House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was acadian.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, the House would give its consent to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC


That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure and some measure of optimism that I rise today in the House to launch the debate on Motion No.382.

As you know, this is not the first time that I submit to the House this motion that is so important to me, but I sincerely hope that it will be the last.

Some may wonder why I constantly bring up this issue. tIt is simply because it has not yet been resolved. Ignoring a reality that is unpleasant or that makes us uneasy will not make it go away like magic.

The fact is that a substantive debate has emerged within Acadian society regarding its painful past. Personally, I see this as a very positive and beneficial process, because it is a first step towards the healing of old wounds and, in the long run, towards true reconciliation.

The Société Nationale de l'Acadie, supported by its member and affiliated societies, has taken up the cause in the matter of asking the British Crown to officially recognize the facts of the deportation. Therefore, it is no longer the cause of one individual or a few people acting in isolation, but of organizations representing the Acadian people.

It would therefore be appropriate for the House of Commons to recognize the facts, since it cannot, as a democratic institution, continue to ignore movements that are active in our society. Moreover, in this particular case, it is useful to remember that the House has a privileged institutional relationship with the Crown. Thus, it can propose to serve as a conduit between the British Crown and the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, which does not enjoy this kind of privileged relationship.

It is not right to forget this tragedy that took place in Canada. Because it is the both tragic and glorious saga of the Acadian people that we are talking about.

Knowing these historical facts makes it possible to measure the road we have already travelled, and so be even more amazed at the vitality of the Acadian people today.

Thus it is our duty, and ours first, to take a calm look at this dark episode in our history. Subjects of the Crown since the treaty of Utrecht and tolerated under Queen Anne's edict, the Acadians, simply because of their language and religion, were deprived of their rights and freedoms, stripped of their goods and expelled unmercifully, in peril of their lives and in flagrant contravention of the constitutional principles prevailing since time immemorial, even before they were codified in the Magna Carta.

This legal document, enacted by King John, known as John Lackland, in 1215, and reaffirmed by Edward I in 1297, established a certain number of rules and rights which even a king must not violate.

It is a constitutional text whose provisions are essentially still in force today. In articles 35, 36 and 37 of the 1215 Magna Carta and in articles 28 and 29 of the 1297 version, it is stipulated that, and I quote:

[...] no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it. No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

Moreover, British law gave any subject the absolute right to stay in the country. Of course, in the end, these rights were not recognized for the Acadians as His Majesty's subjects. Yet, because of their birth right, they were under no obligation to take an oath to be considered His Majesty's subjects.

As for those who had been born before the treaty of Utrecht was signed, as I said earlier in this House, they became Her Majesty's subjects by operation of law alone, as confirmed by Queen Anne's edict.

And since they could not relinquish their natural allegiance to the king of France, because of their birth right, which British law also recognized, it would have been inconceivable for the King of England to ask them to bear arms against their former sovereign, which he was careful not to do, until Lawrence carried out the deportation plan devised by Shirley in 1746.

I think I have clearly shown the House that the requirement of taking an unconditional oath was just a crude and spurious attempt to legitimize a purely illegal act under British law.

Clearly, the goal was to disperse the Acadians in Protestant and English communities, so as to facilitate and accelerate their assimilation and eventually ensure their end as a distinct cultural, religious and linguistic group.

Some claim that this was, quite simply, genocide. Obviously, it is not easy to apply modern values and legal concepts to something that happened 250 years ago.

Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer and theorist who coined the term genocide, wrote in 1944 that he had created this term:

—to denote an old practice in its modern development.

Although the goal was not to kill people, many thousands of people died during that time. Entire families were wiped off the face of the Earth.

That said, there is no doubt that this kind of operation, as defined by the United Nations after World War II, is extremely similar to crimes of genocide.

The United Nations decreed that:

—genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;... forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

That said, I think that we can agree that this is a very serious event, that cannot be minimized or justified whatsoever. If we take a strictly legal, not to say legalistic, approach, we must conclude that the legal implications of these events are still being felt to this day.

