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House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it looks as if there will not be free and fair elections in Colombia on May 30.

The international pre-electoral observation mission, an international organization which is in Colombia observing the first round of elections, cites the following violations so far: human rights violations; illegal and armed groups interfering in the electoral process, creating fear and intimidation; and illegal campaign financing, using federal social programming to influence and coerce citizens. It has found a number of problems already before the presidential election on May 30. It is also calling for the Canadian government to back away on Bill C-2 until after the elections.

In light of these observations by this international organization, is the member content with her and her party's stance on Bill C-2?

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point is things are not perfect. I will point out that President Uribe in fact respected the democratic requirements to not run for another term, but that is not the point.

The point is we engage in trade with all sorts of countries that do not have perfect electoral situations. Women do not have the right to vote in a number of countries with which we promote trade. Do I object to that? No. I support engaging in trade as much as possible because of the firm belief that the more we engage in trade, the more we can highlight the fact that we expect to see democratic reforms and improvements to human rights. Rather than hiding behind walls, rather than pretending they are not there and simply not engaging, by engaging and supporting our trading partners, we are also helping them to improve the democratic process and human rights.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this issue. Many of my colleagues will not be able to do so now after the shenanigans on Friday, when the opportunity for us to express our opinion on this issue, an opinion that is backed up by groups across the country, was taken away. The support for our position from people right across Canada is very strong. Our voice has been muted in the House by the actions of the Conservative Party. The government has taken that away from us.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the bill. I would like to focus on two aspects of the free trade deal.

We have paid a lot of attention to the aspect of human rights, environmental protection and labour rights. Those issues stand by themselves. Canada should not legitimize a corrupt regime in a country where trade unionists and human rights defenders are murdered with impunity and where drug cartels and paramilitary death squad leaders have infiltrated the government. We should not be doing that. That is pretty clear. Why are we doing it? That is a good question.

The agreement is based on the much discredited NAFTA model of trade and investment that enshrines investors' rights over democratic processes. If we look at all the other countries in South America when it comes to investor rights over a democratic process we will see that they are a little different.

In its submission to the committee studying this bill, the Canadian Labour Congress said:

Authentic democracy and the respect for human rights are not the direct outcome of free trade. If human rights and the security of the person are not upheld, neither are the democratic rights of millions of Colombians. Since January 2007, there have been 115 trade unionists murdered.

Rather than being a trade agreement, this is a trade and investment agreement. Something we have to understand is that this is Canada and the free traders' toehold in South America. There is virtually no other country in South America that is going to put up with this kind of agreement.

These countries want control of their own resources. They want to build their own states. They are a little tired and a little turned off by the last 30 years of imperialism on the economic front throughout South America. That has led to democratically elected governments in many of these countries that are standing up for their rights to control their resources, to control their economies and to make the right moves so that their people can move ahead.

That is what is happening in the rest of South America. The free traders have a toehold in South America where the rules that we thought were great will still be upheld by a corrupt and decadent government that has nothing in comparison to the human rights that we espouse.

What is it that we are going to accomplish for Canada with this action? We are going to fight a rearguard action in South America against the direction the democratically elected governments of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela have all said they are interested in going. They are interested in controlling resources and in returning investment to their people.

Now, that is a problem for those who are free traders, who want to protect multinational corporations' investing in other countries. That is a problem and we need to strike a balance. However, the balance is not going to be struck in Colombia. The balance is going to be struck with the majority of the countries in South America. What is Canada doing with this agreement with Colombia? It is painting itself into a corner and I do not think that is correct.

The Conference Board of Canada said:

Our annual trade with Colombia is about the same level as that with South Dakota and is actually smaller than that with Delaware or Rhode Island. Compared to other markets much closer, Colombia is not really a major player. Eighty per cent of Colombia’s imports to Canada are actually duty free already. The gains from free trade are probably not as great as they would be in other cases.

It is really not about the money. It is not about the $1.3 billion that we trade with Colombia. That is not going to be much altered by that. What we are not doing is reaching out for a new future in South America as people are doing right now in all those other countries. We could talk about a better arrangement with South America. That is what we should be discussing here.

