House of Commons Hansard #198 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was statistics.


[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.


Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

moved that Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to be here today as we consider Bill S-232, an act respecting Canadian Jewish heritage month, and I am honoured to be the sponsor of this bill in the House.

I want to acknowledge Senator Linda Frum, who has partnered with me in introducing this bill, which received unanimous support in the other place. I hope today to convince members of the chamber to give it the same enthusiastic support.

I want to particularly thank the hon. members for Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for their strong multipartisan support of this bill. I also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of my friend and mentor, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, whose tireless work as a defender of human rights is a badge of honour for the Canadian Jewish community. Professor Cotler originally introduced the substance of this bill as a motion in 2015. As I stand here today, I want to dedicate my efforts in bringing this bill before the House to Irwin Cotler's honour.

Aaron Hart, widely regarded as the first Jewish Canadian, settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. In the more than 250 years since then, Jewish Canadians have been deeply involved in building this wonderful country that we are also privileged to call home. Whether coming to Canada in search of economic opportunity, freedom from persecution, or in service to the crown, Jewish Canadians from St. John's to Victoria to Yellowknife have played an active role in the unfolding Canadian story.

The early Jewish immigrants came predominantly from western and central Europe, followed in the late 19th century by increasing numbers of eastern Europeans. Approximately 20,000 Holocaust survivors made it to Canada, followed by Jewish refugees fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jewish immigration from North Africa, particularly Morocco, brought many francophone Sephardic Jews to Quebec. This group is now a large portion of Montreal's Jewish population and a small but vibrant part of Toronto's Jewish community, including la Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto in my own riding.

Beginning in 1990, there was a significant Jewish migration to Canada from the Soviet Union, including the Russian Jewish community. Canada is home to nearly 60,000 Russian-speaking Jews, a thriving community represented by institutions like Toronto's Jewish Russian Community Centre. In 1983, my mother Edna and I left our home in Scotland to embark on, as she explained at the time, a great adventure. She brought me to Canada to build a better life and future for us both. Knowing barely a soul, we settled in Toronto because she knew there was a thriving Jewish community that would welcome us and provide us with the support we needed.

I am a proud Canadian, I am honoured to represent the people of York Centre in this House, and I am a proud Scottish Jew, a member of a small but mighty clan whose tartan I proudly wear here today. In many ways, the diversity of Jewish Canadians mirrors the mosaic of our broader Canadian society, each of us bringing with us our own customs and traditions and making Canada even better because of it.

Today I stand in this house as the member of Parliament for York Centre. I stand on the shoulders of the dedicated, brave, and committed Jewish men and women who paved the way before me. It is in their merit that I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.

One of the most inspirational Jewish Canadians for me was the Hon. David Croll, who served as the Liberal member of Parliament representing the riding of Toronto—Spadina for a decade following World War II before being appointed Canada's first Jewish senator. Mr. Croll came to Canada when he was six years old, his family fleeing the pogroms of czarist Russia. Through hard work selling newspapers and polishing shoes, he was able to put himself through law school. In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, Croll was elected mayor of Windsor, the first Jewish mayor in Ontario, where he instituted welfare programs for the jobless and the poor. Croll became a member of the provincial Parliament in 1934, where he served as Minister of Labour and Minister of Public Welfare, the first Jewish Canadian to be a minister of the crown.

In the first days of the Second World War, Mr. Croll enlisted with the Essex Scottish, one of more than 17,000 Jewish Canadians who answered the call to serve.

As a federal parliamentarian, Croll championed a range of social issues, from health care to pensions, from tax credits for the poor to prohibiting discrimination.

One of his greatest achievements, in my view, was in pushing for the opening of Canada's immigration regime. Between 1933 and 1948, under Canada's notorious “none is too many” policy, only 5,000 Holocaust refugees were admitted to Canada—the fewest of any western country. The most egregious example of this misguided policy happened in 1939 when Canada turned away the MS St. Louis. There were more than 900 Jewish refugees on board, seeking sanctuary here in Canada. They were turned away and forced to return to Europe, where 254 died in the Holocaust. We cannot turn away from this uncomfortable truth and Canada's part in it.

In 1949, however, Canada admitted 11,000 Jews—more than any other country, other than Israel.

Nate Leipciger is one of the survivors who came to Canada. Seventy-three years after having survived the lowest point of his life, Nate returned to Auschwitz, this time as the highest point in his life. He came back by invitation to guide and teach his Prime Minister, the head of government of his adopted country, about the horrors he endured and the lessons we must never forget. He described his return to Auschwitz last year with the Prime Minister as “triumphant”. He said, “They gave me a one-way ticket, but I returned with my wife, daughter and granddaughter and the prime minister.” He came full circle, from dehumanized to sharing some of the most poignant human moments, shedding tears with the Prime Minister.

We as Canadians must remember the lessons taught by history from this awful period. Monuments like the national Holocaust memorial, soon to be opened in Ottawa, and local ones like the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial at Earl Bales Park in Toronto form part of the legacy of survivors and their families. They came to Canada and became Canadians in their own right. Their stories are our stories as Canadians.

I am proud that my riding became home to so many Holocaust survivors, emerging from the ashes of Europe to begin building new, vibrant lives here in Canada.

Pola and Zalman Pila were two of them. They both survived the death camps and death marches and were reunited after liberation, the sole survivors of their families. They arrived in Toronto soon after, penniless, not speaking English, a married couple with an infant son. With little formal education, they worked day and night to make a life for their children and later their grandchildren. They took the shattered remnants of their lives and with faith, love, and determination built an inspiring future. Pola delivered food right to the doorsteps of those in need, visited the sick, and provided financial assistance to all who asked. Her contributions and the contributions of Jewish women to Canada have been tremendous.

Let us consider Bobbie Rosenfeld. She was known throughout the 1920s as the superwoman of ladies' hockey. In 1924 she helped form the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association, serving as its president until 1939. Rosenfeld won gold and silver medals at the 1928 Summer Olympics after setting multiple Canadian track and field records. She was also a trailblazer off the field, a strong advocate for women in sports. In 1950, Rosenfeld was voted Canada's female athlete of the half-century by The Canadian Press, which awards the Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy to Canada's top female athlete every year.

