, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved:
That Bill S-219 be amended by deleting Clause 2.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the bill is slightly controversial but I think everybody is in favour.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to my proposed amendment. I know I had proposed various amendments and they were all for the same reason.
We are speaking on Bill S-219, the journey to freedom day act. From the outset, I would like to say that I am not opposed to this bill. All of my proposed amendments, deleting lines 7 to 13 of the preamble on page 1, deleting lines 16 to 30 of the preamble on page 2, which you ruled out of order, and that which you have accepted, deleting clause 2, are due to the fact that these clauses all contain April 30 as the date to mark the journey to freedom day. As we heard in committee, there is no consensus within the Vietnamese community that the date is appropriate.
The purpose of these deletions is to allow the bill to pass while providing the government an opportunity to go back and consult with the Vietnamese Canadian community and select a date upon which a broad consensus exists. The reasons that a consensus does not exist are because: April 30 is the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, which would make journey to freedom day synonymous with a historical event that Canada did not play a significant role in; it would take away the focus from Canada's role in settling displaced Vietnamese people and place it on the many points of contention surrounding the Vietnam War; and, it risks making journey to freedom day political when it should not be.
It would be unfortunate if Parliament passed this bill only for it to sow division. We instead seek to create a uniquely Canadian day to commemorate the Vietnamese community's acceptance into Canada and its achievements thereafter.
I can propose a few dates, but they are dates that we got from reading the minutes at committee and through speaking to some constituents.
For example, July 27 is a possible alternative because it is the day that the Department of National Defence's Operation Magnet II began making its flights of displaced Vietnamese people, also known as boat people, to Canada.
May 1 is also a possible alternative because it is the day that the Canadian government declared it would sponsor refugees with relatives already in Canada.
June 20 is a possible alternative because every year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees marks World Refugee Day on June 20, which I think is important. On June 20, 1986, the Nansen Refugee Award was awarded to the people of Canada by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees due in large part to Canada's role in welcoming Vietnamese refugees into Canada.
I do not want to say that I have a preference for any of these dates because that would be contradictory to my first statement, that I would prefer to have the Vietnamese community, along with government, decide on a consensual date where everybody would be happy.
I have always believed that one of the greatest humanitarian contributions we can make in times of international crisis is to open our borders in order to welcome those who are forced to escape perilous circumstances abroad. Journey to freedom day has the potential to celebrate such noble actions quite admirably. It can also highlight the positive impact that Canada made during a time of crisis by virtue of being a welcoming and compassionate nation while celebrating the numerous achievements by Vietnamese Canadians who have enriched Canada ever since. Making these the exclusive focus of the journey to freedom day act would be the most beneficial. The day could then serve as a reminder to Canadians that our generosity in difficult times can make a lasting impact that betters our country and the world we live in. This is why I believe it is important to choose a date that does not obscure these goals in any way or divide Canadians, especially those of Vietnamese origin, and that we can move on constructively.
On a personal note, I have received correspondence from Vietnamese in my community who are in favour of the bill. However, the controversy is the date. That is one of the reasons that I propose that we go back and try to have my amendments passed in the House as well as have the bill approved at third reading in the next couple of weeks before the House rises.