Pope John Paul II Day Act

An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Wladyslaw Lizon  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment designates the second day of April in each and every year as “Pope John Paul II Day”.


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.


June 12, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Pope John Paul II DayStatements By Members

April 1st, 2015 / 2:10 p.m.
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Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 2, 2015, people from across Canada will be celebrating the first ever Pope John Paul II Day. Pope John Paul II's work transcended so many boundaries. He was a courageous champion of acceptance, religious freedom, and forgiveness. He promoted the values of peace and tolerance and a strong stand against human rights violations. These are the values that resonate deeply in our country and with Canadians.

This was always the motivation behind my private member's bill, Bill C-266. I want to thank both Speakers, of the Senate and of the House, and the Canada-Poland Parliamentary Friendship Group for co-hosting a special reception today to celebrate Pope John Paul II Day with colleagues, international representatives, and faith leaders.

I invite all Canadians to join me on April 2 in reflecting on Pope John Paul II and his never-ending message: do not be afraid.

Happy Pope John Paul II Day, and may be peace with us.

Private Members' BusinessOpening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the Order Paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the Order Paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the Order Paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the Order Paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the Order Paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2013 / 3:25 p.m.
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The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-266.

The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-266, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, be read the third time and passed.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and humbled to have an opportunity to rise and support Bill C-266.

I was proud to support the creation of a day honouring Pope John Paul II when it was first brought forward in the last Parliament by my colleague Andrew Kania, then the member of Parliament for Brampton West, and I am certainly thankful that the bill was reintroduced in this Parliament by the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Even in this day and age, it is impossible to deny the significance and impact of the pope, not just in religious life but also in international affairs. Just look at the amount of coverage that resulted from the retirement of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. Roman Catholic or not, the world was captivated both by the process and by the pending impact of whomever was elected.

Coming of age in a traditional Italian-Canadian family in Guelph meant that the pope and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church played a significant role in our day-to-day lives, yet few popes played so large a role as the man who was born Karol Józef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920.

More than just a religious leader, he was a political figurehead and a light to the many millions oppressed by communism across Europe in the midst of the Cold War, one so significant that Russia's KGB considered his championship against Communism a major threat.

As a young man studying for the priesthood in secret, outside the watch of the German forces occupying Poland during the Second World War, he developed a keen sensitivity to the oppressive impact of totalitarianism and within that saw first-hand the need for humble service and compassion in the face of terror and brutality. Very early, he allied himself first and foremost with the people he served.

Very early in my life, my parents instilled in me an understanding of the value of servant leadership, a powerful notion that genuine fulfillment in life is found first and foremost by being of service to others.

It was this great yet humble young priest who understood this and, in fact, put it best, when he said that a person “can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself”. This same priest made his apostolic motto when he was elected to the papacy “Totus Tuus”, which translates into English from Latin as “totally yours”.

I was always reminded, in attempting to understand this model, the example set by St. Francis of Assisi, who, in his namesake prayer, asked to be made an instrument of peace, to understand before being understood, that the emptiness of hatred might be filled by love and injury forgiven. Doubt is replaced by faith, despair by hope, darkness by light, and sadness by joy. Quite frankly, and regardless of faith or creed, this should be a touchstone to which we all aspire when we run for public office. We must aspire to be agents of positive change in the lives of others and in the lives of our children and grandchildren and all of the people around us whom we both lead and serve.

As a priest, later bishop, then cardinal and finally pope, John Paul II was just such an instrument of peace and a beacon for those under terrible oppression. His role in bringing about the end of communism, particularly in Poland, in conjunction with the Solidarity movement, cannot be underestimated.

In fact, noted historian Timothy Garton Ash pointed out that “Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism”.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev himself said that the Iron Curtain's collapse would not have been possible without John Paul II's intervention. What an almost incalculable contribution Pope John Paul made to world peace and the pursuit of human dignity that accompanies human rights.

Recognizing his role as a builder of bridges between groups and communities across the world, he once said, “I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, that we all work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows justice and solidarity”.