I could go on listing the myriad contributions of Jewish-Canadian women like Tillie Taylor, the first woman to be appointed as a provincial magistrate in Saskatchewan, or Constance Glube, appointed the first female chief justice in Canada on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in 1980, or Justice Rosalie Abella, who was born in a German IDP camp and became the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, it is not just the individual achievements that should be celebrated. Indeed, the Jewish contribution to Canada has often been greatest when it has come as the product of communal action and furtherance of a shared purpose.

In 1868, just one year after Confederation, the Toronto Hebrew Ladies Sick and Benevolent Society was established. With no paid staff and a budget of only a few hundred dollars, these visionary women built the foundation of what would become one of the leading family service agencies in North America, Jewish Family and Child. Based in York Centre, I have had the privilege of seeing first-hand how JF&C continues to have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable Canadians from every background. JF&C upholds the Jewish value of tikkun olam, the idea that individuals are responsible not only for their own welfare but for the welfare of society at large.

It is one of several inspiring Jewish organizations in my riding that champion this ideal including B'nai Brith Canada, which can trace its roots to 1875; the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, the first Jewish women's organization in Canada founded in 1897; and Canadian Hadassah-WIZO and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which are both celebrating 100 years of life-changing contributions to Canadian society.

These stories have played out in communities big and small across Canada. I am certain that every member of the House from every province and territory can point to the role that Jewish Canadians play in their communities. As celebrated as these stories are, a darker undercurrent of Canadian Jewish heritage must also be acknowledged. Canada has sadly not been immune to anti-Semitism, a scourge that remains stubbornly in our midst.

On June 13, Statistics Canada released hate crimes data for 2015. Jewish Canadians were once again the most targeted religious minority in the country. As a Jewish Canadian, I find this data to be doubly concerning. Throughout history, the level of anti-Semitism has been a fairly accurate barometer of the overall condition and health of a society. An attack against Jews or any minority is an attack on everyone.

In the face of this persistent problem, we must join together, and state unequivocally that when it comes to incidents of hate and discrimination in Canada, we cannot abide hate and prejudice being targeted against any group. Jewish Canadians have always been at the forefront of standing up and fighting against hate and discrimination.

Consider Canada's first Jewish parliamentarian, Ezekiel Hart, who in 1832 was instrumental in Quebec becoming the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to accord full political rights to Jews, 26 years before Great Britain. This commitment to universal equality, and the fight against hate and discrimination remains a core priority for Jewish Canadians and for me personally, standing here today as a result of Ezekiel Hart's activism.

It being pride month, I want to recognize the efforts of Kulanu Toronto, the voice of the Jewish LGBTQ community in Toronto. I had the honour of attending its pride shabbat dinner last week, a celebration of the Jewish LGBTQ community. This pride month, we can also celebrate Bill C-16, yesterday receiving royal assent affirming and protecting gender identity and expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and under hate crime sections of the Criminal Code. I am proud of the active role the Jewish community played in advancing this important legislation. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs served on the steering committee of Trans Equality Canada, a coalition that has worked tirelessly to see this initiative succeed.

The stories I have shared here today are Canadian stories. The values they reflect are Canadian values. The enactment of Canadian Jewish heritage month will ensure that the historic and ongoing contributions of Jewish Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, cementing their legacy and inspiring future generations to build a better Canada. I encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to support this bill.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Jewish heritage month is important for Windsor and Essex County. The Right Hon. Herb Gray served in my seat in this place. He was in fact the longest serving member of Parliament. Designating someone as Right Honourable has only been done a few times and Herb Gray did receive that distinguished designation. He also served as a deputy prime minister of Canada.

Education is one of the most important elements of this Canadian Jewish heritage month. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are still seized in this country with some issues with respect to anti-Semitism.

I would like the member to highlight some of the things that could be done during Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would be a good opportunity to focus on anti-Semitism. I used to work on behalf of youth at risk and multicultural youth. In a diverse community like Windsor, we still sadly experience some anti-Semitism. Sadly enough, there are still elements of our society who are anti-Semitic.

I thank the member for his contributions. The bill could be very successful in providing knowledge to people about anti-Semitism in our communities all across Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his reflection on these issues. It is true, education is one of the most important elements of this proposed Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would provide an opportunity for communities across this country to reflect on the importance of and to reflect on the lessons from the Jewish community.

As I said in my speech, we cannot hide from anti-Semitism. It is there. Sadly, many of those who survived the worst, the Holocaust survivors that came to Canada, are dwindling in numbers, which makes it ever more important that we continue to teach, and that we continue to pass on the lessons of those survivors to our young Canadians to make sure they understand that hate and prejudice against Jews and against any minority is completely unacceptable. This month will certainly be a platform to make sure that happens across the country.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to let my friend know that I am pleased to see this piece of legislation come forward. I hope it will have, and I believe it will have, unanimous support in this place.

I was trying to search my archives to see if I could find proof of this, but I know that the synagogue at Whitney Pier near Sydney, Nova Scotia, is one of the oldest in Canada, if not the oldest. We have rich traditions, and a societal contribution that is absolutely disproportionate to the number of people within the Jewish community. It is experienced right across Canada.

I want to add that to my colleague's list of communities where the roots go deep, to around 1890. It is well over 100 years that there has been a synagogue and an active community in industrial Cape Breton where I used to live, and certainly on southern Vancouver Island where I live now.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for highlighting yet another small community in Canada that has a rich Jewish tradition and legacy. That speaks to the heart of this legislation.

This legislation, which is proposing a Jewish heritage month across Canada, would give voice to all of the small communities that have rich traditions of Jewish activism, Jewish community leaders or businesses, or restaurants. It will give them a platform on which to be heard. We hear the stories from the major centres of Jewish life in Canada, but there are so many more that are untold. This legislation will provide an opportunity for communities across the country to be heard, and to add to the importance of Jewish heritage in Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House today regarding Bill S-232. I would like to commend my colleague from the other place, Senator Linda Frum, for her work on this, as well as my colleague across the way, the hon. member for York Centre.

In 1939, the MS St. Louis departed from Hamburg, Germany, with 937 passengers on board, most of whom were Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime. The St. Louis set sail for Cuba, but upon arrival in Havana, these refugees were denied entry. Not to be deterred, Captain Gustav Schröder changed course for Florida, hoping to find refuge for his passengers in the United States, but it was not to be found.

