House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Supply
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3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's speech, but my recollection of the event that led to this parliamentary crisis is not quite the same as hers.

She spoke of a spontaneous demonstration. What I remember is that, when my colleague, the member for Rimouski—Mitis, rose to ask a very relevant question, flags began waving everywhere in the House, and it did not look spontaneous. It looked very well organized, by both the Liberals and the Reformers.

The result today is that all Quebeckers have understood that this demonstration that fired up nationalist sentiment in English Canada apparently did nothing to improve relations between Quebec and Canada.

I went back to my riding. What I found most distressing was that people were saying “What is it with that Parliament? You are wasting your time on this sort of thing. Is Parliament some kind of farce?”

In that sense, today's Reform Party motion only makes matters more farcical.

Would it not have been more important today to address the issues of employment insurance, poverty, and the multilateral agreement on investment, all daily concerns of Quebeckers and Canadians?

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would concur with the last comments of the member opposite that there are more substantive issues and there is a more productive way we could use this time. However, I would also like to underline that the comments, although made outside this Chamber by a member of the Bloc, were indeed unfortunate and were responded to with almost unanimity from members of other parties in the House. It was very difficult to deal with.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me somewhat to even address this issue because I feel it should not even be discussed today. We must look realistically at how the issue commenced in the House. I emphasize in the House because members are free to do what they want outside. If people have concerns, they should be dealt with outside.

When the flags were waved in the House as a prop and the national anthem was sung to silence a member who had the right to speak, that was wrong. It is wrong now to be debating this issue as if it were one about flags. It is not an issue about flags. It is an issue about people wanting to get their way, to prove what they did was right and to justify what they did. I hear people making all kinds of excuses as to why they did it. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is not an issue of flags and we should not misinterpret it as being an issue of flags.

I feel very sad because the Canadian public is being taken in by this whole issue. We as parliamentarians who are supposed to be responsible people elected to serve our constituents are here wasting our time, spending taxpayer money debating an issue that ought not to be debated, should never have begun in the first place. The people who started it should be big enough to stand up and agree they were wrong and let it drop at that. Not every member of the House stood and sung O Canada.

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree. The Chair ruled on the events of that day. We are more than willing to accept that ruling and move forward.

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3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will try to address my concerns to the Chair and keep them very brief.

There is a greater question here and I would like to ask the former speaker what she thinks of this. If we display a Canadian flag on our desk, what does that tell the people who do not display the Canadian flag? It does use it as some type of a weapon or some type of coercion to convince everyone else that they too should have one.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I fully support this being referred to a standing committee and being dealt with through the proper channels and procedures.

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3:30 p.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this debate has had an interesting fate in the way it has progressed over the last two weeks.

There are a number of issues I want to deal with. I think one of the most important things is that all of the people who are listening to this understand why we are doing this, putting an end to this. This issue admittedly arose from members of the government side standing to wave a flag, as well as members of this party, and rightfully so. They should have. I stood up proudly and waved the flag in response to comments made by a member of the Bloc. We said enough is enough, we have to get on with the important governing issues.

The members repeatedly have said send it to a committee. Sending that to a committee would be a colossal waste of time. It is important but it is not rocket science. We are talking about a very simple question.

This is the only way we can put this thing to an end once and for all and make every single member in this Chamber stand up and be counted. Will you allow a flag on your desk or will you not?

When we debated this supply day motion as to whether or not to proceed with it, that was the number one issue. Let us get this thing over with, make people stand up and be counted and move forward.

The fisheries and oceans committee I am involved with meets two or three times a week and we do a lot of good work. By sending something like this to committee to be buried in months and months of meetings is insane. It is absolutely ridiculous it has arrived at this point where we have used a supply day motion because there are lots of important issues. We were forced into this. We were pushed and we had to respond. This is one way to put an end to this and that is what this is all about today.

It can be argued that we are sitting here using up valuable time but we are not going to have this issue go on until May or June and then into next fall because that is crazy. That is what you guys keep telling us to do, send it to a committee and let us talk about it.

Yes, we did get a ruling from the Speaker yesterday and he did say it was clearly out of order. I accept that. No question. What happened? There were about 200 members of Parliament responding to comments made outside the House when a member was visiting a foreign country representing Canada with taxpayers' dollars. They were infuriated. They were outraged and they responded.

There were comments by the Speaker yesterday that this should not be repeated. With the highest respect for the Speaker himself and the authority of that chair, I would suggest that if these kinds of comments are made outside the House again exactly the same thing would happen.

We saw members of the government proudly wave a three foot by six foot flag during the budget debate only weeks ago when this issue came up. I supported them. I stood on my feet and sang O Canada , and I was proud to do that.

This debate has been elevated and it has progressed but thank goodness the Reform Party is bringing it to an end. It will not go to a committee. It will not go off to further meetings. They will not be talking about this in June. We will not be hearing grumblings about it. It is over today, once and for all.

Every member will have to stand in this House and be counted. There will be no ducking behind some orders of the government. They have an opportunity to stand and be counted on whether they will allow members to have a flag on their desks.

We are advocating that we should have this place give each person their right. They do not have to if they do not want to. I heard a member opposite just moments before referring to the flag as a weapon. For goodness sakes, that is the craziest thing I have heard. It is the elevation that this debate has come to. They talk about respect for institutions.

I do believe that a majority of these members, with the exception of one party, believe in this country and are patriotic. Some members just want to demonstrate that. However, I do not want to lose sight of why we are here today.

This is a very important question: Can some members put a flag on their desks? I admit that we did not do this in 1993 and we did not do it last September. This whole thing evolved out of the outcome of actions by a member of this House on a taxpayers' junket to another country and the House responded.

