House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was isil.


Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question because I think it is an approach.

I buy the argument that this is a very serious conflict. I buy the argument that there is butchery going on. I buy the argument that one could even argue that it is a genocide. When the Prime Minister came to the member's party and mine and invited us over to see what was happening, we could support that limited engagement. He has made no such effort since then.

Here we are, an hour from the vote, yet has the Prime Minister offered to disclose to the member's leader or mine information that he cannot disclose in a public setting?

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member is a former national defence critic, what does he see as our military's role? How does he see the Liberal Party taking a role in this mission?

Second, he just spoke about the Prime Minister and, as many of us have said, the lack of trust or transparency the Prime Minister has shown. Could he expand on that?

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, I have played a number of roles in Parliament over the years. One of my favourites, frankly, was as defence critic for the Liberal Party. I became a huge fan of our military folks. We in the Liberal Party support these folks to the hilt.

Once this vote is taken, we will know what will be asked of them, and what will be asked will be very serious.

We do take objection to the mandate of their mission. We think that we need to tread very lightly. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and in this particular instance, history, complications, and as Jeffrey Simpson said in The Globe and Mail, the whole cauldron of conflicting issues should make us all very cautious indeed.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario


Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development.

I am rising to participate in this very important debate. It has been called historic by other members of this chamber and I think it is. When we are dealing with a situation where we are putting people who serve our country in harm's way, we do have to have a considered debate. Incidentally there has been more debate about this in this chamber prior to action than there was during the Afghanistan mission at the inception of that mission.

We take it seriously. To those who say and I have heard the words “naive” and “not serious”, and so on, for us on this side this is very serious. We go into this situation with our eyes open, knowing full well that this is a complicated situation, absolutely. This is a situation that requires a lot of coordinated activity, but it also requires clarity of thought and attention. This is where we perhaps diverge from the hon. members who insist on voting against this resolution.

From our perspective there is a general consensus in the halls of the United Nations, but also throughout the halls of democratic society and in the neighbours around the affected area, that something has to be done. I would only say this to the hon. members opposite. If we do not act in this situation, when are we supposed to act? If we are not to act with these people being affected by positively medieval tactics, whether it is beheadings, the potential genocide, raping, murdering, if we do not act in this situation, when do opposition members propose that Canada acts? When is it appropriate to act? If we cannot act in this situation, then it seems to be the logical conclusion of the other side that there is no situation that is serious enough to act upon.

I believe that Canadians think differently on this for probably two main reasons. They think differently because Canadians are generous people and compassionate people. They understand that there are people on the other side of the world who are under dire threat. In fact they have already been affected by this. There have been murders, rapes and the potential genocidal situations that have already occurred in this environment. They look to help and that is why there is a significant portion of our expenditure that will be in the humanitarian area where we can help.

However, Canadians also expect this chamber, particularly the government side but also a majority of the opposition side to be concerned about potential threats to and against Canadians. Canadians understand that this is not just some faraway place about which they know nothing. They understand that whatever happens over there tends to have an impact over here at some point. They understand that part of our role and responsibility, not only as a government but as a chamber that represents the democratic impulse and pulse of Canada, is that it is our duty to consider these issues, to come to a conclusion that will better protect Canadians from these forces of decivilization, from forces that seek to create some form of caliphate in their own mind, which not only has a dire impact on their own subjects and has the potential of having a similar or greater impact on people in close neighbourhood but also around the world.

This is a time to act. This is a time to take our responsibility seriously and it is a time to heed not only the warnings but the call for others in high power and authority, such as our allies, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, others who are helping in a kinetic and real way, to be part of this coalition. We understand this is not a simple situation, but there is clarity in the activity, the intention, the motivation, and of course, the end result that we would like to see.

This is important, too. This is a carefully calibrated mission. This is not rushing, as fools rush in. This is taking some of our assets, particularly our air and refuelling assets, and contributing to the coalition. Ultimately, we would be assisting in a defined mission for a defined timetable that would have a defined impact.

What would that impact be? The impact would simply be the degradation of the targets' assets, with the targets being this ISIL-ISIS metastasizing organization. It would be the degradation of its ability to attack us, to attack our citizens, to attack our allies and their citizens, and to render anarchy and a truly medieval situation in a part of the world where its neighbours are afraid of it, and for good reason. It would be the degradation of its ability to have an impact on citizens, either of their own religion or of other religions, who simply want the ability to live in peace.

That is the mission. The containment that is possible has been judged by our Chief of the Defence Staff and by our allies to be a doable mission in that period of time.

No one is saying that ISIL or ISIS is going away any time soon or that it is going to be eradicated from the picture any time soon. We understand that, but we also understand activity of the sort that the House is contemplating can have a real impact on ISIL's ability to project itself in an obviously disastrous and horrifying way on citizens in that area and citizens here in Canada.

That is not too much to ask of the House.

Yes, this is a mission that has risk. We take the assessment of that risk seriously and with the forethought that the brave women and men who have volunteered to represent their country and our forces have a very important job to do. Even though we are on different sides of the House, I hope that we are on the same side on this issue. We wish them success. We wish them Godspeed. We wish that the mission can be accomplished as soon as possible and as effectively as possible, with as little impact in terms of tragedy as humanly possible. We wish that.

The burden is great on this chamber. The chamber is debating an issue of Canadian Forces in a place that is far away. However, we have a duty not only to our constituents and fellow citizens but quite frankly to future generations as well to make the right decision, to make a good decision, and to make a considered decision that will have a positive impact for future generations. That is why I will be voting in favour of this resolution.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board seems to be saying that air strikes are the only option.

How can he be sure that bombings will not just prompt more people to join ISIS? How can he be sure that it will not lead to more retaliation against the people or more rapes?

When we give tangible help, humanitarian aid, to people in refugee camps, we are protecting ourselves by reducing the possibility that those people will go fight alongside ISIS. How can he be sure that the bombings will truly stop? He himself said that bombings alone will not eliminate the threat posed by ISIS.

How can he be sure that the bombings will stem these atrocities?

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. That is the point we are at right now. Today, there are people in that region who want individuals from Canada, the United States and Great Britain to join in the fight against us. That is the current situation. I think that there needs to be a clear response. Our responsibility is to take immediate action before this becomes a situation that we are unable to respond to.

Therefore, we have to respond now before the situation gets further out of control. I say it again in English. The situation that members are worried about is happening now. They are recruiting. They are getting more adherents, and we have to degrade the possibility of that occurring in the future.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The member will have roughly three minutes remaining for questions and comments when we resume debate on this motion.

