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House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was edc.

Topics

Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer AgreementRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 34th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding its order of reference from the House of Commons of June 12, 2001 concerning private members' business, and I should like to move concurrence at this time.

(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present another petition from citizens of the greater Peterborough area who are concerned about kidney disease and kidney research.

They believe that it would be better if Canada's national institute,which does wonderful work on kidney research, include the word “kidney” in its title rather than having a relatively obscure academic title.

The petitioners call upon parliament to encourage the Canadian institutes of health research to explicitly include kidney research as one of the institutes in its system to be named the institute of kidney and urinary tract diseases.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin LiberalMinister of Industry

moved:

WHEREAS section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies;

NOW THEREFORE the House of Commons resolves that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by Her Excellency the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the schedule hereto.

SCHEDULE

AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA

  1. The Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada set out in the Schedule to the Newfoundland Act are amended by striking out the words “Province of Newfoundland” wherever they occur and substituting the words “Province of Newfoundland and Labrador”.

  2. Paragraph (g) of Term 33 of the Schedule to the Act is amended by striking out the word “Newfoundland” and substituting the words “the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador”.

  3. Term 38 of the Schedule to the Act is amended by striking out the words “Newfoundland veterans” wherever they occur and substituting the words “Newfoundland and Labrador veterans”.

  4. Term 42 of the Schedule to the Act is amended by striking out the words “Newfoundland merchant seamen” and “Newfoundland merchant seaman” wherever they occur and substituting the words “Newfoundland and Labrador merchant seamen” and “Newfoundland and Labrador merchant seaman”, respectively.

  5. Subsection (2) of Term 46 of the Schedule to the Act is amended by adding immediately after the word “Newfoundland” where it first occurs the words “and Labrador”.

CITATION

  1. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, [year of proclamation] (Newfoundland and Labrador).

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to be joined by my colleague, the member for Labrador, and to note as well the presence in the gallery of the House of Commons of the minister of intergovernmental affairs of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Hon. Tom Lush, for what I believe is an important and historic resolution.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing a resolution to authorize a bilateral amendment to term 1 of the terms of union of Newfoundland with Canada. The amendment would change the name of the province to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland became part of Canada on March 31, 1949, with the Newfoundland Act which ratified the terms of union between Newfoundland and Canada.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken many steps over time, beginning with the passage of the Labrador Act in 1964, to recognize the reality that Labrador is a vital part of the province. The Labrador Act provided for the official recognition of Labrador in the provincial coat of arms, on government stationery and in government publications.

While this was an important measure, the name of the province provided for in the terms of union with Canada remains the province of Newfoundland. That name does not reflect by itself the fundamental reality of my home province, which includes both Newfoundland and Labrador.

Indeed, it is a unique province in the sense that so much a part of the history, the reality, the culture, the songs and the tradition of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is separated by the Atlantic Ocean and the Strait of Belle Isle.

Many of our citizens, small in number but so dynamic, have never fully felt their contribution and their presence reflected fully in the governance of my home province or in its official name.

In April 1992 the Newfoundland house of assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the provincial government to take the necessary steps to change the name of the province to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Newfoundland and Labrador throne speech of March 20, 1996, called upon the provincial government to take the necessary action to change the name of the province.

I was very honoured as the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on April 29, 1999, to rise in the Newfoundland house of assembly and to seek and receive the unanimous adoption of a resolution authorizing the Governor General to issue a proclamation to amend term 1 of the terms of union to reflect the new name of the province to that of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The government then asked the Government of Canada to take appropriate measures at the federal level to effect a constitutional amendment. Our role and our responsibility now, as parliamentarians, is to consider the proposed amendment at the national level and to decide whether to approve it.

It is the longstanding practice of the Government of Canada to take positive action in response to provincial requests for bilateral amendments to the constitution.

Once proclaimed, this will be the seventh bilateral amendment to the constitution to have successfully completed the amending formula. This shows that progress on modernizing and improving the Canadian federation can be made, and that our constitution continues to evolve in a range of areas.

As I have indicated on several occasions, the Government of Canada supports the amendment which provides a tangible way for us to formally recognize the contribution of Labrador and of Labradorians.

Changing the name of the province is an importance symbolic recognition of Labrador's status as a full and vital part of Canada's easternmost province, with its own unique geography, history and culture. It is about respect for Labrador and its inhabitants as essential contributors to my home province and to its rich and diverse cultural heritage.

The proposed constitutional amendment will also reflect Labradorians' understandable desire that this reality be reflected officially in the province's name.

What is at issue here is not a border, but a symbolic gesture for Newfoundland and Labrador citizens.

Section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides for an amendment to Canada's constitution in relation to any provision that applies to one or more but not all provinces. Such an amendment can be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the great seal of Canada where authorized by resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies.

I am joined today by the member for Labrador, and I believe by all members on both sides from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in asking the House to give consideration to this request.

In deferring to the member for Labrador, with whom I want to split my time, I would ask the House to give the member time to finish his remarks. I also want to note that we have consulted with members of the opposition. I specifically want to note that we have consulted with members of the Bloc Quebecois. Indeed, I have consulted with the government of Quebec on behalf of the Government of Canada, as has the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In anticipation, I would like to thank all members from all parties but notably colleagues from Quebec on both sides of the House for the spirit in which this resolution request is being received and I anticipate and hope the manner in which it shall be voted. This is an important day for all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador but no more important for any than those of Labrador.

I will now cede my place to the member for Labrador who has worked very hard on the resolution.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair would seek some guidance. The House will respond yea or nay to the request for consent, but it might be helpful to all of us if we had some indication as to the length of time the member for Labrador might take in this intervention. Possibly the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader might be helpful?

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, what we are requesting is that the member for Labrador be able to speak for 10 minutes.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the request from the Minister of Industry. Is there consent?

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence O'Brien Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my thanks go to my colleague, the Minister of Industry and regional minister, and to all members of this great and honourable House. I am the very first Labrador-born member of parliament in this great Chamber and I am indeed very proud to serve in this Chamber with my colleagues and of course to serve the people who put me here, the people of Labrador.

