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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was allegations.

Topics

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments on this bill. My question is regarding pensions and seniors. We have heard a lot of talk about seniors. We have heard that they do not have enough money for housing, food and medication.

The budget does not address the crisis facing the pension system. There is no agency to pick up orphaned pension plans. There is no extension for CPP or QPP benefits, and no increases to GIS payments. The government refuses to invest about $700 million every year to lift our seniors out of poverty. There is no protection in place for pensions when the employer goes bankrupt.

Can my colleague explain how the public will be affected by the government's inaction, when that government said that it would address money issues for retirees? What should the government do in its budget to benefit the public?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.

My predecessor and friend, Raymond Gravel, former member for Repentigny, introduced a bill in this House with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated, mainly because the Conservatives voted against it. This bill asked for very little when you think about how much seniors, as taxpayers, have done for the Quebec nation as well as Canada. We asked for an additional $110 a month. Considering how much the federal government spends in certain areas, especially the astronomical amounts allotted for military spending, maybe we should have redirected some of this money to those who are most worthy of it, to those who built this country. That would have been much fairer.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to stick with the same topic here, which would be the pensions. I want the member to flesh out some of the ideas that he has about the increase in the GIS as one aspect of it.

What we forget is that back in the old days when the QPP and CPP were created in the mid-60s, as a wonderful piece of social legislation, Quebec played a huge role in the genesis of that particular program. It has progressed socially through some great policies, no matter what political stripe the government of the day was in the province of Quebec.

When the member talks about jurisdiction, what is he talking about? Is he talking about the federal government in Ottawa handing out money to be administered by the QPP within the province of Quebec alone, with complete jurisdiction over this?

Second, does the member believe that people should be allowed to voluntarily up their payments to CPP as a way of securing their pensions?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I greatly appreciate the hon. member's question.

The issue of pensions is an international problem. Unfortunately, it is not exclusive to Canada. It has also arisen because of the predominant mentality of the time. First, life expectancy was much lower and pensions were funded accordingly. No one really thought that people would live to be so old and retire so young. The issue of age would create a serious change, but the problem lies in the fact that there is a shortage of money. This has been an astronomical actuarial problem. The way in which pension funds are managed will seriously need to be rethought.

I think it is a shame that instead of taking action, the Minister of Finance simply offloaded the problem onto the provinces and dithered. He was no longer sure what to do and finally he decided to launch consultations even though he has the means to take real action to help our seniors.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand here to speak as the member for Churchill, as a member of the New Democratic Party in this House, to Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill.

While it is an honour to speak to it, this is fundamentally a document of ideas that is profoundly disappointing. Why is it disappointing? Because this is a budget, an implementation bill, and an agenda, that leaves Canadians behind.

As the MP for Churchill, this budget leaves my region behind. It leaves northerners who live in my region of Manitoba and all across the country behind, when it comes to the needs that they have expressed so clearly are important to them.

Take, for example, one of the greatest needs that we have, housing. There is nothing there. In the area of health, an area in which we face great challenges, whether it is the lack of medical professionals or the lack of services, while the government maintains the continued amount of transfers as there was last year, there is no investment in our health care system in a way that meets the demands people have.

More broadly, in terms of infrastructure for our regions, many of our communities are far away from each other and are looking to diversify their economies, looking to build linkages. This budget has nothing new. While some things were promised last year, there is no vision for rebuilding, for reinvesting, and for ultimately moving forward at a time of difficult economic recession.

Also, in terms of the industries that are integral to our region, this budget holds nothing. When it comes to forestry, not only is there no plan to support forestry communities, but we actually have measures in the budget implementation bill that further continue the suffering that communities such as The Pas, Manitoba or Opaskwayak Cree Nation experience in my region. Through this budget implementation bill we see the raising of export tariffs on softwood lumber products from my province by 10%, in addition to the pain felt as a result of the government selling off our lumber and refusing to stand for forestry communities.

More broadly, the budget implementation bill leaves Canadians behind across the board, in light of the experiences they have had over the last few years, more specifically in the last year. For Canadians who have lost their jobs, some of them in my region and regions all across the country, the budget does not hold the support they need. When we look at employment insurance that workers have paid in, week after week, year after year, and hold on to that for times of difficulty, we have a government that, instead of supporting the workers at the hardest time they are experiencing, instead of helping, is actually looking at emptying the employment insurance account and also increasing premiums over time.

When it comes to pensions, there are some references to pension measures, but we in the NDP have been proud to forward so many initiatives called on by the labour movement, called on by working people all across this country, and called on by seniors. Yet, this budget holds none of that. It does not propose to improve the retirement security that so many Canadians are looking for.

The budget also holds nothing for young people. While there are some measures in terms of summer jobs and certainly some charitable enterprises, the budget leaves young Canadians behind. What about job initiatives year round?

Young people who have been the first to lose their jobs and are struggling to find new ones during one of the most difficult economic times have been coming to me and sharing the challenge of trying to find proper employment, not just during the summer but year round. Many of them get stuck in minimum wage jobs, oftentimes even after they have graduated or invested years in post-secondary education. They are forced to look at jobs that do not remunerate them in a way that reflects the education they paid for and invested in. The budget has nothing when it comes to supporting young people entering the job market and finding sustainable work.

It also has nothing to support young people with the continued burden that a post-secondary education is proving to hold here in Canada. Tuition fees are increasing in almost every province in Canada, with the exception of a few. As a result, student debts are increasing at historic rates. I mentioned it before in this House, but we have the shameful number of $13 billion as the amount of money that students, former students and current students, now are faced with as they go into a very uncertain job market. This budget holds nothing to alleviate that stress.

This budget is also dangerous. It leaves Canadians behind because it takes away some of the supports that link us, that link our communities, that make us stronger. I reference two areas in particular.

