House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.


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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from April 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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1:20 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to again address this bill, which extends equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples while respecting religious freedom.

Clearly the government believes that this legislation is an appropriate way to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is committed to its passage. We have been considering this bill at length in the House over the last few weeks. To date, there have likely been over 100 members who have spoken to this bill.

I suggest that the time is right for us to take this matter to committee and I would, accordingly, like to discuss the matter of whether we are really going to be committed to this legislation or not. It is extremely important because when we look at what is set out for Canadians, the government has put out very clearly and distinctly the opportunities and options. I think Canadians can see through what has been brought forward by the members of the opposition.

When we look at this matter, there are clearly many issues brought forward that simply do not stand the test. When we look at the alternative approaches that have been brought forward by the opposition, clearly we find ourselves in a position where they simply do not carry the day. They simply do not make sense. They do not have the support that is needed.

Why are we in fact going forward with extending civil marriage instead of using other terms, and other means and methods? Clearly only equal access to civil marriage will fully comply with the charter equality guarantees. Any institution other than marriage, such as civil union, is less than equal.

The government represents the rights of all Canadians equally and will not treat some Canadians as second class citizens. Rights are rights are rights. None of us can, nor should we, pick and choose the minorities whose rights we will defend and those whose rights we will ignore.

The Supreme Court was very clear in its approach to this matter. Although some in the opposition would suggest that in fact there was not a clear and distinctive statement about religious freedom, there were a number of very clear statements made in the decision of the Supreme Court.

When we look at the actual reference report, it asked whether the freedom of religion guaranteed by subsection 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects religious officials from being compelled to perform marriages between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Clearly and distinctly it was answered yes. I do not think there is any doubt about where the matter stood.

When we look at the issues of alternative approaches that have been brought forward by members of the opposition, it is clearly no longer possible to create a civil union system within Canada's constitutional and legal framework unless the notwithstanding clause is used. Even then our federal structure makes it virtually impossible to ensure equal treatment as civil unions are within the provincial and territorial jurisdiction, so 13 civil union schemes could have differences that would lead to legal confusion and not equality.

There is no middle ground here. Either same sex couples can marry civilly or they cannot. The law has already been changed in eight provinces and territories to extend equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples. To return to limiting marriage to opposite sex couples would require using the notwithstanding clause in order to overturn these decisions.

The courts have clearly indicated that any institution other than civil marriage, such as civil union, is less than equal. Only equal access to civil marriage will fully comply with the charter equality guarantees. Leaving this to the provinces and territories to resolve could cause a patchwork of 13 civil union schemes. Only Parliament has the ability to look at the complete picture in designing a Canada-wide approach.

The government bill is the only true compromise that is consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution, opening civil marriage to provide real equality and at the same time respecting religious freedom, both for those religious groups opposed to same sex marriage and equally for those who support it.

The Supreme Court is not the only court in the country that governments are bound to respect under the rule of law. Courts across the country have declared that restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples is unconstitutional. Those decisions do not have to be appealed. They stand in the absence of a Supreme Court of Canada decision overruling them.

Governments can legislate to overrule an ordinary court decision, but where a law has been found to be unconstitutional, the only way to legislate to overrule that court decision is by invoking the notwithstanding clause to publicly state that the government will pass the law regardless of the fact that it violates a charter right or freedom.

The Prime Minister has stated that he will not use the notwithstanding clause in this circumstance to deny rights guaranteed by the charter to a minority. If one minority can be deliberately discriminated against, then others are potentially at risk. The Government of Canada can either uphold the charter because we believe in its values, or we can abandon the charter. The government will uphold the charter.

When we talk about the question of equality I do not think there is any doubt that the courts across Canada have ruled that equal access to civil marriage by same sex couples is an issue of equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In legal terms, the charter deals with human rights, the basic rights that Canadians believe should be available to all, including the right to equality. Although there is no right to marriage for anyone, there is a right to equality and, therefore, equal access to civil marriage.

Courts have explained that the essence of equality is ensuring the human dignity of all Canadians. Comparisons to other countries are interesting, but each country must make its own decisions in accordance with its own values.

Where is the onus and where does the onus lie? I suggest that if the onus were on those excluded to prove that their equality is absolutely necessary, what would have happened in our past? Would women have been able to prove that they absolutely needed to vote? Would Sikhs have been able to prove that they absolutely needed to be part of the RCMP?

