House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.


The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith has six and a half minutes left in her speech.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, to honour veterans, fallen soldiers, and peacekeepers who stood up for Canada, we gather on Remembrance Day to honour the service of the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.

Nanaimo—Ladysmith's Legions, No. 256 Mt. Benson, and No. 10 Harewood, in Nanaimo; No. 257 Lantzville; No. 171 Ladysmith; the Gabriola Island Veterans Association; and Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens, all held powerful services to recognize Remembrance Day in Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I am grateful for their work. They are keeping veterans' stories alive, and we are grateful to them.

Veterans need parliamentarians to do our part to recognize and support those who have sacrificed for our country. There is clearly a debt owed, there is money in the till, and sincere and vital promises have been made. Every year, 3,000 veterans pass away, so let us get on with it and act to show that we truly support veterans.

There are eight things that parliamentarians can do to live up to that responsibility. Last year, this House unanimously passed a motion brought forward by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Port Moody—Coquitlam, recognizing Canada's covenant of moral, social, legal, and financial obligations to veterans.

Here are the eight ways that we could act on that unanimous commitment of this House:

One, instead of spending thousands of dollars fighting veterans in court, the Liberal government should halt the court proceedings against wounded veterans and spend that money instead to bring back veterans' pensions.

Second, because one in six vets experiences mental health or alcohol-related disorders, or have in this past year, and because half who have served in Afghanistan have suffered PTSD, depression, and anxiety, I call upon this Parliament to prioritize and support the mental health of military service men and women, veterans, first responders, retired and volunteer first responders, and their families.

Third, to make real change for vets and their families, we can defeat paternalistic legislation that blocks pension benefits for two groups: one, spouses of veterans, RCMP members, judges, and public sector workers who choose to marry after the age of 60; and, second, retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans.

The fix for this bill and the mental health one referred to previously are Bills C-260, C-261, and Motion No. 61, all from the member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe and the New Democrat critic for Veterans Affairs.

Fourth, to our shame, homelessness rates in Canada are shocking, with estimates that there might be as many as 1,300 veterans living on Canada's streets. Canada's national housing strategy must take action on veteran homelessness.

Fifth, the government should act on detox treatments for veterans exposed to chemical defoliants like Agent Orange. Medical treatment can cut dioxin levels such that veterans can return to work. It will not repair the damage, but it can help people function.

Six, we should relax the regulations on access to veterans hospitals, and ensure that veterans from World War II and the Korean War are able to access these beds when they require long-term care.

Seven, and I am very glad to say that this has already been done, the government will start covering the cost of medically prescribed cannabis extract products for police and military veterans being treated for PTSD. This was the subject of a petition that I sponsored, and I am very glad that the government listened to the many Canadians who supported this change.

Eighth, we can pass this bill to make Remembrance Day a holiday. Earlier versions of this bill to make Remembrance Day a holiday across the country were introduced by former New Democrat MPs Dan Harris, Chris Charlton, Nelson Riis, and veterans' advocate Peter Stoffer.

In my home province of British Columbia, November 11 is already a holiday. As a result, we see families coming together to recognize and celebrate Remembrance Day. When families remember together, they are able to teach their children about the sacrifices that the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for Canada have made.

For example, Ladysmith's Legion hosts an afternoon ceremony in the community of Cedar, at the Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens, where there are cadets, Guides, Scouts, and and Beavers. It is lovely to see, and a great example of what happens when families honour and celebrate together.

Last month, on Remembrance Day, we recommitted to standing up for veterans and their families, so that every veteran has the care that our country owes them. Bureaucratic delays and disingenuous platitudes cannot define Canada's response to veterans, and just 2.5 of 23 Liberal promises have been fully implemented. Let us use our power as leaders and voters and support real change for veterans and their families.

On Remembrance Day and all days, we never forget; we forever honour.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to be here to support my colleague from West Nova's bill. This bill would make Remembrance Day a legal holiday.

November has passed, and all of our communities have commemorated another November 11. I know how very proud all members of the House are of our veterans and serving military personnel. I know that we are just as proud of our students who are learning about the events of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the war in Afghanistan. Some of them are learning for the first time about all the sacrifices made and the lives lost and disrupted here at home in our communities and our country.

I believe that November 11, the day we commemorate these tragic events every year, deserves the same legal status and the same recognition by Parliament as Canada Day and Victoria Day. That is why I am proud to be here to support my hon. colleague's bill.

