National Fiddling Day Act

An Act respecting National Fiddling Day

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


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 third Saturday in May in each and every year as “National Fiddling 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.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:30 p.m.
See context


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

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

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House to once again speak on my proposed Bill S-218 to designate a national fiddling day.

Fiddling has a rich history in our country, and I believe that this history needs to be cherished and celebrated. Fiddling is an expression that has roots throughout our entire nation. Fiddle music connects all regions of Canada and brings a universal smile and a toe tap whenever it is heard. From the down-east style made famous by Don Messer to the Métis style spread by John Arcand to the traditional Cape Breton style played by Natalie MacMaster, fiddling is an integral part of Canadian culture that has long-standing historical roots.

Whatever the style, the common thread is spreading happiness and joy to all those who play and listen. Enacting the third Saturday in May of each year as national fiddling day would encourage all Canadians to embrace and enjoy this day and would bring a spotlight to the many Canadians who have graced the country and the world with this infectious and important music.

I am especially happy to propose this legislation at this time when the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The association does important work promoting and preserving fiddling music in Canada. Also this year, the Canadian Grand Masters fiddling competition is being held in my home province of New Brunswick, in the town of Sackville.

New Brunswick, like all other provinces, has deep roots in the history of fiddling music. My province hosts a unique annual festival in the town of Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. It is the annual Fiddles on the Tobique. The event coincides, of course, with fiddlehead season. The festival started with a lone fiddler years ago and today attracts people from all over the world. Quite possibly it is the only event of its kind anywhere.

This event combines two time-honoured New Brunswick traditions: fiddling and canoeing. Imagine the beautiful sight and sound of a flotilla of canoes carrying almost 200 musicians down the Tobique River while they play old-time fiddle music. Those attending are treated to concerts, jam sessions, dances, and even an instructional fiddle camp.

Our Atlantic Canada region in general has had great fiddlers. Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, 1914 to 1987, was a renowned Cape Breton fiddler. He was a pioneer in recorded performances of the music and has heavily influenced the style and repertoire of later generations of players.

Another award-winning Cape Breton musician, Natalie MacMaster, began her fiddling career at 16.

Don Messer was born in Tweedside, New Brunswick and began playing the violin at age five, learning fiddle tunes with Irish and Scottish influences. As a young boy, Messer would play concerts in the local area, and later he played throughout southwestern New Brunswick. During the 1920s, Messer moved to Boston, Massachusetts for three years, where he received his only formal instruction in music.

Messer left Saint John in 1939 and moved to Charlottetown, P.E.l. and worked as music director at CFCY. There he formed the Islanders, and this music group began to make regular television appearances on CBHT-TV in Halifax, Nova Scotia. CBC television began a summer series called The Don Messer Show on August 7, 1959, which continued into the fall as Don Messer's Jubilee, produced in Halifax.

Don Messer's Jubilee was a must for us every Monday night throughout the 1960s. How we loved to hear the sound of the twin fiddles of Don Messer and Earl Mitton. The show won a wide audience and reportedly became the second-most watched television show in Canada during that decade, next to Hockey Night in Canada.

Another down-home style New Brunswick fiddler was Ned Landry, who taught himself to play the fiddle at an early age. Ned Landry was winner in the open class of 1956, 1957 and 1962 Canadian Open Old Time Fiddlers' Contest.

Landry appeared in the 1950s on CFBC Radio, Saint John, and in the 1960s on Don Messer's Jubilee and other TV shows. Landry was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1991. Landry was also later inducted into the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ivan Hicks, another famous New Brunswick fiddler, has played the fiddle for over 60 years. He and his wife Vivian have shared their talents with many students, young and old alike, and have been an inspiration to countless others.

Ivan is actively involved in promoting, attending and instructing at workshops. He continues to judge fiddling contests throughout Canada.

Many awards and honours have come to them, including the induction into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame for both Ivan and Vivian, and the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame for Ivan.

Then, of course, there is Miramichi's very own Matilda Murdoch. At the age of eight, her father gave her a fiddle, and later that year, through her own determination, she played her very first tune. Since then, she has become an icon in fiddle circles throughout North America.

Murdoch has been part of a cultural community of Miramichi and New Brunswick for most of her 94 years. Her style of playing has been admired and studied by not only local fiddlers but also fiddlers from throughout North America, and more recently, from Ireland. Entertainer Don Messer was one of those many admirers. He invited Matilda to play on the popular Don Messer show, and he also recorded several of her tunes to show his respect for her music.

