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House of Commons Hansard #169 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #201

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Before I put the question on the next motion, I should advise hon. members, who might be attending the reception that I am hosting this evening at Kingsmere, that buses will be available to shuttle members to and from the reception.

The buses will be behind the Confederation Building after the votes. Everyone is welcome.

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

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those opposed will please say nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #202

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being 6:24 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion that Bill S-220, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to join in this debate and speak on behalf of the motion. I commend my colleague for bringing this forward to the House.

Certainly, being from a riding that is essentially a coastal riding, there are a great number of coastal communities throughout Cape Breton—Canso. When we look at lighthouses, they have played such an integral part of what it is that we are as a community. They are not past their function but certainly in some ports of small coastal communities they become much more than that.

I know the technology is past with what is available to mariners, fishermen and shippers now. Many lighthouses have fallen into the realm of redundancy, but still, when we look down a coastline and see the picturesque beauty of a lighthouse standing on a point, certainly it is something that has a great deal of appeal, something in which residents of that particular community take a great deal of pride.

As well, when we have visitors who come to the coastal communities for that experience, certainly lighthouse tours are an essential part and a very important part of attracting people to rural communities. In rural communities tourism is an essential industry that is very important.

In essence, when people tour coastal communities, and I look at my own riding, they go around the Cabot Trail, they drive down through Guysborough to the little community of Canso, and they go around Isle Madame. The scenery is incredible. One can drive up along the west coast of Cape Breton through Grand Étang and Chéticamp. If one gets there on a windy day with the surf crashing against the rocks, there is nothing more spectacular.

People want to do more than just look at the scenery. They want to get out and want an experience. I think that is one thing that we have learned throughout my riding. People want to get out of the car to hike the trails, listen to the music, experience the culture, and meet the people. They want that interactive experience.

Many people really see lighthouses as a key draw, something that people want to get in, walk up, go through the light, read the history of the place, and read some of the marine stories that took place in the locale. Interpretive areas throughout these lighthouses are becoming very popular and essential parts of these coastal communities.

Currently in Canada we have about 583 lighthouses, 3% of which are fully protected under current heritage laws. As I understand the bill before us, the legislation would designate federally owned heritage light stations as heritage sites and ensure that they are maintained according to conservation standards. It would also require that communities near the lighthouses are consulted prior to changing, selling, transferring or demolishing any of the designated stations.

The legislation has been brought forward driven by a number of different senators in the past, but as the bill came forward before the intent was that the legislation would result in the buildings receiving similar protection to train stations which are protected under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. We know that under that act rail companies must seek approval from the environment minister, consult extensively before there is any kind of a transfer, sale or any kind of change or alteration to the ownership of that particular train station.

I will refer back to my riding. I have a couple of spectacular lighthouses in my riding. People are very familiar with the national historic property at Louisbourg and the fortress there. One of the best views of Louisbourg can be seen by hiking out to Lighthouse Point just out past Havenside in Louisbourg. It is an incredible lighthouse. From there it is sort of focal point to launch from.

A community group is trying to develop a whole trail system from that lighthouse, with the lighthouse being the focal point and then moving on from there. The plan they are putting forward involves a number of different styles of trails that would accommodate those in wheelchairs. The oceanside experience and the marine experience would not be limited to able-bodied people. Those who need assistance would also be able to enjoy it.

DFO just finished an extensive restoration of Mabou Harbour. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has done a fabulous job of redeveloping Margaree Harbour. However, work still needs to be done on the lighthouse but a community group has taken on the challenge. It is looking to secure some funds and develop some partnerships with people within the community and some of the funding agencies to further support the development of this lighthouse project.

There is a great deal of interest within rural communities and coastal communities to ensure these lighthouses are sustained.

Many of these structures stand in some harsh elements, such as coastal winds, storm surges and salt spray, and these elements have a great deal of impact on these structures. In many communities, some of these fabulous old structures and these heritage structures have not been maintained and are really starting to show their wear. If we do not do something soon, these communities will lose an important aspect of their history, which would be criminal.

We see this bill as giving us an opportunity to support these rural communities. We are supportive of this bill because it would certainly expand tourism opportunities within rural communities and we are certainly supportive of that.

