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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I was very interested in hearing the sad story about Forillon National Park. We had, around the same time, a similar park development in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Gros Morne National Park. At that time there was an attempt to expropriate and destroy several communities along the west coast of Newfoundland.

The people reacted to that, formed their own opposition group, and made a very strong case. They were supported by the Government of Newfoundland and those communities were saved. Those communities are still there and are an important part. They are excluded from the boundaries of the park, but they have been enhanced by the existence of the park. They even kept their rights to traditional hunting, whether it be for rabbits, subsistence hunting, gathering of wood, et cetera.

It really shows that it is possible to develop a park, a very successful and magnificent national park such as Gros Morne, which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site, without the kind of damage to people's cultures and livelihoods as has been experienced here.

The request seems to be fairly simple. I wonder why the member thinks that the government cannot join in this expression of apology for what happened in this particular instance. Because as is clear from the case of Gros Morne and other cases, it did not have to happen. It should not have happened even then, let alone in modern times.

I wonder whether he cares to comment on why the government members do not seem to be willing to join in this expression of apology.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, on this side of the House, we are wondering why they are really refusing to apologize. We can only assume that they are refusing to apologize, and we will find out when it comes time to vote. But we cannot accept what I call partial apologies. The presence of the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse a few months ago cannot be considered by the communities as a full apology. The government expropriated these people's land because the Canada National Parks Act stipulates that the space must be returned to its natural, undeveloped state. There is already a problem in this act. The federal government at the time wanted to enforce this act strictly, and it dispossessed, displaced and expropriated communities. This is not how things should be done.

We would not accept such a thing these days. A project like that one must take into account the fundamental principle that we call social acceptability. Before such a project is approved, the communities must be in agreement. Had the project been presented 40 years later, it is very likely that it would not have passed the social acceptability test. Economic and environmental repercussions must be taken into account in a development project, but it is also important to have the consent of the people who will have to live with it.

The simple fact of acknowledging that, in 2010-11, such a project could not be carried out without passing the social acceptability test, which is an important factor in governmental decision making, should encourage the government to get behind our motion and acknowledge that a simple thing needs to be done. The House and the government must offer an apology to the communities affected in the Gaspé region.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member tell me why the Conservative government, and the Liberal government before it, did not meet the quite simple request of the people from the Gaspé who were affected the most by this tragic episode? Why is it taking the government so long to speak to this issue?

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, the government did something else: it launched a permanent exhibit at the interpretation centre highlighting the tragedy from 40 years ago. By doing so, the government is trying to show empathy for the affected community, but it has a great deal of difficulty taking the step that would be more than symbolic for the communities: genuine redress. The federal government must stand in the House and apologize for the damages caused by this decision 40 years ago.

The community is requesting that passes be granted to five generations. They are not asking for an exhibition centre. Rather than a token member going to the communities and offering partial solutions, they are asking that a real minister show up in the communities. They are waiting for a responsible minister to stand in the House, go to the communities and acknowledge the harm done to the communities. It's simple.

We have done it in other situations. Could we not do it in the next few days in the House? The ball is now in the government's court. We hope the government will come back to its senses and not announce partial solutions. We want a comprehensive solution to this human tragedy. The government must extend the passes to five generations and recognize the harm caused. It is the only proper way for the Gaspé community to get true redress for the harm done 40 years ago.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in response to the motion by the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine concerning Forillon National Park.

The park was created in 1970 to protect and showcase an example of one of Canada's unique and most beautiful natural regions. Few Canadians would disagree with that intention. In fact, in this year in which we celebrate the centennial of the creation of the government organization which later became Parks Canada, we cheered Canada's outstanding accomplishment in protecting some 360,000 square kilometres of land. This is an astonishing achievement.

We can also celebrate how far Parks Canada has come in learning how to balance the need to protect our natural spaces for future generations with the need to sustain the communities that lived in harmony with these spaces for generations past.

I appreciate the hon. member's concerns for the families who were required to leave their lands when the park was created in 1970. They were asked to leave a place of astonishing natural beauty, a place where, for several generations, they had clung proudly to a way of life that depended upon the salt cod fishery.

The world turns, the times change, and perhaps the descendants of those early families would not care to exchange the quality of their lives today for the lives of those generations ago salting cod on the pebble beaches of Gaspé. However, we honour those generations for their fortitude and resourcefulness, and celebrate the memory of the communities they built. In fact, in 2009, Parks Canada organized a reunion for the families who were required to leave their homes at Forillon.

The House may be interested to know that more than 300 people attended the event. Parks Canada hosted similar events at Kouchibouguac National Park in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with up to 700 people attending. Equally important, Parks Canada has taken steps to honour those families by telling the stories of their communities and the event that led to their departure. This is a significant change after 40 years in which the park's interpretation programs paid little attention to the events that led to the park's creation.

However, last year Parks Canada launched an exhibit called “Gaspesians from Land's End” that addresses the theme, and that park management has committed to work with former residents and their descendants to tell their stories and celebrate their heritage. The exhibit will showcase the cultural richness and diversity of the residents who made the Forillon Peninsula their home. The Government of Canada invested close to $1 million to reconstruct the Dolbel-Roberts House and to create “Gaspesians from Land's End”.