Another admirer of Matilda was one of our very own, the late Jim Flaherty, who visited Miramichi and was able to enjoy her music in his ancestral home of Loggieville. Murdoch has garnered regional, national and international recognition for her abilities as a composer, player and teacher. She was elected into the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame and the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.

Matilda Murdoch has reached and surpassed the definition of success. Organizations and musicians have recognized her on a worldwide scale. Matilda was the recipient of the Order of New Brunswick as well as the Order of Canada.

Loggieville also boasts another very accomplished fiddle player, Samantha Robichaud, who represents a new generation of fiddlers. Now in her late twenties, Samantha has released seven critically acclaimed albums and has earned many awards.

Her musical venture now spans over three decades, completing 11 albums, performing thousands of shows and collaborating with a multitude of world renowned artists.

These are just a few of our very known fiddlers. In Miramichi we have our very own group of fiddlers known as the Miramichi fiddlers. These men and women give of their time, volunteering at fundraisers and many events on the river. They certainly bring much enjoyment to our area and are always much appreciated by all.

These are just a few of the fiddlers that I grew up listening to and who are known in my region. I am sure my colleagues would agree that they are just a small portion of the well-known and talented fiddlers throughout our great nation.

I believe that a designated national fiddling day will also be important with the upcoming 150th anniversary of our great nation. In 2017, Canadians will celebrate this great milestone and a national fiddling day will be one way to help them learn about and express pride in the cultural and social impact that fiddling music has had on the shaping of our country.

Furthermore, we not only wish to celebrate the impact this music has had on our nation but also the beauty that is in the instrument itself, and shine a light on Antonio Stradivari, the renowned crafter of the stringed instrument. By spreading the history of the instrument, along with its historical significance, we can hopefully reach a whole new generation of fiddle players who will continue to shape the musical and cultural landscape of our country today and tomorrow.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:40 p.m.
See context


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did not get the opportunity at second reading to put some words on the record in regard to the bill, so I want to put my question more in the form of a statement and reflect on the importance of the fiddle.

In particular, I know the Métis community in Manitoba, and many others, have invested a great deal of time and energy into the development of the fiddle. Quite often during festivities, and I cite Folklorama as one of those festivals, the fiddle plays a very important role. It generates a great sense of excitement in the province of Manitoba, and more and more people are taking an interest in playing the fiddle.

I will reaffirm to the member the importance of having days of this nature. They allow members of Parliament and others to promote the importance of the fiddle, because it has played a very important role in Canada's heritage. Here we can single out a day and encourage involvement and attention that will benefit our heritage.

Would the member like to provide a comment on the important symbolism and reality of the fiddle for Canada's heritage?

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:40 p.m.
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Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his statement and reiterate all of what he said.

As I said in my statement, we need to promote this idea. We need to keep it going so that our future generations will realize and appreciate how much fiddlers mean to us and what they have given to Canada right across our great country.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to support the private member's bill from the hon. member for Miramichi.

I know many have made the point of how cross-cultural fiddling is. I come from Cape Breton Island myself, where we know there are strains of fiddling that came from the Cape Breton Highlands, strains of fiddling that came from the sounds of bagpipes and were transposed from bagpipes to fiddles, and fiddling that comes from the Acadian community, which shares the same strains as the Cajuns down in Lousiana, in New Orleans.

Then, of course, we have stunning fiddlers, legends like Lee Cremo, who is Mi'kmaq, who also picked up the fiddle and brought his own cultural reality to fiddling.

I am proud to support the motion. I would ask my hon. friend if she thinks there is any part of Canada where fiddling is not relevant.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
See context


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her statement and for her support on the bill.

I certainly agree. I doubt there is anywhere across our great country where we would not find the fiddle as an important instrument. It certainly provides a lot of entertainment for all of us right across our great country.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Erin O'Toole Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for bringing this subject up in the House of Commons to recognize the unique cultural impact that the fiddle and fiddle music have had throughout Canada, rural Canada, Cape Breton Island, and southern Ontario.

My riding is very proud to be the home of Mark Sullivan, a three-time national fiddle champion who now lives in British Columbia. We wish he would come back and share his music in Ontario more than he does, but the Sullivan family in Bowmanville is very proud of his accomplishments. He is part of a network of fiddle music and traditional Celtic music that really makes this country a better place. They work together. In Cape Breton, they have the Leahys in Lakefield. They have Mark Sullivan from Bowmanville connecting through with New Brunswick and western Canada.

