House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

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The House resumed from November 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-573, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the private member's bill put forward by my hon. colleague from Brampton West.

The bill creating Pope John Paul II Day is truly an important one, as Pope John Paul II was a transforming figure not just in his homeland of Poland but also throughout the world.

I have to say that it was a great pleasure for me as the chair of Exhibition Place in Toronto and a former city councillor there to play host for the World Youth Day. That was certainly a remarkable gathering of youth from all over the world. It was another initiative that His Holiness Pope John Paul II started during his papacy to bring youth from all over the world together in common prayer and thought, and in action. That event will always stick in my mind, the gathering of youth from different corners of the earth at Exhibition Place and then afterwards followed by a mass and service at Downsview Park.

I had the pleasure and honour of being there and working along with Father Thomas Rosica who was the CEO of Salt + Light Television, a network that does wonderful work throughout Canada in promoting the Christian, Catholic faith. Father Thomas Rosica played a truly tremendous role in hosting that particular event. I was pleased to work with him.

Certainly the response from people, regardless of faith, was always truly one of welcoming His Holiness and incredible cherishing of his presence, his magnetism and charisma.

He was the pope who transformed Europe to what we know today, not just with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism but also with his the ability to allow his people who had suffered so much to, as he famously said, “Be not afraid”, to be not afraid of totalitarianism, to be not afraid to speak out, to be not afraid to be a light in the darkness. Certainly he was that transformative figure who could inspire people to do amazing things and to be a leader for all.

Poland, with the Solidarity movement, in which he played such a major role, transformed the rest of what we know in Europe. However, it was his initiative and his imprint that we celebrate worldwide in recognizing this day.

He was also a man who reached out to people of different faiths. He was the first pope in the history of the Catholic Church to actually visit a synagogue, in Rome. He certainly held the role of Bishop of Rome very dear to his heart and reached out to the people of Rome, like no Pope before him. Being that particular transforming figure, going out to the people of Rome and the people of all faiths, is what makes him one of the most incredible men of the 20th century.

He was also the first pope to ever visit a mosque. It is, again, a tribute to his understanding and solidarity and friendship with people of different faiths, in extending a warm hand of friendship to all. Again this was important milestone for him as a world leader on stage to say that we want to be friends with everyone of all different faiths. I think it was an important and incredible milestone for us.

The other thing is that he was a pope who actually took his mission as a shepherd and a preacher of the gospel very seriously. He went to 129 different countries and attracted some of the largest crowds in history, such as five million people once in Manilla in 1985 and, of course, in Toronto there was about 800,000 people. Some estimated the crowd to be close to even a million people attending his event.

This bill, in recognition of John Paul II Day across Canada, is an important one. It gives credit to someone we consider to be one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century, a man of incredible courage and vision, somebody who transformed the world, who built relationships with countries all over the world and who also played a major role in peace negotiations.

I was always saddened by the fact that he never won the Nobel Peace Prize, but certainly nobody promoted more peace than John Paul II, not just in Europe but all over the world. I remember the times when there were skirmishes in Latin America. It was always his intervention that saved the day for certain countries in South America and Central America from actually going to war with their neighbours. He played a major role in all of those events.

Thus we are looking at a man of incredible faith, vision and passion, someone man who deeply cared about the world community. He was a shepherd of peace and a messenger of the gospel.

As we all know, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, 2011. People from all over the world will gather in Rome to celebrate this momentous event for this incredible man. In the history of the church, this is a very short period of time for somebody to be beatified. The fact he is going to be beatified and become Blessed John Paul II on May 1, 2011, is indicative of the incredible esteem with which he is held and how we all feel about this particular pope whom we really see as a saintly man. He will probably be considered, as I mentioned in this House on his passing, as John Paul the Great because he was one of the greatest popes in the history of Catholicism and, certainly, a transforming individual.

I am pleased to support the bill. The member for Brampton West has put an incredible amount of work into this and I want to commend him for that. His Polish background speaks also to the fact that he knows, from his ancestors and family members, what an important role John Paul II had in liberating the Polish people. However, at the end of the day, he was really a liberator for all of us, a man of all the people, a man for all seasons, as was said about Saint Thomas Moore. He was an incredible human being who deserves this incredible recognition, because he did transform Canada, the world, and history as we know it.

