House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was religious.


Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Madam Speaker, of course blacks never asked to be called whites. However, they did ask for access to the same institutions, churches, restaurants, voting locations, washrooms, in short, for access to all the same institutions and places as whites.

I do not know of any homosexuals who are asking to be called heterosexuals. That is not what homosexuals want; they want access to the same institution to which heterosexuals have access, namely, the institution of marriage.

I tell my Conservative friend that allowing homosexuals access to the institution of marriage will actually strengthen that institution, which has seen better days. It is heterosexuals who have messed it up: the divorce rate is now about 50%, many children are born out of wedlock, and so forth. I am not making any value judgments. If there is a crisis in marriage today, and I hear my Conservative friends talking about it a lot, it is because of heterosexuals who have decided, rightly or wrongly—I am not making any value judgments—not to attach the same importance to it as they used to.

Homosexuals are people who have fought, spent time and energy, battled ridicule, and been called all kinds of names, for access to the institution of marriage, which is solemnized and accorded great significance all over the world. I would say that giving homosexuals, who have fought so hard for it, the right to marry means opening the door to people who believe in marriage and in this institution, which has no equal and which creates a bond between two people. That would strengthen this institution, which has been quite badly treated by heterosexuals over the last 50 years.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate at report stage of Bill C-38.

I want to remind the House that this bill is a cause for celebration among gay and lesbian Canadians. It is a time when our relationships are being recognized, when our fight to be included in a key institution of Canadian society will finally be resolved.

This is not a new fight for gay and lesbian people in Canada. We began this fight over 30 years ago when Richard Vogel and Chris North took their fight for a marriage licence to the marriage office in Winnipeg. They were denied a licence at that time but later found support with the Unitarian Church. This fight has gone on for over 30 years because gay and lesbian Canadians, like other Canadians, believe in the institution of marriage. Many gay and lesbian Canadians want to be married because they believe in the commitment and responsibilities that are implied in marriage. That is why couples have fought through the courts to see their ability to be married recognized.

This has not happened because of some errant or wilful judge who wants to upset the apple cart in Canada. It has happened because there are couples who want their relationships recognized in exactly the same way that heterosexual relationships are recognized in this country, and who want access to the important institution of marriage. They do it because they believe in the institution of marriage and they want to be accepted into that important institution in our society on the same basis as other Canadians.

This is an important equality issue for gay and lesbian Canadians and indeed for all Canadians. It is important that our relationships are recognized, that we have the access to the stability that that recognition will offer, and that our children have access to stable families as well. It is also important that when our relationships fail we have access to the mechanisms of our law that allow us to deal fairly and justly with the dissolution of that relationship.

These are all important things that are covered in Bill C-38. This is a reason to celebrate. This is an important step forward for our society and for all Canadians. I do not want to lose that important aspect of this legislation. This bill on civil marriage will ensure that gay and lesbian Canadians have access to this key institution of our society on an equal basis.

The bill before us at report stage has been amended and further amendments are being proposed. Let me just say that we in this corner of the House do not support the amendments we are debating in Group No. 1, because these are amendments that seek to essentially gut the legislation and change fundamental aspects of it. We will not be supporting the amendments in Group No. 1.

Let me say as well that the bill before us was amended at committee. We have heard from other speakers this morning about the large number of people who have spoken on marriage over the past two and a half years. Over 450 witnesses appeared before the justice committee in the last Parliament on this issue, and almost 60 witnesses appeared before the legislative committee in this Parliament on this current bill.

In the legislative committee a vast majority, over two-thirds, of the witnesses we heard were people who had concerns about this legislation. They had a hearing at the committee. They were not always agreed with, but they were always listened to with care and with respect.

The bill was amended at committee in ways that provide greater reassurance. Those are not amendments that I thought were necessary. I thought the bill in its original form was clear in its intent and was clear that it protected religious freedom in Canada, but we heard regularly at the committee that more reassurance might be helpful, so the committee did accept several amendments. One is an additional preambular clause that states:

Whereas it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;

That is an important addition to the bill, even though preambular clauses are interpretive clauses. They help us understand the intent of the legislation, so that was an important addition and one which the committee made willingly. I did not think it was necessary, especially given the other clauses in the preamble which make the commitment to freedom of religion very clear.

