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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

There are some who do not even listen when someone is talking. That shows just how much they prefer making noise to listening to what we say on this side.

The House of Commons should be a place where there is an ongoing public debate, a thorough and calm examination of the great issues we face in this country, and not a place where people who are not equipped to take power or do not even aspire to it take pot shots at one another and indulge in petty politics. Some parties act like lobby groups.

People watching us last night were also very impressed because our government has decided to not only make promises, but to put its words into action. For instance, the government provided $2 billion last week for health care and agreed to meet with the premiers this summer to come up with viable solutions to our health care problems.

Politicians, whether at the provincial or the federal level, all realize that money alone is not the solution in the area of health care. We need to find new ways to work together and further promote cooperation. A lot of work remains to be done. This summer, the first ministers will review the situation and try to come to an agreement on new ways to make our health system viable in the long term. The goal is to avoid any more emergency infusions of billions of dollars.

Another example is the government's commitment to immediately provide municipalities with full relief from the portion of the goods and services tax they now pay. The government is also prepared to work with the provinces to find a way to help finance some of their most critical needs, which have to do with municipal infrastructures throughout the country.

The people were impressed to see that we were not willing to wait two months, until the next budget or the next election, to make good on our promises. The Prime Minister said, “Start counting now, the money has started to come in as of February 1”. These are not merely promises, they are commitments already being acted on. The people were very impressed with how our Prime Minister and our government were working.

Also, they were thrilled with some of the measures affecting young people, including the increased access to registered education savings plan, particularly for poorer Canadians, and also the modernized Canada Student Loans program for the less fortunate students.

Companies that are part of the social economy were a special focus of the Speech from the Throne. This is the first time, I think, in the history of Canada or one of its provinces, that the emerging social economy sector has received so much attention.

Aide domestique in northeast Montreal is an agency that employs dozens of people. In the Montreal east area, services are offered to seniors and people who sometimes rely on not-for-profit agencies. There are 11 similar agencies in Montreal that employ some 500 people. There are 103 of them in Quebec in the social economy field, in several sectors.

This is very important for the harmonious functioning of our society and our community. They work with seniors, young children and families. They work for NPOs or cooperatives, and, according to the Speech from the Throne, they can benefit from measures comparable to those available to small businesses. This represents considerable progress and much-deserved recognition of all those who are continually working hard for the well-being of our society.

We welcome our Prime Minister's commitments with respect to sustainable development and the environment. All these commitments cannot be listed in a few short minutes. However, we must highlight those that, in our view, are key to the future; we are talking about sustainable development and the environment.

In the Speech from the Throne, an entire series of measures was announced. We will go beyond Kyoto—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

For the eternal skeptics in the recesses of this House who say that the government hesitates when it comes to respecting its commitments to the Kyoto protocol, the Prime Minister said we will go beyond Kyoto. These are firm measures.

The Prime Minister also said we would not just hold forth on the international stage and participate in protocols and major agreements; we will start by putting our own house in order. That is a sincere promise, not just a general statement.

We are going to undertake a 10-year, $3.5 billion program to clean up contaminated sites. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has been recommending for years that the government take the initiative; now it has. Firm commitments have been made.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

The Bloc is not included in that. The Bloc will be taken care of in the election.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

The hon. Yvon Charbonneau

As my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord says, there are two kinds of contaminated sites; those for which there are environmental solutions and those that require an election.

There are thousands of contaminated federal sites in Canada and numerous studies have been done over the years. We are now ready to go forward and to deal with the problems that have been identified. This will also affect sites like the Sydney tar ponds that have been widely explored and analysed for years. Millions of dollars have been set aside for that purpose.

The situation is the same for abandoned mines like the one in Yellowknife and many others in Canada's far north. These are important measures because we are dealing with fragile ecological environments that deserve our attention.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

The hon. Yvon Charbonneau

Some people are not really interested of course, because these are measures that they themselves had asked for and that have suddenly become unacceptable when the government took the lead. These people are not serious. They like to play politics.

Also with respect to the environment, the Prime Minister made a commitment that he had already put forward when he was critic for the Liberal opposition, 12 or 13 years ago, and that he reiterated as Minister of Finance, which had to do with using environmental indicators in major government decisions.

These were environmental indicators for the air, for emissions and for the quality of our water.

Our government is not guided strictly by financial criteria. Environmental criteria are also now part of the decision-making process, following the national round table on the environment and the economy. These are major steps forward.

