moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to take the floor today to speak to my Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada.
I would first like to say that the bill reflects my interest in an issue that is dear to all of us, that goes beyond merely displaying our flag. This is an issue that appeals to our sense of pride and especially how we choose to express it.
The bill affirms the right of every Canada to display their patriotism wherever and whenever they wish. From Vancouver Island in the west to Newfoundland in the east, from Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon in the north, to other Canadian provinces in the south, Canadians must feel free to display their national flag. This is a symbolic gesture that we must encourage, a patriotic act that helps shape our identity and create a sense of belonging to our country. It is often the symbolic gestures and strong images that remain in people's collective memories.
Since its tabling on September 27, 2011, Bill C-288 has been the subject of numerous comments by members of Parliament in the House. These comments are proof that this issue strikes a sensitive chord, which goes to the heart of our identity. Indeed, the flag is a symbol of our identity, of who we are. It reminds us of what it means to be Canadian.
Whether at home or abroad, the Canadian flag represents us and embodies our values. Whether sewn onto a backpack, carried by one of our athletes, painted on the cheek of a child or saluted by a veteran, it is viewed around the world as a symbol of freedom and democracy. The flag expresses the pride that we feel and everything that we believe in and cherish as Canadians.
We have heard the comments made by the members of Parliament in the House. Some expressed their concerns about the restrictive nature of the bill. We have heard these comments and these responses and the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage took them into consideration during their study of the bill. It was agreed to make amendments to the bill in order to reflect the feedback received. These amendments will perhaps help alleviate these concerns and, I hope, win the support of the majority.
The proposed amendments are aimed primarily at encouraging Canadians to display the flag wherever they want and as often as they wish. For example, one of the amendments encourages the managers of multiple unit residential buildings to allow the maple leaf flag to be displayed. Whether renters or property owners, Canadian citizens will therefore be encouraged to show their patriotism and express their pride, wherever and whenever they consider it fitting to do so.
The simple act of flying the flag helps reinforce our attachment to Canada. It is a unifying act that helps bring together Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life. It also connects us to our history, which is a fundamental element of our common identity that must be able to unite us in its inclusive reality.
On February 15, we marked the 47th anniversary of the maple leaf flag. This day was an opportunity to pay homage to this important symbol of our country. The history of the maple leaf dates back to 1965, when it was raised for the first time at exactly 12 noon on Parliament Hill, right after the Canadian red ensign had been lowered. At every Canadian diplomatic mission in the world, from the lush tropics to Canadian missions in frigid climates, a similar ceremony took place simultaneously to mark the event. It was also raised at the same time in communities across the country.
Few Canadians expected the new flag to achieve immediate renown, yet it was the only flag in history to consist of a single maple leaf and it came to be recognized instantly by its simplicity wherever it was flown. As our most precious national symbol, our flag continues to instill pride in our history and to inspire us with confidence in the future.
In the last few years, we have had multiple opportunities to feel a great sense of pride as Canadian throughout the land. Indeed, who can forget the joyous and festive mood that reigned across the country when the Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, honoured us with their visit in the summer of 2011. The maple leaf flew proudly in every city, town and village they visited as a salute to our vast country.
At the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, we felt a tremendous sense of pride in watching our athletes parade by. From one end of the country to the other, many Canadians proudly displayed the flag in honour of our sports heroes and we all took pride in seeing the flag raised 26 times to celebrate our medallists.
The red and white maple leaf will fly again at the upcoming London Olympic Games to be held in a few months from now. How many of us will once again be proud to see our athletes carry the national flag? How many of us, as a sign of solidarity and encouragement, will be moved to display the flag in front of our house, or business or on the balcony of our apartment? How many of us will truly feel free to do so?
The desire of Canadians to express their attachment to their country is something that we should not only applaud but encourage. This is precisely what the bill respecting the national flag hopes to achieve. It encourages and supports the expression of our pride. It allows every Canadian to display his or her patriotism in red and white. It brings us closer together.
Across this great land, our government is preparing major celebrations to give Canadians an opportunity to commemorate events that have forged the Canada of today. I am thinking in particular of the preparations to mark the War of 1812, the Queen's Jubilee and the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Our government recently unveiled it program of events to mark these two anniversaries, which culminate in a major celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada.
I would like to say a few additional words about these celebrations.
First, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 highlights an important event in our history. This conflict helped define what we are today: an independent country with its own parliamentary system. Part of being an independent country is to adopt symbols and ceremonies particular to a new nation.
This year is also the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The 60th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty to the throne reminds us of the central role that the Crown plays, and has played, in the evolution of our nation. Her Majesty has a special relationship to Canada and she embodies the values of the nation. When we fly our flag, we showcase these values, regardless of whether we speak them aloud or describe them in detail. The flag speaks for us.
I would like to draw attention to a very particular time of year in Canada: the end of June and the beginning of July. For school children, this is exciting because summer vacation begins. For parents, this time of year means summer camps and family vacations. For all Canadians, this time of year means warmer weather and sunshine. However, there is also a very real sense of anticipation because it is a distinctly Canadian time of year as we approach Canada Day.
Every year Canadians and visitors are invited to take part in an 11-day lead up celebration called “Celebrate Canada”, which takes place from June 21 to July 1. This is a unique national undertaking that gives everyone across the country an opportunity to organize events together. Families and friends, social and cultural groups, communities, towns and cities, at every level come together to discover and appreciate the wealth and diversity of Canadian society. At these events, it is the flag that waves proudly.
In the week and a half before Canada Day, citizens from every part of this nation focus on celebrating the best of what it means to be in community. The flag is omnipresent at the end of June and beginning of July because of Canada Day, because of street parties and barbecues that engage Canadians of every age. Whether each citizen realizes it or not, the increase in the use of the flag at this time of year creates an attachment not only to the flag itself, but to the communities in which we all live and thrive. Canadians show their love of Canada and pride in being Canadian throughout the year, but in the ramp-up to Canada Day, as the flag is displayed at celebrations, we all respond with excitement and anticipation.
These events provide numerous opportunities to celebrate our history and display our patriotism. The events that we are talking about are widespread and diverse. The flag is not simply flown from municipal buildings or at official events, but at all manner of gatherings organized by ordinary and proud Canadian citizens. From neighbourhood block parties to sporting events, garden parties to Canada Day rallies, bonfire parties and community beautification projects, celebrating Canada is taken seriously and this is intimately related to our national display of the flag. Such celebrations help awaken the pride of all Canadians.
This bill encourages Canadians to mark the unique nature of these celebrations by flying the maple leaf in every community. It also invites all Canadians to take advantage of these festivities to learn more about the history of our flag and what it represents. Canadians all develop a sense of excitement at the end of June that probably goes largely undiscussed because it has become so normal, so expected, so Canadian to look forward to the excitement and parties that we enjoy as a nation.
In taking the time to celebrate, we realize how privileged we are to live in a country as wonderful as Canada. Many Canadians demonstrate their pride and joy by raising the national flag. This bill encourages them to do just that.
I rose today to talk of the flag, to talk of what it means to be Canadian, of the momentous occasions in our history that have given us a shared sense of community, despite geographical and historical differences. I hope all members of the House have found themselves reminiscing about a celebration they have attended over the years, of meeting with neighbours and friends or watching fireworks with thousands of others on Canada Day. I hope my hon. colleagues have heard stories from their constituents about how much they value the flag and how much they desire to feel free to fly the flag wherever they live.
I am confident that the flag will continue to unite us, to move us, to be the symbol that we reach for in moments of sadness and great joy. I am proud to support this bill and count myself among those Canadians who will fly a flag again this year.