Pope John Paul II Day Act

An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Wladyslaw Lizon  Conservative

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

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of Sept. 18, 2014

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-266.

Summary

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

This enactment designates the second day of April in each and every year as “Pope John Paul II Day”.

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

  • June 12, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, hon. members, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-266, which calls on Parliament to designate April 2 of every year as Pope John Paul II day.

John Paul II served as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from October 16, 1978 until his death on April 2, 2005. He played an influential and vital role in promoting international understanding, peace-building and helping to defeat communism in central and eastern Europe. He was a remarkable man of many accomplishments and has left a permanent mark upon the world.

There were unfortunate events that took place in his lifetime. He had just turned 19 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. During those years of war, he began his studies in Krakow but was forced to suspend them for a year of compulsory labour for the state. He later returned to his studies while working in a quarry and then in a factory. We can only imagine what he went through.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in a clandestine seminary. After the Second World War, he continued his studies and was ordained into the priesthood on November 1, 1946.

Much of the future Pope's life as a cleric was lived under communist rule in Poland. While he rose through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, he refused to compromise or accommodate demands made by the communist government. As archbishop and later a cardinal, he had to engage in a very delicate balancing act. His opposition to communism and government repression was an undeniable but subtle path in encouraging and promoting greater loyalty to the Catholic Church, as an alternative to the government itself. He promoted the ideas of freedom and liberty without directly attacking the government.

In 1978, John Paul II made history by becoming the first non-Italian Pope in more than 400 years. As the leader of the Catholic Church, he travelled the world, visiting more than 100 countries to spread his message of faith and peace. One of the most significant and memorable features of John Paul II's papacy was perhaps his battle against communism. After he was elected Pope, in 1978, one of the first things he did was to end his predecessors' accommodationist attitude toward communism and communist nations.

In June 1979, Pope John Paul II returned home to Poland as the first Roman Catholic pontiff to visit a communist ruled country. Standing in front of a million Poles in Warsaw, he was welcomed with 14 minutes of unabated applause from the entire crowd. He told them not to be afraid. The message was a call to action.

The Pope's visit was seen as inspirational to many Catholics in Poland who felt they were no longer alone. Many were deeply opposed to the country's communist government. This trip uplifted the nation's spirit and sparked the formation of the solidarity movement in 1980, which later brought freedom and human rights to his troubled homeland.

Many consider this visit to be a pivotal moment that eventually led to the fall of communism in eastern Europe. Like the first in a row of dominoes, Poland's relatively peaceful transition to democracy led to wholesale change throughout the region over the next year. This set off a chain of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Mikhail Gorbachev's acquiescence to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Gorbachev himself stated that the fall of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without the Pope.

The pope's defence of peace, human rights and freedom also extended beyond his native country and the Catholic church. John Paul II's criticism of dictators—Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Augusto Pinochet of Chile and the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos—encouraged opposition movements that led to their eventual downfall.

In 1998, he travelled to Cuba and met with communist leader Fidel Castro. Thousands of people received him in the capital of Havana. The pope did not hesitate in asking that Cuba be opened to the world and the world opened to Cuba. He also condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba and its adverse effects on the poor. He urged the Roman Catholic Church to take a courageous and prophetic stance in the face of the corruption of political or economic power and to promote human rights within Cuba. It was a five-day visit in which the pope helped to plant a seed of freedom and helped thousands reaffirm their faith.

He defended democracy before the European Parliament by supporting the arrival of the democratic movement against the regime in the Philippines. He worked for peace with various countries, urging them to negotiate and find common ground. This was the case in a variety of situations, including Chile with Argentina, Israel with Palestine, and even our neighbours the United States, with Iraq.

We have had debates in this House at second reading of this bill and then the bill went to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I would like to make it very clear that this is not a religious bill. This is not a bill to aid or promote one religion over another or give a special recognition to one particular Pope.

As I have already mentioned, this is a bill to recognize Pope John Paul II's legacy, which goes well beyond his role in the Catholic church. He stood for religious tolerance and freedom, and he spent a great deal of time encouraging interreligious dialogue. To me, this represents a big part of what it means to be Canadian. Pope John Paul II proved that nothing is impossible. He stood up for populations that were oppressed by totalitarian regimes. He will be remembered for his role in the collapse of several stifling dictatorships, and for the way he inspired peaceful opposition to Communism in Poland, leading to its eventual collapse in central and eastern Europe.

In 2004, former American president George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, to Pope John Paul II. The president read the citation that accompanied the medal, which recognized “this son of Poland” whose “principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple Communism and tyranny”.

After receiving the award, John Paul II said:

May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place.

There was one Soviet leader who sought out and received an audience with Pope John Paul II. It was Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the Soviet Union. The audience took place in 1989.

In an interview Gorbachev gave to Radio Free Europe on April 8, 2005, he said, almost a week after the Pope's death:

Now we will say that the pope was simply an extraordinary man. And one of the most extraordinary qualities of the pope was that he was a devoted servant of the Church of Christ. And, finally, as the head of state of the Vatican, he did a lot, using his opportunities along these lines, he did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold War, for the coming together of peoples. He did a lot to remove people from the danger of a nuclear conflict. He was a man who used his high position—I'll speak bluntly—in the best possible way. He was [a man] who did not put political calculation at the center, but who made his judgments about the world, about situations, about nature, about the environment, based on the right to life, to a worthy life for people and on the responsibility of those people for what is gong on in the world. I think that there has never been such an outstanding defender of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden in various cases and in various situations, either historically speaking or in terms of ongoing conflicts. He was a humanist. Really. A Humanist with a capital H, maybe the first humanist in world history.

It took great courage and resolve to oppose the Communist forces and fight for a better way of life for Europeans and indeed people across the world. Designating April 2 as Pope John Paul II day would allow Canadians to reflect on the courage and compassion shown by this great man. I would ask everyone to join me today in supporting this very special commemoration of Pope John Paul II. As many Canadians honour, admire and try to emulate him, let us set aside a special day to consider him and his works.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Craig Scott Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question. There was something he emphasized that I thought was very important, which was that this is not intended to be a bill to celebrate any particular religion or single out any particular pope. A lot of the description of what Karol Wojtyla did over the years before he passed away went way back into his period in Poland.