The exhibit was developed by the Parks Canada team, which included the members of committees representing both the families who left the land and the communities that continue near the park to this day. Some 60 people contributed by providing documentation, photos and first-hand accounts.

One of the special features of the “Gaspesians from Land's End” exhibit has been a montage featuring 13 videos in which former residents give first-hand accounts of everything from childhood and day-to-day life to family ties and social relations. The interviews for the montage illustrate the rich lives of the people who inhabited the peninsula.

The exhibit is a way for Forillon National Park to reconcile with the families who were required to leave their homes to make way for the park. The national park wants to renew ties with those families and their descendants, and wishes to highlight the contribution these families and communities made to the history of the region and, of course, to Canada.

Parks Canada has further plans to commemorate the persons whose homes were expropriated so that the national park could be created. It will design and install interpretive panels to show the names of the families who lived there before the park was created.

It will continue to work with the committees that have been created to pursue further activities. One of these is the Forillon expropriated persons commemorative committee, which is composed of Parks Canada employees and representatives from the Gaspé community. Its mandate is to commemorate and highlight the presence and contributions of Forillon's former residents, along with their rich history and way of life.

The other committee consists exclusively of people who were required to leave the area that is now Forillon National Park, as well as their descendants, and was established in 2009 as the Forillon expropriated persons interim committee. One of its activities is to organize various reunion meetings in various sectors of the park.

In the meantime, Parks Canada is taking steps to count and assess the buildings of the former residents. These buildings are now 40 years old and of the 16 buildings submitted, 12 have been recognized as cultural resources. Parks Canada has taken action to protect and preserve them.

The “Gaspesians from Land's End” has been set up at the refurbished Maison Dolbel-Roberts. As well, St. Peter's Church has seen major restoration and is now in very good condition. At Grande-Grave, the Hyman store and its warehouse, the Anse-Blanchette buildings, and others were restored, and with the exception of the barn are rated in good condition. Parks Canada has been examining the possibility of preserving and restoring other buildings, including sheds and barns, to help showcase and maintain the region's beauty and historic character.

All these steps have been taken to commemorate a community that once made the Forillon Peninsula its home and developed a deep and rich cultural legacy, a legacy we now honour. We can learn valuable lessons from how Forillon Park was created and we can find better ways to work with communities in creating national parks.

That is what we have done. We can see it in so many of the new areas that this government has made its intention to protect. But we do so not against the wishes of the local communities but in partnership with them. We can see this process at work across the country.

On the east coast, for example, we can see in Labrador where we worked with a steering committee to examine the possibility of creating a national park in the Mealy Mountains. The Innu nation, Nunatsiavut government, and Labrador Métis nation were involved in the steering committee. It recommended that the park continue to maintain traditional land use activities by Labradorians from the surrounding communities, because the Mealy Mountains are not just home to wildlife. Like the Forillon Peninsula in 1970, they are home to people who have lived in harmony with this land for generations.

The proposed national park reserve will continue to accommodate traditional land use activities for Labradorians in the surrounding communities. We continue to work together to manage these activities in a way that ensures the long-term ecological integrity of this land as a national park reserve.

That is what we have done in Labrador. We have done something similar in the Northwest Territories where we expanded the boundaries of Nahanni National Park, so that it is now six times its original size. It is roughly the size of Belgium.

We could not have done this were it not for the co-operation and collaboration with local communities, including first and foremost the Dehcho first nation, the government of the Northwest Territories, and the mining and hunting industries of the north.

The Dehcho people were steadfast and tireless in their support for the expansion of the park reserve because for them it is a place of mystery, spirituality and healing. The new national park reserve will commemorate and reflect their culture. The Dehcho will participate in the management of the park reserve. The Dene and treaty rights of the Dehcho members and all aboriginal groups will be fully protected within the boundaries of the expanded park.

But at the same time, the park reserve excludes areas of highest potential for mineral and oil and gas extraction. We want to improve the prosperity of the Northwest Territories with its vast resource potential. We have been working with all partners on the creation of the Nahanni National Park Reserve. We know better how to work with communities so that everyone benefits from the creation of a national park.

Finally, for a third example, let me remind the House of what we have accomplished on the west coast where we established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. Canada has become the first country to protect a region from the alpine meadows of the mountain tops to the depths of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelf.

To make this happen we worked with the Haida people to protect some of the world's most abundant and diverse marine habitats. For hundreds of generations, the Haida Nation has lived in harmony with this environment. Today, this wealth of marine resources continues to sustain local communities as well as a recreational and commercial fishery. This new national marine conservation area reserve will ensure that this can continue.

What these three examples have in common and share with other examples such as Lancaster Sound is that we work with local populations to make sure that the creation of national parks serves their needs as well as the need for protecting the environment. We do not just preserve habitat for wildlife, we can protect a way of life, one that has sustained humans for generations. If we are wise, it will continue for generations to come.

I am pleased that the former residents of what is now Forillon National Park are working with Parks Canada to preserve their legacy. I am also pleased that from their experience 40 years ago, Parks Canada has learned valuable lessons that it now applies to help maintain the way of life in communities across Canada where national parks are being created.

