moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to open the debate in the House on Bill , an act to amend the Museums Act to establish the Canadian museum of history.
This legislation would change the name and mandate of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, an institution with a remarkable and proud history. It is a history that traces its way back to 1856 when it was then known as the Geological Survey of Canada. In 1968, its mandate shifted and its name changed again to the Museum of Man. In 1986, it was renamed the Canadian Museum of Civilization and was moved to its current home on the bank of the Ottawa River.
This museum is the largest of Canada's museums. It is the largest both in size, with over one million square feet, and visitors, averaging 1.3 million visitors over the past couple of years. It receives the largest share of government funding of any museum and it is one of the museums with the highest level of self-generated revenue.
While the Canadian Museum of Civilization is our country's most visible national museum, it is not our only museum. In fact, there are over 2,500 museums in communities all across the country, some large, some small, and all these museums tell our stories. They tell them in different ways and in different locations and they tell them in a way that is unique to these local communities.
For example, in the small town of Midway, British Columbia, there is an exhaustive display of material from the Japanese internment during the Second World War. Japanese Canadians living in the region collected materials and put together a narrative of what Japanese Canadians dealt with and suffered through in the south Okanagan during the Second World War. There are countless examples of exhibits like this in museums all across Canada.
This museum describes Canada's history, yet Canada does not have a national institution that connects all of these local museums across the country to tell Canada’s story.
Geographically, Canada is the second largest country in the world, but in terms of population, we are the 34th largest country in the world. Therefore, what unites us together as Canadians? What unites us as a people? It is our languages, our culture, the arts and the ability to tell our stories one to another and to have an understanding of our shared history. A museum devoted to our history will provide a focus on the people, the places and the achievements that bring us together as Canadians.
We are counting down to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. The road to Canada’s 150th birthday offers us an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and the achievements that define who we are as Canadians.
Our stories are vast, and they deserve to be told. From Samuel de Champlain’s arrival on our shores to the last spike that marked the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks that took us from east to west and back.
From Terry Fox's journey in the Marathon of Hope that still inspires millions of Canadians today to raise money and fight cancer to Maurice “Rocket” Richard to James Naismith and his invention of basketball to our brilliant scientists like Frederick Banting and Charles Best, these are the people, the events, the stories that inspire us always and need to be told and retold again.
Canada needs and deserves a national institution that will tell the stories of Canada. Canada needs an institution that will independently research and explore Canada's history. Canada needs a national institution that celebrates our achievements and what we have accomplished together as Canadians. Our children need to know more about Canada's past. That is why last year our government announced the creation of the Canadian museum of history.
Let me read the mandate that we are proposing in Bill that is at the heart of this debate and of this legislation. This is what the new mandate of the museum will read:
The purpose of the Canadian Museum of History is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
We have chosen not to build a new national museum from the ground up. We are doing that right now in Winnipeg with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We have also established the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, building on an existing institution.
The home of this new museum will be what is currently the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
We will build on its reputation and popularity to create a museum that will showcase our achievements as a nation.
The United States has the Smithsonian. Germany has the German History Museum.
Let me share with the House something I think is really important to understand about the details of what we are proposing here with this new museum.
Beginning shortly, the museum will renovate over 50,000 square feet of public space, roughly half of the permanent and temporary galleries that are currently part of the museum. Those areas of the museum that will remain as they are include the very popular Canadian Children's Museum, the First Peoples Hall and the IMAX theatre. A $25-million one-time investment will allow the museum to make this happen.
It should be noted that the current Museum of Civilization in Gatineau has not been updated in over 20 years. In fact, in the Canada Hall at the museum, aboriginal people are excluded from the narrative that is Canada's history. It is a museum that needs to be updated and needs to be improved upon, and that is what we are proposing.
The museum will also allocate internal resources to the project and will launch a fundraising campaign with the intent to raise $5 million. I am told that the fundraising campaign is already well under way and having success. This investment will be funded within existing budgets from the Department of Canadian Heritage at no new additional cost to taxpayers. It will allow the Canadian Museum of Civilization to begin the transformation that will be completed in time for Canada's 150th birthday in 2017.
More than changing the name, the mandate and the exhibits, more will change. We want to ensure this great national institution, which we have the benefit of visiting in Ottawa, reaches out across the country and connects Canadians. To achieve this, we are building partnerships, partnerships that will be created between the new Canadian museum of history and museums across Canada that have the same mandate, but are doing it at a local level. These local museums will have the opportunity to become official partners of this new great national museum.
In fact, we already signed our first memorandum of understanding with the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria. What this will mean for that museum and other museums across the country is they will have access to the 3,500,000 items currently in the collection at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, soon to be the museum of history. Approximately 90% of these items are currently sitting in storage because we do not have a network to moves these items across the country and share our history. This is a really important move forward to tell our history and allow us to tell our stories to all Canadians.
I am also very pleased to say that since we announced this project, it has received broad-based support from Canadians, including countless historians and people in historical associations from every corner of the country. These are not people, by the way, who frequently agree with our government, but they agree with the need to create a national infrastructure for the teaching of Canada's history.
I am grateful, for example, of the support of Douglas Cardinal, the original architect of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and a very well-known Canadian for all of his life's accomplishments. In response to the creation of this museum, he said, “I love the fact that the museum keeps evolving and growing, and people still feel that it’s a national monument that can expand and serve all of Canada”.
This project has the support of and has been celebrated by Canadian historians as well. It includes the award-winning historian and author, Michael Bliss, who said that it was very exciting that Canada’s major museum would now be explicitly focused on Canada’s history and he thanked the government for making the museum possible.
Jack Granatstein, who, as many in the House know, wrote the book Who Killed Canadian History? a few years ago said, “This move (to create the Canadian Museum of National History) is exactly what I thought should happen. I'm delighted the government and the museum are doing it”.
