Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation Act

An Act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation

Status

Awaiting royal assent, as of Dec. 11, 2017

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Summary

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

This enactment recognizes Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

Elsewhere

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.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, this is the moment we have been waiting for, and I will conclude with many thanks to all colleagues who have contributed to the debate and discussion of Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, including especially those who took the time during third reading to express their vision for Canada's future.

I want to quote a member from each of the parties. The member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, with the official opposition, said:

This bill gives us the wonderful opportunity to remember and honour our national history, to recall the humble beginnings and soaring dreams of the first of our leaders, who dreamed of a united Canada.

I cannot think of a better way or better time for us to celebrate our accomplishments, both at home and around the world, than by passing a bill like this in our sesquicentennial year.

The member for Victoria, with the third party, said:

Being proud of a country's heritage and commemorating important historical events is worthwhile for most countries, but I think it is especially so for Canada. We should feel proud of our accomplishments. We are a country comprising remarkably diverse regions and remarkably diverse people.

As Canada moves forward to the next 150 years of nationhood, I hope we can strive to be more inclusive of other voices and cultural narratives so that they might also be celebrated and acknowledged.

The member for Charlottetown said:

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we can see the evolution of our country, our democracy, and our values. Our very roots, as evidenced by what took place in Charlottetown, were not about conflict or war: They were about finding mutual ground and working out our differences.

Those three quotes, from different parties in this House, sum up to a great extent what Canada is all about. The passing of this bill means a great deal to Prince Edward Island and to our provincial legislature, which passed an unanimous motion encouraging the support of parliamentarians, and to the Atlantic region as we share and develop the Confederation story. For Canada, this has been a chance to recognize and honour Confederation, and reflect on important ways in which we must work to shape the future of our country.

To close, it is the character of Canada, that vision founded in 1864, some of the things coming out of that meeting, that we are a country that works by negotiation. We are seen on the world stage in that light as well. It is that idea of coming together in common cause that has shaped our history since its founding.

The Charlottetown Conference certainly may be viewed as the watershed moment in the story of Confederation, the point at which Confederation turned from idea into prospect. This is what Bill S-236 is all about, recognition of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

My colleagues and I humbly ask for this House's support in this year of Canada's 150 celebration. It seems quite appropriate to do it at this time. Simply put, I ask the House to get it done and pass Bill S-236.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill S-236 that was introduced by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Malpeque. It was interesting to listen to my colleague, the opposition member, speak about the recognition that indeed Charlottetown is birthplace of Confederation and of this wonderful country we call Canada.

Why I want to speak in support of the bill today is because my political career began in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island. I will be the only member voting in support of this piece of legislation who has sat in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, with the hope that the House will recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of this wonderful country. In that, I have a great deal of honour in having sat in that assembly and now being in the House of Commons when this bill is being debated.

The history of how the meeting came about has been well documented. It was a meeting organized by maritime colonies to consider a union among the colonies. The Upper Canadian colonies invited themselves, literally, to attend the conference. From that, it is documented in history that, through that conference, a shared vision was created of a union of the British North American colonies and the creation of this new country.

When we look at Canada today as being a beacon in the world for people fleeing oppression, war, and various other atrocities occurring across the world, we can look at the creation of this country. What I am particularly proud of, as a parliamentarian sitting today in the House of Commons, is the diversity of the backgrounds of the people sitting in the House of Commons representing this country.

In my own case, on my father's side, my ancestry is Irish. We all know that the Irish fled Ireland during the Great Famine to come to a new world for new opportunities, and they found it in Canada, on Prince Edward Island. On my mother's side, my ancestry is French Acadian. My ancestors fled Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia. They were fleeing strife and war, and found a welcoming environment in Prince Edward Island. To this day, this country still reaches out to people fleeing oppression, war, and a number of atrocities across the world. That is what Canada is all about, and that is why I am proud to be a parliamentarian standing for those freedoms and rights.

We cannot forget that it was the indigenous people who welcomed us. Regardless of our cultural backgrounds, they welcomed us here. It was the Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island who welcomed the Acadians as they were being expelled by the British from Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia. They also welcomed the Irish who were forced to flee Ireland due to famine.

Today, having the opportunity to speak in support of Bill S-236 that would recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, is indeed an honour for me, as I indicated, having served in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island for 18 years. I can recall the first time that I took my seat in that legislative assembly. I looked around and, although small, I recognized the history of that chamber.

From that meeting, in that chamber, this wonderful country, this great nation called Canada, came about. We it owe our forefathers, who had the vision at that time, to recognize that we had to overcome a number of obstacles and disagreements to come up with a shared vision. That shared vision continues. It is debated from time to time, and each new Parliament adds dimension to that vision as Canada evolves as a nation on the world stage.

From where we are today, it all began in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. That is why I am pleased to speak in the House of Commons here today, now as a member of Parliament from Prince Edward Island, in support of Bill S-236 that will recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this morning to rise to speak to Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

Confederation is an important event for Canadians, but especially for Conservatives, since two Conservatives, Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister, and George-Étienne Cartier, a minister and Quebec lieutenant, were involved in making sure that this country came together.

