House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was park.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am also concerned by the government's failure to express a clear position on this important motion. I am not sure what the tone of discussions might be in shaping that decision on behalf of the government. As I pointed out in my comments, it has apologized to a number of people, not just in the residential school apology, but to others who have been relocated. I think more recently of the people of Grise Fiord.

I know many Canadians will be looking for an apology on this relocation. For example, the Sayisi Dene people whom I represent would like to hear an apology come their way and a resolution to their tragic history as well.

I truly hope the government sees this as an opportunity to listen to a group of Canadian people and to give hope to so many others who we know have not been heard. They would like to move forward with the support of the government.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many valid reasons to create parks in Canada, for ecological reasons, historical reasons and preserving aspects of our culture. However, a big reason is Canada was one of the signatories to the biodiversity convention at Rio de Janeiro. We committed to protecting 12% of representative ecosystems throughout Canada. We have not yet met those targets, so we still need to create more parks and protected areas. Hopefully, as we go forward, we will learn from this bad lesson of the past and do it differently in the future.

The hon. member for Churchill works hard with first nations people. What ideas does she have on how we could best move forward to give that kind of protection and do it in a way that is sensitive to aboriginal and other peoples?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North also works closely with first nations people in his area and, like many of my colleagues in the NDP, knows that the only way to move forward is to work in partnership with first nations, where first nations give direction when it comes to the treatment of their lands and the stewardship them.

It is based on a history. When the first Europeans came to what is today Canada, they found a land that was sustained, respected for centuries and millennia by first nations peoples.

As we look at the development of national parks, we need to remember to protect the biodiversity of our country and take guidance from first nations people who are the experts. I believe that is the only way, moving forward.

I know specific examples in my area. One is the Misipawistik Cree Nation, “Grand Rapids”, which has offered that guidance to officials from the government seeking to build a park. I would hope we learn from the past and move forward working in partnership with first nations.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion, which I will now read to the House.

That this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated, and that the Speaker of the House send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.

It has already been 40 years since the people were forced out of Forillon. Such injustices are not uncommon. For instance, consider the seniors who for years were cheated out of the guaranteed income supplement. I hope that in the next few years—and it should not take 40 years—the government will issue a public apology for the fact that some seniors were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement for many years.

The same thing goes for employment insurance. Once again, the government should one day issue a public apology for having often deprived unemployed workers. Very recently in my riding, an unemployed worker from Saint-Barnabé-Nord needed 595 hours in order to receive employment insurance benefits. He complained about the fact that he could not receive benefits because he had accumulated only 581 hours. He was only 14 hours short of the number of hours required, while everyone knows that there is an accumulated EI surplus of between $50 billion and $60 billion. Still, the government deprives people who work very hard to be able to access those funds.

These situations are unfair, which is also true in the case of the people who were mistreated and are the subject of this motion. They feel strongly about the fact that, for over 40 years after the expropriation, the federal government never publicly apologized for the major inconveniences they suffered as a result of the government's decisions.

Before I explore the matter any further, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

The current government could have committed to making an apology in this matter. Instead, it made do with half steps. The initiative came about when the then federal minister responsible for national parks, Arthur Lang, floated the idea to the mayor of Gaspé of a national park on the Forillon Peninsula. In the 1968 framework agreement, the federal government earmarked $8.3 million to develop Forillon National Park. Negotiations with the Quebec government dragged on, and in April 1969, Jean Chrétien, the federal minister responsible for national parks, made known his impatience regarding the refusal of the Bertrand Union Nationale government to cede the Forillon land to the federal government.

This is a clear example of the contempt shown by the Liberal government—in the person of Jean Chrétien—for Quebec and its institutions. The Quebec government caved in, however, under federal government pressure, and came down on the side of nature conservation. The land was expropriated by the Government of Quebec and then ceded to the federal government. In keeping with the National Parks Act, the federal government stipulated that the land be returned to its natural, undeveloped state. The creation of Forillon Park therefore meant that land had to be expropriated from at least 983 people in five municipalities.

The experiences of those who had their land expropriated at Forillon are well documented and unambiguous.