What concerns those of us on this side of the House, as well a couple of members on the other side of the House with whom I have spoken, is that we are under the gun here with respect to time. We do not know what is ahead of us as far as time is concerned. A great deal of talk has been going on about continuing on with the parliamentary session and, hopefully, that will happen. I know the government is very keen on getting out of here because it has not had a good couple of weeks. A couple of the members have their cars warming up in the parking lot now wanting to get out of Ottawa. However, there is still a great deal to do here and a large number of issues that Canadians want dealt with, and this is just such an issue.

This issue has been brought forward on a number of different occasions. The bill was initiated in the Canadian Senate and is co-sponsored by my colleague from South Shore. It has a legitimate opportunity of being passed this time should this Parliament live out its natural life. People on this side of the House are looking forward to staying and addressing these important issues and certainly this lighthouse issue.

Mr. Speaker, I know you are an old rock and roller and you may have thought that this legislation was to support Lighthouse, that great Canadian band with Bob McBride who sang the song One Fine Morning, but this is about coastal lighthouses. This is a great piece of legislation. Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to support it with a vote and we look forward to doing that when it comes forward in the House.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill that aims to protect our heritage lighthouses. I also want to acknowledge the work of my colleagues, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore who has spoken on this issue and is in support of it, and the member for Halifax who understands the value of maintaining our heritage.

I listened to the previous member speak and although he is from the east coast and talked about the beautiful scenery and the crashing waves on the coast of the Atlantic provinces, I want to talk about where I come from on the west coast of British Columbia where we also have some lighthouses that are no longer in use because of advancing technology and other ways of protecting and monitoring our coastlines. It is also with some pride that I talk about the beauty of my area and the crashing waves on the west coast.

When I look at the “whereases” in this bill, the first whereas says:

WHEREAS lighthouses have long graced Canada’s rugged coastlines and majestic shores, providing and symbolizing direction, hope and safe harbour to generations of mariners;

To me that conjures up so many images of seafarers of long ago and currently who ply our coasts in trade and just thinking of how the lighthouses were a beacon of hope in a dark and stormy night or when they see land and knew where they were. So our lighthouses have long been part of our coastal history.

In protecting these monuments to our past, by designating them a heritage site and protecting, maintaining and ensuring they are there for future generations, we can continue to have these images in our mind and remember and reflect on what it was like in days gone by when we relied on lighthouses to keep us safe and to get our bearings.

The bill explains in great detail how a lighthouse would be designated and what would happen with it. It also sets out some parameters under which it should be restored. It is important to protect the lighthouses that we deem to be heritage property but we also need to ensure they have adequate funding. For many of our heritage buildings and heritage properties, we see volunteer groups working very hard and raising funds to keep these projects going to ensure they are there for tourism and economic diversity in our small communities but we do not see a lot of funding from the government.

If the bill were to pass, I would certainly hope that the government would see fit to ensure there is adequate funding because these lighthouses, in many cases, are in very remote areas, especially the ones in my riding of Vancouver Island North. We have the Nootka light, the Cape Scott and the Cape Mudge which are located in places that are only accessible by boat. If they were deemed heritage sites, considerable funding would be necessary to maintain and keep them in a safe operating condition for tourists and other economic generation.

I want to talk briefly about the west coast where my parents lived for quite a number of years. In the winter they were the caretakers of a fish camp out on Nootka Island, which was basically the point of contact for Europeans when they came to Canada because it has a lighthouse that is located at the remote end of Nootka Island. When one looks out across the ocean and thinks of the vastness of it, one knows that the next stop across that ocean is Japan. The lighthouse is on the very edge of the Pacific.

My parents lived there for a number of years during the winter months and got to know the lighthouse keepers at Nootka light. Those people were always on call. They were always there for mariners, sailors, ordinary fishermen, commercial fishermen and anybody who happened to be out on the waters on the west coast, making their living or enjoying their lives. That lighthouse has changed hands. There are other people there now.

The people who were there at that time spoke so often of the need to have staffed lighthouses on our coast, because sometimes the technology just does not work, especially in that remote a location. Satellites may work, but quite often cellphones do not work in those areas. Satellites phones do not always work. There is a need to make sure there is safety on our coast and that some of these lighthouses remain staffed and are there for protection. If it takes a few hours to get from point A to point B by boat and people are in a crisis out on the wild Pacific Ocean, they would not have to wonder if help is going to arrive in six hours or in two hours. I think it is important to make sure we keep some of our lighthouses staffed.

