House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.


Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I rise today to address the bill respecting Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, I realize that, unfortunately, history is repeating itself, and this is not always for the better. Today we had a concrete example of what an elected representative from Quebec can do to further his political career in this Canadian parliament.

It is rather strange that a Liberal member of parliament would even consider tabling this bill in the House of Commons when two of his colleagues, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, are unable to give their support to the Bloc Quebecois and to recognize the historical, sociological, cultural, social and humanitarian importance of the deportation of the Acadians.

We in the Bloc Quebecois were not afraid to point out that serious mistake, because we are not afraid to learn from history. The hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes knows about this. Being himself an Acadian, he sponsored a bill to recognize the wrongs done to the Acadians. And what did the Liberal government members say? They said that it was the past and that we should not look back too far in history.

Today, we are asked to expressly recognize Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier's often roundabout way of doing things by designating an annual commemorative day to honour them. I strongly object to this. There are all kinds of reasons why it would not make sense for us, Bloc Quebecois members, to support this bill. Its very wording states that one of the reasons to commemorate the birth of Wilfrid Laurier is that he was a fervent promoter of national unity. What national unity are we talking about? We are talking about Canadian unity.

In the name of this sacrosanct national unity, they would have us believe that there is only one culture, only one way of defining ourselves as a people. This so-called national unity is the main obstacle to the full and harmonious development of Quebec. If, for our friends opposite, national unity is synonymous with preserving the existing federal system, this is not the Bloc Quebecois' objective.

National unity, as presented by too many members of this House, actually impedes Quebec's development. It is a waste of time and energy. But beyond our constitutional views, there are many reasons why the federal parliament should not commemorate the birth of these two historical figures.

First, we must avoid the pitfall of an official and politically oriented history and not let the Canadian government use history for political ends.

Who would be in charge of the pompous and tedious celebrations of these Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Sir John A. Macdonald days if not Canadian Heritage? Who else but this department, which ensures that everything it lays its hands on sends out a message of “Canadian” unity? There is more than one nation in Canada; there are in fact three. There is not one single Canadian history to recognize and to teach, but rather three national histories. Le livre noir du Canada anglais by a Quebec author now well known, is very revealing in that regard. Each version of history emphasizes different aspects of the events and characters. Is that not meaningful? As evidence of this, on the same day we celebrate our gracious Queen on one side of the river and Dollard des Ormeaux on the other.

It is obvious that what unites us as a nation is not necessarily something that can unite the other nation. Yes, history is repeating itself. Will the things that history remembers about Sir Wilfrid Laurier, for example, be different according to the perceptions each nation has of this so-called national unity?

When a newly sworn minister from Quebec rushes to play down the widely expressed aspirations of Quebecers and refuses to recognize the distinct character of the Quebec nation in fields like the exemplary and inspiring Young Offenders Act, it is cause for concern.

This is a fine example of the actions of a disciple of Laurier. What entitles him to reject Quebec's expertise on young offenders? In another 100 years, will they be calling in this House for a day to commemorate the accomplishments of this young minister, with his aspirations of a brilliant future within this government? Will the bill that commemorates his political involvement reflect what Quebec wants?

Let us consider Confederation, which this bill claims is the great accomplishment of Sir John A. Macdonald. Everyone knows Macdonald would have preferred a legislative union that would have made Canada a unitary state. Consequently, he made sure the Canadian federation was a highly centralized one. In fact, like Macdonald, SIr Wilfrid Laurier rallied around the federal idea, as opposed to the confederal, which was how it was being passed off in order to attract the maritime provinces and to win over the strong misgivings of Quebec.

Besides, in spite of promises to the contrary, the British North America Act was never the subject of a referendum. Even though Quebecers supported Macdonald's party in the September 1867 election, it cannot be inferred that they had ratified his vision of Canada. Regardless of the truth, the newspaper La Minerve , a tool of propaganda—there was propaganda in those days too; it has been going a long time—had portrayed the partners in the Confederation as sovereign states delegating some of their rights and powers to a so-called central government.

What an appealing concept is a partnership between sovereign states. That is what Quebecers thought they had embarked upon. They had been deluded before and they were deluded once again by pre-referendum declarations of love coming from some parts of English Canada, declarations which, for that matter, were recently denounced by a Toronto Star journalist.

