House of Commons Hansard #388 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mennonites.

Topics

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the opposition would like to focus on other matters, the reality of the situation is that this government is bringing in good legislation that will have a meaningful impact on people in communities throughout the country.

The member spoke about his riding of Winnipeg, but how does he see this translating throughout the country?

When he was talking just now about lifting children out of poverty, there was heckling coming from the other side of the House. How does my colleague see the disconnect that the opposition has as it relates to what people in this country are worried about on a day-to-day basis, as opposed to the trumped-up conspiracy theories that the opposition is trying to bring forward?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the most tangible examples I could give my colleague is the Canada child benefit program. Just over $9 million a month goes into Winnipeg North to support children. That same principle applies in all 338 constituencies across Canada. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. It is policy initiatives like this that have lifted thousands of children out of poverty.

To me, that is why we are here. We are here to help and assist and boost our fellow citizens while at the same time bringing in policies that are going to make a difference, things like the Madagascar trade agreement, Bill S-6, and expanding trade, having better tax laws, fighting tax evasion and making sure that there is a higher sense of tax fairness.

That is what this government is all about. That is what this government is going to continue to advocate day in and day out, no matter what kind of political rhetoric and criticism comes from the other side.

Those members want to make it personal; we want to make it all about Canadians.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to talk about personal attacks, I am hoping that the member can comment on the comment made by the member for Kingston and the Islands regarding trumped-up conspiracy theories.

We are talking about the integrity of the government here as we are coming up with international trade deals. If they are accusing a member of their party of raising trumped-up conspiracy theories, does the member agree with those sentiments?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can say that in my 30 years, I am only aware of Conservatives having gone to jail. I am not aware of that happening on the Liberal side. If the member wants to compare ethics, I was in opposition while Stephen Harper was the prime minister, and we could maybe relive the Senate scandal.

At the end of the day, it is all about focus. We are going to continue to focus on Canada, the economy, our social fabric and the way in which we can continue to support Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the amendment defeated.

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

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

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

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to call it 5:30 at this time so that we could begin private members' hour.

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.?

Canada–Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Canadian Mennonites have made to building Canadian society, their history of hope and perseverance, the richness of the Mennonite culture, their role in promoting peace and justice both at home and abroad, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Mennonite heritage for future generations, by declaring the second week of September as Mennonite Heritage Week.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to my own motion that would establish the second week of September as Mennonite heritage week.

Why Mennonite heritage week? First, this is an opportunity for the Government of Canada to recognize the contributions that Mennonites have made in building our great country. The Mennonite community is incredibly diverse and has invested heavily in building a community that is tolerant and prosperous, where we care for one another and are generous with each other.

Let me start off by talking about who the Mennonites are. We are an understated and unassuming hard-working group of people. We try to stay out of trouble. We serve our communities. We serve our country and our fellow human beings.

It goes without saying that our modern Canada was built by immigrants, many of them fleeing war, strife, persecution and economic devastation. We are all proud of the men and women, and their families, who have risked everything to leave their homes elsewhere around the world and come to Canada to build a new life. The Mennonites are among those people groups who came to find a refuge in Canada. Their history and reputation for peacemaking, creativity and hard work speak to the hope and opportunity that Canada has always offered to the world.

I am a descendant of those people who fled fierce persecution in Europe and in Russia, and risked everything to move a vast distance to an unfamiliar land for an uncertain future. That risk was rewarded as my ancestors settled in an immeasurably rich land and became part of a community that is built, and continues to build, what is arguably the most desirable country in the world.

I am immensely proud of my Mennonite heritage and propose the motion to honour the role that Canada's Mennonites have played in building the foundation of the country we know and love today.

Who are the Mennonites? We have our roots within the Anabaptist movement that occurred in German- and Dutch-speaking parts of central Europe during the Protestant Reformation. The most distinguishing theological feature of the Anabaptists was their rejection of infant baptism and their firm belief in what is called the believer's baptism, namely baptism of adults who profess faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

This foundational element of faith ensured that the Anabaptists were persecuted by the church and government authorities of the day, both Catholic and Protestant. Many Mennonites were tortured for their faith and sent to their deaths. Despite strong persecution, the Anabaptist movement spread quickly across western Europe, primarily along the Rhine River.

Another key tenet of the Anabaptist confession is a commitment to non-violence and that included resisting all military service. This resulted in many smaller groups of Anabaptists being destroyed because of their conviction that all violence, even when used to defend themselves, was against God's teachings.