In fact, the 1968 convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity stipulates that no statutory limitation shall apply to a crime of genocide, whether committed during times of peace or times of war.

Therefore, if the British really committed a genocide type crime against the Acadian people, some could claim that those guilty of such activities are responsible in perpetuity. Under current international law, British officers like Lawrence and Mockton should be brought to justice. The only problem is that these people are now dead.

In fact, all of them are dead, except for His or Her Majesty, there being in British law a legal fiction according to which His or Her Majesty can never die. “The King is dead. Long live the King,” as the saying goes.

According to this principle, Her Majesty could be held responsible for the deportation, particularly since the Magna Carta was violated.

It is interesting to note that here in Canada, since June 2000, when the act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes was added to Canadian legislation, it has been possible to prosecute the Crown for such actions. Section 3 of this act states that the Act is binding on Her Majesty. By this Act, the Crown gives up its immunity and in so doing, accepts the fact that it could eventually be held responsible for this type of crime, regardless of the time elapsed, because this procedure is of course retroactive, there being no statutory limitation.

I know that on the government side, several members are concerned that the Canadian government could end up being held responsible for actions taken in the name of the Crown, at the time of the deportation, because of the successor state principle and might have to compensate the Acadians. I want to reassure them. Even if some people would indeed like to see the Crown compensate the Acadians, it is important to note that this is not the purpose of the current motion.

Moreover, Université de Moncton professor of international law Kamel Khiari, a member of the expert panel set up by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie to address the implications of Motion M-241, has already expressed the opinion that, in crimes of this nature, responsibility cannot be transferred to the successor state but remains in perpetuity with the predecessor state, unless the latter has ceased to exist in law in the interim.

Not only does the United Kingdom still exist, but it is still governed by the same constitutional framework and, in theory, still has the same head of state, as has already been pointed out. Her Majesty therefore has a duty to officially recognize the wrongs done to the Acadian people in the name of the Crown, since such exactions do not fade from the collective memory of a nation as readily as some would have us believe.

In these cases, a curious psychosocial phenomenon apparently develops, the term for which was coined by Christopher L. Blakesley. “The phenomenology of shame” refers to the fact that, for a people that has been a victim of exactions of this nature, it is difficult to escape the perpetual painful memories of these events, unless a process of acceptance has been engaged in order to come to “own” these events. This process often involves recognition, by the authors of those actions themselves, of the wrongs that have been done as a result of these inhumane actions.

Despite the claims of some, this is not just a long-ago event that can be easily dismissed. Beyond the psychosocial effects that I just mentioned, the deportation had legal repercussions that theoretically could still apply today.

The deportation order that resulted in the catastrophic Grande Dérangement, has never been lifted and consequently is still in force today. An Acadian travelling to England could be arrested and deported since, theoretically at least, he would be considered a common criminal. It is high time we set the record straight and finally recognize the harm that was caused to the Acadian people, just as it was to the Maori and the Irish, in the name of the British Crown.

On August 16, His Honour Herménégilde Chiasson, a well known Acadian artist, was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer him my sincerest and warmest congratulations on this appointment, which, if I may say, caps a long and already very successful career.

In an interview he gave a few days later to the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal , the new Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick said he did not intend to take advantage of his position to exert pressure on the British Crown to apologize for the deportation of the Acadians. He added, and I quote:

I have always been a strong advocate of modernity. Acadia is burdened by its past. I have long felt that Acadians are bogged down in constantly analysing their history...Of course the Deportation was tragic, but we should stop dragging the past around like a ball and chain...Acadians should...roll up their sleeves instead of feeling sorry for themselves over their past.

It may surprise some, but I more or less agree with him. No one is asking him to get involved in seeking an apology from the British Crown. He is right not to want to get involved since no one is officially asking that the Crown apologize to the Acadian people any more.

