House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to this motion by the member for Calgary Southeast that the government should take all necessary steps to release the 1911 census records. I can give him the happy news that we do not require the government to take this step whatsoever. There is a private member's bill, Bill C-206, which is before the House on the order of precedence at this moment which would do precisely what the member for Calgary Southeast requires.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Which member?

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

I believe it is the member for Wentworth—Burlington who has this particular private member's bill. I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that not only does the member for Wentworth—Burlington have this bill before the House, he has some 112 seconders from all parties who gave support to this bill to go on the order of precedence. I do not know whether the member for Calgary Southeast was one of those who actually seconded this particular piece of legislation. I hope he was.

What it does is it amends the Access to Information Act such that schedule II of the act is eliminated. Schedule II of the Access to Information Act lists those pieces of legislation that particularly raise barriers for the disclosure of certain types of information. For example, one of the schedule II items is in the Income Tax Act where a non-profit organization's financial returns and other types of personal information are not available. That is in the Income Tax Act. The Statistics Act is similar in that it restricts access to certain types of census records going all the way back to 1911. However, Bill C-206, by eliminating schedule II, brings all these other items of legislation under the Access to Information Act.

What happens is the Access to Information Act is the superior legislation when it comes to measuring whether information in other legislation should be withheld or not. So whether it is the Statistics Act, or the Income Tax Act or any other items of legislation that have withholding clauses, they still have to be subject to the test of the Access to Information Act.

Bill C-206, among other things, amends the Access to Information Act such that all documents held by the government over 30 years old which are not obviously a threat to national security if disclosed, or would disclose information that would be injurious to individuals and so on and so forth, or all documents that do not have obvious injury components in terms of their impact on the public would automatically be released.

I have had representations from the people from Statistics Canada. They are of the view that if Bill C-206 is allowed to go forward and amend the Access to Information Act as it exists, then the Statistics Canada legislation that prevents the 1911 census records from being released will be overturned and these documents will be readily available, at least census records up to 30 years ago.

The member in his motion is calling on the government to act when in fact we have the happy situation for us all that it is not the government that needs to act, it is backbench MPs who have this opportunity to act. What is particularly important about Bill C-206, my private member's bill—I have to admit it is mine—is that in order to get onto the order paper it sought and received the seconding by 112 members of the House, all backbench MPs on all sides of this House, no government members or parliamentary secretaries.

This was 100% a backbench initiative. Indeed the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois were especially supportive of this initiative. I am very pleased to report that although I have to say that unfortunately the Reform Party did move a point of privilege on Bill C-206. I regret that there is some doubt now whether Bill C-206 will indeed stay on the order of precedence.

I realize that the Reform point of privilege was poorly advised because I think the Reform Party were under the impression that certain changes were made to Bill C-206, which subsequently got unanimous consent in the House, that may have substantially affected things in the bill that the Reform Party would have been very concerned about.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that when I sought unanimous consent for Bill C-206 I was convinced that the support originally indicated for Bill C-206 when I originally sought the signatures would remain. Regardless of any changes that I undertook, and which I obtained unanimous consent for, I thought that those changes would by and large receive the support of the very seconders who put their names to the original bill.

However this is before the House. I am confident that the members of the Reform Party, and the Bloc Quebecois indeed, have I think an enormous interest and a vital interest, as we all do as parliamentarians, in openness in government and being able to access the documents, be they census records or any other kind of government documents that we need to have in order to be informed about the efficiency of the operation of government.

I want to return to the motion, but I shall say in passing that I have examined very carefully Bill C-206 and the impact of its amendments on the current Access to Information Act and I have compared it to the American freedom of information act. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that to reform, to use the word that my colleagues opposite do favour a lot, the Access to Information Act with Bill C-206 will create the most sophisticated and the most effective freedom of information legislation in the world.

It is no wonder that this amendment is coming forward from not just this private member but from private members on all sides of the House who have at least endorsed the principle of the bill to see that it would get on the order of precedence. They may have difficulty with some of the changes that might occur at committee stage or that might occur at report stage. Even some members might decide to vote against the bill when it finally reaches third reading because of some changes they might have perceived en route, but the point is that backbench MPs in this parliament for the first time ever have advanced a bill based on seconding the bill in principle, and it is before the House.

I would expect that if it goes through, and I am surely hopeful that it will, it will address the concern of the member for Calgary Southeast about the 1911 census records. It will fix that problem immediately. He can say that to his constituents and he can say to all those people who have wrote we MPs and have said open those records because they are part of our historic heritage. If the Reform Party, backbench MPs, opposition MPs, the Bloc Quebecois MPs, the Conservatives and the NDP are indeed supportive of openness in government, I am sure that they do not need to just support this motion of the member for Calgary Southeast. They have the opportunity to actually see it enacted by supporting Bill C-206.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate, which deals with Motion No. 160, in spite of the fact that the member for Wentworth—Burlington talked about his private member's bill.

What we have here—and Bloc Quebecois members generally share my views on this and certain agree with the comments I am about to make—is a member who moved a motion, Motion No. 160, which we are debating today, and another one, the member for Wentworth—Burlington, in Ontario, who introduced a bill on basically the same issue.

The member for Wentworth—Burlington is trying to embellish somewhat the background for his bill. Reformers have complained in this House, as did our House leader, who is recovering from his recent open heart surgery, and to whom I wish a speedy recovery. The Minister of Human Resources Development, while wishing him no harm, must hope that his recovery will be a long one, because we know the dedication of the member for Roberval in handling issues like human resources development in particular.

The member—he may be sick but he is by no means dead; he is a strong man and he is getting his strength back—spoke out against the actions of the member for Wentworth—Burlington, who collected signatures from his colleagues here, in parliament. I very clearly recall that the member for Roberval said—and I know what he was talking about, being a notary myself—that it was like a notary reading a five page notarial act, having the last page signed and, after the parties have signed, changing the first four pages, putting in there whatever he wanted, and passing that for the authentic act. There would be a possibility of fraud, and the Quebec Notarial Act, which I respect, would say that it is not a valid document.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of attitude and behaviour that make the member for Wentworth—Burlington a terribly suspicious character in this parliament. There is no man more partisan, no Orangeman more orange than him. The member for Wentworth—Burlington is a danger to his opposition colleagues, because keeping one's word is a concept that does not mean anything to him. He has no respect for this principle.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

An hon. member

He is arrogant.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

He is arrogant, indeed, and a resolutely orange Orangemen. I would rather put my confidence in my colleague from the Reform Party who gave us the real reasons why the 1911 census records should be released.

