Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, members of the heritage committee and colleagues.
I'm delighted to be here with you today and for the opportunity to address my private member's bill, Bill C-288, an act respecting the national flag of Canada, and to move it forward this morning.
I'm delighted to present this bill on behalf of Canadians across this country who want to fly the Canadian flag proudly at their homes and residences. This bill was initiated and introduced because Canadians from all across this land are being restricted from flying the Canadian flag, not only residents in my riding of Don Valley West but Canadians from all across this great land.
There are countless Canadians who have faced the risk of eviction, hefty fines, and other punitive actions, not to mention large legal bills, associated with their deep desire to show their patriotism and their pride in our flag.
These are the stories of valiant veterans, such as Guy Vachon and Fred Norman of Ottawa, who served for more than two decades of their lives in our armed forces. Fred Norman travelled halfway around the world to fight in the Korean conflict. At that time, the Internet was a distant possibility. There were no Googles or Wikipedias to inform them of the land or the challenges they would face. These men went blindly to their destination in the name of democracy to proudly serve our country. They endured the harsh and unimaginable conditions of war. They carry the heavy burden of having left many of their fellow soldiers on faraway battlefields.
Today these men have fought a different battle in their quest to fly the Canadian flag. They have had to put up an extensive fight for the right to fly the flag they love, something to which these veterans should never have been exposed. Surely enabling these men and women to exercise the right to fly our maple leaf on Canadian soil is the least we can do as a token of gratitude by this country.
The House is already familiar with other stories that I've spoken to earlier, such as that of Brian and Linda-Lee Cassidy of southern Ontario. This couple has proudly flown the Canadian flag for nearly 40 years, in four different homes, and recently had their homeowners' association demand that they remove their flag for fear of repercussions. Because of their non-compliance and their pride in flying the Canadian flag, their standing in the association has been downgraded. They have been left in bad standing.
You may also recall the story of Rose Wittemann, from Mississauga, who sought to fly the flag in honour of her brother, who was fighting in the war in Afghanistan, or that of Kirk Taylor, from Calgary, who simply wished to hang his flag outside in honour of all that the Canadian flag has represented to him and his family.
As you can see, these stories are from coast to coast to coast in our great country, and they reflect a common theme: a deep desire to fly our Canadian flag and a deep pride in doing so.
There are also the stories of new Canadians who wish to proudly fly the Canadian flag as a symbol of the adversity they have overcome to achieve citizenship in Canada.
All of these individuals should have the right to fly the flag at their homes. This bill serves to ensure that all Canadians, with their unique stories and motives for proudly flying the Canadian flag, are honoured. This bill ensures that they have the right to fly our flag without fear of eviction, financial penalty, bullying, or intimidation.
There has been much debate on this bill. Strictly focusing on the relevance of this bill, there are several issues I know we will discuss this morning that will lead to corrective amendments to ensure that this bill is acceptable to all parties.
Amendments to this bill will be made in an effort to ensure that citizens who wish to exercise their right to fly the flag will be able to do so. Further, this will ensure that strata boards, building councils, homeowners' associations, condominium boards, and others will all understand that restrictive protocols simply are not acceptable.
This bill was not initiated to be partisan or divisive. Throughout the debates in the House of Commons, while there was a good deal of straying from the focus at hand, there was a common theme that underlined all discussions, that being that all members, I believe, demonstrated and felt pride in our Canadian flag.
Further, we echo one another's sentiments in the deeply symbolic message that the flag represents, with ideals such as democracy, equality, and freedom.
I know that all here today are proud Canadians and that Bill C-288 serves to ensure that all citizens join us in their desire to have the right to fly the flag.
I thank you for your time today and I appreciate the opportunity to join you this morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.