Bill C-34 (Historical)
Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act
An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
James Moore Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act
June 15th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Madam Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-2, which is the reintroduction of Bill C-34 from last session, including amendments made by the committee to that bill.
New Democrats generally support the bill at second reading. We support a productive and, we hope, collaborative review of the bill at committee, as happened with Bill C-34 in the last session. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out by many of my colleagues, the bill died with the government's decision to prorogue Parliament.
The bill contains many important changes to the sex offender registry. The New Democrats support the general thrust of this. We believe there are important loopholes in the present legislation to close and there are strategic and surgical improvements that can be made to the bill that would strengthen the registry.
However, as with a lot of bills, the New Democrats have concerns with the bill. We have reservations around certain specific issues, which I will highlight in my remarks this morning. We trust that all parliamentarians will work together to ensure we have a strong sex offender registry that not only works to make our community safer but also is effective and, at the same time, respects the human and judicial rights of everybody involved in the justice system.
Sex offences generate a great deal of public concern and suffering for the victims of these offences. Many times offences of a sexual nature involve children. As parliamentarians, we are never more engaged than when we talk about protecting women, children and any type of victim from the egregious and horrific offence of a sexual nature.
As a result of these high personal and social costs, governments are constantly looking for tools and methods capable of reducing the incidents of sex offences and protecting the public against the threat that some sex offenders represent.
One attempt to find a solution was the creation, in 2004, of a national registry containing information on offenders who had been convicted of a sexual offence or who had been found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. This resulted in the creation of the Sex Offender Information Registry Act, which established, for the first time, a national sex offender registry. This registry has been available to law enforcement agencies in Canada for slightly less than five years.
That original legislation contained a mandatory legislative review, which was supposed to take place after two years. Because of previous Conservative and Liberal governments, that review did not take place within the statutorily required two years. They will have to answer to Canadians for that.
However, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did commence and complete a review of this registry, beginning in 2009. I sat on that committee on behalf of my party and I was pleased to have participated in that review.
What is the sex offender registry? It is a national data bank that contains information on certain sex offenders who have been found guilty of designated offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. These include things such as sexual assault, child pornography, child luring and exhibitionism or, once again, those who were convicted of such offences but held not criminally responsibly on account of incapacity or mental disorder.
Pursuant to the code, the Crown must initiate the registration process. If a court rules that the offender should be registered in the national registry, then an order is issued that requires the offender to report to a designated registration office in the 15 days following the issuance of the order or the offender's release. In April 2009 the committee was informed that the national registry contained the names of over 19,000 offenders.
SOIRA is designed to help the police officers investigate crimes of a sexual nature by giving them access to reliable information on offenders found guilty of these crimes. The registry then contains information that is essential to police investigations, such as the offender's address and telephone number, the nature of the offence committed, the age and gender of the victim, the victim's relationship to the attacker, any aliases that the offender uses and a description of any distinguishing marks or tattoos that the offender might have.
It is important to note that the public does not have access to the national registry. Only police officers can access it and, under the previous act, only when they are investigating a crime of a sexual nature and have reason to believe that a crime of a sexual nature has been committed. Querying the national registry allows police officers to identify possible suspects among the sex offenders living in the area where a crime of a sexual nature may have been committed. It allows them to eliminate certain people from the list of suspects in order to move the investigation in a rapid and hopefully productive direction.
During her appearance before the committee, Chief Superintendent Kate Lines of the Ontario Provincial Police noted that a registry system:
—saves a lot of time for investigators, who can now move in another direction....Taking someone off the list rather than identifying them has great value when investigative time is of the essence.
With this point in mind, the crucial factor in designing the registry and proposing amendments should be in ensuring that those who pose a danger to the public are in fact registered, but equally, those who pose no danger are not on the registry. That wastes police time investigating pointless leads in those crucial minutes when lives are at stake.
Ms. Lines presented statistics to our committee to illustrate the vital importance of a rapid response in these cases. She said that in cases where a child was kidnapped and murdered, 44% were dead within an hour of the kidnapping, 74% were dead within three hours and 91% were dead within 24 hours. A well-designed, properly functioning sex offender registry is clearly an important tool for police across the country.
The sex offender information registry's purpose has always been based on the following principles. This is language from the current legislation, which has been supported by all parties in the House.
First, in the interest of protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, police departments must have rapid access to certain information relating to sex offenders.
Second, the collection and recording of accurate information on an ongoing basis is the most effective way of ensuring that such information is current and reliable.
Third, the privacy interests of sex offenders and the public interest in their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens require that the information be collected only to enable police departments to investigate crimes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect are of a sexual nature and to ensure that access to the information and the use and disclosure of such information is restricted to police.
Proposals to amend the sex offender registry should be measured against those principles.
We have heard some reference to the current government playing politics with this issue and I reluctantly have to agree with that description. The bill could be law today, but the Conservatives prorogued Parliament and killed their own bill. This is a perfect example of the Conservatives playing politics instead of protecting victims of crime.
