House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicles.


National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, momentarily, I will be proposing a motion by unanimous consent to expedite passage through the House of an important new bill, An Act to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada. However, before I propose my motion, which has been agreed to in advance by all parties, I would like to take a quick moment to thank my colleagues and the other parties for their cooperation in expediting this legislation.

This is a clear demonstration of how Parliament can work when we have set aside our partisan differences and work for the good of the Canadian people, who have entrusted us to represent them. This legislation was tabled just yesterday and, when passed, will establish for the first time ever a national cemetery for our country. Hereafter, governors general, prime ministers and Victoria Cross winners will be able to choose to be interred and commemorated there.

Once this important bill passes both houses and becomes law, we will finally have our own cemetery where Canadians can commemorate those who have dedicated themselves to the service of the public through high office or supreme military valour. I am very proud of this legislation and I am pleased that it will be expedited through the House.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, a member from each recognized party may speak for not more than 10 minutes on the second reading motion of Bill C-17, An Act to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada, after which the bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-17, An Act to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by seeking unanimous consent to share my time.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to share his time?

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the Conservative government to Bill C-17, An Act to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the member for Ottawa—Vanier on this file. I would also like to note the efforts of my good friend, the member for Ottawa—Orléans, who seconded this motion and with whom I will be splitting my time. I would also like to specifically acknowledge the work of the Minister of the Environment, who put a lot of effort into this project to finally make it a reality.

The recognition of Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada would serve as an eloquent symbol for our country. This unique recognition would confer upon Beechwood Cemetery the honour of being a national place of tribute.

I would like to talk a little bit about what makes Beechwood the right choice for being recognized as the national cemetery. Beechwood is a reflection of Canada's identity as a multicultural, multi-faith society with sections reserved for the Chinese, Greek, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Polish, Lebanese and other ethnocultural communities.

Monuments to St. Charbel, Our Lady of Fatima, Élizabeth Bruyère, and St. Marguerite d'Youville are visible on the grounds. Beechwood is also the home of the Chinese Cemetery of Ottawa, designed according to Chinese religious principles and distinguished by a pagoda to honour the community's ancestors. An aboriginal tribute garden is also in the planning stages.

Over the past decade the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation has worked hard to set the foundation for its inevitable recognition as the national cemetery of Canada.

In 2001 Beechwood became the National Military Cemetery for the Canadian Forces. In 2002 it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. In 2004 the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery was established here. Finally, in 2007 the veterans sections administered by Veterans Affairs Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were amalgamated with the National Military Cemetery.

In April 2008 the multi-million dollar Beechwood National Memorial Centre was opened to serve the memorial and commemorative needs of all Canadians. The facility features an imposing sacred space area, adjoining reception rooms, and a Hall of Colours, featuring the laid up colours of Canada's military regiments. The sacred space area was designed after extensive consultation with leaders of major faith groups to better serve the needs of Canada's diverse faith communities. It is believed to be the first centre of its kind in the world.

The national cemetery of Canada proposal arises from a collaborative effort between the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation and the Government of Canada. The costs of interments would continue to be the responsibility of various federal departments and agencies as appropriate: National Defence for the burial of military personnel in the National Cemetery of the Canadian Forces; the RCMP for the burial of members and their immediate families in the National Memorial Cemetery; Veterans Affairs Canada offers a program to assist the families of veterans with the burial of those who served Canada; Canadian Heritage for state funerals and the interment of governors general and prime ministers; and the Parks Canada Agency for the maintenance of the gravesites of Canadian prime ministers.

Through its 135 years of existence, Beechwood has proudly evolved into a leading multicultural, multi-faith cemetery in the nation, and remains an outstanding cultural landscape, which expresses the values and beliefs of many important and distinct cultural communities in Canada.

For generations to come, Beechwood Cemetery will continue to provide a symbolic venue to honour prominent Canadians, including former prime ministers, governors general, those who fought valiantly to promote democratic values and to ensure world peace and security, and the men and women who have shaped the course of Canada's history.

I would now like to share my time with my colleague, the member for Ottawa—Orléans.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment for graciously sharing his time with me.

Hon. members know that I do not hog the time in this chamber. When I do speak, I avoid partisanship and fanaticism, yet I am passionate about history, about the history of our home and native land, about the history of this place.

Bill C-17 is an opportunity for all members of the House to work in this spirit, and as the House can see, we are.

First, I would like to praise the Minister of the Environment for his hard work and dedication to this project. While this idea is not a new one, this minister and this government have made sure to make it happen.

