House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.

Topics

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for her support for this important bill.

Some animated discussion took place in committee and I printed off the clause by clause consideration. I might deal with it when I give my speech. A lot of interest has been generated around clause 21 and whether it should come out of the legislation or whether it should stay in.

Could the member put some clarity into the consequences of clause 21 and whether or not its inclusion or exclusion would make much of a difference to the effective outcome of the bill? I raise this point because my colleague from Ottawa--Vanier was quite concerned about clause 21 being excluded. It appeared that there was some consensus but then developments occurred which changed the story. It would be helpful for hon. members to understand the importance of the discussion around clause 21.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member for Mississauga South.

I want to begin my response by suggesting that whenever it appears that the government of the day has interfered with the work of a committee and has not respected the wishes of a standing committee of this place then it is a matter of concern for all of us. It is a theme that has run throughout these last couple of years in Parliament and one that we have raised on numerous occasions.

The member for Mississauga South will know that on a legislative matter that we held near and dear, Bill C-13, dealing with reproductive technologies, there was great concern expressed on our part and by other members about how the government refused to accept amendments made in committee by all parties and in fact interfered with that democratic process by not including those amendments in the legislative proposal.

However, as in that case, today we must make a judgment about the merits of a bill versus some of the changes that we wanted to see that are not there.

It is important to recognize, in the context of Bill C-36 when dealing with clause 21, that there was in fact agreement in committee to have this clause removed. I am not so sure who bears all the brunt of the blame for the fact that it is not there.

I was not in the House when the bill was debated at report stage, but I understand the fact that action was not taken on clause 21 was largely a result of human error and a lack of vigilance on this question. The members of the government side in committee did not move the motion pursuant to clause 21 when it was the appropriate time to do so, so it did not happen there. When the bill came to the House for report stage, the Official Opposition, who felt strongly about this happening, did not move the elimination of clause 21 in the House.

As a result, by human error and not deliberate intention, this initiative was not taken. The fact of the matter is that we now have to decide if we are going to hassle about that. Are we going to haggle over those terms and that history, and lose a bill which would make an important contribution to our society? Are we going to go forward and at least see that the merger between the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada is allowed to take place? We must have a public policy vehicle to ensure that the work of those who create, the writers in our society, those who write stories based on personal histories and who pursue letters and documents from our archives are able to do so knowing, and that their work is secure and the documents are safe in a physically sound building?

The bottom line comes down to how we sort through that. For our part, we have decided to support the bill, despite any shortcomings with the bill and despite lack of assurances that in fact adequate funding will be there when this merger takes place.

We must give it a chance. We have to listen to the voices of those experts who have been sounding the alarm bells for years about leaky roofs, yellowing paper, and the loss of valuable documents because we did not have the physical capabilities to keep them.

This gives us an opportunity to do what is important in that regard and it also gives us a chance to redress a problem that was created with the last copyright legislation when we did not take into account the whole question of unpublished works and copyright protection.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would like to remind hon. members that interventions must be directed through the Chair.

The hon. member for Jonquière.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
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5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the reminder. It was not that I had forgotten, but that I was so caught up in the debate with my colleague in the Progressive Conservative Party.

I would like to ask a short question of my colleague in the New Democratic Party. I wish to add my voice to hers in saying that the hon. member for Dartmouth has done an excellent job, and if she decides not to run in the next election, I will be disappointed because she is an excellent Member of Parliament. I think we should do everything we can to keep women MPs with us, because there are so few of them.

I would now like my colleague to tell me where in the bill she has found guidelines to ensure integrity and transparency when an administrator and executive are appointed.

Throughout the process, I have been asking the government and the committee to clarify this for me. SInce she supports it, she must have answers to my questions. I would like an answer from her on this. Perhaps then I will able to change what I plan to say in a few minutes. This is something of great concern to me, in light of what is going on in the House of Commons as far as all those partisan appointments are concerned.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member from the Bloc Quebecois for her kind words about my colleague, the member for Dartmouth. I am sure that she will appreciate this speech and the support of all the members here.

