June 10, 2016

?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, June 13, at the hour of daily adjournment.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1
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The House resumed consideration of Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.


CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The mover of this motion and the member who gave notice have indicated to the Chair that they do not want to proceed with the motion. As a result, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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LIB

Mauril Bélanger

Liberal

Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.)

moved that Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), be concurred in.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave now?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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LIB

Mauril Bélanger

Liberal

Hon. Mauril Bélanger

(via text-to-speech software) moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Peter Van Loan

Conservative

Hon. Peter Van Loan (York—Simcoe, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, this bill has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on a number of questions.

The first is a question of ownership. To whom do our national symbols and icons belong? Do they belong to Canadians, as an expression of their heritage and popular will or do those symbols belong to politicians, for us to impose our world view on Canadians?

The second is a question of legitimacy and respect for Canadians. Do they have a place in any discussion about the symbols that are part of our shared heritage?

Where I stand on this is clear. Our symbols, like the national anthem, belong to Canadians. They do not belong to us as politicians. We may have a role to play to lead the discussion, but these symbols are not our playthings.

Traditionally, our symbols come from Canadians, from the people. The maple leaf and the beaver were symbols of this country long before politicians chose to put their legal imprint on them. Lacrosse and hockey were our national sports well before this House of Commons decided to pass a resolution or a motion to say they were. Of course, the national anthem had gained popular favour well before the politicians finally got around to making it official in 1980. That is why the second question, that of legitimacy in our actions, depends on allowing Canadians the control and the primary place in any discussion about their symbols. If a change in the national anthem is what Canadians want, that will be demonstrated by them clearly through a robust public discussion. However, no such robust public discussion has taken place here.

Instead, the Liberal Party has gone to great lengths to shut Canadians out of this discussion, particularly at the committee stage. In fact, only one member of the Canadian public, one person out of 36 million, was allowed the opportunity to participate in this debate, and even his dissent was suppressed prematurely. In the haste to ram this bill through committee, the people being shut out of the debate are the people of Canada, to whom this anthem belongs.

This week in the House we heard these words, “On our side of the House, it is all about listening to and respecting Canadians”.

Those words were spoken this past Tuesday, in this House, by the Liberal leader, but they were not spoken with respect to this bill. Rather, the way in which this bill has been rammed through committee by the Liberal Party demonstrates how empty that declaration is. Listening to and respecting Canadians has not happened here.

In their haste to jam this bill through, the Liberals on the heritage committee broke the rules no less than four times. Breaking the rules was the means to achieve the objective of blocking Canadians from making their views on the national anthem heard.

The rules for private members' bills provide 60 sitting days to consider a bill, including hearing witnesses. This can be extended by another 30 days. In this particular case, the Liberals allowed the bill to be at committee for only one meeting, which began only 14 hours after the bill was voted on at second reading in the House.

The Liberals even attempted to expressly block any and all witnesses. When the law clerks indicated that this could not be done, they conceded a brief one hour for witnesses. Needless to say, Canadians were given no opportunity or invitation to make their voices heard. The process was about suppressing not only dissenting views but any discussion at all. Some potential witnesses had indicated a desire to have their views heard. However, with only hours' notice, not surprisingly, they could not make it to Ottawa to do so.

One such witness was Stephen W. Simpson, the grandson of Robert Stanley Weir, the original composer of the English version of O Canada. Mr. Simpson's contribution to the study of the bill would have been valuable. However, his spouse was ill in hospital, which prevented him from appearing before the committee on only hours' notice. The Liberal members determined that he would not be accommodated, despite his personal circumstances.

The one witness who was able to scramble to appear before committee, the very knowledgeable and capable historian Dr. Chris Champion, was scheduled to address the committee and answer questions for one hour. In a stunning display of contempt for any dissent, his evidence was shut down prematurely by a Liberal motion to stop hearing evidence just two-thirds of the way through his allotted time. Even that had to be shut down.

However, in his evidence he did have an opportunity to comment on the process. He said:

I think what is happening here is quick and dirty. How many Canadians really know it's happening is, I think, a legitimate question. It's going through so precipitately that I doubt very many people are aware of or really understand the change.

“On our side of the House, it is all about listening to and respecting Canadians”, so proclaimed the Liberal leader. These are such hollow words.

Ultimately the voices of many who wished to speak to this bill were not heard, and they were effectively told that their voices did not matter.

Although this may seem to some to be a simple matter of procedure or formality, the fact remains that this is the national anthem of all Canadians. Despite the actions of those who would say otherwise, the voices of the overwhelming majority of Canadians who do not support this change do matter. If this were not the case, if there were indeed an overwhelming majority in favour, proponents of the change would have nothing to fear from a robust public discussion. It did not happen.

