25, 1994, baby Sara's parents, Lisa Olsen and Michael Podniewicz,
called 911 emergency services, screaming that their baby had stopped breathing.
Constable Brian Gill was among the first policemen to arrive at their home. This
was his first case of this kind. He attempted to resuscitate the infant. His
partner, Constable Robert Guptill, noticed that Sara's vital signs were absent
and that her arms were stiffly raised from her body. Ian McClelland, a seasoned
paramedic with the Metropolitan Toronto Ambulance Service, knew that Sara was
dead, but he and his partner attempted life-saving manoeuvres according to their
prescribed procedures. On arrival at St. John's Health Centre, Dr. Richard Kim
confirmed that Sara was dead. Parents Olsen and Podniewicz wept bitterly.
All, especially the police, were sympathetic to the suffering parents,
suspecting nothing. However, the autopsy performed at the Hospital for Sick
Children in Toronto by Dr. Charles Smith, a paediatric forensic pathologist,
revealed that baby Sara had been dead 3 to 12 hours prior to the 911 call.
Further, the nature of the injuries did not match the parents' accounts of how
the injuries occurred.
Baby Sara's parents, Lisa Olsen and Michael Podniewicz, were both charged
with second-degree murder. They were tried a few weeks ago by Mr. Justice John
O'Driscoll and a jury, with Lesley Baldwin as crown prosecutor. They were found
guilty and Mr. Justice O'Driscoll will determine sentence and parole eligibility
on June 24, 1996.
Six-month-old infant Sara Olsen, who weighed approximately six pounds at
birth, weighed only 10 pounds when she died. The autopsy revealed that she
suffered greatly before her death. Sara's injuries included 15 fractured ribs in
various stages of healing, indicating different and several incidents of
physical abuse. Her right arm was broken in one place, the left in two. Both
thigh bones were fractured. The total number of fractures was 20. She had bled
around her spinal cord and into her lungs, and she had had an ear infection.
Dr. Paul Babyn, a paediatric radiologist with knowledge of non-accidental
trauma in children, testified at the second-degree murder trial of her parents
When you take the constellation of injuries, I have not seen it other than in
dramatic...motor vehicle accidents where the child is dead or, in one case, a
child who got mauled in a trash compactor.
Dr. Marcellina Mian of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program, SCAN,
at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, testified that Sara also suffered
from "failure to thrive syndrome," saying:
Obviously a child who is not fed adequately is being neglected...Neglect is
abuse by omission.
Paediatric forensic pathologist Dr. Charles Smith of the Hospital for Sick
Children wrote the cause of death in his autopsy report, dated October 28, 1994,
I hereby certify that I have examined this body, have opened and examined the
above-noted cavities and organs as indicated, and that in my opinion the cause
of death was: acute bronchopneumonia complicating thoracic trauma.
Honourable senators, the medical cause of death was pneumonia, but her
physical condition was so poor that she could have died of multiple causes.
Lesley Baldwin, the Crown Prosecutor, stated in her opening statement at the
In summary, she was dead for a significant period of time, before any medical
personnel were contacted.... she had multiple fractures that are consistent with
the intentional infliction of severe force and she ultimately died of pneumonia
due to the injuries she sustained to her chest.
Baby Sara would have been coughing up blood for days before her death.
Despite her suffering, despite all the physical signs of illness, her parents,
mindful of their own self-protection in avoiding detection, sought no medical
help for this defenceless infant.
Honourable senators, I shall review some of the pathologies and privations of
this family. Both Lisa Olsen and Michael Podniewicz are crack cocaine addicts.
They do not work and live on welfare. They are unmarried and, since 1987, have
had a volatile and unstable common-law relationship. They have seven children,
six from this relationship and one from Lisa's previous liaison. The seventh
child was born during this trial and the sixth during the preliminary hearing of
At least one of these seven children, and probably baby Sara as well, were
conceived during conjugal visits by Olsen to Podniewicz when he was imprisoned
for five years on a conviction of assault for brutally injuring their eldest
son, Mikey, on June 14, 1988. Mikey, then only 10 weeks old, now 8 years old,
suffered severe brain damage from Podniewicz's attack. Mikey is blind, deaf,
partially paralysed and has a mental age of 10 weeks. He is in foster care and
will require constant care for the rest of his life which is expected to be
short, probably only to his teens.
Kalev Helde of the Catholic Children's Aid Society testified at the parents'
trial for Sara's murder that Mikey's injuries stand out among the 300 cases he
had seen up to 1988. He stated:
Mikey Jr.'s case was especially significant to me because the quality of life
had been compromised so much.
As a result of this, the Catholic Children's Aid Society issued a supervision
order and placed Olsen's and Podniewicz's names on Ontario's Child Abuse
Registry. In addition, the Society apprehended two of Olsen's other children and
placed them into care.
