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CANADA

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities


NUMBER 017 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
40th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, May 13, 2010

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (0910)  

[English]

     Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, meeting number 17. The orders of the day, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, March 3, 2010, are Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.
    With us today is the sponsor of the bill, Mr. Tim Uppal, MP for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. Welcome.
    Mr. Volpe, on a point of order.
    If you don't mind, just before we ask Mr. Uppal to engage us in this discussion, while I know you might consider this a little bit of a point of business, you're aware, I guess, that we now have a problem with the arrangement of our future hearings, because when we come back, that Thursday, the President of Mexico is going to address the House and therefore pre-empt all parliamentary business. We're not going to be able to have the minister here, whether he'd accept it or not, to discuss the estimates.
    I'm wondering whether you've made provisions for us to think in terms of either an additional date, i.e. Wednesday, or to cancel the Bombardier visit on the Tuesday in order to deal with issues having to do with the estimates instead.
    I've had confirmation that the minister would be available for the first hour of the Thursday that we come back, recognizing that the president would be here. I was going to address that with the committee. I have set aside a few minutes at the end of today's business to have that discussion.
    Okay, thank you.
    I have another point, if I might.
    Sure.
    We have before us amendments. I noted that some of my colleagues here didn't get the amendments until this morning.
    I had an opportunity to see them last night. I didn't get a chance to go out and have my McDonald's hamburger instead, and I was captivated by the game, so I surfed the net and got the amendments.
     I think it is a little irregular, Mr. Chairman, for committee members to be given amendments the night before we're going to go to a discussion. But the more important question is this. I'm wondering if you can ask Mr. Uppal--I won't ask him, you'll ask him--whether on all of these government amendments to his bill to establish a Holocaust monument in the national capital region, (a) the government consulted with him, or (b) they are stepping away from this bill that he's presenting to us. If they are stepping away from the bill, then we have a discussion about his views and not the government's views.
    I'm wondering if you could ask him that so that we can carry on with the business of the day.

  (0915)  

    Mr. Jean.
    On the same point, Mr. Chair, it's highly irregular.... I understand Mr. Volpe's point, but certainly in the first round of seven minutes he can ask that particular question. Maybe we could have Mr. Uppal present his bill and then get on with it and get as far as we can. He can ask any question he wants in relation to the witness at that stage.
    Even though it might have been last minute for amendments—I'm sorry, Ms. Crombie, just because I took the time—and I understand that, but we often have amendments from the floor as well. In fact, in every bill we've ever covered in this committee we've had amendments from the floor. So it certainly might be a little bit late, and we understand that. There was all-party support for this. Possibly just because of the fast timeline, it is a little bit under the gun, but if you don't want to recommend the amendments at this stage, then we can do what we can and go on from there.
    But I would suggest that we start and let Mr. Uppal carry on with business.
    On a point of order.
    Yes, it's the same point of order, Mr. Chair.
    I just find it irregular and inappropriate that the amendments be sent out the night before. We don't have an opportunity to analyze them, and then we have to walk into a meeting prepared to discuss them and debate them without having understood the essence of them. As I read them here and now, I think they fundamentally alter the bill, and I don't know that we can discuss the bill without having an opportunity to dissect the amendments.
    I don't think this is regular procedure. It shouldn't be regular procedure that we're handed something as we walk in and be expected to come up and begin to debate it. We are here to debate Mr. Uppal's bill on the Holocaust monument, not his amendments. We can't be handed a document as we walk in the door and be expected to debate it.
     Mr. Watson.
    Just very briefly, Mr. Chair, I'm leaning towards Mr. Jean's recommendation that we get on with the presentation. There's nothing out of the ordinary. I received mine this morning; at least that's when we printed them off this morning. I don't have a problem with proceeding.
    Secondly, it's not irregular. I've been in other committees. I remember the special legislative committee looking at the Clean Air Act. The Liberals tabled a stack about yay big the morning of the committee. We certainly had no time to go over it, but we did the best we could in committee anyway.
    It's not irregular to have it happen. Would it have been preferable sooner? Maybe, but I don't think this is too difficult to proceed with this morning, and I would encourage the chair that we move ahead.
    Mr. Gaudet.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I received this document this morning, just like the others, and I sent it to my research team, that has not yet had the time to study it all. At the outset, we were in favour of the bill; there was no problem whatsoever. I would nevertheless like to see the amendments studied in full. I have not had the time to examine them nor to inform myself.
    If you allowed Mr. Uppal to provide his opinion before we begin the question period, Mr. Chairman, that would be a very good decision.

[English]

    Mr. Volpe.
    I guess we probably have agreement that Mr. Uppal is going to give us a presentation of a bill that we've already accepted. I think it was unanimous in the House of Commons, so everybody agreed to Mr. Uppal's bill. He could probably speak for three hours on it; he could speak for about 30 seconds. It's not going to change the fact that there was unanimous support for a Holocaust monument in the national capital region to be funded by the Government of Canada. I think it's probably embarrassing for him right now to see that the government, of which he is a member, has submitted a series of amendments that essentially say, we don't want that bill.
    Mr. Uppal, perhaps you could begin and just tell us whether you still support the Holocaust monument in your presentation.
    Wait a minute. We should have the floor here because I don't think we can proceed.
    I'll have to interrupt there.
    Mr. Bevington.
    I'll just say this is the first moment that I've seen these amendments, and I agree with Mr. Gaudet. There's quite a bit in here and quite a bit the government is doing with these amendments that may change the nature of the bill. I don't understand, because this copy just handed to me is the first indication there were amendments. That may be our fault, but those amendments came out very late in the day to our staff and they had gone home, so we didn't see them. That's an unfortunate reality.
    In order for us to look at amendments of this nature, we need a little time. In the spirit of cooperation, I'd like to come up with a solution to this that would work. If the government has something to say about this bill, I'd like to understand it. Perhaps we will be enlightened after the presentation is made, but it's going to be very difficult to work on these amendments without that enlightenment.