Even now, most Canadians would be unaware that Parliament is even debating changing the national anthem. For those who are aware, many are incredulous that such a change could even be considered. However, their voices have not been given any consideration.

Many in this House will know that in 2010, I was part of a Conservative government that proposed to change the national anthem to the original lyrics “thou dost in us command”. I was originally in favour of this proposition, believing that it would be appropriate in an effort to restore it to its historical tradition.

That proposal was made as it should have been, in a very public, very high-profile manner, through the Speech from the Throne, which signalled to Canadians that such a change was being considered. In doing so, we provided Canadians with the opportunity to respond to this proposal in a manner that allowed their voices to be heard. They were engaged, involved, and consulted on an issue that was important to them.

Respond they did. The ensuing negative response to the proposal was overwhelming. Canadians from all across the country, of all different political stripes, made it very clear that they were against changing the national anthem. Therefore, it was not changed, for it would not be appropriate for Parliament to take a national symbol, an integral aspect of the shared identity of Canadians, and change it without consideration for the very Canadians to whom that anthem belongs.

The exercise, that experience of listening to Canadians, obviously profoundly affected my view of the issue and how we should deal with it as political leaders.

How many today can honestly say that they have had an opportunity to consult broadly with their constituents on this issue?

On July 1, members of this House will attend celebrations commemorating the Confederation of Canada. When it comes time to sing the national anthem, how many communities will turn to their representative in Parliament and say, “Why was this changed? Why were we not consulted? Why did nobody tell us?”

Even more will simply go on and sing the anthem as they have always done, for their pride in their country and its symbols is not affected by a top-down order from politicians. Most will sing the old words simply because nobody ever told them that a change was in the works.

This House has an obligation to act with legitimacy and integrity. The manner in which this bill was rammed through committee, with the rules that exist to protect debate trampled, lacked legitimacy.

We have a great responsibility to represent Canadians appropriately. While it may be within our powers to modify the anthem as we see fit, we should refrain from doing so indiscriminately, especially if the proposed change is not supported or endorsed by Canadians. The national anthem is not some malleable plaything for politicians. It belongs to all Canadians, not just the politicians.

Let me take this opportunity to give voice to just a few of those Canadians who had their voices shut out.

Janet said, “I think our national anthem should be understood in historical context and allow the artist's words to stay.”

Phyl said, “Leave it as it is. Once changes are made, they never stop and you can never please all.”

Assam said, “The Canadian National Anthem O Canada should not be changed or altered in any way. It is a part of our history and our history should not be changed.”

Those are views that matter, whether members agree or disagree. When it comes to national symbols, when it comes to the things that make us what we are, historically we have taken them from the people, not given them to the people. At the very least, if we seek to change that which the people have given us, we deserve to hear from those people and not lock them out of that discussion. That is what has happened in the process with this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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NDP

Jenny Kwan

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, let me begin my debate by congratulating the member for Ottawa—Vanier for his perseverance in bringing the bill forward. It is my understanding that this is the second time that he has brought this forward. I think we are very close to realizing his dream of ensuring that the House of Commons brings forward words that reflect all communities, that include all communities, for that is what the symbolism of this change is all about.

The member for York—Simcoe talked about history and I want to touch on the history of the national anthem a bit. The national anthem, as we know, was written a long time ago before we were born and the English version was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir. Since that time, as many members in the House will know, there have been several changes. Changes were made in 1913, 1914, and 1916. To the fact about change, it happens. Why is there change? Change is important because we need to reflect the society of today.

In 1908, Robert Stanley Weir actually had it right when he first wrote the national anthem because the original verse of that anthem is gender neutral. The words were, “True patriot love thou dost in us command.” That somehow was changed and no one really knows the reason why it was changed, and then it became, “True patriot love in all thy sons command.”

It seems we have come full circle with the amendment that we are debating, brought forward by the member for Ottawa—Vanier, so that it is truly inclusive of all Canadians.

The wording is important because the proposal says that we will now replace the words, “True patriot love in all thy sons command” with “True patriot love in all of us command”. That is a reflection of all Canadians and it lets everyone know, whether man, woman, or however one self-defines their gender, that we are all part of Canada, and that will be reflected in our national anthem, O Canada.

I want to thank the member for his perseverance. I have not worked with the member until this sitting of the legislature as I am a newly elected member, but I know that he is one of the longest standing members in the House and is well respected from all sides as well.

Let me close with this. He has done something that I truly admire because I admire many politicians. Svend Robinson, the former MP, and the member who is my predecessor, Libby Davies, who was the member for Vancouver East, they also tried to move this change and were not successful. I admire them greatly, but this member is doing what appears to me the unimaginable; that is, to be able to do something that Svend Robinson could not do, to do something that Libby Davies could not achieve.