I am wondering whether the hon. member ever gave any consideration to simply calling this Karol Wojtyla day, to recognize that it was not specifically about a religious figure and to recognize everything this figure did well before he became pope.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not quite understand why we should be afraid to designate a day for a man who, we cannot deny, was a leader of the Catholic church.

As I mentioned in my speech, he was a big part of the change in the world that we enjoy today. We cannot change history. We cannot change the fact that he was a leader of the Catholic church, but, as I mentioned in my speech, he went well beyond it.

I had the honour to experience a good part of it myself when I entered into the Solidarity movement. I would like to mention one thing that I did not mention in my speech. The Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and other countries saw him as a danger. That is why on Wednesday, May 13, 1981, at a general audience in St. Peter's Square, there were gunshots, and the pope was shot so seriously that he almost lost his life.

It was not a coincidence. Let us all remember this, and let us remember that the world we enjoy today is much different from the world we had 30 years ago.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville mentioned he himself had spent some time in the Solidarity movement, and it was quite courageous of Pope John Paul II to embrace the notion of non-accommodation.

I am wondering if the hon. member could describe from his own experience the inspiration that Pope John Paul II meant to people like the hon. member and others in that Solidarity movement that eventually brought the end to Communism.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the inspiration came right at the first visit of the Pope. When he told people not to be afraid, I do not think it was fully understood at that time. It came with time. It came as a wave that pushed people for a change.

Why did he say not to be afraid? It was because fear was the tool used by Communism to keep people under control.

He helped people to lose that fear, and that is what led to huge changes. That was what led to the chain of events that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

New countries, democratic countries, appeared on the map of the world. We have a much different world. We no longer have a Cold War. It is a world that we did not imagine we would have 30 years ago.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I understand that some members have raised concerns about honouring a man because he was also a spiritual religious leader.

However, since I have been in this place, I recall a New Democratic Party motion that received unanimous consent, recognizing the Five Ks of the Khalsa of Sikhism. I recall a motion from a Liberal member of Parliament, which received unanimous consent, recognizing Islamic History Month. I recall a motion that I had a measure in proposing that received unanimous consent, asking the government to grant honorary citizenship to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who of course is an important Buddhist religious leader. A similar motion received unanimous consent to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to His Highness the Aga Khan, an important Muslim religious leader.

John Paul II, of course, received the Congressional Medal of Honour from the United States, a country in which the separation of church and state is an essential principle.

Would my friend from Mississauga East—Cooksville not agree with me that these ought not to be concerns, that we have indeed recognized spiritual traditions and leaders in this place before and that therefore it ought not to be an objection in this instance?

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-266, which would establish Pope John Paul II Day.

I am well aware that this is a sensitive topic and opinion is divided when it comes to recognizing the good actions of a religious man of such importance in the Roman Catholic Church.

However, it must be acknowledged that through his social actions, Pope John Paul II touched the hearts of many people of all religious beliefs. We must not forget that he was behind the first international interfaith meeting in Assisi in 1986. On that occasion, he brought together over 190 religious leaders.

John Paul II has been recognized as an ambassador for world peace. He did not hesitate to meet with numerous leaders of various countries, often political opposites, with the aim of promoting dialogue among nations. I cannot fail to mention the fact that John Paul II was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of the important work he did to end Communist oppression in eastern Europe.

I would like the House to consider for a moment the riding I represent, Montcalm. A number of Catholic community organizations are putting all their efforts into building an increasingly caring and vital community. I am thinking of Clarence Thériault, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus in Sainte-Julienne, who talks openly about his Catholic religion and is proud of his work with the Fabrique de Sainte-Julienne.

The religious communities that have been here for generations have a very proud history in this country. I need only think of the sisters of Horeb Saint-Jacques, like Sr. Carmelle and Sr. Jeannine, and the fine work done by Diane Lafontaine, a woman committed to justice and service, and all of the others who devote their time and energy to working for no material gain.

I would also like to mention a friend of the family, Paul Léveillé, the priest in charge of the parishes of Sainte-Marie-Salomé, Saint-Jacques, Saint-Liguori, Saint-Alexis and L'Épiphanie. Paul has been a friend for many years. In fact, he will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his life as a priest this year. If you are watching, Paul, congratulations. I have to say that Paul is a mainstay, not just for practising individuals, but also for young people.

My husband and I occasionally attend Sunday services and have the opportunity to meet older people who live in the riding of Montcalm. Even today, those people still have an enormous amount of affection for the man they describe as a uniting force, a very generous man who was close to the people. When I hear about Pope John Paul II, I inevitably think of the good people whom I have met in my community and in my life and who know this historic figure and have great respect for his good and altruistic works.

When we talk to people of the previous generation, they tell us that Pope John Paul II was their Pope, the one who was extremely involved in public life and who left an indelible mark on every major event in the late 20th century.

The role he played in putting an end to the racist government of South Africa and in bringing down the iron curtain in eastern Europe is well known. In addition, Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland, was an important figure in the fall of Communism in his home country. He is loved and highly respected by the Polish and Catholic communities.

The role he played in ending the military regimes in Latin America and his opposition to the war in Iraq gave him political importance. His interest in extending a hand to groups that the church had harmed in the past also gave him a significant amount of social importance.

Just before he died, there was great pain throughout the Catholic community and an equal reaction among non-Catholics. He was, at the time, an almost permanent fixture in world affairs and in Catholics' minds.

He was a good man, it must be said, but a complex one. He was an important player on the world stage. He was important to the people of Montcalm and to those of Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Pope John Paul II is an important figure in the history of the 20th century.

His presence, like that of many historical figures, could draw praise as well as criticism. I would prefer my remarks to be positive and therefore I choose to focus on the praise. Although probably better known for his role in connection with the Solidarity union in Poland and for the fall of the iron curtain in eastern Europe, he was also an important player in the fall of the military dictatorships in Chile and Paraguay and the racist government of South Africa.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why it is important to strive for a better future and fight for the change that has to happen before that future can be achieved. Pope John Paul II truly understood that an inclusive democracy was the key to a better future. What is more, unlike the current government, he immediately opposed the war in Iraq. He said: “War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.”

