Wednesday, May 15, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling the French version of the Environment Act.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a couple of legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Introductions of Bills?
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land transfers
Mr. Phelps: I saw the Minister for Community and Transportation Services today. He looked a little lost. Most of his important bills are through the House now, so I told him I would ask him a few questions so that he could keep his hand in.
The question I have for him pertains to land availability, which continues to be an issue, because there is not enough rural residential or agricultural land to meet demand. Can the Minister tell us whether or not there are any significant block land transfers, as opposed to spot land transfers, presently in the works?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: What the Member failed to tell the House in his preamble is that I pleaded with him to ask questions of the Premier.
In respect of land development, I am not aware of any block land transfers currently in progress. I say that very guardedly, because a couple of transfers that are required for development purposes around the communities may not have cleared previous block land transfer arrangements. One that comes to mind immediately is one in Dawson. In general, I am not aware of any significant new block land transfers; the process for land is still by spot transfers.
Mr. Phelps: As most Members know, the greatest pressure seems to be on the area surrounding Whitehorse, which happens to be Hootalinqua. With the Hootalinqua North Plan in limbo, as it has been for about three years, I am wondering if the government is accepting and processing any new agricultural or rural land applications in the Hootalinqua North region?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The land application process for the Hootalinqua North planning area has been in a freeze since, I believe, 1988, when the planning exercise was in a particular stage of development. It comes to mind that there was an appeal by the steering group to address the issue of ongoing land applications while they were engaged in a planning study. So, specifically in Hootalinqua North, it is my knowledge and understanding that the current status quo is that new applications are on freeze. However, that does not mean that applications that were in place prior to the freeze are not progressing. They are proceeding through the review process and clearing title as appropriate.
Mr. Phelps: Given the controversy surrounding the homestead policy developments, particularly in regard to the standards of roads, can the Minister tell us whether or not there are any changes to the homestead policy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am almost hesitant to respond as to whether there even is a homestead policy. May I advise the Member that the homestead policy is currently under review. It exists in its original policy form, however, given the number of questions that have been raised over the past couple of years with respect to standards of roads, sizes of lots, process of construction prior to release of title, we are reviewing the policy in its entirety now.
Question re: Land transfers
Mr. Phelps: With regard to the area south of Whitehorse and, in particular, the area that is now under the new hamlet of Mount Lorne, what is the government doing in that area? In 1988, there was a residential infill study prepared for the government, which identified certain residential lots that would be suitable for sale to the public. Were the lots identified in the study made available and sold to the public?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It seems to me that the infill study identified something in the order of a dozen potential sites, where rural-residential land could be made available. It is my understanding that we are actively bringing those developments onstream, at least in several locations. I cannot advise the Member whether any have been released since 1988, although I can say that we are aware of the study and the request by the people in the area to infill, as opposed to creating new developments.
The Member should also be aware that the rural-residential land program requires some eight hectares of land to be made available for that purpose. On that basis, and on those available infill sites, we are proceeding. To my knowledge, however, we have not released any, but they should be coming forward shortly.
Mr. Phelps: As the Minister is no doubt aware, there is concern among the elected officials of the hamlet that people are trying to obtain residential land by circumventing the infill lot process and applying for agricultural parcels. This is something that concerns the hamlet; they have written the Minister and sent a copy of the letter to me. I wonder if the Minister would make a commitment to review the situation in the area south of Whitehorse and try to come up with a policy to make some more infill rural-residential lots available as opposed to agricultural parcels?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has sought a commitment to address the general problem, and he has that commitment. I have seen the letter from the hamlet council; I am aware of the pressing desire by residents of the area to see more land available for residential purposes. I do not think we have to address it from the point of view of acquiring new land; I think we can address it from the point of view of speeding up the available infill land that has been earmarked for development. Certainly, in that respect, the Member has my commitment to address the problem expeditiously.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister make every effort to have the remaining 12 lots that were identified in the 1988 study available for sale to the public this year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not think that I can make the commitment that all of them will be available this year. I can certainly make the commitment that some of them will be. I say that only because I am aware that a number of the lots have had various levels of investigation surrounding them in preparation for their release. This level of investigation includes: access to the lots must be adequate; land use planning matters have to be adequately addressed; proper consultation has to be done; third-party interests have to be recognized and dealt with.
That is the process that a number of the lots are going through now. I am confident that with a bit of nudging we can certainly see some of those lots come forward this year.
As for the entire group of lots that were identified, some of them will take longer than this year.
Question re: Fetal alchohol syndrome
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. It is with respect to the fetal alcohol syndrome strategy of this government.
A working group investigating fetal alcohol syndrome in the Yukon was formed by the previous Minister of Health and Social Services. This group was to interview people in the communities who were interested in this issue, and also was to interview groups. There was an expectation that we would be hearing from that working group by now and that they would be coming forward with some recommendations.
Can the Minister tell us if anything has been finalized? Has this working group presented anything to the government with respect to what the next step should be?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member is quite right that there is a group working on a fetal alcohol syndrome report. Health and Social Services and Justice are the departments developing a comprehensive action plan to deal with FAS/FAE.
The preliminary research has been completed, and stakeholders will be asked for further input on a working paper. This strategy will be developed. That is where it is right now.
Mrs. Firth: The Deputy Ministers committee was expected to forward recommendations on the fetal alcohol syndrome action plan to Cabinet by the end of March. Can the Minister tell us whether or not that has been done? Has anyone else had access to any of those recommendations?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: No, the report has not yet been received. The research has involved talking to over 70 Yukon people and contacting Canadian and international sources for relevant information. YTG wants to do another round of consultations with Yukon people, once the preliminary research findings are released in a working paper.
The stakeholders who are involved are still talking about it.
Mrs. Firth: I think the stakeholders, as the Minister keeps referring to them, are interested in being more than just consulted. The recommendations are now one and one-half months late.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us when the recommendations are going to come forward, because the further consultation is not to take place until after the recommendations are received. We are still waiting to hear what those recommendations are for a fetal alcohol syndrome action plan.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I will get back to the Member with that information.
Question re: Elsa curling rink
Mr. Lang: I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It has to do with the outstanding issue of the Elsa curling rink, known, in some circles, as the Piers McDonald Memorial Curling Arena.
It came to our attention about a week ago that the MLA for the area had approached the community of Mayo with the proposition that the $1 million curling rink be dismantled and moved there. I understand that the Mayo council referred the request from the MLA for Mayo to the curling association in that community.
Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell us whether or not there has been a definitive decision taken by either the Mayo council or the curling club, or both, with respect to the dismantling of this brand new, $1 million building?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In direct response to the Members question, no, I cannot advise him that there has been any definitive decision.
Mr. Lang: I have to admit that it does trouble me that we have a brand new building worth $1 million and there has never, ever been a sheet of ice put into that particular facility, and now we are talking about dismantling it.
Could the Minister give us any cost estimates that he may have for what it would cost to dismantle the $1 million building and move it down to the community of Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I certainly cannot provide that kind of detail to the Member on my feet, but I can certainly undertake to provide such an estimate, should the information be required. I should note that the facility was constructed in good faith on behalf and for a community that was a highly productive community and a member of the Yukon communities in the Territory. No one could have predicted the shutdown at Elsa, and by the same token no one can calculate whether or not that community will re-open. We may well not have to be faced with a decision of relocating the facility, if that is a viable option. We may well have a full use for it in the community in due course, when it re-opens.
Mr. Lang: I guess this brings me to my next question. In view of the fact that the offer has been made to dismantle this building and move it to another community within the territory, it begs the question of whether or not the government has accepted the principle that the community of Elsa will never, ever be opened up again as we know it today.
I ask the Minister if the government has accepted the principle that United Keno Hill Mines, or I should say the new owners if they do open the mine, are not going to open it up as a community as far as families, et cetera are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The response to the question has to be incomplete. There is no way of forecasting precisely the nature of the community that may or may not be, should the current owners of the mine re-open the operation.
The Member is aware that approximately a year ago there was an intention to re-open the mine. In fact, leading up to last fall there was actual activity at the mine. There have been discussions with the new owners on the nature of the work force, and part of those discussions did include the option of using workers from the Mayo area.
Given that the current position of the owners is not to re-open, at least until we have better silver prices, it would be premature to try to make any final judgment about the use of the community.
Question re: Economic Development Agreement
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development regarding the recent Economic Development Agreements we have signed. Last year the Minister of Economic Development authorized a $50,000 grant to the Kwanlin Dun Band for the winding down of the Tagish Kwan Corporation. In real terms, the government used economic development money to help finance the bankruptcy. In my view, financing a bankruptcy is a long ways from creating economic development. I would like to know from the new Minister if he is maintaining the same policy as his predecessor in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member recognizes the peculiar circumstances that surrounded that particular contribution. Certainly, it is not a standing policy of the government to fund bankruptcies, but it is certainly the desire of the government to ensure that the best closure to an operation is available. From a policy point of view matters will be judged on a case-by-case basis, as they have been and as they will continue to be.
Mr. Phillips: There was nothing peculiar about it at all. It happens every day in Canada. Nowadays, there are bankruptcies left, right and centre, but other governments are not financing those types of bankruptcies, and this government is.
Have we financed any others, since the Kwanlin Dun fiasco?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Phillips: Have we provided any other funds for the Kwanlin Dun, or Tagish Kwan, since the initial $50,000 for a wind-down? If so, how much, when, and why did we do it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am really curious about what the Member is after, especially after the innuendo in his preamble. I sense, by innuendo, that there is something most inappropriate to assist a First Nation corporation. I will let the Member stand on his own in defence of that.
The issue of financing for the Tagish Kwan Corporation was dealt with in great detail in the past. I indicated to Members, in previous House debates, about our involvement relative to land acquisition. I filed full information in a legislative return on the subject. The Members are aware of the $50,000 just raised by the Member.
I have no knowledge of any additional funding being provided or to that corporation.
Question re: White River garbage dump
Mr. Brewster: In August, 1988, there was a dispute over who was responsible for the maintenance of the garbage dump in the White River area. The government argued that it was a private dump, even though the government itself was using the dump. Now, the government has ordered that this dump be closed, effective July 1.
Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell me what the private residents and the three highway lodges in the area, who presently use the dump, are supposed to do with their garbage?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to tell the Member that I am entirely unfamiliar with the specific issue he raises. Therefore, I will take notice of the question and provide him with any decision taken respecting the closure, forthwith.
I am not familiar with the issue, nor am I aware of the decision.
Mr. Brewster: That is not the main problem. Four or five departments are involved and the taxpayer is suffering as usual. I would like to know why the government maintains that it is a private dump when government truck No. 539 dumped three loads of bridging material at the site without asking permission from anybody?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Members assumption is correct, that is, that it is a private dump, and government vehicles were unloading garbage without permission, then the Member raises a very valid question and I will get an answer for him.
Mr. Brewster: All my questions are valid.
This has been going on for three years and I am a little tired of it. Would the Minister undertake to investigate this matter and come up with a realistic proposal for how the highway lodges and private residents can dispose of their garbage without being harassed by the government, before July 1?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can give the Member a full undertaking to address the problem he raises, as I generally do on all problems the Member raises, but I must tell the Member that the matter of providing dump sites is one we are having serious difficulty with. Part of the problem relates to a not-in-my-backyard syndrome, which prevents us from achieving, in consultation with residents of an area, the required consensus to locate those facilities. It is a problem - there is no question about that. One of the assignments I have given to my hazardous waste committee is to develop a policy respecting solid waste disposal and to lay out steps we would have to take to ensure we have such facilities in areas of the Yukon where they are required.
Question re: Alcoholism treatment
Mr. Nordling: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
On December 13, 1989, the Member for Old Crow, by way of motion, asked this House - in fact, she asked for the support of this government - to give us the tools we need to fight against alcohol abuse. I understand there are up to four-month delays now for people seeking alcohol treatment and virtually no treatment exists for youths.
I would like to ask the Minister why the delay and why has this government not provided the tools it promised in December of 1989?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: That seemed to be a two-part question. I am not quite sure; perhaps the Member would like to talk to the Member for Old Crow with respect to his concerns about that community.
In response to the questions concerning the delay or the backlog in people receiving appointments with alcohol and drug services, the Member is correct; there has been a considerable waiting list. I am told that we are in the process of hiring two auxiliary workers. They may even have been hired by now. I am told that that will ease the waiting list considerably.
Mr. Nordling: This has been an ongoing problem. We do not seem to be getting ahead at all with solving it. I remember the debate, well. The side opposite was advocating that we investigate prohibition. This side wanted to know if counselling services were adequate, especially counselling for the whole family.
What are we doing for young people who are hooked on alcohol and drugs?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: There are a number of programs through alcohol and drug services. One of the reasons why they have the need for auxiliary staff and why they have a waiting list is that they have initiated a number of programs for young people. They certainly have some family programs. Throughout the government, we have anger-management programs and various counselling programs that work with the whole person. Alcohol is not an isolated problem.
Mr. Nordling: I hope I am not hearing from the Minister that everything is okay.
In the debate in December of 1989, the former Minister of Health and Social Services spoke of recidivism going up and not down, and that there was an evaluation of alcohol and drug programs being undertaken.
I would like to know if that evaluation was completed and if the Minister has seen the results of that evaluation? If this evaluation has been completed, will the Minister make it available to the Members of this House?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I will take that question as notice.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation, chief financial officer
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. In a legislative return that was tabled last week, the Minister indicated that the Yukon Housing Corporation had paid in excess of $157,000 in less than one year to an accounting firm for handling some of the financial affairs of the corporation.
Does the Yukon Housing Corporation have such a poor reputation in the financial community that it takes one entire year to find a financial officer who will accept the job?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Members premise is somewhat off base. It certainly did take a considerable length of time to recruit a financial officer. It seems that the basic problem was the classification rate of the position. It has now been reclassified, which makes it attractive to people qualified to do the job. We have made an offer, and it has been accepted.
Mr. Devries: This position has been vacant for well over one year, as the Minister mentioned. We spent an additional $40,000 on recruitment. When was this position finally reclassified?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: If the Member wants the exact date, I will have to take it as notice, but it was since I became Minister.
Mr. Devries: In the return, the Minister indicated that having the accounting firm filling the position had led to overall savings in interest payments. Is the Minister actually saying that, if this position had been filled a year ago, a qualified person would not have been capable of getting the same deal as this highly paid accounting firm?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member is asking me to speculate on something that I cannot answer.
Question re: Workers Compensation, policy re injury on the job
Mr. Lang: I would like to ask a question of the Member responsible for the Public Service Commission. It has to do with a constituency problem that I have brought to his attention.
Very quickly, it involves an individual who has become disabled. I gave the particulars of the situation to the Minister a number of days ago. The area of concern that I have is not only for the constituent in question, but a question of policy that the Public Service Commission has in place to help those employees who are disabled while working for the Government of the Yukon Territory.
I want to ask the Minister if he has had time to find out whether or not there is a policy for job placement for individuals who have suffered misfortune, or the possibility of further training to see what other avenues of government positions may be available to the employee, in view of their disability.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for the question. I am aware of the case that the Member is referring to, and I have been in contact with the Public Service Commission to discuss the policy of the way the government, as a whole, deals with those employees who may be injured on the job.
As I have indicated in the past to the Member, I am not satisfied with the policy that is currently in place respecting job placements for those who are injured.
The policy, as it currently exists, is essentially one where there is an expectation that the Workers Compensation Board will consider the case and rule as to whether or not the accident is work-related. The Workers Compensation Board will decide whether or not there is a reason that the Workers Compensation Board should provide compensation to the individual.
Following a determination by the Compensation Board, the managers take whatever action they deem appropriate.
As I have indicated to the Member previously, I do believe it ought to be the case that the government has a policy in place that is more thorough and addresses the need to provide all reasonable, civilized alternatives to employees who are injured on the job, rather than simply casting their fortunes to the Workers Compensation Board or whatever else may happen depending on the circumstances of each case.
So I am reviewing that policy...
Speaker: Order please, would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay. I am reviewing that policy and I hope to be able to inform the Member shortly, as to the potential actions that we can take.
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister and I both agree that there is a lack of policy in place to cover an incident of this kind. The problem I am facing, with respect to the constituent in question is that, presently, as every day goes by, he is having a more difficult time paying the bills for himself and his family. It has become a very onerous situation for him and his family.
When could I expect a definitive response in respect to this case? It is important that this be dealt with expeditiously so that the situation the family is facing can be rectified, at least in part.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I have indicated before to the Member, the policy, as it currently stands, is that when a department is faced with an injured worker it makes the best effort at the departmental level to seek alternative work. There is no coordinated government strategy, and that is the matter to which I was referring.
With respect to this individual, I hope that within the next week or two I will be able to provide some positive news to the Member. I cannot promise that we will have a policy in place in the next week or two but, with respect to the efforts we are putting into this problem right now, they are directed at this individual, and we will try to resolve this individual case first, before we direct our energies to the overall policy.
Question re: Grants and loans
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. I wrote to the Minister back in March requesting information about the grants and loans that this government had given out; I requested various economic development capital programs as well. In a further telephone conversation at the end of April I was reassured that I would have the information at least a week ago and I still have not received that information. I wonder if the Minister could tell us if he is going to bring that information to the House or if I am going to get it privately? Did he forget about it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I beg the Members indulgence but occasionally I do forget things. I do remember the request of the Member. I do recall the discussion with respect to when the material would be available. The Member is probably correct that it is probably now past the time I committed to have it provided. Perhaps the Member will accept the undertaking that I will check on the information this afternoon and see that it is provided tomorrow or, if not, why not.
Mrs. Firth: That would be just great.
Question re: Haines Junction school renovations
Mr. Brewster: This question is for the Minister of Government Services regarding the renovations to the computer room in the school at Haines Junction. Why was this tender let out on an invitational basis only?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not familiar with the details of the situation the Member has raised. I will undertake to secure information about the reconstruction of the computer lab at St. Elias School. I do not know anything about it at this stage and I will undertake to find out.
Mr. Brewster: I have more. Why were the contractors in Haines Junction not asked to bid on this invitational tender?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have, for the first time, the joy of finding out what it is like to be the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and respond to questions from the Member for Kluane.
This, too, is a detail with which I am not familiar. I will undertake to secure the information for the Member. If the Member has the facts straight, I will undertake to respond to him as soon as I can.
Mr. Brewster: I usually have my facts straight before I talk.
Is this tender presently under review and, if so, will all contractors be able to bid on it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will undertake to investigate thoroughly the circumstances of the tendering process for this computer lab. I will ensure that the Members representation of the facts is as the department understands them to be, as well. When I have the information, I will communicate in some fashion with the Member so that he can be assured that I have done everything I can to provide him with whatever information he needs.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 57
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the Hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the national anthem, O Canada, should be sung by students in Yukon schools prior to the beginning of each school day.
Mr. Lang: The motion before you is brought to the House because of a number of incidents I have experienced lately and also because of the results of my investigations into what is taking place in a lot of our schools in the territory.
At the outset, I want to say that since this motion has been tabled, it is probably one of the most enthusiastically greeted initiatives I have taken for quite some time as an MLA.
I have had quite a number of calls from people who are very supportive of the idea and had heard, through the media, that such a motion had been tabled in the House. Also, quite a number of people have approached me during the day in this building or on the street and have said that they feel that the singing of our national anthem should be considered within our school system on a daily basis.
I also feel that one of the reasons for the enthusiasm in many parts of our community for the initiative is that we, as Canadians, are becoming very uneasy about the situation our country is in and where we are going in our relationship with Quebec and the rest of the country.
There are initiatives that we can take, from a regional point of view, to show our support for our country and try to instill some nationalism and patriotism within our community. I see this as a way of doing this: by discussing the singing of our national anthem, O Canada.
