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 5 of 81)

December 4, 2007

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. I agree with him that while it appears we are all in agreement in principle, it is important that in this place various views and concerns on a bill get aired, notwithstanding the general level of support for the bill.

The member used the word “reconciliation”, which is a good word to use in the context of the bill, but in my immediate thinking, reconciliation can mean two things. First, it can mean extending reconciliation for past wrongs, whether they involved the improper taking of land or issues related to the residential schools or any number of other issues. Second, it can mean reconciling the difference in views between our first nations, our aboriginal people, and mainstream Canada.

Would my colleague agree with me that there is a very high level of misunderstanding in the general population about treaties, aboriginal history, the depth of aboriginal people's connection to the land and the depth of their culture? The general population, innocently in most cases, does not understand their history, their context or their culture.

Does my colleague agree that through this process of discussion here in this place and further in committee we can help to raise that awareness and hopefully minimize the destructive debate that can sometimes happen when people do not understand the other side?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Specific Claims Tribunal Act
Full View Permalink

December 4, 2007

Mr. Brent St. Denis

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca remind me of a comment a friend of mine made. He was a former chief at Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation near Massey, Ontario. He is very educated, like many of our first nations leadership. He said that what Canadians had to understand was they did not want to go back to living the way they lived 200 years ago. They wanted to become modern too, but they wanted to retain their land roots, cultural roots and language roots, which is what all cultures want to do. All cultures typically want to modernize, improve the quality of life, have better health outcomes, have better education and have better local economies. We all want that.

I appreciate the hon. member's question. The federal government needs to see its role with first nations as a partnership.

When the first contact was made, it appeared that we took over all the land, at least it looks like that when we step back. It was done in a way that was supposed to have been negotiated each step along the way.

As reserves were being negotiated and European settlement took place outside the reserves, there was a quid pro quo. The Crown offered education, because the leaders of the first nations demanded that in trade, the land for education. They demanded access to health care. They demanded to be part of the country. It was a trade. It was not the Huns arriving and taking over the country. Arrangements were negotiated each step along the way.

It was must be our part now to honour those negotiations, to do the right thing and in partnership. If they have the land base, and each community has a land base to which they are entitled, or the cash in lieu of that land base, they would be more capable of local economic development, having schools in their communities in their own language, should they choose to do so, to have better health outcomes.

First nations people are naturally spiritual people, naturally connected to the earth. We have to recognize that and honour that as an example of going forward.

Our aboriginal population is growing. They are a wonderful resource for our economy as it grows. We need young aboriginal people to be strong participants in the labour force and in our education system to the extent that first nations can meld their cultural language within this big country in a way that allows them to preserve those roots. There is nothing worse than losing one's culture because somebody else made it happen. When we lose those roots, we have lost something forever.

We owe an obligation to look at our first nations, our aboriginal people, as partners in the future of the country, not as adversaries, which has so often been the case.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Specific Claims Tribunal Act
Full View Permalink

December 4, 2007

Mr. Brent St. Denis

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Kenora, who represents a large number of first nations and who speaks out for them many times in this place, makes a very good point.

Our first nations need to be consulted. The Assembly of First Nations, rightfully so, has spoken as the leadership for first nations across the country. It has put forward, with the government, this proposal. I think if we asked the AFN leadership, it would totally agree that this is just the beginning of discussing this with those to be most affected.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Specific Claims Tribunal Act
Full View Permalink

November 21, 2007

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

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-483, An Act to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (Northern Ontario).

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, this bill would support all MPs, all ridings in northern Ontario, which is a vast area. My own riding is 110,000 square kilometres and if trends continue, it will even get bigger, so this is a bill to ensure that at the very least, 9% of the seats in Ontario are allocated to northern Ontario.

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Full View Permalink

November 15, 2007

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

moved that Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that a member is honoured by his colleagues by getting a bill to third reading. We are here because the bill received unanimous consent of the House at report stage. I want to thank all of my colleagues for their support.

