Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak about kindness. I, too, would like to recognize Rabbi Reuven Bulka for his initiative and tell him that our thoughts are with him. I sincerely hope that this exemplary show of solidarity by members of the House will bring him some comfort and perhaps give him some hope for the world.
What does it mean to be kind?
First of all, I have to say that I took it as a compliment that my party asked me to speak today. It is true that I generally try to be kind. Being kind involves doing little things, being attentive to and looking out for others. It is offering to carry a bag for someone when we have nothing in our hands and their hands are full. It is holding the door open for someone. It is smiling at people.
It has been a bit hard to smile over the past year. However, we have all noticed that people can also smile with their eyes. As a joke, whenever we take photos now, I tell people to crinkle their eyes. It means the same thing because when we smile, it shows in our eyes. Most of us do not like wearing masks because they are hot and we feel like we cannot breathe, but masks also make us focus more on people's eyes. Even if we cannot show that we are smiling with our mouths, let us show it with our eyes, but let us smile.
World Kindness Day already exists. We celebrate it on November 13. As I have learned, it has been recognized since 2014 in Quebec and since 2017 in Canada. It does not get much attention.
Psychologist Pascale Brillon of the Université du Québec à Montréal theorizes that November 13 was chosen because that is when dreary days set in and the temperature drops. It is a time when kindness can soothe people's souls.
Today's proposal would designate the third week of February as kindness week. Once passed, which I am sure it will be, we will have a World Kindness Day as winter sets in and a kindness week around the time everyone is sick of winter. It will go a long way toward warming our hearts.
Kindness can sometimes be interpreted as a weakness or flaw, especially in the political realm. It is actually anything but. Kindness is a sign of great emotional intelligence.
Psychologist Pascale Brillon said, “people with high emotional intelligence experience greater professional success. Emotional intelligence is also the ability to care for others, to tune in to them, and to be kind.”
Kindness is not a weakness, far from it. It is a sign of strength, courage, empathy, altruism and compassion for others. It is possible to take a stand and be true to oneself while being kind and civilized. I say that because it is something that I am trying to put into practice, even though, if I am being honest, I do not always succeed. I think that our job here is a strong incentive to do that every day. I therefore invite all members of the House and all Canadians and Quebeckers to implement these good practices.
Earlier, I gave some examples of acts of kindness. It is human nature to be kind. For anyone who has ever spent any time with young children, have we not all marvelled at how a one-year-old infant will try to help someone carry a bag or open a door when they can hardly even walk yet?
The naysayers who claim that people are fundamentally bad are mistaken. What makes people a bit more cruel and combative is likely the competitive, capitalist world in which we live.
Let us come back to the world of politics. We are working in an environment that encourages us to say, on a daily basis, that we are not the problem, someone else is. Members are always saying that it is others who are not being nice or talking about how, when their party was in office, they did this or that. Personally, I listen to what is being said and I learn from it. I have not been here very long, but I often hear that kind of thing.
I also have a message for my colleagues. I have been sharing some funny examples, but I have also seen some not-so-funny things in the House. I will not name names. It is water under the bridge. However, kindness is also the ability to convey one's message without attacking others in a mean-spirited way. That is key. I think that is what the rabbi wanted to accomplish. He wanted people to do better and be better.
We lost a great Quebecker recently. In all honesty, I think Serge Bouchard was probably the wisest man I have ever heard speak. Every time he opened his mouth, he exuded the humility of a human being on a lifelong quest to become the best possible version of himself.
I invite everyone here to embark on that quest, much like the rabbi who prompted this very debate. Kindness can be part of politics too. I am inspired by Quebec society, which has created a social safety net that, though far from perfect and with room for improvement, is nevertheless exemplary. Quebec has done more to reduce social inequality than any other place in North America. We still have inequality, but less than elsewhere. Let us also continue working toward that.
We must be vigilant about what we accept in our society, on social media, for example. Lately, a lot of people seem to think that they can say or do whatever they want because they are hiding behind a keyboard. The member who spoke before me was talking about teaching. I was a teacher for 25 years and had to intervene in serious cases of cyberbullying. The only way to move forward and make progress is for the person who committed the act to understand what they did.
I think that is the idea behind this proposal. Today I am thinking about all of the municipal elected officials who recently announced they were leaving politics because they were tired and emotionally spent from dealing with insults on social media. We must be vigilant.
I think that this kindness week will allow us to take another step forward. People who are unkind to us often behave that way because they are hurt or in distress. If meanness did not exist, there would be no merit in being kind. If we have the strength to be kind, receive criticism, listen to the message and understand it, the other person will feel seen.
Even if it feels like we are not getting back what we give, it is not so bad. It is called paying it forward. We probably did a good thing for the other person, who will do a good thing for someone else, before that good deed comes back to us. Everything balances out.
I think that when we are attentive to others, we can never go wrong. I invite the government to be kind in the policies it is voting on, namely to take care of seniors by increasing old age security and to take care of sick people who contributed to employment insurance their entire lives but are now entitled to only 26 weeks of benefits instead of 50.
It would be kind to adopt these types of proposals in general, and I am pleased that we are passing this bill today. Let us think about it.
I will close with a saying by Jacques Weber: kindness is the nobility of intelligence.