The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine): It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC) moved that Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution which is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jean Augustine): Before beginning private members' business I would like to read a ruling on Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution which is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance.
The Chair has examined Bill C-331, the Ukrainian Canadian restitution act, to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question at third reading.
The Chair has considered the restitution provisions in this bill and has concluded that they do not require a royal recommendation as any payment is contingent on the successful completion of a negotiation process, the details of which are hypothetical at this point.
There is, however, a question in my mind about the clause that proposes the establishment of a museum at the site of one of the first world war internment camps.
At first glance, it appears to me that to build, maintain and staff even a small museum would require public funds. Since the necessity for a royal recommendation can be a complex question, I am raising the issue at this moment in order to invite the sponsor of the bill and any other members interested in the matter to make a submission to the Chair explaining their views on whether or not this bill requires a royal recommendation.
I want to give hon. members enough time to look into the matter. I would suggest that interested members contact the private members' business office to schedule their interventions.
I have asked these officials to coordinate such submissions, so that they can take place before the bill is next debated, thus allowing the Chair time to consider their arguments when making a ruling at the resumption of the second reading debate.
Today the debate on the motion for second reading will begin. We will now proceed as scheduled.
Mr. Inky Mark: Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Vegreville--Wainwright for seconding the motion.
It is a great honour today to rise to debate Bill C-331, an act to recognize the injustice of the Ukrainian internment. Bill C-331 has been tabled in the House three times but never debated.
Madam Speaker, I welcome the information on the bill that you have presented this evening.
The first time the whole issue of Ukrainian redress was debated was through a motion in September 1991 that was put forward by the member for Kingston and the Islands. This motion received support from all parties but had no effect on the government.
How did Bill C-331 come about? Bill C-331 was put together through collaboration with the Ukrainian community in Canada, which today numbers close to one million. It is supported by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
At this time I want to thank the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, for his support. I want to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association chairman, John Gregorovich, and Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk and Borys Sydoruk. I also want to thank the president of the Taras Shevchenko Foundation, Andrew Hladyshevsky. There are also thousands of other Canadians of Ukrainian descent who have worked very hard over the last two decades.
Bill C-331 is in essence a bill that belongs to the Ukrainian community of Canada. The Ukrainian community in Canada has been calling for redress for internment for over 20 years. That is a long time. Most of that time, this call has fallen on deaf ears. There have been numerous broken promises throughout the last two decades, promises made by politicians, the people who sit in this House.
The most famous promise was made by our former prime minister, Jean Chrétien. In fact, tonight I want to read for the House a letter that he wrote to Mr. Thor Bardyn, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in June 1993, when Mr. Chrétien was leader of the official opposition. He stated:
Dear Mr. Bardyn:
Thank you for your letter and the copies of the “Economic Losses of Ukrainian Canadians Resulting from Internment During World War I” and “Submissions on Behalf of the Ukrainian Canadian Community on the Matter of Redress for Non-Pecuniary Losses Occasioned by Internment and Other State-Inflicted Injuries.”
The Liberal Party understands your concern. As you know, we support your efforts to secure the redress of Ukrainian-Canadians' claims arising from their internment and loss of freedom during the First World War and Inter-war period. You can be assured that we will continue to monitor the situation closely and seek to ensure that the government honours its promise.
As Leader of the Opposition, I appreciate the time you have taken to write and bring your concerns to my attention.
Jean Chrétien as prime minister had many opportunities to deal with Ukrainian redress over his three terms as prime minister.
Obviously he learned nothing from the settlement of the Japanese redress settled by the Mulroney government previous to that. The Mulroney government did the right and responsible thing and brought resolution to the Japanese redress. In fact, I was told that during that time period there were no private members' bills or motions debated in the House on Japanese redress. Yet the government of the day knew what the right thing was and did the right thing.
Let me take some time to talk about the internment, because many of us in this country, and I include myself, did not learn about the internment of the Ukrainians. I did not learn of it until I became a member of Parliament back in 1997. This is not recorded in our history books. It is an event that no one knows about. Obviously the government of the day wanted it to be wiped out. As Canadians, we want to know our history. We need to learn from history. That is why it is important to acknowledge and recognize that the history actually took place.
