House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.

Topics

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, farmers have already indicated through their own plebiscite that they want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board, but the government does not want to bring it to a vote because it would lose that vote. I just told the member why the government does not want to bring it to a vote. It does not want to bring the issue to a vote because surely it will lose the vote and then lose face with the farmers in western Canada.

Just a while ago the member for Saint Boniface said that MPs from Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia should not be defending these farmers because we do not represent them, but the last time I was in Saint Boniface I noticed that there are no farmers there. We were elected to represent all Canadians.

The Conservative government should bring this to a vote so farmers can have their say.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member's answer was right on the money. The government will not allow a vote for the simple reason it knows it would lose the vote. It is that simple. The government has really violated every democratic principle in order to not allow that vote. It brought in a law to basically break the law, get around the law.

What is important to Canadians is, are we not really witnessing a government using its majority in the pathological belief that it can impose freedom by suppressing democracy? The Conservatives talk about freedom but they have taken away the freedom to have a vote on a farmer's specific institution.

Is the government really imposing freedom by suppressing democracy, and not really getting to freedom at all?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first comment on the government's majority. We all know that 39% of Canadians who voted, voted for the government. That is not the majority of Canadians.

To answer the other part of the member's question I would like to quote from an email that I received from the acting executive minister of the United Church:

[T]here wouldn't be any attempt to impose dual marketing on the CWB unless a majority of producers voted for it. According to the CWB, [the minister said,] “Until farmers make that change, I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily.... They [farmers] are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too”.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot stop laughing down at this end because of some of the comments that are being made by the opposition.

We had a vote on May 2 on this.

Believe it or not, I represent the oil sands but there are a huge number of farms in my area. Seventy to eighty per cent of those people vote and seventy to eighty per cent vote for the Conservative Party. They have clearly indicated to me that they do not want people in Ontario, Quebec, southern British Columbia and P.E.I. telling them where to sell their grain because those people get to decide where they want to sell their grain. They feel prejudiced. In Alberta, 27 out of 28 seats are held by Conservatives and they won by 70% to 80%.

I am going to ask the member for Nickel Belt how he would feel if the roles were reversed. If his constituents were told where they could sell their nickel and all of the rest of the producers in Canada could sell wherever they wanted, how would his constituents feel about that?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member mentioned the election on May 2. I would like to remind him again that the Conservatives were elected by 39% of the Canadians who voted. That is a long way from a majority.

I would like to quote from an email that I received from a farmer in Saskatchewan, of all places. This is from Dianne and Ken: “We are cereal and pulse growers operating 1,800 acres in southwest Saskatchewan. We have been permit holders for 43 years and have been certified organic for 19 years. We support the Canadian Wheat Board single desk selling of Canadian grains for the following reasons”.

I am sorry I cannot give the member the reasons. My time appears to be up.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 1:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

moved that Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the opportunity to rise today and to speak to my Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, a bill that encourages Canadians to proudly display our national flag.

This bill represents an opportunity for us to stand behind those who wish to display our most important national symbol.

It also allows us to demonstrate to Canadians who wish to display our national flag that they have our full support. There have been far too many Canadians who have been forced to take down the Canadian flag on Canadian soil.

Some of us will remember our flag being adopted in 1965. Since that time, Canadians have proudly worn it on their backpacks while travelling the world. Displaying our flag abroad has immediately conveyed the values that we hold dear, freedom, democracy, courage and justice. Everywhere Canadians go, our flag is recognized and respected.

Despite proudly displaying our national flag when we are away from home, it is often said that Canadians are reserved in their patriotism and that they are not likely to put on a grand display of pride for their country.

I agree that in the past we have been hesitant to acknowledge our accomplishments, but Canada has come of age. As a country we have matured. We are no longer reserved about trumpeting our many accomplishments and letting the world know about our great country.

Our flag represents freedom, democracy, courage and justice, but today we are also proud to display our national flag as a symbol of leadership in the world and as a symbol of our accomplishments as Canadians.

The purpose of the bill is to protect Canadian citizens who want to proudly display the Canadian flag at their home. There are many reasons why one would want to display the flag; simply though, Canada is a great country.

When I hear stories of veterans who have been displaying the flag for years and are forced to take it down on threat of fines or even evictions, I am appalled.

