This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Skip to Content

Speech in Senate Chamber: Senator Cools speaks to her inquiry on distinguished Canadians and their involvement with the United Kingdom, and the appointment of Mr. Conrad Black to the House of Lords as a non-hereditary peer and lord.

Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of November 2, 1999:

That she will call the attention of the Senate:

(a) to persons of Canadian birth who sat as members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, including Ontario-born Edward Blake, Liberal Minister of Justice of Canada 1875-1877 also Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada 1880-1887, and New Brunswick-born the Right Honourable Bonar Law, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1922-1923, and Ontario-born Sir Bryant Irvine, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom 1976-1982;

(b) to persons of Canadian birth who sat as members of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, including the Right Honourable R.B. Bennett, Prime Minster of Canada 1930-1935, and Lord Beaverbrook, Cabinet Minister in the United Kingdom in 1918 and 1940-1942;

(c) to persons of British birth born in the United Kingdom or the Dominions and Colonies who have served in the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada including the Right Honourable John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada 1984 also Liberal Leader of the Opposition l984-1990 and myself, a sitting black female Senator born in the British West Indies;

(d) to persons of Canadian citizenship who were members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom including the Prime Ministers of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justices, and some Cabinet Ministers of Canada including the Leader of the Government in the Senate 1921-1930 and 1935-1942 the Right Honourable Senator Raoul Dandurand appointed to the United Kingdom Privy Council in 1941;

(e) to the 1919 Nickle Resolution, a motion of only the House of Commons of Canada for an address to His Majesty King George V and to Prime Minister R.B. Bennett's 1934 words in the House of Commons characterizing this Resolution, that:

"That was as ineffective in law as it is possible for any group of words to be. It was not only ineffective, but I am sorry to say, it was an affront to the sovereign himself. Every constitutional lawyer, or anyone who has taken the trouble to study this matter realizes that that is what was done.";

(f) to the words of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett in a 1934 letter to J.R. MacNicol, MP that:

"So long as I remain a citizen of the British Empire and a loyal subject of the King, I do not propose to do otherwise than assume the prerogative rights of the Sovereign to recognize the services of his subjects.";

(g) to the many distinguished Canadians who have received honours since 1919 from the King or Queen of Canada including the knighting in 1934 of Sir Lyman Duff, Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice, and in 1935 of Sir Ernest MacMillan, musician, and in 1986 of Sir Bryant Irvine, parliamentarian, and in 1994 of Sir Neil Shaw, industrialist, and in 1994 of Sir Conrad Swan, advisor to Prime Minister Lester Pearson on the National Flag of Canada;

(h) to the many distinguished Canadians who have received 646 orders and distinctions from foreign non-British, non-Canadian sovereigns between 1919 and February 1929;

(i) to the legal and constitutional position of persons of Canadian birth and citizenship, in respect of their ability and disability for their membership in the United Kingdom House of Lords and House of Commons, particularly Canadians domiciled in the United Kingdom holding dual citizenship of Canada and of the United Kingdom;

(j) to the legal and constitutional position of Canadians at home and abroad in respect of entitlement to receive honours and distinctions from their own Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II of Canada, and to the position in respect of their entitlement to receive honours and distinctions from sovereigns other than their own, including from the sovereign of France the honour, the Ordre Royale de la Légion d'Honneur;

(k) to those honours, distinctions, and awards that are not hereditary in character such as life peerages, knighthoods, military and chivalrous orders; and

(l) to the recommendation by the United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the appointment to the House of Lords as a non-hereditary peer and lord of Mr. Conrad Black, a distinguished Canadian, publisher, entrepreneur and also the Honorary Colonel of the Governor General's Foot Guards of Canada.

