House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.


6:40 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the announcement that an apology will be forthcoming on June 11. However, the questions that I asked were not answered in the parliamentary secretary's response, so I will ask them again.

Will this be a stand-alone apology in the House and not include apologies that are made to other groups that have been wronged in Canada? This is a significant event for first nations and the significance of it needs to be that very important stand-alone event.

Will some elements of the apology include the things that the survivors of residential schools have asked for? I have talked to many survivors and it is very important to them that the things they have asked for be included in the apology.

Will the Assembly of First Nations also be included in developing the apology that will come forth on June 11?

6:40 p.m.


Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, in relation to her questions, our government is very concerned about delivering an important and meaningful apology. That is why we initiated this process in the throne speech last year. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about to launch and the Prime Minister has consulted with a number of groups, including the AFN, on this important matter.

We are very hopeful that this apology will be well received by those who were in the schools. This is an ongoing process. The member has referenced a few other elements that have been asked for in terms of culturally appropriate and meaningful admissions of the previous era. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will also be seeking information on this matter in the months to come.

6:40 p.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, last week I asked a question in the House about the Commonwealth scholarships and the answer I received was, to say the least, unsatisfactory. The reason I asked the question is that the government of Britain has indicated that Canadian students will no longer be eligible for the Commonwealth scholarships. It is cause for concern.

People know the government is an embarrassment in its conduct of foreign affairs. The Prime Minister says on occasion that Canada is back in international affairs. I think what he means is Canada is back of the pack in international affairs.

We have the current Minister of Foreign Affairs embarrassing Canada by calling for the ouster of the governor of Kandahar. At the same time that the chief of defence staff was saying he was doing a great job, we were interfering in the internal affairs of another country.

We have another embarrassment on the issue of capital punishment. The Conservative government is overturning a long held position of the Government of Canada that we would oppose capital punishment for Canadian citizens abroad.

The member for Calgary West once called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and compared China to Nazi Germany.

We have Canada now apparently backing away from seeking membership in the UN Security Council because it is afraid it will not win the seat.

I could go on and on, but let me highlight the Commonwealth scholarships. These are prestigious scholarships that were set up for the Commonwealth nations by the government of Great Britain. Many great Canadian scholars have been the beneficiary of them, including the current Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Clerk of the Privy Council and many others.

We have had in Canada a great history of international champions: Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester Pearson; Mr. Trudeau; Mr. Clark; Mr. Mulroney and the work he did in South Africa; Jean Chrétien and the work he did for Africa; and the current member for LaSalle—Émard.

This decision by the government of Great Britain was called a slap in the face to Canada by Jennifer Humphries, the vice-president of membership and scholarships at the Canadian Bureau for International Education. It is of great concern. Jim Fox, the president, said, “We're hoping our government will put pressure on the U.K. to reinstate the program”.

When I asked the question last week, the answer I got from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development was, “Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the scholarships”. That is unbelievable when we consider the importance that these scholarships have held for Canadian students.

I am pleased to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs is here. Canada has been given a slap in the face by our longest and closest ally, Great Britain, which said that Canadians will no longer be eligible for the Commonwealth scholarships.

My question is simple. Will Canada stand up for Canadian students? Will Canada stand up for Canadian inclusion in the Commonwealth scholarships?

6:45 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is surprised and disappointed by the U.K.'s decision to end funding to Canadian scholars under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan. There had been no consultation with Canadian officials prior to the decision being taken, and it is all the more disconcerting given that the decision coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth scheme in 2009.

The establishment of the plan was, as members of the House may be interested to know, a Canadian initiative.

The Canada-U.K. relationship is a friendly and long-standing one, one that has resulted in positive benefits for both countries. The relationship has grown even stronger through cooperation in many areas, one of which is academic cooperation.

The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan has played a significant role in developing and fostering these relations as well as grooming Canada's past and current leaders. In fact, previous Commonwealth scholarship recipients, as the member said, include Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, Edward Greenspon, Editor in Chief of the Globe and Mail, as well as Kevin Lynch, Clerk of the Privy Council. Similarly, British students have benefited from their studies in Canada. The current British contingent of post-doctoral students in Canada under the plan represents a very impressive group of young scientists.

Even before the news hit the media, the government expressed its concerns to U.K. authorities over the decision. Officials of my department contacted the British High Commission in Ottawa to seek clarification and to express our concern with the decision taken. In a letter to U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Canada's High Commissioner to the U.K., James Wright, expressed our concern over the decision and requested that it be revisited. In delivering this letter, high commission officials also pursued the matter further with U.K. officials. Similar concerns have been raised by members of the British Parliament, and we await the outcome of these discussions.

I would also like to acknowledge the efforts being undertaken by the university communities, both in Canada and the U.K., to express their dissatisfaction and to call for a reversal of the decision. In a recent press release, the umbrella organization for U.K. universities, Universities UK, has called for the program to be restored.

Canada takes this decision very seriously and we will continue to pursue the matter with UK authorities.

6:50 p.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged that the Government of Canada is at least now aware of this situation. I asked the question two days after it appeared in the Globe and Mail and the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for post-secondary education knew nothing about it. I appreciate the fact that the government is scrambling, recognizing that it was caught asleep at the wheel on this one.

I ask my colleague in all sincerity: How is it that Canada was shut out? Who was asleep at the wheel? Who neglected their responsibility on the Commonwealth scholarships?

6:50 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I have told the hon. member, Canada takes this decision very seriously. That is why we are making all kinds of representations, and will continue to do that. As I told the member, our high commissioner has informed the U.K. foreign secretary and we have informed the British High Commission in Ottawa as well of the decision.

We will continue to work to ensure that this decision is revisited.

6:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:51 p.m.)