The Catholic Children's Aid Society subsequently returned these children to
mother, Lisa Olsen. About this, Christie Blatchford reported in her Toronto
Sun article of March 1, 1996, entitled "Tears for Sara Aren't
...the Society concluded, `...she will be able to protect' the children `from
any potential risk in the event of Michael Podniewicz's release from custody'...
Michael Podniewicz was released from penitentiary on parole with the parole
condition that he was never to be alone with the children. Shortly after his
release, little Sara was dead.
Honourable senators, no one protected Sara from her parents.
I spoke in this chamber on March 21, 1996, about Judge Thomas Gove's concerns
regarding child protection services and certain failures therein in British
Colombia. Those concerns were published in his "Report of the Gove Inquiry
into Child Protection in British Columbia." Sara Olsen is another poignant
example of a failure in child protection services in Canada, this time in
The Catholic Children's Aid Society social worker for this family was Susan
Demelo Grant. Her role was to work with the family to ensure that the children
were being well cared for and not abused in any way. In the 15 months beginning
January 1993, 10 months before Sara's birth, Susan Demelo Grant visited the
family 12 times. Not once did she ever visit the children's bedrooms.
During Susan Demelo Grant's second visit to the family home, she saw Michael
Podniewicz alone with the children, clearly in breach of his parole conditions.
In her testimony, she explained her non-intervention, stating that Mr.
Podniewicz was not officially on parole at the time as he was living in a
halfway house in Toronto. Further, at mother Lisa's request, Demelo Grant, in
January 1994, attempted to have this parole condition removed.
Demelo Grant's last visit to the family was on April 6, 1996. Observing that
Sara had a cast on her arm, she began to have concerns about Sara's abuse. Sara
was dead days later, on April 25, 1994.
About Sara's broken arm, Demelo Grant, during testimony at the murder trial,
stated that there was a:
...high possibility that Sara's injury was inflicted by the parents.
Though aware that Podniewicz was convicted and sentenced for assaulting his
first-born son Mikey, her only action was to direct a health specialist with the
Catholic Children's Aid Society to look into it. Her testimony also revealed
that she was unaware that both Olsen and Podniewicz were listed on the agency's
Child Abuse Registry.
Sam Pazzano, in a May 3, 1996 Toronto Sun article, "Watchdog
Unaware of Abuse Warning," reported:
Demelo Grant explained yesterday to Justice John O'Driscoll that the registry
information was `in the microfiche file, but I didn't retain that information.'
Honourable senators, the fact that these abusers' names were listed in the
provincial Child Abuse Registry did not prevent the abuse and murder of this
child because the Children's Aid worker simply did not use the information.
I remind senators of a similar case, that of Kim Anne Popen who died on
August 11, 1976, where the Child Abuse Registry was not consulted by Children's
Aid workers. In his 1982 report entitled "Judicial Inquiry Into the Care of
Kim Anne Popen by the Children's Aid Society of the City of Sarnia and the
County of Lambton," Judge Ward Allen informed that the Child Abuse Registry
had not protected Kim Anne Popen, saying:
...the information contained in the Register is rarely used by the local
Children's Aid Societies.
Honourable senators, these same tragedies of children's abuse and death keep
being repeated, frequently with the same patterns and characteristics.
The Catholic Children's Aid Society was not alone in failing to protect baby
Sara from harm. Another organization was the Canadian Mothercraft Society
brought into the Podniewicz case by the Catholic Children's Aid Society. Martha
McKay, an infant therapist with the Canadian Mothercraft Society, worked with
the family. Her first visit with the family was four months before Sara's birth.
During her involvement, she never once went upstairs to see where the
children lived. Martha McKay never inquired about Mikey or his whereabouts. In
an April 26, 1996 Toronto Sun article, Christie Blatchford reported that,
during testimony, McKay referred to herself as:
`a supportive, non-authoritarian person from the community' there to offer
help for the family.
This echoes Judge Thomas Gove who noted in his report on the death of Matthew
Vaudreuil in British Colombia that the problem is that helping agencies and the
child protection services are not child-centred enough and sometimes confuse the
best interests of parents, usually mothers, with the best interests of the
child. In his report's conclusions, Judge Gove stated that in Matthew
Vaudreuil's case many of the decisions made were:
...based on social workers' self-interest, Verna Vaudreuil's interest or the
ministry's interest, rather than Matthew's interest. If those decisions had been
child-centered, it is likely that Matthew would have been taken into care,
either by apprehension or by agreement.
The trial of Olsen and Podniewicz was most disturbing. It drew attention to
the unspoken fact which is the state's financial subsidization of their
pathologies and privations and a congealing of inadequacies. It also drew
attention to the compounding of errors within the helping agencies and
government agencies including child protection services, family support
agencies, welfare authorities, and the parole and corrections authorities.