One is that of privatization. The budget implementation bill talks about removing Canada Post's legal monopoly on outgoing international letters. Much has been said about protecting Canadian institutions. Canada Post is one of the institutions that Canadians are very proud of and would hope that our government would support. We are seeing that the government not only is not standing up for it but it is choosing to chip away pieces of it. It is selling off parts of it. The government is weakening an institution that allows us to communicate, an institution that is part of our identity as Canadians.

This budget also puts Canadians behind. It weakens Canada through deregulation. My colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona has spoken with regard to the environmental regulations that are being done away with in this budget. As many Canadians hear more information about this, they are becoming increasingly disturbed by these measures that are found in budget, such as exempting federally funded projects from environmental assessments.

Further deregulation is proposed in the telecommunications area. We have heard from the CRTC and from others. There is great concern with respect to the government's agenda in this area.

What I and many others cannot understand is how the government proposes to move forward as a country while it sells off, deregulates and privatizes parts of our economy, parts of our identity that truly keep us together and that reflect who we are as Canadians and that reflect Canadian values.

Finally, I would like to note the way in which this budget forgets many people whom I have the honour of representing, and they would be first nations and Métis people.

This budget is a disgrace when it comes to aboriginal issues. Front and centre is the failure to commit funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. This area is a great passion of mine. I know first-hand what it means to the people in my region. I know what it means first-hand to the survivors, young people and people all across the board who live in northern Manitoba who depend on community-driven programming to help them heal from the trauma of residential schools.

I was in my riding last week and I heard not only from my constituents, but I also heard from people across Canada. They spoke of the hypocrisy of a government that apologized to residential school survivors, made them believe that a new page would be turned when it came to our history and yet, all it said was “sorry”. The programming that residential school survivors and their communities have called for has been cut.

While the current government with this budget is leaving Canadians behind, we in the NDP have hope. We have hope that our initiatives, whether they be on pensions, EI, the environment, housing, restoring funding for aboriginal organizations, are the initiatives that ought to be followed. Canadians are calling for these initiatives to be followed. In fact the majority of members in this House are calling for these initiatives to be followed. Because this is not something for us. This is for the benefit of all Canadians, the people we are here to represent.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for an excellent speech.

In the 1880s, John A. Macdonald and the Conservative Party had a dream of unifying the country by building a railway across the country. A similar type of dream exists in that a lot of people want to build an east-west power grid to move clean hydroelectric power across Canada, as opposed to just north and south, as is the case now.

The minister for democratic reform has been a leader on this issue, but he is not getting the support from the nine Conservative MPs from Manitoba nor the 14 Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan. The fact of the matter is that in the last three days, no Conservatives have been speaking to this budget. I am sure that the member for Portage—Lisgar would have liked to speak to this budget and talk about the east-west power grid. I am sure the member for Brandon—Souris would have liked to speak to this budget and talk about the east-west power grid. The member for Kildonan—St. Paul, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, the member for Winnipeg South, the member for Saint Boniface and the member for Selkirk—Interlake, I know all these members would have loved to get up and put on the record that they want their government to commit to building an east-west power grid.

I want them to start helping the minister for democratic reform because he is doing a good job. We have to work together as a federal government with the provincial governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to make this dream a reality.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague and fellow Manitoban and call on our fellow Manitoba MPs to show some leadership and truly support what is not only a positive environmental strategy but a truly sustainable economic strategy, one that would plug in our province's hydroelectric power in such a great way.

Not only are we not seeing Manitoba MPs on the Conservative benches speak out, but in general, we are not seeing Conservative MPs speak out on the huge gaps that are in this budget and the way they are selling off our country, not just for Canadians today but for their children, for our future. I would be very interested to hear with what conscience they do that.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague just spoke with respect to the Conservatives not getting up and talking on this issue. I can understand why they do not want to get up. They are probably ashamed of the fact that they are only giving $3.25 a week as part of an increase in the child tax credit and they consider that to be a child care subsidy. That is a shame.

My colleague also spoke with respect to youth. I would like to ask my colleague to talk about the environment and what is in this bill, or more so, what is not in the bill, and how this will impact on the youth of this country, because they are our future.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I believe that the environmental piece in this budget, which is fundamentally one of the hidden poison pills, is in fact one of the most disturbing.

Our party has done a great deal to provide leadership through Bill C-311 and truly to guide the government into regaining some credibility when it comes to the environment. Unfortunately, we have not seen it do so. It was embarrassing that we went to Copenhagen in the way we did. Quite frankly, the state in which the rest of the world views Canada when it comes to the environment is embarrassing.

As a young Canadian and somebody who grew up in a school system that talked about the need for the next generation to care, become involved and be environmentally conscious, this is not the kind of Canada we would imagine. This is not the kind of Canada that most young Canadians view. By and large, it is young people who are increasingly very concerned about the environment. We have seen different displays of that concern. The Conservative government is letting down Canada's next generation.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. I want to begin my remarks by commenting on the enormity of this bill. It is 872 pages long and has 24 different parts.

When one goes through the bill, whether one goes through the summary or starts looking at the bill in its totality, one can see immediately that the Conservative government has decided to use this bill as a cover for all kinds of very negative and bad public policy initiatives. We are certainly aware of that and this is one of the reasons it is very important that debate take place on Bill C-9.

I would add to the comments made by my colleagues that it is very ironic that Conservative members are choosing not to debate this bill, because it is simply enormous when one considers what is covered in it. We did hear the budget speech and we had the budget itself, but this budget implementation bill goes far beyond what was contained in the budget. It is using itself as a cover for all kinds of draconian measures. I will mention a couple.