Some people in our society claim that release should be allowed, while others push respect for confidentiality and privacy too far. Even if it became known 92 years later that, in 1911, my grandfather owned two horses instead of one, I wonder how this could bother him. He has, unfortunately, been dead for quite some time.

What I mean is that one should not be mean either as the member for Wentworth—Burlington usually is.

My colleague's initiative shows an obvious interest in history. At a time when we are talking about genetic diseases, to have a period of time, even if its only five years in our history to which one does not have access, is to deprive people of the opportunity to track down their roots and know their genealogy, going as far back as their forebears, beyond 1911, but somehow there is a link missing here in demographic and sociological data. This is something we have to respect, like anything else, and provide to those who are interested. I for one am interested.

If we were talking about butterflies, for instance, it might be different. I am not that keen on butterflies, even though I like my colleague Mr. Hanfield, who is a notary in Mont-Saint-Hilaire and an entomologist who wrote a manual on butterflies in Quebec.

My friend, the notary Louis Hanfield from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, whom I salute in passing, published Le Guide des papillons du Québec last summer. It is fantastic. I am interested in butterflies. If my friend Louis Hanfield had skipped one page, and three or four butterflies were missing from his guide, I would not mind because butterflies are not what I dream about.

On the other hand, I have a keen interest in genealogy. I know mine, I know Quebec's history. Quebecers, especially those sitting here, know their history very well. They know about their past, including the history of Acadia. We have a colleague here who comes from there. For the most part, Quebecers and Acadians share the same roots. We are proud, as he is proud too.

For some, history is an important field, if only for research into genetic defects. I know a lot of the history of Quebec and eastern Canada, but I know a lot less about western Canada or the context surrounding the development of the central and western provinces. There is information there.

I have been in Saskatchewan to visit my friend the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. Qu'Appelle is a French sounding word. It comes from the French language. How is it there is a region, a city, a town with that name in Saskatchewan? For me, a marvelling visitor to Qu'Appelle, I wonder what that means. This is the sort of information that could interest me.

I in fact stopped in Qu'Appelle. They asked me what I was doing there. It was the French name Qu'Appelle that made me wonder. I was called to Qu'Appelle, a cappella, because Qu'Appelle called. I hope you understand. I am not sure I understand myself, but I follow what I am saying.

All that to say that we can laugh here too. We can take this motion with a hint of humour.

Because of the credibility of the member for Calgary Southeast, not so far from Qu'Appelle, who moved Motion No. 160, I will support it.

It is probably because he recalls that people in Qu'Appelle are of French descent that the member introduced his Motion no 160. Because of his credibility compared with the total lack of credibility, consideration and respect for his colleagues at all times of the member for Wentworth—Burlington, I favour the adage “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

At least I have the proposal for the motion of the member from Calgary Southeast, near Qu'Appelle, who calls his Motion No. 160. I call on my colleagues to support Motion No. 160 and to stand against the unspeakable assaults of the member for Wentworth—Burlington in an effort to get us to reject what I would call a fine motion.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Motion No. 160, which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take all necessary steps to release the 1911 census records once they have been deposited in the National Archives in 2003.

I appreciate the intent of this motion. I have received many letters of concern from genealogists in my constituency and from around the country over the issue of releasing information.

My understanding is that Sir Wilfrid Laurier passed the first law citing the issue of confidentiality in the early 1900s. The information in the census of 1911 was collected from Canadians with the understanding that the material would not be released. Subsequent laws have reinforced the confidentiality of all data collected by Statistics Canada.

The information gathered in these surveys provides an important resource for the basis of policy and program creation, as we all know. However, people do not give out their personal information lightly. I have received many calls and letters over time from people in Dartmouth who have been contacted by Statistics Canada for various surveys, such as the census survey that we are required to complete every five years, and people are not happy about this. They have a pre-eminent concern about confidentiality.

I come from a part of the country where geneology, memories and our roots are extremely important and where our family heritage is a resource for which people are fiercely proud. Amateur genealogists are researchers and storytellers and they have a determination to find out where they came from and a determination to use every possible resource to do so. We in the NDP take their concerns very seriously.

When we first learned about the cries from historians and genealogists, the previous NDP industry critic, Chris Axworthy, wrote to the Minister of Industry asking that he make a decision about releasing this information to the National Archives after 92 years, which had been the standard.

The feeling of the NDP caucus was that the issue demanded a balance be struck between confidentiality and reasonable access. However, the need to restrict access by Canadians to the post-1901 census records was highly questionable, particularly when there is much greater availability of census materials in the U.S.

The Minister of Industry deferred to the chief statistician who pointed out that he could not legally release the data to anyone. Since then the federal privacy commissioner, Bruce Phillips, announced his strong opposition to releasing the data by saying:

People who give information to the government under penalty of law on an unqualified promise of confidentiality are entitled to expect that that trust will be honoured.

Mr. Phillips also speaks of the right of Canadians to have control over their own information rather than “people with a vested interest” using and making decisions about that information. In these days of limited privacy and control of our own information, his point is well taken. The passions and implications for public policy surrounding this are fierce.

As the culture critic for the New Democrats, I am aware that one of the major uses of our public archives has been for genealogical research and that this community feels that the denial of access to the 1911 census information makes their search for roots much more difficult.

In response to the concerns of the privacy commissioner and to calls from historians and amateur genealogists, the Minister of Industry has now appointed an expert panel on access to historical census records.

I believe that a respectful course of action at this point is to wait for that panel's report and see if some kind of balance, which I believe can be achieved, will be found to let Canadians find their roots and allow us assurances of privacy.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to address the motion raised by the member for Calgary Southeast with respect to the release of the post-1901 census records.

Upon initial consideration, supporting this motion may seem to be quite a simple decision.

However, as we begin to uncover the complexities of this matter, this decision becomes a much more difficult one to make.

In recent months a number of genealogists and historians have articulated their collective disappointment that the 1911 census records will not be available for review in the public domain in the year 2003. These individuals had previously expected the 1911 census records to be made available for research purposes in this particular year because census records have been, up to this point, accessible to the public after 92 years.

However, censuses administered after 1901 fall subject to the Statistics Act that explicitly prohibits the release of all census records. This prohibition does not allow anyone to access census records for any reason. The only exception is that individuals may access his or her own personal records. But that is the only current exception. An individual may not access the census records of anyone else, not even those belonging to his or her immediate family members nor even those records belonging to members of the ancestral family tree.