Bearing witness to this commitment, it was under his papacy that a pontiff first made an official visit to a synagogue when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in spring 1986. He again made history 14 years later when he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he quietly deposited a prayer for forgiveness for the terrible actions against Jews that had caused them so much suffering. Similarly, John Paul II made great efforts to bridge divides between Catholicism and Islam as the first pontiff to enter and pray inside a mosque.

Much of his work as pope was done in the hope of fostering religious tolerance and greater understanding between sects and denominations across the world. He was as much an ambassador of the good will he wished to promote as the leader of billions of Roman Catholics across the world.

Even in his later years, there was no question that people young and old were drawn to him. On one of his many trips to Canada, he travelled to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002, drawing a crowd of 800,000 people to Downsview Park. In an age when engagement, particularly youth engagement, is in decline and people are identifying less and less with any religion, it was a powerful and telling testament to his position as a peacemaker and his influence as a leader.

While it was my faith and my Catholic education that informed many of my opinions of him while growing up, it was a clear and inarguable understanding of his accomplishments that can lead even a non-Catholic observer to the conclusion that he is among the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century. Father Frank Freitas, pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Cambridge, shared the following observation with me:

Blessed John Paul II emerged on the world scene not as a political force but a force for good. Over and over he seemed to echo the words, “be not afraid; do not give in to discouragement”. This message was not purely a religious one, but a totally realistic one. It was not solely for those who were finding it hard to believe, to trust or to walk in faith, but it was for all who were seeking, even on the world stage of leadership, to do what was right and good. His international interventions contributed to freedom for many who were oppressed. He sought by the power of his convictions to lead, not unaware of the struggle but unwavered by it. To lead without fear can be difficult when parts of the world, even today, seem to operate with a lack of the basic moral standard of human dignity, when innocence is removed by war, famine, hardship and suffering. Yet Pope John Paul's life message, as relevant today as it was when first proclaimed in 1978, crosses religious lines to enter as a straight line to the heart of all of us, especially those in leadership—do what is true; stand up for what is right, proclaim what is just, be a standard bearer for what is good, testify to what is fair, and do not be afraid.

Pope John Paul II was a man of courage and humility and deep internal strength, all spawned and nurtured by an even deeper faith. His model was one that men and women of all backgrounds, when seeking to lead, should aspire to follow. He was as strong a communicator in his actions as in his words, by giving proof of the better path we should all follow to build a better world in which to live.

I think it is only fitting, and I am sure that everyone in this esteemed House agrees, that we offer his as a model for future generations and memorialize our recognition of his work by commemorating him on April 2 every year, the anniversary of his passing.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-266, which would establish Pope John Paul II Day.

I am well aware that this is a sensitive topic and opinion is divided when it comes to recognizing the good actions of a religious man of such importance in the Roman Catholic Church.

However, it must be acknowledged that through his social actions, Pope John Paul II touched the hearts of many people of all religious beliefs. We must not forget that he was behind the first international interfaith meeting in Assisi in 1986. On that occasion, he brought together over 190 religious leaders.

John Paul II has been recognized as an ambassador for world peace. He did not hesitate to meet with numerous leaders of various countries, often political opposites, with the aim of promoting dialogue among nations. I cannot fail to mention the fact that John Paul II was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of the important work he did to end Communist oppression in eastern Europe.

I would like the House to consider for a moment the riding I represent, Montcalm. A number of Catholic community organizations are putting all their efforts into building an increasingly caring and vital community. I am thinking of Clarence Thériault, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus in Sainte-Julienne, who talks openly about his Catholic religion and is proud of his work with the Fabrique de Sainte-Julienne.

The religious communities that have been here for generations have a very proud history in this country. I need only think of the sisters of Horeb Saint-Jacques, like Sr. Carmelle and Sr. Jeannine, and the fine work done by Diane Lafontaine, a woman committed to justice and service, and all of the others who devote their time and energy to working for no material gain.

I would also like to mention a friend of the family, Paul Léveillé, the priest in charge of the parishes of Sainte-Marie-Salomé, Saint-Jacques, Saint-Liguori, Saint-Alexis and L'Épiphanie. Paul has been a friend for many years. In fact, he will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his life as a priest this year. If you are watching, Paul, congratulations. I have to say that Paul is a mainstay, not just for practising individuals, but also for young people.