I also want to touch on something that my colleagues from Nanaimo—Cowichan and Victoria have talked to me about. They also have lighthouses in their ridings. There are many volunteer groups and a huge broad base of support for heritage lighthouses. These people have watched the bill through all its manifestations over the years. It has been introduced five or six times in the House and has been spoken about, but it never goes anywhere.

We know that there are many people in our communities who would be ready to start working on the preservation of heritage lighthouses if this bill were to pass. I want to let everyone know that there is broad community support for the bill. I hope we can actually get something done with it this time, as the member opposite said in his remarks.

I agree that preservation of heritage lighthouses on our east and west coasts can be an economic draw for some of our smaller communities such as Port Hardy. We have Cape Scott, which is the beginning of the north coast trail that is being built, and we are seeking more funding for that trail. As I said when I spoke in the House last week, the trail draws thousands of people a year. We know about the west coast trail and how popular it is with wilderness hikers from around the world. The trail I am speaking of would not be connected to that west coast trail, but it would be an extension. With a heritage lighthouse on it, at some point it may draw even more people.

These are things that we can do in Canada to preserve our heritage. We can showcase ourselves in a way that no other country can. We can make sure that we diversify our economies by increasing our tourism base in hiking trails and walking trails and by exploration in areas that we may not have thought of as popular tourist destinations in the past.

Again I want to thank the member who introduced the motion, and I also thank Senator Pat Carney, who did so much work on the bill in the Senate. I thank her for her work in pushing it forward and making sure that it got to the House. I support this bill.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill S-220.

Let me begin by thanking the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for sponsoring the bill in the House and also the hon. Senator Pat Carney from British Columbia who brought the bill forward to this chamber. She carries on the work of the late Senator Forrestall of Nova Scotia. He cared deeply about Canada's lighthouses as an indelible symbol of our shared heritage, as do I and many members in this place.

Bill S-220 seeks to protect and preserve heritage lighthouses by requiring their maintenance as heritage monuments. Currently there are about 750 “lighthouse like” aids to navigation in Canada and the bill would provide statutory protection to many of them.

As a proud Canadian from the west coast and a strong supporter of communities along the Pacific coast, lighthouses have a special place in the hearts of many British Columbians. For many communities, lighthouses stand as an important part of their cultural identity.

Like the railway tracks that stretch across our landscape, like the grain elevators that rise from the Prairies, lighthouses are a part of the fabric that is Canada. They are woven into our songs, poetry, stories and even our art. We will even find them from time to time on our postage stamps. Not only that, they are a prime tourist destination for thousands of visitors from across Canada and around the world.

Lighthouses have helped to shape the history of my province. Like many, I recognize and appreciate the role they have played in opening the west coast to development, trade and commerce. In fact, nine west coast lighthouses are already designated as federal heritage buildings. Let me speak for a moment or two about just a few of those.

To begin where it all began, the white tower and red brick lightkeeper's house of Fisgard have stood faithfully at the mouth of Esquimalt Harbour since about 1860. Fisgard is Canada's first manned light station. For almost a century and a half, this lighthouse, and the one at nearby Race Rocks, has shone the way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and on to Victoria Harbour for countless mariners.

Today it is still a welcome guide for many sailing these waters, including those heading to the Royal Roads anchorage and Esquimalt naval base. The lighthouse and the Fort Rodd Hill artillery base are designated national historic sites and successful destinations for tourists and history buffs alike.

Point Atkinson lighthouse in west Vancouver may well be the Pacific coast's most famous. The original structure was built around 1874. In about 1912 a hexagonal concrete tower was built to take its place. This lighthouse, with its powerful beam and strategic location at the outer approach to Burrard Inlet, has provided safe passage to many a mariner sailing into Vancouver. For decades, it has helped protect the city's bustling international shipping fleets.

Vancouverites care deeply about this lighthouse and they care about the surrounding 75 hectare park, which, incidentally, contains the last stand of old growth forest in the Lower Mainland, mostly Douglas fir. This dense forest provided a fittingly dark background for the lighthouses' bright beams, and I and many others are pleased that they are both still there today.

Estevan Point is another example of B.C.'s historic lighthouses. It was built in 1909 and is said to be one of only two Canadian lighthouses to be attacked by hostile forces. Historians today debate whether the shells that missed their mark and drew no casualties in 1942 were, indeed, from an enemy submarine off Vancouver Island. The other theory is that the attack was staged by an allied ship to provide political cover for the Canadian government's controversial move to implement conscription, but we will not get into that debate today.