Deborah Morrison of Canada's National History Society said, “the potential for the new Museum to help create a national framework for our history is compelling. And the time is right”.
John McAvity of the Canadian Museums Association said, “the renaming of the museum is essential, that it is good news and that it will give Canadians greater access to their heritage and history”.
The Historica-Dominion Institute said, “We enthusiastically welcome the creation of this new Canadian museum of history”.
The Ontario Museum Association said, “We welcome the initiative to strengthen partnerships among museums in Ontario and across the country”.
John English, a former Liberal member of Parliament and a biographer of P.E. Trudeau, said, “Congratulations on the Canadian museum of history”.
That is a great boost for the museum.
From Marie Senécal-Tremblay, of the Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums, representing volunteers from smaller museums across Canada: “We support these changes to one of our country's most important national museums.”
I am also very pleased, and I should highlight this as well, that the museum proposal does have the support of the mayors of Gatineau and Ottawa, Marc Bureau and Jim Watson. They both support this initiative as being important to the national capital region.
As well, many historians have added their names to the list of those who support this initiative: Réal Bélanger, Charlotte Gray, Anne Trépanier, Norm Christie, Yves Frenette, Bob Plamondon, Richard Gwyn, Jane Fullerton, Suzanne Sauvage, Brian Lee Crowley and many more. Again, people who may not be Conservative understand that on items like this we should work together, put partisanship aside and support the creation of institutions that bind this country together.
I think the Toronto Star said it very well in their editorial on this subject, and I quote:
It was welcome to hear [the government] announce...the rebranding of the Canadian Museum of Civilization...as the Canadian Museum of History. Canada's history should be celebrated in [this] revamped museum. ...we want to make history come alive, ensure we don't forget our shared past and [that we] honour our heroes.
In conclusion, I understand that this is an issue that has brought some great debate across the country. However, Canada's history is far from dead. It is alive and well and a story that needs to be told.
It is a true statistic, but a sad one, that in only four of Canada's 13 provinces and territories is it necessary for a child to take a history class to graduate from high school. That is provincial jurisdiction, of course, but it does not mean we should step away from the importance of it as a national government, as a national Parliament. We can work together and do what we can to talk about Canada's history and improve education, by supporting our museums, building a great national museum, uniting all of our museums and working together on this project.
In the past, this Parliament has come together. When a former Liberal government decided to create the Canadian War Museum, people said it was divisive, a waste of money and that we ought not do it now. However, the Liberal government had a vision and said it was the right thing to do. The War Museum is now one of the best museums in the world, rivaled only by Les Invalides in Paris and the Imperial War Museum in London. It is one of the great museums in the world.
We are now asking for what this Parliament has done before when it unanimously supported the creation of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. We were working together, and it is going to be a great institution for all of Canada. This Parliament also unanimously supported the creation of the Canadian Museum for Immigration at Pier 21, in Halifax. It is a great institution and doing good things for this country.
I have approached this in as non-partisan a way as I can. I have reached out to my opposition colleagues in the NDP and the Liberal Party, provided them with the text of this legislation and tried to work with them so we can make sure this museum will go forward and be a constructive piece of Canada's social fabric. We have worked together in the past on institutions. This is a good project for this country, and I hope my colleagues will work with us to make it happen.
A couple of years away is Canada's 150th birthday. We deserve to have a great national institution that will teach Canada's history, bring Canadians together and work toward a celebrated goal of keeping this country united and strong. Support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, this evening, a number of members have noted the 's profound conviction when it comes to this bill. Unfortunately, it is strictly because we do not trust the Conservatives that the bill cannot be passed.
Today, I would like to bring the House's attention to some basic contradictions, which are typical of a government that wants to create a Canadian museum of history. It says it is interested in the country's history and wants to celebrate it and make the public more aware of it.
I want to mention something worrisome. This government has done more to hinder people's knowledge and understanding of Canadian history and to undermine research into our history than any other government. It should listen to the historians, archeologists, archivists, anthropologists and ethnologists, all the experts on our history.
This evening, I am not pulling this observation out of a hat, nor am I making it up just for fun. I made this observation after listening to experts on our history, in other words, people who help us learn more about our past. These experts dig into our past in order to better understand it so that we can, too.
These professionals, researchers and experts have told my colleagues and me that their field is in worse shape than ever before. They say that highway robbery masquerading as budget cuts, combined with the federal government's constant, dubious meddling in their affairs, their profession and their field of research, will have lingering negative effects on the work and research that help us understand our history better.
Everything this government does is rife with contradiction. On the one hand, it is so proud of creating a history museum to supposedly improve knowledge of history, but on the other, it is attacking all of the federal institutions that have been preserving, protecting and raising awareness of our history for over a century.
For example, Parks Canada is responsible for maintaining 167 national historic sites, places worthy of preservation because they are historically significant. Parks Canada looks after Canada's world heritage sites. Expert archeologists have helped the agency unearth artifacts from the past, identify them and explain why they are historically relevant. I am delighted to say that there is an archeologist among us today, the member for .
Curators—not Conservatives, mind you, but people who actually care about history—have also helped Parks Canada through their curatorial work. I apologize to the translators for my play on words, which is not translatable.
The Conservatives decided to lay off over 80% of the archeologists and curators who take care of our historic sites and preserve our precious artifacts. There are now only about 10 archeologists working for Parks Canada across the country in all of our national parks, national historic sites and world heritage sites. I should point out that world heritage site status is not a given; UNESCO can revoke that status at any time.
Tonight, the government has the gall to tell us that it wants to promote history even though it is abandoning fragile historic sites across the country. The same government is planning to remove carefully preserved artifacts from Parks Canada's regional facilities. For example, a large collection of artifacts dating back to the days of New France is currently housed in Quebec City. The government is planning to uproot the collection from its home and put it in storage in Ottawa.
That is what the government, which supposedly wants to make history more accessible and more widely known, is really doing.
