House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cards.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a great honour to rise in the House and speak about business that affects the people of Canada, particularly people of rural Canada who produce our food.

I am honoured to speak to Bill C-27 in our first round of discussion. As someone representing agricultural interests, whenever a bill comes forward on agriculture, the first thing I ask is what kind of consultation and input has come from agricultural producers. In fact, that was one of the very first questions I asked at the briefing. At that time, I received a rather vague answer, but I was assured there had been consultations.

I phoned a number of the agricultural organizations that I trust and with which I have worked. None of them were aware really of any of the details about Bill C-27 until it was announced. That disturbed me. I believe the support of our agricultural community is vital for a bill like this to pass.

One thing we can all agree on is that food safety and customer confidence will be the number one agricultural issue in the 21st century. We see how changing consumer tastes on a number of matters can affect our ability to produce and how it can affect our markets. When we talk about food safety, we have to look at the complexity of the issue, and it is a good to talk about the role of the CFIA. The other element that is crucial is consumer confidence.

I have a number of concerns about the bill which could potentially undermine consumer confidence, and that would reflect badly on our role as legislatures.

There are some serious questions we have to ask about our willingness to create a bill such as this. To me, it appears to be a very large omnibus bill. There are a lot of devils in the details, as we always say, and issues that will be dealt with by orders in council. I am very concerned about the kind of sweeping powers we might see. We use the term smart regulations. That is a bit of a buzz phrase. Maybe I am a child of Orwell, but whenever I hear a term like smart regulations, it sounds to me like an oxymoron or perhaps something of which I should be very wary. I tend to take a second glance at these. I am worried that in some cases smart regulation is moving us toward dumbing down our regulations to appease our American neighbours.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

I think it would be piggymoron if it was Orwell.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

If it were Orwell, yes, it would be a piggymoron. I thank the hon. member for interrupting me and taking away some of my valuable time, but the English lesson is well enjoyed.

A poll done recently said that even after the BSE crisis in Canada, some 90% of Canadians still had confidence in our beef supply as opposed to something like 60% to 68% of Americans about their own domestic food supply.

When we talk about bringing into line our regulations with American regulations, there are serious questions we have to ask. We know that across the United States there has been intense pressure from large agricultural business on regulatory policies. There have been a number of times that consumers have fought these issues. In Canada there have been times when we have had to stand up. When we talk about merging our regulatory practices with the United States, we have to once again ask, are we dumbing down our regulations to go for cross border sales? In the long term that will affect consumer confidence and if it affects that confidence, it could affect our domestic markets. I am very concerned about that.

I am particularly concerned that we are looking toward expanding our trade with the U.S., which of course in a North American context is important. However, that kind of trade tends to favour the very large producers. In Canada we have a serious problem in that our smaller producers cannot trade food products interprovincially, thanks to CFIA rules. I and the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue raised in the House the other day the fact that cattle was brought across the Quebec border into northern Ontario, North Bay, to be slaughtered. The CFIA intervened and shut that down, even though we all agreed that there was a huge crisis in cattle. We agreed that the CFIA must work with the provincial organizations, but we had support of the meat inspectors out of the Rouyn area. There was no problem until the CFIA stepped in and said that cattle could not be killed and then send it back.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

An hon. member

Unless it's in a federal slaughterhouse.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

This was a provincial slaughterhouse, but we are in a major crisis. The fact is we have a regional food economy. Small producers are unable to sell products to other provinces, say Manitoba sausage to Ontario or Quebec cheese to another province. There is continual interference in this area. We are talking about making smart regulations to move massive amounts across the U.S. border. However, within Canada, the CFIA has acted as a stop for a number of areas where we could open up our domestic agricultural trade and people could benefit.

The CFIA backgrounder talks about improved border enforcement tools, the creation of the Canada Border Services Agency and some of the CFIA regulatory powers will be transferred to that.

In light of some of the concerns that we are hearing over the U.S. homeland security act and the continual interference on Canadian sovereignty, we have to raise serious questions about handing over these powers to the United States and the potential of limiting our own CFIA inspectors here.

There are some other serious concerns in terms of our foreign inspection arrangements, that we recognize certificates of inspection issued by inspection providers recognized by the agency. Perhaps I am not reading this properly, and I would not doubt that, but are we talking about the ability of the CFIA to download responsibility to other contractors or to accept U.S. recommendations simply carte blanche? If that is the case, we will have serious questions.

