House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.



11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation in the House of Commons for the electoral district of Toronto—Danforth, in the province of Ontario, by reason of the passing of the hon. Jack Layton.

Pursuant to subsection 28(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, on Friday, August 26, 2011, I addressed a warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill the vacancy.

I understand that there have been discussions among representatives of all the parties in the House to allow certain members to commemorate and pay tribute to our colleague.

Hon. Jack Layton

September 19th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.



Nycole Turmel Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House beside an empty chair. In it sat a great Canadian, a great leader and a great parliamentarian.

In this chair sat a friend, and I know that many hon. members on both sides of this esteemed House called him the same.

This House of Commons and this country have suffered an incredible loss, and it is with great sadness that we begin this new parliamentary session by paying tribute to the very hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, Jack Layton.

I know that all members join me in offering our sincere condolences to the family of our late colleague: to his wife and soulmate, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina; to his mother Doris; to his brothers and sisters, Bob, David and Nancy; to his son Michael, his daughter Sarah and his granddaughter Beatrice, a mere mention of whom would bring a sparkle to the eyes of the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth. I want to let each of them know that they will always have our love and endless support.

I believe that the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Jack Layton's own member of Parliament, deserves particular recognition by the House today for her courage, grace and composure in these most difficult times. She has my utmost admiration and love.

Last week, Jack Layton's family presented me with two eagle feathers. These were feathers that he kept in his office and that were sacred to him. He often held these feathers when he had to make important decisions. They reminded him to think of the people and nature around him and to think about the impact our decisions will have on future generations.

These feathers were given to me as leader of the New Democratic Party so that Jack Layton's spirit and the wisdom that guided him may also guide our party. When I accepted these feathers, I made a commitment to his family, as I am now making a commitment to all Canadians, to always follow the path that he set out for us.

Rarely, if ever, has the House seen as passionate, tireless and committed an advocate for the less fortunate as Jack Layton. Day after day he fought for the little guy. He strove to give a voice to those without power and wealth and to ensure that as this country moved forward no one was left behind or found himself or herself homeless. In his memory, we will carry on this work.

All who knew him knew the strength of his belief that young people held the key to the gates of a better Canada and a better world. He worked tirelessly to reach out to young people, to engage them in politics and to ensure their perspectives and their best hopes for our country were reflected in our national dialogue. In Jack Layton's memory, we will carry on this work.

He was also just as determined to ensure that all new Canadians receive a warm welcome in our country and to build better relationships with our first nations communities, relationships based on respect. In Jack Layton's memory, we will carry on this work.

The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth was motivated by an unwavering belief that, by respecting the hopes and dreams of the residents of his province of birth and by focusing the debate on what unites the people of this country and what we can accomplish when we all work together, we could build a stronger and more united country with the help of Quebeckers.

His faith in this principle remained unshaken, despite the cynicism that has crept into federal politics over the past 20 years. In Jack's memory, we will carry on this work.

Jack was motivated by the goal of leaving our children and grandchildren a greener world; a world free from climate change; a world with clean land, clean rivers and fresh air; a world where people interact with nature in a sustainable manner. In Jack's memory, we will carry on this work.

Jack Layton believed so much in the power of democracy and of this Parliament. I invite all hon. members of this House to join with me in picking up his torch and making this an institution of which Canadians can be proud.

Jack Layton improved the tone of the debate in Parliament. He firmly believed we could have passionate disagreements without being disrespectful or disgraceful to each other. Let us all honour his memory by conducting the next session of Parliament in this spirit. Let us always put the interests of Canadians before our own partisan interests, as Jack Layton would want us to do.

Never was Jack more proud than when he was able to work with others across the aisle to serve Canadian families. He considered his work with his Liberal colleagues to pass a better balanced budget one of his greatest legislative legacies. He was equally proud of his work with the members opposite in securing help for more than 90,000 out-of-work families in their time of need and in making the apology for residential schools a reality. By his own words, Jack Layton was always more interested in proposition than opposition.