Congratulations to him and I thank him so much.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Blaine Calkins

Conservative

Mr. Blaine Calkins (Red Deer—Lacombe, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, let me first say how much I respect my hon. colleague who has moved the bill. I have been here for a very long time, and he has been here longer than I. Throughout the whole tenure of my term here in Parliament, which is over 10 years now, we have always had respectful dialogue, and I will do my best to keep my dialogue in regard to his bill, which seeks to change the national anthem, as respectful as I can.

I am speaking on behalf of a massive amount of constituents that I have heard from in my constituency who are finally becoming aware that this change would even happen.

I became aware of this as the member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin back in a Speech from the Throne, which my colleague had mentioned earlier. Ironically, at a time when the economy and keeping our streets and communities safe are important ever-pressing issues, the proposed change that was highlighted in the Speech from the Throne elicited such a response from my constituents that it let me know overwhelmingly that this is not a change that the people that I represent welcome.

That is our role as parliamentarians. Our role is not to take some other personal considerations into effect. Our role as representatives is to represent the will of the people that we were elected to represent. We should always be considerate of that first and foremost.

I have looked at a number of articles about this particular issue that have been printed in regional or national media. It always refers to, usually, colleagues from my side of the House speaking to this particular issue as they are reflecting the will of their constituents, yet when we hear from members of Parliament from other particular points of view, they are talking about how we need to pass the bill from a perspective of a personal attachment to a situation that a member of the House is going through. However grave that actually might be, it should never be a rationale for how we make decisions or determinations in the House.

We should always seek to do what is best and in the best interests of all Canadians and what the will of the people who sent us here to do our job actually is. I have not heard a lot of that debate on what the representatives who are voting in favour of the legislation are actually hearing from their constituents. I hear emotional arguments, but I never hear what the constituents of the folks who are voting in favour of this legislative change actually have to say.

I have been here a long time. As a matter of fact, my private member's bill in the last Parliament sought to make a change that would have affected a few hundred thousand, maybe one million workers, Bill C-525, and I was accused voraciously of doing this through the back door, taking a back-door sneaky approach to change some legislation when my bill went through the entire process. The process took over a year for it to happen. The committees at both the Senate and the House of Commons heard from dozens of witnesses and interested parties. It went through the private member's process.

I am not questioning the member's ability to bring forward a legislative change. I respect member's rights and privileges in the House. He has every right to move a legislative change as he sees fit. I do not dispute the fact that he has the right to do this. However, the process has been gerrymandered from the outset.

The bill was passed in the chamber on, I believe, June 1. It went to the committee on June 2. One witness was heard from for 45 minutes. The chair of the committee made an appeal to the members of the committee based on the medical health condition of the sponsor of the bill, and the bill was subsequently sent back to the House the very next day.

I have never seen a private member's bill move so quickly through the House without regard for due process, which is very concerning to me. If that is the process of how legislation is going to be adopted and changed, I can hardly wait to see what the Liberals are going to do with the changes they are going to be proposing when it comes to democratic reform, because if that is the MO, then we have a lot to be worried about.

Before I finish, I just want to read what one person, who was not able to get her particular point of view, either in a written submission or directly to the committee, taken into consideration. I will read this letter into the record.

It says, “To Whom it May Concern, I am writing you as a young concerned Canadian. I just finished reading a news article about [a Liberal MP's] Bill C-210, which calls for the lyrics of our national anthem changed to be 'gender neutral'. I am absolutely appalled that this is even being given thought, let alone consideration. I would first off like to state very clearly that I am not writing to you...out of any closed-mindedness [or malicious intent]. I am a full supporter of equality and inclusiveness 100% but I draw the line at the proposed lyric change in O Canada, and here is why:

“'True patriot love in all thy sons command. True North strong and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee'

“That block of lyrics is in reference to our sons at the front during the world wars. Yes, I am well aware that there were many nursing sisters at the front as well, but the reality is that our sons by far outnumbered our daughters at the front.

“Let's not forget the 1917 MSA conscription during the First World War after we lost the entire Newfoundland Regiment on the first day of the battle of the Somme. We lost our SONS in less than an hour, the regiment was all but wiped out. To change those lyrics is not only a slap in the face to all who serve now, but to our grandfathers and great grandfathers who so bravely marched on into battle for the freedom we enjoy today. It's a direct spit at the memories, stories and legacies those men left behind.”

The author of this letter is clearly indicating what we all know and feel in our hearts, that the national anthem, as it was changed, was done so to respect a time in history. It is not meant to be gender biased in any way, shape, or form. It is a historical anthem. It was our nation's founding moment. Many historians would argue that when our sons, mostly sons, who were fighting in the wars at that particular time made an assault on Vimy Ridge, they earned our right to participate internationally. Some would say it was the birth of our nation.

