Sale of Medals Prohibition Act

An Act to prohibit the sale of Canadian military and police medals

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session and the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Peter Stoffer  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Jan. 26, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-473 today, having spoken to it once before at second reading. I realize that the bill has now gone through the committee process and amendments that were contemplated at the time have been resolved. So, we are at the point now where we have to make a decision as to whether we support it at third reading and send it off to the Senate.

It appears, so far anyway, that the Bloc and the Liberals are deciding against supporting the bill primarily because the legions have shown concerns about it, primarily over the issue of private property rights. I have to say that I have several very active legions in my consistency, and I regularly attend each and every event they invite me to. I have not heard any concern from them about this particular issue.

For all the reasons that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore gave in his argument, I would support his arguments 100%. In some ways we feel the bill does not go far enough because if the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore had his way, Bill C-208, would be much tougher and would basically outlaw the practice. However, this bill that the member for Perth—Wellington has introduced is a very nice compromise. I do not see why the NDP caucus would have any problem supporting it. Essentially, as I understand it, we are basically allowing the military museums in this country the first right of refusal, which they should have, to buy the medals and to put the medals on display. Only if they do not want to purchase the medals, then the family, or individual, would have the option of doing what they wish with them.

I know we are very limited in time today, but I really did want to deal for a few minutes with a very important case, that of Tommy Prince, who is one of the most decorated aboriginal war heroes, having served in World War II and the Korean War. This man became so famous after his death, and I will read a list of the various streets and awards that have been named after him since his death.

However, the fact is that he was not treated that well in his life when he left the services. Reading about his activities during the conflicts and during the wars that he was involved in, this man was a number one soldier. He did things that are pretty hard to believe, such as operating in sort of a black ops capacity behind enemy lines and doing some pretty spectacular things. After getting out of the forces and going back to civilian life he was treated very poorly, to the point where his medals, I believe there were 10 of them, ended up being sold.

A number of years later, his family went on a fundraising drive in order to buy the medals back. The medals were purchased at auction for around $72,000 and are now being displayed in the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg where people can see them.

Tommy Prince was, as I indicated, one of Canada's most decorated aboriginal war heroes. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Engineers, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force, consisting of Canadian and American troops trained at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana, to form what became known as the famous Devil's Brigade.

Prince and other men in his unit were chosen for their rugged outdoor background and received the most vigorous training schedule under live fire ever undertaken by an army unit. All members of the elite squad, similar to the American Green Berets started in the 1960s, were trained to be paratroopers and received intense instruction in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of explosives for demolition, amphibious warfare, rock climbing, mountain fighting and as ski troops. They are described as the best small force of fighting men ever assembled. As a member of the Devil's Brigade, Prince was involved in fierce combat duty and numerous dangerous missions in Italy and France.

Some of the honours that have been bestowed on him since his death in 1977 include: Sergeant Tommy Prince Street in Winnipeg; Tommy Prince Barracks at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario; Tommy Prince Drill Hall at the Land Force Western Area Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta; Government of Canada Sergeant Tommy Prince Army Training Initiative for aboriginal recruiting; the Tommy Prince award, an Assembly of First Nations scholarship.

To my friend the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, I point out that there is a Tommy Prince scholarship at Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is given out on an annual basis and will be given out in the next few months.

There is a school named after him at Brokenhead Reserve. There is a mural on the wall at 1083 Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg; the Tommy Prince Cadet Corps in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Tommy Prince Veterans' Park also in Winnipeg.

Adam Beach is going to star in a movie to be made about Tommy Prince's life. Adam Beach and members of his family are friends of my family and are known to us in Winnipeg. They are a very successful family. He has made a number of movies in Hollywood.

I would like to briefly detail one or two examples of the type of activities that Tommy Prince did behind enemy lines.

In Italy he set up in an abandoned farmhouse about 200 metres from the enemy assembly area, well behind the enemy lines, with 1,400 metres of telephone wire connecting him to the force. He had a clear view of the enemy emplacements and he was reporting on them so the force could shoot at the guns. Artillery duel followed as the allies attempted to knock out the guns reported by Prince. While he was reporting they were shooting at him. One of those rounds cut the telephone wire. When the duel died down, Prince donned civilian clothing, grabbed a hoe and in full view of the German soldiers pretended to be a farmer weeding his crops. He slowly inched his way along the line until he found where the line was damaged and, pretending to tie his shoelaces, rejoined the wires together. After finishing the repairs he made a show of shaking his fist at the enemy and then toward the allied lines, returned to his lookout where he continued giving reports over the telephone line for the next 24 hours while the allies were knocking the German batteries out of action. He spent three days behind enemy lines and for his actions he was awarded the military medal and citation. Medals were given to him by the president of the United States and King George VI.

We are talking about somebody who was right at the top of his game. There are other examples that I could give during the Korean conflict of similar acts of bravery on the part of this individual.

When he was honourably discharged on June 15, 1945 he went back to his reserve but life was not good. All the adulation he had received and the success he had in the army did not follow him into his private life. He had some kind of business with a truck that did not pan out in the long run. The point is the man died having to sell his medals. The family had to eventually buy them back for $75,000.