In researching the background of our national anthem, I came out with some interesting historical facts that I would like to share with all Members of the House. I took it upon myself to do some reading to see how our national anthem originated. There are some interesting historical facts about our national anthem. I do not know if all Members of the House are aware that the composition of the music was by a French Canadian by the name of Lavallee. The words were by another French Canadian, Judge Adolphe Blasile Routhier. This was back in 1880.
The words to O Canada were in French until 1908, when it was translated by an individual by the name of Robert Stanley Weir, a Montreal-based lawyer. That is how our national anthem originated.
As all Members are probably aware - since it happened in our lifetime - in 1967, O Canada formally became the national anthem of Canada with the passage of an act of Parliament.
I recognize that in the Yukon Territory, as in many other areas of Canada, the responsibility of deciding whether or not our national anthem should be sung in the schools, lies with the school boards or school councils. This is similar to the act that passed this House some time ago, which states in section 45: A school board or council may offer patriotic exercises to students in schools. I, for one, respect that responsibility.
I am bringing the motion forward to ask for an opinion of this House of whether or not we, collectively as a Legislature, agree that the singing of our national anthem, O Canada, should be held in our schools on a daily basis.
In order to actually implement this, the Minister of Education or the Speaker of the House could convey the feelings of our Legislature and see what kind of a response we get from our school councils throughout the territory.
I have had the opportunity to be in touch with quite a number of members of school councils as well as administrators. Without exception, the people I have spoken with feel that perhaps it is time that our national anthem is sung in the classrooms of all our schools.
Presently, in some schools in Whitehorse, depending upon the teacher, the national anthem is sung. That has been brought to my attention. Sometimes, our national anthem is sung in schools when general assemblies are held.
In researching the question of our national anthem and whether or not it was being sung in our schools, I was told by one administrator that when they do have an assembly, they have flash cards at the front of the assembly so that the students can read the words to our national anthem, because the students do not know the words. That is in a school that has kindergarten to grade 6.
It is interesting that the administrator conveyed that message to me. Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of a number of young teenagers, from the ages of 13 to 16. We were discussing our country, talking in general terms. I wanted to hear from these young people what they thought of their country.
Somehow, through the course of the conversation, we got on to our national anthem. Much to my surprise, a number of those young Canadians, from the ages of 13 to 16, did not know all the words to O Canada. I said to myself, We are failing. If our young people do not know all the words to our national anthem, how can they stand and speak of their country as a whole. Our national anthem and flag represent us as a collective whole, whether we come from the Yukon, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories or the Province of Manitoba.
I am conveying an incident that happened to me, which really brought home to me that, from a symbolic point of view, we, as Canadians, and society as a whole, are lacking.
A number of weeks later, I, as a parent, had the opportunity to go to a sports event held in Whitehorse. Because there were Americans present at that sports event, the national anthems of both countries were played.
During the course of playing the national anthem, there were a number of young athletes who totally ignored it and continued walking, paying no attention to what was going on.
I do not blame the young athletes involved where this occurred, but I, for one, was very upset. In fact, I stopped a number of them and said, You stand at attention. Of course, they did not sing the words to O Canada, but they did stand at attention when I brought them to a halt.
The point that I am making is that these young people did not know enough to stand at attention while our national anthem was being played.
All of us in this room have had the opportunity to attend functions such as hockey games, large gatherings and assemblies where we have heard our national anthem played. I speak as one participant within those assemblies when I say it is sad how we present ourselves as Canadians.
During that short period of time that is dedicated to our country, we witness people shuffling, speaking to one another, and we witness situations where young people did not even know enough to stand at attention. To me, it is a reflection of what we, as a society, see as Canada. I want to say that it troubles me, as a Canadian and an individual. There have been opportunities for myself and my family, which we would not have been provided with anywhere else in the world, neither in the magnitude, nor in how they were provided.
In my case, my father fought for our country and was prepared to give his life for our country. I think that we all know people within our society who have given a great deal for their country. In the past 15 or 20 years, unfortunately, we have lost our feeling toward our country, and our feeling of what we should think of our country, and I am not blaming any one individual for this.
In part, that is reflected from the point of view I stated earlier, that many of our young people do not even know the words to our national anthem.
Further, I had the opportunity, in the last couple of days, to travel around the community of Whitehorse during the school day. Some schools have our Canadian flags up, and some of them do not. Once again, I think that is symbolic of how we see our country on a daily basis. This is an area that is not included in the motion, but I feel that it should be incumbent that all our schools fly our national flag, as well as the Yukon flag, so that our young people are exposed to them on a daily basis, they know what they are and what they represent, and it also brings to them, on a daily basis, some thought of their country.
If this motion carries today, which I hope it does in the spirit in which I am presenting it, I hope the results would help, in our small way in the Yukon, to try and instill in our young people the importance of our country. I do not think that it is too much to ask of our young people, whether they be in kindergarten or Grade 12, to take a minute of the day to reflect on our country, how great our country is and how they can contribute to our country.
I feel strongly that, by singing our national anthem on a daily basis in our school system, it would do much to help ease the pressures and the conflicts in many parts of our country. In singing our national anthem, and making that symbolic gesture on a daily basis, it says, in part, not what I can take from my country, but what I can give to my country.
I think that at this time of crisis in our country, this type of symbolic step toward the collective whole of Canada could be the Yukons small step toward helping make our country a better place to live.
I want to close by saying to all Members that it is not my intention to preempt the responsibilities of the school boards or councils throughout the territory, recognizing the authority that is vested in them. I feel, however, that if there is an opinion expressed through this House that we feel, collectively, that the national anthem should be sung on a daily basis, most, if not all, of our school councils would take it upon themselves to see what they could do to implement it.
I have been in touch with a number of members of various school councils. They feel that perhaps it is a good idea. If the collective consensus of political will is demonstrated in the course of debate, we would see it implemented over a period of time. It would not only be very good for the young people, but also for the country as a whole.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are few things that can be calculated to elicit an emotional response more than a subject such as this. It causes us to think about nationalism, the country and what it means to be a patriot. It causes us to think about our country, our origins and roots and what our political and economic futures are.
The Member for Porter Creek East brought forward the motion, lamenting the fact that the national anthem is not well known to many Yukon children. He also suggested that it was a terrible thing that flash cards were needed in some schools to remind students of the words to our own anthem. I would submit that if the Members of this Legislature were to be asked right now to stand and sing the national anthem, flash cards would probably help them as well to allow them to participate in our national song.
If the Member is worried that the need for flash cards is something new or unique to Yukon schools, I can tell him that we had flash cards at a little school called Duncan McArthur Elementary in 1960 and, believe me, they were needed at that time. As a matter of fact, at that time we considered the national anthem to be God Save The Queen and, on special occasions, we sang Maple Leaf For Ever - partly because we did not know the words to O Canada and partly because the figure of the Queen was considered to be more a symbol of Canada at that time by the powers that be than any other single symbol. Consequently, we had large posters of the King and Queen looking down over the basketball boards and we all faced the Queen and sang to her good name when we had our school assemblies.
That goes to demonstrate that there has been a considerable evolution over the course of the past few years, perhaps the past few decades, respecting what the appropriate national symbol should be to recognize our country.
The Member who introduced the motion quite properly did a little research for us about the original composers and lyricists who put together the anthem, O Canada. He missed one little fact, which I thought was quite ironic. This was about the reasons for the development of this particular anthem, back in the mid-1800s. The first words were written by a French Canadian judge, Adolphe Routhier, who wrote a poem called O Canada. It was apparently written entirely in French. I have the words here for the Members, if they are eager to read them. I will not recite them, for fear I will inflict a lot of very bad French on the Assembly.
The composer, Calixa Lavallee, whom the Member mentioned, was asked to write the music for it in order to donate the piece to the St. Jean Baptiste Society. This is French Canadas patriotic organization. He picked the original words of O Canada, because it was such a beautiful poem, and he wrote the music for it. He then promptly left to fight in the American Civil War and, when he came back, he left Canada for good and moved to Boston.
The interesting point is that the song was first sung by a large choir at a public celebration in honour of St. Jean Baptiste Day, entirely in French. That fact condemned this particular anthem for many years in English Canada as being nothing more than a French Canadian folk song.
The English words were finally written in 1908. I cannot remember whether the Member mentioned that or not. I take it from the Member that the English lyrics were written in 1908. It was interesting that, at that time, the need was felt that the lyrics should be vetted by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire to try to rid this song of its original French Canadian connotations, so that it would be adopted as the national anthem.
The Prime Minister of Canada, just before World War II, Louis St. Laurent, said something that I will just quote briefly here, because it is properly illustrative of the thinking of the time: I would be very happy to approve what would be acceptable by the overwhelming majority of Canadians, but I am sure that you would agree that this song would not be agreeable to all.
It took until 1980 to make this song acceptable enough to be adopted by the country as its national anthem. That is probably why we were still singing to the Queen in 1960, and using Maple Leaf Forever as the alternative, in the schools that I attended at least.
The motion before us has a number of issues at stake, two of particular interest to me, respecting whether or not the national anthem should be sung in Yukon schools every day or in assemblies or whatever.
The Member, in his original motion and in his initial remarks, made it clear that he was not looking to rewrite the Education Act, which lays the responsibility for determining what sort of patriotic exercises should be observed in Yukon schools, to the local school councils.
That was the substance of most of my speech, because I wanted to tell the Member that I did not go through three to four years of consultation on the education system for nothing. We had, of course, in the past - and it hurts - just so the Members will all know...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As a matter of fact I did have a good barn-burning speech, but just so the Members will all know, the issue of patriotic exercise has been addressed extensively through the public consultation process for the Education Act. It was addressed in every public position paper that was put forward during the consultation process in the Education Act. The overwhelming response came back that, while the opinion was somewhat mixed as to whether or not the national anthem should be sung in schools, especially as to whether or not it should be sung everyday, or in assemblies, or what form content should be sung, the decision should be left to parents, who are charged with a great deal more responsibility in the management of the education system than they ever have been before.
The content of my speech was really to address the issue of respect for public consultation and to respect the basic philosophical underpinnings of the Education Act, which I feel passionately about.
I will not bore Members too much on that particular point. I would like to make it clear to the public who read this motion though, that I have been operating under the clear assumption - based on the reading of the motion - that the Legislature wished to mandate this ourselves, ignoring the public. I simply want to make it clear that the Education Act and the public debate leading up to the Education Act would remain respected by this Legislature.
I am intending to move a friendly amendment to that affect. I am certain that it will be considered a friendly amendment, given the Members own comments.
I have also prepared some analysis of what everybody in the country does respecting the observance of patriotic exercises. If any Member wishes to come to my office and seek information, I would be more than happy to provide it. It is certainly consistent with the Yukon Education Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Motion No. 57 be amended by deleting all the words after the words Yukon schools and substituting for them the words in accordance with section 45 of the Education Act.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education
THAT Motion No. 57 be amended by deleting all the words after the words Yukon schools and substituting for them the words in accordance with section 45 of the Education Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the amendment itself is self-explanatory. I say in defence of some of the schools that the Member has cited as not being particularly interested in the performance of patriotic exercises, that it has been my experience that in all school assemblies that I have attended, graduations and special occasions at Yukon schools, the national anthem has been performed to various degrees of competence by the singers and by local bands. I would also point out that the national anthem has also been sung in French by those who participate in the French immersion and French-first language programs. At least that has been in my experience, albeit my limited experience.
I would assume the amendment before us, given the words the Member has spoken, is a friendly amendment and does make it clear that we both feel that the Education Act is another item that should be respected by this assembly at this time.
Mr. Lang: We are in the process of providing the House with an amendment to the amendment, in the spirit that the amendment was provided by the Minister of Education.
In my opening comments to the House, I made it clear that we are not doing anything, in our judgment, to preempt the authority of the school councils or boards in the Yukon. If you read the motion - and this is the important essence and principle of what we are discussing - it says that it is the opinion of this House that the national anthem, O Canada, should be sung by students in Yukon schools prior to the beginning of each school day. What I was asking for in that motion and my opening comments accompanying the motion was that we, as a Legislature, say that it is our collective opinion as Canadians - and in view of the unease in the country - that this was something we felt the school councils could implement. The idea is that we have a collective will in the House that this is our opinion.
I recognize the Ministers friendly amendment was there to ensure that section 45 of the Education Act was to be respected. At the same time, in the Ministers effort to bring forward the amendment, it has taken away some of the intent of the motion. I do not think that any of us as Members, as Canadians, want that to happen.
What I am asking the Clerk to do, if he would, is to write an amendment for me to present to the House and change the amendment so that it would still express an opinion of all Members of the House: that we feel our national anthem, O Canada, should be sung on a daily basis in the schools, in accordance with section 45 of the Education Act. I think we have a responsibility, individually and collectively, to state our position in the public forum as to whether we feel the national anthem should be sung on a daily basis. I am speaking not only as an MLA but also as a parent, and a parent who is concerned about our young people and about what I see developing within our society as a whole, not just with one individual student or child, as the case may be.
I feel quite strongly that I would like to see us be able to complete our debate on this with an amendment to the amendment meeting the requirements as presented by the Minister of Education to ensure that the Education Act is respected, and at the same time with us stating our opinion that we feel this should be done. I hope we can do this collectively so that we can send the Hansard to all school councils throughout the territory so that they are aware of not only the debate but also the comments made by the individual Members representing the various areas of the Yukon. We will have the opportunity to see over a period of time if other people feel the same way we do in the Legislature.
I do not think any Member wants to distort or take away from the intent of the original motion. I did not get the impression from the position taken by the Minister of Education that he was attempting to bypass some of the intent of the motion. I recognize that perhaps I could have put the section 45 alteration into the motion, and I considered it before I put the motion forward, but I felt that all we were asking for was the opinion of the House and to transmit our collective will and feelings to the various school authorities throughout the territory.
I feel that in order to meet the Ministers observations on the writing of the motion, yet at the same time ensure that the intent of the motion is not changed, I would recommend that we entertain what I refer to as a friendly amendment to the amendment. I would ask all Members to entertain an amendment to the amendment that will ensure that the intent I brought forward to the House is carried while respecting the authority of the school councils.
If that is agreed to by all Members, I think that we have done two things here: we have agreed, at least individually and collectively as Members of the House, that the singing of the National Anthem on a daily basis is a good idea and one that can contribute to the well-being of our country; and at the same time respect the authority of the school councils.
I would therefore amend the amendment to the motion. I move
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 57 be amended by deleting the words: by deleting all the words after the words Yukon schools and substituting for them the words and by substituting for them the following: by adding after the words each school day the following:.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek East
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 57 be amended by deleting the words: by deleting all the words after the words Yukon schools and substituting for them the words and by substituting for them the following: by adding after the words each school day the following:
Mr. Lang: I do not want to belabour this. As I said earlier, before the amendment to the amendment was read, with respect to the Minister of Educations concern about Section 45 of the Education Act not being included in the main motion when it was presented, I am indicating to the side opposite that I feel we do not have a problem with it. At the same time, we feel quite strongly that we should be expressing our opinion collectively, and conveying that message to the various school councils in the body of the motion.
I hope that the side opposite sees their way clear to support that. As MLAs and leaders within the community, I think we have a responsibility to express our opinion on issues of this kind. In some cases, we do not have the direct authority, but have been delegated that authority.
This would go well on the way to being able to convey a message of the importance of patriotism and nationalism throughout the territory, as far as our country is concerned. As MLAs and, probably, in a more prominent role, such as that of Cabinet Minister, we feel we are able to play a part in the restructuring and the decisions of the constitutional changes that are going on. This plays an important part in all of our lives, both directly and indirectly, no matter whether we are in politics, private enterprise or any type of lifestyle, as far as Canada is concerned. As MLAs, we bear the responsibility to express our opinion on an issue of this kind.
I hope all Members would see fit to give us unanimous support to the amendment to the amendment so that we can convey both the concerns of the Minister of Education as well as the message that I had presented originally in the body of the motion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, let me say that I enter the debate not as the First Minister of the Government but as the Member for Whitehorse West and I want to speak personally as I am sure all Members on this side of the House will speak, because this is not a question of government policy. Government policy has clearly been made and is articulated in section 45 of the Education Act.
One might well ask, since it might be a question of public policy if it has not already been settled, why we did not have a motion today about asking the House to express an opinion that all businesses and workplaces sing O Canada at the beginning of the working day or asking the churches to sing it everyday, or asking that it be sung for example, at the beginning of every session of the Legislature. We do not have a motion proposing that and I suspect there are good reasons for that because there are people who would have problems with that for one reason or another.
There would be people who would regard that as interference of one kind or another or asking the Legislature to direct them as to how they should behave on a matter of conscience or feeling about their country. Of course, it is fairly obvious that if people have to be directed to express their love or affection for their nation it does not have the same quality as an action that expresses it freely and spontaneously.
Having said that I think I want to say to all Members in this House that I used to sing the national anthem in my school. I used to sing it in English and French. Even though the words have been changed since then, I believe I do know the words and at risk of emptying the Chamber I would be willing to offer to sing them here and now.
My colleague from Klondike suggested it required unanimous consent, and I have had several hints from this side of the House that it would not receive it.
I want to speak to the subamendment the Member has proposed on the question of singing the anthem, and suggesting it should be sung every day. I want to explain my point very carefully, because I do not want any misunderstandings to be left about my position.
I liked singing the national anthem as a child; I like singing it as an adult, and I like singing it in groups, especially if the group is large enough - then I do not have to hear my own voice when I am doing it; I can bury it in the crowd. I like it as a personal statement of my own love for the country.
As a legislator and a citizen, I seriously doubt very much that singing the national anthem does, by itself, contribute much at all to national unity, to holding the country together. I think it is nice that people do it. I have occasionally been at public meetings where people have felt so moved by the subject that they have done it spontaneously.
I recall, in 1981, at a convention of my party, we were having a fierce debate about the constitution of this country, with a very strong division of opinion of east/west and north/south, and about the nature of the patriation package that was being proposed. At the end of the debate, during which many of the finest speakers in the party to which I belong addressed the question with vigor, intelligence and passion, on both sides of this particular debate, the whole room rose after the vote and sang O Canada, and that was a truly moving experience. They were doing it not because they were instructed to, required to or ordered to, but they were doing it as a spontaneous gesture of great feeling for the country.
The question of national unity and, particularly, the question of the constitutional crisis we are now in, is one of great complexity. It will require a great deal of work by legislators everywhere in this country, and by citizens who care, to pull the country together and hold it together.
It was felt that expressions of patriotic exercises, like singing the national anthem, can help. It cannot do any harm, but I doubt if, by themselves, they will do very much.
The essence of what I want to say to the Member for Porter Creek East, with whom I have disagreed on a lot of things, is that, on this question, we do not have a substantial disagreement. I want to argue that I think there is a logical contradiction in his final subamendment, with which I take issue.
The contradiction is that, on the one hand, as a Legislature, we cannot pass a law that says this is a decision that shall be left to school councils, committees and boards, or that it is a decision that, following the wishes of the people of this community expressed during four years of consultation on the Education Act, should be left to parents and communities to decide. We say that we want them to make the decision, but Oh, by the way, we want you do this and, moreover, we want you to do it every day.
In effect, to say that is telling people that they can make the decision, but the government would like to give them very clear instructions about how they should make that decision. It is telling people that the government does not even want people to exercise their own judgment about whether or not it should be done once a week, at school assemblies or even twice a day. The government will instruct and guide people to do it every day, even though there may be all sorts of reasons - educational, philosophical and others - that mean a school council or committee may wish it to be done with a different frequency than is suggested by the Member opposite.
In explaining my point of view on this, I want to put my thoughts in some context. Originally, we were being asked to speak on two different issues. The first was whether or not it was appropriate for this House to indicate what form of patriotic exercises should take place in schools. Reference has been made to section 45 of the Education Act, which talks about patriotic exercises, which can include the singing of the national anthem, but may include other equally appropriate, legitimate, sincere and meaningful exercises. This does not necessarily include the singing of the national anthem.