I have been lucky enough to make a number of visits to the magnificent Gaspé countryside, for many one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with views of the sea, forest and mountains. Of course, people in this region have their own culture, poetry and songs, and they are good-hearted. Thousands of people visit the Gaspé and many stop to see Forillon National Park. Most of these people are undoubtedly oblivious to the fact that over 225 families were pushed off their land and evicted from their homes in the early 1970s in very trying, unfair circumstances.

In fact, across the entire area, from Cap-des-Rosiers to Grande-Grave, L'Anse-au-Griffon, Penouille and Rivière-au-Renard, the establishment of Forillon National Park in 1970 led to the complete expropriation of each and every one of these families, who were uprooted from their homes. This does not include the thousands of other Gaspé residents who lost part or all of their land. It was a terrible injustice.

After the residents were brutally cast off their land, their homes, barns and outbuildings were burned. Residents had been backed into a corner and there was widespread outrage. There was anger and revolt in the face of what amounted to government-mandated injustice. That is why we are calling for an apology to be made to these people, who were treated unfairly.

Still today, although some Gaspesians will talk about it, this is a taboo subject that has been concealed by the federal park authorities, hidden and ignored for years. Since the creation of Forillon Park, there has been no human presence there apart from interpretation activities. Visitors to Forillon Park were not told about the lives of the residents of Forillon before the expropriation, let alone about the tragic expulsions that happened in 1970. It was a hidden tale; no one wanted to talk about it. The government was ashamed to talk about the truth of what happened in the 1970s.

Yes, last year Parks Canada did decide to present an exhibition about the residents of Forillon and their lives before the unfortunate expropriation. And recently, the people of Forillon have received a three-generation passport allowing them to enter the site free of charge. It was not until very recently that they were able to see their homes again or go to pay their respects to their ancestors in the cemetery. But this is not enough.

They are asking for an official apology from the government for each person whose land was expropriated. They are also asking that the passport be extended to the 1,500 families whose homes were expropriated and their descendants to the fifth generation, not just the 225 families who owned land.

For five years now, the government has been boasting about its glowing record, including on the economy. The facts are quite different. The government has a very poor record on social and environmental issues. I am sure the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will be able to say a few words about this. As I said, the facts are quite different and this case is one illustration of that.

The Conservatives could easily have agreed to offer an apology. Instead, they have made do with inadequate measures. This morning, there is nothing that tells me officially yet, after hearing a speech from a Conservative member from Québec, that this government will vote in favour of this motion. The people of Forillon whose homes were expropriated deserve better.

In conclusion, we have here an opportunity for all members from all parties to do what has to be done, to have this House offer its official apology to the people of Forillon Park whose homes were expropriated, for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated.

It would not be the first time that a government agreed to reform and offer apologies to people who have been affected. It was done for Canadians of Japanese origin who were interned and stripped of their property during the Second World War. It was done again recently for those whose land was expropriated for Mirabel. It is now time to do it for the people of Forillon who were uprooted from their community, who lost their homes and their land. These people are entitled to a public apology. They should be given their place in the official history of Forillon Park.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 10th, 2011 / noon

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great joy and much sadness that I speak today to this opposition motion moved by the Bloc Québécois—more specifically by the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

This morning, my colleague expressed his sadness about this human tragedy involving hundreds of Quebec families from the Gaspé region. These are families that went through a human tragedy: their properties were expropriated and they were stripped of their homes, their land and in some cases their sugar bush.

It was time for an apology, and I want to thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for moving the motion we are debating today. This motion calls on the House to issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated and calls on the Speaker of the House to send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.

It is important to realize the significance of today's debate. This House cannot brutally expropriate property from the people of Quebec. These were brutal expropriations. That is the right word, since the motion talks about the unconscionable manner in which the property owners were treated. We could also talk about the brutal relocations by our government authorities. We have no choice but to seek an apology from the government.

We have no choice. This idea to create a national park was born in the late 1960s. A minister responsible for national parks was visiting eastern Canada, Quebec in particular, when he saw the magnificent beauty of the Gaspé region as he was flying over. The region is still just as magnificent today. The minister got the zany idea to create a park where people were living and had been proudly living for generations.