I too appreciated the opportunity of working with the member for Dartmouth and wish to recognize her particular expertise that she brings to the House in the area of culture and heritage which is rare. Rare because of the first-hand experience she brings to this place and also her integrity and commitment to thoroughly reviewing all issues.

With respect to the question of the mandate in Bill C-36, I know that my colleague from Dartmouth would have said that what we have in the bill is not perfect. All the questions have not been answered. We are not absolutely 100% sure how the mandate of the new merged institution will be interpreted and whether or not the agency created will be above any political influence.

Our party came to the conclusion that when all is said and done what we have here is better than nothing and we have the hope of creating that kind of necessary institution. What we have is a bill that will help us keep valuable works and historical documents, and help protect the rights of creators.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had no intention of speaking on the contents of the bill but it behooves me to address some of the remarks that some colleagues have made, no doubt genuinely. At the same time I think the record has to be put straight as to what happened in the committee.

I heard things here which seemed to imply that there was some kind of collusion or some underhanded practice that led to the fact that clause 21 remained in the bill when there had been an agreement between the parliamentary secretary and certain members of the opposition to delete it in committee.

I know this agreement did take place. I know the member for Kootenay—Columbia and the member for Fraser Valley were part of it. I know my colleague from Vanier on this side of the House was also part of it. Therefore definitely there had been discussions leading to the decision to delete clause 21. This was done in a very genuine effort to ensure that Bill C-36 would pass clause by clause without any problem. Therefore the agreement was definitely there.

When the committee meeting took place, and I happen to know it because I was chairing the committee, I would like to point out for those members who feel that something untoward or underhanded took place, that was definitely not the case. What unfortunately happened, and I guess we can search ourselves and decide that in the future we should be more thorough when making agreements of this nature, was that it was done at the last minute as Parliament was recessing. The flaw in the agreement was that not all other members on the Liberal side were party to it. As well, replacement members on the committee came in to fill in for the quorum who were not party to the agreement.

Therefore when the discussion took place as to the removal of clause 21, I remember clearly that I put on the record that there had been a prior agreement. Therefore, the question was quite clear to all members that there had been an agreement. At the same time certain members, and I remember my colleagues from Parkdale--High Park and from Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, who had not been part of it argued very strongly that they could not be bound by an agreement of which they were unaware. They felt extremely strong about retaining clause 21 within the bill.

Therefore we have to accept that those members who had not been part of the agreement, and maybe we could search ourselves and say that it was a big flaw in the agreement and obviously it was, decided for their own sake they wanted to preserve clause 21 within the bill and they argued passionately about it.

The member for Parkdale—High Park and the member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles happen to know the subject extremely well. They spoke with conviction, and with eloquence about the reasons why they felt clause 21 should stay. What happened was they convinced the other members who really were replacement members and who did not know much about copyright legislation. They were swayed by the arguments.

When the vote took place the majority voted in favour of keeping clause 21 within the bill.

It is unfortunate the way it happened. I feel a lot of sympathy for the members who feel they were let down: the members for Kootenay--Columbia, Fraser Valley, Jonquière, and all the others who were at the committee and felt there was an agreement for the removal of that clause. I sympathize with them. I realize how they must feel about being let down in a process where they felt they had a commitment that the clause would be removed.

On the other hand, we also have to recognize that the members who were not part of that agreement had a genuine reason for defending their viewpoint and a democratic right to put across their point of view. What happened was they were obviously convincing enough that the majority of members accepted what they were putting forward and voted with them to leave the clause in.

I feel a particular sympathy for the member for Perth--Middlesex, who is a new member of the House. He came as the only representative of the opposition at the time, because the member for Jonquière had left. He could have broken the committee meeting and stopped it right away by leaving. I made clear to him that there was an agreement, but explained the circumstances that some members were not part of it, and he hesitated. He could have left and to his credit he decided to stay so the meeting could continue. If he had chosen to leave, the clause by clause would have been suspended immediately. Again I have much sympathy with him because by his staying, the meeting carried on and the majority voted to keep the clause in the bill.

These are the facts. The record shows this. I would like to confirm here and now that there was no malice of forethought and no intent to deceive. It was unfortunately one of those tacit agreements, which was made on the fly at the end of a session, and as events show, not very well made because all the members were not part of it. This is why I wanted to stand and put the record straight. I would not like to leave an impression that any of the members had anything to do with anything that was unfair or untoward.