Finally, it can indeed be unhealthy to dwell obsessively on tragic events of the past, to be nostalgic about paradise lost. This is why I believe it is very important for the Acadian people to come to grips with its tragic past, to finally turn the page on a dark chapter in its history, without forgetting it, so it can live for the present and look to the future.

We must not be afraid of learning from the past because history has made us what we are today and looking back at it can help us avoid repeating our mistakes and build a better future.

As suggested in Motion No.382 and as I have already mentioned, I think that the House of Commons, because of its institutional ties with the British Crown, must support the initiative taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie.

Could this kind of recognition reignite old quarrels and create conflict between the two main language communities in Atlantic Canada? I do not think so. On the contrary, I believe, as I was saying earlier, that it would be a first step toward true reconciliation.

I will conclude with this statement made by Honoré Mercier at the Baltimore convention, on November 12, 1889:

We are resolved to be guided solely by justice in our public affairs. We believe in justice no matter what: in the name of justice, we accept the heaviest responsibilities and the most serious consequences not only of the present and the future, but of the past as well. And when we realize after the fact that the dictates of such justice were ignored, that its interests were neglected, that its rights were violated, then we believe that it is necessary to go back in time to right the wrongs and pay the debt.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Laval East Québec


Carole-Marie Allard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to respond to the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, who is putting forward Motion No. 382.

The motion asks:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

I humbly suggest that this motion contains a major flaw. It has to do with Canada's sovereignty. Canada is no longer a colony and the wording of the motion is quite shocking for anyone who has some knowledge of constitutional law. I will explain.

In 1926, the Balfour Declaration set out that the dominions were equal in status and equal to Great Britain. Then, in 1931, the Statute of Westminster made Canada a sovereign state. The recognition of its sovereignty was finalized when, at the request of Canada, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Canada Act 1982.

Under this act, legislation passed by the British Parliament after the Canada Act 1982 is not part of the laws of Canada.

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes does not understand that. The constitutional status of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and of the Governor General is not similar to that of the Queen of the United Kingdom.

The Governor General of Canada represents the Canadian Crown and not the United Kingdom Crown. It would be totally iappropriate for a representative of the Crown in right of Canada to make representations to another country's institution, the Crown of the United Kingdom.

If the Government of Canada were to intervene, the initiative should come from the federal cabinet. It is the government that could then ask the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of the United Kingdom, to take appropriate measures.

Consequently, Motion 382 is seriously flawed as to its form, which in itself would be sufficient to oppose it. But there are other reasons relating to the evolution of our country and the Acadian community that compel me to not support this motion.

The deportation of the Acadians is obviously one of the darkest chapters of our history. The Acadian people was made to suffer greatly. Our historians recognize that. They all recognize it. The former Governor General of Canada, His Excellency Roméo Leblanc, himself an Acadian, said:

If there is one group of Canadians whose past could have poisoned their future it is the Acadians. In the middle of the Eighteenth century they were wrenched from their homes and deported to distant shores.

Some managed to escape this deportation with the aid of friendly native people. But they were refugees in their own country, stripped of their land and their voting rights and then later, three years after Confederation, stripped of their schools. When it came to the Acadians, the Fathers of Confederation had nothing to say!But the Acadians did not give up. We survived.

Also, during the ceremony at the University of Moncton to present him with an honorary doctorate in May 1969, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau said:

Some two centuries ago, New Brunswick seemed destined to become an exclusively English-speaking province. After the deportation of the Acadians, there was nothing to suggest any other outcome. The Acadians, having been eliminated in one fell swoop...were simply swept off the map...But you reclaimed your place in the sun, and refused to let the bitterness and resentment of old quarrels and inequities linger on.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage also stated in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia:

Disturbing as it may be, the deportation has also shown the courage and determination of a community that wanted to survive against all odds. This is what contributes to the strength and success of the Acadian community today.

The Acadians are a people, and a people in tune with the modern world. They are a community with a sense of belonging. They are brothers and sisters by their language and their heart.