The public safety committee was 90% complete of our statutory review of the sex offender registry. While we were doing that mandatory legislative review and putting the finishing touches on our report, which had all-party co-operation and contained extensive recommendations after hearing voluminous evidence and careful study, the government introduced Bill C-34 in the last session without even waiting to read our report. Therefore, as might be expected, Bill C-34 contained many holes and did not include important changes that witnesses had proposed to the committee. I will give an example.
The NDP had proposed an amendment at committee that would require sex offenders to disclose the make, colour, licence plate and registration of vehicles they owned or regularly used and add that to the registry. The New Democrats proposed that important closing of a loophole and strengthening of the registry. The government introduced Bill C-34, which did not even have that in it.
We all know that in a case where sex offenders might be in dangerous areas, trolling around schools, knowing the vehicles they have access to and are using is a critical component to protecting our children. Yet the Conservatives, who always claim to be tough on crime, introduced a bill in the House that did not even require sex offenders to disclose the cars that they drove or used. It was the New Democrats who caught that and improved the bill.
This was something police officers testified they needed in cases where all they had was a report of a suspicious vehicle seen near a playground or a school. This shows what happens when the government plays politics instead of making sound legislation that is careful, considered and effective.
The proposed bill before us closes some serious loopholes in the registry. Currently there is no way to track whether a sex offender is presently incarcerated or even deceased. The criteria are so strict that what information can be tracked, police officers are legally prohibited from recording, whether they can even get that information. The bill closes that loophole, which is a good thing.
Because every minute counts in investigations of sex offences and in cases of missing children, police officers would be wasting their time verifying the whereabouts of dead or incarcerated individuals because of this flaw in the current registry.
The proposed bill will expands the range of data that is tracked in the registry and this also is a good thing. If we are investing money and police resources into maintaining the registry, it should contain all the information needed for police to rapidly investigate crimes.
However, I want to talk about something that, again, the government, in its rush to play politics with this issue, overruled its committee on, which makes the bill questionable. It has to do with the concept of automatic registration. The bill proposes automatic registration for all offenders who commit designated offences.
The committee undergoing the study examined automatic registration in great detail. After hearing from all the witnesses, even the Conservative members of the committee agreed there should be judicial discretion to not put someone on the registry where it would harm public safety.
The police representatives who testified before our committee that speed was of the essence when they were investigating. If there were a number of sex offenders who did not pose a threat to the general public, adding those people to the list would actually waste their time at critical moments where speed was called for. If they had 1,000 people on the registry who they had to check in a certain area and they only had 2 hours to do it, they had to track down all those people to rule them out as possible suspects.
We heard from police officers who were familiar with this registry. They said that it was far more important to put people on the registry who did pose a risk so the police could target those suspects in those critical moments. That is why judicial discretion and prosecutorial discretion are important in this registry. We should not put every person convicted of every kind of sexual assault on the registry. Some offenders are not appropriately put on that registry.
As an example, it might be an 18 or 19 year old male who commits a minor transgression, which is still considered a sexual assault. I want to be clear that all sexual assaults are serious, but there is a degree on the continuum and it may well be that it is not appropriate to put the person on the list. Maybe the person is simply not at risk, by any rational examination, of committing a sexual assault in the future. To add that person to the list clogs the system and makes our communities less safe as a result.
I want to talk about sexual abuse in general. The government is quick to go to the punitive side when we talk about sexual offences. I want to talk about helping victims of sexual abuse and show how the government's misdirected and misguided agenda does not really help in many cases.
Earlier this year, Steve Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, testified at the public safety committee. He spoke about the need for the government to fund child advocacy centres in major cities across the country. These centres would provide counselling, support and referrals to other resources for child victims of crime, particularly victims of sexual abuse. We know, and there is no question, the data shows that many sex offenders were themselves sexually abused, often as children. Therefore, child advocacy centres would be an important part of helping to prevent future sex offences.
The victims ombudsman asked the government twice for $5 million to fund these centres and the government refused. The government refused to put up $5 million so that child victims of sexual abuse in this country would have a place to go to in the major urban centres of this country where they could be treated and counselled.
Despite the fact that this was an egregious and terrible decision made by a government, we should think of the implications for public safety because once again, some of those victims of child sexual abuse will be more likely to become adult child sex offenders or sex offenders when they grow up because of their own victimization.
For a very small amount of money, the government could have taken a concrete step that not only helps the children of our country, some of the most victimized children who are most in need of our assistance, but it has also lost an opportunity to make a dent in preventing future sexual offences.
The other thing that is important to note is that we cannot just have a registry. We also need the resources necessary so that our police forces can have access to the registry. Nothing I see in the bill before us contains any increased resources for the sex offender registry. I am concerned that it downloads the burden on to already overstretched police forces. We will need to ensure that if we are to increase registration in the registry, we ensure police forces have the resources necessary to access that registry.
