House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment lost.

It being 5:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

February 11th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

moved:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

As a result of procedural circumstances, I am once again in a position where I have to initiate debate on Motion No. 382.

Following the unexpected events of last December, when Her Excellency signed a royal proclamation creating a National Acadian Day commemorating the deportation of Acadians, I pondered for a long what should become of this motion.

I talked about the issue with several individuals and I must say that not everyone was of the same opinion about this. However, I have to recognize that the fate of this motion does not rest with me alone, but with all the members of this House.

That is why I have launched a series of consultations with colleagues to settle the issue, because clearly, the problem is now quite different from what it was when we first wrote the motion.

These consultations are continuing and will, I am absolutely certain, enable us to reach consensus before the motion is put to a vote. Perhaps we will be able to finally write an ending to this troubling chapter of our collective history.

As you probably aware, right before the holiday period, December 9 of last year to be precise, the previous government unexpectedly made public a royal proclamation. It established July 28 each year as “A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval”.

The proclamation is to take effect on September 6, 2004, and the day will be commemorated for the first time on July 28, 2005. I was totally amazed to learn that the former heritage minister and the former intergovernmental affairs minister had taken this initiative with their colleagues in order to achieve this reversal. It was as unexpected as it was spectacular.

It is regrettable that so much time and energy was required to get my Liberal colleagues to finally take the necessary steps to achieve formal acknowledgment of these tragic events. These are the same people who, not so long ago, were fighting tooth and nail to defend their categorical refusal to do such a thing. They spared no sarcasm in their remarks to me, claiming that looking back into the past was futile and the Acadians would gain nothing from it.

I must admit that I have always known, deep down in my heart, that the time would come when truth and justice would prevail. This action by my Liberal colleagues was all the more remarkable and praiseworthy. Although the date of July 28 is not unanimously accepted by the community of historians and specialists in Acadian history, I am still extremely pleased that the federal government has finally decided to have a day to commemorate the deportation of the Acadians. In this way, the Governor General, on behalf of the Crown of Canada, henceforth recognizes the suffering inflicted upon the Acadians by the Great Upheaval.

There is no doubt whatsoever that such a gesture of major historical significance has a symbolic value that cannot be denied or downplayed. From now on, the Great Upheaval can no longer be considered a non-event or a myth, believed by some never to have occurred.

For the first time in the history of Canada, we have official acknowledgment that the Acadians were the victims of a great tragedy which changed the face of Acadia and Canada forever.

The deportation is now acknowledged to be an undeniable historical fact, as stated in the Royal Proclamation, which reads:

We (the Governor General) acknowledge these historical facts and the trials and suffering experienced by the Acadian people during the Great Upheaval.

As Mr. Euclide Chiasson, President of the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, said on December 10 in a speech in Ottawa:

What we are celebrating today is not a rewriting of history nor a revision of history. What we are celebrating is the validation of a chapter in our history. The royal proclamation, ratified by the cabinet on December 2, simply attests to the universally recognized historical facts.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the enormous amount of work done by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, which took on this cause and unflaggingly sought recognition by the British Crown of the wrongs done to the Acadian people during the Great Upheaval.

Having said that, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the clear, frank, direct and uncompromising wording of the proclamation's preamble. When I first heard vague rumours that such a proclamation was being secretly prepared in the back rooms of government, I suspected trickery, bad faith and machinations.

Considering the acrimonious tenor of the debate to that point, I feared that they would try to cloud the issue by resorting to the convenient euphemism of the Great Upheaval, and limit themselves to sickeningly inoffensive generalities.

But that is not the case, indeed it is quite the opposite. The text of the proclamation spells out the story of the deportation and the considerable suffering caused to the Acadian people. The proclamation even goes so far as to recognize that the decision to deport the Acadians was not made by the colonial authorities in Nova Scotia, Massachusetts and Maine alone, as some have claimed even in this House, but in fact by the Crown itself.