This year, I was particularly pleased to attend something that happens every year in the only English school in my riding. It was an incredibly happy event, where students were proud to get up and deliver their interpretation of the events we commemorate every year. They were proud to be part of underlining and underscoring our history, proud to learn of the stories of the many Canadians who gave themselves to the defence of our values, our freedoms, our liberties, and proud to look at the military members who are serving today.

There was everyone from CF-18 pilots to bylaw officers, all of those who wake up every day and put on a uniform and defend the laws of Canada, the freedoms of Canada, and the values of Canada and Canadians.

When my colleague asked me if I were able and disposed to support his private member's bill, I was particularly pleased to think of the many people in Gatineau, and the many people I know who reside in his riding and all over this country, who want to stand up every day and recognize the tragic events that we underscore and underline every year.

I was so proud to learn that the government is also going to support the key principle of this bill and give Remembrance Day legal status. It is important to emphasize that this does not in any way force the provinces or municipalities to do the same. It is a symbolic gesture, but a very powerful one, given that Parliament is giving Remembrance Day the same legal status as Canada Day and Victoria Day, in May.

I will not dwell on this any further. I hope my colleagues on all sides of the House will support my hon. colleague's bill, and I urge everyone to do so.

I would invite all Canadians to continue to make every effort to mark Remembrance Day with pride every year, as my constituents in Gatineau always do. I hope we can move quickly to pass this bill.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Indeed, if there is one thing that everyone in the House can agree on, it is the importance of recognizing the contribution of our veterans, the men and women who have fought for our country over the years. I am especially proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-311 sponsored by our colleague, the member for West Nova.

I would also like to commend the work of my colleague, the official opposition critic for veterans affairs, the member for Barrie—Innisfil. He is doing a fantastic job as our veterans affairs critic and on top of that his French is excellent. He spent the weekend in Quebec City speaking with members of associations and other people in the region, all in French. His hard work and his efforts to use both of Canada's official languages deserve recognition. I thank him for that.

Bill C-311 before us today is quite interesting and has quite a background. This is the seventh time this bill has been introduced in the House since 2004. This is therefore not the first time members of the House have the opportunity to speak to such a bill. Although interesting, some aspects of it need some improvement, or at least some clarification. That is more or less what I will be talking about today.

First, as I said at the outset, it is important to acknowledge the service of our veterans. Since Confederation, more than 110,000 Canadian soldiers have died in combat defending our freedoms. Canada is the free country we are so proud of today because of the sacrifices of these soldiers and their families, whose children were lost in battle to defend us on foreign soil. They fought abroad for Canada's freedom and the modern world we live in today.

The purpose of Bill C-311 is to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday and everything that entails. We absolutely must discuss this bill further in committee. Although this bill seeks to honour veterans, it does not have unanimous support as it is currently worded. In fact, the Royal Canadian Legion has concerns over the effects of this bill on the significance we place on Remembrance Day, and that is what I will be talking about.

We celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11 for a very simple reason. Historically, people have gathered together every year on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to mark Remembrance Day and pay tribute to all those who died while serving their country. This important day gives meaning to and allows us to express our gratitude for the sacrifices that were made by those who came before us.

However, not everyone has a day off for Remembrance Day. This day of commemoration is a holiday in some provinces but not in others. That is the case in Quebec, where Remembrance Day is not a statutory holiday for all workers. As a result, most of the time, Remembrance Day is not celebrated on November 11 but rather on the weekend before or after, so that more people can attend the commemoration ceremonies at the cenotaphs. They voluntarily attend these ceremonies and commemorate the service of our veterans.

The Royal Canadian Legion is the reason we have ceremonies in every region, even those without military bases. I would like to tell the House about the Legion. It was founded in 1926 when 15 veterans' organizations united. There were also a number of regimental associations representing former service members.

Despite all their efforts, none of them had much influence individually. They did not have the means to become an association that represented all veterans. That is why the Royal Canadian Legion was founded in 1926. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about the Legion to visit the organization's website, which is nicely set up and does a great job explaining its history. According to the website, initially, the principal objectives of the Legion were to provide a strong voice for veterans and advise the government on veterans' issues.

The Legion was founded after World War I, and it was very busy after World War II because of an influx of new demands. That war was a very hard one, and the Legion had to increase its efforts to help veterans and returned service members in addition to those who continued to serve their country abroad.

The Legion has changed a lot since then. We have the Legion to thank for a few special initiatives, including the two-minute wave of silence in 1999, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier initiative in 2000, and the declaration of 2005 as the Year of the Veteran. Those are just a few examples of what the Royal Canadian Legion has achieved.