The standard is simply wrong. This government is not changing the fundamental institution of marriage but preserving it, and now allowing same sex couples seeking the same degree of commitment in civil law, but who were previously excluded, to equally undertake the same fundamental vows of mutual love and commitment.

When we look back at the motion that was made in June 1999, the opposition motion was passed by the House of Commons before the decisions of the three courts of appeal and the courts of four other provinces and one territory.

Mr. Speaker, do we have enough people in this House? I wonder if it would not be an appropriate time to see if in fact we do have a quorum. I would like to have more people listening to this speech.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member is asking for a quorum count, I understand.

And the count having been taken:

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

There is quorum. Resuming debate.

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April 19th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, accordingly I move:

That this question be now put.

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1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion is that this question be now put and it is properly seconded, so we will continue the debate.

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1:35 p.m.


Belinda Stronach Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today in support of Bill C-38, both as a citizen of this democracy and as a proud Conservative. In an ideal world, I wish that we did not even have to be here in Parliament discussing the concept of marriage, a matter much better suited to the private world of individual relationships between fellow human beings. But I am a realist. The courts have been speaking in unison across the country in support of individual rights and we must take up our responsibility in this chamber.

At the core of the issue in Bill C-38 is the definition of marriage. We cannot cut it any other way. It is hard to imagine a more personal or emotional question, and we all have our own views. I have been talking with my fellow citizens in Newmarket and Aurora for months and canvassing their views. I wanted to make sure that I had the benefit of their input before I voted on the earlier amendment and on the bill.

Two conclusions emerged from those consultations. First, my riding is as divided as the country is on the issue so there is no overwhelming majority opinion. Second, the overwhelming majority of people do not raise the issue unless asked directly. Most set their priorities for what they expect from government in other areas, such as jobs, good quality health care, education, public services like mass transit, safe streets, the environment and so on. There is a lesson in here for all of us.

My own approach to the core issue of Bill C-38 relates both to rights and to my appreciation of my own conservatism. It is not about homosexuality.

On the first aspect, the discussion of same sex marriage is a question of rights and equality before the law. For me it is quite simple: how can we, as citizens in a modern democratic Canada, think that we can enjoy a right and then deny that right to a fellow citizen? If we want the right to be considered married, then that right must apply to each and every person. We cannot divide and choose among rights; they are indivisible. A right must exist independently of its exercise. It is a question of being fair, and fairness too is a Canadian value.

The same litmus test of fairness and rights applies equally to the other side of the equation. Churches and religious leaders have the right not to perform same sex marriages. I have argued consistently that this was a necessary part of the package since the very first day I entered public life. With rights come responsibilities, and if a church decides for its own reasons not to marry a same sex couple, then that couple should look for a different church that does or have a civil ceremony.

When compromises are presented to find ways to substitute other equivalent legal benefits for the right to be called married, I still find myself at the same place. I appreciate and understand that the effort to find compromise is taken to broker a way forward. However, the fact that the right to be called married is at the core of the law means that there is for me no way around that reality. That is what the right is all about.

My position on Bill C-38 is taken as a conservative. I respect very much the views of others based on the values they perceive in traditional marriage, but for me the transcending and overriding value is the liberty of the individual to choose what is right for herself or himself without the state telling her or him what to do, how to arrange their lives or how to behave. I think John Stuart Mill summed it up in his classic formulation: “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”.

As long as a person is not violating the rights and the safety of others, my conservatism is about his or her freedom: freedom to act, to choose one's own path, the freedom to pursue potential and dreams without having to live through the values of others. For me this debate is not about whether traditional marriage between a man and a woman has any more value than another kind of marriage, but rather that it is none of my darn business to try to tell another individual that my kind of arrangement has more value.

Canada's laws that protect individual rights and liberties should be separate from the grand debates of moral conscience. Those laws protect all of us equally, conservatives whether more traditional or less traditional, liberals, churches and minorities.

To borrow the words of U.S. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, “The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of other people you don't agree with”.

There is an even greater responsibility facing members of this House. When the debate on Bill C-38 is over and the voting is completed, Canadians expect us to move on to the issues that really matter to them and quickly. We need a strategy in this country to be the most competitive in the world. We need policies that will create quality jobs. We need leadership on education. We need a competitive tax structure. We need to rebuild our relationship with the United States.

