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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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the budget does deliver immediate results, and I will use the gas tax as an example.
The member is from Winnipeg which is a large city like Toronto. The budget will increase the amount of the gas tax flowing to municipalities immediately. This builds on the GST rebate which came into effect the moment the Prime Minister became the leader of our party before the election. That money will start to flow right away.
The Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg is a huge cultural institution which benefits from the tomorrow starts today program for the arts which is provided through the Canada Council. Money has not only flowed to the MTC, but it will continue to flow to it and other organizations so they can plan ahead. This does not just benefit the institutions, but also the individual artists, and that is very important.
Many things will flow immediately from the budget.
One thing that has always been true about the Liberal approach is that we are always careful to balance fiscal responsibility with investing in programs that are important to Canadians. As the member knows, this is the eighth straight year that we have balanced the budget. That is more than any other OECD country. We are leaders in this area, and we are proud of that fact. By balancing our budgets, we are not paying huge amounts of money on debt. The interest alone that we saved is huge, and that money can be reinvested in the priorities of Canadians which are outlined in the budget.
Some things take effect immediately and others take effect over time. I submit this is an indication of fiscal prudence. We are investing in those things that are important to Canadians and that truly affect Canadian values.
The member indicated that minority governments last only one or two years. In the province of Ontario, the minority government of Bill Davis lasted four years. I am optimistic. We will continue to work together in cooperation, as we have, to ensure that we serve Canadians. I look forward to our continued work with the member opposite.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, February 16 is, and always will be, a significant and meaningful date for Lithuanians. On Wednesday, the people of Lithuania and Lithuanian Canadians gathered to celebrate the independence of the land of their heritage.
This year marked the 87th anniversary of the independence of Lithuania. It is on this day in 1918 that Lithuania declared its independence from Russia and once again redeclared its sovereignty in 1990.
After World War I this small nation achieved freedom and proclaimed itself the Lithuanian Republic. On February 16, 1918 the founders of this great nation asserted their country's independence and commitment to a government based on justice, democracy and the rights of the individual. For decades, Lithuanians have been commemorating this event, during Lithuania's independence, oppression and subsequent independence.
I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of Lithuania on this momentous occasion.
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Lib. (ON)
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can inform the House that today the parties have indicated that they will be appealing. However, no official documentation has yet been filed. They have until March 7 to file. At that time a decision will be made.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat for the House that we have received an indication an appeal will be filed. When that appeal is filed, the governor in council will review both parties' positions.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, today is National Flag of Canada Day.
Forty years ago many of us were gathered in schoolyards around this time, proud witnesses to one of the great events in Canadian history. It was a cool day in many parts of the land and downright freezing cold in others. Yet there was a warmth in our hearts as we listened to a story unfold about a distinctive symbol, one that would soon become recognized and revered the world over.
In 1964 a Senate and House of Commons committee was formed. It called for submissions and received hundreds of designs and patterns. Hundreds of speeches were made in Parliament. Parliamentarians and other eminent Canadians had but one shared goal, to find a family symbol for the people of Canada that painted a portrait of justice, peace and equality for all humankind.
That goal has been reached. Whether we work to build our nation here at home or reach out to help a foreign nation in need, the flag of Canada waves a signal that harmony will prevail.
Let us look up to our flag with affection and pride. Its threads are woven tightly to create one seamless community from sea to sea to sea.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, last night I attended the second annual Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in Toronto, at which seven songwriters and twenty-two remarkable songs were inducted.
In addition, I had the opportunity to take part in the induction of our national anthem, O Canada, into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 1980, O Canada was officially proclaimed our national anthem, but even then it is a song with a history. It had been composed 100 years earlier, in 1880, by Calixa Lavallée, with lyrics by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The song caught on, gained popularity and several English versions were produced.
In 1908, Robert Stanley Weir wrote the version on which today's anthem is based. The stirring melody and patriotic lyrics in both official languages still resound with all Canadians who, “with glowing hearts...stand on guard” for this great country.
I want to commend the Songwriters Hall of Fame for its recognition of our national anthem, O Canada.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by first congratulating RCI for the wonderful job it does internationally. It is something we should be very proud of.
Let me also thank RCI and the CBC for actually postponing any kind of decision whatsoever to reduce programming to Ukrainians during the election. I would ask this House to commend CBC Radio-Canada and RCI for the fabulous job they did leading up to the elections in Ukraine.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to repeat what the minister said in the House yesterday. She is working with the community, with the minority community and with her officials. They are working to find the proper solution, but at this time I should like to also point out that the department has invested over $300 million since 1994 to support the development of official language minority communities throughout Canada and we should be proud of that.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, in December 1995 the Parliament of Canada passed a motion officially designating February as Black History Month. This motion was an important milestone because it finally acknowledged the rich and often overlooked history of Black Canadians.
Every day, Black Canadians are working in all communities to make Canada a great place to live. Their contribution to society is vital to Canada's economic and cultural life.
During February, I invite hon. members and all Canadians to listen to a story, join in on an activity, read a book or check the Internet to find more information on the history of Black Canadians. There are many good websites, including the Canadian Heritage site. Above all, we should not hesitate to share what we learn with our children, friends and acquaintances.
We have so much to learn from each other as we work together to build a better Canada.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on the prebudget consultations. I want to share with the House and Canadians the results of a number of prebudget consultations which I held in my riding and also throughout the city of Toronto.
Since being elected in 1997 I have annually held prebudget consultations with individuals, members of not for profit organizations, and representatives from business organizations. This year in my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I also held consultations with representatives of the greater Toronto area's artistic and cultural organizations to determine what these organizations need and what our government could do to help artists and arts organizations achieve and maintain greatness in their respective fields in Toronto.
If we can help Toronto's artists and arts communities achieve greatness, because these organizations and artists are integral to the economic and social life of the city of Toronto, then we can create a blueprint to allow all artists and arts organizations to excel in Canada.
In December I held a prebudget consultation meeting at Swansea Town Hall. The notice calling the meeting asked a very basic question especially in light of the announcement on November 16 by the Minister of Finance of a $9 billion surplus for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004. The question was simple. What should the federal government do with any future surpluses?