Order. It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

moved that Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill S-218. The bill would designate the third Saturday in May as National Fiddling Day. This would encourage the celebration and the appreciation of the beauty and the history of fiddle music and would be in honour of Antonio Stradivari, the renowned crafter of stringed instruments.

I was born in a family of five in a rural area of New Brunswick called Escuminac. As in many other areas of this nation at that time, we had no television and were without all of today's technology, so the fiddle became king, and so it was in many other parts of this great country.

Fiddlers come from every part of this nation with an incredible diversity of background. From the earliest of times, Europeans took fiddles down every river system and on expeditions across this land. The earliest French fur traders carried them. The Scottish, Orkney, and Shetland men, stationed in the icy confines of Hudson Bay, had them. Native peoples traded for them, and they were regarded as a most prized possession in thousands of homesteads.

Clearly, the fiddle was a cherished instrument for many reasons. It was compact, easy to fix, and easy to tune and always brought a smile when played. Indeed, it could be argued that the fiddle was the reason for gatherings and not the other way around.

What made the fiddle so prominent was the dance. People across this land partied and danced whenever opportunity allowed, to break the tedium of hard-working lives and to add to their sense of community spirit. Fiddlers were highly respected and regarded in their communities, especially if they were good ones.

In Canada there are many regional styles of fiddling, which survived mainly due to the isolation of many communities: the Red River style, popularized by Andy De Jarlis; the Quebecois style of Joseph Allard, Joe Bouchard, and “Pitou” Louis Boudreault; the Ottawa Valley style of Brian Hebert and Reg Hill; the Acadian style of Eloi LeBlanc; the native and the Métis style; the western swing style of the Prairies; and styles that have originated in various parts of Europe.

The most popular was the down-home style as characterized by the playing of the late Don Messer. Don Messer was born in Tweedside, New Brunswick, and began playing the violin at age five, learning fiddle tunes with Irish and Scottish influences. As a young boy, Messer would play concerts in the local area and, later, throughout southwestern New Brunswick.

During the 1920s, Messer moved to Boston, Massachusetts, for three years, where he received his only formal instruction in music.

Messer left Saint John in 1939 and moved to Charlottetown, P.E.I., and worked as music director at CFCY. Here he formed the Islanders, and this music group began to make regular television appearances on CBHT-TV in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

CBC Television began a summer series called The Don Messer Show on August 7, 1959, which continued into the fall as Don Messer's Jubilee, produced out of Halifax. Don Messer's Jubilee was a must for us every Monday night throughout the 1960s.

How we loved to hear the sound of the twin fiddles of Don Messer and Earl Mitton. The show won a wide audience and reportedly became the second most watched television show in Canada during that decade, second to Hockey Night in Canada.

Another down-home style fiddler was Ned Landry, who taught himself to play the fiddle at an early age. Ned Landry was winner in the open class of the 1956, 1957, and 1962 Canadian Open Old Time Fiddlers' Contest.

Landry appeared in the 1950s on CFBC Radio, Saint John and in the 1960s on Don Messer's Jubilee and other TV shows. Landry was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1991. Landry was also later inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ivan Hicks, another famous New Brunswick player, has played the fiddle for over 60 years. He and his wife Vivian have shared their talents with many students, young and old alike, and have been an inspiration to countless others. Ivan is actively involved in promoting, attending, and instructing at workshops. He continues to judge fiddling contests throughout Canada.

Many awards and honours have come to them, including the induction into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame for both Ivan and Vivian and the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame for Ivan.

I assure members that Miramichiers look forward to the regular visits of Ivan and Vivian Hicks to Miramichi.

Then, of course, there is Miramichi's very own Matilda Murdoch. At the age of eight, her father gave her a fiddle, and later that year, through her own determination, she played her first tune. Since then, she has become an icon in fiddle circles throughout North America.

Murdoch has been part of the cultural community of Miramichi and New Brunswick for most of her 94 years. Her style of playing has been admired and studied by not only local fiddlers but also fiddlers from throughout North America and, more recently, from Ireland.

Entertainer Don Messer was one of those many who admired her. He invited Matilda to play on the popular Don Messer Show and he also recorded several of her tunes, to show his respect and love for her music.

Another great admirer of Matilda was one of our very own, the late Jim Flaherty, who visited Miramichi and was able to enjoy Matilda's music in his ancestral home of Loggieville.

Matilda has garnered regional, national, and international recognition for her abilities as a composer, as a player, and as a teacher. She was inducted into the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame and the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.

Matilda Murdoch has reached, and has way surpassed, the definition of “success”. Organizations and musicians have recognized her on a worldwide scale. Matilda also was a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick, as well as the Order of Canada.

Loggieville also boasts another very accomplished fiddle player, Samantha Robichaud, who represents a new generation of fiddlers. Now in her late twenties, Samantha has released seven critically acclaimed albums and has earned many awards.

Our province also hosts a unique annual festival in the town of Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. It is the annual Fiddles on the Tobique. The event coincides, of course, with fiddlehead season.

This festival started with a lone fiddler, many years ago, and today attracts people from all over the world. Quite possibly, it is the only event of its kind anywhere. This event combines two honoured New Brunswick traditions: fiddling and canoeing. Imagine the beautiful sight and the sound of a flotilla of canoes carrying almost 200 musicians down the Tobique River while they play old-time fiddle music. Those attending are treated to concerts, jam sessions, dances, and even an instructional fiddle camp.

Our Atlantic Canada region, in general, has had great fiddlers.

Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, 1914 to 1987, was a renowned Cape Breton fiddler. He was a pioneer in recorded performances of the music and has heavily influenced the style and the repertoire of later generations of players.

Another award-winning Cape Breton musician, Natalie MacMaster, began her fiddling career at 16. Her musical venture now spans over three decades, completing 11 albums, performing thousands of shows, and collaborating with a multitude of world-renowned artists.

MacMaster's sought-after talents are in demand by her musical peers, all from a range of genres. She has collaborated with countless artists, including a recording with Yo-Yo Ma, which won a Grammy award.

With her Cape Breton roots, her dedication to her craft, and her love for her family, Natalie is a musical force with a long and successful career in music, who will, without a doubt, continue to warm the hearts of fans for years to come.

Al Cherny, a great Canadian fiddler, was born to Ukrainian parents in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Cherny won the Canadian Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Ontario under the novelty class from 1959 to 1961 and the open class in both 1960 and 1961.

