Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by thanking the hon. member for his bill and his cooperation at committee. We have been able to finally address a very important issue, an issue that struck at the hearts of all committee members. I want to thank him for his tremendous determination and hard work in this regard. I am so pleased to see that we are finally at third reading today.
Canada's experience with diversity distinguishes it from most other countries. Our 30 million inhabitants reflect a cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup found nowhere else on the earth. Over 200,000 immigrants a year from all parts of the globe continue to choose Canada, drawn by its quality of life and its reputation as an open, peaceful and caring society that welcomes newcomers and indeed values diversity.
From Confederation through the boom years of immigration prior to World War I, to the inter-war years and the current post-war era, our immigration policy and legislation have helped to shape the Canada we have today. Over time, Canadian governments have reflected society's increasing willingness to accept differences within the population and specifically the legitimacy of the rights of minorities to maintain their culture and also their traditions. Throughout our history, there have, however, been instances of laws that would be considered regressive today.
In Canada, the years prior to World War I witnessed heavy immigration from eastern Europe. When war broke out, the country faced a serious problem: what to do with recent immigrants who were citizens of the countries with which Canada was at war.
The problem became quite acute in 1914 when German and Austro-Hungarian nationals resident in Canada were called upon by their respective governments to return home to honour their military draft obligations.
The War Measures Act of 1914 stated in section 6 that:
The Governor in Council may do and authorize such acts and things, and make from time to time such orders and regulations, as he may by reason of the existence of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection deem necessary or advisable for the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada;... it is hereby declared that the powers of the Governor in Council shall extend to all matters coming within the classes of subjects hereinafter enumerated, that is to say....
Among other things were included “arrest, detention, exclusion and deportation” and “appropriation, control, forfeiture and disposition of property and of the use thereof”.
Under orders made pursuant to the War Measures Act, 8,579 people--civilians and prisoners of war--were interned in 26 camps across Canada during the first world war. The internees were composed of a mix of nationalities, including Turkish, Bulgarian, German and Austro-Hungarian. The largest number were from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, which included Croatians, Czechs, Poles, Serbians and other Europeans. The numbers also included perhaps 5,000 Ukrainians out of an estimated population of about 171,000 of Ukrainian origin in Canada at that time.
From the beginning, internees were treated as prisoners of war and, in keeping with the terms of the Hague convention, received the same standards of food, clothing and accommodations as Canadian soldiers. It is estimated that by the end of the war in 1918 there were only three internment camps remaining in operation. The last camp officially closed in February 1920.
Under the federal Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property, a claims process was adjudicated in the post-war period of World War I and World War II. The government had determined that after World War I some moneys went unclaimed from some internees of Austro-Hungarian empire descent, despite advertisements in mainstream and ethnocultural newspapers.
In 1976, convinced the vast majority of claims had been resolved, the Government of Canada closed this office. As the Hon. Sheila Finestone stated in the House of Commons in 1994:
--as Canadians we are proud that our citizens trace their origins to every part of the world. Together we have built this country on the principles of fairness, generosity and compassion. Our history records the remarkable success we have achieved by applying those principles.
Our history also records that at times we have strayed from them. There have been episodes that have caused suffering to people. In the crisis atmosphere of war, some Canadian ethnocultural communities found their loyalty questioned, their freedom restrained and their lives disrupted. Canadians wish those episodes had never happened. We wish those practices had never occurred.
Allow me to continue to quote:
We all share in the responsibility to learn from the past. The Government of Canada believes that our common obligation lies in preventing such situations from ever occurring again.
With that statement in the House, the government adopted a policy on historical redress, which, first, reaffirmed the uniqueness of the Japanese Canadian redress agreement; second, confirmed that no financial compensation would be awarded to individuals or communities for historical events; third, committed to a forward-looking agenda to ensure that such practices did not recur; and fourth, noted that limited and future federal resources would be used to create a more equitable society.
Indeed, the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation was a signal of federal commitment to eliminate racism and racial discrimination. In this regard, the foundation officially opened its doors in November 1997.
Canada in 2005 is a very different Canada. Tremendous steps have been taken toward making our country a better place. Beginning in 1950 with the report of the Massey-Lévesque commission, ethnocultural diversity gradually came to be understood as an essential ingredient in a distinct Canadian identity.
The Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960 recognized and declared that certain human rights and fundamental freedoms existed, without discrimination on the grounds of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex. In 1970, Canada ratified the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. As a party to the convention, Canada has undertaken to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms.
The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 proclaimed that all individuals should have equal opportunity with others without being discriminated against on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
In 1982, section 15 of the newly adopted Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also recognized that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Section 15 came into effect in 1985.
In addition, the multicultural character of Canada gained constitutional recognition in section 27 of the charter. It specified that the courts were to interpret the charter “in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 affirmed multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society.
We have worked and will continue working with Ukrainian Canadians and other ethnocultural communities to document their history and experiences through a range of commemorative projects, including films, books and exhibits that enable them to tell their stories to other Canadians.
To conclude, I would again like to thank the member for his efforts and his hard work to ensure that the bill will become law. I strongly believe in the need to acknowledge and commemorate the historical events referred to in Bill C-331 as well as educate Canadians about these experiences. No matter how much we might wish to erase these events from the history of our country, today's government cannot, nor can we pay for restitution for historical actions without placing an undue burden on existing and future generations that are in no way responsible for these events.
The Ukrainian community has helped to shape the strong multicultural society we are today. I truly honour the contribution that individuals of Ukrainian descent have made in the building of Canada and I recognize that this contribution was made even in the face of dark moments and great hardship.
It is important that we find an acceptable way to highlight it and educate Canadians about this contribution. I am pleased that Bill C-331 offers us a way forward in doing just that. I encourage all members of the House to support it in its amended form.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of Bill S-37 which would allow Canada to move forward to accede to the two protocols to the Hague convention, and by doing so, it would be the first G-8 country to do so. Once again, Canada is leading by example and ensuring Canada's place in the world as one of pride and indeed influence.
The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and promotion of Canada's heritage. We possess a history and a cultural heritage of immeasurable richness, appreciated by all Canadians. In this Year of the Veteran, 60 years after the end of World War II, it is appropriate that Canada join the protocol to the UNESCO convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict known as the 1954 Hague convention.
Canada is already a state party to this convention. Joining its two protocols would result in a comprehensive commitment to prohibiting and preventing destruction, damage, and looting of cultural heritage during conflicts throughout the world. The convention and its protocols are based on the principle that damage to cultural property of any nation diminishes the cultural heritage of all nations. These instruments provide for measures in peace time to ensure protection of cultural property and prevent damage, destruction and pillage of such property in the event of armed conflict.