The inaction of the Americans prompted a courageous group of Canadian clergy and academics to urge the Canadian government to offer safe passage to the St. Louis. After all, Canada was just a two-day journey from the Florida coast. However, William Lyon Mackenzie King allowed himself to be persuaded by one high-level, anti-Semitic bureaucrat, rather than the voices of the Canadian people. To our great shame, the ship was turned away, fanning the flames of the insanity of Adolf Hitler, who rationalized that if the rest of the world did not want to help the Jews, then it was up to him to solve his so-called insane Jewish problem.

In the end, some of those refugees were granted permission to board vessels travelling to the United Kingdom. The remaining 620 refugees remained aboard the St. Louis and were carried to mainland Europe. Researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum did a historical trace on the fate of each passenger. In a summary of its findings, it stated:

Of the 620 St. Louis passengers who returned to continental Europe, we determined that ...254 passengers in Belgium, France and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobibor; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding, or attempting to evade the Nazis.

I remind the House of this blemish in our history to highlight how far we have come as a nation in our relationship with the Jewish people. Canada has long abandoned its anti-Semitic immigration policies of the second world war. Today, Canada is home to some 400,000 Jewish people, the fourth largest Jewish population in the world. Only Israel, the United States, and France have larger populations. Canada has indeed come a long way.

Tonight, we are deliberating on Bill S-232, a bill that enjoys multi-party support, whereby the month of May, in each and every year, would be designated Canadian Jewish heritage month. When this legislation reaches royal assent, Canadians will have much to celebrate in May 2018.

The contribution Jewish people have made to Canadian culture is profoundly broad. The fingerprints of the Jewish community can be found in nearly every aspect of Canadian life. I could not possibly articulate in the time provided the innumerable accomplishments and contributions the Jewish community has made to the fabric of Canadian culture, but consider this as a sampling.

In business, Jewish Canadians have proven to be more than capable job creators. Shoppers Drug Mart, Reitmans clothing, Calgary's Smithbilt Hats, ALDO shoe company, Sony stores, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and the First City Financial Corporation were all founded by Canadians of Jewish heritage.

In arts and entertainment, Canada has been fortunate to have so many talented artists and performers of Jewish heritage. To name a few: actor William Shatner, most famous for his role in Star Trek; Lorne Greene of Bonanza; the game show host Howie Mandel, of Deal or No Deal; Monty Hall of Let's Make A Deal; Lorne Michaels, who created Saturday Night Live; and the Mirvish family and John Hirsch, giants in live theatre production. I wish I could name Henry Winkler, but unfortunately, he is not Canadian, but I just love the Fonz so much.

In literature, we have been blessed by the words of novelist Mordecai Richler, playwright Ted Allan, and poets Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, and A.M. Klein.

Musical talents include composers Louis Applebaum and Srul Glick; opera singer Pauline DonaIda; singer-songwriter Corey Hart; Steven Page, former lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies; and Geddy Lee, lead vocalist of the rock band Rush. Of course, we cannot forget about world-renowned rapper Drake.

In medicine and science, the late Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Éric A. Cohen have been regarded as pre-eminent HIV-AIDS researchers. Victoria Kaspi is a well-known physicist in the field of astrophysics, and Rudolph Arthur Marcus received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems.

In law, five justices of Jewish heritage have served on the bench of the Supreme Court.

In politics, my friend and former colleague on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, the hon. Irwin Cotler, who my colleague mentioned earlier, served as a federal justice minister and has risen to the defence of prisoners of conscience around the world, including Nelson Mandela. Today, at the age of 77, he continues to raise concerns about the fivefold threat presented by Iran and provides legal defence to Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition political leader in Venezuela. The last federal finance minister to table a balanced budget was yet another Jewish Canadian, the hon. Joe Oliver.

The Jewish community in Canada and all Canadians can be proud of all these accomplishments, and a whole lot more. On a personal note, since first being elected to this House more than 11 years ago, I have had the distinct privilege of having a front row seat in a vibrant and active Jewish community in Hamilton. For instance, Madeleine Levy has been a fierce advocate in our community and schools, educating students on the Holocaust and teaching tolerance and acceptance.

Rabbi Baskin is a thoughtful and accomplished author and a key donor to McMaster University library, having donated 1,000 books and manuscripts and 200 pieces of art, as well.

Rabbi Daniel Green oversees Adas Israel and the Hamilton Hebrew Academy and acts as the wise father figure to the broader Jewish community. Dr. Larry Levin is the president of the Canadian Dental Association, having previously served in the same role at the provincial level. Dr. Lorne Finkelstein has made extraordinary efforts to fight racism in Hamilton, to advocate for patients, and to save young lives internationally.

Arthur Weisz, a holocaust survivor, founded the successful property management company Effort Trust. Though Arthur passed away in 2013, his legacy of successful business is being carried on by his son, Tom, who generously donates his own money while raising funds for many worthy causes at home and in Israel, including the Jewish National Fund.

Knowing first-hand the contributions of the Jewish community in Hamilton and across the country, it was easy to support a proposed project driven by Tova and Jim Lynch called the Canadian Jewish Experience. This project has officially become part of the Canada 150 celebrations. It highlights many of the accomplishments I mentioned, and many more. I encourage members of this House and Canadians visiting Ottawa for the sesquicentennial celebrations to stop by the exhibit.

With a view of history, all Canadians should be proud that Jewish people have been able to come to our nation and thrive, yet we have a long way to go. Bill S-232 is before Parliament against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism, both in Canada and abroad. B'nai Brith has issued a report that shows that anti-Semitic events in Canada last year were the highest on record. As my colleague has said, this is unacceptable.

The adoption of this legislation will send the message to all Canadians that we are committed to a diverse, multicultural, and tolerant society, where Canadians, regardless of ethnicity or religion, are able to thrive. As I have said many times, Canada is a place where members of one faith can live peaceably beside members of other faiths and where members of one race can live peaceably beside members of other races.

With that in mind, I would like to return to the story of the MS St. Louis. In 2011, the Conservative government supported the efforts of the Canadian Jewish Congress to create a memorial called the Wheel of Conscience. This monument was installed at Pier 21 in Halifax to remind Canadians of the underlying attitudes that led to the St. Louis being turned away.

