House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.


Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


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


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should ensure that the contributions of women veterans are properly recognized and honoured in every provincial capital city by way of monument or statue.

Mr. Speaker, this is a motion I first introduced in the House close to three and a half years ago. I might add that the motion did not come from me. It came from hundreds of women who I represent in the various legions throughout my riding. Since then, hundreds of other women in legions clear across the country have phoned, faxed or e-mailed to indicate their support for this motion.

I would first like to say that we as parliamentarians, past and present, should always be very proud of the valiant efforts of our Canadian military. Whether in World War I, the Korean conflict, World War II, the Gulf war, and so on, we should be very proud of the fact that our men and women were willing to risk their lives for us. However, for every person we sent over in World War I, World War II and the Korean war, the majority of them were men. Those men left behind sisters, mothers, daughters and wives.

I will focus my comments basically on World War II. In World War II we had over 48,000 women who served in the Canadian military in uniform. However that does not count the thousands of women who served in other capacities in our military component. They worked in the factories, the fields and the hospitals. Not only did they supply the materials needed for the war effort, they also looked after the families. We basically took women out of the traditional role of the family, of staying at home more or less, and all of a sudden, because of the urgent need for women to assist, we moved them into the military. We also moved them into the factories in order to assist us to keep the war production going. Without the brave efforts of these women, we would not have been successful in our conflicts of years ago.

An article was written in the Daily News on November 11, 1999 by Lila O'Connor of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She wrote:

In the 1940s women made their own decisions about apparel, employment and family finances. They grasped the wartime movement to establish new levels of social and economic independence for women in postwar Canada.

We can talk about the effects of war and what it did to this country but the part that is neglected many times in our conversations is the valiant effort of women and what they contributed to our country.

Women's history month was created in 1992 to encourage greater awareness among Canadians of the historical contributions of women to our society. The Veterans Appeal Board, which was a great help, set up a website where the stories of women veterans and women who participated in various conflicts around the world can be posted, stories of what they and their mothers, grandmothers, daughters and sisters have gone through.

In the great city of Winnipeg, one of the leaders in the country in promoting these values, there is a statue and a monument dedicated to women who served in the war, who served in conflict and who served in various capacities to assist in the war effort.

All the motion today asks is that a statue or a monument, similar to what Winnipeg has, be erected in every capital city in the country so that we properly recognize the women who served and gave so much, in an effort to honour them for what they have done.

I do not think there is a person in the country who does not get tears in their eyes on Remembrance Day when they see the silver cross mother lay the wreath at the cenotaph here in Ottawa, symbolizes a woman gave up her child for this country so that we could all live in a democracy.

One of the people who benefited from that was myself. My parents and oldest brother were liberated by the Canadian military in the liberation of Holland in 1945, the country where I was born. My father met a young Canadian soldier and asked him why Canada gave so much to help Holland. The young man said that they had a job to do. With that my father always said that if Canada had a military like that, can we imagine what kind of country they came from? In 1956 my parents made the decision to immigrate to Canada. That young Canadian soldier probably had a sister, mother, grandmother, wife or daughter back in Canada keeping the home fires burning so that he could do the job he was asked to do by his country.

Many times we as members of parliament talk about our families and the support they give us, which is very important for all of us in all political fields. In order to do our jobs effectively and do the nation's business, it is good to know that our loved ones and children are back home running their day to day lives. Without that support we could not do what we are doing. The same is true for military personnel, especially in times of conflict. Without the support of women back home keeping the home fires burning, looking after the families and working in the fields and factories, we would not have been successful in the war efforts.

The motion was not deemed votable by the parliamentary committee but I ask the indulgence of the governing party and others to support this initiative. Our women veterans are fading very quickly. Every day we lose more of them. This initiative came from women in legions and various organizations clear across the country who very simply have asked for their country to honour or recognize their efforts in perpetuity so that their stories will never be forgotten.

I know the House, after careful reflection, will look upon this and realize that in terms of financial costs it is minimal, but in terms of psychological costs it is tremendous. What it will do for women is to tell them that Canada values their initiatives, their support, the work they have done and the sacrifices they have made for our military.

As a proud Canadian and one who was not born here, I know very well that I owe everything I have to the efforts of our governments and our military who sacrificed so much during World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict so that I could be free and millions of other people around the world could be free. Now our peacekeepers are doing the same around the world. They are trying to keep the peace and trying to bring stability to wartorn countries around the world.