Bill C-331 calls for that recognition. I must emphasize again that it is a recognition of and not an apology for “the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration and for restitution”, which really means the return of properties confiscated by the government of the day. In other words, at that time the private property of the internees was confiscated by the Government of Canada. To this very day it has not been returned. That is what restitution means.
That restitution amount, whatever may be negotiated, is to be devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance and the role of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That sounds Canadian. It sounds rational and it makes sense.
In other words, Bill C-331 calls for two things to be done.
One is acknowledgement that this internment took place and is part of Canadian history. We in this country cannot run away from our history. We must accept our history. We must accept the past. We have to accept the past; we cannot change it.
Another point, too, is that the government of the day must sit down with the Ukrainian community and work out the establishment of an education foundation for the purpose of telling the internment story to all Canadians so that hopefully this story and this history, this negative event, will not be repeated in the future. That is the main purpose, the main drive behind this redress issue.
It is time for the government to bring resolution to all redress issues. Is it not ironic that the government of the day will be sending up to 500 observers to Ukraine and is willing to pay the bill to ensure that democracy will be protected in Ukraine?
I support the government's decision. There is nothing wrong with it. Yet at the same time the government continues to deny that democratic rights were taken from the Ukraine community in Canada between 1914 and 1920, when over 88,000 Ukrainians were made to register like common criminals. They had to report monthly to the police and have their registration card stamped. Over 9,000 were interned. They were put in prison camps; internment is just a nice word for prison camps. In fact, they had it worse than prisoners of war because under the Geneva convention a country cannot force prisoners of war to work, to do domestic labour, which is actually slave labour, at no cost to the country.
Over 9,000 people were interned, of which over 5,000 were Ukrainian Canadians. The government has run out of excuses after two decades of denial. The internment of Ukrainians in Canada is a historic fact. I asked the question of the government, “Is acknowledging this too much to ask?”
It is time for the government to do the responsible thing and to acknowledge this historic wrong. I am sure that most Canadians would agree with me. It is time to deal with this issue and other redress issues.
The responsible thing is the acknowledgement, as well as working out a resolution with the Ukraine community. This is a matter of justice. After all, we Canadians like to see ourselves as a just society. In fact, we brag all over the world that we are a country based on rules, justice, tolerance and acceptance. Maybe it is time that we accept our own history for what it is and learn from it.
Justice is long overdue for the Ukraine community in Canada, which is one million strong. I know I am starting to run out of time so I will read for the House a poem written by Kari Moore of Victoria, B.C. A couple of summers ago, this poem was put on a plaque dedicated to the internees at a memorial park on the site of Canada's national Ukrainian festival. The name of the poem is Internment. It really tells the story:
With this commemorative plaque
We confer upon you the honour
Of paying the ultimate price.
The price of losing your freedom
In a country that invited you
And promised you work and freedom.
You laboured with a pickaxe and shovel
In the neighbouring mines and forests
Laying the rails for transport
Of your days' work to help the economy.
Then history changed your world,
Overnight you became an enemy alien
To be feared and unjustly interned.
If history could repeat itself
You could tell us your shame
And your unimagined confusion.
You still worked with an axe and shovel
But from behind a barbwire fence.
And for years you carried the stigma
Of becoming an unwanted citizen.
This plaque shall stand in your memory
And serve as an educational tool
To remember this part of our dark history,
And assure us that future Canadian governments
With the stroke of a pen shall not
Again put any citizen behind a barbwire fence.
I close by thanking all members who are taking part in this first hour of debate on Bill C-331 for their support.
Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I commend the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I agree with the thrust of his private member's bill. It is important for Canadians to put this issue in context. What is so important for us as members in the House and for Canadian society to understand is that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not come to us out of a vacuum. It is based on injustices that occurred while our country evolved, which is why we have come to the kind of society that we are today.
When we look specifically at the question of what happened to the Ukrainians and the internment during the first world war, it is important to understand some of the history. Ukraine was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an unwilling part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I might add. Many Ukrainians left Ukraine and came to Canada because they were not particularly happy with the subjugations they were put under in Ukraine. They came to Canada to find a new life, to become Canadians and to be part of Canadian life.
However, then the first world war comes along and we introduce the Enemy Alien Act where people who were from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were forced to register and something like 5,000 people were interned, most of them of Ukrainian descent.