Before ceding the floor, I would like to thank and congratulate the leader of the Conservative Party for having allowed a free vote on this bill, a piece of legislation that cuts to the heart of our beliefs as individuals. I think that all members of the Conservative caucus appreciate his decisive leadership on this matter.

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1:40 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the motion for second reading of Bill C-38, the Liberal bill that proposes to redefine traditional marriage.

I am very disappointed at what the Liberals have done today in shutting down any possible motions and in fact trying to ensure that this matter is not fully debated. I hope that Canadians understand what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has just done. He has shut down debate on one of the most crucial matters in the Canadian political scene today.

I have already addressed some of the concerns I have with the bill and with the manner in which the Liberals handled this issue during the course of the past several years. I do not want to repeat those points of debate at this time. What I do want to address today is the refusal of the Liberal government to allow the legislative committee on Bill C-38 to hear testimony on the substantial matters of the bill and the refusal to allow the committee to travel and hear Canadians' views on this important matter of social policy.

Let us recap what happened in 2003 when the justice committee examined this issue. The committee heard from a wide range of witnesses from all across Canada and travelled across the country. It was unfortunately turned into a sham by the Liberal-led majority on the committee which voted to shut down the committee before it could even issue its report.

The former justice minister, Martin Cauchon, had asked the House of Commons justice committee to travel the country and hear representations on same sex marriage from all walks of life. We did that and we were writing the report. Then on June 12, 2003 the Liberals on the justice committee, helped by the NDP and the Bloc, voted by a margin of one to recommend to the government that the committee not appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on this issue.

The committee's work was rendered irrelevant and the committee did not report back to Parliament on its hearings on marriage and the recognition of same sex unions.

I would like to remind the House that the Liberal government at that time actually replaced some of the regular members of the committee with others who were guaranteed to vote in a certain way, despite the fact that they had not heard the evidence.

During the course of those committee hearings, we heard from a broad spectrum of witnesses, including not only representatives from religious faiths but also economists, lawyers and academics. These included such respected figures as Dr. Dan Cere and Dr. Margaret Somerville from McGill University.

Simply hearing the evidence without having the opportunity to evaluate it and report on it to the justice minister and the House of Commons does not do the committee much good. It is hardly a substitute for a substantial hearing on the matter.

The Liberals are once again trying to stifle not only the House, as the parliamentary secretary just did a few moments ago, but they are also trying to stifle the committee. Instead of bringing this matter to the full justice committee where the justice committee could have heard substantive evidence from all types of witnesses and could have travelled this country to hear from witnesses, they have referred it to a special legislative committee.

According to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, special legislative committees can hear witnesses only on technical matters. As such, the committee itself has no jurisdiction to change its mandate. It is bound to hear only technical evidence. Regardless of what the Prime Minister has promised, regardless of what the justice minister has promised, the committee has no jurisdiction to change that Standing Order.

The common statement is that a committee is master of its own procedure. That is not correct in this situation. In fact the committee is bound by the provisions of the Standing Order. Standing Order 113(5) reads as follows:

Any legislative committee shall be empowered to examine and enquire into the bills referred to it by the House and to report the same with or without amendments, to prepare a bill pursuant to Standing Order 68 and to report thereon and, except when the House otherwise orders,--

The House can otherwise order--

--to send for officials from government departments and agencies and crown corporations and for other persons whom the committee deems to be competent to appear as witnesses on technical matters, to send for papers and records, to sit when the House is sitting, to sit when the House stands adjourned, and to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it.

The jurisdiction that the committee has is limited by Standing Order 113(5). While credit should be given to the hon. member for London--Fanshawe for doing his best to persuade the Prime Minister of the necessity of expanding the committee's mandate, it is highly doubtful that these promises can be carried through.

Again it is another example of the Prime Minister making a promise and breaking that promise, knowing full well that the committee that is going to hear this matter cannot do what the Prime Minister publicly stated to Canadians it would do. The Prime Minister knows that. He has in fact misled Canadians on that point.

What specific assurances can the Prime Minister give that there is authority for the committee to hear evidence beyond technical evidence? The point is quite clear that he cannot give any assurances. Only this House can give those assurances. That is why the parliamentary secretary stood up today to make sure that there are no further motions, to make sure that the jurisdiction of the committee cannot be expanded.

The Prime Minister stood before Canadians, including the member for London--Fanshawe, and made all kinds of promises about how the committee was going to do what committees usually do. In fact he knows that he has misled his own member for London--Fanshawe and he has misled the Canadian people on this fundamental debate.

