Chair, before we begin, I have a point of order. When I was in the midst of speaking, you put the question, which as we know is contrary to the rules. I was outlining that there were a number of witnesses who wished to appear here.
My concern was if we proceeded with the very, very unusual and compressed time frame that had been contemplated in the motion, we would not be able to accommodate some of those witnesses. That is indeed the case. I'm aware of some, and there may be many, many more in this country who aren't aware that this was coming to committee.
Among those who were not able to be accommodated was the grandson of Stanley Weir, the composer of O Canada, who has views on this and wishes to be heard. His wife, as I understand it, is ill in hospital, and on such short notice he was not able to accommodate us, even by teleconference.
Similarly, Rudyard Griffiths is another individual I know who wished to come and present to this committee. He is a well-known historian, founder of The Dominion Institute, and a very distinguished and respected individual on questions such as this. He was also unable to be accommodated.
I hope at the end of hearing this witness we will have a willingness to reconsider, since first of all, the motion was put inappropriately under our rules, but also because it has effectively prevented Canadians from being able to participate. I hope we will reconsider that concept and consider opening it up to to further witnesses at future meetings.
Good morning. My name is Chris Champion. I'm a Canadian historian with a Ph.D. in Canadian history. I'm the founder and editor of the The Dorchester Review
, which is an independent and relatively small circulation journal, but it's about 100 pages per issue. It's in the old style of those journals that John A. Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier used to read in the library. It's a journal of history and also historical commentary, which is a little bit unique.
We are dedicated to the proposition that history is not for dummies. We have about a thousand readers, just under. They are spread across every province and territory. One of our newest subscribers is the Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale du Québec, which subscribed yesterday. This, I must I say, shows the wit and wisdom of the librarians of the National Assembly.
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
These are the words, the true words, of O Canada.
I am referring here to the version that begins with "Ô Canada! Terre de nos aïeux!"
Sir George-Étienne Cartier sang another O Canada,
that is entitled Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!
It's the one he wrote in 1834, during the Confederation meetings. The story is that with fellow delegates from Montreal and Quebec, he sang the words, the song drifting across the peaceful waters of Charlottetown Bay. It is said that he sang with tears in his eyes, for it was a moment of triumph as well as tragedy, death as well as new birth. Quebec could not be a free-standing country, but it would regain its own elected assembly, which had been lost as a consequence of the Rebellion of 1837. Cartier sang with tears because Quebec, the old British province created in 1763, was to be reborn as a nation in all but name, an old country within a new country.
You see, O Canada, both Cartier's and Routhier's later song of the same name, is their song. These are songs of the national survival of French Canadians, and they reach back to Champlain, Laval, Sister Mary the Incarnation, and Dollard des Ormeaux's Battle of Long Sault on the Ottawa River. That is where O Canada really comes from: 400 years of history.
Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” As well, the greatest music, John Senior wrote, is the music of words singing in our heart, that is, of poetry, literature, and history, Madam Chair.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
As English Canadians, we have to admit that it's not really our song. This is why historically French Canadian nationalists saw English Canadians, descendants of the old Ontario governing military and Protestant clerical elite, as more than a little crass and bumptious to be taking their song, tinkering with the words, and making it our national anthem. Didn't we have songs of our own? Couldn't we just sing The Maple Leaf Forever and leave their song alone?
I think we should try to remember this when we are talking about the English version of O Canada. Some people have said there was something, with all due respect, a little bit spurious about it all along.
There were many attempts to put O Canada into English, at least 18 translations before the First World War, full of patriotic and religious fervour. Many of those who tried were clergy of the Anglican or Methodist tradition, in which the country was totally steeped on the English Canadian side in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Robert Stanley Weir's was only one of these versions.
People back then knew full well that in English literature going back to Shakespeare and the authorized Bible, in the music of Handel, in the hymns that almost all English Canadians sang for almost 200 years, the word “sons” properly understood in context commonly did not refer only to men.
