Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-288, a bill brought forward by our new colleague from Don Valley West, who I commend for taking up an important issue and creating a very important dialogue in the chamber. I encourage members to support this bill. It is important and I will get into the substance of it in just a moment.
My colleague from Don Valley West is new to the chamber and has done a phenomenal job of bringing this issue to bear. I think all of us in this chamber recognize i the importance of our national symbols and what they mean to us and do for us. Our flag is a great symbol. It is a great expression of national unity and how we pull together. It is an expression of the values that we have in common, freedom, democracy, respecting the human rights of others and accepting that we are not ruled by the whim and dictates of an individual but we are all under the rule of law.
Those are very important values, which are not prevalent everywhere in the world, I might add, which is why a symbol, like our national flag, can become such an important point of hope for others. I am talking about others who seek to flee their own situations and come to a land of hope, such as the story of my biological mother and her oldest sister who left difficult economic conditions in eastern Europe in the late 1960s early 1970s to come to a place where there was economic hope and opportunity and the promise of starting a new life.
The flag also represents the hope and values that others wish to have in their own countries and hope to bring to their own countries some day. The flag is important because of its ability to inspire us. I am now in my eighth year as a member of Parliament, which is a great privilege, and every day when I leave this building I look up over my shoulder at the flag flying at the top of the Peace Tower and it never fails to take my breath away. It is a great thing.
I have to say that I am a little troubled by what I am hearing from the opposition with regard to this bill. The member for Jeanne-Le Ber questioned the government's priorities. First, this is a private member's bill, not a government bill. We should clarify the two right off the bat.
In terms of individual member's priorities, a bill that deals with the national flag of Canada and the right of every Canadian citizen to fly that flag is probably better than the bill introduced by the New Democrat member for Windsor West who wants to ensure that there is proper labelling for things that contain cat fur. In terms of the quantum of priorities, the right to fly a flag or to be notified if there is cat fur in a product, I know which priority I think is more important.
I have been told that the New Democrats do not see desecrating our flag as offensive. That troubles me. In fact, that disturbs me. This is not about a right to disassociate from flying the flag. This is about restoring the balance between those who are denied the right by those who are the elite seeking to deny them. That is what this bill hopes to address.
When I listen to Liberal members, I am troubled as well. This bill is not about pride. It is about being denied the free expression of that pride, which is incredibly important.
Listening to members' interventions brings up a curious oddity for me. Opposition members, be they New Democrats or Liberals, have no problem imposing fines and jail sentences on Canadians who do not fill out a long form census, but they will not support a bare minimum fine for someone who would urinate on the flag. That is desecrating the flag. It is in the bill. Apparently they have no problem with that, but sock it to the Canadian who does not fill out a long form census. I am astonished by that position. In fact, I am almost embarrassed that that position has been brought forward in the House, but it is their right. Notwithstanding that, I hope that members will come back to exactly what this legislation is about.
The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said that a motion should have been brought forward and not a bill. I will remind the member that a motion would not deal with the issues that may be uncomfortable for members to deal with, like the desecration of the flag.
We are challenged with a bill today. It is not a perfect bill but it is a good bill on balance. I accept that there could be some changes to this. However, it is a step in the right direction, which is why I felt it was necessary to both second it and speak in favour of it.
I hope all members, at bare minimum, will let this legislation get to committee and, if they want to make some changes to it that are within the scope of the bill, then let us go ahead and do that. Maybe the jail sentence is too much. Fair enough. Maybe it could be the bare minimum of a fine. However, there should be something to acknowledge that Canadians have the right to fly the flag and that right should be respected.
It should not be up to a homeowners association to decide that a veteran in my community in Lake Shore cannot fly a flag over his garage because others do not like the way it looks or it violates some rule of the homeowners association. That is bunk. The bill would remedy that situation. This issue has been in the newspapers back home and the homeowners association does not care about the bad press. It thinks it is still right. I say that it is not.
We need a bill like this. People who put their lives on the line for this flag deserve to have their right backed up and they deserve to have a Parliament that will stand behind them on that.