We have been accused of being Luddites or of living in the past, but we are living in today. We are not living in a past that said our goal in this world is simply to exploit other countries. It is to have other countries grow as we want to grow. That is a New Democratic position. I hope that position can permeate some of the other parties. I am sure there are many people here who support that.

There is a regional trade agreement among Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay founded in 1991. They want a common market in South America. They want to work together in that region to build their economies and to make a better future for their people. Why are we not supporting that kind of effort? Why are we not engaging with those countries? Why are we engaging with Colombia?

The countries under Mercosur are Canada's largest export market in South America and home to significant Canadian investment already. We are working there. They are the countries we should be actively engaging with. Colombia is the odd man out.

Comments have been made to me by my constituents about the nature of the amendment that has been put forward by the Liberal Party and supported by the Conservative Party for assessments by individual countries on this particular deal. My constituents are saying that they will not be satisfied with anything less than an independent impact assessment conducted by an independent third party. Reports generated by the Colombian government are not satisfactory. They are not trustworthy. We cannot go ahead with an agreement in that fashion.

The haste to move ahead with this for political purposes perhaps, with the election coming up in Colombia at the end of May are not reasons for us to move ahead with this agreement.

There is no great rush for increased trade with Colombia. There is a great rush to keep that toehold in South America.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the hon. member's speech. We know that the government has sent the RCMP after a person who had a business dealing with a man suspected of illegal activity, but it is prepared, without restriction, to sign a trade agreement with a corrupt government that is suspected of committing abuses and murdering union leaders. What is wrong with this picture?

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in reality, they are very similar because the Prime Minister has asked the RCMP to investigate the minister for a very political reason, to get this political problem out of his jurisdiction.

Why are we going to bat for a country and setting up a free trade agreement with a government that has such an insidious record?

Logic has it that the most likely indicator of future performance is past performance. We have the past performance of the Colombian government, the present performance of the government, and the future performance of the government will likely be somewhat similar. However, our Conservative government, supported by the Liberals, says that we should do this anyhow. It is political. That is why the government is doing it.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the member talk so passionately on the issue of human rights. Being of my generation, which was the Trudeau generation, and the discussion of human rights in our country during that era, it is quite shocking today to see the Liberals making haste to help conclude a trade agreement with a country with a record that even the United States in its pro-free trade agreement stance in the world is stepping away from.

I understand that the member was a mayor of a community. Probably in that capacity he worked within collective agreements. In collective agreements when there is a complex issue and both parties want to put it aside, they sign letters of intent, side agreements, that have no weight in law whatsoever but are an agreement to proceed in a certain manner. We have the same thing with respect to this agreement. The parties are talking about the rights of trade unionists and other rights in side agreements when they should be in the core of the agreement.

On the issue of free trade agreements, why did we fight them for so many years? All one has to do is look at Hamilton where I am from. We lost 50,000 jobs to free trade. In Ontario, in the first two years of the original free trade agreement, 500,000 jobs were lost. That is why we oppose them.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree with my colleague more about the nature of these potential sidebar agreements to this trade agreement. They are not worth it. They are not worthy of consideration in this larger agreement. I have real troubles with the agreement and I have expressed them, but the nature of these side agreements that have been proposed are simply not adequate.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House today to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

This is an important agreement for Canada, Canadian workers and our farmers and producers alike. Farmers need trade to survive.

Now more than ever, we need to be doing everything we can to open doors for Canadians, to create new commercial opportunities around the world and to work beyond our borders to help Canadians to succeed. Canadian businesses need access to markets in order to compete, grow and succeed. That is why the free trade agreement is such an important accomplishment.

Canadian businesses and investors have long called for closer economic co-operation with Colombia, and our government will answer the call.

In 2009, our two-way trade in merchandise totalled $1.3 billion. Key Canadian products, such as cereals, wheat and barley, machinery, pulse crops, paper and motor vehicles, are the driving forces behind this achievement. Once this new agreement is in place, it will be easier for Canadian companies to trade in those products, along with many other products, like beef, pork, liquor, wine, machinery and mining equipment. Trade will flourish. These companies certainly see the clear progress Colombians have made in recent years to tackle difficult challenges in their own country. Our government wants to continue to support this progress and to help create new opportunities for Colombians within our commercial relationship, and we want to do so in a positive and responsible manner.