The throne speech includes other commitments on the marketing of innovative and environmentally friendly technologies. Such technologies exist all across the country. There is a huge potential. The marketing process was undertaken a few years ago. It will be more sustained in the coming months and years.

I should also tell the House how pleased we are to see the commitments made by the government to develop our skills, our human resources. For the past number of years, the government has been focusing on this area. This commitment is firmly renewed in the throne speech. We are talking about our human resources. In particular, there is a very specific commitment by the government to better integrate new immigrants into our economy and our communities. Immigrants are not a problem in Canada. They should not be. On the contrary, they are the solution to a number of our problems in the future, provided some changes are made. We must recognize the skills of those who come to Canada.

There are people who were trained abroad and who have Ph.D.s and masters degrees. They come here, but the professional corporations, the provinces and the administrations do not recognize their degrees. They end up driving taxis. We need cab drivers, but not to the point of relying on people who have Ph.D.s and masters degrees, and who are trained to be doctors to do the job.

We must recognize the skills of these people. We must also, in other cases, facilitate the updating or upgrading of their skills. In my view, these are very concrete commitments that were well understood and appreciated by people like the residents of Montreal, particularly in the eastern part of Montreal, in my riding of Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies.

The people who were there included many who were of Hispanic, Arab, Haitian or Asian origin. They saw in these words a message of hope, a policy of open arms and humanity that truly warmed their heart. Such was the effect of the throne speech on people.

I would also like to applaud two other initiatives of the government. There is the creation of an organization that will be called Canada Corps and that will allow our young graduates to acquire valuable international experience when they are 20, 22, 23 or 25 years old. Not only will they acquire meaningful experience, but, at the same time, they will get first-hand experience in international cooperation by participating in projects that will help countries targeted by this organization.

I think this is one of the most promising projects. Indeed, when these young people will have participated in these projects overseas for six months, 18 months or two years and will come back in this country, they will be better Canadians and also better citizens on the international level. They will be people who are more aware of the realities and of the need to get involved to contribute to a better world on the international level.

Everyone is talking about globalization. We should humanize it, give it a human face. As soon as they come back, these young Canadians who are 20, 22 or 25 years old, who will have acquired this experience, will contribute to Canadian politics and to our society in a more humane, social and fair manner. This proposal is extremely promising.

I also saw the government's commitment to work more with unions, with major Canadian unions that are particularly involved in the skill development sector. This work with unions is considered an essential component of our training and skill development system. This kind of commitment is quite something. We heard our Prime Minister make this commitment.

There are so many reasons to applaud this Speech from the Throne that some people would inevitably blame me for not saying enough. However, they are so inspiring and meaningful that they got enthusiastic support from all the people who took part in the meeting last night and from all the people who expressed their satisfaction.

Through their attitudes, their applause and their welcome, they expressed their confidence in the government, in our new Prime minister and also, I must admit, in your humble servant, who was seeking a nomination to represent their riding in the next federal election.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but be enthused with the tremendous report that the hon. member has reflected from his own province. I see from the floor opposite the enthusiasm that members of other parties have toward the throne speech. I would like to comment briefly on health care which was part of the member's speech.

Across Canada we see a tremendous shortage of health care workers in the future. In my own province of New Brunswick there are many local concerns that we do not have general practitioners available to look after the many families in our province. Earlier this afternoon we heard a speech from an hon. member from Newfoundland who talked about education. Next week some medical students are coming to Ottawa to meet with us to discuss the future of training and education for future doctors in our country.

Would the hon. member comment briefly on the future of health care? What opportunities does he see to improve our health care system? Our government in the throne speech was certainly behind that initiative. We want to see a better health care service in which all people have ready access for their medical needs.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question on health care.

I have already had the privilege of being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, and I closely considered these issues a few years ago. It is now clear that health is the top priority in Canada, a fact that the federal, provincial and territorial governments are unanimous on.

In any given region in Quebec or elsewhere, health is the basis of every discussion. It is the main concern.

At any meeting with seniors or other groups, health rapidly becomes the basis of discussions and concerns. People want reassurance.

Often, we talk about security. There is now a Minister of Public Safety in Canada, and I am that minister's parliamentary secretary. The main concern currently is not borders or terrorism, which still are part of the whole, but health.

People want to know what care they can expect for themselves, their children, their families and their parents, no matter what their age or their condition. That is the first insecurity that needs to be addressed.

