House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

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. The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River will have seven minutes when this debate resumes.

The House resumed from March 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona has five minutes left in his comments.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill. We are now in the second hour of debate. I spoke for a few minutes in the last hour, so I will continue.

I think every member of the House sees merit in Bill C-473 and will support it. Therefore, we thank the member for Perth—Wellington for having brought the bill before the House. It deals with the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, our NDP caucus spokesperson on this issue, has a similar bill, Bill C-208, in the House. Although it is not exactly the same, it is similar enough that he hopes that when we get the bill to committee, he may be able to get parts of his bill adopted by the members into this bill to make it a better one.

In essence, the position the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on this bill is he would like to see the currency taken out of the equation. He feels the medals should be viewed as unsaleable to anyone and when they are not longer required by the families of people who had the medals, they should be put in a repository such as a museum or he even suggested MPs' offices. There are many methods for dealing with the different types of military orders and decorations.

I spent considerable time on this issue and I looked forward to getting into the history. The more I read about the issue, the more interesting I found this matter.

I thought it was best to start at the beginning, so I went back to Roman times. That is when medals were first created. The Romans developed a complex hierarchy of military honours, ranging from crowns that were presented to senior officers to mark victories in major campaigns. There was a discussion around metal discs and other types of metals.

Then we got into the era of the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Elizabeth I, when she issued commemorative metals to mark England's victory over the Spanish Armada.

Then we moved on to the days of Oliver Cromwell. He issued medals to people who participated in the Battle of Dunbar. Then we got to the time of 1815 when medals were awarded to people who served during the Battle of Waterloo. I just saw a program a couple of weeks ago on the issue of Napoleon's history in France, ending with the Battle of Waterloo.

There is a storied history going back to Roman days involving medals. In fact, Canada has a long history of medals. It started with the governors of New France desiring to establish European honours in Canada. They established a Military Order of Malta in New France between 1635 and 1648.

After the establishment of the British North America Act, Canadians were entitled to receive British imperial honours, though the awarding was not consistently allowed. Besides knighthoods, peerage titles, both hereditary and in life, that were also bestowed on Canadians, sometimes it was uniquely Canadian designations, such as Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe and Baron Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook, in the province of New Brunswick.

The fact is over time these medals more and more became—

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to inform the member that his time is up.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Don Valley West.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I begin by thanking the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this bill forward. I find it to be a thoughtful and balanced approach to this issue. It is the kind of thing that a private member's bill should do. It is a contribution to public policy and to the honouring of veterans in our country.

I have been requesting the members on this side of the House, in the Liberal Party, to support this bill, and we will support it at committee.

It is quite an adequate bill because it balances the cultural heritage that we try to protect through the honouring of insignia, of medals and honours, declarations and awards, as well as the private property rights of individuals. The member has been very thoughtful in balancing those two needs to understand that medals for wartime service and for military service, in general, tell two stories. They tell a story of an individual and a service to our country and to our world and a moment of heroism often that is honoured in a medal. They also tell a corporate story about what Canada is, how Canada has come into being and what Canada hopes to be in the future.

This legislation balances those two stories as well as those two rights. We have the story of individuals who offer their lives for service and give what they can for the prospects of freedom, independence, peace and community in our world. They also, at the same time, tell the story of a country that is emerging as a nation. The stories we have of these medals, as we can look at them, tell the story of a nation that has taken its place in the stage of world affairs and has made our world a better place.

It is very clear that I believe this is good legislation. It promotes culture and heritage in Canada and it balances the need for a family to tell its own story. It respects the right of a family to pass on a medal, or a declaration, or an award, from generation to generation, to kin, to keep it in that family so it can tell the story of the person it loved and respected.

It also gives the right of first refusal to Canadian cultural institutions, particularly, the Museum of Civilization across the river, the War Museum, as well as that network of Canadian Forces museums, which offer a story that we all need to hear. The member has taken that and has done it very well.