The Senate of Canada should be informed about the National Parole Board and
Correction Canada's activities in this case since they are federal bodies.
Honourable senators, all of these agencies work with troubling problems.
Their problems and failures are usually better known than their successes. We
should be attentive to both.
However, the most telling account of Sara's abuse is that of her older
sister. This eight-year-old girl, Jasmine, had been interviewed by police
concerning life in the Podniewicz home. On April 3, 1996, a Toronto Star
article by Gary Oakes entitled "Abuse of Baby Acted Out on Tape Shown to
Jurors," reported part of a discussion between the eight-year-old and the
The 8-year-old...told police...that she was mad at her dad "cause if he
didn't do it, nothing woulda happened."
It grips your heart. You can hear her anger.
Detective Constable Jim Vaughan-Evans asked:
If he didn't do what?
"Never mind," the girl replied, but later added, "If he didn't
drop Sara on the head."
It was very interesting that all through her testimony, the little girl would
refer to "secrets" that she was not allowed to tell.
The trial judge, Mr. Justice John O'Driscoll, in his instructions to the
trial jury, said:
Undoubtedly, these matters have shaken your faith in certain agencies and
institutions...but this is not a coroner's inquest, or an employee review, or a
hearing to decide whether to fire or promote someone. You're not here to send
any messages, or to receive them.
The jury listened. The jury found both Lisa Olsen and Michael Podniewicz
guilty of second-degree murder.
Honourable senators, one is impressed by the endurance and fortitude of the
many who work on these cases, including persons such as Constables Brian Gill
and Robert Guptill of the Toronto Metropolitan Police; paramedic Ian McClelland;
Dr. Charles Smith, the pathologist who performed the autopsy; Lesley Baldwin,
Crown Attorney; Dr. Jim Cairns, Deputy Coroner for the Province of Ontario; and
Dr. James Young, Chief Coroner of the Province of Ontario; and others whose
concerns about child homicides have been well articulated. They deserve our
respect and support for managing this case and for obtaining the conviction of
these two parents.
In addition to the challenges of the investigation, these individuals then
face many difficulties in court which may prove to be obstacles and prohibitions
to obtaining convictions in such cases. On the witness stand, these
professionals, especially the pathologists, are frequently cross-examined by
defence lawyers who aggressively seek to destroy the careers, credibility and
reputations of witnesses. Many doctors and professionals, essentially
scientists, are uneasy under cross-examination because of the unsavoury tactics
employed by many defence counsel to destroy their medical evidence. Moreover,
the use of expert witnesses by the defence has taken currency in the courts of
Canada and has found favour with defence counsel.
I am informed that a particular impediment to justice in these cases is the
absence of reciprocal disclosure of these expert witnesses' evidence. This
absence of disclosure is an impediment to obtaining convictions. Another factor
in these cases is the political self-interests of the varied agencies involved.
The agencies' self-interests sometimes take pre-eminence over the interests of
I am informed that the Catholic Children's Aid Society wants this verdict
appealed. Obviously, such appeal would delay a coroner's inquest. Honourable
senators, I believe a coroner's inquest is critical in this particular case and
should be held. If the Catholic Children's Aid Society does not appeal the case,
I urge the chief coroner to call an inquest. If the agency does appeal, I
encourage Bob Runciman, the Solicitor General of Ontario, to order an inquest
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Cools, I regret that your
time has expired.
Is leave granted for Senator Cools to complete her remarks?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, this trial is a milestone because
it did not exempt or excuse the mother's role in this crime as so many criminal
proceedings do. This trial held both parents, mother and father, responsible and
culpable in this death.
If the mother, Lisa Olsen, had been held responsible in Mikey's case, perhaps
little Sara's life might have been spared.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if no other senator wishes
to speak on this inquiry, it is considered debated.
Motion to Extend Date of Final
Report of Special Committee
Hon. Richard J. Stanbury (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government), for
Senator Rompkey, pursuant to notice of Tuesday, June 4, 1996, moved:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on April 25, 1996, the
Special Committee of the Senate on the Cape Breton Development Corporation be
authorized to present its final report no later than June 18, 1996, and that the
Committee retain all powers necessary to disseminate and publicize its final
report until June 30, 1996.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella, for Senator Comeau, pursuant to notice of
Wednesday, June 5, 1996, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries, have the power to engage the
services of such counsel and technical, clerical, and other personnel as may be
necessary for the purpose of its examination and consideration of such bills,
subject-matter of bills, and other matters relating to fisheries generally as
are referred to it.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Monday, June 10, 1996, at 8:00 p.m.