House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was norad.


Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings, and pursuant to order made earlier today all questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 3, at 3 p.m.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

May 29th, 2003 / 5:15 p.m.


Lawrence O'Brien Labrador, NL


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the second Sunday of December as National Children's Memorial Day.

Mr. Speaker,this is a very special moment for all those people throughout this great country who have lost their children through violence or other reasons and their children are no longer with them.

I would like to make a special plea to the members of the House of Commons to support my motion. The motion speaks well of all and I am asking them to join with other nations to support a national memorial day for children.

Our children are very precious to us and we love them very much. Those of us who are parents certainly know what our children mean to us. It is quite heart-rending when a parent loses a child. The loss of a child is very painful.

The idea for the motion was originally suggested to me by colleagues, friends and constituents of mine from L'Anse-au-Loup, my hometown in Labrador, Betty and Dennis Normore. Betty and Dennis Normore lost a child, Paula, aged 14, two years ago in a very tragic accident. She was riding a snowmobile. The snowmobile did not make the embankment. She slid back down the hill and very unfortunately slid into a waterhole and under the ice. This happened in the month of January. It was tragic indeed. It is my great honour to stand here in this great House to ask that this day be honoured for children like Paula.

Dennis is a teacher and principal at Mountain Field Academy in Forteau, Labrador and has worked with children all of his life. Betty is a health care worker who works with elderly people in a senior citizens home. We are talking about the great bookends of our society, the children on one end and the elders on the other. However, this is about children.

In 2001 the Normores lost their daughter Paula in a very tragic snowmobile accident. Paula was a bright student. A wonderful young woman was lost to us in that very tragic incident. It reminds us of how precious and fragile life is and the lives of our children.

The loss of Paula was felt by the whole community and certainly by many throughout Labrador. Paula's memory is honoured every year by a benefit fundraiser organized by her family and friends and the community. The people she left behind are building something positive out of a tragic loss.

The national children's memorial day is another way in which parents, family and other loved ones are finding their way through the tragedy of losing a child. This concept originated in 1996 in the United States. Through the strength of the Internet it has quickly spread at the grassroots level and has been promoted by many organizations which help parents and families cope with the death of a child.

The Compassionate Friends, an international self-help organization for bereaved parents and siblings, has been instrumental in promoting this event. The Compassionate Friends was founded in 1968 in England. The organization now has chapters in countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Australia, Russia and New Zealand. It has chapters in 29 countries in all.

The Compassionate Friends is a grassroots organization of and for parents and siblings who are coping with the death of a child of any age from whatever cause. In Canada there are over 50 chapters of the Compassionate Friends providing support to grieving families across the country.

On the second Sunday of December, families come together to remember, to grieve and to celebrate the lives of the children and to help one another. That time of the year is particularly important for bereaved families who have to face the holidays without the child they loved so dearly.

It allows parents and siblings to share their grief, to find comfort, to build strength and to heal, and especially to remember the young life they lost. An especially touching aspect of the day's observation is the “wave of light”. At 7 p.m. local time, in public or in private, in towns and cities around the world, people gather to remember the special children they have lost. They symbolize their lives through the lighting of candles.

This creates a wave of candlelight starting in New Zealand and spreading around the world. Each hour, as the candles burn down in one part of the world, the wave flickers up again in another. The candle flames, like children's lives, are fragile, but by joining with families around the world, every grieving loved one can find strength and healing.

It is a non-denominational, multicultural commemoration that unites families and loved ones from around the world, not only in their grief but in their hope.

While the grief over the death of a child is something that surviving family members must live with every day, the national children's memorial day will give families a special day to come together. It will help whole communities, health care professionals and others to raise awareness of the needs of bereaved families. This memorial day will help families continue to build something positive together out of their own personal tragedies.

In the United States, the Senate has recognized national children's memorial day annually since 1999. The day is also marked in countries all around the world through the wave of light and other acts of remembrance.

