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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hst.

Topics

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should designate 2010 as The Year of the British Home Child across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to share with my colleagues a story that few Canadians know anything about. It is the story about courage, strength and perseverance. It is a story of Canada's British home children.

Like almost four million Canadians, my family can relate to this story. My uncle, Kenneth Bickerton, was a British home child. Born in 1916, my uncle was orphaned by the time he was 11 years old. Like most children in Britain, who suffered this fate, he spent time in an orphanage before being shipped off to Canada.

He was 14 years old when he arrived in Quebec City. After being met by an immigration official, he and about two dozen other boys were transferred to Brantford, Ontario, to work on area farms.

Between 1869 and 1948, over 100,000 British children, like my uncle, were sent to Canada from Great Britain, many of them to work as farm labourers and domestic servants. These were the British home children: boys and girls, anywhere from 6 months to 18 years of age. They were a part of the child emigration movement. Most of them came from orphanages or other institutions that could no longer afford to look after them.

For a variety of reasons, the children were sent to Canada, as we were a growing economy and in need of labourers.

Most of the children were transported by British religious and charitable organizations. For the most part, these organizations believed that they were doing a good and noble thing for the children, who were worse off living in poverty in the UK. One such organization was the Fegan Homes of England.

One of my constituents is a descendant of a British home child who came to Canada through this organization. At the age of 11, Percival Victor Fry began working at an Ontario farm. His granddaughter, Adrienne Patterson told me that while her grandfather had to be moved several times due to inappropriate care he “was so grateful to have been afforded the chance at a life that he never would have had, back in that time, in England”.

Like Adrienne's grandfather, many home children faced adversity. Most were able to overcome it, but it was by no means easy. The British home children faced considerable challenges and some experienced tremendous hardship. They were susceptible to mistreatment because their living conditions in Canada were not closely monitored. Some where malnourished and others emotionally starved. There was loneliness and sadness. Siblings were often separated upon their arrival and many never saw each other again. This is an important part of their story that deserves to be told.

However, their story does not end there. Due to their remarkable courage, strength and perseverance, Canada's British home children did endure, and most of them went on to lead healthy and productive lives.

My uncle, for example, married and had 4 children and 12 grandchildren. He made a good living for himself, while contributing to Canada's economy. He worked, first, in manufacturing, and then later as a cookware and typewriter salesman.

Home child Percival Victor Fry was an air raid warden in Toronto during the second world war. He married and, together, he and his wife had six children.

In the online story collection of Canada's Immigration Museum Pier 21, Jane Bartlett has written of her grandmother, home child Alice Smith, “My grandmother worked as a domestic in Saint John, New Brunswick. Later she met my grandfather and was married. The two ran a plumbing business in the North End of Saint John for many years and raised seven children”.

There are thousands of stories like these.

In an email I recently received from Brighton, Ontario, Lynda Burke wrote, “Thank you for remembering the great contributions that approximately 100,000 child immigrants from the U.K. have given to Canada...my mother came from Scotland and despite adversity, became a nurse and a productive Canadian”.

This is the other half of the story. While the British home children were underprivileged and suffered from unfortunate circumstances, they endured, and almost all of them who came to Canada remained in Canada. They grew up to raise families of their own. They contributed to our country's economic growth and prosperity. They helped to cultivate our country's values and defend our country's freedom. More than 10,000 of them fought for Canada in the first world war and approximately 1,000 lost their lives.

Canada's British home children are an integral part of our country's history. They are a part of our heritage. They represent a part of our past and their descendants represent a part of our future. Their stories are ones that need to be taught in our schools.

Today, it is estimated that 12% of Canada's population is made up of British home children and their descendants. That represents more than four million Canadians and the number continues to grow. Yet, there are many Canadians who still do not know the story of the home children. They are not aware of the hardships that were suffered and the sacrifices that were made.