In the early days of the Anabaptist movement, a priest left the Catholic church after his brother and his companions were attacked and killed because of their Anabaptist faith and their refusal to defend themselves. This priest became a respected leader within the Anabaptist movement and became so influential that many Anabaptists began carrying his name. His name was Menno Simons and today we call the people that followed him the Mennonites.

In addition to their distinctive faith perspective, the consistent theme across the history of the Mennonite people has been their persecution. In fact, whether it was in Germany, the Netherlands, Prussia or even Russia, these industrious people have travelled much of the western world looking for a safe place to call their home.

Due to the severe persecution faced by the Mennonites, they were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere in the world.

Some fled immediately to the United States, where they found freedom to practise their faith without interference from state authorities. Of these, a number of groups ended up migrating to Canada and establishing communities in our country, primarily in Ontario. Other persecuted Mennonites first fled to Prussia, seeking freedom to practise their faith and live in peace.

Then in the 1770s, Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to resettle in Russia, promising them land and the right not to participate in military service. Therefore, many Mennonites moved to Russia, establishing communities and colonies cross western Russia, successfully farming previously infertile land and becoming successful business people. In fact, my great grandfather Cornelius Martens was among those who built and operated a large machinery factory in the town of Millerovo, a community in Russia that still exists and of which my brother and I have been made honorary citizens.

For 150 years, the Mennonites prospered and lived in peace in Russia. Then everything changed. By the end of the 19th century, in other words, the end of the 1800s, and beginning of the 20th century, the flames of revolution were beginning to be fanned across Russia and the Mennonites felt less and less welcome in their adopted country. More and more of them were again leaving their homes and seeking refuge in a place that would offer peace and freedom. That place was Canada.

As Bolshevism and Communism inflicted more and more horrors upon Russia, thousands upon thousands of Mennonites fled their adopted home and landed in Canada, first settling in the inhospitable prairie provinces and then in British Columbia and Ontario. They worked hard, they cared for their families and communities and made the difficult sacrifices, which is the hallmark of immigrant life.

At the very heart of their communities was their church and their faith. Different Mennonite denominations sprang up across our country, including the Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada as it is now known, the Amish, the Old Order Mennonite church, the Holdeman Church of God in Christ and others. At the heart of each were the core tenets of faith in Christ, a belief in the adult believers baptism and a commitment to non-resistance and peacemaking.

Let me talk about the Mennonites today.

Since their journey to Canada, Mennonites have become an indispensable part of the Canadian fabric, distinguishing themselves in a broad range of endeavours, from the arts to the sciences, from sports to politics, from business to music and everything in between.

Indeed, the Canadian Mennonite community has done more than just promote outstanding human values. It has also given Canada not one, not two but innumerable talented athletes, including, for example, five-time Olympic medalist, speed skater Cindy Klassen.

Other Mennonite athletes of note include NHL players such as Jonathan Toews, Dustin Penner, Robyn Regehr, James Reimer and former St. Louis Blues great, Garry Unger. There are many others either in the NHL today or formerly in the NHL.

There are also football players such as former CFLers John Pankratz and Matthias Goossen.

There are other notable Mennonites who have left their mark on Canadian society, including authors David Bergen, who is a Giller Prize winner, and Miriam Toews, a best-selling author and winner of the 2004 Governor General's Literary Award. That list also includes Canadian conductors Howard Dyck and Glen Fast, and well-known artist Gathie Falk, whose artwork hangs in Canada's embassy in Washington, D.C. Incidentally, Gathie Falk was one of my Sunday school teachers when I was a young child.

Members might be surprised to know that there are at least 15 members on this side of the House who trace their roots back to the Mennonites.

The history of the Mennonites and their ability to constructively contribute to building a tolerant, welcoming, healthy and prosperous Canadian society stands as a testament to the fact that our Mennonite values are Canadian values. They are values such as compassion and loving each other, including the vulnerable and marginalized. They are values such as hard work, forbearance, forgiveness, reconciliation and peacemaking. These, as well as other values such as thrift and generosity, are the values that arise out of our Mennonite faith. Maybe that is why the Mennonite MPs in the House are on this side, not that side.

However, I digress. These values I have articulated were strung out of the Mennonite culture and faith, a deep, abiding faith in God and his providence. Throughout Mennonite history, those values have been tested within the crucible of persecution, conflict, war and famine. We would do well as a country to reflect upon that history and the values that have sustained the Mennonites, as a guide to direct us as we stand on guard for the true north, strong and free, our wonderful country called Canada.

Therefore, by dedicating the second week of September to our Mennonite community, we are not just highlighting one people group's history. We are highlighting the refuge that Canada has provided to so many people groups, vulnerable people groups around the world, persecuted people groups. We can be very proud of that legacy that Canada has left behind.