I have chaired this committee now for several years. One thing we have tried to do is reach consensus in a fair and open matter and we have tried to understand one another's point of view. I think we work extremely well together. I regret this circumstance took place, because whether we like it or not, it leaves a bad taste. I hope in the future, when such agreements are made, we tie up the loose ends on all sides so we avoid the circumstances that occurred in the committee.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
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5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my distinguished colleague; he knows that I have always had the greatest respect for him. I truly appreciated everything the Liberal member did to advance the cause of environmental protection in Quebec when he was Minister of the Environment in that province.

Obviously we will not spend the rest of our lives talking about what happened, but certain things had to be said. However, I noticed—and it is the same with all committees—that some members attend all committee meetings; they listen to all the witnesses and do all the work, but the government party, represented by eight members on the committee, is never there. All of a sudden, when it is time to vote on opposition motions, we see new people arrive who have no idea what we are talking about, which skews all the work done very respectfully by opposition members. That is what happened and it is a common occurrence in several committees of this House.

An agreement had been reached in good faith among all parties, and I was part of that agreement. All of a sudden, there was no agreement anymore. Do you think that it is nice to be there and to have the government force all kinds of things down our throats when those who represent the government do not even know what it is all about?

I am not criticizing the chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, because he is an excellent chairman and I know that he does a good job. However, I hope that this will not happen again.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the third reading stage of Bill C-17, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a Minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, an Act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

October 6th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate on Bill C-36. Does the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis want to respond to the comments by the hon. member for Jonquière?

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that members are frustrated by what happened. I believe we should forgive and forget. Everyone had a chance to speak up and now we will have to find a way to work together so that in the future, when there is an agreement, we make sure that every committee member is present.

What happened is that the committee met one week after Parliament had adjourned. So it was very difficult to have all the members in attendance. This is why on that day the members in question were replaced by other members. It was not the result of any ill intent. Everyone said what they thought about it. I can understand them and I sympathize with the opposition members, who are feeling frustrated. I understand them perfectly.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his statements today. It has opened up a constructive dialogue about some of the difficulties we have in committee. The member has put it in perspective, notwithstanding that there is good faith at the committee. As the previous questioner raised, sometimes things happen where the will of the committee seems to be fluid because of who is sitting in the room.

Having said that, could the hon. member clarify the ultimate decision of the opposition not to move a report stage motion to delete clause 21, if this was in fact the exacerbating issue that led to the dialogue within the committee? I am searching to find out if that is a signal that maybe this item was not worth the battle. Maybe the battle is now more on partisan interests or political posturing as it was on the substance of the bill.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not speak to what happened at report stage or to what is happening today with the clause. I do not think that is my function. I do not have any particular biases in regard to this clause, whether it stays in or is left out.

At the same time, we have to agree that a difficult situation arose because an agreement had been made and then some members, who were not part of that decision, felt very strongly that the clause should stay in. They managed to convince colleagues, in a very genuine way, because they happened to be very convincing and passionate with their arguments, to vote for the inclusion of the clause.

In effect, the government, in looking at the committee report, would see that a majority of members, acting I think in good faith, because they certainly had not been a part of any agreement, voted in favour of keeping the clause in.

In effect, the government saw the committee's deliberation and no doubt decided that because of this it should leave the clause in. That is the only interpretation I can make of what is happening today. The government wanted to reflect the views of those members on the committee who felt that clause 21 was important enough to leave in the bill.

This whole issue of clause 21 is one of those polarized questions where we find people strongly opposed to its inclusion while another group, the other 50%, are just as passionate that it should stay in. It is one of those very difficult clauses. I imagine the decision was based on what happened at the committee and the majority vote there.

Library and Archives of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-36, which was introduced by the government.

Since Bill C-36 was introduced, to create the merged Library and Archives Canada, I have been wondering about the government's real goals as it tries determinedly to merge these two institutions, which have two distinct missions and two distinct approaches.