The dilemma here is quite clear and yet it is quite difficult to resolve. We have two competing interests that present a difficult case for the House. On the one hand we have the reality of statutory integrity upon which our nation is founded and, on the other hand, practical idealism presented to us by historical curiosity.

Many have argued that the release of census records is crucial to furthering the knowledge Canadians hold of their past, of their communities, of their families and of themselves. Access to census records is what enables individuals, scholars, researchers and historians alike to trace their respective histories and to answer questions about their past: from questions as simple, yet so personally important as when exactly one's ancestry arrived in Canada, to questions as drawn and as nationally significant as the face of the brave men who fought and defended Canada in the first world war. Answering these questions can indeed teach Canadians a lot about themselves and about their origins.

In fact, Canadian amateurs, historians and academics alike have called upon these records to answer these and countless other questions which offer great insight into our history as a people. As such. the availability of census returns up to 1901 have been a tremendous resource for researchers in search of information with respect to housing, health, income and general social conditions of the day. But again, researchers have been able to conduct their invaluable research based on the laws in place before 1906 which authorized the release of these census records 92 years after they were taken.

For the first time, census data will not be available to Canadians come the year 2003, the year during which census data from 1911 would have been available in the National Archives for public reference.

On the other side, those who argue that the census records should be released to the public argue that respect for statutory integrity is quite important, particularly for our nation. In 1906, when the change was made that all future censuses would be kept confidential and rendered forever inaccessible, legislators made a commitment to Canadians. This commitment, this promise was that Canadians' responses to census questions would not be divulged to anyone, not even to the most trusted and loved ones.

The federal government currently requires Canadian residents to answer increasingly intrusive and intimate questions on its census. These questions include proddings into Canadians' marital status, physical characteristics, nationality, ethnic origin, wages earned, insurance held, educational attainment and also proddings into respondents' infirmities and sicknesses. Clearly, the government census is not an everyday survey or questionnaire. It is very involved and it can also make for quite a personal experience.

While most Canadians will readily answer these questions and willingly provide the federal government with the information it requests, others will be more hesitant to divulge this very personal information. Still, because the federal government requires Canadians to do so under penalty of fine or imprisonment, Canadians do indeed answer all these questions, albeit hesitantly perhaps. Why do they answer these intrusive questions? What puts their minds at ease in divulging this information? It is no more than the federal government's unqualified guarantee of confidentiality that allows Canadians to answer these personal questions. This guarantee is what convinced Canadians to divulge so much of themselves dating back to 1911. This guarantee puts the minds of Canadians at ease when, in the absence of such a guarantee, it is extremely doubtful that Canadians would willingly and accurately provide this information. The guarantee offered by the federal government through the Statistics Act was and remains the pledge that the federal government has professed to Canadians.

Here is our dilemma. It will please the member for Calgary Southeast to know that although the Laurier government promised that the information collected post-1901 would remain confidential, the puzzling thing is that it is really not clear why this promise was made. Furthermore, archival records indicate that the confidentiality provision was designed to reassure citizens that census enumerators would not pass along information to tax collectors or military conscription personnel. What does this mean? Simply that the reasoning for instituting this law remains unclear today and, more to the point, that Canadians in post-1901 may not have been as concerned with privacy as we think they were.

It is true that the times have changed dramatically since 1901 and so have cultural values. While today we place the utmost importance on personal issues, back then, as archival information indicates, the reasons for keeping census records forever confidential was that Canadians feared the information would leak to tax collectors and military personnel, not because they wanted to keep the information confidential forever. Canadians' concerns in 1906 were short term: “Let's keep this information away from the tax man and from the military”. The goal was not to keep the information from historians.

At a time when Canadians are increasingly interested in their past and when private foundations, such as the newly created Historica are allocating millions to improve the teaching and dissemination of Canadian history, it does not make sense that we would be barred from access to our own history.

While I certainly do appreciate the concern for statutory integrity and privacy interests, I do not believe that releasing the census records 92 years after the administration of the Census Act would pose an infringement on either of these principles. In the U.S. it is 72 years and in Australia it is 99, so 92 is reasonable. It is not an infringement of statutory integrity nor an invasion of privacy since after 92 years those who completed the census as adults are likely deceased, at which point the concern for privacy is moot.

Furthermore, Canadians today have been quite vocal in their support for releasing census records for research purposes. Given the overwhelming support for the release of the records, we in the House cannot ignore the call of Canadians. This is an instance where the sensibilities of Canadians, what they feel is right and justifiable, must be recognized. If Canadians of today do not feel that the release of census records is an infringement on the privacy rights of Canadians of yesterday, then we as legislators have no choice but to acknowledge their call.

If Canadians today wish to retain access to census records 92 years after censuses have been administered, then I do believe that, given the precedent set in the period leading up to 1911, we must accommodate them. In so doing, we would be accommodating ourselves as well, for research into our history as a people and as a nation may only be furthered by allowing access to these invaluable records.

Therefore, I offer my wholehearted support to the motion brought forth by the member for Calgary Southeast.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent from the House to divide my time with the member for Lethbridge.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to permit the hon. member to divide his time?

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, short of not getting unanimous consent, I will say that my colleague from Lethbridge supports the intervention I will make today.

I compliment the member for Calgary Southeast for putting forth Motion No. 160 which asks that the 1911 census records, once they have been deposited in the National Archives in 2003, be made public.

The bottom line is that we have an issue here, pro and con, between two competing interests: one, for people to have access to the 1911 census and indeed the census after that once 92 years have passed; and two, the privacy rights of people who, by force of law, were obligated to provide information in those census to the government.

We have to look at the facts. If it is an issue of privacy with which we would all agree, we have to also look at the timeline. Ninety-two years will have passed before any information from this census could be made public. Virtually all the people affected by this census will be dead. Certainly all the adults affected by this census will be dead once 92 years have passed. Therefore, in the interests of being reasonable, is it not reasonable to allow information from 1911 to be released?

Why should it be released? It is very important from an historical perspective. I was quite surprised to see the number of people in my riding, and indeed people from around the country, who very much want this census to be released. The reason for that is not only from a genealogical perspective but also from the historical perspective,

These censuses provide invaluable information to historians to piece together the history of our country in an accurate fashion. That is what the census enables us to do because it provides information that deals with issues such as age, various demographic principles, housing, health and a wide variety of subjects that are essential for us to understand our past. By understanding our past, we get an important indication and view into our future.