The need for such legislation is interesting. There is already an act in place that protects such medals that are 50 years or older. This adds to the legislative body that we have to protect modern medals. The act that the member is attempting to add to not only is looking at the history of Canada, but it is actually guarding the future of Canada. Therefore, we also want to commend him for that, for being forward-looking.

There are a couple of issues that I want to raise, and this is not a criticism to the bill but to add to the importance of it.

First, many people have served in Canadian Forces in the last 40 years or 50 years who have not received medals. I hope the member will also begin to look at the proposed Governor General's volunteer service award for those who have served at least one year and have not received a medal for their volunteering into the Canadian Forces.

There was such a medal that ended in 1947. It came back during the Korean War, in those two to three years. However, since that time, we have not had a medal that honours the simple act, or the very brave act, of volunteering for the Canadian Forces.

This is for people who have volunteered, particularly, in the cold war. We have to remember that kind of service. That will make this kind of legislation quite important, because we are talking about new medals and modern medals. I hope the member will take some time to investigate that proposal. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition for Parliament to establish such a medal.

On a bit of a harder note, one of the reasons this legislation is important is because there have been stories of people, of veterans, selling their medals to actually live. We have to worry about that.

I want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that there exists in Calgary a food bank solely for veterans. The Prime Minister visited the food bank on April 2, with the Minister of the Environment. It is an utter national shame that we have a food bank, the poppy fund in Calgary, just for veterans. There is something wrong when we are forcing our veterans to go to the measures of staying in homeless shelters, of selling medals, of going to food banks designed just for them. The Calgary poppy fund has to operate to keep veterans alive.

The budget for that food bank is $2 million per year. I am not belittling the charitable notion that goes into keeping that alive. It is a wonderful charitable effort. However, the fact that the need exists should remind us that we as a Parliament and the government are simply not doing enough for veterans.

Over 61 people received food baskets in that institution in the last several weeks. It is open five days a week, from nine to five, Monday to Friday, to help veterans. Calgary is one of richest cities in the country. This is about people who have given their service, their time, their honour, everything to the service of the country. What we are doing for our veterans is simply not good enough.

We have stories of veterans who sell their medals on eBay, sending them out of the country. I am very pleased the member is trying to protect that cultural heritage and keep them in our country, keep that story alive. However, as with everything, we have to dig down, we have to peel back the onion just a bit to understand why people might sell medals. If it is because they do not have enough to eat, if it is because they do not have a roof over their heads, if it is because they have been left out, if it is because they have addictions or other problems that are forcing them into a life outside the mainstream, then we have to act. It is not good enough. It is simply not the way we want to treat our veterans.

I know the hon. member has veterans absolutely foremost in his mind, so I hope he will take this opportunity to talk to the veterans who may be tempted to sell their medals. I hope he can go to that food bank, following his leader's example. That was just a photo op to make an announcement about food protection. It was an opportunity to talk to those veterans and ask them why they were there, to ask them what happened and what went on in their lives that took them to the brink and caused them to go to the Calgary Drop-In.

It has between 30 and 35 veterans every night who are homeless. This is a national shame. It is one of the largest growing populations of homeless in Canada. It is one largest growing populations of those going to food banks. We do not want to follow the model of our American neighbours, where this is a national crisis, although it is not that yet in Canada. We want to take the kinds of steps, the kinds of services, the kinds of programs to ensure that does not happen. We need to evaluate our programs and our commitment to Canadian veterans.

There is a story of a veteran that was recently made into vignette by the Historica Dominion Institute. It is the story of Tommy Prince, the most decorated aboriginal, first nations veteran in Canadian history, born in 1915. One of the tragedies of that story is despite the fact that his bravery and his service led to him being the most decorated first nations veteran, when he came back to Canada, he did not find his place that he deserved in this society. He was forced to sell his medals. This is a real story of a real person, of a real veteran who got lost along the way.