One can just imagine how disquieting it would be for new arrivals, new immigrants to this country, to all of a sudden find themselves, because of something that is happening somewhere else in the world, to be interned by us. As the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette said, if people were interned they then had to register with the police on a weekly basis.
How do things like that happen? They happen because at that time there was racism. We had superior races and inferior races. It did not only happen to the Ukrainians. As the member said, it also happened to Canadians of Japanese ancestry who suffered the same horrors during the second world war. We also know that as part of our history we had the Asian Exclusion Act and the Chinese Head Tax. We discriminated against all sorts of minorities. It was a fact of life at that time.
However, I think it was the suffering of all those groups, including the Jews, who, during the second world war, when they were looking for refuge to escape Nazi Germany, were turned away. Given all the suffering in the past, we now have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The member talked about doing a more general kind of redress. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes that, which is why we have it. The charter is our guidance for the future so we do not repeat those mistakes.
Mr. Inky Mark: Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct in what he said and hopefully the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will protect us down the road.
However, the fact is that we must accept our past history for what it is. The point the bill tries to make, with all redress issues, is that until the country accepts this, it is like alcoholics, until they accept that they are alcoholics they cannot see the future. I think Canadians expect greater things from their government.
Hon. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for incidents in our nation's past. As Canadians we all share in the responsibility to learn from the lessons of the past and to ensure that the history of our country in certain instances does not repeat itself ever.
I know firsthand the issues that are being addressed today by the hon. member opposite. My riding of Parkdale--High Park is home to a great number of Ukrainian Canadians, and this is a matter that I have spoken to members of the community about.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act lays out principles for these adjustments. It gives specific direction to the federal government to work toward achieving equality in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country. The multicultural program turns those principles into action. Its activities help to combat racism and discrimination, to break down barriers that prevent all Canadians from fully participating in society, to promote freedom and equal opportunity, to improve inter-group relations, and to foster social harmony and a shared sense of Canadian identity.
As Canada becomes more culturally diverse, the challenge we face is maximizing the benefits of a multicultural society, which means respecting differences and being willing to adapt to change.
Since the introduction of Canada's multiculturalism policy in 1971 and the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, Canada's population has continued to become more diverse. This rich ethnocultural, racial and religious diversity has been fostered and supported by a strong multiculturalism policy that encourages people to maintain their culture and identity within a Canadian framework that values fundamental human rights and freedoms.
In order to keep pace with the needs of our evolving and increasingly diverse society, the multiculturalism program focuses on three overall policy goals of identity, social justice and civic participation. Within these policy goals, four priority objectives have been identified for the multicultural program: first, fostering cross-cultural understanding; second, promoting shared citizenship; third, making Canadian institutions more reflective of Canadian diversity; and fourth, combating racism and discrimination.
The government recognizes that creating and maintaining a strong and cohesive society free of racism and discrimination is critical to the continued growth and success of our country. As part of its commitment to fight racism and as part of its forward looking approach with regard to historical acts, the Government of Canada established the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 1996. As members know, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is an important asset in helping to build an inclusive society based on social harmony. In establishing the foundation, we have committed to building a better future for young Canadians and a better country for all of us.
The mission of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to build a framework for the fight against racism in Canadian society. The Foundation sheds light on the causes and manifestations of racism. It provides independent, candid national leadership and contributes to the pursuit of equity, fairness and social justice.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is the articulation of the Government of Canada's commitment to fostering racial harmony and cross-cultural understanding. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to a great extent at the core of what the Ukrainian community and this bill are asking for: an educational foundation.
Through the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, I am pleased to say that many groups have had grants for initiatives in specific projects against racism. Along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Government of Canada has and will continue to promote initiatives to improve understanding among Canadians, such as the March 21 campaign of the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is designed to raise the awareness of Canadians against the dangers of racism and racial discrimination.
The March 21 campaign was initiated in response to the need to heighten awareness of the harmful effects of racism on a national scale and to demonstrate clearly the commitment and leadership of the federal government to foster respect, equality and diversity.
For more than 10 years, the March 21 campaign has mobilized youth across Canada to rise up and to take a stand against racism. Through their participation in the campaign, Canadian youth have spoken loudly and eloquently. There is no place for racism in their lives.
Each year on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, many activities are held throughout Canada to raise public awareness about the problem of racism.