  (0920)  

    Thank you.
    I think before we can have any discussion about the bill we have to have it presented to the committee. I respect the fact that the amendments were issued late in the day--it was about 5:30 p.m. that they were sent out to offices. Nonetheless, the meeting was scheduled to present the bill. We can have debate on every amendment and the committee has the ability to challenge every amendment and discuss it in full. We have had occasion where amendments are brought on the floor, even when they're not prepared in translation. But we do present them, we translate them orally, and they're considered acceptable for discussion only.
    Mr. Gaudet.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    For my part, I would make a proposal, namely that Mr. Uppal make his presentation and that we ask him questions, and that the clause-by-clause study of the bill be postponed until after our break week. We would in this way have time to study all of Mr. Jean's amendments. I would like to know what you think of that proposal.

[English]

     That will be a decision made by the committee. But I do think in order to even have any discussion, we have to open the debate on it, and that's to present the member's bill.
    Members are able and willing to challenge any ruling that I may or may not make, and make suggestions as to how the committee proceeds from here. But in order to proceed, we have to begin.
    I'll take one more comment from Ms. Crombie.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    As a point of order, which bill will Mr. Uppal present, the original bill or the amended bill?
    Mr. Uppal will present the bill that was voted on in the House at second reading and sent to committee for amendment or approval of the committee. I'm assuming that Mr. Uppal will present the bill that was presented to the House.
    Mr. Uppal, I would ask you to begin. Welcome to our committee.
    I'll just begin. Good morning, members of the committee. I thank you for having me here today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.
    As a student growing up in Edmonton, I learned about the history of the Holocaust as a part of the Second World War. Textbooks recounted the events that unfolded; the battles that were waged; the sacrifices of our soldiers, airmen, and sailors, along with their families; and the eventual victory of the allies against the Nazis. I also learned about the Holocaust, how groups of people who didn't fit certain stereotypes were exterminated in the name of racial purity. But to a student reading from a textbook, those events seemed distant and dated. They happened before I was born, to people I didn't know much about, in countries on the other side of the world. I had only a superficial understanding of the Holocaust. It was a part of history. It was something I learned about but never truly understood or appreciated.
    For our young people today it is even more remote. For people privileged to live in a country like Canada, the Holocaust can seem wholly foreign, something that people have difficulty understanding because they cannot relate to its atrocities and horrors.
    For some, a deeper understanding of those terrible events is provided through the retelling of stories of family members and veterans who were witnesses to the Holocaust, and in some cases survived it. But as time passes and the ranks of those who are able to tell those stories dwindle, there comes a danger that this unparalleled crime will become just a part of history, something that may exist in a textbook but whose real significance is lost.
    In a way it's a tribute to the progress we have made that our children have difficulty understanding this brutality. Today's Canada is a nation of hope and opportunity, a beacon to those around the world seeking to find a new home and brighter future for themselves and for their families. As Canadians we pride ourselves on a nation that values and demands respect towards other people, affords a personal dignity to all people, and provides an environment of tolerance and understanding. Our society is the dream for many around the world, and it's something that the thousands of men and women in our armed forces have fought for in distant war-torn and oppressed nations. My own parents came to Canada in order to take advantage of all that Canada affords newcomers.
    In today's Canada, those who are honoured to call it home would have tremendous difficulty identifying with the deep horrors of the Holocaust. The dangers we as a country now face are complacency and fatigue, to allow things like the Holocaust to rest on the pages of history. And lest we think that hatred and anti-Semitism are relics of the past, we are reminded on an almost daily basis that there are individuals around the world who continue to deny the very existence of the Holocaust or seek to downplay the extent of the crimes that were committed against humanity.
    President Ahmadinejad of Iran continues to outrage people with his denial of the Holocaust. His myopic and ignorant comments on the subject of the Holocaust have resulted in condemnation from virtually all corners of the world. But there are people, even in our own country, who agree with him. The denial of the Holocaust and those who voice such opinions must continue to be fought in the public square. This monument will be a testament to where Canada stands.
    The rise of anti-Semitism in some places in the world, whether overt or subtle, is another compelling reason why Canada must continue to ensure that the Holocaust is both acknowledged and condemned.
    In my opinion, members of Parliament are charged with two important roles: fighting for the interests of their constituents, and pursuing issues that will benefit Canada as a whole. I believe that establishing a national Holocaust monument speaks to both of these roles and will help instill in generations of future Canadians an understanding of the atrocities of the Holocaust through a visible, tangible icon here in the nation's capital.
    Some people have suggested that a monument is not necessary, saying “After all, who has not heard of the Holocaust? Do we really need a monument?” I believe that yes, we do. Remember after the Second World War was over, people began speaking about the Holocaust? Newspapers printed the crimes that had been committed, but they were not understood. No one really grasped what had happened. It was not until we saw the photographs, until there was a more tangible, more visible way to understand, that the significance of the Holocaust began to sink in. That is why I believe that reading about the Holocaust in a textbook is not enough.