The second question was how we, as residents of the Yukon and citizens of Canada, could take meaningful action to ensure that symbols of our nationhood, such as our anthem, reflect a strong and unified country.
As my colleague, the Member for Mayo - and I deliberately refer to him in his capacity as a constituency MLA, rather than in his ministerial office - has pointed out, people in this House have been elected and re-elected on platforms, which included a commitment to meaningful consultation with Yukon citizens on matters affecting their daily lives.
To this end, we have, in this Legislature on dozens of occasions, involved people living in the Yukon in helping to make decisions on major initiatives underway in the territory. We have debated in this House the Yukon Economic Strategy, the Yukon 2000 planning process that led to the strategy. That went on over 18 months, involving hundreds of people throughout the territory in discussions on things that mattered about their lives and the working and raising of children in the Yukon. People in that exercise expressed their wish to have the option to stay in the Yukon and a wish to take more command of their own futures; their wish to have a higher quality of life and a wish to have genuine equality of opportunity. They also spoke, during those exercises, about how we can work to realize those goals and how we now have plans and policies and laws, which have captured those peoples plans and ideas for strengthening and diversifying the economy and the economic strategy.
We have, over the same period of time, been involved in a different kind of dialogue with people in the work of negotiating an umbrella final agreement with Yukon First Nations. As a result of that work and work that is underway on the First Nations final agreements, people will be able to participate on their own terms in the social, economic and political development of the territory, through self-government agreements. As a result of those negotiations, we hope that the First Nations people, the aboriginal people, will have the ability to make their own decisions in their own way about matters affecting them.
We had consultation around the Health Act, which came to this Legislature. The Member for Mayo, I think, is justly proud of the consultation that was done on the Education Act, which took four years to formulate.
One of the consequences of the Health Act and the Education Act is that we are empowering communities. The Legislature is, by law, making decisions that give the right to communities to make certain decisions at a local level. We have done this in dozens of other instances, where we have made statements in this Legislature about having decisions made at the community or at the school level.
I think that it is fair to say that the Education Act is a leading example of this, and the Minister of Education can be justly proud of the work and consultation on this exercise - a consultation that seems to be so thorough and so complete that that very complex and very innovative piece of legislation went through this House with practically no debate.
In the four-year discussions involved in the shaping of that legislation, Yukon citizens had lots of opportunity to express themselves in that consultation. They made clear the kind of ongoing role they wanted in the education system. It was expressed in the idea of partnership, in educating Yukon children and it was the principle that was central to the legislation approved by this House only last spring.
As Members know, the Member for Porter Creek East and the Member for Mayo said that the act places responsibility for decisions such as we are discussing today with advisory school committees, school councils and boards.
Last fall, I think it was, the school councils were established in every single school in the territory to give expression to that act and to permit parents to make these decisions. I think there can be no clearer indication of the people of this territorys enthusiasm for a greater voice in educating the territorys children, but also enthusiasm for having the kind of decision-making power in their hands that this act contemplates. One of the powers granted to school councils and boards under the Education Act is the right to decide on the patriotic exercises offered to students in a given school.
I think that this House ought to consider very carefully whether it is a good idea to give something with one hand, and then appear shortly after to be saying, Well yes, we respect your decision, but we want to tell you very clearly how we feel about it, and it is your decision about whether you do this or not, but we want you to do it, and we want you to make sure that you do what we wish on this score every day.
This is exactly the kind of decision that the act quite clearly says is one for the school councils and school committees. I think it is incumbent upon us, as legislators, to think very carefully about whether we are going to do what the act says and do what the law that was unanimously passed in this House said, which is to allow the school council and school boards to consider this issue freely, in an unfettered way, and to make their own decisions about what should be done.
Having said all this, I want to make it quite clear that I am not saying that the House should not express an opinion on the subject, or that there should be no opinion at all expressed on this. Indeed, that is quite appropriate.
I wonder very seriously, though, whether it is really a good idea for the House, having expressed itself that the faith or belief that an expression of a patriotic exercise is a good idea, that we then go a step further, saying that not only do we think it is a good idea but we think you should do it every day. That may be going a step too far. It seems to me that we are then saying that it is not really a local decision.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member for Porter Creek East says we can comment on it. The Member for Porter Creek East has asked us to express ourselves on this question. Before I sit down, I am going to express myself on this question. I have already indicated that I have no problem with what he proposes, in general, but if he is asking me to express myself as to whether I believe it should be done every day, in all circumstances, then I can think of all sorts of circumstances where I think it might not be appropriate to do it every day. If he forces me to express whether I think it should be done every day, and I say no, are we then going to be in the position of listening to the Member subsequently saying, politically, these folks said they were in favour of singing the national anthem but, because they would not agree to it every day, they are rogues, traitors, treasonists, not patriotic, and all sorts of other humbug. That would be most unfortunate, because the response from this side of the House is quite different.
We think that the decision, which the Education Act represented, was to show respect for the partnerships between communities and schools, between parents and educators and between the government and the education community, which is the foundation of the Education Act. If we are going to foster peoples ability to exercise their democratic rights every day, and not just simply at the ballot box every four years, then we should say that we should be democratic about doing it. One of the values of this country we support is the democratic right. The democratic right is expressed in the Education Act through local council and school committee decisions.
Remember, I go back to the point I made earlier, this is not the children voluntarily expressing their love for the country but what is proposed here is that they be told to express it. I am sure all parents here would be struck by the irony of an instruction from anybody that you should or you must love your parents. Everybody who knows this House knows some of the debates we have had about some of these questions know that not all parents behave in a way that warrants their childrens love.
The decisions about patriotic exercises, we have said, in law, reside with the councils and school boards. There are things that I think the government can appropriately do to ensure that the words of our national anthem reflect the Canadian reality. At this point in our history, I think it can be said that the idea of a strong and free Canada is being challenged by some people. It is being challenged by right-wing groups in western Canada, which I think do not want to see the kind of Canada that we have had in the past. It is also being challenged by separatists in Quebec, who want to tear the country apart, and I think by other forces that would make us a weaker and less sovereign and less unified nation.
There can be no doubt about the difficulty and the magnitude and the complexity of the issues before our nation and little doubt about the intensity of feeling associated with these issues. We have heard some of them expressed in this House: aboriginal people seeking justice and land they have inhabited for thousands of years, and the sense of frustration they feel over the lack of progress on aboriginal constitutional issues, and the eruption and very painful events at Oka last summer; the citizens of the province of Quebec are seeking a resolution of their constitutional aspirations. The sense of alienation they feel from the rest of Canada is that many people in that province, according to the polls, favour sovereignty as a means of realizing their cultural and linguistic goals. Northerners who felt left out of the Meech Lake process are seeking a new constitutional process that accommodates our desire to have a voice in nation building and to make decisions about our own futures. These are all issues I think that we have some feeling about in order to strengthen Canada.
Among the ways I think we can help strengthen Canada is by doing things like settling the land claims here, entrenching self-government, having good educational legislation, and having good economic and social policies.
I am very pleased to see some of the things that we have been fighting for, in this respect, being recognized and addressed by groups such as the Western Premiers Conference, which I have just returned from. The fact that we, as northern leaders, were invited to participate in that conference is a sign that we have been making some progress and that the western premiers are prepared to have us play a role in helping to strengthen this country.
The feelings that people have about this country vary from person to person. They are not all identical. Not every single person has their own way of expressing their love for this nation. Not every Canadian - let us be frank - is as positive or as hopeful about the country as every other. I believe that some of the people who are politically active in this country right now want to do great damage to the country.
I am not sure that requiring, or even encouraging, children to sing the national anthem, by itself, will address those problems.
As a matter of record, the western premiers did not sing O Canada at the beginning of their proceedings, nor do they at the premiers conferences, at the National Parliament, nor any Legislature I know of in this country. Perhaps that is something that should be considered, but it might strike some people as ironic that we would want to require children in school to do one thing - people who are not yet legally citizens, in the sense that they make their own decisions - that we would not ask ourselves to do. I will not comment on that, but I think there are people who would find that ironic.
I think all the caring and concern and the positive energy that is abroad in this land can be harnessed. So that, when we are singing O Canada, whether it is in our schools or elsewhere, we are singing about a strong and united country. It is not just words, or just a song we are made to sing in the morning, but it is something that we do out of some real love.
The Member opposite says that he does not know if we know the words. I think the Member for Mayo made a good point. It would be interesting to know how many Members of this House actually know all the words to O Canada, in English or French, or both. I feel pretty confident myself.
The Member for Porter Creek East suggests that you can draw some terrible conclusions about that. I am not sure. I know there are many people in our communities who watch American television. They will know that, in the United States, this is what is known as, quite literally, a flag-waving issue.
Some of us in this country believe, from watching American news channels, that it is exactly this kind of issue that is presumed to have caused the defeat of the Democratic candidate for President, Michael Dukakis, at the last general election. It was not because he refused to wave the flag, but he refused to constitutionalize some patriotic exercise, or did not support it, or had not supported it at some point in his career. Therefore, he was regarded as somehow un-American for not doing that. It is true of our American friends that the respect for their flag, anthem or other national songs and symbols is very powerful. In that country, any suggestion of anything less than love and adoration for those symbols is a terrible thing. It is seen as making a person unfit for public office.
On that score, let me say that I think that patriotism is a healthy thing. Even as a Canadian nationalist, however, I recognize that nationalism, at times in the history of the world, has been a very ugly and negative force. I would also say that jingoism is almost always a feeling that is potentially harmful, especially to those people who are not seen as falling into line or as accepting the values of the dominant country, or office-holders, of the day.
One of my personal views is that one of the things I value and treasure about this country is that we are not as jingoistic as our southern neighbors. We do not wrap ourselves in the flag over every issue.
Someone said of politicians that patriotism was the last refuge of rogues. In this country, we are capable of talking in a more rational way about some of these issues. Some of the rage and passion we saw during the last American general election and, more recently, about the desecration of the flag or other symbols of the country, has happened in this country, but not to the same extent.
I do know that we had a case last summer where some people from an Ontario community walked over the Quebec flag; it was played and replayed over and over again on the Quebec television networks and is believed to have contributed greatly to the rise of nationalist feeling, and indeed separatism, in that province. Some objective observers subsequently found that it was probably half a dozen cranks - English-rights cranks - in that particular Ontario community, but in Quebec, at least, the issue was blown out of all proportion. Some of us at this great distance probably saw it more rationally.
Some of the things I love about our country is that it is a more peaceful, kinder, and more gentle nation than the one to the south of us - not that I am making a blanket criticism about the one to the south of us. We have to recognize that a lot of that factor comes from the reality that the United States is a super-power and we are not, that the United States may be the one super-power left in the world. Canada is a middle power and has a very different attitude, therefore, to its neighbours and to other nations in the world. It is not a great military power and does not presume to be. It is not a nation that has been required to rally people around the flag, even though we have had many Canadians die valiantly in defence of peace and freedom, both in the First World War and the Second World War, in Korea and in other conflicts. However, that is not the issue today.
I personally value those differences between us and the United States, but I hope I am also open-minded enough to recognize that there are Canadians in this country who do not value those differences. There are Canadians who think we should be much more like the United States. There are Canadians who think we should only speak English in this country. I read in the Globe and Mail just the other day that Mr. Preston Manning said we needed a constitution more like the United States has; in fact, he said we should have a constitution like the United States. I do not agree with Mr. Preston Manning about that. I understand one of the tenets of the Reform Party is that the national anthem should be sung in schools every day. I am not a supporter of the Reform Party. In fact, I would count myself as an opponent of the Reform Party, but that does not make that idea of the Reform Party necessarily a bad idea. Even bad people can have good ideas; bad political parties can have good ideas. I recognize that, but what I am saying is I personally have a different belief about what is valuable and what should be treasured, respected and admired in our country.
The Education Act, which was passed almost without debate in this House, delegated the decision about patriotic exercises to school councils. I would be pleased to say that personally I would be more than happy to participate in the singing of the national anthem on any occasion, not just at the beginning of sports events or just in school, but also in the Assembly if Members deemed it appropriate. I do believe also that, having made the decision that the school council should have the authority in this area, I think it would be a mistake to pass a motion that said not only that it was a good idea, but that it was a good idea to do it every day. On that final particular about whether we do it every day, about whether we should send such a message to the school council, so that just a few months ago empowered with this decision, I dissent from that.
I would support the expression of patriotic feelings in our schools, the expression of love for our country in our schools, the appreciation of democratic values in our schools, a respect for the different cultures in our territory and our land in our schools, but I would hesitate to tell the schools that they should make such patriotic expressions every day. So, while I support the motion as amended by the Member - my colleague and friend from Mayo - I must say that I beg to differ from the final subamendment of the Member for Porter Creek East.
Mrs. Firth: I have listened to the previous speakers this afternoon with a great deal of interest and maybe I just see things differently. I suppose that is probably the case: I see things differently than some of the other Members. I guess I attach different importance to things that we do here in the Legislative Assembly than perhaps some of the other Members do. My personal feeling is that I do not think that the Members are really focusing in on what the basic principle is that we are debating here today.
The amendment the Minister of Education proposed really took away from the principle of the motion, which was to seek the opinions of the Members in the House who are presently representing the constituencies in the Yukon.
We have made lots of expressions of opinions in this House before, sometimes unanimous and sometimes not, and sent those opinions off to the federal government just to let people know what the Members in this House feel and what their opinions are with respect to certain issues.
The issue here is really about how all the Members feel and what their position is with respect to the national anthem being sung in the schools on a daily basis. We are not trying to tell the school committees or school councils what to do, when to do it, how often to do it or even that they have to do it. We simply want to find out where all the Members of the Legislature stand on singing the national anthem in schools. I have no difficulty in standing up and saying that I think the national anthem should be sung by the children in the schools and that it should be done on a daily basis.
The Government Leader talked about patriotic exercises and that this was just one of them. Part of that patriotic exercise is not only singing O Canada, but also doing it on a regular basis. That is what instills patriotism in people - it is when they do a patriotic thing on a regular basis.
Perhaps the school councils will agree in part with the recommendations we make. Perhaps they will say that the Members of the Legislative Assembly have expressed the opinion that O Canada should be sung in the schools on a daily basis. Maybe the school councils think it is a good idea, but they do not want to do it on a daily basis. Perhaps they may want to do it just at special functions or open assemblies or something like that. That decision is being left for the school councils to make. Perhaps they will not want to do it at all. That, again, is their decision.
The point that is at issue here is whether or not we, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, agree with it.
If Members on the other side have some difficulty with the concept or the principle, or if they feel some other anthem should be sung because they do not believe in having O Canada being sung in the schools, they should stand up and say so. That is what they should be doing. I see the Minister of Justice saying that is exactly what they want. I do not know if I would be unfair in concluding that the Minister of Justice does not want to support the principle of this motion, which is that the national anthem should be sung in schools on a daily basis. If she does not support that, she should just stand up and say so. That is what it is all about, each individual person in this House has an opportunity to stand up and say what they believe in or what their position is.
I can appreciate that if there are people who do not wish to sing O Canada in English, they can sing it in the language of their choice - whether it be in French or one of the Indian languages. I have heard Daniel Tlen sing O Canada; he has a beautiful voice and it is not uncommon for him to be at functions here in the Yukon Territory singing O Canada. I think there is a great deal of respect in the community for that individual when he does that. I think a lot of people are moved by him doing that. That decision, that choice, can be left up to the individual, but at least they are participating in a regular patriotic exercise.
It is fine for the Members across the floor to bring forward this subamendment. In the first amendment they proposed they wanted to really get out of taking a position and wanted to throw the ball back into the court for the school committees or councils to make the decision. I think it is incumbent upon the individuals to stand up and let us know exactly what their position is. In doing that, we are not in any way dictating to the school councils that that is something that has to be done, that children have to sing O Canada in the schools and they have to do it every day. All we are saying is that the Members in this House should agreed that that would be a good patriotic exercise.
It is our opinion that that should happen.
I do not want to speak at great length about the amendment. I just want to speak in support of the subamendment that still maintains the principle of the original motion. That principle is whether or not the Members of this Assembly agree that Yukon students should participate in this patriotic exercise and that they should participate in that exercise on a daily basis.
I rise to support the subamendment brought forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. I look forward to speaking to the main motion again.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to speak to the subamendment. In the process, I would like to address a number of the points that are being made by all Members.
I want to say to the Member for Riverdale South, that I disagree with her point of view that this subamendment does not dictate an instruction to the Yukon schools. I believe that it does. I do not think for an instant that any Member has a major dispute, in principle, with the singing of O Canada. I think that there is a general recognition that the national anthem has its place in a patriotic exercise, in generating a nationalistic feeling, and in making a statement about how one feels about the country.
For this House to send a message to the Yukon schools that it would like to see O Canada sung every day, with a complete disregard for the previous authority given to local school authorities, is sending a confused signal indeed.
It has been pointed out quite emphatically that the matter of setting opening exercises for schools, which includes the singing of O Canada, has been assigned by legislation to local school authorities - section 45 of the Education Act. In that respect, the House has spoken; it has said that the authority for that to occur shall rest in the hands of local decision-making. That is not an abrogation of any responsibility by any Member in this House who wishes to state an opinion about the matter. Every Member in this House can state their point of view about their feelings respecting the singing of the national anthem - when it should be done, how often, whether it should be done, and what it does for them. However, for us to permit the motion to go, either as originally stated or as now subamended, would be sending a most confusing signal to the Yukon community at large. We have already given the authority to decide to local school authorities.
Members are entitled to their opinions, and Members are entitled to express those opinions. They have created an opportunity here for that expression of opinion, but that opinion shall not be a marching order in contradiction of the legislative authority granted in this House last year.
On the one hand, we have said that local school authorities shall decide the business of opening exercises, which includes the singing of O Canada. Today, Members are proposing that we take a contradictory position and say that, in spite of us having given the authority for local school authorities to direct matters of opening exercises in schools, we want you to be sure that they sing O Canada, not just in the schools, but each day.
That is a pretty strong statement. Now, I thought that the Minister of Education introduced an amendment that would have removed that contradiction. As the Minister of Education amended it, he essentially said that, if it is the desire to encourage patriotism and nationalistic feelings, and to do so by the singing of O Canada, that is fine. We believe in that, that is okay, but we leave that to the authority of the schools as governed under section 45.
I think it is inappropriate for the Members to suggest that we do not believe in the national anthem if we do not pass the subamendment, to an amendment, to the original motion. That is a most inappropriate statement and most inaccurate.
Members before me have spoken on the national anthems history, its meaning to different people, its importance in statements about national unity, nationalism and patriotism. That is fine; we are entitled to those expressions, as the Member for Riverdale North would encourage to happen. We are entitled to our expressions of belief about the singing of the national anthem in this country, whether during public functions or in schools.
A number of Members - in particular, the mover of the motion - have spoken on their personal experiences relating to the singing of O Canada. I have to say to Members that I also have some personal experiences I would like to share with them relating to the national anthem.
Like many Members here in the House, I attended school, many years ago, in an era where O Canada and God Save the Queen were very much a part of school culture and tradition. For many of those years, I attended a one-room country school with 10, 11 or 12 students in rural Saskatchewan.
I have to say that I still have very vivid recollections of the efforts of those 10 or 12 of us, over the years, attempting a less than harmonious version of O Canada in the morning and then, in the afternoon, God Save the Queen. I would even suggest that there was better harmony when we recited The Lords Prayer, which was also part of the morning exercise in rural Saskatchewan in those days, or at the school I attended.
