House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to take the floor today to speak to my Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada.

I would first like to say that the bill reflects my interest in an issue that is dear to all of us, that goes beyond merely displaying our flag. This is an issue that appeals to our sense of pride and especially how we choose to express it.

The bill affirms the right of every Canada to display their patriotism wherever and whenever they wish. From Vancouver Island in the west to Newfoundland in the east, from Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon in the north, to other Canadian provinces in the south, Canadians must feel free to display their national flag. This is a symbolic gesture that we must encourage, a patriotic act that helps shape our identity and create a sense of belonging to our country. It is often the symbolic gestures and strong images that remain in people's collective memories.

Since its tabling on September 27, 2011, Bill C-288 has been the subject of numerous comments by members of Parliament in the House. These comments are proof that this issue strikes a sensitive chord, which goes to the heart of our identity. Indeed, the flag is a symbol of our identity, of who we are. It reminds us of what it means to be Canadian.

Whether at home or abroad, the Canadian flag represents us and embodies our values. Whether sewn onto a backpack, carried by one of our athletes, painted on the cheek of a child or saluted by a veteran, it is viewed around the world as a symbol of freedom and democracy. The flag expresses the pride that we feel and everything that we believe in and cherish as Canadians.

We have heard the comments made by the members of Parliament in the House. Some expressed their concerns about the restrictive nature of the bill. We have heard these comments and these responses and the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage took them into consideration during their study of the bill. It was agreed to make amendments to the bill in order to reflect the feedback received. These amendments will perhaps help alleviate these concerns and, I hope, win the support of the majority.

The proposed amendments are aimed primarily at encouraging Canadians to display the flag wherever they want and as often as they wish. For example, one of the amendments encourages the managers of multiple unit residential buildings to allow the maple leaf flag to be displayed. Whether renters or property owners, Canadian citizens will therefore be encouraged to show their patriotism and express their pride, wherever and whenever they consider it fitting to do so.

The simple act of flying the flag helps reinforce our attachment to Canada. It is a unifying act that helps bring together Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life. It also connects us to our history, which is a fundamental element of our common identity that must be able to unite us in its inclusive reality.

On February 15, we marked the 47th anniversary of the maple leaf flag. This day was an opportunity to pay homage to this important symbol of our country. The history of the maple leaf dates back to 1965, when it was raised for the first time at exactly 12 noon on Parliament Hill, right after the Canadian red ensign had been lowered. At every Canadian diplomatic mission in the world, from the lush tropics to Canadian missions in frigid climates, a similar ceremony took place simultaneously to mark the event. It was also raised at the same time in communities across the country.

Few Canadians expected the new flag to achieve immediate renown, yet it was the only flag in history to consist of a single maple leaf and it came to be recognized instantly by its simplicity wherever it was flown. As our most precious national symbol, our flag continues to instill pride in our history and to inspire us with confidence in the future.

In the last few years, we have had multiple opportunities to feel a great sense of pride as Canadian throughout the land. Indeed, who can forget the joyous and festive mood that reigned across the country when the Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, honoured us with their visit in the summer of 2011. The maple leaf flew proudly in every city, town and village they visited as a salute to our vast country.

At the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, we felt a tremendous sense of pride in watching our athletes parade by. From one end of the country to the other, many Canadians proudly displayed the flag in honour of our sports heroes and we all took pride in seeing the flag raised 26 times to celebrate our medallists.

The red and white maple leaf will fly again at the upcoming London Olympic Games to be held in a few months from now. How many of us will once again be proud to see our athletes carry the national flag? How many of us, as a sign of solidarity and encouragement, will be moved to display the flag in front of our house, or business or on the balcony of our apartment? How many of us will truly feel free to do so?

The desire of Canadians to express their attachment to their country is something that we should not only applaud but encourage. This is precisely what the bill respecting the national flag hopes to achieve. It encourages and supports the expression of our pride. It allows every Canadian to display his or her patriotism in red and white. It brings us closer together.