There are stories such as those of Guy Vachon from Ottawa who served 25 years in the army, including combat in Korea, or Fred Norman, also from Ottawa, who served under our flag for 23 years. They were forced to take down their flags on threat of eviction. Mr. Vachon flew a Canadian flag for 11 years without a problem. Then one day he was told that unless he took down his flag he would face legal action with potential eviction.

There is the story of Brian and Linda-Lee Cassidy from southern Ontario who have been flying the flag for almost 40 years at their homes. They were told their flag looked like "trailer trash", both an insult to the flag and the people who live in mobile homes. The Cassidys are now members in bad standing at their homeowners association even though they have always paid their dues and followed the rules. The Cassidys want to fly the Canadian flag because they simply love Canada. They believe in what this country represents and they are honoured to be Canadians.

There is Rose Wittemann and Richard Field. Rose wanted to fly the flag because her brother was being sent to Afghanistan to fight under the Canadian flag for the freedom that we enjoy every day. They were told that unless they took down their flag, maintenance workers would come and take it down for them and they would be charged for the work that took place. In the notice they were given they were told:

While we appreciate your patriotism, Canada Day has now passed and we require that the flag be removed immediately.

Canadians should have the right to fly the flag on more than just Canada Day. We are Canadians every day of the year and we should be allowed to fly the Canadian flag every day of the year.

Lynn Riley hung a flag on her backyard fence. Shortly thereafter she received a letter from a legal firm representing her condo association, forcing her into expensive mediation.

Ex-serviceman Mark Murray placed his flag on his balcony in remembrance of the men and women he served with and those who never came home. He has received encouragement from family members of those who lost their lives to keep flying the flag. He faced eviction as a result but Mark said, “Remembering those who were lost was well worth it”.

Or there is Kirk Taylor in Calgary who also believed in what the flag represented. He received a notice to take down his flag but he refused. The issue took years to resolve, including expensive mediation.

Thousands of Canadians risk their lives every year with the Canadian Forces for the sake of what the flag represents. They risk it all for Canada. Why would we force them to fight more battles here at home while trying to remember those who are still fighting or those who never came home?

We all have special memories that involve the Canadian flag. This summer, I was inspired whenever I had the opportunity to go to an immigration ceremony to welcome new Canadian citizens. When these new citizens would stand up I would give each one a small Canadian flag, a symbol, and they would often be overwhelmed with emotion and tears. I was reminded repeatedly that Canada is a refuge, a safe place, where millions of people all over the world desire to live. Our Canadian flag represents everything that they strive for: freedom, democracy, justice and many more attributes that we take for granted every day.

If hon. members think back over the past number of years, can we say that Canadians were shy about displaying our flag during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Of course not. Our flag was visible everywhere. It was proudly displayed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast for the entire world to see. Canadians expressed their immense pride in their athletes and that was even before they owned the podium for Canada. Of course, they were not just proud of Sidney Crosby's winning goal, they were proud that Canada had once again welcomed the world with such tremendous distinction.

We do not only show our pride in our flag at sporting events. Canadians proudly display our flag during times of national celebration. Of course we can think of Canada Day. On July 1 every year, Canada is transformed into a sea of red and white. Our flag can be seen flying in every town and city across the country. Flag Day on February 15 also comes to mind.

However, we also saw our flag waving all over the country to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this past summer. We all know that a tour from our Queen would not be complete without the familiar red and white flag lining the streets to greet her. Certainly, Canadians will be eager to display our flag in celebration of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee in 2012. As Canadians, we have much to celebrate. No symbol can match the unifying power of our flag to help us celebrate together.

Our flag represents us overseas as well. It flies at our embassies and missions around the world and it is a beacon of hope for people around the world when it flies with the Canadian Forces in areas such as Afghanistan.

Canadians are tremendously proud of their flag and want to see it displayed both at home and abroad. Canadians want to show their pride in their country every day of the year. They want to show their support for our democracy, freedom, courage and justice.

Our national flag is our greatest symbol. Around the world it stands for those values. It accompanies the men and women in uniform who go out into the world and risk all for the sake of that democracy.

Our flag unites us all. It honours our history, shows our pride in our accomplishment and brings us together in time of celebration and in times of mourning. Canadians want to be able to display it proudly and should always be able to do so.