As well, for greater certainty, another interpretive clause was added to clause 3 of the legislation. Clause 3 states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The committee in its wisdom decided to add clause 3.1 to add even greater clarity on that issue. That clause reads:

3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

I do not know what could be clearer in terms of interpreting this legislation to guarantee religious freedom in Canada and to guarantee the freedom of those religious organizations which do not, for whatever reason of their beliefs or theology, feel that they would be able to solemnize the marriage of a gay or a lesbian couple. It is very clear; it was clear previously, but it is now absolutely crystal clear. We have gone out of our way to make this absolutely well known in this legislation. The amendment introduced by my colleague from the Bloc goes even further to grant that reassurance.

One of the things we heard at the committee hearings was concern about the charitable status of organizations, religious organizations in particular. The amendment proposed by my colleague from the Bloc goes some way to offer reassurance on that score as well. Let me read it again:

Section 149.1 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (6.2):

(6.21) For greater certainty, subject to subsections (6.1) and (6.2), a registered charity with stated purposes that include the advancement of religion shall not have its registration revoked or be subject to any other penalty under Part V solely because it or any of its members, officials, supporters, or adherents exercises, in relation to marriage between persons of the same sex, the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We are very clear with this amendment as well. There is no threat to the charitable status of religious organizations because they hold a different view of marriage than the one put forward in the civil marriage act.

This legislation has taken great care to offer reassurance on the issue of freedom of religion. At the committee I do not think anyone expressed doubt or fear about the guarantees of religious freedom provided by the charter. I know of no witness who was able to provide an example to show that any religious institution had seen a failure in that protection of religious freedom. They could give us no explicit example of where the guarantees for religious freedom in the charter had failed in the past. There is no expectation on my part or on the part of others that will be the case in the future. The guarantee of religious freedom in the charter and in the Canadian Human Rights Act is solid. Equality rights do not necessarily trump religious freedom as we have heard from time to time.

We need to be very clear that religious freedom is important in Canada, but it cuts the other way as well. There are religious organizations in Canada that seek to marry gay and lesbian couples and want to do it in exactly the same way they do it for their heterosexual members. Currently that is not possible in some provinces where the court decisions are not in effect and they cannot legally marry gay and lesbian couples. This is an important issue of religious freedom from that side of the coin as well. Religious organizations that do support same sex marriage should have the ability to follow through on their belief and their doctrine in that regard and solemnize those marriages. This is important legislation for those organizations as well.

We have had a lot of debate on this issue. The justice committee toured Canada and heard from over 450 witnesses. Debates have been held in the House. Debates have been held in society from coast to coast to coast. There was a very thorough hearing of Bill C-38 by the legislative committee.

The majority of Canadians want us to get on with this legislation, whatever their views are on Bill C-38. They want us to get to the other issues that are before Parliament and move along. We have had a long debate with respect to Bill C-38.

As I said, we in this corner of the House cannot support the amendments in Group No. 1. However, we are glad that the bill is back on the agenda of the House and look forward to its passage in the very near future.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the hon. member said that we should get on with the affairs of the House. It is the Prime Minister that dragged Parliament and the entire country into this debate. The general populace did not ask for it by any stretch of the imagination.

The member spoke about protection of religious freedoms and worship, which means quite a lot to me. It means a preacher is able to state the truth in the scripture. I can relate to an incident in Calgary. I am sure everyone in the House has heard of Bishop Henry. He made a statement in a letter. I will quote his comment to the media:

In one of my previous letters I wrote “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good”.

He indicated very clearly what the coercive powers of the state are, which include every area of the Criminal Code and every area of law that deals with traffic, tax policy, education, communications and a whole list of other areas, including marriage. The powers for those who engage in marrying people on the civil side come from the state.

Bishop Henry clearly is a preacher who feels strongly about the word of God and has certainly preached that in all its truth. I know where he got his quote. We only need to look at 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 8 and 9, which talk about that. Bishop Henry will continue to preach from the scriptures. Should he be hauled before the courts for preaching from the scriptures? The member talked about defence of religion. This man has already been hauled before a human rights tribunal twice because somebody did not like what he had to say. Bishop Henry is called to say what the truth is, whether anybody likes it or not. That is the issue at hand.

