Madam Speaker, it is a sombre time to be speaking in this House. It is a seminal time in Canadian history, in my view.
It is apparent to me that we seem to be living in two Canadas. There is the Canada of fear and division promoted by the current Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP, confirmed by their caucuses, but there is another Canada out there, a united and proud nation that has sacrificed and done without and suffered economically, physically and in their mental health condition. This is a Canada that is a bit worn out, plainly speaking, but still firmly patriotic and ready to take on whatever the future brings. These Canadians do not share the Prime Minister's post-national narrative. They embrace the essence of Canada that they see themselves a part of, as the true north strong and free.
In our national anthem, we call out to God and we pray that he keep our land glorious and free. The truth is that Canada can only be glorious if it is free, meaning its people are free—free from tyranny, free from government abusing its awesome powers, with the government mindful of the responsibility and trust given to it in a representative democracy. Because the Prime Minister wants to dwell in the extreme, in the fringe and false narratives of what is happening during peaceful protests, I am choosing to address those other Canadians.
I remember the historical term “the two solitudes” in reference to impasses between anglophone and francophone people in Canada. Its meaning was meant to refer to a perceived lack of communication and, moreover, a lack of will to communicate. Here today we see history repeating itself with a lack of communication, but, more significantly, a lack of will to communicate between the present federal government and anglophone and francophone citizens alike.
The Emergencies Act is extraordinary legislation. “Extraordinary” means remarkable, exceptional, unusual and uncommon. The measures in this act are to be entered into reservedly, advisedly and with extreme caution. Through all the trials and tribulations of a newly created and burgeoning nation trying to unite coast to coast to coast, through other public health emergencies and through other civil unrest, the federal government saw fit to invoke the Emergencies Act and its precursor, the War Measures Act, only four times in our history. These extraordinary measures were used in World War I, in World War II, by a previous prime minister in the 1970s and by the current Prime Minister.
It was not invoked during the fears and protests around the Spanish flu. It was not invoked during the workers' strikes in the 1930s; during the crises in Oka, Ipperwash or Caledonia; during the aftermath of 9/11; during crippling national strikes affecting our supply chains or during the rail blockades or pipeline protests that negatively affected the Canadian economy. The list is long. The point is that when other methods and authorities exist to deal with serious disagreement, governments should use those methods and authorities. Government should not subjugate free people to abusive, wide-ranging, freedom-altering overreach.
A Liberal member earlier in this debate asked the Leader of the Opposition how she would feel if this happened in her neighbourhood, in her riding. Well, it did happen in my neighbourhood and in my riding. It happened at one of the border crossings in South Surrey—White Rock. I received many reports on the ground about the activities there. I did get three complaints through social media calling the people involved the same outrageous, inflammatory names that the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister have been using. There were no complaints to my office.
On the other side, I have had overwhelming outpourings of support from my constituents because the supporting protests were meaningful to those in attendance, and even joyful in the hope for change. What kind of change? It was not necessarily a change in government, although that might happen in the next federal election, but most definitely a change in the federal government's approach.
In support of the right to protest the government's policies, actions and inactions, on two previous weekends vehicle after vehicle drove in a rolling loop around those border crossings and highways in South Surrey, with not hundreds but thousands of Canadians cheering them on from the sides of the roads and on highway overpasses. Those involved were vocal but peaceful, holding Canadian flags high, singing the national anthem, saying prayers and greeting others cheerfully, including the police. The result is that the border has been cleared, goods are flowing and police officers, using tools already at their disposal, were able to both show respect for the protesters and clear any impasses.
Why is the Emergencies Act needed now in my riding? It is not. The only distress being expressed right now from my riding is that the Prime Minister and his cabinet, having inflamed the situation, are showing disdain, are not even attempting to engage in dialogue and feel the only tool in their tool box is to take more power unto themselves.
I have heard from many civil enforcement officers, civil liberties scholars and lawyers on this subject. Collectively, they want me to remind the House that a public order event is not necessarily an emergency. We are down to a protest in a few blocks of downtown Ottawa. That is all. With some proper policing, the situation in Ottawa can be brought to a conclusion, as it has been elsewhere. Unlike some of the other events, in downtown Ottawa, our nation's capital, we are not at a U.S. border, so the protest does not affect imports and exports.
I am not sure who the leader of the NDP was referring to when he said, “Don't let your anger turn into hatred.” The Prime Minister has literally turned his back on a large segment of Canadian citizens, showing them nothing but derision and disdain, which only escalates and never de-escalates tension and disagreement.
I had occasion, early in my career, to attend advanced negotiation classes at Harvard Law School under the supervision of Professor Roger Fisher, the author of the acclaimed book Getting to Yes. There are necessary steps that should be taken in any conflict resolution, such as some form of engagement, de-escalation, respectful dialogue and looking to best alternatives to resolve the conflict. The only one the PM has employed has been described as the “nuclear option”.
I agree that we should never have arrived at this moment of looking like a failed nation state. We are looking this way due to weak and ineffective leadership. It is that simple. Why invoke this act now when it was not invoked all those times before? The federal government should be talking to and engaging with citizens to resolve this conflict by introducing a plan to get back to normal. Instead, we have seen the federal government demonize and insult our fellow Canadians. The Prime Minister must remember that they are all Canadians out there on Wellington Street, and a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I am pretty sure I heard that somewhere before.
Instead of creating a plan, engaging in dialogue and looking for a peaceful solution, the Prime Minister is looking to invoke and stoke more fear and division. Countries around the world, and Canadians themselves at home, are looking at this situation and wondering if this is the Canada they have believed in patriotically, firmly and with a full heart for so long. The truth is that the Prime Minister and the government initiated these protests by Canadians by calling them down in the first place and then not dealing with the situation as it unfolded.
I think back to a former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who went along with a former prime minister who invoked the War Measures Act for just the third time in Canadian history, and not during wartime. He voted for that War Measures Act. His name was Robert Stanfield. He later said that it was the greatest regret of his life that he voted with the government that day.
Edmund Burke is often quoted as saying that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Well, I stand against this measure with every fibre of my being. I will vote no. This is a free country. Its people should be free to protest and free to exercise their human rights, and we need to respect and engage them.