Across this great land, our government is preparing major celebrations to give Canadians an opportunity to commemorate events that have forged the Canada of today. I am thinking in particular of the preparations to mark the War of 1812, the Queen's Jubilee and the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Our government recently unveiled it program of events to mark these two anniversaries, which culminate in a major celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada.

I would like to say a few additional words about these celebrations.

First, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 highlights an important event in our history. This conflict helped define what we are today: an independent country with its own parliamentary system. Part of being an independent country is to adopt symbols and ceremonies particular to a new nation.

This year is also the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The 60th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty to the throne reminds us of the central role that the Crown plays, and has played, in the evolution of our nation. Her Majesty has a special relationship to Canada and she embodies the values of the nation. When we fly our flag, we showcase these values, regardless of whether we speak them aloud or describe them in detail. The flag speaks for us.

I would like to draw attention to a very particular time of year in Canada: the end of June and the beginning of July. For school children, this is exciting because summer vacation begins. For parents, this time of year means summer camps and family vacations. For all Canadians, this time of year means warmer weather and sunshine. However, there is also a very real sense of anticipation because it is a distinctly Canadian time of year as we approach Canada Day.

Every year Canadians and visitors are invited to take part in an 11-day lead up celebration called “Celebrate Canada”, which takes place from June 21 to July 1. This is a unique national undertaking that gives everyone across the country an opportunity to organize events together. Families and friends, social and cultural groups, communities, towns and cities, at every level come together to discover and appreciate the wealth and diversity of Canadian society. At these events, it is the flag that waves proudly.

In the week and a half before Canada Day, citizens from every part of this nation focus on celebrating the best of what it means to be in community. The flag is omnipresent at the end of June and beginning of July because of Canada Day, because of street parties and barbecues that engage Canadians of every age. Whether each citizen realizes it or not, the increase in the use of the flag at this time of year creates an attachment not only to the flag itself, but to the communities in which we all live and thrive. Canadians show their love of Canada and pride in being Canadian throughout the year, but in the ramp-up to Canada Day, as the flag is displayed at celebrations, we all respond with excitement and anticipation.

These events provide numerous opportunities to celebrate our history and display our patriotism. The events that we are talking about are widespread and diverse. The flag is not simply flown from municipal buildings or at official events, but at all manner of gatherings organized by ordinary and proud Canadian citizens. From neighbourhood block parties to sporting events, garden parties to Canada Day rallies, bonfire parties and community beautification projects, celebrating Canada is taken seriously and this is intimately related to our national display of the flag. Such celebrations help awaken the pride of all Canadians.

This bill encourages Canadians to mark the unique nature of these celebrations by flying the maple leaf in every community. It also invites all Canadians to take advantage of these festivities to learn more about the history of our flag and what it represents. Canadians all develop a sense of excitement at the end of June that probably goes largely undiscussed because it has become so normal, so expected, so Canadian to look forward to the excitement and parties that we enjoy as a nation.

In taking the time to celebrate, we realize how privileged we are to live in a country as wonderful as Canada. Many Canadians demonstrate their pride and joy by raising the national flag. This bill encourages them to do just that.

I rose today to talk of the flag, to talk of what it means to be Canadian, of the momentous occasions in our history that have given us a shared sense of community, despite geographical and historical differences. I hope all members of the House have found themselves reminiscing about a celebration they have attended over the years, of meeting with neighbours and friends or watching fireworks with thousands of others on Canada Day. I hope my hon. colleagues have heard stories from their constituents about how much they value the flag and how much they desire to feel free to fly the flag wherever they live.

I am confident that the flag will continue to unite us, to move us, to be the symbol that we reach for in moments of sadness and great joy. I am proud to support this bill and count myself among those Canadians who will fly a flag again this year.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a lot of respect for my hon. colleague from Don Valley West as a fellow Toronto colleague. I am thankful for the opportunity to talk about the excitement that largely goes undiscussed, although I did not realize it went undiscussed.