Sir John A. Macdonald, as our first prime minister, was at the Charlottetown Conference that took place between September 1 and 7 of 1864. It changed the course of Canadian, North American, and world history.

What would Canada be if not for John A. Macdonald, a man with a vision of a Canada from coast to coast, and of delegates in Charlottetown, recognizing that we would be stronger together? How would the manifest destiny so loudly proclaimed by our southern neighbours have turned out? They had tried invasion once before, only to be foiled by a combination of British redcoats, English and French-speaking Canadian militia, and loyal indigenous warriors, who worked together to bravely keep the invading Americans at bay.

We managed in that campaign to occupy Detroit and burn down half of the White House, but that is another story.

While we had repelled the Americans once before, many here in British North America at that time were very worried about a potentially victorious Union army turning its Civil War guns north and taking our territory. They had already taken a good chunk of Mexico only 20 years earlier.

Many of our early leaders thought we would be stronger together than we would be apart, and they were most certainly correct. We cannot say for sure if Confederation kept the Americans from launching a second invasion, but it certainly did not hurt.

Since Confederation, what about the contributions that Canadians have made to the world, in sports, medicine, industry, science, and our brave contributions to numerous wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations, where Canadians have always punched above their weight? These contributions were certainly aided by an optimistic and forward-looking country that continues to defy the odds. If Canada did not form as one, and each region of our nation was its own entity, would different parts of Canada have the same voice internationally as our united Canada has had throughout our history? I would say, likely not.

We would not be in the G7. We would not have the same sporting record, particularly Team Canada, women and men on the international stage. We would not have the enviable list of inventors, like Sir Frederick Banting, who is from my riding of Simcoe—Grey. We would not have come together in that meeting. We would not have had that opportunity in Charlottetown in 1864.

Charlottetown was in many ways the ideal location for such a conference. It was not involved in the daily tug-of-war among the provinces of Canada, nor the larger Maritime partners of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island were a neutral ground, where all players could speak freely.

At that conference, the delegates from the regions that now represent Quebec and Ontario were not even invited to begin with. The original conference was to discuss a maritime union between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. When the Province of Canada heard about the conference, members invited themselves. It was an invitation to pitch a full union between the Maritimes and the Province of Canada. While welcome, their arrival did not stir much excitement, and why was that? Quite literally, it was because a circus had come to Charlottetown for the first time in 20 years, and the whole town was occupied with those sights and sounds, not something else.

Having been recently at my own party's leadership convention, which was held right beside an anime convention, I have a pretty good idea of what was going on in Charlottetown that day.

Despite the lacklustre start, meetings proceeded over the next few days with great success. What was even more successful were the relationships forged between individuals from across our then fledgling country. I am sure that the welcoming and friendly atmosphere, still present today, had something to do with building those friendships in Charlottetown.

I am also quite certain that the boatload of champagne, that today would cost about $200,000, contributed just a tad to making sure that people got along. That is Charlottetown.

Each time I have visited, I have felt the warmth of its presence. In fact, I and my family, this past February, learned of our own family farmstead, the Conway farmstead on Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown is friendly. Friendships are easily made. Charlottetown stays in one's memory.

There is no place in Canada that I could think would have been a better place to host the leaders of the Maritimes and the provinces of Canada. It certainly worked. Charlottetown, aided by a bit of champagne, charmed the delegates into unanimous support of the creation of a united Canada, based on the values we hold dear today. There were a number of steps afterward that led to the creation of Canada and what we would be known to become on the international stage. Quebec, a month later, nailed down the final details, then meetings in all the colonies to approve the union, and then finally in London in 1866, there was the approval of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

Charlottetown is where it started and, for this, I am happy to say that Charlottetown is the birthplace of Confederation. It is also why I am happy to support this bill.

The House resumed from December 4 consideration of the motion that Bill S-236, An Act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, be read the third time and passed.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation. I applaud the member for Malpeque, whom I have known for a number of years, for making sure the bill could come to this House.

Earlier this morning as the parade came in, I had a chance, as I always do, to look at this beautiful place and to think of all the history that is part of this building. Then I think back to Charlottetown. My wife's family came from Charlottetown, as a matter of fact, just on Grafton Street, and when the Fathers of Confederation were there, getting together and speaking, her family was there. They lived in the community. I had a great opportunity, therefore, to have that reflection. Of course, going to Charlottetown, as we do on occasion, we walk the stairs and have a chance to see just where Canada really took root. For us to be able to speak about this, in this place, and at third reading, it makes me feel very good about the history.

As the member for Malpeque mentioned, it is really a story of Canadian families. My wife's family, the Moore family, could have stayed in Charlottetown in 1892. They lived in a very nice place, but instead decided to come west as surveyors, to look at our vast country and see the kinds of things that were there. Then another 10 years later, when they had an opportunity to come to Alberta, they brought the whole family. My wife's father was one year old when they came in 1903. They became Albertans. Our family was there before Alberta was part of this great Confederation. Therefore, we have this bond between Charlottetown and Alberta. When we think about the importance of our entire country, it is so important that we are able to look at the families and relationships that exist there.

