moved that Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the opportunity to rise today and to speak to my Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, a bill that encourages Canadians to proudly display our national flag.
This bill represents an opportunity for us to stand behind those who wish to display our most important national symbol.
It also allows us to demonstrate to Canadians who wish to display our national flag that they have our full support. There have been far too many Canadians who have been forced to take down the Canadian flag on Canadian soil.
Some of us will remember our flag being adopted in 1965. Since that time, Canadians have proudly worn it on their backpacks while travelling the world. Displaying our flag abroad has immediately conveyed the values that we hold dear, freedom, democracy, courage and justice. Everywhere Canadians go, our flag is recognized and respected.
Despite proudly displaying our national flag when we are away from home, it is often said that Canadians are reserved in their patriotism and that they are not likely to put on a grand display of pride for their country.
I agree that in the past we have been hesitant to acknowledge our accomplishments, but Canada has come of age. As a country we have matured. We are no longer reserved about trumpeting our many accomplishments and letting the world know about our great country.
Our flag represents freedom, democracy, courage and justice, but today we are also proud to display our national flag as a symbol of leadership in the world and as a symbol of our accomplishments as Canadians.
The purpose of the bill is to protect Canadian citizens who want to proudly display the Canadian flag at their home. There are many reasons why one would want to display the flag; simply though, Canada is a great country.
When I hear stories of veterans who have been displaying the flag for years and are forced to take it down on threat of fines or even evictions, I am appalled.
There are stories such as those of Guy Vachon from Ottawa who served 25 years in the army, including combat in Korea, or Fred Norman, also from Ottawa, who served under our flag for 23 years. They were forced to take down their flags on threat of eviction. Mr. Vachon flew a Canadian flag for 11 years without a problem. Then one day he was told that unless he took down his flag he would face legal action with potential eviction.
There is the story of Brian and Linda-Lee Cassidy from southern Ontario who have been flying the flag for almost 40 years at their homes. They were told their flag looked like "trailer trash", both an insult to the flag and the people who live in mobile homes. The Cassidys are now members in bad standing at their homeowners association even though they have always paid their dues and followed the rules. The Cassidys want to fly the Canadian flag because they simply love Canada. They believe in what this country represents and they are honoured to be Canadians.
There is Rose Wittemann and Richard Field. Rose wanted to fly the flag because her brother was being sent to Afghanistan to fight under the Canadian flag for the freedom that we enjoy every day. They were told that unless they took down their flag, maintenance workers would come and take it down for them and they would be charged for the work that took place. In the notice they were given they were told:
While we appreciate your patriotism, Canada Day has now passed and we require that the flag be removed immediately.
Canadians should have the right to fly the flag on more than just Canada Day. We are Canadians every day of the year and we should be allowed to fly the Canadian flag every day of the year.
Lynn Riley hung a flag on her backyard fence. Shortly thereafter she received a letter from a legal firm representing her condo association, forcing her into expensive mediation.
Ex-serviceman Mark Murray placed his flag on his balcony in remembrance of the men and women he served with and those who never came home. He has received encouragement from family members of those who lost their lives to keep flying the flag. He faced eviction as a result but Mark said, “Remembering those who were lost was well worth it”.
Or there is Kirk Taylor in Calgary who also believed in what the flag represented. He received a notice to take down his flag but he refused. The issue took years to resolve, including expensive mediation.
Thousands of Canadians risk their lives every year with the Canadian Forces for the sake of what the flag represents. They risk it all for Canada. Why would we force them to fight more battles here at home while trying to remember those who are still fighting or those who never came home?
We all have special memories that involve the Canadian flag. This summer, I was inspired whenever I had the opportunity to go to an immigration ceremony to welcome new Canadian citizens. When these new citizens would stand up I would give each one a small Canadian flag, a symbol, and they would often be overwhelmed with emotion and tears. I was reminded repeatedly that Canada is a refuge, a safe place, where millions of people all over the world desire to live. Our Canadian flag represents everything that they strive for: freedom, democracy, justice and many more attributes that we take for granted every day.
If hon. members think back over the past number of years, can we say that Canadians were shy about displaying our flag during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Of course not. Our flag was visible everywhere. It was proudly displayed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast for the entire world to see. Canadians expressed their immense pride in their athletes and that was even before they owned the podium for Canada. Of course, they were not just proud of Sidney Crosby's winning goal, they were proud that Canada had once again welcomed the world with such tremendous distinction.
We do not only show our pride in our flag at sporting events. Canadians proudly display our flag during times of national celebration. Of course we can think of Canada Day. On July 1 every year, Canada is transformed into a sea of red and white. Our flag can be seen flying in every town and city across the country. Flag Day on February 15 also comes to mind.
However, we also saw our flag waving all over the country to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this past summer. We all know that a tour from our Queen would not be complete without the familiar red and white flag lining the streets to greet her. Certainly, Canadians will be eager to display our flag in celebration of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee in 2012. As Canadians, we have much to celebrate. No symbol can match the unifying power of our flag to help us celebrate together.
Our flag represents us overseas as well. It flies at our embassies and missions around the world and it is a beacon of hope for people around the world when it flies with the Canadian Forces in areas such as Afghanistan.
Canadians are tremendously proud of their flag and want to see it displayed both at home and abroad. Canadians want to show their pride in their country every day of the year. They want to show their support for our democracy, freedom, courage and justice.
Our national flag is our greatest symbol. Around the world it stands for those values. It accompanies the men and women in uniform who go out into the world and risk all for the sake of that democracy.
Our flag unites us all. It honours our history, shows our pride in our accomplishment and brings us together in time of celebration and in times of mourning. Canadians want to be able to display it proudly and should always be able to do so.
The bill would help Canadians who want to show their pride in Canada. Canadians like Guy Vachon, Fred Norman, Brian and Linda Cassidy, Rose Witteman and Richard Field, Lynne Reilly, Mark Murray, Kirk Taylor and so many others just like them. They have all sacrificed so much for the sake of our flag, for the sake of what our country stands for.
As their elected representatives, we have a responsibility to support Canadians who want to show their love of our great country. We must encourage Canadians to display our national flag and send a message that no one should prevent it from being displayed respectfully. What better way to do so than to make it easier for Canadians to display our national flag every day of the year.
For this reason, I urge members to join me and support Bill C-288. I also urge members, if they have not already done so, to join me and other Canadians in showing our pride and in celebration of our great country by displaying the national flag of Canada at our homes.