In talking about foreign inspection arrangements on imports, the bill states, “In exercising its responsibility the agency may enter into arrangements with a foreign government, a foreign government agency or a foreign government organization respecting the importation of regulated products into Canada if the agency is satisfied that the legal requirements”, blah, blah, blah.

What we are talking about is streamlining our regulatory processes with the United States. Again, we have set certain standards that Canadians trust. In terms of trying to integrate a North American market, we always know that our standards will be lowered to meet their standards.

In terms of the BSE crisis, I am very concerned about this, because Canadians have pushed for, and we are continuing to push for, very strong cattle policies. We have not seen similar support from the United States on that.

We talk about the issue that food safety should not be negotiable. Yet clause 11, which deals with foreign inspections, says that we will rely on the results of inspections conducted by other agencies, other departments. I think the United States would agree with this, but again, how does the Canadian consumer react to this?

There is one other area I will touch on tonight, because this will be going back to committee and we will be looking at a lot of the aspects. We were given a slide show presentation on paper. We do not get real slide shows any more; we just get the paper. The government members talked about bringing in a complaints mechanism relating to public health and safety. Of course, that sounds like a motherhood issue and we should all support that.

The question I asked at the time, and I have not heard an answer, was what about whistleblower legislation? It should be enshrined for people who bring forth concerns, civil servants such as the Health Canada officials who raised serious concerns about regulatory processes in Canada and it resulted in their being fired. That is shameful. That sets the lowest standard possible. If we are talking about any kind of complaints mechanism, we should be talking about protecting our own civil servants and scientists from Health Canada or from CFIA who come forward with legitimate concerns which may impact upon the health of Canadians.

Before the bill goes any further, I would like to see that kind of language put in very clearly.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take a few moments to briefly talk about Bill C-27, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act.

I listened to what some of our colleagues said earlier in this House. For instance, a Bloc member praised the senior official managing the agency, who happens to be my former deputy minister. He is, in fact, a career public servant, who has worked at the Privy Council and previously at the Treasury Board. He is very familiar with sound management practices. The member was right to praise him. He is highly qualified and very capable of managing the agency, which he is already doing very well.

However, I heard other things, which I do not agree with. The Bloc member compared the Newcastle disease to the mad cow disease. She said that, when the Newcastle disease struck the United States, Canada decided to segregate and import only from some states and not from the states fighting the disease, and so on.

That might be so, but let us not forget that the decision was made by the importing country, namely Canada. But that is not how things are working out this time around. Canada did not decide to stop exporting beef to the United States because of the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease almost two years ago. Every country in the world stopped importing Canadian beef. It is not the same thing. I am sorry, but we cannot say that a measure should apply to one, two or three regions of Canada. That is not how things are done.

Foreign countries decided to stop importing products from all over Canada. That is my first point.

Second, naturally, I am told that the incubation period for a disease such as Newcastle disease is very short. We can say there are some cases in this province, in that country, meaning the United States, and that there are none in others. It is not the same for mad cow because the incubation period is much longer. Furthermore, there has been no proof, to date, that any other importing country said yes, there is a case in Alberta but it does not apply to Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario or elsewhere. No other country has shown an interest in saying that the animals could come from one province instead of another.

That is why I think that the hon. member's comments do not apply whatsoever to mad cow. If it is applicable, I would really like to have an example proving that the animals could come from one province and that the United States has shown interest in opening the border.

But it has been proven, and it is very clear, that there is no such interest. It has been proven to all the international organizations, including the World Health Organization and others, that there is no proof of contagion, that it concerned a single animal, that there were no other cases and all the rest. Even so, the United States has not re-opened the border.

Knowing there is none anywhere in Canada, they still have not opened up the border. Even if they had been told there was none in the other nine provinces, they would not have opened it any more promptly. There was none anywhere. That is why I feel that was has been said here a little earlier was not valid.

I have been listening to my colleague from Timmins—James Bay speaking about certain measures relating to provincial abattoirs. I do not share his opinion. I think that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has always had very high standards and that the standard in a given province must not be reduced at any point. If the provincial agencies want to raise their standards to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's level, that is fine with me.

The hon. member said that standards must not be lowered, safety compromised and so forth. We cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim, as far as the abattoir in his riding is concerned, that the Government of Canada ought to have lowered its requirements to the provincial level—and these are not either interprovincial or international standards—and also say that the standards ought not to be lowered.