The federal minister at the time, a Liberal, came and told the mayor of Gaspé that it would be tremendous to establish a park, perhaps to be called Forillon National Park, and to set aside that part of Quebec territory to establish the first national park in Canada. At the time, it was already known that the then-minister, Jean Chrétien, wanted to establish the first park on Quebec soil and to tear the people from their land in order to create a park under federal jurisdiction. That was well known.

Then negotiations began with the Government of Quebec. Starting in 1968, the government started to put money on the table. It set aside $8.3 million to establish the park. Money talks. That is when it told the communities and the mayors that it was ready to put money on the table as part of a framework agreement. The Government of Quebec resisted, but the federal government had more up its sleeve and started to dangle the prospect of significant economic benefits in front of the people and the communities. It told them that, if the federal plan came to fruition, the region would see economic benefits.

Once again, money talks. What did the feds say? They suggested—it was a federal government commitment—that the park should bring in tens of millions of dollars in investments. They talked about $30 million to $40 million per year, 3,000 new jobs, 700 of which would be permanent, and a threefold increase in tourists, with the number reaching 600,000 per year. That is the impression that the federal government left with the communities of the Gaspé: “Yes, we are going to establish a park, but it will bring you major economic benefits”.

And what are the results today? Certainly nothing like what the federal government promised 40 years ago. The mayor's office in Gaspé conducted an assessment and, in 2005, it calculated that the park employed 35 people year-round and another 100 or so in the summer. This is the equivalent of about 70 full-time jobs per year, whereas the government had said that there would be 700 permanent jobs and a threefold increase in the annual number of tourists. But the number of annual visitors has stalled at about 146,000, a long way from the 600,000 per year that the federal government projected 40 years ago. It can also be seen that visits are dropping steadily by 9%. The economic benefits that the federal government dangled in front of people 40 years ago have not materialized. A number of questions must be asked.

It is also important to remember the position taken by the Government of Quebec in 1970 when it was time to move forward with the project. Dr. Camille Laurin clearly indicated that these issues were related to land-use planning, which was an area mainly under Quebec's jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the project was carried out, resulting in the displacement of populations and the expropriation of families. The record speaks for itself: in five municipalities, at least 983 people, 225 families, 214 residential properties, 355 buildings, 1,400 woodlots and 8 manufacturers were expropriated. We are talking about an area of 154,675 square kilometres. These are the results. This is the harm that the federal government caused to the people and damage it did to the region.

In order for the park to be established, under the Parks Act, the area had to be returned to the most natural state possible, which is what made what I will refer to as this “cleanup” necessary: populations were displaced, buildings and houses were destroyed and, in some cases, houses were burned. This event was a loss of human heritage. We did this. Some might say that generous compensation was provided in exchange for the demolition of these buildings and the destruction of this cultural and human heritage. But such is not the case. According to witnesses—I have at least 10 pages of statements—there are citizens who had 50 acres of land with houses and sugar bushes and they were offered only $1,400 in compensation. This is the type of compensation that the people of the Gaspé received. People who owned sugar bushes were stripped of their inheritance, which was earned through the hard work of their families for generations.

These people deserve compensation. These people deserve an apology. These people deserve an acknowledgement that they have lost an important part of their cultural heritage. That is why we cannot accept the federal government's response, which has been limited to providing passes to 225 families who owned homes there, but limits free access to the park to only three generations. It must do more.

The government must listen to the legitimate claims and demands of these Gaspé residents, who have come together to form a committee called Regroupement des personnes expropriées de Forillon et leurs descendants. They have three demands: first, provide passes to all expropriated families and five generations of their descendants, effective this spring; second, install five signs in Forillon Park indicating the number of families who lived in the area before the expropriation, as well as the names of the families; third, and the basis of our motion today, have the federal government apologize for the unfair treatment of these families, who had to leave their part of the country under duress and because of government harassment.

A few months ago, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse dared to stand up and say that the government acknowledges the type of pass demanded by the group, but that it would limit its use. Why will this government not apologize to the people expropriated? Apologies have been made for other reasons, in other contexts. It would be simple. The people expropriated to make way for Mirabel received an apology, as have others who were treated badly in the past.

