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Evidence of meeting #20 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was carmichael.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

We will make the identification for the other amendments after the round of questions to Mr. Carmichael and after we speak about this first amendment.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Merci.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Mr. Benskin...?

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I think there's general agreement from the committee to just move on to voting on the amendment. I think we have agreement on it.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Okay.

February 2nd, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Just so we're clear here, we're cutting essentially all of the wording for clause 2 and replacing that wording with this amendment, correct?

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Yes.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Okay.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Does that include paragraphs 2(a), 2(b), and 2(c)?

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Yes. Clause 2 is replaced by what you have in the proposed amendment. The changes to clause 2 become more apparent, I think, in conjunction with your amendment, which you will probably be making shortly, I assume. I suppose we're doing it somewhat backwards, but the amendment you're proposing, which I believe we're supporting, facilitates a need for us to change clause 2 to reflect that amendment, so that's what we're doing.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Mr. Simms, do you have a comment?

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Yes, I think we're going a little backwards here. I'll tell you why. It's because there is a fundamental change here in what we're talking about, which from the language I read here is encouragement, as opposed to the penalty factor of it. Also, as a witness Mr. Carmichael said in his speech that he certainly agrees with the amendments that are being made.

Can we hear from Mr. Carmichael first about the amendments in question? If he agrees that the amendments should go forward, I think he's the best salesperson for them.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Does everyone agree with this proposition?

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

I do, but I just want to add that the amendments change the bill quite significantly. Mr. Carmichael spoke at length about this document we have here, which we've debated, so I agree that it would be worthwhile for us to understand the differences and have him explain them.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Are you fine with that approach?

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

The committee will put forward amendments, and we have an opportunity to question Mr. Carmichael, but once we get into the phase of talking about amendments, I don't know that the witness will be able to answer in advance questions about the amendments we're debating. He might be able to talk about what he has heard the committee is bringing forward in terms of amendments, but I don't know that he has actually seen all of the amendments that we're proposing as a committee.

If we want to continue talking about this amendment later but first go into a round of seven minutes of questioning of the witness, why don't we do that? We could do a round of questioning each, and then if we need to ask more questions of the member, we could do that. We'll just put this amendment on hold for a bit while we hear from Mr. Carmichael and all three....

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Mr. Calandra.

I will follow my gut feeling here and propose--everybody is going to start scratching their heads--that we read all the amendments now.

No? Oh, I'm being advised by the clerk not to do so. They're scratching their heads. Just a second, please.

Our counsel recommend that we proceed as follows. As the amendments have already been circulated to all members, we will move to a 10-minute question period. If no one objects to that procedure, let's begin.

Mr. Young, you have the floor.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Carmichael, thank you for bringing this bill forward. I wonder if you could just summarize why you feel the bill is important.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

That really is at the hub of the entire exercise.

I've heard from Canadians from across the country who are being restricted from flying the flag. As I've said in the House in answer to many of your questions and in debates we've had in different environments, our flag is a symbol of our own national pride, and we all feel that. We're not here to debate that issue.

However, when Canadians are being restricted from flying the flag for whatever their pride level is, or their purpose, their history, whether they're veterans, new Canadians, or families who just feel great pride in this country and want to fly our flag, I don't think that's terribly Canadian.

This bill has been accused of a number of different things over the course of its short life. Let's keep in mind that, number one, it's a private member's bill. It was an issue that I heard about from Canadians over the course of my early tenure after being elected in May, and it struck me as absolutely and fundamentally wrong that people could intimidate, bully, or otherwise restrict Canadians from flying our flag. I felt it was something important that we as Canadians had to stand up for.

We believe in free speech. We believe in democracy. To that end, I think it's incumbent on us as parliamentarians to make a statement that all Canadians have the right to fly the flag any day of the year without bullying or intimidation.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Can you speak to your priorities for Don Valley West with regard to this bill?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

There we strayed from our debate.

My background is in business. I come from a business background. Creating jobs and economic growth are fundamental to what I believe in and do every day. As a parliamentarian, I represent all the residents of my riding of Don Valley West, which, as some of you from neighbouring ridings know, is probably as diverse a riding as it gets in this country in terms of ethnic diversity, financial diversity, etc. I see people who love and believe in this country being told that they simply cannot fly the flag, and it's not that they are just simply being restricted: they're being charged, they're being castigated, and they're being put in bad standing in their homeowners associations or condo boards.

That, to me, is wrong. That's something that has to be fixed. It's fundamental to our Canadian belief in freedom and democracy, and something that I felt was incumbent on me to take to Ottawa.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Thank you.

I'm sympathetic in a number of ways. One is that I remember the 2006 election. As you know, the Canada Elections Act stipulates that no one can prevent campaign teams or candidates from going to the doors of voters. I was in a condominium in my riding at about eight o'clock, and a man answered the door with his pyjamas and housecoat on. It wasn't that late; it was only about eight o'clock, and he asked me what I was doing in the building. I said that there was a federal election, and I was a candidate.

He said, “Do you realize that goes against our condo rules?” I said, “With respect, sir, I think the Canada Elections Act supersededs your condo rules", and he closed the door rather impolitely. I think there's a fundamental principle of democracy here.

I wanted to ask you this: some of the opposition members in the House are saying we should only be spending our time dealing with crises, whatever they are; do you feel that the right to fly the flag is a crisis for Canadians?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

No, I wouldn't say it's a crisis. A crisis to me is facing the storm clouds of economic concerns that we have on the horizon right now. That's something we have to pay close attention to.

This is about personal rights, Canadian rights, and the freedom of people to express their pride in their country. I've served on many boards, and one of the ones I was very proud to serve on was the board of the Canadian Olympic Committee. As a result I've attended many Olympic Games, and at those games you witness the pride Canadians feel in standing up and cheering and waving the flag. It's usually when we're winning, but we're all proud to attend the Olympics or watch them on TV, and nowhere was it more evident than the past winter Olympic games in Vancouver. The streets were lined with Canadian flags. In fact, I feel there was a fundamental shift in this country in the pride Canadians felt at having the Olympics here, winning 14 gold medals, and having the wonderful experience of watching our athletes perform at a high level.

It's not a crisis, but there's enough of it out there, and I have many examples that tell me it should be a concern and is something we need to fix. We need to enshrine it. You know our flag is one of the most powerful symbols of our own identity, and that's something we should be able to express whenever we want, in a respectful way.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Thank you.

What is your hope on how this bill might affect Canadians' lives directly?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

My hope is that if you own a condominium or a house or rent an apartment, and for whatever reason you share that mutual pride and desire to fly our flag, you will be able to do so without anybody putting a roadblock in front of you.

You talked about a condominium experience, and clearly condominium boards are made up of volunteers who have the best intentions for their organizations. My hope is that we as a government will express that it is wrong to stop people from flying the flag and that we will encourage people to support such an initiative.