A wide range of cultural property, both moveable and immovable, is protected under the Hague regime from sites, buildings and monuments to the collections of museums, archives and libraries.
Canada acceded to the convention in 1999 as part of its human security agenda at the international level and as a further step in our long standing commitment to international cooperation and the protection of cultural heritage. The Hague convention was developed in response to damage, destruction, and theft of cultural property during the second world war. Canadian peacekeepers operating abroad know that heritage continues to be at risk during conflict.
We have seen, particularly during the last decade, an increase in non-international conflicts that are often deeply rooted in religious and ethnic hatred. In these and conflicts of all kinds such as those in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, we are seeing an increase in the intentional targeting of cultural heritage.
The importance of the Hague convention is therefore all too evident. In this context, it is vital that Canada clearly affirm our determination to protect cultural heritage from deliberate attack. This brings me to the Hague protocols and Bill S-37.
There are two protocols to the convention. The first protocol was introduced in 1954 and concerns primarily the export of cultural property from occupied territories. The second protocol was developed in 1999 to rectify weaknesses in the convention and to introduce measures to strengthen it, including a range of specific obligations to prosecute those who damage, destroy or loot cultural property in violation of the convention and its protocols.
Canada played an important role in the development of the second protocol. Since its adoption by UNESCO, the government has been working to determine the necessary legislative requirements that would allow our ascension to the two Hague protocols. In fact, several factors have come together to suggest that the time is indeed right to move forward.
First, the loss of cultural heritage during armed conflict has been brought to the forefront of public attention during the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, the importance and significance of Canada joining the protocols will now be more readily understood and indeed supported by the Canadian public. Further, thanks to the adoption in 2000 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, almost everything that Canada would need to implement the protocols is already in place in Canadian law.
All that remains is for a number of small amendments to be made to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Cultural Property Export and Import Act.
Bill S-37 would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit acts of theft, robbery, vandalism, arson, fraud and fraudulent concealment against cultural property as defined by the 1954 Hague Convention. It would also provide for the prosecution of Canadians who commit such acts abroad.
Bill S-37 would amend the Canadian Cultural Property Export and Import Act to prohibit Canadians from illegally exporting or removing cultural property from occupied territories. It would amend the act to allow for prosecution of such acts and would establish a mechanism to return such cultural property to its country of origin.
Over the past months Canada was one of the countries that championed the development by UNESCO of a new convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural expressions.
Joining the Hague protocols can only strengthen Canada's overall position with respect to cultural diversity internationally and it would provide a further concrete demonstration of our commitment to UNESCO and its multilateral instruments. As a nation that is committed to support for multiculturalism and promotion of the rule of law, ascension to the protocols would reinforce those Canadian values on the world stage.
Finally, as a leader in the protection and preservation of heritage, Canada's ascension to the Hague protocols would be an important step in our continuing efforts to protect the world's cultural heritage. A vote for Bill S-37 is a vote for the protection of the world's cultural heritage.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that we have not taken that long at all. It was in 1999 with the second protocol that we were able to improve upon the first protocol. As I said during my discourse in the House, Canada was a leader in ensuring that it was done correctly.
Second, what is very important about the amendments that were being made to this legislation before is that we did not have in place the ability to prosecute Canadians who went to other countries, vandalized property or exported goods from there. Let us say that someone coming from Afghanistan who stops in London to drop off the cultural property and then goes back to Canada. We now have the ability to actually prosecute Canadians abroad for their intentional destruction of cultural property.
In terms of multilateral agreements, such as the agreement on cultural diversity, which was championed by the minister in Quebec's National Assembly, along with our Minister of Canadian Heritage, we moved very quickly from that in 1999. With Canada now being at the lead, just this year we were able to pass that convention at UNESCO.
I do not think it is fair to look at it as the exact date of 1954. In fact, it was not until 1999 when the second protocol strengthened the original protocol with the amendments that were made to the Criminal Code and putting in place a law to allow that to happen. We have actually moved quite quickly.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the critic for the official opposition, for her support on the bill in committee. It gives me an opportunity to say that one of the wonderful things about sitting on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is that we really look at how important heritage is to Canadians and internationally and that many times we are able to put our partisanship aside and concentrate on those things that are important to Canadians, heritage being one of them.
The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île asked a very good question today. It was one of the questions that was raised at committee as to why it had taken us so long because it was 1954. It was an important question to discuss.
The heritage critic of the official opposition also raised a number of questions during committee, which I think would be important to share with colleagues and perhaps the Canadian public. One of the questions she asked had to do with the effect the legislation would have on the military.
Canadians and members of the House should also know that another question raised at committee concerned whether or not the legislation would somehow affect the Elgin marbles and whether retroactivity would be involved. It is important to look at that.
The committee also talked about the terrible image, which we will all remember, of the Buddhas being destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the hon. member could share some of the answers and some of the discussions we had at committee.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, let me begin by thanking the member for her party's support on this legislation. I certainly have tremendous respect for the member opposite in her role as the foreign affairs critic for her party.
During her speech, the member noted that the U.K. has not signed this protocol. If we looked at the list, we would find that no other G-8 country has signed this protocol. Perhaps I could ask the member to look at that.
The member mentioned that we had passed the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act in 2002. It is important that members realize it was that piece of legislation that allowed us to put in place the legal framework to prosecute Canadians for committing acts outside our jurisdiction. To be fair, it is important to note that one of the reasons we could not sign this convention in 1954 was that we did not have the legal framework in place.
The U.K. has not signed the protocol, nor has the United States. I ask the member in her capacity as the foreign affairs critic for her party, does her party feel that because the U.S. has not signed the protocol, it will affect our relations with the United States? I would like her perception of the U.S. not signing this convention.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House the report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 51st Commonwealth parliamentary conference that was held in Nadi, Fiji, from September 1 to September 10.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Canadian Library Week/Semaine nationale des bibliotheques which runs from October 17 to October 24, 2005.
Canadian Library Week highlights the many roles a library plays in our communities. Libraries offer services that promote literacy, access to information, innovation and productivity among our community members.
This year's theme is “Lifelong Libraries -- Discover Us”. It focuses on the lifelong contribution that libraries make to the everyday lives of community members. Libraries provide a broad range of information, regardless of one's age, religion, social status, race, gender or language. They also maintain the history and culture of our communities and our nation.
Libraries will be holding events across the country to raise awareness of the services they offer to the public. I stand today to encourage all my colleagues and all Canadians to discover their local library.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to give support in principle to the motion proposed by the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster to recognize all firefighters who have died in the line of duty in Canada.
To all of us, firefighters are indeed a symbol of noble self-sacrifice, courage and service to the community. Thousands of Canadians owe their lives, their limbs, their families, their homes, their businesses and livelihoods to the efforts of firefighters who have stepped in to save them.