  (0925)  

     Every year thousands of Canadians come to visit our capital, many of them schoolchildren. A physical, tangible monument given space in our nation's capital will make a different impression than the words they read on a page. Like many, I was surprised to learn that Canada remains the only Allied nation without a Holocaust monument in its nation's capital. As is the case in these other countries, with the passage of time, fewer and fewer survivors here in Canada can bear witness to the Holocaust.
    A permanent monument to those who died in concentration camps or in their own homes at the hands of the Nazis will serve as a long-lasting reminder of a dark era of hatred and violence that we must ensure never occurs again. By placing the monument at the seat of government in the nation's capital, we accord an appropriate respect and acknowledge the gravity of this terrible event. Great Britain, the United States, France, all our allies have understood the importance of remembering the Holocaust, and so should Canada.
    I've been thrilled with the broad level of support I have received from all parties to establish a national Holocaust monument.
    The Honourable Irwin Cotler stated:
This monument will be a monument to remember, a monument to remind us. It will be an act of remembrance. It will be, also, a remembrance to act so that never to forget, which is underpinning this monument, will be translated into never again.
    Madame Lavallée stated:
The Holocaust was one of the worst crimes of the 20th century. The Bloc Québécois therefore supports the bill to commemorate both the survivors and the victims.
    Judy Wasylycia-Leis said:
It is truly amazing that we do not have such a Holocaust memorial right here in Canada's capital city. Tonight with this bill we are actually making a significant attempt at redressing an oversight. I hope that we can accomplish this quickly.
    Anita Neville also expressed:
...and I am hopeful that all members of all parties will see fit to support this. It is something that is important, not just to acknowledge what happened in the past, but, as we have heard elsewhere tonight, to ensure that our children know what happened and will determine that it will never happen again in the future.
    Many organizations throughout Canada have expressed their support, such as B'nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Israeli Committee, and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
    I would also like to recognize Laura Grossman, from the Canadian Memorial Holocaust Project, and the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who have been strong supporters of moving this initiative forward.
    I see this bill as an example of the best of what Parliament can do when we transcend traditional party lines and move forward on an issue of tremendous importance to Canadians.
    The Prime Minister says:
This is a very worthy project, which would serve to honour the memory of victims and ensure that future generations of Canadians learn from one of the most horrific chapters in human history.
    Members of the committee, this monument will stand as a testament to our own ideals and values and will be the embodiment of the words and stories inscribed in the textbooks of history. This monument is a statement made by Canadians to the world. It honours those who died in the tragedy of the Holocaust, and it says to future generations of Canadians, never again.
    Thank you.

  (0930)  

    Thank you, Mr. Uppal.
    Just before we go to questions from the committee, I will advise the committee, and suggest, that we are discussing the bill as presented by Mr. Uppal, not the amendments presented by others. The amendments will only be open to discussion when we open debate on clause-by-clause.
    Mr. Volpe.
     Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. Uppal, thank you for coming here and giving us an indication of what motivated you to present this bill. It's laudable. A lot of us, in fact I'm sure all of us, are absolutely scandalized every time we think about the evil that can be perpetrated by organized governments, or disorganized governments, that are moved by ideology, which led to the Holocaust and World War II and the killing, the murder, of so many other millions of people. I'm glad there are people in this place who still recall that war is an evil activity and that genocide is even worse.
    You know the House accepted that the principle of establishing a monument here in the national capital region was something that Canadian society could support. It doesn't matter whether we had a minister of the crown or a junior minister of the crown support your bill or not. This bill is a reflection of the will of the House of Commons. It reflects the approach of every single member of Parliament and all parties. Nobody wants to be associated with the Holocaust in a positive fashion. We want to be associated with every condemnation possible about it.
    So we applaud your bill because it said the Government of Canada is going to put aside land. You didn't say that in your presentation, but that's what your bill says. It's going to put land aside in the national capital region, i.e., the place that every Canadian recognizes as his and hers, and they're going to establish a council that would get the financing together to establish such a commemorative monument.
    Did you discuss the bill with your government before you presented it?

  (0935)  