In addition, I would like to mention the contribution of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Chief Government Whip, the members for Ottawa—Vanier, Ottawa Centre and Gatineau, as well as Senators Keon and Munson and Bruce Carson, from the Prime Minister's Office. I would also like to extend my appreciation to Grete Hale and her foundation.

Some may ask, why does Canada need a national cemetery? In answer, I am sure that many hon. members are familiar with the Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. In fact, there are 141 national cemeteries in the United States, but they are generally military cemeteries containing the graves of U.S. military personnel, veterans and their spouses. The Arlington National Cemetery is an exception, as it contains the graves of outstanding civilian leaders and other people of national importance in the U.S. National cemeteries in that country thus serve a very specific military purpose.

Other countries have established national cemeteries. The Pantheon in Paris is a building that serves as a repository for the remains of many illustrious French citizens.

Members of the British royal family are interred at Westminster Abbey and at St. George's Chapel in Windsor. These models serve very specific purposes, and while of interest, do not meet the needs of our country.

This government believes that a made in Canada formula is required for a national cemetery that extends beyond military burials and that pays tribute to the contributions made by all those who came before us in shaping Canada as a nation.

I am sure that hon. members support the need for a national cemetery in Canada. Over 75,000 Canadians from all walks of life found their final resting place at Beechwood Cemetery, including 23 national historic persons who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to Canadian history.

Many prominent Canadians are interred at Beechwood, including leaders such as: William McDougall, a Father of Confederation; Sir Robert Borden, the eighth Prime Minister of Canada; Tommy Douglas, the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan and the first leader of the New Democratic Party; and Ramon Hnatyshyn, a former member of this House and 24th Governor General of Canada.

There are military figures such as: Generals Andrew McNaughton, Henry Crerar and Charles Foulkes; engineer and scientist Sir Sanford Fleming; and poets Archibald Lampman, Arthur Bourinot and William Wilfred Campbell.

By virtue of its location in the nation's capital, Beechwood Cemetery serves as a focal point for national memorial events such as Remembrance Day.

Finally, in the spirit of promoting the ideals of Canadian unity, the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation is committed to ensuring the delivery of services in Canada's both official languages.

This recognition will illustrate our government's commitment to the heritage in this place. It is our duty to preserve this heritage, to make the younger generations aware of it and to pay tribute to those who shaped our country's history.

By passing this bill, our government will open the doors of Beechwood Cemetery to prime ministers, governors general and recipients of the Victoria Cross who wish to be interred in the nation's capital.

This recognition would also ensure that there is a place conducive to reflection, a perfect place to pay tribute to those who came before us and who fought to make Canada an open, free and peaceful country, a country characterized by strong values such as justice, respect for human rights and gender equality.

This will be a way for us to preserve and highlight our country's historical heritage.

When we put away partisanship and fanaticism, when we work together for the common good, we can all get things done.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am very pleased to speak in favour of passing this bill, which is very important to me and to many of my colleagues in this House. I would like to repeat what I said yesterday during a ceremony that took place following the government's introduction of this bill in the House.

The first thing I did yesterday, and I will do it again today, is to thank and salute the board and staff of the Beechwood Cemetery, some of whom I know are listening intently to the debate, and I will read the names.

It is appropriate that the people who have carried this project mostly so far be recognized: its chair, Grete Hale; Mr. Robert White, the treasurer; Margie Howsam the secretary; Mr. Richard Wagner; retired General Maurice Baril; Ian Guthrie; Stephen Gallagher; retired Brigadier General Gerry Peddle, Madame Ghyslaine Clément, who was assistant commissioner of the RCMP; Ms. Carol Beal; and the Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP, Tim Killam.

As I did yesterday, I saved the last gentlemen's name, David Roger, who has, at some point in the history of the cemetery been instrumental in preserving it and ensuring that, as an institution, its integrity was protected so that it could become what it is about the become, Canada's national cemetery.

I salute all these people for their constant, ceaseless volunteer work to make of this institutions what it is.

It does not go without some staff as well: Madame Sylvia Ceacero, Vera Yuzyk, and the predecessor to Sylvia, Tim Graham, I salute them for the work they have done over the years.

My second comments are to thank Parliament and the government.

A little over two years ago, on February 27, 2007, I introduced a bill in the House to make the Beechwood cemetery our national cemetery. At the time, I asked two of my colleagues for their support. One of them was to the right, literally or at least geographically: the member for Ottawa—Orléans. I did not have to ask twice; he agreed immediately and has always supported the idea. I also sought the support of my colleague to the left, geographically and perhaps otherwise: the member for Ottawa Centre, who also did not hesitate to support the bill.