Even for that reason alone, we must recognize that this is an unprecedented gesture. Still, the reasons for rejoicing and satisfaction end there. While it is undoubtedly a significant step forward, the proclamation does not deal with the root of the problem, which remains untouched, because this is the Crown of Canada recognizing the facts of the deportation. The British Crown, which ought at least to assume moral responsibility for these tragic events, has not yet officially recognized them.

It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is not. The fact that the Crown of Canada, like that of Australia or even New Zealand, followed suit and did what the legislative assemblies in Louisiana and Maine have done, is certainly very comforting and nice, but nothing can replace recognition directly from the British Crown.

The Crown of Canada should not have to recognize wrongs for which it bears no responsibility, and should certainly not have to do instead of an entity that still exists, namely the British Crown.

It is very clear to me, and I believe I have demonstrated this many times in this House, that the Crown was not only well aware of what was afoot in Acadia, but was at the heart of the operation that had been brewing for a number of years to allow British and American settlers to occupy fertile Acadian lands.

Until then, Acadians were allowed to stay on their land so that they would not pack up their belongings and livestock and increase the ranks of the French settled on Ile Royale, further strengthening the influence of the Fortress of Louisbourg in the region. That is why Acadian neutrality suited the British so well. But then again, they took exception to it many times and in the end they used it as an excuse to justify the Deportation.

However, in 1720, the Governor-in-chief of Nova Scotia, Colonel Philipps, taking into consideration these military and economic imperatives, expressed a wish in a letter to London:

—a plan needs to be made in the motherland to populate this land with people from Great Britain... Until then, the inhabitants will not even think about leaving, ...until I have received your new instructions.

At the end of that year, Philipps received a response from the Bureau des colonies:

—The French in Nova Scotia will never become good subjects of His Majesty... That is why they should be expelled as soon as the forces we plan to send you arrive in Nova Scotia...Do not yourself undertake such an expulsion without a specific order from His Majesty to that effect.

A few years later, in 1747 to be more precise, the governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley, assured Acadians that they could remain peacefully on their own land, while he was negotiating with London to have them deported. In response to a proposal from him to that effect, the Secretary of State said:

Although the removal of these inhabitants from the province is desirable, His Majesty has decided that it would be better to postpone this project. However, His Majesty requests that you examine how such a project could be carried out at a suitable time.

Then, in 1753, Charles Lawrence was appointed governor of Nova Scotia. A year later, he would send a letter to London about Acadians, in which he said:

Their land holdings are the largest and the richest in the province. As long as that situation remains, no settlement would be successful--

Soon after Vice-Admiral Boscawen arrived from England, on July 8, 1755, with “secret instructions signed by His Majesty”, the decision was finally made, and on the 28th of the same month, the removal of Acadians was carried out.

Since there is no longer any doubt in my mind about the direct involvement of the British Crown in this upheaval, there is a questionable and quite surprising substitution in the proclamation issued in December. To follow up on a point the Liberals have used recently to criticize my initiative, the proclamation stipulates that Canada is a sovereign state and that, with regard to Canada, the Crown in right of Canada and of the provinces succeeded to the powers and prerogatives of the Crown in right of the United Kingdom.

Need I remind the House that the Crown in right of Canada and Canada itself, as we know it today, did not exist in 1775.

Moreover, as Université de Moncton professor Kamel Khiari pointed out, in crimes such as this great upheaval that could be compared to the ethnic cleansing occurring these days, responsibility cannot be transferred to the successor state but remains in perpetuity with the predecessor state. If the predecessor state still exists, it is responsible for those crimes.

Also, the Canadian royal proclamation only affects, so to speak, Acadians in Canada. Although it is not trivial, this action has officially no effect on Acadians in Louisiana or in Belle-Île-en-Mer, for example. Indeed, it is not the federal government, or the Société nationale de l'Acadie, or even this Bloc member that started this whole saga to seek official recognition of the wrongs done to the Acadian people during the deportation, but a lawyer from Louisiana, Warren Perrin, to whom I want to pay tribute today.

I suggest that the argument that it was incumbent upon the Canadian government, and not the British Crown, to take formal action to recognize the facts surrounding the deportation was only a legal and constitutional manoeuvre to set the process in motion for what appears to several people as a rather surprising flip flop by a faction that was heretofore vehemently opposed to such an action.