We had a chance to take my wife's father back to Charlottetown. This was probably in the mid-80s. He had not been there, but we did have a chance to look at the house. In the picture we had on the wall, a particular tree was about a two-inch diameter. When we were there, it took four of us to girth the thing. We can see a lot of things have happened there, but a lot of things have happened in the country as well. They are things we should be proud of, and we should recognize the strength there was in the people who decided this was something important to them.

My own family had gone to the U.S. They had come from Germany and gone to the U.S. in 1870. That was right after the American Civil War. The stress and situations that occurred there had them come to Alberta, as well, in 1903. There has been this great bond and this mixing we have in society, and it is because of families. When they came to Alberta, they started off first selling draught horses, because that was the power of the day. They then went into saddle horses, because that became the next commerce associated with it. Then they went into cattle, and finally into grain. The member for Malpeque and I have had many discussions on the grain side of things. I know our discussions on the Canadian Wheat Board go back a way, and we engaged in a lot of discussion there.

However, it is about people trying to do the best for their community and making sure they prosper, and it all happened because of people getting together and recognizing the concerns we had as a country back in those days. I am proud of that aspect of it.

Do we have things that we need to look at for the future? Yes. Should we spend all our time worrying about where we were 150 years ago? Let us think about it and let us recognize the significance. However, let us also think of the fact that Canada is the best country in the world and that is because of the people who brought us all together, and we continue to work so well together.

It is important for us to realize that the mistakes and issues that happened have built our character as a nation. We should all be proud of that. Unfortunately, we spend too much time going back, saying we could have been so much better if we had just done this or that. Where else would we rather be than here? We should all be proud of that.

I understand that these are the stories of Canadians, the stories of the distress. Look at what happened during the American Civil War. We were able to move from there. Look at the concerns and the reasons why our nation came about and why the discussions took place. That also is critical. It is extremely important we look at those aspects of it.

It has been a melting pot for nations around the world, as we come here, work together and look at our strengths. We want to ensure we maintain that. There is a Canadian identity and it is a result of the people who have been in this place over the last 150 years. This is a House of Commons and, as I have always told people, we are the common people. The moment we think we are above that is the time we should not be here. We reflect everybody in the country. I am so proud we can continuously say that Canada is the best place in the world.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and honoured to stand in this place to offer my contributions to the debate on Bill S-236. I would like to acknowledge some of the people who have brought it to this stage: the former member of Parliament for Hillsborough, George Proud; Philip Brown, from Charlottetown, and Sharon Larter, both of whom have been tenacious in advancing this private member's legislation through various Parliaments since the early 1990s; Senator Griffin, who introduced it and saw it through the other place; my colleague, the hon. member for Malpeque; and Dr. Ed MacDonald. They all have played key roles in getting us to where we are today. I would also like to thank the members for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek and Victoria for their very thoughtful and insightful remarks here today.

Finally, the proceedings before the heritage committee were particularly instructive and collaborative. In particular, I want to recognize the work and leadership of the member for York—Simcoe and the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, who also carried forward a similar theme as the member for Victoria with respect to the importance of indigenous voices.

I was extremely proud on November 23 of this year when the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada stood at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, just steps away from Province House, and accepted the Symons Medal and delivered the Symons Medal lecture on the state of Canadian Confederation. It was a particularly poignant moment when in the lead-up to his presentation, there was a Canada 150 signature performance by the Dream Catchers.

The Confederation Centre of the Arts is a permanent memorial to the Fathers of Confederation, and it was no more fitting on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation than to have the Prime Minister deliver remarks on the state of Canadian Confederation and to then accept a wide array of questions from the packed house. It was truly moving.

I am equally moved and honoured to stand in this House at this time on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation to speak to Bill S-236. As I indicated, it was put forward by the hon. Senator Griffin. It is quite straightforward and has a simple purpose: to recognize the role of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, along with Quebec and London, in laying the foundation for Confederation, a pivotal moment in Canada's evolution as a country.

History can be a dry topic, but today I would like to paint a picture for members of that meeting in Charlottetown that may perhaps shed some light on how it came about and why it was successful in terms of laying the groundwork for a new nation to emerge in the world. Historian P.B. Waite noted:

Confederation was, in many ways, a startling development. One can add up the causes of Confederation and still not get the sum of it. Like all political achievements, it was a matter of timing, luck and the combination of a certain set of men and events.

What was that certain set of men and events? Our neighbour to the south was in turmoil, tearing itself apart in a dreadful civil war. Citizens living in the British colonies viewed the upheaval with great unease, wondering if it would spill over the border.

At that time, British officials were trying to figure out whether the colonies were more of a liability than an asset. In a day and age when the empire was more interested in trade than in military might, perhaps it was time for British North America to take its destiny into its own hands.