The memorial is a polished stainless steel wheel that incorporates four intermeshing gears, each showing a word to represent factors of exclusion: anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, and hatred. Inscribed on the back of the wheel is the passenger list, including the names of those who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Let that monument be a reminder of how far we have come. Truly, as a country, we have gone from darkness to light. Let us continue to build on that success and support Bill S-232. May God bless you, Mr. Speaker, may God bless our Jewish community, and may God bless Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure and the honour to rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-232. If it passes, as I think it will, it will declare the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. This is a very important bill.

New Democrats strongly support multiculturalism and Canada’s unparalleled celebration of heritage, as well as the contributions of all the various ethnic and religious groups. Today, many cities and towns across the country have significant Jewish-Canadian communities that celebrate their culture and history. Consequently, the NDP supports granting this heritage and the events taking place every May all the national recognition they deserve. Canada’s rich cultural mosaic is one of the assets that make Canada what it is today, constituting a great strength that it should be very proud of.

According to the 2011 census, nearly 310,000 Canadians from coast to coast have identified themselves as having full or partial Jewish ancestry. The largest groups live in and around Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. Jewish people have lived in Canada for over 250 years. The first recorded Jewish newcomer settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. Many Jewish immigrants came to Canada between 1880 and 1920, arriving mostly from eastern European countries such as Romania, Poland, and Lithuania.

Immigration restrictions imposed after 1924 made it difficult for Jewish people to come to Canada, unfortunately. This situation persisted until after the Second World War. Tragically, few Jewish people were admitted to Canada during the Holocaust because of the immigration policies in place at that time. Since then, Jewish immigration to Canada has been largely tied to political conditions in their home countries.

For example, there was the arrival of Hungarian Jews and Jewish refugees from Egypt and Iraq in the 1950s, Romanian Jews in the 1960s, Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and North African Jews in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the Jewish-Canadian community and the culture itself are incredibly diverse across communities.

In 2006, the United States proclaimed the month of May as a designated time to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community. In 2012, Ontario declared May as Jewish heritage month. May is also the month that Israel celebrates Israeli Independence Day.

Since we are celebrating Jewish heritage, I would like to mark the occasion by recognizing the contributions of three important Jewish Canadians. Let us begin with the artistic, musical, and poetic spheres. Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Quebec, on September 21, 1934, into a family of Russian and Polish heritage that was part of Montreal's Jewish community.

In adolescence, Leonard Cohen developed a keen interest in writing, especially poetry. It was also during this critical time that the young emerging artist first learned the basics of guitar. While he was studying at McGill University, Leonard Cohen met the poet and English professor Louis Dudek, who in 1956 helped him publish his very first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies.

Leonard Cohen found tremendous success in the 1970s. In 1977, he released Death of a Ladies’ Man, an album produced by Phil Spector with contributions from Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg. Musically, his 1984 album Various Positionswas a major turning point in this Montreal icon’s career. It includes several of his best-known songs, such as Hallelujah and Dance Me to the End of Love.

Leonard Cohen received numerous awards and honours throughout his prolific career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 before being named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003.

Léa Roback is another important figure in Canada’s heritage. She was born in Montreal on November 3, 1903. She grew up in Beauport, near Quebec City, where her parents owned a general store. She spoke Yiddish at home and English and French outside. Being trilingual meant that she could switch freely between languages.

Léa Roback’s family returned to Montreal when she was 14. Two years later, Ms. Roback began working in a factory, where she became aware of the inequality between Montreal’s wealthy anglophone families and the mostly francophone and Jewish working class.

In 1936, Thérèse Casgrain, another great Canadian feminist legendary for her work fighting for women’s suffrage and for founding the Voice of Women movement, asked Léa Roback to join in her fight. At that time, Ms. Roback was active in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which led the struggle to improve working conditions in that industry.

Ms. Roback was a social justice and human rights advocate for much of her life. Ahead of her time, she was renowned for her progressive work firmly rooted in solidarity. She was involved in numerous Montreal organizations, including Quebec Aid for the Partially Sighted and other humanitarian and feminist groups.

In 1991, Ms. Roback’s eventful life was featured in a documentary by Sophie Bissonnette entitled Des lumières dans la grande noirceur A vision in the darkness in English—with Les Productions Contre-Jour. Her interviews with Madeleine Parent were published by Nicole Lacelle with Les Éditions du remue-ménage in 1988.

She is another great Jewish Canadian who has shaped our heritage.

In closing, I would like to mention a major Jewish figure who has made his mark on Canadian economic history. Sam Steinberg was a Hungarian-born Canadian businessman and philanthropist. His determination and vision turned his mother's tiny grocery store into Steinberg's supermarkets, at one time the largest grocery chain in Quebec. Sam Steinberg not only became a giant in his field, he was also the head of Ivanhoe and Pharmaprix. In 1974, the National Film Board even made a documentary about him entitled After Mr. Sam.

At one time, the chain was so popular that when Quebeckers went grocery shopping they would say that they were going to do their “steinberg”. Even though they may not necessarily have been going to a Steinberg store, the expression was rooted into Quebec consciousness.

Sam Steinberg and his wife Helen Roth were great philanthropists. They contributed to a host of charitable causes, including the construction of the Judaism Pavilion at Expo 67, the Helen and Sam Steinberg Foundation's Geriatric Day Hospital, and the Sam Steinberg Award for Young Jewish Entrepreneur of the Year, given by the Jewish Chamber of Commerce of Montreal.

This shows how many great Canadians have made their mark on the history of Jewish heritage. That is why I am happy to support this bill that seeks to have the month of May henceforth known as Jewish Heritage Month across Canada.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to Bill S-232, recognizing the month of May each year as Canadian Jewish heritage month.

I will be very brief in my remarks as I know that many of my colleagues wish to speak on this bill, and my role here today is to simply put the government's position on the record.

I would first like to thank the member for York Centre for sponsoring this bill in the House of Commons. I also thank him for his hard work on behalf of his constituents.

Our government supports this bill since it gives Canadians the opportunity to reflect on and to recognize the many contributions of Canada’s Jewish community and the important role it plays across Canada.