I think that instead an effort ought to be made to have all provinces raise their standards where applicable. I am not accusing any province specifically, not saying that one has standards absolutely identical to the federal ones while others' standards are higher or lower. An effort needs to be made by all provinces to have a standard that is as high as the federal one.

Perhaps we need to have a dual rating system. So if a company did business within a province, the stock could be slaughtered in a provincial abattoir, but if there was going to be interprovincial or international export, a federal abattoir would have to be used. That way the higher standard would be used.

I do not believe that it would be appropriate to bring provincial standards down in order for bring them in line with the standards in some other province. The reverse should be done, in fact, in order to maintain our excellent world reputation.

Even in the case of mad cow, we know that was an isolated case that did not spread, as I have already said. So even there we have every reason to be confident.

One thing that is interesting to note is that in the case of the mad cow disease, contrary to what occurred in Europe, particularly in Britain, there was no reduction in consumer confidence in our country. I am very proud of that. I am very proud of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for its part in that. After the mad cow incident in Canada, beef consumption actually went up in our country. A sympathy on the part of the Canadian consumer manifested itself. That is the exact opposite of what occurred in Europe.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

It had to do with the price.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Some members are saying that it had to do with the price. Where was the evidence of lower price at the retail level? As a matter of fact that has been a complaint. There was no evidence of that. Still there was an increased demand on the part of consumers. I am very proud of that and very proud of what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did in that regard. I see this is agitating a few people as I mention this in the House.

One final point is the issue of whistleblowers. I am in favour of what the hon. member said about whistleblower protection, but I do not think we should put that in individual pieces of legislation. We should have an overarching whistleblowing law that applies to all federal government departments and agencies and not insert an amendment in every single bill.

The problem is we would have whistleblower legislation for one department and not for another. It would be a checkerboard across the government. I just think that is bad policy making. Instead, I would favour an overall one. I know the government has presented something in that regard. It is being worked on, possibly improved if that is what needs to be done. I am not in favour of the checkerboard approach, even though the idea of the hon. member is one which I do support, but I support that it should be across government departments.

Those are the brief comments I wanted to make in favour of the bill that is before us. I wish the agency continued success in defending the protection of the health of Canadians and our excellent reputation for the food that we grow and sell in this country.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to make what will probably be the final presentation on this bill for tonight. I really want to speak to this bill because I have some very serious concerns about it.

This bill would broaden and enhance the powers of the CFIA, especially the top brass in the CFIA. Most of the people on the ground are excellent people, very capable and really do a great service for Canadians in providing food safety. Unfortunately, the top bureaucrats simply are not like that. They interfere way too often and they have proven that they can hurt business and food safety. They can really be a negative body when it comes to providing agriculture production. For that reason, I will not support this bill.

Part of the intent of the bill is certainly something that I desire and that my party desires. We would like to consolidate and modernize the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the responsibilities that it has. However, until such time that we see clearly that the top bureaucrats are reigned in and made to work for Canadians rather than to protect their own interests and to protect some possible difficulty they would have in facing the consequences of decisions they make, I will not support any legislation which will give them more power.

In fact, when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was presented as a concept by the government back in 1995, I opposed it and my party opposed it. We opposed it for the very reason that establishing an agency presented us with some concern that there would not be proper ministerial control of that body, and that bureaucrats could get out of control. Eight years of operating under the CFIA has demonstrated that it was a very legitimate concern. It has happened and has led to some very disastrous consequences for Canadian farmers in particular.

There are four different issues that I want to tie in with this presentation, by pointing out that the top brass of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are simply providing unreasonable barriers to Canadian farmers.

The first is the packer issue. If we look at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's people on the ground, most of them have behaved admirably through this period where we desperately need new packers to start up. However, again and again, the top brass in Ottawa, people who really do not know what is going on in western Canada or across Ontario or Quebec, have interfered with good decisions made by people on the ground.

This is truly a bureaucracy out of control. As a result, we had to fight with the top brass of the CFIA kicking, scratching and shouting to even get the Blue Mountain Packers operating. All the CFIA people on the ground indicated this should go quickly. It took months for it to finally happen.

We desperately need at least two more packers, but two more that are well on their way to being built, so that we can have the packing capacity we need to deal with this BSE crisis. We need to process our beef right here in this country instead of exporting live animals to the United States. The CFIA has provided roadblocks for these packers that are completely unacceptable. It will continue to do so until the bureaucrats here in Ottawa are reigned in. Until we see a different attitude on the part of the top brass in the CFIA, I cannot support any broadening or enhancement of their powers.