I also want to talk about crime prevention. The bill adds crime prevention to the list of purposes to the act. New Democrats agree with this because originally police officers told us that access to the registry was too rigid. They testified before our committee that the test of waiting until they had reasonable ground to suspect a crime had been committed of a sexual nature was too strict. The example they gave was that they might get a call from a distraught mother who said her child was missing. That may be enough to suspect that a crime has been committed, but there is really no reasonable basis at that point to suspect it is of a sexual nature. New Democrats heard from police officers and we agreed with them that we needed to make changes and expand the opportunity for police to access the registry.
I am pleased to see in the bill that the government is moving in that regard. By putting in crime prevention, it allows police to access the registry in order to prevent a crime, and I think that is a positive thing. However, we must also be careful to ensure that there are parameters around that power because once again, it is important to control access to the registry and the way police use it so that sensitive information is not used in an inappropriate manner.
I also want to talk a little bit about the New Democrat position on crime prevention because it is one of the major deficiencies in the government's approach to the crime agenda. Its agenda is always about measures to deal with a crime after it has been committed and it is always about punishing harder and longer. It does not put resources into crime prevention, which I think is what Canadians really want.
Canadians want to live in safer communities. We want to ensure we reduce our crime rate. We want to ensure there are fewer victims of crime, not harsher punishment of the offender after the crime has been committed.
In terms of crime prevention, what I am looking for from the government, not only with this legislation that is important to deal with offenders after they have committed a sex offence, but with my New Democrat colleagues, we will continue to press the government to add resources and to take legislative measures that will help prevent crime in this country.
I have already mentioned child advocacy centres. We have already heard that Steve Sullivan, the victims ombudsman, has testified that victims want more resources put into crime prevention because nobody can undo or understand the damage that is felt by a victim of crime.
What we need to do and what victims want is for us to pour resources into helping ensure that those crimes are not committed in the first place.
The government has a responsibility to work with offenders. We call on the government to ensure that we take intelligent measures, that when offenders are caught they get the kind of help and therapy that hopefully will help them not to reoffend in the future.
Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
June 14th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
Niki Ashton Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, this bill has a number of positive measures to close loopholes around the need for more and accurate information. While we find that some of these measures are positive, we also feel that it is important to bring the bill back to committee to discuss some of the inadequacies and failures, quite frankly, as I pointed out earlier, in terms of prevention.
One of the points that came up about Bill C-34, which I am sure will be raised again in committee, if it goes there, as we hope, is the need to still have prosecutorial and judicial discretion applied and available. Let us not override the work of the judicial branch of our country. Let us recognize that it does critical work in ensuring that justice is fair and that everybody is judged fairly on these grounds.
Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
June 14th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
Niki Ashton Churchill, MB
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House and speak to Bill S-2, a bill that has been raised in the House before. It is a bill which the government feels so strongly about that prorogation did not stop the Conservatives from going through with their agenda. They did not feel democracy needed to have respect but certainly when it comes to their priorities, they brought back these kinds of bills, mostly focused on the crime and punishment agenda as many of us see it.
This bill was originally Bill C-34, a bill on which my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway had done a great deal of work, along with the public safety committee, to make sure the bill was at its best. Many hours were spent bringing in witnesses for debate and discussion and I understand it was a very healthy debate and discussion. Amendments were made, amendments that we put forward and supported. The discussion was a very vigorous one, but unfortunately as I noted, political games prevailed and the government's disrespect for our democratic institution came first and the result was prorogation. Yet, here we are discussing the bill in a new incarnation today.
We do support the bill at second reading, but we support a very important productive review of the bill at committee as is what happened with Bill C-34 in the last session. I spoke of the important discussion that took place.
There are a number of important pieces that were part of Bill C-34 and continue to be part of Bill S-2. For example, the bill loosens the definition of when the sex offender registry can be accessed. It widens some of the information included, such as vehicle registration and information that is important to police officers who would be conducting the investigations. It also allows police officers to notify authorities in other jurisdictions, both foreign and Canadian, when an offender travels to their area. Those are laudable goals that we support.
Mention has been made of the particular tragedy of Canadians going abroad and taking advantage of victims in other countries that perhaps do not have the same regulatory or investigative powers. The offenders feel they can get away with it. The bill aims at putting a stop to that. We hope it is a great deterrent to those kinds of offenders.
There are some good amendments, as I mentioned, such as vehicle information, not just licence plates but also descriptions. These kinds of details are important. The bill closes some serious loopholes that existed in the registry. As the registry currently stands, there is no way to track whether a sex offender is presently incarcerated or perhaps deceased. The criteria is so strict about what information can be tracked that police are legally prohibited from recording that kind of information. We find the stipulations in the bill that serve to close that loophole to be very useful.
We also know that every minute in an investigation counts. Investigations of sex offences which are particularly serious impact individuals, their families and communities in such a tragic way. Sometimes they result in cases of missing children, young people and women. Closing that loophole and having a better tracking system will mean that police will not be wasting their time verifying the whereabouts of offenders who perhaps have died or are incarcerated. It is very important to close that loophole.