The national video competition “Racism: Stop it!” is one of several federal government initiatives to fight racism and encourage thousands of young people from across Canada to stand up and condemn this problem.
Why youth? Youth are the future of our nation. It is only by looking to the future that we will achieve our common goal of eradicating racism and discrimination.
We know that youth are the heart and soul of the annual March 21 campaign. They have the energy, commitment and creativity to advance the struggle against racism. They are the voice of the present and also of the future. They are among the most exposed to racism in their schools and on the streets in villages, towns and cities across Canada. The March 21 campaign engages youth to transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity and religion, and to embrace diversity.
Historically speaking, this country represents a coming together of many peoples and traditions. It is because we were and are so different in our backgrounds and our beginnings that Canada has learned over time to place an extraordinary premium on respect, equality and mutual acceptance. This is what sets Canada apart from other countries.
The challenge is not to lose what we have gained through past experience, not to assimilate this diversity into a simple mould, but to harness it for the common good.
As we move forward in this new millennium, it is the youth of the world who stand poised to lead us out of the intolerance of the past which too often results in terrible human suffering.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of understanding and preserving our complete history, including those times when we have strayed from our shared commitment to human justice. Through various departments and programs, it has supported a wide range of commemorative projects that have helped the Ukrainian community tell their story in their own voice.
The bill before us today asks for commemoration of the historical events by means of the installation of memorial plaques at the site of the internment camps. I would like the hon. members of this House to know that Parks Canada has already worked cooperatively with Ukrainian Canadians to present the story of the first world war internment.
As part of an exhibit to interpret the events associated with the first world war internment in the context of human history of Banff National Park, several interpretative panels were installed as part of the permanent exhibit at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada, as well as at Mount Revelstoke and Yoho National Parks.
Parks Canada has also supported Ukrainian Canadians in their efforts to install a permanent plaque and statue at the site of the Castle Mountain camp in Banff and permanent plaques at the Jasper camp, Mount Revelstoke camp and Yoho camp. The Department of National Defence has also enabled the placement of a plaque on the Niagara Falls armoury.
The National Film Board of Canada has produced an internment and exile film package that includes a segment entitled, Freedom Had a Price, which describes the experience of Ukrainian immigrants during the first world war.
In addition, the Department of Canadian Heritage has provided funding for the production of a television series entitled, A Scattering of Seeds, which celebrated diversity in Canada and discusses various topics, including the internment of Ukrainian immigrants.
Yes, people of Ukrainian heritage have experienced challenges during their time in Canada. We acknowledge this chapter of our past and vow never to forget it.
The member opposite did say that nothing has been done but many things have been done. When I was parliamentary secretary to the former minister of Canadian heritage, Sheila Copps, she brought the Ukrainian community together to meet with her officials and dialogue was started. Is there much to do? Absolutely. The dialogue has been started. Let us now continue the dialogue.
Ms. Meili Faille (Vaudreuil-Soulanges, BQ): Madam Speaker , since Bill C-331 concerns Ukraine, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all those Ukrainians currently fighting for the sake of their democracy to continue this difficult struggle.
The freedom of peoples is not easily achieved. This is why I want to reiterate the support of the Bloc Québécois for all those who are currently defending their right to democracy. In 2004, every nation should be able to choose its own government. The will of the people must not be thwarted by pressure or fraud.
I would also like to congratulate the Parliament of Canada for the second time in as many weeks, since, once again, it is about to correct an error it made in the past. Last week, it concerned an error in judgment regarding legislation made 25 years ago. Today, even if the events in question go back more than 90 years, it corrects behaviour unworthy of a democratic society.
At the beginning of the 20th century, history witnessed great victories, but also some darker days. Today, we must reflect on one of those days. I do not by any means want to forget the brave soldiers who went to fight in Europe. They stood tall on one of the toughest fronts in history. They gave their lives for loftier ideals than the world itself, and we should never forget that.
Bill C-331 is about the plight of over 5,000 poor people who fled abject living conditions and immigrated to Canada 10 to 20 years before the 1914-18 events. These people were later interned in labour camps during World War I. Through an order in council, the status of those who did not have their certificate of naturalization was changed. They became “foreign enemies”, because their territory of origin was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They were no longer just Ukrainians, people in exile, as they had been when they arrived here. They had become Austrians, and Austria was an enemy of Canada.