We support the bill. It is a good--

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate this important initiative put forward by my friend from Perth—Wellington. Through the luck of the draw, his private member's bill came up and I am glad to be able to speak on it.

Some may know that I have had a bill, although not similar but more advanced than this one, Bill C-208, as well as Bill C-210 and Bill C-415. I have introduced the same bill for many years.

However, let us talk about what the point really is here, that these very significant artifacts have been given to the heroes of Canada.

I have heard the argument about private property rights since I entered the House in 1997. I agree that private property rights are an important issue. However, if military or RCMP members receive medals to wear on their left sides, they cannot sell those medals if they are still serving. They cannot give them away; the medals are still the property of the state. A medal only becomes the person's property when he or she leaves the military or the RCMP. Once he or she leaves, under current laws he or she can do whatever they want with them.

I have held the firm belief as long as I can remember, long before I got into politics, that the medals the men and women wear are much more than ribbons and a pieces of metal. The medals that men and women wear are not currency hanging from their chests. These medals, in my opinion, should never be sold. In fact, I believe that no other generation should financially profit from the valour of others.

Every single one of us who has seen members of the military, the RCMP, or anyone for that matter, and even firefighters who wear their medals on their left sides, has seen that their chests are a little bigger and that they stand a little taller because they are so proud of what has been given to them by their country. It is a way for their country to thank them for their significant efforts on its behalf.

The reason men and women wear medals is not because they are nice, shiny objects. They wear them not just for honour and service and valour and duty, but the number one reason men and women wear their medals on their left sides is in remembrance of the 118,000 men and women of the military and RCMP who no longer get to wear theirs, because they have either died in the service of their country or have crossed the bar due to old age or sickness.

Every single Remembrance Day, when we attend our local legions, ANAVETS halls or cenotaphs right across this country, we see the men and women sharing a drink with their buddies and families, remembering the days when they served or remembering those who are still serving.

The significance of this particular bill is that the hon. member is trying to protect those very significant historical aspects for Canada, and to allow the museums the right of first refusal in the event the medals cannot be sold, so that they do not leave the country and end up in collections outside the country. It is a significant effort.

I understand that the legion and other veterans groups are saying that they do not support this initiative. I respectfully disagree with the Royal Canadian Legion and others. They, including Mr. Brad White, say that it is a private property right, that it is veterans' right to do what they want with their medals. I disagree with him, but I respect his opinion on this issue. Certain things in life should not be turned into a mercantile system; they should never be turned into cash. This is not currency they have hanging from their chests.

I find it objectionable that one can go on eBay right now and probably find hundreds of medals for sale. One can go to garage sales across the country and see medals for sale. One can go on Kijiji or similar websites on the Internet and buy medals.

Individuals do not have to earn those medals. They never have to serve their country. All they needed to get these things was cash. I find that despicable, that in our country, which honours our heroes with a significant award, a medal that they wear can eventually be turned into cash.

I have advised families for many, many years on what to do with the medals when an individual passes on. I have advised them to put the medals in a shadow box with a picture of the individual who wore them, a story of the individual, a description of each medal, and hang it in a room. They should honour their relative or friend. If, for whatever reason, they do not want to do that, there are lots of schools, museums, Legion halls, chambers of commerce, and businesses that would be honoured to display the medals of these heroes. The offices of members of Parliament, all of us, have room to display these medals from our heroes.

There are two schools in Nova Scotia that do just that. Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School has a tremendous display in cases of all the medals and all the history of those who served in that area. The families have donated the medals to that school and it has a wall of honour. Inverness High School in Cape Breton has the same thing. It has a long hallway. The school volunteered to make a beautiful cabinet, which has all the medals with descriptions of who wore them and where they served.

We know that on Remembrance Day we all pause to remember and reflect, but for those who served, Remembrance Day is every day. The students in those two schools walk by those medal cases every single school day, and one cannot help but be moved by seeing the odd student stop to read it, and understand what previous and current generations have done for our country.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington is attempting to preserve and protect a bit of our cultural history. He should be congratulated for that. He should be thanked for his effort in bringing that forward. I understand the criticisms from various areas regarding it, but the effort is there and he should be supported.

I would like to tell the hon. member, as I have privately and publicly before, that we in the NDP will be supporting the initiative to move forward. We think it is an important initiative. My own bill would completely outlaw and ban the sale of any medals or insignia of that kind that are worn on the left side. The hon. member has not gone that far and I respect that, but he is taking the right step forward and deserves our credit for that.

At the end of the day, although it is a private property discussion, certain things in life should never be sold. Agencies and museums in Canada could have first dibs on medals and insignia.

One of the problems I have with the bill is the fact that somebody would have to actually buy these medals or insignia, and I think that aspect of it, turning them into the mercantile or transaction cash system is fundamentally wrong. At the end of the day I would hope that family members could understand that the member who received the medal or insignia did not get cash for it. Family members, relatives and other people down the road should not try to financially profit from the valour of others.