This is the same person who refused to fire his rifle during his mandatory military service in Poland. Furthermore, unlike our current government, he believed in basic science, evolution and climate change.

In the message he gave on World Peace Day, he said:

The ecological crisis reveals the urgent moral need for a new solidarity, especially in relations between the developing nations and those that are highly industrialized.

He also added, “I wish to repeat that the ecological crisis is a moral issue.”

Pope John Paul II also had a special relationship with Canada. He visited our country on several occasions, including in 2002, when over 500,000 young people gathered in a Toronto park for World Youth Day, which is commonly known as WYD. Pope John Paul II created WYD to encourage young people to participate in community development.

It is sometimes difficult to understand the actions of a person who, in all honestly, had very little power. He did not have a tank or a plane; yet he refused to use the only weapon he was given because he firmly believed that respect for human life is paramount. His actions had a profound impact on people from all walks of life, from all countries and from all religions. His time as Pope, which was marked by open-mindedness and co-operation with other religions, was anchored in tradition and a strong cultural attachment.

However, we can say that in many ways his struggle mirrored that of our party, the NDP. My colleagues will understand why I say this. During a visit to Haiti in 1983, he spoke to Haitian Christians about the importance of democratic accountability and freedom, in addition to addressing Duvalier's corrupt government. He talked to the crowd about a series of policy issues that could have been taken from an NDP policy book. These issues included having the opportunity to get enough food, receive proper care, find safe housing, go to school and find an interesting and well-paid job. In short, he talked about everything that provides a better quality of life for men and women, youth, the elderly and workers.

I would like to ask my colleagues on the other side of the House to vote in line with us when we put these policies on the table. I would also ask them to stop being so closed-minded.

Pope John Paul II was a symbol of freedom and change. He was recognized for his humility when he publicly apologized for the role the church played in more than 100 historical wrongs.

I truly believe that John Paul II deserves a day that not only celebrates his work as a religious and spiritual man, but also celebrates this great man who had but one mission and one vision: to ensure that universal peace reigns in the hearts of all nations.

To conclude, I will just reiterate that Pope John Paul II is an important figure in Roman Catholic history. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2004 and spoke out against oppressive measures in eastern Europe and many other countries. Pope John Paul II was committed to peace and dialogue between different religions.

For all these reasons, I will support this bill.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and humbled to have an opportunity to rise and support Bill C-266.

I was proud to support the creation of a day honouring Pope John Paul II when it was first brought forward in the last Parliament by my colleague Andrew Kania, then the member of Parliament for Brampton West, and I am certainly thankful that the bill was reintroduced in this Parliament by the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Even in this day and age, it is impossible to deny the significance and impact of the pope, not just in religious life but also in international affairs. Just look at the amount of coverage that resulted from the retirement of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. Roman Catholic or not, the world was captivated both by the process and by the pending impact of whomever was elected.

Coming of age in a traditional Italian-Canadian family in Guelph meant that the pope and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church played a significant role in our day-to-day lives, yet few popes played so large a role as the man who was born Karol Józef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920.

More than just a religious leader, he was a political figurehead and a light to the many millions oppressed by communism across Europe in the midst of the Cold War, one so significant that Russia's KGB considered his championship against Communism a major threat.

As a young man studying for the priesthood in secret, outside the watch of the German forces occupying Poland during the Second World War, he developed a keen sensitivity to the oppressive impact of totalitarianism and within that saw first-hand the need for humble service and compassion in the face of terror and brutality. Very early, he allied himself first and foremost with the people he served.

Very early in my life, my parents instilled in me an understanding of the value of servant leadership, a powerful notion that genuine fulfillment in life is found first and foremost by being of service to others.

It was this great yet humble young priest who understood this and, in fact, put it best, when he said that a person “can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself”. This same priest made his apostolic motto when he was elected to the papacy “Totus Tuus”, which translates into English from Latin as “totally yours”.

I was always reminded, in attempting to understand this model, the example set by St. Francis of Assisi, who, in his namesake prayer, asked to be made an instrument of peace, to understand before being understood, that the emptiness of hatred might be filled by love and injury forgiven. Doubt is replaced by faith, despair by hope, darkness by light, and sadness by joy. Quite frankly, and regardless of faith or creed, this should be a touchstone to which we all aspire when we run for public office. We must aspire to be agents of positive change in the lives of others and in the lives of our children and grandchildren and all of the people around us whom we both lead and serve.

As a priest, later bishop, then cardinal and finally pope, John Paul II was just such an instrument of peace and a beacon for those under terrible oppression. His role in bringing about the end of communism, particularly in Poland, in conjunction with the Solidarity movement, cannot be underestimated.

In fact, noted historian Timothy Garton Ash pointed out that “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism”.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev himself said that the Iron Curtain's collapse would not have been possible without John Paul II's intervention. What an almost incalculable contribution Pope John Paul made to world peace and the pursuit of human dignity that accompanies human rights.

Recognizing his role as a builder of bridges between groups and communities across the world, he once said, “I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, that we all work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows justice and solidarity”.

Bearing witness to this commitment, it was under his papacy that a pontiff first made an official visit to a synagogue when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in spring 1986. He again made history 14 years later when he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he quietly deposited a prayer for forgiveness for the terrible actions against Jews that had caused them so much suffering. Similarly, John Paul II made great efforts to bridge divides between Catholicism and Islam as the first pontiff to enter and pray inside a mosque.

Much of his work as pope was done in the hope of fostering religious tolerance and greater understanding between sects and denominations across the world. He was as much an ambassador of the good will he wished to promote as the leader of billions of Roman Catholics across the world.

Even in his later years, there was no question that people young and old were drawn to him. On one of his many trips to Canada, he travelled to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002, drawing a crowd of 800,000 people to Downsview Park. In an age when engagement, particularly youth engagement, is in decline and people are identifying less and less with any religion, it was a powerful and telling testament to his position as a peacemaker and his influence as a leader.

