Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to third reading of Bill C-442, an act to establish a national Holocaust monument. I am very pleased to speak to the bill because approximately two years ago I introduced the same bill myself. It is a very important bill.
Part of the bill's preamble reads:
Whereas the establishment of a national monument shall forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism;
And whereas a national monument shall act as a tool to help future generations learn about the root causes of the Holocaust and its consequences in order to help prevent future acts of genocide;
This is a long overdue bill. It was introduced by my Conservative colleague, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, and I strongly support this new initiative to recognize the Holocaust.
I want to reiterate that Bill C-442 is almost identical to a bill first introduced by my former colleague, the member for Thornhill, Susan Kadis. That bill, known as Bill C-547 died when the last election was called. Therefore, I reintroduced it as Bill C-238 on December 1, 2008.
I was also concerned to see the sponsor of the bill, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, use his last opportunity to speak to the bill to argue why the Conservatives deserved credit for their actions. This is not an issue of who supports a community more than others or who likes monuments better than others. This is an important non-partisan issue that all members of the House should support and should be supported by all Canadians.
This is about how a country acknowledges the history of a genocide that had a profound impact on many of its citizens and of people in all corners of the world. This is a bill that, in creating a monument, remembers not only the victims of the Holocaust but its survivors. It is a bill to honour those who fought on our behalf. It is a bill to ensure that future generations do not forget.
My colleagues and I in the Liberal Party are fully supportive of a bill to establish a national Holocaust monument in the national capital region that is built on public land with a plan, design, construction and ongoing maintenance funded by the Government of Canada. This intention is at the core of my bill, Bill C-238, and was at the core of Bill C-442 when it received the unanimous consent of the House at second reading.
In committee members opposite, despite the unanimous support for the principle of public funding, amended the bill to take away the concept of public lands and funding for the development and maintenance of the monument. I was listening to part of the speech by the member opposite and I am not sure if he was speaking to the amended bill or the bill as it is today.
Amendments were put forward by members opposite for every clause of the bill, which gutted the spirit of it. It was a bill with amendments that, on one hand, giveth and, on the other hand, taketh away. Fortunately, my colleague, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, challenged the amendments and the Speaker subsequently ruled that they were out of order and ordered that the original version of the bill, which is what we are debating today, be presented.
I want to reiterate that it is a publicly funded bill on public land, design and construction, given in memory of those who survived and those who were victims of the Holocaust and honoured by all Canadians.
Ultimately, some might suggest we did not even need a bill, that the government might have gone ahead and done this itself, with the minister instructing the National Capital Commission to erect the monument with existing funds.
I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, Dachau and Majdanek this past year. It was a profound experience. It reiterated to me the importance of monuments, symbols, obviously of a very different nature there. It reiterated the importance to me of having a tangible remembrance of what took place. The enormity of the tragedy is difficult to comprehend. The Holocaust was quite singular why biology determines the fate of individuals.
It is important that all parties support the bill, that it receive unanimous approval. It will be a national monument that as the preamble says “shall forever remind Canadians of one of the darkest chapters in human history and of the dangers of state-sanctioned hatred and anti-Semitism”.