I would hope they would do the honourable thing and if they no longer wish to have it, they should move it to a place of significance where it can be displayed for many years for many future generations, so we can all understand the significance of what happened.

I am proud to stand up on this issue. I was born in Holland and my parents were liberated by the heroes of this country. The fact is, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington is honouring that sacrifice as well by moving this forward and he should be congratulated.

October 19th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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Service Bureau Director, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Pierre Allard

I might want to add a couple of things to that.

I think part of the challenge with Bill C-208 was that the last clause basically said:

Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

So here we are. We have private rights and we have the burden of potentially suffering an offence punishable on summary conviction. I think that's a bit of the challenge.

I think the solution resides in what my colleague was saying. We have to not pass legislation. We have to encourage veterans, their heirs and successors to understand that orders, decorations, and medals are valuable items of their family history. I think we have to encourage the donation of ODMs to museums or other institutions, and we even have to encourage a partnership with collectors in order to help preserve the memories of veterans through their ODM.

I think the Legion is ready to do its part in that education process, but we urge you not to pass this legislation.

I talked about the potential cost to the museums. When we addressed the sale of the Shankland's Victoria Cross group that was purchased by the Canadian War Museum, the purchase cost was approximately $244,000. Actually, that equated to $288,000 because there was a buyer's premium factored in. This was within the pre-auction estimate of $220,000 to $330,000 Canadian.

These medals will indeed remain in Canada; however, this particular issue has identified what the potential cost of passing such a bill would be to even museums that have strong financial backing.

October 19th, 2010 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, and please give our best to Pat Varga and to Vice-Admiral Larry Murray as well. I think he is a great replacement for Charlie Belzile as honorary president. I thought that was a fine choice you all made.

On the bill itself, my support began for it when I spoke to the member proposing the bill. What he's attempting is to respect the significance of certain medals and so on and stop them from leaving the country. There's one thing I slightly disagree with, and I know that I've had this discussion with the Royal Canadian Legion before. When medals are presented to members of our armed forces or policing services for the various acts they've done--their CDs, combat medals, Victoria Cross, whatever.... I got this from Smokey Smith before he passed away. He was proud of his Victoria Cross, but he was just as proud of all the other medals he received. Yet it would be the Victoria Cross, if it came up for auction, that everyone focused on. Yet he himself appreciated all the medals he received.

One thing I've said repeatedly, literally forever, is that this is not currency the government gives you. It's not hundred-dollar bills hanging from your chest. These medals are significant for the fact of service, honour, valour, duty, and everything else. Most importantly, a lot of you wear them because 118,000 men and women never got a chance to wear theirs, because they passed on, many in the act of service.

My own Bill C-208, which I think is easier to understand, basically would restrict these medals from ever being sold or turned into currency. It's very similar to what the Government of Canada has with the Order of Canada. You talk about the property rights aspect of it. But if you receive the Order of Canada, when you die, by law, that Order of Canada has to go back to the Governor General or back to the government. You cannot sell it. Now, many of them don't go back. They're hidden, and kids keep them, and nobody really goes and looks for them.

If the Order of Canada can be restricted, then why can't certain other medals or decorations be restricted?

I sympathize with the private property aspect of it, but if you're currently serving and you receive medals, you cannot sell them while you're currently serving. You can only do with them what you want once you leave the service. If you're serving right now, and you have six or seven medals, you cannot sell them. You cannot do with them whatever you want. You have to be out of the service before you can do that. As you said, you choose to do what you like with your medals.

My belief, and I'm not sure if the author of the bill supports it 100%, and I'd like your clarification on this, is that I have a problem with medals given to our heroes in our country eventually turning into cash. To me, that demeans the medal. It demeans the act of what that person has done.

I'll give you an example in closing. There was a recent gentleman in Quebec, one of Quebec's most decorated soldiers, and he died. His son Charles received the medals, and he was going to sell them. He was asked what he was going to do with the money, and he said, “Maybe buy a car”. His family was opposed to his selling these medals, but he had the right to do with them what he wanted. So this man's valour, everything he did for his country, his province, and his people, is now worth a car. I was just so shocked by that. Really, in the end, if you sell these medals, that money can do whatever.

I'd just like your comments on that.

If you could, have you made recommendations regarding the Cultural Property Export and Import Act in regard to helping the honourable member and the rest of us achieve some of the things he would like to achieve and I'd like to achieve, and at the end, getting the Legion's support on that?

Thank you.

October 19th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
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Brad White Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.

It's a great pleasure to appear in front of the committee once again. On behalf of the dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Comrade Patricia Varga, we offer our support to your continuing advocacy on behalf of all the veterans of all ages and their families.

You have a copy of our presentation in French and English. We will answer your questions in either language.

At this point in time the Legion is not in a position to support Bill C-473, or Bill C-208 for that matter. However, the Legion does recognize and support the need and particularly the desire to retain historically and culturally significant military orders, decorations, and medals within Canada. This is a noble but perhaps unachievable objective.