Either way, the Estevan lighthouse stands as a beacon of our past and a true piece of Canadiana. It is one of the most distinctive lighthouses in all of British Columbia. The spectacular flying butresses of the Estevan light station soar almost 46 metres into the sky. It is one of only six remaining lighthouses in Canada to feature this unique architectural style.

It is clear that lighthouses shine brightly in the history of my home province and other parts of Canada. Before the advent of the automobile, our waterways were the highways of choice for travellers and their cargo and lighthouses were their road signs. The value of lighthouses as icons of the past is undeniable.

However, the 21st century has been marked by rapid technological change and with that change the operational role of lighthouses is diminishing. New marine safety and navigational technology are replacing the need for lighthouses in guiding marine traffic. As a result, many have become operationally redundant and many have fallen into poor condition.

Should we care? I feel strongly that we should. Lighthouses often define the very culture and spirit of the Canadian community marking its rightful place in the history of our country.

However, just as technology has changed with time, so too have communities across Canada. To succeed, communities are seeking new opportunities and adapting themselves to the economic, cultural and social realities of today. Similarly, we can be innovative in defining new roles for lighthouses within these communities.

For some time now, DFO has worked with other federal departments and levels of government, as well as community groups and non-profit organizations, to transfer surplus lighthouses for alternate public uses. In fact, communities can purchase surplus lighthouses, for continued public use, for the nominal fee of $1.00.

Would we like to maintain every lighthouse of historical significance in the country? We certainly would. However, this is beyond DFO's mandate and resources. Our job is to provide Canadians with basically three things: one, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; two, healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; and, three, safe and accessible waterways. These duties cannot be undermined because they, too, are important to Canadians.

Canada exports about $4.1 billion in fish and seafood a year. Every year, more than 100,000 transport vessels make their way through our waters. They carry 360 million tonnes of goods, with an import or export value of $85 billion.

That is why our government, on behalf of Canadians, invests in things like fisheries science and management, enforcement and habitat protection, oceans stewardship, renewing the Coast Guard fleet and modernizing aids to navigation. We work with the local community in keeping Canada's small craft harbours safe and functional. World events have expanded DFO's role, through the Canadian Coast Guard, in maintaining maritime security along our shores, in conjunction with other agencies.

I must agree with my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's, who is championing this bill in the House. While the goals of the bill are entirely supportable, its methods need some refining. In fact, just finding a clear definition of “lighthouse” is itself challenging. As I mentioned, there are 750 structures that the public perceives as lighthouses, which could come under our heritage protection if the bill passes as it stands now.

Under Bill S-220, Parks Canada would be responsible for designating heritage status and DFO, as the primary custodian of lighthouses, would have to fund almost all the costs associated with preserving them. Clearly, a sober and pragmatic approach is required.

Under our current operating budget, DFO would be forced to make some tough choices to deliver our newly assumed heritage responsibility. However, at what cost? The resources to maintain lighthouses have to come from somewhere.

What would we take back from a fishing industry that can ill afford further pressures? Would we choose to impact the renewal of our fisheries, the management of our oceans or the protection of our aquatic ecosystems? Could we continue improving our small craft harbour infrastructure, which Canadian fishers dearly need to earn a living? Perhaps most important, what about the safety of persons and property travelling on our waters?

These are choices that none of us at DFO would wish to make and that Canadians should not have to face, and I hope we will not have to.

Historian Desmond Morton once wrote:

Canadians, like their historians, have spent too much time remembering conflicts, crises, and failures. They forgot the great, quiet continuity of life in a vast and generous land. A cautious people learns from its past; a sensible people can face its future. Canadians, on the whole, are both.

I think that speaks volumes to the debate we are having today.

I believe in honouring our maritime heritage and I believe this is a shared responsibility, including but not limited to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We fully support the principles of Bill S-220. We are willing to work with other levels of government and community members, who care about preserving these vital links to our past and can make the most of these opportunities to honour our maritime heritage.

Canadians do have a strong attachment to lighthouses. However, we also need to move from an emotionally based argument to a practical one. Simply put, true heritage lighthouses need to be protected and preserved for the education and enjoyment of current and future generations. They need to have new life breathed into them. They need to be rejuvenated so they can play a new role in community life.