I recognize that, under the circumstances, this was a fair political manoeuvre and the government now had to oppose the very mechanism provided in the wording of the motion. In this regard, I want to say that the motion was initially written with the cooperation of the clerk of the House and his staff, following thorough research on relevant precedents.

The Canadian government understood well the limits of the action that it took, since it announced at the same time that an “unofficial” invitation had been extended to Her Majesty so that she could personally read this proclamation in Grand-Pré, a highly symbolic place for the Acadian people.

It would be very sad to try to lead the Acadian people to believe that, by this proclamation, the page has definitely been turned and this saga is finally over. I sincerely believe that this royal proclamation would only be truly meaningful if Her Majesty herself would read it. The Canadian government even provided for this possibility in the proclamation.

This historic event could take place next September 5, during the celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Acadia, or on July 28, 2005, which will be the first Day of the Commemoration of the Great Upheaval. The reading of the proclamation by Her Majesty would have the effect, to paraphrase the president of the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, of “crowning” the representations made to seek official recognition of the wrongs done to the Acadian people during the deportation.

This action by Her Majesty, who embodies the authority of the two Crowns, could then be interpreted as a de facto recognition, by the British Crown, of the terms of the proclamation signed by the Canadian Crown.

So, the House of Commons must support the December 9 royal proclamation and formally invite Her Majesty to come and read this proclamation in Canada, preferably in Acadia, in a place and at a time to be determined by Buckingham Palace, the Canadian government and the Société Nationale de l'Acadie. We could then put closure on the parliamentary aspect of this saga, which has already had a very positive impact.

It is my hope that, this time, we will leave partisanship aside and think about the best interests of the Acadian people, and that all of us will gather here in this House to salute and applaud the action taken by the government in December, and will join our voices to that of the government to formally invite Her Majesty to come to read the proclamation.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion M-382.

First, I want to say that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes takes to heart this issue that he is raising in the House of Commons for the third time. He never gave up.

For a while, the Liberal government was saying that this was partisanship, that he was doing this because of his party. However, on several occasions, I had the opportunity to say that it was not the case.

Indeed, at the beginning of the Acadians' history, the Bergerons were from the Rivière-Saint-Jean. Mrs. Bergeron, who had met Jean-Baptiste Godin and had married him, had moved to Caraquet. This is why, when the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes and I meet, we say we are distant cousins.

This has nothing to do with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. This has to do with a long history. He has shown this and hopefully people here in the House of Commons and outside the House have come to understand that this history goes back to his roots and this is why this motion is so dear to his heart.

Today, I am proud to see that the government has made some progress. It has, in fact, recognized the deportation. It did not want to use the words “wrongs done to Acadians”. It did not want to speak of the “apology” that should be made, but it has recognized that there was a deportation. Nevertheless, everything the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has asked for has been diluted, from beginning to end.

There is something else I find interesting in all this. In the House of Commons, the Liberals voted against an apology by the British Crown. They also voted against recognition of the harm done to Acadians. But, when it came time to recognize the deportation, they were all in place for the family portrait. I was at home watching television. I tuned in to RDI and saw the hon. member for Hamilton East making the declaration here in Ottawa, with the representatives of the SANB. You could see the family portrait of the Liberals who wanted to take the credit for all of this.

I just had to mention that. I thought it was amusing. They are not able to vote in favour of a motion but when it is time to recognize the deportation and look for the credit, they are right there in the family photo.

Today I would like to go back to the history of the Acadians.

The deportation of the Acadians took place between 1755 and 1763. The Acadians speak of the Great Upheaval. I think that is a greatly understated way to describe the tragedy the Acadian people experienced and that, in itself, is something that shows their great strength of spirit. Longfellow's epic poem, Évangéline , describes the painful historic reality of the Acadians and paints a picture of a brutal and cruel deportation. And that is pretty much what happened.

Before the British army arrived, Acadia was a region that included today's New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It consisted of a long string of rural and seafaring communities living by trade, fishing, farming and forestry. The families of Acadia were the first European families to settle in Canada, 400 years ago. These communities lived in perfect harmony with the indigenous peoples.

