Mr. Speaker, I too am speaking in support of Bill S-22, recognizing the Canadien horse as the national horse of Canada.
I will divide my brief remarks into four sections: first, Senate bills and how they ought to be treated in the House; second, the value of symbols; third, the question of whether the Canadien horse is the appropriate breed, considering the claims of rival breeds to be the national horse of Canada; and finally, some of the reasons why the Canadien horse deserves to be our national breed and to be recognized as such.
I will begin with the first question. Some have been arguing, and this was discussed in the Hill Times a few issues back, whether Senate bills ought to be debated in the House and passed through this House when we face a situation in which private members' business and private members' bills are increasingly being shut down in the House.
There is a serious problem with private members' bills originating in the House being unable to go forward for a variety of reasons. It originates with the unwillingness of the government to allow backbenchers of all parties to put forward bills on various subjects that are of importance to their constituents. Unfortunately, one of the few ways that such bills can go forward is by originating in the Senate, which does not have the same degree of control from the government. For that reason the bill should not be rejected or considered on anything other than its merits as a bill in the House. That is really all that has to be said on that subject.
Really, a bill is a bill. The founders of our country were concerned about the nature of bills that could originate in the Senate. That is why they put restrictions in our constitution. Money bills, for example, cannot originate in the Senate. We ought to be respectful of their wishes and say that when a bill is not a money bill, it is just as legitimate when it originates in the Senate as it is when it originates here. We ought to seek to correct the problem of too much restriction of private members' business by dealing with the rules of this House and the behaviour of the committees of this House rather than through any other approach.
I turn to the question of the value of symbols. Some would argue that we ought not to be worrying about whether or not we have a national horse. I disagree with this.
Members should consider the symbols that we do have. We have a national animal, the beaver. There was a time when that might have seemed silly, but that is a unifying symbol. It relates to our history. The beaver has a prominent role in our history, both in New France and then through the Hudson's Bay Company, the Northwest Company and the settlement of the west.
Similarly we have a national leaf, the maple leaf. The maple tree is not endemic to Canada, but Canadians travelling overseas who see other persons with a maple leaf on their backpack know that they are fellow Canadians and feel an immediate sense of commonality and comradery with other Canadians. I do not think any Canadian did not feel proud watching our athletes marching into the stadium at Salt Lake City, wearing the maple leaf on their jackets. That is a unifying symbol even though it is not endemic to the entire country.
Third, we have a national song. O Canada originated specifically as a song that was relative purely to Quebec. Times have changed and it is now a unifying symbol for all of Canada. All of us again felt our hearts swell when we saw the Canadian flag, the maple leaf, raised in Salt Lake City and O Canada being played.
Finally, we have a national holiday so I do not see why a national horse would necessarily not fit into that pattern very nicely. I suggest this adds to the richness of our symbols. The greater the breadth of the symbols that unify us, the greater is our national unity.
I wish to deal with the question of rival breeds, other horses that could potentially be considered national horses for Canada. There are only two other breeds that originated in Canada: the Newfoundland pony and the Sable Island pony. Both have their origins here. Of course, neither of them could be considered to be geographically widely spread, particularly the Sable Island pony, notwithstanding its widespread fame. The Sable Island pony is not a formally registered breed whereas the Canadien horse is a formally registered breed. It is the only formally registered breed that has its origin in Canada. This is a good argument in favour of considering it our national horse.
It has been suggested that the mustang should be Canada's national horse. The mustang's formal name is the American mustang, and its endemic range after it was released from its ancestors, the Spaniards in the 1500s, was primarily in Mexico and the American southwest. Canada, especially the Canadian prairies, is simply too cold for the mustang to survive outside of having human care. It would be a poor choice as Canada's national horse.
Interestingly enough the mustang is partly derived from the Canadien horse. In the 1860s many Canadien horses used by both sides in the American Civil War escaped and the gene stock of the American mustang now contains the blood of the Canadien horse among its other components.
This is true of a number of American breeds including the Morgan, the Tennessee Walker, the American Saddlebred, the Missouri Fox Trotter and the standard breed. All of them have some ancestry from the Canadien horse. That is an argument not in favour of including any of them as our national horse. However the Canadien horse has had a tremendous influence and therefore does us proud as a nation.
I would like to say a few words in praise of the Canadien horse and its merits. The Canadien horse was introduced in New France in 1665 during the reign of Louis XIV. In contrast to the many other popular breeds in Canada such as the American Saddlebred, the standard breed, the Morgan, the American quarter horse and the Appaloosa that originated in the United States, the Canadien horse originated solely within Canada. By its physiology it is a horse well suited to Canada. It is physically a strong horse. It is not a large horse, but its compact size helps it to survive in cold weather. It is resilient and strong, thus the nickname, the little iron horse.
To give a sense of the natural hardiness of this horse I would like to read from a letter that was received by my constituency office. It is from an individual who owns some Canadien horses. It states:
Besides my two Canadien horses, I also have two American quarter horses. My two quarter horses have had numerous health and lameness troubles in the past year. They are kept in the same pasture as my Canadiens, who have not had so much as a scratch or a runny nose. My two Canadiens are fat and sassy on a minimum of feed. My quarter horses require a great deal of grain to keep their weight at a decent level.
I am not a horse owner myself but I do appreciate the good nature of the Canadien horse because my parents are involved with horses. They run a therapeutic riding stable south of Ottawa, and a good natured horse is absolutely essential to therapeutic riding for persons, particularly children, suffering from either physical or mental disabilities who gain benefits from the interaction with the horse and from knowing that horse will be well-behaved, gentle and considerate toward them. The relationship they form with the horse is every bit as important as the physical therapy they get from riding the horse.
I have breeders in my own constituency. I had the great pleasure last December of riding in a carriage pulled by two beautiful Canadien horses around the town of Pakenham, the centre for the breeding of the Canadien horse.
I would like to conclude with another passage from a letter I received in my constituency office explaining why one Canadian feels we ought to honour the horse. It states:
We should honour the Canadien Horse, who has earned the right to be called Canada's National Horse. The Canadien Horse truly represents what the residents of Canada should strive to be--strong, intelligent, noble, honest, hard working, and true to its roots. The Canadien is resistant to disease and cold, and lameness is practically unheard of. After all, none of us are native to North America, but rather, we all descend from immigrants of other countries, who came here, adapted, multiplied, and produced the many great residents of our nation. What breed to better represent our history, than one who has done the same?