Canadian Jewish heritage month will provide an important opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the many and varied contributions of Jewish Canadians to the fabric of our country, and it will allow for people to share in and learn about their culture.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate our government's support of this bill, and I hope that all members of this House will offer their support to this important piece of legislation.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak in support of Bill S-232, a bill that would establish Jewish heritage month here in Canada.

As is always the case with these heritage month proposals, there is far more to be said than can be covered in 10 minutes, but that is especially true, given the length and breadth of Jewish history. Jews are one of the oldest people groups with a relatively continuous identity.

The impact of Jews on the world is, I think, most evident in what we call the Abrahamic faiths. The world's major Abrahamic faiths, which all come from a Jewish root, claim a majority of the world's population as adherents, and in many of these cases seeking a deeper understanding of faith leads individual adherents to actually seek a deeper understanding of that faith's Jewish roots.

Sometimes we speak of faith or religion as if it were a distinct and separate domain of activity, but the reality is that religion is often very much intertwined with other aspects of life. Through the spread of all of the Abrahamic faiths, Jewish cultural, social, and political ideas have also been spread throughout the world. Jewish ideas are at the root of many if not most modern polities and cultures.

Jewish religious theologizing puts its particular emphasis on reason, logic, and debate. The Jewish intellectual tradition, through Jewish religion but also quite directly, clearly infuses all aspects of western religious and intellectual life.

Of course, much can be said about the contributions that Jews have made to the full range of domains of life, natural and social sciences and the arts, as well as the other domains mentioned.

Recognizing the breadth of Jewish history and the impact across cultures and domains, I would like to focus the lion's share of my remarks today on 20th-century Jewish history and the history of my own family.

When I was in Israel last year, as we approached the Holocaust museum, our tour guide told us that Jews are a post-traumatic people. The Jewish community as a whole and individual communities and families in particular live in the shadow of a terrible genocide, the Shoah, in which six million European Jews were killed. That overall number is important, but it is not just a number, it is a collection of individual stories and experiences, experiences of horrors that are unimaginable to many of us.

As most members here know, my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. She grew up in the Munster area of Germany. She had a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. She was never caught by the Nazis. She hid out on farms, away from her family. After the war, she caught up with her father in South America.

My grandmother rarely spoke directly about the horrors she experienced. This is likely typical of many victims of this sort of trauma, but I think it also reflected the mentality of her generation, a generation that was every bit as hopeful and idealistic as my own, but also that did not put a major emphasis on sharing their own experiences. In some ways they were too busy building the future to tell stories about their past. My grandparents would tell us certain things about their lives that they thought would be useful or helpful, and they would not tell us things that they thought were not useful or helpful. They did not feel a need to be known or understood.

Still, some stories came out in different ways. After my grandmother died, my uncle shared a story about a time when, as a child, he and a number of other boys in the neighbourhood were wrestling. He said to the other boy in the offhanded and unserious way that children sometimes do, “I'm going to bash your face in”. My grandmother apparently froze and grabbed him. “Don't ever say that again”, she said, “I saw a man bash another man's face in”.

Last week I spoke at a film screening here on the Hill about the use of rape as a weapon of war. The Nazis created forced brothels during the war, 10 at concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. There was a concern that because of my grandmother's age and complexion, if she were picked up, she would be sent to one of these brothels. Her mother prepared her for that possibility by laying out how she could maximize her chances of survival. Can members think of something so terrible, a mother trying to prepare her young teenage daughter for how to survive the possibility of sexual slavery?

Many Holocaust survivors were reluctant to share their stories, but remembering them and telling their stories is important for a proper understanding of the past and for all of us as we think about how we build a better future. I salute all of those, including my grandmother, who had the courage to share their stories, even in limited or private ways.

What does it mean to say that European Jews and perhaps in some sense all Jews are a post-traumatic people? Living in the shadow of such a terrible event has psychological impacts on victims and on their descendants. It also leaves people with a deeper appreciation of the reality of evil and the need for a strong and consistent response to it.

The descendants of Holocaust survivors are often called second-, third-, or fourth-generation Holocaust survivors themselves, and more is starting to be written and studied about the impacts of these events generations later. In this vein, I would like to quote from a 2015 article in The Guardian, which states:

Trauma research about the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations varies; some studies conclude there is no effect of trauma two generations on, while others claim that breast milk of survivors was affected by stress hormones that impacted on the physiology of the next generation. Some in the field of epigenetics say the intergenerational effects of the Holocaust are very pronounced and that the atrocities altered the DNA of victims' descendants, so that they have different stress hormone profiles to their peers.

Psychologist Ruth Barnett, whose Jewish father fled Germany for Shanghai, narrowly escaping the Holocaust, says she has witnessed inherited trauma in some of her clients.

“Constantly talking about events like the gas chambers to grandchildren is a way that traumatized people try to get rid of it... But unless it is processed properly, they make even more anxiety for themselves and other generations.”

My grandmother died of cancer about 10 years ago. As Holocaust survivors die, it is important to remember that the impact of the Holocaust remains, and we must remember these events and ensure that they never happen again.

As I said, these events have left many in the Jewish community with a deeper appreciation of the reality of evil and the need for a strong and consistent response to it. While fighting for the rights of Jews throughout the world, Jewish people and organizations have been and continue to be at the forefront of the fight for the rights and dignity of all people. One prominent example of this is Canada's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, which actively encourages its members to be involved in the fight for international human rights and which assists other ethnocultural communities involved in human rights advocacy.

As a Christian myself, I would like to particularly note the advocacy of CIJA for Christians facing persecution around the world. Its website notes, “Experts say Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. CIJA and Rabbis across the country are calling on Canada to take decisive action to help Christians in the Middle East and Africa.” This is notable, in part, because many past acts of anti-Semitism were committed by those claiming, falsely, in my judgment, but claiming nonetheless, to be motivated by their Christian faith. The present eagerness of the Jewish community here and elsewhere to advocate for the Christian community in spite of that history is a great testament to the commitment of this community to standing up for universal human rights.

I would add, parenthetically, that it is high time we heed CIJA's call and finally take action on these issues. Today, many countries in the Middle East, which had long-standing Christian and Jewish communities, have lost their Jewish communities and are now rapidly losing their Christian communities. A strong presence in Asia and Africa are also part of Jewish heritage, but many of those communities have now disappeared.