Without question, because of that particular series of experiences over the years, the singing of O Canada became something of a dreaded exercise in that time. That is the reality of it. I am not suggesting that that made me less patriotic or unnationalistic or unloving toward Canada. I would submit that the opposite is more accurate. It made me recognize the importance of being Canadian and wanting to be a Canadian. There was a conflict I faced, as did many other students in that era, of being forced to sing an anthem that one was sometimes embarrassed to join in. Sometimes, it was an exercise that was nearly humiliating, simply because of the exposure put on a young student attempting to understand grown-up ideas.
I am not suggesting that that fear did not go away. Eventually, I became a teacher myself and entered the classroom. Lo and behold, I was leading the class in the singing of the national anthem.
One has to try to imagine what is occurring in that exercise. I probably should not make this confession to my colleagues in the House, but it was in the first year of my teaching career, many years ago, that I persuaded school authorities of that school to permit O Canada as an optional exercise. I took steps, as a teacher, to generate more productive and more relevant patriotic exercises. That is a fact. I saw what students were being forced to do. They were being forced to sing an anthem that they did not have a willingness to do. On certain days, it was not an appropriate thing to do.
Try to imagine that you have a class of 12 students one day and that you attempt to sing a rendition of O Canada. This does anything but build national patriotism, which is something that you have to address, virtually on a case-by-case basis.
We sang O Canada in that first year of my teaching career, when we wanted to and when the spontaneity of the moment moved us to do it. We sang O Canada when we felt that it was an appropriate thing to do.
I am not sure I want to cast the judgment of forcing the singing of O Canada on a daily basis on all students in the Yukon. That is a judgment the individual schools and school authorities can make by choice.
I would suggest that it is quite appropriate to sing O Canada on many occasions. We do so, and we should. It does something. We have all witnessed those occasions.
I recall a story being told to us by Mr. Spicer during his recent visit. After one meeting on a constitutional debate in small, rural Alberta, there was such a bonding of the people in that meeting that they just voluntarily and spontaneously rose and sang O Canada. I think those are beautiful moments. Those are the kind of things that should happen.
If you force it on every school child, every morning, in every school in the Yukon, you will not build a respect for the country.
It does concern me that some people do not know the words. Maybe that is something that we should do something about. We believe that the words are important, but we are in a time of national crisis constitutionally. We are at a time when we must spend more time in discussion among ourselves about our problems.
We are at a time when we have to look at some innovative alternatives as to how we can bring this country closer together, come up with some assignments, exercises and activities that generate a much healthier patriotic feeling and feelings of national unity than forcing the singing of the national anthem would do. I am not suggesting that the national anthem is bad, but if you force it every day on every student, as the subamendment is saying, it would be overkill. I would put the same hypothetical question to Members that I believe one of my colleagues already did. If it is appropriate for every Yukon school student to sing O Canada every morning, why should we not do it here in the Legislature?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let us just imagine it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If that is what the Members want to achieve, let us debate that issue too. Certainly, what is good for the goose, must be good for the gander. The question has to be raised, how far do we push the issue in the exercise?
I leave it to others who believe they can carry more of a tune than I to address the question. I appreciate the opportunity to have said a few things about the subject. I think it would be in our interest to acknowledge our desire to respect the anthem and its use, but let us not force it on every schoolchild every day in every school.
Mr. Phillips: It is rather interesting to listen to the speech made by the traumatized Member for Faro, who had such difficulty getting through his school days in a small, remote Saskatchewan school because his teachers forced him to do the most terrible thing in the world: sing our national anthem. The Minister has never forgotten that, and has many sleepless nights now because of this terrible plague...
Point of Order
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Faro.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I did not say that. If he wishes to quote me, the Member should quote me accurately.
Speaker: Order. There is no Point of Order, but conflict between two Members.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, his trauma is greater than most of us thought, as the Minister seems to be having problems even dealing with it today, and I would suggest that just talking about it has brought back these horrid memories to the Minister.
This Minister cannot have it both ways. He told us today that our subamendment to the amendment would force the school committees to react. If that is the case, if that is his interpretation of our subamendment, the Minister should read it again, because it includes the same words as their amendment.
That means that their amendment would force the school committees to do something as well. I have not heard one Member stand up in this House today and say we are forcing the school committees or the school boards to do anything. All we are doing is expressing our opinions on whether or not O Canada should be sung every day in Yukons schools.
I too remember the days that we used to sing O Canada in the Whitehorse schools where I went to school. I was not as traumatized as the Member for Faro was. In fact, I can remember that some days you did not sing it as readily as other days but you sang it every day. In fact, today I still get chills down my spine when I hear O Canada being sung at any event.
This is not going to change Canada and this is not going to build a great deal of patriotism and solve all the problems that have developed in Canada over the last few years but it is a small thing we can do.
One and one-half minutes a day is not going to disrupt the school year of all the students in the territory. One and one-half minutes a day to think for a moment about your country and what it stands for is a good thing and not a bad thing as the Members opposite seem to think.
It would be really interesting to know what the real reason is for these Members not wanting our students to stand up every day and sing O Canada. They all stand there in their place and give us all kinds of wishy-washy reasons why we should not sing O Canada every day.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Old Crow wants to hear my opinion. I am going to be listening very carefully to the opinion of the Member for Old Crow and see if she will stand in her place and say that Yukon students should sing O Canada every day. I do not have a problem, in fact, if people stand in their place and sing O Canada in the First Nations language if they wish.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member asked me if I know the words for O Canada and I sure do know the words for O Canada. I may sing it a little later and I will expect the Member to sing along with me.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Old Crow says she does not know the words for O Canada; well, maybe she does. It is a great country and it is a great national anthem and I think every Canadian should know the words to O Canada.
I have a few problems with the amendment that was put forward by the Member for Mayo. The original motion, as I see it and obviously as how the Member for Porter Creek East sees it, does not tell school committees to do anything. It expresses our opinion on an issue I think is very important to all Canadians. It gives the opportunity for each and every Member of this House to express their views on it.
The Member for Faro says it is going to give confusing signals to the school boards or committees, because we have just given them the authority to make these kinds of decisions on their own. If I were to believe for one moment, that we would no longer be able to express opinions on bills we passed in this House that give someone the authority to do something, I would not pass it. I have a right, as does every other Yukoner, to express an opinion on that. We, as legislators, should be taking leading roles. We should be expressing the opinions of many people out there.
I have talked to an awful lot of people about this motion. I have not found one person, anywhere, that has criticized this motion. The Member for Riverdale South says with the exception of the Member for Old Crow and the Government Leader and a few other Members on the other side. They are searching the bottom of the barrel for wishy-washy ideas and suggestions as to why they should not support the motion. They are groping for silly amendments that make no difference whatsoever.
When the Member for Porter Creek East introduced the motion, he stated the intention very clearly. It was not to tell anyone anything. It was not, as he specifically mentioned, to tell the school boards what to do. He took the wind out of the sails of the government, because they felt they had a great amendment. They thought they could rush in here and kill the whole motion and not have to deal with the real issue. They thought they would not have to stand up and tell people whether or not they think children should sing the national anthem every day in Yukon schools.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre is scowling, but I would like that Member to stand up in this House today and say that she does not approve of Yukoners singing the national anthem every day in the schools. It would be interesting to see whether or not she supports it. That is the issue here. It is our opinion, as legislators, as to whether or not we support it.
The subamendment helps clarify the position of the Legislature in relation to the Education Act and the school boards. At the same time, it will allow each and every one of us to express our opinion. I hope, today, that each and every single Member will rise and give us an opinion on whether or not they support the minute and one-half it will take every day for Yukon school students to listen to the national anthem, and sing it in the classrooms. I do not think that it is a lot to ask.
There is a lot of trouble in Canada today. There is a real lack of national pride, a lack of pride that Canadians have in their country and the things that are happening. We can do some little things, and I think this is one of the little things that will help. I do not think that it will lead to a terrible trauma in our school students, if they have to sing the national anthem everyday.
I have to say that I feel sorry for the Member for Faro. I feel sorry that he has been left with the traumatic experience of singing the national anthem, and I wish him well. If he needs the advice of a specific doctor he would like to see to deal with the problem that he has of difficult thoughts and feelings, and the horrendous torture that he went through when he had to sing the national anthem, I will be more than willing to offer him that advice and even sit down with him. I promise that, when I am talking with him and counselling him, I will not hum the national anthem, because I know that gives him this traumatic and terrible feeling in his stomach, and he cannot hardly handle it all.
I hope that each and every Member of the House will stand up and address this motion today, because I think it is a very important motion.
Ms. Kassi: I, too, feel that I do not have the right to force our students to sing O Canada, or any other songs, in the schools. I think that should be left up to the people in those specific communities. We, the people of the Yukon, have already discussed this and gone through it already. The people of the Yukon have chosen to leave it up to the specific communities, and that is where I think it should stay.
When I put forth a motion last week for their support to unite our country, they talked it off the clock. They did not want to support that particular motion. We seek a lot of support from leaders, such as them, to give us ideas and alternatives to unite this country, but we heard none at that time. I am having a difficult time being proud of this country right now. I am not afraid to say that. I know too much of the true history of this nation that people call Canada, and I live the consequences of it every day, of what it has done to the indigenous people of this country.
Many of our people have been killed by diseases, and they have been dislocated. Our indigenous people have been moved to accommodate others and to maintain a certain area of occupation, so that there can be people shown to be living in a specific place, such as the Arctic. What about the denial of rights to our lands? What about the punishment we have gone through, because we tried to speak our own languages? We have been cheated out of our rightful place in the Constitution. There have been horrible policies of assimilation that our people have gone through over the years. Our people have a long, long way to go.
We have to work hard to heal, and truly feel a part of this country. Very slowly, our voices are beginning to be heard. There are a few positive changes being made - claims settlements, for instance - but, in my heart, I do not feel I have enough respect for this country to stand up and sing the words, With glowing hearts we see Thee rise; the true north strong and free. Those are the only words I know from this song called O Canada.
I am here to tell you that I do not feel free. Our hearts are not in any way glowing. It is not a glorious country now, and I will not stand on guard for it until it has earned my respect. I know there are a lot of people across this country who feel that way. I am one of those who do not know the words. I sang it perhaps a couple of times in a residential school, but that is the only time I remember doing so.
However, I do know the words of my own national songs, the spiritual songs of my nation. Even those have to be sung at very special occasions, and only when we get permission from our elders, as you know yourself, Mr. Speaker, can we sing our national songs.
It cannot be sung at random at any time nor should we be forced to sing it. We have to have the dignity, the pride, and the respect of our nations to be able to sing such songs.
If I were to become so patriotic to this country, or put patriotism before honesty, then I would be living a lie. I cannot support a motion that would basically be a lie toward our children.
In my nation, our schools are saying prayers in our language each day. Each morning in Gwichin they say prayers. They are struggling to learn their languages again. They are also struggling to relive our cultural and traditional values.
We are developing a Gwichin flag right now. This was as a result of the recommendation of our national chiefs. These flags are going to fly on our traditional lands.
We are uniting and working hard to rebuild our own strengths. We should be building our own strengths in our own back yards, with our neighbors. Let us treat each other as equals first. Perhaps then we can move on to the nation. Let us respect each other and deal with this healing process. We are leaders here. That is where we should begin.
After all of this has been done and we are recognized as a self-governing nation and treated as equal, then maybe I will consider singing O Canada.
I would also like to inform Members that we are not going to go away. Like other minorities in this country, one cannot simply say, if you do not like it here you should go home. This is our home. This is where we belong. This is where we will continue to live. This is where we will practice our ways as the Gwichin nation first. Mahsi Cho, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Devries: I would like to speak in support of the subamendment. I almost have to hang my head in shame when I realize that we had to have this motion amended in the first place. I think it would make my father roll over in his grave if he knew what was happening here today. I almost sat here crying in shame when I heard our Premier giving us the message he had carried to the Western Premiers Conference. He did not represent me there.
On my fathers grave, I swear that I will never again call him Premier in this House.
The address I am about to give may distress some people. I was not going to use this. I had it here because, in the back of my mind, I was afraid of what might happen here today. I prayed before we started that I would not have to use it.
What I am saying here today may not be politically correct, according to some of the thoughts I have heard from the other side. Most people know I was not born in this country. Perhaps this gives me a different perspective than those we have heard so far today.
When I went to school in Ontario, my parents were not happy with the Canadian education system. They did not feel that it supported the moral upbringing their children were used to. They formed a separate Dutch Christian school. Anyone was welcome to go to that school. I can assure everyone in this House today that every day we sang The Maple Leaf Forever. Every day, we sang God Save the Queen. Every day, we sang O Canada.
I know how lucky we are to be here in this country. My parents told me of the horrors of post-war Europe. The only reason I am standing here today is because I believe in this country. I believe in this countrys traditions and I believe that the national anthem is one of those traditions.
There are people who say that singing the national anthem is an archaic throwback to an era of British imperialism and the brainwashing of youth to believe that patriotism is a virtue. Many of us quit singing the anthem years ago, about the same time as we gave up The Lords Prayer, advocated abortion and watched the traditional family dissolve.
Why would we want to reinstitute this in a country, plagued by recession, a huge national debt, regional disparity and factionalism, racial disharmony, corruption in high places, and the threat of secession by various provinces? The next thing you know, someone will be advocating such ridiculous, outdated concepts as the sanctity of the family, the free enterprise system, honour and integrity in the holders of public office. We are sure not seeing honour and integrity in this place today.
Most frightening of all, there may be a return to faith, values and morality.
The singing of the national anthem might just remind Canadians of those evil ideas, of a time when they were free and proud, proud of their country. This was when the true north was strong and free. This would never do for the Members opposite. If we became unified again, think of the thousands of jobs that would be lost when the bureaucracy no longer had to cater to thousands of interest groups.
If the family became strong again, our national economy would nosedive even further, putting hundreds of school counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists out of work. If free enterprise reared its ugly head and was successful, there would be no need for thousands of give-away programs. Shelters and jails might become empty, throwing hundreds more out of work. Heaven help us.
If people return to their respective faith, they might demand an accounting from the leaders of this country. Singing the national anthem in school might just be the first step to get this country back on the road to sanity.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I rise to speak in regard to this amendment. I can truthfully say that Canada is a great country, in many ways. It is rich in resources and rich in the different kinds of people who make up its population, but as we all know, it is far from perfect.
We are presently involved in debates about unity, constitutional amendments and now whether students in Yukon schools should be forced to sing O Canada every day.
Students of the Yukon are very fortunate to live in a territory whose government recently passed one of the most enlightened education acts in the country. This act gives certain rights to our Yukon students and to their parents. Under the Education Act parents and students are given the option to choose whether or not they should sing O Canada, salute the flag or whatever patriotic gesture they wish to use in a particular school. I agree that this is where the decision should be made.
The Education Act offers options for schools and communities to make their own choices. It allows parents and students the flexibility that is needed in our communities. Children have to be taught tolerance of other races, traditions and cultural values. This cannot be forced upon them, nor should it be. Forcing students to sing O Canada would not make them any more tolerant or less prejudiced toward others. If singing O Canada every day did that, then I would say, Sing it in every office building, in every bank and in every store. If that is all that it would take to eliminate racism in our society, then I would certainly support it, but we know that is not the case.
I am all for patriotism, but not if it is laced with hypocrisy and racism. Tolerance and acceptance of our differences will unite this country in the end.
I am very disturbed about the outright racism shown toward the young RCMP recruit who wanted to wear his turban as part of his uniform. The racial slurs and slogans that that young man had to suffer just because he made the choice to hang on to his beliefs and his traditional ways, was intolerable. It is intolerable in any country, but especially in a country such as Canada, which is supposed to be glorious and free.
I guess we all have different opinions of what Canadianism really is. The new RCMP officer was on the National the other night, and when I heard the remarks of his fellow recruits and their obvious support for him, I am hopeful that perhaps some Canadians are learning to be more open and tolerant. Intolerance and inflexibility toward change, is not something we who live in Canada should be proud of. Until all ethnic groups are accepted fully, no matter what their colour, religion or politics, then I cannot see us forcing anyone to sing O Canada together.
We are fortunate to live in a country like Canada, but it is not perfect. There are still many differences that separate us; there are still promises being made and promises being broken, especially, in the case of our First Nations.
Unfortunately, a lot of aboriginal people have become cynical about promises made to them by Canadian governments. They are, I believe, justified in hesitating to believe that Canada is listening and hearing what the First Nations have to say.
The Oka situation was an example of this lack of attention. Long before the tanks and the soldiers rolled in, the different levels of government were aware of the concerns voiced by the natives of Oka, but they did nothing.
Here in the Yukon, under the land claims agreement, Yukon First Nations are now an equal partner in providing the best education to young aboriginal people of the Yukon.
By making the First Nations an equal partner in the decisions involving their people, do we now go to them and tell them that they have to sing O Canada every day? They can choose to sing whatever they want, not because we as a House say they must, but because they are guaranteed their right in the Education Act.
The Member for Porter Creek East talked about his father fighting in a war. He is very proud of that. We are also proud of our Canadian aboriginal men and women who fought in wars. They fought and they died. When they came back from the war they were still not Canadian citizens. They could not vote until 16 years after they fought and died for this country.
He speaks with passion about singing O Canada. The aboriginal people of Canada speak with the same kind of passion of ownership of their land. We have seen what has happened. Bit by bit, Canada has taken that land away. Now we see the results of that - the fights that are going on, the things that are going to court. That is not a very easy thing for us to live with. How can we be equal when there has been so much injustice in the past?
We stood here last week and spoke on a united Canada. The side opposite wanted to adjourn the motion. They did not want to speak on it; they wanted to adjourn it. I believe that the only reason that they wanted to adjourn it was because of the Indian self-government that was involved in that motion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: I can see why Members on the side opposite can be so patriotic because Canada has been good to them. I cannot say that it has been that great to aboriginal people.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am standing in my place. I have an opinion and I am expressing that opinion today.
It is up to students, parents and grandparents, elders and members of the school council to decide what they want for their children and their communities. I am all for a united Canada and patriotism but it is going to take a lot more than forcing our children to sing in school every day to eliminate and heal the scars of the past.
Yukoners were consulted on what they wanted in the act, through school councils and student participation. They are the ones who have the right to decide whether or not they wish to adopt the practice of singing O Canada in their schools, and that is my opinion.
Mr. Brewster: Like my colleague from Watson Lake, I am ashamed of what I have heard in this House today. I guess I am one of the old geezers they do not want to have around any more.
I listened to two or three statements over there. I never heard them talk about O Canada; they talked about land, they talked about this and they talked about that, but they do not face the issue of what we are asking - to sing O Canada. I notice they say they are ashamed to be in Canada but they are not ashamed of getting money from Canada.
When I first sat down here and listened, I heard the Government Leader speak. I realize now that when he was at the premiers conference, they did not let him talk very much so we have to suffer and listen to his 45-minute go-around without saying anything, but jumping around as usual.
I find it very funny that they keep saying we are going to force the children to sing O Canada. It does not say that in the motion, but I find it very funny that the Education Act forces children to go to school until they are 16. They say they do not force people, but you must go to school until you are 16 or the police truancy officer will get you. You can work it both ways.
I am proud of being a Canadian. I am proud that my dad was a Canadian and I am proud that my grandfather was a Canadian and I am proud that my great-great-granddad was a Canadian. I am sick and tired of hearing people go around and wreck the country because of their rights and they do not want to turn around and look after the country.
I sang O Canada when I was little. I had no problem with that, because everybody else did it. I was proud of it. I do not think it made me a bad boy. I am not perfect but I do not think I am bad and I do not think it really hurt me. In fact, I am very proud of it - very, very proud.
When I was overseas during World War II, and they played that, I could stand at attention and be proud, and thousands of others did the same thing, proud of the fact that they were Canadians. We recognized that, and we had something to look forward to. Even the people who used to line the streets when we went through the cities used to be able to sing O Canada. European people who had never been over here could sing it, because they knew that, with our coming, they were going to get food for a change, and be treated a little more decently than they had been treated. In fact, I would not be surprised if Europeans, especially in Holland, Belgium and France know O Canada better than most of us.
