Mr. Speaker, I understand that some members have raised concerns about honouring a man because he was also a spiritual religious leader.
However, since I have been in this place, I recall a New Democratic Party motion that received unanimous consent, recognizing the Five Ks of the Khalsa of Sikhism. I recall a motion from a Liberal member of Parliament, which received unanimous consent, recognizing Islamic History Month. I recall a motion that I had a measure in proposing that received unanimous consent, asking the government to grant honorary citizenship to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who of course is an important Buddhist religious leader. A similar motion received unanimous consent to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to His Highness the Aga Khan, an important Muslim religious leader.
John Paul II, of course, received the Congressional Medal of Honour from the United States, a country in which the separation of church and state is an essential principle.
Would my friend from Mississauga East—Cooksville not agree with me that these ought not to be concerns, that we have indeed recognized spiritual traditions and leaders in this place before and that therefore it ought not to be an objection in this instance?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for his question about appointments to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, something that affects our veterans. We want people who have military experience.
Today, I am proud to announce that for the first time in the history of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the vice-chair position will be held by a veteran. Retired Lieutenant-Commander Owen Parkhouse has over 25 years of remarkable military service and experience, having worked in the operational stress injury clinics across Canada.
That is what veterans have been calling for and that is what this government, with its great caucus members, is delivering.
The hon. member has raised a point of relevance, and I am sure the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville will bring his remarks to the bill as he develops his remarks on museums in general.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for the question. I also ask why the NDP and Liberal MPs plan to vote against Bill C-60, the first step in implementing the economic action plan, 2013.
I am deeply disappointed that they would oppose job-creating measures to help manufacturers while denying support for vulnerable Canadians in the form of palliative care, veterans disability benefits and library services for the blind. I call on the NDP and Liberal members to—
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand and support this bill. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for their contributions to the debate. If John Paul II were in this room or watching this debate, he would have respected very much the previous speaker's speech from the official opposition. Why he would respect it and support her opinion in this matter is because this is the consummate democratic place. He was devoted to a place like this that exists on the face of God's good earth. He would have supported this place because it is a democratic institution and he knew what it was like to live in an institution such as this where people could not have differences of opinion. It is for that reason that I think he would be proud.
He probably would ask us not to have a day just for him, but he is not here. However, we care very much about this man of tremendous faith, who put his arms around the very people who would have in the past not put their arms around him except to put them in chains. He was a humble man. Those of us who support this day are here and able to say for him, because we know he is watching from a better place, that we are prepared to do this as we feel in our bones that we must do it.
I want to congratulate my colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing the bill forward that would designate April 2 as Pope John Paul II day in Canada.
As the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville mentioned, Pope John Paul II's work transcended the boundaries of the Catholic faith. He promoted values of peace, tolerance and religious freedom. He took a strong stand against human rights violations and respected and showed admiration for other religions. On John Paul II's passing, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated:
Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself.
This self-evaluation led him to work to redress historical wrongs and ask forgiveness from the Jews for sins committed by the church. As a powerful example, on a visit to the Western Wall in 2000, he offered a prayer saying:
—we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.
John Paul II was the first pope to visit a synagogue in 1986 where he declared "each of our religions" wishes "to be recognized and respected in its own identity," beyond "any ambiguous appropriation." His strong messages to encourage inter-religious dialogue and freedom of speech are characteristics that, I will say so respectfully, John Paul II shared with this government. Not only did he believe that each of us should be able to worship as we please, but also that we should be able to worship differently and still co-operate and work together.
As my colleague stated, as a nation, Canada is recognized as a world leader in the promotion of international human rights. It is a defining characteristic of our foreign policy. John Paul II, too, made this a priority during his papacy. He was a man of courage and compassion. He did not believe that the fight for democracy was beyond our reach. His efforts impacted global politics and he inspired peaceful opposition to repressive regimes, eventually leading to the collapse of several stifling dictatorships.
In 1987, he met and pushed the dictator Augusto Pinochet to accept the return of democracy in Chile. In 1988, John Paul II visited Paraguay, which led to the collapse of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner.
Pope John Paul II's role in the spread of democracy in eastern Europe was profound. He himself endured the tyrannies of the Nazi and then communist regimes as he was only 19 when the Nazis invaded Poland.
In his 1979 visit to Poland, he said, “Be not afraid.” His simple words to encourage and inspire the people led to the peaceful opposition that can be said to have precipitated the fall of communism in Poland and the spread of democracy in all of Europe.
In the 1995 address to the UN, John Paul II touched on his experiences in the peaceful opposition he supported by saying:
The moral dynamics of this universal quest for freedom clearly appeared in Central and Eastern Europe during the non-violent revolutions of 1989. Unfolding in specific times and places, those historical events nonetheless taught a lesson which goes far beyond a specific geographical location. For the non-violent revolutions of 1989 demonstrated that the quest for freedom cannot be suppressed. It arises from a recognition of the inestimable dignity and value of the human person, and it cannot fail to be accompanied by a commitment on behalf of the human person.
Further to this, he played a large role in the collapse of communism. John Paul II himself endured Nazism and Communism, and devoted much time speaking out against such oppression and human rights violations. From Haiti to Poland, and around the globe, the visits from John Paul II foreshadowed the collapse of dictatorships and the end of oppression. Wherever he went, wherever he landed, peace and democracy followed.