Last week, the first ministers and the federal Prime Minister agreed to meet again over the summer, specifically to discuss measures to be taken in the medium and long term. We know that these problems cannot be solved merely by throwing a billion here, and a billion there. Sometimes this is even counter-productive, because purchases are made despite the fact that the human resources to operate the equipment are not available.

My colleague is right to point out that young professionals, health professionals in particular, are increasingly open to the idea of training leading to a new concept, a new practice of medicine, including a preventive aspect, which they would like to see more developed than it is.

We have opened up the public health field. We all heard in the throne speech how much emphasis was placed on that. There is a Minister of State for Public Health, a system that is at the preparation stage. Public health is essentially prevention, not waiting for disease to strike but taking pre-emptive action by looking at what living conditions, hygiene and diet we can have to avoid later health problems.

Young health practitioners are increasingly open to the idea of training in this area.

All of the initiatives to which my colleague has referred will be totally productive for the health system in the medium term.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:55 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to commend my hon. colleague who, despite the heckling by our colleagues from the Bloc, was able to remain dignified and explain in some detail the key issues raised in the throne speech.

He told the House about the initiatives for our communities. God knows how pressing the need was to help improve the financial situation of our municipalities. He talked about research and development. He mentioned the review of our foreign policy, especially through CIDA and its initiatives.

He expanded on the new initiative, called Canada Corps, to help young Canadians participate in an international program that would make them better citizens of the world, thanks to the hands-on experience gained in the field.

I would also like to put a question to my hon. colleague. I want to come back to an element of the throne speech which is crucial to the future of our country and which was barely covered by the media, that is the new approach to the social economy. I know for a fact that this reflects the reality people face in each of our ridings. It did not always get significant support from the various levels of government.

People involved in the social economy sector will now have access to the wide scope of programs available from our various departments. However, the throne speech does point out that, during the upcoming year, the government will be focussing on developing new initiatives to support the work of these people. I would like the hon. member to tell us what he foresees in terms of support for to all those in the social economy sector.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for the opportunity to return to this aspect of the throne speech.

It is rather unusual for a throne speech to place such importance on a sector like that. We are talking about big business, productivity, international competition, technology. In all the throne speeches, in all the political commitments, in all the speeches from opposition leaders, the same major themes keep coming up. There is one, however, that is not often heard except from this side of the House, but it was clearly mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and that is the social economy.

At first glance, for people who have not yet taken the time to examine this concept, it might seem rather contradictory. Usually, we keep social measures, economic measures, and environment and health measures separate, and that is how it is. The social economy is a concept that is just emerging, that is receiving more and more attention in our society. Briefly, it is a fabric, a web, of small organizations. Right now they are small organizations, but sometimes they can be a little bigger, with 50, 75 or 100 employees.

These organizations work with people. They help meet community needs or the needs of groups, such as underprivileged children, seniors, people unable to cut their grass or shovel snow, clean their windows or clean their apartment because they are sick or disabled.

There are all kinds of formulas, such as recycling plastics or dangerous goods; all kinds of companies are emerging in this broad sector of the social economy.

There are opportunities for some to privately provide these services and earn a profit, but when we talk about the social economy, we talk about non-profit organizations—NPOs—or cooperatives. They hire people and provide services at low cost to those who need them; they provide jobs for people who provide services that the private sector does not, which also gives these services a human quality. They are close to local needs. This is an emerging sector, a new sector.

The throne speech demonstrated incredible sensitivity. It is extremely avant-garde. The government says that it has identified this sector and that it will do more than just watch it, encourage it, congratulate it and award medals; it will take concrete action to help these people and give them recognition. It is also a sign of recognition for the entire volunteer sector within the social economy.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.

Liberal

Christian Jobin Liberal Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question concerning municipal infrastructure.

We all know too well that, in the last few years, municipalities have had some difficult choices to make. Of course, they maintained their primary services, like garbage collection, snow removal, and so on. But right now, there is a hidden deficit in terms of municipal infrastructure.

I would like the hon. member to tell the House what the government said in the throne speech about how they are going to help municipalities improve their infrastructure.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

There is nothing!

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I heard a member opposite say, “There is nothing”. However, there is a small word, deal, mentioned in connection with our municipalities. They might think it is nothing. It is a deal we want to make with the municipal governments. It is very important to us, although it might not mean anything to the members opposite

Second, it is important to mention that we want to make a deal, but without infringing upon provincial jurisdictions. We are very much aware of the incredible needs of the larger municipalities as well as a lot of smaller ones in terms of infrastructure, sewer systems, water supply, communications, and so forth.