My intention was to show that the initiative was completely non-partisan. That was true at the time and remains true today. I made it clear that if the government wanted to take over the bill and make it a government bill introduced in its name, I would have no problem with that. It has finally happened. And so I want to highlight the work and support of the Minister of the Environment, who brought the bill this far, and of his predecessor, the current Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the member for Ottawa West—Nepean. This is an excellent example of collaboration.

I have also engaged in an ongoing dialogue on the subject with the member for Gatineau, because I do not want anyone in the House to feel injured or left out by this initiative. As the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said at the beginning of the debate, this is an approach that Canadians are coming to appreciate and will certainly appreciate in this case.

I thought it was important it be done that way. If Beechwood Cemetery is to become a national one, as I said yesterday, I thought best that it be borne out of collaboration and not confrontation, out of harmony and not controversy, and that seems to have been achieved here.

After this debate, there will be two ultimate steps in the other chamber and royal sanction. I suspect and I hope the willingness of collaboration will manifest itself in these two last steps for this legislation to be fully enacted.

It brings me to the question of why we should have a national cemetery, and I think it has been touched upon. What is important is this institution be as close as possible a reflection of what Canada is, a pluralistic and an inclusive society.

Everyone has a place in our society.

We do not neglect the importance of our military history and the proof is in the pudding in that the military has chosen to have its national cemetery within the confines of Beechwood.

The same is true of the RCMP. This country operates under the rule of law, and that rule is fundamentally important to the very nature and fabric of our society. The RCMP has also chosen to make Beechwood its national cemetery. Thus, we have here two fundamental components of what makes up Canada and its history.

However, it goes way beyond that. As has been mentioned, in the Beechwood Cemetery are heads of state, elected officials, federal, provincial and municipal, scientists, industrialists, people from all walks of life beyond any partisanship. Sir Robert Borden is there as is Tommy Douglas, so it stands as the range of political persuasion in the country.

I am also one of those people who believe that linguistic duality is a fundamental and essential characteristic of Canada's future, of what it will become. In that regard, I must say, Beechwood has done an excellent job. That was an indispensable condition of my support for this institution's desire to become a national cemetery.

I commend Beechwood's efforts and achievements in this regard. Of course, by obtaining national cemetery status, the directors and managers of this institution understand that this must remain an enduring condition—in perpetuity—in order to continue to deserve this status of national cemetery.

Last year saw the pièce de résistance when the Governor General, our head of state, participated in the opening ceremony of the Beechwood National Memorial Centre at which its multi-dimensional, multi-ethnic and multi-denominational character was consecrated. Every religion is accepted at Beechwood and, indeed, they are all represented there harmoniously. Beechwood is, I think, what a Canadian national cemetery should be: a reflection of its society.

However, one element seemed to be lacking. Over the last two weeks, somehow this element is being solved. Two weeks ago, the Ottawa Citizen ran a story, written by Randy Boswell, about a gentleman by the name of James Creighton, who, according to our Prime Minister, is the closest thing Canada has to a founding father of hockey. This gentleman is buried in Beechwood Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

His is a long and interesting story. Essentially, the Society for International Hockey Research has determined that this gentleman had been at the forefront of defining the modern rules of hockey as it is practised today. This gentleman also was for 48 years the law clerk of the Senate. When he died, I believe 1930, within a week, his wife also died. As a consequence of that, he remained buried at Beechwood in an unmarked grave. The Society for International Hockey Research found this out and hoped to raise enough money to have a suitable headstone erected in his honour. That story was carried in the local newspaper two weeks ago.

I then called the Ottawa Senators, both the hockey club and the ones in the upper chamber, to see if the money could be raised so the headstone could be prepared and erected. I am happy to say that not only a number of people reacted positively, but Beechwood Cemetery itself has given us pledge money. The Ottawa Senator's owner has also. Our colleagues in the upper chamber are pondering it. I believe that some time in the spring this last element will be fulfilled. How could it not be any other way, that our national cemetery would also honour our national winter sport.

I am very proud to say that a headstone will indeed be arranged and erected for this man.

The final step for me is to hope that our colleagues in the other chamber, Senators Dallaire, Keon, Munsen and the Government Leader in the Senate, Madame LeBreton, who have all been involved with this, will ensure that this is carried out promptly and that we can all take some pride in this achievement of Parliament, as we are doing here today.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-17 concerning Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa. If Canada wants to create a national cemetery on Canadian land, that is Canada's business, and we of the Quebec nation respect that choice.