I know that my family and I are personally greatly indebted to the Toronto firefighters who stepped in to save our home when it was set afire in May of this year.
Whenever and wherever there is a call for help, firefighters respond. They run toward situations most of us instinctively run away from. In their efforts to help, sometimes firefighters are injured and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
It is time for this country to recognize these great individuals who gave their lives. There should be no objection to formalizing this recognition in terms of reserving space in a prominent location in the national capital for a memorial to fallen firefighters.
In fact, I am happy to note that this step has already taken place. The National Capital Commission has already reserved a location at LeBreton Flats, close to the new Canadian War Museum, for the placement of this important new memorial.
This brings me to the one point in the motion on which the government must convey its reservations: the specified location of the memorial. The motion presently notes a location in the parliamentary precinct.
Public Works and Government Services Canada has developed a policy to carefully restrict commemorations on Parliament Hill to “groups and individuals of significance to our constitutional and parliamentary institutions”, in other words, nation builders and heads of state.
The area covered by this policy extends north of Wellington, from the Rideau Canal to Kent Street. These boundaries are defined in the Parliament of Canada Act of 1985 and subsequent amendments.
We need to recognize the sacrifice of firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. At the same time, for all the generations of Canadians to come, we need to leave some of the small precious space left in the parliamentary precinct to those groups and individuals, past, present and future, who must be recognized for their contributions to shaping the democratic foundations of our nation.
The National Capital Commission and the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation have agreed on a much more appropriate location outside the parliamentary precinct. LeBreton Flats, near the new Canadian War Museum, is indeed a high profile location which will be highly visible to and easily visited by all Canadians and other visitors.
Furthermore, in the LeBreton Flats location, there will be fewer restrictions on the size of the monument, what type of materials can be used and what style the monument must reflect than there would be if it were located on Parliament Hill.
The website of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation itself advocates the LeBreton Flats location, stating:
The space is large enough and will have an infrastructure which can accommodate large groups for both the annual memorial ceremony as well as any major event which could draw many thousands of firefighters and citizens.
The foundation states further:
The site is historic in that it lies on the ground involved in the great Hull-Ottawa fire of 1900.
The website goes on to extol some of the other advantages of the LeBreton Flats site with regard to space, future development and security restrictions other than Parliament Hill, but erroneously states that the LeBreton Flats site lies within the parliamentary precinct.
The confusion over whether or not LeBreton Flats lies in the parliamentary precinct aside, there should be no disagreement over the appropriateness of a monument to fallen firefighters being placed in the national capital.
Across this country every day, firefighters are called upon to teach fire safety and fire prevention, to check out false alarms, to pull accident victims out of their vehicles, and to put out fires, big and small, in homes and businesses, fields and forests. Every day they show up for work knowing that they may be called upon to put themselves in situations where, in spite of their training and in spite of their protective equipment, they are at risk. Most of them, most of the time, go home to their families at the end of their shifts.
As the stories of the fallen show, however, sometimes these quiet heroes do not get to return to their families. Volunteer firefighter William Thornton was killed by a piece of falling stonework at a fire in Toronto in 1848. Vancouver's Captain Richard Frost, Lieutenant Colin McKenzie and firefighters Otis Fulton and Donald Anderson were killed when a streetcar struck their fire truck as they responded to an alarm in 1918. Alex Davidson and Paddy Moore of Flying Fireman Ltd. were killed when their water bomber crashed on Mount Finlayson north of Victoria in 1967. Firefighter Kevin Brent Olson and Lieutenant Cyril R. Fyfe were killed when a roof collapsed during a fire in Yellowknife, just three months ago. The Canadian firefighters memorial will honour all those who have paid the ultimate price in serving their communities.
It is wonderful to know that in spite of the danger, there are thousands of Canadian men and women who remain committed to serving their communities as firefighters. It is terrible to contemplate that as long as there is a need for firefighters, there will continue to be dangers and the list of the fallen will likely grow.
Let us not compound these tragedies by forgetting them. The proposed memorial for Canadian firefighters will honour these brave souls. It will help all Canadians to remember the vital work of all firefighters, past, present and future.
I hope that the House will give unanimous consent to support in principle the creation of a monument to Canadian firefighters in the national capital region.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to remind the House of Commons that our crown corporations serve an important role and act with the interests of Canadians in mind.
As public institutions, crown corporations strengthen the economic, social and cultural fabric of Canada. I would also like to remind the member opposite that it was this government that just this year launched the most comprehensive review of crown corporation governance in the last 20 years. The review went far beyond addressing the issues raised by the Auditor General. Since then the government has made significant progress toward implementing the 31 measures announced in the governance review.
In fact, seven of the measures are now completed and the rest are well advanced. For example, the Auditor General is now the external auditor for all crown corporations. An additional 10 crown corporations now fall under the Access to Information Act. This has strengthened the governance accountability and transparency of crown corporations and it will continue to do so until the review is fully implemented, which is anticipated by mid-2006.
As for the Royal Canadian Mint, it has already implemented at least 16 of the 31 measures identified in the crown corporation governance review. This past June the Office of the Auditor General conducted a mandatory five year review of the Mint's financial and management control and information systems, as well as management practices. The Auditor General concluded that based on the criteria established for the examination, there was reasonable assurance that there was no significant deficiencies in the systems and practices that she examined.
Furthermore, the Mint already has made progress on a number of other fronts, including the development of a charter to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the board. Work has begun on a framework so that partners distribute circulation coins and expanding the application of the lean enterprise methodology is ongoing.
All this has led to a quick turnaround in the Mint's fortunes. In 2004 the Mint turned a profit of $16 million before taxes and for the first time in a decade, the Mint issued a dividend of $1 million to its shareholder, the Government of Canada.
I also would like to mention to my hon. colleague that at the end of September the corporation posted its 23rd consecutive month of profit. In 2004 the Mint hired 198 new employees to support a substantial growth. Most of these jobs are based in Winnipeg.
I am also pleased to speak here today as it will give me an opportunity to address some erroneous information that has been put forward by the opposition.
Some of the recent allegations on the spending of the former president of the Royal Canadian Mint were falsely taken out of context. The majority of the reported expenses were not personal expenses but expenditures allocated to the cost centre of the office of the president. This needs to be recognized. The overall cost centre of the office of president for the year 2004 was $747,597, with 72% of that total being for salaries and benefits of four staff, including the president.
We anxiously await the independent review of the expenses of the office of the president of the Mint. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been engaged by the board to review all expenditures incurred by the Hon. David Dingwall during his tenure as president. We also are awaiting a review of the approval process of expenses by the former president and CEO. However, the facts cannot be denied that the Mint is a thriving crown corporation that has made a remarkable recovery in the past two and a half years, giving it a stellar reputation, both at home and abroad.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at my hon. colleague. Having listened to Mr. Dingwall's testimony yesterday and to the Minister of National Revenue who responded today, it was quite clear that Mr. Dingwall resigned for the sake of the Mint.
