Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak to the bill earlier this week. It is a pleasure to stand here again and have the opportunity to speak to bill , which was formerly Bill . It represented the creation and the transfer of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the Canadian museum of history. It is with the greatest pleasure that I rise today.
First, I find Canada's rich history to be absolutely fascinating. For example, Quebec, which was founded in 1608, is Canada's oldest city. Almost half the buildings in the historic district of old Quebec were built before 1850. Today, this 135-hectare area is a UNESCO world heritage site. The history of John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, and the other Fathers of Confederation negotiations at the Charlottetown, Quebec, and London conferences led to the beginning of the Canada we know today. The living history we experience now such as Commander Chris Hadfield's amazing journey comes to mind. Last spring he mesmerized people around the world, me included. There is no doubt his name and his mission will be forever part of our collective Canadian history.
As members can imagine, I am delighted with our government's commitment to provide Canadians with an opportunity to learn more about our history.
We have already outlined initiatives we are taking to ensure Canadians have greater access to our history. I would like to mention just a couple of them.
The second Canada History Week will take place next July and communities throughout the country will celebrate history with local events. As well, we established the Canada history fund to recognize outstanding students and teachers of history.
When I spoke before the House on October 21, I also mentioned these initiatives, as well as others. For example, beginning in 2014, we plan to increase funding for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and the Canadian Encyclopedia. These are great tools that all Canadians can access online. We have also provided support for the Historica-Dominion Institute to create two new Heritage Minutes each year between now and 2017.
I am proud of the efforts of our government and I am proud of how we have worked to promote our Canadian history.
The proposed Canadian museum of history will play a key role in allowing Canadians to learn more and share our country's unique past. In fact, it will be housed on the banks of the Ottawa River in what we all now know as the Canadian Museum of Civilization. This beautiful building was designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, whose incredible work could be a chapter in a story of our cultural heritage.
Mr. Cardinal offered an excellent observation about the Canadian Museum of Civilization's progression into the new Canadian museum of history. 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.
On October 21, I provided a summary of the bill's progression through the House. As I have mentioned, we spent over 20 hours debating the legislation. We discussed it from many different angles: the need for a museum devoted to Canadian history; how it would be financed; as well, as the logistical details and how it would progress to its opening in 2016.
The legislation has received significant study and I am pleased to say that we have progressed to third reading stage.
In fact, when we asked for participation from Canadians across the country and what they thought should happen with the museum, we received over 20,000 pieces of advice from Canadians. This is clear evidence that Canadians are engaged in this process and are quite willing, when given the opportunity, to participate in a dialogue as to the direction the museum should take.
At the same time, I know some of my colleagues have expressed concerns about the new museum. I want to assure the House that we have heard their comments and I would like to briefly address some of them.
The issue of the new museum's independence has been raised on more than one occasion. Rest assured, the Canadian museum of history, like all national museums, indeed, all crown corporations, will operate at arm's-length from the government.
I am so impressed by the people who manage our museums across the country, our small museums in small town communities or our large museums like Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It is their commitment and effort that promote Canadian history in our country. These are the people who should be, will be and are responsible for the content in our museums.
Our government is establishing a new mandate for the Canadian museum of history, one focused on the history of our country. Once that is done, it will be the museum's capable board of trustees, its director, its management and all of the employees who will determine how to present our country's history.
I also heard members speak to the important issue of research. Nothing in this bill limits the ability of the new museum to carry out research. It will have exactly the same powers as the current Canadian Museum of Civilization, and research is an essential component of that museum. It will remain and continue to be an essential part of the new museum.
I understand the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have recently developed a joint research strategy. It confirms the essential role research will play in both museums over the next decade. It is available on the Canadian Museum of Civilization's website for anyone who would like to learn more about it.
Let me also reassure the House that the new legislation will not have an impact on international travelling exhibitions. Potentially, we will see them increase to talk across the world about Canada's history. Our government recognizes the importance of these exhibitions from an educational perspective. We also know from a business perspective how much potential revenue they can create, not just for the museum but also for the surrounding region and area. Nothing in the legislation in any way jeopardizes the museum's ability to present these exhibitions, which have been so popular with the Canadian public.
I am particularly pleased that the future Canadian museum of history is negotiating partnership agreements with the institutions across the country that devote themselves to our Canadian history. This is an amazing way to reach out to people across the country. Three of these are already in place, one with the Royal BC Museum, one with Calgary's Glenbow Museum and an agreement was signed just last summer with the Manitoba Museum. I understand that plans are already being made for the current partners to send and receive collections from each other.
Other partnerships will soon follow. The Canadian museum of history will be a must see for the thousands of people who come to this region each and every year. However, its reach will be far greater than that. Partnerships like the ones I have described will allow the Canadian museum of history to work with museums across the country, each and every one. In so doing, we will make our national collections accessible to as many Canadians as possible. Geography will not interfere with our ability to ensure that Canadians see and learn what our history is all about.
The new museum will lead a network that will connect history museums across the country so they can access some of the 3.5 million items that are in the national collection. Like all museums, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has a vast majority of its collection in storage. This will be a wonderful way to provide greater access to our treasured artifacts. Because of space and issues that prevent all of our artifacts from being displayed, it will see those artifacts travel across the country and be displayed not in storage, but in a position where they can viewed, studied and admired.
Before, everyone had to travel to the national capital region to appreciate first-hand an important part of their heritage. Now they will be able to go to museums much closer, in fact in their own communities. It is an incredible resource and partnership that is being created through this process.
