House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-5.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will pleased say nay.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 31 consideration of the motion that Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois welcomes Senator Mobina Jaffer's Bill S-214, entitled an act to establish international mother language day.

In November 1999, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization proclaimed International Mother Language Day. The United Nations General Assembly called on its member states to encourage the preservation and protection of the languages spoken by the peoples of the world.

Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss said, and I quote:

A language is a monument that is just as important as a stone monument, if not more so. Each culture represents a repository of considerable human wealth. Each people has its own repository of beliefs and institutions that represent an irreplaceable experience for humanity as a whole.

This is in keeping with the Bloc Québécois' historic commitment to defending and promoting the French language in Quebec, Canada and America, which in turn is in keeping with the fight for cultural and linguistic diversity in the world and people's right to self-determination.

We know that the right of peoples to ensure the survival and vitality of their language and culture is part of their fundamental right to self-determination. Under the United Nations charter, every people has the right to self-determination, whether they are Scottish, Catalan, Palestinian, Kabyle or Québécois.

With neo-liberal globalization, the entire world is experiencing the commodification and anglicization of culture. U.S. mass culture is steamrolling national cultures.

It is therefore important that we ask ourselves whether we want globalization in a form that makes all national cultures and languages uniform, or one that ensures mutual respect among peoples. I believe that the latter path is the only one that can result in a peaceful and progressive solution that fosters world peace.

It is estimated that half of the 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today will disappear by the end of the century. Biodiversity loss does not just affect nature and wildlife. It also affects the world's linguistic heritage, which is in serious jeopardy.

We are seeing it here. Indigenous languages are at serious risk of disappearing, and the status of French in Canada shows that it is in decline. For example, only 2.4% of francophones outside Quebec speak French at home. French is critically endangered.

Language laws exist all over the world. In the study of various language planning models, they are grouped into two broad categories: models based on the principle of territoriality of collective rights and models based on the principle of personality, of individual choice of languages in a given territory.

Wherever personality models are used, the result is the assimilation of minority languages, because the free choice of languages always favours the majority languages. Moreover, virtually all scholars around the world agree that territoriality is the only approach that allows for the protection of minority languages.

Bill 101 is based on territoriality. We know that the Quebec model, with its Charter of the French Language, aims to make French the only official and common language on Quebec territory.

This is one of the Quebec government's main demands. We are discussing it here in the context of modernizing the Official Languages Act. We want Quebec to be the master of language policy on its territory, while respecting the historical English-speaking minority and recognizing the right of first nations to maintain and develop their original languages and cultures.

In 1977, Camille Laurin made the following statement:

By proclaiming French as Quebec's official language and by recognizing the right of all Quebeckers to use French in all facets of their lives, we are making our language a national public asset, an asset belonging to all Quebeckers, the best way to unite us all and promote dialogue among Quebeckers of different origins. We are giving Quebeckers a way to express their identity to the world.

People who champion French in Quebec have always sought to include newcomers. It comes down to math. If we do not help newcomers learn French, we cannot ensure the survival of the language. Helping newcomers learn French and including them in Quebec society is how we achieve social cohesion. If we want to understand one another, we have to be able to speak the same language.

This is a highly relevant issue right now. Canada's Official Languages Act was, in a way, a response to the 1867 Constitution, which gave rise to language laws that prohibited people from teaching French and banned French schools and the use of French in the governments of nearly every province that now has an anglophone majority.

Then there was an uprising. The Estates General of French Canada were held, and André Laurendeau came along demanding collective rights for Quebec. In the end, the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission fell well short of that goal. It gave us an Official Languages Act that only sought to apply the personality principle, an institutional bilingualism that tried to promote the free choice of French or English in federal institutions where numbers warranted. Outside Quebec, numbers often did not warrant it. The way this was applied has meant that in every census since 1969, the year the Official Languages Act came into force, there has been an increase in the assimilation of francophones outside Quebec.

In Quebec itself, French is now in steep decline. As we know, the proportion of Quebeckers with French as their mother tongue is decreasing. In 1996, 81.5% of the Quebec population had French as their mother tongue. In 2016, it was 78%. Statistics Canada predicts that by 2036, which is only 15 years from now, that figure will be between 70% and 75%. As for the language used at home, it is the same thing: It will drop to around 75% or 76%. The common language, the public language, is an indicator that depends on the language used at home, the mother tongue.

We know that language transfers largely happen towards English, even in Quebec. That is why the Government of Quebec has asked for French to be recognized as the only minority official language. We need the federal government to stop always promoting English as an official language in Quebec, because it leads to the anglicization of newcomers.

Allow me to quote Pierre Bourgault, a great defender of the French language and one of the founders of the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale, or RIN: “To fight for French in Quebec is to fight for all the languages of the world against the hegemony of one.”

I think it is vital to fight for French if we want to maintain linguistic diversity in North America.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

[Member spoke in Inuktitut and provided the following text:]

ᐅᖃᖅᑎᑦᑎᔨ, ᐊᒃᓱᐊᓗᒃ ᖁᕕᐊᓱᒃᐳᖓ ᒪᑭᑦᑕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖅ ᑖᒃᓱᒥᖓ ᒪᓕᒐᒃᓴᖅ S-21 ᑕᐃᔭᐅᓪᓗᓂ ᓯᓚᖅᔪᐊᕐᒥᒃ ᐊᓈᓇᒋᔭᖅᓄᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᓕᕆᓂᖅ ᐅᓪᓗᖅ ᐃᓕᑕᕆᔭᐅᖁᓪᓗᒍ.