Canadian history, if I can use the words of Irving Abella, is in a state of crisis because this essential information is not being allowed to be put out. The public will be interested to know that this is not an arbitrary decision by the government. It is a decision that is there by law that was put forward by Sir Wilfrid Laurier. His law states that all information in censuses after 1906 would not be made public at all, contrary to censuses previous to that. Censuses previous to 1906 were in fact made public.

We have interesting dilemma on our hands and I challenge any member who opposes this worthy motion to show where it is harmful. If we look at the experiences of other countries we find it is very interesting. The U.S. and many other countries allow census data to be released after a time that varies from 64 to 100 years. If it were such a problem to release census information, would we not also find that this would be a problem in other democracies? Would we not also hear a cry from people who believe in democratic principles that the release of census information would somehow be an infringement on the privacy of individuals? Do we hear that from other democracies or other western nations? We do not.

Clearly we can see that our country by preventing the release of census information is compromising the very ability of historians, genealogists and others to get important information about our nation's history. It does not impede or compromise the privacy of individuals. We need to look at this subject in the historical context and the international context to find very clearly that the release of census information after 92 years does not in any way, shape or form compromise the privacy of individuals who are living today.

I know the privacy commissioner disagrees with the point of view expressed by members from across party lines, but he has a position to uphold and an important one at that. However the privacy commissioner is wrong on this issue. We need to amend the current legislation, take hold of Motion No. 160 put forward by my colleague from Calgary Southeast and ensure that the 1911 census records will be deposited, and they should be deposited, in the National Archives in 2003. That information should be made public to all who want to have access to it.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened intently to the debate and I will say at the outset that I am opposed to the motion because what is at stake is the very essence of confidentiality.

I recall from my experience as a medical doctor, and the member who just participated in the debate belongs to the same profession, that confidentiality is the very essence of personal integrity. Even if we invoke the argument that we would like to study the history of our people, the history of our country, that we will sustain freedom of information because we are in a democracy, confidentiality is a supreme principle that not one of these points can supersede.

I heard during debate that we are in a dilemma. I agree that we are in a dilemma because there are competing interests, but the question to me is very clear. All other interests are subservient to the principle of privacy, in particular when the information was given to the Canadian census by a Canadian at the time, though now maybe deceased, in the honest belief that never would it be released.

Imagine a dead person in his or her grave, unable to speak today, and we, the living, say “I am sorry but in the best interest of history, in the best interest of democracy, now we will forget our promise to you”.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

An hon. member

What do you guys know about democracy?

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Would the member just be quiet please out of respect for democracy? The Reform Party speaks about democracy, but at the same time when I try to speak in a way that somehow pierces his heart and pierces his conscience, the member is trying to disturb me. He cannot disturb me in the ultimate analysis.

The real test of confidentiality is when one is tempted to breach it and one resists that. That is the real test of living up to confidentiality, even when only one person is opposed during that census time who may be living now and says “No, that may not be released”.

I did not know this motion would be debated. What is really at stake here is that sense of public trust. The member from the Reform Party is laughing at public trust. I am really saddened, but he will not distract me. Only the persons who did not give consent to revealing confidential information may withdraw it and have it released. That is the essence of confidentiality. He who cannot live with confidentiality I challenge. How can we trust that particular person?

The real test of confidentiality is when we are tempted to breach it for some other wishes and if we do not then we have lived up to the principle of confidentiality. That is why, if I may add, at one time there was a study of medical confidentiality in Ontario by the Grange commission. You know, Mr. Speaker, because you belong to the legal profession, you would fully appreciate that it would impose the most severe penalty for breach of confidentiality.

In conclusion I say I hope we do not support this motion. It would be a breach of public trust. It would be a breach of our promise. Though now they may be deceased the more we should respect them.

1911 Census RecordsPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of this item of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should commemorate Stanley Knowles by declaring June 18 (birthday of Mr. Knowles) of each year to be Stanley Knowles Day throughout Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here this evening to speak to the motion respecting a day to recognize the late Stanley Knowles. Stanley Knowles, the parliamentarian and the man, goes beyond partisan views. His work here in the House over the years received great acclaim from all parties.

I wanted us as Canadians and as parliamentarians to recognize Stanley Knowles. As well I am looking to our recognizing other great Canadians by designating days for them. We fail to do that as Canadians. We recognize Victoria Day. Certainly we have historical connections to England and to the Royal Family. The U.S. recognizes numerous days. It takes pride in its history and in its great leaders that brought that country over the years to a democratic system.

I think as Canadians we fail to do that. We fail to take pride in our country. As a result we see some of the problems we are in today. We do not take the time to be proud of the people who have worked for our democratic country and have led it through the years. I will speak a lot about Stanley Knowles because it was my intent that it would be the opportune time as we go into the new millennium to recognize him as the man that he was.

Without question Stanley Knowles is a legendary Canadian. He was a pioneering New Democrat with an intergenerational voice who spoke for all and still speaks to us now. My colleague, our health critic, mentioned in his speech today what Stanley Knowles gave us in 1958. Does that still speak to us today about our going through the same things in the House of Commons. He said:

We welcome the beginning of a hospital insurance plan. But if it is a good idea to cover hospital bills by an insurance plan, why not do the same for all medical bills? The Liberals promised health insurance in 1919 but had no intention of starting it until 1959. Apparently, it was Mr. Mackenzie King's reading of the Bible, about the children of Israel having to wander the wilderness for 40 years, that prompted him to require the people of Canada to wander in the wilderness of high medical costs for 40 years before making even a start in this field.

He went on to say:

And now we have the spectacle of the present Liberal leader promising, all over again, what the Liberal Party first pledged itself to 40 years ago.

Here we are, another 42 years later. Does it not sound familiar? He further stated:

But Pearson's promise today is even more vague and misleading than most Liberal promises have proved to be.

I think Stanley Knowles definitely speaks to us even today. As well I will take this opportunity to comment that Stanley Knowles also said:

Debate is not a sin, a mistake, an error or something to be put up with in parliament. Debate is the essence of parliament.

What have we seen as parliamentarians in the House of Commons in the last while with this government? Numerous time allocations and probably the most horrendous thing today is that regulations will be passed once again to stifle the voice of parliamentary debate. I am sure Stanley Knowles would be turning over in his grave.

My colleague from Winnipeg—Transcona said in his eulogy to Stanley Knowles:

He was the last of a line of prairie ministers whose view of politics was shaped by their belief in the social gospel and biblical prophecies...Stanley was an exemplary politician. His knowledge of parliamentary rules and proceedings superseded that of many of his colleagues on either side of the House.