When the British army came to Acadia, it acted like an army of occupation and tried to force the Acadians to swear allegiance to the Queen, without exception and without any respect for their cultural or religious differences.

When the Acadians refused, the British army reacted with brutality, burning down homes, taking control of fertile lands, and splitting up families by making men, women and children board different ships to be deported to Louisiana—these are today's Cajuns—and all over the coast of what is now the eastern United States. Others ended up in jails in England or were forced to go back to France.

As we can imagine, the hardships and injustice continued long after the journey ended. The hardships and intolerance are akin to what was experienced by the first nations, the Métis and all our aboriginal peoples, something that, in many instances, they continue to live with the consequences of.

Still today, we can see human rights being trampled in many countries. Around the world, religious, linguistic or cultural minorities are being persecuted and see their rights trampled, often very violently.

Canada itself is far from perfect. It seems to be hard for us, in Canada, to make amends for denying the rights of native Canadians, who are still living in deplorable conditions. We often have trouble maintaining a democratic, open and egalitarian society. Nothing can be taken for granted.

However, the good news is that modern Canada, born from this terrible tragedy, was built on a solid foundation of linguistic duality, tolerance and openness to differences. The key to modern Canada, as found in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, relies on the principle of equal rights and on our refusal to impose our will on a minority, where human rights are concerned. It is on such a positive attitude that modern Canada was built. Refusing to let the might makes right principle prevail has made Canada a showplace of unity with diversity.

This is why today we are free to debate this motion which reflects the will not only of the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes but of the Acadian people that still bears deep scars as a result of this cruel attempt to eradicate them and trample over their dignity.

Acadian Canadians are proud to have survived the challenge of le Grand Dérangement. Today they are strong and proud members of the Canadian family.

As an Acadian, I support this motion. The exclusion of Acadians was a senseless act. For those who think that this is the way they used to do business in those days, may I remind them of a more recent event: the 1923 Chinese exclusion act, which also separated families by making it impossible for a wife to join her husband. Parliament rescinded the outrageous Chinese exclusion act and issued a formal apology to the Chinese Canadian community.

Last December 9, the royal proclamation had a serious impact on the initiatives seeking official recognition of the wrongs done to the Acadian people during the great upheaval.

Although a little watered down, the December royal proclamation was a step in the right direction. The Acadian people is now officially recognized and its turbulent past is no longer just a legend, it is a recognized historical fact.

However, for the proclamation to have a real impact on Acadian people, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II should do what the Acadian people expect of her and read the royal proclamation in Acadie, and more specifically in Grand-Pré, where the great upheaval occurred. Such a symbolic gesture would, in my mind, be the best way to recognize the wrongs done to the Acadian people.

Lastly, let me point out that Her Majesty the Queen has ample opportunities to come to Acadia and read the proclamation. She could do it this year, when Acadia is celebrating its 400th anniversary, or even in 2005, which will be the 250th anniversary of the great upheaval.

Even the hon. member for Hamilton-East says that it is only a matter of extending an invitation to Her Majesty, who would be more than pleased to come and read the proclamation.

So I would urge all members to consider the motion and ask Parliament to invite Her Majesty to Acadia to recognize the important role played by the Acadian people, who helped build our great country. And she could also take the opportunity to celebrate with us.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to respond to the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes and Motion No. 382.

It is not the first time that the member brings this issue to the attention of the House of Commons. On many occasions, he chose to share his concerns on this subject. I commend him for that.

Motion No. 382 states:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken bythe Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with HerMajesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially thewrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755and 1763.

I do not think there is one member of Parliament in the House, or in fact one Canadian, who is not touched by these historical facts. The Acadian deportation is sad and unsavoury. What our Acadian ancestors withstood cannot and must not be forgotten.

Our collective memory is full of stories and explanations about why it happened, about the reasons behind such actions. Historians try to understand the thinking of our forefathers, of those from another time and era who behaved differently, thought differently, and reacted differently than we would today. It cannot be understood. It cannot be explained. In my mind, it was ethnic cleansing.