She made this speech when she announced the cooperation agreement between Parks Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Société de promotion de Grand-Pré to develop the Grand Pré tourist site.

What should our attitude be toward this failure of the past? Should we keep going over the deportation and all the suffering it entailed? Should we try to quantify all the suffering inflicted on the Acadians? Should we blame those responsible or simply take stock of what happened and learn from this experience? No apology could ever erase this tragedy, but we should focus our energies on our present and our future.

What disturbs me also is not only the message that is being sent, but also the messenger.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, well meaning as he may be, belongs to a political party that promotes independence for Quebec. We cannot ignore the fact that his party wants to make an irreparable change in the Canadian political landscape.

Fortunately, we have so far been able to spare Acadians “le grand dérangement” that Quebec's independence, Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada, would have caused. But let us never forget, when we consider that my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois has a seat in this House, that his party is committed to a cause that is not about the survival of this country.

The separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes seeks would have resulted in the immeasurable tragedy of severing the physical links between Acadians and other residents of the Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada. This is an indisputable fact, and all Acadians know it.

This reality cannot be wiped out. And even though the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is well-intentioned today because he has discovered, among other things, that his family has Acadian roots and he now travels in Acadia, this does not take away from the message. He is the messenger of a party that does not believe in the cause of francophones outside Quebec, that does not believe in the cause of bilingualism in Canada and that would not hesitate to isolate Acadians if this would allow it to fulfill its dream of having Quebec achieve independence. Will we allow him to spend the rest of his political life bragging that he had this motion passed?

I invite the hon. member to consider his change in attitude toward French Canadians outside Quebec and the Acadians, a people we love and who are in tune with the modern world to paraphrase the Minister of National Heritage. I ask the hon. member to have the courage to admit that he has changed his mind about Quebec's independence, for the greater good of the Acadians he is now trying to help.

If the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes wants to honour Acadians and all other French Canadians with this gesture of respect and clearly state that his party must abandon plans for Quebec's independence, only then will I consider supporting him.

For the moment, I think that his actions are clearly inconsistent, and this must be pointed out, his personal qualities notwithstanding.

So, I anxiously await this statement from him. In the meantime, I want to add that Canadians are experts at managing tension between different groups. We have proven this in the past. It is by focusing on this ability that Canada will move forward, not by dwelling on past mistakes.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes on his motion.

The deportation of the Acadian people took place between 1755 and 1763. Acadians refer to this period as the “Grand Dérangement”.

I find this expression far too low-key to describe the ordeal of the Acadian people, and one which reflects their exceptional fortitude. Évangéline , the epic poem by Longfellow, is a reflection of the painful history of the Acadian people and depicts a brutal and cruel deportation. Here is, in a nutshell, what happened.

Before the arrival of the British army, Acadia encompassed the current provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It was made up of a string of rural and coastal communities, which depended on trade, fishing and agriculture. Acadian families were the first European families to settle in Canada, 400 years ago. These communities lived in perfect harmony with the aboriginal peoples.

Upon landing in Acadia, the British army behaved like an occupying force and demanded that Acadians swear allegiance to the Crown, unconditionally and notwithstanding their cultural and religious distinctiveness. When the Acadians refused, the British army reacted with brutality, burning down homes, taking control of fertile lands, and splitting up families by making men, women and children board different ships to be deported to Louisiana and all over the coast of what is now the eastern United States. Today, the people living in Louisiana are Cajuns, former Acadians. Others ended up in jails in England or were forced to go back to France.

Members can imagine that the hardships and injustice continued long after the journey ended. The hardships and intolerance are akin to what was experienced by the first nations, the Métis and all our aboriginal peoples, something that, in many instances, they continue to live with the consequences of.

Still today, we can see human rights being trampled in many countries. Around the world, religious, linguistic or cultural minorities are being persecuted and see their rights trampled, often very violently.

Canada itself is far from perfect. It seems to be hard for us, in Canada, to make amends for denying the rights of native Canadians, who are still living in deplorable conditions. We often have trouble maintaining a democratic, open and egalitarian society. Nothing can be taken for granted.

