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House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

National Tree DayPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deffered recorded division on the motion, as amended, standing in the name of the hon. member for Ottawa--Orléans.

The House resumed from March 1 consideration of the motion, as amended.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #194

I declare the motion carried.

Order, please. It being 6:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak in support of Bill C-473.

I first want to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for bringing this matter forward. I also want to thank the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for its efforts. The committee has improved and strengthened the bill to make it as effective as possible on filling the gap in existing measures to protect military medals.

It would be useful to draw the attention of the hon. members to some of the improvements that have been made to the bill through amendments adopted in committee.

First, I want to note that the objective of the hon. member for Perth—Wellington in introducing Bill C-473 was to try to ensure that important modern medals, that is those not already protected under the existing cultural property legislation, stay in Canada. Keeping these medals in Canada, whenever possible, is good for Canadians and for Canada's heritage.

Thanks to the committee's amendments, this central objective is now clearer. The bill, as tabled, referred to the transfer of insignia to non-residents. However, this could have been a little confusing, after all, someone's residency status and his or her physical location could be two different things. As a result of this, the bill now clearly refers to export. Before people can export one of these insignia to someone other than a close relative, they must first offer it for sale to one of the public institutions named in the bill. A very clear requirement and one that would bring Bill C-473 closer to mirroring existing protection for medals under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

The committee also recognized the possibility of future overlap and confusion with existing export controls for medals. Bill C-473 refers to insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada, which means modern models awarded after 1967. However, the existing act covers objects that are at least 50 years old. So, the committee concluded that once the medals covered by Bill C-473 became more than 50 years old, the same medals would be covered by two sets of rules, and that was a conflict that needed to be eliminated. The bill was amended to cover insignia awarded by Her Majesty in Right of Canada while they are less than 50 years old. After that point, they would fall under the existing export controls of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

A further concern that arose during the committee's study was that only the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Department of Canadian Heritage would be given the right of first refusal to purchase insignia so that they would remain in Canada.

There is a network of more than 60 accredited Canadian Forces museums across the country and it would be entirely appropriate for those museums to be able to acquire medals under the terms of this act. As amended, Bill C-473 also includes the Canadian Forces in the list of federal entities to which an offer to sell can be made when one of these medals is destined for export. This would clear the way for medals related to a regiment to find their way into a Canadian Forces museum dedicated to that regiment.

I spoke earlier about the fact that exports to close family members are exempt from the requirements of Bill C-473. However, in second reading and during the committee's review of the bill, it was pointed out that spouses had not been included in what would be understood as a close family member. Members will now be pleased to note that this issue has been addressed by the committee's amendments. Bill C-473 now also include spouses and common-law partners and children of spouses or common-law partners among the list of people to whom insignia may be freely exported.

Additional improvements were made to the bill by the committee to clarify certain details and to ensure there would be no overlap or conflict with existing laws and regulations.

Bill C-473 addresses an important gap in the laws that protect Canada's heritage. With the amendments made to it in committee, it is even stronger.

The amended bill was clear. It would be effective in keeping important aspects of Canada's military heritage in the country, in public collections where it will be preserved for all Canadians. It is consistent and complementary to existing cultural property legislation and continues to strike a balance between protecting Canada's heritage and recognizing the rights of veterans and their families to determine what happens to these medals that signify the extraordinary contributions made by individuals on our behalf.

I know these objects are private property, but they are private property that has a significance and importance to all of us and future generations of Canadians. These are emotional issues and the committee has done, in my view, an even-handed job at steering its way through.

I support Bill C-473, as amended, and I encourage all members to do the same.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak for the second time to Bill C-473.

There has been an evolution of thought and understanding about the bill since I spoke last April. The process that happened at committee was very enlightening. It reminded me that it is important for us to take seriously that when we pass a bill at second reading and send it to committee for study, it is exactly for that. It is to study a bill, to hear from witnesses, interest groups, stakeholders, Canadians from every walk of life and to ensure their testimony is taken seriously. Committee members heard that testimony and that testimony has convinced me we should not support the bill.

I want to congratulate the member for Perth—Wellington for fostering an important discussion in bringing the bill forward. We have had an interesting discussion with respect to the nature of honours, orders, military insignia and medals. We also had the opportunity to look at the difference between a public story and a private story.

The Royal Canadian Legion, in particular, offered some important testimony that needs to be understood in the House.