For as long as I have been involved in political life, and especially since becoming member of parliament for Labrador, I have always had certain goals in mind. One of these goals has been to drive home the point that Labrador has unique needs and challenges.

Labrador has enormous geography, enormous potential and an enormous role to play in this country. Labrador also has a very strong identity. No one could ever deny that.

Many years ago Mrs. Elizabeth Goudie wrote in her autobiography, Woman of Labrador , that the name Labrador went deep within her being. All of us who read that phrase knew exactly what she meant. We knew it when we adopted the blue, white and green Labrador flag. Even though the constitution until now did not recognize our name, we knew who we were. There has never been any doubt in our minds that we are Labradorians.

There are many things that other Canadians and even Newfoundlanders do not know about Labrador.

Labrador is two and a half times the size of Newfoundland. Labrador is larger than the other 31 ridings of Atlantic Canada put together. It is one of the largest ridings in Canada.

Ever since I was elected I have been trying hard to educate my colleagues in parliament. I even have the Prime Minister saying Labrador these days, which I am very proud of.

I look at a member here who had a great time in Labrador. This past summer I had the honour of hosting my Atlantic Liberal colleagues along the south coast of Labrador and a very noteworthy time was had. We had a great time, absolutely phenomenal, down in Battle Harbour and along the straits of Labrador.

Labrador has some of the richest history in Canada: the 9,000 year aboriginal pre-history in evidence at Point Amour, Ramah and Rattler's Bight; the remains of the Basque whaling premises at Red Bay and throughout southern Labrador; the historic sites of Hopedale, Hebron and Battle Harbour; the stories of the trappers of North West River, the Hudson's Bay Company; and the Moravian church at Makkovik and the Grand Falls “Bottle”. We are only now beginning to tell our story to the world.

Our people came from all over: the Innu and Inuit inhabitants whose ancestors were there when European cities were still swamps; the settlers who came from England, Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands, Canada and Newfoundland to build new lives in the freedom of Labrador; the Metis, whose heritage goes back to the blending of these traditions centuries ago; and the skilled and energetic people who helped build the modern industrial Labrador in our interior resource towns.

Our unique settlement patterns and our distinct history have given us our identity. We have maintained a deep and even spiritual attachment to our land. Centuries of isolation and crossing of cultures have led to a distinct Labrador spirit. We treasure that spirit, that attachment and that identity.

The latest chapter of our history is the great military and industrial development in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Wabush, Labrador City and Churchill Falls, which contributes greatly to the provincial and national economies.

With developments such as Voisey's Bay and the Trans-Labrador highway, we will continue to make our place in Canada.

Unfortunately over the years these developments have not always been in the best interests of Labradorians. We have been too often overlooked and forgotten. Our people and our land have not been respected. Our needs were often ignored. Our identity was denied.

We should never again have to feel that someone else is taking our mineral and energy wealth, our fisheries and forest resources and even our name away from us. In its own way, this symbolic change in our constitution will recognize Labrador and help ensure that we will never again be forgotten.

There are still some who believe and will say that Labrador is just a part of Newfoundland. They fail or refuse to recognize our special character and our unique place. However, when we see the broad expanse of Lake Melville, nearly as large as Prince Edward Island, stretching through the horizon, when we stand at the bottom of the Saglek Fjord with 3,000 foot cliffs towering overhead, when 25,000 caribou come streaming over a barren hill in back of Double Mer, when we drive across the seemingly endless iron hills of the interior, a landscape that inspired the Group of Seven, or when we find an arrowhead or chip that was left by our aboriginal forefathers 5,000 years ago, it is hard to accept that this is just another part of Newfoundland.

Our land and our people make us unique, not better, just unique. Our identity, just like that of Newfoundland, Quebec, Nunavut or Alberta, is worthy of celebrating and recognizing.

We are recognizing that Labrador is not a mere appendage of Newfoundland but that we have our own traditions and our own identity. We are recognizing that the Strait of Belle Isle, where I was born in a small community called L'Anse-au-Loup, sets us apart even as the constitutional evolution of Canada has brought Labrador and Newfoundland together.

We as a parliament recognized Quebec's distinct character in 1995 through a resolution and we recognized New Brunswick's bilingual character in 1993 through a constitutional amendment, and so today we are recognizing the dual geography and dual nature of Canada's newest province. There is nothing divisive about this. It is common practice throughout the world.

What is divisive is to gloss over and deny the differences and distinctions between us instead of celebrating and recognizing them. In fact the use of the name Newfoundland and Labrador goes back many centuries, to 1763 when Labrador and Newfoundland were first placed under the same government. It was in official use through the 19th and 20th centuries. Everyone, at least in Labrador, knew that the name Newfoundland, proud as it is, applied only to the large island off our southern shore.

Even during the debate that led to Confederation in 1949 there was some discussion of making Labrador part of the name of the new province. It was not done at the time. However, over the years the words Newfoundland and Labrador became more common and more widely used, if only unofficially. That usage was not uniform, however. Labrador was too often included where expedient and excluded the rest of the time. That will change starting today.

Our founding document as a society and as a government will no longer try to tell us that we do not exist. The oversight from 1949 will be corrected and the constitution will at last recognize the identity, history and culture of Labrador. I would like to thank the industry minister who as premier put the resolution through the House of Assembly and who as minister today introduced it in the House. Hopefully we will be beyond this in very short order.

Thirty years ago an elder in Cartwright, on the southeast coast of Labrador, told Lawrence and Laura Jackson “I guess you'd have to live here a lifetime--always with that left-out feeling--to know what it feels like to be included in something”.

I have known that left out feeling. I think almost every true blooded son and daughter of Labrador has known that feeling. Our land was too often the subject of colonial and economic power plays. Our people were too often ignored. The attitudes and mindsets have prevailed too long that Labrador is only recognized for what there is to be gained from megaprojects, from resource extraction, from development by and for the benefit of other people. In other circumstances, when it is time to put back into Labrador or to realize our unique challenges and needs, it seems to be “how quickly they forget”.