In the early 1970s, he was a leading studio musician, recording with musicians like Tommy Hunter and Sylvia Tyson. He released more than 10 studio albums and received an RPM Big Country award for top country instrumentalist in 1978.

He also performed regularly on The Tommy Hunter Show until his death in 1989. Cherny was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

Although these aforementioned fiddlers are giants in our country, along with many others, I would like to speak on a more personal level.

We were very fortunate growing up to have a cousin residing with us who we endearingly called Uncle Mike. He was Michael Jimmo and he played the fiddle on a daily basis until his death at 93. Very often he would be joined by our Uncle Ray Jimmo, and an evening of entertainment we would have. We grew up listening to other local fiddlers, such as Mont MacDonald and his sons, Elmer and Joe.

To this day, all of us recognize great fiddle tunes such as Maple Sugar, St. Anne's Reel, Liberty Two-Step, Ontario Swing, Orange Blossom Special, and most recently, of course, Loggieville Two-Step.

Today, my riding of Miramichi is blessed to have a large group of musicians called the Miramichi Fiddlers. This group can be heard during summer festivals like the Miramichi Irish Festival, the long-running Miramichi Folksong Festival, and Miramichi's own fiddle festival.

This group is composed of 30 distinguished men and women. Besides festivals, members of this group play regularly at fundraisers in and around Miramichi, giving of their time and talents to help others.

I have mentioned only a small number of Canada's fiddlers. We all know there are many more. They have all contributed greatly to communities across this country. With the absence of today's technology, I guess one could say that, as we were growing up in rural Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, the fiddle was our form of social networking.

It brought us good times, good music and, of course, good memories. I truly believe the fiddle has created bonds through our musical family from coast to coast to coast in this nation, and those who play it deserve the honour of a national fiddlers day.

As Father John Angus Rankin, the Cape Breton musician, said:

The music comes from the fiddler's heart, through his strings and straight into your heart.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague on her speech. I really liked her analogy when she said that fiddling back in the day was like our social networking. How true.

Nevertheless, does my colleague not find it a little strange that this bill came from the Senate, when it should have been a government bill? While our parliamentarian friends may find the topic of a fiddling day a bit too frivolous, I think it is good to talk about other things from time to time.

However, it would have been better if this had come from the government, especially considering that we are still waiting for information about the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Would my colleague not agree that this kind of initiative would have been more appropriately showcased if we had talked about it in the context of celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary?

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. Regardless of where the question came from, I certainly am honoured to support it.

I assure the member opposite that these fiddlers have contributed greatly to our communities right across our nation. It does not exist in just one area, as I said in my speech.

I am happy to support this, regardless of where it came from. I just know it is one of those things that we need to deal with.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague presenting this bill. Relative to the previous question, it is quite appropriate that the bill come from the Senate because people seem to think there is a lot of fiddling going on in the Senate anyway.

At risk of dating myself, I grew up with Don Messer on black and white television, and he was always entertaining.

Again, I would like to congratulate my colleague because this really is an important bit of Canadiana that we preserve.

Could my colleague tell us what impact Canadian fiddlers, and she mentioned so many of them, have had internationally and what recognition that has brought to Canada?

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, fiddlers across our country as well as outside of Canada have been acknowledged. As I said, Matilda Murdoch from Miramichi, whom I hold very dear to my heart, is certainly recognized worldwide, especially in Ireland. As well, we know that Don Messer was well known worldwide.

Fiddlers not only contribute to our country, but contribute everywhere in this great world as well. They have certainly made our lives that more enjoyable.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were having a discussion in this corner and wondering what happened to violin day. Some people say that the fiddle and the violin are the same. Could the member expand on that? How about some of the other stringed instruments?

I am a piano player myself, but I would never present piano day. If members ever heard me play piano, they would not want to have a piano day.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of the whereabouts of violin day, but I am focusing and happy to sponsor the fiddlers day. Whether we have a violin day, it will not hurt us supporting fiddlers day as well.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support the proposal for a national fiddlers day from the hon. member for Miramichi.

Having spent a lot of my life on Cape Breton Island where my family still lives, the member's story about social networking in our childhood being the fiddle reminds me of a story of one of our neighbours from Inverness county. When asked about his life as a fiddler, he said, “Well, you know, the greatest disappointment in my life was electricity. We thought when we got the electricity we'd have so much more time for dancing, singing and telling stories because the electricity would do the work. Instead we got television”.

We do need to maintain our cultural traditions and heritage, and I fully support national fiddling day as proposed by the hon. for Miramichi.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for her story. It certainly does make a difference.

With the recognition of this bill, I hope we are able to spend more time away from the TV and enjoy our fiddling as we used to.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, here in the House, we often have to tackle subjects that are far more serious, and I have had to address my fair share of them, so I am certainly very pleased to talk about this subject.

That being said, I am sure we are all pleased to do so, but we will have to do it quickly, because several urgent situations are on today's agenda.

This bill is about a string instrument that is positively iconic in the music of our culture. That is why it is important to talk about this. It is at once a distinguishing feature of who we are and a unifying force, bringing together the many cultures that make up Canada, the federation in which we live.

It is a transcontinental bridge, transatlantic even, because this instrument also binds us to many other fiddling cultures, from the Celts to slave peoples, to their traditional cultures and avant-garde artists as they each borrowed from this art form and added their own unique twist.

This instrument and its melodies reflect our past and echo the memory of all the Irish and Scottish people who put down roots in Quebec. I myself am of Irish heritage on my mother's side; she was a O'Donoughue, and I grew up going to large bilingual family gatherings where the fiddle played a prominent role.

Fourteen years ago, my cousin, April O'Donoughue, founded, and still organizes, the Celtic Harmonies International Festival in Quebec's Eastern Townships. It is a festival that perpetuates the traditions of the region's many communities with Irish and Scottish roots.

There is also the cultural contribution of Brittany, which is also a Celtic nation. The Celtic Harmonies Festival has become a showcase in the Eastern Townships for square dances, reel dances and called dances. I invite everyone who would like to discover this festival to head to Cowansville, and then Waterloo, by way of Knowlton and Austin, this Thanksgiving weekend through to Monday. There will also be dancing, a sense of community and a contagious festive atmosphere that is very typical of fiddlers and their art.

This bill would play tribute to fiddlers: the artisans, craftsmen, musicians, composers, partiers and bon vivants who make these four strings come to life. It recognizes that traditional fiddling is an art that plays an important part in our cultural and social history, as our colleague was saying, and that this art has been enriched by generations of newcomers, who have brought in and shared their musical culture, styles and repertoires.