For over 90 years, the Legion has been an advocate for veterans and has been providing financial assistance to active military personnel, veterans, and their families, whether they are members of the Legion or not. I think that is one of the things that explains why certain veterans associations and the Royal Canadian Legion do not necessarily agree with the objectives of the bill before us.

These days, a majority of the representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion are from civil society and not necessarily veterans. Some of them are family members, relatives, brothers, and sons of military personnel who have served their country, who have passed away or been wounded in combat. These people have decided to volunteer their time to help veterans.

I would like to talk about something that happened in my riding. This year, in Thetford Mines, we came close to not being able to mark Remembrance Day, Armistice Day. Unfortunately, the Royal Canadian Legion in our community had to close its doors after 70 years because of a lack of volunteers. Claude Nadeau, the president of the branch, worked hard to ensure that a ceremony was held every year. He put a lot of effort into bringing together veterans and serving members from our community.

However, since there are not very many veterans or serving members in Thetford Mines, it was becoming increasingly difficult to bring these people together for a ceremony. Our veterans from the last great war have almost all passed away now. We have one or two active members. These people were deeply saddened when they learned that there might not be a Remembrance Day ceremony. That is why, despite the fact that Branch 201 of the Royal Canadian Legion shut down, Mr. Nadeau and a few volunteers still organized a commemorative ceremony.

The same sort of thing happened in another town in my riding, Lac-Mégantic. For the first time in a long time, no Remembrance Day ceremony was held because of a lack of volunteers. If Canadians want an association that helps preserve the memory of our veterans, then they need to understand the essential role that civilians play in the Royal Canadian Legion.

We therefore need to take into consideration the Royal Canadian Legion's views of Bill C-311. We need to listen to what it has to say and find out whether it thinks it is important to pass this bill to make Remembrance Day a legal or statutory holiday. By sending this bill to committee, we would give the Royal Canadian Legion the opportunity to express its views. We owe a great debt to our veterans and also to those who serve them, like the Royal Canadian Legion.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be able to speak today to Bill C-311. This bill has been debated a number of times in the House.

On reading the bill we see that it seeks to give November 11 official status as Remembrance Day across Canada. However, it does not make Remembrance Day a full-fledged statutory holiday, but instead a legal holiday. The provinces regulate statutory holidays in their own jurisdictions and this bill does nothing to change that and that is too bad. We can continue to mark November 11, but it cannot become a statutory holiday through this bill because that would require provincial legislation. We therefore wonder what purpose this bill serves.

However, I am very pleased to speak to this subject today because my grandfather fought in World War II. He was in the navy. My great-uncle was in the army. When I was 14, he told me stories about the war. At that age, I did not appreciate the gravity of what he experienced. To him, these were pivotal moments.

Now, I am participating in the debate in the House and I am thinking about him. I shared some special times with my great-uncle. Unfortunately, my grandfather, who was in the navy, died when I was 3 years old. Therefore I was unable to learn more about what he went through during the Second World War. My great-uncle had the chance to share his experience with me, and it is with these memories in mind that I am speaking of him.

My father was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 35 years. He worked to ensure that our country was safe. This is something I am proud of. Speaking in the House today, I think about my father, who watches me from time to time as well. We have had some good talks about what he experienced during his 35 years of service.

Today we are talking about all those who protect our country. These are men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day, who have given their all to keep us safe at home and to fight abroad.

It is important for me to commemorate Remembrance Day and to share it. I make it a priority to talk about it in schools. Over the past two or three years, students in my riding, Joliette, have been reviving a tradition that was disappearing: they have been making poppies, and their teachers have been explaining the symbolism of the poppy to them and the importance of remembering what happened. I often say that it is important to know and remember what happened so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and so we can go forward.

I would also like to say a few words about the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these people since becoming an MP, and they are like a second family. The Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion offers extraordinary support and networking. Branch 209 was founded in 1947, but its current home was built in 1962 by the veterans themselves. Now the building is in need of repair and needs quite a few renovations. The veterans themselves are working on renovating it.

The branch has 150 members, and I am proud to say that the ladies' auxiliary has 130 members. It goes without saying that spouses of people in the armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are involved too. The whole family is involved, actually. When people go off on missions, their children and spouses worry. That is why members of the ladies' auxiliary are involved with the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian legion. They do so much work in the community.

