Mr. Speaker, let me first say how much I respect my hon. colleague who has moved the bill. I have been here for a very long time, and he has been here longer than I. Throughout the whole tenure of my term here in Parliament, which is over 10 years now, we have always had respectful dialogue, and I will do my best to keep my dialogue in regard to his bill, which seeks to change the national anthem, as respectful as I can.
I am speaking on behalf of a massive amount of constituents that I have heard from in my constituency who are finally becoming aware that this change would even happen.
I became aware of this as the member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin back in a Speech from the Throne, which my colleague had mentioned earlier. Ironically, at a time when the economy and keeping our streets and communities safe are important ever-pressing issues, the proposed change that was highlighted in the Speech from the Throne elicited such a response from my constituents that it let me know overwhelmingly that this is not a change that the people that I represent welcome.
That is our role as parliamentarians. Our role is not to take some other personal considerations into effect. Our role as representatives is to represent the will of the people that we were elected to represent. We should always be considerate of that first and foremost.
I have looked at a number of articles about this particular issue that have been printed in regional or national media. It always refers to, usually, colleagues from my side of the House speaking to this particular issue as they are reflecting the will of their constituents, yet when we hear from members of Parliament from other particular points of view, they are talking about how we need to pass the bill from a perspective of a personal attachment to a situation that a member of the House is going through. However grave that actually might be, it should never be a rationale for how we make decisions or determinations in the House.
We should always seek to do what is best and in the best interests of all Canadians and what the will of the people who sent us here to do our job actually is. I have not heard a lot of that debate on what the representatives who are voting in favour of the legislation are actually hearing from their constituents. I hear emotional arguments, but I never hear what the constituents of the folks who are voting in favour of this legislative change actually have to say.
I have been here a long time. As a matter of fact, my private member's bill in the last Parliament sought to make a change that would have affected a few hundred thousand, maybe one million workers, Bill C-525, and I was accused voraciously of doing this through the back door, taking a back-door sneaky approach to change some legislation when my bill went through the entire process. The process took over a year for it to happen. The committees at both the Senate and the House of Commons heard from dozens of witnesses and interested parties. It went through the private member's process.
I am not questioning the member's ability to bring forward a legislative change. I respect member's rights and privileges in the House. He has every right to move a legislative change as he sees fit. I do not dispute the fact that he has the right to do this. However, the process has been gerrymandered from the outset.
The bill was passed in the chamber on, I believe, June 1. It went to the committee on June 2. One witness was heard from for 45 minutes. The chair of the committee made an appeal to the members of the committee based on the medical health condition of the sponsor of the bill, and the bill was subsequently sent back to the House the very next day.
I have never seen a private member's bill move so quickly through the House without regard for due process, which is very concerning to me. If that is the process of how legislation is going to be adopted and changed, I can hardly wait to see what the Liberals are going to do with the changes they are going to be proposing when it comes to democratic reform, because if that is the MO, then we have a lot to be worried about.
Before I finish, I just want to read what one person, who was not able to get her particular point of view, either in a written submission or directly to the committee, taken into consideration. I will read this letter into the record.
It says, “To Whom it May Concern, I am writing you as a young concerned Canadian. I just finished reading a news article about [a Liberal MP's] Bill C-210, which calls for the lyrics of our national anthem changed to be 'gender neutral'. I am absolutely appalled that this is even being given thought, let alone consideration. I would first off like to state very clearly that I am not writing to you...out of any closed-mindedness [or malicious intent]. I am a full supporter of equality and inclusiveness 100% but I draw the line at the proposed lyric change in O Canada, and here is why:
“'True patriot love in all thy sons command. True North strong and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee'
“That block of lyrics is in reference to our sons at the front during the world wars. Yes, I am well aware that there were many nursing sisters at the front as well, but the reality is that our sons by far outnumbered our daughters at the front.
“Let's not forget the 1917 MSA conscription during the First World War after we lost the entire Newfoundland Regiment on the first day of the battle of the Somme. We lost our SONS in less than an hour, the regiment was all but wiped out. To change those lyrics is not only a slap in the face to all who serve now, but to our grandfathers and great grandfathers who so bravely marched on into battle for the freedom we enjoy today. It's a direct spit at the memories, stories and legacies those men left behind.”
The author of this letter is clearly indicating what we all know and feel in our hearts, that the national anthem, as it was changed, was done so to respect a time in history. It is not meant to be gender biased in any way, shape, or form. It is a historical anthem. It was our nation's founding moment. Many historians would argue that when our sons, mostly sons, who were fighting in the wars at that particular time made an assault on Vimy Ridge, they earned our right to participate internationally. Some would say it was the birth of our nation.
She goes on to say in this letter, “The final line in the block of lyrics actually renders the statement gender neutral”, and she says “I say this because we as a nation do stand on guard for “thee”. “We” is the part that means “all of us”.
She argues that the previous line that talks about “in all thy sons command” refers to a part of our history. The part that “we stand on guard for thee” is the gender neutral language, which encompasses all of us and charges all of us with the diligence to look after, protect, and preserve our nation.
This is a good enough reason for me, based on the fact that many of my constituents have already told me how they feel about this and the fact that the bill, regrettably, and I do understand the circumstances, does not seem to have been given due process in this place at all. I am going to have to vote against the legislation.