We as Canadians should be proud of him for doing this, as the endorsement of democracy is, and has been for centuries, a strong belief in Canadian values. Canada is a nation built on a number of fundamental freedoms. These freedoms and values are part of what make our country such an attractive place for people to immigrate to. One of these core Canadian freedoms is the freedom of religion. In every region of this country, we have a multitude of people practising a multitude of faiths, and they are able to do so in peace without cause or incident.
However, we are fortunate, as in certain regions across the globe religious minorities are the subject of violence, oppression and hatred, which is why our government recently unveiled its Office of Religious Freedom. Working within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, this office will oppose religious hatred and encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world so that those people too can practise their faiths without fear of repression. These nations are often a source of instability and civil strife, and combatting these qualities by protecting an individual's right to practise his or her religion is something which deserves to be championed. I believe that the work of John Paul II to promote inter-religious dialogue, and his acceptance and appreciation for other faiths and religions is such an important part of his legacy and something all Canadians can admire and appreciate, as religious freedom is a strong principle in our foreign policy. He once said:
Instead of marveling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them.
As Canadians, we have a special connection with John Paul II, as he made three separate visits to our country, the latest being in 2002 at World Youth Day in Toronto. His message of acceptance, diversity, and equality is reflected in our Canadian values and multicultural landscape. As Canadians, we incorporate these values in our daily lives. John Paul II not only transcended the boundaries of faith, but he also sought to bridge generational gaps and invest in our future by fostering the values of compassion and tolerance in our youth, which is why in 1985 he established World Youth Day.
His visit to Toronto in 2002 attracted hundreds of thousands of youth, representing all faiths and cultures from around the world, who made the pilgrimage to Canada, uniting in one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world, just to hear him speak. Not only did he garner the attention of a multitude of religions, he was able to catch the attention of a young audience.
Much like Canadians, John Paul II did not believe that religious differences should instigate conflict. Rather, they should unite all people and celebrate our diversity.
I support the designation of April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day in Canada. I would like to thank my colleague, the member of Parliament for Mississauga East—Cooksville, for bringing this bill before the House. I would like to thank him for giving us an opportunity to celebrate and to reflect on a man who brought hope, peace and comfort to so many around the world.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on this bill. It is an important bill for a lot of reasons.
Before I begin, I would like to recognize the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this bill forward in the House. He is a gentleman who has a very important success story, and he is one of those people Canada seems to attract.
The member for Mississauga East—Cooksville was born in Poland. He lived under a Communist dictatorship and understood how hard life was. He wanted to do something better to support his family. He came to Canada and built a better life for his family. Ultimately, living the Canadian dream, he has now been elected to the Canadian House of Commons and is able to give back and contribute to his community.
He is doing spectacular work here, and this bill is just another indication of it. How nice it must be for the people in Mississauga East—Cooksville to have a member of Parliament who brings forward their issues and has finally restored that community to some excellent representation. I want to congratulate him for bringing this bill forward, because it is so important that we talk about this extraordinary person, Pope John Paul II.
I was a student in Scarborough in 1984 in the second class of Pope John Paul II Catholic school. The year 1984 was a very interesting time, because I believe it was the Pope's first visit to Canada. It was an extraordinary time for us students as we got to wait in line in the procession as the Popemobile came by. I can remember all of the people being there in downtown Toronto, waiting to see the Pope for just a split second as he drove by in the Popemobile. It was not just Catholics; hundreds of thousands of people were waiting to catch a glimpse of this person. At this point, we did not really know how important this pope would be, not only to those of us of Catholic faith but in changing the world as we know it.
I already mentioned how the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville endured a Communist dictatorship and how he was able to make a better life for himself, but I would also like to talk about my French teacher in my riding.
He is a Polish immigrant who came to Canada two years ago. We have been talking a lot of about how he grew up, the life he led under a Communist dictatorship and how important the Pope was in helping them break free. We talked about how important the Pope was in helping the Polish people understand that they had freedom and could aspire to be better than they were. His stories of the importance of the Pope in helping Poland come out of Communism are very inspiring to me. It is another reason I am glad to have this opportunity today to talk about this bill.
A lot of speakers have already talked about all of the accomplishments of Pope John Paul II, but I think it bears repeating.
We know that Pope John Paul II led a difficult life. His mother and father died when he was quite young, and his brother thereafter. He lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland. During that time he started to understand and feel the call toward the priesthood. He was educated in secret, from what I understand, and was ultimately ordained in 1946. Despite being in a Communist dictatorship and despite all the challenges he faced, he was able to grow the faith in Poland. He was always able to grow the faith and give people the inspiration they needed while balancing what was obviously a very difficult government and a very difficult circumstance for the Polish people.
I remember being a young boy when the first Pope John Paul unfortunately passed away shortly after he became pope. It was a time when Catholics were very uncertain. I think the first Pope John Paul had a 30-day reign, and I remember watching for many hours as we waited to see who the next pope would be.
