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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

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5 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to ask whether this would mean the extension of hours by 15 minutes or whether it would be the replacement of the last speaker on the list.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It would mean an extension of hours.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just wish to confirm where we are at in the debate. It is my understanding that the 10 minutes of questions and comments concerning my intervention are not up.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That is correct. The hon. member for Verchères has five minutes and 33 seconds left on questions and comments. We will get to that just as quickly as we can, although under the standing orders this debate will conclude at 5.15 no matter what is going on in the debate.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am going to try once more. I am going to ask whether you would find unanimous consent to extend the hours by 15 minutes in order to give the member for York South—Weston the opportunity to speak to this motion.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the proposal. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the proposal of the hon. member for Elk Island?

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5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Unanimous consent is denied.

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5 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that it was a Liberal member who denied unanimous consent. This is the party that cherishes the charter of rights and freedoms, the ability of members to speak to matters. I am frankly ashamed of the hon. member who denied unanimous consent. How hypocritical of him to talk about freedom in this House when he is denying me as an elected member of this house the opportunity to speak to this motion. He knows what the rules are in this House. Later this day—

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

With respect, may I ask the hon. member for York South—Weston to pose a question or make a comment relevant to the debate today.

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5 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that he “respects the symbols of Canada”. He repeated that on several occasions. Does the hon. member have any objection to the Canadian flag flying in the Quebec National Assembly? If he has an objection to the Canadian flag flying in the Quebec National Assembly, can he indicate the reasons why? Would he not agree that as long as Quebec is part of Canada and is a province in the country of Canada that it would be respectful for the Quebec National Assembly to fly the Canadian flag?

Also would it be respectful that the city hall in Quebec City should fly the Canadian flag? Does he agree for example that the city hall in Quebec City should fly the Canadian flag? Would he not agree that that would be the respectful thing to do?

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5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that our colleague is trying to shift the focus of the debate slightly. While my respect for the symbols of Canadian identity suggests to me that they have their place, as in this case, in this venerable institution, I think this debate should not extend to provincial legislatures, and that of Quebec in particular.

It is up to the Quebec legislators to decide which flag shall be displayed inside the National Assembly. On a number of occasions, the Canadian flag was displayed in the National Assembly's red room; there were other occasions when it was not.

On the day the people of Quebec opt for sovereignty, we will no longer have to answer questions as to whether or not the Canadian flag should be displayed inside the National Assembly.

While I am on the subject of Canadian flags, are the provincial flags not Canadian flags? Since the hon. member for York South—Weston has asked the question, I would like him to answer it. Perhaps he could give me an answer behind the curtain later on.

Should the procedure and House affairs committee ever determine that the Canadian flag has a place in this House on members' desks, I think it will have to determine at the same time that, Canada being a federation, the flag of every province in this federation also has a place in this House.

That is what makes me say that this is a false debate, because we are going to lose any uniformity—

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5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We would still like to get in one more question. A short question of 60 seconds for the member for Saint John and 60 seconds for the response. This is going to be a struggle.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, what I have to say cannot be said in 60 seconds. Is there another speaker today?

I have to say that I have been in this House of Commons for the last five years and I have never been so embarrassed as I have been in the last few weeks. It is a sad situation, it truly is, that we take the decorum and the protocol out of this House of Commons as has been done in the last two weeks.

A school teacher in a history class will not allow the children to interrupt at any time. There has to be control by the teacher. And there must be control by the Speaker in the Speaker's chair. I know you are going to stand up and say “I have got the control”.

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5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The Speaker is about to demonstrate the control. The hon. member for Verchères.

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5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, and I will do my best not to waste any words, I totally agree with what my hon. colleague just said.

However, I find it quite peculiar that this debate take place at this time in the House, when the Canadian flag has been around since 1965 and we have always been able to work, to function in this House without feeling this absolute need for a Canadian flag on every desk.

Why has this now become a national unity issue, and one of such vital importance? First, I think that, as we speak, the federalists are suffering from chronic insecurity. Second, I think the Reformers are trying to make the most of a political opportunity.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I spoke a couple of times here today. I realize there is five minutes left and I will try to sum up my feelings and I am sure some of the feelings of our party on this issue.

For all the Canadians who are watching Parliament today, for the men, women and children who are watching the parliamentary station, I think there are some things that have not been said which need to be said and need to be understood.

This is not about patriotism. This is not about whether or not we love the flag of this country. I am going to point out a couple of reasons why it is not about that.

We have here a motion which on its surface sounds positive. However if this motion goes forward it will only serve to perpetuate the problem. The problem will continue. The Bloc members will get up next week and will want to know why they cannot have the Quebec flag on their desks alongside the Canadian flag. Then maybe a member from Nova Scotia will want to know why the Nova Scotian flag cannot be on his desk.

I will tell members why we do not have those flags on our desks. It is because they are represented in this House at this time.

I want to address veterans. I have heard our veterans mentioned time and time again today by the party which proposed this motion.