The bill also acknowledges the efforts of fiddlers, these wonderful violinists, to recognize a world fiddle day and, I quote, “to celebrate the appreciation, beauty and history of fiddle music”. These people had the good sense to propose a day that would honour the greatest crafter of stringed instruments, Antonio Stradivari, who is well known to us all.

The purpose of this bill is clear: to ensure that the historical and contemporary importance of the fiddle, as well as its unique contribution to Canadian culture, are not only recognized, but made known to a broader audience.

I am convinced that the passage of this bill will also please the people of the Lanaudière region, the birthplace of traditional Quebec music and the place where the clerics of St. Viateur left their mark by teaching music. Lanaudière is still home to the oldest youth orchestra in Quebec, and some of the great names of Quebec music—Yves Lambert, Bottine souriante, Rêve du diable—came from the region. It is also home to the Mémoires et racines festival.

A large number of orchestra musicians call Joliette and the surrounding area home. André Brunet, professional fiddler and president of the Camp de violon traditionnel québécois de Lanaudière, is delighted with the idea of this tribute to fiddling.

He says that this is an opportunity to pay a vibrant tribute to an instrument that is integral to a culture, a people, a nation that defines itself by the sound of an air, a reel, a quadrille that fires up the jiggers and underscores the harmony of the dancers' steps.

He says that if any instrument is as authentic as our emotions in the whirl and swirl of a gathering, it is certainly the violin, an integral part of the dance that sweeps us away, that brings us together and tugs at our heartstrings! Each of us is a fiddler at heart.

We have heard from many fiddlers and fiddling enthusiasts who have offered their support for this initiative.

Graham Sheppard, vice-president of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association, has said:

“Amid the turmoil that surrounds us and the difficult decisions that this House must make, it is refreshing to stand and be part of this effort”.

”For the thousands of fiddlers and lovers of fiddle music in Canada, a National Fiddling Day will be a cherished annual event. Also, this will give each of us the encouragement to foster the preservation and growth of fiddle music in the regions that we represent and throughout Canada”.

Paul Lemelin has been a regular at the Canadian Grand Masters. He is also president of the Fiddle and Stepdance Competition committee in Chelmsford, Ontario. He has said:

“This act and its intentions very much hits home for me and is a very moving tribute to many of those that have attempted to revive Canada's fiddling heritage back to its former glory. As the president of a northern Ontario fiddle and stepdance organization which is the home of Northern Ontario's ONLY fiddle and Stepdance Competition, our prime objective is to “Preserve and promote our Canadian musical and dance heritage, specifically fiddling and stepdancing”.

I have spoken a few times about the idea of Canadian cultural diversity. As the New Democratic Party heritage and culture critic, I have worked closely with organizations and individuals who promote the idea of cultural diversity internationally, especially in the context of trade agreements, which are important from a cultural standpoint.

The closer we get to other cultures—and this might be the theme of our century—the more we become aware of the undeniable need to be ourselves, to foster, not dilute, the differences and the features that distinguish each cultural group, no matter how few its members and regardless of whether they have been forgotten by the technological homogenization of our cultures.

There is nothing frivolous about diversity in language, arts and culture, and cuisine. It is not a gratuitous search for unlikeness, nor is it a grand principle drafted by UNESCO only to be forgotten.

On the contrary, this diversity is essential to the human condition, its evolution, its progress and, I would add, to enjoying life. Conversely, this diversity is what helps us feel at home and helps everyone find themselves and be more receptive to others. Some will call that protectionism. That is an easy buzzword. However, those are the same people who repeat the idea, straight out of an economics textbook, that nothing has value if it is not marketable, exchangeable or quantifiable.

Culture has value precisely because it is none of those things. It endures through time and it provides a wealth that is not accumulated but experienced.

The fiddle is also meaningful to aboriginal peoples and specifically to the Métis. They practice a form of fiddling whose sounds are reminiscent of Scottish, Atlantic and Quebec traditional music, for example, but it is special because of its innovative elements, style and balance that are unique to aboriginal and Métis culture, as well as its melodic, rhythmic traditions that are reminiscent of bygone eras.

We need to make this national fiddling day a reality in order to celebrate the traditions that these fiddlers have developed and passed on. These traditions continue to live on in the plains. The Festival du Voyageur in Manitoba, a 10-day winter festival that has been taking place for 45 years in Saint-Boniface, is a testament in snow and ice to the warm resonance of this musical heritage.

This is living heritage.

However, in two years and two months, we will have a great opportunity to showcase this heritage to as many people as possible when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Quebec and Ontario with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This will be the time to commemorate, to look back at these 150 years, to look at how far we've come and to reflect on where we will go in the future.

Instead of working on bigger and better fireworks displays, we should invest in heritage, culture and a new wave of cultural mediation, and we should showcase and promote as widely as possible the work of our artists.

We are two years and two months away. I am pointing this out because up until now, we have really not seen much from this government, so it is a bit sad to see that it took someone in the Senate to suggest this kind of symbolic idea as we move towards 2017.

Speaking of good ideas, the senator who introduced this bill, the senator from Prince Edward Island, had the good idea to stay in Prince Edward Island. That is a great idea.

It is rather odd to see the lack of initiative by the Conservatives with regard to the program for 2017. So far, they have come up with another television ad campaign—yes, another campaign—vague proposals for military commemorations, a major online poll, and a series of logos that have made people laugh for all the wrong reasons.

Contrast this haphazard approach with the preparations for the celebrations in 1967: a decade of organization together with the premiers of Quebec and the other provinces. Indeed, they had discussions. Under Diefenbaker, seven years before the event, the government was already working on the festivities and the infrastructure that would be the legacy of the centennial of Confederation.

Under the current government, nothing, by all accounts. There is absolutely nothing. I could name municipalities and agencies that dream of benefiting from the legacy the government could have come up with for this event and especially for future generations.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, whose role would normally be to guide the events of 2017, chose to spend the past few weeks imposing her views on the CRTC, which was in the thick of its study on the future of television in Canada. This can only be described as pathetic.

In 2017 the minister will have the opportunity to inaugurate a real year of heritage, a focal point and vibrant era for the arts, artisans and cultures in our country. Celebrating fiddlers, who hold a special place in our hearts and constitute a common thread through our cultures, could have been part of the plans for 2017.

It is not unreasonable to expect our Minister of Canadian Heritage to propose a framework, a timetable, or better yet, an independent committee for the 2017 commemorations. In fact that is one of the many very interesting recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that the government quickly scrapped.