Meanwhile, the Province of Canada, created by the 1840 Act of Union that united what are now known as Quebec and Ontario under one government, had reached a political impasse and was looking for a way out.

The problem was that Canada West, now Ontario, and Canada East, now Quebec, each had 50 seats in Parliament.

This was creating some tension. Canada West's population was much higher than that of Canada East, so more and more voices began clamouring for representation by population.

At the same time, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, also uncomfortable with the American conflict, had begun to talk about creating a maritime union among themselves. The instinct for unity was clearly an early Canadian trait.

Who were the men who made Confederation possible? In the early 1850s, a young lawyer from Kingston by the name of John A. Macdonald and a Montreal-based lawyer, George-Étienne Cartier, were both elected to opposite sides of the House in Parliament. A certain mutual respect developed between the two men, but it was when George Brown of the English-Canadian Reformers crossed the floor and formed an alliance with his archrival, Sir John A. Macdonald, that the logjam was broken.

The Great Coalition of 1864 wanted to build a larger united federation for British North America. Such a confederation would allow Canada West and Canada East to function as separate provinces, able to govern their own affairs within the new dominion. This is likely why Brown was able to align himself with MacDonald.

The Canadians became aware of the maritime union and asked if they might be invited to discuss a union among all the British colonies. The architects of the maritime union were Charles Tupper from Nova Scotia, Leonard Tilley from New Brunswick, and John Hamilton Gray from Prince Edward Island. They agreed.

A conference was arranged for Charlottetown, to run from September 1 to 7, 1864. The Canadian delegates included several senior ministers: Sir John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, George Brown, Alexander Galt, the minister of finance, and Thomas D'Arcy McGee, the poet politician.

Through the daily letters of George Brown to his wife Anne, we have the flavour of what happened at Charlottetown. The Canadians travelled in their ship, the Queen Victoria, and stocked it with provisions and gifts, all with an eye to demonstrating their goodwill to their maritime hosts.

I had said that history can sometimes be dry. Well, in addition to the serious discussions, the Charlottetown conference was a social affair with dances, dinners, and by many accounts, lots of champagne.

Interestingly, the Canadians had to sleep on the ship the first day they arrived. The circus was in town and there was not a single hotel available.

On the first day, the maritime delegates told the Canadians they would put Confederation first on the agenda and move the debate on maritime union to later. After this first important decision was made, a state dinner with dancing was held by the governor.

So it went: serious discussions, interspersed by social engagements where the delegates could all get to know and understand each other better. The discussion on Confederation was thoughtfully laid out by Cartier and Macdonald who talked about the benefits and outlined different models of federalism. Alexander Galt presented the financial aspects, including the benefits for the Maritimes. Thomas D'Arcy McGee painted a picture of a bright future together with his words.

During a tour of our beautiful legislature building, Province House, Sir John noticed a visitor's guest book. He signed it and under occupation wrote “cabinet maker”; indeed.

In less than a week, the Maritimers agreed in principle to Confederation and assented to participate in the Quebec conference a month later. The future beckoned.

This certain set of men and events needs to be remembered, shared, and taught to our children, which is why we are seeking to pass Bill S-236. Commemoration is about examining the past so we can move forward into our future with knowledge and understanding of how we got here.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we can see the evolution of our country, our democracy, and our values. Our very roots, as evidenced by what took place in Charlottetown, were not about conflict or war: They were about finding mutual ground and working out our differences.

Let us now work hard to ensure that the spirit of working out our differences and the lessons learned in Charlottetown can be applied to our search for reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Let us make sure that the spirit of reconciliation is not just for Canada 150, but will become part of our nation-building and national values. This is the lesson of Charlottetown. Let us keep moving it forward.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to reiterate the New Democratic Party's support for Bill S-236.

I would like to begin with a short preamble. As my colleagues know, this year we mark Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. Being proud of a country's heritage and commemorating important historical events is worthwhile for most countries, but I think it is especially so for Canada. We should feel proud of our accomplishments. We are a country comprising remarkably diverse regions and remarkably diverse people.

When we are celebrating or commemorating events that have transpired, it is important that we are mindful of the myriad cultural perspectives and experiences that make this a great country. From coast to coast to coast, there are many different voices that contribute to the Canadian experience. We must remember that historical events have different connotations for different groups in different parts of this country. As Canada moves forward to the next 150 years of nationhood, I hope we can strive to be more inclusive of other voices and cultural narratives so that they might also be celebrated and acknowledged.

With that said, the bill has given us an opportunity to evaluate Charlottetown's role in the Confederation narrative. From what we have heard, there is consensus now among our colleagues that Charlottetown is the birthplace of Confederation, if we agree to think of Confederation as a lengthy process with many important stages and not as a finite singular event. That process indeed began in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but there were, as others have acknowledged, other vital steps that occurred along the way. Therefore, the credit for Confederation cannot be attributed solely to Charlottetown. As some of my colleagues have mentioned in previous debate, Quebec and New Brunswick both played very important roles in that process of Confederation.