When it comes to this particular bill, I have a question about the protection of religious freedom. There is none.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not quite sure what the question was in all of that.

As I explained in my speech, there are significant protections for religious freedom in Canada. The charter has not been proven deficient in this area. In fact, it has been proven vigorous in this area. Even the witnesses appearing before the committee could not point to any place where religious organizations or religious officials had been discriminated against on that basis.

One of the greatest examples is that religious organizations like the Catholic church have different standards when it comes to, say, the access to certain jobs by women within that institution. The ordination of women is not contemplated in the Catholic church. Yet no woman has been able to take the Catholic church to court to sue to be ordained in the Catholic church.

When I raised the issue of why that has not happened with one of the legal experts who was called to testify before the committee, one of the legal experts who was not supportive of Bill C-38, he said that it was unlikely that any lawyer would take such a case because the protections available under the law for religious institutions to make that kind of decision based on their beliefs, their theology, their doctrine were so strong that the case would not succeed.

I have every reason to believe that the same is true for the protections guaranteed around religious marriage. It is very different from civil marriage, which is what we are talking about in the bill. I believe those religious protections are there.

The hon. member in his long comment said that the Prime Minister was the one who had forced the debate on Canadians. I disagree with that too. The debate is before us today because gay and lesbian people in this country sought full equality in a key institution of this society, that institution being marriage. It was not brought upon us by politicians, by the Prime Minister or by activist judges. It was brought about by people who care about their full participation in our society and who care about the institution of marriage, and who believe in that institution and respect it fully.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I have a few comments that I would like to make prior to getting into the substantive debate. The member indicated that he had not heard of anyone who had been disciplined or brought before commissions or courts because of their views in respect of marriage or the nature of homosexual or heterosexual relationships.

I do not know where this member was, but we heard it constantly. Not only did we hear it constantly before the justice committee, but we heard it constantly before this legislative committee. We have heard about Bishop Henry. He is facing two hearings in front of the Human Rights Commission in Alberta. We have heard that the Knights of Columbia in British Columbia are being taken before the Human Rights Commission because of their refusal to rent their property to celebrate and gay and lesbian marriage.

We have heard about Camp Arnes in Manitoba which has been brought before the Human Rights Commission because it refused to rent its church-sponsored facilities to a gay and lesbian choir. We have heard about the Brockie case, and here we are talking about individuals who for reasons of conscience refuse to do certain things, that has been brought in front of human rights commissions and in fact disciplined.

We have heard about the Saskatchewan bumper sticker case. We have heard of a number of cases. Some of these are still pending, but the point is that these cases are being brought before human rights tribunals on a regular basis. We have heard about Chris Kempling. The B.C. Court of Appeal said freedom of religion only goes so far and upheld the discipline of his losing his job for three months.

I want to move on, however. The issue that this is somehow a human right is something that I find very curious, given the Liberal government's position on this matter.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice say this is a matter of human rights. If this were a matter of human rights, would the government give its backbenchers the right to freely vote on this issue? If this were a fundamental human right, it would stand up and insist that every member must vote because this is a matter of fundamental human rights.

This is a social policy issue that is being dressed up under the charter of rights. The court in the reference case never characterized this as a fundamental human right. To characterize it in that fashion is a fraud. Quite frankly, the approach that the Liberal government has taken by saying that this is a human right but not demanding that its members vote that way demonstrates what kind of a fraud this is.

In respect of the evidence that was heard, we have heard it said there were about 500 witnesses. In fact, the justice committee, which was never allowed to report back because the government put a stop to those hearings, heard approximately 450 or so witnesses, but it never dealt with the bill. It dealt with the general principle of whether or not there should be same sex marriages. So that dealt with not a legislative focus but indeed on the entire concept of same sex marriage.

At second reading this House accepted in principle that there would be same sex marriages and passing it to the committee. In committee, my focus, and many of the members' focus, was not as much on the issue of how we redefine marriage, but how to protect those who for reasons of conscience and religion had concerns about this change. We had approximately 40 witnesses, and it was stated that would be it. It was through the Conservative efforts that another 20 witnesses, and I might say significant witnesses, were brought forward.