The first lines of Handel's great oratorio Joshua, for example, are these:
||Ye sons of Israel, ev'ry tribe attend,
||Let grateful songs and hymns to Heav'n ascend!
This refers to all the people of Israel—mothers, fathers, daughters, sons—who Joshua led to the promised land in the story. Likewise in Malachi's prophecy that the Saviour will come, it reads, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
“Ye sons of Jacob” refers to all the people waiting in hope, and previous generations of Canadians knew this because Canadians used to learn these stories in school. It was part of their cultural formation so they would know where our society came from; what it means to be a free people; what it means to have rights and responsibilities; what it means to be a Canadian citizen.
When these well-formed Canadian women and girls sang O Canada, they understood what the words meant. It seems that many people today do not understand, and because they don't understand, they seek to change. But St. Francis taught, seek first to understand. Some have pointed out that Weir originally wrote the line as “thou dost in us command”. True, “thou dost in us”, dust in us, dustiness; it's no wonder he changed it. It sounds like we need a vacuum cleaner.
Given the rich tradition that we come from, Madam Chair, the words “in us” sounded flat to Weir the poet, and they sound flat, in my view, today.
The “in all of us” is rather banal for a national anthem. As a friend of mine says, they are changing poetry into mere doggerel. It is inferior and insipid language. In fact, a quick quotation search turns up only one example of “in all of us”, and that is in the grunge singer Kurt Cobain's suicide note. Try it.
When Robert Weir fixed that line, being a good poet, he elevated the language and he improved the poem, and it has stood the test of time. One hundred years is not bad in modern English Canadian terms. Moreover, it is rooted in 3,000 years of tradition handed down from the Jews to our ancestors.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It has stood the test of time. Generations of Canadians have memorized it, and it has become part of who we are. To quote Rudyard Griffiths, heritage is sometimes compared to a rich tapestry: once you begin pulling at loose threads, you start to pick away at the image and the beauty unravels until you have eventually nothing left.
Madam Chair, what these ladies and gentlemen are proposing is a mistake. It should be common sense that you simply don't change heritage—because it's heritage. You don't change heritage on a whim because, watch out, somebody else can come along and have another whim. You are setting a precedent for pulling out the threads. You are tearing open the cloth. I'm sure they have good intentions, but they are getting short-term satisfaction and doing long-term harm. Of course, then your motto becomes,
Je me souviens peu or Je ne me souviens plus.
You are telling the world we are a superficial people, perhaps even lightweights. Once the tinkering begins, who can say we will not wake up and find there is a new national anthem every time we open our daily newspaper?
Good morning. Thank you for your insight.
I am an MP and the mother of two daughters. I think it's important to talk about our national anthem and our history. I agree that we need to seriously reflect on our history and the change we are discussing today.
We look at the original words. In 1908 it was “true patriot love thou dost in us command”, which, as you said, I hear me in those words; they include me. But the words were changed.
I'll get to my question, because it's important that we consider this.
If you look at the Canadian Encyclopedia, in 1913 there was a version that was published that had “thy sons command”, and then there was a copyright in 1914 for that wording, but we don't actually have anything from the writer to tell us why he made those changes. There's nothing about a change about poetry or the need to consider any other issues. We don't know, and that's important.
I think we need to take a look at the snapshot of what was going on in 1913 and 1914, because we're going to consider history, and I would like you to comment on that when we get there.
At that point, the suffrage movement was becoming very active. In 1912 the Political Equality League had formed. Nellie McClung was one of its members.
In 1914 they launched a play about women in Parliament called Mock Parliament, which was very funny because, in fact, women couldn't be in Parliament. If we were having this discussion at that time, I wouldn't be here. They were taking this play on the road to get people to think about it.
Then women did get the right to vote. About four years after the copyrighted change, the first time some women in this country were allowed to vote federally was in 1918. Then in 1921 some women in this country were not only able to vote, but for the first time were also able to be elected. This is important to my personal history, because the first female MP elected in 1921 was Agnes Macphail. She was from East York, which is part of my riding.