ᐱᒋᐊᕈᑎᖃᕈᒪᓪᓗᖓ ᖁᔭᓕᒍᒪᓪᓗᒋ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ ᐃᓕᓴᐃᔨᒋᓚᐅᖅᑕᒃᑲ ᐸᓛᓐᑎᓇ ᒪᒃᑭᒃ, ᒫᓂᑲ ᐸᓂᐸᑯᑐᒃ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒫᓂᑲ ᐃᑦᑐᒃᓵᖅᔪᐊᖅ.

ᐃᖅᑲᐅᒪᓪᓚᕆᒃᑕᒃᑲ ᐃᓕᓴᐃᔨᑦᑎᐊᕙᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ. ᕐᑯᔭᓕᕐᑲᑕᐅᔪᒪᔪᖓ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕆᐊᖅᑎᑕᐅᕙᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᓕᒫᓂᒃ. ᐊᒃᓱᕈᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᒃᑰᒻᒪᕆᓚᐅᖅᑎᓪᓗᓯ ᒫᓐᓇᒧ ᑎᑭᐅᑎᓯᒪᑎᑦᑎᕐᑲᑕᐅᒐᓯ.

ᑭᖑᓪᓕᕐᒥᒃ ᕐᑯᔭᓕᒍᒪᔭᒃᑲ ᐃᓐᓇᒻᒪᕇᑦ. ᐊᒃᓱᐊᓗᒃ ᓇᒡᓕᒋᕙᓯ. ᕐᑭᑐᕐᖓᓯᓐᓂ ᐊᖅᓵᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᓚᐅᕋᓗᐊᖅᖠᓯᒃ ᓇᒡᓕᖕᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᒫᓐᓇᒧᑦ ᑎᑭᐅᑎᓯᒪᕐᑲᑕᐅᓯᒪᓪᓚᕆᒃᑲᓯ.

[Member provided the following translation:]

Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour to speak today, as I represent Nunavummiut, on Bill S-21, an act to establish international mother language day.

I would like to begin by sharing my gratitude to the Inuktitut teachers I had in grade school: Blandina Makkik, Monica Panipakutsuk and Monica Ittusardjuat. They were such kind and caring teachers.

I share my gratitude with the former residential school students. Despite the abuses you suffered, you have contributed to our well-being and where we stand today.

Finally, I must acknowledge the indigenous elders, especially those whose children were taken from them. It is by your love and care we are able to thrive today. I care very much for your well-being.


What I just said was translated from my mother language into English, one of the two official languages.

In my statement today, I will speak about why passing this bill can contribute to a greater understanding of Canada's history toward its treatment of Inuit, Métis and first nations. I will begin with the extraordinary story of the late Clara Quassa of Igloolik. Mrs. Quassa briefly shared her story in an interview available on

I remember her fondly as a gentle elder. What I did not know until a few weeks ago is that she was forced to send her five children to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. She was forced to send them about 800 kilometres away.

She had no more children in her home because they were all sent to Chesterfield Inlet. She remembers them crying when going on the plane. She said that when they returned from the residential school, they were different. She does remember fondly that they still spoke Inuktitut.

One of her children died after being sent to some other facility. She was told where her daughter's grave was, but Clara died having yearned to see her daughter's grave. Despite all of this, I can see her legacy in her adult children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. When I return to Igloolik, I see and hear them speaking in Inuktitut. I see them cherishing her fondly.

What I despair to share is that her story is not unique. There are far too many Inuit, first nations people and Métis who have stories similar to hers. Canada is founded on Inuit, Métis and first nations lands. Canada thrives as a first world country based on the injustices it caused to indigenous peoples. While Métis, first nations people and Inuit have been voicing their stories for generations, their voices were suppressed, ignored and not allowed to be understood by mainstream society.

Canada is a so-called bilingual country with two official languages, English and French. Meanwhile, UNESCO estimates that 75% of indigenous languages in Canada are endangered. Regular Canadians, settlers, have also been victims of Canada's colonial history. Regular Canadians, settlers, have been robbed of their sense of being Canadian. After all, many are proud of being Canadian. What most do not realize is that they are proud of Canada's suppression. They are proud of Canada's oppressive policies. They are proud of colonial laws and policies that continue to impact current generations through intergenerational trauma. They are proud of the chronic underfunding that ensures that Inuit, first nations and Métis remain suppressed, in poverty, undereducated and not able to overcome the mental health challenges of intergenerational trauma.

Indeed, I myself used to be proud to celebrate Canada Day. I too was robbed through Canada's colonial education system. During my participation in the PROC study on the viability of indigenous languages in federal elections, I learned more about first nations and the extent of how endangered their languages are. We were provided data by Statistics Canada reflecting 2017 figures. There are over 70 indigenous languages spoken in Canada, but only 15.6% of the indigenous population have the ability to have conversations in any of these mother languages. We were told that only 170 of those who identify as Kutenai, 255 of those who identify as Tlingit and 455 of those who identify as Haida speak their mother language. These figures must be understood in terms of just how strong Canada's colonial laws and policies are today. The extent to which these languages are endangered shows just how hard we must all work to indigenize Canada's history. We must ensure that all first nations, Inuit and Métis are supported and resourced in order for these beautiful mother languages to be revitalized.