In addition, I am very happy to speak to this bill, because several famous Quebeckers are buried there.

I would like to extend sincere thanks to Michel Prévost, chair of the Outaouais historical society, for all the historical information he sent me to share with Quebeckers and Canadians about illustrious Quebeckers whose graves are in Beechwood Cemetery. Mr. Prévost is a consummate professional and a great guy. Thank you very much, Michel.

First, there is Alonzo Wright, a lumberman and politician, who was born on April 28, 1821 in Hull, Lower Canada, and died on January 7, 1894 in Ironside, Quebec. He was the grandson of Philemon Wright, the founder of Wrightville in Lower Canada.

There is a bridge over the Gatineau River that is named after him. Today, on some of the land he once worked stands the Collège Saint-Alexandre in the town of Touraine, in Gatineau.

In the rugged “Ottawa valley country”, he became, to his contemporaries, a “king” of the forest industry.

Alonzo Wright's political career spanned the years from 1863 to 1891. First elected as the member for the Quebec riding of Ottawa, under the infamous union forced by the equally infamous Lord Durham, he was re-elected five times in the Dominion. He was always elected under the banner of the Liberal-Conservative Party, whose first leader was John Alexander MacDonald. Prior to 1863, he was an admirer of the Reformers Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine. As a politician, he fought hard for his riding, championing agricultural development, colonization and the construction of canals and railways to link the region to what is now the rest of the Quebec nation. Perhaps with him, the Outaouais would already have its four-lane highway 50, but we will never know.

Another well-known Quebecker who has left her mark on Beechwood Cemetery is Élisabeth Bruyère. The founder and first superior of the Sisters of Charity of Bytown, she was born in L'Assomption, Lower Canada, on March 19, 1818 and died in Ottawa on April 5, 1876. A hospital in the Lowertown area of Ottawa bears her name, and there are streets named for her in Gatineau and Ottawa.

Mother Bruyère is not buried in Beechwood Cemetery, but a beautiful monument has been erected there in her honour. A Quebecker by birth, Mother Bruyère established a community that is present today in the Outaouais.

Under the protection of a cousin, abbé Charles-François Caron, the parish priest of Saint-Esprit in Montcalm County, she received a religious, intellectual, and domestic training of the highest quality. In 1834 she taught at the local school; she continued teaching at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul on Laval Island when her benefactor was transferred there in 1836.

Elisabeth was easily moved by the sufferings of others, and in 1839 entered the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général de Montréal, commonly called the Grey Nuns. In 1845, she went to Bytown where, under the yoke of the Act of Union, Franco-Ontarians had no schools, hospitals or organized assistance. Young Sister Bruyère was among those who served this community and surrounding ones. She had to combat the tragic typhus epidemic of 1847-1848.

The Grey Nuns saved some 475 of the 600 who fell ill. In addition, they were entrusted with the care of fifteen infant orphans. Mother Bruyère trained sisters in Bytown who opened no less than 25 houses serving as schools or hospitals under her control, such as St. Andrews West, near Cornwall, Ontario, or Timiskaming, known at the time as Canada West, and Buffalo, in New York State. Élisabeth Bruyère was a woman of courage and vision.

Louis-Théodore Besserer, notary, soldier, member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada and businessman, was born in Château-Richer, near Quebec City, on January 4, 1785, and died in Ottawa on February 3, 1861.

He was a pupil at Petit Séminaire de Québec and then studied to become a notary.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, Besserer was a lieutenant in the 2nd militia battalion of the Quebec City district. He was transferred to the 6th battalion on March 20, 1813 and on September 25 of the same year was promoted captain. He represented the county of Quebec in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada from October 7, 1833 to March 27, 1838. He agreed with the Ninety-Two Resolutions and was a Patriote of the Quebec region.

Disappointed and embittered by political events, Besserer retired in 1845 to an immense estate he had purchased in 1828 near Bytown. A shrewd businessman, he had it subdivided into building sites, and gave Bishop Patrick Phelan a lot for a church and school in order to attract buyers. He also had several streets laid out, one of which, in Sandy Hill, still bears his name. This speculation brought him a fortune. Along with other fellow citizens, he was concerned with the incorporation of Bytown as a town, which took place in 1847.

Unfortunately, assimilation reared its ugly head. Mr. Besserer quickly became anglicized and, by the end of his life, considered himself to be a unilingual anglophone.

