moved that Bill C-201, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), be read the second time and referred to a standing committee.
Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to introduce Bill C-201, the first Private Members' bill of this session. It concerns the oath of allegiance we swear to the Queen, to which I would like to make some changes.
On October 25, 1993 I was honoured and proud to be elected to Parliament for the second time. On November 9, 1993 at my swearing in ceremony I had the honour as an elected member of the Canadian Parliament of pledging allegiance to the Queen.
Having been elected to Parliament by the electors of my riding of Carleton-Gloucester by a record 46,800 votes in my favour, about 35,000 votes more than my nearest challenger, I felt proud but above all I felt honoured at having been elected to serve so many Canadians.
For this reason I want to add to the present oath of office, that is to say the one that pays allegiance to the Queen, a pledge of allegiance to Canada and its Constitution.
After swearing allegiance to the Queen on my family Bible and signing the parliamentary documents handed to me by the Clerk in the presence of my wife and children, I requested that the Clerk of the House of Commons let me read the following affirmation:
I, Eugène Bellemare, member of Parliament for Carleton-Gloucester, swear and solemnly affirm that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly in conformity with the Constitution of Canada.
I was extremely proud to add this affirmation to my pledge of loyalty to the Queen.
Since I first introduced this bill in 1993 when it only went to first reading, I have had many discussions and conversations on this topic and received many letters from across Canada from my constituents and colleagues applauding this bill which adds to our present oath to the Queen. It adds to our allegiance to Canada. It is with this support that I present the bill to the House today.
This private member's bill in no way negates or removes our allegiance to the Queen. Our parliamentary monarchy is part of our Canadian Constitution, our Canadian history and our Canadian heritage. The Constitution cannot be amended by Parliament without the consent of the provinces and territories.
My proposed oath for solemn affirmation to Canada and the Constitution is a proposed amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, not the Constitution, and therefore is in proper order. It comes as an addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen.
The wording of my private member's bill was prepared according to parliamentary rules by the legal experts of the House of Commons.
Some people think this bill is redundant, in that the oath of allegiance to the Queen already implies allegiance to Canada and Canadians and it would therefore be unnecessary to add a pledge of allegiance to the Constitution. In my experience, however, what is implied is often interpreted differently by different people.
I think it is important to affirm what we believe in when we pledge our loyalty, and in this case, I pledge my loyalty to Canada and to Canadians, and I am not afraid to tell the whole country and the whole world.
Canada, as a member of the British Commonwealth, is headed by the Queen. The existing oath sworn by members of Parlia-
ment is the swearing of allegiance to the Queen. I was as proud as any member of the House in pledging allegiance to the Queen during my swearing in ceremony.
However, the oath sworn by all members of this House is practically identical to the oaths sworn in all Commonwealth countries.
I may point out that we were all elected by Canadians in Canada, and I assume that we all represent Canadians and not people living in other countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tanzania, and so forth. These are all Commonwealth countries whose members of Parliament pledge allegiance to the same Queen.
Canada is a distinct society and is different from other countries that belong to the Commonwealth and are represented by the Queen. The pledge I made to my constituents clearly indicates that I represent Canadians, not citizens of the whole Commonwealth.
Since the bill I introduced in the House today is not votable, this will prevent me and my fellow members from taking a position and stating whether we feel patriotic about Canada.
I was very disappointed to hear that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for deciding what happens to a Private Member's Bill, has judged that my bill would not be votable.
Even though my bill answered all 11 criteria for the selection for votable items as set out in the rules of the House, I had submitted a positive written reply to all these criteria when interviewed by the House committee. It told me the interview would be five minutes. It seemed interested enough to prolong the interview to over 20 minutes and the attitude was very positive. I do not know what has happened since the time I left that committee when it decided in private to make the bill, unfortunately, non-votable.
I want to make it clear that the bill is an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act and is not intended to replace the current oath but rather to add to it. The pledge to Canada and the Constitution is in addition to the pledge to the Queen.
Members of Parliament, present, past and future, I am sure are proud to be Canadians and are proud to serve in the House of Commons.
Several other Commonwealth countries are presently studying the need for an oath such as the one I am presenting today. Members of the national assembly in the province of Quebec already pledge allegiance to the people and the constitution of Quebec. They do this because they feel the need to affirm their loyalty to the people they represent. They also, as everyone knows, swear allegiance to the Queen.
I would therefore urge all members, who wish to pledge their loyalty to Canada and Canadians or who feel the need to do so, to do this in the form of a pledge of loyalty to the Constitution and to this country. I would be delighted to meet anyone who would like to discuss the pledge of loyalty to Canada I made when I swore my oath of allegiance after the last election.
In concluding, I can inform all hon. members that I am proud that at my swearing-in after the last election, I added my pledge of loyalty to Canada, to Canadians and to the Constitution.
I believe that all of my colleagues presently sitting in the House of Commons would like a chance to individually go on record and officially tell their constituents that they are proud to be Canadians. Giving all members of Parliament a chance to vote on this bill in the House of Commons is the perfect vehicle for such a patriotic statement.
Madam Speaker, in concluding, I wish to say that yes, I was elected by 46,800 Canadians in a Canadian riding, and I have a responsibility to my constituents in Carleton-Gloucester.
I have a solemn commitment and I am conscious of my responsibility, to use my judgment to serve all Canadians, and I would ask my fellow members to do likewise. I know from discussions I have had with them that in their hearts they want to pledge allegiance to their country, in addition to pledging allegiance to the Queen. They want to pledge allegiance to their Constitution and their people.