Although the bill is about recognizing Charlottetown, we must remember that Confederation was conceptualized there but not executed solely there. The point I alluded to in my short preamble was one I spoke about during second reading as well. I think it noteworthy that we remind ourselves, as the hon. member for Malpeque has done, that indigenous people and women were excluded from this beginning, this watershed moment the member referred to. I implored the government during second reading to ensure that recognition of Charlottetown would not therefore lead to a celebration of colonialism. As I understand it, there was little opposition to this particular point.

We have all acknowledged that the Mi’kmaq people who lived in that territory were shamefully ignored during the conversations that precipitated the union. These people had been living in that territory for thousands of years. The notoriously shameful conduct toward first nations people is not something that can be easily remedied or forgotten. However, I agree with the hon. member for Malpeque that Canada is in fact constantly evolving and that we are living in a very different time 150 years later.

I understand that at committee, efforts were made to amend the bill to mention the Mi’kmaq people, but these were not successful. I would like to take this opportunity to remind my hon. colleagues that we must consider this perspective when drafting all legislation of this kind if we are going to do justice to the so-called call for action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We have to become more inclusive as a country, and as we look back to our historical celebrations with a more critical lens than perhaps in the past, we must, as we move forward, not omit indigenous participation in this country.

I also want to suggest that the heritage and tourism materials on Charlottetown's role in Confederation become inclusive and address that part of our history and the contribution of the Mi’kmaq people at the time and since then. As I mentioned in my previous speech, the materials developed must acknowledge their presence in the territory prior to the particular agreement and that they were not included in the negotiations about the very lands they had occupied for centuries.

It is also important to support indigenous people as they represent their own historical narratives. Confederation, as my colleague pointed out, and citing Professor Ed MacDonald to this effect, is not the Canadian story; it is one Canadian story, one of many that represent our collective history. Let us not make the same mistake that those who came before us made by ignoring other cultural narratives.

With this in mind, let me return to the matter of Confederation and defining its role in this process I referred to. Recognizing Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation is for many Canadians a foregone conclusion. I believe that one of my colleagues referred to it at committee as self-evident, and I am inclined to agree. The province is already promoting itself as the cradle of Confederation, and one arrives on the island using the so-called Confederation Bridge. I do, however, admire the tenacity of my colleagues in getting Charlottetown formally recognized as the birthplace as Confederation, what my colleague referred to as the “spark”. This has been many years in the making, so let me congratulate the hon. member for Malpeque and all those others who brought us to this point.

Complicated unions and political manoeuvring often have many moving parts. The union of the British North America would surely not have come together if it had not been for hard work and perseverance. As we mentioned during second reading, the initial conference was held September 1, 1864, in Charlottetown. Then New Brunswick governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon was instrumental in its organization. Without his insistence on the initial conference, perhaps things would not have come together as they did. Of course, it was Sir John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier who persuaded the Atlantic delegates to accept a greater British North America colonies union, with the so-called Canadians included, the people from the current provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

While many items were agreed to in spirit in Charlottetown, such as having a federal government and local governments, the details were confirmed during the October 1864 conference in Quebec City. Therefore, Quebec plays no less an important part in this process of Confederation. It just does not warrant the title of birthplace, in my opinion.

The British North America Act received royal assent on July 1, 1867. One can see how one needs to refer to Confederation as a process instead of as a singular event.

In some ways, this is a very Canadian story. It is filled with compromises and key players from various backgrounds. It is very interesting that, as my hon. colleague pointed out during a speech at second reading, our nation was not born out of revolution or war. It was born out of a series of conferences and negotiations that led to our Constitution, our country's founding principles, and indeed, the brilliance of Canadians since then has been just that, the brilliance of honourable compromise so that we can work together bringing various diverse regions and diverse communities together in what is modern Canada. It is imperative that we carry that diplomacy forward. It is vital that we forge relationships with care and mutual respect.

As has been pointed out, we cannot go back and undo the past. We have the option, however, of moving forward with a commitment to be more inclusive and to build stronger nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples. Let us ensure that true reconciliation is a mutual undertaking for the future of all Canadians.

In conclusion, we support Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation. We acknowledge that the long process of Confederation did begin there. When composing heritage and tourism material, let us get it right this time by welcoming other cultural voices and perspectives. In doing so, we enrich our collective Canadian stories.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-236, , an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

This bill gives us the wonderful opportunity to remember and honour our national history, to recall the humble beginnings and soaring dreams of the first of our leaders, who dreamed of a united Canada.

History is not, as it is sometimes described, a dustbin of forgotten lore. Rather, it is the memory of how we came to be who we were and, perhaps more importantly, a view to the future, to who we are and what we will become. As the Right Hon. Winston Churchill said:

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.

As a young country, it is vital to reflect on and honour our history as we look to determine the path Canada will take in the future. Our founding fathers met 150 years ago in what is now called the Confederation Chamber of Prince Edward Island's legislative building, Province House. Out of that tumultuous meeting came the seed of Confederation.