That journalist, a tireless and competent worker, Robert Mackenzie, had to take early retirement because, in a country that is said to enjoy such appealing freedom of the press, he had dared to say what he thought about the Toronto daily's political involvement in the great love-in demonstration held by English Canada in Montreal and because he had denounced the caricature of Bernard Landry that had been published in the Toronto daily where he was shown dressed up as bin Laden.

Clearly, in this great country, boastfully described by some as being the most tolerant on earth, there is still a lot of petty mindedness. It is certainly not Sir Wilfrid Laurier we should look to as a model for us. He was elected to defend the rights and interests of French Canadians, then once he was far away from his constituents, he turned around and praised the virtues of integration and unity to the detriment of the interests of his own people.

We saw yet another example of this today in the new Minister of Justice, a minister who hails from Quebec but who does not understand the aspirations of Quebecers. They want to honour the memory of these great Canadians from sea to sea by dedicating a day to them.

The Bloc Quebecois cannot support this. We cannot agree to this bill, but it is up to others to celebrate what they will.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on the bill to recognize Macdonald and Laurier.

Colleagues of mine in the New Democratic Party caucus have stated that there is a need within Canada and within Canadian schools to encourage more respect both for the work a number of Canadians have done over the years and for Canadians in general. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who we are, the accomplishments we have made and our place in the world. We have done a fine job.

Macdonald and Laurier were instrumental in creating the Canada we know today, as were a lot other great men and women. Stanley Knowles, Tommy Douglas and Lester B. Pearson have all been credible politicians in their own right, people with social consciences who worked to improve our country and make it the Canada we so proudly speak of.

Last year or the year before, I brought forth a motion to have a Stanley Knowles day although it was deemed not votable. From my perspective no other individual committed himself so truly to Canada as we know it and to improving the lives of everyday people in our country.

I hope this is just a start. Should the bill pass I hope it is just the start of us taking the time to recognize great Canadians from the past. Because of our ties to American TV and radio stations we often hear in Canada about Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, President's Day and numerous other days. Children in Canada often hear more about them than about Canadians who committed themselves to bettering our country.

It has been commented that there has been a failure in our school system to accurately reflect or teach Canadian history. For a number of years school textbooks reflected our country's origins from the British and Commonwealth aspect. We learned a lot about that and about other countries but not about Canada.

As someone who loved Canadian history and tried to read as much of it as I could, the books I read in school never told me the true story about Louis Riel. I never knew the true story about Macdonald's part in the Riel rebellion or the restrictions on the Metis people of Canada. I never knew Riel was an elected official who was denied his right to speak for the people he represented. I learned it from my own children's school books when they were studying it a number of years later. I thought we had come a long way and made real steps but I still do not think our history books accurately reflect what we should be teaching children in Canada.

I am from Manitoba and was born in Saskatchewan. Of crucial importance to our two provinces but also to the rest of Canada were the treaties. Just as important as the Treaty of Utrecht and British North America Act were Treaty No. 5, Treaty No. 3 and Treaty No. 1 which we signed with our first nations people and which have a direct impact on the people in our communities. I am happy that at least some first nation communities are getting more of the background of these treaties. However it is crucially important that we teach students throughout the country the implications of all the treaties because they are equally important.

I am pleased the bill has been put forward. I hope it passes because it is a recognition that there is much to be proud of in Canada. I might have differences with some of the things Macdonald and Laurier did, but I recognize that we are here today as a country because of the efforts of these two men and others. I hope we continue taking time to show respect for the great Canadians who have been instrumental in making our country the nation it is today.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, as a representative in the House of Commons of Canada's first incorporated city by royal charter it is truly an honour and a privilege for me to stand here this evening and welcome an opportunity to make an intervention at this last stage of the bill.

I hope the House will be willing to expedite passage of the bill today. Bill S-14 is about giving Canadians an excuse or an opportunity to learn more about their history.

When I was mayor of the city of Saint John I was asked by the prime minister of the day to sit on a committee known as the Citizens Forum on Canada's Future. I was asked to travel all across the nation to look at Canada as a whole and see how we could promote a united Canada.

What the hon. member from the NDP has said is what I found out at the time. It was a great shock, particularly when I went out west. Young people there did not know anything about New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. or Newfoundland. They did not know a lot about Quebec. It was a learning experience for me.