Some veterans are active in the Fonds de dotation Santé Jonquière, the Jonquière hospital's endowment fund, to help the hospital purchase new research equipment and other new machines. Some veterans have helped create scholarships for veterans. They also raise funds to help children pursue their studies, which I think is amazing.

Getting back to the main point of my speech, Remembrance Day, it is obvious that commemoration is important to veterans.

The Sunday prior to Remembrance Day, I attended a poppy celebration with some veterans. They have a ceremony, and it is quite an event. We also have poppy week, and all veterans participate. They go to shopping malls and schools to raise money to support veterans, including both retired and active military personnel. Unfortunately, many veterans require assistance at some point in their career.

For veterans, it is very important to remember. In the spring I had the opportunity to present a medal to a veteran. It was the highest honour a veteran can receive. Mr. Boivin, who is now 90 years old, had taken part in the the Normandy landing. How incredible.

I felt quite moved and fortunate to present him with his medal and this honour. He said he did nothing more than his duty. I was proud to present him with his medal. All he cared about was serving our country and ensuring our safety, but also remembering what happened. Unfortunately, many of his comrades did not come back home with him. Mr. Boivin told me he lost members of his family. Those sad moments make him want to remember what happened all the more. That is to his credit because he and his wife have been on an emotional roller coaster over the years.

For some veterans at the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the war left physical scars. For some, the injuries changed their lives forever, hence the importance of the support they get at the Legion. The Legion not only helps the community, but it also enables veterans to help each other and that support is important.

In my opinion, November 11 has to be a time for gathering and remembrance, a time when we remember what veterans did for us.

I would like to come back to educating children. Our role as MPs involves sharing information with our young people and explaining to them what Remembrance Day is all about. Unfortunately, it seems to be losing its meaning as time goes by. Federal MPs are in a good position to go explain the purpose of Remembrance Day to students.

I will close by saying that I am a bit disappointed by this bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the bill makes Remembrance Day a legal holiday. Since statutory holidays fall under provincial jurisdiction, I am wondering how the bill will be implemented.

Of course, as I said before, the Bagotville military base is in my riding. It employs over 2,000 soldiers, and many veterans have also worked there. I am in regular contact with them, and I know that they think it is important for us to remember what they have done.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-311 today.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the proposed bill.

I would like to thank the hon. member for West Nova for his initiative in bringing forward this very important private member's bill.

This bill would make Remembrance Day a national legal holiday. I would like to begin my comments on the importance of remembering and honouring the contributions of our veterans, as well as what it means to me personally.

Once again, as I have said many times in the House, Nova Scotia has the largest veteran population per capita in the country and my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook has up to 23%, who are either veterans who have served or who are in the military today. As everyone can understand, the people in my riding are extremely proud of the distinguished record and service to our country.

I hear about that service from veterans often, whether it be at legions, town halls, or even at grocery stores. They share many stories with me. These are compassionate, caring, and humble men and women who continue to serve their communities. They serve their communities as volunteers or hockey coaches, or they just lend a helping hand. I must say that I am extremely impressed when I see them out there and they have each other's backs. It is extremely impressive and a learning curve that I have had the opportunity to observe that much more in the last year.

It is of utmost importance that their service continues to be honoured for generations to come. This bill would ensure that Canadians from coast to coast to coast would have more opportunities to participate in and celebrate Remembrance Day across the country.

As a former educator, I can say that schools in Nova Scotia have done an exemplary job, year after year, in raising awareness through sharing some of the sacrifices that past generations have made. This is extremely important for people keep in their memories: to remember their service for decades past but also today and in the future. This bill would complement the good work that is being done in schools across this country.

When I talk about Remembrance Day, it is important to remind ourselves of the people we are honouring. I will provide some examples. A retired master corporal in my riding named Jon bravely served our country abroad, completing two tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009, each for six months. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 2002 until 2012, 10 years, and was medically released in 2012 due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. We owe him a sincere debt of gratitude.

I also think about a sergeant I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with in the last year. His name is Rollie. Rollie served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1982 until 2002. He did tours in Germany and the former Yugoslavia in 1994 and 1995. Unfortunately, Rollie was diagnosed in 2000 with PTSD. This is a difficult condition that many veterans face when they return home from abroad. These occupational stress injuries make it especially difficult for veterans when they return to normal civilian life.

I am amazed by the contributions that veterans are making in our communities every day. Rollie is one of many who has become an advocate for the veterans community. He has been part of a group in Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook and works closely with others to advocate for a walk-in clinic that would support veterans with unique needs.