We cannot turn back the clock. But we can give the people who lost their homes, and the descendants of those people this assurance: Parks Canada will keep the memory of their communities alive and will continue to work with other communities so that never again will a people have their homes expropriated where we can achieve so much more if we work together.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, the first Conservative Party member to speak was the member for Beauport—Limoilou. In response to a question asked by my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, she said—not without looking at her BlackBerry though—that she personally would not have an issue voting in favour of this important motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

My question is very simple and is for the member who just spoke. Generally speaking, will the rest of the Conservative Party members be in favour of the motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine?

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse announced that people who had their homes affected by the expropriation of land to create this national historic site are given free access to their homes and their houses that were expropriated. We have taken steps to recognize those communities and we do agree with the intent of what the motion calls for.

It is important to remember that while those expropriations were conducted legally, there is no dispute of the fact that the displaced people were affected by the decision to create this park.

Forillon's 40th anniversary in 2010 marked a major procedural change. Twenty years ago, the co-operative spirit surrounding recent actions taken in Forillon and Kouchibouguac National Parks have been unthinkable. So the sharing of leadership of both communities is having mutually beneficial and gratifying results for everyone involved. Parks Canada is working with and will continue to work with the affected communities to respectfully commemorate these events and ensure that the former residents have free access to these areas of personal interest.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have listened to the debate today, the three opposition parties have been in solidarity on this important matter on the principle, the hope, and the commitment to see that the motion is passed and in urging that the government would fall on side and make it unanimous so that not only this particular community, but Canadians as a whole would understand that when a wrong is done we admit it and do the right thing.

The Conservatives have yet to answer the question that has been asked several times today, so we will pose it to the member. It is not a matter of the spirit of the motion. The question is whether the Conservative government will finally have a spokesman who will stand up and answer the question for Canadians and the members of this community, and whether they will be making this unanimous, that is, whether they will be supporting the motion now before the House.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, the member stands and talks about something that happened 40 years ago. We cannot turn back the hands of time. If we could, I wonder if the Liberal Party, which was in power that day, that made this decision to expropriate the land and create this national park, if Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau would be prepared to have done something differently. However, the Liberals displaced the families and shut down that community and the fishery. I wonder if the Liberal Party is going to apologize.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, those who were in the House earlier today know that the Liberal Party has already apologized for this, and for that we thank them.

On a more positive note, I would like to compliment the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake for his well researched and thoughtful comments here today. I would also like to compliment and thank our former minister of parks, whom I can name now that he is no longer a member of this House. Jim Prentice did a very fine job as our minister of parks and really moved the yardstick forward in terms of parks creation, not only in the area of the Nahanni but in other areas as well. I want to compliment the former minister, Mr. Prentice, on that.

My hope is that we will have unanimous agreement to vote in favour of the motion, partly so we could move forward and so the new Minister of the Environment could do an effective job in continuing to build our system of parks and protected areas.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague thanking Mr. Prentice, our former minister of the environment responsible for Parks Canada for the extremely great job he did in protecting natural spaces in this country.

I take some offence that he mentioned I was not in the House earlier today when the original motion was presented and the debate started. I was at committee. I am the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We are dealing with important legislation there from his colleagues, so I could not be in the House to observe the speech that was taking place. I do take offence with that comment.

The way parks were created over the last 100 years was that a lot of parks were established in areas where there were communities and land was taken away from people. Expropriation happened in my province of Manitoba in the creation of Riding Mountain National Park. That was done in the 1950s. For the creation of Hecla Island Provincial Park, under the Schreyer government, land was expropriated and many people were forced off their farms. That area is now one of the greatest places to visit in Manitoba. The same can be said for Birds Hill Provincial Park and Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

Provincial governments have done this. It has been done by NDP governments, provincially. It has been done by Liberal governments, federally. It has been done, I am sure, by Conservative federal governments, historically.

However, we all realize that process was the wrong way to go about establishing these parks and creating those types of hardships on the families and communities that were impacted. We have learned from that. As I said in my speech, Parks Canada has taken a much more collaborative and co-operative approach in dealing with those individuals and communities to ensure that we never make those mistakes again.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, this is more of a point of order to correct something the previous member said. He suggested it was the NDP that was involved in expropriating land for the Hecla Provincial Park. The fact of the matter is when Ed Schreyer became the premier in 1969, that government inherited the Walter Weir Conservative government's two-year old plan to turn Hecla into a provincial park. The process was well under way when Ed Schreyer became the premier. I know the member would not want to put misinformation on the record, so I wanted to correct that for him.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I would encourage my friend from Elmwood—Transcona to actually go to Hecla Island and speak with the members of the community who live there and former residents of Hecla Island. Everyone I have ever talked with blames the Schreyer government for its expropriation. It happened under his watch. He had a chance to change any plans that may have been in the works.

However, like any government that inherits a plan, it does not have to go ahead with it. The thing is, it probably did change it. There was collaboration and discussion taking place before 1969 when the Schreyer government came to power. There was ample opportunity to ensure that there was collaboration and co-operation, but no, it decided to expropriate instead.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and thank him for his wonderful speech earlier. I also want to congratulate him on his eloquence. My colleague represents a Montreal riding, but his speech clearly demonstrated that he fully understands Quebec and its dual nature, with its large centres and its regions like the Gaspé and all the others.