Being of Italian-Canadian descent, we assumed that the person who would be coming out would be another Italian pope, because that is just the way it had been for 400 years. I remember being in my home with an uncle who had come to Canada in the 1950s. He was a very proud Canadian but also a very proud Italian. I remember seeing his reaction to seeing someone who was not an Italian come through those doors and that momentary disappointment that the next pope was going to be Polish and not Italian.
I tell this story because many years later, I was sitting with this very same uncle watching a mass when the Pope was much later on in years and struggling to carry on his duties. I listened to my uncle explain how this Italian pope had made such a difference in the world. I reminded him that the Pope was Polish and not Italian. He said, “That all changed over the years. He has now become a very proud Italian pope.” That speaks volumes of how this pope was able to cross all kinds of boundaries.
The 1980s and 1990s were a difficult time period in world history. We were growing up at a time when there was a great deal of uncertainty. We still had east versus west, and much of the world and eastern Europe was under a Communist dictatorship. It was a time when the west was afraid of the east and the east was afraid of the west, but here was a pope who was not afraid to break down those barriers, who was not afraid to take on the Communist dictators of the east, because he understood how important it was and how important his role was to bring freedom to the world.
If we look back, despite all the incredible things that he did for Catholics and to help expand the Catholic faith, no matter what one believes, I think we all would agree that Pope John Paul II made a significant difference in changing the world because he was not afraid. During the Second World War, he was not afraid to struggle and fight for what he believed in. He became a priest despite Nazi occupation, after having understood all the difficulties that dictatorship and lack of responsible government meant to the people and how it was bringing the people down. He struggled and persevered, and when he had the opportunity when he became the pope, he made sure that he was going to make a difference.
No matter what one believes, we can all agree that this gentleman made an incredible difference in the world. I cannot thank my hon. friend from Mississauga East—Cooksville enough for bringing this bill forward so that we could take one day to recognize and honour how hard this person worked, the difference he made and, ultimately, the changes he made to help bring democracy throughout the world. We still have a long way to go, but if it were not for this person's example, for his leadership, for the strength of the Polish people who seized on the opportunity to break free, we would have a much different world today.
I am very excited to be able to support the member's bill. I want to again single out the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville. He is someone who can make a heck of a difference for all immigrants who come to this country who work hard and struggle the way my parents did.
I look at the example of my parents, and it is sad that neither of my parents was able to see me elected. They did not live long enough to see me elected to the House of Commons, but I look across the aisle and see people like the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville making a difference and becoming elected and bringing bills like this forward. I congratulate him, and I congratulate his constituents for having such an incredible member of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to have this opportunity to speak about economic action plan 2013, which was put forward by the Minister of Finance last week.
As we all know, we are on track and continue to focus on economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity while keeping our promise to balance the budget by 2015. We are quite proud of that.
I want to note that many Canadians may have heard of the 950,000 new jobs created since the economic downturn of 2009, but they may not be aware that most of those jobs are full-time, well-paying jobs with almost 80% of them in the private sector. I want to note that as a bit of a success story.
We have heard about the innovative initiative put forward in economic action plan 2013 for skills training. This initiative would address the demand for skilled labour, something I have heard about many times in Mississauga South. I heard about it when we were holding pre-budget consultation meetings and local economic round table meetings. I heard about it when I met with the Port Credit BIA and small business owners, who told me that they had skilled labour shortage issues in their businesses. I heard it again when the Minister of State for Finance spoke with Mississauga Board of Trade businesses, and the minister heard it as well. The hon. members for Mississauga—Streetsville, Mississauga—Erindale and Mississauga East—Cooksville held a town hall meeting where we heard the same thing. We in Mississauga are especially pleased to hear about the Canada jobs grant because it will help Canadians to become apprentices. It will help both the unemployed and the underemployed. We are talking about 130,000 people who will be helped through community colleges and other training institutions. This is good news.
What I want to talk about today are the initiatives in the budget that would affect certain people who have been contacting my office, people in Mississauga South in particular. I went through the budget in search of these types of examples and found my favourite page numbers from budget 2013. I would like to tell the House what they are.
I am going to start with tax relief for home care services. Lucie Shaw in Mississauga South runs Nurse Next Door. These individuals drive around in little pink Volkswagen Beetles and help people who live in their homes. We see on page 222 that the Minister of Finance has decided to expand tax relief for home care services by extending the GST and HST exemption for homemaker services to include personal care services to individuals who, due to age, infirmity or disability, require this kind of assistance at home. This change was effective last week. I am particularly pleased about that.
I also want to tell the House about page 243, which is a good page for two reasons. The first reason is this government will continue to support the Nature Conservancy of Canada with $20 million in 2013-14 to allow it to continue to serve ecologically sensitive land under the natural areas conservation program. Each federal dollar will be matched by $2 in new funding from other sources, leveraging additional funds for the conservation of Canada's natural environment.
The government is also working on the development of a national conservation plan, and I was a proud member of the environment committee when we studied the recommendations for the minister for the national conservation plan. It included a very strong component on urban conservation. To me and to my constituents in Mississauga South, which sits on Lake Ontario and has the beautiful Credit River running through it as well, these kinds of initiatives to protect and conserve our environment are very important.