To understand Stanley Knowles we must understand the indissoluble link between Stanley Knowles the politician and Stanley Knowles the man. This was Stanley Knowles' integrity, his ability to bring together his belief system and his unwavering faith in our parliamentary system.

Growing up, Stanley had faced challenges that led him to follow the path that he did. As stated in the Montreal Gazette a few days after he passed on:

His social-democratic views were formed the hard way: by the death of his mother, Margaret, to tuberculosis and poor health care when he was 11. His father, Stanley Ernest, lost his job during the Depression without pension or benefit.

Stanley Knowles was on a lifelong mission. He himself stated “This became more or less the goal of my life, to correct what happened to my own family”.

Is that not often what it takes to get us going, to really fight for the things we believe in, that we do not want to see other people suffer some of the problems, illnesses and tragedies that we had to go through. We want to make a better life for the people around us and for our families.

Stanley's political career with the CCF began in 1934. He held various positions throughout those years including that of national vice-president from 1954 to 1961. His son David said that his father initially decided that he would work to save people's souls through the church but he soon realized that preaching from the pulpit was not going to put food on the table or get people hospital care. He realized he was in the wrong place and he should be in parliament.

According to historian Susan Mann he had to change laws rather than souls. Stanley Knowles went out to preach from a different house, the House of Commons. He ran for parliament in 1935 and again in 1940. He was elected as the CCF member for Winnipeg North Centre on November 30, 1942.

I now have two colleagues, the member for Winnipeg Centre and for Winnipeg North Centre, who represent the riding that Stanley once represented.

Stanley succeeded the late J. S. Woodsworth. He was elected in 1945, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979 and 1980. How would any of us feel to have the support of our constituents the way they stood behind this man because of the man he was? His integrity was never at question. That we should be elected that many times, we would definitely deserve to have our name recognized within Canada, a day recognized on our behalf, if we were able to make that kind of commitment to our constituents.

Stanley's career as a parliamentarian was brilliant. Many honours were bestowed upon him in recognition of his knowledge of parliamentary procedure and his integrity as a social democrat.

In 1957 John Diefenbaker offered Stanley the Speakership. According to the Montreal Gazette , the new Tory prime minister, the highly partisan John Diefenbaker was so impressed by Mr. Knowles that he offered him the job as Speaker of the Commons. Mr. Knowles declined. Why did he decline? He declined because it would constrain his ability to fight for pension reform on behalf of his constituents. That was a parliamentarian.

For Stanley Knowles the politician, government and its laws were to become his instruments of transformation and education to make Canadian society a better place for all. He fought persistently for the elderly and more specifically for the national pension plan. He also fought for the poor, for children, for women and for veterans.

During his 42 years in the House, Stanley not only gained respect for the role of parliament and its procedure but a sound understanding of it. It is no wonder that his career as a parliamentarian did not end when he ended his term as an active member of parliament in 1984.

NDP leader Ed Broadbent suggested that the House honour Stanley. Prime Minister Trudeau at that time followed through on the suggestion with a lifelong membership in the House and a seat at the clerk's table.

On March 13, 1984, the House voted unanimously and Stanley was able to keep living in the house that was his home, the House of Commons. In October of the same year Stanley Knowles was recognized as an officer of the Order of Canada.

Regardless of his health needs and his frailty, Stanley still attended question period daily. I am sure all of us would be thrilled to say that we had been in question period daily for our whole time here in Ottawa. He enjoyed the ritual, the rules and the history of parliament's hallowed halls which he has now joined.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to be on duty in the House today and to participate in two debates on subjects that are close to my heart.

Let me speak about Stanley Knowles. Mr. Speaker, I believe you and I came to the House at the same time in 1988. I then represented Winnipeg North. I understand from the political history that a small part of that riding had previously been represented by Mr. Stanley Knowles. I inherited with great pride the tradition that Mr. Knowles left. I saw to it to have a conversation with him during my first few days on Parliament Hill. I will continue to cherish that memory.

He reminded me of the first speech he gave when he was in California. It was about the Philippines, my country of birth. He was a vivid and caring person. Indeed I agree that he was a visionary and a person of deep social conscience. He fought for the poor, veterans and seniors, the very essence of our political calling. He said that debate gives testimony to democracy and I agree. He spoke of procedure and how to use it to effect a change. But he said that the procedural rules as they existed should never be abused by any frivolous approach to the procedures. He said that within the existing procedures we should use our imagination to advance our cause. In fact, I very much enjoyed reading the book in my first few months on Parliament Hill.

It was my extreme honour a couple of years ago when the Minister of Public Works and Government Services requested that I appear on his behalf and speak on behalf of the Government of Canada in the naming of a building in Winnipeg for Stanley Knowles. It was an honour for me to be with the members of his family.

In closing, by continuing to honour Mr. Stanley Knowles, we are honouring and sustaining the nobility of politics itself.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to Motion No. 211 which calls on the government to declare June 18 to be Stanley Knowles Day.

I begin my remarks by commending the hon. member for Churchill for introducing this motion on behalf of the NDP and in fact Canadians who look up to Mr. Knowles and have great respect for his work.

Mr. Knowles was born on June 18, 1908. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am a relatively new Canadian. My family and I have been in Canada less than 10 years. Still I know a little bit about Stanley Knowles and from what I know I can say that I highly appreciate what he did for our country.

He was a politician who was dedicated to representing the people who elected him. He delivered his maiden speech to the House on February 3, 1943. He represented the riding of Winnipeg North Centre for over 37 years, from 1942 to 1958 and again from 1962 to 1984. That alone can be considered a remarkable feat. I wonder how many of us can even imagine enjoying such a large amount of support for so many years. The people of Winnipeg had a great deal of confidence in their MP.

The NDP member for Churchill should be commended. The socialist camp in our country must be very proud of Stanley Knowles, claiming him as one of their own. I know that Stanley sat at the clerk's table for many years after he completed his career as a member of parliament. In 1984 he became the only member of parliament ever to be made an honorary officer of the House of Commons with a lifelong chair at the clerk's table.

To the credit of the Liberal government of the day, it was former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who extended the generous and kind offer to Mr. Knowles to stay as a member of the House with his own office in this very building.

As a long time House leader of the NDP, his knowledge of the rules and his love for parliament had no equal. A follower of the social gospel, he was renowned for his advocacy on behalf of the elderly, veterans, the poor and other disadvantaged Canadians. Canadians will be glad to be reminded of Mr. Knowles' accomplishments in this place.