We have to remember that crown corporations are integral to the government's delivery of programs and services to Canadians, day in and day out. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that they be managed as effectively and efficiently as possible with the needs of Canadians in mind. That is why the President of the Treasury Board has taken such tremendous steps to ensure that crown corporations operate effectively, transparently and are accountable to the government and Canadian taxpayers.
I believe we are succeeding. We have made the appointment process for crown corporate presidents and CEOs more transparent. We have strengthened the audit regimes of our crowns. We have made 10 more crowns subject to the access to information.
We have seen the government take action on this file and our crown corporations today are stronger and more accountable than ever.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am quite bemused with the question. My hon. colleague across the floor has given examples and claims that there is money owing, but there are no particulars. If the hon. member could provide me with some of the particulars, I would be happy to address the issue.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am glad that we understand what audit we are talking about. It is the Canadian Unity Council audit. In fact, that audit revealed 10 recommendations and the department has acted on those recommendations.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House reports from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning three events: first, the bilateral visit to the Falkland Islands from January 15 to 22; second, a report on the seminar on corruption, human rights and party politics, which was held in London, United Kingdom from January 23 to 29; and third, the 17th CPA seminar report which was held in Cape Town, Republic of South Africa from May 29 to June 4.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the board of management, staff, volunteers and everyone in the historic village of Swansea on the official opening of the Founders Room in the Swansea Town Hall. The official opening took place on September 17. I was proud to be in attendance.
The Swansea Town Hall was formerly the municipal building for the village of Swansea, which was amalgamated into Toronto in 1966. It now serves as a real community centre, housing the Swansea Memorial Library and various meeting rooms for its many recreational and educational activities.
The Founders Room is its most recent addition and is named for the many residents who over the years worked to ensure that the building was kept open and maintained. With this new addition, the people who played such a key part in its preservation are well remembered. I offer my own tribute to them and to the ongoing vitality of the community and residents of Swansea.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents, I am pleased to table a petition in the House which draws the attention of the House to the fact that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has locked out 5,500 of its employees since August 15.
The petition calls upon the government to take immediate action to end this lockout. I respectfully ask that the government do so as quickly as possible.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to the many Canadians who deplore the lengthy lockout that has deprived them of their cherished CBC radio and television programs.
I have heard loud and clear that my constituents want this lockout settled.
I too miss my favourites such as Metro Morning, Cross Country Checkup, As it Happens, The National and of course, politics and the House.
At a time like this it is also instructive to appreciate the importance of the CBC and why it fills such a critical need in our country's culture. It is a lifeline enabling our cultural stories and ideas to be conveyed from coast to coast to coast.
I call upon the CBC management and the guild to reach an agreement and quickly resume the services that Canadians so greatly miss.
This lockout is not just another labour dispute. It is about an essential service that Canadians want and need.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Parkdale--High Park, which is home to the country's largest population of Canadian Tibetans, I am very proud to table a petition on behalf of hundreds of petitioners, many of whom live in my riding.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to make Tibet a central part of our country's policy toward the People's Republic of China and to take all measures to promote a negotiated settlement over the future of Tibet between Beijing and the Dalai Lama or his representative.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the notable success recently achieved by Screen Door, a film production company run by two of my constituents, Mary Young Leckie and Heather Haldane.
Screen Door, formerly known as Tapestry Pictures, won the Sprockets Audience Choice Award at the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children with its film Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story. The movie depicts the courageous campaign of Simon Jackson, a teenage boy from Vancouver, who embarks on a mission to save a rare white kermode bear known as Spirit Bear.
Spirit Bear was the only Canadian film to win an award at this year's festival. It is the first Canadian film to win an audience choice award.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mary and Heather on their achievements and salute them for their contribution to Canadian culture by telling our stories.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we are taking note of the Federal Court of Appeal's decision in this area. As hon. members knows, in the last session of Parliament we tabled a unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on copyright reform.
Earlier this year, in April, both the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage tabled a joint statement on how we will proceed. As the House leader has said, we will be bringing forward copyright amendment legislation in the spring.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about some of the measures contained in budget 2005.
As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his speech introducing the budget, Canada will record its eighth consecutive surplus in 2004-05, a record unmatched since Confederation. Indeed, Canada will be the only G-7 country to post a total government surplus in that year. Canada's much improved fiscal situation has allowed the government to make significant investments in our country's future.
In this year's budget, we committed substantial new funding for health care, seniors, child care, our cities and communities, the environment, while at the same time providing tax reductions and laying the groundwork for future progress.
I will focus my remarks today on the initiatives in the budget that build on our social foundations, especially the importance of the arts and culture in our society, because this sector is one which allows our country to define us as Canadians.
It should also be noted that the arts and culture form part of the government cities and communities agenda. In fact, the arts and culture are the essence of our cities and communities and they are integral to the safety, vitality and economic prosperity of our cities and communities.
I represent the riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto which is home to many of Canada's artists and creators. Indeed, the city of Toronto bears testament for my thesis of the role played by the arts in our cities.
In February of this year, thanks to the advocacy of the greater Toronto area Liberal caucus in supporting the city of Toronto's application, Toronto was named one of the culture capitals of Canada. The culture capital announcement specifically recognized Toronto's ongoing and long term commitment to the arts and cultural sector.
Toronto is a cultural city that truly reflects culture and creativity and showcases the work of professional and local artists of all ages from diverse backgrounds and cultures to successfully blend traditional art forms with the newest technologies.
The influence of the arts is integral to the health and vitality of our cities. Let us not forget that when the Prime Minister became leader the first thing he announced was that the cities agenda would be the government's top priority. He reconfirmed this in the Speech from the Throne where we provided for a GST rebate to municipalities. He went further than that and kept another of his promises to ensure that cities and communities would start sharing part of the gas tax.
Budget 2005 also confirmed the government's commitment for art and culture by stabilizing funding for arts and cultural programs in the amount of $860 million over the next five years. It is the single most important investment by the Government of Canada in arts and culture ever. This investment will ensure that more Canadian artists and creators are able to display their work to audiences at home and abroad.
Specifically, for those people who may have forgotten what is in the budget, budget 2005 committed the following: $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program; $10 million per year over five years to the celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in our country; $56 million over the next five years for the implementation of a Canada for all Canadians action plan against racism; $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians; and one of my favourites, $60 million to CBC Radio-Canada in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming; $5 million for the aboriginal languages initiative; and $45 million in 2005-06 for the centre for research and information on Canada.