Of course, a key part of the Jewish story in the 20th and 21st centuries was the creation and continuing vibrancy of the Jewish state of Israel. In the state of Israel as well, we see the impact of the Holocaust. Because of the experience of the Holocaust, Israelis will wisely never give up the means to protect themselves. Israel will always choose survival over popularity, and it would be mad to do otherwise, but Israel has not just survived, it has thrived. It has prospered, inspired the world, and has provided safe harbour for Jews, but also for Bahá’is and other persecuted communities who cannot safely live anywhere else. It has protected the fundamental rights and dignity of all its people.

Resilience shines brightly through Jewish heritage. There have been successive attempts at extermination, and yet these people now survive and thrive, and continue to give their rich gifts to the world. May God continue to bless Israel and the Jewish people.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to rise today to speak in favour of Bill S-232.

Do hon. members know who invented the telephone? I am sure that most of them do. It was Alexander Graham Bell. However, do they know who made the telephone a workable invention? I am not sure that they do. It was a Jewish Canadian named Emile Berliner, who not only made the telephone workable, but also the microphone and created the first gramophone.

How many members know who the first Canadian world figure skating champion was? In 1891, a Montrealer named Louis Rubenstein travelled to St. Petersburg to compete in the first unofficial world figure skating championship. Instead of welcoming him, Mr. Rubenstein was put in prison by the Russians because he was a Jew, but because he carried a letter from his friend, Governor General Lord Stanley, demanding his safe conduct, the British ambassador intervened, he was allowed to compete, and he won the world championship. He returned to Montreal and created the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. He served out the rest of his life as a city councillor in the city of Montreal. These are but two examples of Jewish Canadians who, for the last 280 years, have contributed to the vibrancy of this country and this continent.

Before talking about what Jews have given Canada, I want to talk about what Canada has given Jews.

As a Jewish Canadian, I cannot begin to express how proud I am that Canada is my country, that Quebec is my province, and that I am a Montrealer.

All three of these identities are interchangeable. All three of these identities have led me and generations of my family before me to prosper.

Jews come from a history of persecution across the world, whether in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. Country after country has expelled Jews, has caused them to be ghettoized, and has made them wear symbols to show that they are different. However, our experience in North America, in Canada and the United States, where we arrived as equals, where we arrived and were welcomed, where we arrived and there was freedom of religion, has made Canada what my ancestors called the goldene medina, which means the golden state. That was the United States and Canada. That is why generation after generation of Jews fleeing persecution in the 19th century and 20th century came here, to create our community of more than 400,000 Jewish Canadians who call Canada home today.

I thank Canada for what it has done for me and my community. The reason we love this country and are so patriotic is that it gave us opportunities no other country ever did. Therefore, Jewish Canadian heritage month would not only celebrate the contributions of Jewish Canadians, but for Jewish Canadians it would also celebrate the country that gave us such enormous opportunity.

Contrary to what many people believe, Jewish Canadians were among the earliest immigrants to this country after our indigenous peoples. Even in the history of New France, there were Jews who came here. There was a story of Esther Brandeau who came here dressed as a man and eventually was expelled back to France because she refused to convert to Catholicism, and New France was closed to people who were not Catholic.

Jews were always part of the landscape. In 1740, a gentleman named George Hart settled in Montreal, coming from New England. He was the first Jew to settle in Quebec, not Aaron Hart, who arrived in 1760 with the British army. Quebec, Lower Canada, was the first jurisdiction in the world to grant Jews full political and civil rights in 1832, under the stewardship of Louis-Joseph Papineau.

The Jewish community contributed a great deal to the early days in my city of Montreal. David David was one of the first governors of the Bank of Montreal and sat on the first board. A gentleman named Jesse Joseph was the president of the first Montreal Gas Company, which later became known as the Montreal Light, Heat and Power Company, and he created the Montreal Telegraph Company. Moses Hayes was the chief of police in Montreal in the 1850s and 1860s.

In 1871, Henry Nathan of Victoria became the first Jewish Canadian elected to the House of Commons. Jewish Canadians have served with honour in all three political parties over that time. David Barrett was a Jewish New Democrat and premier of British Columbia. Mr. Marshall was a Jewish premier of Newfoundland from the Conservative Party. There has been generation after generation of Jews in all three political parties in this country, including the Liberal Party, people like David Croll and Irwin Cotler. Even today, in my native area of Montreal, we have produced senators Judith Seidman and Marc Gold. We have produced Irwin Cotler, Lawrence Bergman, and David Birnbaum, who served in the House of Commons and the national assembly. Mitchell Brownstein, Bill Steinberg, Russell Copeman have been mayors. Marvin Rotrand was a city councillor. The list goes on. We have been part of the discussion and of the lexicon in this country.

Jews have served honourably in our Armed Forces since the War of 1812.

The Jewish people served during the Patriotes’ Rebellion in 1837. During the First World War, more than 4,000 Jews served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and during the Second World War, more than 20,000 proudly served their country.

During that period of time we have created institutions that have served not only our community but all Canadians well.

It is interesting that people see Jewish Canadians as having only been from the big cities. They see us in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. However, the first Jewish Canadian wave of immigration was the Sephardic wave in the 1760s, and after that waves of Jews came from Europe and settled small town Canada, creating farming settlements in Saskatchewan and Alberta, like Edenbridge and Wapella, creating corner stores and peddling operations in places like Glace Bay and Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia.

Throughout this country, Jewish Canadians have integrated into their communities and worked alongside their Christian brothers and sisters and later arrivals from other religions to build this country.

In Montreal, many of our institutions, not only Jewish institutions but wider institutions, were created by families like the Bronfmans, the Kolbers, the Reitmans, the Vinebergs, the Segals, the Adams, the Azrielies, the Goodmans, the Bissells, the Martzes, the Goldblooms, the Pascals, the Gewurtzes, the Weiners, the Steinbergs, the Garbers, the Cummings, the Papermans, and the Blacks.

We were joined by a vibrant community that arrived from the Arab countries, a community that endured anti-Semitism after the Second World War. This community settled in Canada, particularly in Quebec and in Montreal. Not only did this community find peace, but it also gave rise to very strong community leaders. They built institutions, not only for the Jewish community, but for all Quebeckers and all Canadians. These are people such as Emile and Aline Malka, Moise Ohana, Sylvain Abitbol, Geneviève Busbib, Marc Kakon, Laurent Amram, Henri and Edmond Elbaz, Betty Elkaim, Jo and Dolly Gabay, Jacques Golbert, Haim Abenhaim, Sidney Elhadad, and many more. There are so many.