Why is the government going against the trend in most industrialized countries such as France, Belgium, the United States and Germany, which are determined to have these two institutions remain autonomous and retain all their prerogatives?

I listened to the witnesses; I asked questions; I expressed my concerns, but my questions were not answered.

There must be something fishy going on. Let us look more closely at this bill and let us consider the real issues that are present or absent.

There are issues of transparency and integrity, for example, regarding the appointment of the Librarian and Archivist and the members of the advisory council. There is the issue of broadening the mandate of this new institution by adding the interpretation of history. There is also the copyright issue.

Although the Bloc Quebecois has pointed out a number of flaws in this legislation, the government has decided not to correct them. Why is this government so stubborn in refusing amendments that would have ensured transparency in the appointment of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada? This appointment will be made by the governor in council, with the agreement of the heritage minister therefore.

Why are there no benchmarks in this bill with regard to this appointment, that would have provided some guarantee of integrity and transparency? Why does the responsibility of the standing committee on heritage not have oversight on this appointment?

Absolutely nothing in this bill reassures us on this aspect. We in the Bloc Quebecois also feel that it is unacceptable to create an advisory council whose members are selected and appointed by the heritage minister. These will be political friends and close relatives, who will be beholden to the people who chose them.

We will never be able to tell the people of Canada and Quebec that this committee is independent from political authorities. To say so would be to put one's head in the sand. It would be taking voters for uninformed people. When appointments are made and those who make them do not even know under what prerogatives, or whether appointees have expertise in an area related to the new structure—will they be archivists, librarians, we do not know—how can this be expected to work?

People do not like to be duped. It is well know that those appointed are forever indebted to those who appointed them. That is why politicians have lost a great deal of credibility with the voters.

Increasingly, this government is ignoring transparency.

With this bill, the institutions in the new organization are becoming politicized. This is very serious.

First, there is the political appointment of the deputy head. And there are political appointments to the new advisory council. The Bloc Quebecois asked that these appointments be handled by an independent committee, as in Quebec.

The ruling party is no longer the PQ but the Liberal Party, and it is not changing how this operates. We relied on transparency. I think it was the hon. member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, who was a minister in the Quebec government, who developed this process.

The greatest concern with this bill is that the government is expanding the mandate of the new institution to include a reference to the interpretation of Canadian history. This new mandate is contrary to the neutrality objectives historically pursued by the National Library and the National Archives.

The government is trying to impose its own vision of history. Like most Quebeckers, including the current Premier of Quebec, we in the Bloc Quebecois believe that Quebec is a nation with a culture of its own. Even the new Premier of Quebec, Mr. Charest, shares that belief.

In his statement under Standing Order 31 today, my colleague from Saint-Jean said that it has been six years since the death of Mr. Bourassa, the former Premier of Quebec. The day after the Meech Lake Accord failed, in June 1990, he said in a solemn and historic speech:

English Canada must clearly understand that whatever happens and whatever is done, Quebec is and always will be a distinct society, one that is free and quite capable of taking charge of its own destiny and development.

There are a thousand and one ways to interpret history; everything depends on what a nation such as Quebec experienced. For instance, when we talk about the War Measures Act in 1970, the perception of events is completely different depending on whether one is from Quebec or Canada.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage talks about Canadian culture. To her, anything from Quebec's culture is in fact a regional element of Canadian culture. It is very worrisome to give a mandate that would allow Canada's history to be interpreted, when we know how the minister thinks and what Quebec culture means to her. Her goal is Trudeau-style nation building, which seeks to instil a sense of belonging, and which reflects only one history and vision of Canada.

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is not to interpret history. Its mandate is to make historical information available, not to create its own version to propagate across Canada.

It is important to see to what extent in this bill the government ignores the way political institutions make appointments. Given that this type of bill will not be reviewed regularly each year, we should include clauses that would ensure transparency and integrity in the people who will be appointed.

What is more, historical facts must not be interpreted by people who are appointed. Historians, documentalists and archivists are not there to interpret history. Their job is to make available to the people of Canada and of Quebec reference documents to enable them to have a relative view of what occurred at a specific point in Canadian history.