It is a small thing, a simple thing, but from today on there will never again be any reason for forgetting.

The introduction of the name Labrador into the constitution is not compensation for the wrongs of the past and it is not a magic pill that will prevent them in the future. It is not an end in itself. What it is, though, is one step on the road that sees Labrador gaining pride of place.

We will soon have aboriginal self-government in Labrador and with it greater self-reliance. Our community and economic leaders are taking a more active role in development and policy and in making sure our best interests are represented.

A new generation of entrepreneurs and promoters are doing things in Labrador that I could never have imagined 30 years ago. People are more active than they have ever been and have common visions that they are working toward.

Recognizing Labrador in the constitution says that our time has arrived, that we are here and we exist as a community and a region and that we are willing to contribute to our province and our country, just as we have always done.

We are often quiet in Labrador. That does not mean we are complacent. We have certain needs and certain demands. We want equality and dignity in public life. We want fairness and justice in our economic and social development. We want recognition and respect from our fellow citizens.

In our own way we have achieved a milestone today. There are many more to come.

I hope that I can count on the support not only of Labradorians but of Newfoundlanders and all members of parliament in making sure that Labrador, even if we do have second billing in the provincial name, should never have to make do with second best.

We have taken one small step today. We have many more to go. The road ahead will be difficult, it will be exciting and it will be challenging. We do not always know where it may lead us. I lay down a challenge to my colleagues and my friends, both in the House and beyond, a challenge to support us, to work with us and to join us on that road.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

For a moment I thought maybe we were leading to an amendment that would state “the province of Labrador and Newfoundland”.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank both my colleagues for their eloquent speeches on the subject. I will begin my remarks by saying how strongly I agree with the notion of providing for the symbolic recognition of Labrador's role in Newfoundland and its place within Newfoundland.

This encapsulates a spirit that is important in the country, a spirit of recognizing that just as Canada is a country of regions our provinces are provinces of regions and have a great deal of diversity and heterogeneity. In this respect they need to reflect the fact that they are not homogeneous wholes.

The fact that in the past this country and other countries have sometimes failed to achieve that recognition is demonstrated by the fact that in some provinces of Canada and some subnational jurisdictions of other countries we have seen the rise of separatist movements.

In Canada northern New Brunswick at one time had a separatist movement. There was a partitionist movement in Quebec at one point. There was a movement for an independent northern Ontario and at one point there was a movement for Labrador to become a separate province.

This kind of recognition, while only symbolic, is nonetheless important. Symbols are important as are the practical policies a government must undertake to promote the inclusion of parts of a province that are not part of a regional metropolis.

The inclusion of Labrador in the name of Newfoundland and Labrador strikes me as a wise move. It has already happened in many respects in Newfoundland's policy on an unofficial basis. For example, licence plates from Newfoundland say Newfoundland and Labrador.

Labrador is a unique part of Canada in a number of important respects. It is not only an area of enormous size and extraordinary beauty. In some respects it is both the oldest and the newest part of Canada. According to archeological evidence it was settled by the Innu at least 7,000 years and possibly 9,000 years ago. In the north it was settled by the Inuit about 4,000 years ago.

Labrador is the first part of the North American mainland that was visited by Europeans. I would seek the indulgence of the House to read into the record the first description of Labrador ever recorded in print.

This is from the Graenlendinga Saga , the saga written to record the discovery of Greenland by Erik the Red and then of Labrador and Newfoundland by his son, Leif Eriksson. It describes their departure from what they called Helluland, which we now believe to be Baffin Island:

They returned to their ship and put to sea, and sighted a second land. Once again they sailed right up to it and cast anchor, lowered a boat and went ashore. This country was flat and wooded, with white sandy beaches wherever they went; and the land sloped gently down to the sea.

Based on this description and on the subsequent description of Vinland, scholars believe this is a description of southern Labrador. This is the area which has subsequently been settled and has become a fishing area. Northern Labrador is a great deal more rugged. It is possible that the description of Helluland is a description of northern Labrador. Helluland means the land of large rocks.

Labrador is in some respects also the newest part of Canada. Landsat Island in particular, an island off the coast of northern Labrador, is the most recently discovered part of Canada. It was discovered in 1976 by Dr. Frank Hall Sr. of the hydrographic service. At that time it was under the ministry of energy, mines and resources. He discovered the island while surveying in a helicopter off the coast of Labrador.

I have spoken to Frank Hall Sr. and he told me a fascinating story about the moment of discovery. He was strapped into a harness and lowered from a helicopter down to the island. This was quite a frozen island and it was completely covered with ice. As he was lowered out of the helicopter a polar bear took a swat at him. The bear was on the highest point on the island and it was hard for him to see because it was white. Hall yanked at the cable and got himself hauled up. He said he very nearly became the first person to end his life on Landsat Island.

Based on the experience he suggested the island be named polar island. However the name Landsat Island was given to it because the island had first been spotted by the Landsat satellite, something which was regarded as quite an accomplishment.

I can still remember listening to the radio as a small boy and hearing with some excitement, because I had dreams of being an explorer when I grew up, of the discovery of the new island off Canada's east coast. It was a discovery of practical importance to Canada because it allowed Canada to expand its territorial waters quite substantially. It was quite a remarkable accomplishment.

I have an other connection with Frank Hall if I might indulge the House in pointing it out. I am good friends with his son, and his daughter-in-law works as my office manager.

I will turn from this to another question the hon. minister raised in his comments, a question which has been raised in recent newspaper reports regarding the reaction of the Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois to the proposed constitutional amendment. This relates to the Quebec-Newfoundland boundary dispute over the sovereignty of Labrador.

I will quote from the commentary that was given by those two parties. Marie Barrette, spokesperson for Quebec intergovernmental affairs minister Joseph Facal, said the amendment was purely cosmetic because there would be no change to the borders. She therefore indicated the Quebec government would have no opposition to it.