I want to underline that the CBC will receive $60 million for 2005-06 for Canadian programming. I can assure members that we will continue to press for additional funding for the nation's public broadcaster so that it can continue to provide quality programs in all parts of the country.
I am also delighted to announce that the CBC's budget will not be reduced as a result of the government-wide expenditure review allocation exercise.
At this time I would like to remind Canadians that when we started this Parliament the Prime Minister announced that he wanted all departments to look for ways to become more effective and to look at what we could do to reduce expenditures.
Well, we looked and we found a $12 billion saving, which was headed by the Minister of Revenue, to ensure we were more efficient and more accountable to Canadians. I am also pleased to say that in light of this government's commitment to the arts and culture and how integral it is to our communities, not one heritage portfolio was subject to expenditure review. That is a testament to this government's commitment to the arts and culture and to our communities.
One of the biggest programs, as I said, is the renewal of Tomorrow Starts Today, a renewal advocated by arts organizations across Canada and with a new ally I might add, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, because it, too, understands the important role that the arts and culture play in our communities and cities.
Let me just go through what those initiatives under Tomorrow Starts Today are and what would be lost if this budget does not pass.
First, we have the cultural capitals of Canada program that recognizes the excellence of municipal work in supporting special activities that celebrate arts and culture and their integration into community planning.
We also have the cultural spaces Canada program. I will bet there is not one member in this House whose community has not benefited from this. This is a program that helps to improve the physical conditions that enable artistic creativity and innovation and helps ensure greater access to the arts and heritage by all Canadians.
The arts presentation Canada program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations so that funding our arts is no longer seen as a black hole. We are ensuring their sustainability because they are important to our society and our economy.
The Canadian arts and heritage sustainability program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations.
The national arts training contribution program supports Canadian organizations specializing in professional artistic training, such as the National Theatre School in Montreal and, one of my favourites, the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.
An increase in parliamentary appropriations has allowed the Canada Council for the Arts to support new areas, to enhance grants and improve the international presence and national profile of Canadian artists. In 2007, the Canada Council for the Arts will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
A new initiative and a very innovative one called the Canadian cultural online initiative provides funding for programs that focus on making Canadian content, in both official languages, readily available on the Internet, contributing to a better understanding of Canada and its rich diversity. It has five sub-initiatives, which include the virtual Museum of Canada, the Canadian Cultural Observatory and the Aboriginal Canada Portal.
I would like to share with members that last Thursday night when I went back to my riding I attended the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art which received funding under this program. The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, through its Canadian art database, offers the opportunity to view the works of close to 500 Canadian artists. It is a great program and it is a great success.
Another initiative concerns the music industry which I think is very important because it is one of our greatest successes. We define ourselves through our artists.
We also have the renewal of the Canadian music fund, which FACTOR is part of. FACTOR is the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records, which is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to the growth and development of Canadian independent recording industries.
When this funding was threatened, FACTOR initiated the save Canadian music lobby. It was successful in the fact that it was renewed in the budget. At the Junos, Heather Ostertag, the president of FACTOR, stood and thanked the minister and the government for their acknowledgement of the importance that our Canadian musicians and songwriters play. I hope Heather's thanks were not in vain.
In an increasingly integrated North American and a global environment, artists, creators and cultural industries help Canadians make their voices heard and assert their perspectives on the world in which we live. I am glad to have been part of this government that will continue to ensure that our artists and creators are heard, not only in Canada but around the world.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am the mother of three children so I know how important child care is. I was a working mom and I wish I would have had the benefit of a lot of the things the government has committed to providing under the national child care program.
The member is in error when he thinks this will only help large communities. We are trying to help families by providing quality, universality, accessibility and development for our children. I know that across Canada, each province will be able to negotiate their agreement with the federal government. There is not one solution that fits all but this is a beginning. It will provide for those families who are not able to afford nannies or professional day care or have the ability to have someone look after their children. This tries to put people on an equal footing.
I am so proud of this women's caucus and their input into this day care program because we have ensured that we are not going to have large American corporations come here and deliver child care the American way. We are going to ensure that child care is delivered by community organizations and that is where communities will have a say.
I applaud the government and all of my colleagues in the women's caucus who have worked long on this file, well before I came here in 1997, to finally make a national child care program a reality.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of the passing of one of my constituents, Don Jennison. Don was a committed activist for many causes both in my riding in the city of Toronto and across the country.
I first met Don in his role as a founding member of world 19, a community group that grew out of the campaign against the rushed amalgamation of the city of Toronto. Throughout the years, I had several meetings with world 19 and Don was always one of its most committed and passionate spokespeople. His concerns covered a broad spectrum of issues, from neighbourhood development to maintaining a fully public health care system.
I always found Don to be a challenging, well-informed and dedicated advocate for the causes in which he believed. This concept of public service from a private citizen is commendable. In this sense Don Jennison serves as an exemplar of the public spiritedness to which we should all aspire.
I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Don's family, his friends and his community. His passing leaves many lives emptier and diminishes the quality of our public discourse.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Polish-Canadian constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, who on May 3 celebrated the Polish constitution of 1791, the oldest written constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world. That event unites Polish communities throughout Canada and the world in their proud tradition of defending democracy and civil freedoms, not only in their home country but also in their adopted countries.
May 3 was a day to reflect upon and celebrate the heritage and ideals of humanitarianism, tolerance and democracy. The constitution of May 3, 1791 was the instrument that gave rise to parliamentary supremacy. It also gave Polish citizens new-found access to parliament. Constitution Day is a proud heritage for Canadians of Polish descent and a confirmation of the basic values and freedoms of our own society.
I am proud to offer my best wishes for this very memorable anniversary.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the massacre of about 20,000 Polish officers, prisoners of war and civilians by the Soviet authorities in the forest of Katyn in the spring of 1940.
Last Sunday I participated in the annual commemorative ceremony at the Katyn Monument in my riding, together with members of the Polish Canadian Congress and veteran and youth organizations.
It took almost 50 years for Mikhail Gorbachev to admit that the massacre in the Katyn forest was the work of the Stalin regime. However, in March 2005, Russian authorities ended a decade-long investigation into the massacre, but declared that it was not a genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity. Consequently, on March 22 the Polish parliament unanimously passed an act requesting the Russian archives to be declassified and requesting Russia to classify the Katyn massacre as genocide.
To this day, the Katyn massacre remains an open chapter in the history of the Polish community in Canada and a stumbling block on the path of building international relationships, trust and transparency.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, Canada is known around the world as a nation that embraces fairness, equality and respect for diversity as the very basic building blocks of our society. Those versed in Canadian history understand that this national strength is not an accident. It is a product of the deliberate collaborative work of the many Canadians who came before us. Our aboriginal, English and French ancestors laid the foundation of a diverse society. These roots have deepened with the arrival of generations of immigrants from around the world.
