Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act

An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Gary Schellenberger  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 9, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Dec. 1, 2010 Passed That Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak in support of Bill C-473.

I first want to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this matter forward. I also want to thank the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for its efforts. The committee has improved and strengthened the bill to make it as effective as possible on filling the gap in existing measures to protect military medals.

It would be useful to draw the attention of the hon. members to some of the improvements that have been made to the bill through amendments adopted in committee.

First, I want to note that the objective of the hon. member for Perth—Wellington in introducing Bill C-473 was to try to ensure that important modern medals, that is those not already protected under the existing cultural property legislation, stay in Canada. Keeping these medals in Canada, whenever possible, is good for Canadians and for Canada's heritage.

Thanks to the committee's amendments, this central objective is now clearer. The bill, as tabled, referred to the transfer of insignia to non-residents. However, this could have been a little confusing, after all, someone's residency status and his or her physical location could be two different things. As a result of this, the bill now clearly refers to export. Before people can export one of these insignia to someone other than a close relative, they must first offer it for sale to one of the public institutions named in the bill. A very clear requirement and one that would bring Bill C-473 closer to mirroring existing protection for medals under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

The committee also recognized the possibility of future overlap and confusion with existing export controls for medals. Bill C-473 refers to insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada, which means modern models awarded after 1967. However, the existing act covers objects that are at least 50 years old. So, the committee concluded that once the medals covered by Bill C-473 became more than 50 years old, the same medals would be covered by two sets of rules, and that was a conflict that needed to be eliminated. The bill was amended to cover insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada while they are less than 50 years old. After that point, they would fall under the existing export controls of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

A further concern that arose during the committee's study was that only the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Department of Canadian Heritage would be given the right of first refusal to purchase insignia so that they would remain in Canada.

There is a network of more than 60 accredited Canadian Forces museums across the country and it would be entirely appropriate for those museums to be able to acquire medals under the terms of this act. As amended, Bill C-473 also includes the Canadian Forces in the list of federal entities to which an offer to sell can be made when one of these medals is destined for export. This would clear the way for medals related to a regiment to find their way into a Canadian Forces museum dedicated to that regiment.

I spoke earlier about the fact that exports to close family members are exempt from the requirements of Bill C-473. However, in second reading and during the committee's review of the bill, it was pointed out that spouses had not been included in what would be understood as a close family member. Members will now be pleased to note that this issue has been addressed by the committee's amendments. Bill C-473 now also include spouses and common-law partners and children of spouses or common-law partners among the list of people to whom insignia may be freely exported.

Additional improvements were made to the bill by the committee to clarify certain details and to ensure there would be no overlap or conflict with existing laws and regulations.

Bill C-473 addresses an important gap in the laws that protect Canada's heritage. With the amendments made to it in committee, it is even stronger.

The amended bill was clear. It would be effective in keeping important aspects of Canada's military heritage in the country, in public collections where it will be preserved for all Canadians. It is consistent and complementary to existing cultural property legislation and continues to strike a balance between protecting Canada's heritage and recognizing the rights of veterans and their families to determine what happens to these medals that signify the extraordinary contributions made by individuals on our behalf.

I know these objects are private property, but they are private property that has a significance and importance to all of us and future generations of Canadians. These are emotional issues and the committee has done, in my view, an even-handed job at steering its way through.

I support Bill C-473, as amended, and I encourage all members to do the same.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak for the second time to Bill C-473.

There has been an evolution of thought and understanding about the bill since I spoke last April. The process that happened at committee was very enlightening. It reminded me that it is important for us to take seriously that when we pass a bill at second reading and send it to committee for study, it is exactly for that. It is to study a bill, to hear from witnesses, interest groups, stakeholders, Canadians from every walk of life and to ensure their testimony is taken seriously. Committee members heard that testimony and that testimony has convinced me we should not support the bill.

I want to congratulate the member for Perth—Wellington for fostering an important discussion in bringing the bill forward. We have had an interesting discussion with respect to the nature of honours, orders, military insignia and medals. We also had the opportunity to look at the difference between a public story and a private story.

The Royal Canadian Legion, in particular, offered some important testimony that needs to be understood in the House.

Ms. Patricia Varga, who is the president of the Royal Canadian Legion, said, on behalf of a number of groups, that it had serious concerns about the bill. Those groups included the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans Association, the Canadian Naval Air Group, the Royal Canadian Naval Association, the Naval Officers Association of Canada, the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans Association, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association, the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and, finally, the Gulf War Veterans Association.

As a result of their testimony, my caucus colleagues are concerned about the bill. We think it is an inadequate bill, which will not actually deal with the problems at hand.

Ms. Varga pointed out two problems with this bill.

First, enacting Bill C-473 would infringe on the rights of Canadians to own and dispose of their private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be trampled on lightly. This right is already restricted to a degree by the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. If it is not sufficient to retain historically and culturally significant orders, decorations and medals within Canada, then that specific act needs to be amended. Additional overlapping legislation is not the answer.

Second, there is a concern that the bill will simply not be effective. In order for legislation such as this to work, the barn door needs to be fully closed. The bill would leave it partially open so significant orders, decorations and medals would still be able to leave Canada. If enacted, Bill C-473 will likely drive the sale of significant orders, decorations and medals underground and all visibility of transactions will be lost. They will be bought and sold as they are every day in large quantities and in international markets. This can be verified by checking eBay, which tends to handle the run of the mill lots and not the high end items.

A significant number of other problems have been reported and were part of the testimony heard at committee. They have been identified in various forms and they should be addressed in a future bill that would actually be more effective.

There is a problem in the bill with respect to terminology. In common parlance, only orders have insignia. Decorations, such as the Victoria Cross, and medals are simply referred to as medals. We should be discussing orders, decorations and medals.

There is a concern that the government has not been responsive to the interest groups, to the veterans associations themselves, about amendments that they wanted to put forward. Those amendments included the definition of “near relatives”, the transfer of medals “outside of Canada”, the expansion of the list of museums and organizations that awards and medals could be offered to and the addition of the maximum amount for any penalty imposed. There does not appear to have been any follow up to the recommendations of the Royal Canadian Legion.

They also expressed a concern about acceptable museums to receive these awards. Only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Department of Canadian Heritage are deemed to be acceptable recipients of ODM. This overlooks a large number of provincial, regional and local museums as well as military museums and commands and branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Other museums or veterans' organizations might very well be interested in acquiring, by purchase or otherwise, such medals falling within the limits of the bill.

There is a concern that even if we were able to do that, the museums have very limited funding for acquiring such medals. To be effective, the bill would need to ensure that there would be a well-funded national medals acquisition budget. Otherwise, medals offered for sale might well leave Canada because there were simply no funds to purchase them anyway.

Most, if not all, museums have limited storage and display space. Just because an offered medal or made available and is historically of cultural significance, a museum should not be obligated to purchase it if it does not fit into its collecting mandate.

There is a perception that such awards and medals do not have much value and therefore would not be affected by legislation such as this. This is incorrect. Should they come into the open market, modern medal groups, especially those with gallantry awards from Afghanistan, would command high prices. This is a concern. It is an observation that has been made to the committee. If this is correct, then the act needs to be changed to reflect this.

In conclusion, despite the merits and now the drawbacks of the bill, the larger discussion that needs to be had is why in fact some veterans may be forced to put such medals on the market. Why has the government failed, or is failing, to ensure an appropriate system of compensation for veterans so they do not need to sell awards or medals and instead can simply pass them on to the family as cherished items?