As I said before, I was deeply moved when I first saw him. I will never forget that moment in Downsview Park when I took communion from His Holiness. It was a transformative day for me. I remember getting there early in the morning. It was pouring rain, and just as he came out for the mass the sun came out. It was the most beautiful experience ever.

He was at that time quite frail. He was somebody who was not afraid to show his physical vulnerability and weakness. We always remember the images of him when he first came to Canada in 1984 as someone who was very strong with an incredible physical presence. Later in his life he became quite frail. He suffered from Parkinson's disease and other illnesses, but he never was afraid to show or accept his own frailty and illnesses, while also showing compassion and care for others.

He was also a pope who was a transformative figure in the church's two millennia of history. All of us remember the particular mass he celebrated when the Holy Door was opened to celebrate the second millennium of Christianity in the world. He was the Pope who launched the new millennium. We will always remember him for being probably one of the greatest popes in living memory.

I am proud to support this bill. I am very pleased that the member for Brampton West has put this bill forward.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be here today to further our discussion in support of Bill C-573 to designate April 2 of each year as Pope John Paul II Day.

Pope John Paul II was a remarkable man who was influential not only in the Catholic church but also in the global environment. During his 27 years as the Pope, he was an important advocate of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and co-operation.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II led a multifaith service with other leaders of the world's religions. This led to other interfaith services all over the world and to yearly interfaith prayers on the annual feast of Saint Francis.

In 1994, the Pope gave the inaugural address at the World Conference on Religion and Peace.

In January 2002, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he convened a multifaith service that united 200 religious leaders from all over the globe. From this service, the leaders pledged that religion must never again be used to justify violence.

There are various other examples of the Pope's work on the world stage, where he served as a bridge-builder between cultures and religions.

I would like to talk about another important role he undertook, a role that Canadians recognize and applaud: his fight against oppression. Pope John Paul II was a man who fought oppression wherever and whenever he saw it. He was a man who understood from experience what happens to a person during the terror of war and the imposition of a totalitarian regime.

As a youth, Pope John Paul II was an athlete and an intellectual. He lived in a community with people of all different faiths, where he and his Jewish neighbours played football together. He enrolled in university at the age of 18. However, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the university was closed shortly afterward and all able-bodied young men were forced into manual work. His call to priesthood came soon afterwards.

During his time as a priest, his compassion was evident when he helped a young Jewish refugee who had run away from a Nazi labour camp. She had collapsed on a railway platform and the young priest carried her onto the train and accompanied her to safety in Krakow. Many Polish Jews have said he was instrumental in protecting them and their families.

In 1978, when he was pope, he addressed the UN General Assembly and called on the world to fight for human rights. Not content with words alone, he went on a nine-day pilgrimage back to communist Poland. This trip ultimately led to many changes in that country: for the advocacy of and fight for freedom, for compassion and the offering of protection.

These are qualities that we Canadians believe in, as well. As a country that is defined by its bilingual, pluralist nature, we believe in freedom and we have fought to protect it.

Canadians also understand the importance of compassion. They know that compassion is nothing without action to back it up, the same type of action that we can see of Pope John Paul II.

During the fight for Vimy Ridge in World War I, 3,598 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. We fought for freedom and we came together as a nation.

Canadians continued their fight for freedom through World War II right through to today, when our gallant men and women are fighting to bring freedom and human rights to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and girls.

However, just like Pope John Paul II, we not only fight for freedom but also to protect those who are seeking to find freedom. Canada is proud to have a long humanitarian tradition of being a place of refuge and protection for victims of violence, persecution and conflict. The fight to protect freedom is a tradition that Canada has proudly maintained.

Through the periods of high immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada received hundreds of thousands of refugees from the oppression and terror behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, as well as from many other totalitarian and communist regimes.

In 1956, 40,000 Hungarians fled the soviet invasion of their country and found a safe, new beginning in Canada. In 1968, Canada welcomed thousands who fled the Soviet invasion of Prague. In 1979, when millions of Indochinese boat people had to flee oppression, they went through the United Nations and obtained refugee status. The UN called for help and Canada responded. Approximately 65,000 came to Canada.