At the same time, there are museums across Canada, in the very communities where we live, including my riding with the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre. There are more than 2,500 of them. They cover different aspects of our history and many have fascinating collections to begin with. We want to ensure that these smaller museums will be able to share their exhibits with the Canadian museum of history and to access the new museum's collection.
With that goal in mind, we have put new support in place to make it easier for them to approach the new Canadian museum of history and access the national collection.
In addition to this, several changes have been made to the Canadian Heritage museums assistance program to assist small Canadian museums.
The exhibition circulation fund would not only support the borrowing of collections from the Canadian museum of history, but would also extend the support to small institutions that were previously ineligible. A requirement that exhibitions must travel outside of the province or territory has been removed in the case of history exhibitions to encourage small institutions to exchange exhibitions with each other. It is a requirement that has long been an issue for smaller museums that would like to deal directly with each other. This new piece of legislation, under the guidance of the Canadian museum of history, would allow that to happen. We have also made sure that the aboriginal heritage component would give priority to exhibits focused on historical events and key figures, and would encourage exhibitions in non-traditional spaces, such as community centres.
To sum up, this new national museum would work with museums across Canada to ensure that as many Canadians as possible have the opportunity to learn about our achievements. In addition, the Department of Canadian Heritage is using many of its internal resources to support access to Canadian history. The Canadian Conservation Institute is putting a priority on the conservation of objects related to the road to 2017. Finally, the Canadian Heritage Information Network's Virtual Museum of Canada would dedicate 25% of its annual budget, up to $500,000, to virtual exhibits related to the road to 2017.
That brings me to the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation. As everyone in the House knows, in just a few years, we will celebrate this momentous event. What a perfect time to welcome a new Canadian museum of history. Since Confederation, we have grown as a country and accomplished so many great things. In the lead up to 2017, we will promote the people, places and events that have marked our history.
As the House knows, this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first Canadian expedition in the Arctic. Next year, it will be the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences, which led to the founding of Canada. There are also the 200th anniversaries of the births of Sir George-Étienne Cartier and Sir John A. Macdonald. We will also remember the sacrifices of two generations of Canadians during the First and Second World Wars. I look forward to paying tribute to all of our veterans.
In commemorating people and events such as these, we become aware that we stand tall today because of the millions of men and women whose courage, hard work and perseverance helped to establish this great country. They are renowned artists such as filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, painter Emily Carr, singer Céline Dion, pianist Glenn Gould, writer Gabrielle Roy, Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro and many more.
Sports heroes such as Clara Hughes, the only athlete ever to win multiple medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and hockey legends Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky are also a part of this celebration. As is our multi-sport champion, Lionel Conacher, who was inducted in the Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965. No wonder Canada has a reputation as a leading sports nation.
Distinguished scientists have also made us proud. For example, Frederick Banting, whose discovery of insulin has helped to save countless lives.
Impressive, is it not? It is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the incredible people who have made this country what it is.
The upcoming anniversary is tailor-made to learn more about our history, pay tribute to the people who have left their mark on this country and reflect on our legacy. The Canadian museum of history would do just that. It would be based in the national capital region. It would reach out to people across the nation through a network of museums in their own communities. It would entertain us. It would educate us. For many, it would inspire us to learn more about the people, places and events that brought us to where we are today, a free and democratic country envied by many around the world.
There are four specific changes. I would like to reiterate those that are being made within Bill . The first is a change of the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the Canadian museum of history. The second is for the purpose of mandate change in terms of the direction that the new museum would be taking. The third is that the capacity and powers of the museum would remain the same, intact as they are today. The fourth is that there would be no change to the governance structure of the existing structure; no interruption of the corporation's ability to operate; no impact on employees, officers or trustees; and no change in legal responsibilities.
We have before us the opportunity to prepare for 2017. The creation and the renewed mandate of the Museum of Civilization to the museum of history puts us in that position. It allows for us not only to celebrate what is historical, obvious and important from a Canadian perspective here in Ottawa, it actually sets the foundation for us to have this historical celebration, a study of our history, a learning opportunity of our history across our country.
There are thousands of museums, smaller museums in smaller communities that were never in a position to access or use the over 3.5 million artifacts, many of them at or currently in storage at the Museum of Civilization. They will be able to travel across this country. When those artifacts and exhibits travel across the country, there is an opportunity to ensure it will be done safely and that each one of those artifacts will be insured by the Government of Canada through the museum.
We have before us the living and breathing opportunity to see where we are going as a country in terms of the celebration of our 150th anniversary. We also see that our historical life, the life of Canada, when put on a road map, is one of envy for the rest of the world.
One of the things I learned during my time at the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was that when studies are done across this country, across this world, on where individuals or families would move if they were to leave their country of origin, of the seven billion people who walk on this earth, one billion said that Canada would be their first choice. With that profound understanding, we should consider ourselves fortunate. With 35 million people living in this country, there are a billion who believe this would be the country to live in if they were to move from their country of origin.
It says to all of us here in the House that this is our opportunity to show the world. The Canadian museum of history is setting the foundation to say to the rest of the world that we are prepared to talk about not only how great our country is now but how our country was built, how our country started and where our country is in terms of its position in the world.
I appreciate the opportunity to present this afternoon. I certainly hope that all members of the House, regardless of their party, regardless of where they sit in the House of Commons, will see there is an opportunity for us to put a renewed focus on our country's history, and that history begins at the Canadian museum of history right here in Ottawa.