Bill S-14 is about giving Canadians an excuse or an opportunity to learn more about their history. Our story is a great one yet for many of our citizens it remains untold and unknown. We have more tools for learning and communication than at any time in human history, yet people today know less about the Canadian story than did the people of a generation ago.

Earlier this month the Globe and Mail began publishing an interesting series of articles written by our living prime ministers about other prime ministers. My leader the right hon. member for Calgary Centre has written about Prime Minister Diefenbaker with whom he worked and sat in the House. It was a great column that offered personal insight and a perspective of history.

Last saturday Brian Mulroney wrote about Sir Robert Borden, but it is the first in the series that I want to make reference to in this debate.

John Turner wrote about Sir John A. Macdonald on January 12. His central theme was that we should do more to commemorate Macdonald. He would go further than the bill. He wanted us to make January 11 a holiday to celebrate a national hero and he does make a strong case.

I urge hon. members to read John Turner's article in full because it is eloquently expressed and well reasoned. In support of his thesis he quotes the speech given on the death of Macdonald by the other prime minister referenced in the bill, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He stated in the House of Commons:

As to his statesmanship, it is written in the history of Canada. It may be said without any exaggeration whatever, that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the time he entered Parliament, is the history of Canada.

The right hon. John Turner on Macdonald stated:

Britain will never forget her Cromwell, her Pitt and her Disraeli. The hero whose name we add to our list of immortals, John Alexander Macdonald, had much of the force of an Oliver Cromwell, some of the compacting and conciliating tact of a William Pitt, the sagacity of a William Gladstone, and some of the shrewdness of a Benjamin Disraeli. To read the biography of John Alexander Macdonald is, essentially, to read a “New World biography”.

The bill does not create a holiday. That may disappoint some, including Mr. Turner, but it does designate January 11 and November 20 as days to carry respectively the names of Macdonald and Laurier. That would give the Government of Canada, particularly the department of heritage as well as our schools and our media, opportunities to tell the great stories of these two great men and in doing so to make better known the story of this great nation of ours. Heritage Canada has a particular duty to protect our national patrimony but it is not alone.

I want to mention the fine work that is done at the Diefenbaker Centre in Saskatoon. Mr. Speaker, lest you think I am straying from the topic, I hasten to point out that the centre holds a number of items relating to Sir John A., including a very handsome desk. The Diefenbaker Centre contains a replica of the cabinet room and makes a part of these very parliament buildings accessible to young people in a way that is not available here in Ottawa.

Like many bodies that depend on endowments and income from interest on investments, the centre has been hard hit at this time by low interest rates. This is an important historical and political depository for all of Canada. I encourage the Heritage minister to take a personal look at the funding available to the Diefenbaker Centre. It is the final resting place for John and Olive Diefenbaker and it is an important part of the University of Saskatchewan. As we consider ways to commemorate our history, I urge the government to take an initiative to review the funding for the Diefenbaker Centre before valuable artifacts are lost.

Hon. members may think that I have gone off topic, but there is a link and it is a personal one. My cousin Gordon Fairweather was a member of the Diefenbaker government. John Diefenbaker met Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The most famous incident of a young John Diefenbaker selling a newspaper to Sir Wilfrid is commemorated by a charming statue in Saskatoon. John Diefenbaker met Sir Wilfrid and Sir Wilfrid met Sir John A. I hope that keeps me within the requirements of the relevancy rule in discussing the important work of the Diefenbaker Centre in Saskatoon.

Let me say a few words about Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He was a man who in his youth was a patriotic son of Quebec. He ended his long life with an international reputation as a son of the new Canada.

Professor Desmond Morton gave a charming three page note in support of the bill to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in the other place last April 25. I commend that document to the House. Professor Morton provides us with fascinating reasons to learn more about these two leaders. They were men of the dream that is Canada. He stated:

I will say this, that we are all Canadians. Below the Island of Montreal, the water that comes from the north, from the Ottawa, unites with the waters that comes from the western lakes, but uniting they do not mix. There they run parallel, separate, distinguishable, and yet are one stream, flowing within the same banks, the mighty St. Lawrence and rolling on toward the sea, bearing the commerce of a nation upon its bosom—a perfect image of our nation. We may not assimilate, we may not blend, but for all that, we are still the component parts of the same country.