However, the good news is that modern Canada, born from this terrible tragedy, was built on a solid foundation of linguistic duality, tolerance and openness to differences. The key to modern Canada, as found in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, relies on the principle of equal rights and on our refusal to impose our will on a minority, where human rights are concerned. It is on such a positive attitude that modern Canada was built. Refusing to let the might makes right principle prevail has made Canada a showplace of unity with diversity.

This is why we are free to debate this motion which reflects the will not only of the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes but of the Acadian people that still bears deep scars as a result of this cruel attempt to eradicate them and trample over their dignity.

A philosopher once said, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger”. Acadian Canadians are proud to have survived the challenge, the Grand Dérangement. Today they are strong and proud members of the Canadian family. My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, who could not be here today and whom I have the honour of representing in this debate, is a vibrant example of an Acadian contribution to our country.

As a western Canadian I support this motion. The expulsion of Acadians was a senseless and barbaric act. For those who think that this was the way they used to do business in those days, may I remind them of a more recent event in 1923, the Chinese exclusion act, which also separated families by making it impossible for a wife to join her husband. Parliament rescinded this outrageous Chinese exclusion act and issued a formal apology to the Chinese Canadian community.

It is high time that we requested a formal apology from the Crown for the way we in the past treated one of the minorities that founded this nation. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has already made a formal apology to the Maori people from New Zealand, in 1995, and to the people of Amritsar in India, in 1999. There are plenty of opportunities for a formal apology to the Acadian people as outlined by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie.

Acadia will be celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2004; 400 years of history.

And if not on the 400th anniversary, then why not in 2005 for the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Grand Dérangement?

The British Crown will therefore have many opportunities to recognize the wrongs done to the Acadian people.

I urge all hon. members to take notice of the motion brought forward by my friend from Verchères—Les-Patriotes and to realize its significance for these people, who have also helped build our country, Canada.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is with regret that I will be voting against Motion No. 382.

My reasons for doing so are twofold. First, I feel that this motion is based on a faulty premise, that being that guilt can be collective and can be passed on from one generation to the next. Second, despite the good intentions of those who drafted it, the motion seems to attribute ultimate responsibility for the expulsion of the Acadians to the Crown, which is not an accurate reading of the events of 1755. A more historically accurate reading would lay blame with the colonial governors of New England and the pioneers they represented.

I will begin with the historical argument and then come back later to the philosophical one.

Many of the facts surrounding the deportation of the Acadians are unchallenged. In 1755, the colonial authorities began a process of uprooting and deporting that part of the Acadian population which had settled on British lands, beginning with the centre of the Acadian colony along the east shore of the Bay of Fundy.

Nova Scotia's Governor Lawrence, and Governor Shirley, commander in chief of the British forces in New England, began by seizing colonists' firearms to prevent them from using force to resist. Then they took a large number of adult males hostage in order to guarantee the docility of their families at the time of deportation.

In the years that followed, approximately three-quarters of the total Acadian population, or 13,000 people, were deported. Some of these people were sent to New England, others to Louisiana, and still others were returned to France.

Although we know with certainty the degree of suffering caused by the deportations between 1755 and 1763, it is much more difficult to pin down the historical responsibility for them. One thing is certain and that is that governors Lawrence and Shirley were at the heart of the decision making and must bear ultimate responsibility. But nothing proves that they acted with the approval of the Parliament of Westminster.

According to the most commonly accepted version of events, Lawrence acted with the authorization of the local council in Nova Scotia, and parliament and King George did not take part in the planning of the deportations.

More recently, Roger Paradis, a professor of history at the University of Maine, has uncovered documentary evidence suggesting that the authorities in London were involved. He cited a bill, sent to London in 1758 by Governor Lawrence, listing the expenditures incurred for the deportation. He also revealed the existence of a circular sent by Lawrence to governors of the New England colonies, which presumes that those governors were, at the very least, aware of the events taking place in Acadia.

