Madam Speaker, it is a delight to stand in the House today to lend my support to the motion proposed by the member for Beaver River.
Sometimes I am asked what it means to be a Canadian. I have a number of different pictures in my mind of what it means to be a Canadian that are very strong, very emphatic.
I am privileged by the fact that my grandparents were literally chased out of their home country in 1923. They suffered great persecution there. A number of my relatives were unjustly murdered. My grandparents knew it was not a safe place for our family and wondered where to go. Through various circumstances which I do not have time to relate tonight they were able to find their way to this wonderful country, Canada.
I have recollections as a child growing up in a little farmhouse in Saskatchewan where I was born and raised. I remember overhearing my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and some of their friends talking about the life they had experienced in what they called the old country.
They talked about some of the hardships and difficulties they had gone through and some of the ways in which their freedoms had been totally taken away: their freedom to make a living the way they wanted to make a living and their freedom to worship the way they wanted to worship. Those freedoms were wrenched away from them and they came to this country. I remember them talking about how grateful and how blessed we were as a family because we could be Canadian.
I remember being at the home of my grandparents many times. Whether it was to celebrate a birthday, Easter or Christmas we would get together as a family and my grandparents would lead us
in family prayers. My grandmother was more expressive than my grandfather. In her prayers she would say over and over: "Thank you for the privilege of living in this wonderful free country". They came here with 10 children. As an aside, until last year all of them were still living. The youngest was 75. I come from hardy stock. We live long.
My grandparents, my uncles and aunts on both sides of my family came to this country as immigrants, worked hard and helped to open up the west. They helped to till the land to produce food to feed themselves and others. They were as proud as we are to be part of this country. My parents were 12 years old when they came to Canada so I am a first generation Canadian. I was actually born in Saskatchewan. I called that home until I married and moved to Alberta. I have very strong attachments.
There is especial attachment to the country when one grows up in a farm family and tills the soil. There is an attachment to the land when one actually works the soil and grows food for sustenance, because we all know that without food we would not survive.
I have other recollections about being in this country. One of the most valuable ones was that of my son who has served in different places in the world where people were experiencing the same kinds of hardships my grandparents experienced. Because of our family heritage, partially at least, he felt it was a useful to spend part of his life helping others who were in difficult circumstances. He worked with various relief agencies around the world, carrying and wearing a Canadian flag. He went there not only in the name of the organization he was with but also in the name of our country.
A most recent recollection I had of the value of being a Canadian was a very moving experience for me. I participated for the first time ever in the ceremony of welcoming new Canadians at a citizenship court. It happened last year on July 1. We were in the historic court house in Fort Saskatchewan. As I recall the court house was built before Saskatchewan became a province and joined Confederation. It was an historical court house. There we were up on the second floor with a number of different people who were making Canada their home.
One lady in particular struck me. As she reached out to take from the presiding judge her citizenship papers there were tears literally streaming down her cheeks. It touched me because I had the recollection of my grandmother who had that same emotional reaction, that tie, that love of this country.
When I talked to her afterwards she said essentially the same thing that my grandmother had said: "I came from a country of great strife and I am so proud, so happy and so blessed to be a Canadian".
I do not believe that I can express more strongly or with more emotion my support for the bill before the House today. It is a bill which says let us call ourselves Canadians. This is the most valued
part of planet Earth. It is the most enviable place to live. There are people around the world who would literally give anything they have to live here, but for some reason we are hesitant to say that we are Canadians.
I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this motion. I urge all members on all sides of the House to support the motion not because of any partisan consideration but simply because it is the right thing to do.