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 Joseph Day
Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, I have been asked by the sponsor of this bill to say a few words. Senator Griffin, I will try to do so, and you can take back the message to the premier that I was not holding up this bill.
Honourable senators, Bill S-236 is entitled “An Act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation,” and perhaps we should start by wondering what “birthplace” means. If we mean that’s where the actual birth took place, then Charlottetown isn’t the birthplace because the actual birth took place in London when the bill that created Canada was passed.
Now, maybe you’re talking about conception. God knows what went on in Charlottetown at that time, or perhaps it was part of the gestation. That is as far as I will go with this metaphor.
Senators Joyal and McIntyre spoke very well, outlining the points that this was part of a process. It’s rarely consistent that we all agree on something like this. This bill only had one debate at second reading. In fact, we only heard one speech at second reading, and that was from the sponsor. The bill only had one day of committee study. The committee heard from only one witness, apart from the sponsor.
Needless to say, I’m very grateful for colleagues like Senators McIntyre and Joyal who ensured that the record will show that a rapid study of a bill does not necessarily mean absolute agreement with the subject matter. I would like to follow their lead to establish that the proper historical context is reflected in our deliberations.
I’m pleased that my fellow New Brunswicker, Senator McIntyre, introduced amendments at committee stage. These created a more accurate historical description of the process leading to Confederation in the preamble to the bill. I thank honourable senators for that. I thank all the committee members, including the bill’s sponsor, Senator Griffin, for supporting those amendments. As has been rightly pointed out, both in committee and during third reading debate by Senator McIntyre, Charlottetown may have been the site of the first formal conference, but it was not the only conference. I’m glad he noted the idea for these conferences — the brains behind the operation, if you will — came from New Brunswick. That was our Lieutenant-Governor at the time, Arthur Hamilton Gordon. Goodness knows why he was so keen on a Maritime union, but I suspect in part it was because of the Fenian Raids that were happening all along the west coast of New Brunswick, and New Brunswick needed some help in holding back the Irish from northwest United States. There has been a lot written on that situation.
In any event, there was to be a Maritime union meeting in New Brunswick. In fact, as Senator McIntyre explained, the original plan was to hold a conference for a Maritime union in Fredericton. It later got changed to Charlottetown, and we are told by a number of historians the reason was because the Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island refused to come to New Brunswick — a real good way to start out on talks of a union, I would think.
I hope that honourable senators will agree with me that I feel that my province has a right to claim to be at least a place to “celebrate where it all began.” That’s the terminology that New Brunswick is using now because all of this is tied into not so much the historical fact but, rather, the current ability to attract visitors to our region for tourism purposes.
Colleagues, we all come from different parts of Canada, and we all enjoy the opportunity to feel pride in our own communities and in their contributions to the creation and the maintenance of this great country. As Senator Joyal so eloquently told us, ours is a nation that struggled with unity, both during its creation and indeed throughout its history. He called Canada a work-in- progress, and I would like to echo his wise words.
We’re about to celebrate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Canada, and I can think of no better time and opportunity to reflect on not only where we came from but where we would like to see our country go.