The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Chuck Strahl): It being 4:30 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
The House resumed from December 7, 2004, consideration of the motion 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.
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the House for allowing me to speak first on the debate this afternoon as I have a busy schedule. I also want to thank in particular the member for Kildonan--St. Paul who gave up her slot to allow me to speak first. I know she has done a lot of work on the bill and with the Ukrainian community and we are very much appreciative of her efforts.
I rise today to address an important and unfortunate chapter in Canadian history. I am pleased to give my support as a consequence to Bill C-331.
Bill C-331 is an act to recognize he injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the first world war. The bill would provide for public commemoration and for redress devoted to public education and the promotion of tolerance.
Allow me to begin by first recognizing the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and in particular Professor Lubomyr Luciuk for their tireless efforts to promote awareness of the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during the first world war. Without their efforts, we would likely not be having this kind of debate in Parliament today. Unfortunately, without their advocacy this chapter of Canadian history would already have been largely forgotten.
I would like to thank my colleague, the Conservative member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette, for presenting this bill and for bearing the torch for a long time for redress of this historic wrong. His leadership has been critical in working to finally close this painful chapter of Canadian history for the descendants of those Canadians who were unjustly interned several decades ago.
Between 1914 and 1920 Canada witnessed its first internment operations under the War Measures Act. Thousands of loyal Canadians were systematically arrested and interned in 24 camps throughout the country simply because of their national origin. Nearly 9,000 Canadians were interned, the vast majority of Ukrainian origin.
At the outset of the first world war, western Ukraine was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian empire and Canada was of course at war with Austria-Hungary. In the midst of wartime hysteria, everyone with a connection to Austria-Hungary was deemed a threat to our country. Often of course this was simply incorrect. Ironically, in this case many thousands of Ukrainian Canadians had actually fled the occupying power in their homeland. A knowledgeable assessment of the situation could have led to only one conclusion: these refugees of Canada's wartime enemy were not enemies of Canada. They were new, loyal British subjects and allies of our wartime cause.
In fact, in 1915, I should mention that the British foreign office twice instructed Ottawa to grant Ukrainians “preferential treatment”, arguing that they were to be considered “friendly aliens” rather than “enemy aliens”. Yet the federal government of the time simply would not listen and would not change course.
Moreover, many of those interned were not just naturalized British subjects. They were truly Canadians. They were born in Canada, but bearing the wrong last name or the wrong parentage because in this case even children were interned.
Throughout the internment operation the civilian internees were transported to Canada's frontier hinterlands where they were forced to perform hard labour under trying circumstances. Some sites that we all know well today, including Banff and Jasper national parks and the experimental farms at Kapuskasing, were first developed by this pool of forced labour. Again ironically, as Ukrainian Canadians were being interned for having been unfortunate enough to enter this country with Austro-Hungarian passports, other Ukrainian Canadians who had entered Canada on different foreign documents were serving Canada loyally in overseas battle.
Let us not forget Ukrainian-Canadian war veteran Philip Konowal, who was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V for his brave wartime service. He was a Ukrainian Canadian honoured, while at the very same time his fellow neighbours and descendants of Ukraine were wondering why they had chosen Canada to be their new home while they were being interned.
We know we cannot rewrite history. That is not the exercise today. We cannot change the fact that an injustice occurred. Frankly, only those who carried out an injustice can truly be held accountable. Only those who themselves suffered injustice can ever properly be compensated.
However as heirs of our society and its institutions we can acknowledge injustice. We can appreciate the lessons of history and we can make amends where appropriate in our own time. It is in my judgment time to make amends.
If Bill C-331 is allowed to pass, it will be the first official acknowledgement that Canada's treatment of Ukrainian Canadians during the first world war was wrong. It will be the first time that a promise made many times by many Canadian political leaders will be kept.
Former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, had repeatedly promised to officially recognize the internment operations but he failed to deliver while in office.
Former heritage minister, Sheila Copps, made a similar promise to give official recognition to this historical injustice but also failed to act once elected to the government benches. It is time to simply put this matter to rest.
By passing Bill C-331, we will finally take a step to acknowledge the injustice of the past, an injustice that would never be allowed to be committed today in this great country which reveres our freedoms and the rule of law.
So far the Ukrainian Canadian community has placed memorial plaques at almost all of the internment sites except for five to remind Canadians of what happened at these locations so that this sad chapter of our history may never be repeated.