While it was my faith and my Catholic education that informed many of my opinions of him while growing up, it was a clear and inarguable understanding of his accomplishments that can lead even a non-Catholic observer to the conclusion that he is among the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century. Father Frank Freitas, pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Cambridge, shared the following observation with me:

Blessed John Paul II emerged on the world scene not as a political force but a force for good. Over and over he seemed to echo the words, “be not afraid; do not give in to discouragement”. This message was not purely a religious one, but a totally realistic one. It was not solely for those who were finding it hard to believe, to trust or to walk in faith, but it was for all who were seeking, even on the world stage of leadership, to do what was right and good. His international interventions contributed to freedom for many who were oppressed. He sought by the power of his convictions to lead, not unaware of the struggle but unwavered by it. To lead without fear can be difficult when parts of the world, even today, seem to operate with a lack of the basic moral standard of human dignity, when innocence is removed by war, famine, hardship and suffering. Yet Pope John Paul's life message, as relevant today as it was when first proclaimed in 1978, crosses religious lines to enter as a straight line to the heart of all of us, especially those in leadership—do what is true; stand up for what is right, proclaim what is just, be a standard bearer for what is good, testify to what is fair, and do not be afraid.

Pope John Paul II was a man of courage and humility and deep internal strength, all spawned and nurtured by an even deeper faith. His model was one that men and women of all backgrounds, when seeking to lead, should aspire to follow. He was as strong a communicator in his actions as in his words, by giving proof of the better path we should all follow to build a better world in which to live.

I think it is only fitting, and I am sure that everyone in this esteemed House agrees, that we offer his as a model for future generations and memorialize our recognition of his work by commemorating him on April 2 every year, the anniversary of his passing.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very emotional at this moment. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to introduce this bill and that it would come to this point.

I would like to first thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and his parliamentary secretary for their support, the committee of Canadian heritage for its work, and of course all hon. members of this House who took part in the debate on this bill. Whether they spoke in support of or against the bill, I truly value their opinion, as would the late pope because he listened to everybody equally.

I would also like to give special thanks to Father Janusz Blazejak, Father Marian Gil and Father Adam Filas, for their support and encouragement, as well as to Frank Klees, Chris Korwin-Kuczynski and Marek Kornas for their work to promote this idea.

Many thanks to my constituents and people from across Canada who contacted me, voicing their opinion on the bill, many of whom were in support of it and some who had different views than me. However, we live in a democratic country where all of the views of people and their opinions should be listened to and considered.

Therefore, in conclusion I would like to thank all members of this House for their support. I am asking them all to vote in favour of this bill.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
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Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on this bill. It is an important bill for a lot of reasons.

Before I begin, I would like to recognize the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this bill forward in the House. He is a gentleman who has a very important success story, and he is one of those people Canada seems to attract.

The member for Mississauga East—Cooksville was born in Poland. He lived under a Communist dictatorship and understood how hard life was. He wanted to do something better to support his family. He came to Canada and built a better life for his family. Ultimately, living the Canadian dream, he has now been elected to the Canadian House of Commons and is able to give back and contribute to his community.

He is doing spectacular work here, and this bill is just another indication of it. How nice it must be for the people in Mississauga East—Cooksville to have a member of Parliament who brings forward their issues and has finally restored that community to some excellent representation. I want to congratulate him for bringing this bill forward, because it is so important that we talk about this extraordinary person, Pope John Paul II.

I was a student in Scarborough in 1984 in the second class of Pope John Paul II Catholic school. The year 1984 was a very interesting time, because I believe it was the Pope's first visit to Canada. It was an extraordinary time for us students as we got to wait in line in the procession as the Popemobile came by. I can remember all of the people being there in downtown Toronto, waiting to see the Pope for just a split second as he drove by in the Popemobile. It was not just Catholics; hundreds of thousands of people were waiting to catch a glimpse of this person. At this point, we did not really know how important this pope would be, not only to those of us of Catholic faith but in changing the world as we know it.

I already mentioned how the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville endured a Communist dictatorship and how he was able to make a better life for himself, but I would also like to talk about my French teacher in my riding.

He is a Polish immigrant who came to Canada two years ago. We have been talking a lot of about how he grew up, the life he led under a Communist dictatorship and how important the Pope was in helping them break free. We talked about how important the Pope was in helping the Polish people understand that they had freedom and could aspire to be better than they were. His stories of the importance of the Pope in helping Poland come out of Communism are very inspiring to me. It is another reason I am glad to have this opportunity today to talk about this bill.

A lot of speakers have already talked about all of the accomplishments of Pope John Paul II, but I think it bears repeating.

We know that Pope John Paul II led a difficult life. His mother and father died when he was quite young, and his brother thereafter. He lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland. During that time he started to understand and feel the call toward the priesthood. He was educated in secret, from what I understand, and was ultimately ordained in 1946. Despite being in a Communist dictatorship and despite all the challenges he faced, he was able to grow the faith in Poland. He was always able to grow the faith and give people the inspiration they needed while balancing what was obviously a very difficult government and a very difficult circumstance for the Polish people.

I remember being a young boy when the first Pope John Paul unfortunately passed away shortly after he became pope. It was a time when Catholics were very uncertain. I think the first Pope John Paul had a 30-day reign, and I remember watching for many hours as we waited to see who the next pope would be.

Being of Italian-Canadian descent, we assumed that the person who would be coming out would be another Italian pope, because that is just the way it had been for 400 years. I remember being in my home with an uncle who had come to Canada in the 1950s. He was a very proud Canadian but also a very proud Italian. I remember seeing his reaction to seeing someone who was not an Italian come through those doors and that momentary disappointment that the next pope was going to be Polish and not Italian.

I tell this story because many years later, I was sitting with this very same uncle watching a mass when the Pope was much later on in years and struggling to carry on his duties. I listened to my uncle explain how this Italian pope had made such a difference in the world. I reminded him that the Pope was Polish and not Italian. He said, “That all changed over the years. He has now become a very proud Italian pope.” That speaks volumes of how this pope was able to cross all kinds of boundaries.

The 1980s and 1990s were a difficult time period in world history. We were growing up at a time when there was a great deal of uncertainty. We still had east versus west, and much of the world and eastern Europe was under a Communist dictatorship. It was a time when the west was afraid of the east and the east was afraid of the west, but here was a pope who was not afraid to break down those barriers, who was not afraid to take on the Communist dictators of the east, because he understood how important it was and how important his role was to bring freedom to the world.