She said: Honourable senators, I speak today to the unique historical and constitutional relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom, and to our shared Constitution and parliamentary systems, and to shared citizens and citizenship. Not long ago, in my lifetime, British and Canadian citizenship were indistinguishable, though Canada's sovereignty was asserted under a peculiar dominion status. As a black person, born and raised to age 13 in Barbados, British West Indies, who moved to Canada, I share in this dual experience. Years later, compelled by the comprehension that, as a black British anglophone in Quebec, I would never be a true Quebecer, I moved from Quebec to Ontario, a refugee from "pur laine." I feel strongly that my heritage is being undermined and that I must assert and defend it.

Honourable senators, many in this country, including some cabinet ministers, advocate the dismantling of Canada's constitutional monarchy. I call this constitutional vandalism the deconstruction of Canada. They invoke a so-called popular democratic impulse against aristocracy, but their appeal to the democratic principle is shallow, hollow and very transparent. They present absolutism to the public as the ancient absolutism of kings, while deliberately ignoring the current absolutism of cabinets and courts in this modern era. These deconstructionists are intellectually and morally bankrupt. They mislead the public because Canada has never had an aristocracy or an aristocratic political structure. Unlike the United Kingdom, aristocracy has never been a part of Canada's social, economic, military or political structure.

Canada, as a new world settlement, has never possessed the social conditions that caused the creation of aristocratic structures. Canada never had the requisite condition for the aristocratic principle, being the hereditary principle known in England as the law of primogeniture, nor the aristocratic structure necessary for the protection of persons and property, being the protection of life and liberty provided by the aristocrat to his charges in return for their loyalty and service to him. In the United Kingdom, that political aristocratic structure gave way over time to ministerial responsible government, which Canada adopted very early in its history through the political party system.

My political culture is that of a constitutional monarchy and British parliamentary institutions which gave the British Caribbean the oldest legislative assemblies in the common law world. These parliamentary institutions brought about the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and the abolition of slavery itself in 1833. These parliamentary political solutions avoided the carnage and bloodshed of the United States of America Civil War of 1861 to 1865, to my mind the military republican solution versus the Queen in Parliament political solution. The essential element of ministerial responsible government by the Queen in Parliament is the duty of Her Majesty's cabinet, under the confidence of Parliament, to find political solutions to human problems and conflicts in contrast to legal, judicial or military responses to those problems. Politics is the answer to most problems. The greatest contribution of our British system is the art of politics. The making and recommending of political appointments and honours is politics.

Honourable senators, Barbados is an old settlement whose legislative assembly was established in 1639, the oldest legislative assembly outside the United Kingdom. This stands in stark contrast to that of French Haiti and Spanish Cuba, both republics and both non-British settlements. I feel a strong affection for the Queen in Parliament, and no affection or craving for republican institutions in Canada. I feel disaffection towards those who would transform Canada into a republic. I shall resist them, as is my sworn duty. Canadians are no less free or independent, and no less blessed in liberty than the citizens of any republic. In fact, Canadians are blessed by being citizens of this constitutional monarchy, and that fact has made Canada and Canadians what they are, for in Canada freedom wears a crown. That schools, political institutions and, especially, many politicians decline to uphold Canada's great constitutional heritage is a great tragedy. Some have called it a lament for a nation.

Honourable senators, I turn now to the Queen's Royal Prerogative in respect of conferring recognitions, honours, distinctions, and titles. It is the ancient prerogative of sovereigns to extend honours to their own citizens. The converse is the entitlement of citizens — that is, Canadians — to receive honours from their own Queen. Further, Canadians who reside in other countries are entitled to recognition by sovereigns of those countries. In cases of shared sovereigns and citizenships, those Canadians acquire additional entitlements. This fact is vital in today's era of globalization, which our government's foreign policy has supported vigorously. The desire of human beings, the desire of the human heart for support from fellow humans, for community acknowledgement as expressed in the sovereign's recognition, is a powerful, noble and important desire. All persons, distinguished in politics, industry, arts, community and military service, acts of bravery and every aspect of human and public service share in this universal desire of the human heart to be at one with fellow humans. This is the royal prerogative, the safeguarding and rewarding of this aspect of human nature.