This is the 100th anniversary of Federation CJA, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Federation CJA in Montreal. Federation is our prime organization that gathers all the other Jewish organizations.

I would be remiss if I did not also recognize those community leaders who built our national and Montreal-based organizations, people like Dorothy Reitman, Sheila Kussner, Barbara Seal, Lillian Vineberg, Nancy Rosenfeld, David Cape, Goldie and Shelly Hershon, Susan Laxer, Evan Feldman, David Amiel, Jack and Pascale Hasen, Deborah Corber, Reuben Poupko, Dean Mendel, Gail and Heather Adelson, Karen Laxer, Joel Shalit, Stanley Plotnick, Mark Merson, Sidney Margles, Eta Yudin, Eddy Wiltzer, Gary Shapiro, Monica Bensoussan, and of course the great rabi of Shaar Hashomayim who still serves at age 96, Wilfred Shuchat. In calling all these individual Jews, I want to remind everyone that each of them have made contributions, but the community has made contributions.

I hope in Canadian Jewish heritage month, all Canadians will take the time to learn about their local Jewish communities. In that way, we will be able to fight and eradicate the anti-Semitism that exists. Once we know our neighbours, we are much less prejudiced against them.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for 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 Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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6:30 p.m.


David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be as thorough as possible in my remaining three minutes.

To me, Bill S-3 is the best example of a bill indigenous people should have been part of when drafting. If the government had spent some time consulting Stéphane Descheneaux and others, while spending less time repeating talking points, it could have fixed this mess months and months ago. Instead, the government waited until it received an extension to its court mandate deadline to get to work.

The department did much better this time around. It spent less time talking about what it was going to do and more time listening. Many indigenous groups were happy to show all the problems with Bill S-3 and how it can be fixed.

While Bill S-3 can no longer claim to fix all gender-based discrimination when amended, it is a good starting point for phase two.

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6:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up a theme that was advanced by one of the Conservative colleagues, noting the very same amendment the Senate inserted into this bill and then the Liberal members of committee withdrew,“6(1)(a) all the way”, as the women's indigenous organizations are saying.

This is how it is described in a press release from the Abenaki Nation on June 18:

The clause added to Bill S-3 by the Senate was identical to a clause that the Liberal opposition had added to the Harper government’s Bill C-3 in 2010, but that then-House Speaker [Conservative Speaker]...ruled was out of order for going beyond the scope of the bill.

Now that the House Committee has changed the name of Bill S-3 on June 16th, the [Liberal]...government and Justice Minister...have followed the Harper government’s example and effectively announced they will not address sex discrimination in the Indian Act that goes beyond the specific circumstances of...Descheneaux and co-plaintiffs....

I am interested in my colleague's observations on why what the Liberals proposed during the Harper government could not now be embraced by the Liberals now that they are in power.

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6:30 p.m.


David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously we have to move forward. Unfortunately, the court decision had a mandated time period in which we had to address the issues.

Human rights should not be a topic where we have to extend debate. It should be automatic. Unfortunately, we cannot change yesterday, but we can change tomorrow. Moving forward, we understand that phase two is supposed address all sexual discrimination for indigenous people.

I am looking forward to phase two. It is important that there be continued progress with Bill S-3 and phase two.

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6:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, since its inception, the Indian Act has accorded privilege to male Indians and their descendants and disregarded female Indians as second class. While piecemeal changes to this discriminatory act have been made over time, there is still a sex-based hierarchy of the status categories.

To sum up where we are right now, despite unprecedented government promises of indigenous reconciliation and respect, Liberals are trading off human rights based on budget lines. Indigenous women, who have been fighting 40 years in court for equality, watched in dismay last week as Liberals gutted reforms that would have made the Indian Act less vile. Canada's laws still say that indigenous people with a university degree, with military service, or with a white husband lose their Indian status. Would one not think that a government pledged to a new nation-to-nation relationship built on respect would want to fix this?

Indigenous women who lost their legal status after marrying white men convinced the Senate this month to adopt Indian Act changes to overturn these long-standing injustices. However, last week Liberal MPs stripped those changes out after the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs threatened “dire unintended consequences” from what looks to me like a fundamental human right. Is there any other group in Canada the government would discriminate against in this way?

“[I]ndigenous women deserve the equality the charter is intended to ensure and protect”, so said litigant Lynn Gehl in Ottawa this month at a press conference.

Courts ordered that the government end discrimination in the Indian Act once and for all. This bill, gutted by Liberal MPs last week, could have done that.

To honour National Aboriginal Day tomorrow and to validate the Prime Minister's feminist rhetoric, the Prime Minister should do the right thing in this week's vote, maybe even in tonight's vote, and that would be to adopt the amendments proposed by my colleague in the New Democrat caucus and by the Green Party leader to restore the elements of the Senate bill that were cut by Liberal MPs at committee last week. Let us end this session of Parliament on a just note and send Canada on a good path for its 150th.

There is much support for the government ending sex discrimination in the Indian Act. Canada has endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which clarifies state obligations to respect self-determination, including the right to determine membership. Canada must get out of the business of deciding who is and is not an Indian under Canadian law.

The United Nations commission to end discrimination against women, just in November, called out the government for the need to act on this file. It said:

...the Committee remains concerned about continued discrimination against indigenous women, in particular regarding the transmission of Indian status, preventing them and their descendants from enjoying all the benefits relating to such status.

The Committee recommends that the State party remove all remaining discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act that affect indigenous women and their descendants, and ensure that indigenous women enjoy the same rights as men to transmit their status to their children and grandchildren.

The government has failed. It has given this House a flawed bill, uninformed by any indigenous woman's input. After 40 years of litigation by indigenous women, many of whom are still alive, and indigenous lawyers who have been fighting alongside them, the government failed to ask them what they thought and have them inform this vital legislation before us.