This Parliament has been asked to assume its responsibilities on other occasions. Why can we not do so today for the people of Gaspé? Why? That is what we have been trying to find out all morning. All the parties in this House have asked the government why it is refusing outright to agree to the motion moved by my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. The member from Quebec City spoke on her own behalf only, and not on behalf of her government.

This injustice has gone on long enough. Forty years of Gaspé history is a good reason for us to pause, reflect, conduct a debate in this House, and apologize. We have to ensure that justice is served and that we remedy the harm done.

I would like to say that this is part of our heritage, part of the history of Quebec. Earlier, I was reading the lyrics of a song written by one of our Quebec songwriters, composer Paul Piché, who put pen to paper when these communities were going through their ordeal. He wrote:

St-Scholastique or Forillon Park
Forced to leave in the early morning
For the tourists and their planes
We are always in the way
People lost their homes
Their land and then their country
All I could do was
Write this song
That can do nothing more for this place

Although nothing more could be done 40 years ago, this Parliament must do more. It has a historical responsibility to the communities to ensure that the parliamentarians who are gathered here today, and who have agreed to debate this motion, will vote in favour of my colleague's motion.

We must do so because this is not the first time that the government, with its heavy-handed approach and its completely phantasmagorical ideas, has shown that it could not care less about communities, as we have seen with Mirabel and Forillon Park. For the government, these lands are just commodities, and the people and communities on these lands have no history. For the government, it is as though these lands were never farmed or worked, as though families never lived on them.

We need to look at what happened. We are talking about five municipalities. It would be like the government deciding to demolish the Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough in Montreal to make it a federal jurisdiction. Imagine what that would mean for the people, communities and families who live in a region and, as Paul Piché says, in a corner of the country. I think that if we were not able to fairly compensate these families for the damages they incurred, the least we could do would be to apologize and acknowledge that we made a mistake.

This morning, the member for Honoré-Mercier told the House, hand on heart, that the Liberals were sorry. We are happy to see that the Liberal Party acknowledges the harm that was done 40 years ago, but we have not heard anything from this government. This government has a hard time listening to the claims of people whose property has been expropriated. This government refuses to participate in a debate when it is its responsibility. We have to wonder what this government is doing. We have to wonder because the government had been trying to buy the communities since 1968. That is more or less the situation.

Since 1968, the federal government had been saying that it would set aside $8.3 million to create this park. It was already starting to tell the communities that there was a little something in it for them, a carrot on a stick. This phantasmagorical idea to create a park on Quebec territory was completely irresponsible. The government tried to sell the idea of jobs and economic benefits. It was supposed to create structure. That term was not used in the 1940s, but if the then-parks minister were in the House today, he would claim that the Forillon Park project would “structure the community”. He would also tell us that this project would create jobs in the regions. Unfortunately, that never happened.

The benefits have not materialized. What is more serious is that federal power is being extended further.

To wrap up, I hope that the government takes responsibility and votes in favour of the motion that was moved, because it is time that the people who lived in that part of the country get some real restitution.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I was very interested in hearing the sad story about Forillon National Park. We had, around the same time, a similar park development in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Gros Morne National Park. At that time there was an attempt to expropriate and destroy several communities along the west coast of Newfoundland.

The people reacted to that, formed their own opposition group, and made a very strong case. They were supported by the Government of Newfoundland and those communities were saved. Those communities are still there and are an important part. They are excluded from the boundaries of the park, but they have been enhanced by the existence of the park. They even kept their rights to traditional hunting, whether it be for rabbits, subsistence hunting, gathering of wood, et cetera.

It really shows that it is possible to develop a park, a very successful and magnificent national park such as Gros Morne, which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site, without the kind of damage to people's cultures and livelihoods as has been experienced here.

The request seems to be fairly simple. I wonder why the member thinks that the government cannot join in this expression of apology for what happened in this particular instance. Because as is clear from the case of Gros Morne and other cases, it did not have to happen. It should not have happened even then, let alone in modern times.