Our sovereign has a distinct and separate relationship with each individual subject. Every subject, by virtue of that individual relationship, is entitled to consideration for the Queen's justice, the Queen's mercy, the Queen's honour, the Queen's protection, and the Queen's peace. The lexicon reveals this. This entitlement flows from that special private relationship between Queen and individual subject. This relationship is a mystique and is deeply personal, because it is anchored in a belief and in an ideal called God, Queen and country. Honourable senators, forgive me if I did not differentiate between "raw human ambition", "greed" and the human need for approval by one's Queen, the Fount of Honour for their contributions to the common good. I meant honourable desires for honour.

Honourable senators, I turn now to the Nickle Resolution moved by William Folger Nickle, the Conservative member for Kingston, which was adopted in the House of Commons on May 22, 1919. This motion, a Commons only motion for an address to His Majesty George V, never sought concurrence of the Senate. The political reasons are clear and obvious. It would have faced certain defeat here, because senators would have comprehended it for what it was politically and constitutionally. Further, it was an address to His Majesty, not to the Governor General of Canada, then the Duke of Devonshire. The address asked His Majesty to refrain from honouring Canadians and said in part:

We, . . . humbly approach Your Majesty, praying that Your Majesty may be graciously pleased:—

To refrain hereafter from conferring any title of honour or titular distinction upon any of your subjects domiciled or ordinarily resident in Canada, . . .

To provide that appropriate action be taken by legislation or otherwise to ensure the extinction of an hereditary title of honour or titular distinction, and of a dignity or title as a peer of the realm, on the death of a person domiciled or ordinarily resident in Canada at present in enjoyment of an hereditary title . . .

Honourable senators, 10 years later, in 1929, there was another debate in the Commons about this Nickle Resolution. Charles Cahan, a Conservative member moved, on February 12, 1929, that a special Commons committee be formed to reconsider Nickle, therein to investigate and report upon the advisability of qualifying, amending or rescinding the Nickle address as adopted on May 22, 1919. Mr. Cahan noted that the Nickle Resolution favoured foreign sovereigns over Canada's own sovereign, because, since 1919, some 646 foreign orders had been conferred upon persons resident in Canada by foreign, non-British sovereigns. In that debate, as reported on page 78 of the Commons Debates of that date, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King said:

If we are to have no titles, titular distinctions or honours in Canada, let us hold to the principle and have none, let us abolish them altogether; but if the sovereigns or heads of other countries are to be permitted to bestow honours on Canadians, for my part I think we owe it to our own sovereign to give him that prerogative before all others.

The division, that vote on February 14 on Charles Cahan's motion, showed that Prime Minister King and the Conservative leader of the opposition, Richard B. Bennett, both voted "yea" with Charles Cahan. The motion was defeated. Many voted against it, believing that any reconsideration of Nickle would validate the original resolution that they believed was a dead letter anyway.

Honourable senators, four years later, on May 17, 1933, Prime Minister Richard B. Bennett told the Commons that the Nickle Resolution was of no force or effect, because a resolution of one house of parliament alone could not limit the Royal Prerogative and, further, that such resolutions die when a Parliament dissolves. To a member's question on honours, he said, as reported on page 5126 of the Commons Debates:

. . . it being the considered view of His Majesty's government in Canada that the motion, with respect to honours, adopted on the 22nd day of May, 1919, by a majority vote of the members of the Commons House only of the thirteenth parliament (which was dissolved on the 4th day of October, 1921) is not binding upon His Majesty or His Majesty's government in Canada or the seventeenth parliament of Canada.

Prime Minister Bennett restated this position firmly on January 30, 1934, in his reply to the Throne Speech. About the Nickle Resolution, at page 93 of the Commons Debates he said:

In other words, it asks the sovereign, by resolution of the House of Commons, to cease to exercise his prerogative in Canada. That was as ineffective in law as it is possible for any group of words to be. It was not only ineffective but I am sorry to say, it was an affront to the sovereign himself.

