Mr. Speaker, it was perhaps nine months ago when we talked about museums and the mandates of the national museums here in Ottawa. One of the things that struck me as a concern to a lot of people was that many of the national museums do not really involve themselves with the rest of the museums across the country. Certainly there is a yearning to do a lot more of that. There has been a great degree of co-operation, no doubt, but there should be a greater degree of co-operation in the fulfillment of the mandates of each and every museum across the country.
I say this because I want to follow up on a comment from the hon. member for Wild Rose. He talked about how this is a key part of the bill, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. It is a key element of taking this institution and sharing it with the country, especially now that we are just a few years away from celebrating our sesquicentennial anniversary. I practised saying that word for 20 minutes.
This is a model that is going to present itself to other museums across this country, those national scope, certainly, but also as local as they go, such as the Manitoba Museum, which was announced just a few days ago, and The Rooms in St. John's, Newfoundland, which is a good example in my province.
I thought that this was a key point of the proposed legislation. However, as the hon. member, the leader of the Green Party, pointed out, $25 million really is not going to cut it. The capacity that can be created with just $25 million is just not going to be sufficient. If the bill is going to create a model by which smaller museums could take advantage of it down the road, then that is fine, but it would certainly take a larger investment than $25 million.
I will go back to the issue of why we are doing this, which has to do with branding, a name change, tweaking the mandate and that sort of thing. A lot of the fundamentals from the Museum of Civilization would remain, as the government has said, but then we have to ask ourselves what was wrong with the original plan for the Museum of Civilization going out the next five to 10 years. What was so wrong with it that it needed a name change?
The question then becomes how much greater we can make this institution in the lead-up to 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada, by changing its name. How much greater would this institution present itself to the entire nation and even to the world?
Let us go back to its base degrees for a moment.
We do not have an equivalent, as has been said, to what is happening with the national museum in the United States and in nations like Germany and other nations. They have their own museums based on their own history, but there is one specific museum. Now we have this.
Let us just leave the Museum of Civilization out of this for just a moment. Let us say that we do not have a Canadian museum of history, but a museum of Canadian history. This is something that actually makes a little more sense if we want to celebrate things like the institutions we have in Maurice Richard's hockey sweater, Jacques Villeneuve's racing suit or the first microphone ever held by Céline Dion. I am just making this up, but members get the idea.
These are icons of this country, like the first hockey stick of Wayne Gretzky. It is not that I am important, but maybe it could be my first school jacket or something like that. Someone just yelled out a very good example. I am a huge fan of Bonhomme Carnaval. Why can we not have his story brought to the country? To do that, we would create a museum of Canadian history.
There were a couple of renditions of this idea when some people talked about converting the conference centre to a museum of Canadian history. However, if we have that, and all the Conservatives are talking about these sweaters and jerseys and this artifact and that, then eventually that museum would probably look more like the West Edmonton Mall than anything else.
That is fine if that is what we want, but we should not fuse that element into what is a fantastic national and international institution like the Museum of Civilization.
At committee Victor Rabinovitch, the former president of the Museum of Civilization, was very concerned about the level of research that was going to be missed out on under this new mandate because some things have been changed and some of the language has been tweaked. For instance, there was talk about an understanding of a Canadian artifact and all things Canadian when it comes to representing our history, but the government omitted the word “critical”. It is no longer a “critical” understanding.
One might think what the difference is with that; well, there is a difference when one is involved in any museum as a curator or an archivist, because for those people to have their work exposed to the general public and get a critical understanding, it has to be opened up to the experts to say what history meant. The interpretation of history will change over time, because people have different interpretations. We have to accept that.
This past weekend I was listening to two historians talking on a CBC radio program. One historian feared that we are now launching into a study of history already knowing the answers, whereas we should be looking at history to change what the understanding was prior to today. Maybe we should use a more critical lens in how we view our history; then we would get a common understanding.
All these nations, all these places that have great national museums go through this process, but the language of the bill dictates that we are slowly getting away from that. Some of the buzzwords like “research” and “independence of the curators” are there, but some of it is missing. The fear is that we are turning this into just a display of artifacts, and that is it.
A museum is a living, breathing mechanism through which we understand ourselves, but that can only be useful to us in the future if it is willing to change, if it is able to look at things and say that this is no longer a static display, this is something that we have to look at again, whether technology dictates it or whether it is some other type of information elsewhere that tells us to go back and revisit how we used to look at history.
When Mr. Rabinovitch talked about this, he was wondering why the government would do this, given the fact that the Museum of Civilization carries with it a tremendous international name. European countries and Asian countries marvel at what the Museum of Civilization has done. It is pretty good for a country with fewer than 40 million people. We have punched above our weight, as the saying goes, when it comes to museums, especially this museum.
