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House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has considered the request by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and is of the opinion that it fails to meet the requirements of the Standing Orders. In my opinion, I cannot approve the request at this time.

The House resumed from May 2 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, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to again join the debate on Bill C-38 on behalf of the residents of Niagara West--Glanbrook. As I have noted previously, the constituents of my riding have made it abundantly clear that they are against this radical change in the definition of marriage, which the Prime Minister wants to leave behind as his legacy.

Briefly I want to remind members of this Parliament, and particularly those who feel forced to support Bill C-38 or lose their cabinet posts, of how strongly Canadians feel about this issue. When was the last time, if ever, that their constituency offices or Ottawa offices received feedback from more than 10,000 people on a single issue? That has been the case in Niagara West--Glanbrook, with 90% of my constituents supporting the position that the definition of marriage must be maintained as being exclusively between one man and one woman.

Some might think that this debate is only for adults and that kids are not engaged. Let me tell the House about one of my young constituents. High school student Nalini Ramaden was so concerned about this issue that she had petitions filled out at her high school and had them delivered to my office here in Ottawa. I want to thank her for that.

I have been accused by some of being biased in favour of protecting the traditional definition of marriage, and yes, I am. I have always been upfront and transparent about my views. During the election I told voters that my intention was to maintain the institution of marriage as we know it. I asked for their support and they gave me their support. They recently reiterated their objections to Bill C-38 by contacting my office in massive numbers. I am listening to my constituents. I am acting on their directions by voting against this legislation.

I will ask members of cabinet again. Are they doing the same for their constituents or are their first loyalties to the Prime Minister's Office?

It is because of this flip-flopping back and forth on issues that trust and confidence in politicians are reduced. When members of Parliament say one thing between elections and then do another, it confuses constituents. When they write letters in support of marriage and then do not bring it up as an issue in an election, constituents are left to believe that these individuals still support it.

I believe that confidence and trust in politicians are very low these days. I recently received a letter from a constituent who only half-jokingly suggested that we need a police force to protect Canadians from politicians. It is truly sad that all politicians are being painted with the same brush, but the only way to change this is through consistently transparent and responsive decision making.

Monumental changes to fundamental pillars of our society cannot be made lightly. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the government is doing with Bill C-38. I urge members of the government to take a step in the right direction and restore confidence in Parliament by demonstrating accountability to voters. Shelving this legislation until Canadians are truly consulted would show the level of respect that our nation demands.

It is with tremendous respect for the residents of Niagara West--Glanbrook, who I am privileged to represent, that I will be voting against this legislation.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for the second time in this important debate on Bill C-38, the legislation to change the traditional definition of marriage to include same sex relationships.

As we all well know, this is a very difficult and, to some extent, emotional issue that has split the population of Canada more or less fifty-fifty, or perhaps pretty much along those lines, on whether to change the definition of marriage.

Unfortunately, as we know, there has been some disrespect and extreme comments or behaviour from some people, and I would emphasize in a minority of situations, on both sides of this argument.

A number of MPs have stood to defend the traditional definition of marriage. It does not matter what party we are in because this is an issue that transcends party lines. It is much bigger than partisan politics for me. I have spoken to other colleagues on all sides of the House who relate to the fact that they may have had the insult hurled at them from time to time that somehow they are homophobic or against gay and lesbian people if they defend the traditional definition of marriage.

That is a very unfair and unfortunate accusation to make. I have received that only a few times, fortunately, but I have had that accusation made to me. I would like to address that.

In June 1995, I supported Bill C-41, the so-called hate crimes legislation that added sexual orientation to the list of offences or reasons for violent crime. If a person committed a violent crime against someone because of his or her sexual orientation and if that person was found guilty it would be factored into the sentence.

I supported that legislation. I know for a fact, as all members do, that sometimes, unfortunately, in this country people are targeted for violence or intimidation because of their sexual orientation, if they are gay or lesbian. It is appalling to me as a Canadian and appalling to most Canadians of goodwill. That is why I supported the change in the hate crime legislation which would factor that into a violent criminal assault.

No one at that time called me homophobic. However, now, because some members are defending the traditional definition of marriage, somehow, in some people's minds, we become homophobic.