The bill would help Canadians who want to show their pride in Canada. Canadians like Guy Vachon, Fred Norman, Brian and Linda Cassidy, Rose Witteman and Richard Field, Lynne Reilly, Mark Murray, Kirk Taylor and so many others just like them. They have all sacrificed so much for the sake of our flag, for the sake of what our country stands for.

As their elected representatives, we have a responsibility to support Canadians who want to show their love of our great country. We must encourage Canadians to display our national flag and send a message that no one should prevent it from being displayed respectfully. What better way to do so than to make it easier for Canadians to display our national flag every day of the year.

For this reason, I urge members to join me and support Bill C-288. I also urge members, if they have not already done so, to join me and other Canadians in showing our pride and in celebration of our great country by displaying the national flag of Canada at our homes.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member for Don Valley West is this. How would making people criminals forward the democracy that the flag represents? How would it help the individuals, who the member has mentioned, fly their flag by making other individuals criminals?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.

We need to take the bill to committee. My goal is to see some amendments come forward that would reduce that element of the bill. Importantly, I hope to create a dialogue between those who wish to fly the flag and those condominium associations or ratepayer associations about the right of people to fly the flag.

It is certainly not my intention to create disparity between the two sides. I want to see a unity in this that creates an environment where we come together as Canadians and agree that this is the right thing to do, both on the side of the building owners or condominium associations and those who wish to fly the flag.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the words of the member for Don Valley West. I agree with much of what he had to say about pride in Canada, what the flag represented and how important it was to Canadians.

I am an immigrant who came to Canada and I have immense pride in the flag. The Liberal Party has immense pride in our red and white flag that it brought forward for Canadians to be proud of over the years. However, what is mystifying to me is how one converts those words around pride, freedom and democracy into the creation of a condo board inspector team to check on the decisions being made about this.

While I appreciate there might be some changes to the bill, the last thing we want is the flag police. That is antithetical to freedom and would get in the way of people's inherent right to exercise their democratic freedom with respect to the flag as well.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, nowhere was the pride in our flag more evident than in her riding during the 2010 Olympics. We saw the flags lining the streets of Vancouver and that area.

Like the hon. member, it is not my wish nor my goal to see flag police. This is not about that. This is about creating a dialogue.

It is my hope that opposition parties will join me in taking this to committee where we can develop a group of amendments that would truly make a unifying bill, not a divisive bill. It is my hope that the hon. member will join me in this effort.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague, whom I would also like to congratulate. I would like to know his thoughts on the following subject.

I wonder what he thinks of civil society organizations that receive public subsidies, money from Canadian taxpayers, and refuse to fly the Canadian flag?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to create a unifying environment where we can create a dialogue in which we can talk about what it will take to bring both sides together. I support the initiative of those who want to fly the flag at their homes, on their balconies, et cetera. That is the core of what we are talking about today.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of my staffers became a citizen of the country Wednesday. I wanted to join her in Montreal when this happened, but was unable to. She shared her pride with me on becoming a citizen. Some 400 individuals became new Canadian citizens at her ceremony, representing some 64 different nationalities, I believe.

I, like so many of us, am an immigrant. I moved here from England when I was child. My parents moved here from Barbados via England. We all hold an immense pride in our country and the flag that represents it.

For clarity's sake, our flag is an enduring symbol of unity, freedom and national purpose, which is rightly celebrated by all Canadians, regardless of their origin or political affiliation. It stands as a powerful testament to the sacrifices of generations who gave their all to ensure our future and to build and preserve our democracy.

Recent events around the world, such as in Libya and Syria, the Sudan, remind us how precious freedom is and the profound sacrifice that is required to assure its survival. That profound sacrifice, however, does not preclude the freedom that the bill represents, which includes the right to speak out and the right to not have the flag raised. I would hope, and I think we all hope, that common sense prevails in situations like this.

Canada's official opposition enthusiastically supports the right of every citizen to display our national flag with pride, as it represents the freedom of expression this bill seems to want to curtail.

We commend the member for wanting to ensure that Canadians who wished to show their connection to Canada would not be unduly hindered in their expression.