Environmental assessment is a very important issue in terms of ensuring that the public interest is represented in dealing with environmental issues. Why is it in a budget implementation bill that the minister will now have all kinds of discretion to dictate the scope of environmental assessments of any of the projects to be reviewed? Why would it be that federally funded infrastructure projects can now be exempted from environmental assessment?

These are very serious questions which in and of themselves should be debated separately through legislation in a debate in the House, yet they have been slipped into Bill C-9, the budget implementation act. We are very concerned about that. We are very disturbed that the government is yet again using these kinds of means to try and slip important matters through the House.

The Conservatives did it a few years ago with Bill C-50, when they brought in all kinds of very substantive changes to the Citizenship and Immigration Act. They used a budget bill to do that. We see the same in this bill with Canada Post. We know that the Conservatives have tried to move a bill through the House which in effect would privatize aspects of Canada Post and affect the jobs and services that are provided by that crown corporation and federal agency.

We have held up that bill. We prevented it from coming forward. What is the response? Yet again, the Conservatives are trying to slip it through in the budget implementation bill. I am actually surprised that they did not try to include the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and sneak that one through, too, because we have been holding that one up.

I want to reserve the rest of my comments for issues pertaining to what I think are very serious in my community and how this budget implementation bill does not deal with them.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East. It is a wonderful riding, full of activists and great neighbourhoods, and yet right now in the city of Vancouver there is a crisis taking place. The seven Vancouver homeless emergency action team shelters are slated to close by April 30.

Those shelters have been providing a safe, warm, appropriate place for people to go where there is a laundry facility, food, good management and care for about 600 people a night. There was a lot of suspicion that these shelters were put up just for the Olympics. Hundreds of thousands of people were in our city for the Olympics. We were all aware that we had a serious homelessness and housing affordability crisis in our city. These shelters were opened and they have provided support to people. That has been very important. Now they are going to close.

In fact, there has been a very public conflict going on between the province of B.C. and the city of Vancouver as to what will happen with these shelters. What is remarkable to me is that the federal government has not said one word. There is nothing about the federal homelessness partnering strategy and that maybe it could provide some assistance with these shelters now slated to be closed and the fact that there will be hundreds of people out on the street. It is just so staggering to understand what is taking place.

We are dealing with issues in my community that are deeply systemic. This housing crisis has gone on for two decades. It started with the former Liberal government that eliminated all of the housing programs. My Bill C-304 would try to get the federal government back into housing by working with the provinces, municipalities, first nations and civil society.

This crisis is incredible to me. People are out on the street in our city right now and more people will be out on the street because these shelters are going to close down.

The annual homeless count that was done on March 23 showed that the number of homeless people in Vancouver had increased 12% from 2008 from 1,576 people to 1,762 people. Those are numbers but we also need to think about this in terms of individual people. We need to think about the impact on people's lives when they do not know where they will go each night, do not have access to proper food, do not have a decent income, do not have proper shelter assistance to keep out of the cold and wet weather and do not have access to laundry facilities. These figures are staggering.

The only good news, if there is any good news, is that 1,300 of those 1,700 homeless people were in shelters. In fact, the number of people in shelters has increased, which is good, but, as I said before, these shelters will be closing.

I have to question the government with this budget implementation bill that is nearly 900 pages long as to why there is nothing in the budget that will help the City of Vancouver deal with this crisis as it tries to cope with the costs. It costs the city about $7 million to keep these shelters open when the federal government could be doing that.

The City of Vancouver, like other municipalities, relies on the property tax base. It does the best it can in stretching every single dollar. It has gone more than its distance and more than its responsibility in ensuring that these shelters are operating. It did get some assistance from the provincial government but most of that is now coming to an end.

This raises a very stark contrast. On the one hand, we see a budget that continues with outrageous tax breaks to corporations in the billions of dollars, robbing the public purse of desperately needed revenue, and on the other hand, we see communities, like the Downtown Eastside and other communities across the country, where people are destitute on the street and do not know where they will go each night.

A budget is about disclosing the real priorities and the real objectives of a government. We have had so much emphasis and focus on crime bills and little boutique bills. We have had so much overemphasis on law enforcement and tough on crime measures that will solve every problem we have, but we have deeply systemic and complex social issues in the urban environment, whether it is a lack of funds for public transit, lack of funds for housing or lack of funds for child care. People are literally struggling each month to get by.

The plight of homeless people is quite shocking but it affects a broader segment of society too. I know lots of working folks where both parents are working and making minimum wage or maybe a bit more and they are struggling to keep up with exorbitant child care costs, even if they can get into child care.

In addressing Bill C-9, the budget implementation act, I want to put it right out there that this is an outrage and a shame in terms of what the government has not done to address some of these ongoing and deeply systemic issues in our country. The gap is growing between wealth and poverty. More Canadians are falling into an environment where they cannot make ends meet.

We saw a wonder film the other night Poor no More that was premiered here on Parliament Hill hosted by Mary Walsh that showed so well in a very articulate way what is taking place for the working poor. These are people who are working, many of whom are getting a minimum wage. It showed how people are struggling and are actually living below the poverty line.

This is a bad budget implementation bill because it does not deal with what needs to be dealt with in my community and other communities. I hope that we can convince other members of the House not to support it.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned that the Conservative government is using the budget implementation bill to exploit the Liberals' weakness by sneaking in things that have been debated in the House, such as Bill C-44, concerning Canada Post.

They are using the budget implementation bill and the Liberals' weakness to introduce the privatization of Canada Post's international mail services.

The member did not talk about this, but I would like to know what she thinks about the impact this measure, which targets Canada Post, would have on rural areas.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would agree. What on earth does the privatization and deregulation of Canada Post have to do with a budget bill? However, it is stuck right in the bill. Maybe the Conservatives were hoping that no one would notice, but it was pretty glaring that it was there and of course its impact will be enormous, particularly on smaller communities.