This private member's motion would, I believe, be the first case where a national children's memorial day is permanently recognized by a national Parliament. This does not create a statutory or public holiday and does not cost Canadians or the Government of Canada anything financially. It does, however, allow us to recognize and show our support for grieving families and build something positive out of such tragic circumstances.

I would like to commend Betty and Dennis Normore for the strength and courage they have shown after the loss of their daughter Paula. They are helping others in similar circumstances cope in their own way with their own loss.

I would also like to thank them for bringing their valuable suggestion to my attention. It is my honour and privilege to bring it before the House today.

I would like to convey to the House my hope that national children's memorial day will find support from all members of all parties and from all regions of the country. I hope we can work together to help bereaved families and all our communities find strength with one another and honour the memories of the precious children they have lost.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great joy that I participate in today's debate on Motion No. 396, put forward by my colleague opposite, the member for Labrador. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the second Sunday of December as National Children's Memorial Day.

From the outset, I would like to say that I am in favour of this motion, the purpose of which is to keep a promise that, in my humble opinion, Canada should have honoured a long time ago.

There is already a Universal Children's Day, which is celebrated every year on November 20. In 1954, with resolution 836, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that every year, Universal Children's Day be an international day of fellowship, of understanding among children, with activities to promote the well-being of children throughout the world. In 1954, governments were asked to select their own day to commemorate children.

November 20 is the day the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It is odd that Canada has not responded until many years later, considering it was in 1954 that the United Nations General Assembly asked countries, including Canada, to institute such a day. Today, in 2003, almost 40 years later, we are discussing what should have been obvious since 1954.

Several organizations and groups have had the opportunity to celebrate Universal Children's Day in their own way. What is ironic today, and what we must remember, is that if the government and this House agree to recognize a children's day in Canada then this day should not be simply a national children's memorial day. It should also allow us, as a society, to shed light on and measure all of the government's assistance to children.

We have to remember that there is more to this than just instituting a memorial day for children, we must take concrete action to reduce the problems that plague children.

It is important to remember that it was in November 1989 that all of the political parties in the House of Commons voted unanimously to work to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Parliamentarians as a group said that child poverty was a priority.

But when we look at the results today and when we hear that two million Canadian children live in poverty, despite the fact that the government mentioned the issue in its Speech from the Throne, we have to wonder what happened. It is all well and good to institute a children's memorial day, but that is not what families want from us. We need to come up with concrete proposals and real change.

When we consider that out of 17 other industrialized countries in the world, Canada has the second highest child poverty problem, second only to the United States, that is what a memorial day can do. It can help shed some light on the factors and elements that children fall victim to in order to come up with real solutions. I think that we must expose these problems that are plaguing children.

Compared to 1989, there are now 68% more children living in families who are on social assistance. In 1989, all members of Parliament voted unanimously to fight child poverty. Compared to 1989, there are now 44% more families that have experienced periods of unemployment. Aboriginal children are at greater risk of living in poverty than other children. The annual income of poor families with children is $16,700. These are some of the facts a memorial day could bring to light. It would be an opportunity to show the reality of the situation and better fight this problem.

This day must, however, also allow Canada to fulfill its international commitments as far as children are concerned. Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has ratified a number of other international conventions. But ratification is not enough, they must be implemented as well.

For example, my motion calling for the United Nations Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to be respected was passed unanimously by this House. Canada must play a lead role with those countries that have not yet ratified the convention, since it is so vital where child abduction is concerned.

We know children are affected by many things: war, the burgeoning child pornography networks, abduction, increasing child abuse.

We must, in my opinion, take steps to use this special day to bring together civil society and its elected representatives in order to come up with a dynamic plan of action that will enable us to solve a number of the issues I have spoken of today. The member for Labrador's motion concerning this day, which I support, must lead to an annual stocktaking of what civil society and government have accomplished.