A concern we constantly have on this side of the House is that food banks for veterans still prevail. One can go to Calgary and find one. One can go to a drop-in centre in Calgary and meet homeless veterans who sleep there by night. My concern is the government constantly does not fulfill its obligations to ensure that no veteran faces poverty.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak at third reading on Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders and military decorations and medals that are of cultural significance for future generations.

When the member for Perth—Wellington introduced this bill, the Bloc decided to support it at second reading, so that it could be studied more carefully by the members of the committee.

We had a number of questions about this bill and we thought carefully about whether we would support it, since it would preserve a piece of Canadian heritage.

All governments must do what is necessary to protect the culture and history of their peoples. Military history is an integral part of the history of a people. Thus, the federal government must preserve that history to the best of its abilities.

However, when we studied this bill in committee, we listened carefully to the witnesses who spoke out against it. I believe that a committee studying a bill must consult the people affected by the bill, the experts on enforcement of such legislation.

According to the amended bill, only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Forces can purchase the medals. That excludes a good number of Quebec, provincial and local museums. Other museums or veterans' organizations could very well be interested in purchasing medals.

The bill has limitations. To be effective, the museums will need enough money to buy the medals. Based on what we saw in committee, most if not all museums have very limited acquisition budgets. The Director General of the Canadian War Museum told the committee that most of the medals acquired by the Canadian War Museum have been donated and that it lacks public funds for that purpose. The Canadian War Museum has very rarely purchased medals for its collection.

If this bill were passed, the museum might need additional funding in order to purchase medals. However, there is no guarantee that the museum will be able to obtain additional funds. This is obviously the case for all museums.

This criticism was repeated by representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion when they appeared before the Committee on Veterans Affairs on October 19, 2010. The legion believes that the bill has limitations because, to be effective, the museums require adequate funding, which is not the case. To be effective, there should have been at least a provision for an acquisition budget, but that is not in the bill.

In addition, and this is an important factor, the Royal Canadian Legion, which includes veterans and others who made an essential contribution to these military missions, stated that the bill would not effectively restrict the transfer of military insignia, decorations, orders and medals.

In short, we gave medals to these people and this bill now imposes conditions on the disposal of these medals, after the recipient's death, for example.

Let us not forget that the aim of Bill C-473 is to preserve Canadian military medals, orders and insignia of cultural and historical importance.

We give a medal to commend an individual for acts of honour in the theatre of operations and then, several years later, we take it upon ourselves to decide what that individual can do with it. When I am given something, if no conditions are imposed at the outset, I believe I have the right to do what I like with that object. This bill sets out a legislative framework for soldiers who received medals for the bravery they demonstrated during their military service. We cannot allow the House to impose legislation on people who received medals, orders and decorations for military service.

Representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion said they were concerned that this bill will not close all the loopholes and that important medals could leave Canada, which could possibly lead to the underground sale of these medals.

There is also the issue of property rights. Royal Canadian Legion representatives said that Bill C-473 would violate Canadians' rights to own and dispose of their own private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be taken lightly.

I am very much aware of the arguments raised by some people, for example, that medals, certain medals, should not have any monetary or commercial value.

Veterans have sacrificed much of their safety, their well-being and their health. We must ensure the well-being of veterans who were wounded or disabled. The Bloc Québécois has always defended this principle. In its parliamentary work, the Bloc has always been concerned about the support given to veterans and it will continue to demonstrate that concern.

We are voting against this bill because many witnesses spoke out against it. We are voting against this bill out of respect for veterans.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate this important initiative put forward by my friend from Perth—Wellington. Through the luck of the draw, his private member's bill came up and I am glad to be able to speak on it.

Some may know that I have had a bill, although not similar but more advanced than this one, Bill C-208, as well as Bill C-210 and Bill C-415. I have introduced the same bill for many years.

However, let us talk about what the point really is here, that these very significant artifacts have been given to the heroes of Canada.

I have heard the argument about private property rights since I entered the House in 1997. I agree that private property rights are an important issue. However, if military or RCMP members receive medals to wear on their left sides, they cannot sell those medals if they are still serving. They cannot give them away; the medals are still the property of the state. A medal only becomes the person's property when he or she leaves the military or the RCMP. Once he or she leaves, under current laws he or she can do whatever they want with them.

I have held the firm belief as long as I can remember, long before I got into politics, that the medals the men and women wear are much more than ribbons and a pieces of metal. The medals that men and women wear are not currency hanging from their chests. These medals, in my opinion, should never be sold. In fact, I believe that no other generation should financially profit from the valour of others.

Every single one of us who has seen members of the military, the RCMP, or anyone for that matter, and even firefighters who wear their medals on their left sides, has seen that their chests are a little bigger and that they stand a little taller because they are so proud of what has been given to them by their country. It is a way for their country to thank them for their significant efforts on its behalf.

The reason men and women wear medals is not because they are nice, shiny objects. They wear them not just for honour and service and valour and duty, but the number one reason men and women wear their medals on their left sides is in remembrance of the 118,000 men and women of the military and RCMP who no longer get to wear theirs, because they have either died in the service of their country or have crossed the bar due to old age or sickness.

Every single Remembrance Day, when we attend our local legions, ANAVETS halls or cenotaphs right across this country, we see the men and women sharing a drink with their buddies and families, remembering the days when they served or remembering those who are still serving.

The significance of this particular bill is that the hon. member is trying to protect those very significant historical aspects for Canada, and to allow the museums the right of first refusal in the event the medals cannot be sold, so that they do not leave the country and end up in collections outside the country. It is a significant effort.

I understand that the legion and other veterans groups are saying that they do not support this initiative. I respectfully disagree with the Royal Canadian Legion and others. They, including Mr. Brad White, say that it is a private property right, that it is veterans' right to do what they want with their medals. I disagree with him, but I respect his opinion on this issue. Certain things in life should not be turned into a mercantile system; they should never be turned into cash. This is not currency they have hanging from their chests.

I find it objectionable that one can go on eBay right now and probably find hundreds of medals for sale. One can go to garage sales across the country and see medals for sale. One can go on Kijiji or similar websites on the Internet and buy medals.

Individuals do not have to earn those medals. They never have to serve their country. All they needed to get these things was cash. I find that despicable, that in our country, which honours our heroes with a significant award, a medal that they wear can eventually be turned into cash.

I have advised families for many, many years on what to do with the medals when an individual passes on. I have advised them to put the medals in a shadow box with a picture of the individual who wore them, a story of the individual, a description of each medal, and hang it in a room. They should honour their relative or friend. If, for whatever reason, they do not want to do that, there are lots of schools, museums, Legion halls, chambers of commerce, and businesses that would be honoured to display the medals of these heroes. The offices of members of Parliament, all of us, have room to display these medals from our heroes.

There are two schools in Nova Scotia that do just that. Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School has a tremendous display in cases of all the medals and all the history of those who served in that area. The families have donated the medals to that school and it has a wall of honour. Inverness High School in Cape Breton has the same thing. It has a long hallway. The school volunteered to make a beautiful cabinet, which has all the medals with descriptions of who wore them and where they served.