I wonder whether he cares to comment on why the government members do not seem to be willing to join in this expression of apology.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, on this side of the House, we are wondering why they are really refusing to apologize. We can only assume that they are refusing to apologize, and we will find out when it comes time to vote. But we cannot accept what I call partial apologies. The presence of the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse a few months ago cannot be considered by the communities as a full apology. The government expropriated these people's land because the Canada National Parks Act stipulates that the space must be returned to its natural, undeveloped state. There is already a problem in this act. The federal government at the time wanted to enforce this act strictly, and it dispossessed, displaced and expropriated communities. This is not how things should be done.

We would not accept such a thing these days. A project like that one must take into account the fundamental principle that we call social acceptability. Before such a project is approved, the communities must be in agreement. Had the project been presented 40 years later, it is very likely that it would not have passed the social acceptability test. Economic and environmental repercussions must be taken into account in a development project, but it is also important to have the consent of the people who will have to live with it.

The simple fact of acknowledging that, in 2010-11, such a project could not be carried out without passing the social acceptability test, which is an important factor in governmental decision making, should encourage the government to get behind our motion and acknowledge that a simple thing needs to be done. The House and the government must offer an apology to the communities affected in the Gaspé region.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member tell me why the Conservative government, and the Liberal government before it, did not meet the quite simple request of the people from the Gaspé who were affected the most by this tragic episode? Why is it taking the government so long to speak to this issue?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, the government did something else: it launched a permanent exhibit at the interpretation centre highlighting the tragedy from 40 years ago. By doing so, the government is trying to show empathy for the affected community, but it has a great deal of difficulty taking the step that would be more than symbolic for the communities: genuine redress. The federal government must stand in the House and apologize for the damages caused by this decision 40 years ago.

The community is requesting that passes be granted to five generations. They are not asking for an exhibition centre. Rather than a token member going to the communities and offering partial solutions, they are asking that a real minister show up in the communities. They are waiting for a responsible minister to stand in the House, go to the communities and acknowledge the harm done to the communities. It's simple.

We have done it in other situations. Could we not do it in the next few days in the House? The ball is now in the government's court. We hope the government will come back to its senses and not announce partial solutions. We want a comprehensive solution to this human tragedy. The government must extend the passes to five generations and recognize the harm caused. It is the only proper way for the Gaspé community to get true redress for the harm done 40 years ago.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in response to the motion by the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine concerning Forillon National Park.

The park was created in 1970 to protect and showcase an example of one of Canada's unique and most beautiful natural regions. Few Canadians would disagree with that intention. In fact, in this year in which we celebrate the centennial of the creation of the government organization which later became Parks Canada, we cheered Canada's outstanding accomplishment in protecting some 360,000 square kilometres of land. This is an astonishing achievement.

We can also celebrate how far Parks Canada has come in learning how to balance the need to protect our natural spaces for future generations with the need to sustain the communities that lived in harmony with these spaces for generations past.

I appreciate the hon. member's concerns for the families who were required to leave their lands when the park was created in 1970. They were asked to leave a place of astonishing natural beauty, a place where, for several generations, they had clung proudly to a way of life that depended upon the salt cod fishery.

The world turns, the times change, and perhaps the descendants of those early families would not care to exchange the quality of their lives today for the lives of those generations ago salting cod on the pebble beaches of Gaspé. However, we honour those generations for their fortitude and resourcefulness, and celebrate the memory of the communities they built. In fact, in 2009, Parks Canada organized a reunion for the families who were required to leave their homes at Forillon.

The House may be interested to know that more than 300 people attended the event. Parks Canada hosted similar events at Kouchibouguac National Park in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with up to 700 people attending. Equally important, Parks Canada has taken steps to honour those families by telling the stories of their communities and the event that led to their departure. This is a significant change after 40 years in which the park's interpretation programs paid little attention to the events that led to the park's creation.

However, last year Parks Canada launched an exhibit called “Gaspesians from Land's End” that addresses the theme, and that park management has committed to work with former residents and their descendants to tell their stories and celebrate their heritage. The exhibit will showcase the cultural richness and diversity of the residents who made the Forillon Peninsula their home. The Government of Canada invested close to $1 million to reconstruct the Dolbel-Roberts House and to create “Gaspesians from Land's End”.