My question for the member is simply this: has the community recognized her work in spreading the important message of the impact of this wonderful music to our culture?

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
See context


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, yes, I have received lots of comments and thanks from the Miramichi Fiddlers themselves and from Mrs. Murdoch, who was very proud of the fact that I am bringing this bill forward, and from many relatives who have gathered over the years to play fiddle music in our own homes.

Yes, it has been very well received on the Miramichi, and I have received lots of thanks for doing it.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:45 p.m.
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Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

“Now, what would you kids like me to play for you?”

Mr. Speaker, that is what my grandfather used to say every time he started playing when I was little. He got his violin out of its old case, and in the comforting glow of the wood stove that my grandmother cooked everything on, he played the strings that unite us to this day. The old farmhouse floors creaked under the dancing feet of all 20 of us grandchildren and the 16 adults who made up our extended family. That was in the 1950s, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Bill S-218 would designate national fiddling day, and I have to say that I am very happy to talk about this. Of course, it is a shame that Bill S-218 came from the Senate, not the House of Commons, but I fully support the idea of designating a national fiddling day.

From Newfoundland to British Columbia to Quebec and the Prairies, fiddling has been bringing people together all over Canada for a long time. The traditional music canon bears witness to the many waves of immigration to Canada, making the fiddle the ultimate inclusive instrument.

Fiddling draws on so many sources, and we can detect the influence of Scottish and Irish communities as well as French and Ukrainian ones in the pieces we play here in Canada. The instrument has fostered cultural fusions that are now part of our shared culture. Consider the very famous Quebec folk music group, Le rêve du diable, whose name comes from a reel, an Irish dance, called The Devil's Dream.

Creating this national day represents an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of the fiddle in our communities. It definitely plays a very important role in my riding, Joliette. For many people, Joliette is synonymous with music. Our slogan is “Joliette, sol de musique”. We have the renowned Festival de Lanaudière, which brings together the finest classical musicians from here and around the world every year to play in a superb amphitheatre with incredible acoustics.

I invite all members of the House to join us at Festival de Lanaudière, which is held in late July and early August. Of course, the musicians are sheltered on stage, but the lawn can accommodate between 7,000 and 8,000 people. Spectators can enjoy their supper while listening to the music.

Our beautiful region has been a springboard for many traditional groups, including some you may have heard of: Bottine souriante, Belzébuth, les Poules à Colin and Les charbonniers de l'enfer. They did not all start in Joliette, but many of them developed there and recorded albums or performed their first shows there.

I appreciate the merits and beauty of the classical violin every year at the festival in Lanaudière, but the fiddle allows for more spontaneity, which makes it more accessible. I am pleased that we have this opportunity to talk about the social role it has played in our communities. The fiddler is more than a musician; he or she brings people together and is a communicator, a focal point that connects everyone. When fiddlers come together they can improvise reels for hours, to the delight of the toe-tappers around them.

In families, at lumber camps, at Christmas and Hallowe'en, the fiddle has made a tremendous contribution to Canada's heritage and development. It has helped weave Canada's social and cultural fabric and I am very pleased that we are recognizing the importance of that contribution.

In the riding of Joliette, traditional music is still an important part of our culture today, as you can see at the Mémoires et Racines festival held at the end of July. What is more, the Joliette CEGEP has made a name for itself by offering a specialized program in traditional music. We also have a radio station back home that plays nothing but traditional music.

You must also go to Saint-Côme to appreciate the importance of our traditional music, because in that area music groups are named after families. These families have their own particular style of singing, moving and interacting. The strong presence of traditional music, and thus of fiddling, is indisputable in Joliette.

Fiddling is important and prevalent throughout the entire Lanaudière region. Not very far from my riding, you will find the Camp de Violon Traditionnel Québécois de Lanaudière, a wonderful asset for the entire region. Its president, the talented fiddler André Brunet, supports this bill. In highlighting the role of fiddling in Quebec culture, he said:

If any instrument is as authentic as our emotions in the whirl and swirl of a gathering, it is certainly the violin, an integral part of the dance that sweeps us away, that brings us together and tugs at our heartstrings.

Mr. Brunet added:

Each of us is a fiddler at heart.