However, we as parliamentarians have the opportunity to change that. We can help tell the story. We can proclaim 2010 the year of the British home child across Canada. We can give Canadians an opportunity to learn about their past and to collectively recognize the contributions of Canada's British home children and their descendants.

I have received many emails and letters from across this country in support of this motion. Home child organizations, like the Middlemore Atlantic Society, have also received letters. In fact, it recently received one from the leader of the Bloc Québécois, who wrote:

As you know, many Quebeckers are the descendants of these children, who left the United Kingdom between 1869 and 1930, and went on to help build the society we know today. My maternal grandfather was a British Home Child. The Bloc Québécois members will recognize and show their respect for British Home Children by voting in favour of the motion to declare 2010 the Year of the British Home Child.

I am grateful for that support and the non-partisan approach that is apparent in the House. I want to thank all parties for their support of this motion and for their agreement to pass this motion by unanimous consent. I would also like to thank the seconder of this motion, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and member for St. Catharines.

Before I conclude today, I want to acknowledge the efforts and work of the many home child organizations across the country. In particular, I would like to thank the Middlemore Atlantic Society and the Nova Scotia Home Children and Descendants Association for their part in helping to bring this story forward.

I would also like to acknowledge the province of New Brunswick where 2009 was declared the year of the British home child and the province of Nova Scotia where the month of October was dedicated to the home child.

In 2010, Canada Post will issue a stamp commemorating home children and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism plans to include recognition of their story in citizenship ceremonies.

I encourage my fellow parliamentarians to add to these wonderful initiatives and to join me in officially recognizing 2010 as the year of the British home child across Canada.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating the member for his motion. All of us in the House were very moved by the comments he made, especially about his ancestors.

For a person who thrives on history, I not only want to tell him that he can look forward to my support but I think we should take it a step further. We should not declare 2010 the year of British home child but perhaps collectively we can talk to our provincial members, who are responsible for the education curriculum, to ensure they teach this part of our Canadian history.

Would he perhaps consider that collectively we should make this effort to tell our provincial counterparts that this is part of our country and history, and that they should put it in the curriculum? Would he consider doing that?

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his wonderful suggestion. Certainly, there will be initiatives. This is part of the reason for bringing this forward, that the advocates are strong for the British home children in this country. We would love to see it as part of the curriculum. I appreciate the suggestion. The answer, quite frankly, is yes. We will begin advocacy on every possible way to educate Canadians about this very important group to the heritage of our country.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for bringing forward this motion.

As a first generation Canadian, and I say that with a great deal of respect, as someone who grew up in Glasgow and whose fellow Glaswegians were home children, indeed, I commend the hon. member on behalf of all of those, as I call, my fellows, my lads and my lassies who grew up with me, on recognizing those folks who came here.

The Welland Museum just recently had an exhibit about the home children. It was poignant to see a steamer trunk no bigger than the desks we sit in. That is how small these little ones were when they first came, and to see the shoes of that young person, no bigger than a four-year-old's, that little child could not have been more than four years old.

To see all of that memorabilia intact, all of it, of that child who came to this country all those years ago, and to now see this motion come forward to recognize those young people who came here and to actually say to them, “We thank you for the contributions you made to this country”. But we also want to recognize the hardships that they did suffer, that they did endure, and the things that went wrong to ensure that we never actually see that again.

I commend the member, and I, too, will stand in my place to support the motion. I would ask the member to comment on those little ones who came and the kind of suffering they may have endured.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, all of the people who have written to me and who have sent emails have pointed out the hardships and some of the mistreatment of British home children when they did arrive. That is part of the story that needs to be told and that we need to recognize. We also need to look at their descendants and how important this is for their descendants, that we do this as a country. I appreciate the member's sentiments. Some of the people who have made themselves aware to me fall into the category of the people who are out there and who want this story told. I believe we should tell it through this motion. I appreciate the member's support.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. I just want to congratulate the member for the work he has done on this motion.

It is good to hear, from across the floor, regardless of parties, support for this particular motion and what it will mean for 2010. Again, the member for Brant may not have been here for a long time, but he is obviously having an impact on behalf of the residents in his riding.