However, what strikes me is that even in this revisionist interpretation of history the colonial authorities in Acadia and New England take on the primary responsibility for the acts committed, while the Crown has only a secondary responsibility. Moreover, it is obvious that the first ones to benefit from the military security that was increased as a result of ethnic cleansing in Acadia were the New England pioneers and specifically those living in the portion of the colony of Massachusetts then known as the “District of Maine”.

I emphasize that I will not support the notion of a collective or hereditary guilt, but even if I did support it, I think that the first collective excuses that should be conveyed to the Acadian people should come from the Government of Maine.

It is therefore interesting to know that on April 13, 1994, the Maine Legislative Assembly passed a resolution regarding the deportation of the Acadians. It was carefully drafted in such a way that the blame is laid exclusively on the British, and it never hints at the fact that Maine, a sovereign state, or its predecessor, the English colony of Massachusetts Bay, could have been involved in any way. I think the best we can say about this statement is that it comes from a serious misinterpretation of history.

Unfortunately, the motion before us today is based on the same mistake. The motion calls on the Crown to “recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name”. However, the fact that the deportation was ordered in the name of the British Crown does not mean that the Crown itself was the primary culprit, even in 1755.

Similarly, history is full of outrageous act committed in the name of various religions, or in the name of the people of a territory or another, while the authority named had very little to do, if any, with the harm that was done in its name. A more historically accurate motion could demand official apologies from the legislative assemblies of each of the New England states for the harm done in their interests and with their complicity.

I should be clear about the fact that I would oppose this too. I do so because I do not accept the notion that an institution can maintain a heritage of collective guilt which is imposed upon successive generations of those who become members of that institution or who fall under its protection.

It seems to me that some participants in the debate over this motion and in similar debates that have occurred in the past have contemplated two quite different concepts. The first concept is the expectation, which I regard as legitimate, that all participants in the public life of a civilized society should adopt a moral attitude toward the past. A moral attitude involves recognizing and embracing those past actions which are regarded as good and just, and rejecting those which are regarded as unjust or monstrous.

The second concept is the idea that guilt for a past injustice can be passed on, institutionally and collectively, in precisely the same way that the residual effects of that wrong continue to have some impact on the descendants of those who suffered the initial wrong. This is simply untrue.

The adoption of a moral attitude by an actor in political life allows us, as potential voters or as potential political allies, to assess how that individual might act in the future should he or she be a decision maker in some similar future circumstance. Such a calculation is necessary in a system of representative democracy because it is always conceivable that one can win an election in a time of peace and then find that his or her mandate extends into a period of unexpected turmoil or war. After the events of September 11, I think we can see the utility of such expectations.

By contrast, an attitude of collective guilt or responsibility, or worse yet, of expecting others to assume a mantle of guilt or responsibility for acts in which they themselves did not take part, strikes me as being of no utility at all.

A debate similar to the one taking place today took place in this House 17 years ago on Pierre Trudeau's last day as Prime Minister. He was asked by Brian Mulroney in question period to issue an apology for the wartime internment of Canadians of Japanese descent. Trudeau's response revealed a subtle grasp to the distinction that I am attempting to draw here today. He said:

I do not see how I can apologize for some historic event to which we...were not a party. We can regret that it happened. But why...say that an apology is much better than an expression of regret?...I do not think that it is the purpose of a government to right the past. It cannot re-write history. It is our purpose to be just in our time--

This does not excuse us from a responsibility to adopt a moral attitude of condemnation toward this great wrong any more than we can adopt an attitude of moral neutrality toward the monstrous evils of recent times.

Therefore, let us vote against this motion in its present form, but let us vote for it if it is reintroduced in the House in a form that allows us to express, without apology, our sorrow over this past wrong and if it allows us, without condemning others, to indicate our determination that no such wrong will ever in the future be tolerated on Canadian soil.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, to start with, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes for giving us once again the opportunity to discuss this historic tragedy, but also for his hard and ongoing work on the issue of the deportation of the Acadians and the recognition of an historical fact.