Let this spirit live within each of us as we get down to work for Canadians in these very tough times.

Canadians' response to Jack Layton's death demonstrated the great love they had for him. In Montreal, where he was born, in Toronto, where he lived, here in Ottawa and all across the country, Canadians gathered to celebrate his life.

The stories they shared and the messages they wrote in chalk on the pavement all had a common theme, and that theme was hope. Hope that it is possible to build a better Canada. Hope that, by working together, we can face the challenges before us. Hope that it is possible to build a stronger and more united country. Hope that, although none of us is perfect, together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

I hope that this will be Jack Layton's greatest legacy and that we will all commit to making his vision a reality.

There is a code which has been inscribed into the hearts of many Canadians. I would like to have it inscribed into our official records today. Let it be a motto for this country and for this esteemed House now and forevermore.

My friends, love is better than anger, hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair; so let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic and we will change the world.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest


Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the late leader of the official opposition. I do so as Prime Minister, as leader of my party and as a member of the House, in memory of our friend and colleague, the hon. Jack Layton.

One of the pleasures of serving in this place is the friendships that develop and sometimes the surprise of friendships that grow between opponents, the affections that develop in spite of our strongest partisan instincts. In the case of Jack Layton, I believe that all of us developed this affection inexorably. His passion, perseverance and ability to be at once tough and cheerful would eventually win over even those who most strongly disagreed with him.

The affection and respect we had for him were rooted in his ability to mobilize others and unite them around a single cause. It was that part of his personality that made him a true leader. And the courage, dignity and optimism we witnessed during his battle with cancer only served to increase our fondness and respect. Those feelings grow even stronger when we consider the rigours of an election campaign—which I know all too well—and when we think about what he accomplished during the 2011 election.

I cannot think of another leader, at least not in our time, whose campaign was described as gallant. However, Jack's campaign inspired and merited that description. So too did his approach to his high parliamentary office. His commitment as leader of the other side to pursue more civil discourse in the House and to seek a constructive approach to opposition won well-deserved praise from all Canadians.

Of course it did not detract in any way from his ability to forcefully advocate a different position from that of the government. Hon. members will recall such a great parliamentary battle at the end of the spring session. As I have said before, I remember at one point near the end crossing to sit with Jack in the midst of it to discuss a few things, some political, some personal. Really, that was not very long ago. Now, when I look across the floor, it is hard to believe he is not still there.

However, I will always remember that conversation because, notwithstanding the personal challenges in front of Jack and regardless of the personal combat going on between us, as always, he was still full of optimism and goodwill.

His admirable personality made him a shining example. The civility he brought to debate as Leader of the Opposition and his sincere commitment to proposing constructive solutions set the bar high for us here in the House in terms of the work we do for Canadians.

It is well known that Jack and I did not always agree. In fact, it might be said that we did not often agree. However, he loved this country and devoted himself to the well-being of its people. In this, we were united, as indeed are so many men and women of different and contradictory political persuasions. In the heat of our debates we too often forget that people of goodwill share the deepest motivations and the highest aspirations. We differ only on how we believe we should act on these in order to address the practical problems that lie before us.

Our democracy and our work in the House exist so that we can take stock of all potential solutions and decide which path to take. Through his election victory, Jack Layton contributed to the renewal and strengthening of Canada's political life.

I conclude my remarks by also offering, for myself and on behalf of my colleagues, a special word of encouragement for the hon. member who was Jack's partner in life as well as in politics. She, too, has won our affection and our respect. In recent weeks she, too, has displayed the courage and dignity which we can only hope would emerge in us were we to suffer such a loss.

To her, the family and Jack's caucus colleagues, we offer our deepest sympathies and we, along with them, celebrate a truly extraordinary life.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:20 a.m.


Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak a little personally about Jack. He was a person I came to know over many years through my long-time association with the New Democratic Party and my leadership of the provincial party in Ontario.

My first conversation with Jack was on the telephone asking him to support me in my bid for the leadership which, for my colleagues opposite, he declined to provide me at that particular moment. Perhaps he guessed something that even I was not aware of at the time.