If we look at everything veterans accomplish during their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces and in their civilian lives, it is clear that they make a major contribution to the future of the country and the prosperity of our communities. That is another reason why we should make Remembrance Day a legal holiday in Canada.

On a more personal note, I would like to share the stories of the people I think about on November 11. I would like to begin with my father, who was unable to join the army for health reasons but who passed away on November 11.

I also think of members of my extended family who have contributed directly to the Canadian Armed Forces.

There is my Uncle Dan, who spent 26 years; my Uncle Wilfred who, in World War II, spent 25 years; and my Uncle Lubin who spent 12 years. There is also my godfather, Gérald Thériault, who was a sergeant in World War II.

Furthermore, there is now my cousin, Mark Thériault, who is with the Joint Task Force Atlantic, and another cousin, Brent Thériault, who is now with the infantry unit in Gagetown and who previously served in Poland and Afghanistan.

Recently, I have seen things come full circle where the grandson of my godfather, the late Gérald Thériault, and my godchild, is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces at 17 years of age. His name is Private Zachary Thériault.

What brings all these stories together is the fact that our men and women have served our country with distinction and with honour. That must never be forgotten.

Making Remembrance Day a national legal holiday would ensure that generations of Canadians have the opportunity to learn about the realities of war, about the distinguished service of veterans, and to better understand, for their children and their children's children.

I would like to, once again, thank the member for West Nova for his hard work in bringing forward this piece of legislation.

We must continue to remember the fallen who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to hold the values and the institutions we hold so dearly.

Lest we forget.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand today and speak to this particular bill, Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act, Remembrance Day.

It has been a real honour for me to serve on the Veterans Affairs committee and serve as deputy critic for Veterans Affairs, especially as a first-time member of Parliament, and to be a part of standing up for our veterans and making sure their needs are understood and met by this House, and understood by the Canadian population as a whole. Of course, this is basically a symbolic gesture, but it is important to do what we can to make sure that Remembrance Day is recognized and continues to be recognized throughout the years forward, even though so many of the veterans who were part of World War I and World War II are at an age that makes it very difficult for them to be able to attend and be part of the ceremonies. In Yorkton this year, it was just so overwhelming for me to see the veterans make the huge effort that it takes to be there and be part of that ceremony, and to stand even though it is so difficult to stand and make sure that this is not forgotten. Regardless of the approach that we take, the important thing is that we do remember.

The fact that it is at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is very fitting. From our veterans and being part of different ceremonies, we start to realize how important these special traditions are to our veterans and to our armed forces as well. I recently attended the 64th field battery 10th field artillery regiment, Saint Barbara celebration in my home city of Yorkton with our reservists there. It was something to listen and to learn about why they take each of the steps they do during that celebration. It is all part of building up that community and making sure we value each other as reservists. That is one example where I say we need to make sure that, whatever approach we take as a legislature in our communities, the total focus is on valuing our veterans and keeping that in front of other generations as they come forward.

My grandson was born on November 11. It is a very special day to him, and he always says, “Grandma, the first half of the day is very sad”, and he talks about Remembrance Day and they always go to and are part of the services. He says, “And then the second half of the day is very happy”. I thought that was something that he is being taught the value of the individuals who stood up for Canada to keep it as the free country that it is today, and it is very much a part of his psyche. I thought that was very special.

I also had the opportunity as a new member of Parliament to attend the Battle of the Atlantic gala, and attend the ceremonies on Parliament Hill. Again, members of the regiments, the cadets, the reserves, and the navy were all there on time ready to start this event. It was so bitter cold outside. I was sitting out on the lawn waiting for this to start, and I was beyond cold. I think I was as cold as I have ever been in my life, and thinking, “I do not think I am going to make it”. Then I looked across the grounds, and there were 80- and 90-something year-old veterans sitting there waiting for the event to happen. It was pouring rain, but they were sitting there with their jackets on. They were not putting on their caps or carrying their umbrellas until the very last moment. They were choosing to sit there and persevere through the cold. When I put that together with the battle gala and saw the pictures, I saw that these elderly men were the same men who were so young on those ships getting the supplies across the Atlantic. Seeing the pictures of them caked in ice is what got me through the event, and just made me so proud in my heart to be a part of that particular celebration.

There are army cadet reviews, and opportunities when we go home to our riding to be a part of those celebrations as well.

It is really important that we do whatever we can to make sure we are recognizing everything our veterans have done for us. We have to make sure that within our school systems, they are learning about the different battles and the amazing things Canadians have done.