This legislation will protect the medal, but will it protect the veteran? It is a first step to ensure cultural heritage is protected, but we have to go a further step. We have to go further to ensure that our veterans are never forced to sell their medals, that they are never forced to go to a food bank in Calgary, that they are never forced to go to the Calgary Drop-In, but that they are celebrated, treated fairly, economically and socially. We owe our lives, our freedom and our independence to them.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-473 and the protection of military medals, orders and decorations awarded to Canadians.

I want to begin by thanking the member for Perth—Wellington for his efforts to protect Canada's military heritage and for bringing this issue before Parliament.

The tabling of Bill C-473 allows us to reflect on the vital importance of Canada's military heritage and the very important part it plays in our country's development.

Military insignia symbolize a number of events, the most common representing long or distinguished service, while still others denote participation in a war, campaign or peacekeeping mission. The rarest of all signify battlefield valour.

The importance of our military heritage was front and centre just recently on April 9, Vimy Ridge Day, when the government honoured all of Canada's World War I servicemen and women and paid tribute to their achievements and contributions. Ceremonies of remembrance were held across Canada and at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France and the Canada Memorial at Green Park in London.

The national commemorative ceremony at the National War Memorial, a symbol of the sacrifices of all Canadians who have served Canada in times of war in the cause of peace and freedom, was especially poignant following the death in February of Canada's last known first world war veteran, John Babcock.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout our history must not be forgotten. As part of our country's heritage, they must be honoured and protected.

Through Bill C-473, the member for Perth—Wellington proposes to fill a gap in the protection of our military heritage, a gap that affects modern military insignia. Let me explain what I mean by that. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already protected under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. We have measures in place to keep objects of outstanding significance and national importance in the country. The act includes, among other elements, a system of cultural property export control, which requires export permits for a range of cultural property. These measures protect the nation's heritage, while respecting the rights of private citizens to dispose of their own property.

Under the existing act, important medals that are more than 50 years old require a permit to leave Canada. Permanent export may be delayed if the medal is determined to be of outstanding significance and of national importance. If an object for which a permit is sought is deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance, the permit is refused. That refusal may be appealed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

On appeal, the board may create a delay period of up to six months to allow Canadian cultural institutions the opportunity to purchase the object in question so that it may remain in Canada. A system of special tax incentives also exists to provide further encouragement for owners to donate or sell cultural property to Canadian institutions. Those who do not comply with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act can be prosecuted and are subject to fines or imprisonment.

However, what protection is there for modern Canadian insignia? We know that serving members of Canadian armed forces are prohibited under the code of service discipline of the National Defence Act from selling their medals and decorations. Military regulations also govern the disposition of medals when a serving member dies. These measures are important and should be respected. However, recent military honours, unlike historic medals, orders and decorations, are not controlled for export.

The member for Perth—Wellington has indicated that his objective with Bill C-473 is to keep important military medals, orders and decorations in Canada. Export control is clearly a matter over which the federal government has jurisdiction and experience. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already controlled for export under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

If it is the will of the House to refer Bill C-473 to committee for review, I trust there will be an opportunity to study more fully how to ensure this proposed new legislation can work seamlessly with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act to protect our military heritage. I want to commend my colleague from Perth—Wellington for striking a balance in presenting this bill, between the need to protect our military heritage and the need to respect the rights of individual owners of military insignia.

Military insignia hold significant meaning to veterans and their heirs. Bill C-473 proposes to exempt near relatives of the owner of the insignia from the provisions of the bill. Under Bill C-473, families can continue to care for the valued personal legacy of their veterans, their military insignia, and ensure they will be passed down from generation to generation.

In the first hour of debate on Bill C-473, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé noted that spouses do not seem to be included in the definition of the relative. I trust there will be an opportunity to study this matter further in committee. I also acknowledge and appreciate my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and the passion for this issue that he brings to this debate. In his comments, he described the positive experiences of several communities in his area to preserve their military heritage.