We understand that, throughout this painful period, Canada respected its international commitments on the treatment of prisoners of war. We do not share the view that these people were indeed prisoners of war. We really wonder why these camps were maintained until 1920, considering that the war had ended a couple of years earlier. However, taking cover behind treaties and conventions does not excuse the fact that the treatment given to these people was unworthy of a democratic country. The events for which Canada is blamed should be recognized. To forget them is to risk repeating them again.
I remind hon. members that these prisoners were subject to hard labour, rations and curfews. They were not only prisoners of war; they were forced to work. They were interned in labour camps and deprived of their freedom. The Canadian government really took advantage of them. It used these helpless people to build or repair houses, to clear land, build drains, construct roads between properties and public roads, etc. These people were forced to work hard and they were shamelessly used by Canada. It is high time the government acknowledges this blemish on Canada's record.
I want to remind the House that we did not imprison them because they were fighting against our troops, overseas or at home, because there has never been a single battle between these enemies and the state that took them prisoner.
We took them prisoner because they were from the Austro-Hungarian empire and because they had Austrian passports. Can we blame people, who never had the chance to choose their own destiny, for the colour of their passports? We think not, and that is why we feel that Bill C-331 is logical.
Furthermore, we accepted these people who were fleeing hardship and had come here in search of a better life, as immigrants. Ukrainians were an integral part of the immigration plan back then. We opened our doors to them and then we put them in prison. We told them, “come” and then we told them to “work”, at the end of a gun. To us, this is a perfect example of how absurd Canada's immigration policies are.
The Bloc Québécois condemns and regrets the way Canada treated Ukrainians but we are proud to take part in a debate on a bill that seeks to remedy the inexplicable behaviour of a country that, even then, considered itself open and modern.
We join all those who wish to reinstate their personal names, the name of the Canadian government, and who want to say sorry for this unworthy decision adopted by order in council. We ask all the members of this House to support in principle Bill C-331.
It is never too late to learn from our mistakes, to confess and set them right. Parliament has an opportunity today it should not miss. We implore it to do more than the small tourism plaques affixed here and there among the national parks. This is the best thing it has done to date to remedy this enormous error in judgment with regard to an innocent people. It is an insult.
We put our guests in labour camps and we subjected them to hard labour. That is called slavery.
Slavery in the 20th century, in any country, is too serious an issue to pretend it never existed. I defy any member of this House to dare to deny that. Turning a deaf ear for 90 years is already a crime in itself. It is time to tell the whole world that Canada does not agree with decisions it made in the past.
Ukrainians were not an enemy nation: they were invited. We welcomed them as they were, truly welcomed them. We gave them land and the right to work and settle, and then we took those things away. The labour camps were something you might find in a fascist state, not a free and democratic nation. The disgraceful and abominable treatment of a nation of invited immigrants, might, in other times and places, attract much more serious punishment and much greater consequences. We think the Canadian government has a golden opportunity to come out of this with its head held high. We ask the government to support this bill and recognize what it means.
This Parliament could, at least, take responsibility for past actions. The federal parliament must recognize the wrongs that have been done to the Ukrainian community.
Members of this House, fellow MPs, let us not repeat the errors of the past again. When we invite people in with open arms, let us not treat them as second-class citizens. Let us not offer them the privilege of becoming citizens but recognize their full right to citizenship. Let us agree to recognize our affront to the Ukrainians. Let us be the hosts we claim to be. Let us not invite people in with one hand and wave them away with the other. Let us show that we are worthy of a society with 400 years of shared history. Let us offer our wealth to everyone who, because of the twists of fate, have not had the same opportunities we have had here in North America.
Canada must live up to the ideals it proclaims. It must be able to recognize when it has made errors that contradict these ideals. In order for history not to repeat itself, we must seize every opportunity. This is a great one. It is a start. Recognizing the wrongs of the past is a way to make it possible to head into the future in justice and serenity.
Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party in support of Bill C-331, the Ukrainian Canadian restitution act, introduced by the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I want to commend him for his persistence in getting the bill on to the floor of the House this time around. I also want to commend my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges for her speech this evening.