Were it not for the tireless work and dedication of George Cartier and our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, it is very likely that Canada would never have come to be in any form. In 1864, the idea of a united British North America was a far-off dream, albeit one that had its supporters, including and especially the Cartier-Macdonald administration of the Province of Canada.

For year, prior to the Charlottetown Conference, there was talk of the need for unity of the British North American colonies in the face of the American “manifest destiny” expansion. The British desire to reduce their military presence in the colonies made unity a more pressing issue. Still, many thought this a pleasant dream, but ultimately impractical and bound to fail. Yet, it was with this goal in mind that a delegation from the Province of Canada, now Ontario and Quebec, made the trip to Charlottetown to attend a conference.

The original purpose of the conference was to debate the possibility of a maritime union rather than a union of the remainder of British North America. Despite the high expectations, the conference got off to a rather rocky beginning. When the delegation from Nova Scotia arrived, there was no one waiting to greet them. W.H. Pope, the provincial secretary who had been tasked with arranging the reception, had stepped away from his post for only a moment, and in doing so he missed their arrival. They were forced to fend for themselves and find their way to the legislature in a strange city. Meanwhile, a visiting circus, the first in 20 years, had taken over the city of Charlottetown and the islanders initially ignored the gathering of political figures, unaware of the future impact of the historic meeting that was about to take place.

By the time the last delegation, the representatives from the Province of Canada, arrived in their ship the Queen Victoria, W.H. Pope had smoothed over things with the Nova Scotia delegation. However, to his chagrin, a miscommunication lead to his rowing out to meet the Canadians in an old fishing row boat rather than waiting for them to arrive in their own proper boats.

Despite these initial setbacks, the delegates were quickly enthralled by the proposal for a unified British North America. The proposal that shortly before was only a dream became more and more of a reality. Macdonald, Cartier, Alexander Galt, and George Brown laid out their practical vision for a Canada that was far more possible than perhaps initially thought. Even more than possible, the Canadian delegation expressed that a unified Canada was an imperative.

The debates took place with the American Civil War as a backdrop. The Civil War was, to that point in time, the bloodiest conflict in history. In the view of the delegates in Charlottetown, the war was a result of the disparate goals of the various states conflicting with the goals of the country as a whole. Our founding fathers did not want the British North American colonies to eventually face the same end. In their view, a strong federal government was needed to unite the colonies toward a single goal.

Over the course of a week, the Fathers of Confederation set into place the framework for the future. Three years later, in 1867, our nation was born. One hundred and fifty years ago, our Fathers of Confederation were optimistic about Canada's future and firmly believed they had just formed what would become the greatest nation on earth.

As we reflect on our past and where our country is today, we can see that they were right. Canada is a nation deeply rooted in time-honoured traditions, such as human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for individual freedom. We have one of the highest quality of living standards in the world, with one of the most prosperous, peaceful, and secure populations. These blessings come with a responsibility and a duty on our part to honour that proud heritage of courage, hard work, and quiet resilience handed down to us by past generations.

The debate on this bill also provides us with an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the outstanding people, places, and events that are part of our history and culture. I cannot think of a better way or better time for us to celebrate our accomplishments, both at home and around the world, than by passing a bill like this in our sesquicentennial year. In celebrating the culture, history, and values that unite us, we can look forward to the future, just as the Fathers of Confederation did, and to the endless potential that Canada still holds.

As we look forward, we must, in equal measure, look back. For this reason, I will be supporting Bill S-236 at third reading.

Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise again to speak to Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

It has been a privilege to be a part of and to witness the debate and discussions surrounding the bill in both the other place and within the House.

At the legal and constitutional affairs committee in the other place, four amendments were made to the bill. One was a correction in translation and the other three improved the context and clarified the content of the bill. That debate brought renewed interest in the story of our great nation's founding and improved the bill.

Let me once again reiterate the bill's fundamental objectives: to affirm Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation; to complement provincial efforts; and, to build on the designation of Charlottetown as the birthplace of our country in order to honour, celebrate, share, and educate.

In the spirit of building on this designation, it is important to acknowledge once again a point that was raised throughout the examination of the bill, that being the lack of inclusive discussions at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864. Those were indeed different times. No indigenous people were involved and no women participated.

Dr. Ed MacDonald of the University of Prince Edward Island made an important point before the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs, “Confederation is not Canada, and it is not the story of Canada. It is one of the stories of Canada.”

I would like to fully read into the record, as was done in the other place, the statement issued by the Mi'kmaq Confederacy when consulted by my hon. colleague Senator Diane Griffin:

While the chiefs are generally supportive of the concept of Charlottetown being recognized as the birthplace of Confederation, they note that Prince Edward Island has been the home of the Mi'kmaq people for over 12,000 years, yet they were not invited to the Charlottetown Conference. In creating this legislative recognition, the chiefs believe that moving forward, the Government of Canada must include the indigenous peoples of this land on a nation-to-nation basis in all matters. This would also involve honouring the historic peace and friendship treaties with the Mi'kmaq.