This bill is significantly different from the one that came before this place at second reading. The other bill sought to criminalize those who, for a variety of reasons out of their control, would not be allowed to fly the flag and the government side voted for it, including the Prime Minister. I feel a little bad for my colleague over there. It seems his bill has been neutered.

He was going for the jugular in that bill. What happened?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, when the bill was first developed, many individuals said that it is already the right of any Canadian to fly the flag any time they wanted. However, as I developed the bill, it became very apparent that it is not the right of every Canadian. If people live in an environment where there is a ratepayers' association, a condominium board or any other type of jurisdiction that will not allow it, then those Canadians cannot freely fly the flag.

When we developed the bill, yes there were some harsh penalties for those who would not allow someone to fly a flag, for example, a condominium board or ratepayers' association. I still believe, quite frankly, that it should be a Canadian's right to do that. However, as we discussed this at committee and as we heard from Canadians, the penalties were far too harsh and so two amendments--

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the opportunity for a few more questions.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I would like the member to continue what he was saying about the amendments that he brought in regarding this bill.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, we heard from Canadians on the initial reading of the bill. It became apparent very quickly, and at amendment time I agreed, that this bill was far too strict in its penalties. We had a reasonable discussion with my colleagues, particularly at committee. We agreed that those amendments were appropriate and that this bill, which would establish law making every Canadian free to fly the flag, was the right thing to do regardless of the penalty.

Do I feel neutered? No, to my colleague, I do not.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for the bill, for working with Canadians and listening to Canadians with respect to changing the bill.

I have a fond respect for the flag. My father was in the Second World War. I remember learning how to fold the flag and raise it on the flagpole in our backyard in every home we had. I wonder what the member's earliest memories are in relation to his attachment to the flag. What brings him here today to honour Canadians, our troops and all of Canada with this bill?

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, my earliest memories were always having a flagpole in our yard at my parents' home. Absolutely, it was something we had pride in as a family. My parents taught me pride in our flag which was the genesis of my pride in the nation and in the flag that represents us.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the way. I respect his very eloquent and descriptive presentation. There is very little I could disagree with in terms of the images he conjured up. That said, I will go back to what I said in the last debate about this flag. Patriotism cannot be legislated. Countries that legislate patriotism are the type of countries where we are in process of ousting their leaders.

I appreciate the fact that our amendment to get rid of the most onerous aspect of this bill in its original form was accepted by the other side. However the bill, as presented, is an aspirational bill. I wonder why it is a bill and not a motion.

The stories that my hon. colleague from Don Valley West shared with us are the types of things more Canadians need to hear in order to encourage them to fly the flag. This should be a motion, an activity that is brought about by a desire to share, a desire to express as opposed to a fear of being put in jail. Now that those elements have been taken out, one has to wonder what the purpose of the bill is.

The bill has its heart in the right place. However, one has to wonder why we need a bill to tell people to fly the flag as opposed to creating an awareness program or a sense, as the hon. member's speech did, of pride in the flag.

We have a situation in our committee very often about the fact that little is taught in our schools about our own Canadian history. Programs should be developed that help young people in particular, and even us older folks who may have become disconnected with our heritage and our connection this country.

I am an immigrant, born in England. I have great pride in what this country has helped me to accomplish and what I have been able to contribute. When I look at the flag, I feel that pride. I celebrate Canada Day. It is something which is encouraged. It is something that is done out of joy, connection to the people and the country that we live in, not because of a mandated law or the threat of incarceration or other punitive elements.

I share the member's joy for what the flag represents. It is one of the symbols of this very great nation. I do not share the need to tell people that they have to raise the flag as opposed to encouraging them to.

My hon. colleague said that he feels that individual Canadians do not have the right to fly the flag. They do, and they can exercise that right through the Canadian Charter of Rights. People may come and say “Take that flag down.” However, people can say “I am sorry. Under the Charter of Rights, I can fly this flag as much as I want and where I want.”

There needs to be an education process for condo associations and other organizations that have a tendency to go overboard with esthetics. I understand that dynamic very well. I live in a condo in Montreal where some of the rules are a bit annoying.