My husband and I occasionally attend Sunday services and have the opportunity to meet older people who live in the riding of Montcalm. Even today, those people still have an enormous amount of affection for the man they describe as a uniting force, a very generous man who was close to the people. When I hear about Pope John Paul II, I inevitably think of the good people whom I have met in my community and in my life and who know this historic figure and have great respect for his good and altruistic works.

When we talk to people of the previous generation, they tell us that Pope John Paul II was their Pope, the one who was extremely involved in public life and who left an indelible mark on every major event in the late 20th century.

The role he played in putting an end to the racist government of South Africa and in bringing down the iron curtain in eastern Europe is well known. In addition, Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland, was an important figure in the fall of Communism in his home country. He is loved and highly respected by the Polish and Catholic communities.

The role he played in ending the military regimes in Latin America and his opposition to the war in Iraq gave him political importance. His interest in extending a hand to groups that the church had harmed in the past also gave him a significant amount of social importance.

Just before he died, there was great pain throughout the Catholic community and an equal reaction among non-Catholics. He was, at the time, an almost permanent fixture in world affairs and in Catholics' minds.

He was a good man, it must be said, but a complex one. He was an important player on the world stage. He was important to the people of Montcalm and to those of Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Pope John Paul II is an important figure in the history of the 20th century.

His presence, like that of many historical figures, could draw praise as well as criticism. I would prefer my remarks to be positive and therefore I choose to focus on the praise. Although probably better known for his role in connection with the Solidarity union in Poland and for the fall of the iron curtain in eastern Europe, he was also an important player in the fall of the military dictatorships in Chile and Paraguay and the racist government of South Africa.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why it is important to strive for a better future and fight for the change that has to happen before that future can be achieved. Pope John Paul II truly understood that an inclusive democracy was the key to a better future. What is more, unlike the current government, he immediately opposed the war in Iraq. He said: “War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.”

This is the same person who refused to fire his rifle during his mandatory military service in Poland. Furthermore, unlike our current government, he believed in basic science, evolution and climate change.

In the message he gave on World Peace Day, he said:

The ecological crisis reveals the urgent moral need for a new solidarity, especially in relations between the developing nations and those that are highly industrialized.

He also added, “I wish to repeat that the ecological crisis is a moral issue.”

Pope John Paul II also had a special relationship with Canada. He visited our country on several occasions, including in 2002, when over 500,000 young people gathered in a Toronto park for World Youth Day, which is commonly known as WYD. Pope John Paul II created WYD to encourage young people to participate in community development.

It is sometimes difficult to understand the actions of a person who, in all honestly, had very little power. He did not have a tank or a plane; yet he refused to use the only weapon he was given because he firmly believed that respect for human life is paramount. His actions had a profound impact on people from all walks of life, from all countries and from all religions. His time as Pope, which was marked by open-mindedness and co-operation with other religions, was anchored in tradition and a strong cultural attachment.

However, we can say that in many ways his struggle mirrored that of our party, the NDP. My colleagues will understand why I say this. During a visit to Haiti in 1983, he spoke to Haitian Christians about the importance of democratic accountability and freedom, in addition to addressing Duvalier's corrupt government. He talked to the crowd about a series of policy issues that could have been taken from an NDP policy book. These issues included having the opportunity to get enough food, receive proper care, find safe housing, go to school and find an interesting and well-paid job. In short, he talked about everything that provides a better quality of life for men and women, youth, the elderly and workers.

I would like to ask my colleagues on the other side of the House to vote in line with us when we put these policies on the table. I would also ask them to stop being so closed-minded.

Pope John Paul II was a symbol of freedom and change. He was recognized for his humility when he publicly apologized for the role the church played in more than 100 historical wrongs.

I truly believe that John Paul II deserves a day that not only celebrates his work as a religious and spiritual man, but also celebrates this great man who had but one mission and one vision: to ensure that universal peace reigns in the hearts of all nations.

To conclude, I will just reiterate that Pope John Paul II is an important figure in Roman Catholic history. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2004 and spoke out against oppressive measures in eastern Europe and many other countries. Pope John Paul II was committed to peace and dialogue between different religions.

