Third reading of Bill S-236, An Act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, as amendedPublished on 21 June 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Terry Mercer
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, to echo Senator Lovelace Nicholas’ question, I think that’s an oversight that we continue to perpetuate in our history. If you walk around this building and look at the ceiling here, you hear talk about the symbols on the ceiling being from the founding groups that came to Canada — Ireland, Scotland, England, France — but there is no recognition there of the people who were here before us. I’m not suggesting that we change it, but we always need to recognize it, and I appreciate the intervention of Senator Lovelace Nicholas.
It’s typical of Canada that we would go to Prince Edward Island to enjoy ourselves, and then somebody would take us someplace else to do some hard work. P.E.I. has always been the place I’ve always gone and have always had a good time, whether it be summer vacation or going there in the winter.
The problem with the council meeting in Charlottetown then was that it was supposed to be a meeting of Maritimes provinces, and they were going to talk about a Maritime union. It’s too bad Sir John A. had not come a few days earlier, because maybe they would have gotten something done regarding the Maritime union. It would have made our provinces a lot more efficient if we had a Maritime union. I’m not proposing that at this stage of the game — and I don’t have any intention to do so — but it would allow us to be more efficient in governing ourselves not only provincially but also with respect to the economy, because of the crazy economic barriers we put up at Confederation — and some still exist in interprovincial trade.
It is typical that Sir John A. would show up with beer and wine. I still have no idea where the dancing comes into the conference, but there are constant references to balls and celebrations in the evening.
I invite colleagues, if they have a chance, to drop by my office on the third floor of the East Block. I have a series of cartoons on my wall that were drawn many years ago for the Young Liberals, when I was director of the Young Liberals. The one I’m most proud of is a caricature of the Charlottetown Conference where it depicts the “Mothers of Confederation” instead of the fathers. The sign says, “Whatever happened to the Mothers of Confederation?” Not only did we not recognize the Aboriginal people but the other sex wasn’t recognized at the conference, either.
Senator Cordy: They were the ones who were doing all the work.
Senator Mercer: You are absolutely right, Senator Cordy, as always.
I want to remind people of what Senator Joyal raised yesterday, namely that after a year of the union my province wanted out. They wanted out because it was costing a lot of money. At that time we were wealthy compared to others because we were a trading region and a lot of ships were coming through the Port of Halifax, et cetera. It was very costly for Nova Scotia in the long run and in the short run; we had to pay a lot.
I’m glad to hear that Senator Tkachuk from Saskatchewan wants to say “thank you.” You’re welcome.
I just wanted to put on the record the fact that Nova Scotia’s attendance at the meeting was primarily to talk about the Maritime union and some guy from Ontario showed up and hijacked the meeting. That is so typical. It is also so typical that, as Maritimers, we welcomed him to the party. The fact that he showed up with booze may have had something to do with that. I understand that Sir John A. was a charming fellow.
Honourable senators, as we come to a conclusion on this, I wanted to ensure that we recognized that not everyone was happy after this party was over. A year after the party was over and we went down the line, Nova Scotia said, “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.” I’m happy that they didn’t step back, but it is a demonstration that as the country evolves — and we are still evolving — we will still have these bumps along the road. We need to acknowledge that, but we also need to learn from the mistakes we made in Charlottetown — that is, not having the Aboriginal people at the table, not having women at the table and all the other mistakes that were made.
Charlottetown is a great place. Some bad examples may have been set there, but hopefully we’ve all learned from those. Senator Duffy just reminded me that we picked up one bad habit from Sir John A. — at least, some of us did.
I encourage you to support this motion.