The exhibit was developed by the Parks Canada team, which included the members of committees representing both the families who left the land and the communities that continue near the park to this day. Some 60 people contributed by providing documentation, photos and first-hand accounts.

One of the special features of the “Gaspesians from Land's End” exhibit has been a montage featuring 13 videos in which former residents give first-hand accounts of everything from childhood and day-to-day life to family ties and social relations. The interviews for the montage illustrate the rich lives of the people who inhabited the peninsula.

The exhibit is a way for Forillon National Park to reconcile with the families who were required to leave their homes to make way for the park. The national park wants to renew ties with those families and their descendants, and wishes to highlight the contribution these families and communities made to the history of the region and, of course, to Canada.

Parks Canada has further plans to commemorate the persons whose homes were expropriated so that the national park could be created. It will design and install interpretive panels to show the names of the families who lived there before the park was created.

It will continue to work with the committees that have been created to pursue further activities. One of these is the Forillon expropriated persons commemorative committee, which is composed of Parks Canada employees and representatives from the Gaspé community. Its mandate is to commemorate and highlight the presence and contributions of Forillon's former residents, along with their rich history and way of life.

The other committee consists exclusively of people who were required to leave the area that is now Forillon National Park, as well as their descendants, and was established in 2009 as the Forillon expropriated persons interim committee. One of its activities is to organize various reunion meetings in various sectors of the park.

In the meantime, Parks Canada is taking steps to count and assess the buildings of the former residents. These buildings are now 40 years old and of the 16 buildings submitted, 12 have been recognized as cultural resources. Parks Canada has taken action to protect and preserve them.

The “Gaspesians from Land's End” has been set up at the refurbished Maison Dolbel-Roberts. As well, St. Peter's Church has seen major restoration and is now in very good condition. At Grande-Grave, the Hyman store and its warehouse, the Anse-Blanchette buildings, and others were restored, and with the exception of the barn are rated in good condition. Parks Canada has been examining the possibility of preserving and restoring other buildings, including sheds and barns, to help showcase and maintain the region's beauty and historic character.

All these steps have been taken to commemorate a community that once made the Forillon Peninsula its home and developed a deep and rich cultural legacy, a legacy we now honour. We can learn valuable lessons from how Forillon Park was created and we can find better ways to work with communities in creating national parks.

That is what we have done. We can see it in so many of the new areas that this government has made its intention to protect. But we do so not against the wishes of the local communities but in partnership with them. We can see this process at work across the country.

On the east coast, for example, we can see in Labrador where we worked with a steering committee to examine the possibility of creating a national park in the Mealy Mountains. The Innu nation, Nunatsiavut government, and Labrador Métis nation were involved in the steering committee. It recommended that the park continue to maintain traditional land use activities by Labradorians from the surrounding communities, because the Mealy Mountains are not just home to wildlife. Like the Forillon Peninsula in 1970, they are home to people who have lived in harmony with this land for generations.

The proposed national park reserve will continue to accommodate traditional land use activities for Labradorians in the surrounding communities. We continue to work together to manage these activities in a way that ensures the long-term ecological integrity of this land as a national park reserve.

That is what we have done in Labrador. We have done something similar in the Northwest Territories where we expanded the boundaries of Nahanni National Park, so that it is now six times its original size. It is roughly the size of Belgium.

We could not have done this were it not for the co-operation and collaboration with local communities, including first and foremost the Dehcho first nation, the government of the Northwest Territories, and the mining and hunting industries of the north.

The Dehcho people were steadfast and tireless in their support for the expansion of the park reserve because for them it is a place of mystery, spirituality and healing. The new national park reserve will commemorate and reflect their culture. The Dehcho will participate in the management of the park reserve. The Dene and treaty rights of the Dehcho members and all aboriginal groups will be fully protected within the boundaries of the expanded park.