Many of us in the House, and I know our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois share this as well, that smaller and rural communities have suffered tremendously from cutbacks at Canada Post. It used to be that we had good service but now many of the postal outlets and offices have been removed. People have to rely on supermailboxes and so the service in rural Canada has seriously deteriorated.

I live in an urban environment so I am not so familiar with those changes, but I know my other colleagues have raised that in the House. The Conservatives are trying to use this Trojan Horse approach and move this about Canada Post through a budget bill. On those grounds alone we should be rejecting the bill and calling it for what it is. It is really fraudulent that they would try to do it in this way in a budget bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to change the channel a little and ask the hon. member, who I know has a very deep interest in the arts, about something on page 305 of this budget document where it talks about the cultural crown corporations. There are five lines in the entire budget about cultural crown corporations.

To paraphrase it, it says that all the cutting and slashing has already been done so we do not have to do anything more specific in terms of savings because everything is working out pretty good it seems with CBC, and the Canadian Council for the Arts, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada. However, that is not what the stakeholders in those organizations tell me and that is not what listeners of regional radio and television programming of CBC say to me in the Maritimes.

I wonder what the situation is out west. With her broad experience with the arts and cultural crown corporations, what can she tell me about the devastation the government has visited upon CBC, NFB and Telefilm, et cetera?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, here again is a very good example of what is buried within the budget implement bill. The whole issue of the public broadcaster and funding for the arts. I know many of us are actually part of the arts caucus that reflects members from different parties, but we are very concerned about the state of arts and culture in Canada.

The member is right to point out that buried in this document there are a few lines that somehow say that we should not worry, that everything is okay, but the reality is that our public broadcaster, as well as our cultural institutions, have suffered enormously. We should know that an investment in the arts and culture and in artists is very beneficial to society as a whole in terms of not only cultural benefits, but also in economic benefits.

This idea that within the bill everything is okay for arts and culture is just another fraud that is being put through in this budget implementation bill.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I think we are on the verge of accepting what may be one of the great parliamentary travesties of the early 21st century. It relates to the comments just made by the previous speaker. If any one of us have looked through this bill, we will see that it is massive in cope. It is not just a budget implementation bill.

Normally in a budget implementation bill there will be a ways and means motion to implement, but it is amazing how few things were in the ways and means motion and how many things are in the budget bill itself.

I am going to bet everyone around here dollars to donuts that about a year from now, unless this is a serious legislative problem, the members on that side of the House will be debating something and they will look to this side of the House and say to the members, “You voted against that measure.”

How many measures will we be voting on in this budget? If we bundle all of the income tax measures into just one item and all of the GST-HST items into just one time that is two items, and I still count 27 separate pieces of legislative change.

I will just talk about me. I get one vote on 27 separate statutory amendments and policy changes. How does that allow me as a parliamentarian to consider, deliberate, debate and analyze what is in a bill that comes forward as a government confidence measure? How fair or appropriate is that?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper. The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River will have seven minutes when this debate resumes.

The House resumed from March 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona has five minutes left in his comments.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill. We are now in the second hour of debate. I spoke for a few minutes in the last hour, so I will continue.

I think every member of the House sees merit in Bill C-473 and will support it. Therefore, we thank the member for Perth—Wellington for having brought the bill before the House. It deals with the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, our NDP caucus spokesperson on this issue, has a similar bill, Bill C-208, in the House. Although it is not exactly the same, it is similar enough that he hopes that when we get the bill to committee, he may be able to get parts of his bill adopted by the members into this bill to make it a better one.

In essence, the position the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on this bill is he would like to see the currency taken out of the equation. He feels the medals should be viewed as unsaleable to anyone and when they are not longer required by the families of people who had the medals, they should be put in a repository such as a museum or he even suggested MPs' offices. There are many methods for dealing with the different types of military orders and decorations.

I spent considerable time on this issue and I looked forward to getting into the history. The more I read about the issue, the more interesting I found this matter.

I thought it was best to start at the beginning, so I went back to Roman times. That is when medals were first created. The Romans developed a complex hierarchy of military honours, ranging from crowns that were presented to senior officers to mark victories in major campaigns. There was a discussion around metal discs and other types of metals.

Then we got into the era of the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Elizabeth I, when she issued commemorative metals to mark England's victory over the Spanish Armada.

Then we moved on to the days of Oliver Cromwell. He issued medals to people who participated in the Battle of Dunbar. Then we got to the time of 1815 when medals were awarded to people who served during the Battle of Waterloo. I just saw a program a couple of weeks ago on the issue of Napoleon's history in France, ending with the Battle of Waterloo.

There is a storied history going back to Roman days involving medals. In fact, Canada has a long history of medals. It started with the governors of New France desiring to establish European honours in Canada. They established a Military Order of Malta in New France between 1635 and 1648.

After the establishment of the British North America Act, Canadians were entitled to receive British imperial honours, though the awarding was not consistently allowed. Besides knighthoods, peerage titles, both hereditary and in life, that were also bestowed on Canadians, sometimes it was uniquely Canadian designations, such as Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe and Baron Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook, in the province of New Brunswick.

The fact is over time these medals more and more became—

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to inform the member that his time is up.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Don Valley West.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I begin by thanking the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this bill forward. I find it to be a thoughtful and balanced approach to this issue. It is the kind of thing that a private member's bill should do. It is a contribution to public policy and to the honouring of veterans in our country.

I have been requesting the members on this side of the House, in the Liberal Party, to support this bill, and we will support it at committee.