Jail time, fines, this is the type of heavy-handed punitive vision that clouds the obviously honourable intent of the member for Don Valley West. However, I must confess that in my daily interaction with my constituents and citizens from across the country, the pressing issues I hear from them are on the economic, social and environmental fronts, to name a few. I am not hearing anything about issues regarding their right to display our flag.

The member for Don Valley West has shared some of the stories that he has heard from his constituents, and I thank him for that. However, that in itself shows the isolated nature of this issue, an issue that should be dealt with at a municipal and/or provincial level, where it belongs.

Canadians who wish to express their support for their country are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights under the freedom of expression. If through some municipal bylaw, or provincial legislation or even condo bylaw an individual's freedom of expression is being challenged, then there is recourse through municipal means, through the Charter of Rights, through provincial means. Is it really necessary to turn a hapless caretaker, following through on a condo bylaw on behalf of a condo board, into a criminal with threatened jail time?

I cannot help but be reminded that the bill is eerily similar in substance and spirt to a much maligned American law, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, which was introduced in 2005 by Roscoe Bartlett, who incidentally was a founding member of the Republican tea party caucus. Though bustled through Congress on the strength of a Conservative majority, the law pilloried as an opportunistic political grandstand, thus the sentiment that may have fostered the bill was lost.

Canadians are smart people. They are perfectly capable of finding their way through issues such as their desire to fly their flag. Does the government's hubris stretch so far as to make municipalities, fire departments and condo associations criminals when enacting their bylaws within their jurisdiction?

Respect for jurisdiction is a convenient evasion for the government when being asked uncomfortable questions on transportation or health care, but it seems that for their pet projects, jurisdiction does not matter.

Let us get to the heart of the matter. Patriotism cannot be legislated. Attempts to do so have always led to discontent. Patriotism is and always should be something that individuals arrive at when shown the honour and the heart of their nation.

The honour and heart of this nation is not simply based on military history but on the social responsibilities it has adopted over its 144 year history. A country built on the promise of democracy, inclusion and a shared goal in its building. These are a few of the elements that make us proud to be Canadians and proud to wear our flag.

The bill puts at risk that freedom, the freedom that the flag represents. Let us get back to the business of creating real middle-class jobs that are eagerly awaited, pension security and EI reform.

Canadians are crying out for real environmental agenda changes and restraints on mounting ethical abuses by the government. The government has continuously used closure and time allocation to stifle the very democracy this flag represents.

The government does not have a monopoly on patriotism and honouring men and women who fight for this country. Those valiant men and women offered up their lives and safety, so that we could live and uphold the fine democracy and traditions which have always been a source of strength to this nation.

How does the bill do that? It does not. What it does is find more reasons to throw Canadians in jail.

I hope that the words shared by the member for Don Valley West that it is not his intent are true. I hope that when the bill gets to committee, we will be in a position to sit down, and truly discuss what the bill means and what the bill can do.

However, to make a federal case, pun slighty intended, out of an issue which should be left to municipalities, we should show municipalities and condo associations that there are other ways to deal with matters when it comes to the Canadian flag. Making these individuals criminals, forcing them to pay fines, and throwing them in jail is not the answer.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, over the past couple of weeks I have looked into the ramifications of this bill quite a bit and sought out many opinions about how people feel about this. We are getting into an interesting discussion about pride in the flag. We talk about what happened in Vancouver at the Olympics. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra knows this quite well, as was pointed out earlier. Many celebrate Canada Day as the sun breaks over the Canadian flag on Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and it is certainly a moment that stops one's heart, a true Canadian heart.

I would like to make a few points that have been brought up in debate so far. These are technical matters because as I look into this bill, it is the technicalities of it that really bring it down even though it has the best of intentions.

I want to thank my hon. colleague because he is onto something with regard to the situation that happened in his riding and it certainly deserves the attention of the House.

In the beginning I may not have thought that, but as time goes on, I actually believe it does because these are people who are told they cannot do something to express pride and therefore they are diminished.

That being said, in the House we have several measures by which we can express the opinion of those who wish to be proud of their flag, and those who want to do it and not be hindered to do so. What the member is looking at is more of a private member's motion than a private member's bill because the bill takes the idea of ensuring someone has the right to fly the flag and unnecessarily penalizing people in many respects. I do not believe that was the intention of the bill to begin with.