About his actions in reviving recommendations to His Majesty for honours, Prime Minister Bennett continued, in the same speech, by saying at page 96 of the Commons Debates:

The action is that of the Prime Minister; he must assume the responsibility, and the responsibility too for advising the crown that the resolution passed by the House of Commons was without validity, force or effect with respect to the sovereign's prerogative. That seems to me to be reasonably clear.

Honourable senators, the sovereign of France, the President, conferred the Ordre Royale de la Légion d'Honneur on Quebecer Robert Gagnon just two weeks ago, and on Premier René Lévesque in 1977, while he was premier of Quebec. No doubt Premier Lévesque would have frowned on any anglophone premier being knighted "Sir" by the Queen of Canada.

Honourable senators, in my view, any distinguished Canadian who is considered for membership in the United Kingdom's House of Lords or any Canadian considered by Her Majesty the Queen for recognition of any kind is a credit to Canada. Every time a Canadian is honoured, I am honoured. We are all honoured. Canada is that much greater a nation for their achievements. I will turn now to Mr. Conrad Black.

Honourable senators, recently the terms "Lord Almost" and "Lord Nearly Nearly" have been used to described Mr. Conrad Black. I distinguish between good satire and ridicule. I distinguish between honest criticism and shaming. Because Mr. Black is rich, some think it is desirable to heap great scorn upon him because somehow he has no feelings. I believe that Mr. Conrad Black is a great and distinguished Canadian. Mr. Black's world is not my world. It is not a world in which I have worked. His is the world of enormous financial initiatives and enormous financial risk — the world of entrepreneurship, competition, commerce and newspaper production. However, it is a world worthy of my respect, even if I have no direct involvement in it. I am a Liberal — a classical 19th century Liberal. Liberalism taught me to respect those individuals who possess those unique personal characteristics necessary for creating wealth and employment for other people. Liberalism taught that the employment of people by private enterprise as opposed to the public purse is the true measure of economic wealth in a community.

Honourable senators, it was thought that the greatest achievement Whiggism — that is, Liberalism as a political concept — had given to the world was the political notion that wealth could be created, shared and enjoyed by each and every person, that wealth creation and wealth enjoyment were not subject to the hereditary principle but were subject to individual human ability, initiative, energy and industry. Mr. Black's life journey from modest means is a triumph for liberalism and the liberal principle. Similarly, liberalism, as against laissez-faire, believed that governments must intervene in the marketplace to protect life, limb and competition and also to provide a social safety net for employees. Mr. Black has created employment for thousands of Canadians, a claim few can make. I respect that. He has also provided competition in the Canadian marketplace of newspapers. I believe it is an honour to Canada that the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Tony Blair recommended Mr. Black for appointment to the House of Lords as a non-hereditary peer and Lord. It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Blair withdrew his recommendation for appointment, and I hope that Prime Minister Blair will see his way soon again to re-recommending Mr. Black.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Senator Cools, I must advise you that the normal period of time allotted for your speech has elapsed. However, if you ask for leave and it is given, you may continue.

Senator Cools: Thank you, Your Honour. I would ask leave to continue.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cools: Thank you, honourable senators.

Publishing greats Lord Thompson and Mr. Black are both a credit to Canada, as was former prime minister John Turner. They all represent an historical exchange which for centuries saw Canadians and Britishers, myself included, white and black, sitting in both Houses of Parliament in Canada and in the United Kingdom.

Honourable senators, human behaviour and motivation are a mystery, as is human frailty. This is the human condition. The human psyche is an artful dodger, and human motivation is its accomplice. This paucity of the human condition was revealed to me poignantly in an article about Mr. Nickle's dubiety and spitefulness, written by his relative James Travers. In the September 14, 1999, Toronto Star article "Black's peerless battle for honour continues," Mr. Travers wrote:

In a fit of pique and in the absence of then prime minister Robert Borden, Nickle highballed his resolution through the Commons after failing to secure a knighthood for Daniel Gordon, the principal of Queen's university and his father-in-law. . . .