It was interesting to note who was there waiting for members of the military the other day in Gagetown when they came back from Ethiopia: their wives, their mothers, their daughters and their sons. The look on their faces when they were reunited showed that those men had a job to do for their country, not just for this country but in protecting and serving democracy around the world. They could not do that unless they had the support of the women back home.

It is very important in this time in our history to reflect upon that and to pay tribute to these women in a most fitting way. If we do this, if we move forward in a non-partisan way, we will be doing a great thing not only for the women of Canada but for ourselves as well.

I look forward to the debate. I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House on behalf of people such as Lily Snow of Beaverbank, Granny Crosby of Eastern Passage, Val Mooney of the legion of Eastern Passage and many others who have asked me to bring forward this motion on their behalf, which I now have had the privilege to do.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


Carmen Provenzano LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion which advocates that the government ensures the contributions of women veterans is recognized and honoured in every provincial capital city by way of a monument or statue.

On its surface it is a very worthwhile motion, one deserving of our support. If we were to determine our support on the basis of the sincerity of the member opposite who just spoke in bringing forward this motion and on his good intentions, certainly we could support it. Unfortunately, when we scratch the surface we find it is not a simple motion. It is not one without its own complications.

I preface my remarks by noting that the wording of the motion makes a comprehensive discussion of its merits somewhat difficult, not by what it suggests, that women veterans be honoured by way of a monument or statue, but rather by what it does not say.

As an example, which women veterans does the hon. member mean we should honour? Is it wartime women veterans, peacetime veterans, veterans who serve on or near war fronts, or veterans who serve in a particular battle or campaign? What about war era veterans who had service only in Canada? These are important questions for which we need answers before a reasonable debate can take place.

The motion is also silent on the issue of cost and how these monuments should be paid for. Who will design and build them? Will the provincial governments want to have their say in where such monuments might be placed and whom they should honour? How would veteran organizations be involved?

I submit these questions because it is one thing to be in favour of the motion that seems to suggest a good and honourable deed. However, on closer examination, it presents a whole slew of questions and problems that do not lend themselves to easy answers.

In short, acquiescence to the motion would definitely be a matter of easier said than done. There is no denying the fact that women veterans have made a huge contribution to Canada, particularly during the war years of the last century.

We often first think of the incredible dedication of Canada's nursing soldiers. They have a very proud legacy of military service that dates back as far as 1885 when for the first time Canadian nurses were sent to care for soldiers wounded during the north-west rebellion. When the great war came more than 3,000 would volunteer their services. Casualty clearing stations were set up close to the frontlines and in harm's way. Not only were they subject to danger from the enemy, but contagious disease ran rampant in the terrible killing fields of that atrocious war. Some 46 gave their lives through enemy fire or debilitating disease.

Hon. members need only walk down the Hall of Honour in centre block to see the memorial panel that honours the sacrifices of the nursing sisters of Canada. On one part of the panel are two nursing sisters in uniform tending to a wounded soldier, surely symbolizing the courage and self-sacrifice of all those who served in war.

Prior to 1941 women had only served in the Canadian military as army medical corps nurses. The decision was taken in June 1941 to create a female branch for each of the fighting services rather than a single women's corps. Women immediately began to enlist: more than 21,600 in the Canadian women's army corps and more than 7,000 in the women's division of the RCAF where they served in Canada and overseas as wireless operators, clerks, parachute riggers and photographers.

In 1942 the navy followed suit by creating the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, the WRENs. The WRENs signed up more than 7,100. No women were assigned to combat duties but some came under enemy fire. In all, approximately 8,000 women served overseas. The nursing service was expanded to all three branches of the military: the navy, the army and the air force, with over 4,400 serving. Many of them found themselves within range of enemy guns.

What of the women who served so ably on the home front? When war was declared, 569,000 women worked in Canadian industry, mostly in clerical jobs. As the war progressed and more and more men were sent overseas in uniform, the government turned its attention to the large pool of female labour.

Within a short time 960,000 women were engaged in jobs in industry and another 800,000 were employed on farms. Fully half of them were engaged in what had once been considered men's work: operating machines, welding, riveting, painting, driving street cars, building weapons and loading freight. It is clear that the war effort could not have been sustained without the work of these civilian veterans on the home front. Surely they are as worthy of honour as those who served in other capacities.

Of course women in uniform continued to serve with distinction during the war in Korea and continue to do so in peacekeeping missions the world over. Today they too are veterans distinguished as such by their service, not by their gender.

Let me now turn from the history of service to the history of Canada's memorials to our fallen veterans. It has been our tradition to bury and remember our war dead in the places where they served. The memorials overseas were constructed on principal battlefields and the geographical areas of importance in wartime. Most of them are inscribed with the names of those whose remains were never found or identified.

