As it is my motion, I don't mind speaking to it, hopefully very briefly.
As committee members will know, it has been about six weeks since I put this before committee, informally and then formally. I want you to know that the government wants to address this issue of half-masting in the most non-partisan way possible. I'm sure there isn't a person in this room—let alone members—who would want us to politicize the issue of the ultimate sacrifice that people make, whether they be soldiers or people in public service. This is one of the most solemn parts of our civilization, as we recognize the people who pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Committee members will know that I spoke probably two or three times, a couple of times in camera as well as in public, about the fact that the government had requested a report and that the government was prepared to give the report to the committee for the committee to take a look at. Unfortunately, due to other pressures, the committee didn't get around to taking advantage of that offer or handling this motion. That's just the way it was.
The report, I want to be clear, is not the position of the government. The report presents, as advice to cabinet, a position of experts in this field. That does not mean they are right. That does not mean they are wrong. They are experts in this field. This is an emotional issue because it is literally a life and death issue, and the government has the highest respect for that.
The government also recognizes that there was a vote yesterday in Parliament that expressed one perspective. That's fine. That was the option that members had. But our feeling on this issue is that the flag does not belong to one party or one group of individuals. The flag, the way in which we handle the flag, and the respect that we show for the people who have paid the ultimate price—and their families—is an issue that, although it is emotional, hopefully we can respectfully discuss and arrive at the most appropriate conclusion on.
So I speak in the strongest possible terms to say that if possible, as a committee, we should unanimously accept this motion, accept this responsibility. It is a responsibility being handed off by the government to this committee for advice. If it's going to tie up a lot of the committee's time, it might even be advisable to have a subcommittee of committee members or other members of Parliament to handle this.
But again, I don't think I can overstate our feeling on the importance of this not being a political or partisan issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.