Many military insignia are donated to local museums as well as to the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Forces museums across the country. Bill C-473 would not restrict donations to Canadian museums. Owners would still be able to donate military insignia to the Canadian museum of their choice. That is an important protection of their rights.

Most public museums in Canada are also registered charities. As a registered charity, a museum can issue donation receipts for the value of gifts in kind, such as artifacts or specimens. Additional tax benefits may also be available if the gift is certified as being of cultural importance and national significance by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

The government has recognized the need to protect our military heritage through the establishment of museums, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Forces museums across the country. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have more than 1,000 medals, including at least 28 Victoria Crosses, Canada's highest military honour. The network of Canadian Forces museums tells the story of regiments across the country.

Bill C-473 proposes that federal museums should be given the opportunity to purchase modern military insignia if the owners do not wish to donate them to a public museum or wish to transfer the insignia to a near relative or heir or a resident of Canada. I would hope that Canadian Forces museums would also be able to benefit from Bill C-473 to continue their profound tradition of protecting our military heritage.

In conclusion, I am pleased to support Bill C-473 and its efforts to protect our modern military insignia, modern insignia that recognize the contribution of the women and men who still today go to troubled spots around the world. I look forward to further study of the proposed bill in committee.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

I met with the members of the Hudson Legion last week. I am always moved when I speak with veterans. Each medal and decoration marks an event in their military career and the role they played in various theatres of operation. I met with a number of veterans when I worked on the issue of Canadians who had lost their citizenship. These people were commonly known as Lost Canadians. They also take a great interest in the transfer of the last veterans hospital. They talked to me about the situation many of them are in and how they live in poverty. It is very disturbing. I believe we must do much more for them.

The bill has to do with part of our heritage and is intended to protect medals that were presented to soldiers who brought honour to us. I would first like to thank the member for Perth—Wellington for introducing this bill. It is a first step, but I believe that he will agree that we can do much more for these veterans.

I am also surprised at the narrow definition given to “veterans”, because many members of allied forces fought alongside our veterans, as the department currently defines them. Even though these people have been in Canada for 40 or 50 years, they still do not have privileged access to Ste. Anne's Hospital. We still have a lot of work to do on this.

As its title indicates, Bill C-473 is designed to protect Canadian medals and insignia of military orders that are culturally significant to Canada. The cultural significance of a decoration is determined by the regulations in this case. To keep decorations in Canada, the bill we are debating today would place tighter restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals. It would be against the law to transfer an insignia of cultural significance to a non-resident, that is to say, someone who is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen of Canada. I encourage the committee that, I hope, will study this bill to review certain passages pertaining to citizenship.

I do not know if the member for Perth—Wellington realizes it, but more veterans have lost their citizenship. The last surviving veteran of World War I, Mr. Babcock, was not a Canadian citizen and the Prime Minister had to hop on a plane to restore it. The citizenship aspect should be revisited to prevent creating further irritants for veterans. Therefore, I invite the committee to examine this point and to do some checking.

This bill contains provisions that would allow any person to transfer a decoration provided that they have first tried to sell it at its fair market value to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage, in other words the Government of Canada. If the government refuses to purchase it and provides written confirmation to this effect or has not accepted the offer within 120 days after receiving it, the person may then transfer the decoration to a non-resident. As I mentioned, a number of veterans did not regain their Canadian citizenship before dying. That was the case for Mr. Vallière, among others. We should empathize with this situation, especially for the family's sake.

Bill C-374 indicates that all these restrictive measures do not apply to the transfer of a decoration to a near relative, which means the father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, child, grandchild, brother or sister of the owner of an insignia. At this stage, I find it unacceptable that spouses are excluded from this bill. I believe that this oversight will be corrected by the committee.