It is quite an adequate bill because it balances the cultural heritage that we try to protect through the honouring of insignia, of medals and honours, declarations and awards, as well as the private property rights of individuals. The member has been very thoughtful in balancing those two needs to understand that medals for wartime service and for military service, in general, tell two stories. They tell a story of an individual and a service to our country and to our world and a moment of heroism often that is honoured in a medal. They also tell a corporate story about what Canada is, how Canada has come into being and what Canada hopes to be in the future.

This legislation balances those two stories as well as those two rights. We have the story of individuals who offer their lives for service and give what they can for the prospects of freedom, independence, peace and community in our world. They also, at the same time, tell the story of a country that is emerging as a nation. The stories we have of these medals, as we can look at them, tell the story of a nation that has taken its place in the stage of world affairs and has made our world a better place.

It is very clear that I believe this is good legislation. It promotes culture and heritage in Canada and it balances the need for a family to tell its own story. It respects the right of a family to pass on a medal, or a declaration, or an award, from generation to generation, to kin, to keep it in that family so it can tell the story of the person it loved and respected.

It also gives the right of first refusal to Canadian cultural institutions, particularly, the Museum of Civilization across the river, the War Museum, as well as that network of Canadian Forces museums, which offer a story that we all need to hear. The member has taken that and has done it very well.

The need for such legislation is interesting. There is already an act in place that protects such medals that are 50 years or older. This adds to the legislative body that we have to protect modern medals. The act that the member is attempting to add to not only is looking at the history of Canada, but it is actually guarding the future of Canada. Therefore, we also want to commend him for that, for being forward-looking.

There are a couple of issues that I want to raise, and this is not a criticism to the bill but to add to the importance of it.

First, many people have served in Canadian Forces in the last 40 years or 50 years who have not received medals. I hope the member will also begin to look at the proposed Governor General's volunteer service award for those who have served at least one year and have not received a medal for their volunteering into the Canadian Forces.

There was such a medal that ended in 1947. It came back during the Korean War, in those two to three years. However, since that time, we have not had a medal that honours the simple act, or the very brave act, of volunteering for the Canadian Forces.

This is for people who have volunteered, particularly, in the cold war. We have to remember that kind of service. That will make this kind of legislation quite important, because we are talking about new medals and modern medals. I hope the member will take some time to investigate that proposal. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition for Parliament to establish such a medal.

On a bit of a harder note, one of the reasons this legislation is important is because there have been stories of people, of veterans, selling their medals to actually live. We have to worry about that.

I want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that there exists in Calgary a food bank solely for veterans. The Prime Minister visited the food bank on April 2, with the Minister of the Environment. It is an utter national shame that we have a food bank, the poppy fund in Calgary, just for veterans. There is something wrong when we are forcing our veterans to go to the measures of staying in homeless shelters, of selling medals, of going to food banks designed just for them. The Calgary poppy fund has to operate to keep veterans alive.

The budget for that food bank is $2 million per year. I am not belittling the charitable notion that goes into keeping that alive. It is a wonderful charitable effort. However, the fact that the need exists should remind us that we as a Parliament and the government are simply not doing enough for veterans.

Over 61 people received food baskets in that institution in the last several weeks. It is open five days a week, from nine to five, Monday to Friday, to help veterans. Calgary is one of richest cities in the country. This is about people who have given their service, their time, their honour, everything to the service of the country. What we are doing for our veterans is simply not good enough.

We have stories of veterans who sell their medals on eBay, sending them out of the country. I am very pleased the member is trying to protect that cultural heritage and keep them in our country, keep that story alive. However, as with everything, we have to dig down, we have to peel back the onion just a bit to understand why people might sell medals. If it is because they do not have enough to eat, if it is because they do not have a roof over their heads, if it is because they have been left out, if it is because they have addictions or other problems that are forcing them into a life outside the mainstream, then we have to act. It is not good enough. It is simply not the way we want to treat our veterans.

I know the hon. member has veterans absolutely foremost in his mind, so I hope he will take this opportunity to talk to the veterans who may be tempted to sell their medals. I hope he can go to that food bank, following his leader's example. That was just a photo op to make an announcement about food protection. It was an opportunity to talk to those veterans and ask them why they were there, to ask them what happened and what went on in their lives that took them to the brink and caused them to go to the Calgary Drop-In.

It has between 30 and 35 veterans every night who are homeless. This is a national shame. It is one of the largest growing populations of homeless in Canada. It is one largest growing populations of those going to food banks. We do not want to follow the model of our American neighbours, where this is a national crisis, although it is not that yet in Canada. We want to take the kinds of steps, the kinds of services, the kinds of programs to ensure that does not happen. We need to evaluate our programs and our commitment to Canadian veterans.

There is a story of a veteran that was recently made into vignette by the Historica Dominion Institute. It is the story of Tommy Prince, the most decorated aboriginal, first nations veteran in Canadian history, born in 1915. One of the tragedies of that story is despite the fact that his bravery and his service led to him being the most decorated first nations veteran, when he came back to Canada, he did not find his place that he deserved in this society. He was forced to sell his medals. This is a real story of a real person, of a real veteran who got lost along the way.

This legislation will protect the medal, but will it protect the veteran? It is a first step to ensure cultural heritage is protected, but we have to go a further step. We have to go further to ensure that our veterans are never forced to sell their medals, that they are never forced to go to a food bank in Calgary, that they are never forced to go to the Calgary Drop-In, but that they are celebrated, treated fairly, economically and socially. We owe our lives, our freedom and our independence to them.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-473 and the protection of military medals, orders and decorations awarded to Canadians.

I want to begin by thanking the member for Perth—Wellington for his efforts to protect Canada's military heritage and for bringing this issue before Parliament.

The tabling of Bill C-473 allows us to reflect on the vital importance of Canada's military heritage and the very important part it plays in our country's development.

Military insignia symbolize a number of events, the most common representing long or distinguished service, while still others denote participation in a war, campaign or peacekeeping mission. The rarest of all signify battlefield valour.