That's my history and women's history, but it's also a very important part of Canadian history. That means a lot to me when we're going to take some time to think about what we're doing here looking at the national anthem.
Today we have parity in cabinet. That's a great change. But women make up only 26% of the House of Commons, so there is still a long way to go. Taking the snapshot from 1913 to 1914, it was a very tumultuous time when we were looking at the suffrage movement.
You didn't quite raise it, but I've heard another argument about why we should have “thy sons command”, related to the First World War. That's an interesting piece, because in 1913 we weren't at war yet. But when we get to 1914, and we consider our involvement in the war, women were also involved in World War I. That's an important part of Canadian history. There were 3,141 Canadian nurses that served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. In fact, 46 of them gave their lives in the line of duty, so women also died serving this country during World War I.
I have a strong respect for history and women's participation in the First World War. When we take a look at where we are now, women are actively involved in our military and in serving our country, and that's something for which I think we need to show quite a bit of respect.
I'm looking at this and I'm taking into account this history. Where were we? We were looking at the women's suffrage movement, an active time when we were talking about including women. We were talking about a change that happened, at least in first editions, before the First World War, and then changed after.
I look at what I'm going to tell my daughters when I go home today about what we're proposing and the discussions we're having here in Parliament today, in 2016, about our national anthem. These are two girls who every day in school sing the national anthem. They're proud Canadians.
What you're proposing is an objection to amending back to the original version, really, the wording of our national anthem to make it inclusive of all genders. I want to know, what do I tell them about the fact that a historian came to Parliament and testified today that in order to honour our history we need to exclude them? If I can add to that, because I would be interested in hearing your answer to this, how do I explain to my daughters that their true patriot love is not relevant to our country?
Madam Chair, I think you would be misinforming your daughters if you told them that was the case, and so would their teachers, because as I said fairly clearly in my opening remarks, the words “thy sons” are not exclusive in the context of our tradition.
It may be that in schools nowadays, people are not taught much about that deeper tradition, and when they see O Canada they think, “Hang on here, there's something wrong with this. This is sexist. This is not gender neutral.” That is simply a lack of well-rooted education in our culture and history. The equality of women and men is extremely important, but if this change is supposed to advance equality, it won't do much.
How much will it accomplish? In fact, nothing, because if we look at 500 years of our literature—in English, again, because we're talking about the English version—we're talking about poetry, and the word “sons” has in this type of context never referred only to men.
I quoted Handel's Joshua and other texts, which used to be extremely familiar to Canadians. If Canadians are not familiar with them now, that's unfortunate, and it explains why a superficial change like this could be seen to be meaningful when it isn't. It's merely making inferior poetry, lower-quality poetry.
Thanks for the question.
Madam Chair, it represents the tradition that we come from. We in Canada have the privilege of being part of a group of countries, like Australia, the United States, India, New Zealand, and other places, many that you can count in the Commonwealth, such as Trinidad and Jamaica, where the tradition is deeply rooted. We have a stable political system. Normally these countries have retained their parliamentary institutions intact, their mode of electing members, and so on.
I have not done the comparison, but I think if you lined them up, you would probably find those countries with a stable political system would tend to make fewer superficial changes of this nature, knowing that the tradition hangs together. It's an organic whole in a sense, and when you eliminate the phrase “in all thy sons command”, I think you're erasing a piece of our collective memory, because tradition cannot be established from above by fiat. It has to grow from the ground up in people's psyche, and it takes time for that to develop into tradition.
George Orwell wrote that he who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future. That's why he had a ministry of truth whose job was to change history and to change the history books, the newspapers, movies, and radio. I haven't read the book in a long time, but maybe the ministry of truth even changed the national anthem.
Madam Chair, I really am struck by the arrogance of what members are proposing to do in this bill. They are taking something that is 100 years old, that is a classic poem by a Canadian poet—normally, we respect our poets and their work, and in fact we support them—and in place of that imposing the ephemeral present-day preoccupations and anxieties on it.