She goes on to say in this letter, “The final line in the block of lyrics actually renders the statement gender neutral”, and she says “I say this because we as a nation do stand on guard for “thee”. “We” is the part that means “all of us”.

She argues that the previous line that talks about “in all thy sons command” refers to a part of our history. The part that “we stand on guard for thee” is the gender neutral language, which encompasses all of us and charges all of us with the diligence to look after, protect, and preserve our nation.

This is a good enough reason for me, based on the fact that many of my constituents have already told me how they feel about this and the fact that the bill, regrettably, and I do understand the circumstances, does not seem to have been given due process in this place at all. I am going to have to vote against the legislation.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Bradley Trost

Conservative

Mr. Brad Trost (Saskatoon—University, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today. I believe it is likely I will be closing this debate, and a momentous one it is.

These are not perfunctory. We often issue our best wishes to fellow members in this House for various things, but to my hon. colleague, let me say from the bottom of my heart, we pray for a miracle and we wish him our best. Even though I will not be voting for his legislation, I do think he will have the satisfaction of seeing it pass the House of Commons at least, if not the Senate as well.

A fair number of my colleagues have stated, and I will not restate to any great degree, the issues we have with the process of this. We understand the reasons and are somewhat sympathetic. One of the things we must understand is that we hold this office on behalf of Canadians, and therefore we have the duty to speak on their behalf, to speak for all viewpoints in this country, the viewpoints that we represent in this House. That is the reason I am rising here today.

There are many reasons that have been stated as to why we should not support this legislation. They include attachment to symbols, the history, the possibility that “thy sons command” was a reference, looking forward to possibly some military engagements our country would have been involved in, going forward.

However, for me, the reason that I will be opposing this legislation is a very simple one. If I vote for this legislation and the rationale has been made that it is discriminatory, I would then be accepting that Canada had been, in its words, discriminatory for the last roughly 100 years.

It is my understanding that the reason the lyrics were changed, and the grandson of the author was going to change it, was not for any particular great issue, etc., but for poetic reasons, to make things much more easier to flow, to go forward. It is what poets do.

We think of how the French version of our anthem talks about bearing a cross, carrying a sword, flowers on the head. Canada is not a person, but poetic language also includes that. This is effectively a Victorian poem. The language used is period language, and that is one thing that I think needs to be understood, and was understood clearly by the people at the time. Symbolism allows us a little more flexibility.

The second thing, and this one puzzles and surprises me, and perhaps because the way I was educated was a little different, is that people cannot understand or recognize that historically the word “sons” in English has not necessarily been a term used purely to refer to the male gender. There are many illustrations and the historian who testified at committee pointed this out. It is a term that is often used for the broader encompassment of all people. The author referenced the sons of Jacob, a phrase that is used in various poetic songs and other things of that nature coming from the King James version of the Bible and other periods.

I do understand Shakespearean language. King James language is not as common now as it used to be, but that is the intent, that is the understanding of the language going in. I think we actually do owe a certain degree of respect to the people who have understood that it was inclusive of everyone, going forward.

If I thought this was discriminatory, excluding half of our population, I could support that. I think there are some changes that need to be made from time to time to various symbols to understand and to broaden. I do not see this change bringing my daughter, my wife, my mother in, because I saw them brought in under the old terms.

It is for those reasons, along with some of the reasons my colleague has stated, that I will be choosing to vote no on this piece of legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and again, God's blessing to my colleague.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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LIB

Randy Boissonnault

Liberal

Mr. Randy Boissonnault (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as a Canadian and as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-210, an act to amend the National Anthem Act.

I listened to the debate and I am very pleased to add my thoughts to those of my honourable colleagues.

However, before I do that, I want to thank and honour the work of the member of Parliament for Ottawa—Vanier for his 20-plus years in the chamber, for his work on behalf of Franco-Canadians, and for his work on behalf of Parliament and all Canadians. I know that he can hear us, and I know that he knows we are with him, and so are Canadians. He is the best combination of a brother and an uncle I have ever met in my life for someone who is not a family member.

I know that this debate has raged, and I know that it is an important debate, but I want to get to the substantive issues. We are talking about making our national anthem gender neutral. The issue is whether the English lyrics “in all thy sons command” should be amended to “in all of us command” to reflect the original gender neutral 1908 version.

I, and many others in the House and across the country, believe that this change is fundamental. We reject the assertion that changing this is simple pandering to a political base. This is in fact taking it to its original base and making it appropriate for all Canadians. How else am I going to explain to my 12-year-old niece, Skylar, that we in the House on Wednesdays, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, continue to sing a version of the Canadian anthem that is discriminatory to her gender and to 51% of Canadians?

The debate is about bringing our national anthem into the 21st century. It is 2016. This is about gender neutrality. This is about the future. What else could be more Canadian?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Anthem Act
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June 10, 2016