    Do you mean presented it to the House?
    Yes.
    Yes, absolutely.
    So you got the approval of the Prime Minister.
    The approval of the Prime Minister on the intent of the bill, yes. We had discussed—
    No, no, it's what was presented. It wasn't the intent of the bill; it was the black and white clause by clause, nine of them, in the bill. Did he approve them?
    When I spoke with, I believe it was the transportation committee, the staff from there, they agreed with the bill, as we figured they would--
    Let's go back to the Prime Minister. Did he agree--
    One second.
    The idea was that there were some administrative changes that needed to be made; I said sure, and we'll work on those, but—
    So you understand the difference between administrative changes and substantive changes.
    Oh, absolutely.
    Okay, good.
    Did the Prime Minister agree with the original bill?
    Well, yes. He actually put a quote in there that he agreed with it, yes.
    Okay, great. Now, it's nice to read—
     I would say yes, he agreed with the bill, but at the same time, he did say, “And make sure you work with the Minister of Transport to”—
    I didn't want to go there, because you're telling me that he wanted to hedge his bets. But I'm sure that—
    No, I don't think so.
    —no member of Parliament wanted to hedge their bets on condemning the Holocaust and establishing something monumental for all Canadians to recall the evil that men can do when those who can stop it stay silent. And you're telling me now—I didn't ask you, but you're telling me—that the Prime Minister was hedging his bets on that statement.
    Absolutely not.
    I think the issue here is that you're already assuming that the amendments that are proposed, which you haven't even discussed yet, are going to change the premise of the bill. The intent of the bill—
    You don't know, though, do you? Were the amendments passed by you? Did you give your approval to those amendments?
    No.
    Mr. Chair, a point of order.
    Mr. Jean.
    Clearly, we don't have any amendments before us yet. I don't know what Mr. Volpe is talking about.
    Mr. Uppal just referred to them. I'm referring to his referral to the amendments.
    We don't have any amendments before us.
    He raised it.
    If I may, I do want to reiterate that we're not talking about amendments; we're talking about Bill C-442, as presented. Regrettably, we have to stay on that path until the amendments are presented.
    Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Jean, is this on another point of order?
    On the same point.
    I don't really understand where Mr. Volpe is going. We've got a bill before the House that all parties supported and all members supported. I think it's a great bill and a great initiative.
    I would like to know from Mr. Volpe, and from other members, are we going to move forward with this bill and have it presented and deal with it clause by clause or are we not? We, as a government, are ready to proceed to have this bill established and come into law. I think the House wants it back, and we think it's a very, very good bill, so let's get on with it, the substantive part of the bill.
     It's not a point of order. Members have the right to question, but I would ask that they stay on the bill as presented.
    Go ahead, Mr. Volpe.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I'm glad you pointed out that it's such a great bill. The parliamentary secretary presented a whole series of amendments. All I wanted to do was ask Mr. Uppal if he was consulted on all of those amendments.
    No, I wasn't consulted on all of the amendments or on the wording of the amendments. No. On the idea that there are going to have be some amendments made--call them administrative changes--I said sure.
    In your opinion now, is the fact that the government would no longer provide land for such a monument a substantive or an administrative change?
    I'm not sure where you're getting that, because I don't think that was even discussed here.
    I'll have to intervene here. Again, the bill states what the member has talked about in his bill, and we have to stay on that.
    I'm just wondering whether he would consider that the central point of his bill.
    The central point of my bill would be that the National Capital Commission would provide the land.
    A point of order.
    Go ahead, Mr. Watson.
    A point of order on relevance, Mr. Chair. He's talking about something that, in point of fact, doesn't exist yet. Could he stick to the bill?
    It is in the bill. As discussed, the land would be allocated....
    He's speaking about amendments.
    I'm asking whether he thinks this is an important and fundamental point in his bill.
    He asked about an amendment, Mr. Chair, if I recall the question correctly.
    No, he didn't. He asked about the bill.
    He's making a comparison.
    Mr. Uppal, you may answer that.
    I do believe that it's important that the National Capital Commission provide land for the monument, yes.
    Thank you very much.
    Is there anything else you think the National Capital Commission, or the minister responsible for the National Capital Commission, should provide to maintain the integrity of your bill?

  (0940)  

    At the end of the day, the intent of the bill is that the land will be provided by the National Capital Commission. And the committee, or however it's going to be organized, will have the ability to design it--whether it's by having a contest or by consulting with Canadians on the design--and to raise funds to build it and maintain it. That's the intent of the bill.
    Those are two fundamental points, as far as you're concerned. If either one of them were to be mitigated or abrogated, you would then think that this negated your bill.
    If it changes the fact that at the end of the day we have a national Holocaust monument, yes. If we still have that monument in Canada's capital, I'd be fine with that, even if it's going to be done a little bit differently. I'm okay with that.
     I guess you appreciate the difference, though. For example, if I or any one of my colleagues on either side of the House wanted to establish a monument, and we bought a piece of property somewhere in the national capital region, that would be an expression of our willingness. But because the government wouldn't do that, it would no longer be an expression of the government's view on the Holocaust.
    At the end of the day, what I think is important for Canadians is that there be a Holocaust monument in the nation's capital. I think that's what's important, and that was the intent of the bill.
    Thank you.
    I have to go to Mr. Gaudet.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    In your view, what is the national capital? The national capital could well extend 30 kilometers beyond Parliament Hill. I do not know if you see what I mean. It would not be a good idea to put this up 30 kilometers from here, near the airport. However, there might be several good locations right here, on the Hill.
    According to your bill — which I support 100% —, “it is important to ensure that the Holocaust continues to have a permanent place in our nation's consciousness and memory“ and “we have an obligation to honour the memory of Holocaust victims as part of our collective resolve to never forget“. Therefore, “the establishment of a national monument shall forever remind Canadians...“. However, if we erect this monument 20 or 25 kilometers outside of the core of the national capital, it seems that it will not reflect the same feeling. Fewer people will see it and remember. Let us take, for example, the monument to the unknown soldier opposite the Château Laurier and all the monuments on Parliament Hill. In my view, the closer the better. Otherwise, if it is too far away from Parliament Hill, nobody will go visit.
    What are your views?

[English]

    In a general sense, on what you're saying about the distance from the central part of Ottawa, downtown or Parliament Hill, of course close would have been good. But even where the War Museum is, I'm sure there was discussion at that time about whether it was too far away or if we could have put it somewhere else. So I'm not too concerned about the fact of how many kilometres away it is. It's the importance of the monument itself that is important to me. If the best place for it is a few kilometres away from Parliament Hill, that's fin--if that's where the best land for it is.
    I have not gone into the National Capital Commission's books and seen where the best land for this would be. I have left that up to the committee that will be put together to work with the National Capital Commission to do that.

[Translation]

    I have no more questions.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

    Mr. Bevington.
    Thanks, Chair, and thank you, Mr. Uppal.
    It's a very worthwhile bill. I don't really have any particular issue with the bill as outlined.
    I'm curious, did you understand the principle of the royal recommendation before you put the bill forward?
    Yes. We spoke to—I'm not sure of the exact name—the clerks who help you put your private member's bill together, and the researchers. When we were putting this together we had asked them to look into it and research if we needed a royal recommendation. We were told no, you do not need one. That was one of the things I was concerned about when putting this bill together. We were told by the people who helped us draft the bill from Parliament that no, we would not need one.