Though we cannot rewrite history we can move forward with the lessons that we have learned over time and recognize and value the importance of an inclusive society, one that respects diversity in all of its forms and the value that it brings. In my view, the Charlottetown Conference was a beginning and in each of the 153 years since that time, we have built on that vision and we will build further on that vision going forward.

The Charlottetown Conference may be viewed as the watershed moment in the story of Confederation, the point at which Confederation turned from idea into prospect. However, the importance of the Quebec Conference in 1864 and the London Conference two years later cannot be understated.

During consideration in the other place, the preamble of Bill S-236 was amended in order to acknowledge those important conferences and to recognize Confederation as a process, a result achieved through the participation of many.

Before I became an MP I served for quite a number of years as president of the National Farmers Union. In that capacity I had the opportunity to travel in many of the farming areas of this country and spend the night in people's homes, to live in the communities, and to see the differences in the regions within Canada from coast to coast to coast. That experience showed me the great potential of this country. Canada may be diverse in terms of our regions and our sectors but in that diversity we find strength. I really do believe the founding fathers built better than they knew and we have tremendous potential for progress in the future.

Let me come back to the theme of inclusiveness and relationship building. It is my hope that Bill S-236 will inspire reflection on how we can build on the story of Confederation, and how together we can develop a narrative moving forward. One possibility is to develop the narrative through tourism. As the member for Malpeque, it is my privilege to represent an area that is so rich in culture, history, and beauty. Each year, my province welcomes many Canadians and international visitors from around the world, as do many other areas of Canada. We have some of Canada's most incredible treasures in Prince Edward Island, and we do not take that responsibility for their stewardship lightly. Islanders recognize as well the value of Province House, the last remaining building of the Confederation conferences and the story of Confederation, to boost tourism and serve as an important economic generator for us.

We also recognize the importance of a common vision to promote growth. In the spirit of Sir John A. Macdonald and the Fathers of Confederation, who travelled to New Brunswick and throughout the Maritimes after the conference in Charlottetown, I am confident that together we will find new and innovative ways to attract and educate Canadian and international visitors alike and build on both the rich history of Canada's Atlantic region and the story of Confederation.

It is important to reflect on that foundational time in our history as we near the end of the year-long celebration of our nation's 150th birthday. We look forward to the next 150 years as a progressive, inclusive, and growing country.

I want to thank those who have contributed in important ways to where we find ourselves today with the bill: Senator Diane Griffin, the sponsor in the other place; the member for Charlottetown; former MP George Proud; many other islanders who worked hard toward gaining the bill; Dr. Ed MacDonald; and all my colleagues in this place and the other place whose invaluable contributions to the bill made it better. The debate itself has allowed us to reflect, to honour, and to educate during this important year for Canada.

It is my hope that the next time I walk over the time-worn steps of Province House and stand in the chamber where the Fathers stood that this moment, which is enshrined in history, will also be enshrined in law.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-236, An Act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 29th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, concerning Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

November 27th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

It's rather strange to see my 12th floor neighbour in the Valour Building sitting in Washington.

I'm delighted you're here, Senator. Thank you for agreeing to present your bill to us.

This year, Canada's 150th anniversary has often been touted as an opportunity to, in some way, make amends for the wrongs of the past. Senator, you mentioned the importance of the Mi'kmaq perspective. I'm wondering whether it isn't a missed opportunity not to recognize, in the bill, the territory by its Mi'kmaq name, pronounced abegweit, which I believe you even said.

As you said earlier, it would be great if the bill were passed prior to the end of the 150th anniversary year of Confederation. Indeed, you don't give gifts after Christmas; it's too late then. With this piece of legislation, do we, as parliamentarians, not have a chance to do even more, given what we've experienced this year?

I won't even get into a discussion on how few francophones participated in the conference. I believe there were just two, but that has nothing to do with our duty to achieve reconciliation with first nations.

I am proposing an addition to clause 2 of Bill S-236, which currently reads: “Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is recognized as and declared to be the birthplace of Confederation.”

I, for one, think it would be a positive step to add the following to the clause:

“This place known as ‘Prince Edward Island’ is recognized as traditional and unceded territory, known as Epekwitk, of the Mi’kmaq First Nation.”

That said, and I realize that this would be an additional step, we could go even further by stating:

“Parliament recognizes that the Charlottetown conference that led to Confederation excluded representatives of Indigenous peoples.”

The first change I'm proposing would recognize the territory, which would be nice. I would point out that, first nations people made it very clear this summer, on Parliament Hill, that we have a very white view of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

I am formally moving this. I hear the clerks talking to the chair, so I would like to move an amendment to my motion, in order to include first nations.

November 27th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Senator, Prince Edward Island, ISG

Diane Griffin

Honourable colleagues, thank you for the opportunity to speak today on Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation. I was pleased to hear the second reading speeches in the House of Commons. It was a wonderful opportunity for the House to debate the historical role of both Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island in the Confederation story.