It is not necessarily a day of celebration. It must be a day that offers us a forum for looking at issues and what we have accomplished in connection with those issues, to see whether we have managed to reduce child poverty, child abductions, child pornography rings. That is what such a day is all about.

As I have said, it has been a great pleasure for me to take part in this debate. I thank the hon. member for presenting the motion, and I will personally be voting in favour of it. I am convinced that my party will do likewise. There is one thing we must keep in mind, however: the importance of this day lies in the opportunity it offers us to focus on what is the most fundamental in any society: children and the protection of their rights.

What we must do is to ensure that they live in a more balanced society. Very often, they are considered victims. We have a responsibility to provide them with better choices, choices that will allow us to respect their rights but also, and more importantly, to allow them the total freedom to be the best they can be. In my opinion, this is how we will build the society of tomorrow, a balanced society based on the respect of children's rights.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak to this private member's motion, Motion No. 396, introduced by my colleague from Labrador.

As a reminder to those listening, the motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the second Sunday of December as National Children's Memorial Day.

Children and the very special place they hold in our hearts have been used to promote many issues and ideas, some good and some not so good, but this proposal to recognize a national children's memorial day is a very, very good proposal in my view.

Many days are set aside to remember special things. The reason for this is that we recognize the value of those regular times of remembrance, so we have Christmas, Easter, New Year's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labour Day, Remembrance Day, National Child Day, Literacy Day and so on. The list is really quite long.

A national children's memorial day would be a valuable addition to this tradition of days of remembrance, and since, as I understand it, no expenditure of public funds is necessary to implement this proposal, such concerns should not limit support for this initiative.

Being a memorial day, we know that this proposal is dealing with a memory. It is memorializing something, in this case the death of a child, a very tragic experience. The purpose of a national children's memorial day would be to help people, particularly parents, remember their loss in a special way. It would be a day on which special events could be organized to bring people together who may have nothing else in common except that they have had to deal with the loss of a child and are grieving the death of a child.

It could play a vital role in the grieving process for many families. It would be a way to tell grieving families that society supports their need to remember, even years after the loss of their child. We do not want them to sweep that experience under the rug or out the back door after a few years and forget that tragedy as though it never happened.

Depending on the support system people have, they may receive a lot of comfort in the early days of a loss as people gather around them, but that support can drop off very dramatically long before their own grieving process has worked through and they have stabilized. A national children's memorial day could help remedy that problem.

I think it would be very reasonable to expect that in this place, with our 300-plus members, at least some of us have had our own experiences with the loss of a child. I expect that there would be a lot of personal empathy for a proposal like this.

There are many ways in which we can lose a child. We could have 100 people in a room and they could all have had a different experience. And here we are talking about children, as I understand it, all the way into their teenage years. Just because a child grows up, he or she does not stop being our child. I have a 24 year old son, a 21 year old daughter, a 9 year old and a 3 year old. They are still my sons, my daughter, my children, and will be right through until the day I die.

Some children die in tragic traffic accidents. There is a particular website with respect to this with links on the Internet to where memorials have been set up by parents to remember their children. One tells the story of a boy hit by a car when he was trying to run across the highway. It was a very tragic loss of life. Another memorial was to a girl who, just days before her graduation, died when she fell asleep at the wheel of her car just a few miles from her home.

Other stories involve losses though illness and disease and children who have died from cancer or AIDS or one of many other childhood diseases. One Internet memorial was for a beautiful little girl who died at the age of three. As far as everybody knew, she was born healthy. However, two months after her first birthday, she began to lean to one side when she walked and soon afterwards she was diagnosed with a golf ball-sized malignant brain tumour.

Many parents will carry the pain of these tragedies with them forever, or should I say at least in this lifetime, and it is a real encouragement to them that they do not have to carry this pain alone, that at least once a year we can set aside a special time with others to remember their child. A national children's memorial day could be of real value to those parents as they adjust to that loss and try to cope.