I talked about the Mennonites fleeing persecution in Europe and finding new places all over the world. I mentioned the United States and Canada. However, today we find Mennonites in places like Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. Do members know that the largest population of Mennonites is actually found in Africa? Africans have very much embraced the faith values that Mennonites have espoused for so many years.

I want to wind up by saying that I am very proud to be a Mennonite. I am very proud of our country for embracing the Mennonites. I am pleased that we have a motion today that will declare that every second week in September will be known as Mennonite heritage week.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Abbotsford for bringing this motion forward and for being proud of his heritage. I come from a Sikh heritage. We all come from different heritages and bring those values to Canada, but we are all proud Canadians. In fact, if there is one historic Sikh site outside of Pakistan and India, it is in the hon. member's own riding.

However, some Canadians have raised concerns as to why motions such as this, that seek to designate a Mennonite or Sikh heritage month or day, are important. Therefore, I would like to ask the hon. member why motions such as this are important, should be brought here and should be respected.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, these kinds of motions allow us to celebrate the diversity of our country. I note that my home riding of Abbotsford, which I proudly represent, is known for being a community where large Sikh, Mennonite and Dutch populations, as well as many other people, all live in harmony together. These kinds of motions allow us to re-emphasize for Canadians how fortunate we are to live in a country like this, where we celebrate that diversity, live with each other in peace and learn from each other. That is a great thing to celebrate.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the great contributions of Mennonites in Canada has been some of the outstanding work they do sponsoring refugees to come to Canada and supporting them once they are here. I wonder if the member would like to speak a bit about that work.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question from the member for Elmwood—Transcona. I know he has a lot of Mennonites living in his riding as well.

Mennonites banded together to form an organization called the Mennonite Central Committee, which was actually able to be an agent for bringing the persecuted Mennonites from Europe and Russia to Canada in the first place. It was agents of that wonderful service that allowed us to settle in this wonderful country we call Canada.

MCC and Mennonite congregations across Canada have been very active, as my colleague knows, in sponsoring refugees from war-torn places around the world, focusing on the most marginalized and vulnerable refugees. We have them in our own church. Some very good friends of mine are refugees from Iraq. We are working with them to bring their children to Canada. They faced immense persecution there. They have now landed in the community of Abbotsford and are finding that community welcoming and supportive. They still face challenges, as all immigrant families do, finding jobs and trying to find housing. These are big challenges, but they are up to the challenge, as most immigrants have been who have come to Canada and have built this amazing country.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this might be the third or possibly even the fourth time I have had the opportunity to talk about a heritage week and heritage month. I, for one, truly believe in Canada's diversity, which, as our Prime Minister has often said, is one of our greatest strengths.

That is amplified when we attend Winnipeg during the summer months of Folklorama, where we see a cultural smorgasbord of sorts, of all different ethnic groups sharing their heritage with the broader community in a very real and tangible way. On that note, this is a very special year for Folklorama because it is the 50th anniversary. I want to recognize that and applaud all of those individuals who have made this one of the most successful multicultural and diversity events in North America. It has been truly an amazing effort by a lot of wonderful people and highlights just how diversified Canada really and truly is.

In terms of the motion that has been brought forward by my colleague across the way, it makes reference to the Mennonite community. It is a community that I am very familiar with. Although I might not be of Mennonite heritage, personally, at times I might question that because of my father and the engagement he had with the Mennonite community. He was a great consumer of many Mennonite products, in particular agricultural products over the years when I was fairly young and growing up. I have had the opportunity to also experience first-hand as an adult many of the exchanges that have taken place, again, based on commerce. A number of years back, in the 1990s, I was able to get a bit better sense of the Mennonite community, when I started to get engaged in the whole issue of leadership within political parties and reaching out and so forth.

I would like to share a few thoughts and then talk about diversity.

As the member indicated, the Mennonite community is fairly well dispersed in Canada, but I want to talk about the Manitoba Mennonite community. In and around the time of Confederation, we had Mennonites. Russian Mennonites who were in Ukraine came to Canada in and around the 1870 to 1875 era and settled in southern Manitoba. Interesting enough, we see that some of the healthiest communities today in rural Manitoba are found where our Mennonite community has been second to no other, in terms of the driving force of the economic and social development of that area of the province.

Obviously, the Mennonite community has grown considerably over the years and has had significant influence on all aspects of our society. One of the questions asked was in regard to the Mennonite heritage community and the fine work that it does as a non-profit agency. We continue to hear on an annual basis of the charitable works that are done from within our Mennonite community, again arguably second to no other.

