Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to wish you and all of my colleagues a warm welcome back to the House. I hope everyone enjoyed some festive cheer with their family, friends and constituents over the course of the break. I am delighted to have the opportunity to return to the House this morning.
It is also a pleasure to start this new year speaking to private member's Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada, on behalf of the people of Don Valley West, and for that matter, all of Canada.
I wish to take members back in our shared history. On February 15, 1965, our Canadian flag was raised for the very first time. The Hon. Maurice Bourget beautifully articulated the meaning of the flag and what it represents. He stated:
The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.
These words ring as true today as they did 46 years ago. The flag represents our country's incredible unity from coast to coast to coast, where within these borders people from every corner of the world have the opportunity to etch their place within Canada. Canadians, from recent immigrants to those whose generations past first settled this land, are united in the essence of what it means to have this citizenship, to take pride in our breathtaking landscapes, to participate in democracy, to practise the faith that speaks to them, and to know that each and every one of us can call ourselves Canadian regardless of what language we speak.
The Canadian flag is a deeply symbolic icon. Its beauty in simplicity has made it an internationally recognized symbol. Citizens, from our Olympians presenting excellence on the world stage to undergraduates who stay in hostels while backpacking their way through faraway lands all proudly display our flag. It symbolizes the very values for which our valiant armed forces risked their lives. These men and women in action have seen first-hand countries where citizens live in fear and dictatorship. For these veterans the flag represents the Canada and our values for which they fought. It is shameful that those who risk their lives in the call of duty are being barred from displaying the flag today.
I thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and all members in the House who have spoken in support of this very important bill. Bill C-288 acts to ensure that all citizens across all of Canada have the same rights to fly the flag any day of the year. I am proud of our country. I am proud of our flag and all that it represents to our great nation.