Mr. Speaker, let me thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment for graciously sharing his time with me.
Hon. members know that I do not hog the time in this chamber. When I do speak, I avoid partisanship and fanaticism, yet I am passionate about history, about the history of our home and native land, about the history of this place.
Bill C-17 is an opportunity for all members of the House to work in this spirit, and as the House can see, we are.
First, I would like to praise the Minister of the Environment for his hard work and dedication to this project. While this idea is not a new one, this minister and this government have made sure to make it happen.
In addition, I would like to mention the contribution of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Chief Government Whip, the members for Ottawa—Vanier, Ottawa Centre and Gatineau, as well as Senators Keon and Munson and Bruce Carson, from the Prime Minister's Office. I would also like to extend my appreciation to Grete Hale and her foundation.
Some may ask, why does Canada need a national cemetery? In answer, I am sure that many hon. members are familiar with the Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. In fact, there are 141 national cemeteries in the United States, but they are generally military cemeteries containing the graves of U.S. military personnel, veterans and their spouses. The Arlington National Cemetery is an exception, as it contains the graves of outstanding civilian leaders and other people of national importance in the U.S. National cemeteries in that country thus serve a very specific military purpose.
Other countries have established national cemeteries. The Pantheon in Paris is a building that serves as a repository for the remains of many illustrious French citizens.
Members of the British royal family are interred at Westminster Abbey and at St. George's Chapel in Windsor. These models serve very specific purposes, and while of interest, do not meet the needs of our country.
This government believes that a made in Canada formula is required for a national cemetery that extends beyond military burials and that pays tribute to the contributions made by all those who came before us in shaping Canada as a nation.
I am sure that hon. members support the need for a national cemetery in Canada. Over 75,000 Canadians from all walks of life found their final resting place at Beechwood Cemetery, including 23 national historic persons who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to Canadian history.
Many prominent Canadians are interred at Beechwood, including leaders such as: William McDougall, a Father of Confederation; Sir Robert Borden, the eighth Prime Minister of Canada; Tommy Douglas, the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan and the first leader of the New Democratic Party; and Ramon Hnatyshyn, a former member of this House and 24th Governor General of Canada.
There are military figures such as: Generals Andrew McNaughton, Henry Crerar and Charles Foulkes; engineer and scientist Sir Sanford Fleming; and poets Archibald Lampman, Arthur Bourinot and William Wilfred Campbell.
By virtue of its location in the nation's capital, Beechwood Cemetery serves as a focal point for national memorial events such as Remembrance Day.
Finally, in the spirit of promoting the ideals of Canadian unity, the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation is committed to ensuring the delivery of services in Canada's both official languages.
This recognition will illustrate our government's commitment to the heritage in this place. It is our duty to preserve this heritage, to make the younger generations aware of it and to pay tribute to those who shaped our country's history.
By passing this bill, our government will open the doors of Beechwood Cemetery to prime ministers, governors general and recipients of the Victoria Cross who wish to be interred in the nation's capital.
This recognition would also ensure that there is a place conducive to reflection, a perfect place to pay tribute to those who came before us and who fought to make Canada an open, free and peaceful country, a country characterized by strong values such as justice, respect for human rights and gender equality.
This will be a way for us to preserve and highlight our country's historical heritage.
When we put away partisanship and fanaticism, when we work together for the common good, we can all get things done.