He delivered what some have called one of the greatest speeches in the House while opposing the Liberal government's use of time allocation. The way I have heard the story told, during the 1957 pipeline debate the Louis St. Laurent government tried to cut off debate in the House. That was a Liberal government. The Liberals were trying to limit debate in the same way the Liberal government today does time and again. Back in those days the government's use of closure and time allocation was not common.

Mr. Knowles was a western populist. He came from the roots of where the NDP and the Reform Party supporters come from. My colleagues and I are here to represent those Canadians who know how Stanley Knowles felt when the government tried to use time allocation to ram a bill through the House.

The present government has used time allocation and closure at least 61 times to deprive elected members of the House an opportunity to debate. This is ridiculous. This is so undemocratic that it is anti-democratic. It is almost a dictatorship.

In fact the 60th time the government closed debate on a bill was the week before last on the very day the House was supposed to be debating this motion. The government shut down debate on the clarity bill aimed at clarifying how a future referendum for secession will be conducted. This occurred on the very day we were going to ask the government to make arrangements to commemorate an hon. member of the House, someone who fought against time allocation and closure and the limiting of debate in the House. It is so ironic that the man who fought against time allocation on the pipeline bill, a very famous debate in the House more than 40 years ago, is himself the topic of debate in the House.

The 61st time the Liberals cut off debate was on the bill that makes changes to the Canada Elections Act. This bill favours the governing party and in this case it favours the Liberal Party and the Liberals are not going to change that. They have not listened to the Chief Electoral Officer and they have not listened to the witnesses who appeared before the committee. They have no respect for the kind of forward thinking Stanley Knowles was famous for. He would not have supported this legislation if he were speaking from this side of the House.

The Liberals have been in power for almost seven years. They only have to shut down debate on any bill in the House five more times and they will be tied with Brian Mulroney's all-time record of 66 times. It took Mulroney nine years to stifle democracy 66 times. The Liberals are ahead and they are likely going to set the record for being undemocratic.

When closure was first used to end a debate it was done because debate had gone on for 42 consecutive days. That is why closure was required at that time.

The Liberals shut down the debate on the clarity bill after just 42 minutes. They shut down the debate on extending benefits to same sex partners after just one hour and six minutes. They shut down debate on the changes to the elections act, which I described earlier, after just two hours and forty minutes. It was an important bill and they let debate continue for only two hours and forty minutes. It is unbelievable. It is shameful. Stanley Knowles is turning over in his grave, I am sure. The Liberals have learned nothing from Stanley Knowles.

We should have a Stanley Knowles day. We need to celebrate the lives of those who have contributed so much to our country.

We can describe Stanley Knowles as a Canadian hero who stood for democracy in the House, who was famous for standing for the rights of elected members to debate anything they were supposed to debate. He championed the rights of the people. He left his mark on this place. It is important for future generations to know that such a man existed.

It is encouraging for young Canadians to learn of the accomplishments of a single Canadian who stood for the rights of members to debate in the House, who stood for democracy in the House. It is very inspiring for young Canadians. June 18, which was his birthdate, falls within the school year. It is a good time to establish this day, a day of remembrance and education.

I commend the hon. member for Churchill for introducing this motion to remind the House and to remind the Liberals who are asleep at the wheel that democracy is important. It will remind them how important the Canada Elections Act is, which will allow free and fair elections in this country. It will remind Liberals that free debate should be allowed in the House without debate being cut off, without turning this place into an anti-democratic institution.

Therefore, I am glad to speak in support of the motion and I wish the member the best of luck. I hope she succeeds and I hope the Liberals will learn from Stanley Knowles.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

March 2nd, 2000 / 7:30 p.m.


Hélène Alarie Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Chairman, without a shadow of a doubt, Stanley Knowles was a great Canadian parliamentarian.

The fact that the House of Commons let him sit in the House to hear our debates bears witness to the esteem that all parties had for Mr. Knowles. It is not surprising, therefore, that thought is now being given to having a day dedicated to his memory. This is a most praiseworthy idea.

There are a few questions, however, that have to be asked before commemorating an individual or an event. First of all, what is the purpose of commemorating that individual or event? Primarily, it is to call to mind the values and principles we have been taught by that individual or event.

Consequently, when there is a desire to commemorate an individual, as there is today, it is important for the values and principles that person defended to be evident to all. A goodly number of Canadians and Quebecers might deserve having a day dedicated to them. People distinguish themselves in all areas of endeavour, be it the arts, business, teaching, science, medicine or some other field.

Why are they not commemorated, despite their accomplishments? Because they are not widely known, and the population as a whole does not associate the values and principles they defended with these individuals.

Mr. Knowles was very well known to parliamentarians and to his fellow Winnipeggers but, and this is regrettable, the average Canadian or Quebecer has no idea of the values and principles defended by Stanley Knowles. Therefore, in spite of all the merits of Stanley Knowles, dedicating a day to his memory would not help promote these values and principles.

These remarks are not meant to take anything away from Mr. Knowles' exceptional career as a parliamentarian. That career was indeed exceptional in more ways than one, and particularly in terms of its length. After working as a typsetter and printer, Stanley Knowles represented his fellow citizens in parliament for 37 years, between 1942 and 1984. The figures tell the tale: he was elected 13 times to the House of Commons.

His career is also exceptional in terms of his contribution to the Canadian parliamentary system, which is a very topical issue these days. Stanley Knowles thought and wrote about the role of the opposition in this parliament. He also made a contribution to the debate on the role of the Senate.

Stanley Knowles played a key role within his party, the New Democratic Party, particularly when the NDP was founded to replace the CCF, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, in 1961.

Stanley Knowles' exceptional contribution to Canadian democracy was largely recognized in his home province of Manitoba, where everyone knew him. In Winnipeg, a school and a park are named after him.

His memory is also honoured in Brandon University, of which he was chancellor for 20 years, from 1970 to 1990, with the Stanley Knowles chair for political studies. Here in this House, he is the only person ever to receive the title of honorary member of the House of Commons. Stanley Knowles was also made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1985.

Stanley Knowles made a remarkable contribution to Canadian democracy. His exceptional contribution was recognized by Canadians and they are grateful to him.

However, in spite of all his merits, to dedicate a day to Stanley Knowles would not help promote his values and principles among the public. It would not add anything to the political stature of the man.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour and a privilege for me to have this opportunity to rise in the House to debate the motion that would see us commemorate the wonderful life of Mr. Stanley Knowles by recognizing his birthday on June 18.