On the same page and in the same line of thought is also a new initiative for improving the conservation of fisheries through community partnerships. Budget 2013 proposes $10 million over two years to improve the conservation of fisheries by supporting partnerships with local groups. In Mississauga South these local groups would be groups such as the Credit River Anglers Association and the Port Credit Salmon and Trout Association, which do great work in my riding. One would not think of this, because Mississauga South is obviously an urban riding and is right next to Toronto, but the constituents of my riding care very much about our lake, our river and our environment. This is a great way for this government to show what a high priority we put on conserving our natural environment.
I would like to draw attention to page 226, where the topic is financial literacy for seniors. In particular, this budget will support efforts to make public awareness a priority to improve financial literacy, because sometimes older Canadians can be vulnerable to financial abuse. It will help them make more informed decisions about protecting their financial interests in the future.
I sat on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which studied, voted on and tabled a report on elder abuse. This was one of the topics that we did not expect to come up, but financial abuse of seniors is actually quite a serious problem. In addition to improving awareness and improving financial literacy, we have also adopted Bill C-12, which helps to combat financial abuse of seniors by allowing banks to report suspected fraud to the police and other social service agencies.
The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act, which received royal assent in December 2012, protects seniors better by considering age and other personal circumstances as aggravating factors in applying tougher sentences for those who take advantage of the elderly. I am proud that we are supporting our most vulnerable in society through this budget.
With regard to innovation, in particular there is mention on page 201 of a business by the name of Electrovaya, which is located in Mississauga South. It was able to take advantage of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, SDTC, which the government is going to continue supporting with $325 million over eight years for the development and demonstration of new clean technologies that create efficiencies for businesses and contribute to sustainable economic development. Clean technology and efficient practices can save businesses money, create high-paying jobs, drive innovation and improve the productivity of Canada's natural resources. Electrovaya, which produces batteries for cars, energy storage and smart grid power is a great example.
I thank the Speaker for allowing me to tell the House about my favourite pages in budget 2013.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour again to stand here. I say again because the last time the bill came in the House I spoke on it briefly as well. I want to thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this to the floor of the House of Commons. In the last session it was brought in by the member for Brampton West, Andrew Kania. I want to quote from his speech, but I will get to that in a few moments.
I want to reiterate what was said earlier about the true inspiration of a man who travelled this world seeking out peace, seeking out ways to bridge the gap between the human dynamic, between us and those people we may not agree with or those people we find ourselves in constant conflict with. He was a man who was situated in a position that was clear to the world where he was, which was the head of the Catholic Church, situated in Vatican City, yet he managed to bridge the gap between so many different factions of people, their religion as well as nations around the world. As someone said earlier, the man visited 129 countries in the existence of his 27 year rule as the leader of the Catholic Church. It is absolutely incredible.
I am not Catholic, but I sure am inspired by the actions of this individual as a world leader at a time when the world needed it, from the late 1970s until his passing in 2005. It is an honour to be here tonight and talk about this. I will be supporting the bill.
I remember his first words from October 16, 1978, when he said, “Dearest brothers and sisters, we are still all grieved after the death of the most beloved Pope John Paul I. And now the imminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They have called him from a far country, but always near to through the communion of faith and in the Christian tradition”.
Those were the first words of the new pope, Pope John Paul II, formerly Karol Józef Wojtyla, the first Slavic pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and a pope who reigned 27 years.
I am very honoured to speak to designating this day. We have honoured other world leaders, including those religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama and others. We have also honoured great leaders of certain nations. Let us put John Paul II in the category of each and every one of those as a world leader, a religious leader, a leader of faith, a leader of nations and a leader in the world of diplomacy, which is a huge thing to do over his 27 years. Some credit him with the fall of communism, but his roots were within the community in Poland. That made him put in the very distinct position of understanding through the years of growing up in Poland.
These are a couple of things Canadian journalists had to say after the passing of Pope John Paul II. Eric Margolis described going into the central committee headquarters in Moscow after the election of John Paul II and this is what he described. He said, “I was the first Western journalist inside the KGB headquarters in 1990. The generals told me that the Vatican and the Pope above all was regarded as their number one, most dangerous enemy in the world”. He is one of the architects of the defeat of communism, there is no doubt it. He must be remembered not only for his religious ties and role, but for his worldwide historical influence.
In terms of his role in the fall of communism, this is another comment from James Caroll who is not only a writer but a former priest. He says, “What is the greatest most unexpected event of the 20th century? Isn't it that the Soviet Empire was brought down non-violently”. One the largest empires this world has ever seen was brought down non-violently. He went on to say, “Isn't John Paul II's story part of that”? It is a big part of that. What came from that was his desire to see impoverished people were able to fulfill dreams, the dream of feeding their own families, of worshipping as they so choose to do.
He became such a large part of the world dialogue on peace that everywhere he went world attention followed him. People knew he was the type of individual to bridge the gulf between warring factions and those who conflicted with each other. That is the big reason we are here today; it is to honour a man. However, it is not just a national honour, but an international honour in this national forum. As I said earlier, the Soviet Union fell without one bullet being fired.
Pope John Paul's trip to Poland, in 1979, is described by Timothy Ash as the “fulcrum of revolution which led to the collapse of communism”. He said:
Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of communism.
In fact, Mikhail Gorbachev himself said, “It would have been impossible without the Pope”. He credits Pope John Paul II for being the key factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.