I saw a very interesting program on television one night. This argument has come up before in Vancouver, and CTV got programing. They went to school, lined the children up, and asked them who could sing O Canada and, oh, yes, they all could. So, they asked them to sing it. There were a few who sang it, but the rest of them slouched around, the boys with their hats on, no respect for anything. So, they started to single them out. They brought four or five little black boys out, immigrants to this country, and every one of them could recite it and sing it because, for the first time in their lives, they knew they were in a country where they could sleep at night and not be shot, where they knew they had food every day. They were proud of it, yet the children born in our country could not sing it.
It is not asking much for you to recognize your country once a day for a minute and one-half. In our school, we used to turn around and stand at attention when they put the flag up. It did not hurt me. Go to a sports activity, and look around when they sing O Canada. The old people stand up, try to get their big stomachs in and try to be at attention. The boys stand with their hats slouched over their heads, chewing gum. That is the respect they have, and that is why we are in trouble in this country: nobody has any respect for anything any more.
I am very concerned about the disrespect shown toward things like this. This does not cost anybody anything. For 20 years, I taught minor hockey, both boys and girls. Before every game we played in Haines Junction, O Canada was played and the national anthem of the United States was played if the Alaska teams were there. Most children looked forward to that. They had never had that, but they had seen it on television and were proud of it. Those boys and girls are now grownup with families of their own. They tell me that they wish their own children were getting the same thing. The respect is gone from everybody in this country. It is another Canadian tradition that has gone down the drain.
On November 11, Armistice Day, these guys parade around. They do not know why and they do not care. You see fewer and fewer veterans there, because they are not too happy with what Canada has become. Thousand of them died for this great country and we are losing it.
I am very proud of the backbenchers in Alberta yesterday. I could not have been more proud than when they stood up and defeated an amendment congratulating the RCMP and the graduation of the first Sikh member. The backbenchers stood up and voted against their own Cabinet. Albertans are often the boys to start things. The story in that is that you can take the boy out of Alberta, but you will never take Alberta out of the boy. Believe me, they are not taking it out of me.
A lot of us probably could not say the words to O Canada right now, because we do not hear them very often, but, believe me, you start up a band singing O Canada and you will see the Sergeant-at-Arms and I stand at attention. We have not forgotten it. We are still proud of it. I cannot sing. A bunch of coyotes in the backyard can do a better job, but I am proud that I tried. I am not a bit ashamed of it.
I wish we had just made an ordinary thing out of this singing of O Canada. It is not land claims or all the things the Government Leader talks about. No one asked him about what he did at the conference, so he had to get all that in because my leader would not ask him a question about it.
Look at what we have done. We have spent almost four hours talking about the singing of the national anthem of our country. Well, should we in this place not be proud. We should stand at attention and be proud that we, in this Legislature, being paid by the taxpayers, spent four hours on deciding this issue. The only argument from the other side is that we do not want to force it on our children. Come on, now.
You force them to go to school until they are 16. We force them to do a lot of other things, but this was a good way out: we do not want to force them. Why does a little child go to school when he is seven years of age? He is not being forced when he sings it and, by the time he is 10 or 11 years of age, it is part of his culture.
You go to any European country, and they are not telling you that they do not want the anthem, or do not all agree to it. The anthem is there. Our anthem has been here for hundreds of years, and it is ours. Maybe it does not belong to the First Nations. Well, that is fine, and I cannot do anything about that, but there are still some of us who have the right to live in this country and the right to keep some of our culture. The national anthem and the flag are some of them.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member for Riverdale North challenged me about waving a flag or singing O Canada. It shows how little the Member knows about me. I love my country, my flag, my anthem, and I love it dearly, but I recognize that patriotism, taken to its extreme, causes wars, wars between families over artificial borders, wars between countries for no reason other than patriotism.
Extreme patriotism is the tool of people who misuse power. We have seen that so many times through history. The war that ravaged the country the Member for Watson Lake comes from was waged by supreme patriots. Unthinking patriotism, used in the place of care and concern, frightens me. It takes honour and integrity to stand up for what you believe in, whatever that belief is, or whatever that opinion may be. I am dismayed at the amount of anger shown here today toward other Members. I believe that there are more important things in life than pure, sheer patriotism.
In the beginning, when this debate was somewhat more calm, the Member for Porter Creek East talked about stopping a young person when O Canada was being played, and asking him to stand at attention. I suddenly flashed back to a good many years ago when my children were going to F. H. Collins.
I remember how they tried to make it to school, either early or late, because they wanted to avoid a certain staff person who would make them stand at attention while the flag was being raised. That had nothing to do with caring about their country or their school. It had to do with being nailed on the spot by someone telling them what to do. It seems to me that is the issue we are talking about today. I could not help remembering that, and picturing the chagrin, the annoyance and the anger they felt.
Nationally, we are going through a process of re-examining confederation. We are all, to some extent or another, giving some thought to what this country really is. This re-examination of confederation is more than a debate about Canadian identity. It is more than a question of vertical mosaic or distemper of our times. Discussions about our constitutional future are of great importance to all of us. We are on the edge of change - that much goes without saying. Change is very difficult for us all.
The question before us is what form that change will take. Since the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, one very strong and consistent message that has been sent across this country is that the constitutional development process must be opened up to all people. With the opening up of that process, however, comes the notion of responsibility: a responsibility to participate.
I appreciate the need by the Members opposite to declare their patriotism loudly and clearly. This may be an admirable declaration, but I would argue that statements of this sort must be voluntary. I again remember my teenage children.
Our national anthem, O Canada and, before that, God Save the Queen, is a symbol of confederation, as we have known it up to now. We have no need to be ashamed of our country.
To our troops overseas and the wars of the world - my brother was one of them - the national anthem was a symbol. It was symbolic of everything that home could be and so, it was very important.
There is a great history in Canada of pride in our country, a country of democracy, of individual freedoms and security and of allowing other people their beliefs and opinions. This vision is one that is held dear to the hearts of many.
I am not in favour of the subamendment, but I am in favour of the amendment that was proposed by the Minister of Education. I believe that it in no way prevents students from singing O Canada.. Dealing with an amendment that says a decision of whether or not to sing our national anthem rests in the hands of local school councils seems all right with me. I have no need to make people be patriotic.
We should also ask ourselves if, as a matter of ritual, we want to stand up daily and affirm a symbol, or does it not make much more sense to provide a time each day for students and teachers to think about what this country means to them. I know what it means to me.
In the broader exercise of constitutional change in Canada, it would be time well spent to really think about the spirit of this country and its future. We are part of a great democracy, and I support any decision local school authorities make about whether or not to sing O Canada at the beginning of each school day. I believe strongly in that freedom of choice, and I believe that that, for me, is what this country is about.
Mr. Nordling: I am going to speak in favour of the subamendment because it returns us to the intent of the original motion. That intent being that every Member of this House should stand up and express their opinion on whether or not Canadas national anthem should be sung in our schools.
Canada is in crisis at the present time. We do have one of the greatest countries in the world and we are in danger of splitting up. What has happened is that Members have got up in their turn and really avoided the issue. I am exhausted from listening to the speeches that have been made this afternoon. I am sick inside at the animosity, the strength of feelings, the almost hatred between one side and the other, between one group and another group, and I do not think that does anything to help pull this country together.
I am sure, if the Member for Porter Creek East knew how divisive this motion would be and how deep the feelings would run, I do not think he would have brought the motion to the floor. It is upsetting to see this, because I thought we in the Yukon were more united and were willing to work more together than other groups in other parts of Canada, but obviously that is not true and we have a lot of work to do here.
With respect to the motion and the issue of O Canada being sung in our schools on a daily basis, the Member for Mayo did not want to take the responsibility for offering an opinion so he sent it back to the school committees to decide. He is a Member of the Legislative Assembly and he can offer an opinion.
The Government Leader, speaking in his capacity as the Member for Whitehorse West, did not want to take responsibility for, or to offer an opinion on, whether O Canada should be sung in our schools. He also thought it should be left to the school committees to decide. He went on to say that if we offered an opinion we would be forcing or ordering the school committees what they had to do.
The Member for Faro also avoided giving his opinion by adopting that same stance: that he was not going to force himself on school committees. He felt there had been consultations and they could look after it.
The position of the Member for Whitehorse West was that, somehow, we would be usurping the power of school committees if we expressed an opinion. In this House, we express opinions on a regular basis, and we never fear that we are in danger of usurping the power of any other group. We express opinions here, in this House, on what the federal government should do. We do not hesitate; we do not say we cannot express an opinion on what the federal government should do because they have powers to do these things, and these powers are longstanding. They are the laws of Canada; we are not going to usurp them. That just does not hold. We express opinions and send them everywhere.
We often express opinions in this House on what this government should do. We often express opinions on what this Legislature should do. Often, those opinions are ignored. We instruct ourselves and do not act on them. I do not see, therefore, how those school committees will be forced to act on the opinions expressed by each Member of this House.
We came to the Member for Old Crow and the Member for Whitehorse North Centre. At least they stood up and expressed an opinion. It was a surprising one for me. They did not hesitate. They did not say I am not going to usurp the powers of the school committees, I am not going to express an opinion. They did, and their opinion was upsetting to me.
My understanding of what they said was that Canada has not given them enough. They said Canada has not done enough for them. Therefore, they do not respect Canada. They do not feel obligated to sing O Canada or have our children, in our schools, even learn our own national anthem.
They do not have it good enough. I do not know how good they want it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: Let me explain. The Member for Whitehorse North Centre says that I do not understand. I think I do. I think the problem is that she does not understand. Perhaps I do not understand it, but let me express my opinion to the Member for Whitehorse North Centre.
Her people have lost a lot. They have been treated terribly in this country of ours. But this country is trying to make that up. It has for years poured millions, probably billions, of dollars into trying to help her people. The problem is that there are so many of those people who are stuck because they lost a lot and they are grieving and hurt, and they have a right to be. But what has happened is that the Member for Whitehorse North Centre is stuck at one stage.
She is in a state of anger. She is angry, and no matter how much she has and how much she gets she is stuck at the anger stage and until she gets through that, she cannot advance and neither can this country and neither can her people. She sits in this House earning $65,000 per year. She can buy the clothes she wants, she can go to the places she wants and she says to me I am supposed to forget about all the people who cannot. No that is not what I am asking her to do. What I am asking her to do is set her anger aside and channel some of that energy into helping those people instead of yelling at the rest of us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: The Member asked me why I think she is sitting in the Legislature. I think she is sitting in the Legislature because she wants to help her people. I think she should be proud and pleased that in this country she has been allowed to do that. She is a Minister of the Government of the Yukon Territory. She has worked her way up; she has got herself elected. She has not been put down; she has not been forced into the background.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: I am listening to the Member and she is saying: how long did it take? It is just not good enough for her. If she was the Prime Minister of Canada it would not be good enough for her. She would still be angry with everyone else.
The feelings run high in this House and it is unfortunate because the motion that we are debating is not the position of the Member for Whitehorse North Centre and what she has accomplished; what we are talking about it the country and national pride. To survive, there has to be pride in ones country.
We talked about our children and we talked about the lack of self-esteem that they have, the lack of purpose, pride and belonging. It is more serious in the native community than in other groups. That probably results in one of the highest rates of suicide among young native men in Canada and in the world. It is a lack of self-esteem and belonging. Pride should be instilled and they should be helped, not to be angry, but to look forward and work with...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: The Member for Whitehorse North Centre says that I am patronizing. This confirms my opinion that she is angry and nothing is good enough for her.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: Let us start by instilling some pride in our young people. Let us tell them they belong to one of the greatest countries in the world. A lot of children do not know that; they have not travelled. One of the first things that you will hear Canadians say when they return from their travels to other countries in the world is, Boy, I sure am glad I live in Canada; this is one of the best countries in the world. The children should know that; they should be offered the opportunity to learn about and be proud of their country.
The problem is that we do not appreciate things until we have lost them. People do not appreciate democracy until they have lost democracy. It is a lot more simple than that. On a daily basis, we do not appreciate the power that we have to see or to hear, but take away our sight or our hearing and then we begin to appreciate what we have.
In general, I do not think Canadians appreciate what they have, because the more they have, the more they want.
I was not going to speak very long on the subamendment, but I could go on and on talking about the specific remarks made by Members opposite with respect to the fact that supporting this motion would be patriotism to the extreme, and alluding to the fact that, if our children sing the national anthem and learn the words, it may start a war. That is not true at all.
We should take a moment at the beginning of each school day, and our children should take that moment to appreciate what we have and where we live. That is why I support this subamendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to begin by thanking some Members of this Assembly for the speeches they have made today. The Member for Watson Lake said that what he had to say may not be politically correct, and that may be true, I do not know. What he did have to say, as well as the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, the Member for Kluane, and the Member for Old Crow, was said with sincerity and conviction. I want Members to know that I have the same response to the subamendment. It may not ultimately be politically correct, but it is what I very firmly and strongly believe.
I also want to agree with the introductory remarks made by the Member for Porter Creek West about there being no need for such acrimonious debate on this motion. I agree with him that it is most unnecessary and most unfortunate.
Debate on this motion began quite a while ago, when it was introduced by the Member for Porter Creek East about two and one-half hours ago. He started off by wanting to introduce this motion to show some support for the country and to promote some patriotism. He thought it was being very well received, even enthusiastically received, by the general public. The Member for Riverdale Norths speech mentioned that every person he had spoken to had been very much in favour of this idea. I do not doubt that.
The Member for Porter Creek East went on to say that he has talked to members of school committees, people who are responsible, to some degree, for making decisions as to what takes place in the school curriculum. He also said he talked to administrators. I find it interesting that he talked to some administrators and they met this idea very favourably as well. I found it very interesting that none of the other Members on either side of this House asked the teachers or students what they thought about school children singing our national anthem every day.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is to date. This is the two and one-half hour mark in this debate and not one Member has mentioned that they have spoken to a teacher or a student, who of course would be directly affected by such a motion.
I did speak to a teacher at Robert Service School. I asked what the practice was in the Robert Service School with regard to singing the national anthem and any other patriotic exercises that might be conducted at that school. She informed me that for the last two years the day began with the playing of O Canada over the public address system. There was no requirement to sing. The motion before us does require children to sing every day, not merely to listen, stand at attention, and reflect on this great country of ours.
This year, it became the discretion of the teacher to decide for him or herself what practice the class would follow. She has informed me that it is not practiced at all in most of the secondary school grades.
The practice of singing O Canada is followed by most elementary school teachers in their classroom. That is how the year started. Half way through the year, most of the teachers dropped this practice, as teachers found the children were singing the national anthem in a very perfunctory way. It became a chore. It became an exercise of mumbling words by rote. It did not have any meaning for the students. It was not done in the sincerity that was evident in some of the Members speeches here today.
The net result is that, quite frankly, it was not an exercise in promoting patriotism, promoting a good feeling about ones country or a sense of pride. Consequently, the teachers dropped the practice of the daily singing of the national anthem.
I want to say to the Member for Porter Creek East, who mentioned in his speech some two and one-half hours ago that he was somewhat dismayed to learn that many of the students do not know the words to O Canada. He said, for example, he heard that some flash cards had to be put in use in some of the general assemblies in schools. This teacher in Dawson City assured me that every one of her students knows the words of the national anthem in both English and French. They are tired of singing it day after day. I find that an interesting point.
I do not doubt for one moment that most people whom the Member for Porter Creek East and the Member for Riverdale North spoke to were adults and were very enthusiastic about this idea. They are not the ones who have to sing it 190 days of the year. Most adults sing it very infrequently. They only use it at special occasions such as general assemblies at schools, a baseball game, hockey game or, of course, July 1. Most adults rarely sing the national anthem. Most adults in this country - and this opinion poll showed it - do not know the words to O Canada. More students know the words to O Canada than adults.
So I just thought that I would mention the fact that this idea has not been all that well received, at least by the teacher and some of the students whom I have spoken to.
I prefer the amendment that was introduced by the Minister of Education that calls for section 45 of the Education Act to apply, whereby the school committees would decide and determine the patriotic exercises that would be used in their schools. One option, of course, is to introduce the practice of having the students sing O Canada every day, or have the students listen to it being played over the public address system.
Of course, this is done during school assemblies as a matter of practice, during the half a dozen or so assemblies that they have every year. Again, that is a special event, a special assembly. Another example is the half dozen times during the year, at the most, that adults would have occasion to sing the national anthem.
There are many other examples of patriotic exercises that I think would be far more meaningful for students to derive benefit from and should be considered by school committees for adoption in their schools. They could learn more about our history of this country, not in the regular school class setting, but they could read short stories or act out plays on or about Canadians in Canadian settings, written by Canadians as opposed to Americans, or as interpreted by Americans.
They can focus on what it means to be a Canadian. They can take a look at the constitutional crisis and have some discussions about that. They could, perhaps, once a week or a fortnight - some meaningful period of time - have a good session where they could talk about what it means to be Canadian, why our country is different, socially, economically, culturally, politically from the States, for example, as well as other countries. I think the students would derive a lot more benefit from that than merely mimicking words every day to the tune of O Canada.
I consider myself to be a patriotic Canadian. I love my country. I would say that I am a very fiercely patriotic Canadian, but it is not as a result of singing O Canada every day when I attended elementary and secondary school in Ontario, which, incidentally, I did not do. I can clearly recall that O Canada was piped in over the public address system every morning, which was fine. It gave me an opportunity to think about this great country we have, just like I feel today in this House, and every day, when we start off with prayers by the Speaker.
I am reminded, every day when I am standing in this House listening to the prayers about the responsibility we have to all the Yukon people in this territory, representing a rural riding, thinking about the people in my riding and other ridings, the diverse lifestyles we lead, how unique we are from other parts of the country. Something I can do while listening to a national anthem or prayers is to concentrate on that. I can do that a lot better than I could if I were singing something.
I did not become fiercely patriotic as a result of singing or listening to O Canada in school every day. I did it by developing an understanding and appreciation for what our country is all about, and in taking an interest in all aspects of our society. It began with the lessons I learned from my parents.
My parents are second-generation Canadians. They are not fourth- or fifth-generation Canadians, as with some Members of this House. My mothers parents came from the Ukraine, and my fathers from England. My dad fought in the Second World War, and the lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents about this country, what it stands for and why we should be proud of it, I took to heart. I come from a very political family, and I can remember the great debate in my house, when I was approximately 10 years of age, on the decision to shut down the Avro Arrow.
Diefenbaker called it the greatest problem and the greatest situation he ever had to face, one that he regretted right to his dying day - having to make the decision to shut down the Arrow. To this country, it meant a sense of a loss of pride, a loss of independence, and a loss of being different. This is something akin to what my grandfather would say about no longer having an auto industry for this country, when we lost the McLaughlin.
Those things mean a lot to my family and they passed that along to me. In my generation, it is nice to be able to feel good about something when we do make some technical advances, such as, the Canada Arm for the space shuttle program.
I think I have gained a good appreciation for this country and become very proud of it through my travels, just as the Member for Porter Creek East has. He, too, is widely travelled. I think that we are very fortunate to do that.
Growing up in Ontario, at the particular time that I did, and going to university, I, like all my friends, fell into the same mistake. As soon as we graduated from university, we did not travel in our own country. We all went to Europe. I got a motor bike and I travelled to about 15 countries over three or four months. I came back.
I know what the Member for Porter Creek West is saying. I came back saying that I was proud to be Canadian. I am proud of our country and what we stand for.
