National Holocaust Memorial Act
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-442. Like every other member of the House, in the spring I stood in my place and I voted in favour of Bill C-442, which was a virtual carbon copy of Bill C-238 presented by my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre. That bill tried to do something on behalf of all Canadians, irrespective of background, religious background, ethnic origin, any other kind of national racial origin. Why? Because every member in this place was taken seriously by the significance of the Holocaust, what it meant in human history and the importance of recognizing the tragedy that could visit humankind when evil went unstopped.
It was as well a unanimous expression by members of the House of Commons of Canada to commemorate the suffering of those survivors still resident in Canada. There was no expression of political gain. There was no expression of partisan one-upmanship. There was indeed a complete and total unanimous expression that Canadians from all parts of the country wanted to have the Government of Canada, on their behalf, locate some land in the national capital region, to put together a consultative group and together design, plan, construct and then subsequently maintain a monument to commemorate the Holocaust and to commemorate the sufferings of those who had survived, and to do it all with funds available to the Government of Canada or, in other words, with the contributions of every man, woman and child, every taxpayer in Canada. Every citizen needed to be a part of that project.
It was not a project designed for the Jewish community to commemorate its suffering. It was a project intended to be an expression of the Canadian view of all that was required to fight back evil no matter where it existed and then to celebrate those hardy people who survived it. We used as an example the Jewish community, but we wanted to make it universal.
There is no gain, no political agenda in that. In fact, some would say we did not need to debate this. We just needed to do it. There was not one dissenting voice, not one from any community. Think about the value and the merit of that exercise. Not a single community in Canada said that we should not do this or maybe we should adjust it. They were all one with the intent, an intent that had been introduced, as I said, by my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre and from her and my other colleague in a previous Parliament, the member for Thornhill, Ms. Susan Kadis, then known as Bill C-547. However, the government wanted to make it its bill and so we said that was not a problem, that we wanted to co-operate
What did the government do with the unanimity that was expressed in the House? We went to committee and the government produced an amendment for every clause of the bill.
If the member opposite, the sponsor of the bill, felt offended that I made a remark that he did not like, it is because I asked him in committee if the Prime Minister of Canada agreed with his bill. I asked him if his cabinet agreed with his bill and if it was voting against the wishes of the House. That would have been untrue because everybody in the House voted in favour. He said that the cabinet and the Prime Minister all agreed with his bill. Why would he amend it? The only thing that was left in the bill was the title.
The Conservatives introduced amendments that took away the concept of public lands, at public expense, to be funded by the Government of Canada through a plan, design and construction process that would be at the cost of the Government of Canada and then to maintain it in the national capital region.
Instead, the Conservatives said that the legislative authority of the minister would be devolved to the advisory council that was going to be established. They would ask it to raise the funds, because they were the only ones interested in this project, to go out into the community and ask people to give them money. With that money, they would build this monument, then buy the land and locate the monument here. Whatever expenses would be incurred and, in the end, whatever money was left over would be given to the National Capital Commission.
What is wrong with that? What is wrong is it reversed every intent and every indication that the House of Commons of Canada unanimously accepted.
I challenged those in committee. Then that challenge was unable to pass because government members challenged their chair. Then I asked the Speaker if these amendments were in order. Last week the Speaker ruled that those amendments were not in order and ordered that the original bill be presented. That is what we are talking about today.
We are talking about a restoration of what Canadians, through their members of Parliament, agreed to unanimously in the spring. What is being restored today is the bill that was presented initially by my colleague, Susan Kadis from Thornhill, and recently by my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre.
I was offended that the government member would start off with one of these spins about how the Conservatives deserve credit.
This is a non-partisan issue. Today we should be glorying in the fact that the Government of Canada is going to respect the unanimous wishes of the House of Commons and plan, design and build a monument to the Holocaust and the Holocaust survivors right in the national capital region.
We went so far as to write a letter to the minister responsible in the middle of May asking him to withdraw all of those amendments. Why? The Government of Canada did not need this legislation to do what we are discussing today. It did not need Bill C-442 to build a monument in the national capital region. That is already within the purview, the authority, of the National Capital Commission. It already has the funds for this.
If there is one regret in all of this it is that the Government of Canada had to ask the representatives of the people in the House of Commons to compel it first by unanimous decision of a vote of a bill and then to have the Speaker of the House withdraw, or cause to be withdrawn, all the amendments that would have gutted the bill. To do what? To do what the minister could have very simply done. He could have gone to the National Capital Commission and told it to get this done, erect this monument, the money was there and put it in the national capital region.
The people of Canada want this, demand it and they should get no less. There are 16 other such monuments already in the national capital region and they did not require legislation like this. The Jewish community, the Canadian public deserve no less.