  (0945)  

    I'm kind of curious about the role of the National Capital Commission in this bill. I don't see them mentioned. What I see is the national capital region: “The Minister...shall choose a suitable area of public land in the National Capital Region”.
    I don't see where the National Capital Commission comes into your bill particularly.
    My understanding is that when land is provided within the capital region, it is the National Capital Commission that does that. That is just my understanding of how that works.
    There's also an application that can be made to the National Capital Commission to also provide land for some type of a monument. It's a much longer and drawn-out process, but that is how you would do this if you were to do this as a private citizen or private organization.
    But the minister would choose the suitable location, so it would be a government decision on the actual location and not the National Capital Commission, under your bill.
    Well, I suppose it would be a balance between where land is available as well and how large this monument is going to be or not going to be. So....
    Yes, I see.
     To me, a critical issue here is, did you get the bill correct as to the way you wanted it to happen? I mean, if it was the National Capital Commission that was choosing the site, then that would be a different kind of bill than the minister overseeing the planning and design and choosing a suitable site. Did you want that? Did you want the National Capital Commission to do it?
    My understanding from the beginning was that it would actually have to be the National Capital Commission that would not just provide land but also suggest where they thought it was most suited because this is the land they have available. That was my understanding from the beginning, that the National Capital Commission would be involved one way or another through the minister.
    Then there's the other question of a fundraiser. What if you didn't raise enough money for the monument within three years? Is that another issue you found out later that is a problem? It didn't seem to be a problem to the—
    Some of the stakeholders that I met with were assured that this wouldn't be a problem. As long as the committee chose a design that was reasonable, in that sense, yes, funds could be raised. Within the committee they could decide what they would do to extend the deadline or not. But according to the number of people I've spoken to, the funds for the design were not an issue.
    So you would say that your bill could really cover that right now. You're confident that with the bill as you've written it, you would get the money, you would go ahead within three years, and everything could fall into place nicely.
     If I were to write into the bill that if funds were not put together in time then we'd have to extend it, I think it would just make it wishy-washy. Pick a timeline and have the committee work on it and do it, rather than have the option of extending it.
    So we have your point of view on it. It is your bill, and I respect that. You've gone through the process and you've come up with a bill that you feel works. The people who advise you, the House of Commons people advising you, felt it would work. I think the bill as it stands looks pretty good to me. My questions are answered.
    Okay.
    Mr. Jean.
    Yes, Mr. Chair. The government has no questions. We think this is a great bill. We thank you, Mr. Uppal, for bringing it forward, and we're hoping to proceed with it clause by clause as soon as possible so we can get it back to the House and get it passed and get this memorial done.
    Very good. Thank you, Mr. Uppal.
    Thank you.
    Ms. Crombie.
    I think it's Ms. Mendes.
    Ms. Mendes.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I am not a member of this committee, but allow me nevertheless to ask a few questions. It is an issue that is close to the heart of all of us and that we all supported in the House.
    I would like to know why a private member's bill was required in view of the fact that this initiative was announced in the Speech from the Throne.

  (0950)  

[English]

    Timing-wise, my bill was actually presented well before the Speech from the Throne even came out, and it was tabled.
    It was re-tabled in March.
    The bill?
    Yes.
    Maybe automatically, but we had already--
    Not automatically. Oh yes, it was in the order--
    It was in the order of precedence. So I had already presented it the way it was written back in September. I had no idea that it would be in the throne speech or anything else. This was just something that was brought to my attention as a good idea for a private member's bill. I looked into it; I thought it was great.
    Well, the idea, yes, absolutely.
    Yes, the idea.

[Translation]

    We also know that the National Capital Commission can take such an initiative, without the requirement of any legislation to do so. Furthermore, in March, in the Speech from the Throne, this was set forth as being the will of the government. This is why I want to know why we still need this bill. The Liberal party and, I believe, all other opposition parties want us to go forward with this monument. Why so much emphasis on this piece of legislation when administrative measures would have been sufficient?

[English]

    I don't know. Even previous governments hadn't put up a national Holocaust monument. I'm not sure how that would come together as a government decision, but I know various versions of this bill have been brought up before, a couple of times by Liberal members and others. I suppose the idea of bringing it up through a private member's bill has been around for a while. When it was presented to me, I thought it was a great idea.
    As for its being brought up in the Speech from the Throne, I was excited about that and thought it quite an endorsement of the bill and the idea of having a national Holocaust monument. So I actually thought it was a good idea.
    Don't take me wrong. I do support it fully and totally. I just find it odd that it comes.... It's almost a little too much. You have the Speech from the Throne, you have this private member's bill. And we know that the national commission can do it. They could do it on their own, without needing a piece of legislation.
    If you're asking me as a sponsor of this bill, yes, they can do it, but no, they haven't. So why not put this forward? It will be my idea. Actually, with the National Capital Commission, any organization of Canadians could go and apply to have land put forward for a national Holocaust monument, but that could take a very long time.
    Coming from the government, you believe it would go quicker.
    Absolutely, I think so.
    I think it won't.
     Can we come back? If she has any time left, can I just—
    Mrs. Alexandra Mendes: Can I give my time to Ms. Crombie?
    We'll come around.
    Mrs. Alexandra Mendes: Thank you.
    The Chair: Monsieur Laforest.
     Are we done? The time is done?
    I'll come back to you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. Uppal, Ms. Mendes asked you why it was preferable to have a private member's bill instead of relying on an administrative measure that has already been announced and which is likely already a part of the Commission's responsibilities. You answered that you are not quite sure and you added that you have been asked to introduce it.
    Would you tell us who asked you to introduce this bill? Was it the government or the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada?

[English]

    Good question. It wasn't the NCC or the government itself.
    When I was drawn with a pretty decent number for my private member's bill, when it came close to the time that I knew it would be drawn, I put out some feelers with people who have been here for a long time and asked if they had any suggestions or ideas for a private member's bill, because I had just recently been elected. A few proposals have come forward, different things, some justice, some other types of issues, financial issues and stuff.
    This came forward, and it came forward through—actually she's right there—Laura Grosman. She had been working on this before. I think she had worked actually with Anita Neville on her bill. When I saw it, the idea of it, I thought it was a great idea.
    It didn't come through any government initiative, no.

  (0955)  

[Translation]

    Thank you.

[English]

    Ms. Crombie.
    Thank you.
    Of course we all feel this is a very important initiative and we would like to see this expedited as quickly as possible.
    Mr. Chairman, I'd like to know if the government has any intent of putting any money towards this project as well or if it would be completely a private initiative after the council was established.
    If you're asking me—
    No, I'm asking the chair, because I have to.
    Sure.
    I've been in some of the media saying this: when I was putting this together, when we were looking at it, we were in the midst of kind of a world economic crisis. In talking to people, the government at that time—or even at any time, I feel—about putting a lot of money towards a monument, whether it's a Holocaust monument or some other monument, I personally felt that it would be better if that money came from willing Canadians, Canadians who wanted to buy into this one, wanted to support this, and wanted to donate to this. Speaking to stakeholders, they said they didn't see a problem in raising the funds. My intention for the bill is that the funds for the monument itself would come from Canadians who are willing to support this initiative.
    To answer your question, no, I would prefer if the government supplied the land but the funds for the monument and its upkeep came from Canadians.
    I understand that.
     On a volunteer basis.
    And I applaud the initiative.
    But if the government were truly committed to this initiative and wanted it truly expedited, wouldn't they provide at least a portion of the funding so that it could be expedited, so that they could see the realization of this great monument as well?
    I believe that the government is truly committed to this. I think the best thing we could do is to move it through the House and get it passed. I think that's what we need to do.
    As for the funding, I have been assured by a number of groups—and I'm sure you would agree—that Canadians would be more than willing to donate to such a project.
    Mr. Uppal, you have said in your presentation that this bill was “handed to you”. Who handed it to you?
    I don't know if it was handed to me. We did work on it. The idea was definitely brought forward by—I don't know what association you're with, Laura—the Canadian Holocaust Memorial Project.
    Was it brought to you by Susan Kadis?
    Actually, I don't know Susan Kadis.
    A former member.
    No.
    Anita Neville?
    I had not worked with Anita on this, but it is my understanding that she has a very similar bill on the order paper. That's why I acknowledged her in my presentation. She has actually also supported the bill in that sense.
     Can we understand the substance of how the council would be organized and established? The minister would be responsible for striking this council, and it says that “the Council would organize the fundraising campaign”, but the minister would be responsible for allocating the public land and then the minister would strike the council. Could you tell us precisely how this would operate procedurally?
    What I would like to see is that members of the public would apply to be a part of this council, and that would be based on their understanding of the Holocaust, their relevance to the Holocaust, and maybe their personal connection to the Holocaust, and hopefully we could have a wide background from across Canada to be a part of it.
    But aren't there only five members...if you have people apply far and wide?
    You can have members from different parts of the country. I don't think that having a committee of 25 members would be productive, so I think initially five is good. They could then set up their own fundraising chairs or whatever they like for each province. That, to me, is not a concern. But I think with the five members, we felt that through their applications we could figure out if they were competent enough to be able to get out and raise the funds needed and also to get the design together.

  (1000)  

    How would they be selected? By region, by background, by expertise?
    I think it has to be more by merit, if you want to call it that--their understanding of the Holocaust, their understanding of the project, and their ability to do the job, which is to raise funds and put a design together.
    Speaking of raising funds, what do you anticipate the total cost of the monument would be?
    I have personally stayed away from a number on purpose because I don't want to dictate what the thought was and have people say, now it's gone way far beyond what Tim thought it was going to be. I think the number would be based around what kind of design is chosen, and those who choose the design will also have to be aware of how much money they think they can raise.
    Mr. Uppal, are you familiar with Bill C-547, An Act to establish a Holocaust Monument in the National Capital Region? The bill was introduced in the 39th Parliament, the second session, which ended in 2008, and the sponsor was Ms. Susan Kadis, the member from Thornhill?
    No, I am not familiar with it. I know there were previous versions of this presented; that's why I stated that earlier as well.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Uppal.
    We will now move to clause-by-clause.
    Mr. Gaudet, on a point of order.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to move a motion. We have listened to Mr. Uppal and asked him questions on his bill. We have had some time to look at the Conservatives' amendments and we support this bill. However, with their amendments, the Conservatives seem to be wanting to draft a new bill. We need time to consider all of this. This is why I move to adjourn clause by clause until May 27. I do not know if everyone agrees.

[English]

    The motion has been put on the floor that we adjourn debate on clause-by-clause until May 27. I have just the information that we talked about earlier. We had confirmed the minister for the first hour of the 27th, but again, the committee is in control of its own destiny, so I will open the floor to debate on Mr. Gaudet's motion.
    Mr. Volpe.
    I think Mr. Gaudet is trying very hard to find a rose in the thorn bush. I applaud him for it.
    One of the things we haven't addressed is that these amendments, which aren't anywhere yet, apparently...have they been tabled or have they just floated from heaven?
    They're on notice.
     If they are on notice, Mr. Chairman—and I think Mr. Gaudet will appreciate this—the substance of all these amendments goes to the heart and principle of the bill. As I indicated in my question to Mr. Uppal, the amendments go to the issue of whether the government is prepared to establish a site for the monument and to initiate the development of a monument.
    My colleagues, Madame Mendes and Ms. Crombie, have indicated that the government can do that without the benefit of a piece of legislation from one of their members, legislation that they're now proposing to amend completely, clause by clause. They could do that administratively. They could put the funds forward. They don't need anybody's support. The principle has already been established. It was established in the previous Parliament--and, I might say, by one of my colleagues in the Liberal Party.
    We support this bill. We support the principle of the bill. The amendments tear that principle apart. When I asked Mr. Uppal whether in fact the government had sought his okay to present amendments, it wasn't because I was being devious but because he, as the mover of the bill, would have to accept an amendment that's friendly.
    I don't think there's anything friendly about these amendments. These amendments can only be ruled out of order. They go against the very principle of the bill. They tear apart the business of what Mr. Uppal gave in response to my question—that is, fundamentally the government must provide the territory and it is not doing it.

  (1005)  

    Mr. Jean, on a point of order.
    My first point of order, Mr. Chair, is what amendments is he talking about?
    My second point of order is, if he does have those amendments—and he has mentioned that they change the bill substantively, which quite frankly I would argue to the contrary—maybe he can enlighten us as to how they change it.
    So although you may not substantiate the issue of a point of order, certainly if he's going to rant and rave about how bad the amendments are, he could talk about some specifics in relation to how they change it. My understanding is, from looking at this, that this perfects a previous bill in relation to the administration itself of it.
    We're all in agreement on a national Holocaust memorial. We are ready to proceed on the government side to correct any problems it may have. My question to Mr. Volpe is, is he prepared and is his party prepared today, right now, to correct any issues in relation to this and move this matter forward as quickly as possible?
    Is this the same point of order?
    I was in the middle of my presentation, but I guess the honourable member, the parliamentary secretary, wanted to illustrate that whenever there is a thoughtful approach to enunciating a position different from his own or the government's, immediately it's a rant and rave--
    I'll rule on the point of order right now, then, if I may.
    It's not a point order.
    I'd like to finish, if you don't mind.
    Very briefly.
    The point that I was about to conclude is that the amendments that are on notice tear apart the principle and the heart of that bill. So I said that I personally, and I speak for my party, I think reflect what happened in the House of Commons when every member accepted the bill.
    One of the principles of procedure in the House is that the bill comes from the House to this committee for second reading, and we can amend things administratively. The government can go ahead and do things without seeking legislative approval. So my question is, if the government is no longer willing to support its own member in the partial financing of the monument, then it can only mean that the government no longer supports that bill, no longer supports the establishment of a Holocaust monument.
    I'll rule on the point of order now.
    It's not a point of order. I think we have to go back to Mr. Gaudet's suggestion, his motion, that we defer it until the 27th.
    If we can focus on that discussion, Mr. Volpe, I'll give you the floor to finish on the motion, if you have anything else to comment on, and then I have Mr. Bevington.
    I think I'm going to be as diplomatic as Monsieur Gaudet. I'm going to find the fragrance in the flower in that thorn bush. We will have to look at that particular date, because it has just been brought to my attention that the bill, with one very minor exception, is word for word Bill C-547, presented by then member of Parliament for Thornhill, Ms. Susan Kadis.
    If Mr. Gaudet—compliments to him—hadn't been a member of Parliament, he would have been a great horticulturalist, and I think we're going to support his motion.
     Mr. Bevington.
    Sometimes, Mr. Chair, I'm left breathless after hearing the comments of Mr. Volpe.
    I think this motion is in order. We've been presented with some amendments the government wants, so we know something is up and we want to come to some understanding of it. I won't be here, but in my perusal of the amendments as I'm sitting here, which say that the government wants something a little different...they want to ensure that they get their cake and eat it, too. That's what I see here. I see that the minister is distancing himself from the decision about the design and placement of the monument, and as a mayor who—
    I'd have to ask you to be relevant to the motion.

  (1010)  

    I'm trying to say why we should postpone this bill for another week. We have to understand the motivation of the government in putting forward these amendments, which we actually have in front of us. They haven't been presented, and perhaps they won't be presented. The nature of the amendments is to allow the government to have the monument erected, and as a mayor for many years, I know what monuments are like. They can either give you praise or criticism.
     So what we have here is the government distancing itself from the design and location of the monument. If it turns out to be great...and if it doesn't, well, then, there's another body that can take the flak for it. I see this is what the government is doing here with these amendments. Fine, but I would like to see that wholesome discussion. I think if people want to take credit for something, they should be engaged in it. What you've put forward is that the government should be engaged in developing this monument, and I think that's correct. It's a political decision and it should have consequences in its outcome.
    Thank you.
    Before I go to Mr. Watson, I'll just again advise the committee that we have been challenging the minister to make time for committee on the 27th, and he has worked that into his schedule. Whether that influences your decision or not, I just know that it presents challenges into June.
    Mr. Watson.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Just very simply, in discussion of the motion to defer consideration, we've now heard both Mr. Volpe and Mr. Bevington making some very substantive comments about the substance of the amendments, all the while saying they really have no idea what the amendments are about. I would suspect it's quite the contrary. They've already got some very substantive....
    An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
    Mr. Jeff Watson: Mr. Chair, order please.
    Order.
    Thank you.
    So they've offered some very substantive comments on the substance of a number of the amendments already. I would submit, notwithstanding their protestations, that they're actually ready to move forward with consideration of clause-by-clause now. I would submit that we should vote against this motion and get on with it. They have comments.
    Mr. Jean.
     I was happy to hear that Mr. Volpe and the Liberals were now prepared to support the bill, after they discovered it was actually very similar—or identical, as he said—to a Liberal bill that was passed three years ago, or was before the House three years ago.
    My issue is this. I want to be clear on the record that the government is not looking at who should receive credit for this bill. What we believe is that the substance of the bill is very important. It touched upon a lot of people. Six million Jews and their families were destroyed during this period of time, and I think it's something that as a committee and as a government and as opposition members we should move forward on as quickly and as thoughtfully as possible, without worrying about where the credit lies and without worrying about all of those kinds of political issues. I think what's important at this stage is that we move forward.
    I also want to say for the record, and for those people who are listening, wherever they may be, that I think all parties feel this is a very important thing. This committee is a master of its own destiny, so we can perfect any imperfection of this particular bill at this stage. I think it's important that all people who listen to this understand that we can perfect any issue now, by way of a vote. Even any challenge to amendments, or anything else, we could perfect and have this bill done within the next 15 minutes, to establish this.
    But Mr. Gaudet has moved a motion that he would like some more time to think about this and possibly talk to his party, in relation to the amendments, which I do not believe are substantively different. If that's what Mr. Gaudet and the Bloc would like to do, I think the government can do nothing but support that at this stage, because what's important is to move forward with this bill. But it's also important that everybody has an opportunity to have a thoughtful process.
    I want to make sure that everyone listening and everyone at this committee recognizes that we are not into taking credit for something that is simply the right thing to do. If Mr. Gaudet wishes to have some more thoughtful process to that, and if Mr. Uppal doesn't mind, I suggest that the government would support the motion by Mr. Gaudet to move this matter to the next time.
    Mr. Bevington.
    I'd be willing to move ahead with the bill if the government side said it would pull back its amendments right now.

  (1015)  

    We're prepared to support Mr. Gaudet's motion. That's the motion that's before us.
    Is there further comment?
    Okay. Mr. Gaudet has presented a motion that we defer further discussion of this bill until May 27. All those in favour of the motion?
    (Motion agreed to)
    The Chair: The motion is carried.
    With that motion, we will adjourn this portion of the meeting.
    Mr. Chairman, a point of order.
    Mr. Jean, on a point of order.
     In relation to what was brought forward by Mr. Volpe, obviously he has some amendments, and he understands that these amendments may be challenged as a result of a royal recommendation or in fact the scope of the bill itself. I would ask that the legislative assistant or the clerk provide to the committee, if possible, the predetermination in writing as to what their position is on these amendments and the original bill. If we need to move the bill first, before we can receive that, I think it's quite ludicrous, but I understand there are procedures here. Really, the government only wants to get this bill put forward.
    I understand Mr. Volpe's concern, and I simply want to make mention of this. It was suggested that the government and the minister are trying to distance themselves from making decisions. I think Mr. Uppal made it very clear that the people who are most affected, the families that are most affected, by what took place some 65 years ago are the people who should make that determination. I think this government is showing sensitivity in relation to that by at least allowing the council to be appointed based on a merit principle, as Mr. Uppal has said, and to move forward to make that decision as to the content and also the location of the memorial itself. On that basis, I would like that determination.
    Before I recognize Mr. Volpe, I will advise the committee that the council provides advice to the chair, not to the committee. The committee has the right to accept or refuse that advice, presented by the chair from the council. I'm not able or willing to share that information with members until it's presented as an amendment for debate.
    Mr. Volpe, on the same point of order.
     Mr. Chairman, I realize that on occasion we want to make speeches because we want to get to the audience of our deliberations on the bill, and I think that's legitimate. I try not to impugn the motives of anyone else, but I know that everybody around this table agreed that there are several...I'll use Mr. Uppal's words here, with the “intent of the bill”. The intent of the bill was to provide a Holocaust monument in the national capital region.
    The specifics of the bill indicated who was going to provide what: land and improvements thereon, i.e., the monument itself. The government initially said it was going to provide the land. The bill is a little different from the previous Liberal bill in this regard, which provided for land and a monument and maintenance. But that's okay. The issue is that nobody here objects to that intent. Nobody objected to the principle, because everybody in the House voted in favour of Mr. Uppal's bill. We could all be partisan and say, I wish it had been an NDP or a Bloc or a Liberal, or the Conservative member, that presented it. The fact of the matter is that the House of Commons took a private member's bill and said unanimously they would support it.
    Now, with respect to whether or not there are amendments before us, I had asked for clarification on that beforehand, because in my view the amendments that are on notice go to the heart of both the intent and the principle of the bill. For someone like the parliamentary secretary, our good friend, Mr. Jean, to suggest that some of us, in objecting to anything that takes away from Mr. Uppal's bill, are somehow hurtful to all of those families of the six million victims of the Holocaust—who suffered personally and, by extension, through their families, and collectively as a community—is egregiously faulty. There is not a person, I'm sure, at this table who doesn't think that it's something that ought always to be remembered as a moment and a period of infamy, and that it should always be rejected by anybody who believes in the civility of humankind.
    What we want to do with this monument is to put up a remembrance so that all could recall that infamy and always work against it. It would be a hallmark of democratic behaviour. I resent the fact that someone would want to turn it into a partisan moment, and I resent the fact that someone would suggest that we in the Liberal Party would somehow want to gain some advantage from this procedural motion, when we're trying to defend the principle of that bill.

  (1020)  

    Thank you.
    Based on what I've heard from all of the comments made, I don't think anybody, in my humble opinion, would want that impression left out there.
    With that, we're going to thank Mr. Uppal again for coming today.
    We'll take a brief two-minute adjournment to let people clear the room, because I believe we will then go in camera for the second part of our meeting.
    Thank you.
     We will recess for two minutes.
    [Proceedings continue in camera]
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