ST. DENIS, Brent, BASc.

Personal Data

Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing (Ontario)
Birth Date
May 27, 1950
executive assistant, industrial engineer, teacher

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Algoma (Ontario)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Algoma--Manitoulin (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources (September 1, 1999 - August 31, 2000)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (September 1, 2000 - September 12, 2001)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Algoma--Manitoulin (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (September 1, 2000 - September 12, 2001)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing (Ontario)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 3 of 81)

March 10, 2008

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate tonight, a debate that honours our troops in Afghanistan and everywhere they act on behalf of Canada in the world, and indeed domestically.

I echo the comments of my colleague from Waterloo. To have this debate and to recognize there are different points of view and at the same time to recognize that in this democracy debate is necessary is a good irony. It is good that we can have the debate in this place. We could wish that other countries like Afghanistan could enjoy the ability to have discussions like this without guns, bombs, bullets or treachery. We and our troops, men and women, are there on our behalf to advance those values that we hold as a nation.

There is not a member in the House who does not, regardless of his or her view, support our troops. I want to emphasize that is my view and the view of all of us here.

In so doing, I want to pay tribute to those soldiers, men and women of the military, who have lost their lives, about 80, and the many hundreds who have been wounded to one degree or another.

I am the vice-chair of the veterans affairs committee, which is doing a study of veterans benefits. We are seeing all too often in testimony the tragic impact on lives of post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no question that the operation in Afghanistan will produce, unfortunately, a goodly share of future veterans of today's serving military who will suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. However, that is the price of acting out the values of our democracy in foreign lands.

I also submit that the motion, to give credit to the Prime Minister and the Liberal leader, is the result of their efforts to find common ground that reflects the values of our country and that it is a Canadian motion, not a Conservative or a Liberal motion.

I have talked to previous NDP voters who are much happier with this balanced approach than with the approach that Canada should leave Afghanistan right away.

I represent the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. A major part of my current riding was represented by the late Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson. It was 50 years ago last fall that he won the Nobel Prize for his efforts in the area of peacekeeping.

We do not use the word “peacekeeping” very much any more, but ultimately it is all about that. Whether we go through seasons when that word does not easily fit the circumstances, there would be few Canadians who would not agree that it is really what ultimately we are trying to achieve.

I know all too well the families of soldiers killed. They are from the little communities of McKerrow and Espanola in my riding. Two young men lost their lives in Afghanistan in the last couple of years. They know too well that there is a great sacrifice.

By the lack of emails, phone calls and letters from constituents telling me that this motion is a mistake, I have a sense, and I am sure most of my colleagues here have this sense as well, that we are doing the right thing.

We will have an election sooner or later and that election will rightfully be about differing views on the country's finances, child care, aboriginal concerns and so on. However, it should not be about Afghanistan. We have troops there and families at home are wishing them Godspeed in their time there and their journey home. I think we are doing the right thing by settling this matter.

Our troops want us to debate this. Ultimately they want clear direction from the Parliament of Canada. As our leader has said, it is not our job as parliamentarians to micromanage the work of the generals and their fellow leaders on the ground. That is not our role. Our role is to set the direction and the mandate.

To go back to our veterans affairs committee, we recently visited four military bases, from the west to the east of Canada, in our veterans health study. In my experience, not a single member of the military questioned the debate, not a single one. They understand that the war has passed and that as for the work of our veterans, whether it was in the first or second world wars, in Korea or elsewhere in peacekeeping, those efforts were in fact to preserve and promote democracy. It is an honour. We honour our military by having this debate.

Let me go specifically to the things that our party wanted to see as the Afghanistan mission moved forward. We knew that there would have to be change in the mission. We knew that there would have to be an end date.

We also felt strongly that we would have to move beyond the military engagement, at least as the military engagement presents itself to us right now. The military engagement should focus on training the security forces and providing security for development and the building of infrastructure, schools and so on. For this, it is understandable.

Canadians understand that we need a strong military to be in that village once it is secured to make sure that it is safe for the water system to be built or rebuilt, as the case might be, or for that school to be built, and for other important issues of local governments to be fostered.

We need a strong military. As for how the devolution or the evolution of the combat mission unfolds in the months ahead, we will leave that to our military leaders. They have our message that the counter-insurgency measures should be diminished and that the military role of combat where necessary is in support of securing the reconstruction and securing development. We understand that it is our military that will decide those issues.

It was also very important to us that the issue of detainee transfers be dealt with. Happily, there is at least some clearing of the air on that important issue.

Also, we are calling on NATO to step up. There are other member states of NATO that need to take more responsibility. It is not our role as Canadians to be there forever doing the work that others should be sharing with us. Canadians understand that, but at the same time, they do not want to see us leaving Afghanistan tomorrow.