We know that on Remembrance Day we all pause to remember and reflect, but for those who served, Remembrance Day is every day. The students in those two schools walk by those medal cases every single school day, and one cannot help but be moved by seeing the odd student stop to read it, and understand what previous and current generations have done for our country.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington is attempting to preserve and protect a bit of our cultural history. He should be congratulated for that. He should be thanked for his effort in bringing that forward. I understand the criticisms from various areas regarding it, but the effort is there and he should be supported.

I would like to tell the hon. member, as I have privately and publicly before, that we in the NDP will be supporting the initiative to move forward. We think it is an important initiative. My own bill would completely outlaw and ban the sale of any medals or insignia of that kind that are worn on the left side. The hon. member has not gone that far and I respect that, but he is taking the right step forward and deserves our credit for that.

At the end of the day, although it is a private property discussion, certain things in life should never be sold. Agencies and museums in Canada could have first dibs on medals and insignia.

One of the problems I have with the bill is the fact that somebody would have to actually buy these medals or insignia, and I think that aspect of it, turning them into the mercantile or transaction cash system is fundamentally wrong. At the end of the day I would hope that family members could understand that the member who received the medal or insignia did not get cash for it. Family members, relatives and other people down the road should not try to financially profit from the valour of others.

I would hope they would do the honourable thing and if they no longer wish to have it, they should move it to a place of significance where it can be displayed for many years for many future generations, so we can all understand the significance of what happened.

I am proud to stand up on this issue. I was born in Holland and my parents were liberated by the heroes of this country. The fact is, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington is honouring that sacrifice as well by moving this forward and he should be congratulated.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-473 and the important steps it proposes to increase the protection of Canada's military heritage.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for his hard work here in this House, the work he does on his committee, certainly the work he does in his great southern Ontario riding, and for bringing this matter forward to remind ourselves of the importance of honouring the courage and sacrifice of Canadians.

“Service before self”, “extreme devotion to duty”, “distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy”, “conspicuous merit”, and “exceptional service”, these are all words inscribed or used to describe the military conduct that is recognized by the Modern Honours of Canada.

The declarations, medals and orders that we have established are to recognize heroism and acts that to many of us seem almost unimaginable. These declarations, medals and orders are touchstones for the recipient, their families, and for all of us. They form the basis for telling the story of ordinary Canadians undertaking extraordinary challenges. They remind us that Canada's armed forces have faced and continue to face those challenges far from home.

Korea, Kuwait, Somalia, Southwest Asia, and Afghanistan are names of places in Canada's military heritage that echo other names: Vimy, Passchendaele, Dieppe, Normandy, Ortona, and Hong Kong. Canadians know these names. They are names that are synonymous with courage, sacrifice and, yes, with loss and sorrow.

The government has taken many steps to preserve and honour these stories, and memories of the courage and sacrifice of Canadians in the name of a greater good. There are hundreds of memorials all over the world where Canada remembers her war dead and their sacrifice.

More than 116,000 have given their lives in the wars of the past century and their final resting places are located in more than 75 countries. Monuments have been created to honour Canadians in locations such as Beaumont-Hamel, France, where, on July 1, 1916, the Newfoundland Regiment fought its first engagement of World War I; its costliest of the war. In locations such as Sai Wan Bay, where just recently the Prime Minister paid his respects to those 228 Canadians who died so far from home in defence of Hong Kong during the second world war.

Canada's military heritage is also preserved in museums and archives across Canada. Library Archives Canada preserves military service files, war diaries, and other documents from the 1800s through both world wars. Canada's national museums preserve military material of all kinds, from aircraft to uniforms to medals. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum alone have more than 1,000 medals, including at least 28 Victoria Crosses, Canada's highest military honour.

A network of Canadian Forces museums across the country tell the story of individual regiments like the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, founded at the outbreak of World War I, and which continues to distinguish itself to the present day in Afghanistan. The Royal 22nd Regiment's museum collection, housed at the Citadel of Quebec, spans more than 300 years of history.

The courage and sacrifice of Canada's armed forces lives not just in the history books, not just in museums, it lives nightly on the television news. Medals continue to be awarded to Canadians for military service and for sacrifice.

Last year we saw the first presentation of the sacrifice medal, created to recognize members of the Canadian armed forces and those who work with them who have been wounded or killed by hostile action, and to Canadian Forces members who died as a result of their service.

The sacrifice of these 46 Canadians, who received this new medal, include members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22nd Regiments. This is no less important than the sacrifice of those Canadians who lie in the Sai Wan Bay cemetery in Hong Kong. The medals, orders and decorations now being bestowed on deserving Canadians should enjoy the same respect and protection as those awarded for courage at the Somme and Ypres.

The estimated 450,000 Modern Honours of Canada that have been awarded since 1967 and that Bill C-473 seeks to protect deserve that protection. Bill C-473 affirms that the modern Victoria Cross will deserve the same protection as those awarded over the past two centuries.

Existing federal legislation protects military medals, orders and decorations, and it does so by intervening at the point of export to create opportunities for Canadian museums to acquire these objects, so that they may remain in Canada when they would otherwise be lost to foreign owners.

Bill C-473 will complement this existing mechanism by affording similar protection to modern models. It will ensure that if a significant modern medal, order or decoration is in danger of permanently leaving Canada, an opportunity will be created for acquisition by a museum collection where it will be preserved and shared with the public.

In order to make the bill dovetail with existing legislation and avoid overlap with it, the standing committee noted that the Cultural Property Export and Import Act protects medals from the point where they are 50 years old, and amended the bill to clarify that it protects medals that are less than 50 years old.

Another amendment to the bill that was adopted in committee was an expansion of the list of federal entities to whom an offer to sell must be made when an important medal will be exported.

In addition to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum, and the Department of Canadian Heritage, the list now includes the Canadian Forces. This amendment was done specifically so that the family of more than 60 accredited Canadian Forces museums across Canada will have a chance to acquire these important medals.

It recognizes the close relationship between members of the armed forces, their regiments, and the communities that play host to those regiments. It is only right that some of these medals find their way into the collections of local regimental museums.

In this way, Bill C-473 will allow museums to continue to educate the public about the long legacy of Canada's military heritage, and the contribution is has made and continues to make to our country.

To honour the brave Canadians who receive these honours, it is our responsibility to preserve that legacy. I support the amendments that have been made to Bill C-473 because they make the bill stronger and more consistent with the existing protection of historic medals.

I support Bill C-473 and encourage all members of this House to do the same.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-473 today, having spoken to it once before at second reading. I realize that the bill has now gone through the committee process and amendments that were contemplated at the time have been resolved. So, we are at the point now where we have to make a decision as to whether we support it at third reading and send it off to the Senate.

It appears, so far anyway, that the Bloc and the Liberals are deciding against supporting the bill primarily because the legions have shown concerns about it, primarily over the issue of private property rights. I have to say that I have several very active legions in my consistency, and I regularly attend each and every event they invite me to. I have not heard any concern from them about this particular issue.

For all the reasons that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore gave in his argument, I would support his arguments 100%. In some ways we feel the bill does not go far enough because if the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore had his way, Bill C-208, would be much tougher and would basically outlaw the practice. However, this bill that the member for Perth—Wellington has introduced is a very nice compromise. I do not see why the NDP caucus would have any problem supporting it. Essentially, as I understand it, we are basically allowing the military museums in this country the first right of refusal, which they should have, to buy the medals and to put the medals on display. Only if they do not want to purchase the medals, then the family, or individual, would have the option of doing what they wish with them.