Through the generosity of Canadian faith groups, doors were opened and newcomers were settled in Canada, and they continued to contribute to the cultural and economic life of our country.

One of our former prime ministers, John Diefenbaker, stated:

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country.

As Mr. Diefenbaker added in his speech 50 years ago:

This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind

Canadians, just like John Paul II, are compassionate people who care about freedom and human rights. As a man many Canadians honour, admire and try to emulate, let us set aside a special day to honour and consider Pope John Paul II and his works.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to join the debate today to support my colleague from Brampton West who presented the motion.

I am proud to do so for a number of reasons, the first one being that I am Polish Canadian and, I believe, one of the first female Polish Canadian members of Parliament this House has seen. Therefore, I am very proud to stand and represent the Polish community and support Pope John Paul II, our pope.

Second, of course, is that I am a practising Roman Catholic and it is important that I stand up for the Roman Catholics in Canada.

It is important legislation that would celebrate the memory of Pope John Paul II day every April 2 on the anniversary of his death. He was beloved not only in Poland but internationally, in Canada and abroad, everywhere that he travelled. He was one of our most travelled popes.

Why do we designate days to celebrate the memory of great people such as John Paul II? We do it to acknowledge their significant accomplishments and their historical contributions to our country as well as to larger historical events.

He was a great man. Not only was he a scholar, he was a philosopher. He came from simple, humble beginnings in Poland as a priest and before that as an actor and a teacher. He was a charismatic and moral leader to, not only the Catholic community across the world, but to everyone.

Pope John Paul II reigned for 27 years, one of the longest reigns of any pope. He also was one of the youngest popes of the 20th century.

There are a number of reasons we should support the bill, many due to his great achievements. He was one of the architects of the defeat of Communism. He was one of the leaders of the solidarity movement, a very significant historical event, particularly to the Polish people. He is and remains a hero. He was the first non-Italian pope since the 15th century. There are over one million Polish Canadians in Canada who would celebrate this day each and every year.

He was a very accomplished pope. He had a large following of supporters and travelled around the world. He completed over 102 pastoral visits outside of Italy.

The pope first visited Canada in 1984 and had visited three times since. He came in 2002 on World Youth Day. I myself billeted a number of youth who came from the former eastern Europe to celebrate this day. Young people from all parts of the world gathered for World Youth Day at the Downsview Centre in Toronto. With their gifts of intelligence and heart, they represented the future of the world but they also bear the marks of humanity and that, too, often knows and understands peace and justice.

The pope said at that time, “Too many lives begin and end without joy and without hope.” However, he proved that there was hope in this world. That was one of the principal reasons for World Youth Day.

He spoke to us directly as Canadians. Canadians are heirs to an extraordinary, rich humanism, enriched even more by a blend of different cultural elements. However, the core of our heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation, which gave vital impetus to our development as a free, democratic and caring society recognized throughout the world as the champions of human rights and human dignity.

I was astounded at how proud the youth were who attended World Youth Day, proud to be Catholics and proud to be there celebrating the pope who value the contributions that youth had made.

One of the other reasons of course was that the pope sought reconciliation for the Jewish community and opened a dialogue with many other faiths.

Those are some of the key reasons that I believe we should support John Paul II day. I hope there are other members of the House who will reach out and encourage all members to support this very important bill as well.

the Ontario legislature introduced a similar type of bill to honour Pope John Paul II. It had been introduced and had passed first and second reading but, unfortunately, died during prorogation. We are attempting to bring back this honour for Pope John Paul II for not only Ontarians but for all Canadians so that we can all celebrate.

In addition, I have attempted to described this man who has done great work. He has been recognized not only among his peers, Canadians and everyone across the world, but people in the church have extended to him the title of Venerable. Pope Benedict has placed this title upon him, which is one step toward sainthood. One step will be completed later this year. It is a two year process but it has been expedited so that this great glory will be placed upon our beloved pope.

As I mentioned earlier, he is one of the great reasons that communism had fallen non-violently in the Soviet Union. Quite unbelievably, the Soviet Union fell and communism fell without a single bullet being fired. Pope John Paul's 1979 trip to Poland was described as the fulcrum of revolution that led to the collapse of communism. As Timothy Ash put it, ”without the pope, no solidarity, without solidarity, no Gorbachev, without Gorbachev, no fall of communism”. Even Mikhail Gorbachev said that it would have been impossible without the pope. He credits John Paul II for being a key factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.