I am thankful to both Bangladesh and UNESCO, which in 1999 proposed that International Mother Language Day be established. By 2002, it was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly. I understand that starting in 1948, the Bengali stood up to the imposition of Urdu by the Government of Pakistan in Bangladesh. I am thankful the Bengali people demanded that their mother language be an official language alongside Urdu. The atrocities experienced by the Bengali are physically and collectively terrible. Once the Bengali demanded change, many were injured and killed at a protest organized by students of the University of Dhaka against the government's repression of Bengali. This protest happened on February 21, 1952. Qujannamiik to the Bengali people. We must acknowledge their enormous sacrifices and celebrate their history.

I must acknowledge what has been attempted to promote and protect indigenous languages. In 2014, Matthew Kellway, a New Democrat, introduced a private member's bill to recognize this day. As we debate this today, we know it did not pass. We now have the Indigenous Languages Act, which created the position of the indigenous languages commissioner. I had the pleasure of meeting the indigenous languages commissioner, Ronald Ignace, and directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes, at their first meeting here in Ottawa. I look forward to the great work they will do to promote and protect indigenous languages.

I do suggest that the bill be amended to replace the word “aboriginal” with the word “indigenous”.

I conclude by stating that the federal government must provide the same resources, rights and privileges to indigenous languages as it does for the two official languages. I conclude that I will gladly support the passing of this bill into law.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, my work to pass International Mother Language Day dates back to the 42nd Parliament. At the time, I brought Senator Jaffer's bill to the House. It was reintroduced in the 43rd, and now the 44th, Parliament. The meaning behind International Mother Language Day is rooted in Canadian multiculturalism and openness and diversity. It is also an empowerment of our indigenous languages and a loud symbol of acceptance, internationally, during a dark time in world history. I would like to thank my colleague, Senator Jaffer, for her commitment to the bill, as well as my colleagues for Fleetwood—Port Kells, Beaches—East York and Surrey—Newton for their continued support for the bill.

If the bill passes, it will establish International Mother Language Day, a day that promotes the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world on February 21. If this had been in effect this year, it would have been just three days before Russia invaded Ukraine, partially based on the false pretext that the Ukrainian language and its people are pseudo-Russian.

We, as Canadian parliamentarians, have a duty to protect and preserve Canadian values, including multiculturalism. Ukrainians and peoples around the world have had to fight to keep their languages from imperial, jingoist and colonial powers. We have always stood up for minority groups around the world, and that is why we see so many people immigrate here. They know we offer a safe country for them. Establishing this day is yet another reinforcement of this multiculturalism.

We are not perfect, though. I just mentioned that peoples have had to fight colonial powers from taking their languages from them. That has happened here in Canada up until very recently and, even now, indigenous communities and individuals are struggling to restore the knowledge and languages lost.

International Mother Language Day promotes not only international languages but the more than 60 indigenous languages from within Canada that are not officially recognized. While this is not an official call to action, it should be seen as a small but important step on our path towards truth and reconciliation.

To my Bloc colleagues, this bill would fully and explicitly recognize that English and French remain Canada's only official languages, and this would not change. Rather, it would promote the preservation of all languages.

I know the Bloc and Quebec are adamant allies of peoples around the world seeking the right to exist as unique, distinct nations with their own languages. This day epitomizes those values. Whether it is the Ukrainian language, Catalan or any other language, the Bloc and Quebec have also stood up for people's right to speak their own language. I ask you to support this bill today for the same reason.

I would like to add that asking for support for this day is not novel. The city of Surrey, which is part of my riding, already recognizes International Mother Language Day and so does the province of British Columbia. Canada would be the first country to do so. We never shied away from standing up for those without voices before, so why stop now? It is beyond time to recognize this day.

If the symbolism in Ukraine, multiculturalism groups, promoting indigenous languages, protection of minority languages or established precedent have yet to convince some of my colleagues, perhaps a story from one of my constituents will.

The late Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Salam, constituents from Surrey, immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh. Abdus is still a constituent of my riding in Cloverdale—Langley City. This issue is dear to Abdus's heart, and was to Rafiqul's, as Bengali speakers. Both have been fully aware of what it means to not be allowed to speak their mother language and of the pain that came with fighting for the right to speak it by their elders, dating back to 1952 in what was then East Pakistan.

They had lived in Bangladesh during a time when Bengali was not officially recognized, and people would be discriminated against if they did speak it. The identity of a people was in question.

After Britain left the Indian subcontinent in 1947, dividing it into India and Pakistan, the West Pakistani ruling class declared from the outset of the new country that only Urdu would be the official state language of Pakistan. English was to be taught and recognized as a second language. Bengali, the dominant language spoken by 54% of the total population of Pakistan, was excluded.

This threatened to sideline Bengali speakers from involvement in politics. It limited their ability to succeed in all spheres, including practising their own rich language and culture. It was another example of how colonial rule led languages and peoples to be oppressed.

These discriminatory laws soon came under pressure from Bengali speakers to be changed. This was led by student protests that called for the government to include Bengali as one of the official languages.

On the 21st day of February, 1952, in the streets of Dhaka, while people were protesting and demonstrating for the right to establish Bengali as one of the official languages of Pakistan, the police opened fire on this unarmed protest. This killed at least five students on the spot and injured several more. Some were later known to have died in the hospital.

The deaths of these students and student protesters sparked national unrest and eventually the central government relented and granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956, along with Urdu, in the Pakistan constitution of 1956.