Many official documents and archival files were destroyed in the early 1950s but slowly material has been researched and is resurfacing once again. We give thanks to many academics of Ukrainian Canadian heritage who have resolved to keep alive our collective memory of these historical events.
However we should go further. We should officially recognize these events as a historical wrong.
The last remaining survivor of these internment operations, Mary Haskett, is still alive. She will be turning 97 this summer. I sincerely hope that she will live to see an official reconciliation of this past injustice.
On behalf of the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette and all members of the Conservative Party, I certainly urge my colleagues in the House to join me in support of Bill C-331.
Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-331, which is intended to redress an intolerable injustice done to a community which, over the years, has contributed to Canada's cultural, social and economic development.
This is a bill 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.
It is important we remember today that this is not the first time this House has discussed the importance of recognition and restitution for the Ukrainian community. I would remind the House that in September 1991 this Parliament debated a motion made by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who wanted to recognize that internment, removal of the right to vote, and other repressive measures taken against Ukrainian-Canadians between 1914 and 1920 were unjustified and contrary to the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moreover, that motion proposed to direct Parks Canada to erect commemorative plaques in each of the 26 concentration camps where Ukrainians were interned.
The purpose of this bill, therefore, is to go beyond that. Canada must acknowledge this major historical error, but not just with simple commemorative plaques in public places. These events, which are intolerable and unacceptable to us all, must be properly acknowledged. We must also dare to go still further by providing for a compensation package so that the public can come to know of these events and their consequences, which in today's context would have been contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
People need to understand, to feel, to consider that these people, who came here and were welcomed with open arms 10 or 20 years before World War I, were treated unfairly and inhumanely, not just during the war years, but up until 1920. How could we allow that? These people—more than 5,000 of them—had come to Canada to escape the unbearable situation in which they had been living. They came here in search of a breath of fresh air and respect for their rights. They were interned in more than 26 labour camps, where they were treated, purely and simply, like animals. They were considered enemies, aliens, because two Ukrainian territories were under the Austro-Hungarian empire. Is that any way to treat a people? Because Canada considered Austria an enemy at that time, these people were penalized, and their freedom was not respected.
Today we are considering a bill that would mark the events experienced by this community and set up—we hope—a plan for restitution that would help better inform the public.
In addition to imprisoning these people in inhumane conditions, where forced labour, curfews, confinement and internment were the norm, and rather than give them the freedom they were entitled to and came looking for in Canada, we forced them to live in unacceptable living conditions.
This was not limited to these imprisoned individuals. In fact, more than 88,000 Ukrainians who were not imprisoned had to report to the police. They had to follow a certain number of directives such as reporting regularly, as in a true police state.
In a democracy, this type of approach is totally unacceptable. Individuals' right to freedom was denied at the time. Today this Parliament, by taking matters further than in the motion tabled in 1991, is offering restitution through a legislative measure and a bill, which we are proud to support.
Why were these people imprisoned? Were they a threat to national security? No. Because the land of these people was unfortunately part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, their freedom was violated, nothing less.
Today, we must unequivocally support this bill to correct a past mistake.
I will conclude by saying that Canada, today, has to live up to the ideals it defends. It has to be able to recognize when it has made mistakes that go against these ideals. History must be given every opportunity to not repeat itself. We have a fine opportunity here today. It is a start. Recognizing past mistakes is a way of facing the future in all fairness and serenity.
Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to speak to Bill C-331, a private member's bill that seeks to recognize the injustices that were done to persons of Ukrainian descent at the time of the first world war.
Let me begin by congratulating the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for the work he has done to bring the issue of internment of Ukrainian Canadians to the House. The bill underscores the need to publicly commemorate this tragic event through public education initiatives so as to lead to an atonement.
I love Canada and believe that Canada is unique internationally. The Canada that I have known for the last number of decades has been a shining example of multiculturalism. We do not just tolerate our differences; we celebrate the people and cultures that make up our national mosaic.
I mentioned that I rose with a heavy heart. It is because I also know that to make our Canada an even greater country, we must have the courage to acknowledge the dark episodes of our country's past.
While some would have preferred to sweep the tragic episode of the internment operations from 1914 to 1920 into the dustbin of history, the Ukrainian Canadian community remembers, and through public acknowledgement by the government seeks to bring closure to a painful episode in our common history.
We should congratulate the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association in their determination to make sure that there is a proper acknowledgement.