In the course of the last few months, the last two months in particular, as a country we have gone through a political celebration in the midst of great sorrow and great loss. I am sure there have been parallels in time when this has occurred. We are told that when D'Arcy McGee was assassinated, only a few hundred yards from this spot, over 100,000 people attended his funeral service, lining the streets.

As Canadians, we can say that in the course of our history there have been moments when we have surpassed partisanship and have come together.

There are times in our lives when we must admit the partisan reality of our political lives. Political life is a decent life. It is a public life that has earned the respect of Canadians, even though not everyone will completely agree with the positions taken by a political leader like Mr. Layton.

Jack believed fiercely in the country and he wanted to take a positive and constructive attitude to achieving what he needed to achieve, but Jack was a very tough partisan. He was a very committed member of the New Democratic Party. He was also someone who, as the Prime Minister has said and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, because of his personality, because of what Laurier once described as the importance of having sunny ways, he managed to attract the support and the affection of a great many people who did not necessarily share his point of view.

Particularly the outpouring we saw in Toronto was a reflection of the fact that Mr. Layton started out his life and his career as a local politician. He was very proud of his work in the city of Toronto and he provided leadership that was of a unique nature. While there are political parties, more or less, at the city level, in order to get things done people have to work together. It is not a deeply partisan framework in which they work. They work by talking, by engaging, by trying to find compromise, and that is where Jack excelled. He loved to make a deal and to do a deal even when, as some of us discovered there was no deal to be done, he still wanted to try to get it done. I think we all respected that spirit.

When I think of the work he did on housing, and as premier I worked very closely with Jack on that issue, he really did provide leadership, not only for the city but for the province and then for the country. I think of the work that he did on AIDS. I think of his advocacy for the gay, lesbian and transgender community, which he continued to do right up to the end. I think of the courage he displayed on a number of issues where not everyone was with him at the time, but eventually more people came to see the merits of that position.

We have lost a colleague and a friend. The country has lost an important political leader, an important political presence, and my colleague from Trinity—Spadina has lost a husband and a partner. We offer her our warmest condolences. She has shown great courage and above all great natural dignity in the face of Jack's struggle and in the face of all the attention to which that has given rise. From this side of the House, and for some years Jack occupied seats not too far away from where we stand today, as an adversary and as a friend we shall miss him.

I cannot help but recall the famous words of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, when he said in his famous poem, “death shall have no dominion”. He was really describing in that poem, and I think this has been the experience of Canada over the last little while, that while Jack has passed away, the things he stood for, the values he had and the warmth, strength and quality of his personality will never die or disappear because the spirit and the soul with which we come into life will carry on, and I think all of us of different religious beliefs strongly believe that. That spirit carries on in our children. It carries on in the work that we all decide to do, whether we come at it from the same perspective or from the same philosophy. There are a great many Canadians who, over the last while, have thought more about politics, about public life and about what that public contribution is all about because of the life that Jack chose to live, the way in which he chose to live it and the way in which he chose to leave it.

I close with the words of Dylan Thomas:

Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:30 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were deeply saddened this summer to learn of the passing of the leader of the New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

We were all impressed by the strength of character and determination Jack Layton showed throughout his battle against the disease. The fact that he found the strength to run an election campaign, despite his illness, to defend his values and promote his ideals exemplifies his courage.

Jack Layton was a passionate and honest parliamentarian. He was also approachable and easy to be around on a daily basis. We especially appreciated his dedication to the homelessness issue and how he promoted workers' rights, battles that we fought by his side here in the House of Commons.

Jack Layton's unwavering commitment to ordinary people is undoubtedly one of the biggest contributors to his immense popularity. That is also what made him an example to anyone who works in politics.

He was a principled man, a man who was courteous and respectful of his adversaries, and also extremely competent and effective. He was also a man of ideas. He brought a number of initiatives to this chamber, in order, as he often said, to do politics differently. As an expert negotiator, he was willing to make compromises to advance matters that were important to him. One of his guiding principles was that taking a small step towards achieving his objectives was better than stubbornly wanting to accomplish everything all at once.

