Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-210.
First of all, as the members of the House already know, the NDP will be supporting this bill. We want to thank the senator who raised this matter in the other place, as well as the member who raised it in this House.
The reason we are supporting this bill is very simple. We do not believe, nor have we ever believed, that the government should play with words when it comes to legislation. We thought it was important to have fair titles. We thought it was important that the government be reasonable, that it not seek to divide Canadians. Instead, the government should be promoting consensus on legislation.
The first reason we are supporting this bill is that we have always opposed the former Conservative government under Mr. Harper in his intent to try to deform legislation, to add titles that are absolutely inappropriate. We fought this through the years of the Harper government. There were many times that we raised the fact that the government was imposing titles that made no sense and were designed for political purposes, rather to properly reflect the content of the legislation before the House of Commons.
The issue raised by the title of one government bill, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, was very problematic, as were a number of other titles. A government should be looking for consensus in this country, not searching for division and imposing on acts and bills and legislation titles that are designed for political purposes.
Certainly the Conservative government had the opportunity to campaign, but that was not appropriate for legislation that comes before the House and is considered by all of the members of Parliament who are elected to represent their districts. The use by the former Harper Conservatives of these kinds of titles never should have happened. We certainly agree with eliminating the title in this case.
I raised earlier this week the very many practices that the Harper Conservatives brought in that the current Liberal government is continuing. It includes omnibus legislation, the most bloated omnibus legislation in Canada's history. There are 556 pages in the budget implementation act that we just suspended debate on, and there are so many other cases where we see the lack of transparency and the lack of respect for democratic institutions under the Harper government transformed into the new Liberal government. It is completely contrary to what Liberals committed to.
In this case at least, we are seeing the initiative of one member of Parliament in speaking out against a Harper Conservative practice. At least one Liberal is speaking out against the current government continuing this practice, at least in this case, so we thank him for that.
At the same time, since I represent my riding, I need to talk about respect for diversity in this country and the fact that the Harper Conservatives, in introducing that divisive title, were not showing respect for the diversity of this land that we all call home.
In the riding of New Westminster—Burnaby, there is more diversity within a few square kilometres of that riding than exists anywhere else in Canada and, we believe, anywhere else on the planet. Within a few square kilometres of the city of New Westminster, south Burnaby, east Burnaby, and Cariboo Hill, in the Burnaby-Edmonds area, over 150 languages are spoken. All major centres of faith are found in the riding of New Westminster—Burnaby. I am so honoured to represent that area. Through the course of a day, sometimes I will be able to use fragments of 14 or 15 different languages with the various groups that are so active in the cultural diversity that is New Westminster—Burnaby.
It is an exciting place. There are so many festivals. What we have is Canadians of so many different origins, from the four corners of this planet, coming together in consensus and making sure that they work together and bring the best of their countries of origin.
My grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side did the same when they came from Norway, as did my grandfather and grandmother on my father's side when they came from Ireland and England. They brought to New Westminster—Burnaby a lot of diversity and traditions that were important, and all in keeping with those fundamental values of human rights and equality that Canadians believe in. In New Westminster—Burnaby we find that writ large, 150 times over. People from all corners of the earth come together in harmony.
I can recall one incident that exhibits the kind of acceptance and the kind of tolerance of each other that really underscores Canadian values. I go to the Chariot Festival every year at the Tamil-speaking Hindu temple on Edmonds Street in Burnaby. It is a loud, boisterous, and celebratory festival. People go through the streets of the community around Edmonds. There is loud music, which is wonderful. It is vibrant. There is dancing.
The first time I accompanied the marchers through the neighbourhood, I went up to some burly guys who were sitting at the side of their fence drinking a cold beer. It was a hot summer day. I asked them how they felt about all this. I was not sure what the reaction of the gentlemen would be, but one of them said to me that he loved it, because he did not have to travel around the world to see the traditions in Tamil-speaking India, because India comes to his door.
That type of acceptance and admiration of the diversity and multiculturalism that exists in New Westminster—Burnaby is something I believe all Canadians share. That is the hallmark of Canadian multiculturalism, and I see it each and every day in my riding. I see an acceptance and a willingness to look at what is best that has been brought from the four corners of the earth and woven into the tapestry that is the multicultural nation we call home, with the various origins, including, of course, first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.
More often than not, we get that balance right. We still have so much to do to make sure that every Canadian feels accepted and welcome. We still have a lot of work to do in that respect. My colleagues in the NDP raise this every day in the House of Commons. Generally, most Canadian communities get it right, and most Canadian communities believe in that acceptance of each other. That is a good start for Canada.
That is why, getting back to Bill S-210, the idea of carving off what was an extraordinarily divisive title, used for political purposes, is an important but small step in what we want to achieve as a country.
We should all believe, as the 150 different languages spoken in my riding attest, that Canadians do best when we all work together and accept the best of each one of us. As a country, we do best when we are willing to listen to each other and learn from each other and build that into the immense multicultural tapestry we call Canada.
New Westminster—Burnaby perhaps is a bit of a hallmark for the rest of the country, with 150 languages and all major religions found within it. I would like to think that is how we all want to see Canada. I would like to think that we all believe in the acceptance of each other and that we all believe in not promoting division but rather in promoting unity and working together, regardless of our diverse countries of origin and creed. On behalf of my party, I would like to say that we support this legislation as a small step in that direction.