Along with this general question the following four supplementary questions were asked: First, how should the federal government allocate any future discretionary finances between tax relief, new spending and debt repayment? Second, if taxes are to be cut, which ones should be reduced and to whom should the cuts be directed? Third, if the government is to spend more, which new or existing programs should receive this spending? Fourth, if the federal debt is to be further paid down, how much should it be reduced versus spending more and/or taxing less?
Prior to entertaining budget suggestions from the floor, we also presented and reviewed a federal budget history chart. It summarized revenues, expenses, international debt payment and any surplus or deficit from the fiscal year 1993-94 to and including the fiscal year 2003-04. We also reviewed a chart summarizing federal debt history from 1993-94 to 2003-04 and reviewed recent major initiatives regarding taxes and debt, as well as the government's recent major initiatives regarding spending.
My constituency office prepared these summaries. I would be more than pleased to share them with members on all sides of the House.
At our meeting there were a number of budget items that received overwhelming consensus. I am sure this will be hard for members of the official opposition to believe but no one at that meeting called for immediate tax cuts. On the other hand there was widespread agreement that the government should continue to pay down the debt but to do so gradually, however, not at the expense of the social programs that are integral to our values as Canadians.
A number of constituents also suggested that perhaps it was time for the federal government to put in place some type of mechanism which could more accurately anticipate surpluses prior to the year end. Initially Canadians could understand that budgeting very conservatively led to huge surpluses and currently these huge surpluses were immediately applied to the debt when in fact if the proper budgeting had been done, these moneys could have been spent on programs or tax cuts during the fiscal year.
There is also a very important thing which I learned a number of years ago which I would like to share with the House. It is something which was told to me by a constituent during prebudget consultations a number of years ago and which it is important for all of us in the House to keep in mind during the budget process. A constituent wrote and reminded me that in deciding on budget priorities, one must never forget that the fiscal choices we make reflect the kind of society we want.
In terms of spending initiatives, certainly in my riding in the city of Toronto there was unequivocal support for additional funding for cities and also for communities. The need for an immediate investment in public transport was paramount not only in terms of the TTC in Toronto, but also in terms of the GO train, the train that connects the greater Toronto area to the city of Toronto. My constituents were unequivocally clear that they did not want money spent or wasted on the Front Street extension, which abuts my riding and which would cause major chaos in my community.
The second most important priority in my riding was the need for housing. Notwithstanding the successful federal-municipal partnership of the supporting communities partnership initiative, or SCPI program, an excellent program in the city of Toronto to address homelessness, I regret to say that homelessness continues to be a problem. There is also a need for more low income housing in Toronto. It was highly recommended that any such initiative emphasized green affordable housing, which is a project being considered in the part of my riding known as Parkdale.
The next priority in my riding and in the city of Toronto is immigration which, as hon. members all know, is an integral part of Toronto's landscape. It desperately requires additional funding. It was recommended that additional funds be allocated for resettlement purposes. Language training programs should be enhanced. The government should and must set aside funding to assist newcomers in obtaining professional accreditation.
Money for youth programs was also considered a priority. Programs for retraining should be enhanced. The cost of post-secondary education continues to need to be addressed, along with the continuing problem of escalating student debt. We cannot forget our young people when we look at our priorities and when we look at our needs as a nation.
Last but not least, and I am sure hon. members will not be surprised to hear this, enhancement of funding for the arts was also noted. One cannot overlook the importance of the arts, especially in terms of the cities' and the communities' agenda. Our artists and cultural organizations play a key role in the economic and social well-being of our cities and communities. The arts are the essence and the vibrancy of our communities and cities.
At this point and before going on to share with the House a number of the priorities of the arts and culture sector, I would like to take this opportunity to commend and to thank the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, and the other members of the standing committee, including my colleague from the greater Toronto area, the member for Beaches—East York, for their report and recommendations on culture. I believe that this is the first time since I was first elected in 1997 that culture received more than just a passing mention.
There are seven pages on the cultural sector in the finance committee report. I did look at the dissenting opinions and I cannot say that anyone dissented or disagreed with investment in the arts. I believe it was the Bloc which encouraged that while some of the recommendations with respect to culture were very good, a key item had been left off, and that I believe was the GST on books. In a minority government, I take that actually as a round of applause and unanimous support for Canada's cultural sector. I have to tell the finance committee how proud I was when I read that report.
I would like to read out loud to Canadians and members of the House who may not be familiar with the specific recommendation. Recommendation 11 reads as follows:
That the federal government provide stable, long term funding to the following elements of federal support for arts and culture: the Tomorrow Starts Today program; the Canada Council for the Arts; Telefilm Canada; the Museums Assistance Program; the Community Access Program; the Canadian Television Fund and initiatives designed to promote Canadian culture internationally.
Moreover, the government should increase funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio-Canada.
As well, the government should allocate funds to build capacity and assist archives with respect to archival content.
Finally, the government should increase the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit to 30%.
I cannot help but note that I am actually watching the vice-chair of the heritage committee who is listening quite attentively. The vice-chair sat on the previous Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage when we drew up what has come to be known as the Lincoln report, entitled “Our Cultural Sovereignty”. Some of the recommendations that are found in the finance committee's report were actually in our standing committee's report, so it looks like we are actually listening.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge my colleagues in the House to also urge the finance minister to implement in its entirety recommendation 11 of the Standing Committee on Finance.
As I stated at the beginning, I held a number of consultations with various arts groups in the city of Toronto and the greater Toronto area last year. They reconfirmed that a revitalized arts and culture sector is integral to the success of ensuring that Canada's cities and communities are safe, prosperous and stimulating places to work.
We all now know the work of Richard Florida, the urbanist. We seem to quote him again and again. Ever since Richard Florida wrote about it, we know how important the arts are to our communities, to attracting people and citizens to our communities. It has been a long time coming that we finally sat and listened to this.
It is important to note that not just Richard Florida, who is a U.S. author and urbanist, wrote about this but even our Federation of Canadian Municipalities has recognized how important the arts and culture sector is to our Canadian cities and communities. There is not a magazine that we can pick up that the FCM has distributed where arts and culture is not front and centre. The FCM has a subcommittee which deals in particular with how we enhance the arts and culture sector not just within our large cities but also in our communities.
I would like to share with members some of the comments and recommendations that I received from some of the larger arts organizations that participated, including the Stratford and Shaw festivals. One meeting I held was with the larger cultural institutions. When I say larger cultural institutions I do not mean just the Toronto based ones but the large Canadian based cultural institutions. There is no doubt that in Canada they are seen as jewels in the crown but unfortunately they lack stable adequate funding. This is a constant threat to their continuing excellence.