I would like the member to comment briefly on the impact he believes this will have on the hundreds of thousands of people whose forefathers are part of this. If he could just comment on that briefly, I would appreciate it.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the numbers speak for themselves. About 12% of Canada's population are descendants of British home children. Many do not know, perhaps, that they are the descendants of home children. I, myself, was able to find out so much about my uncle and his ancestry. I appreciate the fact that we will pass this motion unanimously. That is my expectation and that we will be able to tell more stories of the Kenneth Bickertons of the world.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

December 7th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House and dedicate my words to our children all over our country who deserve to live in peace and harmony, and who need to be nurtured with love, understanding and compassion.

My hope today is to speak words of encouragement to inspire them to fulfill their destiny, to expand their vision and to find the courage to overcome challenges and accomplish their dreams and aspirations.

Each day for our children should be a day of purpose, one where they experience joy and happiness and pursue their goals with integrity and passion and make a meaningful contribution to their communities, our country and indeed our world.

Our children's lives should be an expression or manifestation of creativity and a source of inspiration for us all. Their sense of curiosity and their free spirit, unencumbered by preconceived notions of reality, should liberate them to create a new and better world, a world of expanded opportunities where all things work for the betterment of our society, where we stretch to get beyond our comfort zone and grow, where we stretch to build greater strength and surpass previous levels of achievement and fulfilment.

Our children need to know that they have our support in choosing hope over fear and in seeking thriving over surviving, success over failure and love over hate. Children need to know that they can count on us to be there for them and that we can be a guiding light for them during their life's journey.

Today, however, the motion we are debating reminds us of a dark chapter in our nation's history. As we reflect on this motion, we are also reminded of other past injustices, moments we regret and are not very proud of, such as the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, the Chinese head tax, the immigration rules that prohibited Jewish people from entering Canada, or the internment of Italian Canadians.

Today this motion to designate 2010 the Year of the British Home Child across Canada is a motion I fully support, a motion that the Liberal Party of Canada supports and I hope every single member of Parliament on both sides of the House will support.

Between 1869 and the 1930s, over 100,000 British children, the majority of them under the age of 14, were brought to Canada by British religious charitable agencies and placed with Canadian families as labourers and domestic servants. Many of these children had been in British orphanages or other institutions, often not because they were orphans but because their families lacked the economic means to care for them. They were simply too poor.

Their living conditions in Canada were not closely monitored. They were often vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. By some accounts as many as four million Canadians are descendants of home children. Their story is a sad story. It is a story of abuse, exploitation, displacement and abandonment, but it is also a story of courage, character, integrity and inner fortitude. Their young lives were emotionally, psychologically and physically painful.

In some cases, they became prisoners of their experiences, of the recorded images inculcated in their minds, images of betrayal, images that brought incredible sadness and pain and in some cases, unfortunately, a sense of learned helplessness. These children began to view the world as a dark uncaring place where no one could be trusted, where every person they met could be another exploiter, another abuser. Their memories were memories of lost childhoods and humiliation, memories that for far too many, broke their spirit. Their memories were filled with images of people and betrayals by people they thought they could actually trust. That lack of trust for people, institutions and, in some cases, themselves eroded their sense of well-being. In some cases, it also broke their self-confidence and instilled fear and self-doubt.

However, the vast majority looked within themselves and found the inner strength to overcome these very serious obstacles. In this House, in these comfortable surroundings, it is almost unimaginable to think of the great pain these individuals felt and how impressive it is now to look back and see the great contribution they have made to the growth of this country, the great contribution they have made economically, culturally and, in some cases, spiritually to the growth of Canada. It is hard imagining how these young children, the children who were abandoned, the children who were essentially given away, not because their parents did not love them but because they did not have the means to take care of them, would come to a country like Canada and put that past away, although it is always within their spirit, and bring about the type of positive change to their lives and those of their communities in making an incredible contribution to our country.

