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 parks.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that we have always been the ones to offer apologies for the blunders of the former Liberal government. I am willing to take some blame, but I do so with respect for everyone. The first people who should apologize for this expropriation are the members of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is probably consulting her BlackBerry to figure out how to answer me. I too would like to ask a simple question that requires a simple answer. When she is through fiddling with her BlackBerry to get the answer, perhaps we will hear a reply.

The Conservative Party of Canada could have avoided referring to events that occurred 40 years ago, as the Liberals are continuing in any case to pay on a daily basis for the sponsorship scandal. But that is not the issue. The Conservatives are in power and make up the government. I want them to answer this clear question with a yes or a no and we will accept their reply. Will they be supporting the motion, or will they not?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer my colleague. We have always supported the people of Forillon. We have always maintained a dialogue with them. I will speak on my own behalf. We have always done everything with respect for everyone concerned, and I see no problem with voting in favour of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to stand to address the Bloc Québécois motion, which reads as follows:

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 their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.

I would first like to say a few words about Forillon Park as such and then say a few words about the history involved before getting—because I will get to it—to the matter at hand. All of those who have gone there know—and those who have only heard about it also know—that Forillon Park is recognized for its wilderness and natural beauty, and in fact all of the Gaspé is a very beautiful place. On this topic, as my Bloc colleagues surely know, the National Geographic Traveller magazine has ranked the Gaspé among the 20 top destinations to visit in the world in 2011. It is an absolutely extraordinary region that I love very much, just as I admire the men and women who live there or come from there.

For its part, Forillon Park itself is also an absolutely extraordinary place. The wild beauty of its landscapes, the fact that man, the land and the sea exist there in harmony, the diversity of its plant and animal life—as I have said before, all of that is superlative.

All that being said, everything is not rosy, nor has it been in the past. Dispersed here and there among the bushes, one can see the foundations of houses that were demolished and bear witness to a turbulent past. For the children and grandchildren of the displaced families, this is a harsh reminder of their collective history. Up until the creation of the park in 1970, several communities and many families derived their livelihood from the land and the resources of that region of the Gaspé. Some families fished, and had for generations, and I also remember seeing a documentary showing families settled in some small coves who worked in all of the stages of the fishery, be it the actual fishing or the landing or processing of the cod; they then sold it to the big companies, and much of the final product was exported to Europe. So there was still a deep-rooted fishery tradition there. Others farmed or raised livestock, and often they did both. This traditional way of life had been passed on from generation to generation.

Everything changed, everything was turned upside down when the area was designated as a national park. The designation as a national park and the new requirement to protect the ecosystem, put a stop to the commercial activities that those communities relied on for their survival. So the impact was significant. As a result, almost 225 families were forced to leave their land and their homes. The houses were destroyed or burnt down, often as their owners looked on, which is very sad. All in all, an estimated 1,200 dwellings were destroyed or burnt down. The lives of those people, those families, those men, women and children completely and drastically changed overnight.

This difficult, I would even say dramatic, situation lasted for a number of years. There was the beginning, and then there was the aftermath. First of all, those families would have received little or no compensation if they had not fought for five years, if they had not gone to court to have some of their rights recognized. That should never have happened. They were already going through trying and painful times, and being expropriated was already difficult enough to live with. At the very least, those families should not have been forced to go to court to claim what was rightfully theirs.

In addition, I am not sure why, but for part of the time that followed, the information provided to visitors about the history of the park stopped at 1942, which in a way hid 30 years of the existence and lives of the individuals most affected by the creation of the park. Not only were their requests ignored, but their own past was also denied.

For decades, their presence was forgotten and their collective history was hidden, in a way. For a long time now, these families have been calling for an official apology from this House for the injustices they suffered. I personally agree that they should receive an official apology, and my party, the Liberal Party of Canada, also agrees that they should receive an official apology, simply because these people deserve it.