I know we are very limited in time today, but I really did want to deal for a few minutes with a very important case, that of Tommy Prince, who is one of the most decorated aboriginal war heroes, having served in World War II and the Korean War. This man became so famous after his death, and I will read a list of the various streets and awards that have been named after him since his death.

However, the fact is that he was not treated that well in his life when he left the services. Reading about his activities during the conflicts and during the wars that he was involved in, this man was a number one soldier. He did things that are pretty hard to believe, such as operating in sort of a black ops capacity behind enemy lines and doing some pretty spectacular things. After getting out of the forces and going back to civilian life he was treated very poorly, to the point where his medals, I believe there were 10 of them, ended up being sold.

A number of years later, his family went on a fundraising drive in order to buy the medals back. The medals were purchased at auction for around $72,000 and are now being displayed in the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg where people can see them.

Tommy Prince was, as I indicated, one of Canada's most decorated aboriginal war heroes. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Engineers, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force, consisting of Canadian and American troops trained at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana, to form what became known as the famous Devil's Brigade.

Prince and other men in his unit were chosen for their rugged outdoor background and received the most vigorous training schedule under live fire ever undertaken by an army unit. All members of the elite squad, similar to the American Green Berets started in the 1960s, were trained to be paratroopers and received intense instruction in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of explosives for demolition, amphibious warfare, rock climbing, mountain fighting and as ski troops. They are described as the best small force of fighting men ever assembled. As a member of the Devil's Brigade, Prince was involved in fierce combat duty and numerous dangerous missions in Italy and France.

Some of the honours that have been bestowed on him since his death in 1977 include: Sergeant Tommy Prince Street in Winnipeg; Tommy Prince Barracks at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario; Tommy Prince Drill Hall at the Land Force Western Area Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta; Government of Canada Sergeant Tommy Prince Army Training Initiative for aboriginal recruiting; the Tommy Prince award, an Assembly of First Nations scholarship.

To my friend the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, I point out that there is a Tommy Prince scholarship at Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is given out on an annual basis and will be given out in the next few months.

There is a school named after him at Brokenhead Reserve. There is a mural on the wall at 1083 Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg; the Tommy Prince Cadet Corps in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Tommy Prince Veterans' Park also in Winnipeg.

Adam Beach is going to star in a movie to be made about Tommy Prince's life. Adam Beach and members of his family are friends of my family and are known to us in Winnipeg. They are a very successful family. He has made a number of movies in Hollywood.

I would like to briefly detail one or two examples of the type of activities that Tommy Prince did behind enemy lines.

In Italy he set up in an abandoned farmhouse about 200 metres from the enemy assembly area, well behind the enemy lines, with 1,400 metres of telephone wire connecting him to the force. He had a clear view of the enemy emplacements and he was reporting on them so the force could shoot at the guns. Artillery duel followed as the allies attempted to knock out the guns reported by Prince. While he was reporting they were shooting at him. One of those rounds cut the telephone wire. When the duel died down, Prince donned civilian clothing, grabbed a hoe and in full view of the German soldiers pretended to be a farmer weeding his crops. He slowly inched his way along the line until he found where the line was damaged and, pretending to tie his shoelaces, rejoined the wires together. After finishing the repairs he made a show of shaking his fist at the enemy and then toward the allied lines, returned to his lookout where he continued giving reports over the telephone line for the next 24 hours while the allies were knocking the German batteries out of action. He spent three days behind enemy lines and for his actions he was awarded the military medal and citation. Medals were given to him by the president of the United States and King George VI.

We are talking about somebody who was right at the top of his game. There are other examples that I could give during the Korean conflict of similar acts of bravery on the part of this individual.

When he was honourably discharged on June 15, 1945 he went back to his reserve but life was not good. All the adulation he had received and the success he had in the army did not follow him into his private life. He had some kind of business with a truck that did not pan out in the long run. The point is the man died having to sell his medals. The family had to eventually buy them back for $75,000.

We support the bill. It is a good--

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today to my private member's bill, Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders and military decorations and medals that are of cultural significance for future generations.

I also want to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for the steps they have taken to strengthen the bill.

As I have said at each reading of Bill C-473, and will now say again, it is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals. This bill is about continuity and ensuring protection for modern military insignia.

Thanks to amendments adopted at committee, the bill will clearly protect those military orders, decorations and medals that are less than 50 years old. This and other amendments made to the bill would ensure that together it and the existing act work in concert to provide comprehensive protection for our military heritage.

I also respect the right of recipients to decide for themselves what to do with the medals, decorations and other honours that have been awarded to them. This is one of the difficult issues that the committee grappled with during its consideration of the bill. These insignia are given to recipients and they belong to them.

If recipients give away or sell any of their possessions, from a house to a car, that is perfectly legal. There are thousands of medal collectors in Canada and around the world. There is a legal domestic and international market for military insignia. Countless medals and other military items are bought and sold daily. Much of our military history would have been lost without medal collectors and dealers.

As the committee heard from witnesses, many collectors, in fact, are veterans who are driven by the honourable desire to protect heritage rather than collecting for financial gain. They have saved thousands of medals from being discarded. They have traced their history and they have carefully safeguarded them.

The committee took the approach of addressing the need to keep these important medals in Canada while still respecting the rights of recipients and their families. The bill now refers to export instead of transfers to non-residents. It continues to exempt transactions among close family members from its provisions while amending it to include spouses, common-law partners, and the children's spouses and common-law partners, which had not been included in the bill as originally drafted. It continues to have no effect on the transfer of medals that takes place inside Canada.

We should ensure that we are protecting the history we are making today as a proud nation sharing the struggle for international freedom and democracy with others on the world stage.

My inspiration for this bill comes from the veterans and future veterans from my riding who serve or have served our country. This bill will ensure that the accolades for their acts of bravery will remain on Canadian soil and will continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill. We are now in the second hour of debate. I spoke for a few minutes in the last hour, so I will continue.

I think every member of the House sees merit in Bill C-473 and will support it. Therefore, we thank the member for Perth—Wellington for having brought the bill before the House. It deals with the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, our NDP caucus spokesperson on this issue, has a similar bill, Bill C-208, in the House. Although it is not exactly the same, it is similar enough that he hopes that when we get the bill to committee, he may be able to get parts of his bill adopted by the members into this bill to make it a better one.

In essence, the position the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on this bill is he would like to see the currency taken out of the equation. He feels the medals should be viewed as unsaleable to anyone and when they are not longer required by the families of people who had the medals, they should be put in a repository such as a museum or he even suggested MPs' offices. There are many methods for dealing with the different types of military orders and decorations.

I spent considerable time on this issue and I looked forward to getting into the history. The more I read about the issue, the more interesting I found this matter.

I thought it was best to start at the beginning, so I went back to Roman times. That is when medals were first created. The Romans developed a complex hierarchy of military honours, ranging from crowns that were presented to senior officers to mark victories in major campaigns. There was a discussion around metal discs and other types of metals.

Then we got into the era of the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Elizabeth I, when she issued commemorative metals to mark England's victory over the Spanish Armada.

Then we moved on to the days of Oliver Cromwell. He issued medals to people who participated in the Battle of Dunbar. Then we got to the time of 1815 when medals were awarded to people who served during the Battle of Waterloo. I just saw a program a couple of weeks ago on the issue of Napoleon's history in France, ending with the Battle of Waterloo.