Nevertheless, it is reassuring to see the Conservatives' interest in this initiative. I just want to say that if Canada has a Department of Canadian Heritage, then it should be able to recognize fiddling's major contribution to Canada's culture and heritage. That is why the NDP is not voting against this bill, as small as it is, because when it comes to culture, it is the small gestures that make a big difference.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was 30 minutes ago that we were having a debate in the House with regard to the Middle East and what is happening in Iraq. It is somewhat interesting that we have gone from that debate to debating fiddles for an hour or so, depending on the mood of the chamber.

That is not to take anything away from Bill S-218. There is no doubt that Bill S-218 is an important piece of legislation, but it is a little ironic given the fact that we will be voting on the government motion with regard to the commitment of military personnel to carry out air strikes. I have not lost sight of the fact that what we are talking about right now is a national fiddling day.

Having said that, given the fact that it appears that all three political parties support Bill S-218, we could wind down this debate and get back to the debate on Iraq. However, before I conclude my remarks, let me say a few things about Bill S-218.

As it has been pointed out, this is a bill that comes from the Senate. A senator generated what Liberals believe is a positive idea in recognizing the third Saturday of May as national fiddling day. We recognize it as an important piece of legislation because we believe it strengthens our commitment to Canadian heritage and diversity by increasing the awareness of the value of fiddling and the role it has played, continues to play, and will play into the future in all regions of Canada. We stand in our places to recognize that in a very strong and united way, based on the comments I have heard in the last 30 minutes.

We need to recognize that the fiddle is a lovely instrument to listen to. I personally have never played one. I have often sat in audiences and listened to it, and having done so, I can say that it is an absolutely delightful instrument to listen to due to the many different ways it can command all sorts of different emotions. It reflects regional diversity and culture. The French, Inuit, the Métis, first nations, Ukrainian, Scottish, Irish, and Acadians have various styles of fiddling.

I know first-hand how wonderful Folklorama is in my home city of Winnipeg. Every summer for two weeks, Winnipeg hosts the world with pavilions. It is two weeks of culture and heritage enrichment. Not only residents of Winnipeg but people from all parts of the world get engaged in Folklorama. It is all about heritage, and music is one of the centre points. In fact, there are pavilions that use the fiddle to express their culture and heritage.

I have had the good fortune to listen to good fiddling and jigging at the same time. If one has never witnessed that, I would really encourage people to make a genuine attempt at participating in a good fiddle-jigging contest. It is truly amazing to see.

What has been emphasized by some who have played the fiddle over the years is the fact that there seems to be a bit of a generation gap, but the fiddle is coming back. More and more young people are taking on this particular instrument as a sense of pride, and are wanting to use the fiddle more and more. That is encouraging.

It was commented on by Patti Lamoureux. I do not believe that she is related to me, even though she is from the Winnipeg area. She is a local fiddling champion and member of the Manitoba Fiddle Association hall of fame. She emphasized just how important it is that we pass this on to our younger generations.

There are all sorts of fiddling schools around today that were not there five, six or seven years ago. We are seeing more and more young people getting engaged with the fiddle. We see that as a very strong thing.

It is not my intent to take up a great deal of time on this particular piece of legislation. I believe that previous speakers have talked at length regarding the heritage and the importance of the instrument itself. As I have indicated, it is a wonderful instrument, and I do believe that it is an instrument that is going to continue to grow as it has been over the last few years.

I look forward to participating in the audience by listening, particularly in special events within Winnipeg North, but also outside of Winnipeg North. There is a younger generation that is getting more and more involved with things like jigging, which would not quite be the same, from my perspective, if the fiddle were not there. It is something that has a great deal of appeal, and there does seem to be a rebirth.

That is why I ultimately believe that recognizing the third Saturday in May of every year as national fiddling day will do that much more in terms of encouragement and involvement. Most importantly, it expresses an appreciation of just how much the fiddle has been a part of Canada's very rich culture and history.

With those few words, I feel very confident that the bill will pass, as it appears to have the support of all political parties. Given the limited debate on Iraq and ISIL and the vote with the bells ringing at eight o'clock, I hope that we will be able to get back to that debate as quickly as possible.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, today I am here as well to talk about Bill S-218, an act respecting national fiddling day. I would like to credit my colleague, the member for Miramichi, who sponsored the bill in the House.

Since the days of the voyageurs, fiddling has been part of Canada's cultural fabric. People from many different cultures have come to Canada, shared their ways of playing the fiddle and offered their own interpretations of traditional fiddle music. In fact, today the fiddle is commonly used in most genres of music, whether it be folk, new age, country, bluegrass or jazz. There even seems to be a resurgence of fiddle playing, with the fiddle appearing in the music of popular artists and groups in recording studios, at festivals, performance halls, and civic arenas across our country.

Today, in families, lessons, workshops, competitions and concerts, fiddling is being celebrated across Canada by all generations. In Canadian cities, towns and villages throughout the country, there are festivals taking place, and whether dedicated to the arts, music, or cultural traditions, one will often find a fiddler on a festival stage, continuing Canada's fiddling tradition.

In fact, many festivals across Canada bring fiddlers and their fans together to celebrate the fiddle and the cultural traditions associated with it. Many of these festivals are supported by programs such as the arts presentation fund and the building communities through arts and heritage fund. These programs support many festivals and Canadian performers by providing funding to organizations to celebrate their community, their past and their present, as well as to ensure that Canadians have access to the performing arts and artistic talent.

For instance the organizers of Festival La Grande Rencontre, which celebrated its 22nd season this past summer, takes pride in providing an environment where audiences can rediscover the richness of music right in the heart of Montreal. The festival offers a four-day program packed full of concerts, dances, workshops, master classes on the violin and fiddle, and much more. With such a variety of activities for any music enthusiast, the festival brings together artists and musicians to entertain audiences of all ages. Fiddle players from across Canada and the U.S. come and are happy to participate in La Grande Rencontre.

There is also Winnipeg's winter festival, the Festival du Voyageur, which has been celebrating Manitoba's francophone heritage since 1970. Over 10 days in February, organizers focus on revelling in Manitoba's rich history and culture reflecting the voyageur era. Visitors to the festival can actually visit l'Auberge du violon, where fiddling is the heart of the entertainment and the voyageurs' joie de vivre comes to life. With homemade dinners, a large dance floor and a cordial feel, the Auberge is a giant house party, bringing together friends and family, surrounded by fiddlers. Today, after 44 years of revelling, the Festival du Voyageur continues to grow, going from a four-day celebration to a 10-day province-wide festival that attracts over 95,000 visitors. The festival certainly offers a welcome boost amid a Winnipeg winter, as it celebrates the voyageur era and the joie de vivre of Manitoba's francophone heritage.

A little further west, in Saskatoon, is the John Arcand Fiddle Fest, which is celebrating its 17th year and continuing to engage the community and create an awareness of Métis culture. Fiddle Fest offers fiddle workshops and presentations, and a showcase for youth and talent, all with the objective of promoting and preserving the Métis traditions of fiddle music and dance. With two full days of workshops, the Fiddle Fest offers festival goers an opportunity to nurture their creativity with the great fiddling masters of the world, and it has demonstrated its appeal to Canadians of all ages.

There are many other festivals across Canada that celebrate the fiddle, such as P.E.l.'s Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, and Nova Scotia's Maritime Fiddle Festival, which is celebrating its 64th year in 2014.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Grand Masters fiddling championship. The Canadian Grand Masters works to promote and preserve Canadian fiddling and its traditions and to recognize Canada's extremely talented fiddlers. Held every year in Ottawa at the end of August, the championship invites approximately 30 fiddlers to compete for the title of grand master.

The Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association emphasizes traditional fiddling, ensures a full representation of Canadian fiddling styles, and embraces the regional diversity of Canadian fiddling. Fiddlers compete for the title of Grand Master by showcasing their talents to judges and to audiences, making this an event that fiddle masters look forward to every single year.

One of my former constituents, Alexander George, has played in Nova Scotia, Ottawa, and my community of St. Catharines. At 13 years old, Alex is the youngest member of the Niagara Old Tyme Fiddle Club, and he attended the Grand Masters workshop this year. This is what he has to say about fiddling: “Fiddle music is fun and the musicians have a great time sharing their music. Fiddling in kitchens and around campfires is a very social activity where people can't help but have a good time”.

I am glad we can support young artists like Alex by giving them an opportunity to develop their craft and to follow in the footsteps of St. Catharine's own Abbie Andrews, who along with his band, the Canadian Ranch Boys, helped to pioneer country music in our country.

The Canadian Grand Masters fiddling championship, its support for preserving traditions, and the opportunities it provides young musicians like Alexander speak to the essence of Bill S-218.

I need to mention that every single year, in May, the city of St. Catharines hosts the Folk Arts Festival, which is the longest running folk arts festival in our country. It is there that we hear from so many different communities and so many different fiddle players what it is like to understand the culture of not just our country but of the Niagara region. It demonstrates the diversity of fiddling in regions across our country.

Finally, I want to add that Canada has lost a fiddling legend. Renowned Cape Breton fiddler, Buddy MacMaster, died this past August. A member of the Order of Canada, Mr. MacMaster has often been credited with bringing Cape Breton fiddling to the world stage.

Early in his life, as a station agent for the Canadian National Railroad, Mr. MacMaster often worked the late shift at a depot outside of Truro. During the quiet times of the night, Buddy would often practise his fiddle. The train dispatcher and the other station agents throughout the Maritimes would call into the railroad line just to listen to him play.

Mr. MacMaster was generous with his talent, rarely turning down an opportunity to play and taking time to teach generations of fiddlers, who travelled from around the world to Cape Breton to learn from him. While we have lost a Canadian fiddling legend, we know that he lives on in the playing of fiddlers with whom he shared his gift.

To recognize the role of fiddling in our heritage as well as amazing Canadian fiddlers, like Abbie Andrews and Buddy MacMaster, who share their music traditions with Canadians throughout our country, we should proclaim the third Saturday in May National Fiddling Day across Canada.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. Of course, I could not begin without talking about the incredible fiddling history of James Bay, where the Cree fiddlers, going back to the 1600s, have maintained an incredible culture of fiddle and dance.

I have to say at the outset that I keep a fiddle in my closet. It haunts me. I cannot play it. The G–D–A–E fingering is probably the easiest fingering on the planet, but the ability to use the bow with the right hand is the difference between beauty and art and criminal activity. I have tried the right hand, and I have not been able to master it. However, I would like to speak to this.

I have to also say at the outset that I have heard incredible fiddling across this country, and I have had the great honour to play in the Grievous Angels with that incredible fiddler Peter Jellard, who is a master at Acadian, Quebecois, and traditional Irish fiddling.

My personal love is Cape Breton fiddling. My family were Cape Breton miners who were exiled. They had to follow the work. Also living in Timmins was Buddy MacMaster, the famous Cape Breton fiddler. He was born in Timmins, because the Cape Bretoners had to go north to work. It was the Fort Mac of the 1920s and 1930s.

My grandfather was a traditional Cape Bretoner. He had a fiddle and a piano. If we wanted music, he played one or the other or both, so we would have Saturday night ceilidhs. My grandfather was a purest. He did not believe in records. My aunts and mom wanted to listen to rock and roll and Elvis Presley. It hit them that a way to get my grandfather to allow a record player in the house was to bring Cape Breton fiddle records home, so we grew up on Winston “Scotty” Fitzgerald, John Allan Cameron, and the whole Celtic tradition in our neighbourhood, in this little miner's house in the Moneta district in Timmins. The Italian and francophone neighbours would come over on Saturday nights, and we would have a traditional Cape Breton ceilidh, and the music would go into the early hours of the morning.

Not being able to fiddle, I realized early on that if I could sing, I could stay up. As long as I knew the songs, I could stay up. I could stay up all night. The second I ran out of songs, they noticed, and I was sent to bed, so I might not be a very competent singer, but I knew all the words.

I would like to speak about the uniqueness of the fiddle as an instrument. I have played across Canada. I have learned a number of lessons from playing shows from the far Arctic to biker bars in southwestern Ontario, from the east coast over to the mountains. There is a distinct difference between how people respond when they hear the fiddle and any other instrument.

I will tell members a couple of stories. I was in Great Whale River up in upper James Bay in Quebec in the early 1990s playing with our band. There was only one place to eat. It was a Quonset hut run by Hydro Quebec. It was the only place to eat for 600 kilometres. They took a look at four or five scruffy tête carrés and said, “We're not feeding you”. We could have fought with them, but they were the law of the land. It was their restaurant, and they were not feeding us. Rather than fight, we sat down, and our fiddler took out the fiddle and began to play La Bastringue, and immediately they came out from behind, they called their friends over from the other Quonset huts, and they told us that we could eat there all day, as long as we wanted. In fact, they did not want us to go to the show that night. That is not an exception.

I played in many locations, when we were much younger, where we were literally playing in very hostile professional biker bars. We would always start with a fiddle tune. A fiddle tune immediately made us family. There is a sense with the fiddle that puts people in a place, and many Canadian people do not quite know where that place is. It is a place where their family is from. It is a village in their mind. They know that if they walk into that village, they will always be welcome. What is fascinating about this village is that it does not matter in the mind if this village is in Acadie, Jonquière, Poste-de-la-Baleine, the Ottawa Valley, Cape Breton, northern Ontario, or the Red River in western Canada. It is the place we all know that when we are there, we somehow belong.

I am not just making these claims. I know. I have tried it as a singer. It does not cut across all manner of cultural representations unless one is absolutely fantastic. If one is a saxophonist, some people like the sax, and some people do not. Everyone plays the guitar. Same with the piano, but there is something about a fiddle being played that brings that sense of identity, even if that person does not know the song. Whether it is Quebec fiddling or Acadian fiddling or western fiddling, one would immediately say that is from us.

What is it about the fiddle? It is the people's instrument, because it is simple. It is portable. The fingering is very easy to remember for the many complex jigs and reels with the G-D-A-E fingering. It is intuitive. Also, it does not need amplification. One could go to a village dance on a Saturday, and with nothing else, with no other band, the fiddle itself could be heard above the crowd.

There are incredible numbers of young fiddlers out there. This is not a dying art by any means. What we see is incredible talent right across this country. However, what has mostly disappeared, although not entirely, is the audience role, because the fiddle was not mean to be just listened to; it was meant to be danced to. The strathspeys, the reels, and the jigs followed set patterns. The audience did not need a caller to tell them how to dance, because they knew.

At a traditional country dance where the fiddle is still played, one notices a unique relationship between the instrument and the audience that does not exist if one is simply there to listen. The audience, with the movement of the feet, sets the rhythm. We see this in step dancing. The feet set the rhythm, and it is a natural rhythm that plays to the fiddle. There are many elements.

There is another interesting element, because it is not a fretted instrument, so there is a proximity to tonality. If the fiddlers are very good, it creates an incredible warmth. It is just like a big band with its horn section. If they are really good, a proximity of tonality creates a warmth. If they are not good, it is literally like scratching down a blackboard. We always see the images of a young child learning the violin, because it is brutal. It is the sense of warmth and the fragility of the instrument that actually allows it to cut through the sound, and it creates a different relationship with people.

When we talk about who we are as Canadians, we cannot really talk about ourselves unless we think of that village that still exists. Whether people have moved away, whether people have moved on, whether people have hip-hop pants, or whether people have not been back to that village in their minds, when they hear it, there is a cultural memory that puts them in a place, and that place is Canada.

The idea that we would celebrate this is really important, because we see that the fiddle culture has gone through waves of recognition and diminution as other forms of music have taken over.

When I was young, even though our family was very close to the Cape Breton culture there was a sense that it was a dying culture. Then we saw in the 1990s a whole growth of the new Celtic movement and many young people coming forward. In Quebec, we see that the continued strength of traditional music is still rooted in the traditional songs, with the call and response, but there is also the role of the fiddle. Take the fiddle out, and something fundamental is missing. We can go into a dance club now and see the fiddle.

This again is not to undermine the incredible role of the violin. The violin is the same instrument. For the layperson at home, the violin is a fiddle. However, the fiddle we are talking about is the traditional culture, the traditional music, the reels, the strathspeys, the jigs, and in the case of Cape Breton, the incredibly beautiful slow airs that are the people's music. It does not need amplification. It does not need a record label. It does not need anything except the ability of someone to play it and someone to dance.

I am very proud to get up tonight to speak about the role of the fiddle and its importance. For all those young bands out there, believe me, if they ever get themselves into trouble, if they have a good fiddler with them, it will get them through anything. If they need gas anyplace, if they need to get fed, they should have a good fiddler. If they have a bad fiddler, I cannot make any promises about how they are going to make out crossing this country.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to have this moment to speak to the bill, which I am very pleased to support.

I am a fiddler—perhaps not a very good one, but I have a good time with my violin. I have a lovely violin, thanks to the generosity of my mom and dad, who gave me a beautiful instrument some years ago. My aspiration is to do that instrument justice at some point in my life.

Although I went on with my music and did my degree in piano, violin was always my first love. Whether it is a concerto of Tchaikowsky or Mendelssohn or whether it is the strathspeys, the jigs, or the laments that we have in our Celtic music today, I have a deep passion for the music of the fiddle, the violin, and how it can stir the emotions of the heart.

We have had wonderful cultural experiences here in Canada. Visiting Prince Edward Island, in the same village one can go from a cèilidh one night where one experiences the music of Ireland or Scotland over to a house party where the same instrument is participating in the music of the Acadian people with their step dancing and the wonderful emotion that evokes.

When I was in Newfoundland, I took my fiddle with me. I was on a concert tour in Newfoundland in the summer of 2008 and had the opportunity to go to George Street, where people just pull up a chair in a music circle. People come and go from that music circle all evening with a variety of instruments, but there are a lot of fiddles.

When I was in Cape Breton, I had the opportunity to attend the Celtic college and do some fiddle classes there. I experienced some of the other music that was being played in Cape Breton. We have so much wonderful music that can be played on that instrument.

I have a daughter who decided to take up the fiddle. She loves the music of eastern Europe and plays that music, as opposed to the Celtic music.

What I really want to do tonight is to pay tribute to the wonderful instructors that we have here in Canada, and we have some remarkable musicians. I think of people like Natalie MacMaster, who comes from the east coast and whose name has not been mentioned here tonight. She is one of the people who in the 1990s brought back the wonderful love for fiddle music.

When I was in Prince Edward Island, I visited the Summerside school of piping and spent some time with the gentleman there who was making the fiddles for the Rankin Family, another group that came out of Cape Breton and provided Canada with a remarkable position in the world of Celtic music. Fabulous fiddling came from that group.

However, I really want to pay tribute to those people who have undertaken to instruct young people in the art of fiddling, because so often they do not get the recognition they deserve.

There are teachers who start with very young students and apprise them of the fingering, as my colleague for Timmins—James Bay was saying. The DGAE fingering is seemingly so simple on the fiddle, but it needs accuracy in the position of the fingering. These instructors are the ones who painstakingly take the time to inform young students, first of all, of the mechanics of the instrument itself. Second, they introduce them to the wealth of music that they can speak through into a variety of cultures.

I would like to pay tribute tonight to several people in my life.