When we talk about a situation like this, it is clear that we are not commemorating or remembering a proud moment in our history, but rather, just the opposite. So we must pull our heads out of the sand, face the issue and talk about it. As we know, an apology for the people whose properties were expropriated is long overdue. Their descendants—their children and grandchildren—have been calling for and hoping for an apology. This apology, as I said, is not only overdue, but it is also deserved.

All governments, regardless of their colour, regardless of whether they are red or blue, are far from perfect. They can make mistakes, regardless of their colour. But the biggest mistake that a government or a political party can make is not having the courage to acknowledge its mistakes. When we make a mistake, we must have the courage to admit it. If we create a situation that produces injustices, we must have the courage, decency and humility to apologize.

In supporting this motion, the Liberal Party of Canada acknowledges its share of responsibility for certain errors of the past and issues its official apology to all of these men and women who were affected by what happened in the expropriation.

The significance of this motion may be symbolic, but our vote on it is nonetheless important. It is a matter here of granting those who were expropriated and their descendants what they have been seeking without success for far too long now. It is a matter of demonstrating to them that we understand them and respect them.

In adopting this motion, we are saying that we are sorry, but we are also saying “never again”. This should never happen again in the Gaspé, elsewhere in Quebec or anywhere in Canada.

We support this motion to show our most sincere respect to those who have suffered, but there are also lessons for us to learn from this. Let us demonstrate humility and learn from this mistake, and let us make sure that it never happens again.

To those who might oppose this motion, I say that there is nothing extravagant or exceptional about it. It does not ask for anything that has never been done by this House. We know that the House has apologized on certain occasions, whether to Canadians of Japanese origin for the wrongs done to them during World War II or, more recently, to our first nations for certain unacceptable treatment they suffered. This has been done and may be done again, certainly in the present case.

That being said, we must also take concrete action that, in a way, is self-evident. Action that is easy to take and represents a hand extended to those people who were expropriated, as well as their children and grandchildren.

Recently the sitting government granted a pass to the families so they could enter the park free of charge for the next three generations. This is a step in the right direction, but the families were asking that this pass be granted to the next five generations. We agree with them that this is the way to go.

These families were uprooted from their ancestral land. They were on that land for generations. Later, for years, if they wanted to go back to their land, to go and meditate at the gravesites of their dead, these people were forced to pay admission to the park. That is a situation that should never have happened.

I said a little earlier that the vote on this motion is intended as an official apology to those who were expropriated and their descendants, but another of its purposes is to ensure that this never happens again. In that regard, a number of measures have been put in place, including by the Liberal government, to ensure that it never does. Thanks to certain of those measures, there are today rules and agreements to be complied with when national parks are created, so as to avoid similar cases in future.

I urge all members and colleagues in the House to vote for this motion. Through it, we are sending a clear message to those who have suffered so much. In a way, we are helping not only them and their children and grandchildren but all those who live in this magnificent area to turn the page on the sad events of the past.

In saying that, I am in no way minimizing their suffering or their desire to be heard and respected. Quite the opposite, the vote on this motion regarding the past enables us as well to take a fresh look at the future, a future that can be filled with promise.

I read recently that despite the events surrounding the creation of the park, the local community recognized from the outset how important it was to preserve the extraordinary natural and cultural heritage that is Forillon Park. From the beginning, it has played a major role in tourism, attracting more than 175,000 visitors a year. It is an extremely valuable asset in terms of tourism and the economy.

Forillon Park is one of the reasons—there are others as well—why the Gaspé Peninsula placed third in 2009 in the most beautiful destinations in the world. In the world! Just recently in 2011, as I was saying, it was included on the list of the 20 most beautiful destinations in the National Geographic Traveler magazine. We need to look to the future as well and consider the mounting popularity of ecotourism. The park and its surroundings will obviously become an ever more popular tourist destination, to the great advantage of the entire region.