The importance of our military heritage was front and centre just recently on April 9, Vimy Ridge Day, when the government honoured all of Canada's World War I servicemen and women and paid tribute to their achievements and contributions. Ceremonies of remembrance were held across Canada and at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France and the Canada Memorial at Green Park in London.

The national commemorative ceremony at the National War Memorial, a symbol of the sacrifices of all Canadians who have served Canada in times of war in the cause of peace and freedom, was especially poignant following the death in February of Canada's last known first world war veteran, John Babcock.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout our history must not be forgotten. As part of our country's heritage, they must be honoured and protected.

Through Bill C-473, the member for Perth—Wellington proposes to fill a gap in the protection of our military heritage, a gap that affects modern military insignia. Let me explain what I mean by that. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already protected under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. We have measures in place to keep objects of outstanding significance and national importance in the country. The act includes, among other elements, a system of cultural property export control, which requires export permits for a range of cultural property. These measures protect the nation's heritage, while respecting the rights of private citizens to dispose of their own property.

Under the existing act, important medals that are more than 50 years old require a permit to leave Canada. Permanent export may be delayed if the medal is determined to be of outstanding significance and of national importance. If an object for which a permit is sought is deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance, the permit is refused. That refusal may be appealed to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

On appeal, the board may create a delay period of up to six months to allow Canadian cultural institutions the opportunity to purchase the object in question so that it may remain in Canada. A system of special tax incentives also exists to provide further encouragement for owners to donate or sell cultural property to Canadian institutions. Those who do not comply with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act can be prosecuted and are subject to fines or imprisonment.

However, what protection is there for modern Canadian insignia? We know that serving members of Canadian armed forces are prohibited under the code of service discipline of the National Defence Act from selling their medals and decorations. Military regulations also govern the disposition of medals when a serving member dies. These measures are important and should be respected. However, recent military honours, unlike historic medals, orders and decorations, are not controlled for export.

The member for Perth—Wellington has indicated that his objective with Bill C-473 is to keep important military medals, orders and decorations in Canada. Export control is clearly a matter over which the federal government has jurisdiction and experience. Important medals and other decorations that are more than 50 years old are already controlled for export under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

If it is the will of the House to refer Bill C-473 to committee for review, I trust there will be an opportunity to study more fully how to ensure this proposed new legislation can work seamlessly with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act to protect our military heritage. I want to commend my colleague from Perth—Wellington for striking a balance in presenting this bill, between the need to protect our military heritage and the need to respect the rights of individual owners of military insignia.

Military insignia hold significant meaning to veterans and their heirs. Bill C-473 proposes to exempt near relatives of the owner of the insignia from the provisions of the bill. Under Bill C-473, families can continue to care for the valued personal legacy of their veterans, their military insignia, and ensure they will be passed down from generation to generation.

In the first hour of debate on Bill C-473, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé noted that spouses do not seem to be included in the definition of the relative. I trust there will be an opportunity to study this matter further in committee. I also acknowledge and appreciate my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and the passion for this issue that he brings to this debate. In his comments, he described the positive experiences of several communities in his area to preserve their military heritage.

Many military insignia are donated to local museums as well as to the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Forces museums across the country. Bill C-473 would not restrict donations to Canadian museums. Owners would still be able to donate military insignia to the Canadian museum of their choice. That is an important protection of their rights.

Most public museums in Canada are also registered charities. As a registered charity, a museum can issue donation receipts for the value of gifts in kind, such as artifacts or specimens. Additional tax benefits may also be available if the gift is certified as being of cultural importance and national significance by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

The government has recognized the need to protect our military heritage through the establishment of museums, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Forces museums across the country. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have more than 1,000 medals, including at least 28 Victoria Crosses, Canada's highest military honour. The network of Canadian Forces museums tells the story of regiments across the country.

Bill C-473 proposes that federal museums should be given the opportunity to purchase modern military insignia if the owners do not wish to donate them to a public museum or wish to transfer the insignia to a near relative or heir or a resident of Canada. I would hope that Canadian Forces museums would also be able to benefit from Bill C-473 to continue their profound tradition of protecting our military heritage.

In conclusion, I am pleased to support Bill C-473 and its efforts to protect our modern military insignia, modern insignia that recognize the contribution of the women and men who still today go to troubled spots around the world. I look forward to further study of the proposed bill in committee.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

I met with the members of the Hudson Legion last week. I am always moved when I speak with veterans. Each medal and decoration marks an event in their military career and the role they played in various theatres of operation. I met with a number of veterans when I worked on the issue of Canadians who had lost their citizenship. These people were commonly known as Lost Canadians. They also take a great interest in the transfer of the last veterans hospital. They talked to me about the situation many of them are in and how they live in poverty. It is very disturbing. I believe we must do much more for them.

The bill has to do with part of our heritage and is intended to protect medals that were presented to soldiers who brought honour to us. I would first like to thank the member for Perth—Wellington for introducing this bill. It is a first step, but I believe that he will agree that we can do much more for these veterans.

I am also surprised at the narrow definition given to “veterans”, because many members of allied forces fought alongside our veterans, as the department currently defines them. Even though these people have been in Canada for 40 or 50 years, they still do not have privileged access to Ste. Anne's Hospital. We still have a lot of work to do on this.

As its title indicates, Bill C-473 is designed to protect Canadian medals and insignia of military orders that are culturally significant to Canada. The cultural significance of a decoration is determined by the regulations in this case. To keep decorations in Canada, the bill we are debating today would place tighter restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals. It would be against the law to transfer an insignia of cultural significance to a non-resident, that is to say, someone who is neither a permanent resident nor a citizen of Canada. I encourage the committee that, I hope, will study this bill to review certain passages pertaining to citizenship.