The two main reasons for not supporting the bill are as follows. First, it will not be effective. In order for legislation such as this to work, the barn door has to be fully closed. There are too many loopholes that can be opened up and too many medals can slip out. How do you account for them all? This bill leaves it partially open, so significant orders, decorations, and medals will be able to leave Canada. If enacted, Bill C-473 would likely drive the sale of significant medals underground and all visibility of transactions would be lost. These medals are bought and sold every day in large quantities and in international markets. All you have to do to really verify it is check on eBay, where basically the run-of-the mill medals, and not the high-end items, can be found at any point in time.

Enacting Bill C-473 would infringe on the rights of Canadians to own and dispose of their own private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be trampled upon lightly. This right is already restricted to a degree by the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. If it is not sufficient to retain historically and culturally significant medals within Canada, then that specific act needs to be amended. We do not feel that additional overlapping legislation such as this is required.

There are a number of other problems with Bill C-473 that have been identified previously but have somehow not been addressed in the present version of this private member's bill. Some of these, in no particular order of importance, are as follows.

One is terminology. In common parlance, only orders have insignia. Decorations such as the Victoria Cross and medals are simply referred to as medals. We should be discussing orders, decorations, and medals, ODM.

Another problem is responsiveness to the feedback. In December 2009 we received confirmation that amendments would be made to the bill in response to the comments that we in the Legion made and forwarded. This included the definition of “near relatives”, the transfer of medals outside of Canada, the expansion of the list of museums and organizations that these medals could be offered to, and the addition of a maximum amount of any penalty imposed. It does not appear that any of these recommendations have been followed up on in the present bill.

We're also concerned about acceptable museums. Only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Department of Canadian Heritage are deemed acceptable recipients for these types of medals. This overlooks a large number of provincial, regional, and local museums, as well as military museums and commands and branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Other museums or veterans organizations that might have museums, such as ANAVETS, might be interested in acquiring these types of medals, by purchase or otherwise.

Funding is another issue. Most, if not all, museums have very limited acquisition budgets. To be effective, this bill would need to ensure that there is a well-funded national acquisition budget policy. Otherwise, these medals offered for sale might well leave Canada because there are no funds to purchase them.

And then there's the obligation to acquire. Most, if not all, museums have limited storage and display space. Just because an offered medal may be historically or culturally significant, a museum should not be obligated to purchase it if it does not fit into its collection mandate.

Finally, there's the market for the current orders, decorations, and medals. There is a perception that modern medals do not have much value and therefore perhaps would not be affected by legislation such as this. This is incorrect. Should they come onto the open market, modern medal groups, especially those with gallantry awards from Afghanistan, would command high prices.

Examples of the new British Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, which was introduced in 1993, have been sold at auction with a suggested value of £6,000 to £8,000, or $9,500 or $12,700 Canadian funds. Similar Canadian medal groups containing new gallantry awards could be expected to command very similar prices. Modern groups should be included in any legislation.

There was an observation in the ACVA minutes of June 17 that the Cultural Property Export and Import Act only applied to items that were over 50 years old, and therefore would not be included in this legislation. If this is correct, then the act should be amended to include them as well.

In summary, at this juncture, unless the above issues can be resolved, the Royal Canadian Legion cannot support or offer its support to Bill C-473. We recommend instead that the Cultural Property Export and Import Act be amended to achieve these objectives in the proposed legislation in a less confusing and restrictive manner.

For your information as well, we have gone out to other veterans organizations. I would offer that the views expressed above by the Royal Canadian Legion are also shared by the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association; the Canadian Naval Air Group; the Royal Canadian Naval Association; the Naval Officers' Association of Canada; the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans' Association; the National Aboriginal Veterans Association; the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping; and finally, the Gulf War Veterans Association.

That concludes our presentation today. We would be more than glad to accept your questions.

June 17th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

You can't buy an Order of Canada, because it's illegal.

In my response to Mr. McColeman's question... In fairness, he probably hasn't had a chance to read my bill, Bill C-208, which would make illegal the selling of medals of armed forces and police personnel that are worn on the left side, like what Mr. Griffis is wearing, and which basically would take away their so-called fair market value.

The reason I say this is that I'm quite offended when I see medals at garage sales, at flea markets, or on eBay, the reason being that somebody else is going to financially profit from the valour of people like Ron Griffis, Don Ethell, Cliff Chadderton, Tommy Prince, or whomever. They got those medals for valour and for honour and service. They didn't get cash. The government didn't stand up and a general didn't hand out a $100 bill to everyone on parade.

So I don't know why society thinks it's okay for future generations to make money from these medals. They're not currency. They represent much more than cash, and I firmly don't believe that everything in our society has to be turned into fair market values, tax incentives, or cash. I find it quite offensive.

I know that Mr. Schellenberger is here, and I can assure him that if all the major veterans groups are supportive of this bill, I certainly won't do anything to stop its progression. I just want to put on the record that I find it objectionable that these medals can be sold, turned into cash, or have a financial incentive on them.