If we look back, despite all the incredible things that he did for Catholics and to help expand the Catholic faith, no matter what one believes, I think we all would agree that Pope John Paul II made a significant difference in changing the world because he was not afraid. During the Second World War, he was not afraid to struggle and fight for what he believed in. He became a priest despite Nazi occupation, after having understood all the difficulties that dictatorship and lack of responsible government meant to the people and how it was bringing the people down. He struggled and persevered, and when he had the opportunity when he became the pope, he made sure that he was going to make a difference.

No matter what one believes, we can all agree that this gentleman made an incredible difference in the world. I cannot thank my hon. friend from Mississauga East—Cooksville enough for bringing this bill forward so that we could take one day to recognize and honour how hard this person worked, the difference he made and, ultimately, the changes he made to help bring democracy throughout the world. We still have a long way to go, but if it were not for this person's example, for his leadership, for the strength of the Polish people who seized on the opportunity to break free, we would have a much different world today.

I am very excited to be able to support the member's bill. I want to again single out the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville. He is someone who can make a heck of a difference for all immigrants who come to this country who work hard and struggle the way my parents did.

I look at the example of my parents, and it is sad that neither of my parents was able to see me elected. They did not live long enough to see me elected to the House of Commons, but I look across the aisle and see people like the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville making a difference and becoming elected and bringing bills like this forward. I congratulate him, and I congratulate his constituents for having such an incredible member of Parliament.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, my speech is about Bill C-266, which seeks to create Pope John Paul II Day.

I wanted to make this speech because this bill really bothered me in the sense that it made me think long and hard about what I should do. As a Catholic, I recognize the tremendous contribution that Pope John Paul II made to humanity, if you will. However, I am choosing to vote against this bill, and I think that it is important to explain why.

First, one of the issues that led to my decision is that Pope John Paul II is not Canadian. He is an important international figure who visited Canada, but he is not originally from here. It is also important to remember that the Pope is a head of state. This day would therefore recognize a foreign head of state, and I am a bit concerned that this would set a precedent. I would like to point out that this does not mean that Roman Catholics or Polish Canadians cannot celebrate the late Pope. These people can do so in a more general way without necessarily having a national day.

It is also important to understand that the other national days in Canada that recognize individuals are those to recognize Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who, as we all know, were historic prime ministers. There is also Raoul Wallenberg Day. This man was a great activist during the Second World War and he was made an honorary Canadian citizen.

Another issue I had was that people are not religious in order to get glory. When a person makes a commitment to God, especially in the Catholic Church, he does not do it for recognition or glory. Religious work is done humbly, discreetly and simply. Humility is like the ground in which other virtues grow. The gospels present it as the fundamental virtue.

Pope John Paul II worked in many areas. We all recognize his wonderful commitment to peace and to opening the lines of communication between religions. He was a political activist who was against Communism and political oppression. He worked to help youth and to reform the Roman Catholic Church. In my opinion, it is more important to recognize and remember these achievements than the person himself.

For instance, we could decide to have a national interfaith dialogue day to pay tribute to the late pope and remember the message that he was trying to send. In my view, celebrating the individual per se is not consistent with the fundamental tenet of humility in religion. That is why the best way to remember Pope John Paul II is by remembering his battles and ideals, and by continuing to spread his message.

Another issue that came to mind as I was examining the bill is that he would become the only religious figure recognized in Canada. As we know, Canada is a secular country. Religious freedom is guaranteed, and the right to religion is recognized. Even the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”.

However, I would like to point out that religious traditions in Canada are very diverse. We have Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Orthodox Christians and Baptists. We have the various traditional religions of first nations and Inuit peoples. We have atheists, Jews, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and the list probably goes on.

I think all we have to do is walk around our major Canadian cities to see that we have places of religious worship that belong to different religions in a number of places.

I do not think that recognizing a particular religious figure from a particular religion is necessarily the best way to celebrate Canadians in all their diversity. That might create some problems, if you will, or raise some concerns.

Everyone is free to celebrate their beliefs, but I do not think it is healthy or appropriate to recognize a pope or a particular faith more than another. That goes against Canada's religious diversity.

The problem is that I cannot see why we would celebrate one pope more than another. As I see it, every pope has contributed in his own way to building humanity and developing ideals and beliefs.

Choosing a pope in particular is as if we were not recognizing the work of the others. I take issue with that. In my view, a person becomes pope because he has worked very hard and has fought for many things. I do not like the idea of elevating one pope above the rest.

I also want to clarify that I really struggled with this bill. I spoke with priests in my riding and other people. I talked it over with them. I think they understood my views on this bill.

I come from a Catholic family. We even had a bishop in my family. My grandfather's brother was a long-time bishop of the diocese of Amos. Back home, people recognize him. They all know who he is.

I understand the idea of wanting to pay tribute to an important figure in this religion. However, I unfortunately do not believe that a national day is appropriate. I think that if we had truly wanted to celebrate his memory, we could have, for example, created a national day in honour of one of his ideals, such as peace. We could have commemorated the date that Pope John Paul II passed away. Someone advocated for that. I think it would have been important to acknowledge the ideals he fought for and not simply his name.

That is why I wanted to make this speech. I wanted to explain to people why I chose to vote against this bill, even though it was really difficult for me.

I recognize the work done by my colleague. I know that he worked hard on this bill and that he did it with the best of intentions. I sincerely hope that he understands or that he at least listened carefully to the issues and concerns I had regarding this bill.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand and support this bill. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for their contributions to the debate. If John Paul II were in this room or watching this debate, he would have respected very much the previous speaker's speech from the official opposition. Why he would respect it and support her opinion in this matter is because this is the consummate democratic place. He was devoted to a place like this that exists on the face of God's good earth. He would have supported this place because it is a democratic institution and he knew what it was like to live in an institution such as this where people could not have differences of opinion. It is for that reason that I think he would be proud.

He probably would ask us not to have a day just for him, but he is not here. However, we care very much about this man of tremendous faith, who put his arms around the very people who would have in the past not put their arms around him except to put them in chains. He was a humble man. Those of us who support this day are here and able to say for him, because we know he is watching from a better place, that we are prepared to do this as we feel in our bones that we must do it.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing the bill forward that would designate April 2 as Pope John Paul II day in Canada.