An awareness program could be developed that would allow Canadians to reconnect with the flag, that would encourage condo associations to think twice especially around Canada Day, Remembrance Day and other celebrations where the flag is flown.

Remembrance Day is one of those days when we remember the men and women who fought, who died for the freedoms that we enjoy today. One of those freedoms is to either fly the flag or not fly the flag. That is a fundamental freedom that the flag ironically represents. It is counterproductive and goes against the sacrifices of these brave men and women to try to legislate patriotism. For those who legislate patriotism, it is the beginning of a dictatorship. If a government feels it can dictate how to celebrate, how to express connection, then that is a problem.

I feel that encouragement, stories that help us connect and an environment of inclusion and support would encourage people to fly the flag as opposed to bills that would mandate it. In its current form without punitive measures, what is the point of the bill because it has no teeth, thus, what can it do?

I would ask my hon. colleague to possibly look at turning the bill into a motion which I think everyone in the House would support, that says Canadians should exercise the right that they already have to fly the flag and create scenarios like the stories he shared that help us feel pride. These stories help us reconnect to those moments as children and our first encounter with the flag. My first encounter with the Canadian flag was as a young Sea Scout in Montreal.

Like the stories the member shared with us, we can help Canadians connect with the flag, this country, what this country means to them and the symbol in front of them. I encourage and applaud the efforts of my hon. colleague. I hope we can find a way to take the positive message that he is putting forward and turn it into something that encourages as opposed to penalizes.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the preceding speaker spoke of his past as a sea scout. From a sea scout to an air cadet, all of us are displaying the pride we exhibit each and every day here as proud Canadians.

I had a speech that illustrated exactly what the flag means to all of us and its history. As a member of the Liberal Party, I feel that I should talk about the flag's history because we played a big role in that, as all parties did at the time. From the 1920s and straight through to the 1960s, several options were put out. There was always a desire to create a flag that was distinctively ours. We did not want it to contain the ensign of the Union Jack. We wanted it to stand alone, to be a unique measure of who we are as Canadians.

I think it necessary to talk about what has happened with Bill C-288 and the provisions contained therein.

When we started debate on the bill, we were incredibly trepidatious about it because of the penalties it contained. Clause 3 under enforcement referred to granting a temporary restraining order and ordering any person to comply with a provision of the act.

As I said during second reading debate, measuring the intent of the hon. member from Ontario, the sponsor of the bill, I could see where he was coming from. I could see why he had such a great passion for this. I remember him telling the story about how this started. There had been a situation at a condominium which he learned of while campaigning throughout his riding.

The enforcement measures caused great concern within our caucus and we voted against the bill at the time. At committee the sponsor of the bill came forward with substantial amendments. He has included the word “encourage”. People would be encouraged to fly the flag. People would be encouraged not to diminish the rights of others to fly the flag.

Clause 3 was taken out of the bill completely. Quite frankly, it was pretty much a carbon copy of what we had wanted to do within committee. There was some worry whether this would go beyond the scope and the principle of the bill. I guess that is not the case as we are going forward with it.

I can honestly say that in my seven plus years of being here, I have not seen that kind of interaction on a bill at committee in a minority government, but here I see it in a majority. Perhaps that is small irony.

When I talked to the sponsor of the bill in committee, I felt that he actually listened. He felt passionate enough about this that he did not want it tarnished in any way, shape or form. He wanted to keep the ultimate principle of the bill, which is for us to fly our beautiful flag freely and with a great deal of pride.

I would like to congratulate the member. I am recommending to our Liberal caucus that we support the bill. I say that with all sincerity, not just because it is about the bill but because of the sincerity the member showed to be able to change it.

In the world of politics we play here we get into situations where we make one small decision and we stick to it. We bear down with that decision and we listen to nobody else. To the exclusion of all others we will stick to our opinion even though somebody else may have a contrary opinion that might make sense.