For all these reasons, I will support this bill.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 11th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

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

Mr. Speaker, hon. members, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-266, which calls on Parliament to designate April 2 of every year as Pope John Paul II day.

John Paul II served as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from October 16, 1978 until his death on April 2, 2005. He played an influential and vital role in promoting international understanding, peace-building and helping to defeat communism in central and eastern Europe. He was a remarkable man of many accomplishments and has left a permanent mark upon the world.

There were unfortunate events that took place in his lifetime. He had just turned 19 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. During those years of war, he began his studies in Krakow but was forced to suspend them for a year of compulsory labour for the state. He later returned to his studies while working in a quarry and then in a factory. We can only imagine what he went through.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in a clandestine seminary. After the Second World War, he continued his studies and was ordained into the priesthood on November 1, 1946.

Much of the future Pope's life as a cleric was lived under communist rule in Poland. While he rose through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, he refused to compromise or accommodate demands made by the communist government. As archbishop and later a cardinal, he had to engage in a very delicate balancing act. His opposition to communism and government repression was an undeniable but subtle path in encouraging and promoting greater loyalty to the Catholic Church, as an alternative to the government itself. He promoted the ideas of freedom and liberty without directly attacking the government.

In 1978, John Paul II made history by becoming the first non-Italian Pope in more than 400 years. As the leader of the Catholic Church, he travelled the world, visiting more than 100 countries to spread his message of faith and peace. One of the most significant and memorable features of John Paul II's papacy was perhaps his battle against communism. After he was elected Pope, in 1978, one of the first things he did was to end his predecessors' accommodationist attitude toward communism and communist nations.

In June 1979, Pope John Paul II returned home to Poland as the first Roman Catholic pontiff to visit a communist ruled country. Standing in front of a million Poles in Warsaw, he was welcomed with 14 minutes of unabated applause from the entire crowd. He told them not to be afraid. The message was a call to action.

The Pope's visit was seen as inspirational to many Catholics in Poland who felt they were no longer alone. Many were deeply opposed to the country's communist government. This trip uplifted the nation's spirit and sparked the formation of the solidarity movement in 1980, which later brought freedom and human rights to his troubled homeland.

Many consider this visit to be a pivotal moment that eventually led to the fall of communism in eastern Europe. Like the first in a row of dominoes, Poland's relatively peaceful transition to democracy led to wholesale change throughout the region over the next year. This set off a chain of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Mikhail Gorbachev's acquiescence to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Gorbachev himself stated that the fall of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without the Pope.

The pope's defence of peace, human rights and freedom also extended beyond his native country and the Catholic church. John Paul II's criticism of dictators—Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Augusto Pinochet of Chile and the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos—encouraged opposition movements that led to their eventual downfall.

In 1998, he travelled to Cuba and met with communist leader Fidel Castro. Thousands of people received him in the capital of Havana. The pope did not hesitate in asking that Cuba be opened to the world and the world opened to Cuba. He also condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba and its adverse effects on the poor. He urged the Roman Catholic Church to take a courageous and prophetic stance in the face of the corruption of political or economic power and to promote human rights within Cuba. It was a five-day visit in which the pope helped to plant a seed of freedom and helped thousands reaffirm their faith.

He defended democracy before the European Parliament by supporting the arrival of the democratic movement against the regime in the Philippines. He worked for peace with various countries, urging them to negotiate and find common ground. This was the case in a variety of situations, including Chile with Argentina, Israel with Palestine, and even our neighbours the United States, with Iraq.

We have had debates in this House at second reading of this bill and then the bill went to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I would like to make it very clear that this is not a religious bill. This is not a bill to aid or promote one religion over another or give a special recognition to one particular Pope.

As I have already mentioned, this is a bill to recognize Pope John Paul II's legacy, which goes well beyond his role in the Catholic church. He stood for religious tolerance and freedom, and he spent a great deal of time encouraging interreligious dialogue. To me, this represents a big part of what it means to be Canadian. Pope John Paul II proved that nothing is impossible. He stood up for populations that were oppressed by totalitarian regimes. He will be remembered for his role in the collapse of several stifling dictatorships, and for the way he inspired peaceful opposition to Communism in Poland, leading to its eventual collapse in central and eastern Europe.