Our small population and vast geography dictated deliberate nation-building activities such as our pan-Canadian rail link. Our linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity necessitated a value system based on tolerance and understanding, ultimately giving birth to our first Citizenship Act, the Multiculturalism Act, the Official Languages Act and our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Just yesterday, April 17, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As members know, section 15 guarantees equality before and under the law and equal protection in the benefits of the law without freedom from discrimination because of race, ethnic or national origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. In the 20 years since its enactment, the very notion of equality before the law has become entrenched in our Canadian psyche.
The 20th anniversary of its entry into force is the perfect opportunity for all Canadians to stop and reflect on how far we have come as a nation, how far we have come since the dark days in our history when racism and discrimination dominated our society and how much we have achieved in building the legal framework that safeguards the values we hold so dear today.
The Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for Chinese Canadians. They risked their lives to help build Canada's railroad in the 1880s. More than 15,000 Chinese came to build the most dangerous and difficult section of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As soon as their work was done, however, Canadians wanted them gone. It was the beginning of a difficult chapter in history for Chinese immigrants to Canada.
Chinese immigrants to Canada came seeking an escape from the poverty and war at home. What they encountered here was prejudice, personal attacks and discrimination, but the Chinese in Canada persevered. Many chose to pay the head tax for the opportunity to have a better life in Canada. Many took on the most dangerous jobs in sawmills and fish canneries. Many bravely endured separation from family members they could not bring to Canada.
When some 600 men and women served in the military during World War II, Chinese Canadians contributed more manpower to the war effort than any other ethnic group. However, the community's contributions went well beyond providing manpower. In addition to Red Cross and other service work, the community is said to have contributed $10 million to the victory loan drive, more per capita than any other group in Canada.
Over the years, an incredible number of Chinese Canadian individuals have made extraordinary contributions to Canada: community leaders like Dr. Joseph Wong, who chaired the United Way and was bestowed the Order of Canada; artists like Chan Hon Goh or Xiao Nan Yu, who have distinguished themselves as ballerinas at the National Ballet of Canada; and champions like Jean Lumb, the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada for her work on Chinese family reunification in Canada and her fight to save and revitalize Chinatown in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
There are also internationally recognized Chinese Canadian scientists like molecular geneticist Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, who helped discover the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. Dr. Tak Wah Mak discovered the gene for the t-cell receptor, a major key to the working of the human body's immune system. Dr. Victor Ling is world-renowned for his discovery of the existence and mechanisms of drug-resistant chemotherapy. Sports stars like Norman Kwong, also known as the China Clipper, is a three times Sports Hall of Famer and Order of Canada recipient who helped the Edmonton Eskimos win six Grey Cups.
Clearly, Chinese Canadians are making important contributions to every aspect of Canadian life, in arts and culture, in science and medicine, in business and education and the professions, and I might also add, in politics. Our own hon. member and Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Raymond Chan, is a Chinese Canadian.
The Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, came to Canada as a Hong Kong refugee during the second world war, rose to international recognition as a Canadian journalist and then became the first Chinese Canadian Governor General of Canada in 1999.
One thing is very clear, Chinese Canadians have more than earned their place in Canadian history and society.
Canada's treatment of Chinese Canadians is one of those chapters in Canadian history that does not make us proud. However, we can be proud of the progress we have made since those days. We can and we must learn from our history.
The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening the fabric of Canada's multicultural society. We are committed to acknowledging and commemorating the significant contributions made by various ethnoracial and ethnocultural groups, including the Chinese.
Already the Department of Canadian Heritage and cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio have made considerable efforts to ensure that the story of the Chinese in Canada is known to all Canadians.
Canada's public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for example, offers a comprehensive look at the history and experience of Chinese Canadians in their online archives at cbc.ca.
The Royal Canadian Mint has struck a two coin set to commemorate the completion of the transcontinental track and to honour the significant contribution of Chinese workers.
Canada Post produced new stamps, commemorative coins and even a chequebook designed with Feng Shui elements in honour of the more than one million Chinese Canadians who were celebrating the 2004 year of the monkey.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage, on the advice of Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, has designated two national historic sites and one national historic event to commemorate achievements directly related to the Chinese Canadian community. One of the sites is at Yale, British Columbia and commemorates the role of the Chinese construction workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway.
For more than 30 years, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has supported a full curatorial program on East Asian Canadians, including research, collecting and program development.
One of the opening exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1989 was “Beyond the Golden Mountain: the Chinese in Canada”, at the time the most comprehensive museum exhibit on the Chinese Canadian experience ever mounted.
The multiculturalism program also has funded numerous research programs on the Chinese Canadian experience. In television and film, the National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Department of Canadian Heritage have funded various films and television series which celebrate the history, heritage and contribution of the Chinese Canadian community. This is just the beginning.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government pledged its objectives “in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation”. We also pledged “to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion” and “to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians”.
In line with these commitments, the government is now advancing a number of multicultural and anti-racism initiatives designed to cultivate an even more equitable and inclusive society.
In our 2005 budget we have provided $5 billion per year to the multiculturalism program to enhance its contributions to equality for all. In want to point out one thing as my time is running out. Budget 2005 also provides $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives that will highlight the contributions that the Chinese and other ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and it will help build a better understanding among all Canadians of the strength of Canadian diversity.
With this funding, the government is responding to demands from the community in a new way that respects both the concerns of the communities and the government's 1994 policy on this issue. We as a government are looking to the future of all Canadians.
Bill C-333 in its current form asks Parliament to apologize for actions taken by a previous government and to provide redress, but we have to move forward and control the future to ensure that the past never happens again.
To conclude, while the bill may not be perfect in its present form, and no bill is, I would ask all members to support second reading of this bill.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to unequivocally support Bill C-38, the civil marriage act, and to urge colleagues in the House of Commons to attend to the swift passage of the bill to create uniformity of the current law with respect to marriage across Canada.
It is trite to say that the current legal definition in Ontario, the province which I come from, is the voluntary union for life of two persons. This definition was confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 20, 2003, when it upheld the lower court's decision in Halpern v, Canada, Attorney General, et al. The then existing common law definition of marriage, the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, was found not only to violate the dignity of persons in same sex relationships, it was also found to violate equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation under subsection 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Courts in seven other jurisdictions have already found that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that civil marriage be available to same sex couples as well as opposite sex couples. Moreover, last December the Supreme Court of Canada said and we agree, that it was preferable that Parliament create uniformity of the law across Canada. We believe that the federal legislation is the best way to provide a clear Canada-wide approach, and the government will not allow the balkanization of marriage.