It is an unfortunate accusation to make. It is simply inaccurate in most cases. I believe most Canadians are not homophobic. They do know that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is in no way anti-gay or anti-lesbian to take that position. Unfortunately, people on our side of the argument have made homophobic comments and that is regrettable. However I am happy to say that in most cases we have heard very little of that, which is the way it should be.

If I am not opposed to Bill C-38 because I am somehow homophobic or I am against gay or lesbian people, then why am I vehemently and repeatedly speaking out against the bill and unable in good conscience to support the bill?

I sat on the justice committee from January to June 2003 when there were extensive hearings held on this very topic. I listened to expert witness after expert witness warn against the possible and probable negative consequences to marriage, to the family and to Canadian society if we were to give in to the gay and lesbian lobby that is driving this agenda in the courts.

Some of the most eloquent spokespersons against changing the definition of marriage were themselves gay and lesbian people. In my earlier 20 minute speech I mentioned an expert in this area, a gay Yale professor, William Eskridge, who argues eloquently against changing the definition of marriage.

John McKellar, who was an outstanding witness in committee, is an openly gay man and a founder of an organization called HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism. He argued very forcefully and eloquently that we should not change federal and provincial laws just to meet the demands of a small segment of the gay and lesbian population of Canada because not all gay and lesbian people of Canada are demanding that we somehow make marriage into something it is not, never has been and truly never can be, which is a relationship between two people of the same sex.

I would like to share the reactions of my constituents in London—Fanshawe because I have sought their opinions on this issue a number of times. As all members can relate to this, whether I have sought it or not, on a daily basis they give me their opinions in various forms on a constant basis.

In my riding of London—Fanshawe, 92% of my constituents who have taken the time to express their opinions strongly oppose changing the definition of marriage. I live in London, Ontario, which is an urban centre. People have the misconception that it is only in the rural part of Canada but that is wrong. Canadians from coast to coast to coast, of every political stripe and no particular political stripe, of every major faith and of no particular faith, Canadians in the millions oppose changing the definition of marriage for very sound and solid reasons. The constituents of London—Fanshawe are proof of that as 92% oppose changing the definition of marriage.

Having said that, some 60% of my constituents feel that whether they agree with a same sex relationship or not, it is their personal judgment and not their business that some people choose to live their lives that way. Some 60% of my constituents have made it clear to me that they would support some form of recognition in law of same sex relationships. However they do not support changing the definition of marriage and throwing out all the values to make marriage into something that it was never meant to be.

I think my riding is a pretty good sample of the feeling of Canadians in general. The polls are pretty clear that the majority of Canadians do not support changing the definition of marriage but that they do support some sort of recognition in law that same sex relationships exist in society and that they should have some recognition in law with an appropriate name, if we have to find a label, such as civil union or whatever, but certainly not to somehow threaten the future of marriage by changing the definition and setting into motion a series of very probable negative consequences, not that I say will follow, but that experts after experts in this area have predicted will follow if we take this course of action.

We know that eventually the bill will get to a legislative committee. I was pleased recently to get the assurance of the right hon. Prime Minister that he will do everything he can to encourage some public hearings on Bill C-38. Why is that important? I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, because I understand you will be chairing that particular committee.

The justice committee held extensive hearings from January to June, at which many excellent and expert witnesses on both sides of the argument appeared. What the committee did not do is finish its work. It was totally pre-empted by the Ontario Court of Appeal with its ridiculous ruling that instantly sought to redefine marriage in Ontario. That committee never reported. I think that evidence is too important to be lost. It is still on the record of course. It could be referenced by the legislative committee and the legislative committee ought to hold public hearings that would allow, if not individuals, at least important Canadian organizations the opportunity to have input.

I oppose Bill C-38 as a simple matter of conscience. I cannot support changing the definition of marriage under any circumstances whatsoever. It does not mean that I am homophobic or that I am against gay and lesbian people. My voting record shows that I have supported actions to protect their individual rights, such as Bill C-41 in June 1995.

