Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether it is really a pleasure to be speaking in the House on this particular motion. This is not what I thought I would be debating. I was preparing for a debate on the budget.
The ruling of the Speaker yesterday put it very clearly that he was not in a position to decide, and that Parliament, this House of Commons, had to make the decision itself. I think it is very appropriate that this motion be on the floor today so that this House of Commons deals with the issue and we put the issue to bed.
This debate about flags in the House of Commons did not start three weeks ago. Half of all Canadians are too young to remember the first great flag debate 34 years ago when the red maple leaf replaced the red ensign. It was one of the most emotional debates both inside this House of Commons and outside by all Canadians.
As a teenager I recall the debate taking place around the dining room table. I can remember vividly the emotions in that debate. My father, like many men of his generation, had a particular attachment to the red ensign. As a naval officer and a medical doctor serving in the North Atlantic during the second world war, my father saw too many men die fighting for Canada and for the red ensign. He was very emotional about the defence of the red ensign.
Many others objected to the adoption of the maple leaf as our flag because the broad leaf maple is native only to the eastern part of the country and not to the western part. Still others thought it was a Liberal plot. In spite of these objections, today most Canadians have a very emotional attachment to the flag. Most Canadians felt a very deep sense of pride when they saw the maple leaf rise up the flagpole at the Olympics.
It was at the recent winter Olympics that the member for Rimouski—Mitis announced to the Canadian public that there were too many Canadian flags on display at the athletes village. In response to this pronouncement when the hon. member returned to this House, members on both sides of the House demonstrated their objections to those comments. I was one of them. I was one of the many members on both sides who were out of order in that demonstration.
The member for Rimouski—Mitis was never denied her opportunity to speak. She was just delayed. Many of us have been delayed in posing questions in this House because other members were out of order and causing distractions.
The flag waving and singing of the national anthem should have been the end of it. However, because of the overreaction of certain members in this House and the joy of continuing this debate in the media, we have found ourselves in the middle of the second great flag debate. What should have been a one day story is now reaching its third week. Efforts to reach a compromise by the various House leaders were unsuccessful because people and parties refused to budge in their positions.
Yesterday the Speaker ruled that he did not have the power to change the rules of the House. Therefore today we are having this debate to see if members of Parliament are willing to change the rules to allow a small Canadian flag to sit on a member's desk in an unobtrusive manner. But make no mistake about it. The debate will not end here with this vote because we still have the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs examining another aspect of this story.
Why are we having all these debates at all? When people have asked me why we have reached this position, the only answer I can give is that this entire debate is due to an excess of testosterone in this House. People have become so intransigent in their positions that reason and logic have left the debate and it is now based on pure emotion.
This brings us to today's motion. I do not believe that anyone who does not have a Canadian flag on their desk is any less a Canadian than someone who does. I spent my first four years in this House without a Canadian flag on my desk and I feel no less a Canadian for it.
The question in today's motion is should the Canadian flag be allowed to sit on a member's desk in the Chamber. The only argument I have heard against having desk flags is that they can be used as props to cause a disruption in this House. We do not need flags to cause a disruption in this House. We are a clever group of people and to get our point across we find many other means of causing distractions and disruptions in this House.
I wonder what would have happened if some members started to disrupt the proceedings by banging their shoes on their desks like Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev did at the United Nations in the early 1960s. Would we then have motions to outlaw shoes from this Chamber? Of course we would not because everyone would realize that it was not the shoe that was the problem but the way it was being used.
It is the same point with the flag. Today's motion makes it clear that the flag is to remain stationary and is not to be used as a distraction to the debate. How can this be objectionable?
If a member decides to use the flag to create a disturbance, he or she would be clearly out of order and subject to the authority of the Speaker. If a member cannot bring a small Canadian flag into this Chamber, then where can we bring a flag?
As I conclude my comments on this subject, I would like to make the following observation. The federalists have no reason to apologize to the separatists in this House. We must counter their separatist arguments with intelligence, logic and positive use of emotion and patriotism. The separatists would like nothing more than to provoke another incident like the desecration of the Quebec flag in Brockville in the early 1990s.
We must be diligent to keep the debate focused. It would be refreshing if all parties and all members would take the high road and get on with the serious debate that Canadians expect us to carry on in this House of Commons.