I don't mind people collecting medals. I don't mind people receiving medals. But I know of many cases where medals have been stolen out of homes. Mr. Schellenberger talked about decorating things; they go and steal the medals and they sell them on eBay, because they look at money. It's only money to them. The medals have much more significance than cash. That's my problem with the incentive of the bill...

My question, first of all, is to Ron. Has there been a thorough discussion among you and veterans groups regarding putting value on these medals? Because Mr. O'Neill and his group are going to determine, through a chart process or some circumstance, which medal is significant and which is not.

Mr. O'Neill, with great fairness, I think 50 years from now, if you passed away tomorrow, the War Museum is not going to look at your medals as significant to Canada. But they're damn well significant to you and your family, and to your friends and associates. Because he doesn't have a Victoria Cross, a Silver Cross, or an MM or wasn't a famous Canadian like a General Hillier or a Tommy Prince or something... So this is my problem.

When they all stand on parade and get their medals, they're all equal. They're all proud. I spoke to Smokey Smith on many occasions. He said that he wasn't just proud of his Victoria Cross; he was proud of all his medals. But the only one that gets people excited is the Victoria Cross he wore. All his medals were significant to him and his family.

I'd just like your opinion on that and, Ron, your opinion as well. Have you spoken to groups like the Legion, or the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans, and will you in the future talk to cross-veterans groups on the importance of Mr. Schellenberger's bill? It is important, there's no question about it, but I just wish we could take away the financial incentive on that. I know there are property rights and everything else, but not everything has to be turned into cash. That's sort of my little commentary for you.

Thank you.

June 17th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gary, thank you very much for bringing this issue forward. I thank you and the people around you for the work you've done on this project.

As you're aware, I've had a bill in the House of Commons for several years now, Bill C-208, which goes further than your particular legislation. I just want to start off by saying that you're right: all medals are important. And the reason the government gives people medals, especially our heroes of the country, is because of duty, valour, honour, sacrifice, and service.

But most importantly, the men and women of the service, and those of the police forces, wear their medals. We have 118,000 people who no longer have the chance to wear their medals--or they never got a chance to wear them, as in the case of our Afghan heroes.

When the government gives these medals to these men and women, these heroes, they're not giving them currency. That's not a hundred dollars they have hanging from their chests. So the problem I have with your bill--and I say this with great respect--is that you have put fair market value in your legislation. You've even put sellers in there. This is the problem I have.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've always opposed the selling of medals of any kind, under any circumstances. As you're aware, the Order of Canada, which is one of Canada's highest honours, is not allowed to be sold; it is not allowed to be put on the mercantile system.

I know that I'm probably in a minority here in thinking this way, but I don't believe that any medals, under any circumstance, should be sold. As you know, current personnel who are serving now and who receive medals cannot sell them while they are serving. They can only sell them after they leave the service. You're probably aware of that.

So you're right. In many cases, they're handed off to the children who don't know about them, and they sell them at flea markets, garage sales, or on eBay. You and I have travelled enough and we've seen these. I have worked very closely with Mr. Thompson on this. I don't know what the budget of the War Museum is, but I know the War Museum's budgets aren't unlimited, and I know the government has to make choices. The minute we put a value on medals, I think we diminish the actual meaning of what that medal is. That's my personal opinion.

My first question for you is this: do you think medals should have a fair market value?

I have a second question for you. In Bill C-208, which is, in many ways, reflective of what you're trying to do, would you be at all conducive to a discussion later on between your office and my office of possibly working the two bills together to achieve what you're trying to achieve, which is the cultural significance of the medals and also the point of trying to avoid these falling into the mercantile system?

I have no problem with people giving medals to collectors, museums, churches, or schools. We have two schools in Nova Scotia that have hallways full of medals and shadow boxes and they're beautiful. It's not just museums that can do this.

So my second question leads to this: would you be willing to look at Bill C-208 to see where there are some similarities that we can work together on? Again, I know that I'm probably speaking as a minority, but I just don't believe that medals should have a cash value to them. I just have a problem with that.

Thank you. Maybe you can help me with my problem.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

Canadian veterans have helped to ensure that we live in a free country and have aided in spreading peace and security throughout the world. They have done that with courage, determination and at great sacrifice. In bestowing military medals, decorations and orders, our country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and those who serve today.

The men and women who wear those medals do so with pride, devotion, loyalty and dignity. Yet, when I have had the chance to speak with veterans in my hometown of Hamilton, like the exceptional men and women at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 163 on the Mountain, it is also clear that they are wearing those medals for the 118,000 Canadians who served their country and never had the chance to wear theirs because they made the ultimate sacrifice. From that perspective there can be little doubt that the principles underlying Bill C-473 deserve our support.

As the member for Perth—Wellington rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, some medals and honours are already protected in legislation. More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean War were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. It requires export permits for a range of cultural property, including medals. Yet, it offers that protection only if the military medals, orders and decorations are at least 50 years old.

More recent military honours therefore are not controlled for export. They may be freely sold and taken out of the country, out of the reach of Canadians and our public museums. I agree with the member for Perth—Wellington that this is wrong, but I am not sure that the bill, as currently written, is the best vehicle for achieving our shared objective.