The Bloc Quebecois intergovernmental affairs critic stated in an interview that since the amendment had no legal consequence it did not keep them from sleeping at night.

This leads me to believe there is an underlying statement being made to the effect that because the amendment does not affect some sort of legitimate claim of the province of Quebec to the territory there is no objection.

I will review the history of the boundary dispute to make the point that the underlying thesis is incorrect. There is no question that all the territory currently designated as Labrador is entirely and unquestionably constitutionally protected as part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and that no one else has any claim to it.

The history of the territorial dispute stems back to unclear draftsmanship in the original definition of the boundaries of Labrador. There was no question that the original European settlers of Labrador were to be under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland. They settled along the coast. The description of the area they would inhabit and which would be under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland was that it was an area of coastline extending from Cape Chidley in the north to Blanc-Sablon in the south. Those two points were not in question. What was in question was what was meant by coast.

A dispute developed between the governments of Canada and Newfoundland, which at the time was not part of Canada. The Government of Canada claimed that the term coast meant a one mile wide strip of land along salt water. The government of Newfoundland argued it should be the entire watershed draining into the Atlantic.

The dispute was eventually sent to the privy council in London. The privy council made a decision in 1927 delineating the boundary substantially in Newfoundland's favour. The entire watershed flowing into the Atlantic Ocean would be considered part of the territory of Newfoundland.

This continued to a certain point in the south from which a line was drawn due east to a point directly north of Blanc-Sablon. This was then joined by a direct north-south boundary line drawn north from Blanc-Sablon.

There was some question at the time as to why the straight line was drawn. It took some of the upper watershed of several rivers that flowed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and placed it within Newfoundland territory, in particular the Little Mecatina River which would not have fitted with the earlier description.

One could dispute whether that was a wise addition or change to the original formula. Whatever the case, the boundary was agreed to by both parties. It was written into the Constitution of Canada when Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada and it is not subject to any form of dispute. There is no legal argument that any of the territory is not clearly and distinctly a constitutionally protected territory of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I say this not merely based on my own reading of the facts. I say it based on the authority of the government of Quebec which produced in 1970 and 1971 a detailed study on all the boundaries of Quebec.

I am talking here about the commission studying the territorial integrity of Quebec.

Document 3.2 of the study dealing with “La Frontière du Labrador” states that while Quebec might have had a claim at some point in the past the privy council decision put it absolutely and unquestionably to rest.

The report acknowledges that there is no constitutional way that Quebec could have any claim to any part of the territory of Labrador. I think that also reflects the will of the people of Labrador.

In 1927 there were very few settlers in the interior. That has changed. The interior is no longer an uninhabited area, uninhabited from a European point of view, because it always had aboriginal elements of living and hunting.

People who live in Labrador express no interest in becoming a part of Quebec. When there is such a clear indication of popular sentiment reflected so clearly by constitutionally entrenched legal rules, no question can be disputed.

I turn finally to some closing comments, with regard to Labrador and the character of the place.

Labrador is an extraordinarily large area geographically. My colleague, the hon. member for Labrador, made this point in his comments. If we think of this from a European perspective, Labrador is larger than any of the countries in Europe, with the exception of Ukraine and Russia.

It is full of not only extraordinary scenic beauty, but also mineral wealth and rivers, some which have been tapped for hydro and some have not. They all are appreciated by the people who draw resources from them.

In some respects, Labrador is to the east coast of North America what Alaska is to the west coast of North America: a vast northern land of almost unimaginable wealth, extraordinary beauty and an extraordinary challenge for all of us.

To get a sense of what would characterize Labrador the best, I contacted my friend, John McGrath, who was the Reform Party candidate in a byelection in Labrador in 1996. He now resides in my constituency and will be well known to the current member for Labrador. I asked him what best expresses, in a nutshell, the character of Labrador. He suggested to me that I ought to consult the Ode to Labrador , by Dr. Harry Padden of Northwest River.

The Ode to Labrador reads in part as follows:

Dear land of mountains, woods and snow... God's noble gift to us below... Thy proud resources waiting still, Their splendid task will soon fulfill, Obedient to thy Maker's will... We love to climb thy mountains steep... And paddle on the waters deep... Our snowshoes scar thy trackless plains, We seek no cities streets nor lanes, We are thy sons while life remains, Labrador, our Labrador.

Constitution of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it my duty and pleasure to join in the debate concerning a constitutional amendment on the legal designation of the province of Newfoundland, which would become the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Normally, as history regularly reminds us, amendments to the Canadian constitution become historic highlights, important national milestones or even historic benchmarks, but the debate in the House today is less important because of the rather minor nature of this amendment.

The amendment introduced by the federal government and sponsored by the Minister of Industry reflects a diluted version of the previous position of the government of Newfoundland, and that is good. If it had been any different, the Bloc Quebecois would not have been able to support the motion, but more on that later. It should be noted that the very essence of this constitutional amendment has long been a touchy issue in the relations between the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland.

The dispute that still keeps these two governments on opposite sides concerning the recognition of the territory belonging to Labrador did not start just the other day. In fact, Canada and Newfoundland filed an appeal in 1927 with the judiciary committee of the Privy Council in London for a ruling on the delineation of the border between the two on the Labrador Peninsula. It should be pointed out that at the time Newfoundland was only a colony of the British crown, as was Canada moreover, and the Privy Council in London was the highest level of the judiciary for all colonies.

The tribunal was therefore asked to interpret the meaning of the expression “coast of Labrador”, a territory assigned to the colony of Newfoundland by certain of the colonial laws. The Government of Canada of the day, defending the territorial interests of Quebec, claimed that this meant only a narrow strip of land along the water's edge. Newfoundland, on the other hand, argued that the Newfoundland portion of Labrador extended to the entire watershed draining into the Atlantic, an area very likely far larger than any agreement could have been reached on.