Earlier I was talking about the issue of trade and I want to draw the connection. One of the first tours I had of a really large farm operation was on a Mennonite-run hog farm. I walked into a massive barn that had about 10,000 hogs in it and the first thing I saw was computers. The computers controlled the feedings, which ultimately controlled the weight and determined when a pig was ready to go to market.

By my using this as an example, members get an appreciation of what the member for Abbotsford was been referring to. The work ethic of the Mennonite community is truly amazing. In many ways, Mennonites have been pioneers in what we are today. I do not think we can really underestimate their contributions to Canada's diversity.

Our diversity continues to grow every day, as our heritage is enriched through immigration on a daily basis. However, on many different fronts, our Mennonite community has brought wonderful attributes to Canada's heritage.

On many occasions I have had the opportunity to have exchanges with members of the community. They have a very high sense of pride in their Mennonite heritage. It was nothing but an absolute delight. Whether in my riding of Winnipeg North, which may not have as high a concentration of Mennonites as in the Kildonan area, or in southern Manitoba, the community has definitely had an impact.

The member for Abbotsford was asked an important question by my colleague on why we recognized heritage weeks, months or days. I will attempt to answer that question in my own words.

We need to have an appreciation for one of Canada's greatest strengths, which is our diversity. By having these heritage days, weeks or months, we provide an opportunity for individuals, whether inside or outside the chamber, to appeal to the broader community to recognize or host a special event.

Let me give members three examples. Last fall, the House passed a motion to have a heritage month for our Filipino community in Canada, which occurs in the month of June. We also had a motion for Sikh heritage last fall, which I believe is currently in the Senate. That is to recognize Sikh heritage in the month of April. Today, we are talking about recognizing Mennonite heritage in the second week of September. Those three communities provide so much to our society.

As members of Parliament, we can encourage school boards, provincial levels of government or businesses in our communities to present awards and to do things that heighten awareness. I have always believed we should not ask people who become Canadian citizens to forget about their homelands. We, in fact, like to encourage them to use their home, their country and their grouping to grow Canada's heritage.

I will be hosting a heritage month. I will be giving out medallions. I will take a look at what role I might be able to play. Why? It is because the member for Abbotsford has taken the time to recognize a really important community and he wants to ensure there is a heightened sense of public awareness, public pride and individual pride in our communities. We are Canadian but we are Mennonite Canadians in many ways. We need to know our roots.

That is why I applaud the member for bringing this forward and I look forward to the ongoing debate.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the initiative to establish a Mennonite heritage week. I want to start by talking a bit about the contributions of Mennonites to northeast Winnipeg and to Manitoba.

Manitoba has quite a significant Mennonite population, and it is one that has definitely made a mark on Manitoba culture and society. Some of the institutions in northeast Winnipeg, such as Concordia Hospital, owe their existence to Mennonites who came to Winnipeg. The Concordia Society was originally established in 1928, and the Concordia Hospital followed shortly afterward, in 1931. It was located on Desalaberry Avenue for a long time, on the bank of the Red River, right where the Columbus housing co-op is today. In 1974, it moved to its current location on Concordia Avenue. Not long after opening, it was found that the emergency room was well frequented and that the ICU was too small. By 1983, the emergency room was being expanded and the number of beds in the ICU was being doubled from four to eight.

Concordia Hospital is in the news a lot today because the current Conservative government is endeavouring to close the emergency room and the ICU. It is something people in northeast Winnipeg are very aware of and, frankly, very upset about, because it has become such an important institution for them. It is open 24/7 and is an important point of access for northeast Winnipeggers to get access to the health care system. Debates are alive and well regarding the Concordia Hospital and the role it plays. That institution was originally founded by Mennonites in Winnipeg.

Not far down the road is the Bethania personal care home, which started out in Middlechurch in the 1940s and moved to Concordia Avenue in 1970. It currently cares for some 148 residents.

There is also Sam's Place, which is an excellent restaurant and a great place to get a bite. It also has a wonderful used bookstore. In addition to being a lovely place to get a meal and find a good book, it is also a social enterprise run by the Mennonite Central Committee. It helps train youth and gives them the skills to go out into the job market and find employment when they are ready for full-time employment. I have hosted events at Sam's Place and held many meetings there. It is a really great place. To people listening back home who have not been there, I exhort them to go check out Sam's Place.

The MCC Thrift Shop can be found on Chalmers Avenue in Elmwood—Transcona. It is one of many. There are over 100 shops across North America raising millions of dollars for the work of the Mennonite Central Committee. It started as a modest effort in rural Manitoba and quickly turned into a great success.