And how he battled in the House of Commons! I will always remember one very intense day, to say the least, in this chamber. During question period, he used his oratorical skills to put a minister on the defensive, to an extent we have rarely seen in this House. That evening, at a cocktail party, I greeted the minister in question, and remarked that it had not been an easy day and that Jack had been in fine form. The minister replied that there was something special about that man. Even though he had been lambasted, the minister still wanted to shake Jack's hand when leaving the House.

That was Jack: he fervently defended his ideals, respected his adversaries and earned their respect. That is a feat not easily achieved, but Jack knew the secret.

I also remember that when I arrived in the lobby of the House after his great victory of May 2, Jack came over to me to ask about my colleagues who had been defeated. There was no hint of arrogance, just kindness and compassion.

Farewell Jack, the exceptional human being; farewell Jack, the dedicated and attentive MP; farewell Jack, the talented and effective party leader. Thank you for contributing so much to the development of our democracy. Thank you for all the memorable moments in this House of Commons.

In closing, on behalf of Bloc Québécois MPs and party members, I would like to offer my most sincere condolences to his wife, Olivia, his children, and all his family, friends and colleagues.

The great French writer Alexandre Dumas once said that those we have loved and lost are not where they used to be, but they are with us always wherever we may be.

Farewell, Jack.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:30 a.m.


Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise, as other leaders have risen, with a great deal of sadness. I also knew Jack for a very long time and this has been a very rough summer for so many of us.

I want to offer my sincere condolences to everyone in Jack's caucus and to his wife, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina in particular. She is an extraordinary woman with unparalleled courage.

I also recognize that many of us last saw each other, not in this place, but in Roy Thomson Hall for the state funeral. I would like to particularly thank the right hon. Prime Minister for his generosity in deciding to give us that opportunity collectively to mourn the loss of a great Canadian.

It was, in the best sense of the word, less a funeral than a true celebration of life. Celebrating together, I think we experienced, as partisans, a moment of our true shared humanity. We experienced together what it means to lose a friend and a colleague. We also saw, and we must always remember, that at the heart of everything we are all Canadians and we all love this country and we would do better to remember it.

We are all, in the end, human. We share the commonality that we are all born, we all die and that the measure of our lives is what we do with the time in between, no matter how short it might be. Jack did a lot in his time. Some of us die in ways that are almost anonymous, as the vigil outside and the walk for justice remind us of the aboriginal women. However, Jack died at the height of his powers. Jack died at the moment he had achieved something so long sought after that our hearts broke for that loss. He worked so hard. He faced, as many colleagues have mentioned, an election campaign, which is always gruelling, at a time that he was also fighting a serious illness, more serious than many of us knew.

That speaks to other words from that same Welsh poet, quoted by my friend, the leader of the Liberal Party. It was Dylan Thomas who talked about how we face death and how we must not give into it, how we must not go gentle. Jack Layton fought harder than anyone I have ever seen. He put more into that last gasp, that last effort, to take his party to where he knew he could lead it. He gave so much of himself.

I will also close with the words of Dylan Thomas who wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

It was in dying that I think Jack most clearly saw and then seized that light.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:35 a.m.


Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you and all members of the House for this opportunity to respond to the remarkable tributes to the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.

I will take this opportunity to express both my gratitude and my renewed resolve first to the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and Canada's New Democrats. I wish to express my gratitude for her faith and trust in assuming stewardship of our party at this crucial time. I thank her for her support and friendship and, most of all, for her leadership.

I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the Prime Minister for the honour he showed, not just to my family and New Democrats, but all Canadians, by declaring a state funeral.

I thank both the Prime Minister and Laureen Harper for the comfort and support they provided to me and my family, both publicly and privately. I thank him for his eloquent tribute in the House today.

I thank all other leaders for their thoughtful tributes.