I feel very strongly that ultimately we are helping to build a civil society there. It seems a long way off when we look at the terrible news that emanates from that country and that region on almost a daily basis, but we cannot lose hope. We cannot lose faith that people, individuals, families, and communities, ultimately want to live in peace. We cannot work out their differences that may exist from ages past in their communities. They have to work those things out themselves.

It is not our role to change people or to tell people what they should do in their communities. However, we can provide leadership by good example. We can demonstrate by good example the fruits that come from labouring together to have a country such as we do, where debate is in a chamber like this, where debate does not involve bullets and bombs. Sometimes it involves strong emotional debate, but ultimately it is a debate of words settled by a democratic vote.

Much has been and should be made of the place of women in Afghanistan. Just having celebrated International Women's Day in Canada, I think it is important to remind ourselves that while we have some ways to go in our own country in this regard, we are light years ahead, sadly, of countries like Afghanistan.

Again, however, the cultural mores of another country are not ours to change. Those will change over time. Again, we will provide leadership by example. We will provide the security that will allow for the fostering of more equality and women's rights, and rights for minorities not only in Afghanistan but right around the world.

Afghanistan presents a very complicated situation today, as it has for decades and generations, sadly.

We support our troops. We look forward to them coming home safely when the mission finally reaches its end.

I think Parliament is working. I want to commend this place for helping us achieve a remarkable consensus as we move forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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March 10, 2008

Mr. Brent St. Denis

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his very detailed question. Obviously he is a student of history. I commend him for that. I do not know whether I can satisfy his question in any great detail, but what he made me think of as he was asking his question was the age-old problem in Northern Ireland, which, in another context, we might ask, was it tribal or was it not tribal?

As for dealing with tribal issues in parts of the world where the history is unique, each situation is unique and complex, and I do not think it is the place of a western nation like Canada to be picking winners and losers. Lines are often arbitrary lines between states. They are often chosen by the outgoing military leader of the day or some far-off governor appointed from some far-off country.

With respect to Pakistan, I think our leader has said it very well. He was criticized for it, but I think he said it very well when he said that there needs to be a greater emphasis on diplomacy, and I am glad to see that in this motion. I think the Pakistan puzzle in all of this needs a lot more attention. Hopefully, with the election of a coalition government in Pakistan now, we will see some settling down of the political problems there and greater attention and energy on the border.

However, when it comes to tribal and internecine fighting, I think those mysteries will remain mysteries for the western world for a long time to come. All we can do is provide some security within their paradigm, whereby hopefully they can work things out, as we have seen slowly happening in Northern Ireland. I hope that gives the member some sense of an answer to his very good question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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February 29, 2008

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in stark contrast to the Conservative fend for yourself philosophy, Liberals believe that poverty affects everyone and governments have a moral responsibility to help springboard Canadians to success, dignity and independence.

The Liberal leader is showing leadership on poverty, outlining a bold vision committing to cut poverty by 30% and child poverty by 50% within five years of being elected.

The Liberal leader is showing leadership in this file by presenting an ambitious program and promising to reduce poverty by 30% and child poverty by 50% in the five years following his election.

For the working poor, Liberals would create a making work pay benefit to lower the welfare wall and improve the child tax benefit to support families. Liberals would honour the historic Kelowna accord, which the Conservatives cut, and would work with all levels of government on affordable housing and universal child care.

I believe that when we invest in Canadians, Canada succeeds socially and economically. I ask my colleagues on the other side to take this issue seriously and work toward ending poverty now.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Poverty
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February 27, 2008

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I very much to second the sentiments of my friend from New Brunswick. He speaks passionately about the importance of the court challenges program, particularly to minorities, whether they are anglophone, francophone or other minorities in the country.

I want to speak specifically to our official languages and to our francophone minorities in particular. He has some family in the northern part of my riding. I agree with him that we need to convince the government that it is not something we should do in the future. It is something that already should have been done by the government, which is to reinstate a program that makes the courts successful. People should not have to be rich to access the courts.

The court challenges program levelled the playing field. The number of very important precedents that were set by the courts, because of that program, have made our country the kind of country it is. We must ensure our minorities have access to the courts.

Would the member tell me if it is too late for the government to change its mind? I do not think it is. I suspect he will agree that it is not too late. Is it an urgent matter? Are there situations now that need to be addressed? As he is such a passionate promoter of these issues, I would like to hear more from him.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
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December 13, 2007

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-496, An Act to promote the teaching of aboriginal history and culture in Canada's schools.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Yukon for seconding this bill. If passed, the bill would ask that the federal government to work with the provinces, first nations and aboriginal leaders across the country to ensure that as much as possible our primary and secondary schools will include in their curriculum the teaching of aboriginal history and culture to promote understanding and better comprehension of the history and culture of our very important first nations and aboriginal peoples in this country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Aboriginal History and Culture School Curriculum Act
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