Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the good people in the riding of Davenport in Toronto and speak to this bill.
As I said once before while speaking to this bill, the flag, flying of the flag and displaying the flag in my riding is something that people take very seriously. They love to display the flag. They put the flag on their front doors and off their eavestroughs. They use the flag as a drape and occasionally a scarf. I have seen it as a headband. People love to use the flag in all manner of ways to show their love for this country.
I think my hon. colleague across the way wanted to underline that in this bill. He wanted to celebrate the fact that Canadians and many people who live in Canada who have not yet gone that next step to become Canadian citizens love this great symbol of our country. We on this side of the House are in full agreement with that, as could be imagined.
We have spoken a little tonight about the history of the bill. My hon. colleague from the Liberal Party said that there was some irony in the fact that this bill was altered in a majority Parliament in a way that he had not seen bills altered in minority Parliaments.
I want to clarify a couple of things. First, this is a private member's bill. It is not a government bill. Second, we could not even be talking about some of the ways in which this bill has been change had it not been for the fact that the committee work was done out of camera. In other words, it was not done in camera and therefore we could talk about it. That was one of the rare occasions on the heritage committee that we have not been in camera to talk about substantive issues. I wanted to make that point.
Now it is true that our amendments pulled out the egregious penalties that were attached to the original bill, and thank goodness for that. It was a bit of a head-scratcher and a concerning moment to watch the entire government side get up on second reading on a bill that would put people in jail if they adhered to municipal bylaws and ruled that condo owners or apartment dwellers could not hang a flag on their balcony. We pulled that out.
Now we are just looking at a bill that essentially encourages Canadians to fly the flag. It encourages Canadians to fly the national flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol. We asked the government side during committee what flag protocol meant.
Flag protocol lists a number of ways in which the flag should be displayed in order to give it its due, as we are trying to do in this bill. When we read the flag protocol and consider the way Canadians show their love of this country through the flag, we find that the flag protocol is extremely restrictive. My concern is that this runs counter to the way in which my hon. colleague intended this bill to be used.
I know my hon. colleague a decent man and I think what he was trying to do with this bill was to celebrate the Canadian flag. I also think the government side was trying to play some f divisive politics here and was trying to use the flag to do that which I think is a shame on the government side.
The list in the flag protocol states:
Nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the National Flag....
The upper part of the leaf should face the north in an east-west street...and face east in a north-south street...thus being on the left of the observer facing east or south respectively.
If one simply wishes to create a decorative effect...it is preferable to use pennants or coloured buntings and not flags.
The National Flag of Canada should not be signed or marked in any way....
Those are some of the excerpts from the national flag protocol.
The bill states:
All Canadians are encouraged to proudly display the National Flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol.
If the government were serious about the bill and wanted to encourage Canadians to fly the national flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol, it would greatly restrict the way in which the flag is flown in this country. Of course we wants the flag flown in a respectful manner. Everyone in the House knows that, by and large, Canadians do fly the flag in a respectful manner. However, what happened in the bill is that the government tossed in the wording “national flag protocol” and, when we look at the national flag protocol, we see that it would do exactly the opposite. It would dissuade Canadians from flying the flag because the national flag protocol is too complicated and too restrictive.
The hon. gentleman across the way laughed but I can tell him that I was knocking on doors in Toronto on the weekend and I saw a flag draped in a window. In accordance with the national flag protocol, that would not fly, pardon the pun.
There are other issues I want to draw the attention of members to because they raise some profound questions. Part of the national flag protocol states that flags should not be signed. There are many examples but I have an article with a picture of the Canadian Forces health services team posing with a signed Canadian flag for a photo to send to a school in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, which was to be flown by the school on Remembrance Day last year. If we go by the national flag protocol, this practice just would not happen. Those kids would not get that flag. Those soldiers in Afghanistan would not have had that communal experience of sharing with those kids their experience and their love for Canada through the flag.
I have another example of a speed skating fan who had all of the members of the Canadian National Speed Skating Team sign her flag. That does not fly according to the national flag protocol.
I have one that I find particularly moving and concerning if we are serious about what we are doing here. I hope we are serious about what we are doing here and i f we are serious about encouraging Canadians to fly the flag, then we need to consider this. I will read from an article published in December 2010:
Dear Soldier, how are you? I hope you are not too sad. Thank you for keeping us safe….
Those were the sentiments of 40 postcards bearing messages of peace that made their way along with a signed Canadian flag and a box of Canada Day goodies to Afghanistan from St. Mary's Catholic School's grade two class last June, who are now in grade three. Little did they know how much of a difference that could make to the spirit of a platoon.
On December 15, Sergeant Kris Carter visited the school located at Bank and Mitch Owens in Ottawa to return the flag, complete with a certificate signifying that the flag did indeed go on a mission in the cockpit of a British Tornado airplane as it undertook an unknown assignment. Before returning the flag to the school--