Sir George Halsey Perley was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire on September 12, 1857 and died on January 4, 1938. For half a century this Quebecker had a bridge between Grenville, Québec and my home town of Hawkesbury in eastern Ontario proudly named after him. The bridge that replaced it is now known as Long-Sault because it is in the area of New France where Dollard des Ormeaux died during a conflict.

Perley was a politician and a diplomat. Between 1904 and 1935, he was elected seven times as the federal member for Argenteuil—a seat now occupied by none other than our Bloc Québécois transport critic. He served, among other things, as minister of the overseas military forces during the first world war.

Many other people are buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

Built in 1873 in a hilly area surrounded by trees, it has winding paths, picturesque views and numerous wooded islets as well as its variety of trees, shrubs and ornamental plants. This place of pastoral beauty, which lends itself to reflection and commemoration of the dead, is also home to monuments of considerable artistic and historical significance. There is also a beautiful chapel on this sacred site.

In conclusion, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to my colleagues from Ottawa—Vanier, a Liberal, Ottawa—Orléans, a Conservative, and Ottawa Centre, from the NDP, who set aside partisanship and worked together with the Bloc Québécois to make this project a reality in their city.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here today to speak to this bill.

It is a bill that is uncommon in many ways, the first of which is the way it came together.

I thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for his leadership. I also thank my colleague, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans, for his support and leadership, and my friend from the Bloc who just spoke.

Beechwood Cemetery is an important acknowledgement to Canada. It means that Beechwood Cemetery would become a national symbol in earnest, and it already is a national symbol in function. As has been mentioned by others, it is the resting place for many important Canadians. It is the final resting place of thousands of men and women who gave their lives for our country: peacekeepers, soldiers and people who worked on humanitarian missions around the world. It is a place that already does honour our nation.

What the bill does that is so fundamentally important is that the federal government, the voice of this nation, puts its stamp on this and acknowledges for all to see that this place is a national symbol, a national place of resting for so many.

It is important to note some of the people who do rest there. We know that one of our prime ministers, Sir Robert Borden, rests there. He was the prime minister who was in power at a time of war and who led this country in so many different ways. It is important that our country, through this legislation, acknowledges a previous prime minister. As he rests there he symbolizes, in my opinion, many of the prime ministers who have served the country so well.

It should be noted that most of the other G8 countries have designated a place of national importance for those who have served their country and who are now resting in peace.

Another important person to Canada and to our party who rests at Beechwood Cemetery is Tommy Douglas and his wife, Irma Douglas. I have had the occasion to be in that place many times. I know that Mr. Douglas would appreciate this legislation not because he is there, in fact, that would be one of the reasons he would not support it, but because of the idea that we should honour this country and note that it is something that every democratic nation should have.

When we look at the contributions of people like Tommy Douglas, both in his home province of Saskatchewan and on the national stage, he brought much to this country. He supplied the ideas that have been developed and have been co-opted by past governments that we can all be proud of. We on this side of the House in the New Democratic Party have been honoured by his legacy and his leadership. Often we hear his voice reminding us of why we are here.

Another important Canadian who rests in Beechwood is Thomas Fuller. For all of us here, we should honour the fact that he was the architect of this very building. Again, he was someone who contributed to the nation and to this place.

Ray Hnatyshyn, the former governor general, also rests at Beechwood Cemetery.

It is also important to note that where this place is set is important in terms of the national fabric, in terms of the viewpoints and in terms of the landscape, as has already been mentioned. It is, without question, the most important piece of real estate, next to the place we are in, because of the people who came before us. For that, the bill is not only an honour but is an important contribution to our national fabric.

Often it is through literature that we capture the essence of an idea. I want to conclude my speech and my contribution today by quoting an author and a poet, Archibald Lampman, who actually was inspired by Beechwood and wrote the poem In Beechwood Cemetery. The poem reads:

Here the dead sleep--the quiet dead. No sound
Disturbs them ever, and no storm dismays.
Winter mid snow caresses the tired ground,
And the wind roars about the woodland ways.
Springtime and summer and red autumn pass,
With leaf and bloom and pipe of wind and bird,
And the old earth puts forth her tender grass,
By them unfelt, unheeded and unheard.
Our centuries to them are but as strokes
In the dim gamut of some far-off chime.
Unaltering rest their perfect being cloaks--
A thing too vast to hear or feel or see--
Children of Silence and Eternity,
They know no season but the end of time.