Now, in the future, let us hope that the population is perhaps better educated in our tradition. They wouldn't have this anxiety about the national anthem. They wouldn't have this kind of psychic angst about it, because they would know what the words meant.
I think what is happening here is quick and dirty. How many Canadians really know it's happening is, I think, a legitimate question. It's going through so precipitately that I doubt very many people are aware of or really understand the change.
We have to note that Canadian governments historically, and I can only speak to you as a Canadian historian, have a track record of changing our heritage without consulting Canadians, without ensuring a wide consensus. When the Canadian flag was adopted in 1964, there was considerable public debate, but it was passed with a majority of English Canadians opposed and most French Canadians indifferent. You could read my book, which documents both. Even then, the government of the day used closure to impose it. Now, 50 years have passed and we all love the flag—don't get me wrong—but the way it was done was quick and dirty.
Likewise, Dominion Day was changed to Canada Day in 1982 by a snap vote in the House of Commons when there was no quorum. There were only 13 members present. If you read the record, most people were not aware of what was happening in the House. It was a sneaky move behind closed doors, a fait accompli.
There's a bit of a track record of this behind closed doors, these kinds of sneaky and quick and dirty changes to our heritage, which I think, maybe for good sentimental motivations, for good personal motives, is being done here, but I think that personal motives, personal affection, and regard for one member is not a good basis on which to make such a historic change to something that is so familiar and rooted in our tradition.
Thank you, Mr. Champion, for your information.
As a historian, of course you come with a lot of history, and I respect history very much. Today's decision will be history in the future. I look at that picture on the wall and that pretty well tells me a lot of things. How could they come out with the words, instead of “sons”, with “ladies”, when none were present? That is very difficult to imagine. That also plays into what is history and tradition.
“Quick and dirty” is a term you used in answering, and it doesn't mean that because it's quick it's not right and it's not proper and it's not the way to do business. As much as I respect all individuals who have spoken about this, when I saw that all five parties in the House of Commons yesterday, who are elected by all Canadians across this nation, have supported.... It's not just the Liberal Party. All five parties together, forming the majority—if the Bloc voted, and I believe they did—have voted in favour of this change because this change is where we are as a nation today.
In 50 years' time we'll have other challenges, but today this is the right thing to do, and I support wholeheartedly the decision of the majority of the House of Commons who represent all Canadians. All five parties in general supported this.
Thank you, Mr. Waugh and Madam Chair.
Thank you, Dr. Champion, for your presentation and your clarity in regard to what those words mean in our society today—and have for, as you say, 100 years. I spoke in the House on this, and about some of the very things you said in regard to this matter. We have seen a very big rush put on this, as my colleague Mr. Van Loan indicated earlier. The bill hasn't been passed for 24 hours, yet it's appearing before us here, and is to be voted on today to make a change immediately, without Canadians being asked to have input into this. Or they've been asked, but obviously I agree with my colleagues and the comments you've made that most Canadians don't know it's being made.
However, because of some articles that have been printed in some areas of Canada, there has been some awareness of the issue. One of them is in the home province that I come from, Manitoba, through the Winnipeg Free Press. There have been articles and some small surveys done, including surveys that have been done either on some of the radio shows or through questions. One that I've heard is that 90% of Canadians were not in favour of this change, and 90:10 is quite an unusual ruling in the society we have in Canada today. It involves virtually everyone.
Some quotes have come back from some folks. I'd just like to put them on the record here and have you comment on them. Paula S. says, “I hate this controversy over the lyrics to Oh Canada! I feel we have a beautiful national anthem just the way it is!” Shane S. says, “What a total waste of time! People died for that anthem...you should all be ashamed!” Shelley says, “This is not about gender—Canadians are certainly accepting of all people”—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
We have an agenda today that provides until 9:45 for this and then we have another hour for clause-by-clause. As we've observed, this is not a long bill.
We've already had a process that has not followed the rules of this committee and that has effectively shortened the opportunity for input from Canadians. We now have, through a miracle of generosity, someone who has come on virtually no notice and who is extraordinarily learned and has offered a great deal of thoughtful input to us, and who, I would say, speaks for a great many Canadians. Now we have a motion to cut short that opportunity for public input even further.