There is another major accomplishment by John Paul II. Nobody will agree with everything that any leader ever does, which is to be expected, but he did bridge the divide between the Roman Catholic church and other religions, as I mentioned earlier.
In October 2003, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement congratulating Pope John Paul II on entering his 25th year of the papacy and essentially complimented him for his role in bridging the divide between the Jewish faith and the Roman Catholic church.
Immediately after the death of John Paul II, the same Anti-Defamation League issued a statement that Pope John Paul II had revolutionized Catholic-Jewish relations, saying, “...more change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy then in the nearly 2,000 years before”. What a statement from the Anti-Defamation League, that he accomplished in 27 years what could not be accomplished to that extent in the 2,000 years prior.
There are other examples of his attempts to bridge with other faith communities. In terms of the Muslim community, Pope John Paul II, when in Casablanca on August 19, 1985 during his journey to Morocco, said:
Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the sane God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.
He reached out to the Muslim community, once again, in 1986. He said:
The Jewish religion is not “extrinsic“ to us, but in a certain way is “intrinsic” to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.
This was an amazing compliment from that man. Let us face it, he was extremely brave to be saying these things. No other Pope had said this prior to him. This was a man who was obviously sincere in his belief in the church and the Roman Catholic faith, but he was so sincere in his attempts to bridge the gulf between what conflicts us that he was willing to put himself on the line to say these things. It was controversial at the time, and I remember when it happened, in the mid eighties.
On a personal note, I come from Newfoundland and Labrador. The Pope visited the little island of Newfoundland, and with him came an incredible sense of patriotism in our own province. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews who lived in Newfoundland all said the same thing. We could not believe the Pope was actually coming to our little piece of the earth. In this little corner of the earth that we call our own in the north Atlantic, the weather is not great, and the Pope did experience that. We were so proud that this man of great international and historical significance was there. Why? He wanted to be there because he wanted to spread the word. He wanted to take the word of God and bring it around the world. It was the word of God, yes, but also peace, love and happiness. It was an incredible honour.
It is a mild gesture that we could make in this House to pass this bill.
I would like to quote from my former colleague Andrew Kania, who spoke eloquently when he brought the bill to the House. He said many things about how the pope would travel the world, as I mentioned earlier, and how he tried to bridge the gap between other religions. He said:
This was a pope who will go down in history as not only one of the greatest popes, but one of the greatest world leaders, somebody who did try to reach out to different communities and different religions and show respect. He did not go around saying that the Roman Catholic Church was right and other religions were wrong. He went around saying let us work together and try to be good, help and respect one another and show love and compassion.
A love and compassion that we still feel to this day as if he were still with us. In many respects he is still with us, and that is one of the chief reasons why we should pass the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak about Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for introducing it to the House.
As the first Polish Pope and a global force for peace and inter-faith dialogue, John Paul II remains today an important figure in the hearts of people around the world. I am happy to stand today to support the motion.
As the member of Parliament for the electoral district of Parkdale—High Park, I am honoured to represent so many members of the Polish community in Toronto. They are a people that through generations of hard work have built one of the most vibrant and community oriented neighbourhoods in our city. From the Canadian Polish Congress national office to the St. Stanislaus-St. Casimir's Credit Union, the Copernicus Lodge, St. Casimir's Church and St. Vincent de Paul, our neighbourhood is home to many landmarks in Toronto, built by generations of Poles in the west end of our city.
Every year, families from Parkdale—High Park mark proud moments such as Polish Constitution Day and Polish Independence Day. We commemorate the terrible tragedy of the Katyn massacre by laying a wreath at the Katyn monument at the foot of Roncesvalles. We come together in joyous celebration at the Polish annual street festival on Roncesvalles. Over the years, these meaningful community events have helped me understand the lasting importance and influence of Pope John Paul II in the lives of the Polish community, but also to respect his global achievements.
The Polish community knows intimately the role that Pope John Paul II played in bringing hope and democratic reform to Eastern Europe. Canada's recognition of Pope John Paul II would send a profound signal that Canada stands with global leaders who speak out against oppression. Most importantly, it would signal that as Canadians we support leaders who use compassion, diplomacy and goodwill to advance the principles of democracy.
Karol Wojtyla, who would come to be known as Pope John Paul II, was born in Poland in 1920. The course of Pope John Paul II's life was deeply intertwined with major historical shifts in his country.
As the Polish community in my riding, and all those who have migrated from another country know well, the welfare of the people at one's birthplace or those who share one's language and culture is never forgotten, even after many years. Though Pope John Paul II was seated at the Vatican in Rome, his early experiences with Nazi and then Communist violence in Poland motivated him to take an active role in pressing for religious freedom and democratic reform in Eastern Europe and around the world.
Karol Wojtyla was raised in an era marked by tremendous political turmoil and suffering. During his first year of university the Nazis invaded Poland, jailed Jewish professors and closed classroom doors. Desperate to support himself and his father, he found work in a quarry. In the following years, his father and last living parent passed away and he devoted himself to religious study.