These are not the only childhood tragedies. There are thousands of women and families eagerly anticipating a new baby who have to deal with the tragedy of a miscarriage. As I was going over this, it came to mind real quickly that my sister-in-law, Marilyn, several times had a miscarriage when the little babies were a number of months along the way. My brother Lincoln and his wife Marilyn have had that occur on several occasions. At a point they adopted a special son, Nathaniel, a chosen son, as a tiny baby. Then two other precious children were born to them, Samuel and Tabitha. But it does not completely eliminate that grieving and that great sense of loss they had from the miscarriages of several children.

My wife and I have also had two miscarriages and we are confident that we will meet those two little ones in heaven some day. I think very few people realize how traumatic a miscarriage can be until they experience one of their own. Because of the battle in our society over whether or not an unborn child is truly a child, women dealing with a miscarriage may feel that pain alone. They might feel very alone in that experience and less comfortable in sharing that pain with others believing that they really should not be feeling so much anguish in the first place.

A couple of a weeks ago, I sent a picture to all my colleagues here on the Hill using today's amazing technology. It was an ultrasound of a 56 day old baby, a baby in the first trimester of a pregnancy, not quite two months old. The picture showed how incredibly well defined that baby was, with hands, feet, organs, eyes, facial image and so on at that 56 day stage. I would have to say at this point that in order to legitimize abortion some people still call babies of that age just a blob of tissue, but medical technology has really exposed that deception, that fraudulent claim, when we know it is life. We know it is human. It is a little baby.

Then there is the experience of abortion and the deaths of unborn children. About 100,000 unborn children die in Canada each year by way of abortion. Sadly, the rhetoric and the politics involved in the issue have not allowed people to recognize the emotional trauma women face when it comes to abortion.

For women who do proceed with an abortion, what do they experience afterward? I have had the conversations to know. Many of them feel deep remorse, regret and guilt, but because they are not allowed by society to grieve openly and because of the personal shame so many of them feel over that abortion experience, they turn their pain inward and it demonstrates itself in other destructive and sometimes harmful behaviours. Regardless of what other people tell them and regardless of the circumstances that conspired to bring them to that decision to abort, many of these women know what was destroyed inside of them and know that it was a little baby and they grieve. Many of these women were pushed to that experience by a husband, partner, boyfriend, by a mom, a sister or family member, but they grieve the loss of that little one.

Last week several of my colleagues and I shared the podium at a press conference with some ladies who were talking about their regrets over abortions they had many years ago. One of those ladies, Angelina Steenstra, talked about the destructive lifestyle choices she made in her attempts to deal with an earlier abortion, choices that resulted in a sexually transmitted disease and infertility so that today she can bear no children of her own. Hers is one of thousands of similar stories. These women grieve. Following an abortion, many women grieve their loss. A national children's memorial day could be that valuable time of remembrance for them in their healing process as well.

A number of memorials have been set up in cemeteries across the country and in my province of Saskatchewan, including one in Saskatoon, to remember the deaths of unborn children. I understand that is done across the country and across North America as well. Canadians want to remember the deaths of those unborn children rather than having them dismissed as insignificant and meaningless.

We also need to remember those little ones who are stillborn or those who lose their lives to sudden infant death syndrome. It is a terrible and still poorly understood phenomenon. There is a memorial day in the United States promoted there by groups that assist parents who have lost children through SIDS.

There are children who are murdered. There are children who die in tragic accidents. The cases and examples are endless. What is clear from these many examples is the kind of impact that a national children's memorial day could have on the lives of thousands of people across Canada.

The pain parents experience when their children die is something that cannot be explained in rational terms. The bonds between parents and children involve intangibles that are beyond our understanding.

We need to hope that as members in the House we will recognize this special relationship between children and their parents by establishing in Canada a national children's memorial day. I commend the member for his initiative in this regard.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 396 put forward by the member for Labrador and I commend him for it. His motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the second Sunday of December as National Children's Memorial Day.