Ms. Patricia Varga, who is the president of the Royal Canadian Legion, said, on behalf of a number of groups, that it had serious concerns about the bill. Those groups included the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans Association, the Canadian Naval Air Group, the Royal Canadian Naval Association, the Naval Officers Association of Canada, the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans Association, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association, the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and, finally, the Gulf War Veterans Association.

As a result of their testimony, my caucus colleagues are concerned about the bill. We think it is an inadequate bill, which will not actually deal with the problems at hand.

Ms. Varga pointed out two problems with this bill.

First, enacting Bill C-473 would infringe on the rights of Canadians to own and dispose of their private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be trampled on lightly. This right is already restricted to a degree by the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. If it is not sufficient to retain historically and culturally significant orders, decorations and medals within Canada, then that specific act needs to be amended. Additional overlapping legislation is not the answer.

Second, there is a concern that the bill will simply not be effective. In order for legislation such as this to work, the barn door needs to be fully closed. The bill would leave it partially open so significant orders, decorations and medals would still be able to leave Canada. If enacted, Bill C-473 will likely drive the sale of significant orders, decorations and medals underground and all visibility of transactions will be lost. They will be bought and sold as they are every day in large quantities and in international markets. This can be verified by checking eBay, which tends to handle the run of the mill lots and not the high end items.

A significant number of other problems have been reported and were part of the testimony heard at committee. They have been identified in various forms and they should be addressed in a future bill that would actually be more effective.

There is a problem in the bill with respect to terminology. In common parlance, only orders have insignia. Decorations, such as the Victoria Cross, and medals are simply referred to as medals. We should be discussing orders, decorations and medals.

There is a concern that the government has not been responsive to the interest groups, to the veterans associations themselves, about amendments that they wanted to put forward. Those amendments included the definition of “near relatives”, the transfer of medals “outside of Canada”, the expansion of the list of museums and organizations that awards and medals could be offered to and the addition of the maximum amount for any penalty imposed. There does not appear to have been any follow up to the recommendations of the Royal Canadian Legion.

They also expressed a concern about acceptable museums to receive these awards. Only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Department of Canadian Heritage are deemed to be acceptable recipients of ODM. This overlooks a large number of provincial, regional and local museums as well as military museums and commands and branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Other museums or veterans' organizations might very well be interested in acquiring, by purchase or otherwise, such medals falling within the limits of the bill.

There is a concern that even if we were able to do that, the museums have very limited funding for acquiring such medals. To be effective, the bill would need to ensure that there would be a well-funded national medals acquisition budget. Otherwise, medals offered for sale might well leave Canada because there were simply no funds to purchase them anyway.

Most, if not all, museums have limited storage and display space. Just because an offered medal or made available and is historically of cultural significance, a museum should not be obligated to purchase it if it does not fit into its collecting mandate.

There is a perception that such awards and medals do not have much value and therefore would not be affected by legislation such as this. This is incorrect. Should they come into the open market, modern medal groups, especially those with gallantry awards from Afghanistan, would command high prices. This is a concern. It is an observation that has been made to the committee. If this is correct, then the act needs to be changed to reflect this.

In conclusion, despite the merits and now the drawbacks of the bill, the larger discussion that needs to be had is why in fact some veterans may be forced to put such medals on the market. Why has the government failed, or is failing, to ensure an appropriate system of compensation for veterans so they do not need to sell awards or medals and instead can simply pass them on to the family as cherished items?

A concern we constantly have on this side of the House is that food banks for veterans still prevail. One can go to Calgary and find one. One can go to a drop-in centre in Calgary and meet homeless veterans who sleep there by night. My concern is the government constantly does not fulfill its obligations to ensure that no veteran faces poverty.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak at third reading on Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders and military decorations and medals that are of cultural significance for future generations.

When the member for Perth—Wellington introduced this bill, the Bloc decided to support it at second reading, so that it could be studied more carefully by the members of the committee.

We had a number of questions about this bill and we thought carefully about whether we would support it, since it would preserve a piece of Canadian heritage.

All governments must do what is necessary to protect the culture and history of their peoples. Military history is an integral part of the history of a people. Thus, the federal government must preserve that history to the best of its abilities.

However, when we studied this bill in committee, we listened carefully to the witnesses who spoke out against it. I believe that a committee studying a bill must consult the people affected by the bill, the experts on enforcement of such legislation.