For people who do comply with the provisions of the bill, specific paragraphs in the bill stipulate that if a Canadian transfers a decoration considered “cultural property” in violation of the provisions I just mentioned, that person is committing an offence punishable by a fine in an amount that does not exceed five times the market value of the insignia. I would like to know how the government will contact the owners of insignia and medals. Is there a list of these persons? I also wonder how veterans will be advised of the changes proposed in this bill.

In the past, we have had a difficult time reaching veterans, even for a law as important as the Citizenship Act. So this will be an important part of the implementation of this bill.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-473 and would like it to be examined in committee. That will give us an opportunity to hear from witnesses and examine various aspects of the bill in greater depth.

We are also in favour of the principle of the bill because it is intended to conserve and protect heritage artifacts. Such artifacts are part of the military history of any country that presents military insignia, orders, decorations and medals to men and women to thank them for their actions and for their participation in various military missions.

In bestowing these decorations, a country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world over the years. Everyone here knows that our military personnel work hard and overcome many challenges. Many sustain serious injury, and some die.

Without hesitation, they accept the most dangerous missions with humility, determination and courage. Collectively, we have an obligation to recognize and support these soldiers.

We believe that all governments can and must do what they can to preserve the cultures and histories of the peoples under their authority. Military history and recognition of the dedication of the men and women in uniform are important parts of the history of a people.

That said, I must point out that the bill introduced by the member aims to protect a cultural asset that is military in nature.

The Conservatives wish to prove their willingness to preserve military history. Although we support this praiseworthy initiative, the Bloc Québécois urges the Conservative government to take concrete action to support the entire cultural sector.

We support the bill to protect one form of military culture. However, we insist that this government invest more in the protection and promotion of the culture and history of Quebec.

I would like to close by pointing out that for many veterans, medals are very important and so is the history behind every one of them.

The fact that enacting such a bill might be difficult and might touch some nerves must not be taken lightly.

I would also like the government to do more to address the poverty that prevails in that community.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

Canadian veterans have helped to ensure that we live in a free country and have aided in spreading peace and security throughout the world. They have done that with courage, determination and at great sacrifice. In bestowing military medals, decorations and orders, our country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and those who serve today.

The men and women who wear those medals do so with pride, devotion, loyalty and dignity. Yet, when I have had the chance to speak with veterans in my hometown of Hamilton, like the exceptional men and women at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 163 on the Mountain, it is also clear that they are wearing those medals for the 118,000 Canadians who served their country and never had the chance to wear theirs because they made the ultimate sacrifice. From that perspective there can be little doubt that the principles underlying Bill C-473 deserve our support.

As the member for Perth—Wellington rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, some medals and honours are already protected in legislation. More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean War were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. It requires export permits for a range of cultural property, including medals. Yet, it offers that protection only if the military medals, orders and decorations are at least 50 years old.

More recent military honours therefore are not controlled for export. They may be freely sold and taken out of the country, out of the reach of Canadians and our public museums. I agree with the member for Perth—Wellington that this is wrong, but I am not sure that the bill, as currently written, is the best vehicle for achieving our shared objective.

Let me take a few moments here to outline some of my concerns with the view to getting the bill to committee and hopefully having most of them addressed before we have to take the third and final vote in the House. I want to start by reading the summary of Bill C-473. It states:

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

In essence, that is what this bill is all about. It suggests that military medals will be kept in Canada because they will no longer be transferrable to someone who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of Canada. On that general point, I have no quarrel. But I am not sure that the bill achieves that objective.

First, let us look at paragraphs 3(2)(a) and (b) which state that the prohibition on exporting medals does not apply to the transfer of an insignia to a near relative of the owner of the insignia. Paragraph (b) refers to an heir of the owner of the insignia upon the death of the owner. Obviously, both the near relative and the heir of the owner could reside outside of Canada.