Whether we agree or not with the motion, we can all agree that it is the exemplary result of the kind of work a member can do when he believes in an issue and works on it in a professional manner. I am convinced that if I were to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to recognize this fact, I would undoubtedly get it.

For over three years now, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has proven that a member of the House of Commons can use his powers, capacities and responsibilities to put forward, debate and implement a bill or a motion that can make a difference in our society. It is to his credit, and I congratulate him.

To my friend and colleague from the Canadian Alliance who mentioned in his speech that he was opposed to asking for an apology, I say that I am in agreement with him, up to a point. However, this is not what the motion is about. He may have misread it. The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is in no way asking for an apology.

We are very surprised by the comments made by the Canadian Alliance member, since, last time, members of that party voted in favour of a similar motion. However, today on a motion that is not all that different, they are presenting opposite arguments. They might have the opportunity to explain why during the next hour of debate.

I am a lot less happy when I hear the member for Laval East using arguments, which I would call partisan and fallacious, to show her opposition to the motion. I find it sad. I believe that if there is one thing that must unite us all, wherever we sit in the House, it is private members' business.

When dealing with government bills, it is quite normal for government members to feel bound to support them,

We are dealing with private members' business, and some members are playing petty politics and saying we are separatists and they do not like us. It seems to me that, from time to time, we should rise above that.

I think that if we keep on foster the population's mistrust toward behaving this way, we will only enhance the population,s mistrust toward politicians. When we deal with a motion on a non-partisan subject like this, this kind of comment is inappropriate. Whether or not we agree with the Canadian Alliance, we have to admit that it took the high road, that its arguments made sense and were well reasoned.

When people who are criticial of politics and refuse to vote are asked why they take this stand, they answer by giving examples like the comments of the Liberal member for Laval East. We can and we should behave differently, all the more so since she told us in a previous speech that the three traditional pillars of the Acadian economy are fisheries, agriculture, and forestry.

The hon. member said that agriculture was still a way of life in Acadia and that people get up early to pick potatoes. This is an insult to a whole people and even to this Parliament.

The hon. member also said that she cannot support such a motion because Canada is a sovereign country. I beg to remind her that Canada's head of state is the Queen of England.

I will also remind her that we have a governor general as well as lieutenants-governor. Yes, we signed the Statute of Westminster in 1931, if I am not mistaken. And yes, we still have ties with Great Britain.

I will remind the member for Laval East that all our laws must receive royal assent. I hope I am not telling her anything that she does not know already, because she has been here for some time.

Some people made comments to my friend, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, to the effect that apologizing means living in the past and that this is not right.

I will the backgroung to Motion No.382 to show how partisanship was set aside to respond to concerns expressed and to present a motion that would be acceptable to as many members as possible.

I will read to you the first of these motions, calling for the recognition of an historical fact that I believe is undeniable.

On March 27, 2001, more than two years ago, Motion No.241 read as follows:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to present an official apology to the Acadian people for the wrongs done to them in its name between 1755 and 1763.

We have heard all sorts of arguments, mainly from the Liberals and the Alliance, saying “We do not agree to ask for apologies”. We said, “Fine, we will amend the motion. We will change it to try to satisfy you”. We have even tried to find a new mover so that the nasty separatist argument would no longer apply. We have taken out the words “ to present an official apology” and replaced them with “...a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people ”.

We are not asking for money or for apologies. We do not want to find a culprit. We only want an official recognition of an historical fact. At the time, for reasons that do not seem very valid, the motion was defeated.

However, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has two main qualities: tenacity and perseverance.

He came back on February 6, 2003, with Motion No. 238, which read as follows:

That this House officially acknowledge—

Because, at that time, it had been determined that it was not the responsibility of the Governor General to take action.

—the harm suffered by the Acadian people from 1755 to 1763.