Under the Polish Communist Party he saw first hand the aggressive way in which religious freedom was extinguished. The Polish Communist Party tried to neutralize the influence of the Catholic Church. Church schools were nationalized, monasteries and seminaries were shut down, Catholic hospitals and nursing homes and charities were closed; church leaders were blackmailed, persecuted and harassed; and priests were recruited as informants on other priests. By 1953, a thousand Polish priests were in jail.
His experience, first of Nazi violence, and later the total control of the Polish Communist Party, left him with a deep understanding of the ways in which violent dictatorships affect the lives of ordinary people. He saw that first hand.
Later, when Pope John Paul II, he went on to speak about his experiences at the United Nations. He reached out to the diplomats there to end political abuses and to view any threat to human dignity as “a form of warfare against humanity”. He went on to say that he had come from the country on whose living body Auschwitz been constructed.
From Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines to Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti to Sese Seko Mobutu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope John Paul II was vocal in his recriminations of dictators around the world. He was also an outspoken critic of the South African apartheid regime and the Iraq war.
In addition to speaking out against oppression, he also took the initiative in building positive forums of international and interfaith co-operation. In 1985, Pope John Paul II founded World Youth Day, seeking to inspire and engage youth in community development on a global level.
Canadians have long been committed to the same values that Pope John Paul II so strongly advanced on the world stage: democracy, diplomacy and dialogue. Historically, Canada has often played the role of mediator and peace broker on the world stage. Pope John Paul II served as an excellent example of what can be accomplished when global leaders commit to pursuing these principles and putting them to action.
I understand that some people may say they do not agree with every opinion that was expressed by Pope John Paul II. Some people will say that we should perhaps not be dedicating a day to a religious figure. I would argue that when we consider the global narrative of the life of John Paul II as an international force of hope, of justice and dialogue, it seems fitting for Parliament to celebrate his legacy. Above all, I am in the House to represent my constituents, and I know what Pope John Paul II means to so many of them.
Parkdale—High Park is the heart of the Polish community in Toronto, home to community organizations, newspapers, and a strong community fabric that has made it one of the most vibrant community oriented neighbourhoods in Toronto.
In our community, Pope John Paul II represents not only an important figure in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, but also a remarkable geo-political leader who spoke up for freedom and democratic change in eastern Europe and around the world. It is for that reason I will be supporting the bill.
I would remind hon. members to direct their comments through the Chair in third-person form.
The hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are: the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, The Environment; the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Fisheries and Oceans.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville is right. Our veterans deserve a hassle-free service and that is what this Conservative government is giving them.
Yesterday I announced the launch of our initiative, the Benefits Browser for—
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville. We debated this issue once last week and still the members from the government side still do not understand the system, Nor do they understand how serious the pilot project affects those while working on claim. The member for Mississauga East—Cooksville is absolutely incorrect when he says that they can now earn more while working on claim. In most of the cases that is not the case.
I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development whispering in his ear, but she does not know the facts either.
In order to lay out the facts, I would ask unanimous consent again to table the Library of Parliament paper that explains that to them so they understand it and we can fix the problem in the House, which is an easy fix.
For heaven's sake, their colleagues in the Senate agreed to allow it to be tabled. They are not scared of the facts. Why are the members of the government side in the House of Commons so scared of the facts so they can see them and fix the problem.
Therefore, I ask for unanimous consent to table that report.
The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques will have 17 minutes remaining to complete his remarks.
Statements by members. The hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
The hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Gatineau. I do not know what document the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville was speaking to but he did talk about debt reduction.
Yes, there is debt reduction in the bill, but it would certainly increase the gap between the rich and the poor. Bill C-38 is clearly a charter of rights for the corporate sector so that it can exploit and extract resources without any recourse from the people of Canada on our environment and industries. We know that corporations are not investing the billions of dollars they have invested.
Regardless of our differences, 70 pieces of legislation would be affected by this bill. Will the member at least stand in his place and agree to split the bill so that this place can have a debate and Canadians can see the real impact and the real damage that this bill would have on this country?
Mr. Speaker, I understand the frustration the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville has with an answer like that. I heard the member opposite say that there was no such thing as a good or bad refugee, that they are just refugees. There really are legitimate refugees but there are others who are trying to abuse the system. The opposition does not seem to be able to comprehend or understand that.
We are here today to talk about Bill C-31 in order to deal with some of those issues. The title of the bill is protecting Canada's immigration system act, and that is what it would do.
Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. We welcome more resettled refugees than almost any other country in the world. That number is growing by an additional 2,500 because our government is increasing it by 20%, to a total number of 14,500 resettled refugees to Canada.
However, in order for our asylum system to continue to be generous, Canadians need to know that it is not vulnerable to abuse. That is something that the opposition does not seem to understand. For far too long, our immigration system has been open to abuse by those who do not want to follow the rules or wait in line like everyone else and would rather use the asylum system as a back door to queue jump. This abuse undermines Canadians' faith in our immigration system. It cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year and, most unfortunately, it means that genuine refugees who need asylum, who the opposition claims to have some concern for, are waiting far too long for Canadian protection.
Canadians gave our Conservative government a strong mandate to protect Canada's immigration system. They told us loud and clear across the country that they want to put a stop to this abuse. With Bill C-31, we are acting on that mandate. Bill C-31 would make important, much needed improvements to our asylum system. It includes provisions to crack down on the despicable crime of human smuggling and provides the government with the authority to require biometric data for anyone seeking temporary status in Canada. Together, these improvements would make Canada's immigration system faster and fairer.