What is interesting to note is that they pointed out to me that they are not asking for new funding models or new funding programs, because those are not necessarily the best solutions. We need to look at the enhancement of existing programs that work, more specifically, Tomorrow Starts Today.
I just spoke about the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. At its last annual meeting a resolution was brought forward by cities either in Alberta or British Columbia to urge the federal government to renew the Tomorrow Starts Today program. For those who may not be familiar with it, the Tomorrow Starts Today program was announced by the government in May 2001. The government provided a brand new total of $560 million, which is the largest reinvestment in the arts in Canada in the last 40 years.
There were various envelopes to that program, including the culture capitals program, the arts presentation program, an endowment program, Canada culture online, additional moneys to the book publishing industry and, very importantly, additional moneys for the Canada Council.
The Canada Council came up during our discussions as well. It was felt that one way to support all of our arts and cultural sectors across Canada was to perhaps refocus the priorities of the Canada Council. We also duly noted, as we all should in this House, that the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council is coming up in 2007. In fact, this could be used as a springboard for new funding and new programs.
There is no reason to recreate the wheel. What we should do is build on our successes and build on the excellence and build on what we know in Canada. This works not just in the large urban areas but also in all of our communities.
Another important issue that was brought up was the importance of touring. Again, financial constraints preclude the major organizations from active touring, both nationally and abroad. Touring was seen by most participants as essential to showcasing the best of Canadian culture, attracting new audiences and providing new fora for our performers and creators. I personally would like to add that it is a wonderful way of ensuring Canada's place in the world as one of pride and one of influence.
It has recently come to my attention that the arts promotion program under the Department of Foreign Affairs is being scheduled for a 35% cut in funding in March 2005.
According to Martin Bragg, the artistic producer of CanStage, one of the country's largest performing arts companies and a company that is a beneficiary of this program to tour its production of The Overcoat, notes that there will be severe consequences and the impact of this cut will have a terrible effect on the arts and cultural sector.
In his letter, Mr. Bragg states the following:
The Arts Promotion Program has been the primary source of finance assistance from the Canadian government for the promotion of Canadian culture, both nationally and internationally.
This proposed cutback would drastically reduce the trade and commerce of Canadian culture around the world by over 50%. Currently, almost half of all applicants to the program are declined funding. The cutback would increase that percentage to 85% for all applicants in the performing arts.
He then goes on to note:
As it stands, the funding available through the Arts Promotion Program is not enough. When set against our G-8 counterparts who annually commit over one billion dollars per year, Canada's contribution to the international arts promotion is extremely humble. This funding must be increased, not cut, if Canada is to strengthen our presence in the international markets through the development of cultural partnerships, the fostering of cross-cultural exchanges with emerging markets (i.e. China, Brazil, India) and the initiation of Canada-U.S. culture diplomacy programs, among other efforts.
Another recommendation the finance committee made with respect to culture and an important fund for our television and film sectors, and one which I strongly support and I know members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage have supported, is to provide stable, long term funding to the Canadian television fund, the CTF, one of our great success stories.
Just last week I received a letter from Michael MacMillan who is the chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis which makes the social economic case for establishing the CTF as a permanent fixture and to maintain funding at the current level of $100 million per year.
As I am running out of time I would like to make my last submission from a cultural, economic and social argument as to why this fund is as important as the other programs that support our arts are important.
Mr. MacMillan writes:
While Canadians are wholeheartedly aware of the many choices faced by your government in delivering a fiscally prudent budget, we believe it is important to consider the CTF funding in the context of its benefits to an economically and culturally vibrant Canadian industry. Of the $3 billion that the government spends annually on culture each year, this sector directly contributes $27 billion to our gross domestic product. Since 1996, the CTF has provided $1.7 billion in funding towards the creation of 18,000 hours of programming in English, French and Aboriginal languages. The total value of these productions is currently estimated at $6 billion. As these numbers illustrate, the CTF is a major contributor to the ongoing vitality of the Canadian broadcasting sector.
I know I have run out of time but perhaps we can continue this discussion another time. I hope members on the opposite side will support me in these recommendations.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I hope I have the opportunity to answer all hon. member's questions.
When I was going through the priorities, tax cuts were not one of the top priorities. That is not to say that some people do not want tax cuts. The people in my riding, and I am not speaking for everybody, but from a sample of the people who were there, they understood that the Government of Canada over the last five years has reduced taxes by $100 billion. Yes, the government does understand how important tax cuts are.
We also brought in full indexation, which especially helps seniors. We raised the tax free amount. We reduced the middle income tax bracket from 26% to 23%. Income ranges for low and middle income brackets have been raised. All surtaxes have been eliminated, which helps the poor and middle class. High tech and small business corporate taxes have been reduced from 28% to 21%, and the small business level has been raised to $300,000. Employment insurance premiums have actually been cut eight times. I think the government has been proactive and does understand the concerns that the member is bringing forward.
With respect to health care and child care, those are certainly two of the three priorities that the Prime Minister has mentioned. The third priority has been cities. I think it is time we stopped saying that it is either health care or the arts, or that it is either health care or child care. That is not what government policy is about. It is about having a holistic approach. As controversial as it may sound, our arts and culture are integral to the health of our communities, as is education and health care. It is not one or the other. It is about working together to find a holisitic approach for all cities.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Human Resources Development said in the House in the last day or so, we made the commitment in the Speech from the Throne to ensure that EI reflects labour market realities. I was glad to hear that and I support that position. I hope we will be working toward that.
In answer to the member's first question, I personally would like to see EI brought within the new labour force market realities for the self-employed, especially for self-employed women and how we can deal with that.
In answer to his second question concerning the CBC, I am probably as big an advocate of the CBC as the member is in rural Canada. I have chaired the Liberal CBC caucus committee for a number of years. I have been a supporter of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Unfortunately, I am not the finance minister but I would join the member in urging the finance committee not only to not cut the CBC but to ensure long term stable funding for the CBC.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the question with respect to providing aid to cities first.
