moved that Bill C-219, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, this bill aims to modify the swearing of allegiance of members of Parliament.
When elected to the House of Commons members must swear allegiance to the Queen. This is done in front of the Clerk. The present oath reads as follows, “I [name of MP] do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law”.
What I propose today is that newly elected members be asked to add to the swearing of allegiance to the Queen the following affirmation:
I, [full name of the member], do swear [or solemnly affirm] that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly.
I personally made this declaration after the 1993, the 1997 and 2000 general elections. I would also encourage my colleagues from various parties to do the same. To my pride and joy, a great number of newly elected members followed suit and I wish to congratulate and thank them.
After my private member's bill was drawn last month, I sat in front of the House of Commons private members' business committee to request that my bill be deemed votable. I had followed all five rules required to make a private member's bill votable, namely: that it be drafted in clear, complete and effective terms; that it be constitutional and concern areas of federal jurisdiction; that it not concern issues that are not part of the government's current legislative agenda; and finally, that it transcend purely local interests and not be couched in partisan terms.
My bill addressed all of these criteria. Unfortunately, and to my great surprise and disappointment, the committee decided otherwise and made my bill non-votable. Why, I ask? This is unbelievable.
Canadians often ask me why it is that we seem to be the only country in the world where legislators do not swear allegiance to their own country. Perhaps those members among us who were against such a notion should explain to their constituents their rationale. I for one feel an obligation to my constituents and to all Canadians. It is also for me a principle of patriotism as well as accountability.
It is indeed a matter of patriotism and pride, but also a matter of accountability. We live in a country which, ever since its early days, has distinguished itself by an impressive series of achievements, both internationally and nationally.
I do not think it is necessary to point out the merits of Canada, but I do hope that its contributions make you feel the same sense of pride that I feel. The Canadian public itself certainly seems to feel that pride.
When asked to identify their ethnic origin, more than eight million citizens indicated Canadian, that is more than any other possible nationality, according to the 1996 census data published by Statistics Canada. This is something that is rather new in Canada. Until then, citizens were more likely to refer to their English or French, Irish or Italian origins, to give just a few examples.
This brings me to another important aspect. Without loosing sight of our history and traditions, to swear allegiance to Canada and its Constitution is consistent with today's reality and desire, especially since the new oath would be in addition to the oath of allegiance to the Queen.
This private member's bill in no way negates or removes our allegiance to the Queen. Our parliamentary monarchy is part of our Canadian Constitution, our Canadian history and our Canadian heritage. We in the House also know that the Constitution cannot be amended by Parliament alone without the consent of the provinces and territories.
My proposed oath of solemn affirmation to Canada would be but an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, not the Constitution, and is therefore in proper order. It comes as an addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen. This is not an attempt to diminish the Queen. She still represents Canadian traditions. However the monarchy no longer embodies the whole picture.
The Canada of today is very much a multicultural society, depicting citizens from all over the world. Amid this impressive mosaic, “Canada” is the one word that applies to everyone in the country regardless of their region or background. This is, in large measure, because Canadians feel an overriding sense of pride and a sense of belonging in their country.
Recently, while he was being sworn in, a new senator added the word “Canada”. This gave rise to a short debate in the other place, where it was decided that it might be desirable for everyone in Parliament to swear allegiance to Canada. This is interesting coming from the Senate.
I think it is desirable to go ahead, to take the lead and not wait for the Senate to do so. We can only benefit from an initiative showing our pride in and gratitude to a country that has given us so much happiness and good fortune.
The affirmation that I am proposing, which would be added to the swearing of allegiance, is not just a series of words. It is the recognition of democracy and responsibility. This is about what our actual form of government is all about. It is a representative democracy. We owe our allegiance and accountability to the people who elected us and who we represent. This is in accordance with democratic principles around the world.
More often than not, democratically elected officials in countries around the world swear allegiance to their country and to the people of their country. Some will state that we are part of the Commonwealth. I would inform members that Jamaica and India are but two examples of Commonwealth countries that changed their oath to include the country. Many others are debating similar measures, such as Australia for example.
We have to recognize that we are elected by the people to represent their interests and their concerns. We answer to the people and we are responsible to the people who elected us. Let us make it official and further enhance the trust that Canadians have in their parliamentarians. We owe it to all Canadians. Vive le Canada.