In the decades following Canada's Confederation, thousands of Ukrainians were encouraged to leave their homeland and embark on an arduous journey that took them to some of the most remote parts of western Canada. These settlers faced very harsh living conditions under isolated circumstances with little in the way of support. Yet their desire for freedom and a better future for their children and grandchildren sustained them during these very difficult pioneering years.
Out of the wilderness of Canada's west they carved golden wheat fields as far as the eyes could see. Yet despite having built Canada's west and despite having been a counterbalance to the expansionist intents of settlers from the United States, Ukrainian Canadians experienced prejudice and racism in their new homeland.
With the outbreak of World War I, this prejudice and racism was fanned into xenophobia culminating in the implementation of the War Measures Act as a result of an order in council by the Canadian government. Some 8,579 so-called enemy aliens, of which over 5,000 were Ukrainians who had emigrated to Canada from the Austro-Hungarian empire, were interned.
These internees, which in many cases included women and children, were not only disenfranchised, but their homes and homesteads were taken away from them. They were sent to processing centres for internment and then sent to work camps to live behind barbed wires.
In addition to this internment, some 80,000 Canadian citizens, of which the vast majority were Ukrainian, were obliged to register as enemy aliens and then required to report to local authorities on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the internees were used as forced labourers to develop our nation's infrastructure. They were used to build Banff National Park, the logging industry in northern Ontario and Quebec, the steel mills in Ontario and Nova Scotia and the mines in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. This infrastructure development program benefited Canadian corporations to such a degree that even after the end of World War I, for two more years the Canadian government carried on the internment and the forced labour.
From 1914 to 1920, a breaking of the trust between the government and its own citizens took place in Canada. It was called internment. Politicians and leading Canadians took an active role in its justification by feeding the dark side of human nature: fear of different cultures, prejudice and xenophobia.
In this tragic case, the victims were pioneers who were encouraged to leave their homeland to help build Canada. It is an example of the terrible human cost paid when xenophobia and racism are fuelled by international threats and are unchecked by legislation.
Today, notwithstanding the existence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, processes such as denaturalization and deportation show the vulnerability of individual rights when government succumbs to ignorance and fear.
As the grandson and son of Ukrainian immigrants, I have a particular appreciation for the significance of the member's bill. I view the bill as part of the process to ensure that this historical wrong is righted through an honourable acknowledgement.
After 85 years it is high time that the internment operations against Ukrainian Canadians be properly addressed by the instalment and maintenance of 24 memorial plaques at 24 internment camps across Canada, and by the establishment of a permanent museum at the site of the internment camp in Banff National Park. This museum should provide educational information on the operation of the internment camps across Canada and the role of Ukrainian Canadians as one of western Canada's founding peoples.
As well, the minister responsible for Canada Post should engage the corporation to issue a set of stamps to commemorate the contribution of Ukrainian Canadians in building this great country.
Finally, resources should be set aside to establish educational projects. Such projects should be agreed to by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Government of Canada.
I believe that there now is the will in the House for a reconciliation to which the bill speaks. I am optimistic and look forward to the day when the Government of Canada and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress begin the negotiation process so that present and future generations of Canadians will be afforded the opportunity to learn from this tragic episode in our history.
May a complete knowledge of our past help this and future generations in our collective enterprise of building an even stronger multicultural Canada, a celebratory mosaic of peoples which the rest of the world will look to as an example of what a society can achieve.
It is and always has been my firm belief that a few friendly amendments to the wording of Bill C-331 would ensure that this long overdue legislation can and will be supported unanimously by all parties and all members of the House. I look forward to working hard to achieve this goal with the Ukrainian Canadian community and the bill's author, whom I would like to congratulate once again on his determination in bringing the bill forward.
The time for a reconciliation has arrived.
Mrs. Joy Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House of Commons to speak to Bill C-331, the Ukrainian Canadian recognition and restitution act. This bill has been brought forth due to the determination and the stick-to-it-iveness of the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette.
Sometimes in our history mistakes are made. Dare I say we cannot rewrite history, as the leader of the official opposition just pointed out, but what we can do is recognize a wrongdoing and give it the kind of recognition it deserves.