This is, to me, a staggering approach that achieves nothing except for the suppression of dissenting views. I cannot understand a motion like this. It's not going to advance the process from today. We're talking about 15 more minutes for public input and we now have a motion from the Liberal Party to suppress those who wish to have a contrary view from having their 15 minutes to say that. I find that staggering, unfortunate, sad, but entirely consistent with the handling of this by the Liberal Party.
With the greatest of respect for the member whose bill we are dealing with and the personal considerations we are taking into account for him, the last thing he would want would be for that legacy to be tainted by what has been happening. That is what happened at our last committee meeting, where we adopted a process, in violation of our rules, to shut down public input.
This is an individual who ran for Speaker, who held the totems of our democracy as important, and yet in an effort to rush his bill through, we are disgracing his respect for Parliament. It's the height of irony, but to me it says a lot about the way the Liberal Party is approaching things, whether it be on this, or in the approach to democratic reform whereby we're going to change our electoral system but will not give Canadians a say. There's a broader pattern taking place here.
I think this motion is unfortunate. I think we should vote against it. I urge you to vote against it and to allow us to have a few more minutes to hear from this very capable and very high-quality witness.
Mr. Van Loan, I am sorry, on a point of order—
Hon. Peter Van Loan: You cannot—
The Chair: I am finishing my sentence.
Hon. Peter Van Loan: Okay.
The Chair: I am finishing my sentence, Mr. Van Loan, whether you like it or not. So show some respect for the chair, please.
I will finish my sentence.
What we had here was an agreement. The will of this committee was accepted. We had a motion to go to clause-by-clause. This was accepted by the majority of the committee. The majority of the committee is now moving to clause-by-clause.
Mr. Van Loan, I think you are going to have to start respecting the will of this committee as its majority rules. Therefore, by a vote of seven to three—
Mr. Maguire, you've put forward a question to the chair, and I am responding once again, as I am going to be responding for the third time.
We went into the second round. In the first round, no Liberal wanted to ask a question. The NDP did not wish to ask a question. We went into the second round, which is normally a five-minute round. I allowed that second round to be a seven-minute round. The first order was the Conservatives. You got seven minutes and thirty seconds.
When we moved to the next Liberal, that Liberal used his time to place a motion on the floor. We dealt with the motion. The motion was duly voted on. The New Democratic Party member, who should have been the next after the Liberal, said that he did not have a question.
Therefore, we are now moving to the orders of the day, which is a motion that was duly passed by the majority of this committee to move to clause-by-clause consideration. Now I will do so.
I was not speaking because my friend was seeking to have the floor and you were ignoring him.
This clause is of course the essence of what we're doing. It replaces the national anthem with the attached. I think it is tragic that this is being done in a fashion where Canadians are being shut out. Their national anthem is being changed. Millions of Canadians have been singing it for decades. It belongs to them. It is not a plaything of ours, nor is this committee a plaything of ours.
I think it sends an alarming signal to Canadians that in dealing with our most significant national symbols, we're willing to breach our rules, three times now, and to do it twice in a fashion that suppresses any dissent whatsoever.
Our national symbols in a free and democratic country are being changed by a vote of the majority, but more importantly on the process side of things, a vote of the majority that has suppressed dissenting or contrary views, a vote of the majority that we should proceed with virtually no notice to Canadians of committee hearings. There would be only one opportunity to be a witness, and no Canadians knew of this because it happened so quickly, notwithstanding that when we were in contact with people who wanted to appear as witnesses, when those witness lists were provided, because we were dealing with 36 hours' notice if you will, less than that for some of them, of when they were to appear, they were obviously not able to rearrange their affairs in such a fashion as to come here.
We do that on nothing else. We do that on no other bills. Here we are doing it on something that is symbolic, that belongs to all Canadians, that is supposed to be a celebration of our democracy, of our freedom, of our traditions, of what it means to be Canadians. What are we showing them? We're showing them that if I have more votes than you, if I'm a bigger bully, if I have 39% of the vote, I can impose my will and suppress all dissent on the things that belong to you, Canadians.