It is a far cry from doing that and saying that I will be silent as we deconstruct marriage and open up the threat to marriage and the family. I cannot do that and I will never do that.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to have the opportunity to enter into the debate on Bill C-38 on behalf of the constituents of Macleod. In this time of political uncertainty I am proud to be a member of a political party that respects rights and traditions and encourages honest, public policy debates.

Over the past weeks I have listened to the initial debate on Bill C-38 but, most important, I have listened to my constituents in Claresholm, Okotoks, Vulcan, Granum, Nanton, Turner Valley, Fort Macleod, the Crowsnest Pass and other communities throughout the riding. I am impressed by the honesty, candour and passion which Canadians are approaching the debate. Canadians have been thoughtful on this issue and most have come to believe that Bill C-38 is not the right approach to address the issue of marriage.

Opposing Bill C-38 is not about denying rights. It is not about jeopardizing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the Prime Minister would like us to believe. It is a complex public policy issue and one that would have an impact on every Canadian.

I, like most of my colleagues on this side of the House, and many on the other side as well, believe in the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

However, in the course of this debate, those of us who support marriage have been told that to amend the bill to reflect the traditional definition of marriage would be a violation of human rights and an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I believe that this is an attempt by the Liberals to turn the channel and call those who do not agree with them to be un-Canadian. The Prime Minister does not want to debate the question of traditional marriage versus same sex marriage so he would rather focus on attacking their opponents as opposing human rights and the charter.

The Bill C-38 debate is about rights and recognition and about how to best balance the rights of homosexual couples within our society while at the same time upholding and respecting institutions that have great social importance to Canada, such as the traditional definition of marriage. In short, it is about responding and respecting the competing interests in this debate in a reasonable and compassionate way.

Much of the concern about the legislation comes from the Supreme Court decision released on December 9, 2004. The Supreme Court said that the federal government has the jurisdiction to redefine marriage to include same sex couples. It also said that churches are protected under the Charter of Rights in maintaining the traditional definition of marriage but that legislation would specifically protect religious organizations beyond the constitutional power of the federal government.

What this means is that the federal government determines the definition of marriage but the provinces determine how to marry a couple.

The court did not answer the question of whether the traditional definition of marriage in the common law violates the Charter of Rights. Instead of declaring the traditional definition of marriage unconstitutional, the court has made it clear that it is Parliament that must define the word marriage.

It is Parliament's job to find a consensus that defends rights and, specifically in this debate, offers recognition to homosexual couples and takes into account the views of Canadians.

This is where we are today. We have received direction from the Supreme Court of Canada that if Parliament wants to change the definition of marriage it would be within our purview to do so. We are free to define it as a union between a man and a woman or as between any two persons. Either definition has been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The rights issues has been settled and the equality provisions continue to be settled. Simply put, the law already sees heterosexual relationships and same sex relationships as equally significant and equally able to access spousal rights and privileges. The Conservative Party supports this view. Same sex marriage, in a nutshell, is a recognition issue.

As stated earlier, the rights component of this debate has largely been resolved and few Canadians are of the mind to reverse those decisions. Their opinion reflects their belief of equality for all Canadians under the law. They merely want the definition of marriage to remain as the union between a man and a woman.

Because of the difficulty of this issue, I am proud to be a member of a party that has allowed a free vote on this issue. It is an issue of accountability to my constituents and it is important that members are granted the ability to vote in as free a manner as possible, without the threat of recrimination by party leaders. Nobody in the Conservative Party finds themselves in an uncomfortable position due to this legislation. Members are accountable, not to their party, but to their own consciences and their constituents. It is the position that I wish all members of this House could share.

Importantly, the majority of people who oppose this legislation favour the insurance and the protection of equal rights for homosexual couples. At some point we have to ask ourselves, why is the government not following the lead of most Canadians and searching for a middle ground that would recognize marriage as the union between a man and a woman while recognizing homosexual unions? The Liberal government, after all, likes to talk about Canada's ability to broker resolutions and likes to talk about Canadians as being the sort of people who search for balance and fairness.