Before I get into the bill and before I talk about the flag, I want to talk about the member who sponsored the bill and who I felt listened. My hon. colleague from the NDP said it should have been a motion, and to a great degree I agree, but it is not. We have been presented with a bill that was put forward with the best of intentions. As flawed as it may have been, the member actually listened and he agreed. We got through this in committee, or at least from our perspective we got through it.

When I asked him questions at committee, he was forthright and very humble. He brought forward amendments which I thought was a brave thing to do. That is not bad for a brand new member. I congratulate him on that.

Let us go back to the flag's history. On Parliament Hill there was a huge ceremony on February 15, 1965, with Governor General Georges Vanier and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. The Canadian Red Ensign, bearing the Union Jack and the Shield of the Royal Arms of Canada, was lowered and at the stroke of noon our new Maple Leaf flag was raised.

The following words were spoken on that momentous day by the Hon. Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate:

The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all of the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.

We illustrated that in committee, an exchange of opinion which I believe was to the benefit of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The search for a new Canadian flag actually started back in the 1920s, I believe it was in 1921, when it was designated that our official colours were red and white by King George V. In 1946, a select parliamentary committee was appointed with a similar mandate, but things got bogged down in arguments and the machinations of politics. In 1964 when Prime Minister Pearson informed the House of Commons that the government wished to adopt a distinctive national flag. It wanted to do it in advance of 1967, the celebration of 100 years. Go figure. Perhaps history is repeating itself, because now we have discussed the hon. member's bill in the lead-up to the 150-year celebration to take place in 2017, which we are also studying at committee.

In 1964, after eliminating various proposals, the committee was left with three possible designs: a Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lys; the Union Jack, and a design incorporating three maple leafs; and of course the stylized red Maple Leaf on a white square.

I want to talk about that for just a moment. I met the gentlemen of whom I speak. Their names are John Matheson and Dr. George Stanley. I met Dr. Stanley many years ago at Mount Allison University. He is well known in the story of the evolution of the new Canadian flag. Mr. Matheson was a member of Parliament, perhaps one of the strongest supporters of a new flag, and Dr. Stanley was dean of the arts at the Royal Military College.

Dr. Stanley's design was based on a strong sense of Canadian history, which he spoke about many years ago at Mount Allison. The combination of red and white first appeared in the general service medal issued by Queen Victoria. As I mentioned, red and white were subsequently proclaimed Canada's national colours by King George V in 1921.

The committee eventually decided to recommend the single leaf design, which was approved by resolution of the House of Commons on December 15, 1964, followed by the Senate on December 17, 1964 and proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, to take effect February 15, 1965.

I had to mention Dr. Stanley because I was quite inspired by the gentleman when I met him. He is from the area of New Brunswick where I went to university. I remember thinking to myself that I had met the man who designed the flag, and how about that.

I also talked about the pride of the flag, as many of the members in the House have done, from glorious moments such as the Olympics to moments of extreme lows which we have experienced throughout many wars, such as, World War I and World War II. We had our ensigns, and of course we raise our flag proudly around the world, whether it be for the London Olympics coming up or whether it be in places like Afghanistan and other areas of great strife where we are involved. We do it for all the right reasons.

I will leave it at that. I do want to congratulate my colleague on the exchange that took place, the debates that we had and the understanding that he brought not only to this House, but to committee. I will personally recommend that we support his initiative.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of Bill C-288, an act respecting the National Flag of Canada, a bill brought forward by my colleague from Don Valley West, someone we have been waiting for a while to be elected to the House. We are happy to have him here.

I was also very pleased to hear my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor compliment the member. His comments with respect to how committees have worked in a majority government as opposed to how they sometimes did not work in a minority government speak volumes about the quality of the people on both sides of the House who are willing to make these things happen.