In 2004, former American president George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, to Pope John Paul II. The president read the citation that accompanied the medal, which recognized “this son of Poland” whose “principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple Communism and tyranny”.

After receiving the award, John Paul II said:

May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place.

There was one Soviet leader who sought out and received an audience with Pope John Paul II. It was Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the Soviet Union. The audience took place in 1989.

In an interview Gorbachev gave to Radio Free Europe on April 8, 2005, he said, almost a week after the Pope's death:

Now we will say that the pope was simply an extraordinary man. And one of the most extraordinary qualities of the pope was that he was a devoted servant of the Church of Christ. And, finally, as the head of state of the Vatican, he did a lot, using his opportunities along these lines, he did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold War, for the coming together of peoples. He did a lot to remove people from the danger of a nuclear conflict. He was a man who used his high position—I'll speak bluntly—in the best possible way. He was [a man] who did not put political calculation at the center, but who made his judgments about the world, about situations, about nature, about the environment, based on the right to life, to a worthy life for people and on the responsibility of those people for what is gong on in the world. I think that there has never been such an outstanding defender of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden in various cases and in various situations, either historically speaking or in terms of ongoing conflicts. He was a humanist. Really. A Humanist with a capital H, maybe the first humanist in world history.

It took great courage and resolve to oppose the Communist forces and fight for a better way of life for Europeans and indeed people across the world. Designating April 2 as Pope John Paul II day would allow Canadians to reflect on the courage and compassion shown by this great man. I would ask everyone to join me today in supporting this very special commemoration of Pope John Paul II. As many Canadians honour, admire and try to emulate him, let us set aside a special day to consider him and his works.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-266, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 30th, 2013 / 10 a.m.
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Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.

April 24th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
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Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I'd like a recorded vote.

(Bill C-266 agreed to: yeas 8; nays 3)

April 24th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
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The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

We're now moving to clause-by-clause consideration. Does everyone have Bill C-266 in front of them?

Shall clause 2 carry?

April 24th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
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Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, members of the committee.

To start, I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous, for several reasons. It is a special day for me not only because I have an opportunity to present my private member's bill to this committee, but also it's the first time in my life that I am appearing before a parliamentary committee. It is therefore a historical milestone in my life as well.

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I introduced Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, to be celebrated on April 2 in Canada. This is not meant to be a statutory holiday and is not meant to be a legal holiday, but a non-juridical day. Therefore, this is an act to have a day to remember the accomplishments of the late pope.

Establishing the day will allow all Canadians the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate a man who took a strong stand on human rights and opened a dialogue with other faiths to promote freedom of religion and speech across the globe. These are values that we as Canadians share. I bring this before you not only as an opportunity to celebrate a man who did so much for millions of Christian followers around the world, but to celebrate a man who did much more to uphold values that we as Canadians cherish so deeply, values of justice, liberty, and democracy.

Pope John Paul II was the third-longest reigning pope in history. In his time as pope he took a strong stand for human rights, democracy, and religious freedom, and visited more than 129 countries to carry his message around the world.

I have a difficulty, especially, when people try to label me for bringing this act to Parliament. This is not a new idea. For those members of the committee who may not know, a similar bill was already introduced in Parliament in the previous session by the member of Parliament at that time for Brampton West, Andrew Kania. There was a two-hour debate, the election was called, and Parliament was dissolved before the bill went to committee.

Also, it was introduced twice, debated, and voted on at the Ontario provincial legislature. It was Frank Klees, MPP for Newmarket—Aurora, who introduced a bill to establish John Paul II Day in Ontario.

I would like to quote a few people who spoke to Frank Klees' bill, because as I said, it's very easy at this point to label me. First of all, I am a Roman Catholic. Second, I was born, raised, and educated in Poland; therefore, like the late pope, I come from Poland. It is therefore easy to label me, saying that the main reason I am introducing the bill is due to my faith and my country of origin.