For that reason I want to congratulate the member for bringing this to the attention of the House. As I have said to him personally, I support him in a very strong and unequivocal way because children are very special. When I read their stories, I was deeply touched and moved by the reality they had to deal with, the adversity and challenges they had to overcome, to get to where they eventually arrived, the great place called Canada. However, as we debate the motion, which embodies what the very best of Canadian citizenship is truly all about, that we understand that when mistakes are made we apologize for them in many ways, we should never forget that these individuals are truly special people.

I want to leave the House with a final comment, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. who once said:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, they were between 6 months and 18 years of age. They were still children: girls filled with dreams and boys filled with energy. Little ones just starting their lives who looked to the future with innocence and genuine hope. They had their whole lives ahead of them. The life they left was perhaps not ideal—many were poor or lived in orphanages—but it was their life. Yet that life would change dramatically overnight.

From 1869 to 1948, Great Britain deported more than 150,000 children in order to populate its colonies. They were loaded by the dozen onto boats bound for Australia, New Zealand and Canada. These children had no idea what awaited them. They had been promised a better life and painted a rosy picture of what lay in store. But when they reached their destination, reality would shatter any dreams they had left.

These thousands of children, some of whom were taken away from their families, travelled across oceans. When they arrived in Canada, the British home children, as they are known today, were used as cheap labour.

Certainly, many of them were mistreated or sexually abused. That is a sad fact, but it is part of Canada's and Quebec's history, and we must acknowledge it today.

That history is also my family's history. My mother's name is Hélène Rowley, and her father was John James Rowley. Of Irish origin, he was born in 1890 in Soho, which was not the radical chic neighbourhood it is today, but one of the poor parts of London depicted in Dickens' novels.

For 10 years, my maternal grandparents lived with us. We celebrated my grandfather's birthday every year on September 6, only to learn when he was in his sixties that he had been born on June 3. Moreover, he died on September 6, 1971, which is a bit ironic.

He never talked about that part of his life. From what I have learned, many home children did not talk about it because they wanted to forget. Many did not talk about it because they were ashamed. Yet they had no reason to be ashamed. Others had reason to be ashamed, but not the victims.

The father of one of my colleagues is also a home child. She does not want to talk about it. There is a code of silence, as in the case of concentration camp survivors who refused for many years to talk about their experience, because they wanted to forget what had happened to them.

I did not know. After I was elected, I was telling my story during an interview, and I explained how my grandfather had come to live here, but I did not know about home children. The association came to see me and told me that my grandfather was more than likely a home child. There are many who do not even know it.

However, I can say that my grandfather was not mistreated. He was taken in by the Leduc family of Saint-Benoît du lac des Deux Montagnes. He had a happy childhood, then met Marie-Joseph Pilon of Rigaud. They had four children, including my mother, Hélène. He was a happy man, a warm man who did not talk about that part of his life. He had forgotten it, or wanted to.

This part of our history is not widely understood. However, British home children and their descendants now represent 12% of the population, some 4 million people. We owe it to them to remember. We must recognize the injustice, the abuse and the suffering, as well as the work these people have done and their contributions to our communities. After all these years, we have to acknowledge their true story, which is also ours.

The shame here is in the wrongdoing, not in the apology. What is shameful is the fact that we tolerated this situation for so long, for nearly a century, that we tacitly accepted this insidious form of slavery. What is shameful here is not having opened our eyes any sooner.

Now it is time to face the facts. The voice of history is loud and clear, and we must respond. We must stand up and apologize to the victims for the tragedy they experienced.

It is not hard to apologize. The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, apologized during a ceremony in Canberra. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, also announced plans for an official apology on behalf of the United Kingdom.

But in Canada, where the majority of British home children were sent, the government is still refusing to recognize the evidence and apologize properly.