Sir Wilfrid has elegantly given us a daily reminder of the nature of our country as we look out on the waters of the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill. We have much to learn from Macdonald and Laurier. The bill, as Professor Morton stated, allows us to “find a little time each year to learn from their experiences.”

We need to find ways to tell our story to our children and our grandchildren. Canadian history is more than the legends of politics or of government. By marking the anniversaries of Macdonald and Laurier we would go some way to highlight the history of Canada. There can never be a stated approved version of our history, but the state can facilitate the learning of its history. The bill would help do that.

I ask the House to support the passage of Bill S-14 and I thank the hon. member for bringing it forward.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to strongly support the official recognition of Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day.

I want to address the first half of my speech to the school children of Yukon. Other members may find it interesting because nothing I will say today has been said before in the House of Commons or in the other place in this debate.

Some might say that Macdonald and Laurier are obscure historical figures, irrelevant to the 21st century agenda of Canadians. Others might say it is odd for a member from Yukon to support a day in their honour because Yukon was not even created when Sir John A. Macdonald died, or a few years later when Sir Wilfrid Laurier became Prime Minister.

However I believe that these two creative and constructive statesmen made enormous contributions to Canada, contributions that Canadians can see and value every day, even or especially in a place like Yukon, so relatively recent and so far from the original heartland of Confederation.

When this important gesture of honouring Macdonald and Laurier was mentioned to a Yukon immigrant, that is, one from abroad and not from what we Yukoners like to call the “outside”, she was astonished that Canada did not already recognize the seminal contributions of these two great figures. She had learned so much about them as she prepared to become a Canadian citizen, and assumed we had already given them this honour.

Let us consider a few of the decisive effects that Sir John A. Macdonald had on Yukon, effects that we feel to this day.

First, in 1871, he acquired Rupert's Land for Canada, a vast and largely uncharted territory that contained what we Yukoners today call our home.

Second, he created the Northwest Mounted Police in 1873. The Northwest Mounted Police and its successor, the RCMP, have played a glorious role in Yukon's history, ensuring that Yukon's early history was characterized by quiet and orderly development, not the chaos, mayhem and bloodshed that our friends in Alaska experienced all too often. Indeed, what image could be more Canadian than the Northwest Mounted Police constable with his dog team, bringing order and good government to the farthest reaches of Yukon?

Third, and most importantly, without Sir John's vision of Canada there would be no Yukon as we know it today. His grand concept of a transcontinental Canada created a strong and dynamic country, one that provided the political and economic structure that has allowed Yukon to develop into the unique and vibrant community it is today.

Sir John A. Macdonald bought the land, then Sir Wilfrid Laurier laid the foundations for Yukon over his four terms as prime minister and his impressive 45 years in the House of Commons.

In 1898, his Yukon Act created the Yukon Territory as a separate entity, as I noted on its anniversary in the House last June 13. The Yukon Act still serves as Yukon's constitution, with amendments such as the historic measures on devolution that I introduced last December in the House of Commons.

In 1898, Laurier created the Yukon field force, one of the first Canadian military forces, to assert Canadian sovereignty and add some military muscle to the Northwest Mounted Police. Today Alaskans are our great friends but at the time Yukoners appreciated having a line of Laurier's troopers with their new fangled machine guns guarding the passes to protect us from the notorious terrors like Soapy Smith and the Alaskan judge who went wrong, Arthur Noyes.

Laurier also presided over the tangled border dispute between Canada and Alaska. Any Canadian enjoying a hike in the Coastal Mountains on the west coast of Canada can thank Laurier's determination that much of this beautiful area is now Canadian.

Of course, we did not succeed in getting all the things that we thought were fair, but the shortcomings of imperial diplomacy were not Laurier's fault. In fact, he took the opportunity created by the Alaskan border controversy to take further concrete steps to define a foreign policy for Canada independent of England, something we are all proud of today.

Both Sir John A. and Sir Wilfrid Laurier fought great battles with those outside Canada for our independence and our freedom. Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier are not misty historical figures to Yukoners. Our laws and our customs and even the shape of our land are ours thanks to them.

I heartily support the bill and commend my colleague and mentor from Don Valley West for bringing it forward. I would like to thank the Yukon students for listening to this part of their history which is dedicated to them.

