Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against the motion before the House, against the very idea that an MP should be censured in any way for proposing that the Speaker resign, and against the spirit of partisan pettiness that would even inspire such a motion as the one before us.
While I am at it, I also rise to speak against any ruling that would curtail the use of the Canadian flag or the singing of O Canada in this House and against the spirit of timidity and fearfulness that would even contemplate such a ruling.
To put it more positively, I rise to speak in favour of freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Canadian charter which includes freedom to fly the Canadian flag, freedom to sing the Canadian national anthem and freedom of speech for members of Parliament inside and outside this House.
Let me briefly recount the series of incidents that brought us to the point of this ridiculous motion. A member of the Bloc Quebecois, a party dedicated to the break-up of Canada, travelled to the Olympic Games in Japan at Canadian taxpayers' expense. While there she publicly complained that there were too many Canadian flags on display.
Presumably, had these games been held in a separated Quebec, there would have been flag police to prevent such an exaggerated expression of patriotism, but fortunately these games wherein flag police exist are neither in Japan nor Canada. In any event, the member returned to this House of Commons and, exercising her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of Canada, which the Bloc does not recognize, she rose to ask a question.
If the hon. member had been rising in the French National Assembly after insulting the French flag on foreign soil, she would have been booed and hissed out of the chamber. But this is Canada, the land of extreme moderation, the land of extreme tolerance, the land where we are all irrevocably, irredeemably nice.
So the member is greeted not with boos and hisses but by a positive greeting from MPs waving Canadian flags and singing the national anthem, on key and in both official languages, so as not to be accused of being either musically or politically incorrect.
The member and her Bloc colleagues should have taken it all in stride, perhaps laughing it off and moving on. But no. Besides being devoid of any sense of Canadian patriotism or Canadian nationalism, the separatists, like the socialists, are also devoid of a sense of humour. Instead of tolerating, even celebrating, such an expression of freedom of expression, the Bloc House leader demanded that the Speaker of the House rule against the displaying of Canadian flags on the desks of Canadian members of Parliament.
Naturally the vast majority of members of the House were enraged at even the prospect of such a ruling. They find the very idea that a House, which imposes no limits on the Bloc's freedom to advocate the destruction of the country, would impose a limit on the freedom of Canadian federalists to express their commitment to Canada by flying the flag and singing the anthem.
The hon. member for Elk Island, as all members know, is one of the most affable and friendly members of the House. There is not a mean bone in his body. He is a nice man, in the best sense of the word nice. The member for Elk Island is also a Canadian patriot. He expressed the view, as members are free to do, that any Speaker who ruled to curtail the singing of O Canada or the displaying of the flag in the Canadian House of Commons could very well find himself unsupported by a majority of the members of the House, of whom he is the servant.
The Bloc House leader, whose very party represents a threat to the integrity of Canada, professes to see in these remarks a threat to the integrity of the House. Who would believe that someone who cares nothing about threatening the integrity of a country really cares at all about threats, real or imagined, to the House?
Then, to top it off, the House leader of the fifth party, the ragtag remnant of the once great Progressive Conservative Party, the same party that voted with the Bloc against application of the rule of law to the issue of secession, moved not a motion in support of freedom of expression in the House, not a motion in support of singing the national anthem, not a motion in support of the flag, but a motion that would send the words of other more patriotic and forthright members to a committee for censure or discipline.
We have asked before, and we ask it again because it is relevant, why it is that some members of the House are embarrassed and offended for the wrong reasons. Why are some members embarrassed or offended about things over which there should be no embarrassment and not embarrassed or offended by things which should cause them to blush? In other words, why does the House blush when it ought not to blush and fail to blush when it should?
In the last parliament the government was embarrassed about the pressure put on the Speaker with respect to his ruling on the official opposition status of the Bloc, yet it was not embarrassed about having a separatist party as the official opposition.
Government members were embarrassed when Reform Party members wore buttons in the House regarding MP pensions but were not embarrassed about the exorbitant pension they gave themselves.
They were offended when the Reform Party questioned the appointment of His Excellency the Governor General but were not offended by the patronage appointments made by their government every day.
They are embarrassed when the Reform Party questions the legitimacy of the Senate, but they are not embarrassed when they continue to appoint unelected, unaccountable senators who are capable of voting down any decision of the House.
The Speaker does not feel that we should be offended when the government continues to mock parliament by implementing legislation before that legislation is passed by the House. Yet he is embarrassed to recognize members with a Canadian flag on their desks because it might offend the separatists in the House.
We are not expected to be concerned over the erosion of our influence in the supply process. We are not supposed to be offended when the House becomes a rubber stamp to an unelected Senate. Backbench members should just get over the degradation of the treatment given their private members' bills. Yet the Speaker is deeply troubled when the House engages in a brief and orderly demonstration in defence of the Canadian flag.
Here we are again today considering whether we should be embarrassed about certain members of the House voicing a strong opinion in support of displaying the Canadian flag in the Canadian Parliament. Yet in the last parliament the majority of Liberal members was not embarrassed by a letter written by a Bloc member to encourage military personnel to join an independent Quebec military.
I ask why it is that the House blushes when it ought not to blush and fails to blush when it should. What are we to think of all this? More important, what are Canadians to think of all this?
I will tell the House what Canadians think. They think it is high time we stopped being so confoundedly nice, that we not take our instructions on when and where to display the Canadian flag or sing the national anthem from separatists dedicated to breaking up the country.
Canadians think it is time the Speaker and the traditional parties stop falling over backward to accommodate separatists who want to break up our country and show some patriotic backbone. They think it is time, in the words of the national anthem which we sing so glibly after an enormous amount of pressure from this party to even get it sung in the House, “to stand on guard”: to stand on guard for freedom of expression, not to bend over backward for its violation; to stand on guard for the freedom to fly the flag; to stand on guard for the freedom to sing the national anthem; to stand on guard for these freedoms everywhere in the country including Quebec; and especially to stand on guard for those freedoms in the Canadian House of Commons.
I therefore advise that this motion be defeated; that the Speaker's ruling affirm, not restrict the freedoms of expression that I have mentioned; and that we then get on with the business of making the country so strong, so united, so prosperous and so great that no one in his or her right mind, including the hon. member, would want to leave.