Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise in the House of Commons today to give my farewell speech.
While I am very hopeful this will not be the last time I will speak in the House, I cannot be certain. Minority governments tend to be that way, unpredictable, and so I will take this opportunity to officially say goodbye.
This is not easy. Leaving something as important as this never is, but making the decision to get into politics was not easy either.
When I first started to consider running for politics in 2014, many of my friends and colleagues thought I had momentarily lost my mind, but I knew I had not. I knew in my bones that Canadians wanted change, and I wanted to be a part of that change. My only regret now is that I did not consider running for the Liberals much sooner, because it has been an absolute honour to represent the people of London West in the House, and I am proud of what we have accomplished.
When I was first elected in 2015, my twin grandsons, Harrison and Francis, were only two years old. Now they are eight years old, and I have decided to write my farewell speech with them in mind, hoping that one day they will watch this speech and understand its full meaning.
My memories of the past six years are a blur of highs and lows, of accomplishments that I am very proud of and of bitter heartache, especially after the recent horrific murder of four of my constituents, the Afzaal family, who were killed while walking along a street in London West on a Sunday night, killed simply because they were Muslim.
This terrorist attack has served to remind our community that we are not immune to hate. This hate manifested in destroying a wonderful Muslim family and leaving their nine-year-old son, Fayez, in hospital, wounded both physically and emotionally. His grandmother, Talat; mother, Madiha; father, Salman; and his 15-year-old big sister, Yumna were brutally taken from him. It is such a loss, all because of hate.
However, Londoners quickly turned hate into love. Thousands of Londoners from every culture and faith filled the streets on Friday night to pay their respects to the Afzaal family, who are forever in our hearts. Many people outside of Canada expressed shock that something like this could happen here. We are supposed to be a country that welcomes diversity with open arms, diversity is our strength, but heinous acts like this remind us how fragile that strength is. Many people in our community feel that if it can happen in London, Ontario, it can happen anywhere.
This has been an incredibly tough time for everyone in Canada. Just two weeks ago, we learned the details about the unmarked graves of 215 indigenous children at a former Kamloops residential school. These children were taken from their families and never came home. Our hearts ache as we are reminded, once again, of our callous disregard for indigenous people. So much grief to face and it would be too easy to say “Well, that happened years ago; that wouldn't happen today”, but we would be fooling ourselves. We need to reconcile our pride and our country with what we have done.
I want my grandsons to learn about Canada's true, blemished history, because we must face the truth before we can understand what it means to be Canadians. I urge all Canadians to use this upcoming Canada Day as an opportunity to reflect on how Canada can be a more loving, more educated and more accepting country.
As a child growing up in the 1960s, I was so proud of Canada as we celebrated our 100th birthday; 1967, what a glorious year. My dad drove our family to Montreal for Expo 67. My father was a new Canadian citizen and he was overflowing with love for his newfound home. What he did not know, and what we did not know, was the cost that indigenous people paid so we could be proud of our country.
I cannot sit in the House without feeling the weight of decisions made by members who sat here in the past, who somehow thought they were doing the right thing, taking children away from their families to force them to be assimilated to our way of thinking because they believed they were right, and they were so very wrong. What a shame, what a national shame, and I am so very sorry.
Despite all of this sadness, Harrison and Francis, I am proud to be Canadian, and I am so proud to have had the honour to sit in this House with good people and pass good laws. To be a member of Parliament during a pandemic is not something any of us expected, but despite this challenging time, we have accomplished so much. I do not have time to list everything, but I do want to talk about some of the areas I was most involved with.
I am very proud to have pushed our government to earmark $30 million to support childhood cancer research. Too many children are dying from cancer, and we need to do more research to determine how to treat them, so they can live long, healthy lives.
I am proud to have co-sponsored a study on indigenous housing in rural, urban and northern communities that will hopefully be a catalyst for changes that will ultimately see indigenous people get the housing they need and deserve.
People with disabilities have always been a focus of mine, even before I came into politics, and so I am proud of working to help pass the Accessible Canada Act through the House and the Senate. This act will pave the way for a more accessible Canada for this and future generations.
How we treat our seniors has always been important to me, and it struck me as odd that we did not have a seniors minister who would focus on their issues. As members of the seniors caucus, we pushed to have the Prime Minister name a cabinet minister who would work solely on issues facing this group of Canadians. On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I am proud that we have launched consultations on this growing issue.
We know how important non-profits are to the fabric of our society, and I have been a strong advocate for our government to do more for groups that support thousands of Canadians across the country. COVID-19 shone a light on all the good work this sector has been doing throughout Canada, and we cannot let them falter. Therefore, I am proud to be part of a working group of MPs that continues to push our government to strengthen our support for charities and non-profits. Our latest budget proposes to spend $400 million to help charities and non-profits adapt and modernize, so they can better support the economic recovery in our communities.
As well, I am humbled to have been in place, serving as parliamentary secretary to science, when our government restored scientists to their rightful place in our decision-making. I want to thank the former science minister for always pushing to do what is right, no matter the obstacles. I thank the minister responsible for people with disabilities for showing me never to underestimate human potential, and also the economic development minister for teaching me that politics is filled with good people who want to do what is best for our country. I also want to say merci to her for pushing me to learn French. While I was not as successful as I had hoped to be, I do have a new-found appreciation for the French language, and I encourage anyone interested in getting into politics to start learning French now.
Of course, I want to thank my constituents of London West for putting their faith in me over the past six years. Going door to door and speaking to you about the things that really matter to you was a true joy, and I thank you for your support over the years. Whether you voted for me or not, thank you for allowing me to be your voice in Parliament.
Together, we have done great things for the city of London. We have opened our hearts, our arms and our homes to families from Syria, who are building new lives in our city. Construction of a new Maple Leaf Foods plant is under way, thanks to federal government funding. Sticking with the food industry, we are strong supporters of The Grove in London, an agriculture hub that will help us become a leader in agriculture manufacturing, and we cannot forget the millions of dollars in investments to the Greenway waste-water treatment plant, a critical infrastructure project for London West.
There are so many people to thank. To my family, who were supportive right from the beginning, my son, Billy; daughter-in-law, Kelly; daughter, Lauren; and soon-to-be son-in-law, Marc, you have been unwavering in your support and understanding. To my brother, Bill, and sister-in-law Johanna, thank you for reminding me how proud mom and dad would have been of what I have accomplished.
To my husband, Brian Meehan, thank you for being at my side as we ventured this path together. I cannot imagine doing this job without a supportive spouse, and he has been my cheerleader, a confidant and a shoulder to cry on. We really had no idea where it was going to take us, but he was there every step of the way and helped me make this final decision to step back.
I thank my staff, Devin Munro, Elaine Furie, Mack McGee, Pat Shanahan and Brendan Edge, for always being there for me and our constituents, to answer their calls and their emails day in and day out. It has not been easy, but they made me look good. I consider all of them friends and cannot imagine doing the job of an MP without their support.
Finally, I thank my grandsons, Harrison and Francis, who always find ways to make me smile. When I told Harrison that I was not going to run for re-election and that he would not have to go door-knocking with me again, he turned to me and said, “Does that mean you won't be going back to the Liberal tower ever again?” The Liberal tower. When he came to Parliament Hill two years ago for what was officially our last sitting day in the old place before the renovations began, he would have walked up to what would have seemed like a massive tower, the Peace Tower. I was a Liberal, so in his mind it was the Liberal tower.
One day, when the renovations are complete, I hope to return to the Liberal tower with my grandsons and marvel at the history of it all. Maybe they will look up and say, “Grandma Kate tried her best to make Canada a better country for everyone”.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.