This language movement had a major cultural impact on Bengali society. It inspired the development and celebration of the Bengali language, literature and culture. February 21, celebrated as Language Movement Day, is a major national holiday in Bangladesh. While Bengalis had to fight for this, Canada now takes this for granted.

This also impacted Rafiqul and Abdus when they arrived in Vancouver as immigrants. They saw that Canada is a land where all kinds of different nationalities have come together. Along with the indigenous-rich culture, it was a mosaic of inherent beauty and strength among people, but they also realized that many small languages were dying away. These two men formed an organization named Mother Language Lovers of the World and brought in eight other people from different linguistic backgrounds.

Apart from these two Bengali speakers, there were two English-, two Filipino-, one German-, one Cantonese Chinese-, one Hindi- and one Kutchi-speaking individuals. They petitioned first to the UN and then UNESCO in early 1998 and, through various processes and protocols of UNESCO, finally International Mother Language Day was declared unanimously on November 17, 1999. The inherent beauty and unique mutual respect hidden in this for all languages and cultures was recognized by the world at UNESCO's 30th general conference. It was a big victory for all the mother languages of the world. Since 2000, the world observes International Mother Language Day on February 21.

We should recognize International Mother Language Day in solidarity for those who did not and still do not have the ability to freely speak their own language. We should recognize it in support of Ukraine today. We should recognize it because it represents our multicultural roots. We should recognize it because it promotes indigenous languages. We should recognize it because it highlights the need for protection of minority languages.

Today, I ask all my colleagues to join me in recognizing International Mother Language Day. In doing so, Canada can be a beacon for the rest of the world to follow in this peaceful gesture.

I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to this bill.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, a few years ago, I read a National Geographic article about endangered languages. I do not remember the names of the specific languages, but I know there was one in Russia, one in India and a series of them in Mexico.

This article not only gave a voice to some of the people who still speak these languages, but it also illustrated the richness of these languages and the difference they make in people's world views.

A language is a way to describe the world, after all. The more ways there are to describe our world, the more accurate picture we will have of that world and its features. An international mother language day would allow us to highlight those features, take time to acknowledge them, love them and promote them.

I want to tell my colleague from Cloverdale—Langley City, whom I hope is still listening, that the Bloc will be supporting Bill S-214.

My speech in support of Bill S-214 will provide a brief history of the idea of mother language day and some statistics. I will also spend a few moments on the mother tongue aspect of languages and give some examples of the richness of different languages.

UNESCO has been observing International Mother Language Day since 1999, when it was adopted unanimously. When this day was added to the calendar, UNESCO noted that 43% of the languages spoken today are at risk of disappearing. In fact, one language disappears every other week on average. It is alarming. That is what will happen now and in the future if nothing is done to preserve and promote the languages. That does not even include all those that have already disappeared over time.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly asked its members to encourage the preservation and protection of all the languages spoken by all peoples in this world. At the time, many languages had already disappeared and many others were disappearing. Why does this happen?

There were events that took place in the past. Civil wars between nations and colonization are two examples of history and its impact, which weakened several languages and made them disappear. We have to acknowledge that and be able to look to the future, make things right and move forward. We have to be able to recognize the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them.

These days, educational systems, the online world and the belief that English is the only international language of business all contribute to making languages vulnerable. Just a few hundred languages in the world are supported by existing educational systems, and even fewer are supported by the online world and social networks. If you were to go by social networks alone, it would be easy to assume that English is the world's only economic salvation, but people do business in almost every language in the world, not just in English.

When we are conscious of what puts languages in danger of disappearing, we are in a better position to take action, to find solutions and to foster relationships of respect. Mutual respect allows us to see languages as complementary, rather than incompatible or incongruous, ways to talk about and see our world.

Have you ever wondered why we use the expression “mother tongue” instead of “father tongue” or “birth language”? It is simply because the first words children hear are usually spoken by their mother. These words are usually tender and kind, and those sentiments reflect our attachment to our mother tongue.

Like mitochondrial DNA, the mother tongue is passed down from the mother. For example, when French settlers arrived in Quebec, they had several different accents, because France did not, and still does not, have only one nationwide accent. Today, there is the Norman accent, the Parisian accent, the northern accent called the Ch'ti accent, and the southern accent, from the Marseille or Toulouse region. At the time when the first French settlers came to America, it was the same. It was like that then, and it still is today.

How did the distinctive Quebec accent come to be?

Let us talk about one of Quebec's accents, because it is wrong to claim that there is just one. There is the Montreal accent, the Quebec City accent, the Gaspé accent, the Acadian accent, and so on. The first Quebec accent is thought to have come from the filles du roi. They were poor girls or orphans, sometimes belonging to the genteel poor, who were educated at the expense of the French king Louis XIV. The accent we hear today, with words like “moi” and “toi” pronounced like “moé” and “toé”, is the Parisian accent of the 17th century. To those who tell us, even today, that our French is not French, I would say that our French is the legacy of what created French in France and the international French of today. Our expressions are a gateway to history. The same goes for all the world's languages. Some are modern, while others are doors to the past, to nature, and more.

A few years ago, when I was in university, my English second language professor confessed that she adored French. I get that. Even though it was not her mother tongue, she adored it because she found French to be more vivid and precise than English. Take it easy; those were her words. For example, she said that, in English, there is blue, light blue and dark blue, but in French, there is a whole spectrum of blues. She found English interesting because it is a fast language made up of short words. She loved her mother tongue, but she was able to perceive the charms of another language. We should all be like her.