I just learned that our soldiers had to take on the Battle of Vimy Ridge after France had lost 200,000 men on that hill and Britain had lost 100,000. Our troops came together for the first time as Canadians from across the country, put their heads together, and devised what they would do. They ended up laying out the whole battlefield behind them to practice what was ahead of them. How did they do this? Our young aboriginal soldiers went out in the dead of night and basically mapped out the whole area. We were able to go forward and win that battle, starting at five in the morning and ending at noon.

We have so much to be proud of as Canadians because of our veterans and armed forces. I know that in Afghanistan, the question was asked of the Taliban, “Do you fear western forces?” They said, “No, except the Canadians”. That says so much about our armed forces.

That being said, it is very important that we do these things to celebrate, commemorate, and remember. We fall short if we do not do everything we can as legislators in this House and on the committee, which I am on, to make sure that we are truly caring for our armed forces when they transition to the veteran's life. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that the transition is as painless as possible and that they are recognized for what they have done. They sacrifice their families, their own choices, and their own decision-making to become part of the armed forces. They stand side by side and serve for us, then come back to the very difficult circumstance of transitioning to civilian life.

It is a pleasure to serve on that committee. There are many things we are working on with our report, and I am certainly hopeful that the government will do everything it can to look at the recommendations from us, and from the two ombudsmen, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to close that seam and deal with circumstances that have been left hanging for a very long time.

One of those is the issue of mefloquine and how it impacted our soldiers in Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and other battlefields. There are a number of heartbreaking stories coming from veterans who have lived with the results of this and are not being recognized for having suffered from what this actually is. It is not just PTSD. It is a brain injury as well. Our government needs to recognize that this particular anti-malaria drug is not being used by the rest of the world.

We are falling behind in making some of the decisions that say to our veterans that they are important to us and that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they are cared for in the way they should be.

We talk about caring about our veterans and about how much we want to recognize them but then do not do what needs to be done. This does not mean huge changes. It means simply putting things in place to ensure that veterans do not end up more ill after coming home because of the stress of getting settled in their new civilian lives.

One of the things we heard over and over again was about family life and how difficult it is for the other parent and the children to deal with the challenges of being an armed forces family and a veteran's family. We need to be there to support them in taking care of the soldier who has come home.

We need to tell our veterans that they really matter to us and that they matter to us every day of the year, from the moment they sign up with our forces right up to when they retire or have to quit because of an injury. We need to put real meat on these things. I am not making light of that at all. We need to commemorate what they have done for us.

There is another issue we are all facing right now, which is medical marijuana. Veterans are concerned about the fact that the government is considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use. They are concerned about how this would dumb down the importance of it as a medical prescription. I regularly hear stories about how this is replacing pharmaceuticals for so many veterans, with far fewer side effects, and about improvements in dealing with their pain so they can get on with their lives. It is not costing us anywhere near what it costs to have them on pharmaceuticals.

Those are just some issues that come to mind when I think about commemorating our veterans. We certainly want to do this. I am so proud to have a role as deputy critic, to be involved in specific instances in my riding, and to be part of making decisions that are good for them.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support this bill, which would raise the profile of Remembrance Day and make it a national legal holiday on par with Canada Day and Victoria Day. When I think about the immense sacrifice that those we celebrate on Remembrance Day have made, this is absolutely the least we could do.

I would like to draw attention to two quick items. The first is the mental health crisis our emergency services personnel and our military are going through right now. At least 70 veterans have ended their lives by suicide since the end of the Afghanistan mission. If this legislation will help draw attention to that crisis, we will be better for having supported it.

In addition, the veterans who fought so bravely overseas fought for the freedom of the most vulnerable, but they also fought to protect certain key values: equality, democracy, and liberty. We should promote these values every day of our lives. When the last child in our community goes to bed without being hungry, when the last person is not discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their religion, or the person they love, we will have lived up to the sacrifices these soldiers made by protecting the values they fought so bravely for.

If this legislation helps raise the profile of Remembrance Day one iota and draws attention to the mental health crisis our military faces or to the freedoms we need to live and breathe every day at home, or if it encourages young people to take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities, then I am pleased to support it. I urge all members of the House to do the same.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to give my right of reply with regard to the debate that has taken place on my private member's bill, Bill C-311.

