House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was referendum.


Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his kind words. The will of the Newfoundland government to establish denominational schools for school children where the numbers warrant is within the legislative authority of the province. The federal government should not intrude on that legislative authority.

The issue before us is a process where we will give the Government of Newfoundland the authority to proceed, consulting with her people from time to time. It is known that the numbers that will warrant today may not be the same numbers that will warrant tomorrow. Communities change.

I was on a school board. I know at one time the number 36 would warrant and later on the number 17 would warrant. If we fix the number today we will imprison the possibility of change in the future and the possibility of the Newfoundland government to see the present, whatever the present is, and adjust to the particular moment for the greater benefit of her citizens.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, if I understood the member correctly, he is saying that the current protection which exists in the Constitution for denominational schools is part of the ark of Confederation. Is he now saying that it is time for the national Chamber, the Government of Canada, the protector of enshrined rights such as these to walk away? Is that what the member is saying?

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, far from it. The Government of Canada has made it very clear that when minority rights are in danger it is ready to stand up and protect those rights.

The resolution that is before us is to make it clear and respond positively to the request of one provincial government. It is a part of our fabric and a part of our Confederation. Of course certain rights will be limited in one way. Of course there will be no denominational school for one school child. However, we cannot use that specific example because what is at stake here is reasonableness and understanding. I believe that the people of Newfoundland have spoken by saying that they would like to reform the educational system for the greater good of their school children for today and tomorrow.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate to say a few words on a issue that is dear to my heart. By way of parading my credentials, I should inform the House that before coming here I was actively involved in education. I was a school principal and a school superintendent.

During the 1969 reorganization of education in the province which permitted the coming together of the integrated group, the Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Anglican and United, I was the president of the provincial teachers' organization and in that capacity I was actively involved in the negotiations which culminated in the 1969 Newfoundland schools act. Therefore, I have some familiarity with the issues which are at play here.

I should also tell the House that in the Newfoundland referendum last September I voted no. It is not that I am opposed to reform of the educational process, I voted no because I had some concerns about how the question was put. I felt that it ought to have been put to each of the seven classes which would be affected by the change so we would know whether each of the classes, by majority, had opted to give up their rights pursuant to Term 17. That was not done and that was my reason for voting no.

I am very supportive of the need for educational reform. I could tell the House many horror stories on the subject from personal, firsthand experience, which points to the urgency of what the Newfoundland government is trying to do in reforming the education system.

Quite apart from the current economic bind in which every government finds itself, even in earlier times we saw some horrendous wastes of money in the name of denominational education. There were cases in which if one denomination received money for school construction, a constitutional obligation required the government to give a proportionate amount to the other denominations, whether they had a need for it or not. Newfoundland, in particular, could not afford that kind of duplication of expenditures.

As I only have 10 minutes I want to stay as close as I can to the issue which we are debating today.

I have had much correspondence on this issue from people throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have heard the concerns of the many in Newfoundland who are opposed to the constitutional change. These concerns are based on the premise that the proposed change is a backward step, is a move away from a Christian education system. Those concerns, I believe, are honestly held. I not only respect them, I happen to be in complete sympathy with those concerns.

Unfortunately, those concerns have been fueled and reinforced by misinformation and rhetoric in the province that the provincial government's real agenda is the creation of a God-less, secularized school system. I do not share that view. A fair reading of the amendment before us today will show that the church's role in education will continue and will be constitutionally protected.

The issue here is who will run the schools. That is really the only issue in so far as Newfoundland is concerned. I respect that some of my colleagues have other concerns about minority rights, language rights and aboriginal rights, which are matters that the Minister of Justice has addressed. I will stay with the issue that I know best as it relates to Newfoundland.

I repeat that the issue, in my view, is who will run the schools. I thought the United Church of Newfoundland, one of the affected classes in so far as this amendment is concerned, put it very well a couple of weeks ago, on May 17, in a new release which read:

We have frequently and formally indicated our willingness to relinquish all administrative control of education in favour of a system in which the churches would retain solely the right to provide for religious education, activities and observances.