We were not asking for apologies. We were not accusing anyone. We were just asking for an official acknowledgement. We were presented with the same arguments all over again; for example: one should not dwell on the past; one should look toward the future; this is being moved by separatists. So the motion was defeated.

The Société Nationale de l'Acadie then created an expert panel to review the issue.

The member for Laval East said that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes went around, implying that he stirred things up. I am sorry, but when a member of Parliament goes somewhere to consult and work and when his efforts lead a society to create an expert panel to study a motion, that member is not visiting as a tourist.

Such arguments are cheap shots. I am sure we would all agree that such a comment is rather nasty.

After the consultations, the last motion is now being brought forward. It reads as follows:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie—

This does not come from separatists.

—she will intercede with He rMajesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

All members who spoke here in the House have reminded us of what happened during the deportation; that is why I did not do so; I believe we all know and recognize those events.

Should we live in the past? People say that it is not a good thing. But if a person or a group of individuals who fell victim to some injustice or tragedy want healing, if I may use that expression, if they want to rise above their pain and suffering, an official acknowledgement by those who caused that injustice will allow them to take action, turn the page and continue to grow, as the Acadian people have shown they are quite capable of doing.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I had not really intended to speak to the motion, but a number of thoughts have gone through my mind in the last few minutes and so with your indulgence I would like to share some of them.

First of all, I remember seeing the film Roots a number of years ago. I do not know if any of the older generation here remember it. I remember how brutally the black people in Africa were treated as they were captured and taken as slaves. I remember the next day when I went to my job at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology as an instructor. We had a number of foreign students there and when I saw a black student there I had this urge to just go up to him, hug him and say, “How can you ever forgive us white guys for doing that to you?” I really felt that way, yet I was not there and I did not do it. I had that urge to say, “I am sorry that happened and I want you to know that”.

I thought also in the last few minutes of my own family experience. In a way, I guess, I would like the Russian people to apologize to me and to my family for having shot three of my grandfather's brothers, but I also remember my grandmother, the sister-in-law of the men who were shot, saying, “We have to get on with our lives. We can do nothing but forgive. We need to move on in our lives”. Her theme was always one of gratitude that they were able to make their way to Canada. I believe in my heart that my grandfather and grandmother genuinely had no ongoing hatred or rancour toward the Russian people because of what they did.

In all of this we need to keep a balance. It is true that we cannot rewrite history. It is probably true that those things happened, but I think we need to in all candidness say we are sorry these things happened and we hope they never happen again. I think we definitely need to focus on the future and to do so with great respect for our fellow man.

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Proulx LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes put forward Motion No.382, which concerns the Acadian community. This motion asks that Her Excellency intercede with Her Majesty to:

—cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

Like one of his colleagues did earlier, I too would like to congratulate, even praise, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes for the tireless work he has been doing for many years for this cause. Whether I agree with him or not, it is important to recognize his hard work on this issue and several other issues. I applaud his dedication.

First, I would like to inform the House that the motion does not appear to be consistent with our country's constitutional relationship with England. Moreover, it does not reflect the positive evolution of the Acadian community since the sad events that occurred almost 250 years ago. Let me explain.

Since the 1926 Balfour Declaration, which made the dominions equal in status among themselves and vis-à-vis Great Britain, and since the Statute of Westminster which confirmed this in 1931, Canada has been recognized as a sovereign country.

Recognition of Canada's sovereignty was completed when the Parliament of the United Kingdom, at Canada's request, enacted the Canada Act 1982, stating that no act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 came into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has a different constitutional role with respect to Canada than with respect to the United Kingdom. These different attributes were demonstrated in 1953, when the Parliament of Canada adopted the Royal Style and Titles Act, and when the Queen took her oath of coronation.

The Governor General represents the Crown of Canada and not the Crown of the United Kingdom. It would be completely inappropriate for a representative—

AcadiansPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon.member will have an opportunity to finish his speech during the next debate on this motion. 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.

It being 2.18 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:18 p.m.)