03 November 2010
Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill S-209, an Act respecting
a national day of service to honour the courage and sacrifice of
Canadians in the face of terrorism, particularly the events of September
I appreciate the significance of Bill S-209 and the intentions,
emotions and respect from which it comes. I know that it comes from a
place upon which Senator Wallin has firmly placed her feet, a place with
which she has defined herself. It is a place that respects patriotism
and service to countries, service to something bigger than ourselves. It
is a place that respects sacrifice for the greater good. It is a place
that respects heroism and sacrifice, once again, for the greater good
and for our country in physical and other forms of sacrifice.
All those things add up to a definition of a place that is clearly
defined by a deep love of this country, and I respect Senator Wallin for
being so strong in finding her definition in this house, in this Senate
and on that place.
They are all good things. They are particularly good things if they
are applied with sincerity and humility, and I have no doubt that the
inception of this bill captured those two important elements.
I have a problem with the process in that the idea of selecting days
is becoming exceptionally ad hoc. It is becoming popular, and it is
happening more and more frequently. Days are selected so often without
any kind of context or appreciation that we should assess the conditions
or parameters under which different groups and individuals be
recognized in this way or any number of other ways.
We all know that the Order of Canada is not presented to someone
based on legislation. None of us can stand up with a private member's
bill and say that a certain person should receive the Order of Canada.
Medals of bravery in the military are not allocated to someone simply
because of a commander's arbitrary decision that that person should have
it. We do not choose judges based on a piece of legislation or in an
arbitrary fashion; we have parameters. We do not choose memorial parks
to reflect honour upon an outstanding citizen or hero without a basic
process that is not ad hoc. We do not name buildings after important and
significant contributors to our society through legislation.
In each of those cases, we set up a managed, regularized process
where we have parameters, criteria and objective groups that can make
the decision. Why do we not have that kind of process when it comes to
determining who should be honoured by a special day?
It is not that I am opposed to this particular honour. I feel as much
as everyone in this Senate the sense of loss and frustration that we
all felt so profoundly on that day. We could see in Canadian families
who lost people that there is an element of need for recognition of that
particular day in a special way, perhaps as a day or in some other way.
However, I know that we are reaching a point where selecting days is
much too arbitrary, and it is rolling over on itself. We should step
back and find a way to select days in a structured, professional and
If we simply begin to allocate a day to a group without properly
knowing the context and the structure within which that decision has
been made, or without an objective process — I am not saying we are
doing that in this case, by any means — we might diminish other groups
that have been recognized already in that way, or if the honour is not
bestowed on a group that is equally worthy, although I am sure this
group is. We could miss groups equally deserving of this honour who
simply were not lucky enough to have a defender among the 105 of us to
decide that their particular recognition is driven through this
institution, and they be bestowed with some great honour.
We need to step back and consider how we can allocate these days in a
way that is fair to all such groups. Heroism, sacrifice, respect for
country and service to something bigger than ourselves happen every day
in Canada. Perhaps they do not happen every day in Canada in the way
that is captured by this bill, but they happen in many important ways. I
want to know, when we bestow the honour of a day on a group, that we
are not making a mistake with other groups, and that we are treating the
broad spectrum of possibilities for such honours in a way that is
balanced and objective.
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