When I speak of that, I am not at all avoiding the subject, because the issue we are addressing today may be rooted in the past but it affects the future as well. The people who were expropriated in Forillon do not want to live in the past any more than we do. They want us to do something today that flows from what was done in the past. They want formal apologies, and we are giving them those apologies. However, the people of Forillon and the Gaspé Peninsula also want to face the future. They want to pave the way for a better life for themselves and especially for their children and grandchildren. We are doing what needed to be done in regard to the past. But let us also do what needs to be done to build a better future along with them.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have often been impressed with the speeches made by this member from the Liberal Party. He manages to be straightforward and eloquent at the same time, and he has been that here today.

I was very pleased to hear that he and apparently his party are prepared to accept responsibility for the transgressions of Jean Chrétien and others at the time.

I do not think he was off topic when he talked about the importance of our parks system, and how we need to move into the future and build upon those parks for ecological reasons, for social and cultural reasons, and for economic reasons. I thought all of his comments were quite relevant.

I was going to ask him the hard question, that after 27 years of Liberal rule since these unfortunate instances, why an apology was never forthcoming before, but we have heard it here today and I thank him for it.

My question for the hon. member is, will he join the Bloc, myself and the NDP, in encouraging the Conservatives to make this a unanimous motion, so that we can leave this unfortunate past behind and move to a much more prosperous, thoughtful and better future?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his kind words. In all sincerity, I thank him.

I have often heard him speak in the House, particularly on environmental issues, and I must say that I have enormous respect for what he is doing on that file.

Like my Bloc and NDP colleagues, I would obviously like this vote to be unanimous. Unfortunately, the government has not been sending any clear signals when it talks about this issue.

I want to emphasize my party's belief that an apology should be offered. This apology may be coming late, after many years, but it is sincere. I would like the government members to stand and support this motion, so that we can be unanimous in our apology.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to applaud the member for covering the bases on all of the issues that surround this matter before the House today. I believe it was done sincerely, eloquently and in the best interests of all the stakeholders concerned.

There have been at least three or four attempts to ask the government how it intends to deal with this matter. The opposition parties are in agreement and would like this to be a unanimous motion.

My concern is that the member who spoke on behalf of the Conservatives ultimately broke down and said that she was speaking on behalf of herself and that she supports it. It appears the government is sidestepping a fundamental question which is extremely important to the people involved and, of course, of interest to the whole House.

Does the hon. member agree that it appears the government is having difficulty accepting the facts? Will it do the right thing, join the rest of the House and pass the motion unanimously?

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

It seems clear that the government has not yet taken a position on the motion or that it is not comfortable with the position it has taken; we will soon find out which is the case. Questions from the opposition forced the member to finally admit that she, personally, would most likely support the motion. But we do not know whether her government will do the same. That is sad because this motion is giving us a unique opportunity to offer an official apology and say that we are sorry about how all of this happened.

I am saying it now, I will keep saying it over and over again, and the other parties will repeat it as well: it would be good for those whose land was expropriated, for their descendants and their grandchildren, if this message were unanimous, if we were all saying the same thing. I think it would do them good to hear that. It would not right the wrongs or fix the past, but it would be a positive gesture for the House to reach out to them. And that gesture would be even more meaningful if the message were unanimous and included the government.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his excellent speech and the way he spoke on behalf of the Liberal Party to ask that an apology be given to the people whose land was expropriated for Forillon Park.

Recently, the people of Forillon and the three subsequent generations were given a pass granting them free access to the site. Some will go and see their houses again, and others will visit the cemetery to pay their respects to their ancestors. In the past, they had to pay to visit Forillon Park.

Now, they are asking that the government extend the pass to the 1,500 families whose land was expropriated and their descendants, up to the fifth generation, and not just to the 225 families who were owners. In fact, 225 families were owners, which amounts to over 1,500 people.

I would like my colleague's opinion on this request.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question that touches on another aspect of the story. For years, decades, the children and grandchildren of people whose land was expropriated had to pay to visit the very place where they had lived or to meditate at the graves of their deceased relatives. They had to pay to go there, which is completely unacceptable, and I said so in my speech. I also said that the government's gesture of offering this pass, which should have been a given from the start, is a step in the right direction. However, as the hon. member said, the families have asked that it be valid for five generations. I am in full agreement that the privilege of this pass should be maintained for five generations of descendants.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this opposition motion. It deals with what happened over 40 years ago when the federal government and the government of Quebec came together to create Forillon National Park.