According to the amended bill, only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Forces can purchase the medals. That excludes a good number of Quebec, provincial and local museums. Other museums or veterans' organizations could very well be interested in purchasing medals.

The bill has limitations. To be effective, the museums will need enough money to buy the medals. Based on what we saw in committee, most if not all museums have very limited acquisition budgets. The Director General of the Canadian War Museum told the committee that most of the medals acquired by the Canadian War Museum have been donated and that it lacks public funds for that purpose. The Canadian War Museum has very rarely purchased medals for its collection.

If this bill were passed, the museum might need additional funding in order to purchase medals. However, there is no guarantee that the museum will be able to obtain additional funds. This is obviously the case for all museums.

This criticism was repeated by representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion when they appeared before the Committee on Veterans Affairs on October 19, 2010. The legion believes that the bill has limitations because, to be effective, the museums require adequate funding, which is not the case. To be effective, there should have been at least a provision for an acquisition budget, but that is not in the bill.

In addition, and this is an important factor, the Royal Canadian Legion, which includes veterans and others who made an essential contribution to these military missions, stated that the bill would not effectively restrict the transfer of military insignia, decorations, orders and medals.

In short, we gave medals to these people and this bill now imposes conditions on the disposal of these medals, after the recipient's death, for example.

Let us not forget that the aim of Bill C-473 is to preserve Canadian military medals, orders and insignia of cultural and historical importance.

We give a medal to commend an individual for acts of honour in the theatre of operations and then, several years later, we take it upon ourselves to decide what that individual can do with it. When I am given something, if no conditions are imposed at the outset, I believe I have the right to do what I like with that object. This bill sets out a legislative framework for soldiers who received medals for the bravery they demonstrated during their military service. We cannot allow the House to impose legislation on people who received medals, orders and decorations for military service.

Representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion said they were concerned that this bill will not close all the loopholes and that important medals could leave Canada, which could possibly lead to the underground sale of these medals.

There is also the issue of property rights. Royal Canadian Legion representatives said that Bill C-473 would violate Canadians' rights to own and dispose of their own private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be taken lightly.

I am very much aware of the arguments raised by some people, for example, that medals, certain medals, should not have any monetary or commercial value.

Veterans have sacrificed much of their safety, their well-being and their health. We must ensure the well-being of veterans who were wounded or disabled. The Bloc Québécois has always defended this principle. In its parliamentary work, the Bloc has always been concerned about the support given to veterans and it will continue to demonstrate that concern.

We are voting against this bill because many witnesses spoke out against it. We are voting against this bill out of respect for veterans.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate this important initiative put forward by my friend from Perth—Wellington. Through the luck of the draw, his private member's bill came up and I am glad to be able to speak on it.

Some may know that I have had a bill, although not similar but more advanced than this one, Bill C-208, as well as Bill C-210 and Bill C-415. I have introduced the same bill for many years.

However, let us talk about what the point really is here, that these very significant artifacts have been given to the heroes of Canada.

I have heard the argument about private property rights since I entered the House in 1997. I agree that private property rights are an important issue. However, if military or RCMP members receive medals to wear on their left sides, they cannot sell those medals if they are still serving. They cannot give them away; the medals are still the property of the state. A medal only becomes the person's property when he or she leaves the military or the RCMP. Once he or she leaves, under current laws he or she can do whatever they want with them.

I have held the firm belief as long as I can remember, long before I got into politics, that the medals the men and women wear are much more than ribbons and a pieces of metal. The medals that men and women wear are not currency hanging from their chests. These medals, in my opinion, should never be sold. In fact, I believe that no other generation should financially profit from the valour of others.

Every single one of us who has seen members of the military, the RCMP, or anyone for that matter, and even firefighters who wear their medals on their left sides, has seen that their chests are a little bigger and that they stand a little taller because they are so proud of what has been given to them by their country. It is a way for their country to thank them for their significant efforts on its behalf.

The reason men and women wear medals is not because they are nice, shiny objects. They wear them not just for honour and service and valour and duty, but the number one reason men and women wear their medals on their left sides is in remembrance of the 118,000 men and women of the military and RCMP who no longer get to wear theirs, because they have either died in the service of their country or have crossed the bar due to old age or sickness.

Every single Remembrance Day, when we attend our local legions, ANAVETS halls or cenotaphs right across this country, we see the men and women sharing a drink with their buddies and families, remembering the days when they served or remembering those who are still serving.