I want to thank all the members who participated in the debate on my private member's bill. I want to acknowledge the members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs I have served with who have presented their points of view on this bill. I am so pleased to have worked with them on that committee to make sure that we are continuing to honour the service of those brave men and women who have served our country, past and present, and that we are doing the right things to honour their service.

I think we can all agree on the importance of Remembrance Day in Canada. We also share the desire to ensure that we are appropriately honouring those brave Canadians in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

My bill is a modest measure that seeks to change the language in the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday and to ensure that consistency of language is reflected in the act. This bill would ensure consistency with both Canada Day and Victoria Day in the Holidays Act and would elevate the status of Remembrance Day to put it on an equal footing with those other days.

Some have expressed that this provision would do more than that. Let me be clear that my bill, by adding the word “legal”, would not impact the Canada Labour Code, which establishes the policy on non-working days for holidays. Federally speaking, the day is already and will remain a federal paid non-working day.

Furthermore, and I want to be very clear on this point, it is up to each province and territory to determine whether Remembrance Day on November 11 is a statutory holiday or a day off in their jurisdiction. This is what determines whether there is no school and whether it is a public paid non-working day.

This bill does not and cannot make Remembrance Day a national holiday, because it is not within the purview of Parliament to do so. I am hoping that this bill may provide an occasion for the provinces and territories that do not already do so to determine whether Remembrance Day should indeed be a statutory holiday.

I note that some of my colleagues in the debate have mentioned that the bill would not make it a statutory holiday, and it cannot, but what it can do is elevate the day, put it on an equal footing, and hopefully provide an occasion for those jurisdictions that do not already do so to allow it to be a statutory day.

There are examples of other jurisdictions that do not mark the day as a so-called statutory holiday, but they mark the solemn occasion in other ways. For example, in my home province of Nova Scotia, it is separate from other statutory holidays, but it is kept in force under the Remembrance Day Act to ensure that people have time off to attend ceremonies. I would like to see this across the country, but of course, our Constitution requires that we respect the jurisdiction of provinces in this regard.

I want to address one issue that has been brought up by some who oppose the bill, which is the argument that students should be in school on November 11 to ensure that they are marking the day and reflecting on what November 11 at 11 a.m. means for our country. I respect their point of view. However, in my experience in Nova Scotia, and I believe in most places in Canada, it is far more meaningful for the students to learn the importance of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our forces in the days leading up to November 11.

Veterans come into the schools during Veterans' Week, and in addition to the teaching, there is also a remembrance service in schools, which veterans attend. Of course, if these were marked on November 11 at 11 a.m., veterans marking the occasion with the community could not attend those school services. However, if students had time off, they could mark November 11 in the community with veterans at their public ceremonies. We have seen increasing attendance, including by children and their families, in Nova Scotia.

I believe that all Canadians should be able to have the same experience and that all veterans should have the opportunity to be publicly appreciated for their service and remembered on November 11 at a collective experience with the whole community.

As I mentioned in my speech to begin this debate, proposed subsections 3(2) and 3(3) are not at all essential to my intent in raising the profile of Remembrance Day. Since I now recognize that those are problematic provisions, I support their removal at committee, and I will be asking the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for their removal if the bill is sent to it following a debate at second reading. We should therefore turn our minds to just proposed subsection 3(1) of this bill.

As my final words in this debate on Bill C-311, while the bill of course is about November 11, I am sure that we all agree that we must show respect to our veterans and members of Canadian Forces throughout the year and honour them in our words and our deeds.

As we come into the holiday season, let us keep them and their families top of mind and always show them extra kindness and warmth for all that they do for our country.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders


Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Madam Speaker, I move:

That in relation to Bill C-29, a second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill; and

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I just want to remind members that the House is in session and that the back and forth of conversations should be kept on the sidelines.

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Debate, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, once again, we are very disappointed to have to rise, on this side of the House, in response to the government’s systematic obstruction of parliamentarians’ right to speak.

In both form and substance, the government is simply wrong. First, wanting to deny the right to speak, even though at this stage of the bill we have had just one hour of debate, is completely disrespectful and irresponsible on the government’s part toward the official opposition.

As for substance, it is worse. In fact, Bill C-29 concerns implementation of the government’s budget measures, a budget that, as we know, will lead to the unfortunate inflationary spiral of this government’s colossal deficits. We are headed toward a $30-billion deficit, three times higher than what the Liberal Party had promised in its election platform.

I could go on at length about this, but I am going to give the minister a chance to clearly explain himself. I am reaching out to him for the 13th time. Can he tell us when and how he intends to return to balanced budgets for all Canadians?