I would also like to congratulate the hon. member for Churchill for introducing this motion. She obviously shares my deep sense of pride and respect, as do many Canadians, for the many accomplishments of the late member for Winnipeg North Centre.

From what I have read and heard, Mr. Knowles worked very hard for all Canadians. He worked particularly hard for the most vulnerable members of society.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Churchill for introducing this motion. It has allowed each and every one of us to look back upon the life of a great Canadian. Mr. Knowles was someone whose strength and determination helped forge a greater Canada, one that we too often take for granted.

We often forget that many of the social programs we take for granted today, such as employment insurance, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the minimum wage and others, were not readily available when Mr. Knowles began his long and distinguished career back in 1942.

For more than 40 years Mr. Knowles was a member of parliament who was instrumental in helping to convince the government of the day to introduce and improve many of the social programs which help Canada's most vulnerable citizens.

Mr. Knowles could understand and appreciate the struggles of everyday people. He witnessed them firsthand during the Great Depression while working as an ordained minister in the United Church, watching senior workers being displaced by younger workers during the depression without being provided with a retirement pension plan. This convinced him to work toward the elimination of injustices in the workplace.

Mr. Knowles fought for employee pension rights. He fought for better pensions for our seniors. He fought for better housing and help for the homeless.

I find it rather ironic that today we are speaking of the late Mr. Stanley Knowles. I say ironic because of Motion No. 8 which was introduced in the House today. If Stanley Knowles were here he would be appalled by what the government is doing to the fine institution of the Parliament of Canada, limiting our abilities as members of parliament to debate, to make amendments, to make changes to legislation and to truly do what we are supposed to do as parliamentarians. I am sure Mr. Knowles is spinning in his grave.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised to learn that Mr. Knowles' father came from Woods Harbour, which is just beside my riding of West Nova. Mr. Knowles' ancestors came to Nova Scotia in 1760 only five years after the deportation of the Acadians in 1755.

I am convinced that Mr. Knowles saw this as a great injustice and was perhaps even influenced by the magnitude of this tragedy. But this is only conjecture.

One thing is certain—Mr. Knowles loved to come to Nova Scotia to visit his family. Having lived in a small village the mainstay of which was fishing, Mr. Knowles certainly had a unique perspective on the differences and similarities with which the people of West Nova must cope.

I think that Mr. Knowles would be shocked if he were to see the terrible straits in which our fishery now finds itself. Like us, he would be completely dissatisfied with the way the Liberal government is ignoring the crisis in the fishery.

Mr. Knowles would be disgusted by the way the Liberal government has handled the crisis in the Atlantic fishery. Like any Canadian whose livelihood is being threatened by government inadequacy or incompetence, I am certain that Mr. Knowles would be using every possible trick in the book to focus attention on this very serious problem.

Mr. Knowles was a master of parliamentary procedure. I am certain he would have taken every possible opportunity to highlight the plight of our Atlantic fishermen. He would have recognized the correlation between the serious brain drain that is going on in this country and the Liberal government's handling of the Atlantic fishery crisis. He would recognize that this Liberal government will ultimately destroy our fishery, forcing more of our youth to head west in search of job opportunities.

According to the fisheries minister's press release which he sent out last Friday, the Atlantic fishery produces some $1.3 billion in landed values. That is nothing to sneeze at.

Like our seniors and our most disadvantaged citizens for whom Mr. Knowles fought so strenuously, I think our Atlantic fishermen deserve the same protection against a Liberal government which appears unable or unwilling to resolve the serious problems affecting the industry.

Stanley Knowles was nothing if not tenacious in his pursuit of social justice. He simply would not be deterred; not by his initial failures at the polls where he lost in the federal elections of 1935 and 1940, and then the provincial election in 1941, nor by the disintegration of his CCF party, which ultimately transformed itself into today's New Democratic Party. His message never seemed to change over the years. He continued to preach his social gospel.

I take comfort in recognizing the huge accomplishments of Mr. Knowles on behalf of all Canadians. I can see that his tenacity has paid great dividends for the citizens of Canada and I am determined to show some of the same tenacity as I continue to represent the citizens of West Nova to the very best of my ability.

I will draw attention to the serious crisis in the Atlantic fishery. I will demand that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans address the terrible conditions of our local fishing wharfs which his department is so determined to ultimately abandon as a cost-cutting measure.

A recent storm in my riding has left a number of our wharfs, including the Delaps Cove, Parkers Cove, Hampton, Port Lorne, Cottage Cove and Margaretsville in serious condition. Another storm could wipe them out leaving our fishermen to fend for themselves.

These fishermen need these wharfs for their livelihood. Their communities need these wharfs because they provide an economic boost to their local economies. They need these wharfs because they share an important cultural component with members of their own community as well as with the surrounding communities.

In speaking for our Atlantic fishermen, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of these wharfs to our communities.

Coming from a western province where agriculture is so important to the local economy, I am sure Mr. Knowles would appreciate why I have raised the serious plight of our farmers on so many occasions in the House. After three consecutive years of drought conditions, our West Nova farmers are struggling for survival, just like our western counterparts.

The government's band-aid solutions fall far short of what is needed to stabilize this vital industry. It is time that the government started looking at long term, sustainable programs that will seriously address the difficulties being experienced by our Canadian farmers.

There is no question of the tremendous accomplishments of Mr. Stanley Knowles. He has been recognized on many occasions for his commitment to the Canadian people. For example, in 1979 our leader and then prime minister, Mr. Joe Clark, appointed him ceremoniously to the Privy Council of Canada to mark his 37th anniversary in the House of Commons. In 1970 he became Chancellor of Brandon University and in 1990 was designated Chancellor Emeritus. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984. His name appears on schools and school libraries and most likely on a number of street signs.

I could go on and on. However, I am not totally convinced that we should be recognizing a great Canadian on the date of his or her birthday at the exclusion of many other great Canadians. Somehow I prefer using days on our calendar to highlight great Canadian achievements, events and organizations that otherwise may not receive the recognition they so richly deserve.

Stanley Knowles has a special place in Canadian history. I think his achievements would best be recognized through our Canadian history books.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Churchill on two of her initial statements, the first one being that I believe everyone in the House, regardless of partisan affiliation, will recognize that Stanley Knowles was indeed someone worthy of such consideration and was honoured by the House, as the member herself mentioned.