From 1997 to 2001 the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette consulted on this bill. As the previous speakers have said, the purpose of this enactment is to provide for redress for the injustice done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans during the first world war, to commemorate this sad event in Canadian history, and to provide for restitution. Restitution is to be devoted to educational materials dealing with Canada's past internment policies and activities and to promote tolerance and the role of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On April 1, 2001 this bill was introduced by the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette. In the course of time the bill died on the order paper, but the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette had so much conviction about what should be done that it was reintroduced on November 18, 2002. Once again this very important bill died on the order paper. What had happened to Ukrainian Canadians was something that really touched the heart of the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette, so once again on October 12, 2004 the bill was reintroduced.
We have to note it is seldom that a member of Parliament takes so much time and makes so much of a commitment to reintroduce a bill. However, the member has done so because he has so much conviction that the Ukrainian Canadian people need to have redress on this particular issue.
As members have said before me, with the outbreak of World War I, the War Measures Act in 1914 was implemented through an order in council by the Canadian government. This resulted in the internment of 8,579 people. They were termed enemy aliens. They included over 5,000 Ukrainians who had immigrated to Canada from territories under the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The internees were used as forced labourers to develop Canadian infrastructure. They were used to develop Banff National Park, the logging industry in northern Ontario and Quebec, the steel mills in Ontario and Nova Scotia and the mines in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The infrastructure development program benefited Canadian corporations. There was no doubt about it. The terrible thing about this was that the internment was carried on for two years after the end of World War I. This was a sad day in our Canadian history.
The member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette was determined to make sure that the Ukrainian Canadian family of people who immigrated to our country was recognized not only for their contributions but also that the internment was something that should never have happened.
These wonderful people, who have been a foundation of our country and who have done many things to help Canada, should not have had to endure this internment. As other members have said, we cannot redo history. It happened and and it is time to address it and recognize the people of Ukrainian extraction, the people who helped build this country.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have done much to bring this issue to the forefront. In fact, to some degree the Mulroney government made promises of support. Even as early as 1993 the leader of the opposition, Jean Chrétien, said that he would do something to address this issue. It has been 11 years since that promise was made and Ukrainian Canadians are still waiting for acknowledgment of these injustices.
I am proud to stand in the House of Commons today to bring recognition and honour to the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette because this is what our Canadian Parliament is all about. He has been a champion for Ukrainian Canadians. He has also been a member of Parliament who has really touched the hearts of all Canadians because all Canadians now at this time, years after this happened, feel that this is a sad day in Canadian history.
The Government of Canada during that time unjustly confiscated money and property from Ukrainians and other Europeans, money that was never returned.
In Bill C-331, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette asks that the contemporary value be applied to various educational and commemorative projects for the benefit of all Canadians. No restitution will be made to individuals but rather the money will be put to laying the foundation of history so something like this can never happen again on Canadian soil.
Memorial plaques have been and are being installed in the 24 concentration camps in which persons of Ukrainian or eastern European descent were interned during World War I. Some still do not have such plaques but these plaques describe the events of the time and the regrets of present day Canadians, written in Ukrainian, English and French. In our country all can read this, all can remember and all can learn from this sad day in history.
The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette also wanted to ensure that all memorial plaques at the concentration camp sites would be properly maintained. A lot of thought, a lot of stick-to-it-iveness and a lot of dedication has gone into the advent of this very important bill here in the House of Commons.
The bill also asks for the establishment of a permanent museum in Banff National Park at the site of the camp established there, again with signage in Ukrainian, English and French. This will provide information on the operation of all the concentration camps established in Canada at the time of World War I and the role that Ukrainian Canadians have played in the building of Canada since that time.
We have gone through a memorable year where the people of Ukraine have become the heroes of the world with their vote on December 26, 2004. We know the member for Etobicoke Centre was a real champion in that election. I think we need to acknowledge the heroes of our country. I have to give honour to the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette and thank him for his perseverance.
I know members on all sides of the House will put Bill C-331 through to honour and commemorate this event.
Hon. Paddy Torsney (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, Lib.): Madam Speaker, as a country, Canada represents a coming together of many peoples. As such, we have learned over time to respect and mutually accept each other. It is this fact that separates us from others and puts Canada on the world stage.
We have established a legal foundation, enshrined in our Constitution, that is aimed at ensuring Canadians are protected from racism and discrimination. We will continue, as a government, to work on these issues so that all Canadians have the opportunity to participate to their fullest potential. In fact, that is what this House has been debating all week.
At the same time, we are working to strengthen the bonds of shared citizenship to ensure the continuance of the strong and cohesive Canadian society that we have today.