He proposed what I thought was a reasonable way of looking at this. He proposed to call it the Canadian museum of history and civilization. It is a good compromise. It recognizes the fact that we have a rich history, as young a country as we are compared to other countries in the world, but it also recognizes the great work that we have done. The name says that we are willing to keep that tradition of having the Museum of Civilization, but enshrined within a context of what it is to be Canadian: the Canadian museum of history and civilization.
To a great extent I understand why we would want to have something that is labelled as Canadian. It shows who we are. It gives a critical understanding of who we are, and that way it attracts more people.
Some people said they came to Ottawa when they were younger and did not know what civilization was, but they realized that it was more about Canadian history. That is a valid point. As far as the marketing goes, we can attract more people that way.
Already some of our national museums find themselves in a financial bind. The Science and Technology Museum needs $3.4 million to handle major structural repairs. The 50-year-old building on St. Laurent Boulevard needs work. Every museum has to find ways of generating more revenue, and this could be one of them. Could a name change do that? To a certain degree it could. It is not the ultimate solution for getting more revenue, but it probably could go in that direction.
I wish we had kept to the theme of putting more Canadian culture within the context of the Museum of Civilization, as opposed to changing some of the language in this legislation and ultimately the corporation. I think that does a disservice to the people who keep updating our artifacts and turning this museum into the international icon that it is.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak about Bill C-49 tonight. Bill C-49 would create the new Canadian museum of history.
The new Canadian museum of history would undoubtedly support our rich national heritage. As Canadians know, our government has supported and will continue to support the preservation of important artistic, historical and scientific objects in Canada.
Our government believes in our national museums, and we recognize the tremendous value they hold for all Canadians. Before I get to the main thrust of my speech this evening, allow me just to briefly summarize some of the important aspects of, and some of the rationale for, the creation of this legislation.
The legislation would build on the work that we, as a government, have already been doing and on our reputation here in Canada of having some of the best national and local museums in the entire world. In fact, since 2006, our government has invested an additional $142 million in our national museums. We have also created two new national museums, the museum at Pier 21 in Halifax and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, the creation of the new Canadian museum of history would be an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and those achievements that define who we are as Canadians.
The Canadian museum of history would provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of our history. One of the aspects I most appreciate is the fact that one of the ways we would be doing this is by enabling content to be shared with and by local museums all across this country.
Certainly the aspect I find to be most important is the fact that there is so much of our history in the collection at the museum now that obviously is not on regular display. There would be an opportunity for some of the other museums in the country to share that content and those displays.
I think of some of the fine museums back in my riding of Wild Rose. There is the Nose Creek Valley Museum in Airdrie. There are some fine museums in the towns of Olds and Didsbury. Banff has a number of fine museums as well, and of course, Canmore has the Museum and Geoscience Centre.
There are a number of those types of museums all across the country that could participate in these kinds of programs to have content shared with their museums, and vice versa. They could share some of the content they may not have on display with the museum here in the national capital region as well. That is one of the key aspects that I had a chance to speak to in more length in the House previously.
I would like to get into some more specifics tonight. I would like to take the opportunity to discuss a very important act, which would benefit the new museum of Canadian history. Since its adoption in 1977, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act has served to encourage and ensure the preservation of Canadian heritage.
This act accomplishes this objective through a number of provisions. First, there is the designation of cultural institutions that have demonstrated the capacity to preserve cultural objects and make them available to the public through things like tax incentives that encourage Canadians to donate or to sell significant objects to designated institutions; and through grants to assist those designated institutions with the purchase of heritage objects; and through export control.
The act controls the export of significant cultural objects and creates the opportunity for our museums, art galleries, libraries and archives to acquire and preserve cultural content for future generations.
The act also contains tax incentives, which encourage Canadians to support our cultural institutions by donating or selling important objects to these organizations. Archeological objects, first nations objects, works of art, military medals, vintage vehicles and even rare fossils and minerals are examples of the types of objects that have been preserved in Canada because of this act.
Objects that are refused export permits can be delayed for up to six months to allow institutions to raise funds and apply for a grant to help purchase them.
Moveable cultural property grants can help museums and other cultural institutions to buy these important cultural and heritage objects. In 2006-07, The Rooms in Newfoundland received a grant to acquire two rare painted caribou skin coats made by the Innu. One was made in the late 18th century and the other in the mid-19th century. Both coats were about to be exported from Canada.
In 2010 the program supported the purchase of the world's largest sample of the Springwater pallasite, which is a rare type of meteorite that crashed to the earth near Biggar, Saskatchewan, in 1931. The Royal Ontario Museum purchased the pallasite with a grant before it too was exported from Canada.
