Porter, Hon. Dana
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A look at Canada's Constitution. Reference to Sir Wilfrid Laurier's prediction that the Twentieth Century would be Canada's century. Vast changes since the early decades of the 1900's. Canada's development as a free Canada within a united Empire. One peculiarity of Canada's position: we have arrived at our present status of autonomy and we have succeeded in working out our multitudinous problems of government on every level, within the confines of a constitution that legally we cannot change. A tribute to the Fathers of Confederation that we have been able to proceed so far and so successfully within those limits. The British North America Act, conceived with vision and fashioned with skill; standing the test of time and through controversy. The vital need for some generally acceptable procedure for constitutional amendment within our own country as we look to our future. An examination of how the Constitution of Canada is embodied in the British North America Act of 1867. Amendment that has taken place; how it is possible. What must be considered for amending procedure. The issue of the division of powers. Requests to the Imperial Parliament for amendments. An amendment passed in 1949 of a different nature which gave to the Federal Parliament the power to amend its own constitution, and which brought into focus the dangers of our present position; this amendment passed at the request of the Federal Government, with no consultation of the provinces at all. How and why that is a dangerous practice. The role of the Supreme Court of Canada to determine questions of overlapping powers between the Federal and the Provincial Governments. The Dominion-Provincial Conference of January, 1950, convened to consider the broad question of constitutional amendment. The general possibilities discussed and narrowed down to a few simple points. Controversy over the fourth point: all other amendments (those not entrenched; those not decided by the groups directly affected by specific amendments) it was thought should be possible by enactment of the Federal Parliament along with some adequate majority of the provincial legislatures, that majority to be two-thirds of the Provincial Legislatures. Problems this causes, especially with regard to Quebec. Understanding Quebec's viewpoint. Guarantee, under the BNA Act, that certain fundamental rights would be protected. Property and civil rights bound up with the Quebec civil law and their way of life. Quebec not opposed to amendment, but cautious of what amendment should be allowed. The need for a change in procedure, and the need for flexibility, along with a caution that constitutional change should not be made too easy. A review of the last 84 years and what Canada has accomplished. The time for a more final solution of the peculiar situation Canada finds itself in with regard to a statute that we have no legal power to change. The speaker's belief that it is right that we should continue to negotiate with caution and with foresight towards a sound formula for settlement. Looking back upon the life of our nation in relation to the fundamental law of our constitution to see revealed a supreme example of political genius; we see a divided nation that became one. We see a weak nation that became strong. We see an uncertain future that became bright. The wisdom and common sense of the British North America Act.