I also wish to thank members of the House of all parties who have been so supportive and who have passed on condolences from their constituents in every part of this country.

The generosity of Canadians has been a source of great strength for me and for our family in these past weeks. Among the condolences, our family has heard from so many other brave and courageous people who have been living with cancer or who have lost loved ones to the disease. Like them, and like millions of generous Canadians, I am resolved to carry forward with hope and continue fighting this disease until there is a cure.

As I was doing the Terry Fox Run yesterday, I was filled with optimism that with tens of thousands of Canadians participating together we can outrun cancer.

I have been overwhelmed in the past weeks and days by so many inspiring messages everywhere, in condolence books, in cards and tributes, in letters to the editor, in emails, in blogs and twitters, and, for me, most memorably in chalk at Toronto's City Hall where both Jack and I served on council.

I have been overwhelmed with messages from youth and children, women, immigrants, our first nations, Québécois, maritimers, westerners and Ontarians, so many messages that were inspired by Jack Layton and his message of hope, optimism and love, and so many messages that he himself would have been inspired by, especially those from youth, especially the ones who looked beyond the grief and saw the possibility of moving forward and building a better Canada and a better world.

The chalk at city hall has washed away but those messages will be with me forever. They are part of my renewed resolve, my resolve to continue and build on Jack's legacy, a resolve built on values that were the guiding light for Jack Layton, values shared by so many in the House and across the country of fundamental Canadian values of generosity, justice and equality.

Of course, it was easy for us to be hopeful and optimistic when Jack was around. The tough part is now. What makes it easier for me, what makes it even possible, is that so many people have understood the message and been inspired. What makes it possible is that so many are prepared to give politics and politicians a chance again, and they will be watching us as we move Canada forward.

What makes it possible is the knowledge that the House of Commons, which was so important to Jack, is more representative of Canada and its diversity than ever before, and that is, in large part, due to his leadership and his unending quest for equality and justice; for giving a voice to the voiceless, to the people who thought they were on the margins; for empowering people who thought they had no power; for remembering that all of us who have the privilege to serve in the House are empowered by those very people we serve; and for remembering that together we have power to make positive changes that will benefit all Canadians.

We do have that power. I am resolved to move forward to help make the dreams that Jack and I shared for 30 years a reality for future generations.

It is possible. It is still possible.

We saw evidence today of our shared humanity. We heard words rarely spoken in the House of hope, optimism and love. That suggests a better Canada is possible. It is possible to move Canada forward and make Canada a better and more prosperous place where no one is left behind.

My friends, let us work together.

And do not let them tell you that it cannot be done.

Hon. Jack Layton

11:45 a.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The loss of Jack Layton leaves our Parliament missing much more than just one member.

We all know that Jack had deep partisan convictions, as every member of this House does, but he truly wanted Parliament to work for Canadians.

Here in the House, Jack's voice was a tireless voice. He was a worth adversary, an inspiring leader, a kind heart and a loyal friend.

I now invite all hon. members to stand and observe a moment of silence.

[A moment of silence observed]

Business of the House

11:45 a.m.



Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is my job to launch with the pedestrian business of the House. I am doing that with a motion to deal with the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It is a motion that I believe has the support of all the parties. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Thursday, September 22, 2011, the House shall meet at 10 a.m. and proceed to government orders; at 11 a.m. members may make statements pursuant to Standing Order 31; not later that 11:15 a.m. oral questions shall be taken up; at noon, the House shall proceed to the ordinary daily routine of business, followed by government orders, at 2:30 p.m. the House shall stand adjourned to the next sitting day;

that the Address of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to be delivered in the Chamber of the House of Commons at 5:30 p.m. that day before Members of the Senate and the House of Commons, together with all introductory and related remarks, be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for that day and form part of the records of this House; and

that the media recording and transmission of such address, introductory and related remarks be authorized pursuant to established guidelines for such occasions.

Business of the House

11:45 a.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. Government House Leader have the unanimous consent to move this motion?

Business of the House

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the House

11:45 a.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the House

11:45 a.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from June 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.