However, despite the positives and some of the amendments that have been made, we feel that it is important to send this bill to committee in order to improve on its faults, to seek the provision of deterrents to sexual crime offences, and to support victims and prevention undertakings.
We do find a number of issues with this legislation. First, this legislation proposes automatic registration of every offender who commits one of the enumerated offences. This takes away prosecutorial and judicial discretion. Most of the offences under the Criminal Code of Canada, that are captured by this legislation, would have no difficulty with automatic registration. However, in the cases of a couple of hybrid offences, such as sexual assault, we believe that these are important pieces where prosecutorial and judicial discretion and decisions must definitely be applied. There ought to be room for that.
There may be an occasion where it is not appropriate to make an order against someone convicted of an offence. It should be up to a prosecutor and judge to determine when that exception may apply. That is very much in line with a pattern we are seeing from the government, which is an overriding of that judicial and prosecutorial discretion.
This is surprising, considering that the House is made up of people who come from the legal profession. We know that the judicial body is considered an independent body from government, yet we do not see that kind of respect from the government. Rather, we have a top down directive often fueled by the desire to make a spectacle, to pick on some sensational issues, and to come to quick conclusions on bills.
For that reason, we feel it is important that this be carefully discussed at committee and that we ensure there is room for that prosecutorial and judicial discretion that we in Canada pride ourselves on. It is something that we would like to see made applicable, not just to elements of this bill but to the overall agenda when we are dealing with judicial decisions and crime in our country.
We see other gaps in this bill. For example, in the area of funds, the Conservatives like to introduce crime bills such as this one to suit political purposes, but they are not so supportive or keen when it comes to putting money up to pay for these necessary kinds of changes. The public safety committee, in discussing Bill C-34, heard much testimony in its study about the Ontario sex offender registry. Police and victims groups talked about that registry as a model.
The national registry has an operating budget of $400,000 to $600,000 per year. By comparison, the budget for the operation and centralized management of the Ontario registry is close to $4 million per year, not including the expenses incurred by local police departments. Somebody who is not as gifted at math might be saying that one of 10 provinces and three territories is spending $4 million on this kind of an operation while we have a national government that is proposing to do the work of an entire country on far less, between $400,000 and $600,000.
That is clearly inadequate. We support strengthening the registry and closing the loopholes, but let us do it in a way that matters. Let us not do a job half well done, or in this case, one-tenth of the way well done. Let us truly look at making it meaningful. We owe this to the victims of sexual offences. We owe this to Canadians who are concerned about these kinds of crimes.
Let us not shove that issue of appropriate funding aside. We all know that the job will not get done right without that proper funding. The bill contains nothing to increase resources for the sex offender registry and instead downloads the burden on to already over stretched police forces.
If I can just point out the irony that the government often claims to stand by our police officers and people in uniform, but the downloading of such an onerous responsibility on police officers, detachments and organizations that are already under incredible strain, that as we know are lacking personnel, would be a true shame. We should not go forward without appropriate funding.
There are other issues in the way in which this bill is inadequate. I feel that it is important to perhaps focus on the one area that we have raised with respect to other issues under the government's crime agenda. It is around the area of prevention but also support for victims or for potential victims, young people, people who are often in vulnerable positions and on the margins of society.
Earlier this year, Steve Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, testified at the public safety committee. He spoke about the need for the government to fund child advocacy centres in major cities across the country. These centres would provide counselling, support, and referrals to other resources for child victims of crime, particularly victims of sexual abuse.
These centres would be a concrete and meaningful way to improve the lives of victims. We know that many sex offenders were themselves sexually abused. Therefore, child advocacy centres would be an important part of preventing future sexual offences.
The victims ombudsman asked for $5 million to fund these centres but the government refused. That refusal I believe is something that we need to see the government quite frankly change its line on. Here we have somebody that the government hired and his work seemed to be quite useful up to now and now we hear that he has come under a great deal of distress. The man who is a specialist in this area came forward with a proposal that was done in consultation with victims themselves, with specialists in this area, counsellors and medical professionals. He said that this would go a long way into cutting down on those offences and into supporting victims. To hear that the government refused that kind of action to me flies in the face of the government's commitment to supposedly cut down on these kinds of offences, and is something that I find to be quite disconcerting. I am not sure how it can respond to that with Canadians.
We all want to see any crime, but certainly sexual crimes, to be dealt with in the right way. We can all see the value of prevention so that we do not need to deal with a crime after the damage has been done, after the victim has been abused, after the tragedy has occurred.
Prevention is very critical. If I can perhaps share the experience of my constituency on that important piece. I have the honour of representing the riding of Churchill in northern Manitoba which is a very diverse riding. In it there are many first nations and Métis communities. They are very diverse communities, but they are communities that have also dealt with extreme tragedy.
Last week we commemorated the second year of the residential schools apology that the government made. As we all know, the residential schools were a place of great horror for aboriginal people. Many aboriginal young people were victims of sexual abuse at these schools. I have consulted with many elders and community members who have told me that cycle of violence, not just physical but sexual violence, is a difficult cycle to break from.