We will support this motion. We thank the member for moving it, but more must be done. The government must accept its responsibilities immediately and not only honour the memory of British home children, but also apologize. It is the right thing to do.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, loneliness, betrayal, exploitation and loss of love was the plight of over 100,000 home children shipped from England to Canada between 1860 and 1939. Two-thirds of these children were under 14 years of age and two-thirds of them were abused. Some who came were as young as four years old.

Ada Allan, a British home child, said:

All those years, I didn't know what it was to be loved. In those times when they hired you, it was to work. I didn't sit at the table with them...I ate by myself. I was a servant. This grew on me. I felt very inferior even though I knew I was an honest person.

There was also documentation of sexual and physical mistreatment, as well as widespread flouting of regulations that required farmers to pay children's wages into trust accounts. Many of the children did not get any of that money. Then, as the leader of the Bloc said, there is the shame.

Another home child from the Ottawa Valley said:

I was one [a home child]...and a most unhappy and degrading period of my life it was. I don't even want to think about it and I haven't even told my children about it...Nothing except the Grace of God can dim the memory of that terrible period of my life.

The New Democratic Party of Canada supports the motion in front of us to name 2010 as the year of the British home child and the establishment of a commemorative stamp, but it is not enough.

As I said in my letter to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism two weeks ago, the 10,000 British home children and their descendants need a formal apology from Parliament. These home children are now in their nineties and Parliament must give them the honour and recognition they deserve. Canada willingly participated in taking in these children, using them as free child labour. We willingly exploited them and offered no services and no protection to them. More needs to be done.

John Hennessey, a former child migrant, described why Canada accepted 100,000 of these children. On arrival in Fremantle, he and the other children were greeted by a senior clergyman who said, “We need white stock. We need this country to be populated by white stock because we are terrified of the Asian hordes”.

We must remember that Canada's immigration policy was quite racist at that time. It inflicted a Chinese head tax, and later the Chinese Exclusion Act, on the Chinese who helped build the railroad. Their children were not able to come to Canada. They too were separated from their families, just as the British children were separated from their families in England.

Hennessey said:

There was no understanding back then of the inner life of a human being. The draconian trauma of being sent across the sea, the loneliness of being placed on isolated farms, the lack of parental understanding, the treatment and discrimination that they faced because of their cockney accents, all these made it a terrible burden.

There are two more lessons that we can learn from this. First, we should not let our immigration policy be influenced purely and solely by our labour needs and we should not look just for cheap labour in our immigration policy. Second, we must remember that every child is precious and needs his or her parents. Whatever policy we have, whether it is our present live-in caregiver or temporary foreign workers program, we should not separate families.

I am proud as a New Democrat to tell the House that one of the most vocal critics at that time was Major James Coldwell, an early leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the CCF, which eventually became the New Democratic Party. Major Coldwell was very much opposed to this policy.

Britain continued to ship kids abroad for decades. The home children program came to an end in 1939; however the last batch of home children came to Canada in 1948.

We should be proud of these young men and women, because the British home children helped build this country. An amazing 12% of Canada's population is descended from these British home children. That translates into nearly four million people, or to put it another way, one in every eight Canadians.

We thank all of the British home children for their contribution. They helped build our country. They helped define Canada. Through their perseverance and determination they contributed to Canada. We apologize for the treatment they received.

Let us dedicate ourselves to educate future generations of Canadians so that we understand the history. Let us work together on a formal apology to the 100,000 home children who came to Canada.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this motion. It is a very important topic, given the number of people involved. As the previous speakers have indicated, between 1870 and 1940, more than 50 child care organizations transported 100,000 allegedly orphaned, abandoned, illegitimate and impoverished children to Canada, supposedly to provide them with better lives than they would have in England. Thousands of children six to fifteen years of age were transported without their parents' knowledge or consent to work as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants until they were 18 years of age. When they turned 16, they were supposed to get some sort of salary, but I do not know that it was very well monitored.

Currently there is an estimated four million descendants of British home children, many of whom are desperately seeking their unknown 20 million British relatives. They are not alone. Millions of Americans and Australians, possibly comprising 10% of their populations, are also unaware of the existence of family members in the United Kingdom.