The Government of Canada recognizes there have been dark moments in the history of this country. We have recognized that presenting a complete history is important in understanding who we are as Canadians, even if the history we have to tell includes times when we have strayed from our shared commitment to human justice.
The internment of Ukrainian Canadians and other Europeans during the first world war is one of those chapters in Canadian history that we as a people, as Canadians, are not proud of, even though the actions of the government of that day were legal at that time.
Our commitment as a government is to strengthen the fabric of Canada's multicultural society. We are committed to learning from the past. We are committed to acknowledging and commemorating the significant contributions to Canada made by our rich and various ethnoracial and ethnocultural groups, including of course Ukrainians.
The Department of Canadian Heritage and the cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio have made considerable efforts to ensure that the story of Ukrainians in Canada is known to all Canadians.
For example, Parks Canada, as one of the members opposite mentioned, while working under the heritage portfolio, worked closely with national and local Ukrainian Canadian groups to develop interpretive exhibits at Banff National Park, an exhibit I have seen, and at Yoho National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park. The exhibits help visitors and all Canadians understand the experiences, hardships and contributions of Ukrainian internees.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is providing funding to Ukrainian Canadian organizations to assist in documenting the experiences of Ukrainian internees and to underline the contribution of the Ukrainian community to our country.
Since the 1890s, when waves of Ukrainians helped to settle this vast land, Ukrainians have played an important role in Canada. An incredible number of Canadians of Ukrainian heritage have made extraordinary contributions to Canada, contributions of which all Canadians are very proud.
Wayne Gretzky, of course, is a star and international sports hero. Ed Werenich is a world champion in curling.
In the cultural sphere, all of us have adored artist William Kurelek's paintings and the work of violinist Steven Staryk.
In public life, Ramon Hnatyshyn and Roy Romanow have made us all proud.
Canada's first woman in space is Roberta Bondar. I was saying to one of my colleagues that I did not know she was of Ukrainian heritage.
To think of Ukrainian Canadians is also to recall Canada's war hero, Peter Dmytruk, who died for all of us on the battlefields of France in World War II.
As Canadians, we are proud to live in a country that recognizes the importance of diversity.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government pledged to pursue its objectives, “in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation”. We pledged “to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion” and “to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians”.
In line with these commitments, the government is now advancing a number of multicultural and anti-racism initiatives designed to cultivate an even more equitable and inclusive society. Bills like Bill C-38.
In our recent budget, we provided $5 million per year to the multiculturalism program to enhance its contributions to equality for all.
A comprehensive and effective multiculturalism program is important in our increasingly diverse country where by the year 2016 the proportion of visible minorities is expected to reach 20%.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government said that it would “strengthen Canada's ability to combat racism, hate speech and hate crimes”.
We will achieve that plan by investing $56 million over the next fives years to implement Canada's action plan against racism. Canada's action plan, which the government announced on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a day that all of us celebrated, will reinforce the government's ongoing commitment to eliminating racist behaviours and attitudes. It will strengthen partnerships between the Government of Canada and community organizations to combat racism and will advance our international and domestic objectives.
A society looking to its future cannot do so without acknowledging troubling events from Canada's past. Budget 2005 provided $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contributions that Ukrainians and other ethnocultural groups have made to our Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians of the strength of Canadian diversity.
With this funding the government is responding to demands from the community in a way that respects both the concerns of the communities and the government's 1994 policy on this issue.
Bill C-331 looks to the past for a solution. As a government we are looking to the future for all Canadians.
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Madam Speaker, I am glad to address Bill C-331. I want to thank my hon. colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for the great work that he has been doing in presenting this bill. He has a large constituency with Ukrainian Canadians, as I do. I am a person of Ukrainian descent and quite proud of my heritage.
I wish to give members a bit of background. During World War I the War Measures Act of 1914 was implemented which, by order in council, took over 8,500 enemy aliens and 5,000 of those were Canadians and stuck them into concentration camps. Essentially, these interns were turned into forced labourers, used in logging camps and in the development of our national transportation system, and were spread right across the country.
Many of these Ukrainian immigrants came from the area of Bukovyna in Ukraine that was being occupied at the time by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a very unfortunate event because these people had their property and cash assets all confiscated by the Government of Canada, along with some of these other Europeans, and never had those moneys and properties returned to them. It was a grave injustice that through this bill we now have the opportunity to correct.