Let me take a few moments here to outline some of my concerns with the view to getting the bill to committee and hopefully having most of them addressed before we have to take the third and final vote in the House. I want to start by reading the summary of Bill C-473. It states:

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

In essence, that is what this bill is all about. It suggests that military medals will be kept in Canada because they will no longer be transferrable to someone who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of Canada. On that general point, I have no quarrel. But I am not sure that the bill achieves that objective.

First, let us look at paragraphs 3(2)(a) and (b) which state that the prohibition on exporting medals does not apply to the transfer of an insignia to a near relative of the owner of the insignia. Paragraph (b) refers to an heir of the owner of the insignia upon the death of the owner. Obviously, both the near relative and the heir of the owner could reside outside of Canada.

If the goal of the bill is to keep all medals in Canada, the bill before us today does not achieve that objective. I believe that the exceptions are reasonable, but it is unclear to me whether this was a deliberate or an inadvertent outcome of the bill as drafted. Perhaps even more troubling is the exclusion of spouses in the definition of a near relative. The bill talks about parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents and heirs. Perhaps it is assumed that spouses will be heirs, but I think that the inclusion of spouses ought to be made explicit.

In bestowing military orders, decorations and medals, our country is recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world, but the sacrifices made by family members, as their loved ones serve our country, must also be acknowledged and spouses in particular deserve special recognition. In this bill I would strongly urge that the inclusion of spouses be made explicit.

The next issue I would like to address can best be expressed by comparing the bill that is before us today to a similar bill that was introduced by my NDP colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that veterans have no stronger advocate in the House than the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore. He introduced a similar bill long before the one that we are debating today was tabled, but as the luck of the draw would have it, we are debating Bill C-473 today rather than his bill, Bill C-208.

I said that it was a similar bill deliberately. They share the same goal, but in my view Bill C-208 takes a better, more comprehensive approach. Its summary states:

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

It differs from the bill before us today with two important respects. First, it includes medals awarded to the RCMP or any other police officer who serves our country outside Canada. As we know, many police officers serve overseas, and the medals they receive honour their courage, valour and selfless contribution to our international efforts. Why would we treat their medals any differently than we would the medals of veterans?

If the intent of this bill is to preserve our heritage, then clearly RCMP honours ought to be protected as well. I do not believe there would be a huge backlash from veterans on this point. In fact, when the NDP's Bill C-201 was before this House, not a single veteran complained to me that it dealt with pension fairness for both veterans and the RCMP. On the contrary, the only backlash about that bill was that the Liberals and the Conservatives defeated every clause of the bill in committee, thereby keeping in place the unfair existing system that unjustly reduces the pension benefits of retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel.

The second difference between the bill that is before us today and Bill C-208 is equally important. Bill C-208 does not just prevent medals from being exported out of the country, it actually prohibits the sale of those medals. That is a crucial distinction.

Medals and insignia are priceless honours. Men and women wear them with pride as a sign of their loyalty, devotion and dignity. Such medals should never be turned into currency. By allowing medals to be sold, we are turning honours into commodities.

I share the view of those members in this House who want to prohibit such sales. In doing so, I am not however underestimating the dire financial need that many veterans are experiencing today. I can fully appreciate that many veterans feel that they have to sell their medals as one of the last resorts for making ends meet.

My goodness, surely we can all agree that such circumstances are a national disgrace. It is a situation that reflects badly not on the veterans but on the successive Liberal and Conservative governments that say they support our troops but, in fact, provide little real support when they return home.

Just this past Good Friday, there was a story in the news from Calgary where I guess the Prime Minister thought he was staging a positive photo-op by helping out at a food bank. However, it was a veterans food bank. Over 40 veterans rely on that food bank on a regular basis. Here is what George Bittman, chair of the Calgary Poppy Fund said to the media about that food bank:

The facility is used by vets who feel too proud to ask for help from a civilian food bank. And with so many veterans without pensions, there is a great need for donations of food. Like most Second (World) War veterans and Korean War veterans, if their problems weren’t apparent at the time they were discharged, they were happy to get the hell out of the service and get on with life, just as I did when I got out of the navy. Forty years later, when something comes up that something goes sideways, it’s generally too late for them to make a claim with Veterans Affairs. Records are lost, memories fade.

At that point there are few options available to veterans, other than turning to food banks. It is an absolute disgrace.

Bill C-201 would have gone a long way to providing meaningful help to veterans by improving their pension. So would the implementation of the NDP veterans first motion, which was passed by this House as far back as 2006.

If that motion were acted on in a comprehensive way, there would not be a clawback of SISIP anymore, there would not be a so-called gold-digger clause in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the VIP would have been extended to all widows of all veterans, the survivor pension amount would have been increased from 50% to 66%, and the deduction from the annuity of retired and disabled Canadian Forces members would have been eliminated.

That is how we really support our troops, not by allowing them to sell their medals but by providing them with a decent standard of living. For their service to our country, veterans deserve so much more than just rhetoric from this Parliament. They deserve a retirement with dignity and respect.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill. We are now in the second hour of debate. I spoke for a few minutes in the last hour, so I will continue.