Then I decided, having come to that conclusion through first-hand experience and not just taking the word of my parents and friends, that the best thing I could do for myself was to see my own country. When I completed my graduate work in Halifax - and part of the reason why I went to Dalhousie University was to get away from Ontario to experience life in another part of the country, the Maritimes - I decided to see my own country. I hitchhiked across this country from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Point Pelee in Southern Ontario to the Pacific Rim Park to Dawson City in four months. That was back in 1973. I am so pleased that I did that. I knew there would come a time when, like everyone else, when I would settle down and decide on which part of the country I would live, take up roots and not get those opportunities to travel. I am glad I was able to take advantage of that.
Since I decided to stay here in 1974, I have again been very fortunate to travel. I represented the Yukon in a national organization and travelled twice a year, almost every year, since 1974. I think I developed an appreciation for the way of life on the rock, in the Maritimes and in Quebec. I enjoyed it very much when I was a high school student and university student in Ontario, going to Quebec for the winter carnival or going to Quebec City in the summertime. There was a completely different atmosphere there and a different flavor of this country.
I have also taken an active interest in the history of the development of our country. I collect antique books. I have maps going back to the 1840s of this country. I have furniture made in Canada with Canadian lumber from Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Incidentally, that piece of furniture would not have historic significance to the territory.
I think I have given the impression to Members opposite that I do care a lot about this country. I would challenge anyone who would think differently on that. Any opportunity that I have to buy Canadian, I will.
I would conclude these remarks by saying that as a result of all of this, I really do value the difference between our country and the one we are always compared with: the United States of America. I can guarantee Members that I will be the first one leading the fight, if the day ever came, if the United States ever tried to annex Canada as its 51st state.
Getting back to the subamendment, I am in favour of the amendment that has been proposed by the Minister of Education that lets school committees decide, under the direction and influence of the parents, not the legislators, the nature of the patriotic exercise to be conducted in their childrens school. I would hope that the parents would ask their children for their thoughts on this matter before making recommendations to the school committee on the best way to raise Canadians to be proud Canadians.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to add a few of my personal thoughts to this debate or dialogue, as the case may be. I note that, as the Member for Dawson just said, the debate has been going on now for almost two and three-quarter hours and we are rapidly running out of the time allotted for us to debate the motion.
I am very keen on allowing each and every honorable Member here the opportunity to stand and be counted on a vote with regard to the motion as amended and then amended again by way of subamendment. Because of that, and because others before me had so much to say, I will be somewhat shorter in my remarks than I was originally intending to be.
Very quickly, to go through the debate, the Member for Porter Creek East, in support of the motion, had a good number of things to say. Then we heard from the Member for Mayo, who admitted part way through his speech that most of his speech was down the drain because he had misinterpreted what was meant by the motion. Because of that, he really did not have such a great problem with it because, on the face of it, the motion called for an expression of opinion from the House rather than any attempt to command or force the school committees to take any particular course of action.
Having said that and having abbreviated what he had to say - for which I am very thankful because, had he not, I am sure I would not be standing here right now speaking - he introduced his amendment anyway, which had been prepared before he realized what the motion really said. Presumably, the amendment had the full support of his caucus. I got the distinct impression that this was done as a tactic, because there was some alarm about what the position of some Members on his side might be.
This, in turn, led to the Member for Porter Creek East putting forward the subamendment, to which we are now speaking, and it has been rather interesting to hear what everyone has had to say to this point with regard to the issue. It is rather interesting that some Members have been rather evasive about the simple opinion, as expressed both in the original motion and in the motion as amended, and then subamended.
I do not really feel that it is asking an awful lot to have children stand up and sing O Canada once a day in school. I do not feel that this will lead to jingoism, to quote my friend, the Hon. Member for Whitehorse West, or lead to unthinking patriotism that would cause wars, as was stated by the Member for Whitehorse South Centre.
It seems to me, as I have said before, it is not much to ask of students or teachers to stand up for the short time that it takes to sing O Canada at the commencement of the school day.
There are some reasons for doing it, of course. There is the hope that it would assist, although not stand in a causal relationship, in instilling some sense of pride and tradition in all young Canadians. There is hope that...
Speaker: Order please.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would not interrupt the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition for any other reason but on a point of order. I wonder if he would permit me, just for a second, to call attention to the presence in the gallery of the Government Leader of Northwest Territories and the Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Minister of Energy, together with a number of officials from their government.
Mr. Phelps: The Member for Klondike, in his talk, which was interesting, made some arguments that I do not agree with in telling us why he is going to vote against the subamendment. One of the arguments, it seemed, was that he had checked it out and some of the students in Dawson were tired of doing this. That seemed to be a sufficient argument not bothering, they have better things to do.
Were it something that was oppressive, or something I could accept as being arduous, that kind of an argument might carry some weight. I suppose I would make the analogy of teaching children to show respect, to say please and thank you, and that sort of thing. Often, they do not like it.
I have raised children, and I know that they do not like to be told to do these things. I have always felt that it was in their best interest to learn a bit of discipline. I did not really see a lot of harm in commanding that kind of a show of respect for people.
The bottom line is I do not really think it is such a big deal to ask of children in the nation, and in the territory, in particular, for that show of respect and awareness of what Canada is about.
In fairness to the Member for Dawson, he did go on to speak at some length about other and better ways to have children learn and appreciate our country. I share that with him; there certainly are, but I feel this small gesture is one thing we ought to stand for and request of the schools simply because a start has to be made somewhere. I would like to see more time taken in schools to discuss some of the basic issues of what Canada is about and some of the problems we are facing as a nation today. I certainly would very much support those kinds of programs, but I think that is a different issue and one I would support. Should the Member want to come forward sometime in this House with a motion to that effect, I would be one of the first to jump to my feet and support it.
The Member also stated that we stand every day in this House and prayers are said by the Speaker before we start business. This gives us each, individually, an opportunity to think about our role, about our country, our responsibilities to the people, and reflect on things of that nature.
I am not an extremely religious man, but I do go to funerals very often, for much the same reason - not for much more of a reason than to show some respect for the deceased and to take that time to think about the person for whom the funeral is being held.
Those are most of my thoughts. I could go on at some length. I think that it is unfortunate that there has been some negativism expressed here today. Some very passionate feelings have also been expressed, and I can understand that on the part of each and every person who spoke. However, having listened carefully, I go back to my view and I will be voting on the basis of it. Spending that short period of time each day before school starts, surely is not too much to ask.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is truly unfortunate that I have not been afforded the opportunity to debate at some length given that every Member on the opposite side has challenged me to say more in this debate. I feel obligated to do just that.
I think the Member for Hootalinqua, with the exception of the Member for Porter Creek East, knows better. The debate this afternoon, I thought, was about allowing the provision of patriotic services into the schools and allowing the school councils to make the determinations as to what the degree or the nature of those patriotic services might be.
It quickly turned into a debate about how Canadian various Members of this Legislature really are, based solely on the determination of how many times they sing the national anthem or how many times they want their children to sing the national anthem every single day. How ludicrous would it be if I asked the Member for Hootalinqua or the Member for Riverdale North - who was challenging us in the typical bully-boy fashion that is his way - when was the last time they sung the national anthem and, if they had not sang it today, accuse them of being un-Canadian. This is a most McCarthy-like examination of how we feel about our country. When was the last time we sung the national anthem? You do not care about this country unless you sing the national anthem or encourage the children in the schools to sing it every day.
I have no problems at all with children singing the national anthem every day. I absolutely resent that that is the Member opposites test of how Canadian I am. The very cynical, ugly motives that have brought this motion before us ...
Speaker: Order please. The time now being 5:30 p.m., I declare debate on the subamendment adjourned. I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. this evening.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 20: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster, amendment to motion for second reading moved by Mr. Lang. Adjourned debate, Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Porter Creek East
THAT the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word THAT and substituting for them the following:
Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to resume giving my non-partisan speech that I committed myself to yesterday. I do want to say that I did hear the Government House Leaders press conference today. I heard him saying on the radio that he was convinced we wanted to kill the bill. That is not the case.
I also heard him say that the whole point in proceeding with this particular initiative that we have decided to choose was so that we could have a chance to repeat, repeat, repeat and delay, delay, delay. I just want the Member to know that I do not relish the thought of having to talk and talk and talk and listen and listen while everyone talks and talks. I do not think any of the Members do. It is not as if this is being done as some kind of intentional, obstructive measure.
It is only fair for me to expect the Members opposite to take into consideration some of the concerns we may raise on this side of the House and some of the concerns I might have as the Member for Riverdale South. I see no reason why we cannot reach some kind of cooperative agreement, as we did with the debate on the heritage legislation.
I would like to take some time now to bring forward some points of concern that my constituents have, and if the Minister has any further questions that he wishes to discuss with me after I have made my presentation, I am quite prepared to sit down with him and elaborate on the points that I will raise this evening.
I want to begin with the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. It issued a press release about a report that it had done on the draft Environment Act. I believe that some of the observations that it made at that time still applied to the new draft of the legislation. I got a copy of the report, read through it and found some of the observations that the Yukon Council on the Economy and Environment had made were extremely interesting, and were not inconsistent with the concerns that we are raising.
I am sure the Minister has read the report and is familiar with it, but I would like to go through it for the record and point out some of the observations they made.
In the report, under the section they call The right spirit, the right tone, the council writes that its tone should promote compliance, not threaten punishment. That is a concern all Members of the Legislature should share, because it is our constituents who are going to be feeling threatened and who are going to be feeling that they have to comply or be punished if they do not comply. The council states that very clearly, and it is much the same as the point the Opposition Leader raised - that people want to know how the proposed act will apply to them; they want to know how they will have to alter their behaviour in order to comply with the act. In some cases, the act is not clear about this. The best example I can give of that is on page 39 of the act, which deals with the development assessment process. One of the Ministers constituents may come up to him and ask, How do I fit into this? How is this going to affect my life? Part 6 of the act is Development Approvals and Permits, and all it says about development approvals and permits is that development assessment process means any or all of the procedures specified in the regulations and carried out under this Part....
Well, that does not mean anything to us if we do not have the regulations; therefore, I cannot communicate to those people exactly what that means. Then it goes on to say in section 83 on page 40, Where a development or activity requires a permit... It does not tell you anything about the permit. It says construct or operate the development or undertake the activity... and yet there is no definition of what the activities are. When someone comes up to me and says that they want to develop a small mining operation or to develop a small hydro site, or they want to develop a small business that might have some effect on the environment, I am not able, as their MLA, to tell them what the process is, what they will have to go through to get their permit or whether it is one of those development projects that will require that whole process.
I think that is the concern that we are trying to bring forward to the Minister when we ask for a delay in this particular piece of legislation. Give it six months so some regulations can be drafted. The Leader of the Official Opposition raised the point that perhaps some of those principles that will be contained in those regulations should more appropriately be identified in the legislation so that when you read the legislation, when you read the law, you know exactly what the government is talking about. Therefore, we, as MLAs, can communicate to our constituents exactly what processes they have to go through.
The report goes on to talk about some of the definitions, some of the other observations that they make about definitions.
As the government continues to draft the act it should carefully examine the definitions. Some definitions, like those for adverse effects and litter, need to be carefully revised. Others need to be added to the list.
They put an interesting little anecdote in the report about how one persons garbage is another persons treasure. They make reference to how pieces of iron could be considered litter to Whitehorse householders but could be an important part that might save a trip to town for a rural resident. I think that is an important consideration that the government has to give to this piece of legislation.
The council was also concerned about the acts applicability in certain areas, such as the considerable jurisdiction overlap. That is another area that the government has to address and has to be more specific about in the legislation as opposed to defining that in regulations.
The report goes on to say that the government needs to reasonably access the direct and indirect costs in implementation as quickly as possible. The council believes that these costs should be regularly communicated to the public.
That is something that we have always maintained about legislation when it has been brought to this Assembly. I think that I have been consistent in the last six years, as an opposition Member, questioning the government about what the financial implications of a new law going to be on the public purse and on all taxpayers in the Yukon. That is something that has not been done with respect to this act. Obviously, that concern is supported by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. It is an area that they are telling the government they need to do further work in.
There is another section in the report on fairness. The council emphatically stresses that everything reasonably possible must be done to ensure that innocent people are not hurt, directly or indirectly, by the enactment or enforcement of the act, or of subsequent regulations.
Because we do not have any regulations, and because there are what we consider deficiencies of procedure in the act - matters not specified in the act, but will be specified in regulations - I think it increases the potential for innocent people to be hurt.
They go on to make the significant point that legal battles can have catastrophic consequences, especially for small operators. They cite an incident with the wilderness tourism operators, and how important it is that the council has responsible individuals and officials who will be liable under the act.
In the conclusion, the council stresses the relationship between the environment and the economy. That is something we have been raising in the House ever since the critic first responded to this legislation. The council says that a symbiotic relationship exists between our environment and our economy. Therefore, a healthy economy requires a healthy environment, and that thinking exclusively in economic or environmental terms is not ethically or financially affordable.
We have raised that issue several times, as I said, since the critic started making the presentations on this legislation. I think it is very important that we do not look at one aspect of the bill without looking at the implications that it is going to have on another sector in the Yukon.
We must continue to work toward complete compatibility between our economic and environmental goals and agendas. Only then will they be truly sustainable. Of course, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment recommends that we work toward a Yukon sustainable development act. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is looking very much into the future with respect to its recommendations.
The reason that I wanted to present that information is because it does support the concerns and the arguments that we are bringing forward with respect to the motion that has been presented by the critic for the Environment Act to ask for a six-month delay in giving second reading to the bill.
The points that we are making are not complicated or complex, nor do they require a lot of examination, debate or thought. We felt that some of the basic principles had to be included in the legislation and not the regulations, or we as Members of this Legislative Assembly are not going to be able to perform our duties to our constituents without seeing what that process was.
I have already gone into some detail about my comments with the Minister, giving him an example of how we would be unable to serve our constituents with this legislation as it exists now, unless we have the regulations to accompany it. I want to reinforce the point that the Leader of the Official Opposition made. I support his position and his strong feelings that those principles are so pertinent to the way the act is going to operate and be interpreted that they should be included as part of the legislation as opposed to being in regulations.
I mentioned also the definitions should clarify what major and minor development is so that we know whether or not a certain project is going to require this development assessment process.
We also raised a concern about the clause on forestry and that we must not create a forestry act by regulation. That is essentially what that one clause in the bill does.
The land use planning is a concern. We have a Land Planning Act, with its own regulations, but now, according to this act, we are going to have more regulations with respect to land use planning. I think that is another area where it would be more prudent to have it identified in the legislation as opposed to having another set of regulations.
We raised the two issues. The first was that there were no regulations accompanying this and, the second, that there were a lot of principles that should be included in the act as opposed to the regulations.
The concern is that the regulations are drafted by administrative officials, bureaucrats and department personnel - whoever does them. I, too, share the concern of the Leader of the Official Opposition, because I can still remember what it was like when we were in government. An act is passed in the Legislature, some time passes, the regulations are drafted, they are sent to Cabinet and they are read. Perhaps of five of the Members there, two might read them or one might, or maybe all of them. Nevertheless, the regulations get almost rubber stamped by Cabinet. By that time, some of the finer points of the legislation may have been forgotten or overlooked. If you have a very dedicated, hard-working Minister, or even a couple of Ministers, they will go back, pull out the legislation and cross reference everything. That does not always happen.
We think that it is a safer method for us to have the regulations accompany the legislation. That is a commitment that the former Minister of Justice had made to this Assembly.
He came in here and said that the legislation he brought forward was going to be accompanied by regulations - something that had not been done in the past. He was quite correct - it had not been done previously. We thought it was a good idea. I can remember standing in the House and saying I thought it was a good idea and we appreciated it and looked forward to having a more positive, constructive and a better-informed debate on the new laws we were being asked to debate in this House. It worked well for a while, until the regulations stopped coming with the legislation. Then it took longer and there were more questions, and we started to get into some disputes with respect to the regulations.
I would like to impress upon the government that I think it would be a good idea if it went back to that commitment and to that process; I think we could then have a better-informed debate about the new laws they bring forward.
I have my little pet peeves about legislation, about the cost, about how many extra people it will require, how many more person years, what are the administrative costs going to be, what is the impact going to be on the public financially, and so on. I do not think the Minister can, at this time, give us that information. It is important to have that information at the time we are debating a new law coming into effect. I think it is extremely important, because sometimes the costs can be quite in excess of what one might think when one read the legislation.
I have a particular concern about a comment the Minister made concerning the municipalities and their having to comply with the new laws in the Environment Act. I have a great deal of concern about the municipalities financial capabilities to comply with what this new law is going to ask them to do. Again, because we do not have the regulations, I am at a disadvantage to say whether that is true or not, but that is the feeling I get, because I know it is going to cause change in the municipalities and I know there are going to be additional requirements. They will have to do new things for waste disposal, perhaps, for garbage pick-up, or whatever.
I can well recall the human rights legislation that came to the Assembly. We asked about the costs and the impact on the communities. The community of Whitehorse, which proceeded with some of the concepts in the bill with respect to pay equity, incurred extra costs in the form of wages to the employees. That was a figure we were unaware of when we were debating that legislation.
The biggest concern I have is the governments reluctance to wait with this piece of legislation, to let it sit with us for six months and to start working on some of the regulations, to look at areas of the bill they could put new sections in that they were going to put in the regulations, or give us an opportunity to develop some amendments so we could include some of the principles that would be in the regulations in the legislation. I think that is a reasonable request to make.
The reason I think it is so reasonable is that, by asking for this six month delay, in my mind, I cannot see how anybody is going to be hurt by that, or how anyone is going to lose. It is not going to hurt the people in Whitehorse, it is not going to hurt the people in Lake Laberge, who are complaining about the sewage situation down there. All that process is going to go ahead. The municipality of Whitehorse is looking at resolving that environmental crisis.
The people with the litter programs are going to continue with them. I do not understand how anybody is going to be hurt, particularly the Yukon public, who should be foremost in our minds. I do not know how they are going to be hurt or lose out if we delay this for six months.
If we delay it, all we can do is help achieve the goal that the Minister of Education spoke of when he rose to speak to this motion. All we can do is hope to achieve the goal of good legislation. As I said to the Minister at that time, it is a goal we share.
I think that we can have better legislation if we have that time delay. It will give us an opportunity to work a little bit more on this existing bill.
I know there have been some comments about it being time for us to do our job and to debate this as MLAs and to get down to work. I agree that it is time to do that, but I do not think that we should push ahead, doing our job in the Legislature, without hearing what some of the groups and individuals have to say. A delay is not going to damage the situation in any way.
I agree that we will do our job. We will have six months to review the legislation. We will have witnesses come forward. Perhaps we would not even need witnesses if the government chooses to support this motion to delay second reading for six months. We would be able to seek those presentations privately from the groups that have indicated a willingness to come forward. I believe there are nine of them on the list that we received this morning. I think it would be in the best interests of all Yukon people if we went ahead and did that.
I have two or three other points of concern that I wish to raise in summary of what I have said tonight. I also have a concern about the implementation strategy and timetable. The Minister talks about something happening in 1996. Nevertheless, I am concerned about us having a very specific timetable for what is going to happen. If we delayed this for six months and worked on that, the Minister could bring back a better strategy for us and we would know exactly what the governments intentions are.
I think we have to be very aware of the possibility of the Yukon taking on responsibilities that should be federal responsibilities. We need to clarify those overlaps.
We have to look at the balance between environmental and economic considerations and any adverse effects that might have on an activity, subject to the act. There are no standards to define acceptable levels of effect.
Virtually every economic activity will be regulated by the act and by the director. I think those are three or four areas of concern that have to be addressed. I would like to ask the Minister and his colleagues on the other side to very strongly consider our request, and I look forward to listening to what some of the other Members have to say with respect to this.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I feel compelled to enter the debate for a number of reasons. I think it is necessary to restate some of the facts surrounding the consultation process involved in this bill. I think there has to be something said about the real significance of the amendment before us, and I think something has to be said about the impact on the economy, and the relationship to the economy, that environmental protection efforts would generate.