The significance of this particular bill is that the hon. member is trying to protect those very significant historical aspects for Canada, and to allow the museums the right of first refusal in the event the medals cannot be sold, so that they do not leave the country and end up in collections outside the country. It is a significant effort.

I understand that the legion and other veterans groups are saying that they do not support this initiative. I respectfully disagree with the Royal Canadian Legion and others. They, including Mr. Brad White, say that it is a private property right, that it is veterans' right to do what they want with their medals. I disagree with him, but I respect his opinion on this issue. Certain things in life should not be turned into a mercantile system; they should never be turned into cash. This is not currency they have hanging from their chests.

I find it objectionable that one can go on eBay right now and probably find hundreds of medals for sale. One can go to garage sales across the country and see medals for sale. One can go on Kijiji or similar websites on the Internet and buy medals.

Individuals do not have to earn those medals. They never have to serve their country. All they needed to get these things was cash. I find that despicable, that in our country, which honours our heroes with a significant award, a medal that they wear can eventually be turned into cash.

I have advised families for many, many years on what to do with the medals when an individual passes on. I have advised them to put the medals in a shadow box with a picture of the individual who wore them, a story of the individual, a description of each medal, and hang it in a room. They should honour their relative or friend. If, for whatever reason, they do not want to do that, there are lots of schools, museums, Legion halls, chambers of commerce, and businesses that would be honoured to display the medals of these heroes. The offices of members of Parliament, all of us, have room to display these medals from our heroes.

There are two schools in Nova Scotia that do just that. Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School has a tremendous display in cases of all the medals and all the history of those who served in that area. The families have donated the medals to that school and it has a wall of honour. Inverness High School in Cape Breton has the same thing. It has a long hallway. The school volunteered to make a beautiful cabinet, which has all the medals with descriptions of who wore them and where they served.

We know that on Remembrance Day we all pause to remember and reflect, but for those who served, Remembrance Day is every day. The students in those two schools walk by those medal cases every single school day, and one cannot help but be moved by seeing the odd student stop to read it, and understand what previous and current generations have done for our country.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington is attempting to preserve and protect a bit of our cultural history. He should be congratulated for that. He should be thanked for his effort in bringing that forward. I understand the criticisms from various areas regarding it, but the effort is there and he should be supported.

I would like to tell the hon. member, as I have privately and publicly before, that we in the NDP will be supporting the initiative to move forward. We think it is an important initiative. My own bill would completely outlaw and ban the sale of any medals or insignia of that kind that are worn on the left side. The hon. member has not gone that far and I respect that, but he is taking the right step forward and deserves our credit for that.

At the end of the day, although it is a private property discussion, certain things in life should never be sold. Agencies and museums in Canada could have first dibs on medals and insignia.

One of the problems I have with the bill is the fact that somebody would have to actually buy these medals or insignia, and I think that aspect of it, turning them into the mercantile or transaction cash system is fundamentally wrong. At the end of the day I would hope that family members could understand that the member who received the medal or insignia did not get cash for it. Family members, relatives and other people down the road should not try to financially profit from the valour of others.

I would hope they would do the honourable thing and if they no longer wish to have it, they should move it to a place of significance where it can be displayed for many years for many future generations, so we can all understand the significance of what happened.

I am proud to stand up on this issue. I was born in Holland and my parents were liberated by the heroes of this country. The fact is, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington is honouring that sacrifice as well by moving this forward and he should be congratulated.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-473 and the important steps it proposes to increase the protection of Canada's military heritage.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for his hard work here in this House, the work he does on his committee, certainly the work he does in his great southern Ontario riding, and for bringing this matter forward to remind ourselves of the importance of honouring the courage and sacrifice of Canadians.

“Service before self”, “extreme devotion to duty”, “distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy”, “conspicuous merit”, and “exceptional service”, these are all words inscribed or used to describe the military conduct that is recognized by the Modern Honours of Canada.

The declarations, medals and orders that we have established are to recognize heroism and acts that to many of us seem almost unimaginable. These declarations, medals and orders are touchstones for the recipient, their families, and for all of us. They form the basis for telling the story of ordinary Canadians undertaking extraordinary challenges. They remind us that Canada's armed forces have faced and continue to face those challenges far from home.

Korea, Kuwait, Somalia, Southwest Asia, and Afghanistan are names of places in Canada's military heritage that echo other names: Vimy, Passchendaele, Dieppe, Normandy, Ortona, and Hong Kong. Canadians know these names. They are names that are synonymous with courage, sacrifice and, yes, with loss and sorrow.