All of us have huge pride as Canadians. As my colleague has already said, beginning in 1965 when it was designated as Canada's national flag, the red and white maple leaf is identified around the world as a symbol of peace, democracy, freedom and prosperity. I do not think there are many of us who have not travelled around the world with a pocketful of flag pins. We are very pleased to hand them out to people we meet. We feel proud when they recognize the pins as Canadian. The way Canadians are respected around the world is a great thing. The pin designating the flag is a huge symbol of Canada's pride around the world.

The Canadian flag is flown from Afghanistan to Brazil, from China to Dubai. Canada's brand is instantly recognized on the backpacks of travellers and on the uniforms of the brave men and women who serve as peacekeepers or members of the armed forces. The flag flies from the tops of buildings and from the rafters of hockey arenas in every community. Canadians wave the flag on Canada Day to the latest hits of musicians, showcasing the amazing talent this country has to offer.

We are debating a bill that proposes to enshrine in law the respect we all share for our greatest national symbol, a symbol of freedom, a symbol of hope. The purpose of this debate is that wherever Canadians live across this great country, they should be able to fly the flag and celebrate what brings us together, from Canada Day to new year's day, from citizenship ceremonies to backyard barbecues.

Canadians already have much to celebrate and over the next few years will be brought together as never before. In 2012, we join the rest of the Commonwealth in wishing Her Majesty the Queen all the best for her diamond jubilee. In June, we will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, a war that shaped the country Canada would become. Later in the summer, the flag will take its proud place among the flags of the world in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sooner than we imagine, Canada will celebrate its 150th anniversary as a nation, when the flag will have been part of our shared history for more than 50 years. For every important event over those 50 years, the flag has been present.

Over the last few weeks I have been struck by the fact that hon. members on both sides of the chamber agree on its importance and the good intentions of the hon. member for Don Valley West. My friend across the aisle mentioned that. It is important that we all have the ability to show our attachment to the flag that symbolizes so much for every Canadian. This bill would ensure that all of us will be able to do so no matter where we live. Practically speaking, this bill would encourage a discussion between homeowners, tenants, boards, management companies and condominium associations regarding the best way for Canadians to display their patriotism and not prevent anyone from expressing their attachment.

In spite of many differences, we are all Canadians and the flag unites us. We are all responsible for ensuring the flag endures for many more anniversaries. Canadians should never feel restricted from respectfully displaying their patriotism. When we celebrate Canada's birthday every July 1, we show our pride by waving the flag. When we sing our national anthem, the flag is there. When we send brave serving men and women into danger, they wear a flag that protects them more than any suit of armour. When Canada receives its newest citizens, it welcomes them with the flag. The flag is proudly flown from the Parliament buildings all day, every day.

As the lawmakers for this great country, we should support this bill to encourage that the flag continues to fly on buildings, in backyards and beyond.

I am proud to speak today in support of this bill and to encourage the flying of flags by all Canadians. I would just like to go back to one little thing. We are going to fly that flag in London, England during the Olympics and I feel confident that flag will fly high as Canadian athletes are recognized for the expertise and excellence they will display. I know that the pride of Canadians will show through. I think this is a fantastic bill.

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the good people in the riding of Davenport in Toronto and speak to this bill.

As I said once before while speaking to this bill, the flag, flying of the flag and displaying the flag in my riding is something that people take very seriously. They love to display the flag. They put the flag on their front doors and off their eavestroughs. They use the flag as a drape and occasionally a scarf. I have seen it as a headband. People love to use the flag in all manner of ways to show their love for this country.

I think my hon. colleague across the way wanted to underline that in this bill. He wanted to celebrate the fact that Canadians and many people who live in Canada who have not yet gone that next step to become Canadian citizens love this great symbol of our country. We on this side of the House are in full agreement with that, as could be imagined.

We have spoken a little tonight about the history of the bill. My hon. colleague from the Liberal Party said that there was some irony in the fact that this bill was altered in a majority Parliament in a way that he had not seen bills altered in minority Parliaments.

I want to clarify a couple of things. First, this is a private member's bill. It is not a government bill. Second, we could not even be talking about some of the ways in which this bill has been change had it not been for the fact that the committee work was done out of camera. In other words, it was not done in camera and therefore we could talk about it. That was one of the rare occasions on the heritage committee that we have not been in camera to talk about substantive issues. I wanted to make that point.