In 1993 the former Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, when he was leader of the official opposition, promised to rectify the situation. It has been over 12 years since that promise was made. It is just another example of a Liberal promise made, Liberal promise broken. This is a great opportunity for us to address it.
I must say that our family was quite fortunate. My grandparents emigrated from Bukovyna actually as two separate families. My grandmother was only nine years old when she emigrated to Canada from Ukraine and my grandfather was a young man who came a few years later. They came in the early 1900s. Luckily, for whatever reasons, my grandfather immigrated in 1907 and was not put in one of these forced labour camps. He was not put into a concentration camp nor had his property confiscated. Luckily, the Ukrainian community where I grew up was untouched.
My father told me it was not until he was a young man that he even realized that this had happened because our community, for whatever reason even though the immigrants came from Bukovyna which was under the Austria-Hungarian Empire rule, seemed to have gone untouched. However, certain Ukrainian descent Canadians were forced into these camps which is very unfortunate.
I like the way this bill is being proposed by my hon. colleague. Essentially, we are not talking about restitution to families, but we are talking about taking a hard look at putting in place the proper memorials and recognition of the suffering that was unjustly caused by the Government of Canada.
There were 24 concentration camps across Canada. We want to ensure that there are plaques, memorials and cairns erected at those sites, particularly the ones that possibly have not been recognized yet. We do not want to just erect plaques and cairns, but we wish to maintain them. So often in rural Canada we have cairns set up, but no one bothers to take care of them after we get them erected. Pretty soon the flags are tattered and no one is there maintaining the sites. This is actually taking a long term approach at this proposal of recognizing the injustice and maintaining those sites.
The other great part is that it will set up a permanent museum in Banff National Park, the location of one of these concentration camps. Banff is such a high volume visitor area. It will give us an opportunity to show that in the past Canadians have made mistakes. It will give us an opportunity to tell about the injustice, to educate people about how the concentration camps operated, and to talk about what a great contribution those people made to the nation.
Through their forced labour, they helped develop our logging industry. They helped develop our transportation system. They worked hard on behalf of Canada. Amazingly, they came out of the concentration camps and became very functional people within our society, and made a huge contribution after the fact.
This is a general recognition of all Ukrainians in Canada in developing farming in the west, particularly with the mass immigration during the very early parts of the century, which of course included my ancestors. My great grandfather and my grandfather, with their families, started farming and that of course was a major contribution in ensuring that the Prairies were productive.
The other part of the bill is to ensure that there are proper ceremonies to recognize the opening of the museum, the erection of the different cairns and plaques, and to have those formal ceremonies. We also want to ensure the production of the educational materials, so that at the cairns, when they are having their ceremonies in the schools in the areas where these cairns are erected and of course in the main museum that is going to be established in Banff National Park, they will be able to tell the story.
One of the suggestions in the bill that I really like, which my hon. colleague has brought forward, is the issuance of a stamp or series of stamps to point out this unfortunate event in our history.
Finally, the part of the bill which is very important proposes that a review of the emergency act that we have be carried out by the department that is responsible for it. We must also review how that report comes to Parliament and how we ensure that an atrocity like this never happens again.
The great thing about history is that we can always learn from it. We can look at our past and learn about some of the shortfalls that have happened and about the mistakes that we have made to ensure that we put in place the proper corrective measures, so that we never do it again. This is a great chance for us to do that. The bill creates the initiative to ensure that we do it.
Finally, the bill is directly in line with the policies of the Conservative Party of Canada. Our party policy states that we will recognize and resolve the outstanding redress issues of the Ukrainian Canadian and Chinese Canadian communities. That particular policy can be attributed to the hard work of my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
This is a great opportunity to correct this injustice. It is good work. Duzhe dobre.
Mr. Lloyd St. Amand (Brant, Lib.): Madam Speaker, Canada's experience with diversity distinguishes it from most other countries. Our 30 million inhabitants reflect a cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup found nowhere else on earth. Over 200,000 immigrants annually from all parts of the globe continue to choose Canada, drawn by its quality of life and its reputation as an open, peaceful, and caring society that welcomes newcomers and values diversity.
Over time Canadian governments have reflected society's increasing willingness to accept differences within the population, specifically the legitimacy of the rights of all minorities to maintain their culture and traditions. Through our history, however, there have been instances of laws that would be considered regressive today.
Canada, in the years prior to World War I, witnessed a heavy immigration from eastern Europe. When war broke out, the country faced a serious problem: what to do with recent immigrants who were citizens of the very countries with which Canada was at war? This problem became most acute in 1914 when German and Austro-Hungarian nationals, resident in Canada, were called upon by their respective governments to return home to honour their military draft obligations.