The bill seeks justice for Ukrainian Canadians and other Europeans from the former Austro-Hungarian empire who were imprisoned in special internment camps in Canada during World War I. It is a group of about 9,000 people. The bill calls on the federal government to acknowledge the injustice that was done and to provide restitution for those imprisoned.
The bill mirrors a motion passed 11 years ago in the House, a motion that was proposed by the member for Kingston and the Islands. It is unfortunate that Bill C-331 is still necessary, given the unanimous consent that the 1991 motion received in the House.
At the outset of World War I the War Measures Act was implemented and almost 9,000 people in Canada were deemed enemy aliens, rounded up and forced into internment camps. More than 5,000 of them were Ukrainians who had immigrated to Canada. Another 88,000 Ukrainians in Canada were required to report regularly to police and security authorities during that period.
Between 1914 and 1920, two years after the end of the first world war, these people were held in 24 internment camps. They were forced to do heavy labour under trying conditions. Their assets were seized and they were subjected to state sanctioned persecution.
Never at any time was any evidence presented to show that Ukrainian Canadians were a threat to Canada. In fact, Britain had even advised Canada in 1914 that Ukrainians should be considered friendly aliens.
The bill does not seek direct compensation for the victims of the internment operation, but rather it recommends educational and commemorative measures. We must preserve the memory of these events. Our collective memory of the experience of Ukrainian Canadians here in Canada will help call us to make sure that we never again repeat that mistake as a nation.
Bill C-331 calls for commemorative plaques to be installed at the 24 camps. These plaques would describe the events that took place in the history of the internment. It also recommends a museum be created in Banff National Park, which was the site of one of the largest internment camps.
The park infrastructure of that beautiful natural site was partially built by forced labour. When observing the natural wonders of Canada, one should be reminded of the contribution made by the interned Ukrainian Canadians.
This museum would provide information on the operation of the camp and would acknowledge the role that Ukrainian Canadians played in the building of Canada, then and now.
Bill C-331 also recommends a restitution payment be made to compensate for the confiscation of property and assets from Ukrainian Canadians. Much was taken from them, but not all the confiscated wealth was returned.
This payment would be used to develop and produce educational materials that fight racial intolerance and discrimination, which would be distributed to schools and universities. The materials should reflect and promote the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, broad on the understanding of other religions and cultures and ultimately protect Canadians from future injustices. Other educational projects could be developed in consultation with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
In addition, a set of commemorative stamps would be issued. This would serve again to keep the memory alive and to ensure that such unjust treatment never takes place on Canadian soil again.
Finally, the bill calls for a review of the Emergencies Act by the Minister of National Defence who must report back to the House with possible legislative changes that would prevent similar atrocities in the future.
In this post-9/11 world where security concerns are top of mind for many Canadians and for our government, I find this point particularly resonant. We must not implement draconian security measures at the expense of the rights and dignity of people, based on ethnicity, country of origin or religious belief.
I wish I could stand here today and be clear that we had learned from our mistakes. I fear, however, with our security certificate process and the detention of some Canadians and people in Canada, of special rules for evidence and special trials that are now allowed in Canada, that we are travelling down that road once again. I fear that racial profiling of some Canadians is taking us there yet again.
I am concerned that proposals to allow for the revocation of Canadian citizenship will set up a system where there are two classes of Canadian citizenship. I am glad that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has spoken very clearly to that particular issue and the proposals that were made in the past.
These are all issues that demand our attention in light of the experience of Ukrainian Canadians. Should the bill pass, these are all issues that might be addressed in the kind of educational work that would be undertaken.
Canadians rightly take pride in the multicultural nature of our society. At the same time we recognize that we have not always treated all groups equally. We must not forget the Japanese internment during World War II, for which an apology has been made and redress has been negotiated.
We must not forget the experience of Chinese Canadians who were forced to pay a head tax and were subjected to the Asian Exclusion Act. I hope that Parliament will soon address the matter of redress for those who paid the Chinese head tax. Justice must finally be done for Chinese Canadians as well.
We have seen the War Measures Act used against our citizens in other troubling ways in 1970.
I understand that there is only one Ukrainian Canadian who was detained and is still alive today. Mary Manko Haskett was detained at the Spirit Lake internment camp in Quebec. I was moved by a plea written by her in 1994. One of the things she wrote about was how Spirit Lake camp no longer appeared on maps of Canada. She was unable to show her children and grandchildren where it was on a map of Canada.
