Mr. Vincent Della Noce (Parliamentary Secretary to Secretary of State of Canada and Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend for bringing to my attention and the attention of the House this important issue.
The hon. member for Don Valley East has again raised the important question of community redress. He will know that I have a very special interest in this issue which I have been working on for about six or seven years.
He is totally right in what he just said about this Parliament and the Prime Minister. I was there and I heard it with my own ears. I heard about those Italians. Some of those poor internees must be 86 years old by now. Mr. Serafino from Ottawa and Mr. Capograno from Montreal heard those words, those apologies. I wish that every community could have heard this man say this. I quote Mr. Serafino: "It sounded like music to my ears. I wish my wife was alive and here with me to hear these words".
At the request of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship met with representatives of communities whose members have concerns about treatment of some of their members by past governments of this country. By the way, on June 10 of last week it was 53 years since those things happened to my community and nothing has been done about it. The minister discussed how the government could best symbolize recognition of this treatment.
The principal groups with whom the minister met included the Chinese Canadian National Council, the
National Congress of Chinese Canadians, the National Congress of Italian Canadians and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
I would like to point out that this is the first government to give serious consideration to this matter. I say as a personal comment that I have been pursuing this matter since 1986. I feel that this government, our government, will be willing to take that kind of action and it is the only one that can do it, but I hope it can do it fast enough.
The government has discussed a fair and reasonable package with the communities concerned. The government has said it will move ahead if the package receives broad support across the communities concerned.
I know that some communities are playing politics on this issue. I hope they stop that because in 53 years there was nothing done about this.
When the government makes a proposal for community redress, it must also ensure that the decision is fair and equitable for all Canadians. The issue is not only about recognizing certain facts of our history but also deciding how we intend to progress as a nation founded on the principles of justice, equality and respect for all.
That is the firm commitment the Government of Canada has made, and that is why it is doing everything it can to deal with this question in the appropriate manner, and I hope that our government will succeed.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION