Mr. Speaker, listening to the member opposite, I think he has some vision that the government members are going to be on the telephone every day or every week telling the directors of the museum what to display and what stories to tell and what parts of Canadian history to tell, which is absolutely absurd. It is really a form of paranoia. It is fearmongering and it is totally inappropriate.
It defies logic that anyone in the House, any whole party, could be against Canadian history. We just do not get it and Canadians do not get it either. It is a perfect time to plan a new museum in Ottawa and in Canada because we are on the road to our 150th anniversary. It is an unparalleled occasion to celebrate our history and the accomplishments that distinguish us as Canadians.
In 2012, we celebrated, among other things, the War of 1812, the 19th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We also announced the creation of the Canadian museum of history in October 2012. During the announcement of the new museum, the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam and former minister of Canadian Heritage, said, “Canadians deserve a national museum of history that tells our stories and presents our country’s treasures to the world.” I could not agree more.
Our government believes that it is essential to take full advantage of every opportunity to celebrate our history. The legislation, once passed, will enable the evolution of the Canadian Museum of Civilization into the Canadian museum of history.
Some have questioned why this change is necessary. The statistics paint a pretty clear picture about that. More than 75% of Canadians feel that learning about Canadian history strengthens their attachment to their country. Yet less than 50% are able to pass a citizenship exam that tests their general knowledge of Canada. Only 26% of young people aged 18 to 24 know the year of Confederation. Only 37% know the Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in the First World War, and 76% of Canadians are embarrassed by the lack of knowledge that we in Canada have of our history. Something must change.
Our children deserve to know more about our long and complex history. This government is preparing to meet this most fundamental need for all Canadians. After all, our history is a key aspect of our identity. The creation of the Canadian museum of history would provide Canadians with a fantastic opportunity to discover and appreciate the richness of Canadian history. It would provide a chance to learn about the history of Canada and its people. We are here today to discuss the legislation that will make this museum a reality.
Through online consultations, kiosk activities and round table discussions, Canadians have made their opinions known. Input was sought on various topics such as how best to reach Canadians across the country, whether with travelling exhibitions at local museums, creating apps about the museum for mobile phones and tablets, or showing museum stories in movie theatres. More than 20,000 Canadians took the time to tell the museum what they wanted to see in the new Canadian museum of history. The results of the consultation can be seen on the Canadian Museum of Civilization's website under “Canadian Museum of History News”.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to mention earlier that I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Barrie if that is agreeable.
Before criticizing the consultation process that was carried out by experts at the museum, please have a look at the report.
Canadians in all regions should have opportunities to learn more about Canadian history. To increase those opportunities, the new museum will sign agreements with a number of museums across the country to tour its exhibitions, to share expertise, and to lend artifacts and other materials from vast collections to enhance local programs. This is a great plan and opportunity for hundreds of small museums across Canada.
The Canadian museum of history would have more than 43,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space in 2016. This space will allow the museum to present a more complete history of Canada to all visitors. This additional exhibition space and rejuvenation of existing areas is made possible by a one-time federal investment of $25 million.
However, none of this means an end to international activities by the new museum. The new mandate is explicit. One of the purposes of the new museum is to increase Canadians' awareness of world history and cultures. I quote:
The purpose of the Canadian Museum of History is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
Along with the new mandate, the museum's name must logically change to the Canadian museum of history so that it better reflects the focus of this new museum. While the new museum's focus will be on Canada, it will continue to host major travelling international exhibitions, which we recognize are important to a national museum's vitality and reputation.
It is important to emphasize that the revised mandate will be fully consistent with the strategic directions approved by the museum's own board of trustees, not government members, in particular its decision to better reflect our national achievements through the social, cultural, human, military and political dimensions of Canadian life. Under this new mandate, the Canadian museum of history will pay greater attention to the events and accomplishments that have shaped and transformed Canada into what it is today.
The last spike, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard's famous number nine sweater and objects belonging to Terry Fox are but a few of the artifacts that illustrate Canadian history and touch our hearts.
There will be new opportunities for interpretation both in the museum's exhibition galleries and history museums throughout the country as they enjoy loans from the museum of Canadian history. More than ever before, the new national museum will provide the public with an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate our identity as Canadians.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization plans to present a series of temporary exhibitions that will highlight its new mandate and generate enthusiasm about the changes in its programming. Just last week the Canadian Museum of Civilization announced that in June 2015 the museum will present “The Greeks—From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great”, an exhibition celebrating 5,000 years of Greek culture.
Those who decry the role of the future Canadian museum of history on the world stage need to understand that the international role of this museum will remain firmly intact, as will its research and collections roles.
On International Museum Day, celebrated on May 18 every year, my colleague the Minister of Industry, in his capacity as former minister of Canadian Heritage, said that Canadian museums receive about 30 million visits annually. That is why our government is proud to invest in programs and policies that support the more than 2,500 institutions that make up Canada's museum sector. We recognize the important contribution that museums make to Canadian society and culture as well as to our economy.
Given the role of museums as centres of dialogue and learning, it is vital that we work together to facilitate the creation of the new Canadian museum of history. Along with a new mandate, the museum's name must logically change to the Canadian museum of history. That will better reflect the focus of this new museum, and this museum's focus will be on Canada. It will continue to host major travelling international exhibitions, which we recognize are important to a national museum's vitality and reputation. There will be new opportunities for interpretation, both in the museum's exhibition galleries and history museums throughout the country as they enjoy loans from the Canadian museum of history.
I am eager to see the new Canadian museum of history. I urge all my colleagues to support the bill to help realize its vision for the benefit of all Canadians.