At the same time Mrs. Haskett was in detention, another Ukrainian Canadian was fighting in Europe as a member of the Canadian armed forces. Philip Konowal was born in Ukraine in 1887 and immigrated to Canada in 1913. In August 1917 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during battle in France. Mr. Konowal returned to Canada and became an employee of the House of Commons, where he served until his death in 1959. Commemorative plaques honouring Mr. Konowal can be found here in Ottawa, Toronto and New Westminster, B.C. It is indeed ironic that while so many Ukrainian Canadians were being held in internment camps here in Canada, Mr. Konowal was distinguishing himself as an outstanding member of Canada's armed forces in Europe.
We have a choice. We can allow our collective memory to fade about the internment of Canadians, becoming like the map that no longer shows the location of Spirit Lake camp, or we can remember and celebrate the many contributions of Ukrainian Canadians to our country, people like Mr. Konowal.
We must take steps to ensure that this troubling part of our history is remembered, that restitution is made, and that through remembering and rededicating ourselves to ensuring basic human rights for all Canadians, that it is not repeated. That is how I understand the goals of Bill C-331.
I am pleased to reiterate the NDPs support for the bill. We were committed to the bill's previous incarnation in the 37th Parliament. As well, we made our support for redress for Ukrainian Canadians imprisoned during World War I very clear during the recent federal election campaign.
We believe that Parliament and the government should act now to acknowledge and preserve the memory of this and other shameful incidents in our history. Let us ensure that this unfortunate episode is not repeated, that no other ethnic or religious minority ever suffers as Ukrainian Canadians once did. As we do so, let us celebrate the many contributions of Ukrainian Canadians to our country.
In recent weeks members of the House and indeed people all across Canada and around the world have been following events in Ukraine very closely. We have expressed our concerns and our hopes about fair elections and democracy in Ukraine. This legislation gives us the chance to show Canadians and people around the world that we as a nation can face up to the challenges and shortcomings of our own history and that we seek to ensure that justice, equality and freedom are enjoyed by all Canadians.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to take part in this very important debate on the bill proposed by the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
I want to thank him personally for allowing me to represent the Conservative Party in this debate and also to commend him for the passionate advocacy that he brings to this issue and many others. I see him, as do his constituents, as one of the most diligent and conscientious members of the House.
The bill is really about correcting an historic injustice. Clearly, the issue of restitution and redress is part and parcel of how we do that. We will never be able to dial back the clock and somehow give back the lives, the possessions, the lost time and interests that individuals of Ukrainian descent suffered at the hands of a Canadian government.
I find something quite ironic, as mentioned by other members who have spoken eloquently on this issue, At this very moment in Ukraine we are seeing such strife and turmoil and an historic sea of change taking place in that country. The landmark decision to rerun its election bodes well for the future, and I am very confident.
I take this opportunity to congratulate those men and women from Canada who will participate in that process and add to the success of future democratic institutions in the Ukraine.
At the core of democracy, should sit freedom, and the expression of our will to recognize the wrongs of the past. What matters most in the debate is the fact that we are standing ready to recognize the injustice of what was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and persons of other European descent during the first world war. The bill is a great first step in addressing the considerations of a generation of Ukrainians who were made to sacrifice through no fault of their own. Only by virtue of their homeland, their country of descent, were they stigmatized and removed from Canadian society at that time.
Canadians, with justification, take great pride in their country, as a land of cultural diversity. We measure our success based on the interpretation of our citizens, our allies and the global community as a whole. As a multicultural society where freedom of speech does not hinge on one's ethnicity, we know that we are regarded as one of the best countries in the world in which to live. Yet it is something we should never take for granted.
As we have seen throughout our history, there have been dark days in this country. There has been reference made to the internment of Japanese and Canadian persons of Chinese descent. Within our country's history, we have sadly seen people fleeing their home because of severe oppression that was brought to bear and boat loads of refugees from Germany of Jewish descent who were turned back during the second world war.
This I believe is in that category. This is another dark chapter of Canadian history that sadly is a blank chapter. It is not written.
As my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette has indicated, much of what we are doing in this exercise is simply setting the record straight or putting in place at least a recognition of what did happen. We cannot start to heal if we continue to cover this up. This situation, as it occurred, did not happen overnight. It was a long process. It was something that was then put to one side, and for generations there was an attempt made to simply forget it.