The parliamentary secretary himself has indicated that there will be no travel across Canada. What do Canadians get from this technical hearing at a committee? A number of bureaucrats, a number of justice department lawyers telling Canadians what is good for them. It is a prime example of when Liberals come to Ottawa. They do not represent to Ottawa what Canadians want. Rather, they tell Canadians what Ottawa wants. This is a perfect example of telling Canadians what Ottawa wants, and not telling Ottawa what Canadians want.

According to the most recent statements by the justice minister, the minister states he is not aware of any promises the Prime Minister has made to the member for London--Fanshawe. That is interesting. The Prime Minister stood up on national news, on national TV. Everyone in Canada heard those assurances by the Prime Minister, and the justice minister has said that he is not aware of any assurances that were made. Then his parliamentary secretary walked in here and shut down debate to ensure that the Prime Minister's promises cannot be kept. That is shameful conduct for the Prime Minister of Canada.

The Minister of Justice said in response to a question:

Mr. Speaker, I do not know of any backroom deal. I only know the answer I gave to a question asked by the hon. member in the House, to which the hon. member referred.

I said that any special legislative committee that was set up would address this bill in hearings as it did any other bill.

What the Minister of Justice is saying is that there was no backroom deal. Canadians know that there was no backroom deal. The Prime Minister made those commitments publicly. Promise made, promise broken.

The Prime Minister must now explain to the Canadian people why he has specifically broken his word to the member for London--Fanshawe, to the members in this House and indeed to the people of Canada. Why is he shutting down debate in this House? Why is he limiting debate in committee?

The Prime Minister has held out false hope on a number of occasions. This is only the latest example of a promise made, a promise broken.

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1:50 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in support of the traditional definition of marriage. I am also rising in support of the values and the interests that my constituents have communicated to me.

On this critical subject that will define our times, my constituents have told me overwhelmingly that they would like to see their member of Parliament take a balanced position on the question of marriage. They would like to see non-traditional relationships given equal spousal rights through civil unions. They believe that those couples should have the same financial, property and other forms of rights as married couples, but that the meaning of the term “marriage” ought to be preserved as a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I start by making an observation. Had the people of Nepean--Carleton chosen to elect my predecessor, to send him back to the floor of this House of Commons, while he personally supports the traditional definition of marriage and while he has conceded that the people of his former riding support the traditional definition of marriage, he, as a member of Prime Minister's cabinet, would have been forced to vote against his constituents, against his conscience and in favour of the Prime Minister's gay marriage bill. That is a violation not only of one man's conscience but of an entire community's trust.

Thankfully, he was not re-elected, and people sent to Parliament Hill someone who has the conviction to represent the interests of his constituents but who also has a leader who will permit him to do so. That is why I am fortunate to stand here today to defend both my constituents and my conscience.

Our Prime Minister, our Liberal Prime Minister, has made gay marriage the top priority of his first year in office. That means we will ultimately be voting on whether or not to preserve the traditional family. I believe in approaching this subject in a manner that is respectful of both sides of the debate. That is why I am so disappointed with the meanspirited and intolerant approach that our Prime Minister and his Liberal Party have taken.

Let us be blunt. Our Prime Minister and his Liberal Party have divided Canadians with their obsession with imposing gay marriage. The Prime Minister has made it clear that anyone who supports the traditional definition of marriage is not welcome in the Liberal Party. He has said that the traditional definition of marriage is against the law, according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Fortunately I do not sit in the Prime Minister's caucus, so I will have the right to represent the will of my constituents.

To begin with, our Conservative Party leader is the only national leader in this House of Commons who is allowing a totally free vote. As such, we have members of our caucus and members of our shadow cabinet who will be voting differently than the leader will, but they all have the right to hold their convictions because we in this party support their democratic right and we support their right to the freedom of conscience. That is not a right that is respected on the other side of the House.

The Prime Minister's behaviour on this issue in the House of Commons tells us a lot about his intentions, for he is willing to turn his guns against those in his own party, his Liberal friends, with whom he disagrees. If he is willing to coerce them with pressure and threats of demotion and force them to vote against their conscience and their constituents, if he is willing to do all of that, if he is willing to attack the independent conscience of his own members of Parliament, how can he as Prime Minister be expected to defend the freedom of conscience of the Canadian people? He will not.