We are talking about children who were ripped away from their parents, ripped away from their identities, and subjected to the kind of abuse that many of us would have difficulty wrapping our heads around. Many survivors were not able to deal with this abuse and were so traumatized that they took their own lives, a tragedy that many of us have acknowledged. All of us here were honoured and proud to hear the government's apology.
There has been little done to deal with the needs of aboriginal people. I would like to point to the failure of the government to provide funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, an organization that provided counselling for survivors of this abuse, for their children and their grandchildren. I had the honour of working hard with my colleagues in this House to save this organization. In some cases, survivors were incarcerated. They did their time and sought out rehabilitation. The community programs supported by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation were critical to breaking the cycle of sexual violence.
This government claims to be on the side of victims. It claims to be the government that will cut down on crime and here we are today talking about sexual offences. It was the present government that did away with a very successful program that helped to do the very same thing.
Prevention is not only specific to preventing a particular crime. It is also about ensuring that young people, women, are strong, and that they have support in their communities to achieve their potential.
I represent isolated first nations such as Shamattawa, Oxford House, God's River, God's Lake Narrows, Island Lake, Red Sucker Lake, Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, Bloodvein, Berens River, Little Grand and Pauingassi. I think of the many young people who have spoken to me of the lack of recreational programs and the fact that government programs are inadequate. These young people know that their generation is falling into the trap of criminal behaviour and gangs. They want to fight back. They want to ensure they have positive and healthy activities, a space for them to pursue healthy alternatives in their own communities. They want education and proper health care and also proper infrastructure. All of these pieces are integral to that prevention agenda.
We feel that Bill S-2 is lacking in that approach to prevention, something that would go a long way in deterring and cutting down on sex crimes. The government needs to answer the call. It needs to support people on the margin. It needs to support people who are seeking to break the cycle of violence, who are seeking to ensure that their families, their children and their communities are safe. Only then will we see true leadership when it comes to cutting down on crime and supporting Canadians throughout our country.
Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act
June 14th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie
Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 10, 2010, Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage, and read the third time and passed)
Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act
June 14th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
Megan Leslie Halifax, NS
Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak today in support of Bill C-34. This bill would create Canada's new national museum of immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.
Pier 21 is many things to many people. It is a place of historical value, a literal gateway to Canada for many Canadian families. It is also a wonderful museum that has captured the story of immigration for all of us to share. As someone who lives in Halifax, it is also a living, breathing community space in Halifax, hosting celebratory dinners, inspiring lectures, and coming full circle to host quite a few citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians.
Today we have the opportunity to bring Pier 21 and all that it represents into the family of national museums. Naming Pier 21 as a national museum is a testament to Canada's history as a place of refuge, a place of new beginnings and a place of hope. Canada has been and will continue to be defined by how we treat those who come to our country seeking asylum, a safe haven or a better life. This museum will be a breathing interactive symbol of human rights, and economic and social justice.
The history of Pier 21 is remarkable and has touched virtually every family in every region in Canada. We can learn so much from the different stories that are told through the history of Pier 21. Each story tells about a different era of Canadian immigration, a different school of thought, and illustrates changes to the role that Canada played in the international community.
One thing is clear from any visit to Pier 21: the history of immigration in Canada is two-sided. It is both a history to be proud of but at times a history where pride is overshadowed by racist or classist policies. But it is a history that we can be honest about and a history that we can learn from.
During the potato famine of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the city of York, now Toronto, accepted 50,000 Irish refugees, a total greater than the city's population. The city could have rejected these refugees because many of them were seriously ill and public health issues were not very well understood or well managed in Canada. The city of York welcomed these refugees and provided them with treatment and a place to call home.
Only a few decades later in the 1930s many Jewish refugees were sent away. They were refused entry for pretty dubious reasons, reasons that were rooted in discrimination, bigotry and apathy. Only 5,000 Jewish refugees were accepted. I would like members to think of the thousands of lives that could have been saved if we had opened our doors to more than that. To say this is a black mark on Canadian history is an understatement. The realities of the government decision were difficult to rationalize after the extent of the Holocaust was fully understood by the end of World War II.
Yet, history repeated itself again in 1914 when the Komagata Maru was turned around, sending some of its Indian passengers to their deaths, and denying all of them the freedoms that those decision-makers clearly took for granted themselves.
These are difficult stories, but they are a part of our history. We can learn from these stories which are well displayed and explained at Pier 21.
I have seen firsthand how the stories told at Pier 21 have touched people. A friend of mine who was visiting Halifax thought he would stop by Pier 21 on the morning he was flying out because he had heard so much about it. He did not have a personal connection to Pier 21. Neither his parents nor his grandparents had arrived at this port, but he thought he would spend a bit of time there before his flight. He became so wrapped up in the museum that he actually ended up missing his flight later that day. That is the kind of effect this museum can have on people.