It is impossible to change history. The deportation of the Acadians, no matter how we look at it, is unacceptable.

I think that today's Acadians understand this. Far from being simply a folklore element that only our elderly are dwelling upon, their history is now and forever a tragic episode in a reality that cannot be changed. Our children and our grandchildren will remember this. We may go back in times and wish that some incidents never happened or would have been dealt with differently, attempts to change the past will only be wishful thinking.

But let us come back to Motion No. 382. Why are we still debating this motion? It seems to me that, in December, when the Government of Canada announced the signing of a royal proclamation designating July 28 of each year as A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval, the issue had a happy ending. I say happy since at that time the Acadians themselves, through the president of the Société nationale de l'Acadie, said they were “very happy with the positive outcome of this issue”.

The president also said that the proclamation “will also serve as official recognition of the historical facts surrounding the deportation that occurred between 1755 and 1763”. That seems fine to me. If Acadians themselves are satisfied with the results, on what grounds can the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes say that it is not enough?

Today's values are rooted in the lessons taught by history and in our common past. During the installation ceremony of Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, on February 8, 1995, the Right Honourable Primer Minister Jean Chrétien said:

You are the first Acadian and the first Atlantic Canadian to serve in this important position.

Two hundred years ago, your ancestors were struggling to keep alive a small Acadian community after many years of war and terrible economic hardships. They were pawns in the battles between Europeans empires. Most of them were deported. Many of them died from hunger and disease. Several ships full of exiles sank in the ocean.

But a determined few managed to escape and return, despite the efforts of colonial authorities to disperse them.

In the end, not only did they survive those terrible trials, but their descendants developed and flourished in this land they made their home.

With exceptional courage, they preserved their culture. And they resolved to put aside old grudges and live in peace and harmony with their fellow Canadians, concentrating on what they had in common with them rather than what might divide them. As we all know, it is because of them that Atlantic Canada has a remarkably rich and dynamic Acadian culture.

These lessons shape what Canadians are today: respected and respectful, open-minded and tolerant, dynamic and vibrant.

But let us put aside the past for a moment. Today we are faced with a number of priorities that have been clearly defined by official language minority communities in Canada, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, of which I was a member, the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, of which I was a member, and the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, of which I was president.

Some of the priorities in question include job creation, health services in French, legal services in French and early childhood development. I think we should focus on issues that will advance official language minority communities in Canada.

Canadians would probably all agree that this is where the federal government should invest its energy and resources.

On March 12, 2003, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien announced to Canadians new initiatives that would provide $750 million over five years to the action plan for official languages: “Thirty years after the adoption of the Official Languages Act, I am pleased to announce that the Government is giving new momentum to our country’s linguistic duality, as called for by Canadians”, the Prime Minister stated.

The plan, praised by official language minority communities, addresses the urgent problems facing French Canadian communities outside Quebec, including Acadians.

It includes a framework for accountability and coordination, and three primary objectives: education, community development and federal public services.

This is what Acadians and francophones want. They want us to invest in their communities to encourage them, help them prosper and grow.

They will be consulted throughout the implementation of the action plan, over a period of five years. We want to hear their comments and wishes. We urge them to get involved and take ownership of this plan.

The first of these official ministerial consultations took place in Ottawa on October 6, 2003. Seven federal ministers who are involved in the action plan took note of the comments of the communities on the steps we have taken and explained the progress made.

But that will not be all. Serious consultations will go on throughout this process.

Acadians are tenacious and the spirit of Acadian entrepreneurs is reflected in the strength of their institutions, commercial enterprises and teaching establishments. They are part of what makes Canada successful.

The Government of Canada recognizes this dynamism and vital contribution to Canadian society. They are among the seven million people in Canada who speak, sing, write, work and live in French. These francophones are proof of the vitality and extraordinary determination to grow and expand on a continent with an anglophone majority.

The government's responsibility is to support the growth of the Acadians, to recognize their value as Canadians and their contribution to Canada. Let us face the facts. My colleagues and I are looking to the future as are all Acadians and Canadians. We are the future of Canada and we intend to make the best of it.