As the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville mentioned, Pope John Paul II's work transcended the boundaries of the Catholic faith. He promoted values of peace, tolerance and religious freedom. He took a strong stand against human rights violations and respected and showed admiration for other religions. On John Paul II's passing, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated:

Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself.

This self-evaluation led him to work to redress historical wrongs and ask forgiveness from the Jews for sins committed by the church. As a powerful example, on a visit to the Western Wall in 2000, he offered a prayer saying:

—we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.

John Paul II was the first pope to visit a synagogue in 1986 where he declared "each of our religions" wishes "to be recognized and respected in its own identity," beyond "any ambiguous appropriation." His strong messages to encourage inter-religious dialogue and freedom of speech are characteristics that, I will say so respectfully, John Paul II shared with this government. Not only did he believe that each of us should be able to worship as we please, but also that we should be able to worship differently and still co-operate and work together.

As my colleague stated, as a nation, Canada is recognized as a world leader in the promotion of international human rights. It is a defining characteristic of our foreign policy. John Paul II, too, made this a priority during his papacy. He was a man of courage and compassion. He did not believe that the fight for democracy was beyond our reach. His efforts impacted global politics and he inspired peaceful opposition to repressive regimes, eventually leading to the collapse of several stifling dictatorships.

In 1987, he met and pushed the dictator Augusto Pinochet to accept the return of democracy in Chile. In 1988, John Paul II visited Paraguay, which led to the collapse of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner.

Pope John Paul II's role in the spread of democracy in eastern Europe was profound. He himself endured the tyrannies of the Nazi and then communist regimes as he was only 19 when the Nazis invaded Poland.

In his 1979 visit to Poland, he said, “Be not afraid.” His simple words to encourage and inspire the people led to the peaceful opposition that can be said to have precipitated the fall of communism in Poland and the spread of democracy in all of Europe.

In the 1995 address to the UN, John Paul II touched on his experiences in the peaceful opposition he supported by saying:

The moral dynamics of this universal quest for freedom clearly appeared in Central and Eastern Europe during the non-violent revolutions of 1989. Unfolding in specific times and places, those historical events nonetheless taught a lesson which goes far beyond a specific geographical location. For the non-violent revolutions of 1989 demonstrated that the quest for freedom cannot be suppressed. It arises from a recognition of the inestimable dignity and value of the human person, and it cannot fail to be accompanied by a commitment on behalf of the human person.

Further to this, he played a large role in the collapse of communism. John Paul II himself endured Nazism and Communism, and devoted much time speaking out against such oppression and human rights violations. From Haiti to Poland, and around the globe, the visits from John Paul II foreshadowed the collapse of dictatorships and the end of oppression. Wherever he went, wherever he landed, peace and democracy followed.

We as Canadians should be proud of him for doing this, as the endorsement of democracy is, and has been for centuries, a strong belief in Canadian values. Canada is a nation built on a number of fundamental freedoms. These freedoms and values are part of what make our country such an attractive place for people to immigrate to. One of these core Canadian freedoms is the freedom of religion. In every region of this country, we have a multitude of people practising a multitude of faiths, and they are able to do so in peace without cause or incident.

However, we are fortunate, as in certain regions across the globe religious minorities are the subject of violence, oppression and hatred, which is why our government recently unveiled its Office of Religious Freedom. Working within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, this office will oppose religious hatred and encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world so that those people too can practise their faiths without fear of repression. These nations are often a source of instability and civil strife, and combatting these qualities by protecting an individual's right to practise his or her religion is something which deserves to be championed. I believe that the work of John Paul II to promote inter-religious dialogue, and his acceptance and appreciation for other faiths and religions is such an important part of his legacy and something all Canadians can admire and appreciate, as religious freedom is a strong principle in our foreign policy. He once said:

Instead of marveling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them.

As Canadians, we have a special connection with John Paul II, as he made three separate visits to our country, the latest being in 2002 at World Youth Day in Toronto. His message of acceptance, diversity, and equality is reflected in our Canadian values and multicultural landscape. As Canadians, we incorporate these values in our daily lives. John Paul II not only transcended the boundaries of faith, but he also sought to bridge generational gaps and invest in our future by fostering the values of compassion and tolerance in our youth, which is why in 1985 he established World Youth Day.

His visit to Toronto in 2002 attracted hundreds of thousands of youth, representing all faiths and cultures from around the world, who made the pilgrimage to Canada, uniting in one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world, just to hear him speak. Not only did he garner the attention of a multitude of religions, he was able to catch the attention of a young audience.

Much like Canadians, John Paul II did not believe that religious differences should instigate conflict. Rather, they should unite all people and celebrate our diversity.

I support the designation of April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day in Canada. I would like to thank my colleague, the member of Parliament for Mississauga East—Cooksville, for bringing this bill before the House. I would like to thank him for giving us an opportunity to celebrate and to reflect on a man who brought hope, peace and comfort to so many around the world.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to be able to speak today about the bill being put forward by my colleague.

It is an important bill, because it celebrates and brings recognition to a man who, in my view, rose above merely being a religious figure. Pope John Paul II was a living symbol of unity. His work was not just to disseminate the word of God but to share in the vital values that we as Canadians share: peace, tolerance and liberty.

Pope John Paul II was, of course, also a man of God. In that role he had many accomplishments. I am not a Catholic, and I was not raised in the Catholic faith. That is why when I rise today to talk about Pope John Paul II, it is because of the things he did as a religious figure, but not through religion.

Pope John Paul II accomplished incredible things in this world. If he had not taken his message, his simple message, his rallying cry, “Be not afraid”, into the heart of communist east Europe, where would the world be today?

It is simple to say that it would have happened anyway. However, I do not believe so. When he went to Poland for his first visit in 1970 for his nine-day pilgrimage, he warned communist authorities that the papacy would be watching them closely. Let us think about this. This is back in the times of the Iron Curtain. These were bold words.