The judges found in favour of Newfoundland. In addition to the entire watershed draining into the Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland was awarded a portion of the territory to the north of the 52nd parallel, including the watershed area of the rivers draining into the St. Lawrence, thus going beyond the watershed line.

A number of commentators contested the reasons for the decision. First, it seemed that the broad definition given the expression “coast of Labrador” gave Newfoundland too much of territory Quebec considered its own. It was later alleged that the delineation of the southern border along the 52nd parallel gave Newfoundland more than it had asked for. It was noted too that the government of Quebec was not present at the hearings of the tribunal.

It is again important to point out that serious doubts were expressed about the federal government's real interest in defending the integrity of Quebec territory, since Newfoundland was already considered to be a future province in the Canadian federation. Finally, doubt was often cast on the impartiality of the judges on the judiciary committee, because the judges belonged to a government whose members had economic interests in Labrador.

We understand better today, with this historical background, the scope of the sometimes troubled relationship between Quebec and Newfoundland. However, the problem remains undiminished, and, had it not been for some softening in the traditional stand taken by Newfoundland, it would be a good bet that even the federal government would not have wanted to get involved in any debate on the matter.

At the time, the governments of Newfoundland and Canada accepted the 1927 opinion of the judicial committee of the Privy Council setting the border between these two states, or at least between these two territorial entities of the empire. In 1949, when Newfoundland joined the Canadian federation, the border defined by the 1927 decision was confirmed under the heading “Terms of Union”, enacted under the Newfoundland Act. In the schedule, the second term reads as follows:

The Province of Newfoundland shall comprise the same territory as at the date of Union, that is to say, the island of Newfoundland and the islands adjacent thereto, the Coast of Labrador as delimited in the report delivered by the Judicial Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council on the first day of March, 1927...and the islands adjacent to the said Coast of Labrador.

Never, and I insist on that word, did a Quebec government officially recognize the jurisdiction of the Newfoundland government over Labrador, as delineated by the 1927 decision. For over 70 years now, Liberal, PQ and Union nationale MNAs have always shared the same view on this issue.

In spite of this imbroglio, over the years there have been many bilateral development and co-operation agreements between Quebec and Newfoundland. Moreover, relations between the two governments greatly improved under the leadership of Premier Bouchard and of the current Minister of Industry when he was premier of Newfoundland.

However, given the relative fragility of these relations and the scope of future projects to be negotiated, Premier Bouchard warned his Newfoundland counterpart against the negative interpretation that could have been generated in Quebec by presenting a motion to officialize the name of Newfoundland and Labrador, thus legalizing and officializing the 1927 judicial decision.

In this regard, Montreal's Gazette reported in February 1997 Premier Bouchard's comments that presenting a resolution as proposed by the Newfoundland government would revive a deep emotional debate in Quebec and could be perceived as a form of provocation.

At the time, intense negotiations were taking place to conclude an agreement of $10 billion or so to jointly develop Churchill Falls' hydro electric potential.

Moreover, some semantic changes occurred in Newfoundland's position, reaching a peak on December 6, 1999, when the premier of that province, now the Minister of Industry said, and I quote:

The resolution passed by the House of Assembly and now being considered by the federal government would simply legalize what has been the boundary of this province as confirmed by the British Privy Council decision of 1927.

It went on to say that the region of the province should be acknowledged in the official name.

I insist on the word legalize, used by the then premier of Newfoundland. This gives us a better understanding of the reaction of Premier Bouchard, who considered this as an insult to the constant position of Quebec on the border issue.

Again, I remind the House that no government in Quebec, whatever its political stripe, has ever recognized the legal status of the border drawn pursuant under the judiciary decision of 1927.

Obviously, Newfoundland's position as presented and defended by the Minister of Industry, is not the same today, if we compare it to the position he had when he was a member of parliament in St. John's.

Things have evolved considerably, since the Minister of Industry has softened his position by making clear in a letter to Premier Bernard Landry, and I quote:

That the amendment proposal aiming at changing the name of Newfoundland will have no impact on the present border between Quebec and Newfoundland.

Replacing the name of Newfoundland by Newfoundland and Labrador in the Terms of Union is a symbolic measure which acknowledges in a significant way that Labrador is an essential and full partner of the province, with its own geography, history and culture.

The Minister of Industry reaffirmed this commitment today when he brought forward his motion, just half an hour ago.

In a letter to Premier Landry dated October 23rd, Mr. Grimes, the successor of the Minister of Industry and current premier of Newfoundland, took a similar position.

He wrote, and I quote:

I wish to reiterate that this is only a change of name, which in no way changes our position regarding our common border or our position on the issue.

Essentially, it is to be understood from those words that the government of Newfoundland explicitly acknowledges that nothing in the terms of the motion of the government will have any impact on the delimitation of the border between Quebec and Newfoundland.

Incidentally, this guarantee was required as a sine qua non condition for the approval by Quebec of the constitutional initiative of Newfoundland, as stated in the letter of October 18 signed by Mr. Facal and Mr. Brassard, both ministers in the government of Quebec.

The fact that some wish to amend the constitution to facilitate the recognition of Quebec as a nation appears to me to be correct, desirable, but also very unlikely, if not impossible. Unfortunately Quebecers have too often been disappointed by the endless constitutional rounds to rejoice about it, as the populations of Newfoundland and Labrador can today.

This is particularly true, given the disconcerting ease with which this historic amendment to the constitution that we are debating today will be enacted. It would appear, once again, as though the federal government is biased toward Newfoundland and the other provinces of Canada, to the exclusion, of course, of Quebec.

A few days before the 1998 Quebec elections, the Prime Minister of Canada stated, in response to comments made by Jean Charest, that the Canadian constitution was not a general store, and the Government of Canada had no intention of reopening the issue; that there should be no expectations of the federal government changing the constitution; and that everything was coming up roses.

Last spring, the Canadian Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs even took pains to explain why Quebec's nationhood would not be recognized in the constitution, ridiculing Quebecers' constitutional demands by stating in an open letter to La Presse , on May 1, and I quote:

We simply refuse to make the mistake of believing that we have to put everything that is important in the constitution.