This is a statement from the United Church but I think it could be echoed by some of the other denominations involved in this endeavour. That statement puts it very well.

This exercise is not about secularizing the system. Indeed on reading the amendment it is very clear on that particular point that all seven churches will continue to have rights and will be able to exercise those rights. To that extent the amendment is once again enshrining and continuing the constitutional protection afforded those churches in 1949 when Newfoundland joined Canada.

The real issue is who will run the schools. I have always believed that when we are spending public money whether it be on education, health, road construction or whatever, there ought to be a system of direct accountability to the people who pay the bills. It is the people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador who pay the education bills, not the churches. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador pay the bills.

I do not have to explain the system of accountability. We have the same system. We are part of the British parliamentary system as is Newfoundland. The system is simple: A group of people is elected; a government is formed; it brings in a budget and it has to get that budget sustained in the House of assembly of that province. Part of that budget is the education expenditure, how the money will be disbursed to improve the education in that province.

Given our tradition in this House, and in Newfoundland as well, it is absolutely axiomatic that the people who pay the piper should call the tune. The electors of the province ought to have the final say as to the disbursement of funds for education. That is what the amendment is all about. It takes the governance, the running of the schools, out of the hands of the churches as provided in the current term 17 prior to the proposed amendment. It takes the governance out of the hands of the churches and puts it into the hands of government. I believe that is where it belongs.

I made reference earlier that I could tell some horror stories on this issue. Most of them would have to do with that particular issue, that when it came down to a government wanting to exercise its judgment and accountability to the people on issues relating to education expenditure in Newfoundland, its hands were always tied because there was a constitutional provision which prevented it from doing that.

This amendment will do two things, both of which are positive. It will put the governance of Newfoundland schools into the hands of the elected which is where it belongs in the first place. I could go through a long history lesson going back to 1723 when the churches established the first schools and why it did not evolve that way. In the late 1880s when it was enshrined in legislation the die was cast. The evolution had been such that no politicians worth their salt would rush in and change what was a working system.

The system has not been working as well in recent times. I only have 10 minutes. If I had two or three hours I could spend a fair amount of it talking about the contribution the churches have made to education in Newfoundland. That is not what this debate is about. This issue does not have anything to do with railroading or denigrating the churches. That is not the issue.

I am a product of that system. The precursor of the integrated system in Newfoundland was the so-called amalgamated system. My elementary years were spent in the amalgamated system. My final year of high school was in the Salvation Army system. I taught and was a principal in a Salvation Army school. I was a principal in an amalgamated school and in a new integrated school. In terms of education and career, I am a product of that system. I could wax long and hard about the contribution the system has made.

That brings me to my second point. This amendment does two things. It puts the governance of the schools into the hands of the government, the people of the province, which is where it belongs. The other is it continues the church involvement, which has made such a marvellous contribution to education and the enshrinement and promotion of values in Newfoundland over two and one-half centuries.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to listen to my friend from Burin-St. George's. I want to seek clarification of a remark he made, that the person who pays the piper calls the tune. In other words, if I understood the member correctly, it was to let the legislators call the shots on how the schools will be run.

If the member was speaking in terms of efficiency, school construction so that there is no duplication, creating a central construction authority for maximizing economic efficiencies, I do not have any problem with that. I was not sure if he was suggesting that the values in a Catholic or Christian education would be something he would relegate to the person who signs the cheques. I have always held the view that there is a different ambience between a Catholic education and a public education.

Perhaps the member could elaborate on that. I was beginning to think he was suggesting that legislators basically call the program for all forms of education in the province of Newfoundland. I was not sure if that is exactly what he meant.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I thank my good friend from Broadview-Greenwood for his question. I have to say to him that I liked it better when he was here over my left shoulder and I could consult with him more often, however, I am happy to see him in the House.

I do not think the member disagrees with my phrase that who pays the piper should call the tune, that is to say the taxpayers, not the legislators. The legislators are only there on behalf of the people of Newfoundland. When I mentioned the person paying the piper, I meant the people of the province, the electorate, generally. They have spoken on the issue. They spoke in a referendum on it. They spoke in the February 22 election. Mr. Tobin made it clear in his platform that he would proceed with educational reform. There is no question about the province as a whole.