The government has taken many steps to preserve and honour these stories, and memories of the courage and sacrifice of Canadians in the name of a greater good. There are hundreds of memorials all over the world where Canada remembers her war dead and their sacrifice.

More than 116,000 have given their lives in the wars of the past century and their final resting places are located in more than 75 countries. Monuments have been created to honour Canadians in locations such as Beaumont-Hamel, France, where, on July 1, 1916, the Newfoundland Regiment fought its first engagement of World War I; its costliest of the war. In locations such as Sai Wan Bay, where just recently the Prime Minister paid his respects to those 228 Canadians who died so far from home in defence of Hong Kong during the second world war.

Canada's military heritage is also preserved in museums and archives across Canada. Library Archives Canada preserves military service files, war diaries, and other documents from the 1800s through both world wars. Canada's national museums preserve military material of all kinds, from aircraft to uniforms to medals. The Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum alone have more than 1,000 medals, including at least 28 Victoria Crosses, Canada's highest military honour.

A network of Canadian Forces museums across the country tell the story of individual regiments like the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, founded at the outbreak of World War I, and which continues to distinguish itself to the present day in Afghanistan. The Royal 22nd Regiment's museum collection, housed at the Citadel of Quebec, spans more than 300 years of history.

The courage and sacrifice of Canada's armed forces lives not just in the history books, not just in museums, it lives nightly on the television news. Medals continue to be awarded to Canadians for military service and for sacrifice.

Last year we saw the first presentation of the sacrifice medal, created to recognize members of the Canadian armed forces and those who work with them who have been wounded or killed by hostile action, and to Canadian Forces members who died as a result of their service.

The sacrifice of these 46 Canadians, who received this new medal, include members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22nd Regiments. This is no less important than the sacrifice of those Canadians who lie in the Sai Wan Bay cemetery in Hong Kong. The medals, orders and decorations now being bestowed on deserving Canadians should enjoy the same respect and protection as those awarded for courage at the Somme and Ypres.

The estimated 450,000 Modern Honours of Canada that have been awarded since 1967 and that Bill C-473 seeks to protect deserve that protection. Bill C-473 affirms that the modern Victoria Cross will deserve the same protection as those awarded over the past two centuries.

Existing federal legislation protects military medals, orders and decorations, and it does so by intervening at the point of export to create opportunities for Canadian museums to acquire these objects, so that they may remain in Canada when they would otherwise be lost to foreign owners.

Bill C-473 will complement this existing mechanism by affording similar protection to modern models. It will ensure that if a significant modern medal, order or decoration is in danger of permanently leaving Canada, an opportunity will be created for acquisition by a museum collection where it will be preserved and shared with the public.

In order to make the bill dovetail with existing legislation and avoid overlap with it, the standing committee noted that the Cultural Property Export and Import Act protects medals from the point where they are 50 years old, and amended the bill to clarify that it protects medals that are less than 50 years old.

Another amendment to the bill that was adopted in committee was an expansion of the list of federal entities to whom an offer to sell must be made when an important medal will be exported.

In addition to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum, and the Department of Canadian Heritage, the list now includes the Canadian Forces. This amendment was done specifically so that the family of more than 60 accredited Canadian Forces museums across Canada will have a chance to acquire these important medals.

It recognizes the close relationship between members of the armed forces, their regiments, and the communities that play host to those regiments. It is only right that some of these medals find their way into the collections of local regimental museums.

In this way, Bill C-473 will allow museums to continue to educate the public about the long legacy of Canada's military heritage, and the contribution is has made and continues to make to our country.

To honour the brave Canadians who receive these honours, it is our responsibility to preserve that legacy. I support the amendments that have been made to Bill C-473 because they make the bill stronger and more consistent with the existing protection of historic medals.

I support Bill C-473 and encourage all members of this House to do the same.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-473 today, having spoken to it once before at second reading. I realize that the bill has now gone through the committee process and amendments that were contemplated at the time have been resolved. So, we are at the point now where we have to make a decision as to whether we support it at third reading and send it off to the Senate.

It appears, so far anyway, that the Bloc and the Liberals are deciding against supporting the bill primarily because the legions have shown concerns about it, primarily over the issue of private property rights. I have to say that I have several very active legions in my consistency, and I regularly attend each and every event they invite me to. I have not heard any concern from them about this particular issue.