There has been a lot of activity going on, thanks to the member who introduced the motion. The problem I have is that a government member has introduced the motion, and it is certainly a very good step, but I believe that the government has to offer an apology to the home children.

As I understand it so far, the citizenship and immigration minister has absolutely no plans to apologize to the home children. I do not know why that would be. He said he would support the private member's motion, recognizing 2010 as the year of the British home child, and he was prepared to issue a commemorative stamp. Given that this motion appears to have the full support of all 308 members of Parliament, it is just a logical extension from there that an apology should be in order. I would hope that the member who introduced the motion would agree with me on that, but once again, I am not sure why the government is not prepared to do that.

There was a very good letter sent out to government representatives in Nova Scotia. I want to read a couple of parts of it because it is a very well-written letter. The letter says that from 1869 to 1948, institutions in England and Scotland, such as Middlemoor Home and others sent children as young as a few months to 18 years of age to Canada. Industrial cities in the British Isles were overcrowded and Canada needed the workers, so an agreement was struck between these organizations and the British and Canadian governments to settle these children in Canada and later in Australia. I do not know whether a formal agreement was signed or what sort of agreement it was, but at least the letter does talk about an agreement.

The children were to work as farm hands or domestics. The letter goes on to say that some were lucky enough to be adopted. A prospective employer had to make an application for a child, and usually specified the sex and age required. The child was to work for room and board and clothing until the age of 16, when the child would be given a wage. There were to be yearly inspections by a representative of the sending agency and reports were supposed to be filed. The letter says that sometimes this worked, but most often it did not. Many children were not fed or clothed properly. They were beaten. They were forced to live in a barn, cellar or even with the family's dog. Some died from the abuse. The ones who survived were often emotionally scarred.

In later years, not many would talk about their experience, not even telling the truth about where they were from or how they came to Canada. Some did not even know who they were because their names were changed and they were so young when it happened, they did not remember their birth names or who their natural parents were. Yet most overcame these adversities to marry, raise children and become productive citizens. They contributed much to Canada.

Many young men enlisted in the armed forces and fought in the First World War, some repeated this unselfish act by signing up during the Second World War. The immigration scheme was well intentioned and credit must be given to those who tried to save these children for surely a large number of them might have died living in squalor as they did. But now the British and Canadian governments seem to want to sweep it all under the rug. Records are not always readily available and when they are, they can cost 60 to 75 pounds sterling.

They go on to say:

We, the second, third and forth generations are discovering our ancestors’ stories and we want to have them acknowledged. These children were real heroes even though they were not aware of it and they deserve to be recognized and rewarded for that heroism.

Other pieces of information I had in my file indicated that people were held back from gathering information when they tried to it from these organizations. Even some of the home children themselves were ignored and were denied information when they tried to look for their relatives. It seemed to be a deliberate attempt to thwart giving information on behalf of the organizations that were involved in sending the children.

This is an extremely important story. Many people are not aware of this. The member for Welland stood up earlier and asked a question of the member who introduced the motion. It is extremely important and interesting that he has a display in the Welland Museum.

It has been a long time since this started to happen and not too many people know about it. Only through activities such as the member introducing motions like this and the letters from which I just read, requesting that members from the Nova Scotia legislature pass a similar motion, are people finding out. If we make a concerted effort then I cannot see why we would not be able to put some pressure on the government to offer the apology about which our member talked.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we look at this and reflect on what happened, many members have raised the issue of the treatment of young children as they came here and what happened to them, based on the circumstances they faced in their home countries before they left.

As a young boy, I travelled to this country with my parents in 1963. It was a land we did not know and a place where we had no relatives or friends. I think back to those days of being a youngster. I was the eldest of a brother, two sisters and a subsequent brother who was born here. I felt lonely when I came here, but I had my parents, my brother and my two sisters.