We also have the Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Elmwood—Transcona, which is an important part of the community. It has many students and is involved in the wider community. For example, the Happy Days on Henderson festival is held on the grounds of MBCI every year.

Headquartered in Winnipeg is the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which is an important organization. It was originally founded to help Mennonite farmers who wanted to help people across the globe by sending their surplus grain to places with an intense need. It was established in the early eighties, and continues to do good work across the planet for people in many different countries.

Those are just some examples of the institutions in Winnipeg, and particularly in northeast Winnipeg, where Mennonites have made a very pronounced and lasting contribution.

I have had the honour of knowing people who have been involved in politics in northeast Winnipeg, mostly people involved in the NDP. I think of MLAs such as Vic Schroeder, Harry Schellenberg, Erna Braun and Matt Wiebe, the current MLA for Concordia.

Political contributions have been made by Mennonites not just on the NDP side. Obviously, there are Mennonites in various parties who have made a number of different contributions.

Mennonites originally came to Canada, and started coming to Manitoba, in the 1870s, when the Russian Czarist government of the day undertook some reforms. It released the serfs, but in exchange, it required military service, and it took over the education system. I highlight those two things, because it was very important to Mennonites that they be able to teach their children their own language and faith and therefore have control over their education. It is also an important principle of Mennonites that they abstain from military service, so that was not compatible with the Russian government's draft at that time. They came to Canada under agreements that both exempted them from military service and gave them a fair amount of autonomy with respect to schools for their children.

Already in the 1890s, some of that was beginning to be challenged. There was the Manitoba schools question that came up. It was controversial at the time. Mennonites began to feel some pressure and discomfort, in a sense, that not all the deals they had made as a condition of coming to Canada were being honoured. That was exacerbated with the onset of the First World War, when Mennonites had to make the decision as to whether they would serve with Canadian forces and fight in Europe or whether they would stay home. The overwhelming majority decided not to participate. That was not well received by all. I want to come back to that in a moment.

Some ended up leaving. They went to Mexico. They went to Paraguay and other places to try to get back those kinds of agreements on education and military service they thought they had with Canada. For those who stayed, they became a really important part of Manitoba culture and society. They were an important part of promoting and cementing the co-operative movement in Manitoba, for instance, with consumer co-ops, grain co-ops and other kinds of co-ops, to try to make life more affordable for themselves in rural communities. They were an important part of the credit union movement. We have a huge Steinbach Credit Union building in Elmwood—Transcona, right off highway 59. That is a credit union that is going strong. They continue to support that movement.

I have talked a lot about the achievements of Mennonites and their importance to Manitoba culture, but I want to highlight that Canadians did not always think they would be a good fit, and there was opposition to having Mennonites settle here. In fact, there was an order in council in passed in 1919 that prohibited the immigration of Mennonites, Hutterites, Doukhobors and other undesirables. For a period of about four years, Mennonites were expressly prohibited from coming to the country. In the 1920s, there were comments made in this very place, such as this, from a Mr. Buchanan, who was serving as a member at the time. He said:

l intend to argue that they are not desirable citizens, although probably not on the same ground as defined in the Bill itself. I look upon a desirable citizen as one who comes into this country prepared to associate with the rest of the people and to assume all the obligations of citizenship. If immigrants fail to do that, then I do not look upon them as desirable citizens, and we should refrain from allowing such classes of people to enter the Dominion of Canada.

A colleague, Mr. Green, said:

I do not think we would ever be able to assimilate these people so long as they are allowed to remain in these communities, and we should not allow the Doukhobors, Hutterites and Mennonites or any people of that sort to come into Canada and live under their present customs. If we are going to build up a united Canada we must have people whom we can assimilate and who eventually will join the family of Canadian life.

We hear comments like this today in debates on immigration.

Mennonites are a great example of people who came to this country, worked hard and made significant contributions. I believe that is still true of people coming to our country from other parts of the world. Our job is to welcome them and work with them to ensure that those contributions are positive.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, as a Mennonite, I am pleased to support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Abbotsford, Motion No. 111, which proposes to recognize the second week in September as Mennonite heritage week.

Faith, persecution and the dream of a better life: these were the driving forces that brought thousands of Mennonites to Canada from the 18th century onward. Today nearly 200,000 Mennonites call Canada home.

In 2010, the largest concentration of urban Mennonites was found in Winnipeg, in my province of Manitoba, followed by Vancouver, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Waterloo. Each of these urban populations is fed by large Mennonite rural communities, such as those that exist in southern Manitoba. In fact, today Winnipeg has one of the largest urban Mennonite populations in the world, with more than 20,000 Mennonites and dozens of Mennonite churches.