A couple of summers ago my father and stepmother came out to Halifax for a visit and we went to the museum. We had a nice time exploring. On the way out we thought we would stop by the research centre and see what it was all about. Before long, with an approximation of the spelling of my stepmother's grandfather's last name, we found her family records. Her grandfather had travelled alone on a steamship with $10 in his pocket. Her grandmother arrived later with the children, including her father. It was such a surprise. We had no intention of doing a family search when we went in. The research centre staff were helpful and welcoming, and the information was easy to access. It is an incredible centre. What was intended to be a half hour stop at a museum turned in to several very emotional hours unravelling a family history. This is what Pier 21 does for people.
My own family shares a history of immigration to Canada as well, like many people here in the House. My grandfather, Tauno Paavola, came to Canada, also alone, on a ship that arrived in Montreal. In Montreal, without knowing a word of English, he was loaded on to a train with a placard put around his neck that had a strange English word on it. The same thing happened to a friend from the same village back in Finland, but he had a different word. They soon realized that this word represented the name of a town where they were to be settled: Winnipeg and Edmonton. My grandfather knew that there were Finlanders in Toronto, so as the train approached Toronto, he actually jumped the train and set off on foot to find other Finns.
Eventually, my grandfather made enough money to send for my grandmother, my mother and my uncles. He worked hard as a carpenter and an underground miner, and in one generation, he was able to send his kids to college and university, and the second generation saw me become the second Finnish Canadian member of Parliament in Canada's history. I am sure it was well beyond my grandfather's imagination when he was on that ship, taking the overseas journey from Finland to Canada.
Pier 21 tells us stories like this, the stories of migration to Canada, and it does it in a thoughtful, truthful and inspiring way. It is only right that it become our national museum of immigration.
I would like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the hundreds of people who have worked to create this special place, dedicating their time, their money and their passion. That effort, like that of Canada's immigrants, was made for us all. Collecting, preserving and sharing the stories of those who arrived in Canada, in Halifax, has always been the goal of the Pier 21 Society, and I think it should be a goal of ours. This simple immigration shed on the Halifax waterfront is a place people do not just visit, but to which they make a pilgrimage. As a national museum, it will reach many more people and tell stories. It will honour all Canadians.
Like my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of Ruth Goldbloom, a woman who made Pier 21 the incredible museum that we love.
It is important to note that the historical collection at Pier 21 already contains stories and memories from all ports of entry in Canada from families across the country. It is well suited to be a museum of national focus, but with very special regional significance.
At Pier 21, programs like “Community Presents” and “Diversity Spotlight” ensure that the programming is tied to all aspects of the Halifax community, and the local and regional multicultural communities. The Pier 21 programming slate includes educational tools for teachers and parents, multicultural fairs, summer camps, and public lectures. It is truly a place of learning and sharing, and as a national museum it will bring this element of community development to a broader level. These are not just words on paper. This is something that people in Halifax get to experience and see every day.
I am very proud that parties were able to work together to expedite the passage of the bill. Through its passage, we will send a message to everyone who chose and everyone who will choose to make Canada their home and that Canada is a better place with them in it.
Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act
June 14th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-34, establishing the national museum of immigration in Halifax. The Bloc Québécois is dedicated to the interests and the defence of Quebec, a role that we have fulfilled effectively for 20 years. Any attempt by the federal government—indeed, any temptation it may have—to weaken Quebec's powers, meddle in its jurisdictions or go against its interests will be opposed by the Bloc Québécois. Let there be no mistake about that.
Having said that, the Bloc Québécois's role in Ottawa is not and never has been to hinder the development of Canada's provinces. As the Bloc Québécois official languages critic, I have always worked very hard for the francophone and Acadian communities of Canada and listened carefully to Quebec anglophones. Once again this year, it was this openness to the rest of Canada that led the Bloc Québécois leader to tour English Canada to increase awareness about our ideas.
My point is that the Bloc Québécois supports the creation of an immigration museum in Halifax. Moreover, it agrees that this matter should be handled swiftly in order for Nova Scotians and tourists alike to benefit from it as quickly as possible.
I will come back to the museum in a moment, because I must point out that it is very unfortunate that the government has not acted as swiftly with the Science and Technology Museum.
Twenty-eight years ago, the federal government made a promise to the people of the Outaouais that it would move the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. The unfortunate closure in 2007 of the Domtar mill, the oldest pulp and paper mill in Canada and Quebec, housed in the old E.B. Eddy plant in the Hull sector, was a tragedy for many forestry workers in Gatineau. The government could turn this tragedy into something more positive by relocating the Science and Technology Museum to this heritage building. The old match factory could be revived, in a way.
Michelle Guitard, a historian and specialist in industrial heritage, agreed in an article that appeared on the website ruefrontenac.com on January 24, 2010, and I quote:
The federal government must acquire this site...It cannot let this go. [If it were to do so,] it would show that the government has absolutely no sense of what made Canada what it is today, the importance of the first nations and of the pulp and paper industry.
On February 16, Michel Prévost, the chair of the Outaouais historical society, spoke to Radio-Canada about developing the Chaudière Falls sector and transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. He said, “Let us hope that this dream will become a reality sooner rather than later”.