For some time, the Conservatives have been trying to divide us, to show that there is a difference between the Bloc members from Montreal and those from the regions. My colleague's speech proves that the Bloc Québécois is a tightly knit team. And that is why I am proud of this team. All of its members fully understand this situation and understand Quebec and its regions. I just wanted to point that out before I begin.

I would also like to thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for the motion we are discussing today. This story of what happened 40 years ago in the Gaspé has touched me deeply.

We are all defined by our origins, our pride and our sense of belonging to a family, a community and a nation.

Some 40 years ago, this sense of belonging and the pride the residents of Forillon felt for having worked their land and built their homes were stolen from them. They were forced off the land they had been living on for generations. The Government of Canada expelled them to create a national park. They left behind not only their history, their roots and their ancestors, but even worse, part of their identity.

Overall, 1,800 residents, 225 families, suffered this injustice. The tragedy surrounding the Forillon expropriation also includes the 1,200 buildings that were demolished or burned and the countless memories that were left behind.

Does it seem normal to expropriate the property of 225 families, to burn their houses, restrict access to their land and force them to start over somewhere else, and with such paltry compensation to boot? I do not find that normal. It is absolutely unacceptable.

Every time I have the opportunity to rise in the House, I am proud to tell anyone who may be watching or listening that I am a farmer from Sainte-Blandine, a small community in the Lower St. Lawrence region. My family has been on that farm for two generations and perhaps a third generation will one day live there. My family has lived in the village for four generations—four generations of farmers. As farmers, we know very well what it means to be uprooted from one's land. It is absolutely unacceptable.

I have been involved in regional development, the development of my little village and the development of agriculture in Quebec, for about 30 years. What happened 40 years ago is evidence of a gross misunderstanding of what regional development should be. It would be impossible to make a decision regarding the development, occupancy and habitation of the land just because someone flies over it in a plane, finds the scenery beautiful and decides to turn the area into a park. That is not how things are supposed to work. The people who live on that land must be involved in the projects and must be consulted regarding the development of the land.

Moreover, the compensation offered was grossly inadequate. Many testimonies confirm the unconscionable manner in which the expropriation process was conducted. One simply has to do a little bit of research to find countless statements to that effect. According to some of those testimonies, people were no longer allowed to cut wood on the land to heat their homes. They could not even recover a window or a doorknob from their houses, otherwise they could end up in jail. That is truly unbelievable. There is also the tale of a powerless grandfather watching his house burning. Surely, such experiences must be traumatic. Many talk about the meagre and even degrading pittance that they received as compensation. What a way to promote development.

These few testimonies confirm the unfair expropriation process, the unjustifiable harassment, the unacceptable pressure and the inhuman social uprooting suffered by those who were expropriated from Forillon Park.

Today, the Bloc Québécois is demanding that this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated. Again, we believe that things could have been done differently in the interest of these people, of the Gaspé region and of Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois has always advocated values such as respect, tolerance and compassion. Today, if those whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park are the topic of our opposition day, it is because the values that the Bloc Québécois stands for were not respected, and because justice must be done. It is a matter of dignity, fairness and integrity. As the previous speaker said, we should do more than set up booths and build museums. We are simply asking for an apology from this House.

While the intention behind the creation of Forillon Park may, in and of itself, have been laudable, we can now state loud and clear that the government failed miserably, not because the park is not fulfilling its primary role of boosting the region's economy, but because the expropriation process was done in a sloppy and disrespectful manner towards the people who had been living there for generations. This was their place, a place that they had built to raise their families. That is truly inhumane. This episode caused a great deal of worries and sorrows to thousands of people and hundreds of families.

Why were the residents not included in this plan? Why were they not consulted, made part of the project by keeping their properties intact, as the Government of Quebec had suggested at the time? Although these past mistakes have nothing to do with the current government, it has an opportunity today to make amends and answer the call of those whose properties were expropriated, namely, I say again, by giving them an official apology. It is the least the government can do. These people are not seeking compensation. They just want an official apology for how this was handled 40 years ago.

Imagine the suffering of these men and women who had to pack their bags and start their lives over, to find new homes, new jobs and, in short, a new way of life. What a tragedy.

If only they had received acceptable compensation instead of getting crumbs. A number of them had to take out new loans, rebuild their financial health and start over from scratch. As a society, we should be embarrassed that we let such a thing happen to these people.

For nearly 40 years, the people whose properties were expropriated in Forillon have had to pay the park entrance fee to visit the graves of their ancestors. It is simply immoral. How can we allow something so absurd? Last summer, after hearing the complaints for many long years, during which the people whose land was expropriated were asking for free access to their land for them and the four generations after them, the federal government finally gave them a pass, which only partially satisfied their request. In fact, they were given a pass to allow them and the two generations after them free access to the land they had owned for generations. It is embarrassing!

Today they are again asking that, effective spring 2011, the passes be offered to the 1,500 families whose properties were expropriated and their descendants up to the fifth generation, and not just to the 225 families whose properties were landowners.