For many Canadians and many parliamentarians, acknowledging and accepting this new definition of marriage is a difficult issue. I too acknowledge that this new definition represents a very significant change to a long-standing social tradition and institution. However, long-standing customs and traditions are not reason alone for our laws not to evolve and reflect the reality of our society as our society evolves.
Let me begin to explain by first looking at what the history of the definition of marriage is and where it came from. The definition of marriage has its roots in the common law and the statutory marriage laws of England. It is generally understood that in common law, the definition that is routinely referred to is found in a statement of Lord Penzance in 1866 English case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee. That definitional statement of Lord Penzance reads as follows:
I conceive that marriage is understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Let us stop here for a second. It is very important to remember that this definition of marriage dates back over 139 years ago to 1866. I am sure that there is not a person in the House that would not agree with me that our Canadian society has evolved significantly over the last 139 years. In fact, neither the law of our land nor our society has remained static.
It is also important to note that when the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision in the reference on the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, the court specifically reviewed the 1866 definition of marriage and noted its reference to “Christendom”. In doing so, the Supreme Court of Canada commented as follows:
The reference to “Christendom” is telling. Hyde spoke to a society of shared social values where marriage and religion were thought to be inseparable. This is no longer the case. Canada is a pluralistic society. Marriage, from the perspective of the state, is a civil institution. The “frozen concepts” reasoning runs contrary to one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation: that our Constitution is a living tree which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life. In the 1920s, for example, a controversy arose as to whether women as well as men were capable of being considered “qualified persons” eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada. Legal precedent stretching back to Roman Law was cited for the proposition that women had always been considered “unqualified” for public office, and it was argued that this common understanding in 1867 was incorporated in s. 24 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and should continue to govern Canadians in succeeding ages.
It was indeed that famous persons case, to wit, the case known as Henrietta Muir Edwards and others versus the Attorney General for Canada and others, that in 1930 the House of Lords held that the British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of growing and expansion within its natural limits.
It was also in that same decision the court did not accept the argument that because certain customs had been in existence at a time when a law had been passed, that those customs now precluded a different interpretation of the law.
The Attorney General had argued, when the law regarding persons was passed at common law, a woman was incapable of serving a public office. However, the House of Lords noted:
The fact that no woman had served or has claimed to serve such an office is not of great weight when it is remembered that custom would have been prevented the claim being made or the point being contested.
The House of Lords then went on to say:
Customs are apt to develop into traditions which are stronger than law and remain unchallenged after the reason for them has disappeared.
The court concluded, by saying:
The appeal to history--in this particular matter is not conclusive.
I would respectfully submit that these arguments are equally applicable to those individuals who would invoke the notwithstanding clause to enforce the old common law definition of marriage. Customs and traditions are challengeable and the appeal to history is not only not a conclusive argument but one that does not take into account the evolution of our society or the realities of today's society.
There is no doubt that change from traditions and customs always invokes debate. In fact, there is historical evidence to that effect. I suppose it would be trite to say that history often repeats itself.
In preparing for my intervention today, I went back to read the debates that occurred in 1918, when the House of Commons debated women's suffrage and whether women should be entitled to vote.
Although those debates occurred almost 100 years ago, the arguments made in 1918 are almost the same arguments that are being made today. In fact, I would very respectfully submit that the arguments being made today against Bill C-38 are similar to the ones made against women's suffrage. Many are made on very emotional, passionate grounds, but without any evidentiary proof whatsoever of alleged consequences.
I would like to quickly share with members, because I know my time is limited, what Mr. Fournier said in 1918, with respect to women's suffrage:
This bill, with respect to woman suffrage, which is now under our consideration, is only one of the forms of feminism which are now spreading throughout the world. The question may be asked whether all the laws which have opened the liberal professions to women and which conferred upon them the right to vote, or to be elected to Parliament, have had any beneficial results on the progress of civilization, or have advanced the happiness of humanity. It is our urgent duty as law-markers to examine this bill with the greatest care, and not to accept as necessary a radical reform, the advantages of which of which have not been clearly demonstrated. I for one say that it will be a great error if, on the pretext of giving a transitory liberty to a class, we should bring down women from their throne at the fireside, where natural law has placed them to fulfil a divine mission. If the consequences of this moment to take women from the home and to lead them into the public arena where men are disputing great questions, are good, it is evident that we must vote in favour of this bill; but if, on the other hand, it can be proved that those consequences would be evil for the country and regrettable for the home, it is our duty to vote against it.
I would submit that the debate speaks for itself.
To conclude, it has always been my belief that to deny same sex couples the right to marry is to deny them access to one of the fundamental institutions of our society. The new statutory definition of marriage does not create new rights. It simply ensures equality before the law.
Amending the old common law definition of marriage is not only about acknowledging how our society has evolved over the last 139 years, but also reflects the fundamental Canadian values of fairness, equality and non-discrimination. As the Prime Minister has noted, this legislation is about the kind of nation we are today and the kind of nation we want to be.
I know and I believe, as the Prime Minister said, that there are times when we as parliamentarians can feel the gaze of history upon us. They felt it in the days of Pearson; they felt it in the days of Trudeau. We, the 308 men and women elected to represent one of the most inclusive, just and respectful countries on the face of the earth, feel it today.
I feel privileged to have the honour to be part of this momentous period of Canadian history which confirms our charter and our values as a Canadian society. I know that my decision to uphold the charter and minority rights is the right decision. It is also a decision which I know my children, David, Lara and Alex, will always be proud of.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, today is International Women's Day, the highlight of International Women's Week which started on Sunday, March 6 and runs to Saturday, March 12.
This year, Canada's theme for International Women's Week is “You are here: Women, Canada and the World”.
To commemorate International Women's Day, on Friday, March 4, I hosted my seventh annual breakfast in my riding to acknowledge the accomplishments of the women of Parkdale--High Park. The event celebrated the success of local women, including Kelly Thornton, an award winning theatre director; Stephanie Gibson, an author and history teacher; Heidi Suter, a lawyer; Nathalie Bonjour, an artistic producer; and Anita O'Connor, a founding member of the Parkdale Golden Age Foundation and its current executive director.
International Women's Day is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the progress made to advance women's equality, to assess the challenges facing women in contemporary society, to consider future steps to enhance the status of women and, of course, to celebrate the gains made in these areas, as well as an opportunity to honour all women in our communities.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canadians of Estonian heritage celebrated the 87th anniversary of the declaration of the independence of Estonia.
On February 24, 1918, the Salvation Committee declared the independence of the Republic of Estonia. This date was celebrated as the date of independence until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. However, during the Soviet occupation, Independence Day continued to be celebrated in Estonian communities around the world, including those in Canada.