There is Phil Howes, an instructor from Markham with whom I had the opportunity to study. Phil is a remarkable musician himself. He is a regular adjudicator at fiddle competitions across Canada. He and his wife recorded a number of CDs, and I would recommend them to my colleagues if they are looking for some good music. Phil is a remarkable fiddler and a delight to listen to.

I would also like to pay tribute to Bob and Ginny Arbuckle, constituents of mine in Newmarket—Aurora. Bob is a remarkable fiddler as well, and a gentleman who has poured his life into instructing young people in the art of music. Sadly, Ginny has passed, but we had many nights at my house when Bob would bring his fiddle and I would get out my fiddle and Ginny would play the piano and we would do lots of wonderful Celtic music.

I would like to offer my thanks to those people who have become instructors, many of them remarkable musicians in their own right. They have poured their lives into the lives of others so that they too can learn the fiddle and learn to appreciate so much of the wonderful cultural experience that we have to offer in this great country of ours.

National Fiddling Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development will have four minutes remaining for her comments when the House next returns to this item of business.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, it is like turning the channel to move from the conversation that we have just had about recognizing a fiddle day in Canada back to the weightiness of the debate in which we have found ourselves today.

Canada is deeply concerned by the recent increase in violence in Iraq and in the humanitarian consequences.

First, Canada condemns, in the strongest terms, the targeting of civilians and religious minorities. We are deeply concerned by reports of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. That is why we continue to call on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

I would like to provide some context tonight that will help us all understand the dire situation being faced by the people of Iraq.

The humanitarian situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate as armed clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—ISIL—and government forces drive displacement.

Since January, an estimated 1.7 million people have been displaced throughout the country, which represents one of the largest cases of internal displacement in the world. Basic services, including health care and water infrastructure, are disrupted, resulting in acute humanitarian needs.

The intensity of fighting in ISIL-held areas has resulted in a security situation that does not allow humanitarian organizations to operate. The persecution of minority groups, including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, and Shia Turkmen, is an ongoing concern.

This is why the Canadian military contribution, as articulated by the Prime Minister, is so vitally important. The size and pace of displacement has overwhelmed local communities. There is a concern that the schools being used as shelter may not be able to reopen as scheduled, which means that 850,000 children will begin to fall behind with their education.

Canada is actively working with partners to address children's needs and to see what more can be done. We are currently working through experienced partners, such as Save the Children and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help provide child-friendly environments for displaced children and to give them the psychosocial support they need.

We believe that when adults fight, children's education should not suffer, and the continued academic growth of children must be secured even in the face of conflict.

Keeping the family unit together, ensuring that assistance needs are met, and providing case management are the keys. The flows of internally displaced persons have also placed considerable strain on health structures, and many health facilities are overwhelmed with large caseloads.

In addition, food security is a growing concern in central and northern Iraq, because normal supply routes have been interrupted by conflict and insecurity. The next harvest is at risk in the areas affected by the conflict, and that accounts for nearly a third of Iraq's wheat production. Millions of Iraqis are likely to face food shortages later this year unless these challenges are resolved.

A key challenge for the humanitarian community continues to be the difficulty of being able to get into conflict areas to reach the people who need the help. Again, this is why targeted air strikes are so important to assisting the humanitarian effort. We need access to the most vulnerable, and ISIL is not about to offer that.

The sheer number of different locations people have fled to, as well as their mobility, adds a layer of complexity that makes matters even more difficult for humanitarian organizations.

Canada is working through experienced humanitarian partners, such as the United Nations humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and non-governmental organizations to get life-saving assistance to those who need it.

Since the beginning of 2014, Canada has allocated nearly $29 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Of this, $19 million is in response to the recent civil unrest and almost $10 million is to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq.

Just recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced an additional $10 million contribution to support the innocent victims of ISIL's brutality, in particular, to respond to the heinous acts of sexual violence and other human rights abuses being committed against women and children.

To date this year, Canada is the seventh most important humanitarian assistance donor responding to civil unrest in Iraq, with a share of 4.4% of the emergency appeals. With these funds, lives have already been saved. Canada's funding is helping to meet the health, shelter, water, sanitation, protection and food needs of affected Iraqis, as well as relief supplies and camp construction through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

We are also addressing the protection and education needs of displaced children and those whose schools are being used as emergency collective shelters. For example, our funding is helping to support mobile health clinics through Plan Canada, as well as providing medical supplies through the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Canadian Red Cross is currently looking to determine what more can be done. Our humanitarian partners provide very specific assistance, such as transportation to areas of safety or child-friendly spaces, and take steps to ensure that particularly vulnerable people, such as the disabled, the elderly and children, have access to life sustaining services.

On August 28, the first planeload of humanitarian relief supplies was deployed from our warehouse in the International Humanitarian City in Dubai to Erbil. It contained kitchen sets, jerry cans, tents, blankets, hygiene kits and mosquito nets. The relief supplies were distributed by Save the Children to those in need. We anticipate that the second planeload of $365,000 in humanitarian relief supplies will be sent soon. It will include blankets, buckets, tarps, hygiene kits, jerry cans and kitchen sets.

We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that emergency humanitarian assistance is provided to Iraqi civilians in need. Canadian officials will continue to monitor the situation closely, and assess the security and humanitarian challenges facing the Iraqi people.

I would also like to add that Iraq became one of Canada's development partner countries in June. We already have development staff on the ground in northern Iraq and we will soon finance a series of development initiatives to help communities maintain better services, such as education, water supply and waste management, in response to the recent flow of internally displaced people coming into the country.

Canada will continue to work closely with its allies to determine how it can best continue to support the needs of Iraqi civilians, particularly the religious minorities. Canada will do that because it needs to be done to secure the safety of these people, who are vulnerable and so desperately in need.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can hear the commitment in my colleague's voice to delivering aid to those in need.

Canada has been able to commit itself and deliver aid in other regions of the world, absence of its own military intervention and under the protection of others. That is part of the argument that we are making. Aid can also be delivered. The proposal I would make is that it is not contingent entirely upon the six CF-18s that we are sending.

The member mentioned the military intervention specifically, so this is what I would like to focus on. Increasingly, there seems to be a consensus that security cannot be achieved in Iraq solely through bombing missions and the flights that Canada has committed to, and that so-called boots on the ground are required. There is little confidence that the Iraqi army has the capacity to do that.

I am asking for the member's opinion, not the government at large. Is it her belief that we may eventually step to that place in order to deliver the aid she talks about? Unable to do it from the air because of these bombing missions, would we have to resort to and involve ourselves in so-called ground forces to enable that aid to be delivered to the Iraqi people?