Conservatives say they are interested in history, but Canadians are not interested in what they say. They want to know what the government is doing. Conservatives like to say they are interested in history but, in reality, they continue to destroy every single federal public institution that is responsible for protecting our history. They have not only destroyed Parks Canada, which is responsible for protecting our 167 national historic sites, as well as Canada's world heritage sites, they have destroyed Library and Archives Canada--we know that, we heard a lot last week--an institution that has been the guardian of Canada's archives for 140 years, both as the national archives and as a national library.
Library and Archives experts, archivists, professional librarians and others are recognized and admired around the world for their work. A few years ago, Library and Archives Canada was an exciting place for those researchers of our history to be. Some people here will remember that there were always exhibitions about Canadian history open to the public on the ground floor of Library and Archives Canada just a few years ago.
Who closed those exhibition halls? The Conservatives did.
Who cut millions of dollars from research and preservation of Canadian history? The Conservatives did.
Who laid off hundreds of archivists, librarians, digitization experts, historians and professionals at Library and Archives Canada? These guys again.
Who destroyed programs such as the national archival development program that supported small communities all over Canada to create their own local community archives, a program that allowed Library and Archives Canada to accomplish an essential part of its mandate? These guys.
Who almost put a complete stop to the acquisition of historic documents and artifacts by cutting Library and Archives Canada's $1 million budget to $12,000 a year? They allowed irreplaceable manuscripts, relics of our history, to slip through our fingers and be purchased by auction houses and unscrupulous speculators and exported to shady warehouses in the United States. Who is responsible for this loss, this drain on our priceless cultural heritage? Who else but these guys, the Conservatives.
After the serious damage they have caused, no one would dare say that the Conservatives care about history. That is hogwash. On the contrary, the contradiction is obvious. The Conservatives are not at all interested in the history of Canada or all of the work that goes into the difficult research required to explain our history. The Conservatives are only interested in spectacular and superficial things, such as seeing a wax replica of John Diefenbaker, cutting a ribbon or walking down a sparkling, somewhat cheap red carpet that a person could trip on. They think that, by supporting anything glitzy and glamourous, they are supporting and preserving history. That is very unfortunate for those who know something about history.
I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the specific changes set out in Bill . The Canadian Museum of Civilization is an institution that has existed in one form or another for almost 150 years. Its collections existed even before Confederation. The museum has a mandate that, for 30 years, has allowed it to be independent and to truly become a world-renowned institution, as well as an important economic driver for the Outaouais region, where it provides many jobs and attracts a large number of visitors.
I would like to read the Museum of Civilization's current mandate. It is important to remember this mission, which has been key to the museum's success for years.
The purpose of the Canadian Museum of Civilization is to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements [I would like to place special emphasis on cultural achievements] and human behavior by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behaviour, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent.
The Conservative government, which never wants to jump in when it is needed, but is always prepared to interfere when its help is not wanted, wants to scrap that and replace it with the following:
...enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
What is the main difference between these two mandates? The words “critical understanding” were eliminated. The government seems to have an aversion to the word “critical”. What a scary word. The museum will no longer have the mandate to share its wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world. It will no longer be mandated to carry out its work “throughout Canada and internationally”. The museum will now be interested only in local issues.
I imagine that the Outaouais tourism industry will have something to say about that. Gone are the human cultural achievements and human behaviour. That was part of the museum's mandate, but we are apparently no longer interested in humanity. The government wants the museum to deal specifically with Canadian history and identity, a rather simplistic formula.
Here is what is most alarming: the museum's mandate no longer includes the obligation to maintain collections and conduct research. The Canadian Museum of Civilization was, above all, a museum of collections and researchers. This public institution dates back to 1856. It was initially a place where the Geological Survey of Canada could present its collections. It became a place for anthropologists, ethnologists, geographers and linguists. The museum's entire history is made up of research and collections.
In deciding to change the mandate of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the government is casting aside more than 150 years of collections and research tradition. The government is contradicting itself when it claims to care about history but then quashes the work of experts, which is a necessary part of our history.
At this time, over half of the resources at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau have already been assigned to Canadian history. That is why we wonder about the government's real intentions. We are not going to be impressed by a $25 million cheque. The government is sending one single cheque to the museum, usable only once, while tasking it with dismantling and rebuilding such exhibits as the wonderful Canada Hall, which took 20 years to build. This is a renovation project of epic proportions.
Even worse, $1 million has already been committed. A total of $500,000 will be required just for the administrative costs of the change, but $400,000 has already been spent on round tables and Post-it notes, not to mention the promotional materials for the new museum that are already being distributed, even though Parliament has barely started studying the bill.
The reality is that the museum's heavy load and limited resources have forced it to lay off some of its staff. Two weeks ago, the museum cut 14 positions for budgetary reasons. This may well turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, now that the government is trying to shift the museum's mandate away from its obligations to conduct research and maintain its collections.
In reality, the government is interfering and reshaping the museum because it fancies itself a museum expert. The government, perhaps despite itself, is taking part in the history debates that are raging in academia. The government—a bit naively, I might add—is wading into an academic debate because it wants to abandon the social and material approach to history that the Canadian Museum of Civilization is known for, in particular because of its stunning and spectacular depiction of Canada's history. Those are the very exhibits that the government is proposing to dismantle.
The government is proposing a generic narrative for our history. It wants something linear, something based on the tales of heroes and prominent figures, on biographies, monarchs, colonizers, missionaries, dates and monuments. That approach marginalizes the stories and life experiences of the individuals and groups who anonymously built our country's history from the ground up.
That approach marginalizes the events that make up and underpin our history. Those events cannot be summed up in a date or a famous face or in a museum devoted only to heroes and battlefields. It gives the impression that the government is not looking to create a history museum, but a wax museum.