In December the Leader of the Opposition announced three proposals for effectively considering the marriage question. These are as follows: the first proposal would retain the traditional definition of marriage; the second proposal would ensure that same sex couples are afforded equal spousal benefits; and the third proposal would include substantive provisions in the legislation to protect not only religious organizations but also to protect public officials who have objections due to reasons of religion or conscience.

With regard to the first proposal, I am proud to be voting the wishes of my constituents, one of which is to support and maintain the traditional definition of marriage.

My constituents reflect the majority of Canadians who believe we do not need to change the definition of marriage and a balanced approach can assure equal benefits and status to same sex couples in a recognized union.

With regard to the third proposal, by protecting the rights of religious institutions, Parliament could support the rights of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to recognize, perform and solemnize marriages on their own terms.

Parliament must ensure that churches have the right to privately and publicly preach their beliefs related to marriage.

Parliament must ensure that justices of the peace and civil marriage commissioners are not forced to solemnize marriages against their own consciences.

Parliament must also preserve the charitable and economic benefits that churches enjoy as public institutions and recognize the right of public officials to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

During this debate, the Liberals have attempted to hide their politics by invoking the language of rights and accusing our party of not believing in rights. This could not be further from the truth. The Conservative Party has approached this issue as one where a reasonable compromise can be found. We have spoken honestly with Canadians, and it is my hope that the House follows our lead.

I am proud to work with my constituents on such an important issue. I am proud that I can vote freely on their behalf against Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the traditional definition of marriage. Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said:

In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience...each man must decide for himself the course he will follow...For this, each man must look into his own soul.

Since first being elected to the House of Commons, I have learned that the work of a member of Parliament is both demanding and inspiring. I have also learned that courage can come in many forms.

Sometimes it is the courage to build consensus, the courage to stand alone as well as the courage to stay the course. At other times, a politician must follow his conscience over the course of time, hoping that ultimately his courage will be recognized when passions have cooled.

It is with a firm commitment to my constituents in mind that I am speaking today on a subject that touches all our communities.

As hon. members may know, I firmly believe that strong families are the key to any successful society. For more than 6,000 years traditional marriage, defined as the union of a man and a woman, has allowed us to preserve and protect the strength of our families.

As I stated in the House on March 24, I believe that children deserve, where possible, the opportunity to receive the warmth and comfort of a mother as well as the protection of a father. The responsibility falls to each and every one of us to engage in careful debate on the marriage issue.

I have received thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from constituents and, by a wide margin, the majority of them support the traditional definition of marriage.

In the House of Commons I have always voted in support of the traditional definition of marriage. As my voting record will attest, in 2005, 2003, 2002, 1999 and 1995 I have consistently voted to support the traditional definition of marriage as being, and remaining, the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

On more than 10 occasions over the years, I have stood in the House of Commons and tabled petitions bearing the signatures of thousands of constituents, firm in their conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

The traditional definition of marriage is part of our inheritance. When a husband and wife are in a committed marriage, they benefit each other in many ways, including better physical, emotional and financial well-being. In addition, the father and mother benefit their children in different yet complementary ways.

Under Canadian law, the legal concept of marriage, as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, has existed since before Confederation. Marriage has many aspects: social, religious, emotional and financial, among others. It also has legal consequences, including a range of benefits and obligations.

Many people in Canada believe that marriage is fundamental to our society and that its primary function is to create a stable and supportive foundation for procreation and raising children. They believe that the opposite sex requirement of marriage is not only essential but that it is recognized precisely because of its link to procreation.

Marriage is a sociological and religious institution built on the biological fact that children are born to couples of the opposite sex and that the couples who produce most of these children, also raise and nurture them.

Although marriage is not only for procreation, the potential for having and raising children is central to the institution, as illustrated by the fact that the common law provided that a marriage could be invalidated because of impotence.

Given that the majority of Canadian children are both born to and raised by married couples, I believe that we need to promote marriage and reserve it exclusively for partners of the opposite sex to help ensure stability and support for children. This view of marriage is reflected in religious teachings in most major world religions.

In the last few years Parliament has discussed the meaning of marriage at least on three occasions as well as during debate on a series of bills introduced by individual members of Parliament or senators.