I think this is one of the nicest gestures that could be made right now in the House of Commons, considering all the problems we have in Canada that are hardly to our credit. It is truly a nice gesture and the right time to put forward in the House of Commons a motion such as this that recognizes children who passed away at an early age.

I would like to point out that my NDP colleagues and I will support this motion. I would sincerely like to thank the member for Labrador on behalf of my party and on behalf of Canadian fathers and mothers who have had the misfortune of losing a child.

It has already been mentioned that this idea started in the United States. It is a good idea. There may be one problem with this motion and it is something we should look at, that is, whether it should be in the second week of December. Remember that December 8 is the day on which we commemorate the 14 young women killed at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. In addition, December 10 is recognized as United Nations Human Rights Day. In choosing the second Sunday of December, we might have two commemorative events at the same time.

I am sure that the hon. member is aware of that and the House should also be aware and try to make this a unique day, not twinned with another commemoration. Then, parents could devote themselves to the essential, such as a solemn candlelight ceremony or something that would give people an opportunity to remember together as a family. Thus, everyone would have a chance to talk. All of Canada could talk about and recognize this. Because these are sad days for the families; they are not easy days.

Personally, I have been spared such a tragedy; I have not lost any of my children, but it is the last thing in the world I would want, losing a child. For people who have lost a child, it must be something very difficult. For example, one of my brothers lost a daughter at birth. After that, he had six boys. Two of them died in accidents. These are not easy things for parents to face.

However, when a motion such as this seeks to recognize a national day, that occasion deserves this honour. We recognize Labour Day. As other members said, we recognize mothers' day and fathers' day; it is important to recognize such occasions of mourning. How many parents have lost a child, because that child died during the night? This would give us the chance to be a family, be part of a region, a municipality or parish, and we would remember that we must never forget, as the family can never forget. This would remind people who have never experienced such pain what the families are going through. This would bring people together. That is this motion's greatest gift. It helps to unite people who have never experienced such pain with their neighbours, their sisters, their brothers who have. Together, everyone can remember the past. It would be a national day of remembrance for everyone.

Also, we can now address the issue of the number of the children who die from hunger. Today in Canada, the best country in the world, it is sometimes thought that no children die of hunger, but some do. Sometimes the authorities do not release this information. They do not want to publicize this kind of thing. But, sometimes, children die, and perhaps it is due to hunger, as happens in other countries.

Not so long ago, there were reports that there were 1.4 million children going hungry in Canada. Obviously, in some families, some kids might die from illness, but it is perhaps malnutrition that causes fatal illness in young children.

I will not spend more time on this, but I simply want to tell the hon. member for Labrador that the New Democratic Party supports his motion. We sincerely thank him for having introduced it in the House of Commons. We will be voting in favour of his motion.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

New Brunswick


Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this motion before the House inviting the Government of Canada to establish a national children's memorial day.

The idea of establishing a special day to pay tribute to Canadian children is commendable. It illustrates Canada's determination to respect children, to never forget them and to pay tribute to them for all they bring us during our lives.

I am happy to note that this idea of the importance of children already received the support of the House when it passed Bill C-371, the National Child Day Act exactly ten years ago. This act designates November 20 of each year as a day to pay tribute to children. National Child Day has a positive impact on their life, their accomplishments and their role in society.

In the last ten years, National Child Day has become an important mechanism in helping communities and families pay tribute to children, and respect and cherish them in the ways they deem to be the most appropriate.

In the next few minutes, I would like to discuss the progress this country has made vis-à-vis children thanks to National Child Day. This important day has helped us better understand the rights that have been recognized for children and has prompted us to strengthen our collective commitment to provide Canadian children with the opportunities they need to develop their full potential.

National Child Day is observed on November 20 in order to commemorate two historic initiatives of the United Nations: the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, on November 20, 1959 and, even more important, the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on November 20, 1989.