Our companies recognize the economic potential of Colombia. I will give a specific example. Earlier this month, our government announced that Colombia has reopened its market to Canadian cattle effective immediately. This is proof of the strong relationship we have with Colombia and now we are getting things done for Canadian farmers.

Colombia is a vibrant and dynamic market for Canadian exporters. It is a significant growing source for imports that are important to Canadian consumers and businesses. At the same time, it is a very appealing market for exporters and foreign investors. It is a market of 48 million people.

Once this free trade agreement is in place, Canadian exporters and investors in a broad range of sectors will benefit from lower trade and investment barriers in the Colombian market.

Upon its implementation, Colombia will eliminate tariffs on nearly all current exports, including wheat, pulses and mining equipment. The reality is that Canadian exports, particularly commodities, are already at some disadvantage due to many of our main competitors, such as the U.S., and their geographic closeness to their markets.

These disadvantages of course will get worse if the U.S. and Colombia sign their own free trade agreement. If we wait to implement our agreement, we risk seeing Canadian exporters further disadvantaged in the important market. Many other Canadian exporters stand to lose by delaying implementation of this agreement.

Colombia maintains a tariff averaging 17% on agriculture products, with tariffs ranging from 10% to as high as 108% for some pork products, 80% for beef products and 60% for beans. Indeed, agriculture was a key driver for these free trade agreement negotiations. From the very start, we were guided by the principles that a successful outcome in agriculture would be absolutely critical.

Once this free trade agreement is in place, 80% of our agriculture tariffs will be eliminated immediately. This translates into about $25 million of annual duty savings for our producers in key sectors, such as wheat, barley, lentils, beans and beef. Clearly this is a significant benefit for our agriculture sector.

We need this free trade agreement to provide competitive access for Canadian products. By creating new market opportunities for Canadian exporters, this free trade agreement is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector. This sector has been particularly vulnerable during these tough economic times. This sector needs opportunities for growth.

Growth can be achieved in Colombia. With rapid growth in the Colombian economy in recent years, prior to the economic downturn, Canadian companies have made important investments. The strong presence of Canadian companies has also created many export opportunities for Canadian exports of industrial goods.

Some of Canada's leading exporters to Colombia include off-road dump trucks and auto parts. Mining equipment designed and built in Saskatchewan has also found a place in Colombia. Both those products will likely benefit from increasing market access through this free trade agreement.

We need to create these opportunities for Canadian businesses to increase their export potential. Trade agreements are a critical part of these efforts.

We have entered an age of fierce global competition as emerging economies continue climbing the value chain and establishing themselves in an ever-widening range of sectors. We need to listen to Canadian businesses, help them expand their reach into exciting markets and put them on a level playing field with their competitors. The time for Canada to act is now.

Canadian businesses and workers expect their government to put in place trade agreements that allow them to compete in international markets on a level playing field. They have come before the Standing Committee on International Trade on these issues to speak to the benefits of this agreement. We cannot put our exporters at a relative disadvantage.

The Colombia free trade agreement also forms part of the government's efforts to strengthen Canada's engagement in the Americas by fostering economic development and strengthening democracy and security.

As we know, Colombia, as a nation, is making substantial progress toward becoming a more stable and secure nation. Our government wants to support these efforts. Free trade is a vehicle that can help us do that and give entrepreneurship a chance to thrive in communities across the country. We all want a democratic and secure hemisphere, one that is free of the shackles of terrorism, crime and instability. However, we cannot have a democratic and secure nation without creating a path for its own aspirations or without creating jobs and opportunities through the power of international trade and investment. That is what the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement would help to do.

At the same time as we signed this free trade agreement, we also signed two parallel agreements on labour and the environment. These agreements commit both nations to work together to ensure high levels of protection for workers and the environment. Canada believes that freer trade and investment can and must go hand in hand with labour rights and the environment. These agreements with our Colombia partners prove it.

This free trade agreement not only benefits Canada, but it benefits our Colombia partners too.