I will now say a few words in tribute to Mr. Knowles as well. I was fortunate enough to have been in the House for a bit of the time while he was an honorary table officer. I think it is fairly well accepted that Stanley Knowles was, first and foremost, a man of the people. He was motivated by his concern for the less fortunate, some of whom are still to this day overlooked, and the undervalued members of our society. His concern for the suffering of others was rooted, some argue, in personal suffering close to home.

I will relate an incident in 1932 when his father, 57 at the time, was laid off from his machinist's job when all employees over 55 were deemed expendable by an efficiency consultant. After many years of loyal service, the elder Mr. Knowles had no severance, no unemployment insurance, no sick benefits and no pension. One could argue that this episode in Mr. Stanley Knowles' life was a benchmark event in his life and that it helped fuel his committed drive to guarantee so many elements of life that we today take for granted.

We also pay tribute to Mr. Knowles as a parliamentarian par excellence. His exceptional presence still makes itself felt in the House from time to time, when it is a question of balancing personal conscience against public perception or expectations.

It is in this room that he has left his mark, and his accomplishments are still celebrated today.

A unique figure among Canadian parliamentarians, he had a very rare privilege bestowed on him, having been given a seat at the table, near the Chair, when he was no longer a member of parliament. In fact, to this day, he remains the first and only honorary officer of the House of Commons.

We agree on that but I wish we could have perhaps avoided some partisan shots while we paid tribute to Mr. Knowles, but that is another matter.

I also agree with the member for Churchill when she says that we do not do enough in this country to recognize, acknowledge, teach and transmit the knowledge of people such as Mr. Knowles to the younger generations. I for one share that view and hope we will find ways as we evolve as a society to do more of this. It is important to make sure that the achievements of people like Mr. Knowles are communicated to our younger people so that they can get an appreciation of the values he represented.

Although I may not agree with her, as she may suspect, on whether or not the course suggested to commemorate and pay tribute to Mr. Knowles is the appropriate one, I would put some ideas on the table as to why this may not be appropriate, without demeaning the importance of Mr. Knowles, and perhaps put forward some suggestions that she may wish to consider in another forum.

There is one concern that has been alluded to by two of the opposition parties, and that is the phenomenon of too many people being honoured. For instance, I did a very cursory check at the Library before coming here. I picked three or four dates at random and asked for information out of the current edition of Canada's Who's Who , if you will—and we take that with a grain of salt because it is only living people and it is self-subscription to a certain extent—but on June 18 there are two current parliamentarians, who happen to be in the other place, who may or may not also qualify for a so-and-so day. How do we decide that without bringing in partisanship or trying to make it an extraction of partisanship?

On November 18, another date picked at random, would one want to honour Knowlton Nash? I believe everyone knows Knowlton Nash. Someone from western Canada may wish to honour Peter Pocklington, or Margaret Atwood. They were all born on the same day but in different years. One can see the complications that could arise from that, and that is just a very cursory look at this.

Another example is March 28 where we have Marshall Cohan, a fairly well-known executive; Robert Sculley, a fairly well-known television personality; a fellow by the name of Paul David Sobey, who is fairly well known in Atlantic Canada in the business community; and we have Karen Kain.

I am just trying to give examples of the kinds of difficulties we could get ourselves into. The final example would be January 26, where we have Roger Landry.

Roger Landry has just retired as a journalist for La Presse . He was and still is a very important newsmaker in Canada.

Think of someone like Claude Ryan, who is also an important Canadian newsmaker, or Wayne Gretzky. They were all born the same day.

Understandably, it would be difficult for us to approve the concept of an individual's day. And I did not name everybody.

It is not a matter of not wanting to recognize the value and contributions of certain individuals, whether in the parliamentary or education field, in the arts, business, the media or sports.

We might want to consider other options, and we have been thinking about it. The Order of Canada was created to recognize and pay tribute to the contributions of a large number of Canadians to our society, even if they were born on the same day. Some thought was given to it in the House, in a way, on other occasions. Perhaps this suggestion should be made to the House.

It is rather delicate to ask the government to recognize a parliamentarian. One might argue that it is the role of the House, and that the House or parliament could find other ways, here or elsewhere, to recognize the contribution of a great parliamentarian.

We are not against the idea of celebrate the life of Stanley Knowles. It is the way suggested here that is inappropriate. For example, we have before us three similar measures.

There is a bill from the other place to designate a certain day as Sir John A. Macdonald Day. I think a member from the Progressive Conservative Party would like a day to be designated as Samuel de Champlain Day. Unfortunately, we are going to run out of days. There is limit.

Before designating days to honour so and so, we should find other ways of doing it. I would like to make this suggestion to my colleague opposite, despite what some other members opposite might say.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Churchill. I should advise the House that if she speaks now, she will close the debate.

Stanley Knowles DayPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the members who have spoken tonight on behalf of Stanley Knowles and his great accomplishments. I thank them for the support.

I want to clarify a couple of areas. My colleague who just preceded me indicated we could run out of days. The United States of America recognizes Washington, Lincoln, Martin Luther King and I think there may be one other politician in all their years of history and they have not run out of days so I think in Canada we are probably fairly safe. The United Kingdom has Guy Fawkes Day and maybe the other odd one. I do not think that is the real problem.

As parliamentarians we can get beyond the partisan aspect and have support for parliamentarians who have done a great job. I want to clarify it was intended that it would be parliamentarians or politicians who would be recognized. So often all that is ever recognized of politicians is any wrong that they may do. Very few people will have a good thing to say about any politician. There are very few of us who could honestly say that we hear something good about us all the time. I think we can get beyond that for parliamentarians who have done a great job such as Stanley Knowles did. There may be others as well.

There is no question there are other ways of recognition. The reason to recognize a day is that it becomes that day on the calendar. Every time a child or an adult looks at the calendar on that day, they will think of Stanley Knowles.

St. Jean Baptiste Day has been on the calendar for heaven knows how long. We do not recognize it. We did not do anything with St. Jean Baptiste Day where I grew up but we recognized it and we learned about it and we understood it as we did other holidays that get recognized. To me there is very great significance in putting the day on the calendar and officially recognizing it.

The leader of the New Democratic Party said on Stanley's passing that we have all lost a friend, one who fought with courage and vigour for equality, for social justice and the dignity of all Canadians. Stanley Knowles is a Canadian worth honouring. He should be held in high esteem in our collective memories so that we may never forget his integrity as a man and as a politician.

I was very disappointed that the motion was not made votable. I am going to take this opportunity to correct that wrong and ask if I could have unanimous consent of the House to make it a votable motion.