As we consider the idea of designating the second week of September Mennonite heritage week, we naturally lean on the rich history of the Mennonite community in Canada.

Mennonites go back to the 16th century, as a people forged out of the Protestant Reformation. With the invention of the printing press the century before, faith was transformed. People were in a position to read and understand the Christian scriptures for themselves. The Anabaptist movement was born.

The movement spread throughout Europe. In northern Germany and the Netherlands, a man by the name of Menno Simons became an influential Anabaptist leader. Originally a Roman Catholic priest, Simons had concerns about infant baptism. He ultimately came to believe that baptism should be voluntarily chosen by mature believers. This was contrary to the widely practised tradition of infant baptism within mainstream Christian communities.

Simons wrote extensively, preached constantly and eventually turned a fledgling movement into an ever-expanding community of believers that came to be known as the Mennists.

The Mennists were peaceful, with a tendency toward self-sufficiency and isolation that produced a particularly unique social-religious culture, a culture that held a deep conviction of faith that was not simply a private matter but a way of life that expressed itself in every facet of one's being. Commitment to God and family was paramount.

Fierce persecution characterized the life of these believers. Many were imprisoned and executed. Being Anabaptist was considered a crime, so persecution led them to migrate throughout Europe and North America. Mennonites were looking for a place where they could truly and fully enjoy one of humanity's most basic and fundamental rights, the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

Much as it is today, Canada was a desired destination for many who were suffering at the hands of their persecutors. The first waves of Mennonites to arrive in Canada came from Pennsylvania in 1786, which eventually led to the creation of the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, believe it or not.

The second wave of European immigrants arrived in 1822 and established a large Amish settlement that would become the Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference, in 1923.

A third wave saw more European immigrants from Russia and Prussia settle in the Canadian Prairies beginning in the 1870s. At the time, the Dominion of Canada was looking for European farmers to settle the new province of Manitoba. That led the government of the day, through the minister of agriculture, to issue an invitation known as a privilegium. The letter, signed by the secretary of the department of agriculture, made 15 provisions for Mennonites, should they choose to relocate.

Timing is everything. At that time, the Mennonite populations in Russia and Ukraine were particularly nervous about their future in that region. Changing legislation meant that Mennonites were required to teach Russian in schools. Moreover, they were losing their exemption from military service, which created a problem, given their adherence to the principle of pacifism.

A delegation visited Canada in 1873 and determined that Canada would be a suitable new home. The minister of agriculture, the hon. John Henry Pope, made an arrangement with the delegation, in view of their formal announcement to him of their intention to settle in the province of Manitoba. According to an order in council from 1873, the arrangement included an exemption from military service. Guarantees were also provided for the fullest privilege of exercising their religious principles and educating their children in their schools, as provided by law, without any kind of molestation or restriction whatsoever.

The order in council also reserved eight townships in southern Manitoba for Mennonite settlement and offered each Mennonite adult a free quarter section of land. What a bargain, and Mennonites love bargains. They saw it, recognized it and jumped on the opportunity. The option to purchase the remaining three-quarters of a section was given to them at a dollar per acre. This arrangement worked well for both parties. Canada would have farmers to settle the Prairies and unleash its agricultural potential, and the Mennonites would be free to exercise their religious freedom without fear of persecution.

Between 1874 and 1880, some 17,000 Mennonites left Russia, and 7,000 of those came to Manitoba. While they kept the new faith, these new Canadians were free of the persecution that had plagued them in Europe. Upon coming to Canada, however, there were still challenges to overcome, such as sickness, clearing the land for farming and building homes for their families. Nothing came easy. One writer called the region a “wilderness since time immemorial, wild and covered with forest”.

Another member of the group that arrived in Manitoba in late July humourously wrote about their experience with mosquitoes, “The misery that these numerous tormentors inflicted upon us in those three days and nights in the open flatboat was something extraordinary. We had never seen anything like this. If Pharaoh's plagues were similar, it is no wonder that he became pliable and yielded to Israel's departure.”

The condition of mosquitoes in Manitoba has not changed.

Facing the raw elements would be one of the enduring challenges of settlement for Mennonites. Settlers would come together regularly to accomplish significant tasks: removing stumps, building barns, cutting wood. However, Manitoba's first nations and Métis populations also helped the early settlers stay alive in those first few difficult years. They sold them fish, cattle, potatoes and other goods, and provided moccasins for footwear. They also showed them where to find sources of fresh fruit, like chokecherries and saskatoons. Thanks to the hard work of the pioneers and the kindness of Canada's first nations and Métis, Mennonites pulled through the most challenging years of the settlement.