Just this morning, the following article appeared on page 8 of Le Droit:
Officials responsible for the [Gatineau science and technology museum] project must now consider wedging the museum inside an abandoned paper factory dating from the mid-1800s. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show officials have already begun surveying the old E.B. Eddy Co. factory in Gatineau as a possible location for the museum.
The documents suggest that the location meets the needs of the new museum because it includes elements of past, present and future and it is close to downtown.
The collections are currently located in an industrial park far from the downtown core, inside a bakery warehouse the federal government bought in 1967. The location was intended to be temporary, but 43 years later the Canada Science and Technology Museum remains a national orphan.
This contrasts with statements from the Conservative minister responsible for the Outaouais, the member for Pontiac, who is being a real killjoy on this issue.
People in Saint-Constant have been waiting for Exporail to be recognized as the national railway museum since 2007. A report about that from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was adopted in the House on March 1, 2007, but since then, for some unknown reason, the federal government has done nothing.
My colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant pushed hard for that recognition. She is still pushing for it. But unfortunately, recognition does not seem to mean much to this government. Maybe the Conservatives think that they have more to gain from the immigration museum in Halifax than from Exporail in Saint-Constant or from transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau.
The point is that this government has done nothing to develop federal museums in Quebec.
That being said, an immigration museum is a good idea. In order to know where we are going, we should know where we come from.
Because of Quebec's minority situation, immigration has always had a special status and a special role to play. As Louis Balthazar told the Bouchard-Taylor commission:
Quebeckers have experienced ethnic pluralism for a long time: aboriginals, Scottish and Irish anglophones, Jews, Italians, etc.
But, because of the Durham report, immigration was perceived as necessarily favouring the anglophone minority. Consequently, beginning in 1840, French Canadians turned inward while still living under British rule and being influenced by both the British model and American ideas. Most immigrants were English-speaking.
As a result, it was alarming to realize that the birth rate was dropping, especially at a time when francophone Quebeckers wanted to establish themselves as the majority in Quebec.
Something new has been happening since the end of the 1960s. An immigration department was established. Federal-provincial agreements were signed outlining the Quebec government's role in immigration: in 1971, a presence in federal offices; 1975, Quebec offices overseas; 1978, selection; 1990, welcome and integration. Quebec's 1975.
Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and 1977 Charter of the French Language are the two pillars of modern Quebec society and lay the foundations for the harmonious integration of immigrants.
Will this particular dimension of immigrant integration and the fear that it created in under-educated Quebec, notably due to the mass arrival of anglophones, be reflected in this new museum in Halifax?
Will the bitter negotiations between Quebec and Ottawa to allow Quebec to control immigration based on its own interest and the integration of immigrants into a French society within North America be presented in this new museum in Halifax?
We cannot forget that, for close to 20 years, Quebec negotiated with the federal government in order to acquire more power over the selection and integration of its immigrants. Four administrative agreements were signed by the Quebec government and Ottawa to this effect.
Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act
June 14th, 2010 / noon
Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
moved that Bill C-34, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be here to begin the debate on Bill C-34, a bill that will amend the Museums Act to create a new national museum, the Canadian museum of immigration, at Pier 21 in Halifax.
Investing in Canada's national museum was a commitment our government made during the campaign. Creating a new national museum at Pier 21 in Halifax was a commitment we made in the throne speech adopted by this House. We are proud to bring this bill before the House. It will confirm Pier 21 as the second national museum created in 40 years, and the second national museum outside of the national capital.
No country in the world has benefited more than Canada has from our immigration regime. As the Prime Minister said in Halifax at Pier 21 last June:
In every region...new Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life....Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.
Our government believes in our national museums and recognizes their tremendous value to Canadians. We want Canadians and visitors to Canada to have access to our rich heritage. The Canadian museum of immigration at Pier 21 will help recognize and celebrate the experience of immigrants arriving in Canada, the fundamental role immigrants have played in building Canada and their contributions to Canada's identity and all aspects of Canadian society. The museum will be a significant symbol of Canada's contributions and commitment to pluralism and the role of immigration in shaping Canadian identity.
This new museum will be located at the historic Pier 21 site in the Halifax seaport. That site holds very special memories for the one in five Canadians who can trace their lineage back to Pier 21. It is the port through which, between 1928 and 1971, their families immigrated to Canada. It is the port that saw more than 500,000 members of Canada's armed forces embark to defend Canada's values in the second world war.
I would like to congratulate the leaders of the Pier 21 museum, who deserve recognition for their enthusiasm for and contributions to this project and its remarkable achievement. They include Ruth Goldbloom, chair of the Pier 21 Foundation and one of the original driving forces behind the creation of the Pier 21 museum; John Oliver and Wadih Fares, the current and past chairs of the Pier 21 Society; and of course, Bob Moody, the current CEO of Pier 21.
The Canadian museum of immigration at Pier 21 will pay tribute to a mission that affects all of Canada. It will tell the story of Canadians who entered the country through the Vancouver gateway at the end of the 19th century. It will tell the story of the first nations whose ancestral knowledge of the land helped newcomers to survive. It will speak to the new Canadians who have arrived recently at the Montreal, Toronto or Calgary airports.