The Bloc Québécois believes that this was a right that should have been readily granted. The federal government's decision to give these people restricted passes is nothing but a token gesture of reconciliation given the extreme nature of the wrongs committed. I would even go so far as to say that it borders on mockery. It is just not right.

In addition, in the years following the expropriation and until very recently, the existence of these men and women who once lived in Forillon Park was ignored. Neither the guided tours nor the display panels made any mention of these individuals or of the heritage they left for the region and the tourists who today visit Forillon Park. They are not even acknowledged. Once again, this is completely unacceptable for these people who built this corner of the country, who cleared the land and developed it.

Ignoring the existence of a people and of a community means ignoring its pride and destroying it. Unfortunately, this is the situation that these people have been living in for 40 years. They have quite simply been wiped out. The events that occurred in Forillon 40 years ago had dramatic consequences for hundreds of families and the scars of this tragedy are still visible on those who were expropriated, as well as on their children and grandchildren. It takes time to heal.

It is true that an apology from the Government of Canada will unfortunately not return lost possessions to those who were expropriated, restore the thoughts they left behind or their scattered memories, but it will bring some solace to those whose rights were abused. An apology will also allow them to forgive and to look to the future with a little more peace of mind.

It is not right for people who have been cheated by the government to have to fight the government for the simplest form of redress: an appropriate apology for the major harm suffered as a result of tragic and inconceivable government decisions.

So, on behalf of the people who lived through a difficult, unjust, humiliating and painful time after those expropriations, we are asking the Government of Canada, in this House, to show some compassion and offer an official apology to those expropriated from Forillon National Park.

For five years now, this government has been patting itself on the back for having a brilliant record. The truth is quite different, as this matter clearly shows. The Conservatives could easily have made the commitment to apologize. But instead, they made do with small and insignificant gestures.

What is worse, they fell in line behind phony excuses and technicalities, dismissing the possibility of an official apology by saying how complicated the matter was or how long things would take. They are still laughing at those people. The expropriated people of Forillon deserve better. That is what the Bloc Québécois firmly believes and that is what we are demanding today.

The expropriation makes for a tense climate in the area even today. Since Forillon National Park was established, the people who were expropriated have been trying to have respect shown to the memory of those who went through that shameful time, which, regrettably, is also part of the hundred-year history of Parks Canada that we will soon be celebrating. What a tragedy.

History also shows that other parts of Quebec have also tasted government medicine administered by the federal Liberals. Take, for example, downtown Hull, where hundreds of homes were demolished in order to make room for office buildings.

These abusive expropriations reached their height, in Quebec once more, in Sainte-Scholastique, where 3,000 families were affected by massive expropriations to make way for the construction of Mirabel Airport. Almost 100,000 acres of land—believe me when I say that it is the best agricultural land in Quebec—were seized by the government. That is ten times the size of the largest airports in the world. We like big projects in Canada.

Fortunately, as it turns out, Ottawa returned 80% of that land to its astonished owners. But it was too many years too late.

Allow me to state that it is high time for the government to take responsibility for the mistakes of the past and to convey to the victims of such tragedies nothing less than the official apology they deserve.

So here is an opportunity for all members from all parties to do what is right, to agree that this House should offer an official apology to those expropriated from Forillon National Park for what they went through 40 years ago.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has carried on an extraordinarily important dialogue on a specific incident which, in my view, raises a concern about other cases of expropriation of property. It is important for us to understand the injustice done to the owners and their ability to maintain links with heritage-type properties. It is important not only for parliamentarians to understand, but for the people of Canada to understand there is a sensitivity.

However, the sensitivity does not exist in the government members who have spoken already, and that concerns me somewhat. They have been very coy and very circuitous in their wording and still have been unable to answer the simple question about whether they will support the motion.

It is not enough that the government has subsequently done some things to remediate the situation, but there are still outstanding matters. The right thing to do would be to admit the mistake and, as asked by the motion, make a sincere apology and commit to learn from the mistakes of the past so they will not be repeated in the future.

Does the hon. member believe the Conservative government is being disrespectful of the motion before the House simply because it refuses to indicate whether it will support the motion?

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for his question. As we sit here, at 1:15 p.m., I am not surprised that we have not yet heard the Conservative government announce that it will issue an official apology. As the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said earlier, we must give them the chance to think on it until it is time to vote. We must give them the time to make this decision. I hope it will make the right decision, because as I mentioned in my speech earlier, there were some very serious consequences.

Today, we are talking about Forillon Park, but I am sure that some very serious things happened in Sainte-Scholastique, for example, in the history of Mirabel Airport. People were torn away from their land, their community, their memories and from the home they had built. I hope that in 2011, we can all agree to apologize to the people of Forillon and that we can acknowledge these event so that they do not happen again.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to what my colleague had to say.

Some of the comments made by my Liberal colleagues in the House are interesting and fairly outrageous. This happened under the Trudeau government when Jean Chrétien was the environment minister.

Since we became government, my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse has moved forward on this issue to get passes for families so they can get back into the historical settlements to be part of that history.

After 13 long years of a government, to which some of those Liberals belonged, could my colleague from the Bloc tell the House what it did to acknowledge this travesty that happened in the past? What did the Liberals do to bring some closure to the families that were affected? We are all aware that decisions were made in the past and our government is taking action. We are trying to do what is right.