We have already seen examples of where freedom of religion is under attack. Numerous marriage commissioners across the country have been fired for refusing to perform gay weddings. A pro-family bishop, Bishop Henry, has faced threats that his diocese may lose its charitable tax status if he continues to speak out against the Prime Minister on the subject of gay marriage. At their recent policy convention, Liberal delegates proudly donned pins that called supporters of traditional marriage “stupid”.

That is not the Canadian way. Frankly, I find the use of the word “stupid” rather interesting given that the definition of marriage for which our party stands happens to be the same definition that is held by every civilization on planet earth. Perhaps the Liberal youth think that every other civilization is stupid as well. Perhaps they think that every religion in the world is stupid. Perhaps they think that the vast majority of Canadians who would prefer to give spousal rights to non-traditional couples through civil unions are stupid too.

On this side of the House we will not engage in those types of insults. I have members in my caucus who disagree with me on this subject, members who are with us in this House today. I want to send a message to them and to all people who may take a different point of view on this subject: that I deeply respect their point of view and I respect the way in which they have arrived at it.

That is the Canadian way: respect and tolerance. We should respect people who are in relationships that are non-traditional and we should give them the same rights, but that need not require us to change the meaning of the most quintessential social relationship in the history of civilization. We can have both at once. We can protect rights while at the same time preserving tradition.

It is my position that this social relationship, adhered to throughout the ages, handed down to people from above, is a basic building block of any healthy society. The government should not only tolerate it but encourage it. Therefore, being that I am in the company of members of the House of Commons on the other side who use terminology like “charter” and “equality” as a blanket in order to smother tradition, I want to question their commitment to equality.

Why is it that their government imposes tax penalties on those families that make the sacrifice of keeping one parent in the home? If they believe in equality, why is it that the family that lives in one house and earns $50,000 a year with a single income while keeping one parent in the home pays a much higher rate of taxation than the family next door with two different incomes of $25,000? They have the same family income, yet one is penalized.

Do the Liberals really believe in equality when they attack the right of families to make their own independent decisions? Evidently not.

I am proud to stand in this House and in this chamber not only to defend tradition, but to defend my constituents on the very basis of responsible democracy, which sees us, the members of this House of commoners, as employees of the people, as the servants, not the masters, who take the word of the people and exercise it in this highest democratic chamber in the land. I am proud to stand for my constituents on this day.

Brain TumoursStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, over the past two days representatives of the Canadian Alliance of Brain Tumour Organizations have been meeting with members of Parliament. This organization of volunteers is dedicated to advocating for better patient care, increased government funding for research in the area of brain tumours and an increase in public awareness.

Each year over 10,000 Canadians are newly diagnosed with brain tumours. Brain tumours are also the leading cause of solid cancer death in children under the age of 20.

Our country needs to better understand the issues related to brain tumours, particularly as this relates to access to drug coverage and supportive care services for those affected. At present, provincial drug coverage varies considerably from province to province. In my own province of Nova Scotia, effective new treatment is not available to all those it could help. This needs to change, because lives are at stake.

I wish to congratulate these dedicated volunteers on the work they do.

Child CareStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, no election will undo the Liberal Party record on the creation of a national child care program. In 1993: a promise made, a promise broken. In 1997: the same promise made, the same promise broken. In 2000: again, promise made, promise broken. In 2004: yet again, the same promise made and broken.

The minister has backtracked on his promises. He no longer promises a national universal system. He says he will hand over some money to the provinces for a seed fund, maybe.

The Conservative Party supports children and families. A Conservative government would put families' choices first. We would let parents decide what is best for their children. We would provide options that respect every family's needs and priorities. We would support all families, especially those who need it. We would respect provincial jurisdiction.

We just do not think the Liberal Party that wants to legalize marijuana and prostitution is ready to raise anyone's children.

Pope John Paul IIStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to express the profound effect that the late Pope John Paul II had on my community.

Through his spiritual leadership and tireless efforts for peace around the world, Pope John Paul touched and inspired many Canadians of all faiths.

Thousands of members of my community have expressed their support and love for this great man through signing books of condolence located at my office and around the city. They respect and revere this man, particularly for his presence on the international stage, highlighting issues that desperately needed the world's attention.

I was fortunate to be in Vatican Square some years ago with thousands of others to receive a blessing from the late Pope. It was truly an amazing experience.