Francophones, anglophones, aboriginals, Acadians and people from over 200 ethnic origins live together and respect each other. This is what Canada is all about, living in harmony, peace and prosperity.

As I said earlier, I cannot understand why the Bloc Quebecois continues to believe that the issue did not have a happy ending. Let us turn to the future. We should focus our energy on the challenges of the future, on the history we are living today.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Lanark—Carleton could not be present today, so he has asked me to deliver the speech that he has researched and written. On behalf of the member for Lanark—Carleton, I begin.

Mr. Speaker, it is with regret that I will be voting against Motion No. 382. My reasons for doing so are twofold. First, I feel that this motion is based on a faulty premise, that being that guilt can be collective and can be passed on from one generation to the next.

Second, despite the good intentions of those who drafted it, the motion seems to attribute alternate responsibilities for the expulsion of the Acadians to the crown which is not an accurate reading of the events of 1755. A more historically accurate reading would lay blame with the colonial governors of New England and the pioneers they represented.

I will begin with the historical argument and come back later to the philosophical one. Many of the facts surrounding the deportation of the Acadians are unchallenged. In 1755 the colonial authorities began a process of uprooting and deporting the part of the Acadian population which had settled on British lands beginning with the centre of the Acadian colony along the east shore of the Bay of Fundy.

Nova Scotia's Governor Lawrence and Governor Shirley, commander in chief of the British forces in New England, began by seizing colonists' firearms to prevent them from using force to resist. Then they took a large number of adult males hostage in order to guarantee the docility of their families at the time of deportation.

In the years which followed, approximately three-quarters of the total Acadian population, or 13,000 people, were deported. Some of these people were sent to England, others to Louisiana and still others were returned to France. Although we know with certainty the degree of suffering caused by the deportations between the years 1755 and 1763, it is much more difficult to pin down historic responsibility for them.

One thing is certain and that is the governors Lawrence and Shirley were at the heart of the decision making and must bear ultimate responsibility. But nothing proves that they acted with the approval of the Parliament of Westminster. According to the most commonly accepted version of events, Lawrence acted with the authorization of the local council in Nova Scotia and parliament and King George did not take part in the planning of the deportations.

As I will discuss momentarily, I emphasize that I will not support the notion of a collective or hereditary guilt, but even if I did support it, I think that the first collective excuses that should be conveyed to the Acadian people should come from the government of Maine.

Nonetheless, the Queen recently chose to address this issue, deferring a decision on any apology to the Canadian cabinet. As we are all aware, cabinet recently dealt with this issue and this past December, the Governor General signed a royal proclamation regarding this issue. Excerpts from the proclamation read as follows:

Whereas on July 28, 1755, the Crown, in the course of administering the affairs of the British colony of Nova Scotia, made the decision to deport the Acadians;

Whereas the deportation of the Acadian people, commonly known as the Great Upheaval, continued until 1763 and had tragic consequences, including the deaths of many thousands of Acadians;

Whereas the Crown acknowledges these historical facts and the trials and suffering experienced by the Acadian people during the Great Upheaval;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, directs that a Proclamation do issue designating July 28 of every year as “A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval”.

I commend the decision of the government to issue this proclamation, one which seems entirely appropriate to me.

I believe there is a legitimate expectation that all participants in the public life of a civilized society should adopt a moral attitude toward the past. A moral attitude involves recognizing and embracing those past actions which are regarded as good and just and rejecting those which are regarded as unjust or monstrous.

The acknowledgement of the trials and suffering experienced by the Acadian people and the designation of an annual day to commemorate this unfortunate chapter in our history is an appropriate way to address this unfortunate episode.

In contrast to the proclamation issued by the Crown, however, the motion before the House explicitly requests an apology for this historical wrong. This is quite a different concept. It rests on the idea that actual guilt for past injustice can be passed on institutionally and collectively in precisely the same way that the residual effects of that wrong continue to have some impact on the descendants of those who suffered the initial wrong. This is simply untrue.