The park is located in a beautiful part of a spectacular region. It is on the tip of Gaspésie in eastern Quebec. Unfortunately, as we have heard today in this House, the way the park was formed was not beautiful. It was rather ugly.

In 1969, over 1,000 people were forced to leave their land to make way for the park. There were 225 families who were made to leave. The fact that this was done in more than 20 cases to make way for various parks across Canada does not make it any more right.

The Bloc opposition motion seeks an apology from the House to the residents there who had their homes, land and businesses expropriated by the government to make way for the park.

This kind of thing should not happen. People should not be forced to sell their homes and land to make way for government-created parks in a draconian way. It is hard to leave land one loves and have loved for generations.

Many years ago I helped to create many parks in northern Ontario. The largest was Wabakimi Wilderness Provincial Park near Lake Nipigon in northwestern Ontario. It is a beautiful area of almost 9,000 square kilometres that should be preserved for future generations and it is.

I worked hard for many years, not only to create that park, but to make sure that the rights of trappers, first nations people, hunters, tourist operators, nearby residents and other local and traditional users were respected. In helping to create the park, there were no expulsions of residents.

I can only imagine what it would be like for families who have lived in a spectacular setting such as that for generations to have to leave against their will.

One of the worst situations occurred at Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick which was expropriated the same year as Forillon from the people who lived there. There were 250 families comprising over 1,000 people who had their homes levelled to create that 250 square kilometre reserve. There were 10 Acadian villages affected.

Governments were as insensitive to the Acadian residents of Kouchibouguac as they were to the inhabitants of Forillon. But it was not just the Acadians who were impacted. The Mi'kmaq people have a centuries-old spiritual and cultural connection with Kouchibouguac. The park lies within traditional hunting and gathering territories for the Mi'kmaq.

At the time, the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, someone named Jean Chrétien, said that the new development would allow accommodation for more urban people and ease demand for other parks in the Maritimes.

In 1980, the federal environment minister and the New Brunswick premier established this special inquiry for Kouchibouguac National Park to examine the social and economic impact the establishment of the park had on former residents.

A court ruling in 1979, in favour of the expropriation, led to some 200 people actually rioting in the park. Following a second riot several weeks later, a special commission was created which criticized the government's actions and granted expropriated residents an additional $1.6 million in compensation.

One resident, Jackie Vautour and his family, refused to leave the park and turned down several offers from the government. He endured violent confrontations before being forced to leave. Vautour challenged the expropriation in court, but eventually had to move into a motel where he was tear-gassed by the RCMP when he refused to leave after the government stopped paying for his room.

This situation, coupled with what happened with the Forillon expropriations that same year, shamed the government into changing its ways, thank goodness.

National parks created since then are mostly in sparsely populated areas, like Canada's north.

The Canada National Parks Act was amended in 2000 to prohibit the expropriation of people's land in order to create new national parks. However, despite those steps, the fact remains that the government has only taken tentative steps to rectify the wrongs committed.

This year, the government is introducing a special entry pass for families for several generations whose properties were expropriated during the creation of these parks. It will allow former owners kicked off their land to go back and enter it for free. The government may think it is being magnanimous by waiving entry fees for people to visit the land taken from them, but it is not making it very easy to get these entry passes.

Individual parks and historic sites will be responsible for the distribution of the passes. Eligibility will be based on existing historic records, if any still exists, or a committee has to be struck and a committee process navigated to determine whether or not someone can get a pass.

Last year, the environment minister received a petition from hundreds of people whose property was expropriated at Forillon. They asked for five generations, not three, to be given free access to visit their ancestral homes. That is a very reasonable request, given what has happened. That is a first step. People do not just need to be able to visit their family homes once in a while, but also their parents, grandparents and ancestral families who are buried in three cemeteries inside the park.