There are naturally hundreds of different memorials over the globe. Their history is inextricably entwined with the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission whose history dates back to the first world war. Its mandate was, and remains, to mark and maintain the graves of members of the Commonwealth who died in the first world war and second world war, to build memorials to those with no known grave, and to keep records and registers.

This work was founded on principles which have remained unaltered: that each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name, either on the headstone on the grave or by an inscription on a memorial; that the headstones and memorials should be permanent; that the headstones should be uniform; and that there should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.

Through the war graves commission Canada has agreed to share along with other participating governments the cost of maintaining the graves and memorials in proportion to the number of her war dead.

Canada independently funds other memorials such as the Vimy and Beaumont memorials in France and the National War Memorial in Ottawa. In the case of the latter I should note that the war memorial shows both men and women passing through the granite arches.

I underscore that these memorials honour those who fell by virtue of their service and sacrifice in a battle or a campaign and not by virtue of their gender, their race, their church affiliation or ethnicity, not because of the accident of their birth but by their deliberation to serve.

For its part the Departement of Veterans Affairs honours the accomplishments and sacrifices of Canada's veterans in many ways. For example, last year's initiative of establishing the tomb of the unknown soldier was embraced by the entire country. Through the extensive television coverage of its installation, the new memorial garnered incredible attention and resulted in much discussion about the contributions of veterans to their nation.

I see that I am running out of time. I will come quickly to our position in this regard. In summing up, the motion is not supportable for essentially three reasons. First, if approved, the motion could be seen as favouring one group of veterans over another. Second, there are other effective ways to ensure that our wartime legacy is preserved and communicated to future generations. Third, the cost is prohibitive.

Building a monument to women veterans in each provincial and territorial capital would be a multimillion dollar expenditure to which ongoing maintenance costs would have to be factored in, not to mention the logistical and jurisdictional issues that would be raised when seeking the agreement and co-operation of each provincial and territorial government.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House to address this very important issue to Canadians. It is said that if we lose sight of our history, we lose our vision of the future. There is a lot of truth to that concept.

I begin by commenting on the process today. Once again we have an interesting private member's bill or motion. We have the privilege of speaking to it for an hour, at the end of which the motion, being a non-votable item, will be dropped from the order paper. For the umpteenth time I say we ought not to be using the time of the House of Commons debating issues which cannot be drawn to a conclusion. Either we want to do this or we do not. We should vote on it.

It is rather interesting that this non-partisan private member's motion is from a member who belongs to the NDP caucus that has expressed opposition to having every motion and private members' bill votable. Of course the government is in favour of it, but when asked today whether we can vote on it, the government will say that we cannot.

We have an impasse which could be easily solved. When a private member finds an issue that is of enough importance that he or she chooses to bring it forward for debate in the House, it is also important enough to give us the opportunity to stand and to indicate in a tangible fashion whether we are for it or against it.

Let me now spend a little time addressing the motion. The motion is quite narrow, as I read it:

—the government should ensure that the contributions of women veterans are properly recognized and honoured in every provincial way of monument or statue.

Most of us would recognize, concede or admit that whenever Canada has participated in a military conflict its war efforts have been supported by a much larger group than simply those who enlisted. My understanding of the word veteran is a person who was at one time enlisted in active service. It is a very narrow motion, particularly because I think the greatest contributions of the majority of women who participated in the war efforts in the past were probably in the area of the non-enlisted. They contributed wholeheartedly indeed but they were not in the ranks of those who had actually enlisted. There were many others who were enlisted and in fact offered much great service.

As we were talking, I remembered hearing of a woman who was actively engaged in the ferry service, and I had to wrack my brain to remember her name. At that time aircraft were being produced in North America and in Canada then had to be ferried across the ocean in order to be brought into active service. The name of this woman is Vera Dowling. Those members who know military history may have heard her name. She was one of these people who ferried the aircraft across.

As members may well know, for the most part those people were not subject as much to enemy attack as they were to all of the vagaries of weather. However, during the second world war, Vera was of course subject to the fact that the aircraft was not as reliable in transoceanic flight as it is today.

Therefore, we should certainly award an appropriate accolade active, engaged, enrolled armed forces members like Vera Dowling performing important activities.

By the way, for many years Vera was a flight instructor in Edmonton who taught many young pilots how to fly. I was never able to take the course, but I am told by those who did take her classes said they were very interesting. While giving instruction on what to do under certain circumstances, Vera always had an interesting story or anecdote about something that had happened to her in her career.