We are a trading nation. Our businesses can compete with the best in the world. Today I am proud to say that we can find Canadian businesses, Canadian products and Canadian investment dollars at work all over the world.

We have debated this agreement for some 30 hours. We know the merits of this agreement. It is time that we listen to our Canadian companies and work to ensure that they maintain their competitiveness in this market and have a chance to pursue new opportunities.

For those reasons and for the many benefits to our Colombian partners that this agreement would bring, I ask for the support of all hon. members from all parties to stand up for Canadian workers. We must continue these efforts and create new opportunities for all Canadians to thrive and prosper in this global economy.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member who just spoke is a man who is very concerned with the well-being of Canadians and I am sure he is viewing this particular agreement from that perspective and that perspective alone. However, I say to the member that in this House, the NDP, the Bloc and others have tabled petitions by thousands of Canadians asking us not to proceed on this particular agreement.

In addition, as I said a few moments ago to the member for our own party who spoke previously about the side agreements, the side agreements in this particular free trade agreement do not have the teeth necessary to ensure that the murders that have taken place and the treatment that the citizens of Colombia have received at the hands of the paramilitaries will ever change. In fact, the changes that we heard the Liberals talk about in the House just a few moments ago were changes that came about by interventions by the NGOs and others from Canada.

I would like the member's comments on the petitions of Canadians.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the one thing we have been doing is listening to Canadians about this agreement. In the agriculture committee alone, we talked about the importance of the Colombia free trade agreement. For example, Mr. Jurgen Preugschas from the Canadian Pork Council stated:

We need to pass the bilateral free trade agreements that are in there right now, such as with Colombia.

He needs this trade agreement. Our pork producers need this trade agreement. They came to our committee and told us to get this deal done. They looked at the hon. member for the NDP and said that we needed to get this done.

Why will the NDP not co-operate? Why will it not support our hog producers across Canada and help them get this deal done?

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to my hon. colleague's comments and I listened to some of the criticisms from the New Democratic Party.

I think it bears taking a moment to reflect on the fact that the New Democratic Party has never supported a trade agreement in this House, let alone a free trade agreement in this House. The NDP continues to mislead the general public and it uses facts that are absolutely incorrect that it would never repeat outside this House.

How do we deal with that in a democratic forum?

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I come from a province that has had an NDP government. It was a government of have nots and a government that could not do. It was a flat earth society in Saskatchewan until we realized that we could, would and did change that. If people look at my province today, they will see the examples of those types of benefits.

I ask my colleagues in the NDP to realize that trade is not evil. If they try to understand it they will recognize the benefits that trade and business provides to our country.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, having two Business Excellence Awards under my belt, I certainly do not take any lessons from the hon. member about what is good for business and communities.

What all Conservatives are refusing to mention are the clear links between the Uribe regime and the murderous paramilitary thugs who kill human rights and labour activists. In fact, the Defense Intelligence Agency in the United States talked about Mr. Uribe being a big fan of the Medellin cartel. He developed and prospered in the political system through his links with the Medillin cartel and he is a personal friend of Pablo Escobar.

Since the Conservatives always used to say that they were tough on crime, why are they being soft on the crimes of the Colombian government?

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of any country in this world that did not have a rocky start. If we look at the U.S., it had assassinations of presidents, for example, when it had its start.

Looking at what we can do as Canadians to help Colombians, I think it is a lot better to encourage them, work with them and bring them forward instead of poking a stick in their eyes and saying that they are doing everything wrong. Instead of telling Colombians that they are not good enough, why do we not accept them for what they are and help them? We can learn from them as they learn from us and both of us will benefit from an agreement like this.

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the House for the umpteenth time about the implementation of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, the infamous Bill C-2, which the government insists that we pass without discussing any of the human and social considerations about which the public has sent us so many emails.

Clearly, the Bloc Québécois will say for the umpteenth time that it is against this free trade agreement.

Earlier I heard my colleagues from other political parties praising this agreement and its resulting business and export opportunities. I do not know where they are getting this from because there is not a great deal we can export to Colombia. It is an extremely poor country, which imports very little. It exports a bit of grain, but that is about it.