This is true of other languages too. There are words that exist in one language and not another. If I remember correctly, in Inuktitut, there are several dozen words for snow. That makes sense because it was crucial that they be able to describe snow precisely. It was a matter of survival. It helped them find their way. By comparison, in French we have wet snow, loose snow, packed snow, icy snow, slush, powder, and a couple more I have probably forgotten. We do not have that many.

It is only by taking an interest in lesser-known, rarer languages that we can discover the breadth and beauty of the world we live in. Mother tongues should be celebrated. We need to share them, to share the insight that each of them gives us into our world, our emotions, our spirit. The more words a person has, the more precise their vision of the world, both physical and abstract, is. By sharing our languages, by respecting and honouring them, by doing everything possible to protect endangered languages and by allowing these languages to be passed on, we are sharing world views, sharing our visions, and learning to respect one another. As the great Pierre Bourgault said, to protect a language is to protect all languages from the hegemony of one, whatever it may be. A nation can have one, two or three official languages, and individuals can have many more. It is this individual richness that must be preserved and praised.

In conclusion, a language is a system of concepts. It is the basis of every individual and of the construction of the psyche. The more we do to keep the world's languages from disappearing, the more we will enable people to have a strong psyche that is rich in imagery, and the more we will love this diversity. The world's mother tongues are also part of diversity, and we must love them, no matter what they are.

I want to close with this final thought. International mother language day is a bit like Valentine's Day. Lovers love each other all year round, not just on Valentine's Day. We must love our mother tongue all year round, not just on February 21. We have to demonstrate it every day. Still, I do hope we will all celebrate international mother language day together next February 21.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am tremendously grateful to my colleagues from all parties here in the House of Commons for the support they have offered over the last two sessions of debate on this Senate bill to create international mother language day across Canada.

As my friend from Cloverdale—Langley City noted, it has taken a few tries to make this a reality, and in this regard I have to recognize the tireless and persistent efforts of British Columbia Senator Mobina Jaffer and, again, the support and efforts of my friend and colleague the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City for sponsoring earlier iterations of Bill S-214. Of course, Mr. Aminul Islam from our home community of Surrey, himself from Bangladesh, has been the drive and spirit behind this effort.

Speaking of spirit, what we just heard from the hon. member from the Bloc, and what we heard from the hon. member for Nunavut, really drive home the point of the beauty and music of our languages and why Canada is a richer country because we have them.

The message in the first hour of debate, and again here today in the second hour, is a solid indication that, when this bill comes to a vote, we will at last fulfill the dreams of many who have wanted Canada to join the rest of the world in celebrating international mother language day this coming February 21.

This is more than symbolic. Our deliberations here have recognized that our own indigenous languages need our urgent attention and support to prevent their extinction. Also, since becoming a member of Parliament, I have maintained a home in Gatineau's Aylmer community, and more than ever I have come to treasure the unique and enriching value that French means to Canada, and it not just the language, but the culture and spirit that comes with it.

I was young, many, many years ago, French was the language of international diplomacy. I will add, by the way, in a moment of self-gratification, that I am celebrating the 25th anniversary of my 50th birthday today. However, a long time ago, French was the language of international diplomacy. It has been supplanted by English for a long time now, and anglophones, like me, will find English in most places we visit in the world.

In that regard, I noted with some personal embarrassment the words of a Bloc Québécois colleague in the first hour of our debate when he expressed frustration and resentment with the hegemony of the English language. It made me recall the words attributed to the person famous for weaponizing English speech in the Second World War. Sir Winston Churchill, who, perhaps also feeling that same sense of discomfiture, is said to have once said that English is a language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. However, the legislation we are supporting today makes some amends for that.

Beyond our standing as a bilingual nation, our embrace of multiculturalism in Canada sets a table of unparalleled cultural richness. All across our country, we find languages that have come here from the homelands of the people who have chosen our country to be theirs. As I mentioned in my opening comments on this bill, the iconic symbolism and idioms of those languages can teach us much about how many of our fellow Canadians see the world.

As a Liberal, I firmly stand with the proposition that we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them. Part of the reason is, looking through those differences in culture, custom, dress, religion and language, we have discovered, as Canadians, the common things that bind this unlikely nation together. We love our families. We work to earn and enjoy the prosperity and privileges our nation offers. When it counts, we are all ready to stick up for our rights and what we believe in with the confidence that this country allows, indeed expects, us to do so.

Thus, to confidently enjoy the opportunity to celebrate our heritages says a lot about Canada and who we all are to each other and to the rest of the world. This is something we can affirm next February 21, and as I have noticed, something we can vote to support tomorrow here in the House of Commons.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 15, 2022, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to come back tonight and question the Minister of National Defence or the parliamentary secretary and follow up on a question that I asked on March 22, a number of months ago, about the fact that the people of Ukraine are fighting for their freedom, their democracy and even their lives. They have asked for more help from Canada.

The Canadian Armed Forces, as I highlighted in that question for the minister in March, is in the process of divesting many of its armoured vehicles, such as the Coyotes, the M113s and the Bison ambulances, and replacing them with the current armoured combat support vehicle project. My question for the minister at the time was whether these vehicles will be donated to Ukraine, and if so, when.

I am confident, having worked with the parliamentary secretary and in getting to know the minister well, that they have the answers. They have had a couple of months to dig up the answers and know this. There were already sources in the news recently talking about the fact that the Government of Canada may be willing to donate 40 Coyote vehicles to Ukraine. This is good news.