Could the member let the House know what the Liberal government did for the families that wanted some closure?

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for his excellent question and excellent comment.

Obviously, what we are talking about today is Forillon Park. Earlier I mentioned Sainte-Scholastique and Mirabel. Yes, at the time, it was Liberal governments that carried out unfair expropriations, particularly in the case of Forillon Park. At least today, the Liberals are apologizing. I only hope that the parliamentary secretary's party will do the same.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this debate on a historic event, but it is also our duty because of the government's actions and our philosophy on the environment. We used to think that we had to choose between the environment and the economy. Now, in modern days, everyone understands that we have to achieve a balance and solve this problem without having to make this type of choice.

The way people in the Forillon Park region were treated, unfortunately, is unacceptable and hard to understand today. As the Liberal Party's official environment critic, I want to say that our party will definitely be supporting this motion.

The government also has to have a clear understanding of the new approach to a challenge like this. Families and the community have suffered greatly and we have to express our empathy. We are not asking that the House make only a simple gesture, but rather a meaningful gesture. I repeat the request or invitation from the other members in the House of Commons, to all the members here, to make a unanimous gesture towards the people affected by the creation of Forillon Park.

It is very important for us today to reflect on how things were done in a different era and what that means. It should not be done in condemnation in the sense of not understanding some of the context where there were laws and executions by the provincial government. Things were done by the two governments of the day that created an outcome, which I do not think anyone in this place would say was intended. However, everyone in this place can say that this was not acceptable and should not stand on the historical record without some kind of recognition that is sincere, rooted in an understanding of what people have gone through in being displaced in that fashion by their official governments.

Most people in this place have difficulty relating to that. There have obviously been experiences around the world with that, but, luckily, few in our country. It led to a change in policy by the government of the day shortly thereafter, or at least in the years that followed, but only after a great deal of difficulty for the families. It is incontestable that we would years later, with the benefit of the perspective we have today, let this stand.

It is not just sustainable development; it is really about how we come together fundamentally around preserving the environment and then looking at the benefits and the impacts on people. We cannot do just one or the other.

In this case, it was the thrust, an honourable thing, I suppose, in its intention, to create a park and so on. Without doubt, that somehow went awry and caused the degree of hardship, both actual, in the sense of buildings being destroyed, tensions between authorities and citizens and so forth, and also in terms of the sense of isolation and grievance the people affected feel. That reaches forward even to today.

On the tenor of this debate, for this to be an official apology, for this to give respect to the suffering of the people, which is real, which we can relate to it and which may touch a few members of the House, we cannot and should not try to take away or say we can excuse it. To do that, we need to minimize the amount of partisan advantage we try to take in being able to bring this forward.

If I were a family member reading the transcripts of what came forward today, I would want to know that this was put in a context that actually told me something genuine took place, that this was not political football or somebody trying to make points on the backs of what was a terrible thing to have happen, having a government take something away from us in a manner with which, by all the reports of the day, people fundamentally did not agree, did not understand and did not have perhaps the rights of recourse. They had to seek those in the courts and only received some kind of compensation years later.

We are here today for a different kind of compensation. It is not about financial compensation; it is about respect. Respect cannot be offered if we simply go around the House pointing fingers at our respective past administrations or at the moral superiority we might all have in hindsight. I do not think it is about condemnation so much as it is there is a learned experience, that whatever the reluctance have been of governments or of parliamentarians or houses of commons in years past, that we will get over that today. Again, that legacy does not belong to us. It belongs to the families that are affected.

Going forward, we need to see a parks policy that not only gets rid of the egregious things that happened there. I believe that was taken care of in 1979 around the expropriations, negotiations and all those kinds of things. The law of the day that required people to not have any commercial businesses in the park and so on has been changed and modified so we are less prone to have these kinds of problems. However, beyond that, there has to be something meaningful about what we are doing today.

I want to believe that is the intent of bringing this forward, and I believe it is. To have it turn into anything else would be a bit sad, a bit more of a reflection on us than on any of the actual events of the day. There are very few of us who can say that we were part of those decisions. I have had occasion to hear from a few of the people who were involved before, at least peripherally. I think no one intended this to take place.

However, we are not here to offer any excuses for it, only to say that we have learned from it for parks going forward. Our ability to try to reconcile our desire to have a certain amount of nature protected and available in perpetuity for our children and our grandchildren, and those noble purposes, cannot be done on the backs of local citizens who have not had adequate means to access their rights.

To me, this is at the heart of the change that has to happen. Certainly our party thinks we are closest to it, where sustainable development is really a principle. It is something to use in every decision we make. It is not, as we sometimes hear, that we have to choose one over the other and then there are losers and winners. I guess that is what formed the standoff, unfortunately, in the case of Forillon Park.

I have heard at least a good degree of openness in the House today, but we have to understand the sensation, the honest experience that people have gone through. I do not think it takes a lot for us in 2011 to reach back and know what it must have felt to have the weight of official organizations working against average citizens in this fashion. That is not to say there was not a perspective on both sides, but that the preponderance of what happened is something we do want to identify. It is the only way to give honour to that experience. We have to walk in the shoes of the people, their children and so on.