I do not know if the member for Perth—Wellington realizes it, but more veterans have lost their citizenship. The last surviving veteran of World War I, Mr. Babcock, was not a Canadian citizen and the Prime Minister had to hop on a plane to restore it. The citizenship aspect should be revisited to prevent creating further irritants for veterans. Therefore, I invite the committee to examine this point and to do some checking.

This bill contains provisions that would allow any person to transfer a decoration provided that they have first tried to sell it at its fair market value to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage, in other words the Government of Canada. If the government refuses to purchase it and provides written confirmation to this effect or has not accepted the offer within 120 days after receiving it, the person may then transfer the decoration to a non-resident. As I mentioned, a number of veterans did not regain their Canadian citizenship before dying. That was the case for Mr. Vallière, among others. We should empathize with this situation, especially for the family's sake.

Bill C-374 indicates that all these restrictive measures do not apply to the transfer of a decoration to a near relative, which means the father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, child, grandchild, brother or sister of the owner of an insignia. At this stage, I find it unacceptable that spouses are excluded from this bill. I believe that this oversight will be corrected by the committee.

For people who do comply with the provisions of the bill, specific paragraphs in the bill stipulate that if a Canadian transfers a decoration considered “cultural property” in violation of the provisions I just mentioned, that person is committing an offence punishable by a fine in an amount that does not exceed five times the market value of the insignia. I would like to know how the government will contact the owners of insignia and medals. Is there a list of these persons? I also wonder how veterans will be advised of the changes proposed in this bill.

In the past, we have had a difficult time reaching veterans, even for a law as important as the Citizenship Act. So this will be an important part of the implementation of this bill.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-473 and would like it to be examined in committee. That will give us an opportunity to hear from witnesses and examine various aspects of the bill in greater depth.

We are also in favour of the principle of the bill because it is intended to conserve and protect heritage artifacts. Such artifacts are part of the military history of any country that presents military insignia, orders, decorations and medals to men and women to thank them for their actions and for their participation in various military missions.

In bestowing these decorations, a country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world over the years. Everyone here knows that our military personnel work hard and overcome many challenges. Many sustain serious injury, and some die.

Without hesitation, they accept the most dangerous missions with humility, determination and courage. Collectively, we have an obligation to recognize and support these soldiers.

We believe that all governments can and must do what they can to preserve the cultures and histories of the peoples under their authority. Military history and recognition of the dedication of the men and women in uniform are important parts of the history of a people.

That said, I must point out that the bill introduced by the member aims to protect a cultural asset that is military in nature.

The Conservatives wish to prove their willingness to preserve military history. Although we support this praiseworthy initiative, the Bloc Québécois urges the Conservative government to take concrete action to support the entire cultural sector.

We support the bill to protect one form of military culture. However, we insist that this government invest more in the protection and promotion of the culture and history of Quebec.

I would like to close by pointing out that for many veterans, medals are very important and so is the history behind every one of them.

The fact that enacting such a bill might be difficult and might touch some nerves must not be taken lightly.

I would also like the government to do more to address the poverty that prevails in that community.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2010 / 6 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.

Canadian veterans have helped to ensure that we live in a free country and have aided in spreading peace and security throughout the world. They have done that with courage, determination and at great sacrifice. In bestowing military medals, decorations and orders, our country recognizes the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and those who serve today.

The men and women who wear those medals do so with pride, devotion, loyalty and dignity. Yet, when I have had the chance to speak with veterans in my hometown of Hamilton, like the exceptional men and women at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 163 on the Mountain, it is also clear that they are wearing those medals for the 118,000 Canadians who served their country and never had the chance to wear theirs because they made the ultimate sacrifice. From that perspective there can be little doubt that the principles underlying Bill C-473 deserve our support.

As the member for Perth—Wellington rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, some medals and honours are already protected in legislation. More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean War were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. It requires export permits for a range of cultural property, including medals. Yet, it offers that protection only if the military medals, orders and decorations are at least 50 years old.

More recent military honours therefore are not controlled for export. They may be freely sold and taken out of the country, out of the reach of Canadians and our public museums. I agree with the member for Perth—Wellington that this is wrong, but I am not sure that the bill, as currently written, is the best vehicle for achieving our shared objective.

Let me take a few moments here to outline some of my concerns with the view to getting the bill to committee and hopefully having most of them addressed before we have to take the third and final vote in the House. I want to start by reading the summary of Bill C-473. It states:

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

In essence, that is what this bill is all about. It suggests that military medals will be kept in Canada because they will no longer be transferrable to someone who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of Canada. On that general point, I have no quarrel. But I am not sure that the bill achieves that objective.

First, let us look at paragraphs 3(2)(a) and (b) which state that the prohibition on exporting medals does not apply to the transfer of an insignia to a near relative of the owner of the insignia. Paragraph (b) refers to an heir of the owner of the insignia upon the death of the owner. Obviously, both the near relative and the heir of the owner could reside outside of Canada.

If the goal of the bill is to keep all medals in Canada, the bill before us today does not achieve that objective. I believe that the exceptions are reasonable, but it is unclear to me whether this was a deliberate or an inadvertent outcome of the bill as drafted. Perhaps even more troubling is the exclusion of spouses in the definition of a near relative. The bill talks about parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents and heirs. Perhaps it is assumed that spouses will be heirs, but I think that the inclusion of spouses ought to be made explicit.

In bestowing military orders, decorations and medals, our country is recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world, but the sacrifices made by family members, as their loved ones serve our country, must also be acknowledged and spouses in particular deserve special recognition. In this bill I would strongly urge that the inclusion of spouses be made explicit.