I will read part of Frank Klees's speech at the provincial legislature, and I quote:

Since presenting this bill for first reading on April 2, 2007, which was the second anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death, the public response to it has been, quite literally, overwhelming. My office received 5,000 signatures on petitions in support of this bill in one day alone, and I know that other members have also received literally thousands of signatures on petitions of support for its passage by this House. Of interest is the fact that many petitions came from non-Catholics, and I believe that this in itself is evidence that people of all faiths recognize the impact of Pope John Paul and that his influence surpassed denominational borders.

Some of the most interesting responses have come when people find out that I, as the sponsor of this bill, am not Roman Catholic—or Polish, for that matter. In fact, I’m a German-born Protestant who studied theology in a Baptist seminary. But like many others, I have been touched and influenced over the years by the life and example of a man who, while carrying out his responsibilities as spiritual leader of millions around the world, never tired of advocating for social justice and human rights at every opportunity. And he had a way of making what he said transcend the ecclesiastical trappings and ceremony that all too often can get in the way of the message.

The second person that spoke was Cheri DiNovo from the provincial NDP. She said:

It’s my honour to speak at such an auspicious occasion....

It’s fascinating that it is so rare that we acknowledge spiritual giants. It’s so rare that we set aside the time, we set aside the place, we set aside a law to acknowledge a day—and that’s all we are asking for here: a day, simply a day to remember this incredible man.

I think I'm finished quoting people from that debate. I would like to point out, listening to colleagues in the House during the two hour-long debates...and I would like to stress that this bill is not a religious bill. It's not meant for Catholics. It's not meant for Poles. It's meant for all Canadians because the late Pope John Paul II embraced everybody—those that believe, those that don't believe.

His role, especially in changing the face of Europe over the course of his 26-year papacy, was just incredible. Wherever he went, wherever he spoke, he advocated for social justice, democratic rights, and human dignity.

As Canadians we are very proud of the fact that so many people immigrate here to find a better life for their families, where they are free to worship as they choose. The respect, admiration, and acknowledgement for the ways that all religions have shaped our world, and even given back to Canadian society, are characteristics that Pope John Paul II shared with all Canadians and with this government. Human rights are very important and define the characteristics of Canada's foreign policy, and our country's identity. Our country and this government have been a strong voice for the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic values on the world stage.

In Mississauga, I attend many citizenship ceremonies, as many as I can, whenever I have time. I attend citizenship ceremonies because it's really a special moment for people that come from around the world to find, in many cases, a refuge and a better life here in this great country. The rights and freedoms that we enjoy here have no protections in many of the countries they come from, where democracy seems unattainable. Similar to them, I myself left behind....

As members of this committee may know, I grew up in Communist Poland. I was part of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. I stood, striking, in 1981, when the government decided to introduce martial law and bring in the army and police. We were standing there striking, facing tanks, facing riot police. We had no weapons. But thanks to the strength and encouragement not only people in Poland but people who followed in other countries, including the soviet republics, had the encouragement not to be afraid anymore.

We all have to remember that wherever we have a regime that bases its existence on terror, on fear, at the moment that people lose their fear, that regime can't exist anymore. This is what happened.

For those who may not understand how big a change happened at the end of the last century in Europe, it's incredible. When I was growing up, many people did not believe that the change would ever happen in our lifetime. The Soviet Union seemed extremely strong, and the division between the west and the east in the Cold War and the arms race that was taking place were just incredible.

I don't know whether all of you honourable committee members understand that to live in or under an oppressive regime.... I don't think it can be explained or understood by people who take what we have in this great country for granted. I would wish that our young Canadians have an opportunity, at least once in their lifetimes, to go to other countries just in order to understand how great this country that we live in is.

I don't know, Mr. Chair, how much time I have. I think I probably am over 10 minutes. Therefore, just in closing, I would like to ask all the members of the committee, as I did the House, for support in declaring April 2 Pope John Paul II Day in Canada, to honour this great man and everything he stood for.

Thank you very much.

April 24th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
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The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Welcome, everybody, to the 60th meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Thursday, April 18, 2013, we are going to be studying Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. As our witness, we have the member from Mississauga East, Mr. Lizon.

Welcome to our committee. Congratulations on getting your private member's bill this far.

We're going to have an opportunity now for opening remarks. Then there will be a round of questions and answers, for members of the committee to put questions to our witness regarding this bill.

