Mr. Speaker, I wish I could congratulate the member opposite on her speech, but if I did, I would be lying.
Just before Canada Day, she is claiming that the image of my country's flag has been tainted. I do not accept this.
Many members of the House have questions about the administration of a program. However, that does not give us the right to claim that our institutions and, even less, our country's flag have been soiled. If some outside the House say that, then it is the duty of everyone in here to debunk that myth and to ensure that our country's symbols remain dear to us all.
Mr. Speaker, I know personally one of the two people who are the authors of that flag beside you. I am thinking here of Colonel Matheson who is the cousin of our Speaker. He lives in Kingston and might be watching these proceedings.
On Canada Day of the millennium year, His Honour Colonel Matheson, who was a judge after he ceased being an MP, was in my constituency at the opening of the Glengarry Highland Games. I had arranged with our Sergeant-at-Arms to give him the flag that had flown on the Peace Tower on Canada Day of the year 2000. The symbol to me was that John Matheson had given Canada its flag and on Canada Day of the millennium year, the least we could do was to give him back a little bit of what he had given us. That is the way I see this symbol of our country.
I do not think it is appropriate at all for us to put this in the debate that we are having today. I want to get back to the debate that we are having, although I am somewhat angry at the tone that was taken on the previous issue. I say that I support the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River in what he is attempting to do.
I do not think that Canada has a surplus of symbols. I am one of those who believe strongly in our heritage. I have a degree in history, which I earned by the way when I was sitting here in the House studying as an MP and for the last number of years as a cabinet minister. I believe very much in these symbols that form part of us.
The United Kingdom House of Commons has its very distinctive symbol. It is the gate with which we are familiar and which we find on all the material from the House of Commons.
The debate generated by our colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River is to ensure that the House of Commons of Canada has something similar. How it will manifest itself, we are already wearing a symbol. The hon. member across who gave the speech and I are wearing the mace and the maple leaf. It is part of the dress code around here that members are provided with the security badge which we all wear in the form of a decorative pin. I could see that as the basis of a symbol that we would want.
I have a copy of the McGrath committee report made by James McGrath, a Conservative MP who chaired one of the first committees on the reform of the House 20 years ago. Most of the recommendations were adopted, although the Mulroney government did not adopt all of them at the time, as we will recall.
On the cover of the McGrath committee report is an enlarged reproduction of the badge that we are wearing as MPs. I consult that report frequently. There is one in my desk, which of course I cannot pull out because we cannot use props in the House of Commons. It still remains that those kinds of designs are important symbols for all of us.
I wonder if any of our colleagues have read the book written by John Matheson about the history of our flag and the struggle to put together this very important symbol of our country. He speaks about how all members of Parliament had to take it seriously at the time because it deserved no less. He speaks about how he and others struggled to get the bill and the design of the flag approved, the one that is today recognized across the world. It is the symbol of the great country in which we live.
That was a wonderful thing for us. Prior to our Canadian flag, three or four designs had been previously used to identify Canadians. We all know where the maple on our Canadian flag comes from just as the maple leaf on our lapel pin. It comes from the symbol that was on the tombs of the soldiers in France and elsewhere after World War I. I visited many of these sites. I saw the maple leaf. That is largely where the idea came from for Colonel Matheson to produce the Canadian flag. It is that kind of inspiration and outlook that we should have when we design a symbol for the House of Commons to make this institution even greater rather than to belittle it in the way that I heard in the previous speech.
I had not even intended to speak on this issue. I am obviously not doing so with prepared notes. By the time we adopt this and get it done, I will not be here as an MP. As all my colleagues know, I am retiring. However, I still think it should be done. I still think it is a wise idea to prepare and institute these symbols that form part of our nation, whether it is the American eagle, the Canadian peace tower, the three colours of the flag of France or other symbols like that, countries are identified by symbols. Groups are identified by symbols. Various associations have their own flags.
Two years ago, the Ontario legislature adopted the Franco-Ontarian flag, thanks to an initiative by my provincial colleague. This flag will be raised at the legislature on June 24, a few days from now; it is a symbol.
The member for Scarborough—Rouge River is suggesting we adopt a similar symbol, as others have done, for this beautiful and great institution in which we have the honour and privilege to sit. I support him. I hope that, one day, he will be successful. I know that this is a long-term project. We can laugh all we want about the desire to adopt a new symbol but, ultimately, when it comes down to it, people will love it. It will not be happen overnight. Everyone has very fixed ideas about this. That is why it will take time.
I congratulate the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and everyone else who intends to vote in favour of this motion. I hope that the symbol he wants us to adopt will be adopted and that, one day, people will think it was a really great idea to give the House of Commons this distinctive symbol, which will forever be associated with this great institution in which we are called to serve on behalf of Canadians.