If the member wants to know if I am being politically safe on this one, a majority of the people in my riding voted in the referendum for this change. Quite apart from that, I did not get into what was politically safe. In my speech I got into what I felt was the right thing to do.

To respond more directly to the hon. member's question, under this system, under the proposed amendment, what has happened in Newfoundland for two and one-half centuries will continue. There will be a partnership on the program issue. Some of the program content does not have much requirement in terms of value systems. I am not sure how one can teach math with a religious bias, for example. The churches have always had and will continue to have under this amendment a partnership role with the legislature, with the Government of Newfoundland in terms of program which is pretty clear in the amendment. It says so very clearly.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, during the course of this debate a number of concerns have been raised about the proposed amendment to term 17 which this House is considering. Although it would be possible to speak about the benefits of the reforms proposed by the Government of Newfoundland, as many of my colleagues have done, I will take this

opportunity to briefly address some of the concerns that have been voiced about proceeding with the resolution.

One of the concerns that has been raised is that this House is merely acting as a rubber stamp regarding the request of the Government of Newfoundland to adopt this resolution. It is very important to note this is not the case. Several of my colleagues have already noted that the proposed amendment to term 17 is needed to allow the Government of Newfoundland to modernize its educational system and to eliminate costly duplications that currently exist. For this reason the Newfoundland House of Assembly adopted its own resolution to amend term 17 of the terms of union on October 31, 1995.

Because this is an amendment to the Constitution of Canada, Newfoundland cannot act alone in this matter. Section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 requires that amendments of this sort, those that relate to constitutional provisions that apply to one or more but not all provinces can only be made where both the relevant provincial legislatures and the Parliament of Canada authorize such amendments. In the present case this means that even though the Newfoundland House of Assembly has already passed its own resolution authorizing this amendment, this House must also adopt a resolution authorizing the Governor General to issue a proclamation under the Great Seal of Canada.

Even though the Government of Newfoundland has requested that we adopt this resolution, it is important to note that this House does not play the role of a rubber stamp during this process. Instead, it is the role and indeed the responsibility of this House and each member of it to carefully consider the proposed amendments and form an independent judgment before deciding whether to authorize a resolution approving it.

In this instance the government has carefully examined the proposed amendment on its merits and is satisfied that the changes sought by the Newfoundland House of Assembly should go forward. The factors that were taken into account by the federal government when forming this judgment were eloquently set forth by the Minister of Justice when he introduced this resolution in the first place.

Another concern that has been raised is that the proposed amendment to term 17 will mean the end of religious education in Newfoundland. Again it is very important to note this is not the case. It becomes clear from a reading of the proposed amendment that religious education will remain an important feature of the school system in Newfoundland and that the churches will continue to play an important role in the school system there.

I will briefly review the amendment to show that it makes provision for the continuance of religious education, activities and observances. Paragraph (a) of the proposed amendment, which provides that all publicly funded schools shall be denominational schools, provides that all the denominational classes that now have rights under term 17 shall continue to have the right to provide for religious education, activities and observances for the children of that class.

In essence this means that under the new system children of different denominations who live in the same neighbourhood would all attend the same neighbourhood school instead of different denominational schools. However, pursuant to paragraph (a) the denominational classes that currently have rights under term 17 will continue to have the right to provide for the religious education, activities and observances for the children of that class who attend these interdenominational neighbourhood schools.

In addition to these interdenominational schools in which religious education and activities will continue, paragraph (b)(i) of the amendment reserves the right to publicly funded unidenominational schools. These unidenominational schools will be established and maintained for each denomination whose members currently have rights under the present term 17, subject to provincial legislation uniformly applicable to all schools.

Further, paragraph (c) of the proposed amendment specifically provides that where a unidenominational school is permitted the class of persons it serves shall continue to have the right to provide for religious education activities and observances. In addition they shall have the right to direct the teaching of aspects of the curriculum reflecting a religious belief, student admission policy and the assignment and dismissal of teachers in that school.