We were only allowed to bring 20 witnesses forward because an agreement was made that those 20 would be allowed to appear if we agreed to some kind of closure. That was not my preference, but that is in fact what happened.

In respect of this bill, and the significance and the consequences of this bill, we have heard less than 60 witnesses. This idea that we have been talking about this bill for the past three or four years is simply not correct.

I want to talk about how Bill C-38 approaches the problem. This bill is full of unconstitutional provisions. The reason those unconstitutional provisions are put in there is to give the people of Canada hope. Unfortunately, it is false hope, dealing both with the preamble section which talks about the freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the right of religious officials to refuse to perform same sex marriage. Clause 3 states:

It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in the reference case, specifically held that whether that section is substantive or declaratory it is unconstitutional. What the Government of Canada tried to do is hoist this on Canadians and said that it is protecting our religious freedoms and that Canadians do not need any more protection other than what is stated in that.

Clearly, a proper reading of the Supreme Court of Canada decision says this is unconstitutional. I am surprised that the Minister of Justice has not moved his amendment to remove that now that this fraud has been exposed. It is better to have the plain truth staring at us, than to sugar coat it in this type of a fraudulent manner.

The next point I would like to make deals with clause 3.1. Again, this deals with exactly the approach that the Liberal government has taken to this issue. The amendment reads:

For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

The charter of rights is a constitutional document that protects citizens against the government. We do not violate the charter of rights, as some Liberals have suggested, by expanding the rights given under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a floor. It is the lowest common denominator that is accepted as the floor of our guarantees.

It says that we can have no greater right of freedom of religion or freedom of conscience or freedom of expression than that which is guaranteed by the charter. It establishes a floor and this section confirms the lowest common denominator.

What many have found out, as Mr. Kempling found out by the B.C. Court of Appeal and others have found out, by saying that we have freedom of religion and freedom of expression, is that what was said or what a person's religious beliefs are, they are beyond the scope of that freedom of expression. It is freedom that goes beyond what is entrenched in the charter.

It gives no more rights and freedoms that are already guaranteed in the charter of rights. That charter has been hollow in terms of protecting rights and freedoms of people like Mr. Kempling. It simply has not granted them.

What needs to happen, if this is to have any substance, is to have the reference removed limiting that right to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and saying Canadians have the right to their freedom of religion without this kind of limitation which we know that the courts consistently put into second place when religious rights collide with equality rights.

This will essentially confirm the continued practice of the courts to affirm equality rights at the expense of religious freedom whenever those two rights collide. It is because equality rights are the new religion of the courts and the Liberal government. They will stomp on religious rights at every opportunity and the courts have demonstrated that in a number of cases.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, while I understand the member opposite and his party are not in favour of full equality for gays and lesbians of this country, there is one thing I still yet do not understand. Where does the member and his party stand in terms of the 5,000 to 6,000 legal marriage licences that have been issued to gays and lesbians across the country? What is his plan to deal with those licences? Is it in fact to nullify those particular licences?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, let me deal with the comment that the member has made that our party is not in favour of full equality. Again, he is suggesting that this is a fundamental human right and placing it on the Conservative Party as being the only one in the House who do not accept this as a human right.

There are some members of the Liberal Party, some members of the Bloc and at least one member of NDP who were silenced by their leaders that this simply does not fall within the scope of human rights. This is a social policy issue. We do not need to take the word of the Conservative Party in that respect. There is no other court in the world that has seen this as a human right.

Indeed, the UN has clearly demonstrated, in its decisions through its courts, that this is not a human right. This is a social policy matter that Parliament essentially must determine. The member now stands up and says, “Shame on the Conservative Party. It does not recognize this as a human right”. His own government, not by its words, in which it says it is a human right, but by its actions demonstrate that it is a social policy issue. The member needs to deal with the inconsistency in his own question before he asks questions like that.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question regarding equality. I know we often have individuals comparing this struggle to the race issue and the equality issue in the United States. I think that is a fairly contorted way of doing it. There are obvious marked differences between this discussion that has ensued here and the issue before us.