For all the reasons that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore gave in his argument, I would support his arguments 100%. In some ways we feel the bill does not go far enough because if the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore had his way, Bill C-208, would be much tougher and would basically outlaw the practice. However, this bill that the member for Perth—Wellington has introduced is a very nice compromise. I do not see why the NDP caucus would have any problem supporting it. Essentially, as I understand it, we are basically allowing the military museums in this country the first right of refusal, which they should have, to buy the medals and to put the medals on display. Only if they do not want to purchase the medals, then the family, or individual, would have the option of doing what they wish with them.

I know we are very limited in time today, but I really did want to deal for a few minutes with a very important case, that of Tommy Prince, who is one of the most decorated aboriginal war heroes, having served in World War II and the Korean War. This man became so famous after his death, and I will read a list of the various streets and awards that have been named after him since his death.

However, the fact is that he was not treated that well in his life when he left the services. Reading about his activities during the conflicts and during the wars that he was involved in, this man was a number one soldier. He did things that are pretty hard to believe, such as operating in sort of a black ops capacity behind enemy lines and doing some pretty spectacular things. After getting out of the forces and going back to civilian life he was treated very poorly, to the point where his medals, I believe there were 10 of them, ended up being sold.

A number of years later, his family went on a fundraising drive in order to buy the medals back. The medals were purchased at auction for around $72,000 and are now being displayed in the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg where people can see them.

Tommy Prince was, as I indicated, one of Canada's most decorated aboriginal war heroes. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Engineers, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force, consisting of Canadian and American troops trained at Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana, to form what became known as the famous Devil's Brigade.

Prince and other men in his unit were chosen for their rugged outdoor background and received the most vigorous training schedule under live fire ever undertaken by an army unit. All members of the elite squad, similar to the American Green Berets started in the 1960s, were trained to be paratroopers and received intense instruction in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of explosives for demolition, amphibious warfare, rock climbing, mountain fighting and as ski troops. They are described as the best small force of fighting men ever assembled. As a member of the Devil's Brigade, Prince was involved in fierce combat duty and numerous dangerous missions in Italy and France.

Some of the honours that have been bestowed on him since his death in 1977 include: Sergeant Tommy Prince Street in Winnipeg; Tommy Prince Barracks at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario; Tommy Prince Drill Hall at the Land Force Western Area Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta; Government of Canada Sergeant Tommy Prince Army Training Initiative for aboriginal recruiting; the Tommy Prince award, an Assembly of First Nations scholarship.

To my friend the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, I point out that there is a Tommy Prince scholarship at Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is given out on an annual basis and will be given out in the next few months.

There is a school named after him at Brokenhead Reserve. There is a mural on the wall at 1083 Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg; the Tommy Prince Cadet Corps in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Tommy Prince Veterans' Park also in Winnipeg.

Adam Beach is going to star in a movie to be made about Tommy Prince's life. Adam Beach and members of his family are friends of my family and are known to us in Winnipeg. They are a very successful family. He has made a number of movies in Hollywood.

I would like to briefly detail one or two examples of the type of activities that Tommy Prince did behind enemy lines.

In Italy he set up in an abandoned farmhouse about 200 metres from the enemy assembly area, well behind the enemy lines, with 1,400 metres of telephone wire connecting him to the force. He had a clear view of the enemy emplacements and he was reporting on them so the force could shoot at the guns. Artillery duel followed as the allies attempted to knock out the guns reported by Prince. While he was reporting they were shooting at him. One of those rounds cut the telephone wire. When the duel died down, Prince donned civilian clothing, grabbed a hoe and in full view of the German soldiers pretended to be a farmer weeding his crops. He slowly inched his way along the line until he found where the line was damaged and, pretending to tie his shoelaces, rejoined the wires together. After finishing the repairs he made a show of shaking his fist at the enemy and then toward the allied lines, returned to his lookout where he continued giving reports over the telephone line for the next 24 hours while the allies were knocking the German batteries out of action. He spent three days behind enemy lines and for his actions he was awarded the military medal and citation. Medals were given to him by the president of the United States and King George VI.

We are talking about somebody who was right at the top of his game. There are other examples that I could give during the Korean conflict of similar acts of bravery on the part of this individual.

When he was honourably discharged on June 15, 1945 he went back to his reserve but life was not good. All the adulation he had received and the success he had in the army did not follow him into his private life. He had some kind of business with a truck that did not pan out in the long run. The point is the man died having to sell his medals. The family had to eventually buy them back for $75,000.