The minister continued with a highly questionable example, which now contradicts the government, by writing, and I quote again:

A great many things that are important are not found in the constitution. The most important of values, love, is not recognized...The fact that our constitution makes no mention of it does not mean that love does not exist...but I believe this to be fundamental: a constitution is not meant to contain everything that is important, but rather everything for which there are legal consequences.

Yet, according to the federal government and the government of Newfoundland, the constitutional amendment designating the “Province of Newfoundland” as the “Province of Newfoundland and Labrador” will have no impact on the borders of Labrador. Why, then, should such a request even be considered? The question remains to be answered, but the debate is pointless, according to the federal government's interpretation.

I already anticipate the triumphalist and trite remarks of the Prime Minister and his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who will brag, even before the ink from the Governor General's pen has dried, that the Canadian federation is flexible and that everyone stands to gain. At the point where we are now, I hope at least that the Labrador people will be able to find love for their province. In any case, this is practically the only thing that they will be able to hope to get from the Minister of Industry.

The Quebec government has noted the change in direction or goal of the Newfoundland government on this sensitive issue and agrees with it, in light of the details of the text of the motion. However, it is important to specify that Quebec's current position remains unchanged: it does not recognize the definitive nature of the 1927 border between Quebec and Newfoundland in the Labrador peninsula. Indeed, Quebec's official maps reflect this position very accurately, while indicating the watershed divide north of the 52th parallel.

The Bloc Quebecois will not oppose the motion and wishes that the openness of the federal government may be able to affect the whole of its rather deficient interpretation, must we remind the House, of its own constitution.

Let us remember, of course, that this is a minor change to the constitution. In fact, it is a cosmetic change to Canada's primary statute, which would have no impact, except perhaps for a stronger feeling of belonging for the 30,000 inhabitants of Labrador in the province of Newfoundland.

Finally, before concluding my remarks, I would like to draw the House's attention to something which was pointed out to me and which is of paramount importance. According to the Dictionnaire illustré des noms et lieux du Québec of the Commission de toponymie du Québec, the geographic name “Labrador” can designate the “entire peninsula between Hudson Bay and the axis of the St. Lawrence River”. In other words, regardless of where the interprovincial boundary lies, there is a Quebec Labrador bounded on the west by Hudson Bay and on the east by the Quebec-Newfoundland border, wherever that border lies.

The 1927 arbitration seems to reflect this geographic reality, because its purpose was to decide on the border separating the province of Quebec and the colony of Newfoundland “in the Labrador peninsula”, according to the wording of the compromise submitted to the judges. In addition, the Privy Council was asked to rule on the legal and geographic meaning of “coast of Labrador” in certain crown documents giving the government of Newfoundland rights over this “coast”.

Newfoundland's use of the geographic name “Labrador” could be viewed as incorrect from a constitutional point of view. In fact, article 2 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada uses the expression coast of Labrador to designate the continental portion of the territory of the new province. Newfoundland therefore cannot claim to take in all of Labrador in the geographic sense.

Finally, and very briefly, for all the reasons given earlier by the Bloc Quebecois, we will not be opposing this motion.

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11 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to participate in this historic exchange of views and to debate a motion that will realize a longstanding aspiration of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

For over 30 years the government of Newfoundland and Labrador referred to itself by that very name: Newfoundland and Labrador. Today we are amending the Constitution of Canada so that the name change would be enshrined in all legislation enacted by the Government of Canada.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador only passed the motion requesting the Government of Canada to amend the constitution on April 29, 1999. I understand that it has been a recurring topic of discussion in that province for over 30 years.

In the 1960s the then government of Newfoundland decided to officially include Labrador in its name to reflect the wishes and concerns of the citizens of Labrador who joined Confederation at the same time as their offshore brethren. In fact they had been part of the same dominion territory since the beginning of the 19th century. It was also done to assure them of their status within the province.

Since then all official government documentation, legislation and essentially anything put out by the provincial government has been published, released and referred to under the name of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The dual name has been widely accepted in Newfoundland and Labrador and is considered to be the official name by which the province is known though often in conversation the province is simply spoken of as Newfoundland.

In supporting the motion we are simply giving effect to the longstanding wishes of the citizens of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It may take time to get used to saying Newfoundland and Labrador, although some of us are in the habit of it already. The member for Labrador said that he managed to teach the Prime Minister to do this, and we are glad to hear the Prime Minister is teachable.

There is no doubt that the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador favour this change. The motion passed the legislative assembly unanimously in 1999, the year before the federal government commissioned a parliamentary committee to travel around the province finding out what Newfoundlanders wanted.

The former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, who is in the House today, may recall that the provincial NDP opposed the travelling committee at that time. In its view the change had been so commonly accepted that there was no need to spend money on a government junket asking people a question that it already knew the answer to. Newfoundlanders responded with rousing support for the changes without the need for an official government commission.

Today we are asked to approve an amendment to the constitution. This will be a bilateral amendment requiring only the consent of the Government of Canada at the request of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Labrador is rightly seen as an integral part of the province even though it only has 30,000 inhabitants compared to approximately 570,000 for the province. This amendment would recognize that Labrador is an unquestionably important component rather than an adjunct to the province. The member for Labrador made that argument quite eloquently.

The dynamics of Canadian federalism would not be affected by this motion. I would like to say, in passing, that the government of Quebec did accept that the name of the province be changed to Newfoundland and Labrador. The Minister of Industry said that the resolution would have no impact on the boundary line between Newfoundland and Quebec. I think that he is right in this regard, and I support that position.

The minister is not always right. We have to take these opportunities when we can get them.

The last time the federal government presented that motion, the Quebec government expressed its opposition to the change. I am pleased to see that Minister Facal and the member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier have finally recognized how important it is to respect the will of Newfoundland citizens who want the name of their province changed.