A fourth wave saw Russian Mennonites come to Canada in the 1920s. These people settled in small communities stretching between British Columbia and Ontario, ultimately forming individual Mennonite conferences as the wave continued. It is this wave that saw all four of my grandparents come to Canada.

Prior to their departure from Russia, Mennonites had been invited by Catherine the Great to settle in her land. Catherine recognized that the Mennonites were skilled farmers, and the queen needed people to occupy recently seized territories. They were officially promised that they would never have to serve in the military and they could practice their religion freely. By the 1900s, Russia's Mennonite colonies had become the most prosperous and well-developed rural regions in the country. However, with the outbreak of war between Russia and Germany in 1914, the German-speaking Mennonites started to face increasing persecution. Mennonites were labelled agents of Germany and enemies of the state, but things got even worse when the Bolshevik revolution led by Vladimir Lenin erupted in 1917. With the emergence of a new communist government followed by a civil war, Mennonites faced an uncertain future.

My grandparents, like many others in the area, wondered whether they would be able to live, worship and farm as they had for generations. In the years following the revolution, my grandparents were forced to flee, walking away from their homes, their businesses, their farms—everything. Property was confiscated. Women were raped. Men were tortured and killed. Everything was lost. With the help of those already living in Canada, around 21,000 people arrived here between 1922 and 1930.

The Second World War also saw more than 12,000 Mennonites migrate to Canada from the U.S.S.R. and Germany. Not long after, another 8,000 Mennonites migrated to Canada. Driven by the core belief that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers salvation from sin to all people, Mennonites have made their mark in modern Canada.

However, one of the most significant contributions that Mennonites have made to Canada is in the area of generosity. Stirred by their faith, Mennonites promoted peace, justice and genuine love for one's neighbours over generations. According to Statistics Canada, many southern Manitoba communities are the most generous charitable givers in the country. The city of Steinbach in my riding has the highest median donation for cities over 10,000 in population at $2,160 as the median donation, with the average Canadian's being $300.

One other point is on the community of Abbotsford. Abbotsford is the largest census metropolitan area for charitable givers.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Motion No. 111, which seeks to recognize the contributions of Mennonite Canadians in building Canadian society by recognizing the second week of September as Mennonite heritage week.

It is well known that Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Canada is home to approximately 200,000 people of Mennonite faith. Ontario and Manitoba have the largest Mennonite population in the country, with 58,000 and 44,000 Mennonites respectively.

Canadians of Mennonite faith have contributed much to Canadian history and to the overall fabric of Canadian society. Many Mennonites have received international recognition for their work and have established themselves as leaders in Canadian communities.

Mennonite Canadians continue to leave a lasting mark on our diverse national fabric in every aspect of Canadian life, strengthening Canada in the process. They are prominent in Canadian film, television, radio broadcasting, newspapers and magazines. They are active in political life at all levels of government.

I would like to quickly speak about a few Mennonite Canadians who are currently reshaping Canadian society while also introducing the world to Mennonite-Canadian heritage and culture through their work and art.

Dawna Friesen is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian journalist with a career that spans both Canada and the world. Her hard work and determination have led to many successes, such as winning a Gemini Award in 2011 for the best news anchor. Travelling the world, she has been able to tell us many stories that have touched our lives as Canadians. She is one of the country's first female news anchors to lead a nightly newscast.

Howard Dyck is a Canadian conductor and broadcaster. He has had a long, distinguished career in classical music, including being the artistic director of the Grand Philharmonic Choir and chamber singers and the conductor of the Bach Elgar Choir of Hamilton. He received the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Miriam Toews, a celebrated Canadian author, writer and actor, is best known for her novels, such as A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows. She has won a number of literary prizes, including the Governor General's Award for fiction and the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award for her body of work. She is a two-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a two-time winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Her work explores the challenges and notions of patriarchy, family and community, using her Mennonite heritage as the anchor for her work.

Dr. Henry George Friesen is a Canadian endocrinologist; a distinguished professor at the University of Manitoba; and the discoverer of human prolactin, a hormone that is best known for enabling the production of milk in mammals. He is a recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award in recognition of his contributions to the fields of biochemistry, physiology and pathophysiology.

The President of the Treasury Board, a practising doctor and politician, has earned much acclaim. As a doctor, my esteemed colleague has worked in Canada and abroad to address issues of social inequality and enhance opportunities for individuals that improve their socio-economic outcomes.