Let us all come together, pass this legislation and honour those who have come before us.

National Cemetery of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. Pursuant to order made earlier this day, Bill C-17, An Act to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as the national cemetery of Canada, is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, referred to committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)

Speaker's RulingCanada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-2. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now put Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motion in amendmentCanada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC


That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 33.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important amendment to this bill, which has been called by the shipbuilding industry “the shipbuilding sellout”. We have had debates in this House about trade agreements before, and the sorry history of this Conservative government is that it has been an incredibly ineffective negotiator.

We saw that with the softwood sellout, which continues to have profound repercussions for our softwood industry across the country. Softwood mills are closing down and softwood workers are being thrown out of work, all because the Conservative government was ineffectual at the negotiating table.

The EFTA agreement has the same problem. Essentially what it does is expressed in the words of unanimous recommendations by the shipbuilding industry itself, saying that this agreement constitutes a shipbuilding sellout, a sellout of our shipbuilding industry. Whether we are talking about marine workers from British Columbia or marine workers from Nova Scotia or the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, witness after witness says this agreement will kill shipbuilding jobs in Canada and will kill them in an irreparable way.

This amendment will carve out shipbuilding from the agreement. As we all know, around the world legislators do their due diligence when trade agreements are negotiated, whether it is the U.S. Congress, most recently with the U.S.-Peru deal, or whether it is the European Union in the most recent EPA signed with Caricom. In every case the legislators must look at the text of the bill, look at the implementation legislation, and decide what is in the interests of Canada.

What we are hearing unanimously from the Shipbuilding Association of Canada and from shipbuilding workers on both coasts is that this agreement, unless shipbuilding is carved out, will kill the shipbuilding industry in Canada.

The witnesses were very compelling. They were not only talking about the fact that this will kill shipbuilding, but the fact that this will, in a very real sense, have implications for all the sectors in the industry, whether we're talking about shipowners or ship repair facilities.

I'll quote Mr. Andrew McArthur, who was speaking on behalf of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada. This is what he said earlier this week at the Standing Committee on International Trade:

It's not only the shipbuilding industry that's jeopardized, it's the shipowners. On the east coast you've got owners who operate offshore supply vessels. Norway operates one of the biggest fleets in the world. They have something like over 50% of the total world supply of offshore supply vessels. The North Sea is in a downtrend where they're looking for places to send these ships that were built with subsidies that have been written off. They could come in here and undercut any Canadian operator on the east coast for charter rates. It's not only the shipyards, it's the ship owners.

From the shipbuilding industry, we also had comments about the ongoing viability of our shipbuilding industry, because as the shipyards shut down, the repair facilities are menaced as well. Essentially what we are doing is triple jeopardy: killing the shipbuilding industry, killing ship repair facilities, and killing the possibility for shipowners to be competitive.

In the long term, what we heard from Mr. McArthur on behalf of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada is that the technology comes from new construction and design, and without the ongoing technology and education of our total workforce, the industry is just going to die. We need the new construction to sustain the ongoing technical capability, so repair would suffer.

We have heard a lot about the brain drain in our shipbuilding facilities. Essentially over time we are losing people who are qualified and trained in shipbuilding. This is not an industry that can be rebuilt overnight by snapping our fingers. Whether we are talking about Marystown in Newfoundland and Labrador, Halifax--and I know very well that Halifax shipyard workers are imploring Nova Scotia Liberal MPs to vote for this amendment to carve out shipbuilding--Welland, Ontario, or Victoria, Vancouver, and Nanaimo in British Columbia, marine workers are calling on this Parliament to carve out shipbuilding.

As for shipyards, the Davie shipyards, for example, would be threatened by this agreement. It is our duty to carve out shipbuilding from this agreement. Whether we are talking about Quebec, Ontario, western Canada or Atlantic Canada, jobs in all regions are at risk in these tough times, the worst recession we have seen since the 1930s.

The Conservatives are pushing forward. They are refusing at any point to allow for our shipbuilding carve-out. They have their own reasons for that, and I think certain Conservatives, particularly in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, will bear the brunt of that irresponsible action. However, the opposition in a minority Parliament has an important role to play.

Conservatives have said that they are going to withdraw the bill if this amendment is passed. Mr. Speaker, you and I know that is ridiculous. The government lost on iron and steel in the United States because of a botched negotiating strategy, and the softwood sellout has been appallingly bad across the country. Because the government has had so few successes in the area of trade--in fact, none--they will re-introduce this bill to committee with the changes so that we can clean up and restore some of the paragraphs in clause 33. However, the government's threats to withdraw the bill are simply not credible.