But at the same time, the park reserve excludes areas of highest potential for mineral and oil and gas extraction. We want to improve the prosperity of the Northwest Territories with its vast resource potential. We have been working with all partners on the creation of the Nahanni National Park Reserve. We know better how to work with communities so that everyone benefits from the creation of a national park.

Finally, for a third example, let me remind the House of what we have accomplished on the west coast where we established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. Canada has become the first country to protect a region from the alpine meadows of the mountain tops to the depths of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelf.

To make this happen we worked with the Haida people to protect some of the world's most abundant and diverse marine habitats. For hundreds of generations, the Haida Nation has lived in harmony with this environment. Today, this wealth of marine resources continues to sustain local communities as well as a recreational and commercial fishery. This new national marine conservation area reserve will ensure that this can continue.

What these three examples have in common and share with other examples such as Lancaster Sound is that we work with local populations to make sure that the creation of national parks serves their needs as well as the need for protecting the environment. We do not just preserve habitat for wildlife, we can protect a way of life, one that has sustained humans for generations. If we are wise, it will continue for generations to come.

I am pleased that the former residents of what is now Forillon National Park are working with Parks Canada to preserve their legacy. I am also pleased that from their experience 40 years ago, Parks Canada has learned valuable lessons that it now applies to help maintain the way of life in communities across Canada where national parks are being created.

We cannot turn back the clock. But we can give the people who lost their homes, and the descendants of those people this assurance: Parks Canada will keep the memory of their communities alive and will continue to work with other communities so that never again will a people have their homes expropriated where we can achieve so much more if we work together.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, the first Conservative Party member to speak was the member for Beauport—Limoilou. In response to a question asked by my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, she said—not without looking at her BlackBerry though—that she personally would not have an issue voting in favour of this important motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

My question is very simple and is for the member who just spoke. Generally speaking, will the rest of the Conservative Party members be in favour of the motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse announced that people who had their homes affected by the expropriation of land to create this national historic site are given free access to their homes and their houses that were expropriated. We have taken steps to recognize those communities and we do agree with the intent of what the motion calls for.

It is important to remember that while those expropriations were conducted legally, there is no dispute of the fact that the displaced people were affected by the decision to create this park.

Forillon's 40th anniversary in 2010 marked a major procedural change. Twenty years ago, the co-operative spirit surrounding recent actions taken in Forillon and Kouchibouguac National Parks have been unthinkable. So the sharing of leadership of both communities is having mutually beneficial and gratifying results for everyone involved. Parks Canada is working with and will continue to work with the affected communities to respectfully commemorate these events and ensure that the former residents have free access to these areas of personal interest.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have listened to the debate today, the three opposition parties have been in solidarity on this important matter on the principle, the hope, and the commitment to see that the motion is passed and in urging that the government would fall on side and make it unanimous so that not only this particular community, but Canadians as a whole would understand that when a wrong is done we admit it and do the right thing.

The Conservatives have yet to answer the question that has been asked several times today, so we will pose it to the member. It is not a matter of the spirit of the motion. The question is whether the Conservative government will finally have a spokesman who will stand up and answer the question for Canadians and the members of this community, and whether they will be making this unanimous, that is, whether they will be supporting the motion now before the House.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, the member stands and talks about something that happened 40 years ago. We cannot turn back the hands of time. If we could, I wonder if the Liberal Party, which was in power that day, that made this decision to expropriate the land and create this national park, if Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau would be prepared to have done something differently. However, the Liberals displaced the families and shut down that community and the fishery. I wonder if the Liberal Party is going to apologize.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, those who were in the House earlier today know that the Liberal Party has already apologized for this, and for that we thank them.

On a more positive note, I would like to compliment the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake for his well researched and thoughtful comments here today. I would also like to compliment and thank our former minister of parks, whom I can name now that he is no longer a member of this House. Jim Prentice did a very fine job as our minister of parks and really moved the yardstick forward in terms of parks creation, not only in the area of the Nahanni but in other areas as well. I want to compliment the former minister, Mr. Prentice, on that.

My hope is that we will have unanimous agreement to vote in favour of the motion, partly so we could move forward and so the new Minister of the Environment could do an effective job in continuing to build our system of parks and protected areas.