My question is, what about the hundreds more? We have more Coyotes and more LAV IIIs. In fact, one thing that is absolutely critical to Ukraine is Bison ambulances. These are great vehicles. They are fighting a war, and later I will get into the reason these armoured vehicles are that much more important.

The question that I am hoping the parliamentary secretary or the minister will answer tonight is this: When can Ukraine expect to receive these critical vehicles that Ukrainians need, as they are fighting for their lives against this illegal invasion by President Putin?

This was highlighted again just yesterday by the Ukrainian MPs who are here visiting Canada. One was on Power & Politics yesterday. The Ukrainian member of Parliament was asked whether Canada has provided a response to Ukraine and when they can expect these vehicles. I was flabbergasted to watch that interview and understand that no, Ukraine is still waiting for a response from the government on when it can expect those armoured vehicles. These are vehicles, as they rightly know, that Canada is not using. They could be there to support Ukraine and save lives.

There is also ammunition. I do give the government credit, as it has donated 155 millimetre howitzers, artillery pieces that are critical, but Ukraine needs the ammunition. Anybody watching the news knows they are going through this ammunition at a critical pace.

To finalize the importance of this, I note that I read a professor's paper earlier today that talked about the famine that is going to come out of this war, the world famine, and the backlog that is occurring with the blockades that the Russians are adding against Ukraine. This is something Canada should be doing more to resolve. I will quote the final paragraph of that paper: “Canada's inability or even unwillingness to be agile during this unprecedented crisis puts us into the back row of reliable nations. It is a paralyzing combination of fear, bureaucratic stagnation and a crippling lack of creativity that holds us back and forces us to watch our hard-won value system circle the drain. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk because of the Putin regime's actions. What is Canada going to do about it?”

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport

Madam Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague for his service to this country, as well as his consistent advocacy for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and for Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Canada has made it very clear that we stand firmly with Ukrainians in the face of this unjustified and unprovoked attack on their country. Following Russia's occupation and the attempted illegal annexation of Crimea, we launched Operation Unifier in 2015. Over the last seven years, we have been working alongside Ukraine in training over 33,000 members of its security forces, training and learning valuable skills from one another. We were privileged to witness the complete transformation of Ukraine's security forces over the past several years. This is the force that is bravely and effectively defending itself against invading Russian forces today.

We have also helped bolster Ukraine's resilience in cyberspace, in conjunction with the Communications Security Establishment. We continue to work closely with our international partners and various government departments to ensure that Ukrainians have what they need in order to defend their country.

Canada has already committed $262 million for military aid for Ukraine since February 2022, and that includes anti-tank weapons, rockets, M777 howitzers, drone cameras, 155-millimetre ammunition and rifles, armoured utility vehicles, and satellite imagery and technology. Our military donation includes both new equipment and equipment from Canadian Armed Forces inventories. I am pleased to say that some of the military aid coming in does come from the $500 million that our government announced in the last federal budget. This is the case for the 20,000 155-millimetre artillery rounds that the Minister of National Defence recently announced, at a cost of $98 million, which will be crucial in Ukraine's current fight to defend its eastern territory.

In addition, Canada has deployed two CC-130 aircraft to Europe to transport military equipment toward Ukraine. This includes equipment from Canada and our allies. These aircraft have delivered over two million pounds of aid so far, on over 100 flights, and this work continues every single day.

We are conducting an assessment of what further equipment we can buy or donate based on Ukraine's list of urgent requirements. However, we need to ensure that we are donating equipment that can be integrated with their existing fleet and that they can maintain it during this time of war. We are focused on addressing the most pressing defence needs that Ukraine communicates to partners and allies at forums like the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, which the Minister of National Defence will be attending on the margins of this week's meeting of NATO ministers of defence. As we announce further aid to Ukraine, we will continue to respond to the requests of Ukraine's government. Canada's defence minister remains in close and frequent contact with her Ukrainian counterpart on how Canada can best assist Ukraine as it fights to defend itself.

I want to reassure the member opposite and Canadians that Canada will continue seeking every opportunity and every avenue to support and help Ukraine. We will continue to work with our international partners as well to ensure that we continue supporting Ukraine in effective and meaningful ways to best respond to its needs.

I look forward to further discussing this issue with my friend and colleague and, once again, thank him for his service to this country.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, first off, I offer my congratulations to the member for Milton for his promotion, in my view, to become the parliamentary secretary of defence, as I guess that is why he is answering the question tonight.

The parliamentary secretary failed to answer the question. It is the same question I asked the minister three months ago, and it is almost the same response. I do not need a history lesson, nor does anybody in this House, nor Canadians. We can all read the news. We know what Canada is doing, but what Ukrainians need is armoured vehicles. This is what they have asked for and, as confirmed as recently as yesterday, the government of this country has not even given the Ukrainians the courtesy of responding as to when they can expect to get those armoured vehicles.

Ukraine is in peril. People's lives are in danger. Why can Canada not simply give old armoured vehicles to Ukraine?

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would personally never dream of second-guessing my colleague and his expertise in military affairs, but I would say that we are all aware of how urgent the need is. I would also reiterate how close that contact has been between our defence minister and theirs and how steadfast we are in our support of Ukraine and its people.

So far, we have responded to Ukraine's requests for aid in coordination with our NATO allies. I am proud to say that tomorrow Canada will be represented at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Brussels by our defence minister, who will make it clear that Canada is serious about supporting Ukraine as this conflict extends into the long term. We will continue to work with our NATO allies, international partners and various government departments to ensure that Ukraine has exactly what it needs to defend itself against President Putin's unjustified attack.