In 1999 Parliament passed, by a wide margin, a motion stating that Parliament will take all reasonable steps to maintain the opposite sex meaning of marriage in Canada.

In 2000 section 1.1 was added to the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act as an interpretive clause stating that nothing in the act altered the existing meaning of marriage as the “lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”.

In 2001 section 5 of the Federal Law--Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1 confirmed the opposite sex meaning of marriage in Quebec.

Marriage is a deeply rooted social and legal institution that has become deeply entrenched in our society. It is an institution well worth defending.

War BridesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, between 1942 and 1948, 49,000 war brides and their over 21,000 children were brought to Canada in an immigrant wave paid for and sponsored by the Canadian government. By Privy Council Order in Council 7318, September 24, 1944, these war brides and their children were given Canadian citizenship upon landing in Canada.

It has slowly come to light that all across Canada war brides and the children they brought with them on the war bride ships are being told that they are not Canadian citizens when they apply for passports. Consequently, they have had to apply for their citizenship. Some have been refused or have given up due to the red tape associated with the search for supporting documents of their arrival in Canada.

As a symbolic gesture to recognize the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers, I believe that awarding citizenship on VE Day to the war brides and their children would--

War BridesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians received a little extra time this weekend to file their taxes. Now that they know how their taxes are being thrown around, I doubt they are in any mood to backstop this government.

The Prime Minister went on television to plead for more time, ignoring the fact he has been at it for 12 years. His record of wasted tax dollars on heating rebates to prisoners, job funds that create bankruptcies and using unemployment insurance premiums to finance his out of control spending are clear to everyone.

He complained it was not time for an election, then promptly hit taxpayers with a photo op campaign featuring billion dollar announcements, which will not be any better managed than his last decade.

It is sad to see the same gang over there who spent years failing forestry, fishing and farmers claim they need more time. They cannot come up with workable deals for provinces or cities. They cannot simplify the tax code, shorten hospital waiting times, keep track of pedophiles or take guns away from criminals. We have to conclude the Liberals have a hidden agenda for dealing with priorities that matter to Canadians, but they have run out of time.

World War IIStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Netherlands, I join millions of others throughout the world in paying tribute to the courage of these men and women who risked their lives to free others.

Quebec is grateful to the war veterans still with us and those who have since died, to our fallen heroes and the members of their families.

In choosing to defend democracy, peace and freedom, you have set an example of the most noble sacrifice a human being can make. The Bloc Québécois recognizes your selfless contribution and salutes your bravery.

VeteransStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I participated in events honouring the veterans who fought in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest battle of World War II. I was with heroes, including at a dinner on the HMCS Sackville where I had the honour of sitting with two senior veterans, Earl Wagner, who last year was a Maritimer of the Week, and Murray Knowles. These men and so many others gave so much of themselves at such a young age, young men and women who answered their country's call to protect our freedom and way of life and served in the most difficult of circumstances.

At times words cannot fully express our profound gratitude. Tomorrow though, in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, the Royal Canadian Mint will unveil a new circulation coin that will honour VE Day and our veterans. This five cent coin, the replication of the victory nickel, will have special meaning for vets because permission was sought and granted by Her Majesty to replace her effigy with that of King George VI.

I am honoured to be from a military riding and to represent true Canadian heroes whose sacrifices we will never forget.

JusticeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my deep concern with the criminal justice system in our country. Regina has experienced a steady increase in break and enters, car thefts and other violent crimes by habitual, repeat offenders. Because the punishment does not fit the crime, these repeat offenders are given a free pass to reoffend.

My party and I have tried to bring legislation forward to deal with this problem only to be defeated by other parties. NDP-Liberal coalition members have stood up and voted against minimum sentences for repeat offenders. The NDP has even complained that minimum sentences would lead to more trials. I thought that prosecuting criminals was a good thing.

My voters in north central Regina are crying out for the government to give the tools necessary to police officers so they can do their job, keep repeat offenders in jail and clean up drug dealers on our streets. We need more money for front line police officers and less money for a useless gun registry that does nothing to solve crime.

YouthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, since I was elected in June 2004, I have visited many of the schools in my riding. During the recent parliamentary break, I had the opportunity to meet with grade three students at École Régionale de Saint-Basile.