Full relief from the portion of the goods and services tax municipalities now pay is a first step in the right direction. It comes into force right away, not just after the upcoming budget. It has been in force since February 1. This deal will lead to other measures. A deal is an agreement between partners. It is not a federal government order by which provinces and municipalities have to abide. It is an agreement. I do hope that all the parties in this House will recognize the merits of such an agreement and process and will support them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Jean Augustine LiberalMinister of State (Multiculturalism and Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have this opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne.

I am particularly proud to be Minister of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women. I cannot think of a position that I would rather be in as I look at the words in the Speech from the Throne.

I have always been passionate about multiculturalism, equality and human rights. I have devoted my life to creating a better world where women and men from all backgrounds feel they are accepted and valued.

It is a great moment to be the minister responsible for Canadian multiculturalism and belong to a government that continues to cherish and value diversity as a fundamental ethic of Canadian society. I am pleased to underscore that February is Black History Month, a time when we recognize the many achievements and contributions of black Canadians who have done so much to make this nation what it is today.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa in 1604, who is believed to be the first person of African heritage to have set foot on our shores. More than 1,000 young people participated in the Mathieu Da Costa challenge this year demonstrating that our youth certainly value diversity.

As the Speech from the Throne states, we want a Canada with strong social foundations where people are treated with dignity, where they are given a hand when needed and where no one is left behind.

I think everyone of us in this chamber wants to ensure that no one is left behind in our society. Moreover, the Speech from the Throne goes on to say that changing the way things work in government will help all Canadians to achieve their goals, starting with strengthening Canada's social foundations.

It means removing barriers to opportunity. This philosophy is given concrete expression in our openness to immigrants and refugees, and as clearly stated in the throne speech, abhorrence of racism. These powerful statements are possible because we, as a society, have held these values for decades.

Our commitment deepened in 1971, when Parliament adopted the multiculturalism policy. Tomorrow, I will have the privilege of tabling the annual report on the operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act for 2002-03. It will outline how federal departments and agencies are advancing the values and principles of multiculturalism. It is a document that is full of extraordinary facts, and indeed there is much about multiculturalism that is extraordinary.

I wonder if members are aware that Transport Canada has adopted a diversity strategy and that the Canada Council for the Arts increased its grants to culturally diverse artists and arts organizations by almost 7% in 2002-03.

I want to share with the House the results of two recent groundbreaking surveys. One of these surveys revealed that 80% of Canadians believe that multiculturalism enhances the value of Canadian citizenship. The other study revealed that the vast majority of the population, 86%, say to us that it has not been discriminated against or unfairly treated. What an achievement. At the same time, we know that some people registered that they have been treated unfairly.

All of this incredible progress has occurred because Canada has laws, like the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, to ensure that the multicultural heritage of all Canadians is valued.

I am living proof that we live in an open and inclusive society. But as long as people express that they have experienced racism and discrimination, we still have work to do. I am confident that the action we have already taken will benefit many generations after us. We must continue to act.

The action plan against racism that we are working on right now will be a powerful way to address the challenges we still face. This plan is a direct result of our international engagement following the world conference against racism held Durban, South Africa in September 2001.

Canada's multiculturalism policy of encouraging people to retain their cultural identity as Canadians is recognized as a model for the world. The action plan against racism is a continuation of this openness and philosophy of diversity.

Thirty 30 years ago Prime Minister Trudeau adopted the multiculturalism policy that led to the adoption of the act in 1988. Today we are celebrating its 15th anniversary.

As one of my predecessors, the former minister of state for multiculturalism and citizenship, the hon. Gerry Weiner, once said about this law:

Gone are the days when multiculturalism was a side show for new Canadians or those labelled as “ethnics”. Today's multiculturalism is about removing the barriers of discrimination and ignorance which stand in the way of acceptance and respect.

Gerry Weiner was right. The multiculturalism policy is an all-embracing and adaptable vision for Canada, one that gives us the openness and freedom to take our place on the global stage, while creating the kind of society we want for our children.

We now live in a country where more than 18% of us were born outside of Canada and where more than 13% of us are visible minorities. In urban centres, this figure is much higher.