People have different views. I was part of a government that proposed changing these words. The reason this matters to me so much is that we had a process. We floated it to Canadians in a throne speech. We signalled to them that this is where we wish to go. We did it in a high-profile fashion that allowed them the opportunity to hear about it, to be fully aware of it, and to respond, and the response was strong and clear.
While I was persuaded at the time of the merits of “thou dost in us command” as a return to our histories and traditions, Canadians didn't share that view, for better or worse. I was big enough to accept that. I was big enough to listen to Canadians. I was big enough to understand that notwithstanding we had a majority, and we could indeed have imposed our will had we wished to, perhaps Canadians were telling us something very important. Perhaps they were saying, “Let's not change these symbols lightly. Let's not impose it in a top-down way.”
Yet, that is exactly what we are doing here. In this free and democratic country, we're telling Canadians, “Guess what? You don't have a say in your national anthem. It belongs to us as politicians. It belongs to us to deliver our world view to you and impose it upon you.”
Whatever the merits of that—and as I said, I was sold on the merits of that some time ago—what persuaded me was consultation, listening, hearing from Canadians that they had a different view, and valuing that different view.
What I have seen here is a display that does not value the views of others: “We think we are right. Not only will we rush things through so others cannot tell us something different, but when they do come to this table to tell us something different, we will move a motion to shut down their ability to tell us that for another 15 minutes.”
It won't change the outcome today, but it is a very powerful symbol of how this is being done and what that means. When that powerful symbol of the erosion of the legitimacy of people's dissenting views is being held up—and that's happening at the same time as we're dealing with the national anthem and our freedom—I can understand why every single member of the opposition on that side is holding their head down. Because it is shameful.
It is shameful to do it in such a fashion that Canadians can't have their say. We have an obligation, I think, to give them that opportunity to consult, to hear, to let them have their say, and not to break the rules three times over as we have now done, to ignore the rules three times over as we have now done, in a rush to achieve what we want.
I've said what I've said about the member who is sponsoring this bill. He ran for Speaker of the House, not because he wanted the ability to sit in that chair and break the rules to get his way, but because he valued the institution. I've served here now many more years than I ever expected to when I was first elected in 2004, but in that time, I've appreciated that the rules in our democratic institutions, however stodgy and however frustrating they may be for those who want to get things done—and I was one of those who wanted to get things done for quite some time—exist for a reason. They exist for a reason, and that is, the democratic process sometimes requires reflection. When we first proposed this change, and I supported it at that time, we allowed that process to unfold and we listened to Canadians. My views were changed, not because of my own personal views being changed, but because I feel that when I'm here representing my constituents and representing Canadians, what they say and what they feel matters.
We are a doing a double disservice to them, I believe, first with the change in substance, which I believe it is not in accord with what changes are wanted, and second, in the way and the fashion in which we are doing so, short-circuiting and suppressing dissent at every turn. This is sad. To do so in the case of our national anthem, which is what we are proposing to do right here, is unfortunate. It is a sad day and I regret it.
Madam Chair, I would like to speak to this as well, to take a moment to reflect on what has been done here.
As I said earlier, this will not change the outcome of the vote today on this bill. However, I am most concerned, not just because I'm vice-chair of the committee but also as a regular parliamentarian, that we have circumvented the rules of the House with regard to the whole process. This is about process.
As I said in my speech in the House, I have the greatest respect for the member who moved this forward. Mr. is a very credible member of Parliament. If he wants to put this type of thing forward, he's quite willing to do that. However, I would suggest as well that because of the circumstances he has faced, which are very unfortunate, Madam Chair, that even his own colleagues have not taken his respect for Parliament into consideration. I believe that because of the precedent that's been set here now with the member for not receiving the proper notice since he became an independent member—and that's been clarified—I think he would have been the last one to have wanted to see this.