Finally I would like to reaffirm that this change to the Canadian constitution, though minor but obviously significant to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, is an example of how easy it can be to amend the Canadian constitution to reflect the wishes of its citizens. I wish that in the past when we had sought constitutional amendments that went further than bilateral constitutional amendments that we had had as much success as we have had in the House recently with bilateral constitutional amendments. This is the second one having to do with Newfoundland and Labrador. There was one earlier with respect to Quebec having to do with school boards in that province.

I share the sentiments expressed by the member for Charlesbourg--Jacques-Cartier regarding the number of attempts to amend the Canadian constitution to reflect the special place of Quebec within the Canadian confederation that have not succeeded. I was here through those days and supported those amendments, both Meech and Charlottetown, as was the Minister of Industry. I hope that someday we might be standing here debating or reflecting unanimously upon a change to the Canadian constitution that would accomplish that, but that day has not yet arrived.

There is no reason for us not to do what is possible. What is before us here today is possible and has the support of the NDP.

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11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the constitutional amendment which officially changes the name of the province of Newfoundland to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This might be a symbolic change but it is a very important and substantive one in my view.

I congratulate the Minister of Industry, Newfoundland's regional minister, for having taken the initiative to implement the change. He started the process back when he was premier of Newfoundland and today we see the culmination of that initiative. I support him and congratulate him on having taken that initiative.

Let me congratulate also my colleague the member for Labrador. He spoke very eloquently today about Labrador and its beauty, culture and people, and well he should speak well of the people of Labrador. He is the first native born member from Newfoundland to come to the House of Commons. I congratulate him on that. He is a good member for Labrador and one whom I am very pleased to work with on this matter.

Anyone who has lived in Labrador knows its beauty and culture. And the people of Labrador, what fine people they are. The regional minister from Newfoundland lived in Labrador for a number of years as did I. The member for Labrador belongs to one of the most beautiful parts of our province.

The territory we know as Labrador was awarded to Newfoundland in 1927 by the British privy council. Both the island of Newfoundland and Labrador changed hands between the British and the French on many different occasions during the history of the European settlement in North America. Labrador eventually ended up as part of Newfoundland.

In the early part of the 20th century it was generally understood that Newfoundland owned the coast of Labrador. However the governments of Newfoundland and Canada, which at that time represented the province of Quebec, could not agree on just how far inland the coast extended. At the time both Canada and Newfoundland were dominions within the British empire. That meant they both ran their own domestic affairs but the British privy council in London had the final say over foreign affairs and disputes between the two dominions.

Newfoundland had previous experience going up against Canada in London at the beginning of the 1890s. It was not a positive experience. The Newfoundland colonial secretary Sir Robert Bond negotiated a free trade fisheries deal with the American secretary of state Mr. Blaine. The Bond-Blaine treaty as it came to be known raised the ire of Canada's maritime provinces. The maritime provinces were upset that Newfoundland had done an end run around them and had gained duty free access to American markets for its fish products. Ottawa took the matter up with the British privy council in London and in 1891 London quashed the treaty.

Canada even at that time was not familiar with free trade but Newfoundland back in the 1890s had negotiated a free trade agreement with the Americans called the Bond-Blaine treaty. It was in that context that Canada and Newfoundland, unable to settle on the Canada-Newfoundland boundary in Labrador, put that dispute to the judicial committee of the British privy council.

This time the privy council came down in Newfoundland's favour. It ruled that the word “coast” meant territory from the beach to the height of the land in the interior. That accounts for the highly erratic nature of the Quebec-Labrador boundary. It skips across the tops of the hills and the mountains in the interior of Labrador. That is how Labrador became a part of the Dominion of Newfoundland back in 1927. Labrador was part of Newfoundland when it became Canada's 10th province in 1949.

I have no hesitation in supporting an official name change that reflects a reality that has existed since 1927. When this resolution passes, and I believe it will probably get the unanimous support of the House, the province of Newfoundland becomes the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This will officially recognize Labrador's status in the province with its own unique geography, culture and history.

Now that our federal minister has made that change and its name is secure, I sincerely hope he will make a few more changes for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions here in the House on the equalization and health care issues for Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the St. John's harbour cleanup which is very important to the people of St. John's.

The minister has been able to make a change to the Constitution of Canada to reflect the name of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Hopefully he will be able to make a few more changes which will be just as substantive as this one today. We support including Labrador in the official name of the province. We remind the minister that there are many pressing problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador which he has to deal with as well.

Three cheers for the minister for having made this change, but let us not confuse anyone who may not be aware of our history. We have owned Labrador since 1927; there is no question about that. In 1927 the privy council awarded Labrador to Newfoundland. The Government of Canada confirmed it and supported it as well. The resolution simply and officially makes the long overdue name change to reflect what happened back in 1927. Any individual or province who was not aware of that before is certainly aware of it now.

I thank the minister for his initiative.

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11:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member from Newfoundland's comments. Could he elaborate a bit more on the economic opportunities that await Labrador, not just in terms of the official name that is being presented now but in terms of the economic opportunities that await Labrador in the future?

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11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, many economic opportunities await Labrador. All one has to do is look at what is happening now in Labrador with respect to Voisey's Bay, which is possibly the largest nickel find in the world. Labrador will be a recipient of a lot of the benefits which will come from that great mining operation.

We can look at hydro power in Labrador. The mighty Churchill Falls is a story in itself. There are many more rivers to be developed in Labrador and great hydro potential to be had there.

We must not forget the great tourism potential which is virtually untapped in Labrador. Labrador has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

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11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

The best kept secret.

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11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

As my colleague from Brandon--Souris said a moment ago, it is probably the best kept secret in all of North America. We need to tap into the tourism potential to be had in Labrador.

There is a great future for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in these areas.

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11:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wish to do something that I do not do very often. I should like to pay tribute to the Minister of Industry for his initiatives not only in relation to bringing forth the government motion but also the name change that took place unanimously in the house of assembly in Newfoundland while the hon. gentleman was the premier of the province.