Paragraph (e) of the proposed amendment provides that denominations will still have the right to participate in school management. For example, this paragraph gives denominational classes with rights the right to elect in total not less than two-thirds of the members of a school board, with this total to be proportionately divided among classes in each school board's jurisdiction.

It is clear, therefore, the amendment does not do away with religious education in the classroom. Religious education will remain a significant feature of the Newfoundland school system.

Another concern has been raised that the proposed amendment to term 17 is a case in which minority rights are being taken away by the majority. Once again, this is not the case. As the Minister of Justice has already indicated, this is not an instance in which minority rights are being adversely affected by the majority.

In this respect it is important to understand that there is no majority denomination in Newfoundland. Instead, term 17 constitutionally entrenches denominational rights for seven different denominations. Thus, unlike every other province, all publicly funded schools in Newfoundland are denominational. As a result term 17 is unlike constitutional provisions relating to education for

the other provinces, for term 17 guarantees rights to several different minority groups which together comprise over 95 per cent of the province's population.

In short, unlike the other provinces, there is no majority denomination in Newfoundland. This means each of the seven denominations is affected equally by the proposed change and no minorities are being singled out for discriminatory treatment. This is an important factor which distinguishes Newfoundland from other provinces and must be taken into account when considering the proposed amendment.

Another concern is the proposed amendment to term 17 will diminish minority rights in other provinces or set a legal precedent for the removal of such rights. Once again, it is important to note this is not so. To begin with, the amendments will apply only in Newfoundland and Labrador. This means the amendment will not affect rights in other province whether they are official language minority rights or denominational school rights.

For example, French language, minority language education rights are protected by section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and nothing in this amendment will diminish that protection. Furthermore, the proposed amendment does not in any way affect the constitutionally protected rights of aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal and treaty rights are constitutionally protected by section 25 of the charter and section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Nothing in this amendment will diminish that protection.

The government takes both its role and its responsibilities in the constitutional amending process very seriously. The government has carefully considered the proposed amendment and has decided that on its merits it deserves to be adopted by the House.

As a result, I encourage members of the House to join with me in voting in favour of this resolution.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois supports the motion in regard to the referendum held in Newfoundland because a majority of Newfoundlanders voted in favour of this change. Also because the motion does not violate the rights of minorities, since a majority of Newfoundlanders voted on an issue concerning all religious denominations that have schools in the province. What this means essentially is that a majority of people have given themselves the right to make changes in the education system that will benefit Newfoundland, since the province will save some $7 million by having only one school system instead of four, and by having only four school boards, instead of 27.

As regards religious rights, the hon. member for Central Nova rightly pointed out that the rights of religious denominations will not be violated, on the contrary. Following the change made through term 17, religious denominations will be able to exercise their religious rights in any school, the only difference being that the schools will be multiconfessional, instead of having religious groups controlling them.

I personally feel that the control of schools by the Church is a thing of the past. It is time for schools to be under secular control, thus allowing the various religious communities to fulfil their role and teach religion.

In this regard the proposed change to the motion concerning schools in Newfoundland is a good one. Some members alluded to section 93 of the Canadian constitution, which is supposed to protect denominational rights throughout the country.

Let me do a brief historical outline. Madam Speaker, section 93 was not complied with by your province. In New Brunswick, all French speaking schools were abolished in 1871, because the province had not complied with section 93, a situation which was corrected almost a century later. The same happened in most Canadian provinces, including Manitoba and Ontario. At the turn of the century, not complying with section 93 was the way used to abolish the rights of the French speaking minority.

Today, when we talk about the Canadian Constitution, we are told: "We respect the Constitution, we respect section 93". This was not always the case.

What hurts about this motion is that Newfoundland again is not complying with the Canadian constitution. This time it is not in regard to section 93, but section 23 of the 1982 charter. This is a very recent provision; it dates back only 14 years. Newfoundland is among those Canadian provinces that do not comply with the Constitution, which is supposed to be the supreme law of a bilingual Canada.