The member talks about sending the bill to committee for the sake of making major amendments and then bringing it back, but the problem with that is that once it gets to the heritage committee, if the amendments that we make go against the principle and scope of the bill, then the Speaker would have to rule it out.

The way to get around that is to send the bill to committee before second reading, before anyone in the House says yes to it because there are many things we cannot change.

I know many people will tell me not to worry. If the committee says it wants a change, it will change. That is not how it works. If the changes go beyond the principle and scope of the bill, the Speaker has the responsibility to say we cannot do that, but the Speaker had already said yes to it.

I bring that up because some of the amendments that we choose to make to this proposed legislation, my hon. colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber in the NDP and members of the Liberal Party, really go beyond the scope of the bill in my opinion.

Back to the bill itself there is a case in point. Several years ago, by way of protest, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador of the day, Danny Williams, ordered the provincial buildings to take down the Canadian flag. May I humbly suggest, do we send in the RCMP to the premier's office to serve an order? I bring this situation up simply because these are some of the things we may be faced with and certainly some things that changes in committee cannot get around.

There are many other aspects. For example, how have the provinces been brought into this conversation? Fundamentally, it works like this. The Attorney General of Canada makes an application in the superior court of the province and therefore provinces have to enact this. They have to ensure it is enforced. The first thing they do is to serve notice or serve a court order to tell a person not to fly the flag. If it goes beyond that, we are looking at a maximum of two years imprisonment which is particularly harsh given what we are dealing with here. In order to do that, the provinces have to carry this out. I do not know what conversations have taken place with the provinces on this piece of legislation, but it creates a myriad of responsibilities that have not been fundamentally addressed.

Despite the fact that we are all proud of our flag, our symbols, and our emblems, I believe that the headaches created by this would really be too much to handle right now. That is why I would have suggested the member move a private member's motion, committing this House to the flag itself and the freedom to fly the flag, and not so much to the penalty phase of it.

For example, there are so many questions that arise. I cannot stand in front members here today and hold up the Canadian flag. The Standing Orders say I cannot do that because it is a prop. Members are pointing to the flag that stands next to the Speaker. I cannot hold that flag because it is considered a prop. But it stands in its rightful place. So, there we have it. I have not been permitted to fly the flag, just as a point of reference.

Just by way of explanation, the bill has two orders. Primarily, the bill would give remedies that the court could use when someone is denied the right to fly the flag. They are restraining orders, injunctions, orders of compliance, and any such order necessary. The secondary punishments can be given at the discretion of the judge, including either a fine, the amount set at the discretion of the court, and again we go back to the provinces, or a prison term not to exceed two years.

I heard the member speak earlier about the situation he had with the condo development people. It is a good point. I do not think, in many of these cases, these people should be allowed to prohibit someone else from flying the national flag.

What about provincial flags? It is the same story. If I am not mistaken, I believe provincial flags are also owned by the Government of Canada. So, why are provincial flags not in here as well? I would suggest that could be the case.

The province of Quebec says that the provincial government buildings are not allowed to have many emblems on them regarding the Government of Canada, if I am not mistaken. Would we go to the province of Quebec and tell it we are going to serve it with an order and a prison term not exceeding two years and so forth?

We can see the layers and the problems that we would face with this. I would respectfully say that despite the good intentions of the bill, there is nothing we could amend in committee that would ensure these intentions remain just that, good intentions, as opposed to the problems that we would create and the situations that I have illustrated here.

It was tried in the United States in 2005. There were some changes that had to go through there. The bill was brought forward by Roscoe Bartlett. He was a member of the Republican Party and a member of the tea party faction of the party, if that actually exists. In any event, that is what he claimed. There were problems similar to what we are talking about here, and my hon. colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber mentioned the same thing.

I suspect that if we were to debate it today, it should have been a motion as opposed to a bill. That is why we are voting against this right now. I think there is another way of going about doing this. The ramifications within this particular proposed legislation, despite the good intentions, are not that functional, especially when we are dealing with the fact that we have the Attorney General of Canada petitioning provinces about doing this, and they have not really been brought into the discussion, as well. I am sure they would like to see much the same for their own flags.

I thank the House for this time, and I also would like to thank the member for his good intentions.