Despite their tender years, these students impressed me a great deal with the quality and relevance of their questions. I am certain that some of these young people are our future leaders and that is why I take advantage of these opportunities to meet with students in our schools.

If the future is being shaped today then it is important to provide our young people with every opportunity to learn more about the workings of our government system and to give them a chance to speak up and ask the questions on their minds.

In closing, I want to thank Anick Grandmaison and her class for their warm welcome.

Bagotville Military BaseStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, the chief of the air staff, Lieutenant-General Pennie, received an important document on the future of the Bagotville military base, which the Minister of National Defence will receive a little later today.

This document makes important recommendations which, if implemented, will “For a promising Future”, not only maintain personnel but also assure a promising future for the Bagotville base.

I want to congratulate and thank all the members of the retired armed forces personnel committee who helped write this report: Christian Couture, Daniel-René Verreault, Pierre Bettez, René Marion et Michel Aubin.

I congratulate these individuals who have the development of my region at heart. I hope that military and political leaders will recognize the importance of their report and respond in a positive manner.

Toronto Police ServiceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Mr. William Blair on his appointment as Toronto's 20th chief of police.

With almost three decades of service with the Toronto Police Service, Chief Blair is a man of high calibre who will no doubt carry out his duties in a stalwart manner. He is a professional dedicated to bettering our community.

In his maiden speech, Chief Blair addressed some of the pressing issues that faced Toronto's diverse community. I was particularly pleased to hear Chief Blair's emphasis on policing with a community based approach to fight the perception that police treated some individuals differently based on their race. He stated, “There is no greater challenge to our relationship with diverse communities than the corrosive issues of racism and racial bias”.

Solving this overarching disconnect is one of our greatest challenges. I hope through increased community policing that we, as members of the Toronto community, will make our streets and neighbourhoods a safer place to live.

I congratulate and welcome the chief.

Rural Post OfficesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the early years of the 20th century, Oxford farmer George Wilcox led a tireless letter writing campaign in favour of free rural mail delivery. In 1908 his efforts were crowned with success when the first free mail delivery started in Springford, Ontario.

Rural post offices have played an important role since then. They provide a link to the federal government and they also connect residents to the rest of the country.

These rural post offices are now under risk of closure. Many communities will be devastated by the loss of their post office. They do not have the luxury of choosing alternatives.

I urge the government to protect rural post offices. Show some commitment to rural Canadians.

Multiple SclerosisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable and at times debilitating disease of the central nervous system which affects Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, for unknown reasons women develop the disease more than twice as often as men.

May is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Tomorrow I will be pleased to be kicking off the 29th annual MS carnation campaign. Tomorrow volunteers from the MS Society and I will pin carnations on all MPs as they enter this place to raise awareness of the MS campaign.

This weekend volunteers in over 280 communities across Canada will be selling carnations to raise money for MS research and for services for people with MS. Last year we raised over $1.4 million.

I encourage all hon. members of the House and all Canadians to join me in supporting the MS Society to help make a difference for individuals living with this disease and their families. Tomorrow everyone in the House will be wearing a carnation and raising awareness.

VeteransStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the eight years that I have been a member of Parliament, I have never in my entire life been so ashamed to be in the same House as the Conservative Party.

The reality is this is a time when we put politics aside and remember our greatest heroes of the country, those people who fought and died for our country. This is the liberation of Holland. As a Dutch-born parliamentarian, I cannot say how ashamed I am of that party over there, playing cheap politics with Canada's greatest heroes. I ask them to put their swords away for a short while so we can honour our veterans in the manner that is dignified to them.

Everything we have in this country we owe to our veterans. The last thing we need to be doing is playing politics. I remind them that this is the year of the veteran, not the year of the politician.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the shocking testimony we have heard so far at the Gomery inquiry is only the tip of the iceberg of what the Liberals across the way have been up to in recent years. The RCMP has launched investigations into allegations of wrongdoing in many of the government's departments. The sheer number of cases would make a detective's head spin.