There is a storied history going back to Roman days involving medals. In fact, Canada has a long history of medals. It started with the governors of New France desiring to establish European honours in Canada. They established a Military Order of Malta in New France between 1635 and 1648.

After the establishment of the British North America Act, Canadians were entitled to receive British imperial honours, though the awarding was not consistently allowed. Besides knighthoods, peerage titles, both hereditary and in life, that were also bestowed on Canadians, sometimes it was uniquely Canadian designations, such as Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe and Baron Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook, in the province of New Brunswick.

The fact is over time these medals more and more became—

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I begin by thanking the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this bill forward. I find it to be a thoughtful and balanced approach to this issue. It is the kind of thing that a private member's bill should do. It is a contribution to public policy and to the honouring of veterans in our country.

I have been requesting the members on this side of the House, in the Liberal Party, to support this bill, and we will support it at committee.

It is quite an adequate bill because it balances the cultural heritage that we try to protect through the honouring of insignia, of medals and honours, declarations and awards, as well as the private property rights of individuals. The member has been very thoughtful in balancing those two needs to understand that medals for wartime service and for military service, in general, tell two stories. They tell a story of an individual and a service to our country and to our world and a moment of heroism often that is honoured in a medal. They also tell a corporate story about what Canada is, how Canada has come into being and what Canada hopes to be in the future.

This legislation balances those two stories as well as those two rights. We have the story of individuals who offer their lives for service and give what they can for the prospects of freedom, independence, peace and community in our world. They also, at the same time, tell the story of a country that is emerging as a nation. The stories we have of these medals, as we can look at them, tell the story of a nation that has taken its place in the stage of world affairs and has made our world a better place.

It is very clear that I believe this is good legislation. It promotes culture and heritage in Canada and it balances the need for a family to tell its own story. It respects the right of a family to pass on a medal, or a declaration, or an award, from generation to generation, to kin, to keep it in that family so it can tell the story of the person it loved and respected.

It also gives the right of first refusal to Canadian cultural institutions, particularly, the Museum of Civilization across the river, the War Museum, as well as that network of Canadian Forces museums, which offer a story that we all need to hear. The member has taken that and has done it very well.

The need for such legislation is interesting. There is already an act in place that protects such medals that are 50 years or older. This adds to the legislative body that we have to protect modern medals. The act that the member is attempting to add to not only is looking at the history of Canada, but it is actually guarding the future of Canada. Therefore, we also want to commend him for that, for being forward-looking.

There are a couple of issues that I want to raise, and this is not a criticism to the bill but to add to the importance of it.

First, many people have served in Canadian Forces in the last 40 years or 50 years who have not received medals. I hope the member will also begin to look at the proposed Governor General's volunteer service award for those who have served at least one year and have not received a medal for their volunteering into the Canadian Forces.

There was such a medal that ended in 1947. It came back during the Korean War, in those two to three years. However, since that time, we have not had a medal that honours the simple act, or the very brave act, of volunteering for the Canadian Forces.

This is for people who have volunteered, particularly, in the cold war. We have to remember that kind of service. That will make this kind of legislation quite important, because we are talking about new medals and modern medals. I hope the member will take some time to investigate that proposal. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition for Parliament to establish such a medal.

On a bit of a harder note, one of the reasons this legislation is important is because there have been stories of people, of veterans, selling their medals to actually live. We have to worry about that.

I want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that there exists in Calgary a food bank solely for veterans. The Prime Minister visited the food bank on April 2, with the Minister of the Environment. It is an utter national shame that we have a food bank, the poppy fund in Calgary, just for veterans. There is something wrong when we are forcing our veterans to go to the measures of staying in homeless shelters, of selling medals, of going to food banks designed just for them. The Calgary poppy fund has to operate to keep veterans alive.

The budget for that food bank is $2 million per year. I am not belittling the charitable notion that goes into keeping that alive. It is a wonderful charitable effort. However, the fact that the need exists should remind us that we as a Parliament and the government are simply not doing enough for veterans.

Over 61 people received food baskets in that institution in the last several weeks. It is open five days a week, from nine to five, Monday to Friday, to help veterans. Calgary is one of richest cities in the country. This is about people who have given their service, their time, their honour, everything to the service of the country. What we are doing for our veterans is simply not good enough.

We have stories of veterans who sell their medals on eBay, sending them out of the country. I am very pleased the member is trying to protect that cultural heritage and keep them in our country, keep that story alive. However, as with everything, we have to dig down, we have to peel back the onion just a bit to understand why people might sell medals. If it is because they do not have enough to eat, if it is because they do not have a roof over their heads, if it is because they have been left out, if it is because they have addictions or other problems that are forcing them into a life outside the mainstream, then we have to act. It is not good enough. It is simply not the way we want to treat our veterans.

I know the hon. member has veterans absolutely foremost in his mind, so I hope he will take this opportunity to talk to the veterans who may be tempted to sell their medals. I hope he can go to that food bank, following his leader's example. That was just a photo op to make an announcement about food protection. It was an opportunity to talk to those veterans and ask them why they were there, to ask them what happened and what went on in their lives that took them to the brink and caused them to go to the Calgary Drop-In.

It has between 30 and 35 veterans every night who are homeless. This is a national shame. It is one of the largest growing populations of homeless in Canada. It is one largest growing populations of those going to food banks. We do not want to follow the model of our American neighbours, where this is a national crisis, although it is not that yet in Canada. We want to take the kinds of steps, the kinds of services, the kinds of programs to ensure that does not happen. We need to evaluate our programs and our commitment to Canadian veterans.

There is a story of a veteran that was recently made into vignette by the Historica Dominion Institute. It is the story of Tommy Prince, the most decorated aboriginal, first nations veteran in Canadian history, born in 1915. One of the tragedies of that story is despite the fact that his bravery and his service led to him being the most decorated first nations veteran, when he came back to Canada, he did not find his place that he deserved in this society. He was forced to sell his medals. This is a real story of a real person, of a real veteran who got lost along the way.

This legislation will protect the medal, but will it protect the veteran? It is a first step to ensure cultural heritage is protected, but we have to go a further step. We have to go further to ensure that our veterans are never forced to sell their medals, that they are never forced to go to a food bank in Calgary, that they are never forced to go to the Calgary Drop-In, but that they are celebrated, treated fairly, economically and socially. We owe our lives, our freedom and our independence to them.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-473 and the protection of military medals, orders and decorations awarded to Canadians.

I want to begin by thanking the member for Perth—Wellington for his efforts to protect Canada's military heritage and for bringing this issue before Parliament.

The tabling of Bill C-473 allows us to reflect on the vital importance of Canada's military heritage and the very important part it plays in our country's development.

Military insignia symbolize a number of events, the most common representing long or distinguished service, while still others denote participation in a war, campaign or peacekeeping mission. The rarest of all signify battlefield valour.

The importance of our military heritage was front and centre just recently on April 9, Vimy Ridge Day, when the government honoured all of Canada's World War I servicemen and women and paid tribute to their achievements and contributions. Ceremonies of remembrance were held across Canada and at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France and the Canada Memorial at Green Park in London.

The national commemorative ceremony at the National War Memorial, a symbol of the sacrifices of all Canadians who have served Canada in times of war in the cause of peace and freedom, was especially poignant following the death in February of Canada's last known first world war veteran, John Babcock.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout our history must not be forgotten. As part of our country's heritage, they must be honoured and protected.