Newfoundland is among the four provinces that, to this day, do not comply with this modern charter, along with Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

Section 23 of the Canadian charter of rights is of the utmost importance, and even essential. It is essential to the bilingual dimension of Canada, because the whole future of French speaking and Acadian minorities in Canada rests on section 23, which guarantees French speaking minorities in Canada a legal right to control their own schools. I repeat that four provinces in Canada still do not comply with this section of the Canadian Constitution, Newfoundland being one of them.

Obviously, this is not directly linked to term 17 before us today. Section 23 of the charter is quite distinct, but the fact of the matter is they are related. When one considers term 17, one wonders about Mr. Tobin, the premier of Newfoundland, also known as Captain Canada. Is he going to abide by the Canadian Constitution

and grant French speaking citizens of his province the right and the power to control their school boards. This is a matter for concern, because in the past Newfoundland did notre really demonstrate a great deal of good faith in this matter. British Columbia and a few other provinces are no better.

The charter was enacted in 1982. A judgment by the Supreme Court of Alberta has clarified section 23. It said that French speaking minorities in Canada have the right to control their school boards. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land. In 1990, the Supreme Court confirmed that, under section 23, French speaking Canadians have the right to manage their own schools.

But not a word was heard from Newfoundland. This is an opportunity for Brian Tobin, Captain Canada, to grant French speaking citizens in his province the right to control their own schools, which he has not done yet. I will explain later that the past is probably an indication of what the future holds. The same thing happened with his predecessor, Mr. Wells, who made all kinds of promises but never delivered.

The worst of it all is that the Prime Minister, who claims to be the champion of French speaking Canadians' rights, did not say a word about this issue. He did not say to Brian Tobin: "Listen, Brian, let us make a deal. I will enact term 17, but you are going to comply with section 23 of the Constitution". This is the responsibility of the Prime Minister of Canada.

Constitution AmendmentGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleague, you have ten minutes remaining. If you wish, you may continue after question period, but as it will soon be 2.00 p.m., we will now proceed to members' statements.

BoischatelStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the town of Boischatel in my riding is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. As a resident, former municipal councillor and MP, I wish all the inhabitants of Boischatel a happy anniversary and fun-filled celebrations.

The celebration committee has organized a program of events, and I congratulate it on its exceptional work. As is only fitting, a whole host of activities will take place this summer. In addition to games, exhibits and shows, there will a competition for best garden, organized by the Boischatel caisse populaire. The winners of this competition will be invited to the closing banquet at the prestigious Royal Québec golf club.

To fund these activities, mementoes, including coats of arms designed specially for the event, will be sold.

On June 23, the eve of our national holiday, everyone is invited to a field day, the highlight of which will be a musical fireworks display. I therefore invite all of Quebec and Canada to join us for this memorable event.

Mrs. Dees HomerStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to one of my constituents who is being honoured tomorrow for many years of work and dedication to the Carleton County Historical Society. From its onset, Mrs. Dees Homer was a driving force behind the historical society for many years.

The historical society has seen to the renovation of the old Carleton County Court House in Upper Woodstock, New Brunswick to its original state of the 1800s. It is now a show piece for tourists and special projects. With the complete support and assistance of her husband Ken Homer, a tremendous amount was accomplished in the re-creation and organization of special historic events in the area.

Congratulations to Dees and Ken on this special day in honour and tribute of your work and dedication over the past many years. Thank you for all your work on behalf of all the constituents of Carleton-Charlotte.

Interprovincial TradeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday Premiers Mike Harris and Lucien Bouchard signed an agreement which will reduce trade barriers between their provinces. This agreement will open up the bidding process on $16 billion in government procurement contracts.

It seems a little odd that even a separatist government in Quebec is more committed to interprovincial free trade than this federal government. Liberal and Tory governments have sat back and allowed trade barriers to build which cost Canadians between $6 billion and $10 billion a year when the Canadian Constitution clearly states that it is the obligation of the federal government to make sure this does not happen.

With the exception of the ever-increasing interest payments on the ever-increasing debt, the removal of internal trade barriers is the most important step the government could take to get Canadians back to work.

Instead of surrendering to high unemployment, the Prime Minister should follow the example of his provincial counterparts, announce a date for deficit elimination and move to reduce barriers to internal trade.