If the goal of the bill is to keep all medals in Canada, the bill before us today does not achieve that objective. I believe that the exceptions are reasonable, but it is unclear to me whether this was a deliberate or an inadvertent outcome of the bill as drafted. Perhaps even more troubling is the exclusion of spouses in the definition of a near relative. The bill talks about parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents and heirs. Perhaps it is assumed that spouses will be heirs, but I think that the inclusion of spouses ought to be made explicit.

In bestowing military orders, decorations and medals, our country is recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world, but the sacrifices made by family members, as their loved ones serve our country, must also be acknowledged and spouses in particular deserve special recognition. In this bill I would strongly urge that the inclusion of spouses be made explicit.

The next issue I would like to address can best be expressed by comparing the bill that is before us today to a similar bill that was introduced by my NDP colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that veterans have no stronger advocate in the House than the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore. He introduced a similar bill long before the one that we are debating today was tabled, but as the luck of the draw would have it, we are debating Bill C-473 today rather than his bill, Bill C-208.

I said that it was a similar bill deliberately. They share the same goal, but in my view Bill C-208 takes a better, more comprehensive approach. Its summary states:

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

It differs from the bill before us today with two important respects. First, it includes medals awarded to the RCMP or any other police officer who serves our country outside Canada. As we know, many police officers serve overseas, and the medals they receive honour their courage, valour and selfless contribution to our international efforts. Why would we treat their medals any differently than we would the medals of veterans?

If the intent of this bill is to preserve our heritage, then clearly RCMP honours ought to be protected as well. I do not believe there would be a huge backlash from veterans on this point. In fact, when the NDP's Bill C-201 was before this House, not a single veteran complained to me that it dealt with pension fairness for both veterans and the RCMP. On the contrary, the only backlash about that bill was that the Liberals and the Conservatives defeated every clause of the bill in committee, thereby keeping in place the unfair existing system that unjustly reduces the pension benefits of retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel.

The second difference between the bill that is before us today and Bill C-208 is equally important. Bill C-208 does not just prevent medals from being exported out of the country, it actually prohibits the sale of those medals. That is a crucial distinction.

Medals and insignia are priceless honours. Men and women wear them with pride as a sign of their loyalty, devotion and dignity. Such medals should never be turned into currency. By allowing medals to be sold, we are turning honours into commodities.

I share the view of those members in this House who want to prohibit such sales. In doing so, I am not however underestimating the dire financial need that many veterans are experiencing today. I can fully appreciate that many veterans feel that they have to sell their medals as one of the last resorts for making ends meet.

My goodness, surely we can all agree that such circumstances are a national disgrace. It is a situation that reflects badly not on the veterans but on the successive Liberal and Conservative governments that say they support our troops but, in fact, provide little real support when they return home.

Just this past Good Friday, there was a story in the news from Calgary where I guess the Prime Minister thought he was staging a positive photo-op by helping out at a food bank. However, it was a veterans food bank. Over 40 veterans rely on that food bank on a regular basis. Here is what George Bittman, chair of the Calgary Poppy Fund said to the media about that food bank:

The facility is used by vets who feel too proud to ask for help from a civilian food bank. And with so many veterans without pensions, there is a great need for donations of food. Like most Second (World) War veterans and Korean War veterans, if their problems weren’t apparent at the time they were discharged, they were happy to get the hell out of the service and get on with life, just as I did when I got out of the navy. Forty years later, when something comes up that something goes sideways, it’s generally too late for them to make a claim with Veterans Affairs. Records are lost, memories fade.

At that point there are few options available to veterans, other than turning to food banks. It is an absolute disgrace.

Bill C-201 would have gone a long way to providing meaningful help to veterans by improving their pension. So would the implementation of the NDP veterans first motion, which was passed by this House as far back as 2006.

If that motion were acted on in a comprehensive way, there would not be a clawback of SISIP anymore, there would not be a so-called gold-digger clause in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the VIP would have been extended to all widows of all veterans, the survivor pension amount would have been increased from 50% to 66%, and the deduction from the annuity of retired and disabled Canadian Forces members would have been eliminated.