I would like to have further comments on the issue of equality by my colleague. It seems to me that this is something very basic that most of us would understand. When any of us go into any kind of public setting anywhere in the country, I as a male, my wife, my daughter and my daughter-in-law have to head in a different direction when it comes to going to the restroom facilities. I accept that. It says nothing about the fact that I am more equal than they are. We are equal in every respect from a Canadian point of view, but there are some different paths or routes we take at that point.

There are those who would say that we cannot have different but equal. That is a flaw and fraudulent proposition. There are the basics that we treat people equally, and we give them the same provisions and allowances on things. However, there can still be some different categories set up in society that can be handled in a reasonable way.

With respect to my simple basic illustration, men and women are certainly equal in every respect. There is no question about that. However, when it comes to something as basic as attending a restroom, I do not protest the fact that I have to go in a different direction. It would create great trouble if I were to go into their restroom or vice versa. Therefore, there is a different treatment but equal in every respect. I would like a comment with respect to equality in regard to that.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I suggest the member take a look at some of the debates that occurred when the Charter of Rights was enacted. There were a number of votes and debates that dealt with exactly to what extent the Charter of Rights should constitutionalize or institute constitutionally certain rights and freedoms.

There was a discussion about that. Section 15 was a clearly drawn document. There were a number of discussions about sexual orientation and the definition of marriage. It was concluded that those were issues that did not fall within the scope of the charter. That is where I start the argument. The Parliament that granted the courts this jurisdiction made it very clear what the definition of equality was in the country in terms of a constitutionally protected human right. That formulation was very consistent with the documents of the United Nations.

What we have seen is an attempt by the courts to enlarge that constitutional framework. I would appreciate it if the Liberals were honest about that in the House. This has nothing to do with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This has everything to do with a social policy and they should not attempt to masquerade it as a matter of human rights. It was a matter of social policy that was specifically left within the jurisdiction of Parliament to determine.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, in the whereas clauses in the bill there is reference to freedom of conscience and religion. Clause 3 deals only with religious beliefs. The question for Canadians becomes whether matters of conscience as they relate to individuals and not members of religious groups will also be covered and it appears not.

Could the member comment on that?

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, the member makes a good point. Even though clause 3 in its entirety is unconstitutional, if the government had any consistency, it should have taken that preamble clause and placed it into the substance so it would be in clause 3. That would protect the freedom of conscience and religion to some extent.

There is still the caveat that if we protect freedom of conscience and religion to the extent that it is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, there is a ceiling to that right beyond which it is not protected. That conscience, religion and expression is then subject to attack by the courts and human rights tribunals. However, with regard to the point the member makes about protecting the conscience aspect, that preamble clause should have been put into clause 3. Clause 3 itself in its entirety is unconstitutional.

Habitat for HumanityStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, Habitat for Humanity, Peterborough, is a local volunteer organization that seeks to provide affordable housing for low income people in our community. It builds homes with partner families, using donations from businesses, churches, service clubs and individuals, donations of capital or in kind.

With this help, Habitat builds simple homes with the aid of volunteers, professional tradespeople above all with the hard work, at least 500 hours, of the partner families. The families become homeowners and take on all the responsibilities of ownership.

A number of homes have been and are being built in Peterborough. In addition, Habitat has opened a re-store staffed by volunteers where people can buy recycled construction materials at reasonable prices. All proceeds go toward Habitat's work.

Habitat for Humanity and its volunteers are making a real difference in Peterborough.

Rail TransportationStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, earlier this month a constituent of mine from Didsbury, Alberta was killed when his vehicle slammed into the side of a train.

This has been an ongoing problem for those of us who live in rural ridings. We have repeatedly asked the transport minister for all rail cars in Canada to have proper side reflectorization. I know the minister agrees that this is important, but the best he can promise is a seven year timetable to achieve this goal.

I realize that it might take this long for all U.S. trains to meet this timetable, but why is it not an immediate rule for all Canadian owned trains?

When we see the amount of money that is wasted daily by the government with gun registries and so forth, surely we can come up with the money for something this important. Surely this could be made a priority.

The value of life of rural Canadians seems to be forgotten by the government.

Parliamentary InternsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the outstanding contribution of the 10 parliamentary interns who have been working on the Hill since last October. For 35 years the House has been fortunate, blessed to welcome talented young university graduates who are selected from across the country.