I think of what it must have felt like for those very young children. As I described earlier, there was a little one who had a steamer trunk and those tiny shoes. I think about the sort of feelings that little one must have had, as those children travelled all those miles. In those days, they would have travelled by sea. They did not fly over the great ocean like I did, on what was then the 707 Boeing jetliner, which was the largest in the world. It seemed like a celebration.

Yet when I arrived on these shores, I felt lonely for my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, extended family and friends with whom I had grown up as a child. In my heart, I knew I would probably never see them again. However, thanks to technology and the way certain circumstances unfolded, I did get to see my grandparents and some closer relatives again, but I did not see many others. My great grandfather was alive when I left. I was able to see him one more time before he died at the ripe old age of 94. It left a great hole in my life and indeed a hole in my heart.

For those youngsters who never saw their families again for the rest of their lives, and many did not, knowing they had family must have left big holes in their hearts. They would have remembered the families they had left, even if they were taken away from their home country by family. They travelled such great distances in the early part of the 20th century, knowing for certain they would never see them again. Perhaps they were in untoward circumstances, not to lay the blame today.

I thank the member for bringing the motion forward. The organizations really had great intentions. Unfortunately, the reality did not meet the intentions in a lot of cases. Again, let us celebrate the place where those were met with welcoming families, as the leader of the Bloc said earlier about his grandfather. He was with a family who was joyous to receive him and welcomed him into its home. The family helped him flourish and nourished him, not only from a physical perspective, but from a spiritual one and in a holistic way so he grew to be the man that the leader of the Bloc understood as his grandfather, a great human being. Yet he still did not want to talk about those days and the great piece of them gone missing.

We talked about the 12% of Canadians derived from the stock of those home children. The dilemma is that it is a huge piece of this society, but it is a huge story left untold because of the unnecessary shame they felt. Those youngsters should never have felt shame. They should have simply moved on and said that their stories were important and should be continued.

Therefore, I thank the member and congratulate him. I will surely stand in my place for that.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no other members rising, I will go to the member for Brant for his five minute right of reply.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues in the House of Commons for expressing their views. By bringing the motion forward, we are not trying to sweep this under the carpet. We want acknowledgement and recognition of the fact that this chapter of Canada's history needs to be told.

Many of these orphans and others who came here contributed to the base core values of our country. They made huge contributions. In the case of my family, I can think of the descendants now, my cousins and second cousins who are now part of the Bickerton family, and how much they have contributed to our country and the well-being of it. Theirs is just one of the many stories to be told.

I respectfully ask the Speaker to bring this to closure, by asking for the unanimous consent of the House to pass the motion?

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is there unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion?

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

British Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Suspension of SittingBritish Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Since private members' business started at 11:06 a.m., the House will suspend until 12:06 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:56 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:05 p.m.)

Sitting ResumedBritish Home ChildrenPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster and I will hear the member now.

Seventh Report of Standing Committee on International TradePrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as you mentioned, on a question of privilege. I am hoping this will not take an inordinate amount of time.

A few days ago the Standing Committee on International Trade presented to the House its seventh report. There is a clear factual inaccuracy in the text of the report, which misrepresents the committee's vote that led to its adoption and, subsequently, leads to an inaccurate or misleading report that has been presented in the House.

The report is based on a motion that I brought to committee, which I indicated to the Speaker of the House in my letter. The evidence of the November 17 meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade clearly shows that the majority of its members voted in support of the motion that I had brought forward. My vote, it should be noted, was the deciding vote on this matter.

The motion that was passed by the committee urges the government to support the marketing of Canadian cattle and beef exports to a level that establishes a level playing field with Canada's main competitors. There was an additional amendment to the motion, which was then adopted as amended. It constitutes the basis of the seventh report of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

The amendment brought forward by the Liberal Party proposed the following addition to the text, “furthermore, that the Committee urge the government to move quickly to negotiate additional free trade agreements that reduce tariffs and improve market access for Canadian products” after the word “House”. Of course, this is non-reportable.