How do we ensure that the transfer of documents is going to be respectful of factual integrity? That is not in the bill. Who will be responsible for assessing the pertinence of documents? Here again, there is nothing in the bill.

As well, they want to include the concept of promoting and understanding heritage. That is a pretty tall order. If anyone is capable of explaining to me what that mumbo jumbo means and how it will be accomplished, they are one up on me.

We are headed for an administrative muddle. The new entity ought not to be responsible for this. It is not the responsibility of archivists, documentalists and historians. It is not part of their mandate, nor of their training. This is a concept of managing the Canadian mind. This bill is an expression of the vision of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

We cannot subscribe to this initiative, which is aimed at adding this duty to the position of Chief Librarian.

Hon. members need think no further than what has happened with the mandate of the CBC and the notion of selling Canadian unity. Where is there any journalistic freedom in that? It will be tested out with these orientations.

Time moves on, but nothing changes with this government. There is talk of encroachment, lack of transparency. The intent with this bill is for it to recover its vision of what politics needs to be. This is not what politics are all about. I am from a province, a riding, and a city whose inhabitants demand information from me. They want me to assure them that what is going on in Parliament is being done in an atmosphere of transparency.

Unfortunately, with Bill C-36, I could not assure my constituents that, in future, those in this new entity will be beholden to someone.

I do not understand why they are creating this new structure. The people who will be working within this structure do not have the same mission and the same training. They are serious professionals. These professionals are having a political burden imposed on them, and it is not part of their mandate.

This legislation lacks transparency and in no way guarantees any respect for those who will be working within this institution and those wanting access to it.

The Bloc Quebecois will never support the government's new, soon to be adopted, vision concerning the role of archivist and librarian.

In this bill, the government does not guarantee any transparency. The Bloc will vote against this bill, since our party opposes the merger between the National Library and the National Archives of Canada. The Bloc Quebecois considers that the enlarged mandate of the new institution is aligned with Canadian propaganda goals, and that the new mandate will interfere with the neutrality the library and archives have always displayed.

The Bloc Quebecois demands that any reference to the interpretation of the history of Canada be removed from the mandate of the Library and Archives of Canada. This is part of a Trudeau-style nation-building effort. This bill seeks not only to merge two entirely different institutions, with two different missions, but also to turn the history of Canada into a propaganda tool.

The Bloc Quebecois will never allow any federal entity to interpret Quebec history. It will never allow the Canadian government to disseminate biased information. Those working at this institution will not do so by choice; they will be forced to do so by law. We will never allow that to happen, because we have too much respect for our ancestors and others who built Quebec.

As my colleague from the Conservative Party was saying, one has to know where one came from to be able to go where one wants to go. It may not be the exact same words that he used, but it means the same thing.

I come from a family where the historical values of the Quebec nation have been omnipresent since before I was born. These values were passed down orally by my ancestors, from generation to generation.

It is true that something is missing right now in our schools in terms of getting our young people interested in our history. However, this new entity will never allow that to be done in a transparent way.

We know that history is a work in progress. Yesterday's history is not today's history nor is it tomorrow's history, but yesterday's history must stay the same. We must use it to go forward today and into the future. However, if we allow these people to interpret it, we will never reach our goal, and that is what we are here for. Therefore, we insist that our history truly reflect the facts.

In closing, I will reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill and will vote against it at third reading.

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6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I must tell my friend in the Bloc that I will be using a term in a totally different way than it is usually used. In English when we say that a person is naive, usually that is a put down or a negative, but I will not be using the word in that context at all.

I just want to ask the member, in the broader sense of the word naive, whether she is being somewhat naive. Are we not as human beings all capable of making our own interpretation of any event? When we make that interpretation, it is done on the basis of our heritage, what we have known within our family life, the good experiences, the bad experiences. We have a situation where all archivists and librarians, even today, are making those interpretations, although not intentionally.

The member is well aware of the fact that we are on totally different planets and that we are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of our vision of Canada and the place of Quebec in it.

What I am asking the member is whether, within the context of this bill and putting the strict interpretation of what she said about not allowing people who under the legislation would be making this interpretation, that is not a naive approach because people naturally are making those interpretations today. Is the bill not simply an expression of the reality of the human condition?