Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak in support of Bill C-473.
I first want to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this matter forward. I also want to thank the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for its efforts. The committee has improved and strengthened the bill to make it as effective as possible on filling the gap in existing measures to protect military medals.
It would be useful to draw the attention of the hon. members to some of the improvements that have been made to the bill through amendments adopted in committee.
First, I want to note that the objective of the hon. member for Perth—Wellington in introducing Bill C-473 was to try to ensure that important modern medals, that is those not already protected under the existing cultural property legislation, stay in Canada. Keeping these medals in Canada, whenever possible, is good for Canadians and for Canada's heritage.
Thanks to the committee's amendments, this central objective is now clearer. The bill, as tabled, referred to the transfer of insignia to non-residents. However, this could have been a little confusing, after all, someone's residency status and his or her physical location could be two different things. As a result of this, the bill now clearly refers to export. Before people can export one of these insignia to someone other than a close relative, they must first offer it for sale to one of the public institutions named in the bill. A very clear requirement and one that would bring Bill C-473 closer to mirroring existing protection for medals under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.
The committee also recognized the possibility of future overlap and confusion with existing export controls for medals. Bill C-473 refers to insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada, which means modern models awarded after 1967. However, the existing act covers objects that are at least 50 years old. So, the committee concluded that once the medals covered by Bill C-473 became more than 50 years old, the same medals would be covered by two sets of rules, and that was a conflict that needed to be eliminated. The bill was amended to cover insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada while they are less than 50 years old. After that point, they would fall under the existing export controls of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.
A further concern that arose during the committee's study was that only the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Department of Canadian Heritage would be given the right of first refusal to purchase insignia so that they would remain in Canada.
There is a network of more than 60 accredited Canadian Forces museums across the country and it would be entirely appropriate for those museums to be able to acquire medals under the terms of this act. As amended, Bill C-473 also includes the Canadian Forces in the list of federal entities to which an offer to sell can be made when one of these medals is destined for export. This would clear the way for medals related to a regiment to find their way into a Canadian Forces museum dedicated to that regiment.
I spoke earlier about the fact that exports to close family members are exempt from the requirements of Bill C-473. However, in second reading and during the committee's review of the bill, it was pointed out that spouses had not been included in what would be understood as a close family member. Members will now be pleased to note that this issue has been addressed by the committee's amendments. Bill C-473 now also include spouses and common-law partners and children of spouses or common-law partners among the list of people to whom insignia may be freely exported.
Additional improvements were made to the bill by the committee to clarify certain details and to ensure there would be no overlap or conflict with existing laws and regulations.
Bill C-473 addresses an important gap in the laws that protect Canada's heritage. With the amendments made to it in committee, it is even stronger.
The amended bill was clear. It would be effective in keeping important aspects of Canada's military heritage in the country, in public collections where it will be preserved for all Canadians. It is consistent and complementary to existing cultural property legislation and continues to strike a balance between protecting Canada's heritage and recognizing the rights of veterans and their families to determine what happens to these medals that signify the extraordinary contributions made by individuals on our behalf.
I know these objects are private property, but they are private property that has a significance and importance to all of us and future generations of Canadians. These are emotional issues and the committee has done, in my view, an even-handed job at steering its way through.
I support Bill C-473, as amended, and I encourage all members to do the same.