My grandfather fought in World War I and in World War II. My father was a soldier in World War II. I can tell this House, and I have no shame in saying it, that my father never, ever, for one day, accepted the new Canadian flag. His flag was the flag which he served under. It was the red ensign. Does that make him less of a Canadian? I presume that it does not. I insist that it does not.

There are a couple of other issues at stake here. We have talked about cost. I have heard the name of the Minister of Canadian Heritage mentioned today and the $25 million which she spent distributing flags. Today it has cost us $700,000 to stand in this Parliament to debate the flag issue.

There is also a cost to this institution, to the respect of this institution.

I have heard today that we need to stand to be counted. We will see if the flags go on the desks who will stand to be counted. If I put a flag on my desk does that make me a better Canadian than someone who does not have one on their desk? I do not think so. I will insist that it does not.

I have heard today an excuse as to why the flag was thrown on the floor of the House during a heated debate. It is something I am sure that the member who did it would like to forget. I am sure he would like it to go away. I can understand that.

The excuse was made that he had been eating greasy food and it slipped from his hands. Surely we are above making such ridiculous and petty excuses in the House of Commons of Canada.

The car that was painted to resemble the Canadian flag, did that red and white paint fall from the sky? Was the car just driving along and suddenly it got painted? No, it was a deliberate act meant to incite the Parliament of this country.

There is one thought I would like to leave with the House. It is not about the flag. It is not about patriotism. It is about levers. We all have agendas in this building. Should we ever use the Canadian flag, a flag which I honour and respect, as a lever to push our agenda in this House? I say that we should not.

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5:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify the point which was made about the car because it has come up so often.

We received a phone call from someone who made a 1967 Oldsmobile his symbol of the 100th birthday of Canada. He had the car painted. When the flag issue became so prominent he phoned us and said “I would love to have some MPs take a ride in my car”. He is an ordinary citizen. I thought, is it only okay to fly the flag here if it is on the limousines of the big guys in government? I thought no, let an ordinary person do it. We complied with his—

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The last word goes to the hon. member for South Shore.

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5:10 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I note that the clock shows 5.15 p.m. I would like to ask again for unanimous consent to be given the opportunity to speak on this motion.

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. member for York South—Weston have unanimous consent to speak to this motion?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5:10 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the indulgence of the House. I have been here for most of the day listening to the debate. I have had the opportunity on several occasions to ask questions of speakers. I wish to speak to the motion before the House on behalf of the residents of York South—Weston.

In my view, it is important that this debate take place. Much has been said today about whether or not this motion should be before the House. In my view, it is extremely important that we discuss this matter and that it be debated in the Parliament of Canada. I am not sure whether this is the appropriate time to do it given the events of the last several weeks. However, the motion was properly put by the Reform Party.

I will read the motion for the benefit of my constituents:

That this House should recognize the Canadian flag as an acceptable symbol that may be displayed at any time on the desks of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons provided that only one flag be displayed on a Member's desk at any one given time, and that the said flag remain stationary for the purposes of decorum and be no larger than the standard recognized flag.

Mr. Speaker, if you were to put this question to Canadians right across Canada, the decision would be overwhelming. If it were put in a referendum, of course they would endorse this. I find it regrettable that there are a number of different political agendas at play this afternoon. I believe the political agendas at play this afternoon have tainted the debate.

Of course, no one wants to vote against the flag but for whatever reason four of the political parties in this House have decided en masse to vote against the motion before the House. In my view, it should be a free vote. I regret that some of the political parties in this House have made it a political vote, a party vote, a whipped vote. In effect, several parties have given talking points with respect to the motion to their members.

It would be morally wrong for members of this House to prohibit the waving or the display of the Canadian flag in the Canadian House of Commons. Why are we as Canadians so proud to wave the Canadian flag when we travel abroad, so proud to wave the Canadian flag in an uninhibited fashion when our athletes are successful at the olympic games or when our hockey teams are successful at international competitions? Why are we so prepared to wave the Canadian flag during those moments yet we appear to be prepared as a House of Commons today to limit the display of the Canadian flag here in the House of Commons?

We are in the process of denying ourselves in the House of Commons of Canada the right that every Canadian has in this country, that is to display a Canadian flag. Could we imagine for a moment an employer prohibiting an employee from displaying a small Canadian flag at his or her desk? There is no place in the country of Canada where the display of the Canadian flag is prohibited, where the right that is given to us under the charter of rights and freedoms is restricted or prohibited.

Others Canadian have the right under the charter of rights and freedoms to display the Canadian flag in their workplaces. If a person were prohibited from displaying the Canadian flag and a court case ensued, I submit that a competent court in this land would declare that to be unconstitutional. Canadians would have the right to display the Canadian flag, but not an unfettered right. As members have pointed out, it would be a qualified right. All rights are qualified.

As an hon. member pointed out, the right to swing your fist ends where the other guy's nose begins. The right to shout fire in a crowded theatre is limited.

Why are we limiting the right to display the Canadian flag? I submit it is for political reasons. I have a flag in my desk but I am prohibited from sitting it and displaying it on my desk.

In the 14 years I have served in the House of Commons I have never wanted to or had the opportunity to display a flag at my desk, but I knew I had the right to do it. That is what is important, having the right to display a flag at my desk. Some members may choose not to display a flag at their desk. That is their right.