Let me speak first about the amendment that essentially calls for, in the terminology of Members who have spoken, a six month hoist. In parliamentary tradition, a motion introduced that calls for a six month hoist at a second reading debate is clearly an effort to kill that bill. That has been used in the past; that is the precedent of the past; that has been established in debates in the House of Commons, and I believe even in this Legislature in the past. A six month hoist is essentially that: an effort to kill a bill. Now, Members can talk all they want about their perceived desire to see regulations, their perceived desire to engage in more public consultation; about their criticism that the bill is inadequate.
The bottom line to all of those arguments is that I believe they want to kill this bill. They do not believe in it. They do not want this bill to go forward. Their marching orders have been given and they are marching to the tune.
Aside from the point that a six-month hoist in parliamentary tradition means that you no longer want to see that particular piece of legislation move forward, I think there is a need to address one of the arguments for the six-month hoist. It is the argument that there needs to be more consultation. The Members are making a lot of allegations about the consultations. Some reminders must be put on the record.
In the first instance, not only has this government set new precedents and standards in matters of consultation on a wide variety of issues, policy and legislation, but that consultation continues in everything the government does. This bill is an example of that.
Speakers before me, and particularly my colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, have outlined to the House the extent of public consultation that led up to the bill before us. He pointed out to Members that it began with a discussion paper approximately one year ago. He pointed out the release of the draft act last December.
Over the course of the last year, there were many public discussion meetings held with individuals, communities, organizations and representatives from all across the Yukon, from all walks of life and from every community. That did take place. I believe the Minister of Renewable Resources personally engaged in those community consultations by visiting virtually every community in the Yukon, I believe, except one.
Those discussions, in addition to the discussion paper that was put forward, provided for the kind of input from Yukon people of what they wanted to see in an Environment Act. That was really only the beginning.
After the draft act was tabled in the House there was a Yukon-wide community consultation to hear peoples views and to talk about suggestions for change. I think that it would be quite fair to say that many groups, individuals, organizations and communities went through that draft act. Many people had a lot to say about it and there was substantial criticism on some aspects of the draft.
My colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, has gone to extensive effort to take the draft act and accommodate the constructive criticism that was received through the dozens of meetings that were held since January. The criticism that was received in that period was valuable and useful. In fact, I attended some of those meetings. One in particular comes to mind, where the Chamber of Mines outlined the concerns that they had with the draft act. I participated with the Minister in a discussion of those concerns in presenting the subsequent redraft to the Chamber of Mines.
There is no question that there was a very comfortable feeling that many of their concerns were addressed in the new bill - not absolutely all of them, but clearly most of them were adopted in the new bill.
It comes to mind that probably the greatest difficulty we have experienced over the consultation period has been the nonparticipation, until just recently, by people who probably ought to have involved themselves from the beginning. Nevertheless, it has been something of a surprise that people who were silent became very vocal just recently.
It comes to mind that even the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, for example, was invited to participate in the discussion leading to the act, as long ago as last October. There was no interest at that time. Encouragement to the Chamber to respond to even the discussion paper did not precipitate any kind of reaction, either. At that time, the Chamber was clearly not interested.
There are people who claim to be great advocates of environmental protection. These people are the same people who, when they finally took up our offer to get a thorough briefing on the draft act, had not even read the text of the draft.
They added nothing related to the proposed legislation, which they really wanted to discuss, other than that they did not like it.
I am not surprised that the Opposition wants us to delay this act. It is probably quite typical of a schizophrenic type of behaviour. I recall last year, in matters relating to discussion about a proposed environmental act, they accused us of going too slow - when was it going to be tabled, what is the government doing? Well, this year we seem to be moving too quickly. They tell us the rural communities need help and the municipalities need help, that this is going to be too onerous on them. It comes to mind that, when we go to the aid of a community - like swapping fuel contracts to ensure that that community has a fuel supply - they criticize the effort of support.
We spent the entire afternoon debating a motion about singing O Canada, but a week ago they refused to talk on a motion on national unity.
We have to have some consistency. To be perfectly fair, perhaps the Leader of the Official Opposition gave a very fair-minded speech on that occasion.
Part of the point I am making is that I am trying understand the lack of consistency and positioning of Members opposite on a number of issues.
On the subject of inconsistency, the Member for Porter Creek East has been asking my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, for increases in all sorts of services to people, but when we allocate funds to pay for those services, the Member throws a fit because we did not spend as much on the roads.
The inconsistency and positioning of Members is sometimes confusing.
I guess we have the example before us right now. For months, the side opposite has been calling for numerous changes to the draft act - I should not say months, it may be, at best, a couple of months because the Member for Porter Creek East did not have much to say on the draft act until the final day of submissions by the public - but now that those changes are being made and my colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, is introducing those changes to accommodate not only the Member for Porter Creek Easts concerns, but many public concerns, organizations concerns and communities concerns, we get the big six-month hoist; we cannot proceed. They say we are making too many changes. I have difficulty understanding the inconsistency.
If we did delay passage of this act, in three months time we would be reading front page stories about how the government is not moving fast enough.
I listened to the Member for Porter Creek East yesterday talk about how this act was going to destroy the mining industry. He referred to four mines that had operational problems, how mining was tough and how the industry was in trouble. By association, he makes the point that this Environmental Act is going to make things worse.
My colleague, the Minister of Education, may have pointed this out. None of the mines that he mentioned have anything to do with this Environment Act. None of those four mines, including the mine in my riding, is currently in trouble for environmental reasons.
The Member also made a number of statements in respect to the investment that we would lose by the introduction of this bill - especially in mining - and how it would hurt the economy. It seems to me that this bill is an investment, an investment in our future, an investment in our ability to continue to have an economy, I think it is an investment in our environment, which is part of our economy. Let me say further that in respect of mining specifically, the Yukon is currently recognized as having one of the most of favourable and most cooperative and most responsible investment climates in western Canada.
Read the Northern Miner; talk to the Chamber of Mines; they will verify that this government, this territory, has one of the healthiest investment climates for mining with some of the best mining support programs to encourage the small investor, the small prospector, the middle-sized operator. Our programs in support of mining are some of the healthiest in the country - supplemented now by a very healthy economic development agreement, which is also going to be complimentary to the industry.
If any disincentives exist, they are certainly not going to be from the passage of this act, because if you talk to the serious miners, and serious-minded mining companies, they want to be environmentally responsible. They recognize that, in this bill, is the ability for them to write the regulations. They participate in the development of those draft regulations.
The rule-making section of the act is very clear. There are no regulations being made behind closed doors. The public and the stake-holders must be involved in the preparation of the draft regulations.
Once completed, the draft regulations must receive a minimum of 60 days of public review.
Where and when necessary, advisory committees can be formed. A review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of the regulations can be undertaken. That is in the bill. The mining community recognizes that. On top of that, they recognize that the regulations affecting mining, which do not exist now under the environmental review panel, are going to be two, three or four years down the road. There is a healthy period of time for the appropriate consultation on the regulation-making authority to happen.
What the bill before us outlines is very democratic. It is very modern. It is responsive to people. It is hardly the pompous, power-seeking abrogation of democracy the Members across the floor are falsely alleging.
I cannot avoid repeating my concern about statements by the Member for Porter Creek East when he talks about what this bill will do for mining. The Member went on to talk about how bad this bill would be for mining, which I have already disproved, and I believe it is supported by the mining community.
He went on to suggest, if I recall his comments from yesterday, that if somehow this bill proceeded it would interfere with the rights of large corporations to continue operations and if that was going to happen we should indeed kill this bill. I heard nothing from the Member about the rights of people to make a living or the rights of people to enjoy a decent environment while enjoying an economy. I heard nothing about the responsibility of all of us to address a balanced approach to sustainable development, as mentioned by the Member for Riverdale South.
In this act Yukon people are working together to take care of our environment. That to me is very important, and it is long overdue. This act allows for all levels of government, communities, businesses and groups to work cooperatively toward the protection of our environment.
In addition to what I said earlier about the mining community participating in the regulation-making provisions, clearly it has to be said that business and industry are going to be involved. I think that I agree with Members when they suggest that business and industry have a role and a responsibility in protecting our environment. They are prepared to carry that role and are prepared to be responsible about it.
I think that this act provides a vehicle for doing just that in a very consistent fashion. The framework in the bill is the mechanism that will give us the ability to set standards for the development of our regulations.
It cannot be said often enough that the act requires public consultation to develop those regulations. The business community will have the opportunity to play a role in developing those regulations.
I think that it is also important to note that regulations are going to be phased in over a five year period. Everyone is going to have plenty of time to digest and comment on those rules and regulations. There are provision for those regulations to be subject to a cost-benefit analysis that Members seem to want to be provided before the consultation process takes place and the full impacts are known. I sincerely hope that the input into the regulations will be more beneficial than some of the comments that I have heard.
I think this legislation provides a measure of certainty for business and industry. It does so in a clarification of jurisdictions. Let us be realistic about jurisdictions. We do not have the responsibility for the territorial Lands Act; we do not have responsibility for the Quartz Mining Act; we do not have responsibility for the Placer Mining Act, nor for the Northern Inland Waters Act. This Environment Act will not allow us to occupy those areas at this time. As we assume more responsibility from the federal government, and ongoing devolution that is occurring, this legislation creates the necessary base for the appropriate legislation that will be required through devolution.
I would like to close in stating a couple of more obvious points. I do not think it is ever too soon to do something for the environment. It is almost always too late to do something. So, what are Members opposite saying? Delay it, kill it, because that is what the amendment says.
It is always cheaper to do it now. I think I, as well as other Members, know that it always costs more tomorrow. Ask the people of Hagervile: when is it cheaper, today or tomorrow? Is it too soon, or too late, to address the environment?
In the rest of the country, all the time and resources are being spent cleaning up what has already been polluted and destroyed. There are barely enough resources to address a more proactive protective approach.
Nothing can be said more emphatically than that. We are relatively untouched by pollution in comparative terms with regions to the south, and we have a strong enough economy today to take that kind of proactive approach. We do not have the resources to deal with major environmental damage here; we have to take steps to ensure that the possibility of that kind of damage does not happen here. We cannot afford not to address it.
I say that the Yukon is relatively untouched, but we do have some problems. The Members across the floor are mentioning them to me in quiet terms. The Whitehorse sewage lagoon and the Range Road dump come to mind. The Leader of the Official Opposition thinks Aishihik Lake is a serious environmental problem, as is burning diesel fuel. Perhaps I can talk about diesel fuel. I do not think for an instant that we should be burning the quantity of diesel fuel that we are, but it is a reality and we must take steps to ensure that we get away from using so much diesel fuel. The Leader of the Opposition and I have been through this in Question Period many times. I am just as unhappy as he is with the amount of diesel consumption in our electrical energy generation and we have to take steps to get off diesel.
Could the Members opposite have predicted a 30 percent increase in consumption by Curragh Resources? Did Members know the increase in consumption territory-wide three years ago, which is the planning period for hydro generation? Hydro is not cheap and there are environmental aspects to consider. The Leader of the Official Opposition charged the other day that the staff at Yukon Energy Corporation is blackmailing Yukon people by suggesting that by not running the water over Otter Falls and thereby saving $600,000, is a cheap explanation and argument to tell to Yukon people.
There is a contradiction in positioning right there. On the one hand, the Opposition wants to save on diesel consumption by using more water for hydro-generation, which is environmentally more safe, and ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please speak to the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is with respect that I accept your ruling. I believe I was straying off the subject somewhat. I was provoked by Members opposite; though I will not be anymore. In fact, I will let Members opposite stand up and put their feet in their mouths, as they have for the last while.
In the Yukon, the environment has been shortchanged long enough. I believe that we should proceed with this bill. Elements within it should be addressed clause by clause in Committee stage. We should address the amendments that the Minister is bringing forward. We should recognize the version of the act that we have before us as one that has gone through massive public consultation. We should continue that consultation as provided for in the act in the subsequent phases for regulation.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to speak in support of the amendment, asking for a six-month delay in second reading of this bill.
I will try to stick to the topic, unlike the previous speaker. I am sure that my speech will not be as long as his conclusion.
Only good will come from carrying on this debate six-months hence. Nothing bad will happen in that time interval. A six month hoist is not going to kill this bill. The Member for Mayo knows that, despite his remarks in the media. The Member for Faro knows that, despite his enlightening us with his new-found wisdom with respect to parliamentary tradition.
The Minister responsible for the environment knows that a delay of six months will not kill his bill. The Minister has said that the act will not have any immediate effect and that regulations must be drafted. The Member for Faro said that regulations would be phased in over the next five years.
According to the Minister responsible for the environment, this is a great act. In his words, it will be seen to be the most effective and cooperative in the country. What is he afraid of? Is he afraid it will not stand the test of time? The test of time we are asking for is six months. He does not know whether it will make it and thinks perhaps we should not wait that long.
The passing of this act in the next few days, having this act forced through by the Minister...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Nordling: The Minister says, Forced through? When did we get the proper draft of this act to review? We got it today. Halfway through second reading, the act lands on my desk, signed by the Minister of Justice, as it was agreed that acts would come into this House: with a French and English version.
The government leader says, Prior to assent. I will guarantee you that we are seeing a lot of faith coming from that side over there, because I doubt that more than one, two, maybe three Members have examined this bill in detail, clause by clause, and can stand up and honestly say, I have read all 92 pages; I have read every clause; I understand them, I understand what they will do and I agree with it. It just is not so. Their confidence is in the Minister of the Environment and his staff who drafted the act.
So let us not pretend that everyone has looked at this and those who want to push it through know exactly what each clause says and what it means.
Now, passing the act in the next few days is not going to find us a storage site for hazardous waste. We set up a committee to do that in 1985; the committee is still looking for that hazardous waste site and has spent, as the Member for Porter Creek East says, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Passing this act in the next few days or few weeks is not going to plug the apparent hole in the waste oil pit up at the dump. It is not going to stop sewage from pouring into the Yukon River, and it is not going to clean up the litter along the highways. It is a complex and far-reaching document that merits detailed review. That detailed review has not been done.
Yesterday, at 2:30 p.m. the gallery here was almost full. I will bet that virtually every single person in that gallery would have said, I support an environment act for the Yukon. There is no question about it. I doubt that 10 percent, or even five percent of them, could pick up this act and say, I have read and I support the Environment Act as tabled by the Minister on May 6, because it has not been available. I know it has not been available, because yesterday afternoon people went to the information desk to pick up a copy of the act.
Do you know how many there were at the information desk? There were none. The act was not available.
The Member for Mayo said we should support the act as it is, but do you know what he talked about? He talked about basic principles; he talked about the general underpinning of the act and he talked about the goal of passing good legislation. I agree with all those things and I support that. Do you know why I think the Member for Mayo spoke in those terms? Because he has not read the act in detail; because he does not know exactly what is in it. I think he is waiting for clause by clause, too, to find out what the act is all about.
I have read the letters to the editor in support of an environment act, and I have read all the letters that have asked the Minister to take some time and consult, but I will not go into those. Just for a moment, I want to look at the letters the Minister claims his great support from, when he says he has consulted, has great support, and people want this act.
There was a letter from Dave Young, the president of the Yukon Outfitters Association. Mr. Young said, We need this legislation to fill the vacuum. The intent of the legislation is of great benefit to Yukoners. Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. The intent is absolutely of great benefit to Yukoners, and I do not disagree with one word the president of the Yukon Outfitters Association said.
The Yukon River Commercial Fishing Association, based in Dawson City, wrote a letter to the editor in support of an environment act. They said, We support the concept of the draft. That is not too precise, and is nothing that the Minister can hang his hat on. In their conclusion, they supported the initiative to enact a Yukon environment act. We do, too.
Bob Van Dijken, the president of the Yukon Conservation Society, likened this act to building a house. He said the act is a framework, and we have heard that from Members opposite, too. I like that analogy.
This is no ordinary framework. This is not your regular house that we are going to put together. This is a new and untried design. Now that we have this framework in the form of a bill that has been tabled, let it sit for a few months. Let us study it and admire it for six months and see if we still like it and if it holds up.
The Member from Riverdale South says the world is not going to end. That is true and I do not even think the Yukon is going to get much messier for it. Let us give the Outfitters Association a chance to look beyond the intent of this act. Let us give the Yukon River Commercial Fishing Association a chance to look beyond the concept and initiative of bringing in an act. Let these associations look at this particular bill. Give it to them to look at and then they can write to the editor and say, I have read the bill of the Minister responsible for the environment and I support it the way it is and it does the job that we want it to do as Yukoners. They do not have that chance, and if this amendment does not pass they are not going to get that chance.
The Minister has just said that the bill is much different from the draft introduced in December due to public consultation. He is right. Now that we have a final draft that the Minister has re-done based on consultation that is much different from the draft presented in December, give the public six months to review and digest the fruits of their labour. While that is happening, the Minister can get busy on the regulations.
That is a big job, too. If this act is not passed in the next few days, the Minister is not going to be lacking things to do. Six months from now, this bill will not be dead. The government has a majority and can pass it six months from now, just the way it is, if that is what they want to do; in the meanwhile, they can draft regulations and seek input to go with this act of theirs.
If this act is going to be the leading edge of environmental law in Canada, let us hoist it for six months and see who salutes it. Let us run it up the flagpole for Yukoners to see. If it is a good and complete act, as the Minister would have us believe, then the coalition will become believers and on November 16 the bill will go through this House without a whimper. I challenge the Minister to show some real courage. Put this bill up to public scrutiny and come back on November 15 into this House and say, I told you so; it is a good bill and we are going to pass it.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I had a very objective, straightforward speech to give to the second reading on this bill - until last night. After the Members opposite moved the amendment to postpone for six months, I found I could not give that speech. I finally sat down and wrote what I am going to say now. It is now certainly not objective; it is a very subjective speech, but then, my feelings about the Yukon Territory are quite subjective.
There is a saying and belief in many cultures, including my own, that we are responsible for seven generations of our people. We are told that it is our responsibility to recognize what impact our deeds will have on seven generations yet to come. The earth is ours to care for.
In the northern farm community where I grew up, farmers were expected to till and harvest the soil with care; always being careful to put as much back into the earth as they took out; hunting only for food, and preserving or giving away what they could not use; remembering always to leave seed, game and stock for another year and another generation.
In my lifetime, farming in that part of the world has gone from one of one-family mixed farms, where the only fertilizer used was natural, to agri-business. The change has been from subsistent, self-sufficient lifestyles to multi-national agri-corporations; from watching the weather to watching the stock market.
The souls of those communities are almost dead; only the old people remain. All of this has happened in the name of progress.
Forty years ago in the Yukon, we Yukoners bragged that it was safe to drink from any stream, swim in any lake - if you were tough enough to stand the cold, and we all thought that we were - eat berries from any roadside bush, or fish from any lake. We were so innocent. We thought our own little piece of environmental heaven would stay untouched forever.
We did not need laws to tell us what to do or what not to do, or so we thought.
We believed that the birds would always sing at two oclock on a June morning and the air and water would remain forever clear and clean. We thought that all we needed to do was mind our own business. After 40 years of minding our own business, we must now take a good look around. We see polluted streams, smoky air, inedible fish and a technology capable of destroying all that we hold dear.
I am not talking about bombs. I am talking about everyday technology. The chemicals and products we use daily, without thinking too much about it. Just as farmers, 50 years ago, stirred formaldehyde into their seed grain with their hands. Then they wondered, years later, why they were dying of emphysema. It was on the market; it must be safe. Some of those farmers were my uncles.