The floor is yours, Mr. Lizon.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.
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Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, my speech is about Bill C-266, which seeks to create Pope John Paul II Day.

I wanted to make this speech because this bill really bothered me in the sense that it made me think long and hard about what I should do. As a Catholic, I recognize the tremendous contribution that Pope John Paul II made to humanity, if you will. However, I am choosing to vote against this bill, and I think that it is important to explain why.

First, one of the issues that led to my decision is that Pope John Paul II is not Canadian. He is an important international figure who visited Canada, but he is not originally from here. It is also important to remember that the Pope is a head of state. This day would therefore recognize a foreign head of state, and I am a bit concerned that this would set a precedent. I would like to point out that this does not mean that Roman Catholics or Polish Canadians cannot celebrate the late Pope. These people can do so in a more general way without necessarily having a national day.

It is also important to understand that the other national days in Canada that recognize individuals are those to recognize Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who, as we all know, were historic prime ministers. There is also Raoul Wallenberg Day. This man was a great activist during the Second World War and he was made an honorary Canadian citizen.

Another issue I had was that people are not religious in order to get glory. When a person makes a commitment to God, especially in the Catholic Church, he does not do it for recognition or glory. Religious work is done humbly, discreetly and simply. Humility is like the ground in which other virtues grow. The gospels present it as the fundamental virtue.

Pope John Paul II worked in many areas. We all recognize his wonderful commitment to peace and to opening the lines of communication between religions. He was a political activist who was against Communism and political oppression. He worked to help youth and to reform the Roman Catholic Church. In my opinion, it is more important to recognize and remember these achievements than the person himself.

For instance, we could decide to have a national interfaith dialogue day to pay tribute to the late pope and remember the message that he was trying to send. In my view, celebrating the individual per se is not consistent with the fundamental tenet of humility in religion. That is why the best way to remember Pope John Paul II is by remembering his battles and ideals, and by continuing to spread his message.

Another issue that came to mind as I was examining the bill is that he would become the only religious figure recognized in Canada. As we know, Canada is a secular country. Religious freedom is guaranteed, and the right to religion is recognized. Even the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”.

However, I would like to point out that religious traditions in Canada are very diverse. We have Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Orthodox Christians and Baptists. We have the various traditional religions of first nations and Inuit peoples. We have atheists, Jews, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and the list probably goes on.

I think all we have to do is walk around our major Canadian cities to see that we have places of religious worship that belong to different religions in a number of places.

I do not think that recognizing a particular religious figure from a particular religion is necessarily the best way to celebrate Canadians in all their diversity. That might create some problems, if you will, or raise some concerns.

Everyone is free to celebrate their beliefs, but I do not think it is healthy or appropriate to recognize a pope or a particular faith more than another. That goes against Canada's religious diversity.

The problem is that I cannot see why we would celebrate one pope more than another. As I see it, every pope has contributed in his own way to building humanity and developing ideals and beliefs.

Choosing a pope in particular is as if we were not recognizing the work of the others. I take issue with that. In my view, a person becomes pope because he has worked very hard and has fought for many things. I do not like the idea of elevating one pope above the rest.

I also want to clarify that I really struggled with this bill. I spoke with priests in my riding and other people. I talked it over with them. I think they understood my views on this bill.

I come from a Catholic family. We even had a bishop in my family. My grandfather's brother was a long-time bishop of the diocese of Amos. Back home, people recognize him. They all know who he is.

I understand the idea of wanting to pay tribute to an important figure in this religion. However, I unfortunately do not believe that a national day is appropriate. I think that if we had truly wanted to celebrate his memory, we could have, for example, created a national day in honour of one of his ideals, such as peace. We could have commemorated the date that Pope John Paul II passed away. Someone advocated for that. I think it would have been important to acknowledge the ideals he fought for and not simply his name.

That is why I wanted to make this speech. I wanted to explain to people why I chose to vote against this bill, even though it was really difficult for me.

I recognize the work done by my colleague. I know that he worked hard on this bill and that he did it with the best of intentions. I sincerely hope that he understands or that he at least listened carefully to the issues and concerns I had regarding this bill.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

April 18th, 2013 / 6:15 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Pursuant to Standing Order 37, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-266 under private members' business.