It makes the difference between now and Tuesday when a few more witnesses would have been able to come. You know, Madam Chair, they weren't able to come because of the quickness of this committee.
We didn't get the opportunity to finish the questions. We do agree to agendas in this committee. The committee agenda before us states 8:45 to 9:45 for witnesses today. We had one witness. We were cut off 20 minutes early. We still had the second hour, and virtually every committee is two hours long unless we finalize our business early.
Madam Chair, there was a full outline on the clause-by-clause consideration here. It's very clear that it's on the agenda from 9:45 to 10:45, and as I said, had we waited that extra 20 minutes to get to the second portion of our meeting, it would not have changed the outcome of the whole process.
However, because of our insistence on clarity, Madam Chair, and it has now been clarified that Mr. Tootoo, the member for Nunavut, hadn't received proper notification under the rules of Parliament, and because we did not have unanimous consent to suspend the rules of this committee to agree with the rules of Parliament....
Madam Chair, the member who put this forward wanted to be the Speaker. All parties unanimously agreed in the House to allow him to be an honorary Speaker. That has never happened before, Madam Chair. We all respect him as an individual.
I want it on the record, Madam Chair, that I believe we are proceeding without proper process with regard to this meeting being held today, and as much as another 20 minutes of questions may not have changed the outcome, I think it's really unfair. I don't know whether the next four days will make any difference or not. We could have come back on Tuesday and heard more witnesses, Madam Chair, and this would have still been the outcome of the bill. It would have been the same with regard to how the government votes on it.
That's their right. I have no problem with the democratic process of their voting for it as they wish, Madam Chair. I just have a real concern that we've set a precedent for all future committees of Parliament, and I'm very concerned about that. I think that the member putting the bill forward would have been concerned about it as well.
I'll leave it that, Madam Chair. I had many other comments, quotes from people in Canada. As I indicated, the vast majority of the people in my riding and in many others are against the change in this bill. In the city of Winnipeg it was 90 to 10 on one survey, Madam Chair.
I would imagine on issues of national significance like this, many committees would have travelled across the country and held public hearings to get feedback. That wasn't even an offer on the table from the committee, Madam Chair, and notwithstanding the situation, I think it would have been probably a wise move to have an opportunity to educate Canadians that this was taking place. Many of them, as was pointed out by our witness today, wouldn't even know this is taking place, Madam Chair, unless they follow the daily goings-on in committees or in Parliament.
We had a historian before us today in committee who made some extremely valid comments in regard to the arguments of the government in moving forward the way they have. Even one of my colleagues from across the way indicated that today's decision will be future history, Madam Chair. That's very true.
It was also pointed out that this is a precedent that was done in some other areas as well. Dominion Day was changed to Canada Day with 13 members in the House. I think “sneaky process” were the words that were used. And there's the anxiety that this may cause. “Quick and dirty” were the comments that came from our witness today. He was only saying that because Canadians don't know about the process. I think that's a grave nature of why this has been forced upon us in such a very short time, Madam Speaker.
I will leave it at that.
Yes, I do. Thank you, Madam Chair.
A number of us around this table are first-time parliamentarians. A lot of us don't really understand a lot of the rules in the House. We're learning as we go. I think that's a fair assessment when I look around.
I was one of those. I received a phone call from the honourable member who is moving this bill. I received one in November.
I just want to share, Madam Chair, that I wasn't home at the time. I was flying back from Ottawa to Saskatoon, my home riding.
The honourable member, Mr. , phoned my house. He was trying to get votes to become Speaker of this House. My wife answered. My wife just retired as a school teacher and really isn't up on parliamentary procedures at all. Anyway, it was, “Who are you? What are you trying to do? Explain to me.”
Mr. , who was trying to reach out to 337 more parliamentarians to get the vote to become Speaker of this House, took over an hour on the phone with my wife, explaining who he is, where he has come from, and the procedure of Parliament.