It speaks to Canadians whose ancestors took the dangerous journey, represented by the Underground Railroad. It is a mission that speaks to all Canadians and to our values.
Until 2008, all national museums were located in the national capital region, despite the fact that the Museums Act clearly states that the head office for a national museum can be anywhere in Canada.
This government recognizes that our national museums belong to all Canadians. Under this government, funding for our national museums has never been higher. In every one of our government's budgets, we have increased funding for the national museums. Not only is funding at its highest level under the leadership of the Prime Minister, but our government has also created two new national museums; one in Winnipeg and one in Halifax.
The executive director of the Canadian Museums Association, John McAvity, said recently about our support for museums at Canadian Heritage that the Prime Minister “deserves credit for delivering new funds--indeed, the largest new investment in culture in recent memory”.
Pier 21 will draw on the model that has been well tested for our long-serving national museums. This legislation will establish the museum as a federal crown corporation with the same status as other national museums. It will be accountable to Parliament, and its board of trustees will be appointed by the government in accordance with the Museums Act.
Just like other national museums, it will offer its services in both of Canada's official languages, and it will have an obligation to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.
The bill will ensure that the museum will begin, as soon as it is created, to develop the public programming that reflects its mandate.
Our museum of immigration at Pier 21 is only the sixth national museum to be created in 143 years since Confederation. This museum is about the people of Canada, and it is for the people of Canada. It will belong to all Canadians, and I am proud to present this enabling legislation on behalf of the government.
Finally, I would like to add that I am very proud to work with all the opposition parties on this legislation to ensure that it passes in a non-partisan and effective way. Of course, partisanship is what gets highlighted in the daily news, but the reality is that when members of Parliament see a common goal and something that is clearly in the best interest of all Canadians, we can rally around certain key projects. I think all parties did that with regard to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and I think we have done so again here with regard to Pier 21, Canada's national museum for immigration.
This is a good project. It comes from the greatest sentiments that are at the root of Canada's history. We want to cherish the fact that Canada is, always has been, and will continue to be a country of immigrants. We are very proud to sponsor this legislation and to have the full support of the members of the opposition parties.
Creating Canada's new national museum of immigration act at pier 21 Act
June 10th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, my third motion deals with the bill I referred to and that my hon. colleague, the deputy House leader for the official opposition referred to, Bill C-34.
I would seek unanimous consent for the following. I move:
That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, when C-34, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts is called for debate, a member from each recognized party may speak for not more than 10 minutes on the second reading motion of C-34, after which C-34 shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
Business of the House
June 10th, 2010 / 3 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the deputy House leader for the Official Opposition, for her questions.
When I get into addressing the issue of the upcoming government legislation that I intend to call, I will make reference to Bill C-34, which was her first additional question. The other question dealt with private member's Bill C-391 and the report that came back from the committee about that legislation. I am sure the member is well aware of the process of private members' business. It has nothing to do with the government business and therefore those negotiations and consultations will take place between yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the sponsor of that legislation.
We will continue today with the opposition motion. Tomorrow we will call Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, which is at third reading.
I would also like to designate pursuant to Standing Order 66(2) tomorrow as the day to complete the debate on the motion to concur in the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Next week we will hopefully complete all stages of Bill C-34, Creating Canada's New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act. I would like to thank the opposition parties for their support of that legislation and for allowing it to pass expeditiously when we do call it.
There may also be some interest to do something similar for Bill C-24, First Nations Certainty of Land Title Act; Bill S-5, ensuring safe vehicles; and Bill S-9, tracking auto theft and property crime act.
I would also like to complete the remaining stages of Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
In addition to those bills, I would call Bill C-23, Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; Bill S-2, Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act; and Bill C-22, Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act.
I would also like to announce that on Monday we will be having a take note debate on the subject of the measures being taken to address the treatment of multiple sclerosis. I will be moving the appropriate motion at the end of my statement.
Pursuant to Standing Order 66(2) I would like to designate Tuesday, June 15, as the day to conclude debate on the motion to concur in the first report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.
Finally, I would like to designate Thursday, June 17, as the last allotted day.
At this time I will be making a number of motions and asking for the unanimous consent of the House for them, starting with the take note debate motion.
Business of the House
June 10th, 2010 / 3 p.m.
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, as is the practice in the House, I would like to ask the government House leader about his plans in terms of government business for the next week.
I also have two very quick questions, the first one about Bill C-34 concerning the museum of immigration at Pier 21. The Liberals fully support the bill and are ready to expedite it immediately. I would like to know when the government intends to schedule the debate so we will see the bill passed at its earliest opportunity.
My second question concerns a report on the Order Paper and Notice Paper relating to Bill C-391, the long gun registry, which means that we could have a debate and a vote before summer recess. I would like to know if the government intends to take the necessary steps, working with you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure this happens.
I look forward to the minister's response.