Providing aid to cities has been a key platform within the government and under our new Prime Minister. When he took office, the Prime Minister's three priorities were cities, health care and child care. He moved immediately to reduce the GST for municipalities. In our election platform we committed to move ahead on the gas tax. I believe that is about what the hon. member is speaking. I have also been lobbied to expand the gas tax to the diesel tax. I can say with some confidence that the Prime Minister has said that we will ensure those platform promises are acted upon.
Knowing how important the gas tax is, the Prime Minister is working with the minister responsible for infrastructure and communities, and I hope the finance minister is listening. I and the city of Toronto also support moving quickly on the gas tax.
With respect to junior hockey, I am not a specialist in the sports area. I have heard that submissions are being made to finance with respect to this. We need to move forward with artists in the same way because all of a sudden they are no longer being looked at as being self-employed, but rather as employees and that has huge ramifications for all artists across Canada. This is similar to the hockey player situation.
I undertake to take the member's message forward to the Minister of Finance.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-18, amendments to the Telefilm Canada Act.
I will begin by thanking the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for their excellent work on this bill. In keeping with the debate on second reading of the bill in the House, the discussion in committee was both constructive and succinct. As a result, we have arrived at third reading in a very timely fashion.
Bill C-18 is straightforward legislation. It is my hope that the bill will continue to move through the parliamentary process in a straightforward manner.
Telefilm Canada supports the production of high quality Canadian products that celebrate and reflect our cultural and regional diversity to Canadians and to the world. In this way, it plays a key role in helping the government to achieve our cultural policy objectives.
I want to remind members that Telefilm Canada was created in 1967 as the Canadian Film Development Corporation with a mandate “to foster and promote the development of a feature film industry in Canada.”
Telefilm fulfills this mandate in a most worthy way.
However Telefilm Canada's mandate as a cultural investor has, over recent years, extended beyond feature films. Telefilm is now also dedicated to the development, production, promotion and distribution of popular Canadian television programs and new media products. It is involved to some extent in the sound record industry as well.
Many of the high quality cultural products that Telefilm has helped bring to fruition have not only captivated Canadians of all ages, they have attracted audiences and acclaim around the world. These successes underline the fact that good storytelling transcends borders, language and also cultures.
I will mention some of the productions that have benefited from Telefilm's expertise and funding.
In the film world, Les invasions barbares, the Barbarian Invasions walked off with the Oscar for best foreign film in 2003. Séraphin, Un homme et son péché was a phenomenal box office success in Canada, with receipts of close to $10 million.
Mambo Italiano is the most lucrative English Canada film ever, having been screened in more than 50 countries, and Atanarjuat,The Fast Runner was awarded the prestigious Gold Camera Award for a first feature film at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival. Imagine, the first Canadian feature film in the Inuktitut language won one of the world's most prestigious film awards.
In television, the popular Da Vinci's Inquest is enjoyed in 45 countries across the world. The mini-series Trudeau attracted record-breaking audiences, proving that Canadians hunger for Canadian stories.
The format for Un gars, une fille has been sold and resold to 30 countries including Germany, France and Italy.
In the new media sector, Telefilm has invested in a new media content associated with popular television programs such as Degrassi and The Toy Castle, a wonderful Canadian program for young children.
Telefilm has also invested in new media content ranging from interactive educational games such Mia Mouse, to databases full of information about Canada and Canadians. In the sound recording industry, 13 music labels have benefited since 2001 from Telefilm's support for the implementation of forward looking business plans.
As technology has evolved, Telefilm has also evolved to meet the needs of Canadian creators in the audio-visual sector. Its original mandate, however, was never formally updated in recognition if its expanded role. Bill C-18 would simply formally extend the mandate of Telefilm to the entire audio-visual sector.
The proposed amendments to the Telefilm Act, thus, would simply confirm in law Telefilm's current activities.
Some members have wondered whether we do not need to go further in modernizing the Telefilm Canada Act. This is true. Bill C-18 has one specific objective, but as soon as it is passed, we fully intend to complete that process.
For the moment, we have the possibility of clarifying the important role Telefilm plays in the cultural life of our country, as it has evolved over time. The Auditor General has encouraged clarification of the Telefilm mandate, and the members of this House agree on the need for this.
Further, as a government, we have greater ambitions. For example, the government will be responding in detail to the Lincoln report on Canadian broadcasting. The report contained no fewer than 97 recommendations. Developing our response to such a great body of work is an exacting but most valuable exercise. However by the end of April the government will have made clear its overreaching priorities concerning broadcasting and how it plans to act on these priorities.
Canada's cultural institutions, both private and public, face complex new challenges and new possibilities in the digital age. At the same time, the demographics of our country are changing. We are more multicultural than ever before and their diversity needs to be reflected in our cultural policies and our cultural institutions.
Simply put, we need to ensure the clarity of the mandates of all of the cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio but for now we must send to Telefilm the message that we want it to continue in its role in helping to bring Canadian experiences and viewpoints to Canadians and the world. We can do this by supporting Bill C-18.
It is heartening that during the course of debate on the bill no one has questioned the success of Telefilm. No one questions the invaluable contribution of the arts and culture to the economy and the life of our country. No one questions the importance of the audio visual sector.
I am delighted at the degree of unanimity on culture matters that has been demonstrated thus far in the House but this support of culture should not come as any surprise given the contribution of the sector to our communities and to our economy.
The audio visual sectors keep 225,000 Canadians at work in creative skilled jobs. These innovative Canadians are very much part of the knowledge based economy that is critical to Canada's future prosperity. Cultural industries help create culture rich communities, and these are exactly the kinds of places that are most attractive to today's business investors.
Let there be no doubt about where the government stands on cultural matters, whether it is film, TV, music or new media, our cultural products speak for us in words and images that reverberate across our country, in cities and in rural and remote areas, but most important, around the world. They reflect our aspirations, our values and our vision as a country. They deepen our mutual understanding across diverse cultural backgrounds. They enrich our lives and contribute to our economy.
The government unreservedly supports Canadian culture and the cultural institutions like Telefilm that serve it well.
We are not alone in that, I know. Many members of all parties and from all regions of the country support us.
I would therefore call upon all hon. members in this House to support Bill C-18.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to unequivocally state that indeed culture is definitely part of the government's priorities. It was made clear in the Speech from the Throne which was delivered by Her Excellency, the Right Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in October. In fact, it was a priority under the communities and cities agendas which acknowledged that culture was the essence of our communities and cities.
The Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear to everyone in this country that the government has three major priorities: first, health care, a deal which he has achieved already; second, child care, and he has put into place a framework which the Minister of Social Development is working on; and third, cities and communities, part of which is culture.
It is interesting to note that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently passed a unanimous resolution calling for the Minister of Finance to renew the Tomorrow Starts Today program. A few weeks ago, when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was in Ottawa, I was delighted to see that even the federation saw culture as integral to the vibrancy, strength and vitality of communities. To say that culture is not part of the government's vision would be absolutely incorrect.
I would like to take this opportunity to address the member's comment about cutbacks to Telefilm. Let us be clear. Those were not cutbacks. When we looked at the supplementary estimates in committee, we looked at $1 billion which had been part of a review of all government programs. Each department had been asked to see how we could make the departments more efficient.
I could not agree more with the member and I would ask him to help me to advocate to the Minister of Finance how we should increase the envelope, not just for Telefilm but for other important cultural institutions such as the Canada Council, the Canada Broadcasting Corporation and Radio-Canada. It is important that we have this debate in the House to demonstrate how arts and culture is integral to our country. It is not something that we get on the side. It is as integral as our health and educational systems.
Again, I welcome the member's comments. I hope that we can work together to ensure that in the next budget the cultural component is indeed increased.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let us be clear about what we looked at. We looked at supplementary estimates going up to March 31. These are moneys that were taken away in the past as part of the whole government looking at how to increase its efficiencies and reduce costs. It was part of a great exercise. I believe that the CBC put in $10 million. I do not have the actual estimates in front of me.
Nobody wants to see cuts and I definitely agree with that; however, to say that this is something for two and three years is incorrect. Not only is it misleading, but it is totally incorrect. One of the commitments that the government made was to look at the important role that our cultural institutions play, such as Telefilm.
As we said in committee, and as I said here today in the House, we will be moving forward to look at the role and mandate of Telefilm. Hopefully, at that time, we can look at increasing its mandate as well, that the funds will be there so that it can carry out the new mandate that I hope all parties will look at.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that it was this government in 2001 who reinvested the largest amount into the arts and cultural sectors with an investment of $560 million. It was the largest investment since the creation of the Canada Council almost 50 years ago. It was originally a three year program which was then renewed for another year. As I have said before in the House, we are working through program review and hoping to work with the finance minister to renew this program as soon as possible.
With respect to defending the artists, well I do defend the artists. I personally contribute thousands of dollars to support cultural institutions for a very good reason. We must ensure that our cultural institutions are there to survive, to pay fairly what the artists deserve, to ensure that they have continuing work, and to ensure that they are able to participate in various parts of the sector from theatre, to television, to film. If those institutions are strong, then it will ensure that our artists are strong and our artists have voices, that they are paid properly. I would submit those two things go hand in hand.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, last week the Supreme Court ruled that the draft legislation referred to it by the Government of Canada upholds the right of same sex couples to civil marriage. As a result, the government can either move ahead with legislation to codify civil marriage for same sex couples or use the notwithstanding clause to take away this right.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a pillar of Canadian society. The rights protected under the charter are the same rights that protect churches, synagogues, mosques and temples from being obliged to perform marriage ceremonies that are contrary to their beliefs. This is not about religion. It is about equality.
The Prime Minister has stated that he will not use the notwithstanding clause to deny rights guaranteed by the charter. I am proud to say that I will be voting with the government and the Prime Minister to acknowledge same sex civil marriage.
We all have a choice. We can either uphold the charter because we believe in it, or we can abandon it. Parliamentarians must now make that choice.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate International Human Rights Day. This date was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly to honour the anniversary of the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
The declaration is truly a remarkable document. Its 30 articles deal with the full range of human rights, including political participation, due process under law, education, property rights, and the freedom to marry among consenting spouses.
While virtually every country has signed on to the declaration, we know that the practical recognition of human rights is far from universally observed. This is why it is important to celebrate and reflect on these values that are so fundamental to living a life unburdened by despotism, racism, persecution and arbitrary sanction.
Among the people observing International Human Rights Day, I would especially like to single out our country's vibrant Tibetan community, a great many of whom live in my riding. I commend their efforts and the efforts of all their supporters in promoting human rights during this difficult period in their long history.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind members of the House that it was this government that reinvested over $560 million into the arts in May 2001, the largest reinvestment in the Canada Council. Since that time, the program has been renewed and will continue until at least March 31.
I am pleased to advise members of the House that members on this side of the House are working very hard with the Minister of Finance to ensure that this program is possibly renewed in the budget.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I too rise this evening in support of the motion to restore funding to the Governor General's budget.
As we know, the question of other government department support to the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General has been an issue in the recent past because parliamentarians have indeed expressed an interest in the overall expenditures of the government in support of the Governor General. This is in addition to the direct budgetary expenditures of the office.
During the time I have I would like to outline the support provided by other federal departments and agencies to the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. It should be noted that such support is not new to this mandate, but has been government practice for virtually every Governor General since Confederation.
I would like to begin by making one point very clear. Costs are incurred by other government departments to support certain activities of the Governor General because these activities help them to achieve their departmental mandate. That is why these costs form part of their annual budgetary appropriation that is approved by Parliament. As such, most if not all of the decisions to incur expenses in support of the Governor General are made by those departments and agencies in whose budget these allocations appear and not by the office of the Governor General itself.
The institution of Governor General is a powerful symbol of Canada's national sovereignty and identity and, as I will note, the Governor General is frequently called upon to participate in departmental events when it is important to have our head of state present.
However, in the interests of transparency, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General has made public a report that summarizes the source of funding from all other government departments and agencies that provide that kind of support, the purposes to which those funds are put, and the amount of those expenditures for the most recent complete fiscal year, that being 2003-04.
Let me now tell hon. members about some of the highlights of this report. The Department of National Defence provides support to the Governor General and to the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General in several respects because of the position of the Governor General as Canada's head of state and commander in chief.
In particular, the Department of National Defence provides transportation services and other logistical support for all the Governor General's travel, whether for an event in Canada or for state visits abroad. The service covers travel of a personal nature and security policy advises that the Governor General travel by government aircraft.