The second issue comes from two different small business people in my constituency who want to import beef products from the United States. They have been doing this for several years. They have come a long way toward building up very successful import businesses. These are products they could not get in Canada, although I hope that will change over the next few months. There is no reason at all that we could not be producing these products in Canada, but that is another story.

Both of these people have had their businesses destroyed due to unreasonable intrusion by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In spite of my efforts and efforts of others to get the CFIA to look at this in a reasonable fashion and to back off from unreasonable interference. It has interfered to the point that these people have, in effect, gone out of business. They cannot continue to make a profit operating like this.

The third area where the CFIA is intervening and interfering, in a way that is negatively impacting farmers and business in this country, is in the area of interprovincial trade and agriculture products in particular. It is a matter of empire building and protecting an empire which has led to this problem.

We all know that provincial meat inspectors are as good as any federal inspectors anywhere in the country. Alberta meat inspectors are trained with the same standards as the federal inspectors. Why on earth can we not have provincial inspectors inspecting beef at small plants across the country and then exporting that beef to anywhere else in the country, not out of the country? We need the federal inspection regime for exports.

We need to have free movement of beef within our country for farmers to deal effectively with the BSE problem. Yet, here we are complaining that we cannot get free trade with the United States because there is unreasonable interference in moving our live animals and some animal parts to the United States. That is a problem, and it is unreasonable the way the United States has held that up. But it is shameful that we cannot get beef moving freely within our own country.

It is costing farmers their farms. It is costing plants because they could expand and become much better businesses, and create even more jobs than they are creating right now in our local communities. That is holding them back. I blame the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to a large degree and its empire protection. I blame it for the fact that we still have no free movement of meat products across this country. That is unbelievable. That is the third area.

I have heard unreasonable talk and unreasonable action coming from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That is another thing that leads me to believe that it should not have its powers expanded until the top bureaucrats are reigned in.

I want to repeat again that many of the employees at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are truly marvellous employees. They provide a great service for Canadians by inspecting various agricultural products and ensure a safe food supply. It is the people at the top who are to blame, the people who are locked away in some room here in Ottawa and cannot understand what is going on. Rather than face a tough decision, they put decisions off that cost farmers unbelievably and also cost consumers because those decisions drive up prices.

There is a fourth area and one that I was involved in quite closely. It involves certain elk herds in Alberta and Saskatchewan which were destroyed when chronic wasting disease came along a few years ago.

I have talked on several occasions with the Ferrances and McAllisters, who own elk farms in Alberta and Saskatchewan. They understood the need for their herds to be destroyed. It was tough on them, but they did not argue with that. They argued with the disgusting way that the CFIA carried this out. I must admit that they were absolutely right on.

CFIA put restrictions on the production of other livestock such as bison or cattle on these farms. It told these farmers that they simply could not produce any ruminant livestock in spite of the fact that there was no evidence that chronic wasting disease could spread to other animals. The CFIA told them this in spite of the fact that the McAllisters and Ferrances went to great cost and great effort, and spent probably $100,000 cleaning up the land so that they could put other livestock on it. After they went to that expense, then and only then, the CFIA stepped in and said they could not produce bison or cattle or any other livestock on that land. That was wrong.

As a result of those heavy-handed actions and poor judgment on the part of the top brass in CFIA, I am not going to support this legislation. I do not believe my party will either and I hope other members will do the same.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

moved that Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution which is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jean Augustine)

Before beginning private members' business I would like to read a ruling on Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution which is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance.

The Chair has examined Bill C-331, the Ukrainian Canadian restitution act, to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question at third reading.

The Chair has considered the restitution provisions in this bill and has concluded that they do not require a royal recommendation as any payment is contingent on the successful completion of a negotiation process, the details of which are hypothetical at this point.

There is, however, a question in my mind about the clause that proposes the establishment of a museum at the site of one of the first world war internment camps.

At first glance, it appears to me that to build, maintain and staff even a small museum would require public funds. Since the necessity for a royal recommendation can be a complex question, I am raising the issue at this moment in order to invite the sponsor of the bill and any other members interested in the matter to make a submission to the Chair explaining their views on whether or not this bill requires a royal recommendation.