They are not mentioning the real reason they absolutely want to conclude a free trade agreement with Colombia. Below its soil there are desirable minerals. The motives for this agreement are the minerals found underground in Colombia. No one has said so directly here in the House, except of course the opposition parties who have nothing to hide.

This agreement contains a chapter on investment protection, which will make life easier for Canadian investors who invest in Colombia, particularly in the mining sector.

Over the years, the Conservative government has signed a number of agreements with different countries, and the primary concern of all these agreements has been the return on investments.

We believe that this provision has always put investors' profits ahead of human and social rights. It is very dangerous in a country such as Colombia, a country where labour or environmental protection laws are haphazard. When a law is enacted to protect the Canadian investor, it is at the expense of a people or a country.

Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and certainly in Latin America. Human rights are not important to Colombia.

During the many weeks that we have been discussing this agreement, the government has constantly repeated that the agreement it will sign with Colombia also has two side agreements—one on labour and another on the environment. We know very well that side agreements are ineffective. They are not part of the free trade agreement, which means that investors can—with impunity—destroy Colombia's rich environment, displace people in favour of mine development, and continue to murder trade unionists or NGO workers who defend human rights.

Today, we received an email from a Colombian-Canadian living in Montreal. He told us that human rights violations are rampant in Colombia. He also said that one of the most serious accusations against the Uribe government involves the biggest spy scandal in Colombian history perpetrated by the administrative security department.

It involves the secret police of President Alvaro Uribe's government. This citizen forwarded a copy of a 166-page document that was discovered. It indicates that Mr. Uribe's government wanted to create controversy around NGOs and link them to drug trafficking organizations. It is clear: that is what it says in the Uribe government document. When we are told in this House that the Colombian government—

Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but it is now time for oral questions.

The hon. member will have four minutes when debate resumes.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this being Earth Week, I rise to congratulate a group of citizens in my riding on a significant breakthrough last Tuesday in their battle to stop a quarry in northeast Flamborough, a quarry that would have damaged important wetlands and ecosystems that support unique species, songbirds, raptors and all manner of flora and fauna on this side of the Niagara Escarpment.

Graham Flint, who left his international career and donated countless volunteer hours to lead hundreds of FORCE members from Carlisle, Freelton, Mountsberg, Kilbride and area, said it best, “Together we have succeeded”. That is because last week, the Ontario cabinet ordered the quarry stopped. Pending any potential appeal by the company, residents in the area can breathe a sigh of relief.

FORCE stands for Friends of Rural Communities and the Environment. I can say from attending some of their events that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Special recognition is also due to my provincial colleague, hon. Ted McMeekin, and local city councillor Margaret McCarthy. It was a joyous occasion for both of them, Mr. Flint and FORCE, and it is great news for safe local drinking water and the environment.

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, April 17, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Equality Day.

We have come a long way in 25 years, but we still have a long way to go.

This past weekend at the Thinking Women's Brain Spa, there was huge concern that Canadian women are now fighting to hold on to the rights we have, instead of being able to fight for equality for all women.

Marilou McPhedren spoke on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Legal Education and Action Fund and explained that, without resources for gender equality initiatives, women's rights will be further eroded and there is a need for evidence-based advocacy for the lived rights of Canadian women.

Nancy Peckford and the fabulous team from Equal Voice led us in the “Be Her or Support Her” boot camp to get more women elected, and Mary Anne Burke and Margrit Eichler taught us the tools of the bias-free framework, tools for the shared goal of full equality for all Canadians.

Franco MaterazziStatements By Members

April 19th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Franco Materazzi passed away on March 29, 2010. The Outaouais region is in mourning for a great economist.

Mr. Materazzi studied and was familiar with the region's economic development, and was a key contributor to it as well. He identified all the problems our businesses face with regard to federal government contracts, and outlined the challenges of developing high-tech companies in the Outaouais region. His many studies have become indispensable.

I met Mr. Materazzi and immediately understood why he was so admired. His dream was not to take centre stage, but to help businesses get established. He was a compassionate man, who was involved with the Fondation de l'Université du Québec en Outaouais for many years.

On behalf of myself and my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Materazzi.

Baisakhi FestivalStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week in my home town of Hamilton, Ontario, our Sikh community celebrated the annual Baisakhi Festival. For Sikhs everywhere, Baisakhi marks the time farmers harvest crops in India and the beginning of the new spring.

This festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm around the world, wherever there are Sikh communities. On this day in Punjab, farmers thank God for the bountiful harvest and pray for prosperity in the coming year. The day of the Baisakhi festival has tremendous significance in Sikhism. It is on this day that Sikhs everywhere commemorate the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699 by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

In keeping with the spirit of this special occasion, I would like to say to my Sikh constituents and friends back in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, and indeed to Sikhs around the world, happy Baisakhi and happy Khalsa Day.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, National Volunteer Week is our opportunity to acknowledge the men and women who give of their time to try to bring some improvement to our lives.

At times when it seems nothing is going right, they are there to comfort us. Through a handshake, an embrace, a smile or simply a sympathetic ear, they give us hope.

During this week when we celebrate those who give of themselves, we must remember that volunteering is a career in itself. These volunteers work with the most vulnerable members of society, provide much needed assistance to the very ill, help men, women and children in need, and take care of our seniors. Their selfless efforts deserve our admiration.

I would like to thank them for making change happen. Happy National Volunteer Week.

PolandStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer my deepest condolences to the Polish nation for the tragic and sudden passing of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 members of Poland's civilian and military leadership.

It is barely possible to comprehend that there could be another Polish tragedy associated with a place called Katyn. I say that particularly mindful of the Canadian families of the original victims of the Katyn massacre 70 years ago that remember it every year at the monument in my riding.

It is too early to say what the tragic plane crash of April 10 will mean for Poland. It is not too early to speak about the courage that it took to keep the idea of Poland and the truth of Katyn alive over the years, including by Polonia here in Canada. It was done despite much indifference internationally and in the face of brutal regimes. Nor is it too early to recognize that the incredible perseverance of the Polish people has built a strong, stable democratic country, which Canadians greatly admire.

As Poland mourns and recovers from this tragic event, Canada can and must continue to be a strong friend by officially recognizing the original Katyn massacre and pressing for Russia and others to do the same. I invite members to join me in that commitment.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Volunteer Week, a time for us to recognize those within our communities who give of themselves to make our lives better.

In my constituency I would like to recognize Lorne and Helen Dueck for their work with the Ontario March of Dimes, Doug French for his work with the Child Advocacy Centre of Niagara and Dr. Julia Murray of Court Animal Hospital who has done extensive volunteer work to help lower the amount of stray cats in St. Catharines.

While volunteers have many faces and can play many roles, today I would like in particular to thank those Canadian seniors who volunteer. Whether they are raising funds, rallying behind important causes or providing much needed services to others, seniors in my constituency of St. Catharines play a key role. They are an inspiration to us all.

I hope everyone will join me this week in saying a sincere thanks to all our Canadian seniors who volunteer.

Guy BoucherStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, April 7, Hamilton Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher was named outstanding coach of the year by the American Hockey League. This was his very first season as the Bulldogs' coach.

Mr. Boucher is a native of the Lower St. Lawrence, more specifically Notre-Dame-du-Lac. He is the second youngest coach in the American league and an inspiration to the young people in our region.

He has proven that with determination and an excellent work ethic, it is possible to achieve our goals and make our dreams come true.

This young coach is just beginning his career in the professional circuit and he is already considered a great teacher. His determination and passion for teaching younger people will surely earn him many more nominations and a bright future.

Again, my most sincere congratulations to Mr. Boucher.

Arts and CultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, last night Canada experienced the Juno Awards in St. John's, Newfoundland, where the best Canadian artistic talent was showcased. I would like to congratulate the talented nominees and winners of these prestigious awards.

Also this weekend, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced renewed, stable, multi-year funding for the Canada Music Fund. This means over $79 million dollars of direct support for our Canadian artists so they can create and showcase their music to Canada and to the world.

Our government is giving more money to artists and more support to our creative economy than any government in history because we recognize the contribution of arts and culture to our society, our identity and our economy.

Just ask Heather Ostertag, president of FACTOR, who said that this government has “clearly demonstrated [its] commitment to Canadian culture, [which] will ensure that Canadian artists [continue] taking their music to the world”.