The president of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association, Graham Sheppard, also supports this bill. He said:

Amid the turmoil that surrounds us and the difficult decisions that this House has to make, it is refreshing to stand and be part of this effort. For the thousands of fiddlers and lovers of fiddle music in Canada, a National Fiddling Day will be a cherished annual event. Also, this will give each of us the encouragement to foster the preservation and growth of fiddle music in the regions that we represent and throughout Canada.

In my opinion, these comments from people in the community show that this proposal has a lot of support and a laudable goal. I spoke about my grandfather, but I am sure that many members of the House had fiddlers in their families. That is why this bill is getting so much support. I am sure that everyone here will vote in favour of it.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is good news for Canadian heritage. I encourage everyone in the House to support this bill.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
See context


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak on Bill S-218, an act respecting National Fiddling Day, which would designate the third Saturday in May each and every year as national fiddling day. Bill S-218 would align in both content and spirit with World Fiddle Day, an annual day first commemorated in 2013, which celebrates the fiddle, the violin as some would call it, family of instruments.

National fiddling day would increase the understanding of the history of fiddling in Canada, would promote musical collaboration and offer an opportunity for community engagement and entertainment. In doing so, this national day would link rural and urban settings, multi-generations of Canadians and multicultural groups to the vast range of styles comprised in the art of fiddling.

As we all know, the fiddle is commonly played at important Canadian events. Fiddling is rooted in Canadian culture. It unites our lineage yet reflects regional diversity and culture, which is French, Inuit, Metis, first nations, Ukrainian, Scottish, Irish, Acadian and so on. They all play the fiddle through its various different styles.

Canada recognizing such a day would provide an opportunity not only to celebrate the fiddle as an instrument but also to celebrate fiddling itself: the men and women who bring this music to life; the entertainment; the coming together of family, friends, and community; and the celebration of our unique and distinctive cultures that find such a melodic expression through the fiddle. Indeed, the influence of exchanges between many cultures contributes to the evolution and diversification of fiddling music.

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the origins of fiddling as it relates to my riding and the entire island of Cape Breton. The tradition of the fiddle lives on in Cape Breton where we are fortunate enough to have a number of world-class fiddlers such as Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, former premier Rodney MacDonald, Buddy MacMaster, Howie MacDonald, and of course the Rankin Family band who carried Cape Breton music to an international audience. It seems that even the most famous Cape Breton musicians are considered as friends and fellow members of the larger music community. Natalie, Ashley and the Rankin Family are all members of the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, which was formed in 1973 and will celebrate its 42nd anniversary this year in Boston.

During the 19th century, thousands of Highland Scots emigrated to Cape Breton. Members just have to look in a phone book in Cape Breton and they will see the Macs are everywhere. They brought with them such a rich cultural tradition that dominates the island to this day. Traditional Celtic music remains as braided into the Maritimes' energy, beauty and personality as a tartan is to kilts. Communities and the Gaelic culture were transplanted to Cape Breton, bringing the traditional fiddle style of the highlands and the islands with them.

Cape Breton fiddle music is unique in many ways, with a complex cultural history and its profound relationship with social identity on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton fiddle music continues to thrive and evolve because it is not simply an historical artifact or a cultural curiosity but rather a vital, evolving and regenerating musical form. Cape Breton fiddling has slowly evolved with the careful guidance of family and the local community.

Cape Breton fiddling, up until even the early 1980s, was often referred to as Scottish fiddling or Cape Breton Scottish music. The term “Cape Breton fiddling” may also have become more common as our global community has become more accessible, given that international contact and communication has increased. Perhaps with growth in air travel, technology and communications, Cape Breton musicians and music fans have grown to see differences between their music and Scottish, Irish and other music to deem it acceptable to call their traditional music by its own name. No longer is a Cape Breton musician required to be called a Scottish fiddler, or an Irish player, he or she is now referred to as a Cape Breton fiddler, which is less confusing. However, influences from other styles still exist or continue to be imported, exchanged and adapted to the general Cape Breton traditional style.

We have many workshops in Cape Breton at The Gaelic College where people come from all over the world to exchange their ideas and their form of music. This further emphasizes the unique and cultural diversity associated with the art of fiddling, as it is a craft that has been influenced by many diverse cultures.

In rural Cape Breton, early Scottish settlers were able to preserve their highland style through a strong need to continue both their dance music and their oral cultural forms. These old and interdependent traditions were the basis of local entertainment. Over several generations, they came to provide relief, not just from isolation and long winters but also from the heavy labours associated with a challenging environment. Whether people worked on the farms in the fields, or in the coal mines, steel plants and the fishing fleets, a fiddle was always handy.