It is of great importance for us to recognize the contributions these individuals make to the well-being and protection of our country. As I said earlier, many of the women who served did so in a capacity which did not require that they be enrolled in the armed forces. Mention has already been made of the almost one million women who actively supported the war effort at home by working in the munitions factories producing and turning out the weapons that were needed, as well as in aircraft factories. These women actively participated.

However I do not think we should say that they contributed any more than the mother who was left at home with young ones when her husband, and in some cases sons as well, enrolled and went over to fight in the war. That was a tremendous contribution and should not be in any way minimized.

I mentioned before in this House that my wife and I have had the experience of having a son in an environment where the wearing of a flak jacket was necessary. He was overseas working with a relief agency trying to bring aid to people in a war torn country and was in an area of great danger. He had to where a flak jacket because, as he put it, he never knew when a bullet might go astray, and in fact one did. I do not believe my wife and I suffered undue anxiety about our son when he was overseas, but we did indeed have a proper parental concern.

Hence, as a newly elected member of parliament, I had the opportunity on November 11 to participate in Remembrance Day services at various spots in my riding. Over the years I rotated to different locations. When I did that, I experienced great emotion. I put myself into the lives of those families, moms and dads, and in many cases mothers only because their husbands were also serving, who had their sons overseas not only being subject to a stray bullet as our son was, but also who were actively the targets of the enemy and whose probability of coming back alive in some cases was very low. What anxiety they must have suffered, and what a huge contribution they made in order to support the protection and defence of our country.

I want to say one more thing about these little ceremonies that I have participated in. I usually rotate to the places in my riding where there are active Legions, but last year I accepted the invitation to go to Chipman, a little town in my riding. I do not think that there are more than 150 people living in the town but they have a memorial site. It is a beautiful site which they maintain. It is a community project. They built the statute and even took the time to have a beautiful mural painted on the side of their community centre, which is next to the statute. They commemorate and remember the contributions.

While I believe we should recognize, acknowledge and honour all people, regardless of gender, who supported the war effort, I would greatly support the government encouraging individual municipalities, cities, towns and villages to voluntarily put up monuments at their expense, to women who participated in the war effort, rather than the government funding them, perhaps at the expense of money that is available to present day veterans.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak today on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois on the motion before us.

I would like to begin by adding my voice to that of my colleague from the Canadian Alliance on just how regrettable it is once again for us to be dealing with a non-votable motion. As a result, my NDP colleague will probably be obliged to ask for unanimous consent, and judging by what we have just heard from the Liberal party, he can moreover expect not to obtain it. This is most unfortunate.

I find that the reasons given by my Liberal colleague do not hold water. They do not. As far as jurisdiction is concerned, it is proposed to erect monuments in each provincial capital. It seems to me that the Liberals have no scruples about meddling in areas of provincial jurisdiction when it suits them.

We are being told “when it comes to honouring women and their contribution to the war effort well, unfortunately, we have no money”. Yet we know that the Minister of Finance's budget forecasts constantly include several billion dollars in surplus, which always needs to be multiplied by five or six in reality, so this does not strike me as a good reason. It is not a reason to raise the matter of jurisdiction. It is not a reason to raise the matter of costs. It is not a reason to raise the matter of unfairness to other groups of war veterans.

As we know, the veterans have a day devoted to them. We visit monuments and honour the veterans. But, the fact that we fail to recognize that these veterans would not have won the war without the extraordinary effort of the women of Quebec and Canada is appalling.

Not only did they go to the front to care for the wounded and provide health care—it is absolutely essential in wartime to have people to look after the wounded—but they contributed to the war effort by working in the weapons industry. Without them, the wars would not have been won in the name of democracy.

I feel a lot of compassion and gratitude when I think of these people, like my father, who was a member of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who went overseas to liberate Europe. It was an important cause. It was a global cause. It was the global cause of the day.

Today, we speak of the globalization of the economy, but in those days, there were governments trying to undermine democracy. They wanted to spread their influence over all of Europe. Everyone knew that it would spread beyond Europe.

These people contributed to the war effort. My father went to Europe and helped liberate Holland. During this time, my mother worked at the Singer company in Saint-Jean. She worked 12 to 18 hours a day in the production of ammunition, which my father was no doubt using. Why should we now say that my mother did not make a contribution, because she did not go to the front? Had my father not had bullets to put in his gun, we would not have won the war.