Bill C-287 honours our Canadian peacekeepers as well as all peacekeepers around the world. It is very appropriate that the House return its attention to the proposal in the bill to create August 9 of each year as National Peacekeepers' Day in Canada, especially as all of us have just finished helping our legions and our communities celebrate Remembrance Week and Remembrance Day.

I would like to underline that August 9 would not be a holiday, but a day of commemoration, a day of celebration of what our peacekeepers have done in the past and what they are doing today and what they will be doing in the future. On that day our citizens will have a chance to be reminded about what Canada has done in the world and what it can do.

The bill proposes that on that day the Peace Tower flag be lowered to half-mast. It is quite appropriate that the Peace Tower flag would be lowered at half-mast to recognize peacekeepers who have been lost in action throughout our 50 years plus of peacekeeping participation around the world.

I would also like to point out to my colleagues that my riding, now called Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing, contains the old riding of Algoma and Algoma East which was held by the late Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson. It is a special honour for me to bring forward a bill to honour our peacekeepers. This year, 2007, marks the 50th anniversary of Mr. Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative at the UN.

Why in the first place should we remember and honour our peacekeepers and why on that day?

On August 9, 1974, nine Canadian peacekeepers deployed to the Middle East were killed on a routine supply flight from Beirut to Damascus. The airplane was shot down by ground-fired missiles and nine Canadian UN peacekeepers were lost, along with the crew of the airplane. We could have picked many dates. Some suggested, with great respect, May 29, which each year is celebrated as International Peacekeepers' Day, but August 9 is very much a Canadian day and reflects the most significant single loss of Canadian peacekeepers in one day.

If the House continues its willingness to support the bill, I am inviting Canadians, especially students, who would not be in school on August 9 but would be preparing for school, to take some time to reflect on what peacekeeping is all about.

We in this place and Canadians in general who think about these things recognize that peacekeeping today is not like it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Peacekeeping evolves with the nature of conflict. It evolves with the changing regions wherein conflicts are taking place. The reasons for local conflict change. Demographics change. The types of warfare and conflict change. Therefore, peacekeeping has to change and we have to change with the times.

I am convinced, and I am sure my colleagues are convinced, that ultimately peacekeeping and its related peacemaking are the ultimate, albeit altruistic sometimes, goal of our military and in fact of our Parliament and of our own individual work in life. If it is not about finding, making and keeping peace, then really, what is it all about?

I will take a moment to mention a constituent of mine, Robert Manuel of Elliot Lake, who inspired me with this idea. He helped to promote the idea in Ontario, which has celebrated August 9 as peacekeepers day for a number of years now. With his encouragement and support, we gathered the support of legions across the land. We now have the support of the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command for the proclamation of August 9 as peacekeeper day.

I will reference speeches made just over a year ago in this place by colleagues, speeches which I reread recently, and I was very impressed. I refer to the speech of the parliamentary secretary who made an excellent speech in support of the bill. She raised some very good points, but she reminded us that a day of recognition for peacekeepers, as is noted in the resolution by the Royal Canadian Legion in last June, was warranted because the government respected the views of Canadians on either side of the issue.

She is right to have said there is a concern. I recognize it and I think we deal with it head-on. When we have a day separate from November 11 to recognize some aspect of our military history, some aspect of our legacy, does that take anything away from November 11? I think the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command and local legions everywhere have recognized, no.

The parliament secretary was quite right in raising the question. The response is, and I think she agrees with this, any day we can establish as a day of recognition of our current soldiers, men and women serving in any capacity around the world enhances the spirit of remembrance. We are focusing on peacekeeping, but in a way all soldiers are peacekeepers regardless of the nature of a conflict.

I am not sure if my colleagues would agree, but in my riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing the spirit of remembrance is getting stronger. The number of people coming out to events is larger and larger every year. That is because the remembrance brand, a brand promoted effectively and with great strength by the legions and the Dominion Command, is spread out throughout the year. Hence, the movement to Remembrance Week. I am not suggesting a remembrance year, but it is very important that we dot throughout the year other occasions throughout the year where people could be reminded and that helps focus attention even more so on November 11.