Nickle's revenge was to ensure others didn't get what his family had been denied. His resolution asking the King to refrain from giving titles to Canadian residents swept through the Commons on a wave of public sentiment he did not share.

Nickle's duplicity is a bit of a family embarrassment — W.F. Nickle was my grandmother's sister's father-in-law.

In humility, one can only pause, reflect, meditate and pray on the sadness of those many political actions of individuals, politicians and parliaments, and of journalists which have been actuated by the tragic yet dominant human weakness that can only be described as mean-spiritedness.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I have a question and, if Senator Cools will permit, what I believe to be a factual correction. I do not think anyone can dispute Mr. Black's achievements in the field of publishing. However, if you were to examine the financial statements of the companies he controls, you would discover that employment in the newspapers he controls has diminished substantially, not grown, since he acquired them.

My question for the honourable senator relates to the nature of honours that the senator would deem appropriate for Canadian citizens to accept or to be granted by foreign governments. There is a distinction to be drawn between honours that are purely honorific, such as a knighthood or the Légion d'honneur, and honours that make one a legislator of a foreign country. The House of Lords is a body of legislators. They may not have quite as much power as we in this chamber do, but surely we in this chamber are well placed to understand that it is not an empty thing to be a legislator.

Does my honourable friend see a distinction to be drawn between these two types of honours and whether they ought to be considered differently, it being now 50 years or so since an act of peerage was taken up by someone active in the Canadian media business? I note, for example, that Mr. Kenneth Thompson deemed it inappropriate to assume his father's title when the late Lord Thompson died.

Senator Cools: I thank the honourable senator for her question. I hope that she will speak to some of the issues that she raises and perhaps join the debate. I know little about Mr. Black's financial statements and, to be frank, I have no interest in them whatsoever.

On the question of honours and foreign governments, I do not consider the Queen of England to be a foreign government. I should like to make this point clear and as strenuously and vigorously as I possibly can. This is the Queen of Canada, who is my queen. When I walked into this chamber in 1984 and was escorted down this very aisle, I put my hand on the Bible and took an oath, and it was to that Queen that I took that oath of allegiance. The Queen of Canada is not a foreign government.

Perhaps I misunderstood the senator. If I did, I would be happy if she would clarify.

Honours are being conferred all the time. Canadians are serving in legislatures all over the world. As the senator will recall, I was with her at a meeting of the IPU some months ago, and I encountered Canadian citizens at that meeting who were serving in the legislative assemblies of some Baltic countries, I believe.

The House of Lords is a Parliament, not a legislature, and there is an enormous difference between legislative assemblies and Parliaments. The House of Lords is an old institution. It pre-dates most in the world. Perhaps because many of my dear friends have sat as members of the House of Lords, I belong to that group of Canadians who hold that house in high regard.

When I was a little girl growing up in Barbados, I was taught to believe that, when all else failed, there was the right of appeal to the House of Lords. I do not share in this rush to end the life of upper chambers, including that of the House of Lords.

Finally, on the question of honours, there are endless honours. There are honours that confer titles, and others that do not. There are honours that confer precedents, and others that do not. There are honours that include rank, and others that do not. There is a variety of honours. I invite the senator to join me in putting forward a proposal here for a study of honours and Canadian entitlement to them.

In this modern era of the conferring of honours, I do not think that in Canada Her Majesty has been conferring too many hereditary honours. I have not been able to find new hereditary honours. I listed countless knighthoods in my inquiry. The examples that immediately spring to mind are obviously Lord Thompson himself and, of course, the former prime minister of Canada, R.B. Bennett, who, as we know, was made a viscount in 1941.

Clearly, the point is being obscured. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Black was recommended for a non-hereditary life peerage and, in my opinion, that is a noble aspiration.

On motion of Senator LeBreton, debate adjourned.


The remainder of this day's Senate Debates available here.