I think every member of the House sees merit in Bill C-473 and will support it. Therefore, we thank the member for Perth—Wellington for having brought the bill before the House. It deals with the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, our NDP caucus spokesperson on this issue, has a similar bill, Bill C-208, in the House. Although it is not exactly the same, it is similar enough that he hopes that when we get the bill to committee, he may be able to get parts of his bill adopted by the members into this bill to make it a better one.

In essence, the position the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on this bill is he would like to see the currency taken out of the equation. He feels the medals should be viewed as unsaleable to anyone and when they are not longer required by the families of people who had the medals, they should be put in a repository such as a museum or he even suggested MPs' offices. There are many methods for dealing with the different types of military orders and decorations.

I spent considerable time on this issue and I looked forward to getting into the history. The more I read about the issue, the more interesting I found this matter.

I thought it was best to start at the beginning, so I went back to Roman times. That is when medals were first created. The Romans developed a complex hierarchy of military honours, ranging from crowns that were presented to senior officers to mark victories in major campaigns. There was a discussion around metal discs and other types of metals.

Then we got into the era of the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Elizabeth I, when she issued commemorative metals to mark England's victory over the Spanish Armada.

Then we moved on to the days of Oliver Cromwell. He issued medals to people who participated in the Battle of Dunbar. Then we got to the time of 1815 when medals were awarded to people who served during the Battle of Waterloo. I just saw a program a couple of weeks ago on the issue of Napoleon's history in France, ending with the Battle of Waterloo.

There is a storied history going back to Roman days involving medals. In fact, Canada has a long history of medals. It started with the governors of New France desiring to establish European honours in Canada. They established a Military Order of Malta in New France between 1635 and 1648.

After the establishment of the British North America Act, Canadians were entitled to receive British imperial honours, though the awarding was not consistently allowed. Besides knighthoods, peerage titles, both hereditary and in life, that were also bestowed on Canadians, sometimes it was uniquely Canadian designations, such as Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe and Baron Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook, in the province of New Brunswick.

The fact is over time these medals more and more became—

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-473.

I listened with great interest to all the contributions of the speakers. I thought the Bloc member for Berthier—Maskinongé summed up the bill quite well. He and I were on a U.S.-Canada parliamentary trip to Washington a couple of weeks ago and had occasion to meet with many congress people and senators where we managed to get Canada's message across that we needed changes in some areas.

Tonight I follow my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, who is very passionate about this subject. It is almost impossible to upstage him because he knows the subject so well. I do not think there is any better expert in the House on this whole area than the member. I sure hope he stays here. I read a story the other day that he might entertain the idea of running for mayor in a couple of years,. That would be a big loss and a big disappointment to members on all sides of the House because he adds so much to this chamber.

He did have some serious observations about this particular bill. He has his own bill, Bill C-208, which if he and the member opposite could somehow get together at committee on this issue, we could get the best of two bills, almost a perfect composition. There is a lot of room for compromise on both sides.

I do like the member's suggestion that these medals should not be viewed as currency. If the heirs of the person who earned the medal no longer require the medal, then it should really go to a Canadian museum. The member pointed out to me that the Order of Canada cannot be sold.

There has been some good solid thinking about this. I appreciate the member dealing with the bill in view of the property rights issue. An important part of the bill would make certain that these medals do not leave the country. The worry that we have is that if the medals are sold on eBay and become a commercial asset, that would in some ways defeat the purpose of the bill.

I personally feel that the special tax incentive in the bill has some merit, although I know my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore does not agree with that element of it either.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this significant debate before the House of Commons. That is the luck of the private members' lottery. It is his turn, and rightfully so.

I want to start by reading the summary of Bill C-473. It states:

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

That is more or less the summary.

I also have a private member's bill in the House of Commons, Bill C-208, that is not entirely similar but very close to Bill C-473. Its summary states:

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

I would like to say at the outset that we in the New Democratic Party will be supporting the legislation through the committee process. During the committee process, we will be asking certain questions of witnesses to see if we can not only improve the intent of the legislation but also, and I will be honest here, to see if I can piggyback some of my legislation on this bill and maybe the two of us together could produce a really good bill.

When anyone goes to a legion hall, ANAVETS hall, or any hall where the military, RCMP and veterans meet, debate is stirred up about medals. As we know, many of us have been lobbied for a new cold war medal. We recently had the Wound Stripe changed to the Sacrifice Medal. The government did a very good thing with that.

Medals represent a significant achievement of a person who has served his or her country, be it RCMP or military, past or present. The families of those who have passed on have the medals, usually in shadow boxes with pictures and stories of the recipients. It is quite significant that they are able to retell the stories of the brave Canadians who served their country so well.

There is one concern I have with the bill, and I have already spoken to the hon. member about it and we will have further discussions on it. For many years I have told people that the medals hanging on their chests are not currency. When someone receives his or her CD, Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross or whatever significant medal they receive, including the Afghan Star many soldiers are now receiving, these medals the government has given them are not currency. The government did not say, “Thank you for your service, here is some money”. The medals' significance is to show others, when the recipients wear them in public, on parade or wherever, that they have served their country and what particular theatres of war or conflict they have served in.