The next issue I would like to address can best be expressed by comparing the bill that is before us today to a similar bill that was introduced by my NDP colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I think members on all sides of the House would agree that veterans have no stronger advocate in the House than the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore. He introduced a similar bill long before the one that we are debating today was tabled, but as the luck of the draw would have it, we are debating Bill C-473 today rather than his bill, Bill C-208.

I said that it was a similar bill deliberately. They share the same goal, but in my view Bill C-208 takes a better, more comprehensive approach. Its summary states:

This enactment prohibits the sale or export for sale of any medal awarded by the Government of Canada in respect of service with the Canadian Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or in respect of service as a police officer outside Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

It differs from the bill before us today with two important respects. First, it includes medals awarded to the RCMP or any other police officer who serves our country outside Canada. As we know, many police officers serve overseas, and the medals they receive honour their courage, valour and selfless contribution to our international efforts. Why would we treat their medals any differently than we would the medals of veterans?

If the intent of this bill is to preserve our heritage, then clearly RCMP honours ought to be protected as well. I do not believe there would be a huge backlash from veterans on this point. In fact, when the NDP's Bill C-201 was before this House, not a single veteran complained to me that it dealt with pension fairness for both veterans and the RCMP. On the contrary, the only backlash about that bill was that the Liberals and the Conservatives defeated every clause of the bill in committee, thereby keeping in place the unfair existing system that unjustly reduces the pension benefits of retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel.

The second difference between the bill that is before us today and Bill C-208 is equally important. Bill C-208 does not just prevent medals from being exported out of the country, it actually prohibits the sale of those medals. That is a crucial distinction.

Medals and insignia are priceless honours. Men and women wear them with pride as a sign of their loyalty, devotion and dignity. Such medals should never be turned into currency. By allowing medals to be sold, we are turning honours into commodities.

I share the view of those members in this House who want to prohibit such sales. In doing so, I am not however underestimating the dire financial need that many veterans are experiencing today. I can fully appreciate that many veterans feel that they have to sell their medals as one of the last resorts for making ends meet.

My goodness, surely we can all agree that such circumstances are a national disgrace. It is a situation that reflects badly not on the veterans but on the successive Liberal and Conservative governments that say they support our troops but, in fact, provide little real support when they return home.

Just this past Good Friday, there was a story in the news from Calgary where I guess the Prime Minister thought he was staging a positive photo-op by helping out at a food bank. However, it was a veterans food bank. Over 40 veterans rely on that food bank on a regular basis. Here is what George Bittman, chair of the Calgary Poppy Fund said to the media about that food bank:

The facility is used by vets who feel too proud to ask for help from a civilian food bank. And with so many veterans without pensions, there is a great need for donations of food. Like most Second (World) War veterans and Korean War veterans, if their problems weren’t apparent at the time they were discharged, they were happy to get the hell out of the service and get on with life, just as I did when I got out of the navy. Forty years later, when something comes up that something goes sideways, it’s generally too late for them to make a claim with Veterans Affairs. Records are lost, memories fade.

At that point there are few options available to veterans, other than turning to food banks. It is an absolute disgrace.

Bill C-201 would have gone a long way to providing meaningful help to veterans by improving their pension. So would the implementation of the NDP veterans first motion, which was passed by this House as far back as 2006.

If that motion were acted on in a comprehensive way, there would not be a clawback of SISIP anymore, there would not be a so-called gold-digger clause in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the VIP would have been extended to all widows of all veterans, the survivor pension amount would have been increased from 50% to 66%, and the deduction from the annuity of retired and disabled Canadian Forces members would have been eliminated.

That is how we really support our troops, not by allowing them to sell their medals but by providing them with a decent standard of living. For their service to our country, veterans deserve so much more than just rhetoric from this Parliament. They deserve a retirement with dignity and respect.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues from all parties for the support on my private member's bill, Bill C-473.

On any given day, approximately 8,000 Canadian Forces personnel are preparing for, engaging in, or are returning from an overseas mission. They follow in the footsteps of Canadians who for more than 200 years have answered the call and sacrificed all they knew, all the comforts, love and safety of home in order to defend the freedoms of others.

The efforts and sacrifices of Canada's armed forces throughout history and as we speak must not be forgotten.

More than 30 years ago, at a time when World War II and the Korean war were still fresh in our memories, the Government of Canada responded to the need to protect Canada's heritage by introducing the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. This act seeks balance between the need to protect the nation's heritage and the property rights of private owners.

Regulations under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act specify categories of objects which require a permit to leave Canada for any reason temporarily or permanently. Military medals, orders and decorations are of course included but, like other protected objects, they must be 50 years old.

It is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals and that is what this bill, Bill C-473, seeks to achieve.

Bill C-473 speaks to the importance of our military heritage. As well, it fills an important gap by focusing on Canada's modern military honours.

Bill C-473 will ensure that federal museums are given the opportunity to acquire and protect modern military medals, orders and decorations which are no less deserving than those given 50 or 100 years ago to brave Canadians.

This enactment places restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada.

As the House knows, there are Canadians actively seeking to protect our military medals by keeping them in Canada. For example, Dave Thomson from St. George, Ontario, is known by many as the “medal detector” for his hobby of repatriating Canadian medals from Internet auction sites like eBay. He recently found three first world war medals belonging to Lance-Corporal Walter Clemens Leslie who was born in my riding of Perth—Wellington. I think they have been returned now to the Stratford Perth Museum.

In the same way, this bill still provides fair market value to anyone who wishes to sell an insignia awarded under the authority of Her Majesty in Right of Canada, but they must provide first right of refusal to the Government of Canada by submitting an offer to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage.

My inspiration for this bill comes from the veterans and future veterans from my riding and across Canada who serve or have served our country. This bill will ensure the accolades from their acts of bravery will remain on Canadian soil and will continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.