Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill S-205 and to affirm the importance of the arts for our national life and indeed for all people throughout all time in history. The appreciation of beautiful things and the enjoyment of them is fundamental to the human condition. It is part of what elevates our minds and develops our thoughts and creates space for our greater understanding of goodness and of truth, in unity with beauty.
I was thinking of jumping-off points for talking about this issue. I was reminded that in the Catholic tradition, today is the feast of St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More is known better for some things than for others, although he was a composite figure known for his many different contributions to politics as well as to literature. He is best known for how his career ended: He was executed for refusing to endorse the king's marriage. He did so on a point of principle and a point of conscience. Regardless of whether members agree with the particular stand he took, we can all admire the courage of a politician who takes a stand on a principle and understands that the things they believe in are more important than their career or even their life.
St. Thomas More was also a great humanist. He talked about justice. He talked about human dignity and spoke explicitly about the connection between the ill treatment of people and crime. His writings and comments on those subjects have been sources of inspiration and content for people across the political spectrum. Particularly on the artistic side, he was someone who was able to develop ideas and present political points, indirectly perhaps, in the form of beautiful literary compositions.
If members have not read it, I encourage all to read Utopia. This is where we get the concept of utopia as sort of a political construct. He wrote this relatively short book, Utopia, in which he imagined a voyage to a faraway country called Utopia, and he describes in detail the characteristics, the modes of interaction and the beliefs of this fictitious people. Of course, he was living at a time when it was difficult to make certain kinds of political points directly. As his later career demonstrated, if one believed in certain things and expressed those opinions, there could be very dire consequences, not just in today's sense of people being cancelled but of actually being cancelled.
He spoke about certain ideas and raised certain questions through this description of an imaginary society that operated according to different norms and different rules. There were many questions at the time, and there still are, about what he really meant in many aspects of this book. Was he describing an ideal society? On the other hand, there were things about that society that seemed to be different from things that he defended and advocated as a politician. Maybe he was not describing an ideal society; maybe he was simply trying to expand the creative imagination. He was trying to give flower to possibilities by creating a space in which it was acceptable to think about things that would have been seen as maybe too subversive if he had been commenting directly on norms or policies in his own country.
I think what Utopia demonstrates is the beginning of the tradition of trying to subvert established ideas through the subtlety that is possible through art when it is is maybe harder to present those alternative concepts directly. There has since been this whole genre of utopian or dystopian literature, with dystopia, obviously, being the inverse of a utopia. There are many great modern works that pick up on this tradition and use this device of imagining another place, another time, another context to subtly comment on our current realities. Some of the works of Margaret Atwood, of course, are famous in this regard, such as The Handmaid's Tale. The Children of Men is another great dystopian novel that I have read recently, and I think it has a great deal of value in it.
The point I am trying to make is that art has value in and of itself. It is also a vehicle by which questions can be raised and thoughts can be provoked that are not as obvious, not as directly accessible through explicit political speech, and, indeed, possibilities can be opened that are unexamined otherwise or harder to argue for directly.
That can be the case perhaps because of direct repercussions for those who propose contrary ideas, but that can also be the case simply because certain concepts are so out of the mould that it is hard to envision what they would imply unless they are actually described in a more literary format. Thomas Moore is one example of someone who successfully provoked the creative imagination through art and literature.
We can see the value in Parliament creating this position of a visual artist laureate as appreciating our artists, as affirming the value of arts as a mechanism by which Parliament uses its position, its leadership role within the country to affirm the importance of the arts. However, it is also an opportunity to recognize, in our national life, so many of the conversations we have about the big challenging issues facing our country. Questions of justice, questions of human rights and questions of how we behave and respond to certain challenges can be proposed and shaped through art.
With that in mind, I am very supportive of the bill. It is one of many private members' bills before the House, some of which have come from the Senate, that do have great value and that Conservatives are pleased to support. From what I understand, Bill S-205, like Bill S-204, which we were speaking to last week, had the unanimous support of all senators. Like Bill S-204, it also has a great deal of support in the House. By all indication, I think all members will be supportive of the valuable provisions contained in that bill. It is one of those things hopefully parliamentarians can work together on across different important private members' bills as well as across different chambers to move these things forward.
In the context of the legislative timeline we have in front of us, unfortunately it looks like the Prime Minister is trying to malign the work of Parliament to create the impression that Parliament is not working. The reality is that this Parliament has worked substantially to move certain important issues forward; it just has not always worked in a way the government has liked.
One example the sponsor of this bill will be familiar with is the work being done at the Canada-China committee, a committee that was created even though the government did not want it created, a committee that undertook important studies, did important work on the situation in Hong Kong, a committee that has been part of discussions that have happened at other committees as well on recognizing the Uighur genocide, something that happened through the leadership of Parliament and not through the leadership of the government. Now we have a situation of Parliament asserting its rights to access documents. These are important cases of the leadership of this Parliament.
If the Prime Minister is critiquing Parliament, it has less to do with the fact Parliament is not working and more to do with the fact that, from his perspective, Parliament is working too well. Parliament is doing things the government may not like, but nonetheless Parliament has been able to lead, oftentimes through the collaboration of opposition parties and sometimes working with individual members of the government as well.
Nonetheless, we are in the situation now as we approach the end of the spring session where it looks very much like the Prime Minister, in trying to malign the work of Parliament, is trying to position himself to justify calling an election. If that happens, of course, it will put important legislative initiatives that have not yet passed in jeopardy.
We should reflect on the fact that as we possibly come to the end of the spring session, in some cases, we have bills that have been passed in the Senate and are now in the House. If the House could find a way of dealing with them, it would allow us to move forward ahead of the spring session so those bills could become law.
As I have described, this is important legislation. It recognizes the profound role that arts play in our national life, the profound role of beauty in the human experience and also the role arts can play in provoking questions and ideas that might not get discussed otherwise.