According to some historians, over 8,000 individuals were interned in approximately two dozen camps under orders made pursuant to the War Measures Act. The internees were composed of a mix of nationalities, including Turkish, Bulgarian, German and Austro-Hungarian. The largest number were from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included Croatians, Czechs, Poles, Serbians and other Europeans. The numbers also included approximately 5,000 Ukrainians out of an estimated population of about 171,000 of Ukrainian origin in Canada at that time.
From the beginning, internees were treated as prisoners of war and, in keeping with the terms of the Hague Convention of 1907, received the same standards of food, clothing and accommodations as Canadian soldiers. It is estimated that by the end of the war, in 1918, there were only three internment camps remaining in operation, the last of which officially closed in February 1920.
In 1994 the hon. Sheila Finestone, then minister of state for multiculturalism and status of women, stated in this very House:
Canada in 2005 is a very different Canada. Tremendous steps have been taken toward making our country a better place. We have worked and will continue working with Ukrainian Canadians and other communities to document their history and experiences through a range of commemorative projects, including films, books and exhibits, that enable them to tell their stories to other Canadians.
Finally, the Ukrainian community has helped to shape the strong multicultural society we are today. I and all members of Parliament honour the contribution that individuals of Ukrainian descent have made in the building of Canada. I recognize that this contribution was made even in the face of dark moments and great hardship. We need to find an acceptable way to highlight and educate Canadians about this valuable contribution.
Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC): Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to stand and thank all members who spoke on Bill C-331, both at the first hour of reading as well as this evening at the second hour.
I thank members of the Bloc as well as members of the NDP for their continued support as well as the leader of the official opposition for his intervention this evening. I also thank the Ukrainian community for the 20 years of commitment it has given to ensuring that redress continues. In essence, this is their bill.
Bill C-331 was crafted in consultation with both the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress as well as the Ukrainian-Canadian Civil Liberties Association. My intervention has been very brief. It has only been about seven years and their's has been over two decades. Hopefully, this is the year that we will all bring this to fruition.
I begin by briefly stating that there are two targets to the principle of the bill. First is to acknowledge the internment component of our Canadian history, which is totally missing in Canada's history. It has been hidden all these years. It is long overdue. Canada cannot be shameful of its past. It must learn from its past, but first it has to acknowledge its past. It has to acknowledge the hurt and the harm it created for the people who suffered.
This occurred, as mentioned a number of times this evening, during the First World War, between 1914 and 1920, when over 5,000 Ukrainian-Canadians were interned. Internment is a kind word for prison camp. Over 80,000 Ukrainian-Canadians were asked to register like common criminals and report monthly to the police. It is almost unbelievable that an event of this nature would have happened in this country, a country that promotes freedom of speech and democracy, yet we treated our pioneers of Ukrainian descent in that manner. It is shameful. That is why their story has to be told.
That is in essence the purpose of Bill C-331, and there are two purposes. The first is to acknowledge the event. The second target of the bill is to ask the Liberal government of the day to sit down with the Ukrainian community and work out a resolution. As I said, this has gone on for over 20 years. There is no shortage of effort by many people in the country who want to resolve the issue.
The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, made a promise before he even became the prime minister. He said that he would deal with it. He has come and gone and the issue is not resolved. I am sure members of the current Liberal government have been lobbied over the last 10 years and the issue is still here. I know, Madam Speaker, that you made interventions and had a part to play in trying to resolve the issue and it did not happen. We have progressed somewhat but still have a long way to go.
Let me just make a couple of comments about the speaker's ruling on the bill. He stated that clause 3 would require a royal recommendation. That is not a problem. Let me also say that I met with the secretary of state to the minister responsible for multiculturalism and his staff. I also met with the legislative assistant for the minister of heritage to talk about how we can all help to get the bill through the House. I know Liberal members opposite are just as interested in being helpful rather than not being helpful, and I agree.
My position has been that too many of us for too long have waited. We need to work together to ensure that the bill gets through the House. That is why I encourage the members of the Liberal Party to vote for the bill when we return after the break, the first week of April.
My intent is to ensure that the bill will be streamlined so it will be acceptable to all members of the House. We all have big hearts and we need to deal with the issue today, not tomorrow.
The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine): It being 5:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine): Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)