The transcript provides clear evidence that the amendment proposed at that time by the member for Kings—Hants was presented and voted upon as a non-reportable motion, in addition to the reportable text of the motion I had submitted to be inserted after the last sentence in my motion, which expressed the following: “that the committee report this to the House”.

Therefore, the Liberal amendment that came after the reportable language in the first part of the motion should not have been included in the committee's report to the House. It was non-reportable.

I submit that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on International Trade should read as follows:

That the Committee urge the government to support the marketing of Canadian cattle and beef exports by increasing the government’s promotional budget for Canadian beef, which is currently underfunded, to a level that establishes an equal playing field with Canada’s main competitors, including Australia and the United States and that the Committee report this to the House.

I submit that the change to that text, which distorts my and the committee's vote, breaches my privilege. The text of the report, as it currently stands, does not truthfully reflect my November 17 vote in committee and breaches my privilege. I ask that this be allowed to go before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and at that time I will be seeking a remedy. This is an important precedent that cannot be allowed to stand.

I would like to add that the excellent recent edition by Madam O'Brien and Monsieur Bosc of the House of Commons Practice and Procedure states very clearly as precedents the following forms of contempt found by the 1999 report of the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege: deliberately publishing a false or misleading report of the proceedings of the House or a committee; or deliberately altering, suppressing, concealing or destroying a paper required to be produced for the House or a committee. As you know, Mr. Speaker, our parliamentary privilege is founded to a significant extent on traditions and precedents that have been established in the United Kingdom.

I should also note that in the same upgraded edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, the excellent edition published this year, there is a very clear precedent that occurred in the year 2000, when Speaker Parent ruled that the premature release by a member of a draft report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was a prima facie matter that should be debated by the House.

Mr. Speaker, because the report adopted by the committee was not the same report presented in the House, one can say very clearly in this case that either the issue of a change to a committee report or the fact that the committee was never even asked to review the report before it was brought directly to the House is a prima facie case for you to consider.

Mr. Speaker, if you find a prima facie case, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion. I have it here in my hands. I hope you will move to a rapid ruling on this case.

I thank you and the other members of the House for your consideration of this important matter.

Seventh Report of Standing Committee on International TradePrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for raising this question of privilege. I understand there were some similar questions raised last week on matters arising from committee.

I should note that the Speaker has consistently encouraged committees to resolve matters within their control, and the question raised by the hon. member today is clearly an issue that has arisen from committee proceedings and certainly falls within the realm of action by the committee.

The international trade committee could, for instance, decide to modify the report presented to the House. Furthermore, as indicated in the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice on page 1050:

Ordinarily, presentation of a report to the House is a prerequisite for any question of privilege arising from the proceedings of a committee.

Unlike the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, with its 14th report that it presented to the House on November 26, the international trade committee did not present a report that would bring the attention of the House to a possible breach of privilege.

Accordingly, the Chair is not able to find that a prima facie matter of privilege exists in this case, but I do wish to thank the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster for his intervention.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedDisposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consideration of the motion under government orders, Government Business No. 8, I move:

That the debate be not further adjourned.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedDisposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair will have some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Given the great degree of interest, I will ask members to keep their questions and responses to about one minute, and we will move through this as orderly as possible.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedDisposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the government has moved a motion that the debate on the HST, the harmonized sales tax for Ontario and British Columbia, be not further adjourned.

It is well known that the people of British Columbia and Ontario do not want the HST, as it will create another tax on many things that are not currently taxed, for example, heating and many other things.

I wonder why we have Parliament in this country. That is the question I want to ask the Leader of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives want to ram the bill through without a real debate, where we would take time to debate it and then send it to committee. The government is just ramming the bill through and not giving elected members of Parliament an opportunity to debate it.

The government is saying it is the provinces that asked for it. The provinces asked for it but at the same time the federal government has to take responsibility and allow debate on the bill and allow democracy to take place. I would like to know what the leader--