Bill S-236 gives us, as parliamentarians, a collective opportunity to reflect on and also to educate Canadians about our shared history as we celebrate Canada 150 and look toward our nation's future.

Let me be clear. Although I am deemed the sponsor, Bill S-236 is not my bill. It is a vision that has been expressed by Islanders to solidify in law the formative event that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada.

At the federal level, this vision has seen many forms. In the 41st Parliament, its name was Bill C-659, and it was sponsored by the member of Parliament for Charlottetown, who is now the parliamentary secretary for Canadian heritage. In the 42nd Parliament, it is Bill C-253, introduced by the member for Malpeque, who is with us today by video conference. However, due to Bill C-253's high draw order, it was clear that the bill would not be debated during Canada's 150th year. Therefore, I introduced Bill S-236 in the Senate to ensure that Parliament would have the opportunity to debate and reflect on the role Charlottetown had in leading to Confederation. I guess you could say I am the johnny-come-lately to this whole discussion.

This bill, when enacted, will be an appropriate complement to a bill passed by the Prince Edward Island legislature in 2014 called the Birthplace of Confederation Act. It builds on the 1996 proclamation by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien recognizing the role of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation and affirming this as an integral part of our Canadian heritage.

For context, when this went to the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, four amendments were made to the bill. One amendment corrected a drafting error in the French version, and two clarified Charlottetown's role by indicating that it was the start of a process that led to the Quebec and London conferences, which ultimately resulted in Confederation and the creation of the Dominion of Canada. The last amendment to the bill stated that the recognition of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation does not confer any specific, such as financial, benefit under the Parks Canada Agency Act.

To avoid confusion, Bill S-236 is not about the colony of Prince Edward Island joining the Confederation in 1873. This bill is about the city of Charlottetown hosting the conference that gave birth to the idea of Confederation in 1864.

With respect to consultation and involvement of first nations in the development of this bill, and the larger element of the Charlottetown Conference, Parks Canada worked with representatives of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy to develop interpretive videos of the Confederation story that explain the history of the Mi'kmaq peoples and highlight the lack of any role at the Charlottetown conference. I might add that women didn't have any role there either.

Although Bill S-236 does not trigger a legal duty to consult, I asked the chiefs of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy for their views of Bill S-236 and of Confederation in general. I am now going to read into the record their statement, to ensure that it forms part of the House of Commons' deliberations.

I quote:

While the chiefs are generally supportive of the concept of Charlottetown being recognized as the birthplace of Confederation, they note that Prince Edward Island has been the home of the Mi'kmaq people for over 12,000 years, yet they were not invited to the Charlottetown Conference. In creating this legislative recognition, the chiefs believe that moving forward, the Government of Canada must include the indigenous peoples of this land on a nation-to-nation basis in all matters. This would also involve honouring the historic peace and friendship treaties with the Mi'kmaq.

I appreciate that there was debate on how the Government of Canada should celebrate and commemorate our 150th year of Confederation. This bill provides all of us, as parliamentarians, an opportunity to participate in a legislative event to celebrate and recognize the watershed moment in Canadian history that happened in Charlottetown.

I'm optimistic that this bill has sufficient support to be passed prior to the end of the 150th year of the creation of the Dominion of Canada.

November 27th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Now we're going to move to the order of reference of Monday, November 6, 2017, Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.

We'll listen to the witnesses. The first one will be the Honourable Diane Griffin, senator.

Welcome, Senator.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank my colleagues of all parties who spoke and offered their support for Bill S-236, that Charlottetown is the birthplace of Confederation.

When there are debates in this place, we sometimes do not agree and sometimes we do. Even when we agree, we always learn something new. I thank the members for York—Simcoe and Victoria. I learned something new from their remarks. I really liked the approach of the member for Brandon—Souris who appealed to the compromises we could make within our parties. The member and I did not always compromise on the farm movement, but just like the lessons of Confederation, we always learn some lessons as time passes.

It could be summed up best on why this was the birthplace of Confederation. I will read a note, which I believe comes from the archives. It says:

On the first official day of the conference, Macdonald spoke at length about the benefits of a union of all of British North America. The next day, Galt - a businessman, finance minister, and railway promoter - presented a well-researched description of the financial workings of such a union. On the third day, George Brown discussed the legal structure. And on the fourth day, McGee praised the nationalist identity, one that he saw bolstered by a vivid Canadian literature.

On every day of the conference, people spoke about building a greater nation.

I will sum up by saying thanks to all those in the House who offered their support at this stage of the bill today. We ought to recognize our founding fathers who met in Charlottetown and, yes, who went further in other conferences, such as the Quebec Conference and the London Conference. Over the years, we have learned, as the member for Victoria mentioned, about ensuring we are inclusive, about bringing in all peoples of our country and about what we are doing in this day and age. I can truly say, with the meeting and this bill to endorse Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation, that the founding fathers built, better than they new, a great nation, Canada, from coast to coast to coast.