We see many young people in their late 20s or early 30s with four or five campaign medals already, because they have served many tours overseas in various conflicts, either Bosnia, Suez, Turkey, Haiti, Afghanistan, et cetera, including our World War II and Korean veterans, of course, and all the medals they wear.

They are extremely proud to wear those medals. In fact, they wear those medals for pride, devotion, loyalty and dignity. Nonetheless, when I speak to veterans, service personnel and RCMP across the country, the number one reason they wear the medals is that there are 118,000 Canadians who served their country and never had the chance to wear theirs because they paid the ultimate sacrifice. That is the significance of these medals.

I have a personal belief that these medals should never be turned into currency. They do not have to be commodified. Do we have to put everything we have in this country under a mercantile system?

Because that I have argued this with certain bureaucrats and ministers in previous governments, I understand that it would be very difficult to enact legislation to stop people from selling medals. It would be very difficult because of private property laws. I agree with some of that argument, but surely we can do something that replaces money when it comes to these medals.

Some people have asked me what happens if somebody has to sell their medals for food or prescription drugs. I have only been around here since 1997, not as long as some colleagues, but I have yet to meet one veteran, one RCMP officer, who has come to me and said very clearly, “I have to sell my medals for food”.

I have said publicly that if there are veterans out there right now who feel they have to do that, give us a call. I know members of Parliament would immediately be there to help them on that. I am sure of that. There is not one member from any party who would not help that person out.

There have been situations recently involving the great Tommy Prince. There will be a movie about him. In his unfortunate state of mind, when he was in a desperate situation, he sold his medals. They got around the system and eventually they got back to their rightful owners.

Those who are computer literate could go on eBay right now and see all kinds of medals for sale. However, the people selling those medals did not earn those medals. They were not awarded those medals. They somehow got hold of them. Either the families sold them off or they found them. A while ago I worked with a guy named Dave Thomson from Ontario. A guy came in, posing as a real estate agent, and stole his medals to try to sell them, which is very cruel.

We just simply do not believe these medals should have a cash value. It is not currency veterans have hanging from their chests. That is our opinion, and we look forward to the debate and to get it to committee. It is very important this legislation gets to the committee where we can have sober, rational thought, bringing in witnesses from various organizations, various individuals, various bureaucrats from departments and ministries or whoever, so we can have a thoughtful, reasonable debate about how we protect the cultural significance of these medals.

There are two schools of thought. Inverness High School in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has a massive hallway with cabinets. Inside those cabinets are shadow boxes, pictures, stories and medals of all kinds of veterans who have passed on, those who served in the Boer War, World War I, World War II, et cetera, and the families have donated the medals to the school. The kids walk by that hallway all the time. They grow up knowing the significance of their forefathers and mothers and the service they provided, not just to their community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, but their country. Yarmouth High School does the exact same thing.

There are many places to donate these medals for people who no longer wish to have them, or the children do not want them or for whatever reasons, not only museums, but chambers of commerce, churches and community halls. Our MPs would be honoured to hold these as well. I am sure many members of Parliament would volunteer to hold them in their offices. When they leave office, either voluntary or involuntary, they can pass them on to the next member of Parliament.

These medals should not be in a cupboard, or in a drawer, or on a flea market table, or at a garage sale, or on eBay or on Kijiji. They should be out there for everybody to see. That is why it is critical and we are very pleased that the member for Perth—Wellington has brought this issue forth.

I would ask if the member would accept a friendly amendment, not at this stage but when we get into the debate, to also include the medals of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As we know, many police officers serve overseas and they also received these various medals. We believe the RCMP should be treated in a very similar fashion to the veterans when it comes to these particularly significant cultural items of Canada.

If I am not mistaken, 96 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to Canadians overall. Just recently we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the William Hall V.C. He was an African Nova Scotian who, in 1850 received his Victoria Cross. He was the first sailor. He served three countries in four wars and was awarded the Victoria Cross. We honoured that memory at the Black Cultural Centre in Preston, Nova Scotia the other day.

We thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this significant discussion to the floor. We, like the Bloc Québécois, will support sending it to committee. We hope, with further amendments, we will be able to proceed with this debate in a very friendly and cautious manner.

We salute all the veterans and thank them for their service.

Sale of Medals Prohibition ActRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-208, An Act to prohibit the sale of Canadian military and police medals.

Mr. Speaker, our honoured veterans are very proud of the medals they received. These medals are not currency on their chest. They are given for valour, service, honour and duty to their country. Most important, these men and women wear their medals in remembrance of those who never had the opportunity to wear their medals because they paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I do not believe these medals should end up at flea markets, garage sales or on e-Bay. They should not be sold. They are too honourable for that. The reality is that nobody should profit financially from the valour of other human beings.

I encourage quick adoption of the bill by the House at its earliest convenience.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)