Today I will focus my remarks on the refugee reform provisions of Bill C-31. The Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which passed in 2012, was a good start. It included many needed reforms to Canada's broken asylum system. However, our government has always been clear that refugee reform is not a static issue and that further steps will be taken when and if required. The recent waves of bogus refugee asylum claimants from the democratic and human rights respecting European Union have made it clear that further reforms to our asylum system are needed urgently.
The statistics speak volumes. Last year, Canada received 5,800 from the European Union, which represents a 14% increase from the year before. This means that claims from the European Union made up a quarter of all claims, which is more than the claims received from Africa or Asia.
The top source country for refugees last year was Hungary, a member of the European Union. It is very telling when we look at the global distribution of refugee claims made by Hungarian nationals. In 2010, 2,400 refugee claims were made by Hungarian nationals, 100 of them were made outside of Canada, while a whopping 2,300 were made in Canada. That means that Canada received 23 times the claims than any other country. Although these claimants have access to 26 European countries in which they can work, move and live, they are choosing Canada. We actually had even more than that in 2011 when it came close to 4,000 individuals. They are choosing Canada for a reason.
However, this is very expensive for Canadian taxpayers. Bogus claims from the EU last year cost Canadian taxpayers $170 million. What is more, in the last few years virtually all refugee claims from the European Union were withdrawn, abandoned by the claimants themselves or rejected by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board.
Our government is acting responsibly and in the best interests of Canadian taxpayers by introducing reforms to address the increasing number of bogus refugee claimants. Many of the bogus claimants who withdraw or abandon their own claims seek to abuse Canada's generous asylum system and receive generous social benefits like welfare and health care, which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
One of the central features of Bill C-31 is the ability of the government to designate countries that generally do not produce refugees and then to process those claims more quickly.
Under Bill C-31, the factors that would lead a country to be designated would be clearly outlined in both the law and in the regulations. The most important factors are objective and quantitative and refer to the actual acceptance rate claims from a given country. This means the designation of a country as safe would be based on the results of decisions taken by asylum claimants themselves, such as the decision to withdraw or abandon their claims, and the decisions rendered by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board, not the minister.
In addition, unlike the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which had quantitative and qualitative criteria specified only in regulation, we believe that in this proposed legislation it is important that the qualitative factors be enshrined in legislation, while the quantitative factors would be set by ministerial order. In this way, the criteria used to trigger a country for review for designation would be more transparent and accountable than they were even under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
Under Bill C-31, claimants from safe countries would have their cases heard on an expedited basis. More specifically, the independent IRB would hear their case in 45 days instead of the more than 1,000 days it takes now.
It is important to emphasize that under Bill C-31 every eligible refugee claimant, regardless of which country they come from, would continue to receive a hearing before the independent Immigration and Refugee Board.
Furthermore, as is the case now, all refugee claimants, including those from designated countries, would be able to make an application for review of a negative decision by the Federal Court. Bill C-31 actually adds appeal rights by creating the refugee appeal division to which the vast majority of failed claimants would have access. Multiple levels of appeals seems to be very fair.
I would also note that in Bill C-31 Canada would continue to exceed its international and domestic obligations. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the 1951 UN refugee convention, require that all refugee claimants be given the opportunity to have their claim heard. The process in Canada goes above and beyond its domestic and international obligations, and that will not change under Bill C-31.
Canada has and will continue to have one of the most generous refugee systems in the world. All refugee claimants will continue to have their cases heard by the independent IRB. Furthermore, every failed refugee claimant will continue to have access to at least one level of appeal. People deemed in need of protection will not be returned to their country of persecution regardless of which country they have fled.
In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized the validity of providing expedited processing for refugee claimants from designated countries of origin. Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has said, “there are indeed safe countries of origin. There are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries”. He also stated that as long as all refugee claimants have access to the system, it is completely legitimate to accelerate those claims.
Former Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, has also recognized the legitimacy of designating certain countries as safe. My colleague who just spoke talked about that. He recognized the legitimacy of designating certain countries as safe and even advocated rejecting all claims from those countries, which Bill C-31 does not propose to do. He said, “I want a legitimate, lawful refugee system that, to get to the openness point, welcomes genuine refugees … and then says, look there are a number of countries in the world in which we cannot accept a bona fide refugee claim because you don't have cause, you don't have just cause coming from those countries. Otherwise you'll have refugee fraud, and nobody wants that. Furthermore, many democratic European countries already designate certain countries as safe and accelerate asylum procedures for claims from those countries”.
Canadians are very proud of their welcoming and compassionate nature but they have little tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and take unfair advantage of our country. Bill C-31 would prevent bogus refugees from abusing our system and receiving lucrative tax funded health and social benefits. At the same time, it would provide protection more quickly to genuine refugees who are truly in need.
I urge all members of this House to support this important bill and ensure its timely passage.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for Mississauga East—Cooksville, who came to Canada from Poland, for his excellent speech and for pointing out how important it is to help our veterans who have mental health issues. For that reason, we have 17 clinics that serve 15,000 veterans and their family members. As the member said, we must continue to improve.