Canadians express their patriotism in different ways. Some prefer to wave or fly flags outside their residences. Others do not. Some prefer to belt out O Canada at a hockey game. Others choose to remain silent. They have that right to do that.

As a member of Parliament, it seems to me I ought to have the right to display the flag. The Speaker yesterday invited members to make a decision. It is up to the House to make that determination. It seems to me that if we were truly representing our constituents as opposed to narrow partisan interests that we would vote in favour of the motion.

It seems to me that much of the opposition to the motion presented is not directed at the merits of the motion but at the authors of the motion, the Reform Party of Canada. I submit we are doing a disservice to our country and to our constituents by allowing narrow, partisan interests to interfere in a matter as important as this, a matter as symbolic as this is for Canadians right across the country.

I would like to share with the House some editorial opinion. The Toronto Star says “We believe there is no better place than the Parliament of Canada for Canadians to see their flag displayed freely and proudly”. They go on to state “We merely think an exception should be made for the Canadian flag. It is our most powerful national symbol. As long as MPs display it respectfully, we believe the public interest will be well served”.

This, I believe, would be the sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of Canadians. We tolerate much in the House. We have tolerated much in the House with respect to free speech and the ability of those who hold different political persuasions to speak in the House.

It seems patently strange that we say to people they do not have to swear allegiance to Canada in order to sit in the Parliament of Canada. I do not deny for a moment the right of separatists to sit in this House because they have received a mandate. It does not sit well with me but they received a mandate from their constituents to sit in the House of Commons of Canada and they have a right to sit here.

Surely, as members of this House, one has to respect the traditions of the House and respect the symbols of the House. Yes, hon. members say that there are two large flags flanking the Speaker, and rightfully so. They ought to flank the Speaker. Likewise, every member of the House should have the right to display a small Canadian flag.

What harm does it do to people? Are we offending somebody? Who is it that we would be offending if we were to display a small Canadian flag at our desk? Is that the reason why there are those in the House who would defeat this motion? Is it because they are afraid of offending a group of people in the House of Commons of Canada?

It is morally wrong to deny members of Parliament the right to display the flag. It is morally wrong to prohibit or limit the use of the flag of Canada in the House of Commons of Canada for fear that it might offend somebody.

I have always been chagrined by the fact that we as Canadians at times find it difficult to express our patriotism and love for this country. It is with envy that I at times watch our American friends when they are given the opportunity to exhibit their patriotism. Some people find that offensive and un-Canadian, but I find it touching for American nationals to be so proud of their flag and what it stands for and the freedom that it symbolizes.

Men and women have gone to war for the freedoms and rights that we have in this country. Mr. Speaker, the flag that flanks you as you sit in the House of Commons is symbolic of our democracy and the freedoms that we have in this country. To limit, restrict or in any way prohibit the waving or displaying of that flag I would submit is morally wrong.

I regret that when this motion is put in a few moments it will be defeated. It seems to me that this motion will be defeated not because it is not a good motion on its merits, but because of the various political agendas at play.

Surely we are sending out conflicting messages to Canadians. On one hand we are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars inviting Canadians to fly the Canadian flag as the Canadian government did a few short months ago at a cost of millions of dollars. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians are now flying the flag. We were giving away free flags to Canadians a few short months ago.

What kind of a mixed message is the government sending to Canadians when it is telling them on one hand to fly the Canadian flag, do not be inhibited or shy, show their patriotism, but on the other hand we are about to deny ourselves the very right that we would give to other Canadians?

I would like to conclude with what I indicated earlier. The net effect of this motion is to deny ourselves the freedom that every other Canadian has. At times we are chastised and criticized because we give to ourselves certain rights such as the freedom of speech that most other Canadians do not have. We have the ability to say things in this Chamber that we could not say outside the Chamber because we could be sued for slander.

In this case the reverse is true. Other Canadians have that right. Other Canadians want us, as their representatives in the Parliament of Canada, to have that right. Yet, for some inexplicable reason I suppose we are about to deny ourselves the right to fly or display the flag at our desks.

This is not a question of order or disorder. Disorder is always contrary to the rules. If the Canadian flag is used to restrict someone from speaking or to prevent someone from speaking, that of course would be unacceptable as would any other display or prop that is used in this House.

However, to prohibit the display of a flag at my desk is excessive when dealing with the problem of disorder in this House. In the 14 years that I have served in this House only on a handful of occasions have we spontaneously sang O Canada . I recall when the government of the day was passing the free trade bill, members of the opposition and members in the gallery spontaneously broke out in a rendition of O Canada .

I do not believe that members are that irresponsible that if they are given the right to display a flag they would abuse that right. If they were to abuse the right it would be incumbent upon you, Mr. Speaker, to prevent disorder in this House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

March 17th, 1998 / 5:30 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, following consultations between the parties, I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, immediately following the vote to be taken later today on the second reading of stage of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Union Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, the Speaker shall put, without debate or amendment, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of Bill C-20, an act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts.

(Motion agreed to)