Accordingly, I ask my Bloc Québécois colleagues to vote in favour of this amendment, as they did at committee, in order to carve out shipbuilding from this agreement. The Bloc supported our motion at committee so it stands in the House.

The Conservatives' threat to withdraw the bill is simply not credible. I ask the members of the Bloc Québécois, who are concerned about the future of the Davie shipyards, to consider our amendment and support it in the coming weeks. I know my hon. colleague from Sherbrooke agrees that we should follow up on the committee's work with a well formulated amendment.

Of course we ask Liberal members of Parliament to vote for this amendment to carve out shipbuilding. This is what shipyard workers in Halifax are asking for. This is what marine workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are asking for. This is what marine workers in British Columbia are asking for. For Liberal members of Parliament, it is quite clear. I believe they must choose to vote with what those shipbuilding workers across the country have said unanimously.

I have to stress this point. There is not a single representative from the shipbuilding industry, whether workers or owners, who came forward and said, “Oh, this is not a bad deal”. All of them said the impact will be catastrophic and all of them said there will be losses of jobs. Can we take that risk at a time when we are essentially hemorrhaging jobs in so many sectors? Can we take the risk of a botched negotiating strategy by a government that simply does not understand how to be tough at the negotiating table? It is tough with ordinary Canadians, but it is very weak when it comes to the United States softwood industry or Liechtenstein. It just caves at the negotiating table.

Our responsibilities as opposition members of Parliament are to vote for the carve-out and for this amendment. This is a shipbuilding sellout. There is no doubt about that. We have heard compelling, unanimous testimony from our shipbuilding friends and colleagues across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. It is very clear what course this Parliament must take. By voting for the carve-out, we are defending the interests of our shipbuilding industry and we are defending the interests of our shipyards across the country.

We are allowing that opportunity to stop the brain drain, to stop the collapse of our shipbuilding industry and to start to restore our shipbuilding industry to the prominence it once enjoyed. We have the longest coastline in the world by far. It is inconceivable that the country with the longest coastline in the world and a proud shipbuilding tradition would knowingly have its Parliament adopt a trade agreement untouched and unamended when we know the impacts would be disastrous. I ask for my opposition colleagues to vote for this amendment.

Motion in amendmentCanada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great pleasure to contribute to this debate on a subject of huge importance to the economy of Canada.

In January 2008 Canada, along with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, collectively known as the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, signed the Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement.

In today's economic times, we have to continue to open doors for our businesses in global markets, in contrast to the NDP's desire to close doors and try to make it as a stand-alone trade zone within Canada. It is simply impossible to do that.

The November 2008 throne speech underscored the importance this government places on trade and investment and reaffirmed our commitment to actively pursue trade negotiations and partners around the world. The Standing Committee on International Trade has reviewed Bill C-2 and has now reported back to the House with just one minor technical amendment.

The opposition, the NDP, proposed to vote 16 amendments to this bill, claiming that Bill C-2 did not effectively recognize Canada's shipbuilding industry, as we just heard from the member from Burnaby. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The government is fully aware of the views of the shipbuilding industry. We negotiated and consulted extensively with stakeholders in the industry to ensure their concerns and interests were fully understood and considered during the negotiations.

Government officials also consulted with the provinces and the territories on the treatment of ships in the Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement, and today we are about to sign a free trade agreement that we can be proud of. It is a deal that addresses Canadian shipbuilding concerns in a number of different ways.

For example, it contains a 15-year tariff phase-out on the most sensitive shipbuilding products, and a 10-year phase-out on all other sensitive shipbuilding products, protecting our shipbuilders in Canada. These phase-out periods include a bridge period of three years, during which tariffs will be maintained at the most favoured nation level. These provisions give our shipbuilders considerable time to adjust to a duty-free environment.

This is important. Fifteen years is the longest tariff phase-out period for an industrial tariff in free trade agreement history in this country. These provisions respond directly to the concerns vocalized by the shipbuilding industry and by the NDP.

On rules of origin, the provisions under the EFTA are those sought by the Canadian industry. They are consistent with those in Canada's other free trade agreements. The EFTA also contains specific provisions for the collection of customs duties in accordance with the tariff phase-out program on the value of repairs and alterations to ships that are temporarily exported from Canada to EFTA countries.