The new deal for cities outlined in the Speech from the Throne is designed to help our communities become more dynamic, and more culturally rich and cohesive. This in turn will make them stronger partners in building Canada's social foundations.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that the cities' agenda includes all the urban multicultural strategy that supports inclusive institutions, and dynamic and cohesive communities.

With the increasing diversity of our population, Canadians understand more than ever that the task of nation building is not dependent solely upon political and economic structures. It is profoundly influenced by the social and the cultural relationships between communities within our society and by their participation in that society.

It is important to say that government is committed to gender equality, as affirmed strongly in the Speech from the Throne.

It reflects the priorities of women in Canada in all their diversity, priorities fundamental to equality, ensuring we can contribute to every aspect of the life of our country.

The commitment to gender equality is essential to strengthening Canada's social foundations. Canadians want a government that fully and truly engages them, reflecting their unique perspectives and shared strengths, as women and men. Gender equality is a goal we all share. Gender equality is key to economic and social success. And gender equality is central to effective government.

This is why we have been working on an agenda for gender equality, a framework that helps the Government of Canada to incorporate a gender perspective in its policy development, promoting understanding of the benefits of equality and engaging citizens.

The Speech from the Throne reinforces the government's commitment to gender equality. We were pleased by the clear statement that was made in the Speech from the Throne on the issue of gender equality because it is a commitment that the agenda for gender equality facilitates.

The future of our children is Canada's future. This has an impact on women as both parents and caregivers. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in the future of our children, particularly aboriginal children, ensuring that they get the best start in life, protecting them from exploitation and abuse, and supporting them in lifelong learning.

The government will improve access to quality health care, and build stronger and safer communities. These are concerns close to the hearts of many women for whom violence can be a daily reality.

The Speech from the Throne highlights the new recognition that our social and economic goals are inseparable. A stronger economy requires stronger social foundations, and economic strength and a more equitable society are clearly linked.

The government has committed to supporting new approaches to community development, known as “social economy”. That support further recognizes the contributions of women in improving the social conditions of their communities and in building a strong and vibrant social economy that meets people's diverse needs.

I will close with two thoughts. When the multiculturalism policy was adopted 33 years ago by the Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, he stated:

A policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework is basically the conscious support of individual freedom of choice. We are free to be ourselves.

But this cannot be left to chance. It must be fostered and pursued actively. If freedom of choice is in danger for some ethnic groups, it is in danger for all.

The Right Hon. Pierre Trudeau's words ring true today as they did 33 years ago.

Whether one is talking about strengthening Canada's cities, strengthening our social foundations, strengthening our economy or our standing in the world, multiculturalism and gender equality will continue to play an important role in our government's plans for the future.

This week the government pledged to ensure that every citizen has a strong voice and can contribute to building our nation. More than half of those voices belong to women. They must have every opportunity to improve their lives and participate in securing Canada's future.

I call on all of my colleagues to support the Speech from the Throne, the ideas expressed therein and let us work for quality of life for all of our citizens, men and women.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that when I read the throne speech--although there were some platitudes and clichés about the history of multiculturalism, the role that multiculturalism plays and the importance that we place on multiculturalism--it belied the reality of the role of government.

As the critic for multiculturalism for my party, over the last year I had the opportunity to repeatedly hear complaints from the visible minority community in particular in this country that the government had not moved on the protocols that we signed onto at Durban. In fact, the plan of action that was required both in terms of legislation and policy that needed to be implemented in this country had not been followed.

I would like to ask the minister, is there a plan of action that will implement the recommendations coming out of Durban?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by complimenting the member for the work he does and for the attention he pays to the visible minority communities. I know that his neck of the woods is a very crucial and important part of our history.

At the same time it is important for him to know that we are in the process of getting an action plan ready for the House and for Canadians. Before we went to Durban, we went around the country and consulted with Canadians. We consulted with civil society. We consulted with groups and organizations. They have given us a plan and their commitment on what they think would be the best way for Canadians to interact and to ensure that racism, hate, discrimination, xenophobia and all those things that happen and create havoc in society will not exist.

Having heard from Canadians, we are in the process of getting our plan ready. We are doing what is important, which is the consultation before we set out a plan of action. At this point in time my departmental officials and I are working very diligently to ensure that we have a plan of action which we will bring to Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister on her speech about a half hour ago celebrating the start of Black History Month.