Even though in recent times much of the original and Gaelic culture has been in steep decline, the music has continued to flourish. While a healthy evolution of the form is evident in spite of radical changes in linguistic, social and economic conditions after 1955 when we built the Cape Breton Causeway, Gaelic fiddling has survived intact.

Fiddling represents the preservation and continuity of community. Fiddling is a building block of many communities, especially in Cape Breton and my riding of Sydney—Victoria. Inverness County is home of the Cape Breton fiddling tradition. For longer than any other Scottish settlement, the people of Inverness County continue to live as they might have lived in Scotland 100 or 200 years ago.

Cape Breton classic fiddling music is also linked to the Gaelic language. Most fiddlers generally agree that the sound of a correctly performed Cape Breton fiddle tune resonates with the sound of the spoken Gaelic language. The decline of the Gaelic language in Cape Breton could therefore be perceived as a direct threat to the survival of the fiddle tradition. Despite the perceived threats to the survival of Cape Breton fiddle music, it has survived and continues to evolve. It is a key economic factor. Out migration significantly affected the Cape Breton fiddle tradition. Playing style and sound experienced an intermingling with other cultures in places like Massachusetts and Michigan, which clearly affected its evolution.

Like the Gaelic language, once the most prominent language on our island, and for years the primary language of many Canadians, the fiddle tradition was believed to have suffered with the introduction of the radio and later the television to the island culture. As a language disappears, it is up to participants to decide the validity of maintaining other things which that language has influenced, for example, fiddling, in the case of Gaelic.

The CBC film called The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler was produced in 1972, and it was a cry for help and a plea for survival of this most important tradition of fiddling. The result was a renaissance in fiddling, beginning with the annual festival of fiddlers at Glendale in 1973. From that point on, fiddle music began to thrive again, attracting young players and wider audiences. New tactics and new sounds, but the fiddle was continuing to get back its popularity.

Preparation for the successful 1973 festival gave birth to the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, and its work continues today. The association's main mandate has been to preserve and promote traditional Cape Breton fiddle music. Since its inception, it has provided workshops and opportunities for its members to learn new tunes and techniques. It has published tunes written by its members and it has provided venues for musicians to perform for thousands of people. It has nurtured and supported its members to excel. As a result, many of these wonderful members are now worldwide.

Cape Breton fiddle music became part of a global Celtic revival where Celtic music in various forms achieved a high degree of international popularity. This traditional music has helped Cape Breton in providing a boost to the depressed island economy. Tourism is taking off in Cape Breton and one of the biggest tourist attractions, and I encourage all members to come, is in the break week in October. It is called Celtic Colours. It is when the leaves of all the beautiful hardwoods in Cape Breton are in full colour, while we have a big Celtic festival with a whole week of music. We have musicians brought in from all around the world, plus our local talent. Church halls and every venue is used, with music throughout the island. Thousands of visitors come to Cape Breton to enjoy the hospitality and Celtic music it provides.

I have so much more I would like to say about the fiddling across this great country we live in. I am supporting, and I ask my colleagues to support, Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day in Canada. We in Cape Breton, fiddlers and people who love to fiddle across this country, would appreciate this House moving this bill forward.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day.

Our country is culturally diverse. Over the centuries, newcomers have been arriving in Canada and bringing with them the traditions and customs of their cultural communities. Luckily for all Canadians, these traditions and customs often include art, music and dance.

The fiddle has been an important instrument in many of these communities. Across Canada, contributions from first nations people, in addition to Canadians of English, Scottish, Irish, French and Ukrainian heritage have given Canada an incredibly rich and diverse inventory of fiddling styles and music.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is considered the heart of Scottish fiddling in Canada. Since the 19th century, with the arrival of the 25,000 Gaelic-speaking Scots, Cape Bretoners have come together for house dances. These house dances are an informal gathering with music, dancing and socializing. They have carried on the Scottish fiddling traditions.

The most famous story of Nova Scotia is the one about Buddy MacMaster, who worked as a station agent for the Canadian National Railways during the 1940s. Buddy was stationed at Valley depot, near Truro, where he often worked the late shift.

In the quiet times between trains, Buddy would often practise his fiddling during the night shift. The train dispatcher in New Glasgow knew of this and would communicate with Buddy and other station agents to find out when the tracks were clear. When they were, they would ask Buddy to play a song over the dispatch and railroad agents across the Maritimes would listen in.

Buddy's passion for the fiddle ran in the family, and today, Buddy's niece, Natalie MacMaster carries on that tradition. Ms. MacMaster has won two JUNO awards, and in 2006 she was made a member of the Order of Canada, not only for her enormous talent but for using her fiddling to support charitable causes across Canada and to raise awareness of development issues in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Ms. MacMaster is a fine example of the Cape Breton style of fiddling, which was brought to Canada from the Scottish Highlands. Today, many consider the Scottish tradition to be better preserved in Cape Breton than in Scotland itself thanks, no doubt, to fiddling masters like Ms. MacMaster.

Fiddling in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick is also a mixture of cultures with surviving Acadian influences, as well as those of Scotland and Ireland. New Brunswick's most famous influential fiddle player, of course, is Don Messer, who began his career on the radio in 1929 on a musical program called the New Brunswick Lumberjacks on CFBO in Saint John.

He became a Canadian household name in 1959 with his CBC television show Don Messer's Jubilee. His playing style, known as “down-east” or “Messer” style, was straightforward and easy to listen to. Mr. Messer's musical style established what is known today as the national Canadian old-time style. Don Messer's television show was reportedly the second-highest rated show in Canada, behind Hockey Night in Canada, and was enjoyed by all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

When the CBC made a questionable decision to cancel the show in 1969, it was inundated with protests and complaints from irate Canadians, with 1,500 angry telephone calls and over 20,000 pieces of mail. There were protests on Parliament Hill and angry questions from Conservative leader John Diefenbaker in the House of Commons. Fortunately, a Don Messer television show would be picked up in the fall by CHCH in Hamilton.

Fiddle music has a historic connection to many of our communities. It was a significant and common form of artistic expression for Canadians from all different backgrounds in different parts of the country. I encourage members to vote for this bill to honour this very Canadian tradition. We do not want to make the same mistake that the CBC made when it decided to cancel Don Messer's Jubilee.

Today, fiddlers, as well as festivals and community traditions, are keeping Canada's fiddling traditions alive. The fiddle has been an instrument that has enabled Canada's immigrants to continue their traditional cultures while they settled into their new homes in Canada. Fiddle music has contributed to Canada's rich history of community-building and melding of traditions into a culture which is uniquely Canadian.

I trust that my hon. colleagues will join me and agree to designate the third Saturday in May in each and every year as national fiddling day.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2015 / 7:10 p.m.
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Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say a sincere thanks to all of the members here tonight who have given such strong support. I am assured that all of the members here in the House realize what fiddling music has done for all of Canada, and how much value there is to this. I look forward to seeing this bill passed and being able to have our special day for all fiddlers right across Canada. I know that they too would appreciate this day designated just to recognize them.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2014 / 12:55 p.m.
See context


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am excited and honoured to speak about a bill that originated in the Senate. However, it would have been nice if it had originated in the House. What is Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day, all about?

In Quebec and eastern Canada, fiddling is heard in the winter. It warms hearts, brightens people's lives and makes them dance and sing. Why is the fiddle played in the winter? It is likely a result of long-standing tradition and culture. Our ancestors played the fiddle to bring this sound, warmth and joy to family gatherings. We would gather in the living room for a party, for example, and my uncle Gilles and aunt Rosane would dance while my grandfather played the fiddle. That was how we did things at home in Quebec.

Unfortunately, this tradition has almost been lost because the population is aging, of course. Other factors may also be at play, such the fast pace of life. Everyone is running after their dog and having trouble making ends meet. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

In my former career, I was a sound technician and producer. Over the years, church basements became empty. That is where amateur shows and concerts used to take place. They then moved to agricultural fairs and carnivals in the regions.

However, for lack of an operating budget, the organizers of these events had to abandon the tradition of bringing people together, not only as part of winter activities but also as part of community celebrations. The last show that I produced or attended where I grew up in Asbestos, Windsor, in the Eastern Townships, was in the early 1990s. After that, there were practically no more shows. That type of thing is becoming increasingly rare in Quebec.

Despite all of that, the next generation of musicians have taken over. Some groups continue to carry on that tradition by playing more traditional music. There has therefore been a small resurgence. Alain Lamontagne is the true inheritor of this tradition. He travels across Canada with his fiddle and his merry band to carry on the tradition of call and response songs and joie de vivre. Fiddling helped us keep that tradition alive at celebrations and later at community events and industrial fairs. These types of gatherings do not really happen anymore because of a lack of funding and so this type of music is, unfortunately, not played as often. I say unfortunately because it is a tradition that is being lost.