It has elevated to this and it is time that it has to stop. It has to be over and done. This is the one way that it can be done. The Reform Party had to use its supply day motion to put an end to this nonsense, to make sure they stand up and are counted.

I am in a state of awe that those members are sitting over there saying “Send it to a committee. Let them talk about it. Let us come back in June. Let us come back next fall. Let us carry this thing on”.

This is such an elementary question. It is so painfully simple that we have to make sure they stand up in this House, that they are heard and that we move forward.

I have heard people suggest that the Reform Party is using this as a lightning rod and as an opportunity. I will tell this House and every single Canadian out there watching in all sincerity that we do believe in this country. We do believe in the flag. I proudly stand here on Wednesdays and sing the national anthem. I do. If I did not, I would not be standing here right now making this speech. I would have a lot better things to be doing.

I will continue to fight for this country and fight for my kids so that they have a good place. I mean that sincerely. I really do.

To carry on with this nonsense is just absolutely crazy. The only way that we could force an end to this matter is to use our supply day. That is exactly what we have done. Every member over there will have to stand and be counted. They will have to say what side they are on. Let us talk about what this is all about.

Those members can say that it is a weapon. I heard one of the top strategists for the Progressive Conservative Party equating this to a Reform member having this tattooed on their body and displaying it in the House and whether that would be acceptable. There is all this craziness.

That is where all the other parties are taking this debate. It is simple. Can we take a little desk top flag and put it on our desk when we want to talk about a very important issue? Maybe we will want to leave it there all the time.

This is the House of Canada. This is the Parliament of Canada. There is only one flag for Canada. There is only one national anthem for Canada. I will stand up in this House and say that the Quebec flag does not belong in here any more than the Newfoundland flag or the British Columbia flag or any other flag from this country.

The only flag that belongs in this House is the maple leaf. I am sure I would have a lot of people who would agree with me. I stand in this House as a proud Canadian. Those flags belong beside the Speaker and no other flag on this desk.

Every member of Parliament sitting in this House should be standing up and fighting for the good of all Canadians. That is what we are doing today.

Now we are hearing comments that we are wasting time. The reality is respect. We are spending three or four hours debating this in this House.

This started out as an appropriate response to comments made and it has now elevated to this. This nonsense has to end and end today. People have to stand up and make sure they are heard, which is what we are here for.

I am happy to ask anyone to ask me any question on this issue. I will be glad to give them a response as long as they do not want to get into some silly debate about a whole bunch of issues that we are not talking about today.

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3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we go to questions and comments, we have a point of order from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

Points Of Order
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3:40 p.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the letter that the minister referred to during question period, if I have unanimous consent.

Points Of Order
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3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Do we have unanimous consent?

Points Of Order
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3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

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March 17th, 1998 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, what foolishness this motion is. It has crowded the talk show lines in my riding and people believe that what this is all about is that parliamentarians cannot stand and speak in this House holding the Canadian flag as a symbol.

When I was elected in 1993, I put a Canadian flag pin on my lapel. In all that time, Mr. Speaker, you have never ruled me out of order because I have stood in this House with the Canadian flag pinned on my jacket.

Moreover, from time to time I have risen to speak in this House wearing a tie that had Canadian flags on it and you have never, Mr. Speaker, ruled that out of order.

There are plenty of opportunities to stand and speak in this House wearing a Canadian flag as a symbol.

What is wrong with having a Canadian flag at the desk? Well, we saw it with the Reform member for Medicine Hat. He got angry and took the flag, threw it on the floor and desecrated it. On this side we tried to figure out how to retrieve the flag from the floor of the House of Commons before it was stepped on.

I submit to the member opposite that a flag in the hands of the Reform Party or on a desk may be desecrated. It is safer next to you, Mr. Speaker. Why can he not have on his jacket, as I do, or even on his tie a Canadian flag? Why is that not sufficient for him?

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3:40 p.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to bring this back. It is very simple. We even heard members of the Bloc talking about the flag as being vulgar. Imagine that. People responded to that, including the people in the member's party. The government party stood up and responded like the people did here, appropriately. I stand on those words. I stood proudly and waved that flag and stood proudly and sang O Canada . That is what this is about.

This debate has elevated from that. We can all argue about this but that is the reality. That is what has happened and what has gone on for two weeks and it has to end. People out there have to know where we stand. We are going to make people stand up and be counted, that is what this is all about. We want to bring a closure to this issue once and for all today so we can address the other important issues.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a good deal of the debate today and the word that keeps coming back is the word “flagrant” which consists of two words “flag” and “rant”, which is what we mostly have today from the Reform Party.

I hear the member for Blackstrap bellowing away.

What we are seeing here today is a flagrant waste of time. I will be very proudly voting against this motion in a couple of hours time, but I will take no back seat to any of the members of the Reform Party in terms of their patriotic endeavours.

I am probably the only person in this House who had the privilege of being outside this building on February 15, 1965 when the Canadian flag was raised for the very first time on top of the Peace Tower. I remember it very well. I was a student at the university here and came down to a relatively small gathering. Prime Minister Pearson came out for the event. Had the Reform Party members been around in 1965 they probably would have voted against this new flag because of the red ensign. They would have wrapped themselves in the previous flag because they are very good at promising Canadians a better yesterday.

I have two questions for the previous speaker.

In the vast research the Reformers have done, could they tell us what other countries allow flags to be displayed on members' desks in their parliaments? If they want to bring an end to this debate today, why are they running ads on radio stations in Saskatchewan?