Through Bill C-473, the member for Perth—Wellington proposes to fill a gap in the protection of our military heritage, a gap that affects modern military insignia. Let me explain what I mean by that. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already protected under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. We have measures in place to keep objects of outstanding significance and national importance in the country. The act includes, among other elements, a system of cultural property export control, which requires export permits for a range of cultural property. These measures protect the nation's heritage, while respecting the rights of private citizens to dispose of their own property.

Under the existing act, important medals that are more than 50 years old require a permit to leave Canada. Permanent export may be delayed if the medal is determined to be of outstanding significance and of national importance. If an object for which a permit is sought is deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance, the permit is refused. That refusal may be appealed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

On appeal, the board may create a delay period of up to six months to allow Canadian cultural institutions the opportunity to purchase the object in question so that it may remain in Canada. A system of special tax incentives also exists to provide further encouragement for owners to donate or sell cultural property to Canadian institutions. Those who do not comply with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act can be prosecuted and are subject to fines or imprisonment.

However, what protection is there for modern Canadian insignia? We know that serving members of Canadian armed forces are prohibited under the code of service discipline of the National Defence Act from selling their medals and decorations. Military regulations also govern the disposition of medals when a serving member dies. These measures are important and should be respected. However, recent military honours, unlike historic medals, orders and decorations, are not controlled for export.

The member for Perth—Wellington has indicated that his objective with Bill C-473 is to keep important military medals, orders and decorations in Canada. Export control is clearly a matter over which the federal government has jurisdiction and experience. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already controlled for export under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

If it is the will of the House to refer Bill C-473 to committee for review, I trust there will be an opportunity to study more fully how to ensure this proposed new legislation can work seamlessly with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act to protect our military heritage. I want to commend my colleague from Perth—Wellington for striking a balance in presenting this bill, between the need to protect our military heritage and the need to respect the rights of individual owners of military insignia.

Military insignia hold significant meaning to veterans and their heirs. Bill C-473 proposes to exempt near relatives of the owner of the insignia from the provisions of the bill. Under Bill C-473, families can continue to care for the valued personal legacy of their veterans, their military insignia, and ensure they will be passed down from generation to generation.

In the first hour of debate on Bill C-473, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé noted that spouses do not seem to be included in the definition of the relative. I trust there will be an opportunity to study this matter further in committee. I also acknowledge and appreciate my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and the passion for this issue that he brings to this debate. In his comments, he described the positive experiences of several communities in his area to preserve their military heritage.

Many military insignia are donated to local museums as well as to the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Forces museums across the country. Bill C-473 would not restrict donations to Canadian museums. Owners would still be able to donate military insignia to the Canadian museum of their choice. That is an important protection of their rights.

Most public museums in Canada are also registered charities. As a registered charity, a museum can issue donation receipts for the value of gifts in kind, such as artifacts or specimens. Additional tax benefits may also be available if the gift is certified as being of cultural importance and national significance by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

The government has recognized the need to protect our military heritage through the establishment of museums, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Forces museums across the country. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have more than 1,000 medals, including at least 28 Victoria Crosses, Canada's highest military honour. The network of Canadian Forces museums tells the story of regiments across the country.

Bill C-473 proposes that federal museums should be given the opportunity to purchase modern military insignia if the owners do not wish to donate them to a public museum or wish to transfer the insignia to a near relative or heir or a resident of Canada. I would hope that Canadian Forces museums would also be able to benefit from Bill C-473 to continue their profound tradition of protecting our military heritage.

In conclusion, I am pleased to support Bill C-473 and its efforts to protect our modern military insignia, modern insignia that recognize the contribution of the women and men who still today go to troubled spots around the world. I look forward to further study of the proposed bill in committee.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

I met with the members of the Hudson Legion last week. I am always moved when I speak with veterans. Each medal and decoration marks an event in their military career and the role they played in various theatres of operation. I met with a number of veterans when I worked on the issue of Canadians who had lost their citizenship. These people were commonly known as Lost Canadians. They also take a great interest in the transfer of the last veterans hospital. They talked to me about the situation many of them are in and how they live in poverty. It is very disturbing. I believe we must do much more for them.

The bill has to do with part of our heritage and is intended to protect medals that were presented to soldiers who brought honour to us. I would first like to thank the member for Perth—Wellington for introducing this bill. It is a first step, but I believe that he will agree that we can do much more for these veterans.

I am also surprised at the narrow definition given to “veterans”, because many members of allied forces fought alongside our veterans, as the department currently defines them. Even though these people have been in Canada for 40 or 50 years, they still do not have privileged access to Ste. Anne's Hospital. We still have a lot of work to do on this.

As its title indicates, Bill C-473 is designed to protect Canadian medals and insignia of military orders that are culturally significant to Canada. The cultural significance of a decoration is determined by the regulations in this case. To keep decorations in Canada, the bill we are debating today would place tighter restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals. It would be against the law to transfer an insignia of cultural significance to a non-resident, that is to say, someone who is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen of Canada. I encourage the committee that, I hope, will study this bill to review certain passages pertaining to citizenship.

I do not know if the member for Perth—Wellington realizes it, but more veterans have lost their citizenship. The last surviving veteran of World War I, Mr. Babcock, was not a Canadian citizen and the Prime Minister had to hop on a plane to restore it. The citizenship aspect should be revisited to prevent creating further irritants for veterans. Therefore, I invite the committee to examine this point and to do some checking.

This bill contains provisions that would allow any person to transfer a decoration provided that they have first tried to sell it at its fair market value to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage, in other words the Government of Canada. If the government refuses to purchase it and provides written confirmation to this effect or has not accepted the offer within 120 days after receiving it, the person may then transfer the decoration to a non-resident. As I mentioned, a number of veterans did not regain their Canadian citizenship before dying. That was the case for Mr. Vallière, among others. We should empathize with this situation, especially for the family's sake.

Bill C-374 indicates that all these restrictive measures do not apply to the transfer of a decoration to a near relative, which means the father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, child, grandchild, brother or sister of the owner of an insignia. At this stage, I find it unacceptable that spouses are excluded from this bill. I believe that this oversight will be corrected by the committee.

For people who do comply with the provisions of the bill, specific paragraphs in the bill stipulate that if a Canadian transfers a decoration considered “cultural property” in violation of the provisions I just mentioned, that person is committing an offence punishable by a fine in an amount that does not exceed five times the market value of the insignia. I would like to know how the government will contact the owners of insignia and medals. Is there a list of these persons? I also wonder how veterans will be advised of the changes proposed in this bill.

In the past, we have had a difficult time reaching veterans, even for a law as important as the Citizenship Act. So this will be an important part of the implementation of this bill.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-473 and would like it to be examined in committee. That will give us an opportunity to hear from witnesses and examine various aspects of the bill in greater depth.

We are also in favour of the principle of the bill because it is intended to conserve and protect heritage artifacts. Such artifacts are part of the military history of any country that presents military insignia, orders, decorations and medals to men and women to thank them for their actions and for their participation in various military missions.

In bestowing these decorations, a country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world over the years. Everyone here knows that our military personnel work hard and overcome many challenges. Many sustain serious injury, and some die.

Without hesitation, they accept the most dangerous missions with humility, determination and courage. Collectively, we have an obligation to recognize and support these soldiers.

We believe that all governments can and must do what they can to preserve the cultures and histories of the peoples under their authority. Military history and recognition of the dedication of the men and women in uniform are important parts of the history of a people.