We support the bill. It is a good--

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Perth—Wellington for his right of reply.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today to my private member's bill, Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders and military decorations and medals that are of cultural significance for future generations.

I also want to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for the steps they have taken to strengthen the bill.

As I have said at each reading of Bill C-473, and will now say again, it is time for our modern medals to receive the same protection accorded to our historic medals. This bill is about continuity and ensuring protection for modern military insignia.

Thanks to amendments adopted at committee, the bill will clearly protect those military orders, decorations and medals that are less than 50 years old. This and other amendments made to the bill would ensure that together it and the existing act work in concert to provide comprehensive protection for our military heritage.

I also respect the right of recipients to decide for themselves what to do with the medals, decorations and other honours that have been awarded to them. This is one of the difficult issues that the committee grappled with during its consideration of the bill. These insignia are given to recipients and they belong to them.

If recipients give away or sell any of their possessions, from a house to a car, that is perfectly legal. There are thousands of medal collectors in Canada and around the world. There is a legal domestic and international market for military insignia. Countless medals and other military items are bought and sold daily. Much of our military history would have been lost without medal collectors and dealers.

As the committee heard from witnesses, many collectors, in fact, are veterans who are driven by the honourable desire to protect heritage rather than collecting for financial gain. They have saved thousands of medals from being discarded. They have traced their history and they have carefully safeguarded them.

The committee took the approach of addressing the need to keep these important medals in Canada while still respecting the rights of recipients and their families. The bill now refers to export instead of transfers to non-residents. It continues to exempt transactions among close family members from its provisions while amending it to include spouses, common-law partners, and the children's spouses and common-law partners, which had not been included in the bill as originally drafted. It continues to have no effect on the transfer of medals that takes place inside Canada.

We should ensure that we are protecting the history we are making today as a proud nation sharing the struggle for international freedom and democracy with others on the world stage.

My inspiration for this bill comes from the veterans and future veterans from my riding who serve or have served our country. This bill will ensure that the accolades for their acts of bravery will remain on Canadian soil and will continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, a recorded division on the proposed motion stands deferred until Wednesday, March 9, 2011, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

March 2nd, 2011 / 7:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to expand on a question that I have asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development in the House on a number of occasions over the last couple of years.

We continue to get answers that are not satisfactory, which indicates that either the minister or the government does not really understand the depth and the breadth of poverty that exists in our country and does not understand that report after report has been delivered by reputable agencies studying these kinds of matters. These reports have been tabled in Ottawa for the federal government to see. Yet the government refuses to acknowledge there is a problem and work with others to do something about it.

A day before I asked that specific question, a report had been by Campaign 2000. It noted that poverty had a direct cost to health care, criminal justice, social services, lost productivity and lost opportunities in our country. The Food Banks of Canada report, which came out only a couple of years ago, indicated that the cost of poverty to the economy of Canada was upwards of $90 billion a year.

All I am asking the government to do is indicate to me, given that six provinces are already moving on their own anti-poverty strategies, what it proposes to do to fix this very glaring and obvious problem and take care of those who it has a fundamental responsibility for, those who are most at risk and marginalized in our communities and across our country.

We have had a further report in the last month or so from Food Banks of Canada called “HungerCount 2010”. The statistics it keeps of who comes in, how many times and who they may be show that, on all accounts, the numbers are up across the board. People are now having to turn to food banks to supplement their dietary needs. No longer are people getting the kind of assistance they need, whether it is through a job or some government program, to feed themselves and their children and to do it in an efficient fashion so they might take advantage of opportunities to better themselves.

We have just been through one of the most difficult recessions I have experienced in my lifetime. Before the recession 2008, we had a significant number of poor people. We have had an onslaught of poor people since then and there are no new programs to directly speak to the specific needs of that group of people. This group of people is growing.

In the middle of all that, we discovered that we now have hundreds of thousands of people, and a lot of them are new immigrants to our country living in places like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and cities across the country, who are working full-time, year-round, on minimum wage and who are still living in desperate poverty because there is not enough affordable housing available.

People who have looked at the question of poverty and who have taken the time to look at what we might do to make a huge difference in that area are calling for is a national housing strategy. The Standing Committee on Human Resources tabled a report with the government last June. We are expecting a response by the middle of March.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell us what might be in the government's response that would indicate it understands the depth and the breadth of the problem and will it actually do something about it?