While we welcome today's election of Pope Benedict XVI, my community and I will always remember and celebrate the life of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVIStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, after two days of conclave in Vatican City, an enthusiastic crowd in St. Peter's Square watched as white smoke appeared from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing the election of a new Pope.

The 115 cardinals from 52 countries have chosen Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany to succeed John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger has taken the name Benedict XVI.

Many important challenges await Pope Benedict XVI. Among other things, he will have to carry on the diplomatic efforts of his predecessor in favour of reconciliation.

This is a day of celebration for Catholics worldwide. They have a new spiritual leader at the head of their Church. We wish him a good pontificate.

Thérèse Casgrain AwardsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Minister of Social Development presented the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award to two outstanding volunteers.

Named after a remarkable Canadian, this award is presented during National Volunteer Week. Thérèse Casgrain lent her voice to those who had none. She was a defender of disadvantaged members of society and spoke out against social injustice.

This year's recipients exemplify the very same unwavering commitment to defending the marginalized in our society.

A tireless fighter for human rights and civil liberties and a strong voice in the battle against child poverty, June Callwood, who is from my riding of Etobicoke Centre, has lent her support to over 50 social organizations, including, among others, Jessie's, a centre for teenage parents.

Ashraf Ghanem immigrated to Canada in his twenties. Through the years he has worked tirelessly to provide services to new immigrants in Canada and has helped them in their transitions.

I congratulate the two recipients in their battle to alleviate social injustice. I am especially proud to see--

Thérèse Casgrain AwardsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Fundy Royal.

Canadian Guernsey AssociationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate three very talented dairy farmers in my riding of Fundy Royal.

For more than 50 years, brothers Ted and Bill Wanamaker have been producing milk for New Brunswickers. Their nephew Blair continues this family tradition from their Cedar Rock farm in the Kennebecasis Valley.

The Wanamaker family is renowned for its top quality guernseys. Their breeding program has produced all-Canadian champions and has won numerous awards from the Royal Winter Fair.

Just recently the Wanamakers have been nominated for an honorary lifetime membership with the Canadian Guernsey Association in recognition of their outstanding farming knowledge and experience. This prestigious award is given to individuals who have been of extreme value to the Canadian Guernsey Association over the years. In fact, there are only 20 living honorary members across the country.

Again, congratulations to the Wanamaker family of Nauwigewauk, New Brunswick on this exceptional nomination.

VolunteerismStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the many volunteers in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. We should never take for granted those who dedicate their time and energy to the benefit of others. Volunteers, young and old, embody true Canadian values such as compassion, empathy and dedication. They are indeed fine examples among us.

Last Friday, April 15, I was honoured and pleased to recognize 45 outstanding volunteers from my riding. I commended them for their exemplary sense of duty. In particular I want to mention Ms. May Herron who is 94 years old and is still a dedicated volunteer at the Islington Seniors Centre.

To all volunteers not only in my riding but in all of Canada, keep up the great work. We in the House are so very proud of them.

Parrainage civique des Bois-FrancsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to extend heartfelt congratulations to the entire Parrainage civique des Bois-Francs team on winning the Hommage bénévolat-Québec award in the organization in action category.

This agency from my riding of Richmond—Arthabaska will receive its award at an official ceremony tomorrow evening at the Quebec National Assembly.

Parrainage civique des Bois-Francs recruits volunteers and pairs them up with people who are intellectually challenged in order to create strong bonds of trust, caring and friendship.

This award is a testament to commitment to the community and will raise the profile of Parrainage civique des Bois-Francs in the region.

PolandStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the massacre of about 20,000 Polish officers, prisoners of war and civilians by the Soviet authorities in the forest of Katyn in the spring of 1940.

Last Sunday I participated in the annual commemorative ceremony at the Katyn Monument in my riding, together with members of the Polish Canadian Congress and veteran and youth organizations.

It took almost 50 years for Mikhail Gorbachev to admit that the massacre in the Katyn forest was the work of the Stalin regime. However, in March 2005, Russian authorities ended a decade-long investigation into the massacre, but declared that it was not a genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity. Consequently, on March 22 the Polish parliament unanimously passed an act requesting the Russian archives to be declassified and requesting Russia to classify the Katyn massacre as genocide.

To this day, the Katyn massacre remains an open chapter in the history of the Polish community in Canada and a stumbling block on the path of building international relationships, trust and transparency.