The NDP motion acknowledges such contributions. It allows us to recognize the efforts made by Quebec and Canadian women to win that war. It would not cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We are talking about 12 or 15 statues. Quebec jealously guards its jurisdictions, but if Canada proposed to put up a statue to pay tribute to women veterans, to those who supported the economy during the war, I do not think there would be many objections raised.

It is important that the federal government be the one investing money in that area. I do not agree that these should be optional measures, that some people should go back to their town, city or province and say that it would be a good thing. Veterans come under federal jurisdiction. They are honoured every year. The Department of Veterans Affairs sends wreaths in every riding of Canada to honour our veterans. We see them marching to the war memorial on Remembrance Day, but there are only men.

I think that my mother should march with them. We could also honour these women on that day, but not only in front of a war memorial. There should also be a statue for women veterans.

I do not think that veterans would have any problem recognizing that women supported them during the last war, not just on the medical front, as members of health teams, but also in the production of military supplies. It was women who held Canada and Quebec together, not men; they were all at the front.

I do not want to get into the whole business of conscription, but my father did his duty and went overseas. I would like my mother to be honoured as well. She did her duty; she worked 12 to 18 hour days for four years making munitions for the front. What we are asking for today is some sort of recognition.

I do not buy the explanations of the Liberal Party. We have no objection to the motion. I think the government should send a clear signal to the women of Canada and Quebec and tell them “Thank you very much for what you did. It was not just the men who went to the front who saved us; without you, victory would not have been possible”.

If the hon. member were to seek unanimous consent, the Bloc Quebecois would be delighted to give it. I think that one day, if not now, then as soon as possible, recognition must be given to the women of Canada and of Quebec for their great contribution to the war effort. We would therefore be prepared to support this approach at any time.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour and a privilege to stand in support of the motion presented by my left leaning colleague to my right.

First, I should say to the hon. member from the Bloc before he leaves that I could say hear, hear to his speech and sit down, because he covered the issue extremely well. He indicated for us what women went through during the war, as well as how he addressed the response from the government.

I sat in amazement as I listened to the government member try to explain why we should not do anything to recognize women who served during the war either directly or indirectly through their involvement in the ammunition factories, in the preparation of bandages or by keeping the home fires burning. There is a line in a poem which says “they also serve who only stand and wait”. So many people waited for their husbands, brothers and sons to come back, and many never did. How can we recognize the trauma these people went through?

The member of the governing party asked which women veterans would be recognized. My answer is that all of them should be recognized regardless of the confrontation and regardless of how they were involved. The member has also said that there were other agencies that could work with the provincial and municipal governments. I say to the hon. member that if provincial or municipal governments balk or throw blockades at suggestions like this, then they are just as bad as the government opposite.

For too long we have found red tape and bureaucracy to put in the way of doing what we should be doing. We spend more time and waste more money finding reasons for not doing something than if we had gone ahead and done it in the beginning. That is typical of the government opposite.

I was born during a time when people were not involved in major wars, such as World War I or World War II, but I knew many of my relatives, friends, neighbours and countrymen had been. The two countries that fought in the war—unlike my colleague from the Bloc I am not saying Canada and Quebec—were Canada and Newfoundland. Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time. It was a country on its own. The contribution made by Newfoundland, now a proud province of Canada, was second to none. The contribution made by Newfoundlanders was recognized not only here in the new world but by countries the world over. Many Newfoundlanders paid the supreme sacrifice to give countries, such as the homeland of my hon. colleague, the freedom they now have. We are very proud of that.

The soldiers who fought so valiantly in the wars would not have been able to do so without the support on the homefront and the involvement of women, whether it was direct involvement or the supportive roles that many of them served. As our veterans came back home and tried to fit into life after the wars, the trauma they went through is something they have and always will carry with them. It has not been easy for them to come back and live a normal life, carrying the memories that they carry with them. The support of the women on the homefront has helped carry them through it.

I think of the Canadian Legion branches established all across the country. If we listed all of them we would find that many of them are active today because of the involvement of the women legionnaires. One of them is Elizabeth Lee who is from my area of Riverhead-St. Mary's Bay. Long before my involvement in active politics and all during my political years, whenever there was anything on the go it was Elizabeth who was organizing it. She sought out the funding and to enhance the facility. It is women like her who have been the backbone behind the efforts of keeping this great country going.

It is not a question of being able to afford to do something for these women. It is that we cannot afford not to do something for them. The excuses, red tape and hurdles that have been put in place because of a very simple suggestion give us an idea of what we are going through. We should all be together, proud of our heritage and culture. Yet people just sit and fiddle while Rome burns.