The government has stalled for 18 months, knowing that it had a court-ordered requirement to do this work. It is scrambling at the end of this session to meet that court deadline. Having been given 18 months by the court to make this right, they had testimony from witnesses that could have made it right. The Liberals are now asking Parliament to pass a bill that is being heavily criticized by the majority of indigenous people.

I will quote from the Ontario Native Women's Association. It said,

By rejecting the “6(1)(a) All The Way” amendment to Bill S-3 the federal government has betrayed its promise to Indigenous women. The amendment would have reinstated our sisters and removed all sex based discrimination from the Indian Act.

The Senate did repair that flaw. The Senate amendment, which came to this House, has support from indigenous women. That repaired bill, given to the government, was really a gift to a government that is struggling to deliver on its first nations promises.

On the eve of National Aboriginal Day and the celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation, this would have been a real gift to the country to actually move forward and end gender discrimination under the Indian Act. Instead, the Liberal members of the committee gutted the bill, bringing us back to what we are debating today. It could be repaired by accepting the amendments that are on the floor right now.

This has left indigenous women out again. There is strong criticism, repeated again and again, by almost every indigenous women's organization we have heard from.

This has left us, then, scrambling in the final days of Parliament, disrespecting the advice of indigenous women and disrespecting Canada's deep need for reconciliation. This is breaking trust. It is a dangerous game. We have cynicism from the women most affected, and their children, when we have the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs saying that there will be “dire unanticipated consequences” of this bill. Indigenous women say repeatedly that this is a human right, that gender equality is a human right already and that we do not need to consult on it.

This is a government that consults on everything, endlessly, things we did not think needed to be consulted on, such as restoring habitat protection to the Fisheries Act. In that case, we are consulted in the absence of action.

In this case, we have the government's failure to consult with the indigenous women most deeply affected. It brought a bill twice to the Senate on which there was no consultation, and now it is saying that we can only bring a half-measure bill, because we have to consult with indigenous people on the unintended and dire consequences the minister cites.

The government cannot have it both ways, not without breaking a great deal of goodwill and breaking a great deal of faith with indigenous women in this country.

As Sharon McIvor, litigant and now defence lawyer, asked at a press conference last week, why would they consult on whether they can continue to be discriminated against? Lynn Gehl, also a long-time challenger of this discrimination in court, said that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs is using consultation as a weapon. That is no way to move forward.

We have strong indigenous women leading in this country already. I want to pay my respects to Shania Pruden, from the Pinaymootang First Nation in Manitoba, and Teanna Ducharme, whose Nisga'a name is Aygadim Majagalee. Both of these young women, in association with the Daughters of the Vote program, came to this House and testified at the status of women committee. They are articulate, strong, brilliant leaders.

I also want to honour the late Shannen Koostachin, who initiated Shannen's dream and was at the root of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal challenge on equality of treatment in child welfare. There are three rulings now the Canadian government has not honoured.

There is also Helen Knott, Treaty 8 leader, who is advocating and saying strongly that violence against the land is the same as violence against women. We need to move forward in a good way.

I ask the government to please either adopt the Senate amendments or ask the court for an extension so that it can really do this right. We cannot afford half measures in this country. Gender equality and first nations respect is a solemn promise of the government that I am going to keep working to have it keep.

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6:40 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon the judge rejected the plaintiff's application for a further extension. The member is aware of that. More than 35,000 people have been waiting two years since this court decision was exercised to exercise their rights. She understands that we need to pass this legislation immediately to address the discriminatory gender-based gaps that exist in the Indian Act. We have also committed to stage two.

Will the member support those people who have been waiting for the past two years and support the second stage so we can do the consultations properly and get the real changes that are necessary in the bill?

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6:45 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government was in opposition, it proposed the very same amendment to the Conservative government that, now that it is the government, it rejects. This has been on the Liberal party's agenda and radar for a very long time. When they formed government, they would have been briefed on this. They have had 18 months to ask indigenous women whether the new legislation proposed in S-3 was adequate. Twice, the Senate told the government it was, because the Senate actually talked to indigenous women when the government failed to.

The message we are getting loud and clear from every native women's organization is that they want the Senate version of the bill passed. It is the perfect undertaking. That is what we are urging this government to do now. If the Liberals really are so surprised about the same amendment they proposed in 2010, and that the Minister of Justice advanced when she was an elected chief at the highest levels in British Columbia, imploring this Parliament to take the very same action she now opposes, which is stunning to me, then the government should ask for an extension, because it did not. In fact, the court ruling this morning said that the judge was unwilling to get in a battle between the Senate and Parliament unless the government itself was going to invite it in and leave the door open. The government has failed to ask for that extension. It has no credibility.

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6:45 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her passionate advocacy on behalf of indigenous women in this context.

I was disappointed to hear her say that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has claimed “dire unintended consequences”. I would like her to advise the House just what those consequences would be, because gender equality is a human right, as she said. One would hope that would be the number one priority. What are these dire unintended consequences? Are they real, or are they simply a smokescreen for a failure to do the right thing?

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6:45 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's frustration. We cannot think of another group within Canada that is discriminated against more than indigenous women. It is a double whammy in our system, which we really hoped this government was going to try to change.

No one should have to have consultation on their human rights. This is not unlike the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The government has now been issued three non-compliance orders. The courts have said that indigenous kids should get the same funding and treatment as non-indigenous kids. The government in that case said it could not afford the $155-million tab to do that. The government is very willing to spend on all kinds of other areas, but that it is not willing to spend on human rights is inexplicable, and it has some explaining to do.

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6:45 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to representatives of the government. I very forcefully won amendments. I put forward amendments to restore the provisions that eliminate all gender discrimination. I do think, in fairness to the hon. minister, that there are issues. My view is that we can solve the issues.

There is one I will mention to the hon. member. If a whole flood of new members were accepted as legitimate members of a first nation community, they would then have voting rights. Some first nations communities have a quorum that requires 25% of all those people in the nation to vote before the election is valid.

There are ways to handle unintended consequences. Deciding to continue gender discrimination is not a way to handle an unintended consequence.

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6:50 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. The government has had years to examine these “unintended consequences”. The amendments proposed today are identical to those that the Liberals proposed while in opposition in 2010. They certainly should be aware of what the implications of their amendments were. They should stop their hypocrisy and move ahead to end gender discrimination against indigenous women.

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6:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is the House ready for the question?

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6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members