As New Democrats, we respectfully ask the government to stop acting like a museum expert at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Archivists have repeatedly suggested that the toxic and disastrous head of Library and Archives Canada, Daniel Caron, stop pretending to be an expert in digitizing archives—as he has done at several international conferences—when he is neither an archivist nor a librarian. Similarly, we are asking the government to stop doing the work that experts know how to do and can do better.
Governments should not be deciding what is in our museums. This seems like a pretty obvious principle. Apparently, there are a few libertarians on the government benches; despite the government spending like there is no tomorrow, they have been pretty discreet. However, they might agree with what I am suggesting, that the content of museums should be left up to the experts and professionals; to historians, archivists, ethnologists and curators; to conservators, anthropologists and the people who do the research and the hard work to help us understand our history. The government and we as legislators have no place in determining the content or the orientation of a national publicly funded museum.
I am relying on the words of the when he announced at the heritage committee that in fact he had been planning this new museum himself since at least May 2011. We know that the minister has been a regular visitor at the Museum of Civilization and he was a regular visitor at the Canadian War Museum. Clearly, this does not come from the Museum of Civilization's ethnologists. Clearly, none of the curators at the museum suddenly decided that they were missing Maurice Richard's hockey jersey. Clearly, what happened was that people high up decided to toy with our most important national museum.
This is a completely backwards plan. Instead of listening to the many experts, museum specialists, historians and professionals at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and elsewhere in Canada, instead of consulting first and then moving forward, the government chose to do things its own way and then see what happens.
According to the minister himself, he has been planning this Canadian museum of history since at least May 2011. To hear him talk, it is as though he were building miniature models of the museum in his basement, unbeknownst to everyone or even to the museum.
First the museum consulted with people in the field and then it took the consultations public across Canada. These were held in half-empty rooms or shopping malls, between the Walmart and the hardware store, where shoppers were invited to put colour coded Post-it notes on images of Pierre Elliott Trudeau or Roberta Bondar.
This is no joke. It is true. We asked the minister who he consulted. What interest group, what professional association and, most of all, which first nation and what delegation of Metis and Inuit did he and the museum consult? The minister's answer was a non-response. He said that they proceeded with consultations, but he failed to tell us who they consulted. We did not get an answer.
This lack of transparency occurred on this side of the river, here in Parliament.
We spent months in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage listening to talk of Canada's 150th anniversary. How is it that there was never any mention of this museum plan, when it was in the cards and being prepared all along, and now we are told that it is being planned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation?
The official opposition is calling on the government to leave it to the experts to decide the content and direction of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, to listen to and consult with the public, and to invite and listen to the representatives of countless professions whose job it is to survey and enhance our knowledge of history.
We also note the predominance of this government's troubling, detrimental and dubious desire to intervene and obliquely meddle in Canadian history and to rewrite our history.
The Conservatives may find it effective and advantageous, for election purposes, to eliminate all traces of peacekeepers and replace them with Laura Secords who run through the forest, but they have no mandate to revise history. No party is mandated to reinterpret and revise history.
We are asking that our history be more than just instances of official commemoration chosen by the government. It must be a window into the past that belongs to all of us, and it should reflect our many complex and multi-faceted journeys, including the history of the black Loyalists, the Winnipeg unionists in the early 20th century, the creators and pioneers of the National Film Board, the War Measures Act and the deportation of the Acadians.
We reject this government's troubling, detrimental and dubious desire to intervene and to meddle once again. We reject the government's tampering with history. That is exactly what hundreds of thousands of Canadians have told us in recent weeks. Having seen the carnage at Parks Canada, Library and Archives Canada and now the Canadian Museum of Civilization, thousands of citizens have signed and are continuing to sign an on-line petition stating that they are fed up with the interference in and rewriting of history.
We are calling on the government to restore funding and stop interfering in federal organizations responsible for preserving and protecting our history. That was their responsibility long before the Conservatives took an interest in the matter.
This evening, we are asking the Conservatives to show that they care about history. They should prove that they are passionate about the past by not interfering with the work of historians and various experts who contribute to our understanding of history. Above all, they must stop gutting the public institutions that promote and preserve our history.
I would like to conclude by moving the following motion:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, because it:
(a) represents the government’s interference in Canadian history and its attacks on research and the federal institutions that preserve and promote history such as Library and Archives Canada and Parks Canada;
(b) transforms the mission of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the most popular museum in Canada, to give a secondary role to temporary exhibits on world cultures, when it is precisely these exhibits that make it a major tourist attraction, an economic driver and a job creator for the national capital region;
(c) removes research and collection development from the mission of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, although the Museum is an internationally renowned centre of research;
(d) puts forward a monolithic approach to history that could potentially exclude the experiences of women, francophones, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and marginalized groups;
(e) was developed in absolute secrecy and without substantial consultations with experts, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, Canadians and key regional players;
(f) attacks a winning formula at the expense of Canadian taxpayers; and
(g) does not propose any measure to enhance the Museum’s independence and thereby opens the door to potential interference by the minister and the government in determining the content of Museum exhibits, although this should be left to experts.”
I would like to take this opportunity to say that this motion is seconded by the hon. member for .
Mr. Speaker, I want to continue by thanking my hon. colleague from for his graceful intervention.
I mentioned my hon. colleague from Stratford, who was the chair of the heritage committee for quite some time, and he spoke eloquently about museums and what museums are all about. I am glad he is here this evening. On many occasions, he has spoken about the importance of the history that is being told in front of us. Whether it is Stratford, Bunyan's Cove, Gander, Vancouver or Ottawa, which is germane to what we are talking about today, it is by far the most important element of what we talk about when we talk about our history.
Our history is the absolute reflection of who we are as Canadians. I have heard from the minister and the critic from the official opposition, and I find myself in the middle of debate on many occasions trying to figure out how we are going to deal with the context we are going to put this museum in.
I have the utmost respect for the Museum of Civilization and what it has accomplished over the years. As my hon. colleague pointed out earlier, it was the Museum of Man, which later became the Museum of Civilization and so on. That is the important question. Do we take that next step and call this the Canadian museum of history in conjunction with our 150-year celebration in 2017?
