Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak again about this private member's bill.
When we last spoke, I had the opportunity to outline some of the over 70 years' worth of time where the previous Liberal governments and Liberal prime ministers had completely ignored the Italian Canadian community. I had mentioned it was divisive to bring the bill forward at this time.
I was also asked about some of the problems with the bill and why I had not brought forward some amendments during the committee stage. I want to point out some of the really big problems with the bill.
It is a short bill. It is not a very indepth bill. Perhaps that is one of the problems with it. Obviously not a lot of time or care was put into the drafting of it. The member who introduced it did not take the opportunity to speak with those of us on this side of the House, who are Italian Canadian, to get our thoughts so we perhaps could have drafted something a bit better.
One of the initial problems was the bill directed responsibility to the wrong minister, the minister of culture. Historical recognition is now in the hands of Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Right at the outset, we would have had to modify the initial part of the bill.
Then it asked that only one organization be responsible for the funds as outlined in the bill. The one organization, the National Congress of Italian Canadians, would be responsible for negotiating with the government how these funds would be distributed.
There are many different Italian Canadian organizations across the country. Organizations in my home town of Richmond Hill, in Stouffville, in Markham and in B.C. and across the country do a lot of good work. This bill, if adopted, would ignore what they have asked for and would see the government only negotiate with the National Congress of Italian Canadians.
During the testimony, I asked a past president of the congress a question. I said that I was concerned because I believed the bill was very divisive. I asked him, specifically, if I was any less of a proud Italian because I did not support the bill. I had hoped I would get a quick answer, but unfortunately I did not. It showed the level of frustration and the level of divisiveness. I was told that I had to look at my own conscience. He could not quite say the word no, that just because I disagreed with him on this bill, I was still a proud Italian Canadian. This is one of the other major problems with the bill.
Let us look further into another big problem with the bill. It also talks about restitution. It does not go indepth as to what an apology or what restitution would entail. Does this leave the Government of Canada open for other challenges? Are we open to court challenges from other groups?
As I mentioned earlier, there is 70 years' worth of time when previous Liberal governments ignored the Italian Canadian community. There are no survivors of that time left.
The language in the bill leaves Canada extraordinarily vulnerable to a charter challenge.
Another part of the bill called on the minister responsible for Canada Post to issue a postage stamp commemorating this time. We have heard from Canada Post officials that the minister has no such power, and that this could be a problem. The hon. member who introduced the bill did say that he would be willing to modify that.
However, we have a very short bill with a problem or a mistake on almost every line that would make the committee completely change the impact of the bill.
When we talk about something like this, when we talk about an apology to the Italian Canadian community, we have to take the time. We have to look at more than just an apology to the Italian Canadian community. We have to put the Government of Canada first. We have to look at the implications such a bill would have, not only on the Italian Canadian community but on all other things the Government of Canada does. Clearly, this bill did not do that. It left us vulnerable to charter challenges. It did not define the form of an apology.
I spend a lot of time at committee, talking about the differences in apologies and how they should be handled. Again, I want to focus and centre on what I think is the major problem. The bill has been brought forward without consultation with other members of the House. It does not identify the correct minister. It ignores all other Italian Canadian organizations, to the exclusion of the preferred organization of the member opposite. It leaves Canada vulnerable to court challenges. It is completely divisive. It does absolutely nothing to reflect on all the amazing things Italian Canadians have accomplished in our country.
As I said at committee, my parents came to Canada in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. They accomplished a tremendous amount. Unfortunately, my parents have passed away. They did not have the opportunity see me sworn in as a member of Parliament.
When I ask my uncles and aunts whether they think the Government of Canada owes them an apology, they tell me Brian Mulroney, the Conservative prime minister, apologized to Italian Canadians, and they respect that. They respect the Office of the Prime Minister and they respect that apology. They are extraordinarily grateful to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and to this government for recognizing this and, through the historical recognition program, finally providing funds so we can educate Canadians and Italian Canadians on why this is such an important thing.
If we look at the testimony of people who testified, they said that the most important thing was education. We have the funding. We have the apology. This is nothing more than a bill that seeks to divide the Italian Canadian community for partisan political points. I certainly will not be supporting the bill.