Madam Speaker, the preceding speaker spoke of his past as a sea scout. From a sea scout to an air cadet, all of us are displaying the pride we exhibit each and every day here as proud Canadians.
I had a speech that illustrated exactly what the flag means to all of us and its history. As a member of the Liberal Party, I feel that I should talk about the flag's history because we played a big role in that, as all parties did at the time. From the 1920s and straight through to the 1960s, several options were put out. There was always a desire to create a flag that was distinctively ours. We did not want it to contain the ensign of the Union Jack. We wanted it to stand alone, to be a unique measure of who we are as Canadians.
I think it necessary to talk about what has happened with Bill C-288 and the provisions contained therein.
When we started debate on the bill, we were incredibly trepidatious about it because of the penalties it contained. Clause 3 under enforcement referred to granting a temporary restraining order and ordering any person to comply with a provision of the act.
As I said during second reading debate, measuring the intent of the hon. member from Ontario, the sponsor of the bill, I could see where he was coming from. I could see why he had such a great passion for this. I remember him telling the story about how this started. There had been a situation at a condominium which he learned of while campaigning throughout his riding.
The enforcement measures caused great concern within our caucus and we voted against the bill at the time. At committee the sponsor of the bill came forward with substantial amendments. He has included the word “encourage”. People would be encouraged to fly the flag. People would be encouraged not to diminish the rights of others to fly the flag.
Clause 3 was taken out of the bill completely. Quite frankly, it was pretty much a carbon copy of what we had wanted to do within committee. There was some worry whether this would go beyond the scope and the principle of the bill. I guess that is not the case as we are going forward with it.
I can honestly say that in my seven plus years of being here, I have not seen that kind of interaction on a bill at committee in a minority government, but here I see it in a majority. Perhaps that is small irony.
When I talked to the sponsor of the bill in committee, I felt that he actually listened. He felt passionate enough about this that he did not want it tarnished in any way, shape or form. He wanted to keep the ultimate principle of the bill, which is for us to fly our beautiful flag freely and with a great deal of pride.
I would like to congratulate the member. I am recommending to our Liberal caucus that we support the bill. I say that with all sincerity, not just because it is about the bill but because of the sincerity the member showed to be able to change it.
In the world of politics we play here we get into situations where we make one small decision and we stick to it. We bear down with that decision and we listen to nobody else. To the exclusion of all others we will stick to our opinion even though somebody else may have a contrary opinion that might make sense.
Before I get into the bill and before I talk about the flag, I want to talk about the member who sponsored the bill and who I felt listened. My hon. colleague from the NDP said it should have been a motion, and to a great degree I agree, but it is not. We have been presented with a bill that was put forward with the best of intentions. As flawed as it may have been, the member actually listened and he agreed. We got through this in committee, or at least from our perspective we got through it.
When I asked him questions at committee, he was forthright and very humble. He brought forward amendments which I thought was a brave thing to do. That is not bad for a brand new member. I congratulate him on that.
Let us go back to the flag's history. On Parliament Hill there was a huge ceremony on February 15, 1965, with Governor General Georges Vanier and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. The Canadian Red Ensign, bearing the Union Jack and the Shield of the Royal Arms of Canada, was lowered and at the stroke of noon our new Maple Leaf flag was raised.
The following words were spoken on that momentous day by the Hon. Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate:
The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all of the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.
We illustrated that in committee, an exchange of opinion which I believe was to the benefit of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
The search for a new Canadian flag actually started back in the 1920s, I believe it was in 1921, when it was designated that our official colours were red and white by King George V. In 1946, a select parliamentary committee was appointed with a similar mandate, but things got bogged down in arguments and the machinations of politics. In 1964 when Prime Minister Pearson informed the House of Commons that the government wished to adopt a distinctive national flag. It wanted to do it in advance of 1967, the celebration of 100 years. Go figure. Perhaps history is repeating itself, because now we have discussed the hon. member's bill in the lead-up to the 150-year celebration to take place in 2017, which we are also studying at committee.
In 1964, after eliminating various proposals, the committee was left with three possible designs: a Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lys; the Union Jack, and a design incorporating three maple leafs; and of course the stylized red Maple Leaf on a white square.
I want to talk about that for just a moment. I met the gentlemen of whom I speak. Their names are John Matheson and Dr. George Stanley. I met Dr. Stanley many years ago at Mount Allison University. He is well known in the story of the evolution of the new Canadian flag. Mr. Matheson was a member of Parliament, perhaps one of the strongest supporters of a new flag, and Dr. Stanley was dean of the arts at the Royal Military College.
Dr. Stanley's design was based on a strong sense of Canadian history, which he spoke about many years ago at Mount Allison. The combination of red and white first appeared in the general service medal issued by Queen Victoria. As I mentioned, red and white were subsequently proclaimed Canada's national colours by King George V in 1921.
The committee eventually decided to recommend the single leaf design, which was approved by resolution of the House of Commons on December 15, 1964, followed by the Senate on December 17, 1964 and proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, to take effect February 15, 1965.
I had to mention Dr. Stanley because I was quite inspired by the gentleman when I met him. He is from the area of New Brunswick where I went to university. I remember thinking to myself that I had met the man who designed the flag, and how about that.
I also talked about the pride of the flag, as many of the members in the House have done, from glorious moments such as the Olympics to moments of extreme lows which we have experienced throughout many wars, such as, World War I and World War II. We had our ensigns, and of course we raise our flag proudly around the world, whether it be for the London Olympics coming up or whether it be in places like Afghanistan and other areas of great strife where we are involved. We do it for all the right reasons.
I will leave it at that. I do want to congratulate my colleague on the exchange that took place, the debates that we had and the understanding that he brought not only to this House, but to committee. I will personally recommend that we support his initiative.