On several fronts, there are points to talk about. One, should this museum, this institution, share itself with the rest of the country? Absolutely. It should share itself with the virtues that have been put on this nation by places like Stratford, Yukon or every little town in Quebec.
Cities in Quebec as well. It is very important to all of Canada, not just to one region of this country, but to all of them. It is for Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia.
Mr. James Lunney: Vancouver Island.
Mr. Scott Simms: Sorry, Vancouver Island.
I want to say to my colleagues that what has been put forward so far in the debate, as we have heard in two substantial speeches, is that as Canadians we want to illustrate the history of this country, and we want to do it not just from a national narrative. We all cheered in 1980, when Terry Fox ran across this country. He made it to Thunder Bay. There was not one dry eye in this country looking at Terry Fox on that stretcher in northern Ontario as he wept because he could not make it. In fact, from northern Ontario right to B.C., every Canadian in this country completed that course for him.
In addition, we can look at every hallmark in this country with a sense of pride, whether it was winning the gold medals in the Olympics or the events that mark us as Canadians, such as the recent marking of the War of 1812. A great deal has been brought forward to this country in the celebration of the War of 1812, which we should look at.
Now, here is the problem. We get into the debate about whether we should have spent $35 million to do that. We have done it. I am not sure if that was the right dollar amount to do it, but it was certainly worth marking. There are many aspects in this debate regarding Canadian history, and there are many hallmarks and many monuments in this country.
Whether it is the big wooden moose that stands in Goobies, Newfoundland and Labrador, or whether it is the large nickel in Sudbury, these are the hallmarks of our country. We need to look at every aspect of the country, not just for the national narrative but the local narrative as well.
One of the most popular exhibitions in my riding is in Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador. It is called the snowmobile. It actually has old snowmobiles there from the 1960s and 1970s. Most of them, by the way, are from Bombardier, a Quebec company. When people of Newfoundland and Labrador look at this one snowmobile from Bombardier, they look at it as a hallmark of what is Canadian. It is not just the fact that their grandfather may have ridden on it, but the fact that it is a Canadian hallmark, and the reason it exists in that particular institution is that the person who runs that museum decided that it was worth putting on display.
I think that is the essence of this debate, and I ask my colleagues to come together for this most important issue, which is that the person who runs the shop decides what is displayed because he or she knows more than any of us what Canadian history is and what displays it.
What is a curator? A curator is not just a fancy title for someone who has a degree from a certain institution; a curator is someone who knows the history of our country and, more importantly, knows how to display it. If we take an institution like the Museum of Civilization and tell the next generation that this is a Canadian museum of history, similar to what exists in nations such as the United States of America or Germany or other nations, then we must make sure that the curators and the experts know exactly what goes on display.
In essence, I ask the government if this is the case. Do we now have a museum that has risen from the bottom up? The minister made an eloquent speech about how we display the history of our country; do we look at this and ask the men and women who work each and every day in the field of history if they have told the country that this is what is on display?
It is not just about the history of what was the Dominion of Newfoundland. That is right. We had our own currency in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have our own encyclopedia. My goodness, we even have our own dictionary, and it is a good read, I might add.
The thing is, each and every region of our country displays its history in the way it knows best, so I am excited to hear that the Canadian museum of history is going to share in a partnership across the country to display history exhibits. I hope the minister is sincere when he says that we will create a bona fide partnership. He talked about indemnification, and I sincerely hope and suspect that what he is telling me is correct when he says that the indemnification he is talking about would allow the smallest of museums to participate in exactly the narrative that the Canadian museum of history is about to embark upon.
How do we celebrate 150 years of Canada when it is the second-largest country in the world? There are millions and millions of square hectares in a place that has its own particular nuance in the way it tells its history.
I am a big fan of CBC/Radio Canada, because it tells the story and the narrative of our country.
I love to hear about how some of the greatest organs of this world in the greatest churches of this world were created in Quebec. How does that happen? It happens in a country like this but the story has to be told not just to the province of Quebec but has to be told to the country. There is an equal amount of pride shown in the smallest community of British Columbia and the smallest community of Newfoundland and Labrador that Quebec has an incredible rich history of new France, of how it has developed some of the greatest churches in the world and how it has developed some of the greatest church organs in the world. How do we put that on display? We put it on display when we have a collective, when we have the same attitude and opinion from coast to coast to coast that shows us that it is worth illustrating.
There are certain things that cause me concern. There was a motion within the heritage committee that wanted to study the historical hallmarks of this country, which I agree should be looked at. Why not? However, the motion itself was overly prescriptive in how it would conduct itself.
If I were to ask members what is the most historical and greatest landmark of this country, the greatest hallmark that defines what is Canada, someone would say the War of 1812, the next person would say it was the hockey series of 1972 or it was when Terry Fox decided that his run was over and we decided to carry on that run for him.
Here we go. We define ourselves in all the historical landmarks that we have and we depend upon the experts in the field. I sincerely hope that what the minister has told us tonight is what will be done in the next little while. I sincerely hope that he will be open to looking at this legislation to amend it to say there needs to be a review. How do the institutions of this country, and certainly of this city, the national institutions, whether it is the War Museum, whether it is the Museum of Civilization, which it is right now, conduct themselves every few years from now? They are Crown agencies. They are products of the government but yet they have to exercise their independence.
My colleague is right in the fact that we have to exercise our independence. I am sorry if we are being looked at as being skeptical but why not? Why not be skeptical? We want the independence from the particular government of the day. I do not care what colour it is or what party it is, it has to be done. We are looking to the government and telling it to prove to us that the independence is there.
I heard the minister and the sincerity with which he speaks. I have known him for quite some time and I hope he is correct and right by saying that he wants this institution to be as independent as it always has been and perhaps even more independent than it was before.