By and large, the way the whole situation has been handled by the government has not been very good. The 2010 Forillon National Park management plan recognizes that the government has not been sufficiently attentive to the families whose homes it expropriated.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my remaining time with the hon. member for Churchill.

The Forillon National Park management plan states:

The current commemoration of the former residents – particularly those whose lands were expropriated – of their history and their contribution to the park’s identity does not meet the community’s expectations. Finally, the local population’s sense of ownership of the park is still finding opposition due to the memory of the expropriation.

Finally, in view of the 2010 celebrations for the park’s 40th anniversary, a commemorative site will be created in the park especially dedicated to those whose lands were expropriated, and an exhibition dealing with their history and that of the settlement of Forillon will be presented there.

One of the expropriated homes in the park was made into an exhibit, telling the stories of 17 people who were forced out. Some plaques will be placed around the park to commemorate places where families used to live. In many places we can still see the foundations where homes stood before they were bulldozed or burned to the ground.

The government is giving out passes and making commemorative plaques and picnic tables but so far it has not offered an official apology. Knowing the history of expulsions in this country, particularly with our Acadian peoples, one would think the government would have more sensitivity about expropriations and expulsions.

What the exiled residents of Forillon want is a simple gesture of civility and an admission that something was done that should not have been done. They want an apology. Many suffered financially from the expulsion and most suffered emotionally to see their homes and lands taken away from them. An apology is the least the government can give.

Members may notice that the motion does not ask anything of the government. It asks this House to issue that apology instead. I am interested in asking the members of the Bloc why they are asking the House of Commons rather than the government to issue this apology. I can hazard a guess. After waiting so long for an apology from the federal government, the surviving exiles from Forillon who lost their homes are getting fewer in number and they probably have little confidence that the government will issue an apology in their lifetime.

We, the members of this chamber, are being asked to fill that void of leadership and show the compassion that the federal government has not. I am pleased to be given the opportunity to oblige. This is basic decency. I will be supporting the motion and I urge all parties and all members of the House to do so in order that it will pass unanimously.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 10th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate the hon. member for his speech. At the end, he mentioned that the motion calls for the House rather than the government to issue a formal apology. I have already said, on my own behalf and on behalf of my party, that we agree to do it, that it is quite normal and that it is the least we can do. An apology will not correct past errors but it is another step in the right direction. I have also said that this motion would be stronger and more meaningful if the government also supported it, if the government would stand with the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP and vote in favour of this motion.

I would like the hon. member to tell me why, in his opinion, the government refuses to support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have often been disappointed that we now have a government in power that either apologizes but seems not to mean it or just does not apologize. I hope this time it will share the responsibility and apologize on behalf of all of us and really mean it, as we all mean it.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House and express our party's support for the Bloc opposition day motion before us today.

The motion asks for 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. As well, it asks that the Speaker of the House send their representatives and descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.

Given the speeches here today, it is clear of what happened to the people who used to live where Forillon Park is today. They went through a very traumatic event. It was truly a tragedy. It is unconscionable that the people in the communities that were impacted were not consulted, their views were not heard and their wishes regarding their land were not respected, the land being one of the most fundamental connections to their roots. Unfortunately, this is a pattern we have seen time and time again in Canadian history, a history marred by forced relocations, a failure to consult and work with people and communities and to listen to what they have to say regarding how they want to live and contribute to their communities and to our country.

It is critical for me to support this motion, not just because of what the people in the region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine have gone through, but also what it means in terms of setting a precedent for other peoples who have been forcibly relocated, as well as others whose voices have been silenced by the present government and preceding governments, such as Liberal governments of the past.

I have the honour of representing Churchill riding in northern Manitoba. Northern Manitoba has a very tragic history regarding the federal government's treatment of First Nations people. Unfortunately, there is also a history of forced relocations as well as relocations which, in many ways, while not said to be forced, if we look at the patterns that had taken place was in fact forced.