Now it is true that our amendments pulled out the egregious penalties that were attached to the original bill, and thank goodness for that. It was a bit of a head-scratcher and a concerning moment to watch the entire government side get up on second reading on a bill that would put people in jail if they adhered to municipal bylaws and ruled that condo owners or apartment dwellers could not hang a flag on their balcony. We pulled that out.

Now we are just looking at a bill that essentially encourages Canadians to fly the flag. It encourages Canadians to fly the national flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol. We asked the government side during committee what flag protocol meant.

Flag protocol lists a number of ways in which the flag should be displayed in order to give it its due, as we are trying to do in this bill. When we read the flag protocol and consider the way Canadians show their love of this country through the flag, we find that the flag protocol is extremely restrictive. My concern is that this runs counter to the way in which my hon. colleague intended this bill to be used.

I know my hon. colleague a decent man and I think what he was trying to do with this bill was to celebrate the Canadian flag. I also think the government side was trying to play some f divisive politics here and was trying to use the flag to do that which I think is a shame on the government side.

The list in the flag protocol states:

Nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the National Flag....

The upper part of the leaf should face the north in an east-west street...and face east in a north-south street...thus being on the left of the observer facing east or south respectively.

If one simply wishes to create a decorative effect...it is preferable to use pennants or coloured buntings and not flags.

The National Flag of Canada should not be signed or marked in any way....

Those are some of the excerpts from the national flag protocol.

The bill states:

All Canadians are encouraged to proudly display the National Flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol.

If the government were serious about the bill and wanted to encourage Canadians to fly the national flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol, it would greatly restrict the way in which the flag is flown in this country. Of course we wants the flag flown in a respectful manner. Everyone in the House knows that, by and large, Canadians do fly the flag in a respectful manner. However, what happened in the bill is that the government tossed in the wording “national flag protocol” and, when we look at the national flag protocol, we see that it would do exactly the opposite. It would dissuade Canadians from flying the flag because the national flag protocol is too complicated and too restrictive.

The hon. gentleman across the way laughed but I can tell him that I was knocking on doors in Toronto on the weekend and I saw a flag draped in a window. In accordance with the national flag protocol, that would not fly, pardon the pun.

There are other issues I want to draw the attention of members to because they raise some profound questions. Part of the national flag protocol states that flags should not be signed. There are many examples but I have an article with a picture of the Canadian Forces health services team posing with a signed Canadian flag for a photo to send to a school in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, which was to be flown by the school on Remembrance Day last year. If we go by the national flag protocol, this practice just would not happen. Those kids would not get that flag. Those soldiers in Afghanistan would not have had that communal experience of sharing with those kids their experience and their love for Canada through the flag.

I have another example of a speed skating fan who had all of the members of the Canadian National Speed Skating Team sign her flag. That does not fly according to the national flag protocol.

I have one that I find particularly moving and concerning if we are serious about what we are doing here. I hope we are serious about what we are doing here and i f we are serious about encouraging Canadians to fly the flag, then we need to consider this. I will read from an article published in December 2010:

Dear Soldier, how are you? I hope you are not too sad. Thank you for keeping us safe….

Those were the sentiments of 40 postcards bearing messages of peace that made their way along with a signed Canadian flag and a box of Canada Day goodies to Afghanistan from St. Mary's Catholic School's grade two class last June, who are now in grade three. Little did they know how much of a difference that could make to the spirit of a platoon.

On December 15, Sergeant Kris Carter visited the school located at Bank and Mitch Owens in Ottawa to return the flag, complete with a certificate signifying that the flag did indeed go on a mission in the cockpit of a British Tornado airplane as it undertook an unknown assignment. Before returning the flag to the school--

National Flag of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

7:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order please. I must interrupt the hon. member. His time has elapsed.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Don Valley West for his right of reply.