The Department of National Defence provides several key personnel to the Governor General and the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General on military assignments. They include five aide-de-camps who are junior officers at the captain or naval lieutenant level from all three services and undertake this posting as a two year assignment. It also includes a colonel or captain on a three year or four year assignment. Other personnel are provided for special services on short term assignments for undertakings such as state visits abroad.
All members of the House will agree that as commander in chief the Governor General plays a highly visible role and has an important symbolic relationship with the Canadian Forces. This is reflected in requests from the Department of National Defence for the Governor General to participate in events which are particularly meaningful to the Canadian Forces as a whole or to individual branches or units.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for incidents in our nation's past. As Canadians we all share in the responsibility to learn from the lessons of the past and to ensure that the history of our country in certain instances does not repeat itself ever.
I know firsthand the issues that are being addressed today by the hon. member opposite. My riding of Parkdale--High Park is home to a great number of Ukrainian Canadians, and this is a matter that I have spoken to members of the community about.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act lays out principles for these adjustments. It gives specific direction to the federal government to work toward achieving equality in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country. The multicultural program turns those principles into action. Its activities help to combat racism and discrimination, to break down barriers that prevent all Canadians from fully participating in society, to promote freedom and equal opportunity, to improve inter-group relations, and to foster social harmony and a shared sense of Canadian identity.
As Canada becomes more culturally diverse, the challenge we face is maximizing the benefits of a multicultural society, which means respecting differences and being willing to adapt to change.
Since the introduction of Canada's multiculturalism policy in 1971 and the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, Canada's population has continued to become more diverse. This rich ethnocultural, racial and religious diversity has been fostered and supported by a strong multiculturalism policy that encourages people to maintain their culture and identity within a Canadian framework that values fundamental human rights and freedoms.
In order to keep pace with the needs of our evolving and increasingly diverse society, the multiculturalism program focuses on three overall policy goals of identity, social justice and civic participation. Within these policy goals, four priority objectives have been identified for the multicultural program: first, fostering cross-cultural understanding; second, promoting shared citizenship; third, making Canadian institutions more reflective of Canadian diversity; and fourth, combating racism and discrimination.
The government recognizes that creating and maintaining a strong and cohesive society free of racism and discrimination is critical to the continued growth and success of our country. As part of its commitment to fight racism and as part of its forward looking approach with regard to historical acts, the Government of Canada established the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 1996. As members know, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is an important asset in helping to build an inclusive society based on social harmony. In establishing the foundation, we have committed to building a better future for young Canadians and a better country for all of us.
The mission of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to build a framework for the fight against racism in Canadian society. The Foundation sheds light on the causes and manifestations of racism. It provides independent, candid national leadership and contributes to the pursuit of equity, fairness and social justice.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is the articulation of the Government of Canada's commitment to fostering racial harmony and cross-cultural understanding. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to a great extent at the core of what the Ukrainian community and this bill are asking for: an educational foundation.
Through the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, I am pleased to say that many groups have had grants for initiatives in specific projects against racism. Along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Government of Canada has and will continue to promote initiatives to improve understanding among Canadians, such as the March 21 campaign of the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is designed to raise the awareness of Canadians against the dangers of racism and racial discrimination.
The March 21 campaign was initiated in response to the need to heighten awareness of the harmful effects of racism on a national scale and to demonstrate clearly the commitment and leadership of the federal government to foster respect, equality and diversity.
For more than 10 years, the March 21 campaign has mobilized youth across Canada to rise up and to take a stand against racism. Through their participation in the campaign, Canadian youth have spoken loudly and eloquently. There is no place for racism in their lives.
Each year on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, many activities are held throughout Canada to raise public awareness about the problem of racism.
The national video competition “Racism: Stop it!” is one of several federal government initiatives to fight racism and encourage thousands of young people from across Canada to stand up and condemn this problem.
Why youth? Youth are the future of our nation. It is only by looking to the future that we will achieve our common goal of eradicating racism and discrimination.
We know that youth are the heart and soul of the annual March 21 campaign. They have the energy, commitment and creativity to advance the struggle against racism. They are the voice of the present and also of the future. They are among the most exposed to racism in their schools and on the streets in villages, towns and cities across Canada. The March 21 campaign engages youth to transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity and religion, and to embrace diversity.
Historically speaking, this country represents a coming together of many peoples and traditions. It is because we were and are so different in our backgrounds and our beginnings that Canada has learned over time to place an extraordinary premium on respect, equality and mutual acceptance. This is what sets Canada apart from other countries.
The challenge is not to lose what we have gained through past experience, not to assimilate this diversity into a simple mould, but to harness it for the common good.
As we move forward in this new millennium, it is the youth of the world who stand poised to lead us out of the intolerance of the past which too often results in terrible human suffering.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of understanding and preserving our complete history, including those times when we have strayed from our shared commitment to human justice. Through various departments and programs, it has supported a wide range of commemorative projects that have helped the Ukrainian community tell their story in their own voice.
The bill before us today asks for commemoration of the historical events by means of the installation of memorial plaques at the site of the internment camps. I would like the hon. members of this House to know that Parks Canada has already worked cooperatively with Ukrainian Canadians to present the story of the first world war internment.
As part of an exhibit to interpret the events associated with the first world war internment in the context of human history of Banff National Park, several interpretative panels were installed as part of the permanent exhibit at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada, as well as at Mount Revelstoke and Yoho National Parks.
Parks Canada has also supported Ukrainian Canadians in their efforts to install a permanent plaque and statue at the site of the Castle Mountain camp in Banff and permanent plaques at the Jasper camp, Mount Revelstoke camp and Yoho camp. The Department of National Defence has also enabled the placement of a plaque on the Niagara Falls armoury.
The National Film Board of Canada has produced an internment and exile film package that includes a segment entitled, Freedom Had a Price, which describes the experience of Ukrainian immigrants during the first world war.
In addition, the Department of Canadian Heritage has provided funding for the production of a television series entitled, A Scattering of Seeds, which celebrated diversity in Canada and discusses various topics, including the internment of Ukrainian immigrants.
Yes, people of Ukrainian heritage have experienced challenges during their time in Canada. We acknowledge this chapter of our past and vow never to forget it.
The member opposite did say that nothing has been done but many things have been done. When I was parliamentary secretary to the former minister of Canadian heritage, Sheila Copps, she brought the Ukrainian community together to meet with her officials and dialogue was started. Is there much to do? Absolutely. The dialogue has been started. Let us now continue the dialogue.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, violence against anyone is unacceptable, irrespective of one's gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or mental and physical capabilities, so why do we focus on violence against women today?