I will close by once again thanking my friend and colleague for his consistent advocacy and his service to this country.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to follow up on a question I asked the government.

In May, I asked the Minister of Transport, once again, when he would allow Canadians to fly and end the travel mandates. I pointed out how Canada is virtually alone and an outlier in requiring vaccinations to fly. Iceland, Sweden, Ireland, France, the U.K., Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, Hungary, Jamaica, Thailand, Mexico, Norway and Poland are just a few of the many countries that have allowed their citizens to fly vaccine-free.

I would also note that a country the Prime Minister has an interesting relationship with, Cuba, also allows its citizens to fly without being vaccinated.

I have risen in this House many times—

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I believe the hon. colleague was insinuating that the Prime Minister has some sort of close relationship with Cuba. I would ask him to withdraw that comment as unnecessary in the House.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member was making a comment on the countries that have eliminated vaccine mandates. I cannot really judge the intentions of the hon. member in his comments.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I have risen in the House many times and asked many questions raising issues around the Liberals' punitive, divisive and discriminatory vaccine mandates.

I have spoken to many individuals across the country, particularly one gentleman named Cayle, a young man who drove all the way here from Vancouver Island because he could not fly to protest these vaccine mandates.

I know that the parliamentary secretary will want to talk about how the government is now suspending the vaccine mandates as of June 20. While this announcement will bring relief to those who have been stigmatized by the Prime Minister for their personal medical decisions, I want to ask specifically why the Liberals are suspending the mandates.

Today's media release quoted the repeated claim that these were always meant to be a temporary measure. I have heard a lot from the Prime Minister and the government about how these measures were always going to be temporary. The government then went on to say that it would only suspend these required vaccination requirements for domestic and outbound travel, federally regulated transportation sectors and federal government employees. Why is the government only suspending them? If the government really believed that travel mandates were just a temporary measure, it should be ending them, not suspending them.

In the announcement, the Liberal government was clear that it was not eliminating the mandates but was temporarily removing them while keeping them active. The mandates are not really gone, but just not being enforced for now. In everyday life, when we see or hear about a suspension, it is something that is short. In a hockey game, a player can get a suspension for a game or two but then he goes back to the normal life of playing hockey.

With the Liberals' “temporary suspension” of the vaccine mandates, one can believe that will be coming back. Is this suspension a temporary thing? Were the mandates a temporary thing? It seems that there is now a new normal, with vaccine mandates being the norm. I hope that this is not going to be the case, but we have seen how the government has been following political science regarding its COVID policy instead of actual science.

To review, over the past year, the government has suspended the rights of millions of Canadians to travel and see their families. Now it is announcing that it is temporarily un-suspending these rights. With this approach, maybe the Liberals should amend the Constitution to the “Charter of temporary rights and freedoms”.

Members can consider that if one has been convicted of a sexual crime against children, as long as they have a vaccine, here is a passport and off they go. There are 42,000 convicted sex offenders in this country, and the government has only refused eight passports to people who are considered likely to exploit children in another country.

However, the government is spending $30 million to implement—

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport

Madam Speaker, since the beginning of this pandemic, our top priority has been the health and safety of Canadians. We are more than two years into this pandemic, and our priority remains exactly the same. That is why we continue to take actions at the border.

Canadians have stepped up to protect themselves and the people around them from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. Today, nearly 90% of the eligible population has been vaccinated, case counts have decreased and the rates of hospitalizations and deaths are also decreasing across this country. Indeed, we continue to have access to vaccines, boosters, therapeutics and rapid tests. This allows us to be more flexible in our approach at the borders, and it also means that Canada has one of the lowest death rates in the world.

That is why we have eased some of the requirements for vaccinated travellers in recent months, including our decision to move COVID-19 testing for all travellers off-site. The Government of Canada will pause mandatory random testing at airports between June 11 and June 30 as we transition to a model whereby testing occurs outside of airports.

Additionally, our government announced today that as of June 20, it will suspend vaccination requirements for domestic and outbound travel, federally regulated transportation sectors and federal government employees.

While the suspension of vaccine mandates reflects our improved public health situation in Canada, the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve and circulate in Canada and globally. Given this context and because vaccination rates and virus control in other countries vary significantly, current vaccination requirements at the border will remain in effect. This will reduce the potential impact of international travel on our health care system and serve as added protection against any future variant.

Other public health measures, such as wearing a mask, continue to apply and will be enforced throughout a traveller's journey on a plane or a train.

Our government's decision to suspend the mandatory vaccination requirement for the domestic transportation sector was informed by key indicators that include the evolution of this virus, the epidemiological situation and modelling, the stabilization of infection and hospitalizations across the country, vaccine science and high levels of vaccination in Canada against COVID-19.

Our government will continue to evaluate measures and will not hesitate to make adjustments based on the latest public health advice and science to keep Canadians and the transportation system safe and secure. Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents returning from international destinations who do not qualify for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption continue to be required to provide a valid pre-entry test result and remain subject to day one and day eight molecular testing, as well as quarantine for 14 days.

In addition, all travellers entering Canada are required to input their mandatory information in ArriveCAN within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada. Travellers who arrive without completing their ArriveCAN submission may be subject to day one and day eight molecular testing, as well as to quarantine for 14 days and fines for other enforcement actions, regardless of their vaccination status.