The convention is the most complete international agreement on human rights that has ever been negotiated. It establishes fundamental rights for children around the world, and protects these rights by setting standards for the survival, growth and protection of children.

This convention addresses all aspects of the lives of children from birth to age 18, particularly their basic rights to food, housing, and accessible drinking water. It also deals with health care, recreation, education, protection against exploitation and violence, and the opportunity to be heard in matters that concern them.

It is also important to note that the convention assigns an essential role to parents and the family as far as child-rearing is concerned, and provides a framework focussed on parental rights and responsibilities.

Since the United Nations adopted it in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most heavily ratified treaty in the history of human rights.

As a signatory to the convention, the Government of Canada has made a commitment to enforce its provisions within the framework of its own laws, programs and policies. National Child Day is one of the most positive and tangible manifestations of that national commitment.

Since 1994, Health Canada has played a major role in National Child Day by preparing and distributing educational documents on the convention, and supporting special events aimed at raising public awareness of such vital issues as child protection and safety and healthy development.

Just recently National Child Day activities have been combined with another major UN activity, the special session on children held last spring in New York.

In preparation for the session, the Government of Canada took advantage of National Child Day 2001 to invite children and youth to express opinions on issues of concern to them. Their comments were collected in a report called “Your Voice Matters:Young People Speak Out on Issues Related to the UN Special Session on Children”.

One of the salient points of the report was that Canadian children and young people are very anxious to see their environment protected and to be safe from violence.

The opinions of Canadian youth were integrated into the declaration and outcome document of the special session, “A World Fit for Children”.

This action plan supports the principles and goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and consists of a program outlining goals, strategies and actions in the following four areas: promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS.

In order to have the program reach every household, the theme of National Child Day 2002 was “A World Fit for Children”.

This theme was the basis for wide-reaching activities, including the production of a CD-ROM for teachers on the rights of the child. It was created in collaboration with NGOs such as Save the Children Canada, UNICEF, and the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. It was distributed last fall to a representative sampling of schools across the country. This CD-ROM provides information on National Child Day, the UN Special Session on Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It also offers creative activities enabling children to learn about their rights, visit educational Web sites and be informed about the Canadian Children's Art Gallery project.

This artistic project led to the creation and distribution of postcards promoting a world fit for children, and to their participation in the activities marking World Child Day in 2002. These postcards were sent all over the country, to schools and RCMP detachments chosen at random.

Among the activities related to National Child Day, November 20, 2002, was an opportunity for Health Canada to reprint a poster for children, explaining the Convention on the Rights of the Child in simple terms.

The department also updated its popular Web site about National Child Day, adding other information on the rights of children and on the United Nations Special Session.

National Child Day in 2002 was also marked by the publication of two important reports on the Government of Canada's progress in helping young children get a good start in life.

The first one, entitled “Report on Early Childhood Development Activities and Expenditures”, sets out the government's progress in supporting young children and their families under the Early Childhood Development Agreement announced by federal, provincial and territorial first ministers in September 2000.

The activities listed included a new folic acid awareness campaign, improved maternity and parental benefits, and projects which were recently subsidized under Heath Canada's Community Action Program for Children.

The second report released on National Child Day 2002, entitled “The Well-Being of Canada's Young Children”, shows that the vast majority of these children are growing up in safe and secure environments. It points out that improvements are required with respect to collecting data on aboriginal children and children with disabilities, two areas the government is currently looking into.

The reports and activities I just mentioned show how important National Child Day is as a yearly reminder of this country's standing commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

The most important message National Child Day sends to Canadians is to do everything in their power to ensure that our children are surrounded by love, sympathy and understanding as they develop, that they are considered as individuals at the early stage of their development and that they are provided with every opportunity to achieve their full potential as adults.