In about 10 minutes the issue will die on the order paper, but if my hon. colleague who introduced the motion is satisfied to keep it alive, I am sure many of us, certainly on this side of the House, would be satisfied to work with him to make sure it does stay alive.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, like others I was not totally prepared to speak to this excellent private member's motion. However, having listened to the debate I felt I had to rise to address it at least in some small way.

As my colleague in the Canadian Alliance has said, we cannot help but remind all other parties in the House, as we work through private members' business in these dying days of the opening session of parliament, of the need to make all motions and bills votable. It is high time to move toward that.

As the member for Elk Island indicated, regardless of what party members represent, when they go to the trouble and effort to draft motions or bills and bring them before the House, it is incumbent upon all of us to participate in the debates; to listen very carefully to the points being made, either for or against; and ultimately to have the process culminate in a vote. As happened in the case of a couple of my private members' bills, to have some of them non-votable is a huge disservice to the whole democratic process to which we have all talked about adhering.

Like my colleague in the Progressive Conservatives, I was appalled at the remarks of the member for Sault Ste. Marie in his role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. He stood in his place and criticized the motion before us by questioning who should be honoured and who should pay.

We have recently gone through a process in this place whereby the government in its infinite wisdom rammed through pay and pension benefits for its own members in a very quick fashion. It seems ludicrous to me in the extreme that the government can look at a motion like this one which would honour people who certainly warrant the highest honours bestowed upon them, shrug its shoulders and say it is easier said than done.

The government certainly did not adopt that attitude when it came to its pay raises. It was very quick to ensure it was pushed through the House as quickly as possible regardless of whether members were for it or against it. It did a disservice to the issue and to parliament. It left an impression with the electorate, with Canadians in the real world outside the Ottawa bubble, that somehow there were members who were ashamed of the process so it had to be fast tracked.

Regarding the question of who should be honoured, we should bestow the honour upon all women who participated in the war effort, regardless of whether they worked in the fields or in the factories; whether they went overseas; whether, as was indicated by a number of members, they were involved in the nursing profession; whether they drove a lorry; or whether they were a chauffeur for a general. Regardless of what role they played or whether they supported the families left behind, all women who were involved in the years our country was at war deserve to be recognized and honoured.

The very point the parliamentary secretary was trying to make about this somehow being divisive and questioning who should be honoured was ridiculous.

Who would pay? It is a bit early in the process to say who would pay. It could be a joint private-public enterprise as we have seen many times before. Which level of government does not have to be spelled out or that we want to exclude organizations from involvement. Special committees might spring up across the country.

As my colleague from Elk Island said, many cenotaphs, statues and other ways of honouring people in society who have done great deeds in the past have been financed either at the local level or through a truly national initiative.

It is a bit of a red herring for the parliamentary secretary, in representing the government, to say we should do nothing because we have not got down to the basic about who will pay. That does not do any service and does not reflect well on our institution and on members of parliament to adopt that attitude.

In summary, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion. I commend my colleague from the New Democratic Party for bringing it forward. I believe very strongly that all Canadians, regardless of gender, involved in the war effort protected the rights all of us enjoy today: the right to speak openly and to represent all different political stripes and parties in the Parliament of Canada. These rights were protected by the people who we wish to honour.

We honour and recognize them today if only by our words. I hope the motion will not die and that there are ways in which we can keep it alive and move it forward to proper recognition of women who contributed so much during those very difficult years.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is a huge issue. It is a pity the government did not bring forward this excellent private member's motion. We are speaking about women veterans now, but in terms of paying respect to the men and women who did such amazing work for us and thinking about the sacrifice many of them made, it seems a shame the government was not willing or keen to bring the matter forward and say that we need to recognize them.

In my rural constituency of Beaver River, now Edmonton North, I spent many a Remembrance Day going around to various towns and paying tribute to the people who did such amazing things. Every Remembrance Day I pay tribute to the veterans at the Calder Cenotaph and then visit the army, navy and air force vets association on 127th Street.

There is a huge turnout of people young and old. It excites and amazes me when I see people in the generations coming along behind us taking time out, whether they are cadets or grandchildren of veterans, to pay tribute to those who went before us. It is essential. It is amazing to see legions packed to the rafters on Remembrance Day and at other times as well. Surely the least we could do is take time out of our busy schedules to pay tribute to that.

Again, my congratulations to the hon. member who brought the private member's bill forward. It is a word of encouragement, I suspect, to the government to make sure it pays tribute here. If the Speaker simply gets up and says that we spent a nice hour discussing it and then the issue gets the drop kick and is gone forever, that would be a pity. If that is our attitude and the respect we pay to veterans, it is truly a sad day for parliament and for Canada.