My very humble roots, as I described, also come form Poland. My family left Poland because of the scourge of communism and sought work and refuge in France. My grandfather served in a Polish division of the French army to fight against Hitler and did not return to Poland because of the rise of communism in the Eastern European Bloc. One of the major reasons we came to Canada was to seek freedom, and we have Pope John Paul II to thank for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Another major accomplishment of the pope, with which nobody will disagree, was provide a bridge to bring in other religions. In 2003, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement congratulating Pope John Paul II on entering his 25th year of the papacy and complimenting him on his role in bridging the divide between the Jewish faith and the Catholic Church. It said, “More change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before”.

There are many other examples of that as well, many attempts to make a bridge to many other faith communities, especially with Muslim community. When Pope John Paul was in Casa Blanca August 19, 1985 in Morocco, he said:

Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the sane God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.

He reached out to the Muslim community when he was pope and he reached out to the Jewish community as well. He reached out to many communities. We know that in 1993 he held a meeting with over 120 religious leaders from around the world of different religions and different Christian denominations to foster some unity and respect among the various religious sects.

He was a well travelled man and a remarkable world leader. He was known as the travelling pope. He visited 129 countries and attracted some of the largest crowds in human history. As many as five million people came to see him in Manila in 1995. He came to Canada on more than one occasion. When he came in 2002 on World Youth Day, over 800,000 people came out to meet him and to pray with him. As Kofi Annan had said, “he is a tireless advocate for peace”.

When Pope John Paul II died, the outpouring of grief at his funeral showed how strong he was and how respected he was, both as a religious leader and, more important, as a world leader. At his funeral and his requiem mass on April 8, 2005, he was said to have set world records for both attendance and the number of heads of state who were present at the funeral. It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill and other world leaders. Kings, queens and leaders of many countries were in attendance. It was one of the largest single pilgrimages of the time.

For this reason, and because of the great man he was, I hope everyone will join me and my colleague from Brampton West in supporting the bill to commemorate Pope John Paul II day.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I had the honour of speaking to this matter before Christmas. I gave a lengthy speech and I will not repeat all of it now.

I highlighted the fact that Pope John Paul II fell into two separate categories, First, he was the leader of the Roman Catholic church and one of the leading popes in Roman Catholic history. The second is more secular. Pope John Paul II was a world leader onto himself.

Many people have commented upon the fall of communism and his role. I am a first generation Polish Canadian. My parents immigrated from Poland. My uncle and his family escaped Poland, with guards shooting at them across the border. Through my family and extended family who lived in Poland at the time, I know what it was like to live through communism. The end of communism was a celebration in Poland and eastern Europe, without parallel, and in the world generally speaking.

Pope John Paul II has been credited with being one of the key figures, if not the key figure, in the fall of communism. Many people, including Mikhail Gorbachev, said that without Paul John Paul II the fall of communism simply would not have been possible in the manner that it happened at that time.

I would like to update the House on what has occurred since I spoke to this matter last fall. Pope Benedict has declared that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1 in Rome, a ceremony that millions of Catholics, including myself, are planning to attend. That is the final stage under the Roman Catholic religion before he becomes canonized and becomes a saint. That is of huge significance for the Roman Catholic church and for the Polish community generally. Over one million Polish Canadians live in Canada. We have a very large Roman Catholic population in Canada, which supports this proposed legislation.

I also want to give thanks to colleagues on all sides of the House who have spoken to the bill and have indicated they will support it. I consider this to be a non-partisan issue. Religious persons support my bill. Equally as moving for me is the fact that non-religious persons have come up to me and said that they will support it, either because they recognize the significance of John Paul in world history or because they recognize that in our society we respect divergent points of views and we have to support one another in these sorts of worthy endeavours, whether one agrees with everything someone may have said during the course of his or her life. I am very honoured and moved to support this.

From what I understand, thousands of Canadians have mailed in cards in support of the legislation. I thank all of those people who took the time to sign those cards.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

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

Suspension of Sitting
Pope John Paul II Day Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The sitting of the House is suspended until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:33 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 10, I move:

That the debate be not further adjourned.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

The hon. member for Ajax—Pickering

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

My question to the minister will be in three parts.