I do not accept the notion that an institution can maintain a heritage or a collective guilt that is imposed upon successive generations of those who become members of that institution or who fall under its protection.

An attitude of collective guilt or responsibility, or worse yet, of expecting others to accept a mantle of guilt, or responsibility for acts in which they themselves did not take part strikes me as being of no utility at all.

A debate similar to the one taking place today took place in the House 20 years ago on Pierre Trudeau's last day as prime minister. He was asked by Brian Mulroney in question period to issue an apology for the war time internment of Canadians of Japanese descent. Trudeau's response reveals a subtle grasp to the distinction that I am attempting to draw here today. He said:

I do not see how I can apologize for some historic event to which we... were not a party. We can regret that it happened. But why...say that an apology is much better than an expression or regret?

I do not think that it is the purpose of a Government to right the past. It cannot re-write history. It is our purpose to be just in our time...

I agree with the reasoning of this statement. In the case of the great upheaval, the wronged parties are long dead. Those who committed the wrong are long dead. The British Empire, by whose power the wrongs were perpetrated, no longer exists and the principle of mercantilism on which it was founded has been firmly and absolutely rejected by the present British Crown and state.

Most important of all, perhaps, the British colonies of New England, in whose interest the wrongs were committed, ceased to exist as political entities over two centuries ago, with the coming of American independence.

So no individual is left, nor even any corporate entity, which can truthfully and honestly accept guilt in its own name, or serve as the justified target of the indignation of others.

This does not excuse us from a responsibility to adopt a moral attitude of condemnation toward this great wrong any more than we can adopt an attitude of moral neutrality toward the monstrous evils of more recent times.

As moral actors, we need to recognize the existence of these past wrongs, to identify them to our fellow citizens and to do all we can to ensure that no modern version of this wrong can occur.

As such, I would like to applaud the sincere efforts of the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes to ensure that this episode in our history is not forgotten.

Nonetheless, I believe that the recent proclamation, which acknowledges this issue without extending an official apology, is sufficient to express our sorrow for this past wrong. It allows us, without condemning others, to indicate our determination that no such future wrong will ever be tolerated on Canadian soil.

Hence, I disagree on both historical and philosophical grounds with the fundamental assumption on which Motion No. 382 rests, that the Crown bears a further responsibility.

First, I take issue with the historical claim that the British Crown, past or present, bears the ultimate responsibility for the great upheaval.

Second, I disagree with the philosophical claim that we can inherit a collective guilt which places on us a responsibility to apologize for events which took place over two centuries ago.

Therefore, I must vote against this motion and encourage others to do so as well.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with an attitude of solemnity and respect for history that I take part in this debate initiated by our colleague, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes. I realize this is the fourth time this matter is brought before the House, but I am convinced that the hon. member introduced this motion because he wanted us to remember the important contribution of Acadians to the French reality in North America. He has no vengeful intention of any kind, nor does he have a negative or even pessimistic purpose.

I know for a fact that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has spoken with Acadians many times and that he has seen first hand how dynamic a community they form and how much faith in the future that nation has.

However, that potential for optimism must not keep us from understanding the considerable importance of the deportation, the Great Upheaval, the historical event which took place from 1755 to 1763.

Of course, I do not know as well as the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes the events that lead to the deportation, but I have found part of the edict, order or proclamation by which individual citizens and entire communities were deported from what used to be known as Acadia in the 18th century, that is, the whole region of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

I would like to get into that to provide a clear understanding of what those experiencing this event must have gone through.

John Winslow read the deportation order in the little church in the village of Grand-Pré.

In those days, churches played a key role in rallying the community, a tradition that remained for some time.