That is how we really support our troops, not by allowing them to sell their medals but by providing them with a decent standard of living. For their service to our country, veterans deserve so much more than just rhetoric from this Parliament. They deserve a retirement with dignity and respect.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues from all parties for the support on my private member's bill, Bill C-473.

On any given day, approximately 8,000 Canadian Forces personnel are preparing for, engaging in, or are returning from an overseas mission. They follow in the footsteps of Canadians who for more than 200 years have answered the call and sacrificed all they knew, all the comforts, love and safety of home in order to defend the freedoms of others.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout history and as we speak must not be forgotten.

More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean war were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. This act seeks balance between the need to protect the nation's heritage and the property rights of private owners.

Regulations under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act specify categories of objects which require a permit to leave Canada for any reason temporarily or permanently. Military medals, orders and decorations are of course included but, like other protected objects, they must be 50 years old.

It is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals and that is what this bill, Bill C-473, seeks to achieve.

Bill C-473 speaks to the importance of our military heritage. As well, it fills an important gap by focusing on Canada's modern military honours.

Bill C-473 will ensure that federal museums are given the opportunity to acquire and protect modern military medals, orders and decorations which are no less deserving than those given 50 or 100 years ago to brave Canadians.

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

As the House knows, there are Canadians actively seeking to protect our military medals by keeping them in Canada. For example, Dave Thomson from St. George, Ontario, is known by many as the “medal detector” for his hobby of repatriating Canadian medals from Internet auction sites like eBay. He recently found three first world war medals belonging to Lance-Corporal Walter Clemens Leslie who was born in my riding of Perth—Wellington. I think they have been returned now to the Stratford Perth Museum.

In the same way, this bill still provides fair market value to anyone who wishes to sell an insignia awarded under the authority of Her Majesty in Right of Canada, but they must provide first right of refusal to the Government of Canada by submitting an offer to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage.

My inspiration for this bill comes from the veterans and future veterans from my riding and across Canada who serve or have served our country. This bill will ensure the accolades from their acts of bravery will remain on Canadian soil and will continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to continue the Liberals' attempt to get answers from the Minister of Natural Resources on the issue of government spending.

I asked almost a month ago for information regarding the awarding of an $185,000 contract to a company chaired by a caucus colleague of the minister, the member for Calgary Centre. I have not yet received a real answer to this question, but not getting answers seems to be the trademark of the current government.

The Conservatives announced with great fanfare their Federal Accountability Act, yet the complete lack of accountability is evident by the current government's behaviour.

We have seen the Minister of Labour stonewall when confronted with serious allegations about the activities at the Toronto Port Authority. We have the former minister of foreign affairs whose resignation was given only when it became obvious that his indiscretions were about to become a public nuisance. We have a Minister of Fisheries whose son-in-law receives lucrative contracts from the government.

It seems obvious there is a pattern emerging with contracts and access going to current and former members of the Conservative caucus.

The Conservative Party campaigned on issues such as transparency and honesty, yet, once elected, it has become the most opaque and dishonest government this country has seen since the Mulroney years.

The last few days have seen question period focused on matters concerning the member for Simcoe—Grey, which again comes down to lack of transparency on behalf of the government and the Prime Minister. The majority of questions have been centred on asking why allegations of criminal misdeeds are being kept secret.

While I appreciate that matters under investigation have to be handled carefully, Canadians and parliamentarians have the right to know, at least in general terms, what area of the law may have been transgressed. Instead, each day we open the papers to see a variety of increasingly salacious headlines regarding the actions of the member and her husband.

The government trumpets its tough on crime agenda at every opportunity, yet, it is unusually silent when it comes to one of its own under suspicion.

Would the minister tell this House and Canadians at large why it seems that holding a membership card, expired or not, in the Conservative caucus gives that individual an inside track into receiving taxpayers' money?