Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for his dedication and commitment not only to his constituents but also to Parliament and to our great nation. It is a great opportunity for me to say that I first befriended the member for Ottawa—Vanier at the first committee that I was ever charged to be on here in the House of Commons. It was scrutiny of regulations, and he was part of that committee as well. I appreciate his dedication to our country.
These last few months, the member has been a beacon of inspiration to Canadians. He has shown great courage and audacity while carrying out his duties in the House and in his constituency. The mere fact that we are debating his private member's bill today in this House is a shining example of his resolve during such challenging times.
Having said that, I will begin my comments regarding Bill C-210.
Our shared history defines us as Canadians. It has shaped our identity. The symbols, events, achievements, and yes, even the lyrics of our national anthem are what bind us together in Canada. For generations, through world wars, horrific tragedies, great achievements, citizenship ceremonies, Olympic games, and the beginning of each school day, we have sung our national anthem, as written, with pride and enthusiasm.
The intent of this legislation is well meaning as we want our symbols and institutions to be as inclusive as they possibly can be; however, rewriting the lyrics of our national anthem in the name of political correctness would go too far. I worry, as do many Canadians, that if the words of our national anthem could be changed through a private member's bill, what sort of precedent would we be setting for future changes on other issues of Canadian identity?
Without making light of it, maybe the botanists will be in an uproar about the shape of the maple leaf on our flag and demand that it be changed. Some may be upset that the almighty beaver will not stop chopping down trees, so the National Symbol of Canada Act must be amended to swap out the beaver for an animal that is far less destructive. Yes, for my colleagues or Canadians who may know, the National Symbol of Canada Act recognizes the beaver as the symbol of sovereignty of Canada. While we are at it, perhaps the maple leaf tartan, which is another official national symbol, needs to be redesigned because some people do not like how they look in plaid. I would also be remiss not to point out That the word “God” is also included in our anthem. Should we amend that line to ensure Canadians who are either agnostic or atheist feel included?
In Canada, we pride ourselves on being inclusive. We strive to accept and understand our differences. However, no one I talk to believes this change is necessary. People do not think our national anthem is broken. Every member of this House wants to recognize Canadian identity through our national anthem. However, we should ask ourselves, is rewriting the words to O Canada necessary?
Given those lyrics as currently written have inspired millions of people to immigrate to our country; while they pulled the heartstrings of millions after winning the gold medal game and many medals in the Vancouver Olympics; were sung at our children's high-school graduations; and stirred millions of brave men and women to fight and die for our country, do we believe this change is necessary or should we refocus our efforts and priorities on growing the economy? Should we be refocusing our time to improve the quality of life for Canadians?
We should also remember that the last government attempted to start the process of changing the anthem, and after listening to Canadians who thought the idea was offside, dropped the process. Remember that every time legislation has been introduced to change the lyrics, the idea has been defeated in this House for over the last 100 years.
I know my hon. colleague is probably thinking that the 11th time is the charm. While I applaud his tenacity, I will decline his revisionism.
I will also encourage all members of this House to carefully weigh the implications of changing our national anthem after it has served us well for over 100 years. Is it worth opening a Pandora's box of changing the symbols of our great nation in the name of political correctness?
I, for one, will stand up for the current national anthem, lacrosse, and yes, even the majestic beaver, so help me, God.