I say to my fellow Canadians, gens du pays, that what we have here are two great founders of our nation: one who tied this great land together with a ribbon of steel and the other who held it together with the persuasiveness of his silver tongued oratory.

And it is the progeny of that orator that gives me great pleasure in the House of Commons today: as I listen to the great, passionate speeches of my colleagues from Quebec from all sides of the House.

I implore my colleagues to not vote against this great spirit of Quebec by voting against this bill; do not vote against les Québécois, les Canadiens, by rejecting a favourite son, a boy from the village of Saint-Lin who became an orator of unparalleled eloquence in the history of this nation.

It has been said that we should support these two great leaders because they encapsulated much of what was Canada in four boxes: French, English, Protestant and Catholic.

However that is not what we celebrate. We celebrate that these two great men became larger than life by expanding and breaking the bounds of these boxes. They realized that Canada was far greater than the two provinces that they came from, Ontario and Quebec, far greater than two languages, far greater than two religions. It is the many cultures starting with the first nations, the many languages and the many religions which provide the diversity and the strength that make Canada the greatest nation in the world.

In closing, I personally would like to celebrate our two founders. Since they finished their work far too many women in the world have died in childbirth. My mother did not die in childbirth. Since they wove our colourful cultures together into the shimmering fabric of our nation far too many people in the world have starved to death. We did not starve to death.

Since they joined our great peoples with respect far too many children in the world have died for lack of medicine or vaccinations. That was not our fate. Since they made the great sacrifices they did to hold the nation together thousands of children around the world have died in conflict over language or religion but not in the land of Laurier and Macdonald.

In the land of Laurier and Macdonald a boy from a family without too many resources and whose grandparents came from the old country could be bestowed the great privilege of being one of 301 people to represent the greatest nation on earth.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Wifrid Laurier, I remember.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 1998 I had the privilege of putting forth Bill C-369 and Bill C-370 on this very subject. Unfortunately at that time it was deemed not a votable motion although I had the support of colleagues from other parties.

We can do nothing more important than recognize and promote our history. Two great Canadians, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, were both nation builders.

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Clearly at the present time there is a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge of the history of the country. In four provinces Canadian history is not a mandatory course in high school. By recognizing Laurier and Macdonald we are recognizing and promoting for Canadians a sense of who we are as a nation.

We live in an era when our children have little appreciation for our roots. Professor Granatstein in his work Who Killed Canadian History comments on the fact that the knowledge of the country is fast disappearing. We have a very rich and a very powerful history. As a former educator who used to teach Canadian history I believe very strongly that these two days of recognition are essential.

We are one of the few countries in the world that does not recognize the contributions of its founders or those who helped to contribute to the nation: Sir John A . Macdonald's great vision of building the country from sea to sea, Laurier's great vision of expanding the country, and the great immigration drive that came in the late 1890s and 1900s to western Canada.

We have precedents. We have other days of recognition such as National Flag Day on February 15 and National Aboriginal Day on June 21. We have built educational programs around them so that Canadians can appreciate their history.

It is extremely important that we pass the bill to honour not just these two men but to make a statement as parliamentarians of our belief in and support for our history. We will be judged by not only what we do about issues today but by how we treat and respect our past.

I realize that my time is short but I hope on another occasion to have an opportunity to speak at some length to the significant contributions of these two great Canadians.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, since September 11 the Canada-U.S. border has undergone a significant transition. Immediately after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington the U.S. customs service went into to its alert level 1, the highest level of security concern, and has remained there ever since.

This level of alert has resulted in lengthy lineups at border crossings across the continent. The two crossings in my constituency have been hit particularly hard. Southbound delays at the Peace Arch crossing have reached four hours, which had been previously the maximum delay during the peak summer hours.

The only reason these delays have not been even longer is that the level of cross-border traffic has been significantly reduced. In addition, the delays were shortened because American border agencies transferred personnel from the southern border to the northern border to add additional personnel. However in late December the United States customs service moved these people back to the southern border before they could be replaced by new employees or the national guard.

Things have not been any easier for the commercial traffic which is responsible for transporting all our exports down to the United States on which 80% of our economy is dependent.

With lengthy lineups at peak times they have missed deadlines, have had delayed deliveries and the occasional auto plant has shut down when the just in time deliveries have not made it at the necessary time.