This year Joshua Alcock, Jeffrey Bell, Karen Diepeveen, David Hugill, Mélisa Leclerc, Jonathan Manes, Katrina Marsh, Jay Nathwani, Althia Raj and Tony Romanelli have worked in the offices of 20 members from all parties.

I would like to highlight the contribution made by these young people, including Jonathan Manes, who worked in my office. I would also like to congratulate Jean-Pierre Gaboury and the former program administrator, JoAnne Cartwright. My thanks to these young people, and I hope to see them again some day on the floor of this House.

Maison Aube-LumièreStatements By Members

2 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Maison Aube-Lumière welcomes patients with terminal cancer. This facility has set a noble and difficult task for itself, that of enabling family and friends to share a loved one's final moments in a calm and serene environment where there are no time constraints, while providing special care for the patient.

At the invitation of Rita and Donald Dugal and Marie-Paul Kirouac, I became the honourary chair of the second walkathon for the Aube-Lumière.

I am pleased to report that the 2005 walkathon was a great success and raised over $12,000. I want to thank the organizers of this fine undertaking, Rita and Donald Dugal of Cookshire, and the many folks who took part in the walk or made it a success through their donations.

High School Graduation CeremoniesStatements By Members

June 27th, 2005 / 2 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, over the past few days, students from four high schools in my riding of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour have attended graduation ceremonies, like their many counterparts across Canada.

This is a time of change and a time of promise for these students. I congratulate them on their success and thank their teachers for their energy and dedication to teaching.

I was disappointed that I was unable to attend the ceremonies due to responsibilities here in Ottawa. One of my favourite things to do as an MP is to visit local high schools, to engage in conversations on many subjects and to learn from students their views on such areas as equality, justice and the environment.

It is young people like Craig Jennex, valedictorian from Prince Andrew High, who spoke very eloquently and who reflected on what lies ahead for the students. Many people have commented to me on his speech and how inspiring it was, as well as student leaders like Patrick Connor and Shauna Marsh.

There will be challenges and opportunities for these students. There will be the cost of tuition and the barriers it creates for many, but as they embark on their challenges, all of us here are reminded of our duty to ensure that all Canadians have opportunities to succeed. It also reminds us to congratulate those who have reached this milestone in their lives.

Health CareStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada stated that Canadians were dying due to wait times. At the health committee two weeks ago, a Liberal MP blasted her own government for its inaction.

The court decision proves that Liberal mismanagement is wreaking havoc on the health of Canadians. Nowhere else is this more evident than in rural Canada where emergency rooms are being closed, expectant mothers are being forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to see a pediatrician, and family doctors are closing their practices.

As a member of Manitoba's provincial legislature for nine years, I witnessed first-hand the cutbacks in federal health care spending during the current Prime Minister's tenure as finance minister. It is time the Prime Minister acknowledged what the Supreme Court has stated and what Canadians, especially rural Canadians, have known for years: the health care system is broken and his government is responsible.

Canadians deserve a better health care system, but first they deserve an apology from the Prime Minister.

Graduation CeremoniesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, in the past few days, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of graduation ceremonies in my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, in New Brunswick.

Even if I were unable to take part in all graduation ceremonies because of my schedule, I really enjoyed being present at a few of them.

Every year, at the end of June, thousands of high school and college students receive their diplomas. This marks the end of an important period of their life. Our young people are thus better prepared to meet the challenges they will face and to attain their personal and professional objectives.

As the member of Parliament for Madawaska—Restigouche, I would therefore like to congratulate all the graduates of my riding.

I would also like to congratulate all graduates on the efforts they have put into their studies and wish them success in the future, which looks very bright for them.

House of Commons PagesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, for a year now, we have had the privilege of working with young women and men whose futures are very bright: the pages of the House of Commons.

Each year, 40 young people are chosen from over 300 applicants from every region of Quebec and Canada to be pages in the House of Commons during their first year of university.

Over the course of the year, these pages have provided services that are indispensable to the operation of Parliament, and they deserve our recognition for their dedication, discretion and competency in fulfilling their duties to all members of the House.