He has certainly been the leader in bringing these two great names together, recognizing that there is one province and that Labrador is an equal part of that province. This is perhaps a fact that has been overlooked by a lot of people for many years. I thank the hon. minister for this initiative. This has to be a proud day for the people of the Labrador section of the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Why was this not done long ago? In the historic days of colonization Canada was just a dominion and Newfoundland a little colony under the direct rule of Britain for many years. Newfoundland eventually joined this great Dominion of Canada and became part of this great country.

Labrador always seemed to be looked upon as an entity unto itself and not part of the great province of Newfoundland and now Newfoundland and Labrador. There seemed to be a geographic separation over the years as well as a psychological separation.

The people of Newfoundland looked upon Labrador as a place to go to rape the resources and take advantage of it. The area would then be left for the people of Labrador to try to survive and eke out a living from the resources without any assistance from either the province of Newfoundland or from Canada. However these hardy people survived.

Over the years the recognition began to hit home. The resources that were geographically in Labrador were not for the sake of Newfoundland or for outsiders but primarily for the benefit of the people of Labrador. The sharing concept between both parts, the island and the mainland, has grown to the point whereby officially recognizing that we are one province, Newfoundland and Labrador, we will not hear any more about the issue of divide and conquer.

Labrador has brought so much into Confederation. We hear what the province of Newfoundland brought in. However much of that is actually part of the Labrador section. Now we can truthfully say the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador brought so much into Confederation.

This is quite different from the way we are viewed by many people who do not know the great strengths and resources of our province. At the most northerly tip of Labrador the scenery and fishing resources are incredible. I am sure that anyone who has flown, I will not say walked, over Torngat Mountains has had the pleasure of seeing how immense and beautiful they are. The wilderness in Labrador is the last great wilderness in Canada where hunting, fishing and hiking are indescribable. One has to be there to be able to appreciate it.

There has been great mineral wealth discovered at Labrador west in the mines that have kept the towns of Labrador City and Wabush going for many years. The ore from that area has benefited Quebec and Ontario perhaps to a much larger extent than we would like to see, with all due respect to our friends in those provinces.

There are the great discoveries in Voisey's Bay which one of these days will be primarily developed for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Undoubtedly there will be benefits for our sister provinces as there should be. Newfoundland has never said no to that. It has never said it would not share its great resources.

There are the northern cod stocks based off the coast of Labrador which swim down the northeast coast to Cape St. Mary during the summer. Over the years they provided a livelihood for the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. They also provided a livelihood for many other Canadian provinces and foreign nations that came in, raped our stocks, took quotas given to them to sell other products, and we were left the losers. It is to the point where the stocks have been practically wiped out. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are the losers. They received absolutely nothing in return.

The best example of how we are treated is before us right now. There is a 20% tariff placed on the great northern shrimp stocks that we catch off the coast of Labrador and send to the European market. Our fishermen face a 20% tariff on our peeled and cooked shrimp going to the European market because one company in one country in the EU is trying to make sure the tariff is imposed to protect its own market opportunities.

It does not make any sense whatsoever. It is not an issue between Canada and the European Union at all. It is an issue between a company in Denmark and Canada. It is something that should be resolved overnight, instead of having to wait for the next round of World Trade Organization discussions.

I have often said it is only Newfoundland and Labrador and it is only fish. However the great fishing stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador have kept many a country afloat since the discovery of Newfoundland in 1497. The economies of Britain, Spain and Portugal were all boosted tremendously by the economic benefits from the processing of the fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have oil and forest resources. We are an island and a mainland section with a population of a little over half a million people. We have more resources per capita than any province in Canada and any country in the world. Yet we have the highest unemployment in Canada. We have sat back over the years and watched others benefit from our resources and we have not benefited at all.

I was in Taiwan earlier this summer. It is a country that is smaller than Newfoundland with the population of Canada. It has less than 4% unemployment and practically no resources.

What is wrong? It is the leadership in our province. It must recognize the strengths we have and be willing to work with us. I am delighted to support this initiative to make sure that Newfoundland and Labrador are recognized equally as one province, not only in our own eyes but in the eyes of this great country and the world.

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11:30 a.m.

London—Fanshawe Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I can claim to be one-quarter Newfoundlander because my paternal grandfather was born and raised in Fortune Harbour, Notre Dame Bay. Before I ask my question I wish to commend my colleague, the member for Labrador, on his fine remarks and the regional minister for Newfoundland, the Minister of Industry, on this initiative. It is very important and much appreciated by all Canadians.

Would the hon. member share his expertise on what could be done to encourage more Canadians to visit Labrador? It is a beautiful part of Canada that I had the opportunity to see when I visited the hon. member's riding a few years ago. It is an awesome part of the country that so few people have seen. What initiatives could the Canadian government and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador undertake co-operatively to help more Canadians visit there and leave a few of their tourist dollars behind?

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11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for the question and I am proud that he is part Newfoundlander. If we did a research study throughout the House we might find that many more people are the descendants of people who came from Newfoundland or at least through Newfoundland.

There are two things we can do. First, we have not done a good job over the years of publicizing our positives. When we hear about Newfoundland it is often looked upon as the poor cousin. That is changing. Our job, the job of my colleagues across the House and my colleague from St. John's East and others, should be to talk about what we have, the positives of Newfoundland and Labrador. By doing so we would encourage more people to look upon it as a place to visit rather than wondering who would want to be stuck there.

The people who were in Gander during the September 11 events will tell us that they have never been treated so well in their lives. Somebody from St. John's referred to a person from New York who was walking up the waterfront as being stuck there all week. The person from New York said he was not stuck and that he had never seen such beauty and freedom in all his life.

We have to put more money into our infrastructure. One of our problems is that we are an island and getting there by air is expensive. We are held hostage by an Air Canada monopoly or by the ferry which should be looked upon as a permanent link. It should be an essential service. It should be an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway. We have to pay more to get to Newfoundland than any other province in the country. If we can solve some of those problems and put more money into our general infrastructure, we can be and eventually will be the Mecca of Canada.