I want to give hon. members enough time to look into the matter. I would suggest that interested members contact the private members' business office to schedule their interventions.

I have asked these officials to coordinate such submissions, so that they can take place before the bill is next debated, thus allowing the Chair time to consider their arguments when making a ruling at the resumption of the second reading debate.

Today the debate on the motion for second reading will begin. We will now proceed as scheduled.

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Vegreville--Wainwright for seconding the motion.

It is a great honour today to rise to debate Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice of the Ukrainian internment. Bill C-331 has been tabled in the House three times but never debated.

Madam Speaker, I welcome the information on the bill that you have presented this evening.

The first time the whole issue of Ukrainian redress was debated was through a motion in September 1991 that was put forward by the member for Kingston and the Islands. This motion received support from all parties but had no effect on the government.

How did Bill C-331 come about? Bill C-331 was put together through collaboration with the Ukrainian community in Canada, which today numbers close to one million. It is supported by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

At this time I want to thank the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, for his support. I want to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association chairman, John Gregorovich, and Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk and Borys Sydoruk. I also want to thank the president of the Taras Shevchenko Foundation, Andrew Hladyshevsky. There are also thousands of other Canadians of Ukrainian descent who have worked very hard over the last two decades.

Bill C-331 is in essence a bill that belongs to the Ukrainian community of Canada. The Ukrainian community in Canada has been calling for redress for internment for over 20 years. That is a long time. Most of that time, this call has fallen on deaf ears. There have been numerous broken promises throughout the last two decades, promises made by politicians, the people who sit in this House.

The most famous promise was made by our former prime minister, Jean Chrétien. In fact, tonight I want to read for the House a letter that he wrote to Mr. Thor Bardyn, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in June 1993, when Mr. Chrétien was leader of the official opposition. He stated:

Dear Mr. Bardyn:

Thank you for your letter and the copies of the “Economic Losses of Ukrainian Canadians Resulting from Internment During World War I” and “Submissions on Behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian Community on the Matter of Redress for Non-Pecuniary Losses Occasioned by Internment and Other State-Inflicted Injuries.”

The Liberal Party understands your concern. As you know, we support your efforts to secure the redress of Ukrainian-Canadians' claims arising from their internment and loss of freedom during the First World War and Inter-war period. You can be assured that we will continue to monitor the situation closely and seek to ensure that the government honours its promise.

As Leader of the Opposition, I appreciate the time you have taken to write and bring your concerns to my attention.

Sincerely,

Jean Chrétien.

Jean Chrétien as prime minister had many opportunities to deal with Ukrainian redress over his three terms as prime minister.

Obviously he learned nothing from the settlement of the Japanese redress settled by the Mulroney government previous to that. The Mulroney government did the right and responsible thing and brought resolution to the Japanese redress. In fact, I was told that during that time period there were no private members' bills or motions debated in the House on Japanese redress. Yet the government of the day knew what the right thing was and did the right thing.

Let me take some time to talk about the internment, because many of us in this country, and I include myself, did not learn about the internment of the Ukrainians. I did not learn of it until I became a member of Parliament back in 1997. This is not recorded in our history books. It is an event that no one knows about. Obviously the government of the day wanted it to be wiped out. As Canadians, we want to know our history. We need to learn from history. That is why it is important to acknowledge and recognize that the history actually took place.

Bill C-331 calls for that recognition. I must emphasize again that it is a recognition of and not an apology for “the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution”, which really means the return of properties confiscated by the government of the day. In other words, at that time the private property of the internees was confiscated by the Government of Canada. To this very day it has not been returned. That is what restitution means.

That restitution amount, whatever may be negotiated, is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance and the role of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That sounds Canadian. It sounds rational and it makes sense.

In other words, Bill C-331 calls for two things to be done.

One is acknowledgement that this internment took place and is part of Canadian history. We in this country cannot run away from our history. We must accept our history. We must accept the past. We have to accept the past; we cannot change it.

Another point, too, is that the government of the day must sit down with the Ukrainian community and work out the establishment of an education foundation for the purpose of telling the internment story to all Canadians so that hopefully this story and this history, this negative event, will not be repeated in the future. That is the main purpose, the main drive behind this redress issue.

It is time for the government to bring resolution to all redress issues. Is it not ironic that the government of the day will be sending up to 500 observers to Ukraine and is willing to pay the bill to ensure that democracy will be protected in Ukraine?