He listed several experts and several institutions that like what is going on. As my hon. colleague said, there are institutions that do not like what is going on.
However, I will say this. I am proud of the fact that we are here debating in an honest and earnest manner, such as my colleague from Stratford did as chair of the heritage committee. He spoke so eloquently, not about his party's position on museums but museums themselves, and not so much about who is telling the story but about the story itself. We need to do this from here to eternity. This country, the G8, the G20, there is a reason why we punch above our weight.
It is because we deserve it. It is because our history dictates that we deserve to be at every major table in this world, on this globe. It is not because of us here today. All of us in this House, all 308, stand on the shoulders of the people who brought us to this institution. This House of Commons, in and of itself, is an historical monument. We brought ourselves here on the shoulders of others, no matter what our party.
I come from a riding that was represented for 27 years by a man named George Baker, a current senator. Many other members can say that they came in here after hon. members who spoke about the very same thing as we are today. Yes, it is the issue of the day, but every issue of the day brought into this House was brought forward by an issue that happened yesterday. We managed to build one of the greatest democracies in the world because of that.
I am not saying that we should start a new museum right here in and of itself. Goodness knows, I would love to joke about the Senate at this point, but I will not—I am sorry, to my colleagues—because it is apropos of the day.
However, I will say this. Let us go forward in this debate and make something that is a valid institution. Let us face it, if we make this museum-to-be the Canadian museum of history, not the museum of Canadian history, then we have a gem to offer to the world. This is not just about an exercise in rebranding. This is about offering a gem to the world that tourists will see. I think that if people come here from, let us say, Asia or Europe, as opposed to saying, “I want to go see the Museum of Civilization”, they might just say, “I want to go see the Canadian museum of history”.
Now, I throw that out there, but I can only throw that out there if the independence of this institution is maintained. We have a lot to celebrate in our 150-year celebration.
I will end on this. In 1949, my grandfather campaigned for Newfoundland and Labrador to be independent. That is right. He said “no” to Canada. He has passed away. I stand here today in this House and I wonder what he would say at this point. He was not a big fan. However, I want to prove to him that Newfoundland and Labrador has found itself a home.
Can Canada find a home in this, what is to be the Canadian museum of history, I ask members?
Mr. Speaker, we have some disagreement with the hon. member for , but we have always had a good relationship in committee and when we have disagreed, we have been done that in a cordial way.
I am excited to speak about this legislation, but before I do I want to point out the extraordinary work of the . I have only been here since 2008, but I have had the opportunity to be a student of politics and a student of our system and I am confident and secure in saying that he is the best Minister of Canadian Heritage that our country has ever had and I will tell the House why.
What the minister understands, and what previous ministers, including those who served on this side understand, is the importance of arts and culture to not only helping people around the world understand how great our country is, but understand that arts and culture is important to the country's economic growth, that it creates jobs and economic activity.
As a result of that, even when the country was going through one of the worst global economic downturns, this government made historic investments in arts and culture. When other G7 countries were reducing their funding, this government, through the leadership of the minister, was increasing funding to the Canada Council for the Arts to its highest level ever. We invested over $140 million in our national museums and we did that for a number of reasons. It is important that Canadians have access to their history and that they have pride in the institutions that are mandated to tell the stories of Canada. This is why we have made some of these important investments.
I have also heard from members of both official parties about the motion that was brought forward at committee. I want to speak briefly to that because it ties into this a bit. They talked about it being overly prescriptive. The motion actually says that we should talk about Canada and its history before Confederation and after Confederation. It says that we should talk about the 20th century and important developments in Canadian history. It referenced some important battles of World War I and World War II.
Why should we talk about that? We should talk about that because significant anniversaries of important battles in Canadian history are coming up for one. Second, there are still people in our country who can give us first-hand accounts of what they faced in battle. This is an opportunity to bring these people before committee before it is too late, hear their stories and celebrate them. It is not meant to be something like the end of it. If members were to read the whole motion, if they do honour to this place, they would talk about the entire motion. I know we will get co-operation.
We want to talk about the people, the places, the events, the things that have helped shape our country. Sometimes those things are good. Sometimes they are things we want to celebrate, things we want to commemorate, but there are instances when things were not good, but we need to remember them all the same. We talked about the internment of Japanese Canadians. We might not be proud of that part of our history, but it is important that we remember it. That is what we are talking about at committee.
We have heard a lot of people talk about how important it is that we go forward with this project. We have heard a lot of historians talk about how happy they are that we brought this initiative forward. We have seen over the last number of years, especially as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, a reawakening of Canadians' pride in their country, in their province and in their local communities. We have heard consistently that there is no way for them to share this pride in a tangible way across the country.
I want to share a story about something in my riding. About 200 metres from my home there was a discovery made in advance of a subdivision being built in the community, which changed entirely the way we think about our first nations, and there has been a documentary on this called the Curse of the Axe. We found, 200 metres from my home, a Wendat village.
Why is this important? It is because this village had 70 long houses. It was not a community of 10 or 12 houses as was first thought, but a city of 70 long houses. Thousands of people lived in this village and it completely changed the way we thought about these people in this area.
The excavators found that in order to support a village of this size the cornfields alone would have encompassed the entire city of Toronto. They found that these people engaged in trade with other nations, again changing what we thought about the relationships between our first nations at that time. It was revolutionary in how we thought of the Wendat nation.
There are no large communities of Wendat still in Ontario. They are now in Quebec. However, we had ambassadors from the Wendat nation come to my home town of Stouffville and they talked about how significant this find was for their people. They talked about how important it was that the rest of Canada and North America understood what they were doing, how they were doing it and how sophisticated they were. They were very proud of this.
We had the team that led the excavations come to our town a number of times and had displays of the Curse of the Axe. Hundreds of people from our community have come to learn about the local heritage that we just did not know about. Our own community was making headlines across North America. In the town of Stouffville, 200 metres from my front door, there was this amazing discovery. Now we have to find a way to make sure that all Canadians understand it so that we can update what people think of the Wendat and tell them how important and exciting this is.