Let us take, for example, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Last year we heard allegations that a Romanian diplomat pulled strings with a Canadian immigration officer at Pearson airport so his exotic dancer daughter could get a rush work visa. What about the former director of Measurement Canada who is facing 11 charges for the fraudulent use of government credit cards to buy hockey memorabilia? We all miss the NHL but this is ridiculous. There have been investigations of the CCRA into confidential personal information on thousands of Canadians which has disappeared into thin air, and the records were not written in invisible ink.

What can we conclude from the likes of these investigations, one might ask? It is elementary, my dear Speaker. The members of this corrupt Liberal government are the last individuals we should trust to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal that they themselves created.

The Liberal GovernmentStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, midnight last night was the fateful hour, the deadline for filing our income tax returns.

No doubt, Quebeckers and Canadians took a few moments to wonder what the Liberal government, awash in scandals, will do with our tax dollars. There is the human resources scandal, in which the government wasted nearly $1 billion; the firearms scandal, in which the government ran through nearly $2 billion; and the sponsorship scandal, in which this government used public funds to try to buy the conscience of Quebeckers, while filling the pockets of its cronies who paid it back in spades.

Paying taxes is already hard enough. It is discouraging for taxpayers to see how this government is wasting their money.

Without a doubt, at the stroke of midnight last night, these disturbing facts must have left more than one person angry.

Sponsorship ProgramStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker,

When Mr. Small Town Cheap, tall and wiry, Took on the big city Gomery inquiry,The former prime minister refused to take the fall,Scorned the taxpayers and showed us his golf balls.

No human pyramid in the Liberal caucus room next day,But this Prime Minister's cheers and raucous applause, to say,Be true to the fool, 'cause what he did was real cool,He never thought it crass, the former prime minister's “can of whoop-ass”.

But now the Prime Minister says “no way”,He was not the cheerleader that day. This Prime Minister clapped for the vaudeville act,And put his former boss on a pedestal in fact.So said the Liberal caucus chair,Tell us the truth, Mr. Prime Minister, it is only fair.

The Liberal member for Beaches--East York gave,The credit to the Prime Minister for the applause tidal wave.And a Liberal member of that other place said,Surely the Prime Minister led the clapping disgrace.

I think it is only fair to say,Does the Prime Minister have a different story today?

Liberation of the NetherlandsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands, we are reminded of the courage and the valour of those who fought the evil forces of tyranny and occupation. In the nine dreadful months that it took to liberate the Netherlands, over 7,600 Canadians made a supreme sacrifice.

Earlier today, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands joined the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Canadian veterans, representatives of our veterans organizations and Canadian youth in a solemn commemorative ceremony at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 2,300 Canadians. The Groesbeek Memorial at the entrance to the cemetery contains the names of another 103 Canadians who have no known graves. An inscription on this memorial reads, “We live in the hearts of friends for whom we died”.

It is these words that perhaps best describe the very special friendship and very special bond between the Dutch people, Canada's veterans and Canadians from coast to coast.

The Armenian PeopleStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, April 24 marked the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. This crime against humanity took place in 1915 and its victims numbered 1.5 million.

Last year, the former Bloc Québécois member for Laval Centre, Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral, presented a motion to have Canada recognize the Armenian genocide. The motion was adopted.

We must remember these atrocities against the Armenian people in order to prevent such a thing ever happening again.

There are some 19,000 Armenians in Quebec, including a large community in Laval. I wish to recognize the outstanding involvement of this community and, more specifically, Laval's Centre communautaire arménien and the Armenian church, Sourp Kevork.

The BudgetOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, last week the Prime Minister did the unprecedented. He ripped up his own budget. He has a new NDP budget, a budget which Parliament has never approved or voted on. Yet in the past 10 days the Prime Minister has spent over $7 billion promoting this budget.

When will the Prime Minister face the House and have a vote here in the House on his new budget?

The BudgetOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government is very desirous of bringing the budget before the House. It is very desirous of seeking the support of the opposition for a budget that has absolutely responded to the needs of Canadians.

I would like to say that it is very unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition, having initially supported the budget, then reneged on his word.

I must say I am delighted that we have been able to work together with the NDP to basically deal with the issues that face Canadians.