Marxism in eastern Europe was a cult. Communist leaders wanted to eradicate the traditions of history in the name of a new kind of society and to shape a new kind of citizen. When the pope went to Poland, he did not speak only of God. He spoke of history. He spoke of the 600th anniversary of Poland's oldest university. He spoke of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprisings.

This was deliberate. These were powerful words. These were words that inspired people in Poland. It is not a coincidence that a year later, Poles found the courage to stand in solidarity in the first mass anti-communist political movement. They began to organize themselves. Any student of history can look and see what happened next. Freedom came to Poland, and it spread. It spread to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Romania and Bulgaria. The pope gave people confidence, the confidence to stand up.

This is an important legacy. It is why it is beyond his being a religious figure that we should recognize his contributions. Those contributions were not just there. We have heard about many of them from my friend who just spoke and from the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville himself.

Of course, he spoke out very strongly against apartheid in South Africa. He criticized the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti, and he visited. His visit led to protests and the end of a dictatorship. We could go on. We could talk about Chile as well. This was a man whose words inspired. They inspired people to stand up for themselves.

We can also talk about World Youth Day. My colleague talked about that as well. It is not just a celebration of the Catholic faith. He delivered important messages to people. In 2002, when he came to Toronto, he said, “The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity”.

That was his message. His message was to build bridges and come together in unity. It is a message that is so important. His hope of uniting those from diverse backgrounds and beliefs continues to be brought to fruition every time we have a World Youth Day.

I want to conclude with a few remarks.

In June 2004, President George Bush awarded the Pope the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civil honour in America. The citation itself is so important, and it is another reason why I am so proud to stand here today. The citation said “...this son of Poland whose principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny”. I could not have said it better myself.

Pope John Paul II embodied peace, faith, compassion and liberty. That is why I am proud to stand in support of April 2 as Pope John Paul II day here in Canada. I want to thank my colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this forward and for giving Canadians an opportunity on that day to reflect on the incredible legacy and the gift we received all across the world from this fantastic man.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members on both sides of the House for their participation in this debate.

As I have already mentioned, Pope John Paul II's legacy goes well beyond his role in the Catholic church. He stood for religious tolerance and freedom and he spent a great deal of time encouraging inter-religious dialogue. To me this represents a big part of what it means to be Canadian.

Canada is a country where so many traditions, religions and cultures come together in harmony, where each has supported and impacted the other, where mutual respect and admiration is of paramount importance. We live in a country where our children can grow up to have an understanding and an appreciation for other cultures and come to learn from the teaching of each. Our future looks bright. Younger generations will reiterate these messages and teach tolerance and harmony.

John Paul II once said:

To choose tolerance, dialogue and cooperation as the path into the future is to preserve what is most precious in the great religious heritage of mankind. It is also to ensure that in the centuries to come the world will not be without that hope which is the lifeblood of the human heart.

In addition to the respect he showed to other religions, Pope John Paul II recognized that today's youth hold the key to our future, and by imparting wisdom and values of compassion and tolerance on younger generations, we can ensure a better future. He showed our youth a great respect and sought to bridge generational gaps, which is why in 1985 he established World Youth Day. His visit to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002 attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Youth from around the world representing all faiths and cultures came to hear him speak and to experience the wonderful multicultural society Canada has to offer. Each time we celebrate World Youth Day, we also celebrate John Paul II's legacy and his vision for our future and investment in our youth.

Pope John Paul II proved that nothing is impossible and stood up for populations who were oppressed by totalitarian regimes. He will be remembered for his role in the collapse of several stifling dictatorships and the way he inspired peaceful opposition to communism in Poland, leading to its eventual collapse.

Canada is a peaceful country and a safe country, and I strongly believe that the work of John Paul II and the values he spread truly resonate with what it means to be Canadian. In taking the time to remember Pope John Paul II, Canadians would also take a moment to appreciate what we are so lucky to have in this great country.

I bring this before the House today, not only as an opportunity to celebrate a man who did so much for millions of Christian followers around the world, but to celebrate a man who did much more to uphold values that we as Canadians cherish so deeply, values of justice, liberty and democracy.

I ask all members of the House to join me in declaring April 2 Pope John Paul II day in Canada, to honour and pay tribute to this great man.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

February 6th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

moved that Bill C-266, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the bill for which I have just moved second reading would designate April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day in Canada, allowing all Canadians the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the man who took a strong stand on human rights and opened the dialogue between other faiths to promote freedom of religion and speech across the globe. These are values that we as Canadians share.

I bring this before you today not only as an opportunity to celebrate a man who did so much for millions of Christian followers around the world but to celebrate a man who did much more to uphold the values that we as Canadians cherish so deeply, values of justice, liberty and democracy.

Pope John Paul II was the third longest reigning pope in history and he took a strong stance for human rights, democracy and religious freedom, visiting over 129 countries to carry this message around the world. John Paul II truly humanized the papacy. He was hailed as the people's pope and changed our expectations of the role. He became more accessible to the people and spoke regularly every Wednesday to the faithful.

The riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville that I represent is diverse in culture and religion. What impresses upon me the most about Pope John Paul II is that in the course of his papacy he transcended the boundaries of the Catholic faith and promoted peace and freedom of religion. He chose to see commonalities in our world religions rather than differences and the characteristics of each that bond and unite us.

He once said, “[I]nstead of marveling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them”. As well, on a visit to Jordan, he pointed out, “The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among their highest values”.

Pope John Paul did not believe that religious differences should instigate conflict but rather they should unite all people in the face of differences that may otherwise divide us. As Canadians, we are proud of our government's efforts on this front. We have established the office of religious freedom, adding credence to the fact that Canada is a country where people of all faiths and religions can be free to worship as they choose. Furthermore, our multicultural values encourage Canadians to find our commonalities instead of differences, and to learn and benefit from our varied histories and backgrounds.

One of Pope John Paul's papal titles was Pontifex Maximus, or supreme pontiff, which when literally translated from the Latin language means “master bridge-builder”, a fitting title as he has done much to reach out to religious leaders around the world and promote dialogue. He stressed the need for peace and justice in the Middle East, stating:

I pray that my visit will serve to encourage an increase of interreligious dialogue that will lead Jews, Christians and Muslims to seek in their respective beliefs, and in the universal brotherhood that unites all the members of the human family, the motivation and the perseverance to work for the peace and justice...for which they yearn so deeply.