Close to where I lived, there was a national flag carrier, Ti-Blanc Richard, father of Michèle Richard. He proudly carried on that tradition for years. He and Louis Bilodeau, a local television host, kept the tradition alive with La Soirée canadienne. La Soirée canadienne was about reviving traditions. It disappeared as well.

Unfortunately, both men died many years ago, but they kept alive the joyous Québécois tradition of gathering to celebrate and sing call-and-response songs. It was amusing to watch my uncle take out his dentures and start playing the fiddle.

I do not know why he took out his dentures. Maybe he got so excited that he was afraid his dentures would pop out and hit my aunt.

Those are lasting memories. Seeking to perpetuate those traditions is a good thing. However, the NDP would have liked to see a little more attention paid to culture in general, to several aspects of culture and to investments in culture. I mentioned regional exhibitions and fairs. Since there is no money, we can no longer carry on these artistic traditions.

Music has an incredible impact on community life. There are all kinds of art forms, but today we will be talking mostly about music. I am a rock musician myself—yes, I have long hair, I am a rocker, a guitarist, but I am still open to other styles. When I hear traditional fiddling, it almost makes me cry because it brings back memories. I will not reveal my age, but those are old memories, memories of the days when the whole family would get together, have fun and talk about everything under the sun. We talked about politics. Back then, it was just blue and red, but now orange is in the mix. That makes me happy.

I would have liked such a day to be in the winter. It would have brought back memories for a lot of people. I think having it in May is somewhat questionable, but that is just my personal opinion. Everyone has an opinion on how the artistic community is funded, managed and subsidized at this time. Some people say artists are getting to many subsidies. Too many subsidies for artists? Some countries subsidize their heritage 100%. This means that mechanisms and structures are put in place to ensure that some traditions are perpetuated, including crafts, traditional singing, painting and all forms of art.

In Canada, we often forget the important contributions made by artists across the country. To understand Canada from coast to coast to coast, we need look no further than its culture. Whether we are talking about first nations, Newfoundlanders, Albertans or Quebeckers, we look at their traditions, what they do to celebrate, to have fun. This can be found in the arts, in artistic expression and the form it takes.

If we do not provide the necessary framework for developing and carrying on these traditions, they will be lost. We will lose part of our identity. This is an integral part of who we are. It is so important for everyone from coast to coast, for first nations and immigrants. Other ethnic groups come here and carry on their culture. Why abandon all this? Everyone has the right to practise their art, and that is the environment in which we we should live and socialize and develop our relationships between men and women, between nations, between first nations, between Canadians from coast to coast. It is extremely important.

As I said, this brings back memories and calls to mind a warm and traditional atmosphere that deserves to be carried on. Although the NDP and I are completely on board with Bill S-218, again, to me the fiddle is something we hear during the holidays or in winter. It warms our spirits as we sit around a good campfire.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2014 / 1 p.m.
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John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising out of question period.

I misspoke when I said the government had returned $7.5 million to the treasury last year from FedNor. What I really meant to say was that $11 million has been returned over the last four years, along with a $30 million cut to the FedNor budget.

I apologize to the minister for my lack of mathematical skills.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2014 / 1:05 p.m.
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Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

We do, Mr. Speaker. The world's largest fiddle is in Cape Breton, at the waterfront in Sydney. It was built in 2005. Tourists from around the world come to have their pictures taken in front of it and enjoy the great fiddle music of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.

I am happy that most members in my party are supporting this bill, because I think it is significant. It is something to be celebrated and it keeps the proud tradition of the fiddle out front.

We cannot always take it for granted. There is a great story that is part of the history passed down from generation to generation back in Mabou, which is the really the epicentre, the cultural soul, of the Celtic spirit in Cape Breton.

The story is that Father Kenneth MacDonald served as the parish priest back in the1860s for a number of years. He was not a big fan of the fiddle. He was not a big fan of a lot things, such as dancing and libations and so on. He thought that the fiddle was a bit evil, so he took it upon himself to go door to door and gather up the fiddles in Mabou.

It may have worked for a short time, but Mabou, as I said, is really seen as the focal point of fiddling, though not just fiddling. We are all very much aware of the Rankin family. A great fiddler with that family is John Morris Rankin. It really becomes a mecca, especially during the Celtic Colours festival every fall.