A decade after the National Child Day Act was passed in this House, it is gratifying to see this national day occupy such a special place in the hearts of families, educational institutions, businesses, day care centres, youth groups and community organizations in every part of the country.

I am delighted that the spirit of this motion is consistent with the initiative already taken by our government. We will gladly support this motion which will ensure that we remember individually and collectively the children we have lost.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Lawrence O'Brien Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I extend thanks to my hon. colleagues. I have tremendous appreciation for their support: the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and my colleagues who spoke on the other side, the NDP and the Canadian Alliance. I want to thank them very much.

This is a very appropriate motion, a very appropriate moment, and I says thanks. I am sure all Canadians, particularly families who have lost children, will be very grateful for the debate that has taken place here today. I am certainly looking forward to the vote on this motion, to having this instituted and having it become a part of Canadian society. I think it is tremendous.

As I was sitting here I was reminiscing, and we all can reminisce. I am very fortunate to have two beautiful children. I heard hon. members talk about their children. My children are university students and graduates. I think about a child like Paula Normore or I think about the children of my friends who have known throughout my life.

I have a good friend who I went to see at Christmastime a few years ago. He had a 16 year old child who was violently killed in a snowmobile accident in Labrador City. I thought about the situations of young people killed in violent air crashes in small planes and so on. Then I thought about this moment and how fabulous it was, a moment of which I am very proud.

I am very proud that my constituents put this thought forward to me. I am very proud of my staff who has helped put this into perspective. I believe there will be full parliamentary support for this vote.

With that, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak. I will look forward to the vote. I know Dennis and Betty Normore, together with all parents throughout Canadian society, will certainly welcome this coming to fruition. It is duly worthy that we have a Canadian national child memorial day.

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed that we see the clock as being 6:30 p.m.?

National Children's Memorial Day
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

National Children's Memorial Day
Adjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 20, I raised a question in question period expressing my concern with the federal government's unwillingness to respect provincial jurisdiction in its budget, which had been delivered a few days earlier. I noted that while there had been nationwide disappointment with the budget expressed by many provincial governments, opposition to the federal budget had been particularly clearly stated in the Quebec legislature.

The then minister of finance for Quebec, the leader of the ADQ and the finance critic for the Quebec Liberal Party, which was still at that point in opposition, all expressed their complete disapproval of the federal government's interference in provincial jurisdiction. At the time I wanted to know why the minister did not trust the provinces to administer programs for health, families, social housing and education.

The minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs gave a most unsatisfactory response to my question. I am here today to further question the federal government's infringement on the rights of the provinces to deliver social programs such as education.

Let me give a clear example of the kind of insensitivity to educational priorities that has been shown in this budget.

In Bill C-28, the budget implementation act, the federal government plans to retroactively amend the provisions of the Excise Tax Act relating to school bus transportation. This takes place after the federal government lost a test case in Quebec and was ordered by the courts to pay back GST paid by the schools for transportation. Astonishingly, the Liberal government's solution is not to simply pay the money that it owes to school boards, but instead the budget is pushing through a retroactive clause to justify a tax on local school funding that the courts have said is unlawful.

Technically speaking, the federal government may have a legal right to impose retroactive taxes on schools, but it goes without saying that there is no moral justification for this. Money that would have been used to educate our kids will now have to be diverted to the bottomless money pit known as the federal consolidated revenue fund.

This is not just a Quebec issue. In Eastern Ontario, the Upper Canada School Board will be particularly hard hit by this retroactive tax. This school board will be deprived of $2.59 million. That is $2.5 million that could have been used for school repairs, the hiring of more teachers, or for the replacement of infrastructure.

My fellow Ontario Alliance MP, the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, has raised this issue in the House of Commons, poignantly stating the problem as well as the effects it will have on school districts in her riding. On May 12 she stated, and I quote:

The decision to grant only a partial GST exemption of 68% to school boards for the supply of transportation services has meant that school boards have had to pay millions of dollars in GST payments to the federal government instead of applying the funds to important educational requirements.