These important objects, and many more, will remain in our heritage institutions as a result of the export controls and the movable cultural property grants program established under this act.
Funds are also available to repatriate important heritage objects to Canada. These objects may have been removed from Canada many years ago but are important to our history. For example, in 2007, the Museum of Northern British Columbia received a grant to repatriate objects from the Dundas collection. This is a significant collection of 19th century ceremonial objects, decorative works and everyday items used by some of the first inhabitants of British Columbia's northwest coast. The collection went to Scotland in 1863 and remained there until it was sold in 2006. Several Canadian museums went to great effort to purchase the collection and return it to Canada.
Another grant was awarded to the University of Alberta library in 2008 to repatriate the Sir Samuel Steele collection. Sir Samuel Steele was one of the most famous members of what is now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. His papers, which documented the Red River expedition, the early history of the RCMP, the Klondike gold rush and his participation in the First World War are now accessible to all.
Speaking of World War I, in 2009, an important grant assisted McMaster University with the purchase of a map collection of the western front of World War I between 1914 and 1917. These maps were used by Canadian troops on the Western Front and were critical in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and in subsequent victories at Passchendaele. The significance of this collection continues to grow as we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War.
All of these important objects and collections now have a permanent home in public collections in Canada, where all Canadians have the opportunity to learn from them.
The act also encourages Canadians to donate or sell important cultural objects to Canadian institutions through a special tax incentive. About 260 institutions and public authorities across Canada have been designated under the act and are eligible to offer this incentive. These institutions include not only our national museums and major provincial establishments but also smaller regional organizations that preserve our important heritage and make it available to all Canadians. From the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, these organizations have the capacity to preserve cultural objects for the long term and make them available to Canadians through exhibitions, research access, loans to other institutions or on their websites.
Objects that are certified as being of outstanding significance and national importance to Canada by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board receive the tax benefit. The review board is an independent tribunal of experts created under the act. It determines the importance of the cultural object and its value. Since 1977, thousands of objects have been certified. In 2012-13 alone, 1,360 objects valued at $72 million were donated or sold to Canadian institutions through this incentive program. As a result, museums, galleries, archives and libraries have enhanced their collections and Canadians have had the opportunity to see, study and learn about objects and works of art that otherwise might have remained out of sight and behind closed doors.
In conclusion, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act has enabled museums, galleries, libraries and archives all across Canada to acquire important objects that tell Canada's story to Canadians and to the world. The act continues to protect important cultural objects in Canada and allows for the return of significant heritage objects to Canada. Its provisions have enhanced our public collections with objects that are of outstanding significance and national importance to Canada.
The Canadian museum of history would provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of our history. Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world. Therefore, I am pleased to support Bill C-49, which would create the museum of Canadian history.
Mr. Speaker, if the member would like to talk about guilty robocalls, maybe he should turn around and speak to the member for Wild Rose behind him, who was fined $14,000.
Perhaps the member would like to look all around himself in the Conservative Party, which was fined $78,000.
Perhaps the member for Nepean—Carleton would like to look in the mirror. He will not like what he sees, because the scandals and affairs of the government keep building up: the F-35 affair, the in and out scandal, the Jaffer affair, the Penashue scandal, the Carson affair, the Peterborough illegal donations scandal, the Bev Oda affair, the Chuck Cadman scandal.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question of my friend for Kenora because did touch on a very key thing here, which is the ability of the museum to be able to share those collections with some of the smaller communities. I think he is absolutely right. When we look at the members of the opposition, they do not represent some of the large rural ridings like his in Kenora and mine of Wild Rose in Alberta. They do tend to represent more of the large cities—
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this evening with my good friend, the member for Leeds—Grenville.
I am delighted to rise to speak to Bill C-49, which will create the new Canadian museum of history. In my remarks tonight, I would like to focus on why it is so important to have a national museum dedicated to Canadian history.
Our government believes in our national museums, and we recognize the tremendous value they hold for all Canadians. As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, it is an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and those achievements that define who we are as Canadians.
We have all heard the statistics. Canadians lack knowledge of our history and wish that they knew more about it. Although more than 75% of Canadians feel that learning Canadian history strengthens their attachment to the country, fewer than 50% are able to pass a basic citizenship exam that tests general knowledge of Canada, and only 26% of youth aged 18 to 24 know the year of Confederation. Only 37% know that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in World War I, and only 76% of Canadians are embarrassed about the lack of knowledge Canadians have about their history. Something obviously has to change. Our children deserve and should know more about the long and complex history of this great nation.
The establishment of the Canadian museum of history will give Canadians the opportunity to learn, appreciate and feel proud of the richness of Canada's history. The museum will chronicle our country's national achievements. It will explore the major themes, events and people of our national experience by bringing history to life and providing the public with a strong sense of Canadian identity.
