Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for giving us the opportunity to take this moment to celebrate the life of Václav Havel and to recognize the significance of his passing.
The end of the 20th century saw dramatic changes. Most of us growing up through the latter half of the 20th century would not have believed they could have happened in the way in which they happened.
The first was the end of apartheid. We associate this with the name of Nelson Mandela who is still with us. His remarkable leadership stands out as a real triumph of the human spirit and of the capacity of one person to make a dramatic difference in the life not only of a people, but indeed in the life of the whole world.
The second is the collapse of communism. This did not happen on its own, nor did it only happen because of the power and force of those of us who lived in freedom in the west. It happened because the system was simply unsustainable economically, but more and more it became clear to people that it was unsustainable from a moral perspective.
There is no other person who has demonstrated better than Havel that communism was, first and foremost, not only a system of oppression and dictatorship, but also one of lies, and one that was systematically founded on the biggest falsehoods of our era.
It was primarily the great artists of the 20th century, the great writers and thinkers, those that had the courage to fight for their ideas, who did the most to bring about complete change in that monstrous systems.
It was said of Václav Havel that his greatest work of art was his life. In many other societies he would not have lived as a political man. In many other societies, he would have been quite happy to work in the theatre, which he loved, creating great plays and great works of art, writing poetry and plays. Perhaps he would have become a teacher or a professor. In other societies, that would have been allowed. However, he grew up in a society where that was not permitted. He was not permitted to write what he wanted to write. He was not permitted to think what he wanted to think. He was not permitted to say what he wanted to say. He was forced to live a life that became deeply political and that had as much to do with transforming our whole sense of what indeed is politically possible.
As the minister so rightly said, Václav Havel stood for a very simple principle: the values of freedom, liberty and democracy are not culturally relative values. They speak to something universal in the human spirit. States, systems and governments which do not recognize, or which flaunt or oppress, those rights and those abilities to speak eventually must fall. We cannot predict the circumstances in which they will fall or change, but fall they must. This great growth of this spirit of freedom and the spirit of liberty and the spirit in our time, which is that people have a right to speak, is a spirit which is alive today. It is alive in Burma, it is alive in Syria, and yes, it is alive in China. It is alive in all parts of the world where people cannot speak their minds, where people are told what to think and where the government lies to them, not on occasion and not by mistake, but systematically. That is how those systems keep going.
Therefore, to those people who are living in oppression in societies throughout the world, the life of Václav Havel is a life not only worthy of study but worthy of honour. It is right and appropriate that the House take just a moment to reflect on the importance of this great man and this great life.