So, here we are in September 1755. The Acadian community receives a message. These are francophones, people with roots, with a history, with a love for the area. They have announced to them by John Winslow, on behalf of George II, the following words on that September 5, 1755:

I have received from His Excellency, Governor Lawrence, the instructions of the King. It is by these orders that you are assembled in order to hear the final resolution of His Majesty concerning the French inhabitants of this province of Nova Scotia... It is ordered that your lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds and livestock of all sorts, be forfeited to the British Crown, along with all other effects, saving your money and household goods and you, yourselves, be removed from this Province... The peremptory orders of His Majesty are that all the inhabitants of this district be deported—

Imagine an entire community, a founding community moreover, at this midpoint in the 18th century, being uprooted and having to rebuild their lives. That community was to be scattered to all four corners of the empire, and not always in the most kindly of ways, often even with the potential of violence and suffering, to say the least. This was to be recounted in the many writings and historical accounts of this phenomenon.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has been wise, in my opinion, to call upon parliamentarians to remember this event, out of respect for history and for the sake of the future of this community.

In recent years, there has been a movement afoot to rehabilitate historical memory. Was it not here, in this very House, that former Prime Minister Mulroney presented an apology, on behalf of his government and the people of Canada, to the Japanese Canadian community. They had, as we know, been unjustly imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II?

And did His Holiness Pope John Paul II not also present an apology on behalf of the church and the state, out of respect for history? We know that, under the Lateran treaties, the Vatican is a state, just as Canada is, just like any of the 200 states around the world. His Holiness apologized to the Jewish people for the cruel treatment they had suffered throughout history, especially in the 20th century.

Closer to home, former Premier Bouchard presented, on behalf of his government and of the people of Quebec, an apology to the Duplessis orphans who were mistreated in the orphanages of Quebec in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

And so, the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes was extremely wise to want to restore the memory of history. I understand that one reason behind his motion is to say how much the French fact—the presence of the Acadians in this part of North America that is now New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—is something that deserves to be commemorated. He wants to invite us to understand that.

Just imagine what it means for their survival that they are still present among us, with energy, with confidence, with entrepreneurship and, indeed, having made a truly extraordinary contribution to building the Francophonie and helping it expand its influence.

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes had two objectives. History sometimes casts a cruel light on the past, which nonetheless is important for understanding the future. As we know, in our constitutional history, two Crowns have ruled over Canada. There was the French Crown, New France, from the discovery of the Americas to the proclamation of 1760, and the British Crown, of course, through to the Statute of Westminster. We now know that the British Crown schemed, gave orders and committed acts in order to make deportation possible.

A Jesuit once said that a text taken out of context becomes a pretext. Our colleague from the Conservative Party of Canada was right to remind the House that history cannot be rewritten. It is certainly not the purpose of the motion from the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes to rewrite, reinterpret or change history.

The motion calls on us to recognize the troubled past of the Acadian community that resulted from British Crown policies, because we are grateful to be part of this French reality in North America. I could quote John Kennedy, who said about Canada and the United States, “Geography made us neighbours, history made us friends”. Tonight, I think the people of Quebec could say to Acadians that geography made us neighbours, and history made us friends.

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is attached, as are we, to the French fact in North America, its past and its future, and that is why he has introduced this motion before us this evening on four different occasions.

I understand that the purpose of his motion is not to demand an apology in a spirit of revenge and negativity. I believe his actions echo the feelings of a number of his, and our, Acadian compatriots, who will be marking two major events in coming months and weeks. I am, of course, thinking of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadia and the 250th anniversary of the deportation of the Acadians, in September 2005, if I remember correctly.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes would like to receive Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on this occasion. I think it would be impossible for her not to understand the point of this motion, since she must surely have a sense of history, as a member of the House of Windsor, a family that has made a great contribution to history.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes wants Her Majesty, who should be coming to Canada for one of these events, to read the royal proclamation as a symbolic and positive gesture. The Crown of Canada recognizes the ill treatment and upheavals inflicted on the Acadian people. Unfortunately, our work will not be completely done until we truly understand what happened.

If, in a genuine gesture of reconciliation, which has involved various government leaders at various times, Her Majesty would agree to read the proclamation, we would come to realize that she shares the suffering inflicted upon the Acadian people, a forward looking and highly vibrant community in whose future we truly believe.

This is what the motion put forward by the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is all about. To conclude, I think all members of Parliament should commend him for his interest in history, his sense of fairness and his incredible support for French-speaking communities throughout North America.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 6:55 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow, pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:55 p.m.)