In addition to the respect and admiration he showed to other faiths, he also sought to heal deep historical wounds, making strong statements against anti-Semitism and asking forgiveness from the Jews for the sins committed by the church. In 2000, he offered a prayer at the Western Wall, stating:

—we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.

In a 1986 visit to the great synagogue in Rome, the first visit to a synagogue by any pope, John Paul II declared that each of our religions wishes to be recognized and respected in its own identity, beyond any ambiguous appropriation. The respect and admiration he showed to other great religions should be an example to others who have forgotten the messages of peace and love that unite rather than divide our religions and cultures.

Pope John Paul II respected and admired various aspects of all religions, remarking on the Islamic faith that, “the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer“.

As Canadians, we are proud of the fact that so many immigrate here to find a better life for their families, where they are free to worship as they choose. The respect, admiration and acknowledgement for the ways that all religions have shaped our world and even given back to Canadian society are characteristics that Pope John Paul II shared with all Canadians and with this government.

Human rights are an important and defining characteristic of Canada's foreign policy and our country's identity. Our country and this government have been a strong voice for the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic values on the world stage. We are currently a party to seven major international human rights conventions. Canadians are proud of the work we do to promote these values around the world.

I attend many citizenship ceremonies in Mississauga and with each visit I hear another story of a family that has fled situations in countries where its rights and freedoms where not protected, where democracy seemed unattainable, similar to those I left behind myself in coming to Canada.

We often imagine the fight for democracy as one that is beyond our reach, but in fact Pope John Paul II proved that there was no insurmountable problem facing our world. He, himself, endured the tyrannies of Nazism and Communism and spent much of his papacy speaking out against such oppression and human rights violations.

Pope John Paul II stood for international understanding, peace and defending and promoting equality. His messages were in keeping with our government's foreign policy and gave hope for a better world.

His efforts impacted global politics and inspired peaceful opposition to authoritative regimes. For example, the Pope played a role in 1990 peace negotiations in the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

On a visit to Zimbabwe in 1988, he spoke out against apartheid in South Africa, saying:

I appeal to all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of the peoples of this region, of whatever racial extraction or ideological inspiration, to renounce the use of violence as a method for achieving their ends. They have a duty before history to resolve their differences by peaceful means...

It is also said that Pope John Paul II played a large role in the collapse of several stifling dictatorships that we have seen in our time. In his meeting with Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1987, he pushed the dictator to accept a return to democracy. He openly stood behind the Vicariate of Solidarity, the church-led pro-democracy, anti-Pinochet organization. He met with leaders of opposition groups and encouraged their cause. The opposition praised John Paul II for denouncing Pinochet as a dictator, as many members of Chile's opposition were persecuted for much less.

Following his visit, Bishop Camus, a strong opponent of Pinochet, said it was already clear that “Chile will not be the same....No country the Pope has visited has remained the same after his departure”.

Twenty-five years after the Pope's visit, democratically elected President Sebastian Pinera celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Pope's visit to Chile, hailing it as an event that changed the country and the lives of its citizens forever.

In Haiti Pope John Paul II criticized the leadership of the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, highlighting how deplorable the inequality and poverty he saw before him was. His visit lead to protests against the dictatorship and in 1986, just three short years after his visit, Duvalier was removed from power.

Again, in Paraguay the collapse of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner was also said to be precipitated by Pope John Paul II's visit in 1988, where he said:

Politics...has a fundamental ethical dimension because it is first and foremost a service to man. The church can and must remind men--and in particular those who govern--of their ethical duties for the good of the whole of society.

This is how I see my service and the service of my colleagues to this great country. We treat our duty in Parliament with great respect and insist that we stay true to the will of those who elected us.

Canada is recognized as a world leader in the promotion of international human rights. These Canadian values are part of what makes our country such an attractive place for people to immigrate. We are seen as a place where families much like my own have come to find a better life for themselves and for their children. These immigrants have shaped our multicultural landscape and have done so much to build our economy. Without holding true to these values, we would not be the vision of safety and prosperity immigrants see in Canada today. As such, we would not have benefited so greatly from what new Canadians have brought to us in helping to build our great country.

Pope John Paul II shared this message of love, peace, tolerance and equality. He was an excellent reminder to all Canadians of our responsibility internationally and here at home to incorporate these values in our daily lives and to respect, appreciate and protect them every chance we get.

One of Pope John Paul II's greatest legacies is the way he contributed to the fall of communism. He was a man of courage and compassion. He was only 19 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and he was forced into manual labour. With the so-called Soviet liberation, any opposition to atheistic totalitarian rule would not be tolerated, but this did not stop John Paul II from carrying out the word of God and spreading the values of humanism when he joined the priesthood.

His tour of Poland in 1979 inspired the people and united them in their quest for freedom, which eventually led to the Solidarity movement. As one man, without an army at his back, and equipped only with his words, he inspired the non-violent opposition to communist oppression and tyranny in Poland, leading to its eventual collapse.

His words, “be not afraid”, simple as they may seem, undermined the strongest weapon in an oppressive regime's arsenal: fear. He made certain that the church would stand behind its members and would be a place of freedom, a sanctuary and a beacon of hope.

Speaking on the victory of the movement, it has been said, “ May the word solidarity flow from our Polish soil—with all those people who still suffer racism, neo-colonialism, exploitation, unemployment, persecution and intolerance”.

His words in Poland were echoed in other Soviet countries, such as Hungary, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia and others, a region that is now considered democratic.

Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev said that the collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II, and on this point I agree. In the words of Lech Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity movement, “Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of communism. [Pope John Paul II] simply said: 'Don't be afraid, change the image of this land'”.

I am of Polish descent. I am a Catholic, but that is not why I stand before the House today to ask that members support this legislation. I stand before the House in an attempt to recognize a great man, one who embodied the values of our multi-faith, multicultural society, a man who stood up against tyranny, whose messages of peace and tolerance transformed and greatly impacted global politics.

John Paul II stood up against tyranny and supported democratic values, something Canadians young and old should never forget to be grateful for and something I remember each and every day I sit in the House to be the voice of my constituents.