We have ensured that this new agreement does not introduce any new obligations for Canada in the area of government procurement, whether for ships or any other products. Accordingly, and this is important, federal and provincial governments will continue to have the right to restrict their bids to Canadian shipyards for the purchase, lease, repair or refit of all types of vehicles.

That is very important. That is something that the NDP does not recognize exists in this contract.

Separately, this Conservative government has announced more than $43 billion--that is billion--for the procurement of maritime vessels in the next 30 years. These are vessels that the government will purchase.

Furthermore, the government continues to encourage the use of Canadian shipyards through the renewed structured financing facility--

Motion in amendmentCanada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member, but unfortunately it is 11 o'clock. We have to proceed with statements by members, but the hon. member is going to have a full five minutes to complete his remarks when debate resumes on this bill a little later.

New Interprovincial BridgeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, residents on both sides of the Ottawa River need a new interprovincial bridge. City planner Jacques Gréber actually planned for it over 60 years ago.

Forty years ago the approaches on both sides of the river were designed. More than 30 years ago they were built. In the spring of 1984 the National Capital Commission told the members of the then Gloucester City Council that it would transfer title to the not yet named Aviation Parkway to the Ontario Department of Transportation to give direct access from the 417-174 split to Montée Paiement and Highway 50 on the Gatineau side. The bridge would be built in 1999. Oops, another thing that did not get done.

The bridge has been a pawn in countless political manoeuvres motivated by nimbyism.

We need a bridge. Sixty years of studies all point to that bridge at Kettle Island.

Nimbyism often hurts the people who adopt it more than anyone else.

The past is an indicator of the future.

Annette LegerStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman who gave a great deal of herself to this House and her country.

Annette Leger passed away on February 23 in her native Moncton, her dear mother, Betty, nearby.

Annette had a long and notable career on Parliament Hill. She was the executive secretary to several members, Maurice Sauvé, Donald S. Macdonald, Lloyd Axworthy, Paul St. Pierre, as well as Postmaster General Eric Kierans, and House Sergeant-at-Arms Gus Cloutier.

Annette is best known for her work as the coordinator of the parliamentary page program from 1979 until she retired in 1994.

When she accepted the position, women were just starting to take their place as equals in the labour force, and that battle continues to this day.

Annette travelled the country to recruit young Canadians, looking for that special spark in them, the treasure of our country.

I ask all members of the House to join me in celebrating and acknowledging Annette's life and her deep service to this country.

Le Réveil NewspaperStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, employees of Le Réveil, a newspaper in the Saguenay, are going through tough times. After announcing that printing services would be moved out of the region, the paper's owners announced that management and layout would be transferred to Montreal or Quebec City.

Staff of Le Réveil did not want to see these positions transferred out of the region, so they refused management's final offer. Unfortunately, management then locked the employees out.

This is a deplorable situation considering that the company wants advertising revenue from businesses in the region, but is eliminating jobs at the same time.

I would like to offer my support to the employees of Le Réveil. I would also like to say that the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region is with them all the way. Le Réveil must remain a regional paper and provide good jobs in our communities.

Disraeli Freeway and BridgeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this past Friday, February 27, I had the distinct pleasure to present some 5,800 Disraeli Freeway responses to Mayor Sam Katz's office at Winnipeg City Hall.

My office has received these responses from Manitobans with definite opinions on the planned 16 month closure of the Disraeli Freeway and bridge between downtown Winnipeg and the northeast quadrant of the city.

Since this issue came into public focus in May of last year, I took a position opposing the proposed 16 month closure. First my MLA office and now my MP office have been swamped by people who agree that some alternative closure must be found.

We need to stop the closure of the Disraeli by building a new two lane span on the east side, and only when that is open to traffic, then refurbish the old four lane bridge. When done, we would have six lanes, three each way, the same number as on Henderson Highway.

Of the 5,800 responses, only 161 support the mayor's planned closure, just 2.81%.

Coptic ChristiansStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to the persecution of Coptic Christians who populated Egypt for thousands of years.

The Christian population of Egypt is estimated at between 6% and 14%, and over 90% of those Christians are members of the Coptic Church, yet only 1% of the seats in the People's Assembly are held by Christians.

These Orthodox Christians are routinely persecuted by radical and extremist groups. At times, even local authorities are reported to have carried out this persecution.

It is not the official policy of the Egyptian government to persecute Christians, but it is not doing anything to prevent it.

I congratulate Canada's immigration minister for his acts to protect Arab Christians from persecution in that part of the world.

The Egyptian constitution provides for freedom of belief and practice. I ask that the Egyptian government start to respect that principle.