While things have stabilized this has been in part due to two negative factors: the economic slowdown and the softwood lumber industry dispute which have resulted in significantly reduced traffic crossing the borders at the west coast.

Over the past four months various members of the government opposite have participated in numerous photo ops, signed a number of agreements and made countless proclamations about co-operation at the border. However there has not been one significant tangible result at the border as far as the lineups are concerned.

In its December budget the government announced a total of $1.2 billion in border initiatives, split almost equally between border security and facilitation and border infrastructure. It sounds great but when it is realized that this amount is over five years the actual annual increase is only $240 million a year.

Even prior to September 11 there was a need for massive infrastructure improvements at our border crossings. The government talks about expediting low risk travellers, but unless these individuals are provided with dedicated commuter lanes which allow them to forgo the long four hour lineups the program is useless, especially at the busiest crossings in Ontario that have bridges.

When we talk of the money that is to be allocated, what is needed is for one initiative that will separate low risk, pre-cleared travellers from cargo and others that need to be looked at more carefully.

I ask the parliamentary secretary when the government will have an initiative in place to expedite the cross-border travel of low risk, pre-cleared travellers.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.


Sophia Leung LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the government understands the importance of trade and travel flowing freely across the Canada-U.S. border. We must ensure key industries in the Canadian economy continue to flourish in these difficult times.

As my hon. colleague knows, we have a dual mandate to ensure the safety and security of Canadians while keeping trade and travel moving across the border. She has indicated this repeatedly. There are some like her who have expressed concern about the volume of traffic at our major border crossings. That is why we have made a significant investment in border security and operations.

Last June we spent $11.5 million on additional contraband detection technology.

In October 2001 the Minister of National Revenue announced an investment of $11.9 million for new equipment and another $9 million for hiring additional customs inspectors.

In the December 2001 budget announcement $433 million was approved to enable the CCRA to ensure travel and trade are not impeded by the security Canadians expect.

In April 2000 we launched our customs action plan which outlined initiatives dedicated to improve border management.

In Bill S-23 we introduced amendments to the Customs Act that would give customs officers the authority to better carry out their duties.

The CCRA is dedicated to strengthening the programs we have and developing new ones so low risk businesses and travellers experience minimal delays at the border. We already have programs in place which streamline the movement of low risk highway travellers. Programs such as Nexus and Canpass allow pre-screened individuals to cross the border without speaking to a customs officer every time. Programs like these allow us to focus our energies on those who may pose a higher risk when crossing the border.

The key to our future programs is the pre-approval of low risk people and goods. Programs like customs self-assessment for businesses and the expedited passenger processing system for low risk air travellers will allow customs officers to make informed decisions prior to the arrival of goods and people. This will make it easier to facilitate the movement of legitimate travellers and goods and will allow customs officers to focus on areas that present a higher security risk. We are also exploring options for further joint initiatives like Nexus with U.S. border agencies.

The CCRA knows there is work to be done to improve border management. We are striving to provide Canadians with the best service possible. That is why we have made these investments in security and it is why we are working toward improvements.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear to Canadians that the commitment the federal government has put into border security is not enough. It is clear that the Americans are putting national security at the top of their agenda. The president made that clear in his state of the union address last night. They will be putting billions of dollars into border security.

Americans have always been willing to co-operate with Canadians when we put initiatives on the table. They have shown this in the past with the free trade agreements and many other agreements like the Great Lakes Agreement. When Canadians put initiatives on the table the Americans are more than willing to consider co-operating with us.

Can the minister's representative tell us if the government will be proactive? The government has not shown that it will be proactive. Will it be proactive and put something on the table so the Americans have something on which they can co-operate with us, or will we be led into a program by the Americans without participating or being part of the planning?

Will the government consider the proposal put on the table by the coalition on November 1, a proposal which is proactive and would set up a program for getting pre-cleared travellers freely into the United States without having to sit in four, five or ten hour lineups?

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, last month I attended a bi-national border seminar in Seattle where we met with our U.S. counterpart Senator Cantwell. I was one of the key speakers with her.

After the discussions I am pleased to announce that Canadian border management is way ahead of that of the U.S. We have legislation and funding and are setting up new programs. The U.S. is still working on legislation and its funding and programs are not there.

I am pleased to inform my colleagues that we are doing our best and are doing very well.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.42 p.m.)