Lighthouses are a symbol of survival and hope in hundreds of Canadian communities. In fact, with the exception of only two, every province in Canada has lighthouses. As Canadians, we all have a responsibility to protect these important symbols because it is through our history that we come to know ourselves as a people. I believe we all have a role to play in that regard.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to rise and wrap up speaking on Bill S-220. In doing so, I thank my colleagues from all parties present for their work and input on this private member's bill. I thank them for their support of the intent of the bill.

As well, I recognize the support and the input from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment. I would be remiss if I did not recognize Senator Carney and her sponsorship of the bill in the Senate. In mentioning Senator Carney, I would be remiss if I did not mention the late Senator Michael Forrestall who sponsored the bill not once but five times in the Senate. I am sure he is looking down today thinking that finally this has some opportunity and some chance of coming to fruition.

As well, there is a number of other individuals to thank such as Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society for his input into the bill. Hopefully, after second reading, the bill will proceed to committee. There are some amendments that we are looking to bring at committee, and I am sure there will be some discussion on those. It is important, for the first opportunity after many years and many people working on the bill, that we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I will point out one of the amendments that we will consider in committee. I will not belabour this tonight because I think most of the members understand it. However, so people who are lighthouse supporters and who are listening to this will understand, I will mention it briefly.

As the bill is currently drafted, it takes an inconsistent approach to public notices and public meetings. It would require a public meeting for decisions related to conservation work, despite provisions in the bill that already require any alterations to protect heritage value to be of a high standard. At the same time, the bill does not require a public meeting if a lighthouse were to be demolished or torn down. This was simply an oversight. This needs correction.

It is our intent to bring substantive, reasonable and sensible amendments like this to committee. We are hopeful that there will support from all the members, who have supported the bill to this point, at committee to make these types of changes.

The other aspect that must be understood is the overall cost has to be reasonable and within DFO's budget. As it now stands, we are expecting that DFO will have to find more money in its budget than it intended for some type of reasonable and orderly divestiture process.

Both the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment are all right with that. They know they will have to find some more dollars. For the first time, I think we have a golden opportunity to preserve lighthouses and lighthouse infrastructure in coastal Canada in perpetuity, whether that is east, west, north, south or the inland waterways. That is the point of this bill.

One more time, I would like to recognize the outstanding work of the late Mike Forrestall on this bill, and thank him for that.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 13, 2007, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak during the late show this evening about the court challenges program.

On September 26, 2006, almost a year ago, the Conservative government abolished the court challenges program, which provided minorities with the means to defend their rights in court. When we say “defend their rights” we must not forget that it is extremely expensive to go to court, so it was a way to help minorities.

Let us remember the facts about the court challenges program. Initially, this program was introduced by the Liberal government. After Brian Mulroney's Conservative government was elected, the program was cancelled, only to be reinstated by Jean Chrétien's government several years later. Then this program was once again abolished. By whom? It just so happens that it was by another Conservative government, in September 2006.

There are some myths to debunk. The court challenges program is very useful, as I mentioned earlier. In terms of official languages, it helped francophones outside Quebec. We must look further than that. This program also helps anglophones in Quebec, religious minorities, the disabled, women and all other minorities. I say “women” despite the fact that women in Canada are not a minority, but a majority. But this is still the reality. This was what the court challenges program was for.

We can see the benefits of this program for all minorities across Canada. Under the court challenges program, several groups were able to defend their language rights with respect to their schools or hospitals, or to obtain French-language services. This has allowed many communities and many families to obtain services in French. This has also helped many young people in various communities, often rural ones, to receive services in French. Previously, it was difficult to obtain them because governments—federal and provincial—did not take the issue seriously and decided that they would not provide services to the minority, even though this is a right in our country. The court challenges program was definitely a useful tool and should definitely be reinstated.

We have the example of French-language schools in the regions and ensuring that services are offered in both official languages. There is also the example of Montfort hospital, located in Ottawa, which would not have survived had the court challenges program not been available, as is the case today. The reality is that people need such a program to assert their rights. It is not so much about respect for the law as it is about asserting one's rights.

The Conservative government has trampled people's rights. In addition, it is contravening the Official Languages Act. As you know, since Bill S-3 was passed in the 38th Parliament, the Official Languages Act has been amended. As it stands, the government must take positive action to ensure that official languages communities have the requisite tools to advance the cause of the French language in their community. By positive, we mean making progress. By eliminating the court challenges program, the Conservative government—