I support the government's decision. There is nothing wrong with it. Yet at the same time the government continues to deny that democratic rights were taken from the Ukraine community in Canada between 1914 and 1920, when over 88,000 Ukrainians were made to register like common criminals. They had to report monthly to the police and have their registration card stamped. Over 9,000 were interned. They were put in prison camps; internment is just a nice word for prison camps. In fact, they had it worse than prisoners of war because under the Geneva convention a country cannot force prisoners of war to work, to do domestic labour, which is actually slave labour, at no cost to the country.

Over 9,000 people were interned, of which over 5,000 were Ukrainian Canadians. The government has run out of excuses after two decades of denial. The internment of Ukrainians in Canada is a historic fact. I asked the question of the government, “Is acknowledging this too much to ask?”

It is time for the government to do the responsible thing and to acknowledge this historic wrong. I am sure that most Canadians would agree with me. It is time to deal with this issue and other redress issues.

The responsible thing is the acknowledgement, as well as working out a resolution with the Ukraine community. This is a matter of justice. After all, we Canadians like to see ourselves as a just society. In fact, we brag all over the world that we are a country based on rules, justice, tolerance and acceptance. Maybe it is time that we accept our own history for what it is and learn from it.

Justice is long overdue for the Ukraine community in Canada, which is one million strong. I know I am starting to run out of time so I will read for the House a poem written by Kari Moore of Victoria, B.C. A couple of summers ago, this poem was put on a plaque dedicated to the internees at a memorial park on the site of Canada's national Ukrainian festival. The name of the poem is Internment . It really tells the story:

With this commemorative plaque

We confer upon you the honour

Of paying the ultimate price.

The price of losing your freedom

In a country that invited you

And promised you work and freedom.

You laboured with a pickaxe and shovel

In the neighbouring mines and forests

Laying the rails for transport

Of your days' work to help the economy.

Then history changed your world,

Overnight you became an enemy alien

To be feared and unjustly interned.

If history could repeat itself

You could tell us your shame

And your unimagined confusion.

You still worked with an axe and shovel

But from behind a barbwire fence.

And for years you carried the stigma

Of becoming an unwanted citizen.

This plaque shall stand in your memory

And serve as an educational tool

To remember this part of our dark history,

And assure us that future Canadian governments

With the stroke of a pen shall not

Again put any citizen behind a barbwire fence.

I close by thanking all members who are taking part in this first hour of debate on Bill C-331 for their support.

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I commend the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I agree with the thrust of his private member's bill. It is important for Canadians to put this issue in context. What is so important for us as members in the House and for Canadian society to understand is that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not come to us out of a vacuum. It is based on injustices that occurred while our country evolved, which is why we have come to the kind of society that we are today.

When we look specifically at the question of what happened to the Ukrainians and the internment during the first world war, it is important to understand some of the history. Ukraine was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an unwilling part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I might add. Many Ukrainians left Ukraine and came to Canada because they were not particularly happy with the subjugations they were put under in Ukraine. They came to Canada to find a new life, to become Canadians and to be part of Canadian life.

However, then the first world war comes along and we introduce the Enemy Alien Act where people who were from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were forced to register and something like 5,000 people were interned, most of them of Ukrainian descent.

One can just imagine how disquieting it would be for new arrivals, new immigrants to this country, to all of a sudden find themselves, because of something that is happening somewhere else in the world, to be interned by us. As the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette said, if people were interned they then had to register with the police on a weekly basis.

How do things like that happen? They happen because at that time there was racism. We had superior races and inferior races. It did not only happen to the Ukrainians. As the member said, it also happened to Canadians of Japanese ancestry who suffered the same horrors during the second world war. We also know that as part of our history we had the Asian Exclusion Act and the Chinese Head Tax. We discriminated against all sorts of minorities. It was a fact of life at that time.

However, I think it was the suffering of all those groups, including the Jews, who, during the second world war, when they were looking for refuge to escape Nazi Germany, were turned away. Given all the suffering in the past, we now have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The member talked about doing a more general kind of redress. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes that, which is why we have it. The charter is our guidance for the future so we do not repeat those mistakes.

Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct in what he said and hopefully the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will protect us down the road.

However, the fact is that we must accept our past history for what it is. The point the bill tries to make, with all redress issues, is that until the country accepts this, it is like alcoholics, until they accept that they are alcoholics they cannot see the future. I think Canadians expect greater things from their government.