Conference Of Western PremiersStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the annual conference of western premiers begins tomorrow in Dawson City, Yukon, site of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Klondike gold rush. The overriding demand of the premiers is the same as it was last year, stop the cuts to health and social programs.

In 1991 Statistics Canada reported that federal spending on social programs accounted for only 6 per cent of the federal debt. Tax breaks to profitable corporations and high interest rate policies made up 94 per cent, yet the Liberals leave tax loopholes open while closing the door on low income and middle class families.

This week Mr. Romanow will be pushing for a comprehensive tax review to restore Canadian faith in the tax system. I urge the territorial and provincial leaders to send a strong message to the Prime Minister. Stop the erosion of our health and social programs and ensure that profitable corporations start paying their fair share toward these programs.

EmploymentStatements By Members

June 3rd, 1996 / 2 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville—Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, for a long time provincial governments have been requesting greater responsibility in labour market development. The government has now responded.

Last week it sent the provinces and territories a proposal that offers them responsibility for active employment measures funded through the employment insurance account. It offers them the opportunity to deliver measures such as wage subsidies, income supplements and partnerships for job creation, and the chance to provide labour market services such as screening for employment programs and employment counselling.

About $2 billion worth of programs and services have been put on the table. Canadians will benefit from the new labour market arrangements because they will more closely reflect local and regional labour needs and will eliminate unnecessary duplication between governments.

No issue matters more to the government than helping unemployed people get back to work. We believe that co-operation with the provinces and the-

EmploymentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for St. John's East.

National Safe Boating WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bonnie Hickey Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, June 1 to 9 is National Safe Boating Week in Canada. Boating and other water activities are fun and exciting but are very dangerous. Every year over 200 Canadians lose their lives in boating incidents and more than 50 per cent of all search and rescue incidents involve pleasure craft.

This week the Canadian Safe Boating Council, in partnership with local supporters and the Canadian Coast Guard, is taking the safe boating message to communities across the country. This year's theme is to warn the dangers of "drinking and boating" and the failure to wear life jackets. It is alarming that over 40 per cent of power boat drowning victims have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit and that in over 90 per cent of all boating deaths, life jackets are not worn.

Drinking and boating is just as illegal as drinking and driving. Yet the trend to have alcohol on board continues. Each and every boater has a responsibility to enrol in a safe boating course, check the motor, ensure a full tank of gas and, most important, to have enough life jackets on board and to stay sober.

This message is clear. Take the time to boat safe. Make boating a fun and enjoyable pastime for all.

Awards For Teaching ExcellenceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ron Fewchuk Liberal Selkirk—Red River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of presenting one of the Prime Minister's awards for teaching excellence in science and technology and mathematics to the Selkirk Junior High School.

In addition, I also had the honour of presenting a Prime Minister's award to Mark Blieske for his teaching excellence and hard work in these areas.

Teachers play a critical role in shaping the attitudes of students and in equipping them for future careers in the global economy they face.

The work they do today will mean a better Canada for all of us tomorrow.

Opération Enfant-SoleilStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Opération Enfant-Soleil telethon was held over the weekend and a record amount of over $5.5 million was raised.

This organization holds fund raising campaigns to help pediatric services in general hospitals buy specialized equipment to treat children.

I would like to pay tribute to the artists, musicians, technicians, volunteers, and everyone else who worked tirelessly in order to make this activity a success. I would particularly like to mention the work of the organization's hosts and ambassadors, actors Francis Reddy and Marie-Soleil Tougas, for their involvement.

I would also like to thank the public and businesses in Quebec, who, despite the present economic situation, responded to the call and gave so generously to the cause. Long live Opération Enfant-Soleil.


Young Offenders ActStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are fed up with the Young Offenders Act and its failure to deal with young criminals, and the Reform Party has been listening.

It is the Reform Party's policy to refer 16 and 17-year-olds to adult court, to lower the age of those who could be charged to 10 years, and to publish the names of those who are convicted. We also believe that parents should be held responsible when it is proven that they contributed to the young offender's actions.

Reform's planned amendments have the support of thousands of Canadians, including the attorney general of Ontario.