Could she perhaps add something to what she has already said about her hopes and dreams for newcomers to Canada, not of origin in Europe, and particularly women?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too want to extend the courtesies to my colleague. I know of the work he has done to reassure several groups, including the religious groups, especially after September 11. So many of those groups at that point in time felt that issues in Canadian society were very disturbing to them.

The people who joined us here in Canada traditionally we could say were descendant groups or the immigrant groups. I want to contrast that to the groups who are joining us today. The groups who are joining us today are coming from Asia, from Africa and from places where the individuals are people of colour, the visible minorities. We can refer to them as emerging groups in our society. In certain areas we have to pay special attention to language. We have to pay special attention to religious beliefs. We have to ensure that the multiculturalism policy responds to the needs and concerns as they join us in Canadian society.

We speak about social cohesion. We talk about cross-cultural communication. Those are the pillars and themes of the work we do in the multiculturalism program. It is very important for us to say to new people who are joining us that they are now participating members of Canadian society and therefore share the values that we hold, the values of inclusiveness, of respect for diversity. Those are the values we hold.

We welcome them. At the same time we recognize with the statistics before us that by the year 2011 we will be completely dependent on immigration for our labour force. When we welcome them we have to ensure that everyone joining us in Canadian society is included and is given that equal opportunity to participate.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister responsible for the status of women for holding on to her position in the new cabinet at a time when many other women lost their places. I wish her well in the challenging days ahead.

I particularly wish her well given the challenges posed to her by the absence of any concrete reference to status of women issues in the Speech from the Throne. It is interesting to note how invisible women are in that road map. Women just do not seem to have a place in the future direction as envisaged by the government. In fact, it is interesting that the word “woman” was only mentioned twice just in passing.

We have some big challenges ahead of us, especially in terms of Canada's failure to comply with the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women.

As a starting place I would like to ask the minister if she would support the notion of having a parliamentary standing committee on the status of women. It is something that more and more women from all sides of the House are talking about and proposing. We would like to advance that idea with the hope that the House leaders would agree and that all parties would come together with the formation of such a standing committee, so that we would have a permanent place for discussing women's issues and a forum for dealing with many of our failures to live up to UN obligations.

Would the minister responsible for the status of women support that idea? Could she give us her commitment to help us ensure that it comes to pass?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has such concern for the status of women and works diligently in that area.

I want to say to her that it is important that we work together. It is important for us to recognize that this is not an ideological question but it is a way in which all of us as women and all of us as members in the House should be working together to improve the status of women. Any avenue that would give us that opportunity for exchange is one that should be encouraged.

The Speech from the Throne gave us clear indications as to the government's commitments to women. I could cite instances of aboriginal women. I could cite instances where we spoke about caregivers. The social and economic agenda definitely will include women. There is also the issue of education. There are so many citations, but were we to extrapolate the word “woman” and other “women”, “women”, “women”, at the same time we must recognize that all of those issues include women. We cannot talk about cities without talking about women. We cannot talk about education without including women. We cannot deal with any of those issues without thinking of who those issues represent.

I want us to continue to work together to ensure that we improve gender equality in this country. I want all of us to work for the improvement and for the status of women.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt Ontario

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for an excellent and eloquent speech.

I probably represent one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in Canada. It depends on how we interpret the Statistics Canada data. When I look at the diversity not only of my constituency but of the greater Toronto area and indeed all of Canada, there is such a wonderful variety of people. We have to reach out and make sure they are all part of our society.

I would like to offer an idea to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism, which is to use four simple words as a motto. Their starting letters are “R-A-C-E”. The “R” stands for respect. We have to respect all Canadians as equal. The “A” stands for accept. We accept everybody as an equal partner and an equal stakeholder in this country. The “C” is for celebrate. We celebrate what is Canadian and the diversity we have. The “E” is for embrace. We embrace what is uniquely Canadian.

I am asking the minister for multiculturalism if she would undertake that, or perhaps I could ask the unanimous consent of the House, that this would be the motto for everything that goes out from the ministry of multiculturalism. The four letters together spell the word “race” and we are all part of the human race.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have not spelled it out in that fashion, “R-A-C-E”, but at the same time I think everything we do in the multiculturalism program speaks to respect, speaks to diversity and speaks to the fact that we celebrate each other. When we talk about social cohesion, that is what we are talking about. We are talking about all of those issues that take our diversity into consideration.

I like the terms as my colleague put them, respect, accept, celebrate and embrace. As the Minister of State for Multiculturalism I will make sure that I include those words in my vocabulary in that fashion.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.