Canadian women are more fearful of being victims of crime than are men. Looking at the statistics for sexual assault, criminal harassment and severity of spousal violence, it is no wonder. A majority of the victims of these crimes are women and young girls. In spousal violence alone, female victims are more likely to suffer some kind of physical injury and to be victims of multiple incidents. In 1999, four out of five victims of spousal homicide were female.
The focus on violence against women is not meant to deny or diminish the rate of violence against men. Violence against women is a complex issue. It is closely linked to the attitudes, values and systems that contribute to maintaining and perpetuating inequality of women in Canadian society.
Every Canadian male or female is touched in some way by violence against women. It has an enormous social and economic cost for our communities and the country. Let us work together to put a stop to violence against women.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, several planning studies in the past have identified that there will soon be a lack of sufficient peak interprovincial crossing capacity in the national capital region. Consequently, a number of possible corridors for new interprovincial crossings have been identified and appropriate environmental assessments will take place. I can assure the House that the Government of Canada is committed to working with other levels of government to enhance interprovincial transportation capacity.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to address my colleague, the hon. member for Nepean--Carleton, on his concern regarding a rent increase for the Queensway Carleton Hospital, a hospital in Ottawa that sits on lands owned by the National Capital Commission.
The hon. member is concerned that there will be a massive rent increase and the hospital has stated that it could cost jobs for as many as 40 nurses.
He would also like to know why the government does not resolve this problem by selling the land to the hospital for $1.
I will answer both those questions at this time.
First, on the matter of the rent increase, I would like to assure my colleague that while the National Capital Commission is a crown corporation that is responsible for its own day to day management, it calculates its rents in accordance with Treasury Board guidelines.
The Queensway Carleton Hospital currently pays an annual rent of approximately $23,000 per annum based on the leasing policies in effect when the 40 year lease was negotiated in the early 1970s. The rent is set well below market rates and will continue for another nine years, until July 12, 2013.
The lease provides for a renewal term of 35 years and stipulates that the annual rent is to be determined by mutual agreement between the National Capital Commission and the hospital and will be based on the appraised value of the land at that time.
A recent newspaper article stating that the revised rent beginning in 2013 would be $3.4 million, was wrong. It was based on the incorrect assumption that the annual rent in 2013 would be a percentage of the assessed value of the 114 acre property, including all buildings, improvements and grounds. In fact the annual rent will be negotiated based on the value of only 50 acres of land actually occupied by the hospital and its facilities, not on the value of the entire property.
It would not prudent for me to suppose what the new amount of rent will be but I understand, as the hon. member has said, that the National Capital Commission and the Queensway Carleton Hospital have already begun discussions and will actually review a variety of options for the lease of the land. I have tremendous confidence that these two parties will reach a suitable agreement before 2013.
Now I would like to address the hon. member's second question as to why the National Capital Commission does not simply sell the land to the Queensway Carleton Hospital for $1.
The 50 acres of land upon which the Queensway Carleton Hospital is situated are owned by the National Capital Commission on behalf of the people of Canada. The land is part of the national capital greenbelt and the national interest land mass.
The national capital region greenbelt was designed in 1949 to prevent urban sprawl and to provide open space for the future development of farms, natural areas and government facilities.
Today the greenbelt's 200 square kilometre crescent of farms, forests, natural areas, recreational facilities and public and private research complexes provide the capital with a rural landscape unequalled in any other North American city.
The NCC and national capital region greenbelt includes national interest land mass properties which, as the name implies, are held in the national trust.
These lands that the Government of Canada, mainly through the National Capital Commission, has gathered together over the past century include monuments, public places, heritage buildings, shorelines and large areas of green space. They combine to create a capital that will inspire Canadians with pride and be passed on as a legacy for future generations. Therefore to sell the people's land for $1 would be inappropriate.
However, once again I thank the hon. member for presenting me with this opportunity to respond to his questions.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, let me begin by saying that at no time did I state that the hospital was a threat to the greenbelt. With all due respect for the member opposite, what I talked about was why we could not dispose of those lands for $1. As they are part of National Capital Commission lands, they belong to all the people of Canada and to sell that land for just $1 would be to violate the fiduciary trust.
I have noticed with interest that the Riverside Hospital had an arrangement made with the City of Ottawa, but again these lands were not held by the National Capital Commission. What we are talking about is why the National Capital Commission was created, why it has acquired lands and why it holds those lands in trust for the people of Canada.
I just want to reiterate that the article that appeared in the paper which speculated the amount of the rent was absolutely false. As the hon. member said, the two parties are in negotiations and we should let them arrive at a suitable and mutually acceptable agreement.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to participate in this emergency debate for two reasons. There is a significant number of Ukrainian Canadians who live in my riding. I believe there are more than one million Canadians of Ukrainian descent living throughout Canada. Over the last few days, I have had numerous e-mails from my constituents and other members of the Ukrainian community concerned about the illegalities that have occurred in Ukraine during the election. I have brought some of those e-mails with me to share with everyone.
Last night there was a protest in front of the Canadian consulate, which is situated in my riding of Parkdale—High Park on Bloor Street West. I received an e-mail from a doctor who advised me, “We will be demonstrating tonight in our riding in front of the Ukrainian consulate on Bloor Street West. I have even managed to get my emergency shift covered at the Hospital for Sick Children tonight by one of my colleagues so I can go out and protest for the democratic process”.
I cannot express how I felt when I read that. Many of us in Canada take democracy for granted. This brought home to me just how important and necessary proper are elections in Ukraine.
Second, I am not Ukrainian or of Ukrainian descent. I am of Latvian descent. I am the first member from a Baltic country to take a seat in the House of Commons. My parents came to Canada from Latvia in 1951, after World War II and the occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union. I truly believe that what has happened and is currently happening in Ukraine may indeed have profound effects throughout all of central and eastern Europe and, dare I say, the world.