I appreciate the government saying that it would continue or expand some of the access rights of people and their families. I think we have to look at practical expressions going further than that. It is perhaps not the purpose of the motion, but it would be consistent with it. This is not just about free access so people can visit gravesites, but about some honouring of the people for the sacrifice they made, recognizing that they lost in a couple of ways. They not only lost the territory they made their homes on but also a sense of belonging.

Both levels of government were there and seen to be hostile to them. That is something we have to heal. We have to be part of that. I think that is the main reason we are discussing this today.

What has been requested is neither money nor material things. It is simply an honest and sincere and, hopefully, widely shared and unanimous apology to say that those events were regrettable and that we have a sincere regret in this House for their having taken place, because we represent that same officialdom today that seemed to have abandoned the folks there before. The sensation felt by the people is something we can all relate to. It still informs some of the things people feel today and we rightfully owe it to people to be able to express that in our discussions here today.

We know that the government has talked somewhat about parks and having new ones established. It would behoove whoever sits on the government side to make sure that before we go forward with the establishment of other parks, we deal with this much less admirable part of our heritage, the manner in which this park was created. We have an anniversary that has passed, but one that we are still in a position to recognize 40 years after these events took place.

I believe it is in the capacity of everyone in this House not to see this as any kind of political jousting or exciting of old animosities, or even a condemnation, but one where have the benefit of seeing what happened. We are not superior, we are not having a better outlook, but we have learned. We have the benefit of mistakes. A very great part of what happened with Forillon Park was a mistake, and that is why we have to be here today in this House in explaining this to the families that were affected and the children and grandchildren of the people who were disrupted in that way. This disruption took up many years of their life.

Once we have an apology from this House, then there are other things that could be contemplated and concrete things that could be done to effect a better reconciliation between the park that is there on our behalf and the people who were expropriated. When we create a public park, it is similar to our forcing kids to go to school and our doing other compulsory things, in that we are trying to do these things for the greater good. However, that benefit to the many cannot be at the expense of the rights of any small number of people. In hindsight, that is clearly what happened with Forillon Park. There is a management plan in place, and some of it reflects outreach to local citizens and people nearby, but while it acknowledges what happened, it does not quite jump the gap that exists.

It acknowledges the sensation that has arisen from the expropriation of the use of forests and so on, which has meant that the people who are living next to the park and who should have the most benefit from the park and who should feel the most sense of ownership instead have this lingering sense of loss and of displacement and injustice. The number of people affected does not matter. This the only body they can come to for redress. So it is a good way for us to move forward, if there is consensus.

In another vein, the government was supposed to create many more parks. The Government of Canada was in Nagoya, Japan and was a signatory to an agreement to put aside 15% of our land mass, a 50% increase over what we have today, and 10% of our coastal areas. We have less than half of one per cent in marine parks today, far behind those of other areas.

The pledge that every party and every member needs to make, in the spirit of non-partisanship, is that we will work to ensure that we find ways to reconcile local populations and the interests and rights of people in these areas in a way that honours the bad experiences that took place in Forillon National Park and the Gaspé.

The establishment of these parks will be a challenge. We have made some progress over the years. In Canada we think of ourselves as having infinite amounts of space and people sometimes bristle that we would put a park so close to other people, but there is that need, too. We have to form a stronger sense of stewardship with nature in Canada.

We are the largest per capita stewards of nature anywhere in the world. I know that other members of the House were in Nagoya, and I know that Canada has not maintained its reputation as a green country. Members know that the Canadian government was given a booby prize in Nagoya, a type of backwards award as the dodo, the government least likely to conserve plants, animals and nature simply because of the way it behaves.

This entire episode causes us to contemplate some fundamental principles. We could treat this as an unfortunate incident, but it arose out of the attitudes of the day, where if one wanted to make something in the public interest, then everything else became secondary. We need to find a better way of going forward.

The environmental issues of today are, if anything, quite a bit more urgent. There is pressure on us that no one in the House can really escape when it comes to climate change. I say biodiversity and climate change are very much linked. Dealing with how much nature we can conserve so we can do the good job of keeping the atmosphere clean and safe is very important, but we have to deal with questions from the past like those prompted by Forillon, including, how are we going to move forward?

None of us can duck those questions, not if we believe that part of the reason for our being here as representatives and for being people with privilege and power is to make sure that the next generations will be in better shape than we are. We have to be able to do that using methods that are quite a bit more effective and more amenable to nation-building than the ones used at Forillon.

However, we need to make progress. We have not done that lately and, hopefully, this debate will cause people to reflect on why we are not in a position of having learned and having been able to move things forward and having the possibility of consensus. If we size up the issues, whether they be the creation and setting aside of parks or dealing with people in a way that is honourable and just, we would think those things would supersede any other interests we would have, because they are now recognized as fairly fundamental.

We are going to have to create a lot more parks in the future and do a lot more things to change the way we use nature: it is not disposable. We are seeing the impact not just of carbon use but also of a whole range of things that we in this country have taken for granted. Somewhere in that attitude is what informed the mistakes that were made in Forillon. It is an attitude that is well recognized, and I think that many people in the House are open to adopting something quite different, an outlook that will move the country forward.