That said, I must point out that the bill introduced by the member aims to protect a cultural asset that is military in nature.

The Conservatives wish to prove their willingness to preserve military history. Although we support this praiseworthy initiative, the Bloc Québécois urges the Conservative government to take concrete action to support the entire cultural sector.

We support the bill to protect one form of military culture. However, we insist that this government invest more in the protection and promotion of the culture and history of Quebec.

I would like to close by pointing out that for many veterans, medals are very important and so is the history behind every one of them.

The fact that enacting such a bill might be difficult and might touch some nerves must not be taken lightly.

I would also like the government to do more to address the poverty that prevails in that community.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

Canadian veterans have helped to ensure that we live in a free country and have aided in spreading peace and security throughout the world. They have done that with courage, determination and at great sacrifice. In bestowing military medals, decorations and orders, our country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and those who serve today.

The men and women who wear those medals do so with pride, devotion, loyalty and dignity. Yet, when I have had the chance to speak with veterans in my hometown of Hamilton, like the exceptional men and women at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 163 on the Mountain, it is also clear that they are wearing those medals for the 118,000 Canadians who served their country and never had the chance to wear theirs because they made the ultimate sacrifice. From that perspective there can be little doubt that the principles underlying Bill C-473 deserve our support.

As the member for Perth—Wellington rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, some medals and honours are already protected in legislation. More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean War were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. It requires export permits for a range of cultural property, including medals. Yet, it offers that protection only if the military medals, orders and decorations are at least 50 years old.

More recent military honours therefore are not controlled for export. They may be freely sold and taken out of the country, out of the reach of Canadians and our public museums. I agree with the member for Perth—Wellington that this is wrong, but I am not sure that the bill, as currently written, is the best vehicle for achieving our shared objective.

Let me take a few moments here to outline some of my concerns with the view to getting the bill to committee and hopefully having most of them addressed before we have to take the third and final vote in the House. I want to start by reading the summary of Bill C-473. It states:

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

In essence, that is what this bill is all about. It suggests that military medals will be kept in Canada because they will no longer be transferrable to someone who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of Canada. On that general point, I have no quarrel. But I am not sure that the bill achieves that objective.

First, let us look at paragraphs 3(2)(a) and (b) which state that the prohibition on exporting medals does not apply to the transfer of an insignia to a near relative of the owner of the insignia. Paragraph (b) refers to an heir of the owner of the insignia upon the death of the owner. Obviously, both the near relative and the heir of the owner could reside outside of Canada.

If the goal of the bill is to keep all medals in Canada, the bill before us today does not achieve that objective. I believe that the exceptions are reasonable, but it is unclear to me whether this was a deliberate or an inadvertent outcome of the bill as drafted. Perhaps even more troubling is the exclusion of spouses in the definition of a near relative. The bill talks about parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents and heirs. Perhaps it is assumed that spouses will be heirs, but I think that the inclusion of spouses ought to be made explicit.

In bestowing military orders, decorations and medals, our country is recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world, but the sacrifices made by family members, as their loved ones serve our country, must also be acknowledged and spouses in particular deserve special recognition. In this bill I would strongly urge that the inclusion of spouses be made explicit.

The next issue I would like to address can best be expressed by comparing the bill that is before us today to a similar bill that was introduced by my NDP colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that veterans have no stronger advocate in the House than the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore. He introduced a similar bill long before the one that we are debating today was tabled, but as the luck of the draw would have it, we are debating Bill C-473 today rather than his bill, Bill C-208.

I said that it was a similar bill deliberately. They share the same goal, but in my view Bill C-208 takes a better, more comprehensive approach. Its summary states:

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

It differs from the bill before us today with two important respects. First, it includes medals awarded to the RCMP or any other police officer who serves our country outside Canada. As we know, many police officers serve overseas, and the medals they receive honour their courage, valour and selfless contribution to our international efforts. Why would we treat their medals any differently than we would the medals of veterans?

If the intent of this bill is to preserve our heritage, then clearly RCMP honours ought to be protected as well. I do not believe there would be a huge backlash from veterans on this point. In fact, when the NDP's Bill C-201 was before this House, not a single veteran complained to me that it dealt with pension fairness for both veterans and the RCMP. On the contrary, the only backlash about that bill was that the Liberals and the Conservatives defeated every clause of the bill in committee, thereby keeping in place the unfair existing system that unjustly reduces the pension benefits of retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel.

The second difference between the bill that is before us today and Bill C-208 is equally important. Bill C-208 does not just prevent medals from being exported out of the country, it actually prohibits the sale of those medals. That is a crucial distinction.

Medals and insignia are priceless honours. Men and women wear them with pride as a sign of their loyalty, devotion and dignity. Such medals should never be turned into currency. By allowing medals to be sold, we are turning honours into commodities.

I share the view of those members in this House who want to prohibit such sales. In doing so, I am not however underestimating the dire financial need that many veterans are experiencing today. I can fully appreciate that many veterans feel that they have to sell their medals as one of the last resorts for making ends meet.

My goodness, surely we can all agree that such circumstances are a national disgrace. It is a situation that reflects badly not on the veterans but on the successive Liberal and Conservative governments that say they support our troops but, in fact, provide little real support when they return home.

Just this past Good Friday, there was a story in the news from Calgary where I guess the Prime Minister thought he was staging a positive photo-op by helping out at a food bank. However, it was a veterans food bank. Over 40 veterans rely on that food bank on a regular basis. Here is what George Bittman, chair of the Calgary Poppy Fund said to the media about that food bank:

The facility is used by vets who feel too proud to ask for help from a civilian food bank. And with so many veterans without pensions, there is a great need for donations of food. Like most Second (World) War veterans and Korean War veterans, if their problems weren’t apparent at the time they were discharged, they were happy to get the hell out of the service and get on with life, just as I did when I got out of the navy. Forty years later, when something comes up that something goes sideways, it’s generally too late for them to make a claim with Veterans Affairs. Records are lost, memories fade.

At that point there are few options available to veterans, other than turning to food banks. It is an absolute disgrace.

Bill C-201 would have gone a long way to providing meaningful help to veterans by improving their pension. So would the implementation of the NDP veterans first motion, which was passed by this House as far back as 2006.

If that motion were acted on in a comprehensive way, there would not be a clawback of SISIP anymore, there would not be a so-called gold-digger clause in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the VIP would have been extended to all widows of all veterans, the survivor pension amount would have been increased from 50% to 66%, and the deduction from the annuity of retired and disabled Canadian Forces members would have been eliminated.

That is how we really support our troops, not by allowing them to sell their medals but by providing them with a decent standard of living. For their service to our country, veterans deserve so much more than just rhetoric from this Parliament. They deserve a retirement with dignity and respect.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues from all parties for the support on my private member's bill, Bill C-473.

On any given day, approximately 8,000 Canadian Forces personnel are preparing for, engaging in, or are returning from an overseas mission. They follow in the footsteps of Canadians who for more than 200 years have answered the call and sacrificed all they knew, all the comforts, love and safety of home in order to defend the freedoms of others.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout history and as we speak must not be forgotten.

More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean war were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. This act seeks balance between the need to protect the nation's heritage and the property rights of private owners.

Regulations under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act specify categories of objects which require a permit to leave Canada for any reason temporarily or permanently. Military medals, orders and decorations are of course included but, like other protected objects, they must be 50 years old.