Her work to promote global health includes founding a grassroots response to the global HIV epidemic in 2004. Give a Day to world AIDS challenges Canadians to raise money for people affected by HIV. She was also instrumental in the launch of Ethiopia's first family medicine training program through her work with the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration. She was raised in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler.

Finally, James Reimer is a professional NHL goaltender who is currently playing for the Florida Panthers. He made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011. Reimer plays for Canada internationally and first represented our country in the 2011 world championships.

Despite immigrating to Canada in the 1870s and being key contributors to building our nation, Mennonites experienced discrimination and adversity due to their customs, habits, modes of living and practices. Remembering our past provides us a moment of pause to think about how we see ourselves as a nation in the world today.

The first Mennonites to Canada arrived in the late 18th century, settling in southern Ontario and Manitoba and moving into the Prairies and the Northwest Territories. Today, Canadians of all ethnicities take part in Mennonite beliefs, practices and traditions. Early Mennonites to Canada were Dutch, German, Russian, and American. They came to Canada for the promise of land, cultural and educational autonomy and a guaranteed exemption from military service.

After the First World War, many religious groups were refused entry into Canada under the Immigration Act due to their customs, habits and practices, making it hard for Mennonites. Today, we recognize that Mennonite settlements in the west were instrumental in the development of our nation.

There is a wide scope of worship, doctrine and traditions among Mennonites today and there are many types of practising Mennonites. Some avoid all forms of technology and live traditionally, while others use modern machinery and electronics. They are Canadians, living and practising their beliefs in a manner consistent with their community ideals.

In 1988, Canada became the first nation to proclaim a Multiculturalism Act. The act requires that we continually safeguard equality for all Canadians, in all economic, social, cultural and political aspects of their lives.

Our multicultural heritage is about more than just a commitment to welcoming diverse people from around the world. It is a commitment to principles of equality and freedom, grounded in human rights and enshrined in our legislative framework, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

A little connection to my riding would be that in 1857, the Hespeler part of my riding was named after Jacob Hespeler, a native of Württemberg, Germany, an immigrant and entrepreneur who established successful industries in my riding of Hespeler.

Many Mennonites came from many areas in the United States, particularly from Pennsylvania, and settled in southern Ontario in my hometown city of Kitchener, which at the time was named Berlin. It drew many immigrants from Germany, approximately 50,000, to the region and continuing well after the war.

Some of the local names one may see in certain areas of my riding would be Bechtel, Eby, Erb, Weber and Cressman. My first summer job was in construction. The last name of my employer, the gentleman who owned company, was Cressman. His cultural ties and his heritage were linked to Mennonites. I had the privilege of working with him. It was great to see how he helped build our community and a lot of the region.

Diversity is a core component of our Canadian identity. The historic and contemporary contributions of Mennonite Canadians are a vital part of the diversity and the social, economic and political fabric of our country.

Finally, I would like to thank all Canadians of Mennonite heritage for their commitment to building our great nation. Celebrating our interconnectedness and the many unique communities and cultures that thrive here gives us a chance to discover what we all share in common. This allows us to fully appreciate the value of our differences. ln celebrating our diversity, we learn about our common struggles and our shared values. We learn how far we have come, but also the hurdles that we must overcome.

I want to thank the member for bringing the motion forward. It is a great motion and I will be happy to support it.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a personal connection to the bill, not because I am a Mennonite but because of the strength of the Mennonite community in my riding. I am from southwestern Saskatchewan. It is one of the areas where people have come from all over the world to settle and build communities, and the Mennonites have been a very large part of that. A whole area of my riding is primarily Mennonite.

A few years ago I was going through some of the language statistics for my riding on people's first language and what they spoke and trying to discover the different communities. I was surprised to find that German was by far the second largest language spoken in my riding.

When my colleague from Abbotsford introduced his bill, he mentioned some of the names, such of Klassen, Friesen, Toews, Penner, Reimer, Dyck, and I am familiar with those names.

A number of things really stand out about those communities and those people. Many of them had agricultural backgrounds. In my province, agriculture manufacturing has been a very large part of what Saskatchewan rural life has been about. Many of the Mennonites who worked in their shops were very thrifty. They were inventive and they led much of the early development of agricultural manufacturing in Saskatchewan. Because of that and because of the leadership they shown over the years, we are now one of the leaders around the world in agricultural manufacturing. A lot of that comes from small towns.

Mennonite Heritage WeekPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have a little over eight minutes the next time this matter is before the House.

It being 6:10 p.m., the time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.