I look forward to hearing from all members of the House who are going to speak in this debate. I say this not out of partisan entrapment but with sincerity from having looked at this issue, which is not one that I was very familiar with in advance.

I feel that it is crucial that all members of the House make both a unanimous and a sincere gesture towards those people. Otherwise, this will continue to be a black mark for everyone.

The people of this region were failed once, at least. It would be very important not to fail them again. I do not hear from the government side any legal or other barriers to this, nor from this side, even though there were Liberal governments in place at the time.

We are not reaching back and saying that we have to defend every action at all costs, especially when we have the benefit of hindsight. There are many rooms that have to be made here, if we are to find a really good expression toward the people of Gaspé who were affected by the Forillon Park expropriation.

I look forward to seeing the outcome of the debate over Forillon Park and, even more, to seeing whether we take it in the spirit that is intended and find more common ground on how to approach our very big challenges when it comes to the environment, to protecting nature, and dealing with climate change. Not only the people of Forillon but also the people of Canada are looking at this chamber and wondering where the capacity for that is. Do we have the capacity to rise above partisanship? Will everything here be seen as partisan?

Whether members like it or not, everything we do for our partisan stripes is seen as self-interest. It is not seen as being done for the glory of a greater cause; it is seen as our being unable to put aside partisanship for the public. The public out there is hungry for us to move forward on these issues. It is not about big or small government, but at some level about integrity. We are asked not to make up for a lack of integrity but to assume the integrity that is available to us today.

Certainly, it is well within our bounds to ensure that we give a sincere and fulsome apology to the people affected by the Forillon Park expropriation. I am very happy to support this bill on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, my Liberal colleague had some very appropriate words to say about the nature of the motion before us. I would like to hear a little more from him regarding two concerns he expressed. Let me summarize one of them. He did not say it in these terms, but the meaning was the following. The action we take in supporting this motion to apologize to the people who were expropriated should not be in a spirit of rancour or revenge but in a spirit that reflects our compassion and desire to ensure that this never happens again.

He argues that at times bigger interests prevail over others, which may justify past actions. He said we should not judge the attitude people had in the past. I would like to understand more exactly what he meant by that. I remember that at the time, I and most of us thought this was unacceptable. So it was not considered more acceptable in the past. I would like to hear him on that.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I am just saying that it was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now. I do not pass judgment on the motivations of the people involved. It is possible to do that today because there are no other considerations constituting a kind of barrier.

It is a moral issue having to do with the power the government exercised over some of our fellow citizens. It is certainly unacceptable and inexcusable, both then and now. However, it is possible to have a clearer perspective today. I encourage all members of the House to embrace this perspective in a spirit free of all other interests. I hope that all the people living in that area will be freed from the suspicion that someone may be opposed to their interests or their full participation in society.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, it was interesting to hear my colleague say that this should not be partisan. I agree with him. Unfortunately, we all heard his speech and it seems he cannot make one speech in this House without being partisan. It seems that it is only when the Liberals are guilty of a misdeed that he does not want to be partisan. However, I digress.

The member talked about honour, sacrifice and the rights of individuals to their property. He said that the consequences of this were not intentional. I put forward to the House that expropriation is very intentional. It is something that the government does intentionally.

The member said that it happened in another era. The Liberals were last in power in 2005 and 2005 was not a different era. The Liberals were in power and did not offer any gestures, much less an apology. Why?

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member at least coming part way to the invitation to non-partisanship.

I am not totally familiar with the efforts that were made to bring the issue to this place. As I was not a member of this House at the time, I literally do not have a good answer for the member. In absence of that, the member could stand in some kind of condemnation but I do not think it helps us today.

I think we are here today, each of us elected in the old British parliamentary system, to stand in our place and do what is right. It is not convenient that this happens to be the Liberal governments, provincial and federal, but we are, many years later, being asked to apply and are applying our perspective. I only ask the same of the member and of every member of this House. I hope I did that in a way that did not infer any moral superiority to this generation over that. However, we should know the perspective and, if we have a chance to exercise it, we should do it in a way that gives honour to this place and to that loss that took place. That is what I am recommending.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I myself said something to that effect this morning, and I issued an official apology on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada to the people who were expropriated, their children and their grandchildren.

Today's motion is not an end in itself, but a step in the right direction. It does not reverse the decisions or mistakes that were made in the past. That can seldom be done, but at least we are reaching out, we are asking for forgiveness from those who were expropriated and suffered so much. We are apologizing to them. To the extent that it is possible, this should be a non-partisan exercise. It should involve everyone. Of course, the Bloc Québécois is on board, because this is its own motion. The Liberal Party will be supporting the motion calling for an official apology, and the NDP will do likewise. I am asking my colleague whether this motion would carry more weight if the Conservative Party were to join us and make it a unanimous decision.

Opposition Motion—Forillon ParkBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, that is an important objective today and, indeed, it should be a unanimous decision. Each member should do some soul-searching. We have an official government and it is very important to enlist its support today. I am asking all hon. members to recognize the message sent a long time ago. What will the children and grandchildren's reaction be if we are not all prepared to support this request? I hope that, all together, we can assume our responsibility today.