7:55 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to this important issue this evening.

Our government is very interested in helping working Canadians and their families. We are very much interested in providing them with a government that facilitates a healthy and growing economy, which, in turn, provides jobs and prosperity to all Canadians. We have a record of action that we will be glad to stand on.

The member opposite and his party have different ideas, obviously, but our Conservative government believes the best way to fight poverty is to get Canadians working. Thanks to the actions we have taken, that is exactly what is happening. Since July 2009, over 460,000 jobs have been created.

We have said these things before but I will gladly say them again. We made unprecedented investments in skills training, which has helped over 1.2 million Canadians just in the last year. It has helped them to transition into new jobs.

We have introduced the working income tax benefit to make work pay for Canadians who are trying to get over the welfare wall. One million low-income Canadians benefited in the first year of that initiative alone and Canadians who need it will continue to benefit from it.

We have introduced the historic registered disability savings plan in order to help Canadians save for the long-term financial security of a child with a disability.

We continue to pursue our low tax plan so that Canadians have more money in their own pockets to spend on what is important to them and to their families and so that businesses can be more productive, create more jobs and hire more Canadians. Provinces now have access to predictable and growing funding from our government as well.

Our actions have helped Canadians. The actions of the member opposite and his party, on the other hand, have not been helpful. They need to become part of the solution.

Where we introduced help for Canadians who are working or looking for work, the NDP and the member opposite voted against that help. Where we helped students through grants, summer jobs, better tax treatment and improved infrastructure, the NDP once again voted against that help.

Where we improved the tax treatment, increased support multiple times and funded stimulus building projects for our seniors, the NDP voted against that as well. The NDP voted against the working income tax benefit, against our universal child care plan, against increasing help to single-earner families and against the RDSP.

The NDP voted against help during the recession for older workers, for long-tenured workers and against expanded work-sharing measures protecting the jobs of over 270,000 Canadian workers. The member opposite and the NDP in this place have proposed reckless and destructive taxes, spending that will stifle job growth, kill existing jobs, repel investment, lower productivity and increase the very problems that the member opposite says that he wants to fix.

Our Conservative government has and will continue to propose actions that will help Canadians, that will lower taxes, that will attract investment, increase productivity, boost job growth and lower poverty. However, all the NDP seems to want to do is vote against that help time and time again. The NDP needs to begin to treat this seriously and not politically.

I would ask the member and his party to, instead, support our Conservative government's plans which are getting Canadians working and helping them become more prosperous. The NDP really should stop voting against these measures. This is how we will successfully address these issues.

8 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, we all wish it were as simple as the Conservatives lay it out to be.

We again heard the list of initiatives that the government claims have been put in place to help those who are most at risk and in need in our communities. We in the NDP know from the reports that are coming out subsequent to those initiatives, however minimal they might be, indicate that they are not doing the job, that more people are falling further and further behind and that more people are having to turn to food banks, for example, to supplement their food intake in any given month.

The member suggested in his answer that if we could somehow get more people working and put in place a labour market strategy, that would deal with the many complicated and difficult challenges of those living in poverty. We know that is just not true. It is too simple an approach. It is certainly part of the answer. A comprehensive national anti-poverty strategy is what we should be looking at but it will not do the trick.

I suggested earlier that we are now discovering that literally hundreds of thousands of working men and women in this country, working year round, full time and collecting minimum wage, are still living in poverty and having to turn to food banks for their food. The government needs to and can do better.

There is a report on the table that was approved by all parties in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It needs to look at that—

8 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

8 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I hope the member misspoke when he said that he thinks it is too simple that we just create jobs and that is how we help Canadians, because that is exactly how we intend to help Canadians.

Thanks to our Conservative government, more Canadians are working. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian families are paying less in taxes and have more money in their pockets. Vulnerable Canadians are benefiting from the significant investments that we have made in areas like skills training and housing persons with disabilities, among others.

The member opposite and his party have consistently proposed what are clearly fiscally reckless and economically destructive spending and policies that would damage our economy and harm Canadian families in many ways and yet they turn around and consistently vote against measure after measure that our government proposes and ultimately passes to help Canadians and our economy.

Our Conservative government will continue to make investments that make a positive difference in the lives of Canadians and their families. I would urge the member opposite and his party to begin to support those efforts instead of continually opposing them.

8 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:04 p.m.)