I appreciated the parliamentary secretary's comments in that regard. I was most impressed with my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, referring to our peacekeepers, who said:

First, they are a key component of multilateralism, a conflict resolution principle very dear to the hearts of Quebeckers. UN peacekeeping missions represent an impartial and very widely accepted way to share the burden and act effectively.

In fact, I recommend all these speeches to my colleagues in their complete version. I am only able to quote a little bit.

My colleague from Victoria, who spent time in the military, said:

We cannot stress enough the importance of the work of those who serve in the armed forces, who put themselves in harm's way for Canada. There is no word to describe the magnitude of their sacrifice, nor my feeling of gratitude—which all Canadians also share...

I think we all share that with her.

I go on to my colleague from West Nova who is fortunate to have in his riding the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. He spoke eloquently in support of this bill. I will quote from his remarks. He said:

Peacekeeping is a dynamic concept that responds to changes in the international environment in order to create security for those affected by conflict. Traditionally, peacekeeping took place between two states in order to monitor a peace treaty upon which all parties had agreed. These early missions were traditionally military in nature.

He makes a very important point that I wish to expand on. He stated:

The role of peacekeeping has expanded to include the delivery of humanitarian aid, supervision of elections, repatriation of refugees, disarming of warring factions, and the clearing of landmine.

I point out to my colleagues that in the “Whereas“ section, along with members of Canadian Forces, the bill specifically includes police services, diplomats and civilians. Yes, we are recognizing on August 9 the loss of nine soldiers in 1974 in the Middle East, because the beginning of this was focused on the military.

I mentioned we are evolving and now we engage Canadians in a broad range of professions and skill sets to assist, whether they are members of the NGO community, or municipal policemen who volunteered to help, or ambulance or first aid workers. Any Canadian, military or not, who supports Canada's efforts to bring peace, keep peace or make peace is a peacekeeper.

In the bill I deliberately did not define “peacekeeper”. Each person who thinks about these things can define peacekeeper in his or her own unique way. It is a comprehensive. That is actually the view of the Legion Dominion Command. It has an expanded view of peacekeeper, and I laud it for that. Somebody else may have a restricted view of peacekeeper. It does not matter, as long as what we are recognizing is the spirit of what peacekeeping is all about.

I invite this place from time to time, whenever we have debates on military and peace matters, and I invite Canadians every August 9 in particular to take a few moments to reflect on our legacy and where we are going as a nation of peacekeepers. Imagine being called peacekeepers. It is not the same as avoiding conflict.

I would include in peacekeeping the need to be strong and to root out the enemy where necessary. It is not simply sitting back all the time and letting local combatants fight things out. Each situation requires its own solution. It is important that we do not limit ourselves by a specific definition.

I want to underline too that this is not about what we are doing in Afghanistan whatsoever. That is a whole separate debate. I went to a support the troops rally on November 2 in my riding and I was glad to be there. I am sure many of my colleagues were at rallies in their ridings.

It was a non-political event. It did not matter if people believed that we should be in Afghanistan for years or, like so many of us, that the military should pull out of a combat role in February 2009 or tomorrow. That is not the debate. When people support their troops, they support their troops. They are doing a job for us. They are there with a mandate and while they are there in our name, we support them.

I want to pay tribute to Sandy Finamore and Bob Tardif of Elliot Lake who sponsored that rally. I commend them for the excellent work they did.

I want to point out that the bill at report stage had a few very minor amendments. It was made very clear that in Quebec les casques bleus is the standard terminology for a peacekeeper. Therefore, we made sure there was no misunderstanding between gardiens de la paix and casques bleus.

We make it very clear that this is not a holiday. It is not even a day of heritage. It is a day of recognition, of commemoration, a day to take time to understand what our peacekeepers throughout history, in the present and in the future will do.

I hope the chamber will continue its support of the bill when it comes to a final vote in the not too distant future.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Full View Permalink