Our government believes that it has a solemn responsibility to wisely manage the money Canadians send to us. That is why we chose not to build a new national museum from the ground up but rather to build on the reputation and popularity of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to create a national museum of history that will showcase the national achievements that have shaped this great country.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is set to begin a progressive transformation that will be completed over the next five years and will lead up to Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. The Canadian Museum of History will provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of our history. Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our story and presents our country's treasures to the world.
Members might ask what this transformation involves. The government investment will allow the museum to undertake the renovation of almost half its permanent exhibition space. The result will be more than 43,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space, due to open in 2016, presenting a comprehensive and chronological history of Canada to Canadians and to the world.
It is important to remember that the Grand Hall and the First People's Hall, which present the history of Canada's first peoples, will remain an integral part of the new museum, as will the Children's Museum.
To complement the government's investment and to ensure that Canadians in all regions have new opportunities to learn about Canada's history, the new museum will sign agreements with several museums across the country to travel exhibitions outside the national capital region, to share expertise and to lend artifacts and other material from its collection to enhance their local exhibitions and educational programs.
To quote Michael Bliss, a Canadian historian and award-winning author, this new museum is a “terrific opportunity” for our local and provincial historical societies as well as our national organizations.
Understanding that not all Canadian museums have the ability to accept large travelling exhibitions, the new museum also plans to work with those institutions to develop travelling exhibitions tailored specifically to their needs. These institutions will also be able to borrow artifacts from the new museum.
The new Canadian Museum of History will not only open its collections to museums across the country but will also provide a showcase for Canadian museums. To increase its capacity to host travelling exhibitions created by museums across this country, the museum will renovate 7,500 square feet on the street level floor of its main building to create a new temporary exhibition gallery. These exhibitions will help the Canadian museum of history to tell a truly national story and connect the treasures that are scattered in local museums across the country to our national narrative.
Between now and 2017, the museum is planning a series of temporary exhibitions that will highlight its new mandate and will build excitement about the changes in its programming.
In terms of how Canada's history is presented, some have wondered if there is a move afoot to present our history in a way that favours a partisan approach. I would remind everyone that the Canadian museum of history will remain a federal crown corporation and will continue to operate at arm's length from the government. The board of trustees and the management of the museum are responsible for determining exactly how the museum will present Canadian history.
Our government has established a new mandate for the Canadian museum of history. That is true. Having done that, we will leave it up to the capable management of the museum to make its decisions about the implementation of that mandate.
I would like to note that the museum reached out to Canadians, in person and online, to seek their opinions and ideas. The Canadian Museum of Civilization even launched an online forum located at myhistory.ca. The museum also carried out a series of cross-country consultations that gave Canadians the opportunity to give their opinions on the personalities, events and milestones that truly tell the Canadian story. In total, more than 20,000 Canadians contributed their ideas to the website, panel discussions and round tables all across Canada. We are delighted by this level of engagement. By the time we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, Canadians will have a new museum dedicated to the history of this country. It will be a celebration of our history and the achievements and accomplishments that have shaped this great land.
This is a great opportunity for young and not so young Canadians alike to have a better sense of and get a better share in our history. We will be able to share the collection gathered at the museum here in Ottawa with other museums across the country, whether they be large museums that can benefit from large exhibitions or some of the smaller museums in smaller communities, like those in my riding of Wild Rose or in Kenora, as my friend from Kenora has just pointed out. Lots of communities across this country will have an opportunity to have the exhibitions travel to their parts of the country so that they can experience them first-hand. Of course, we will see some of the great pieces in some of the museums across the country come to the National capital region to be shared with people here. It is a great opportunity for all Canadians. It is a great opportunity for many of the museums across this country, whether they be large or small.
It is also a great opportunity to see the stories of our Canadian history told. We have a very rich history. Look at some of the amazing feats of soldiers, in particular, in World War I and World War II. I believe that some of those battles were the coming of age of this country. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the places where those battles took place. That is certainly not an opportunity all Canadians have. I wish they did.
Museums that will benefit from the travelling exhibitions are the places where Canadians can learn about these significant parts of our Canadian history. It is a great opportunity for Canadians and for all museums across the country to share our Canadian history.
I will conclude by encouraging all members of the House to join me in supporting this worthwhile and responsible piece of legislation. I will quote John McAvity, the executive director of the Canadian Museums Association. He said that “the renaming of the Museum of Civilization...is essential”, the it “is good news”, and that “it will give Canadians greater access to their heritage [and] to their history”.
The electoral district of Wild Rose (Alberta) has a population of 115,872 with 90,193 registered voters and 235 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.