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Madam Speaker, we know that it is very important for the level of economic growth to be higher than it has been over the past decade. We have chosen to make significant investments to improve economic growth.

We have already made infrastructure investments and we have ideas about how to help the middle class. We are confident that the measures we have proposed will increase growth in the Canadian economy.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise and find myself in substantial agreement with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. It is really quite disturbing that after merely one hour of debate at report stage, a bill as important as Bill C-29, the budget implementation bill after all, will suddenly be subject to this guillotine motion.

I think it is the 10th time, if I am not mistaken. Who can keep count if the government has done that. I know it is only a 10th as much as the Conservatives did, but nevertheless, any Canadian watching who thinks this is real change will have to conclude that it is not. It is a very sad day.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out that including the two days provided with the adoption of this motion, we will have provided nine days of debate on the bill, not including the time the bill spent in committee. This has allowed more than 60 members of Parliament to debate it so far.

We know it is important, and we will continue to work collaboratively with all parties to try to come to a consensus on how much time is needed for debate, but we also need to be mindful that decisions on important financial legislation need to be taken.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, we have talked about this before. The government has just invoked closure on this important bill.

There are 338 members of Parliament elected to be the voices of their ridings, and on this side, members have not had an opportunity to speak to the bill. Indeed, on the opposite side, members have also not had an opportunity to speak to this.

We just had a member from the government get on record. Unfortunately, it might be the first time in years I have heard him speak. It came across as a heckle, but, indeed, members on all sides are being muzzled.

Why is the government so keen and quick to invoke closure on the bill when 338 members of Parliament should have a voice? All of us should be the voice of our constituents.

If my hon. colleague, a member of the government across the way, has something to say, rather than heckle, why does he not stand and speak to this debate, but we cannot with the closure. Why is it so important, why is it so necessary, that we invoke closure and shut these voices down?

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, we know that it is important in the House to get things done on behalf of Canadians. We know that we need to move forward in a way that will make a real difference.

I would like to give some statistics on our debates and sittings. There are 55 sitting days in the September to December period, including seven supply days, which the opposition can use as they see fit. There were three days of debate on the Paris agreement, one day mandated by the Standing Orders to debate those orders in the House. That has left only 44 days for the rest of government business.

With nine days of debate, including today and tomorrow, that means we will have provided 20% of available time for government business on this bill alone. We think that is appropriate.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I find it strange that the Minister of Finance should say that 20% of time is allocated to debate when the budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2 is 100% dedicated to government expenditures.

The member for Winnipeg North is always outraged about the opposition’s tactics. However, today we are studying an amendment that moves deletion of the bill’s short title. I do not understand why the opposition is being accused of using tactics to prevent work from being done when our time is being wasted by a motion such as this.

Last week, the government leader in the House of Commons prevented us from tabling petitions for the second time in two weeks because she was afraid of the tactics being used by the opposition. In reality, the government is muzzling parliamentarians after just one hour of debate at report stage. That is totally unacceptable.

Is this what the Minister of Finance was campaigning on when his party was promising “real change”?

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said, we think that nine days of debate are sufficient, and 20% of speaking time is available during government business for this bill.

What is important to us is to do what we have to do for Canadians. We have to make investments in our economy so that we can have a better future, and we have to start now. That is our plan.

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Madam Speaker, I guess I can understand why the government wants to shut down debate on this finance bill to implement its budget. It is because the Liberals are embarrassed by their record. On Friday, for the second month in a row, Statistics Canada said that all of the gains in jobs were in part-time positions. Some 8,700 full-time jobs were lost in November. Plus, Gluskin Sheff's chief economist, David Rosenberg, said that the latest numbers were clearly a case of “nice headlines, shame about the details”. In fact, full-time employment in Canada has not risen in almost a year and a half. He said that that was, in a word, “pathetic” and attested to an unusually high level of uncertainty among the business community writ large.

Is not the real reason the government is cutting off debate that the Liberals are so embarrassed of their horrible economic performance?

Bill C-29—Time Allocation MotionBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, we need to move forward on the measures that we have to improve the economy. What we are trying to do is to ensure that we can improve full-time employment. Our job is to move forward on that basis. What we saw in the third quarter was growth of 3.5%. We did exceed economists' expectations. We saw a level of employment that did decline in the third quarter. Yes, we know that we need to do more, and that is what we are moving forward with in the House to make sure we can make the investments that will make a long-term future for Canadians to get jobs so they can have successful lives.