If the Minister of Justice had accepted Reform's policy when we urged him to do so, an 11-year old suspected rapist in Toronto could have been held accountable.

The minister talks a lot about getting tough on crime, but it is the Reform Party which will be delivering commons sense policies and legislation to protect Canadians.

Human RightsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, last year the Nigerian government executed Nobel Prize winning poet and activist, Ken Saro Wiwi.

At a recent meeting in Vancouver the interaction council of former heads of government rebuked the democratic world for ignoring serious human rights abuses in Nigeria and is pressing governments and the UN Secretary-General to freeze Nigerian bank accounts overseas, end air travel to and from the country and deny visas to Nigerians until basic democratic and human rights are restored.

I urge the Government of Canada to apply the sanctions suggested by the interaction council and call on Shell Canada to espouse Canadian values by ensuring the reinstatement of free speech, democracy and human rights in Nigeria.

Manpower TrainingStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week, Quebec was unanimous, which is rare, in its reaction to the Minister of Human Resources Development's announcement of his proposal for manpower training.

Representatives of employers, labour unions, opposition parties in the National Assembly, major editorial writers, all reacted enthusiastically and optimistically to this project, which confirms the federal government's withdrawal from manpower training, and its transfer to the provinces.

Our government is prepared to enter into bilateral negotiations with each of the provincial governments, and we are convinced that we will be successful in obtaining a satisfactory agreement with each of our partners in the very near future. The manpower training issue, long disputed with the provinces, is now in the process of becoming proof that Canadian federalism allows harmonious development, when all partners make sufficient effort.

Office De La Langue FrançaiseStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the office de la langue française Quebec recently announced that it would be imposing a $5 fee for individual requests on the organization's linguistic services for translation and definitions of certain words.

The minister responsible for the Office de la promotion de la langue française du Québec has, however, most magnanimously announced that certain services will still not be charged for, stating; "There will be 150 free questions, the most frequently asked ones".

What definition are we to give to this new PQ initiative? Is it a new hidden tax, or a user's fee? To find out, just consult Jojo Savard, or call the Office de la langue française and hope that your question is one of the freebies.

Human RightsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that the Bloc Quebecois wants to mark today the 7th anniversary of the Tiananmen square massacre on June 4, 1989, when thousands of students fell victims to the brutal repression of the Chinese regime which savagely put down their democratic movement.

This great democratic movement had raised a great deal of hope and yet today we are compelled to note that the situation in China is far from improved. Thousands of Chinese are still victims of repression and their rights are constantly being trampled. The Canadian government turns a blind eye to such practices.

We take this opportunity to condemn the Canadian government for failing to conduct its foreign affairs in compliance with a clear policy consistent with its stance on human rights.

Israeli ElectionStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Reform Party to congratulate the people of Israel on the election of a new government, and in particular, to congratulate their new Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close victory came after a well fought and competitive election campaign.

Through this election, the people of Israel have indicated their desire to enjoy peace with security, a desire shared by all Canadians. We encourage the new Israeli government to build on the work that has already been done to bridge the gap between Israel, the Palestinians, and the surrounding Arab countries, because long-lasting peace is the prerequisite for long term security.

We urge the Canadian government to support the Government of Israel and to continue to assist the Middle East peace process. Canada has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Israel, and we look forward to continuing this positive relationship under the leadership of the New Prime Minister.

YouthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the ministerial task force on youth, together with very dedicated colleagues, I recently travelled across the country, speaking and listening to thousands of young Canadians, employers and people who work with youth. I return to the House inspired.

Today's youth are the most educated generation in our country's history. They are independent, entrepreneurial and determined. Armed with technological know-how, they are ready to explore the global economy and chart their own future.

What they want from the government is better labour market information about the domestic and global economy. They want society to have greater awareness of the issues and challenges they face. They want greater co-operation between governments, the private sector and local organizations to address the challenge of school to work transition.

They want banks to respond to their entrepreneurial spirit. They want to enhance their participation in global affairs. They want to be citizens of the world. I know Canada's youth are up to the challenge. So, too, is the government.