While some of that history has been recognized, there still remains a denial for other historical claims put forth by people who had been most adversely affected. One of those peoples are the Sayisi Dene who today live in Tadoule Lake, which is one of the most northern communities in the constituency I represent. It close to the border of north of 60.

Tadoule Lake is a Dene community and the people have shared their stories with Canada for some decades now. They spoke of a forced relocation from a nomadic lifestyle in northern Manitoba where they followed the caribou herds and lived and thrived off the land. Because of a decision made by officials of the Government of Canada, a decision that was approved by the political leaders of the day, the Dene people were forced into some of the most egregious living conditions in what is Churchill today. They were forced into a life of poverty and a life to which they were not accustomed. They had depended on the hunting and trapping seasons and being able to move and fend for themselves. Those patterns were crushed by the Government of Canada when it refused to listen to the cries for help from the Sayisi Dene people. Even when the lifestyle in which they were forced brought about alcoholism, drug addiction and the kinds of abuse that many Canadians cannot even imagine, they still were not heard. It took decades for them to fight for access to reserve land on which they could relocate to, which is now called Tadoule Lake.

The Sayisi Dene people of Tadoule Lake have said that they want true recognition from the Government of Canada when it comes to the tragedy that they faced. It was a tragedy in whose path they still live with some of the highest suicide rates and addiction rates and a real sense of trauma exacerbated by the fact that the Government of Canada is continuing to fail to recognize their wishes, which is not just an apology but also compensation for what they have lost.

When we look at monetary figures, it is impossible to put down in numbers the cost of the lives that have been lost, the cost of the futures that have been lost and the continued impact on future generations. However, the Sayisi Dene people have said that this relocation needs to be recognized, and not just in terms of monetary compensation, but a commitment to healing on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Still, in the year 2011, they have been denied that wish. There have been movements on the part of the government that have been seen as very positive from the community but the continued failure to deal with the relocation and bring closure to the community's wishes is something we are still waiting for.

We do not need to keep living with this kind of history. We need to respect the wishes of the people who have gone through this trauma. It is not the government, it is the people on the ground, the communities that make up our country. That is why we should be looking at today's motion and supporting it unanimously. We should be listening to the wishes of the people whose history and wishes has been ignored.

I find it interesting that the motion asks for something as fundamental as an apology from the House. It certainly speaks to a recognition that we all ought to have regarding this issue. It is also very much in line with Canada's increased consideration of the method of apologizing as a way of moving forward.

One of the moments I will never forget in my life was the historic apology made toward residential school survivors by the Government of Canada and supported by the House. It was an honour to share in that moment with so many survivors in my home community of Thompson, Manitoba. It was powerful to hear the government, the House of Commons, apologize to people whose lives were so negatively impacted and whose lives were destroyed during of a shameful part of our history.

However, in that moment of apology, people saw hope that would allow them to move forward, to heal and to work with communities and say, “They have heard us and they know what this has meant to us. Now we can begin to move forward”.

In light of that apology, there was also hope that we would not stop there, that we would continue in the spirit of that apology and move forward with tangible pieces that would contribute to the well-being of survivors and their communities. I believe that a critical consideration for us as members of Parliament and representatives of the Canadian people is to hear those voices.

In the context of our debate here today, we in the NDP hope that the wishes of the people of the Gaspé region, with which many of us across Canada re familiar , will be heard, and not just today in this House but that moving forward, they, their families and the people who will come later will know that we care and that we are sorry for what was done to them.

Opposition Motion—Forillon Park
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the member were thoughtful. It is a change for the House to have such a civil dialogue in a very sincere and open way, acceptance of responsibility and clear support.

What seems to concern a number of members is we still have not heard from the government. The member talked about the aspect of hope and promise for the future. My concern is the government does not have a position that it is prepared to share with the House, to lead off its debate with a clear statement of intent with regard to the motion, and I believe that is telling. Does the member share that view?