First, why now? The Liberal Party introduced the idea of ending the accelerated parole in situations for large-scale fraudsters a couple of years ago and has been pushing the government to act on this. The government, in the case of Mr. Lacroix, got caught with its pants down in not acting. Now, all of a sudden, it wants to fix it at 100 miles an hour when we have been pushing it for a couple of years. Why did it take this long for the government to bring something forward?

Second, why does this apply to every single non-violent first-time offender? We would agreed wholeheartedly that we need to go after large-scale fraudsters such as Mr. Lacroix and the Earl Jones case, but why are we now applying this across the full spectrum against every first-time offender who is non-violent? We know this program has been a great success in reducing recidivism and reducing the amount of crime that is committed.

I know the minister often attacks us about victims, but it may come as a surprise to him that if we reduce crime, there are less victims. The objective is to stop crime before it happens. Why on earth would we throw in the whole lot of everybody if the bill is in fact targeted to these individuals? This program has been such a success in non-violent first-time offender cases to ensure they do not become major criminals and that we do not turn our prisons into crime factories.

Third, I ask the government table the cost and its analysis on the impact of recidivism and rehabilitation. If the government is ready to close this debate and not allow Parliament to discuss it, surely the minister would be able to table today the exact costs that are involved with this bill. Surely the minister would be able to table today an analysis of the impact on rehabilitation and the exact impact this would have on public safety. I would ask the minister to submit those things if he would.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be a part of the process to move this new legislation forward. It is new only in the sense that it has been partitioned off from a bill that was before Parliament.

It is ironic that the hon. member asks why now. He would know, as well as anyone within the Liberal Party, of all the difficulties we have had getting anything moved through the public safety committee. This bill's antecedent has been there forever. We have been trying to get the bill through committee and Parliament. Who are we targeting? We are targeting white collar criminals, the people who fleece victims and prey on people, their bank accounts and resources. The tragedy of this is that many white collar victims have told me it is as bad as getting beaten up in an alley. They say they experience as much pain as if somebody attacked them.

Why now is an ironic question from the Liberal Party, when it has been the one standing in the way all of these measures coming forward. My colleagues on the public safety committee tell me the same thing. That man is exhibit A on the challenges in moving the legislation forward. This is an important initiative by the government to crack down on white collar crimes and get rid of accelerated parole.

The hon. member also asked why don't you just target white collar criminals and not others. This stems from the Liberal position on a lot of these issues, particularly with respect to drug crimes. That is what we are talking about. We are saying that accelerated parole will not be available to people who are in the business of trading drugs and proceeding to involve some type of violence. I suppose one could argue that there is a certain level of violence any time people are given drugs that could destroy their lives.

In any case, he asks why we are including those people. We hear it all the time. His leader several weeks ago said that Liberals wanted to decriminalize marijuana, that this was some sort of message they wanted to send out to young people. They have been consistent with their soft on crime approach to challenge the drug bills before Parliament.

There are a large number of people to whom we want to get. I would have liked to have discussed the other one, but perhaps in an additional question I may be able to answer that.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I will certainly ask the minister a question, but I have something to say about the fact that we have always had unanimity in this House regarding the abolition of this measure, just not all at the same time. That is what is rather distressing in this case, especially since I just heard my Liberal colleague say that his party had already called for the abolition of automatic parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been served, and all of a sudden they are asking why. Now is the time to take action.

In 2007, the Bloc Québécois proposed a justice plan—we were already talking about it. We believe that even though these crimes are considered non-violent, they are extremely violent. Families have been completely destroyed by fraudsters, by white collar criminals. There are people who were involved in the sponsorship scandal and who got out of prison very quickly, so the justice system also got a bad reputation because of this automatic parole.

Action has been needed for a long time. When we introduced a bill for the first time, the Conservatives refused to have it fast-tracked. Now that we agree, the Liberals and the NDP are refusing to fast-track the legislation, even though they had already agreed to do it before.

There is a problem, and I would like to ask the minister whether now is the time to leave partisan politics aside. At some point we have all agreed that this measure should be abolished, so we should ensure that this happens to help restore public faith in the justice system.