It is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals and that is what this bill, Bill C-473, seeks to achieve.

Bill C-473 speaks to the importance of our military heritage. As well, it fills an important gap by focusing on Canada's modern military honours.

Bill C-473 will ensure that federal museums are given the opportunity to acquire and protect modern military medals, orders and decorations which are no less deserving than those given 50 or 100 years ago to brave Canadians.

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

As the House knows, there are Canadians actively seeking to protect our military medals by keeping them in Canada. For example, Dave Thomson from St. George, Ontario, is known by many as the “medal detector” for his hobby of repatriating Canadian medals from Internet auction sites like eBay. He recently found three first world war medals belonging to Lance-Corporal Walter Clemens Leslie who was born in my riding of Perth—Wellington. I think they have been returned now to the Stratford Perth Museum.

In the same way, this bill still provides fair market value to anyone who wishes to sell an insignia awarded under the authority of Her Majesty in Right of Canada, but they must provide first right of refusal to the Government of Canada by submitting an offer to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage.

My inspiration for this bill comes from the veterans and future veterans from my riding and across Canada who serve or have served our country. This bill will ensure the accolades from their acts of bravery will remain on Canadian soil and will continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 11th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

moved that Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in support of my bill, Bill C-473, which focuses on the protection of military medals, orders and decorations awarded to Canadians who have selflessly put themselves in harm's way in the defence of Canada.

Generations of Canadian veterans, through their courage, determination and sacrifice, have helped ensure that we live in a free country and have aided in spreading peace and security throughout the world. The tabling of Bill C-473 allows us to reflect upon the importance of Canada's military heritage and the role of government and federal institutions in preserving it.

On any given day, approximately 8,000 Canadian Forces personnel are preparing for, engaging in or returning from an overseas mission. They follow in the footsteps of Canadians who, for more than 200 years, have answered the call and sacrificed all they knew, all the comforts, love and safety of home, in order to defend the freedom of others. The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout history, and as we speak, must not be forgotten. They must be remembered and honoured as an integral part of our country's heritage.

Bill C-473 recognizes their importance and the importance of the honours and awards given to them in recognition of their sacrifice, and this government recognizes the need to protect our heritage, including our military heritage. Certain medals and other honours are already protected through legislation. More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean war were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. This act seeks a balance between the need to protect the nation's heritage and the property rights of private owners. The same approach underlies Bill C-473.

The Cultural Property Export and Import Act includes, among other elements, a system of cultural property export control, which requires export permits for a range of cultural property, including medals. This existing act is an important tool in helping to keep objects of outstanding significance and national importance in the country.

Let me explain how this works in relation to historic medals, to set Bill C-473 in the broader context of heritage protection.

Regulations under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act specify categories of objects which require a permit to leave Canada for any reason, temporarily or permanently. Military medals, orders and decorations are of course included, but like other protected objects, they must be at least 50 years old. Export permits are refused for objects that are deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance.

That refusal may be appealed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. On appeal, the board may create a delay period of up to six months to allow Canadian cultural institutions the opportunity to purchase the object in question so that it may remain in Canada. During the delay period, a program of grants is available from the Department of Canadian Heritage to assist institutions in purchasing these national treasures.

Bill C-473 would provide a similar opportunity by requiring owners to offer the Government of Canada, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum, a right of first refusal before transferring certain medals, orders and decorations to a non-resident. Therefore, we have effective legislation and financial support.

Legislation and regulation are one tool when owners want to sell medals outside the country, but the government also wants to encourage Canadians to donate their medals to museums where they can be preserved for future generations. Under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, a system of special tax incentives exists to provide further encouragement for owners to donate outstanding historical medals to Canadian institutions. The regular charitable tax regime also provides incentives to donate other medals to museums.

However, more is needed, and this is what Bill C-473 would do. It recognizes that recent military honours, unlike historic medals, orders, and declarations, are not controlled for export. They may be freely sold and taken out of the country, out of the reach of Canadians and their public museums.

When I tabled Bill C-473, I indicated that my objective was to keep important military medals, orders and decorations in Canada. That is also the government's long-held objective.

Bill C-473 would also balance the rights of individual owners of these military honours with the desire to protect them for the public. That is also the long-held public policy of the government, as evidenced in the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

Historic medals, decorations, or other honours have been well served by the existing act. Recent examples demonstrate this. Through the export controls, grant system and tax provisions of the act, the Victoria Cross of John MacGregor was acquired by the Canadian War Museum for the benefit of all Canadians.

It is through this effective legislation that the Government of Canada acted to ensure that Fred Topham's Victoria Cross was not lost to Canada. The act also enabled the government to take measures to ensure that the medals of Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt and Sergeant William Merrifield were retained in a public institution in Canada.

It is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals, and that is what Bill C-473 seeks to achieve. Bill C-473 recognizes the important role played by federal museums as custodians of our military heritage. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum, together with other museums across the country, including the Canadian Forces museums, take on the task of preserving our military heritage.

In my riding of Perth—Wellington, local historians and small museums are playing an enormous part in maintaining the proud record of Canadian military achievements. There have been efforts made by people like Dave Thomson of St. George, Ontario, Philip Fowler and Dave Gazelle, who, on behalf of a group of Stratford citizens, have purchased several medals won by residents of Perth County and returned these to the Stratford Perth Museum, with the help of its director Linda Carter.

Over the past two years the following medals have been saved and donated to the museum, where they will be forever protected: Sergeant Lorne Wesley Brothers, World War I British War Medal; Private George Grimditch, World War I Service Medal and Victory Medal; Lieutenant William Warren Davidson, World War I British War Medal and Victory Medal; Private Douglas Thomas Hamilton, World War I Silver Cross; Private George Buckingham, World War I Service Medal; and Private Alexander Connolly, World War I British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Canada's military history collections are part of the heritage of all Canadians. In some respect, they matter most to those who have grown up in the peaceful aftermath of war, and to those who have adopted Canada as a home free from the tragedies of other lands.

The story of our military past is understood and made meaningful to Canadians, many of whom have no direct experience of war or the part played by conflict in our history.

Museums, of course, are much more than collections of objects, but with artifacts as material evidence, they illuminate and document our history. Military museums are unique in their commemorative role and they are uniquely placed as repositories of important objects, such as medals, orders and decorations, that tell the story of the sacrifices of Canadians.

This government has recognized the importance of preserving our military heritage, both through legislation and the establishment of museums.

Bill C-473 speaks of the importance of our military heritage as well as fills an important gap by focusing on Canada's modern military honours.

Bill C-473 would ensure that federal museums would be given the opportunity to acquire and protect modern military medals, orders and decorations, which are no less deserving than those given 50 or 100 years ago to brave Canadians.

For the spirit of a country and the courage of its people, I am pleased to support Bill C-473 and urge all members to do so, too.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

March 11th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill sounds very good in terms of its intent. However, there are some issues that some members have raised, which I think the member may be able to help us clarify.

First, on the position of the museums, they would get right of first refusal, but the issue is that if museums do not have the money to purchase the medals, then we have a problem.

The second issue is about donations. Clearly the family members have some ranking as well because they may want to keep them in the family. Eventually there will not be anybody to donate or give them to. They do have some value.

First, could the member help members understand what the implications are vis-à-vis the museums? Second is ultimately to keep things in Canada, but allow them to be sold within Canada. Would that be prohibited?