Some exemptions remain in place for certain unvaccinated travellers. For example, agricultural temporary foreign workers, resettled refugees, asylum seekers and those with a medical exemption would also be permitted to enter. Our government recognizes that for weeks there have been various issues causing delays at airports, and we continue to work closely with airport authorities, airlines, testing providers and many other partners to manage traveller flow and make sure travellers are processed as efficiently as possible.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, as I suspected, the parliamentary secretary does not really believe Canadians' rights are absolute, but rather exist at the whim of the government.

One of his colleagues has stated, “The massive majority of Liberal MPs want the mandates to end.” His colleague also noted that “There's never any straight or particularly convincing answer”. Again, we see that right here today.

There is no evidence for imposing these discriminatory mandates and no evidence for suspending the rights of Canadians. Now there is no evidence for the mandates to be suspended, even though the Prime Minister has proven that even with three shots, one can still get and spread COVID.

I want to ask the parliamentary secretary again: What evidence is the government relying on today that changed from yesterday?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, I admire my colleague's desire to stand up for rights in this country, and I just wish he would also stand up for the rights of women to access reproductive health services and abortions.

The goal of Canada's COVID-19 response is to mitigate the risk of importation of COVID-19 and variants of concern. The government is committed to limiting social and economic disruptions, continuing to improve the overall traveller experience and supporting Canada's aviation industry, which is an important sector of our economy. As we adjust our border measures, we will continue to use current data and a science-informed approach. We will also continue to work with provincial and territorial colleagues and indigenous partners, as well as international counterparts.

Canadians travelling abroad should exercise caution and be aware that if they test positive for COVID-19 while they are abroad, they might have to extend their trip.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Kevin Vuong Independent Spadina—Fort York, ON

Madam Speaker, the price of gas has risen over 40% year over year. If we look up the price of gas in the GTA right now in, from Toronto to Richmond Hill, we will see that it is currently around 209.3¢ per litre. The cost of gas is up, way up, and so is the price of food.

Even if someone does not drive, farmers drive to plant, to harvest and to do so much more, and they need gas. To get the food they grow to our grocery stores, they need gas. Gas prices are up 40%. It is no surprise that food prices have risen almost 10%.

We have seen the largest increase in the cost of food since 1981. That is a 41-year record. In 1981, I was not even born yet. My parents were still in a refugee camp. If we take into account the fact that Canada’s median age is 41.1 years, that means for half of Canadians, myself included, the increase in the price of food is the highest it has ever been in our lifetime. The price of gas is also the highest I have ever seen in my lifetime.

The soaring cost of gas and food is crushing Canadians, but while Canadians are struggling, the government is just raking it in. How much is it bringing in? Let us do the math. Annually, 65 billion litres of gasoline and diesel are sold in Canada. The GST revenue that the federal government collects from just these two fuels alone works out to about $6 billion a year.

However, members will remember that gas prices are up 40%, so the federal government stands to pocket $2.5 billion extra that it never budgeted for or earmarked. Those billions of dollars belong to Canadians.

I know I have much more time to speak, but I am going to jump straight to the point. The federal government has a duty to give this slush fund back to Canadians. I will ask this of the government, yet again: Will the government provide relief to struggling Canadians, just as the fiscally prudent and compassionate Liberal Paul Martin government did? Yes or no?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the important question of affordability tonight. Our government understands that Canadians are being hard hit by rising prices, particularly as they apply to energy and gasoline. That is why we are taking effective action to meaningfully support Canadians so they can continue to deal with this challenge.

The current rate of inflation, which is very high, is a global phenomenon that is being driven by unprecedented supply chain disruptions resulting from COVID-19 and the severe commodity disruptions that are arising from Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. It is a complex and multi-faceted problem, but it is not one that we are facing alone.

That is why we are already focused on implementing realistic measures to help families make ends meet. Our government has already cut taxes for the middle class, while raising them on the top 1% of earners, and we have also increased support for families and low-income workers through such programs as the Canada child benefit and the Canadian workers benefit.

In budget 2021, our government laid out an ambitious plan to provide Canadian parents with, on average, $10-a-day regulated child care spaces for children under six years old. In less than a year, we have reached agreements with all provinces and territories.

The economic benefits of providing families with subsidized family care and child care spaces really cannot be undersold or understated. The fact is that families are going to save thousands of dollars. By the end of this year, families across Canada will have seen their child care fees reduced by an average of 50%.

To support vulnerable Canadians at the other end of the demographic spectrum, we have also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for low-income, single seniors and enhanced the GIS earnings exemption. We are also increasing old age security for Canadians aged 75 and older in July of this year. This 10% increase will provide more than $766 in additional benefits to full pensioners over the first year. More than three million seniors will benefit from this.

Our government is also returning the direct proceeds from the federal carbon pollution pricing system to their province or territory of origin, with most of those proceeds going directly to families in those jurisdictions. In 2022-23, these payments mean a family of four will receive $745 in Ontario, $832 in Manitoba, $1,101 in Saskatchewan and $1,079 in Alberta. In addition, families in rural and small communities are eligible to receive an extra 10%.

We do understand that Canadians have to pay more for gasoline these days. However, these price increases are due to events abroad, and they are completely out of Canada's control. They are the results of market forces. That is why our government will continue to help Canadians make ends meet through targeted support measures here at home. As I made clear, our government is focused on implementing realistic measures to help families make ends meet.

We will continue to do the right thing and take actions that will create jobs and growth to make life more affordable for all Canadians.