However, my colleague's motion is not without precedent. In the past, the government has taken action to right the wrongs of previous injustices. We have seen this with Japanese Canadians and their internment. There is a very real precedent that we can look to, the loss of property that they suffered during the second world war. The Conservative government of the day took the opportunity to do the right thing. I would suggest that this is very much at the root of what the bill is about: simply doing what is right in addressing this.
Unlike previous matters of recognition, the motion does not call for a specific monetary redress to individuals or families who suffered the fate, albeit perhaps justified. Rather the bill calls upon the government to return what was unjustly taken and to make restitution in the form of educational materials, dealing with Canada's past internment policies and activities.
I am told that he removal or the confiscation of personal items was somewhere in the range of millions of dollars. It included farm implements and personal items of great sentimental value that could never be replaced. Those who were interned were forced to work unpaid labour, something again that was highlighted and which was not even inflicted upon prisoners of war.
Within our country, we like to embrace the fact that we are a tolerant society, that we have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect the rights of minority groups within our boundaries. Yet at that time those protections clearly did not exist. During the war between the years 1914 and 1920 the Government of Canada unjustly confiscated untold dollars and property from Ukrainians and other Europeans. That money was never returned. The bill would see the government at least return a contemporary value of what would be applied to the various educational projects through this incentive to have a commemorative and educational project recognizing this historic injustice.
I am reminded that the War Times Election Act disenfranchised 140,000 Ukrainians of their vote, another element to this which dehumanized Ukrainians of that era.
My colleague from the NDP referenced the name of Philip Konowal, a Victoria Cross recipient who, as a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, fought in the battlefields of Europe for which he was recognized with the highest military honour. What perverse and sad irony that he would return to his country only to toil for years here in the House of Commons, having served the country in such a substantive way. and only to see his countrymen of Ukrainian descent interned in our country. In many cases they were taken away from their homes to several provinces, thousands of miles away, to be interned.
I believe it is very important to recognize that the bill would benefit the country as a whole. There can be no substitute for education. If we are to avoid the failures of the past and if we are to avoid those same failures in the future, we must take lessons from what occurred, not only recognizing the injustice of those of Ukrainian and European descent, but through the construction of a permanent museum in Banff National Park, a permanent fixture in which future generations could learn from those mistakes. We would be sending a message of tolerance and understanding to those future generations.
From experience that has been passed on to me by my grandfather, who met some of these same Ukrainians when they came through Pier 21 in Halifax to work in the forests of Nova Scotia, many of whom continued across the country and helped to populate the west, Ukrainians were among the most hard-working, dedicated and industrious of Canadians of that generation. Again, simply recognizing what took place is a giant step forward in restoring the dignity of the families of those Ukrainians who were interned.
The bill, specifically clause 2(1)(a), calls upon the government to erect these plaques at concentration camps, which currently do not support those insignias, describing the events which occurred and the regrets of present day Canadians. These plaques would be of course in both official languages as well as Ukrainian. At the gateway to North America, I referenced Pier 21, which would be an appropriate place to commemorate these injustices.
I know the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette also hails from a region that is rich in those cultural differences. Through his hard work and perseverance, he has brought the bill forward a number of times. It has also been noted that the bill appeared as a motion by the current Speaker of the House of Commons in 1991. In Canada's Ukrainians: Negotiating an Identity is a chapter entitled “Peopling the Prairies”. As the member will know, this is exactly what the Ukrainians did. As they immigrated to Canada, they settled in Manitoba, in constituencies like Dauphin, Shoal Lake, Cook's Creek and Whitemouth, to name but a few, and travelled to larger urban centres. The vast majority stayed and worked on the land. Without those settlers, Canada would not be the country it is today.
All members should be quick to embrace the bill that brings about a historic address and redress of this injustice. The Conservative Party as well represents the face of Canada with the diversity of members of Parliament within our caucus. We are very supportive of our colleague's effort. The bill would go a long way in answering the unjust practice of interning Ukrainians and other Europeans. I am proud to stand in support of my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette and his efforts to bring about this historic redress and historic healing that the bill represents. I would ask all members to similarly support this effort.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx): The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.