We had a non-partisan vote. There were many who were phoning our house. He happened to be the first, and he spent over an hour with my wife on the phone explaining the procedures, and as he was talking to my wife, his voice became weaker and weaker. When I eventually came home that night, as I arrived at the Saskatoon airport at 11:30 at night, I had a message to phone him, here's the number, here's the cell number. I didn't think at 1:30 in the morning I should phone Mr. , but I did phone him the next morning very early, about five o'clock my time, which would have been six down here, and lo and behold he answered the phone and we had another hour conversation about the process.
As many of you know, we just went through the longest—historical really—campaign in the history of this country, in modern-day history, and a lot of us don't know the procedures when you first step into the House.
Then we've seen this here today and in the last couple of days and we're all going to go back to our offices and ask some questions. I know I am. I have some very experienced staff and I'm sure many of you are going to go back to your offices after this meeting and ask what the hell happened. This is because Parliament, it has become clear to me...and as a broadcaster for 40 years you think you know it all and then you become a school board trustee and you know a little bit of governance, and I know many of you have been trustees or administrators and you've moved on to municipal elections, but this is a higher calling and we've seen that in this House.
Madam Chair, you try to consult and, you know what, you've echoed those statements for the last seven months. You want to consult with Canadians. We didn't have the chance to consult properly on this bill.
I just wanted to share with my colleagues those two phone calls that the mover of this bill, maybe one of the biggest bills that we'll have to deal with in some of our parliamentarian history, made, one to my wife and then the next day, Saturday, when I talked to Mr. . He wanted to be the Speaker of the House. He talked with me at great length about how Parliament is a higher calling.
I think this meeting was televised today. I just hope that coast to coast to coast people have seen that their democracy hasn't been heard on this bill and it's too bad, because whether this proceeds or not.... We understand that yesterday it was voted on at second reading, which is fine, but at the same time when you sit across and you hear you want to consult on this, you want to consult on that, I think it's fair to say that we did not consult on this one very much.
As we each head back to our ridings, I think you're going to hear this from Canadians. We're coming up to Canada Day on July 1. All of us will be back in our ridings, hopefully, giving the word to our constituents on Canada Day and we're going to hear a lot from constituents, what happened? Why was this rushed through three to four weeks ago?
I simply want to share my experience with the mover of this bill and the procedure of Parliament, because most Canadians don't understand the procedures. As new parliamentarians here, and there are many first-time parliamentarians six or seven months in, we have broken some of the rules here today in Parliament. I hope we all go back to our offices and have a deep consultation with our experienced staff members, and make sure this never happens again.
This is a procedure where we have one of the top historians in the country, whether you agreed with his views or not...it was a great insight, what Mr. Champion had to say here today. Unfortunately, he had 45 minutes but was called for an hour; hearing from him for another 15 minutes wouldn't have hurt this committee. Whether we agreed with his views or not, as I said, he talked about history and where this national anthem came from.
Madam Chair, I want on the record, as a first-time parliamentarian six or seven months in, I'm really disappointed in this process. I was disappointed more than once, because I thought this heritage committee when I first came here was about working together, and I think we have on the media. I think we all sat down and agreed that we were going to work on what is happening in the media. Then all of a sudden, we got derailed on a simple procedure like this, and now it's not right.
This committee has been hailed by many parliamentarians here as the one that has been working together more than any other. Now it has been derailed by what has happened this past week. It's shameful, Madam Chair. Whether it's Mr. Nantel or others, we've enjoyed one another. Many of my Liberal colleagues meet at heritage events and we have all agreed that we've really enjoyed this.
Why did we rush this? Now we've derailed, you know, consenting views. We didn't have to do this. Only another consultation is all we needed, because this heritage committee deserves that.
We started off very well in the fall, as I mentioned, but I'm fearful where this committee is going following this private member's bill that we presented here. I feel for the independent member from . It's interesting because we've all heard his issues. One of our colleagues has gone through that issue. Maybe some of us know others who have gone through those issues. To leave him out of this process, to me, indicates we're not thinking of the 338 parliamentarians who we bring together in the House.
That's all I'll say on this matter.