However, there was a time of decline even after the gathering of the fiddles. CBC ran a documentary in 1972 called The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler. It was produced by Ron MacInnis. It talked about the decline in the number of people playing the fiddle in Cape Breton at the time. Fiddling was thought to be on the verge of distinction, so some key people got together and vowed that they would not let this happen. They were Frank MacInnis from Creignish, Father Eugene Morris from Mabou, Burton Maclntyre from Whycocomagh, Archie Neil Chisholm, Father John Angus Rankin—who was one of the real driving forces behind it—Rod Chisholm, Judge Hugh J. MacPherson, Anne Marie MacDonald, Jeannette Beaton, Joey Beaton, and Ray MacDonald. This group got together and said, “We can't let this happen. We just can't let fiddle music die in Cape Breton”, so they embarked on a plan to pull together an organization.

From that was born the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association. The Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, a lot of it under the guidance of my good friend Betty Anne Matheson, puts on a major festival at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's, Cape Breton, year after year, which draws thousands of people and hundreds of fiddlers to come and learn, take workshops, and perform. Even those who have gone on to great careers and have been very successful in the music industry continue to return to this festival each year to be with their fellow fiddlers and to continue to learn and grow and share. As I said, that festival takes place each year.

They understood that they could not be complacent, and many in the fiddling community knew that. Some people have stepped up, guys like Eddie Rogers, who was originally from Guysborough but who has lived in Cape Breton for a number of years. He continues to work with many young fiddlers, inspiring the next generation of fiddlers. It is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation, most times in kitchens but a lot of times in the dance halls and far beyond.

There is a great quote from the late and great John Allan Cameron. He said, “When I was growing up, the most important people in the community were the fiddler and the priest”. Anybody who comes from a rural community can certainly attest to the high esteem that great fiddlers are held in.

When we talk about some of the great fiddlers in Cape Breton, there is Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, who was a bit ahead of his time in recording fiddle music and a lot of the traditional fiddle tunes. He laid the groundwork for future generations.

There is Dan Joe MacInnis, from Big Pond, and Lee Cremo, a famous first nations fiddler from Eskasoni, and Carl MacKenzie. As I had said, from the Rankins, the late John Morris Rankin was an accomplished fiddle player.

This past year, we lost Buddy MacMaster. Although Buddy was born in Timmins, he moved to Judique at an early age. Buddy MacMaster was a phenomenal fiddle player, a beautiful, caring, and sharing man. It was through the commitment of these people that they continue to share and inspire young fiddlers. Of course, Buddy's niece, Natalie, went on and did not have a bad career herself. Natalie is an accomplished musician. She is married to Donnell Leahy, who himself is a fabulous performer. The list goes on, including Jerry Holland. Those are some of the greats.

We could not talk about fiddlers from the Cape Breton area unless we gave a shout-out to Ashley MacIsaac. I remember, in 2010, when we watched the opening of the Olympics in Vancouver, and we saw k.d. lang doing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and just how inspiring that was. Then out came Ashley doing his rendition of Devil in the Kitchen. He not only lit up the opening ceremonies for the people in the place, but he lit up the airwaves as well. I had the great opportunity to see both Ashley and his cousin Wendy MacIsaac perform at the Celtic Colours opening gala early in October, and it was an incredible performance.

Hosting these events, and certainly having a day that recognizes fiddling, can only continue to help grow the art. I commend Senator Libbe Hubley for putting this bill forward. She is an accomplished fiddler herself. It will be embraced and enjoyed by many, far beyond the fiddling community. When we look at the impact of Celtic Colours on our community, and the thousands of people who come from around the world to enjoy Celtic Colours, we can see opportunities like that.

I was warned by a good friend of mine that I cannot be talking about fiddlers unless I give a shout-out to people like Hilda Chiasson, Dougie MacPhee, Tracy MacNeil, and Billy McPhee. It is like the pitcher and the catcher; they have to have a piano player too. We have to give a shout-out to the piano players. I do not know if there is going to be a piano players bill coming forward.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2014 / 1:10 p.m.
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Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, Rodney is our former premier and great friend who runs the Gaelic College, and his buddy, Glenn Graham. His name is Rodney MacDonald. In Cape Breton, it is just Rodney. It is like Elvis; we do not even need the last name.

I am happy to speak to this, and I want to commend the senator for bringing this bill forward.