It was The Economist which noted that the election could change the world by helping to map out the future shape of Europe. However, what I fear the most is that if these election results go unchallenged, there will be a foreboding return to an eastern and central Europe pre-1991, an eastern and central Europe that once again is occupied by the old Soviet Union.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister, through the Deputy Prime Minister today, for unequivocally rejecting the announced final results and calling for a full, open and transparent review of the electoral process. Specifically, the Deputy Prime Minister today announced during question period that considering the allegations of serious and significant electoral fraud from international and Canadian election observers, the Government of Canada could not accept that the announced results by the Central Election Commission reflected the true democratic will of the Ukrainian people. She went on to say that Canada would have no choice but to examine its relations with Ukraine if the authority failed to provide election results that reflect the democratic will of the people.
While participating in this debate, in my capacity as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I would like to advise the House of Commons that Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC, is committed to ensuring that during this difficult time, Canadians get the information they need about events in Ukraine.
This morning CBC Radio-Canada Vice-President Sylvain Lafrance informed the staff of Radio Canada International, better known as RCI, and key stakeholders that given the extraordinary circumstances in the Ukraine, RCI has put on hold planned programming changes and will instead continue broadcasting its 30-minute 7 days a week programming in Ukrainian. This will help ensure important support to the Ukrainian community during this crisis. I thank CBC for doing so.
I am also pleased to report to my constituents that Canada is contributing to the OSCE election observer missions to Ukraine by sending 15 long term and up to 34 short term observers. I know we have been monitoring the events in the Ukraine very closely. As we know, The Government of Canada has sent a number of Canadian parliamentarians to the Ukraine to observe elections, including the first round elections. Moreover, during the last month, a parliamentary delegation travelled to Ukraine to observe and support the electoral process. In fact, Canada has sent its largest ever contingent of election observers to Ukraine, more than 50 election observers to support the conduct of free and fair elections in the presidential vote.
Let me share with members some of the massive irregularities and fraud that we received from credible sources, people who participated in the observation, and they are quite frightening. At this time, I too would like to thank the member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre for being part of our caucus and for providing firsthand knowledge of what he saw transpiring there, as one of our election observers. He just returned last night.
For example, observers noted that post-secondary students were offered a range of bribes to vote for the prime minister, including higher grades, money, and two months free rent. Some voters in eastern Ukraine, the stronghold of the incumbent prime minister, voted in the morning at the local polling station. Then they were bused to Kiev and other locations to vote again, sometimes more than once, using absentee ballots.
It is hard to believe we hear of these things going on in the year 2004. What I find amazing, and which was confirmed by the member for Etobicoke Centre, is that international observers and opposition scrutinizes were denied access to polling stations. Some Canadian observers were followed and threatened. We were told today that some people had their Canadian passports taken away.
The Prime Minister has been monitoring the situation very carefully. In fact, the Prime Minister stated in Brazil that the preliminary reports of electoral violations were disturbing, and if they were accurate, the international community would want to examine its options. This was way before the election results were announced.
The deputy minister of foreign affairs, in the absence of the foreign affairs minister, who is travelling with the Prime Minister right now, summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to express Canada's deep concerns over reports of serious election violations. The foreign affairs minister called for an immediate investigation of allegations of serious fraud, full transparency and an election result that truly reflects the democratic choice of Ukrainians.
I also want to commend our ambassador in Kiev who, in meeting with the media, has stressed Canada's long-standing support for democracy and a civic society in Ukraine, and for free, fair and transparent elections.
I have received e-mail after e-mail over the last two days that talk about the illegalities and the fraud. The most moving e-mail I received, which had been attached to one from my constituent, was from a Canadian who was in Ukraine just hours after the election results had been announced. I would like to share that with members of the House. She writes:
Dear friends in Canada,
As many of you already know, approximately 2 hours ago Ukraine's Central Election announced the official and final results of the second round of voting that took place November 21. Although the result was clearly grossly falsified, it is now official, and according to the Ukrainian Constitution, Viktor Yanukovych will be sworn in as president within 30 days.
The reaction on the streets of Kyiv has been one of shock. There are currently anywhere from 700 thousand to a million people on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and near the Presidential Administration on Bankova St. Rumours abound: Russian troops have apparently been seen moving towards Kyiv (this information has not been independently confirmed); Russian troops were apparently seen by Yulia Tymoshenko last night inside the Presidential Administration itself. During the next couple of days things might get a little scary.
Madam Speaker, they are scary. For me this brought to mind being a teenager watching the Soviet tanks roll into Czechoslovakia and being a young adult watching the Soviets try to take over Solidarity in Poland.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the people in Ukraine, the people who want to have their will recognized, and to my constituents and their many relatives. Let us work together and ensure that democracy is indeed returned to Ukraine.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, this government believes that all Canadians deserve respect and dignity, including those suffering from AIDS. Clearly, this is not the case with the alliance Conservatives who have once again shown their true colours.
Today we learn that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla sent a note to his caucus colleagues implying that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's family and supporters did not deserve the expression of their sympathy because of allegations that he may have died of AIDS.
This is the latest in a long history of discrimination that the member has shown toward people suffering from AIDS. Previously, he has gone so far as to claim that AIDS was God's warning or punishment to homosexuals and demanded that the Alberta government spend--
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, during the statements by members you ruled my S. O. 31 out of order.
I want to unequivocally state that my statement was never intended to be a personal attack on a specific member but, rather, was calling into question the position taken by a member that was reported in the media.
Footnote 38 on page 363 of Marleau and Montpetit states:
In a 1990 ruling, Speaker Fraser clarified that a statement about another Member's political position would be acceptable, but a personal attack against a Member would not be allowed.
Again, I in no way intended for my statement to be interpreted as a personal attack, but if the hon. member felt personally attacked, I sincerely apologize.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to inform the House that the Canada Council for the Arts announced this week the winners of the 2004 Governor General's Literary Awards for Children's Literature.
I am proud to say that in English language books the winner in the text section is a constituent of mine, Mr. Kenneth Oppel, for his book Airborne.
Mr. Oppel published his first book in 1985 when he was only 15. Since then he has had a successful career in promoting children's literacy. Although Mr. Oppel has received many awards for his work, this is his first Governor General's literary award.
Canada Council director John Hobday said it best:
In a world dominated by television, video games and the Internet, children's authors and illustrators have an extraordinary challenge: to create books that stimulate the senses, the emotions and the imaginations of our young people and instil in them a lifelong love of reading.
It is people like Kenneth Oppel and the other three children's laureates who have given the children of our country a very precious gift. We thank them.
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