Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm just looking at the clock and I'm more than glad to stay an extra five minutes. I'm sorry I was a little late. I just have to make it to the House for House duty at 10 o'clock, so I'll extend this by five minutes. That's only fair.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here. I'd like to start by congratulating you, Chair, for your new assignment and your election as chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I know you'll do a great job.
To the members of the committee who were on this committee in the previous Parliament, congratulations on your reappointment.
New members, welcome to one of the best committees of Parliament, which studies things that are important to all Canadians, particularly with regard to culture and national unity, subjects that are important to all Canadians.
By examining important issues in our society, this committee gives Canadians of all backgrounds the opportunity to be heard and helps us ministers and members of Parliament do a better job. I hope, as the session of Parliament begins, to establish a productive working relationship with you.
Today, I would like to talk to you about our government's plans and preparations for celebrating several anniversaries that will lead up to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. I am joined here today by Daniel Jean, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, and a few officials who will be happy to answer your questions afterwards.
Let me begin by saying that obviously celebrations and anniversaries of the scale of a 150th don't often come around for countries around the world. Indeed, our government believes this is a milestone that should be acknowledged and celebrated in a big way all across this country.
Some of you will have personal memories of the celebrations of 1967, which obviously brought to Canada a great sense of pride in our history. I believe that the landmark event that is Canada's 150th birthday is even more worthy of meaningful celebrations and lasting memories. That is why I'm very pleased that this committee has taken it on as one of its first areas of consideration in this new Parliament.
The year should be an occasion for reflecting on what we have achieved as a relatively young country, and it should be an opportunity to promote a strong sense of pride and belonging for all Canadians. Past events have demonstrated Canadians' enthusiasm for getting involved in large-scale celebrations of national significance.
The 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City was celebrated across the country, and Canadians gained a deeper insight into our country's origins and the importance of this great Canadian city.
More recently, we saw patriotism reach an all-time high as we got behind our athletes who revelled in the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games on the west coast.
Also, the three royal visits over the past two years have also united Canadians from coast to coast to coast in embracing our past and expressing our hopes for this important institution in the future.
These celebrations allowed people across the country and visitors from around the world to discover Canada and its history, landscape, and culture, our artists, our communities, and our official languages. They gave us an opportunity as Canadians to express our deep pride and strength across the country.
Canada's 150th has the potential to be an even greater celebration than what we've seen, in every respect, because it will in fact involve all Canadians from all communities of all sizes in projects and celebrations of every description that will not only honour our past, but also inspire a bright future.
Our government understands the importance of the history of the symbols of heritage, and the values that unite Canadians as a great nation. The Speech from the Throne states it quite clearly: Canadians are united by core values, a shared history, and a sense of common purpose. Our government will join Canadians in celebrating our heritage, in promoting our values, and in standing for what is right on the world stage.
In the next few years, Canada will celebrate some incredible milestones. And they will all culminate in Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. This anniversary represents an opportunity to celebrate major events that have shaped our history and contributed to our national identity.
Clearly, however, the most important thing for us to continue to tackle is to continue to work together to have this committee stir up ideas, to bring witnesses before this committee who have great ideas on how Parliament can contribute to a national dialogue on how we move forward. There will be commemorations that will take place over the next few years that will allow us to build momentum toward our 150th anniversary and we'll be chipping in and supporting them across the country.
Common themes that will tie these milestones together include: responsible government, democracy, and freedom; strong symbols and solid institutions; rights and duties of citizenship, a shared commitment to fellow citizens and the rule of law; our veterans, a proud military history rooted in sacrifice and service to our country; and ourselves as everyday Canadians who make contributions every day in every way to the evolution of our country.
The anniversaries that will serve as signposts along the way to 2017 will remind us of the important events, key battles, significant people, and major accomplishments that shaped our great country and our identity. Our government will highlight these anniversaries to strengthen national identity and help build a shared understanding of Canadian history.
As you know, just last week, I announced our government's plans for commemorating the most imminent—and one of the most significant—anniversaries: the 200th anniversary of the declaration of the War of 1812. The war was a defining event in Canada's history. Without the War of 1812, Canada as we know it would not exist. Without the War of 1812, the French fact in our country would not exist as it does today. Without the War of 1812, the identity of our aboriginal population would have been fundamentally changed. The War of 1812 paved the way for Confederation, and it was instrumental in the creation of the Canadian military. Those who fought for Canada are Canadian heroes. People like Sir Isaac Brock, Charles-Michel de Salaberry, Tecumseh, and Laura Secord. The War of 1812 was the fight for Canada, and commemorating the war is important.
That's why over the next three years our government will be investing significant funds to increase Canadians' awareness of this defining event in our history. These funds will go to pan-Canadian educational campaigns, including a national documentary, a travelling museum exhibit, and the naming of October as the official month of commemoration of the War of 1812, as well as upgrading over 40 historic sites and supporting 100 local events, festivals, and re-enactments across the country.
As well, we're going to have a permanent memorial in Ottawa for the War of 1812 to honour Canadian heroes, and we're going to have recognition of our Canadian Forces regiments in 1812 ceremonies.
We will encourage Canadians to mark other key anniversaries in the next few years as well, so we can learn more about our history and our accomplishments.
Next year, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne--her diamond jubilee.
In the coming years, we will also remember the participation of Canadians in the First and Second World Wars, the creation of several Canadian regiments, and major battles that have punctuated Canadian military history.
We will mark the birthdays of such architects of our country and of Confederation as Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. We will commemorate key events that allowed our ancestors to lay the foundations of our country, such as the Charlottetown and Quebec City conferences and the establishment of the first responsible government in Canada. And we will celebrate great achievements that have changed the face of our country and our society, like the establishment of a colony near Red River, the Canadian Arctic expedition, granting women's right to vote, and adopting our national flag.
Other upcoming anniversaries that have marked our history include the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 100th anniversary of the NHL, and the 25th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 2017, all these celebrations will culminate in the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Our government wants the 150th celebrations in 2017 to inspire just as much pride and national sense of identity and belonging as the centennial celebrations in 1967 and Vancouver 2010 put together. We want them to leave a lasting memory in the minds and hearts of all Canadians. That's why this committee's undertaking of the study to bring forward ideas and Canadians who have thoughts and considerations on how we might best do this is very important.
I want to underline our government's commitment to our throne speech commitment to unite Canadians from coast to coast in this moment of national celebration. I think it's a great way to start this committee's consideration of events related to Canada's heritage by working on an issue that is I think beyond partisanship but is something in which all Canadians will be more than anxious to take part for the benefit of Canada's future.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Excuse my sore throat.