It has been a pleasure to work with and get to know these students, formally and informally. We hope that this experience will help them to better understand and appreciate the world of politics. We hope their future is everything they hope and dream it will be.

Pride WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, residents of Toronto and visitors from across the world joined together last Sunday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pride Week, a celebration of the gay and lesbian community. The parade was one of the largest in the world.

This year's grand marshal was Mr. Salah Bachir. In choosing Mr. Bachir, the pride committee was recognizing the seemingly endless charitable work of this great philanthropist and humanitarian. Mr. Bachir has helped to raise over $5 million for the 519 Community Centre in Toronto. Of this, $750,000 was a personal contribution. He is also a member of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research and has worked tirelessly in support of this cause.

Mr. Bachir is a true community leader. It is indeed appropriate that he served as the grand marshal of this year's Toronto pride parade.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the confirmation of a positive case of BSE in the American cattle herd has shown what producers around the world have known for years: that we are all in this together.

While this case is unfortunate, it was not unexpected. It provides an opportunity for the Canadian government to truly commit to the fight for Canadian cattle producers and return cross-border trade to pre-2003 levels. Canadians need real leadership and a government that works for increased global trade for all sectors of the Canadian economy, not just the unbalanced trade deficits with which the Liberals have become satisfied.

As Canadians enjoy their well-earned summer holidays, the Conservative Party of Canada will continue to listen to small and large business owners and work to ensure Canada harnesses our potential in new and emerging markets.

Government AccomplishmentsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to acknowledge the significant accomplishments the government has spearheaded in the House of Commons during the spring session of Parliament.

Of the 70 bills introduced by the government, I am proud to highlight the recent passage of the progressive Liberal budget. The budget will lay the groundwork for a new deal for Canada's cities and communities, a national child care and early learning system and new financial help for students and seniors.

However, there is much more. From land claim agreements for the Labrador Inuit to the passage of a veterans charter, to a historic 10 year plan to strengthen health care, the government is planning for the Canada of tomorrow.

Having retained the confidence of the House in over 40 tests during an eight month period, we are proud of our record of achievement. Looking back at the majority governments of the mid-1980s and early 1990s and the minority governments before them, I am pleased to say that the legislative record of this Parliament is second to none.

Make Poverty History CampaignStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Make Poverty History, la lutte contre la pauvreté, campaign seeks more and better aid, trade, justice, debt relief and an end to child poverty. I encourage all members of the House to support this issue by wearing one of the white wristbands which are available in the lobby.

In beautiful Simcoe this Canada Day weekend, the Live 8 concert will be held to remind the world about the plight in Africa. The government also needs to be reminded about the tsunami victims in southeast Asia.

Just last week we learned how the government has failed to deliver almost two-thirds of its tsunami relief. In fact, the Liberal government's record on international assistance is the worst in our nation's history.

I ask the minister opposite to carefully consider the pledge she is making before she slides a Make Poverty History band onto her wrist. I would also like her to consider the Conservatives' call for waiving the Live 8 concert fee.

New Chief of KanesatakeStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Mohawk community of Kanesatake has a new grand chief, Stephen Bonspille. This win puts an end to many months of political friction.

Despite some apprehensions, the election campaign and election day went very well. Ghislain Picard, the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, did an excellent job as facilitator.

With this democratic decision, the people of Kanesatake have taken full control over their autonomy again. We need to give the new chief and his community the opportunity and time to work together and reach their full potential.

The federal government must do everything it can to support the people of Kanesatake in reaching that potential.

I want to congratulate the new chief and wish him every success in his new position.

Multiculturalism DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Conservative Party, to rise in recognition of June 27 as Canadian Multiculturalism Day.

It is a time for all Canadians to reflect on the contributions that cultural communities have made to the enrichment of our heritage in which all Canadians share.

Multiculturalism Day is one that promotes diversity and understanding that makes Canada unique among nations and the envy of the world.

It is only fitting that I note with great pride June 27 and acknowledge the hard work, challenges and immense sacrifices that all Canadians have made to the strengthening of our society.

The Conservative Party, by introducing the Multiculturalism Act in 1988, is committed to breaking down barriers and promoting understanding so all Canadians can enjoy the richness that our nation affords.