Have the veterans in his riding asked him if we should continue to improve our services, especially by reducing red tape? Should we stop burdening our veterans with a bureaucracy that draws out processing times and makes its procedures unwieldy? Have veterans in his riding asked him to cut down on bureaucracy and red tape in order to improve services?
I would also like to thank him for supporting our programs, such as the helmets to hard hats program. Unfortunately, we were not able to count on the support of the NDP. However, I would like to thank the member who supported our veterans.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
Canadians recognize that the RCMP is Canada's largest police force with a strength of over 20,000 members. In addition to those still serving, there are approximately 15,000 former members of the force who have commenced retirement. We should never forget that these proud men and women have served our country both domestically and internationally with distinction, whether on special assignments in traditional police functions and to protect and to serve Canadians be it at home or abroad.
How do we provide appropriate care for these officers and retired veterans of the RCMP? What is available to this group as they age and are in greater need of long-term or complex continuing care? Programs in place today allow for benefits for current and retired RCMP regular and civilian members who have sustained permanent work-related illnesses or injury. These benefits are similar to those provided under the Canadian provincial-territorial workmen's compensation regimes administered through Veterans Affairs Canada.
Since 2002, Veterans Affairs Canada has administered the RCMP's disability program that applies to all serving and retired RCMP regular and civilian members, their dependants and survivors. Through this administrative arrangement, Veterans Affairs Canada performs an initial assessment to determine if a disability can be attributed to the RCMP service. Veterans Affairs offers a form of redress for denied claims and serves to analyze applications made for subsequent disabilities and/or a deterioration of an original pension condition.
The RCMP disability pension is designed to compensate a member and/or their dependants if they become disabled or, in the extreme, a member pays the ultimate sacrifice and is killed while on duty. This financial support is in the form of a monthly, tax free, lifetime, indexed payment. Payment can also be granted for pain and suffering, as well as for the loss of life, dependent upon the mitigating circumstances.
Under normal circumstances, a single disability pensioner will receive a smaller monetary benefit than a disability pensioner with dependants. This recognizes that a disability not only affects the individual officer but the financial well-being of the entire family.
Other allowances are available for disability pensioners who require specialty clothing, an amputation or to incorporate a prosthetic limb. Aid is made available for disability pensioners who face challenges performing their daily activities and require assistance to support feeding, bathing, dressing, medication administration and various other day-to-day activities that we take for granted.
The RCMP disability pension provides a wide range of financial support as a pensioner's condition worsens or as they age, deteriorate physically or mentally. The amount of financial benefit paid varies based on the extent of the helplessness, pain, discomfort, loss of enjoyment of life and shortened life expectancy of the pensioner.
We also provide many services to disabled pensioners, including program counselling, case management and assistance referrals to name just a few. The goal is to ensure that these deserving Canadians get the assistance they need.
Basic health care for an RCMP officer is similar to provincial health care coverage and the RCMP supplemental health care is similar to extra coverage that Canadians purchase through their employer or on their own.
When an RCMP member with a work-related disability leaves the force, he or she is no longer covered by the RCMP health regime. The care for the disability condition falls to Veterans Affairs. Former regular member disability pensioners and civilian members, while serving or not, will both receive a VAC health care card indicating the type of treatment specifically tailored to each disability pensioner.
Veterans Affairs' treatment allowance benefits and services are made available to specifically address conditions for which a disability pension has been rendered. These benefits and services include: daily living aids, such as walkers, canes, et cetera, to improve mobility; ambulance services; audio or hearing devices; in- and out-patient hospital services; nursing services which are critical to their well-being; prescription drugs; related health care services, such as psychological therapy or physiotherapy; special equipment, such as bath lifts, chair lifts, et cetera; and vision care. These services are critical for disability pensioners who have left the force.
I would also like to add that the RCMP has worked closely with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada with respect to the development of a joint network for operational stress injuries. The RCMP has collaborated with Veterans Affairs and the Canadian Forces in the establishment of sharing of access to operational stress injury clinics right across Canada. This service helps our members who have served our country domestically and internationally.
To clarify what an operational stress injury is exactly, I will provide the definition that an operational stress injury is any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from service related duties performed by a Canadian Forces member or occupational duties for an RCMP member. This includes, but is not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders.
This co-operation allows the RCMP members to receive care from these very specialized clinics. We are taking care of our people and recognize the impact their duty to their country can have on their well-being.
The RCMP also recognizes that our police officers need additional support when facing personal challenges. Daily, police officers face stressful situations and often see horrific sights. The RCMP has a proactive peer-based employee assistance program. They are a group of trained employees who assist fellow RCMP officers and their families during difficult and stressful times. The RCMP family also takes care of its own when they have passed on by providing some financial support for costs associated with members' funerals.
As an organization, the RCMP continues to review its programs and practices while working closely with Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that our employees and disability pensioners receive appropriate care.
I thank the House for allowing me the opportunity to outline how the RCMP and Veterans Affairs Canada work together to provide care for disability pensioners of our national police force.
The electoral district of Mississauga East--Cooksville (Ontario) has a population of 126,642 with 83,582 registered voters and 227 polling divisions.
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