The minister referenced Douglas Cardinal in his remarks. He said:
I love the fact that the museum keeps evolving and growing, and people still feel that it’s a national monument that can expand and serve all of Canada.
This is important because, although it has a long history, at one point the museum was called the Museum of Man. At the time, I suppose, that was okay. However, time moves on. As the member for points out, there was a time in this country when women were not even considered persons, but time moves on and we are better for it.
We changed the mandate of the Museum of Man, which became the Museum of Civilization. We got together and said that we had to do better and we did. The Museum of Civilization was brought forward and Canadians have been very excited about that. It has done a spectacular job. Canadians can now be as excited about the new museum of history as they had been about the Museum of Civilization, and for many different reasons.
It is a tragedy that over three million pieces or artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Civilization are in storage and not available for Canadians to see. It is a tragedy, especially when we have museums across this country that have made significant investments.
I look at my own community, the city of Markham, which has massive investments in its local museum. The people of Markham understand how important it is to preserve their local history, their culture. They have made massive investments. They are very excited about the prospect of a museum of history so they can share their collections with the national museum and so the people of Canada can understand just how important Markham was to the development of the GTA.
There are 40,000 people in my home town of Stouffville who poured millions of dollars into our museum. They did that for a number of reasons, predominantly because they knew it was a good investment for the community. They knew people wanted to know more about the history of our community, so they put more money into it. They did it also because so many people were coming, they needed to upgrade the facilities so they could host more people.
I looked at my own community. Last year we celebrated something called the Freedom of the Town for the Governor General's Horse Guards, a unit which, in part, has its history in the development of our community.
Even on that there was not complete agreement. There were people in the community who felt this celebration should not happen in because the community was founded by Mennonites, who did not necessarily support things like the war of 1812. We had fierce debate in the community, but ultimately we had the Freedom of the Town and thousands of people came out from our community to celebrate this historic unit.
However, that does not mean the people who disagreed with it were wrong. They disagreed. They talked about it. I may not necessarily have agreed with them, but they got their message out there. It shows just how exciting history can be when we present it to Canadians in a way they can debate, discuss and share. Then they can go to their local communities.
Think of what this could do to local communities across the country when they have the opportunity to see the last spike in their own little town. Think of what that would do for a local museum, the amount of people who would drive to that museum, the people who would be even more engaged to know about their communities and the things that have helped build our country.
Ultimately, we will always have disagreements in this place. It goes without saying. We are elected from different parties. We all have different attitudes on different things. I know full well that although we have different ideas, that all of us fight and argue, ultimately we are all very proud Canadians. We are all people who want to see our country prosper and do better. We also want to ensure that people around the world can understand what has made our country great. That is what this museum will help us do. That is one of the reasons why I am so proud and excited about this.
We also talked a bit in some of the speeches about the road to Canada's 150th birthday and why that was so important, the sesquicentennial, as the pointed out.
That is such an important time for Canada. It will be a time when we can showcase all the great things Canada has done. So many people came to us at committee and said that the 100th birthday of Canada was one of those remarkable things. Everybody talked about Canada's 100th birthday. I am almost jealous that I was not born then so I could have attended some of the 100th birthday celebrations.
We want to ensure Canada's 150th is the same. We want to really help Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand why they should be so proud of our country.
I had the opportunity to visit Yukon with the fabulous member for , and he took me to his local museum. That was my first visit to Canada's north. The pride he showed as he toured me around and showed me some of the important places in his community was something that all Canadians should know, yet not all Canadians can get to the north.
When I looked at the treasures and the collection in storage at that museum and when I heard the minister talk about the opportunities with the new Canadian museum of history, to share these collections so we could be proud of what we had accomplished, I thought this was an excellent opportunity.
We see upstairs in this place a display of the Franklin expedition. We saw the pride the had because something so important to her community was not being displayed just outside the offices of the . It was being displayed and celebrated in other areas of the world, such as Norway. I had the opportunity to meet with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway and to talk about how important this was, how Norwegians were celebrating and wanted to continue to make connections with the 's home town. These are things we have to celebrate. These are things Canadians have to know.
I have had the opportunity, as I am sure a lot of parliamentarians have had, to go to Pier 21. My parents came to this country through Pier 21. It is a shame to me, and one of the saddest parts of my life, that neither one of my parents was alive to see me elected. To go back to Pier 21, where they arrived in Canada, and see my parents' names on the manifest of the boat that brought them to this country, to stand on the pier and look out over the exact place they came to, was truly amazing. It was a truly amazing moment for me, and not just me. Others were visiting Pier 21, and it was easy to know who was going back. I could see them standing there and looking around. I could see in their faces how honoured they were to be there and to be Canadians.
We have to celebrate these things and let other Canadians understand. That is why when I hear things about the Historica-Dominion Institute talking to our veterans, getting first-hand accounts and making them available, that makes me proud. It is also talking to people who came to this country through Pier 21 and getting their stories about what they faced when they came to Canada.
My parents came from Italy. My mother always told me that she was depressed for the first 10 years she was in Canada, because the winters were so harsh and the summer was only a time for her to fear what was coming in the winter. It was brutal for her. My father was a very proud Italian, but also a very proud Canadian. He did not understand hockey at all, but he cheered for it, because he knew it was what Canadians did. He could not understand any part of the game, and he always tried to relate it to soccer, but he was fiercely proud of his new country.
Sometimes it takes going somewhere else to realize just how lucky we are and just how special this country is. Going back to my parents' home town, when I was 14, although it was a beautiful place, made me realize how lucky I was to be here. It also awakened me to something then, even that far back. The many Italians who came to Canada did not know enough about Canada. We have all heard stories of tourists who come to Canada in July with skis on their cars thinking it is going to be snowing. We could do a better job.
There is no problem with members disagreeing in the House about history. That is good. Let us disagree. That is what history is all about. It is not our job to write the history books. That is not what we do. It is our job to be in this place, debate, and make sure other Canadians have access to that history. That is what this new Canadian museum of history would do, and that is why I am so excited.
It is not just about a $25-million investment that will update the museum, as the minister said, after many years. Displays have to be changed. It is not just about that $25-million investment. It is not about the $142 million we have already put into arts and culture and into our museums. It is about giving Canadians access to the things, people, places and events that have helped make this country the best country in the world in which to live. Regardless of how we feel about the policies of one another, we can all agree on that. Surely we can all agree on the fact that everybody, not just Canadians, deserves to understand what has made this country so great.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
This bill is an attack on an institution that is very important to me, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which is located in my riding of Hull—Aylmer.
I am one of those people who is lucky to live in the national capital region, in Hull—Aylmer, who sees the museum every day, who represented the workers at this beautiful museum, who has visited it regularly and who has truly appreciated it. I am saddened to see what is happening at present.
This museum is part of our region's history and identity, just like Gatineau Park, for example, which I am also trying to save. I want to ensure that government legislation will fully protect it. It is an institution that is respected and appreciated by my constituents and everyone.
The Canadian Museum of Civilizations, in its current form, is the most popular museum in Canada. Everyone says so. What a mess the government wants to make of it.
Our museum is a tourist attraction that has economic benefits and creates jobs for the Outaouais. Its special exhibitions on world culture, such as Haitian vodou and ancient Egypt, are an intrinsic part of the museum's popular success in Canada and abroad. What do we want to teach our children and what legacy do we want to leave them?
The museum has proven its worth over the years. The people of Hull—Aylmer are proud to have a world-class museum in their riding.
However, the government is using Bill to attack the museum's formula for success. It wants to reposition the museum, refocus it on Canadian history and sideline the temporary exhibits that I mentioned earlier.
Because the government is choosing to focus on Canadian history, people are left with the impression that the museum does not pay enough attention to our history, which is untrue. The vast majority of the museum's resources are already poured into exhibits on Canada's history.
For example, the Canada Hall is the most visited area of the museum and contains one of the most acclaimed Canadian exhibits in the country. It took years and millions of dollars to create it, and it seems that it will be undergoing a transformation.
I find it hard to understand why this government is tampering with a winning formula. This museum became famous for its wonderful mix of Canadian history and exhibits on other civilizations.
Canadian history has had an important place in the museum since its creation. The museum has always been open to the world and its cultures, just as Canadians are. Why change that?
Earlier, my colleague spoke about the Yukon. Yes, I have been there. He spoke about the pride of Yukoners. Yes, I have met the people who work to preserve our legacy and our heritage. Government cuts mean that all of that heritage is being storage in poorly ventilated, unheated hangers, where it is deteriorating. Is that the legacy we want to leave our children, the public and the world?
The government argued that the changes it wants to make to the museum will make a positive contribution to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. No one has a problem with using the museum to showcase the 150th anniversary. However, using the 150th anniversary as an excuse to change the mandate and focus of Canada's most popular museum worries me, especially given that this government has spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to rewrite our collective history and bring it more in line with Conservative values.
The proposed changes are all the more incomprehensible because no one asked for them. No one in the region was consulted before the minister announced his intentions.
The government has gotten into the habit of acting unilaterally, which is very unfortunate for Canadians and very unfortunate for parliamentary democracy.
The public consultations had nothing to do with finding out whether people wanted us to change our museum's mandate, and everything to do with finding out what people wanted to see displayed in the new museum. Back where I come from, we call that putting the cart before the horse. No wonder people spoke out against Bill .
The NPD is not alone in worrying about how out of control things could get if Bill is passed. In November, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the CAUT, which represents 60,000 university teachers, publicly expressed concern about overt political manipulation of the museum.
The CAUT's executive director had this to say:
[This] initiative...fits into a pattern of politically motivated heritage policy.... [This] initiative reflects a new use of history to support the government's political agenda.... This is a highly inappropriate use of our national cultural institutions, which should stand apart from any particular government agenda....
I have heard the same concern expressed by the CAUT expressed by a number of my constituents. I received many emails, letters and comments on Bill . An overwhelming majority of my constituents are against the government's plan, and since the museum is in their riding, it seems to me that this government should take their opposition seriously.
I will give a real example of the kind of email I received. One of my constituents, Alexandre Pirsch, told me that he was concerned about Bill and asked me to speak on his behalf in Parliament. He said that he has had a family membership at the museum for four years and that he does not see himself reflected in the changes that the government wants to make. He said he was dismayed when he learned that the Canadian government wanted to change the mandate and name of a museum that has meant so much to him. He even wrote that he was thinking about not renewing his family membership.
I have received many emails like that.
One of the problems with Bill is the proposed mandate, which sets out not only the museum's general direction, but also the historical approach it should adopt. Normally, decisions about the type of approach adopted by a museum are left up to museum specialists and historians, specifically to avoid political interference.
The approach set out in Bill , which is based on events, experiences, people and things, is restrictive. It does not leave any room to showcase important developments in our shared history, such as gender relations, colonization and first nations, and environmental changes, for example.
In April, I asked the minister a question about the loss of unionized jobs at the museum and the money that has been spent to change the mandate of the museum before the bill has even passed. In his response, the minister criticized us for not supporting what he described as an investment in culture.
This “investment in culture” the minister was talking about is the $25 million that will be devoted to implementing Bill . I want to say something about that. If ever there was a government in the history of Canada that cannot brag about championing culture, it is the current Conservative government. This government has been making cuts to culture at every turn ever since coming to power.
That $25 million will come out of Canadian Heritage's budget, which has already been reduced as a result of this government's cuts.
The minister also refuses to confirm where exactly this $25 million will come from, and what programs w