I would certainly ask the government to pick up the ball and run with it and pay tribute to the veterans who have done such an amazing job for us. Those of us who are too young to remember the war, the baby boomers and those who have come along behind us, need to pay attention to the issue and keep it burning all the time.

A couple of blocks from Parliament Hill is the war memorial. What an amazing place it is for so many thousands of Canadians certainly, but also for people from all over the world who come to pay tribute to the new tomb of the unknown soldier and to the veterans who served in the wars.

I would again recommend to the government that it treat the issue as a fairly high priority. I know when it puts things in high priority they can whiz through this place faster than the speed of light. It would certainly be a good, healthy, respectful, positive thing if it could do that today.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business



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

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues on this side of the House and even my good colleague from Sault Ste. Marie. I believe if he had put down the department's notes and read from his heart we would have heard a different speech from him. That is the problem. When one is in government one must sometimes speak the government line. If the department does not want something to happen it simply does not get done.

I appeal to my hon. colleague from Sault Ste. Marie. He says that the government does not want to do things based on gender. If that were the case it would never have addressed the status of women. We even have a secretary of state, a minister, dedicated strictly to the status of women.

Why? It is because a forward thinking government years ago understood that issues of women were not being addressed properly by the government or by the country and that women were left behind in many aspects of society. It therefore created the ministry to build up women and give them an opportunity to address their concerns.

It was therefore disappointing to hear the hon. member say that the government does not want to do things based on gender. It was disappointing and I know personally that he probably does not believe it.

I thank my hon. colleagues from the Alliance Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservative Party who spoke so eloquently on the motion.

In reality it would not cost much money. In all likelihood the government would get tremendous support from the citizens of the cities where the monuments would be. Most important, the government would once and for all be able to tell the women of Canada, who served so valiantly and bravely that, yes, it recognizes them.

It is never too late to do a good thing. The motion is a no-brainer for the government to accept. Mr. Speaker, if it were votable I could almost assure you that the majority of Liberals back there would vote for it. I do not see how they could not.

I would at this time, Mr. Speaker, seek the unanimous consent of all members in the House today to make the motion votable.

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to make this item a votable item?

Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Women VeteransPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Industry in support of the expeditious passage of Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts.

During second reading debate on Bill S-11 several hon. members took note that the bill would represent the first substantive amendment to the CBCA in over 25 years. In that time there have been significant developments in corporate governance practices driven primarily by the globalization of capital and business markets. These developments are only exceeded by the tremendous advances in technology that have made globalization possible.

Hon. members may recall that the bill is the product of extensive review and analysis that began in 1994. Consultation with stakeholders was comprehensive. There were nine discussion papers, coast to coast meetings by Industry Canada and parallel national consultations by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.

The reforms in the bill would improve and modernize four important areas of the marketplace framework statutes that govern business corporations and co-operatives. First, they would expand the rights of shareholders by facilitating wider communication and encouraging more participation in corporate decisions through the shareholder approval process.

Second, they would help eliminate barriers to global competitiveness by allowing corporations more flexibility in choosing directors from a wider international pool of talent.

Third, they would more reasonably define the responsibilities and liabilities of directors, officers and shareholders.

Finally, they would eliminate unnecessary regulatory duplication and reduce the cost of compliance.

All the reforms in the bill would give corporations and co-operatives greater flexibility in pursuing marketplace opportunities. Because of this, shareholders large and small can be more confident in the future value of their investments.

The reforms are a response to the new ways Canadian companies are doing business today. They would encourage corporate governance practices that are geared to long term growth and they would provide a sound framework for prospering in the global marketplace.

The level of agreement on the provisions of the bill is exceptionally high. The witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee were all but unanimous in their support of the principles of the bill as it appears before us. As well, virtually every stakeholder who appeared before the Senate committee urged quick passage of the bill. They included representatives from the corporate community, large institutional investors, shareholder activists, provincial securities commissions and co-operative associations, among others.

The reforms in the bill are long overdue. Corporations want them so they can take advantage of the efficiencies and cost savings the bill would deliver.

Investors too want a modern corporate law that helps protect the value of their securities. Shareholder activists want to be able to use the liberalized shareholder communication and proposal provisions, especially before next proxy season.

Consideration of the previous version of Bill S-19 was postponed by the dissolution of parliament last October. However the interruption allowed the government time to give further consideration to representations made before the Senate committee.