This is an important day for all Estonians. Even during the days of Soviet occupation, Estonians around the world openly celebrated this day in hopes that once again Estonia would be a sovereign state.
Since the restoration of independence on August 20, 1991, Independence Day continues to be a day of celebration and a day of reflection for the Estonian people.
I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of Estonia and Canadians of Estonian descent on this momentous occasion. Elagu eesti.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that we learned of the death of former journalist and founder of the Stratford Festival, Tom Patterson, on February 23, 2005, at the age of 84.
The Stratford Festival owes its existence to the dream of this local journalist who founded the event in the 1950s.
Innumerable artists, directors and other Canadian and foreign theatre professionals have participated in its productions, enlarging the audience for the work of William Shakespeare.
Alex Guinness and Christopher Plummer are among the most notable actors who have played on the Stratford Festival's stage.
Mr. Patterson has left us the legacy of the Stratford Festival. “Without Tom Patterson, there would not be a Stratford Festival in Canada”, underscored its artistic director, Richard Monette, while highlighting the extraordinary vision of this man.
Mr. Patterson was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1967.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to express our appreciation and offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to applaud the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance on budget 2005. As the budget speech was so correctly subtitled, budget 2005 was “Delivering on Commitments”.
I would like to take the majority of the time that has been allotted to me to speak on the moneys that were allocated to the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Budget 2005 contains great news for the entire Canadian heritage portfolio. In fact, the Globe and Mail has the named the Department of Canadian Heritage as one of the winners, having received $1.6 billion in funding over five years for a multitude of cultural programs and heritage projects.
The government's commitment to our country's arts and cultural sector should not come as any surprise to anyone in the House. In our election platform, the government acknowledged that “Canadians believe that measuring a country's vitality goes beyond traditional economic yardsticks to include its culture, its heroes, its history and its stories”.
Therefore, the government committed in the election platform that it would undertake inter alia the following: first, to ensure that the policies of key cultural institutions suggest as Telefilm, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian television fund are fully aligned with the objective of providing more successful Canadian programming of all genres; second, to make investments to better protect Canada's heritage sites and National Archives; and third, to provide, through the Canada Council, increased support for Canada's major arts organizations to more effectively enable the latter to export Canadian cultural excellence.
Following the sequence of events, after the election in its first Speech from the Throne, which was delivered on October 5, 2004, the government also noted the important role that culture plays in Canadian communities.
In the section in the Speech from the Throne, entitled “Canada's Cities and Communities”, the government noted the following:
What makes our communities vibrant and creative is the quality of their cultural life. The government will foster cultural institutions and policies that aspire to excellence, reflect a diverse and multicultural society, respond to the new challenges of globalization and the digital economy, and promote diversity of views in cultural expression at home and abroad.
I would respectfully submit that budget 2005 delivered on its commitment to arts and culture.
Yesterday in the budget speech the Minister of Finance again spoke about the arts and culture in reference to the cities and communities. He noted:
Canada's cities and communities are the places where most Canadians live and work, raise their children and want to retire in dignity and security. They are engines of growth, employment and innovation, centres of art, culture and learning.
This reference in the budget to arts and culture was accompanied by the following details, which are outlined on pages 99 to 102 of the budget plan. They are as follows.
First, the budget provides $172 million per year in new funding to provide stability for tomorrow starts today arts and culture initiative for another five years, for a total of $688 million. This brings the total funding for the tomorrow starts today program to $860 million over five years.
Second, the budget provides $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program. The budget plan also notes an investment of $10 million per year over five years to celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer all Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in their country.
Next, the budget allocates $56 million over the next five years to the implementation of “A Canada For All: Canada's Action Plan Against Racism”.
There is more. The budget allocates $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians.
Next is something about which I am very pleased. CBC/Radio-Canada will receive $60 million in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming. There is more. An amount of $5 million has been allocated for the aboriginal languages initiative.
Last but not least, $4.5 million in 2005-06 has been allocated for the Centre for Research and Information on Canada.
I am also glad to note that the arts community responded almost immediately after the budget speech had been delivered. The Canada Council for the Arts issued a news release noting that the “Federal budget brings good news for the arts”. In particular, the Canada Council for the Arts welcomed $25 million a year for the Canada Council. Speaking on behalf of the Canada Council, its chair, Karen Kain, stated the following:
“This is wonderful news, not only for the Canada Council, but also for the thousands of artists and arts organizations who receive Council funding,” she said. “I think this will allow the arts community to breathe a little easier, and we greatly appreciate the government’s efforts in making this happen”.
Ms. Kain also went on to note the following:
“The number of artists and arts organizations in Canada has increased dramatically over the past two decades, and far too many deserving projects have had to be turned down because of lack of funds,” she said. “We are pleased that the government recognizes the challenges we face, and appreciates the value the arts bring to Canadians and their communities.”
I would also like to point out that today the Canadian Conference of the Arts also specifically applauded the Minister of Finance and congratulated the Minister of Canadian Heritage on the renewal of the tomorrow starts today funding. Speaking on behalf of the CCA, its national director, Jean Malavoy, noted the following:
We are grateful for the extension of tomorrow starts today. We congratulate [the Minister of Canadian Heritage] and her colleagues on this significant step, and we expect that this five year extension represents the foundation on which increased funding for culture can be built.
Indeed, I can speak first-hand of the importance that the arts community attributes to the renewal of the tomorrow starts today's money.
After being given the privilege of being appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage by the Prime Minister in the summer, I began conducting a series of consultations with artistic and cultural organizations in Ontario. The most common themes that were raised during these consultations included the need for stable, multi-year funding, including the immediate renewal of the tomorrow starts today program, the enhancement of the Canada Council and the recognition of the key role that our cultural institutions play in the economic and social well-being of our cities and communities.
However, I would also like to add today that the arts community found perhaps a new ally in its quest to request funding for the arts and the renewal of the tomorrow starts today program. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, at its last annual meeting, passed a resolution calling upon the Government of Canada to renew the tomorrow starts today program.
For those people who do not know, the tomorrow starts today program first came into place in 2001, which was the largest reinvestment in the arts. Again, we see this reinvestment continuing.
I would submit that in general the Liberal government's 2005 budget delivers on all of its key platform commitments, including building the 21st century economy, securing Canada's social foundation, addressing climate change and meeting our global responsibilities.
I am so proud to be a member of the Liberal team. This budget fulfills the commitments made in the Liberal election platform. It also reflects the priorities of my constituents, as evidenced by the results of prebudget consultations which I held in the riding and which I spoke about in our prebudget consultations.
One must always remember that the budget document allows the government to make fiscal choices that reflect the kind of society that we want. I believe that budget 2005 accurately reflects the kind of Canada that not only the people of Parkdale--High Park want, but the people of Canada want.
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