Just as Yukon workers, 20 years ago, washed their hands in PCBs; just as 20 years ago, we were told that a forest company sprayed Agent Orange, by plane, on a pristine wilderness in British Columbia to kill off the alder, so that money-producing trees would flourish. They created jobs and made money, but now an aboriginal community has one of the highest rates of cancer in western Canada. Is that coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Just 10 years ago, again in British Columbia, small cities were dumping their sewage into chains of lakes. Somehow, they imagined that sewage would just disappear. What it did was create an underwater forest of millfoil weed, choking off most of the beaches. In a desperate attempt to get their beaches back, many lakeshore property owners dumped bags and bags of 2,4-D on their little pieces of paradise. Then they swam in the water. The jury is still out on what the consequences of that action will be.
Over the decades, it seems that we, as a culture, have learned very little.
These are just more sophisticated ways to foul our own nest, all in the name of progress, or money, or whatever the most recent catchword is. However, I still feel the responsibility of those seven generations to come. There is nothing I can do for the past, but I can at least try to preserve something of this wonderful Yukon for the future. That is why I believe this Environment Act is an important piece of legislation, much too important to postpone. I speak against the amendment.
Mr. Brewster: I would first like to apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, for making you sit in that chair all day. I assure you that this will not be long. I usually do not make too lengthy a statement.
First, I would like to talk about the consultation that everybody says went on. There are a few erroneous statements being made by the department. I am not sure if the Minister made them, as I have not heard him, but I have heard them from the department. After visiting Kluane, the department made the statement that everybody in rural Yukon was in favour of this legislation. It was right on the radio, so let us not dispute this.
The day after that, people came 120 miles to give me this letter. It is an open letter to the Minister. There are six names on it, which means they are from one part of the town. It is really funny, because three of them make a living from wilderness projects. Two others were born and raised there, and I had them for years in hockey. They think nothing but the world of the wilderness, and they want to stay in the Yukon because of it. The other one happens to be the mother of one of those boys.
They make it very plain in here that they did not agree with a lot of things, not that they do not agree with environmental protection. They asked questions. They said nobody listened to them. Is that consultation? This goes on all the time. I will be bringing it up a little later again in wilderness management. This is what the government calls consultation.
They come out with rules and laws, and say, there they are. People talk, but they are not changed. They are left the way they are.
There were 14 at the meeting, and these are six of them, so presumably there were 10 or 11 who agreed with it. Then, the petition came along asking for the act to be held over for six months or a year.
I look down the line and there are six more names; now we have 12 out of 14 saying that they would like something straightened around. They do not like the way things are going. Now that is consultation. Everybody has agreed with it and looked at it.
I am becoming very, very concerned that anytime we, in this Legislature, try to correct a bill or object to something the government does we are branded as being anti-environment, anti-land claims, anti-historic and anti-this and anti-that. We must have done something, because we got 24 amendments to the Historic Resources Act, so we must do some good in here. I do not think there is anybody in the Yukon, who has lived here for a while who is anti-. I am a little sick and tired of this; it is the only way the government can attack us; they cannot defend their position, so they attack us and say that we are anti-. I am sick and tired of that stuff.
The Minister keeps saying that they have consulted, but have they really? They took a draft legislation out to the public; they have never shown the public the real legislation. They did not show it at all. The legislation came into this House on May 6. It arrived here in the afternoon; we usually get it at 2:30 p.m. I know that it did not get mailed out to rural Yukon that day. It probably took two days. As the Member for Porter Creek West said, There is nothing out but the information; they have not even got that far yet. But then why should we get excited if it took 14 days for a letter to get to me from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services? So why should we get excited when we cannot get something upstairs in eight days?
So it took two or three days to get mailed out of here. That means there are five days left for it to get around the Yukon. Did it go by dog team? Let us be realistic; I thought those people understood the rural Yukon. There is no way that mail gets out of here and gets to these places in five days. If it does not hit the right day of the mail, it may be a week before that mail truck goes out of here. So let us not say that they have seen the legislation, because they have not. Let us be practical.
I am very interested when they say that they gave money to review this act. Very interesting. I would like the Minister to tell me how many rural organizations got money, or was this all done in Whitehorse? There are no rural organizations that I know of in Kluane; I do not think there were any in Watson Lake and I doubt there were any in the Speakers area. I would like to know how many of the rural areas received any money?
Last winter the rural people in the Kluane area were visited by a round-table group for four days.
There were the Wilderness Management Committee, Spicer Commission, Legislative Constitutional Committee, draft Highways Act, Historic Resources Act and Environment Act, and some of these took two or three visits. There were many meetings with government departments, coming out and selling them on beautiful decentralization, when they cannot even tell them what is going to happen, and there were many meetings with government departments on other things.
The people out in these communities have to work once in a while. They cannot just sit and look at government drafts coming out. It is just absolutely impossible for people in these areas to keep up with all the things that were rushed through this year. They are just throwing up their hands and saying, That is it; frustration has set in. I think it is about time that we gave this a little cooling-off period. I do not think six months is too much to ask. Let us not turn around and pull a Meech Lake and make fools out of ourselves, like they did in Ottawa. Let us listen to people.
If you want to say it was a minority group that signed the petition, go ahead and say it. It is still a good minority of the people here, and let them speak, let them have what they want.
It is a simple request and, politically - and I do not think I am an astute politician - I think they are very stupid to try and run this through, when they can turn around and get brownie points by putting it off for six months. The six months is not going to hurt anything.
I would like to talk a little more, and some of it will seem a little off line, but it is not, because it comes back into regulations. There are more and more government regulations all the time, continual government regulations. They are taking more away from this Legislature and handing it to other people. Let us just start by looking at this production Protecting Our Yukon Wildlife in 1990 - Yukon Renewable Resources. Let us just look at this for a while and see what we have here: on page five, to transfer provisions relating to special guiding licences to the regulations; on page seven, to transfer the selection relating to duties of guides and outfitters to regulations; on page 10, to transfer provisions relating to use of baits, lights, poison and drugs to regulations, to transfer provisions relating to checking of traps to regulations, to permit the destruction of domestic animals.
That is an interesting one because, when I asked what they were talking about, if domestic animals were bothering game, they did not know. I asked what the regulation was for then, if it meant that my dog cannot chase a squirrel. The answer was that it is furbearing. The insulation in my house costs money, too.
Then they came up with one and said they think there are two cases. The rest of us are under laws because they think there are two cases. They can shoot the dog right on your property; they do not have to tell you. That is the kind of government we are getting. It says right here, The new act will permit the immediate destruction of dogs. This is your government. To allow search without a search warrant - I sat at two meetings and I pity the poor Wildlife Management Board, which incidentally I have a lot of respect for. They are given this bill of goods to sell. They are not making the regulations; the department makes them, then tells the committee to go out and sell it to the people, while the government stays hidden under cover when the committee gets into trouble. Well, the wildlife people got into a lot of trouble.
That is just one. In the Environmental Act there are eight pages of regulations, where the government again takes things away from the people. The Historic Resources Act has regulations through which more and more is grabbed away from the people.
The other thing that really bothers me on this is that all of it is coming from the same Minister. All three of these acts that take away the need for search warrants come from the same Minister. It is really amazing. It is a power grab by the bureaucrats and they will be running the government before long, because all they have to do is make a regulation. Believe me, I sat for three years on the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments and I know; I have seen what they used to bring in to us and what we used to send back and tell them to do over again, to stop the foolishness and not do those things to people.
We talked about the environment. Everybody agrees we have to do something. Haines Junction did a wonderful job. They cleaned up. They were known all over. The Minister and everybody complimented them, but what everybody forgot was where it was all going. It was left sitting there, but it is not sitting there anymore; it is scattered all over the place for miles. The people of Haines Junction are going to have to get some more tax money and gather it up again. But this government, with all their environmental rules and laws, have no place for us to put it, so we will put it back there and next winter it will get spread around again, and the taxpayers will have to have a little raise in pay to gather it up. Here we go. The municipalities lose a million dollars, then they start putting harnesses on things like this.
I think this letter is one of the most important things here. We keep saying we have to rush it and here it is - and the Minister should be well aware of this letter so I will not read the other points - Most of the issues you touched already have acts and laws that pertain to them. Are we really in such a hurry? Can we not wait six months for people to have a look at this legislation? I agree; I doubt that most of the Members from the other side have really read it clause by clause.
Mr. Speaker, I have just been convinced that this government, like all governments, has sat there too long.
They are now going to start jamming things down peoples throats. We went into the Historic Resources Act and, now, we are going into this.
The people I meet on the street, the old-timers, are completely confused and wondering what is going on. These are two acts that affect their very lives, and one act follows right after the other; just like this: Bingo. Nobody is willing to turn around and think about these old people, and sit and work and let them have a look at how things are going on.
I could make another point. The side opposite keeps saying that you can change things. It only took us two and one-half to three years to finally make them admit - and they admitted today in the House - that they are going to review the homestead policy. It just took two and one-half years to correct a wrong, because they were selling a false bill of goods, but we finally managed to get them to do it.
I urge everybody in this Legislature to consider the delay of this bill for six months. I do not think it will hurt anybody, and it is certainly going to please a lot of people out on the street.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is an honour to enter this debate, especially on the heels of the Member for Kluane, who expresses himself clearly and with great energy and vigor - even when he is wrong.
The Member and I have disagreed before in our time in this House. I will confess that I feel some affection for the Member. I think he is kind of a cute, charismatic guy. A charming, charming old gentleman.
I have heard him ...
Mr. Brewster: On a point of order. May I leave? I am blushing, and I do not like people to see me blush.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before I go on to the Leader of the Official Opposition, I should mention the speech of the Member for Porter Creek West.
I am not sure that I can respond to all the rhetorical questions in his speech. First of all, I should say that I can honestly say that I have read the bill, every single clause, three times - just so we get that out of the way. I can say that is certainly three more times than some of the Members opposite.
I want to come to the question of the proposed six-month hoist amendment. It is a device that is not used very often in this House. It is used in the mother of parliaments in Westminster, and it is a device that is used quite often in the House of Commons, where I worked for a couple of years. I have that advantage. I watched this device being used frequently. It is still used today. It is used for one purpose only - to kill legislation. A hoist is moved by people who do not want to get up on their hind feet and say that they are against something. It is used as a velvet-glove method to kill a bill gently. It is called killing it softly.
It is put it off for six months, perhaps until the time a new Throne Speech is due, and then you make sure the bill dies on the Order Paper.
I am not impressed with the suggestion that this is done in a constructive, healthy, innovative move, just to make sure the good folks out there have many more months to consider it and the coalition and demonstrators have more time to organize against it. I know very well what the purpose of the amendment is. It is to kill the bill. Let us not kid each other about that.
Let us talk about what this bill is and why its passage into Committee is timely.
First of all, in the Yukon, we pride ourselves on our spirit and on independence. We take delight in pointing out to many people that we do things differently up here, and I gather I am going to hear, later on, the claim that we even move six-month hoists differently - we do not do it for the reason those parliamentarians do it everywhere else in the English-speaking world; we have a different reason for doing it, a more noble and finer purpose. I am from Missouri on that one.
We look around here, and we are richer, in this respect, than most people in the world. We see the beauty of our natural environment, and most of us want to protect it. We recognize the importance of the environment in all our lives, and we understand that the environment is important in different ways for different people. We see the claims made for a piece of the Yukon by Yukoners, by loggers, by canoeists, by hunters, photographers, skiers, and all resource users. We see all these claims on our resources, for the use of our resources, and we realize that we have to protect the environment to ensure that all legitimate uses can be met, both now and in the future.
One of the things I heard, time and time again, throughout the Yukon 2000 consultation, which was interesting, was that even people who are sometimes characterized as polluters, who are assumed to be doing damage to the environment, are sometimes the most passionate and articulate people when they talk about protecting clean air, clean water, the fishery or other things.
I think this is something that Yukoners have in common. They want to have jobs and prosperity, but they also want to have the quality of life that is represented here as much as anything by the beauty, the clean air and the clean water and the wilderness - values that are, right now, not tabulated, represented or calculated in the national economic accounts of any nation in the world, but they should be, because they are part of what makes life valuable, rich and important. People here do want to protect those, even though you cannot put a dollar sign on that beauty, clean air and clean water. It is a very sad thing that our society can only put a value on something like clean water. Our system of economic accounts do not do it until you have to clean it up, and then that becomes the value of the clean water - a totally myopic view of looking at the world, and, I believe, a totally antiquated notion of economics.
Everything that we have done through the Yukon 2000 consultation, the Economic Strategy, the Conservation Strategy and now this Environment Act is representation of that kind of sustainable development value.
We know these things in our hearts and minds, but now is the time to do something concrete and tangible. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have environmental legislation in place - the only place in Canada. We have a unique opportunity, with this proposed Environment Act, to take a pro-active stand.
They come into the Legislature complaining about where that Environment Act is and that we are taking too long. Then they come into the next session and say that we are moving too fast. They did not mean to be taken seriously. That was just political rhetoric. We should not be listening to them. We should just ignore them and let them make their political points.
We take a different view. By recognizing that the resources are the common heritage of all Yukoners, including future generations, and by recognizing that we are responsible for the environmental consequences of our actions, by recognizing the principle of sustainable development as a means of balancing economic and environmental interests and by implementing legislation that protects these rights and obligations, we will ensure that resources of this territory will be available for those who wish to use them. This includes all sectors and all users in the fullness of time, as the Leader of the Official Opposition used to say. I hope I do not make him blush.
We have consulted with individual Yukoners, industry and interest groups. We have not always agreed, but we have listened. As the Members opposite are well aware, the public consultation process around this legislation was extensive and thorough.
The consultation on this legislation goes back several years. The values represented in this legislation were first articulated in consultations we had back in 1986. During the past year, particularly, discussion meetings have been held with people from every community and from all walks of life.
The Minister of Renewable Resources, the Member for Klondike, visited every population centre in the Yukon. People told the Minister, and told us, over and over again, that they wanted the environment protected. The draft discussion paper released in December 1990, included key features that people had asked for during the consultation process.
As the Minister stated so well yesterday, it was a direct response to the set of instructions received from the people of the Yukon. We did not stop there; we did not stop listening. We heard the Yukon people express concerns about some aspects of this legislation, and we acted. The Minister had dozens of meetings. I know the Minister spent hundreds of hours getting this legislation ready, so the legislation we have before us now represents the input of those people who took the time and energy, and who cared enough about the environment to express their views, whether they liked the particulars in this bill or not.
The result is an Environment Act that reflects the public opinion in this territory. As has been said before, and will no doubt be said again, given the selective hearing and selective memory of some, this bill provides the government and the people with the means by which we can protect the environment, not all of it all at once but, over time, after regulations have been developed in consultation, and debated and discussed, after devolution and land claims happen, this bill provides the framework for us to have comprehensive legislation with which to protect our environment.
The act establishes the Yukon government as a trustee of the public trust and recognizes that both the government and individuals have rights and responsibilities with respect to the environment. It adopts officially the principle of sustainable development.
The much debated Bill of Rights section extends rights to individuals to request investigations and to have better access to the court system. The rule-making section ensures that the public and stakeholders are involved in the preparation of draft regulations.
This is not a smoke and mirrors exercise; this is not a fantasy. The Minister stated his commitment to public consultation and he has lived-up to that consultation. Somebody earlier in the debate, and I forget who it was, rhetorically asked the question, is there a problem? Is there a problem in Canada with the environment? Is there a problem in the Yukon?
I can tell you that the citizens of Yukon believe that there is a problem. They believe it very, very definitely. They believe there is a problem in Canada and they believe there is a problem in our community.
Somebody said to me on the other side, the other day, Well show me where there is a problem in Canada with mining. I am not one of those people who believes that the mining industry is an ogre. The mining industry is the backbone of our economy. The mining industry itself recognizes that there is a problem with acid waste in this country - a major environmental problem; a $5 billion problem, and we are not immune to that. Is there a problem in the Yukon? Yes, there are CFC, PCB and there are contaminated-fish problems in the Yukon.
Just a little downstream from here there is a litter problem. I can tell all the Members in this House about problems in my constituency that we cannot now do anything about because we have no legislation. Members will say, You will not be able to have it until you have the regulations. That is true. Under our tradition, you cannot have the regulations until you have law. First you have the law, then you have the regulations and then you will have implementation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member for Riverdale North is desperate to speak again on this legislation. He will have an opportunity. Members did listen to him - surprising as that may seem. We look forward to hearing from him. He often conveys to us concerns of the Fish and Game Association. I note that that group is one of the very strong supporters of this legislation and I look forward to hearing from the Member on this legislation.
Second reading of legislation, which is what we are doing now, is about approval of the legislation in principle. A number of Members opposite said that they approve of the principles in the act. In that case, what they should do is vote for the act in second reading. They are complaining about lack of amendments.
The Member for Kluane - that darling, old man; that charming gentleman; that blushing, persuasive, eloquent, old soul on the other side - complained about lack of amendments. We just had an act where there were 20 amendments. When are we going to get the amendments that the other side will be proposing on this bill? I will tell you when. We will get them when the bill gets into Committee. It cannot get into Committee if you have a six-month hoist. It will not get into Committee for six months.
The Member talks about consultation. He says we have not done enough. Then he gave a long, eloquent and convincing speech about how the people in his constituency had been consulted too damn much about too many damn things. I know it is very different from the days when he was on the government side. I know those kinds of things did not happen.
I know a lot of people in his constituency who are damn proud of the fact that they get consulted and appreciate it. Yes, it is demanding, time-consuming and frustrating, but they like being consulted.
I do love the Member for Kluane dearly. I appreciate his position. I remember when he was Minister of Renewable Resources. I remember how the Wildlife Act we now have got here. I remember some of those awful things that he claims my friend, the Member for Klondike, is trying to do: that search and seizure stuff and putting things in regulations. It is not the first time that was tried. It was tried when he was Minister. Perhaps he did not let it happen, but one of his colleagues did...
Mr. Brewster: Point of order.
Point of Order
Mr. Brewster: I am not responsible for what my colleagues did. I am responsible for what I did. I was there less than one and one-half months. If he does not have any regular debate, he should not attack people. I have already said that.
Speaker: I find there is no point of order but a conflict between two Members.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I said he was in Cabinet. He had Cabinet solidarity. He was obliged to support the actions of his colleagues.
I am just telling him that the Wildlife Act, which is now law, came to this House with those same provisions he is now complaining about. Members of this House, on both sides, passed over one hundred amendments...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please speak to the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I am responding to something a Member on the other side said on the same point and, surely, that is acceptable.
Mr. Speaker, so that I move immediately back to the amendment and not fall afoul of you, sir, I want to deal a little bit with what the Member for Riverdale South said, who managed to imply, after reading the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environments recommendations, that the Council recommended delay of this legislation. They did not say anything of the kind.
The Members opposite have suggested that the purpose of their amendment is to give the Minister the opportunity to review areas of concern brought forward by the general public. Let us be frank; let us not kid each other about this. The Members say they are just intending to move a six-month hoist so that they can have six more months to study it. This aint so; it aint so here, it aint so anywhere else. A six-month hoist here, there, everywhere, is now and always was, a device intended to kill a bill.
The Opposition can suggest what they like about that, but that is what they are trying to do.
A great Tory once said that the only weapon available to an opposition is delay, and that is what they are trying to do here. If you delay enough, a government can run out of time. That is what they are trying to do.
A few months ago, they were demanding to know why we were taking so long; now, they want to know why we are moving so fast.
I am not going to have an opportunity to do it now, but there was a very serious point made by the Leader of the Official Opposition in perhaps the best opposition speech on this bill so far. It was a lovely speech. I did not agree with all of it, but it contained a couple of points that I want to deal with seriously. I understand that I am not going to get the chance to do them justice today.
Debate on amendment adjourned
Speaker: I declare debate on the amendment to second reading is now adjourned.
The time now being 9:30 p.m., this House is now adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 15, 1991:
French version of Bill No. 20 - Environment Act (M. Joe)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 15, 1991:
Kotaneelee gas plant in southeast Yukon (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 800/801
Highways Act, Bill No. 44, definition of the word highway (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 942