The bill would incorporate the resulting improvements, and that is what we would make into law. I am confident that hon. members will agree that we should approve the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and then approve Bill S-11 as amended.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act.

As the main federal law governing corporations in Canada, the Canada Business Corporations Act, or CBCA, sets out the legal and regulatory framework for more than 155,000 federally incorporated businesses. The Canadian Alliance supports the bill, which would amend the CBCA for the first time since 1975. That is quite a period of time.

Several changes are necessary, in our view. It is a real understatement to say that business has changed fundamentally since the mid-1970s. It is high time the Canada Business Corporations Act reflected the transformation to the global economy.

The previous act to amend the CBCA was tabled in the Senate during the last session of parliament as Bill S-19. The bill never made it out of the Senate. It died on the order paper when the federal election was called. The Senate committee nonetheless heard from over 30 witnesses between April and the end of June 2000. People from the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Co-operative Association and the taskforce on the churches and corporate responsibility were among those who testified at the Senate committee.

Bill S-11 is substantially the same as Bill S-19 but it reflects and incorporates the recommendations that came forward from the hearings. It deals with the concerns identified by the people who came forward as witnesses.

The amendments seek to modernize the Canada Business Corporations Act in four areas: first, by recognizing the global nature of the marketplace; second, by clarifying the responsibilities of corporate directors and officers; third, by reducing federal-provincial duplication; and fourth, by expanding shareholder rights.

Bill S-11 would reduce residency requirements for board members to 25% and eliminate the requirement entirely for board committees. The change is long overdue and would help Canadian companies compete as global players.

That is where we are these days. There is more investment outside Canada by Canadians than there is direct foreign investment in Canada. We have seen a sea change in what is happening in terms of investment in the last few years. Canadians are reaching out and servicing the marketplace around the world.

However, it is regrettable but characteristic of the government across the way that certain sacred cow sectors would be exempt from the residency requirement reduction. We question the rationale regarding the book publishing industry, telecommunications and transportation. Under Bill S-11 Petro-Canada would not be permitted the flexibility to appoint directors based on their qualifications but would do so based on where they live.

Another welcome change is an amendment that would allow Canadian federally incorporated companies to compete with foreign multinationals while expanding globally. Bill S-11 would do this by authorizing foreign subsidiaries of Canadian corporations to acquire shares in their parent corporations under limited and clearly defined circumstances such as acquiring or merging with foreign companies and corporations.

Bill S-11 would replace the good faith reliance defence for directors with a due diligence one which would allow corporations to pay for defence and investigation costs, thus encouraging directors to take more appropriate risks. Bill S-11 would also clarify responsibility for corporate officers and directors by replacing the current joint and several liability regime with one of modified proportionate liability.

However, joint and several liability would continue to apply in cases of fraud and to designated categories of plaintiffs such as the crown, charitable organizations, unsecured creditors and small investors.

Bill S-11 also spells out in law that under a unanimous shareholders' agreement the directors' liabilities and defences are transferred to the shareholders.

Bill S-11 seeks to end the costly and time consuming administrative and legal burdens on federally incorporated businesses by eliminating conflicts and overlaps between federal and provincial statutes and regulations. We applaud that. For example, the CBCA's provisions for takeover bids would be repealed to allow the comprehensive provincial codes for takeover bid regulations to prevail. Bill S-11 would also repeal the federal duplication on provincial insider trading requirements while increasing the maximum fine for insider trading from the current $5,000 to $1 million.

Bill S-11 would allow for greater participation by small shareholders in corporate decision making. It would do so by relaxing the rules under which shareholders communicate among themselves and would allow proxy solicitation through public broadcast or newspaper advertisements instead of by direct mailings.

The amendments would encourage corporations to employ new technologies. The technologies are not so new now, but in a 25 year timeframe they do seem new. These include e-mail when communicating with shareholders and conducting regular shareholders meetings. Bill S-11 is trying to bring Canada up to speed with what has been happening in the massive changes in communications in the last 25 years.

The legislation would also liberalize mechanisms for individual shareholders to submit proposals and aims to restrain management ability to block or refuse proposals from being considered.

The Canadian Alliance believes that Bill S-11 reflects the transformation of business since 1975 with respect to the global marketplace, the electronic revolution and the rise of shareholders' rights, as well as the necessity for reducing federal and provincial redundancies. Because of the four changes I have mentioned, we believe that this would bring us into the modern era in terms of the regulations surrounding the Canada Business Corporations Act. The Canadian Alliance is happy to support the passage of the bill.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)