That applies to the Upper Canada School Board as well which is in my riding and it applies to school boards in many other parts of the country, particularly in Quebec where this test case took place.

Therefore I ask the parliamentary secretary this. How can she and her minister claim that the federal government is working, as he said in his response to my question in question period, cooperatively with provincial and local authorities when it refuses to even allow them to keep moneys that it owes to them under the law?

National Children's Memorial Day
Adjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.



Diane St-Jacques Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this debate requested by the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton who, on February 20, asked the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs about the federal transfer payments to the provinces and funding for various social program.

The member for Lanark—Carleton is suggesting that the current government does not trust the provinces to administer programs in these sectors. He also maintains that additional tax points are, as he puts it, the only way to guarantee stable and long-term funding. On these two points, I beg to differ with my hon. colleague.

First, it is incorrect to say that our government does not trust the provinces to administer their social programs. As the minister himself said on February 20, in each of these areas, our government has, in fact, established excellent cooperation with the provinces. So, it is incorrect to say that the Canadian government does not trust the provincial governments.

My time is limited, and I would have liked to examine this issue more fully, but I want to provide just one example of this spirit of cooperation: the agreement on health signed last February 5.

Under this agreement, the first ministers agreed on a new health plan that would contribute to improving health care in all areas of the country. The Canadian government will contribute $34.8 billion to this plan over five years, to alleviate the current pressure on the health care system, to establish a health reform fund for home care and catastrophic drug coverage, to purchase diagnostic and medical equipment, and to invest in information technologies.

In addition, every year, governments will inform Canadians how the funds will be used to meet the targeted objectives.

Clearly this is not a sign of any mistrust in the ability of the provinces to manage their social programs. I would see it more as a willingness of the two main levels of government to work together for the greater good of the people we are called upon to serve.

I was just talking about health, but there are other social sectors that our government is addressing under the Canada Health and Social Transfer. The government will make $37.8 billion available in 2003-04 for such areas as health care, post-secondary education, social assistance, social services and early childhood development.

Of this amount, almost $17 billion will be in the form of tax points. The formula the member for Lanark—Carleton refers to in one of his questions on February 20 is already used by our government for funding social programs throughout Canada.

I am therefore surprised that the Alliance member would raise this issue in the House today. In my humble opinion, the government can be proud of its record in federal-provincial relations. It is because of its spirit of cooperation that this country has become what it is today and it is in this same vein that we intend to continue making it prosper in the future.

That is why I feel the statements by the member for Lanark—Carleton are unfounded and I wanted to refute them.

National Children's Memorial Day
Adjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the question of the unreliability of federal funding to provinces, the federal government has a much larger tax base than the provinces and certainly more than the local authorities, such as school boards and municipal governments.

For that reason there is a perpetual problem with what the government in Quebec refers to as fiscal disequilibrium, what the rest of us might think of as a simple incapacity of the provincial governments, without a reliable, stable and growing source of funding as the population grows and ages, to take care of their vital needs. That includes being able to take care of health care.

Uncertain federal funding has created tremendous problems for provinces in this regard. Very little of the excise tax collected on gasoline is passed on to the provincial governments. When it comes to the question of school buses, we find that in its relations with local governments and school boards, the federal government is unwilling to simply allow them to keep the money to which they are legally entitled. This is a serious problem and I do hope the government will take it seriously.

National Children's Memorial Day
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Diane St-Jacques Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Alliance colleague can criticize our government's policy with regard to the provinces if he wants, but the facts belie the alarmist report he seems to take pleasure in giving.

When our country succeeds, in almost all areas of human endeavour, in being one of the top and most enviable performers in the world, it is okay to say, very humbly, that Canada is on the right track.

Quite honestly, I do not think that we have anything to learn about respect, cooperation and, above all, tolerance from the Canadian Alliance in terms of our relationship with our provincial partners.