Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, your ruling was so short that I was still caught up speaking with a colleague.
Before I begin my speech on our opposition motion here today, I would like to extend my sympathies to all the families affected by the serious accident that took place on Highway 158 near Joliette, in Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier. Five workers from Saint-Côme in my riding were killed in the accident. On behalf of all members of this House, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families affected by this tragedy.
Speaking of tragedy, expropriating the land needed to create Forillon Park was also a great tragedy. Through this Bloc Québécois opposition day motion, we are trying to make restitution, as least in part, for the damage that was caused some 40 years ago. I would like to read the text of the motion moved by the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and which I had the honour to second:
|| That this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated, and that the Speaker of the House send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.
First of all, it is important to recognize that, just like previous governments and especially successive Liberal governments have done previously, the federal government has turned up its nose at this situation and has refused to acknowledge the problems that have been caused by this unconscionable manner in which many families in the Gaspé have been treated. If the federal government, whether Liberal or Conservative, is incapable of assuming its responsibilities regarding the apology that needs to be made to the people of Forillon whose land was expropriated, we thought it was important that this House issue an official apology to those people, to their families and their descendants 40 years after the fact.
That is the first step for us and an apology in due form will complement in a much more tangible way what the Conservative government has already started to do on a technical level. Indeed, and I will come back to this later, the government has allowed those whose properties were expropriated, their families and their descendants, for three generations, to have access, free of charge, to the national parks. That was an initiative we acknowledged at the time, but it does not go far enough. First, it was only logical since the land once belonged to them and was their home. Second, that does not constitute an apology. For now it is just extremely limited and very technical redress by the Conservative government. It needs to go at least so far as to issue an apology, as I was saying.
When we look at this entire saga, we see that these things never should have happened. Now, I am sure lessons have been learned and such things will never happen again. The results of this expropriation also apply to other expropriations. I know that the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have a chance to come back to that. Those whose properties were expropriated in Mirabel are seeking redress from the government without going as far as asking for an apology. That hon. member, who is much more knowledgeable than I, will have a chance to elaborate on that.
In 1963, the Bureau d'aménagement de l'Est-du-Québec mentioned for the first time in its report the creation of a national park at the end of the peninsula. Those who are familiar with the history of the Bureau d'aménagement de l'Est-du-Québec know that this bureau made or rather suggested a number of decisions—because it did not make decisions; it only told the government what to do—that were rather questionable. For example, shutting down a number of villages to try to concentrate the populations did not have the desired effect. On the contrary, doing so resulted in tearing the social fabric.
It was within this context, in the 1960s, that the idea of a park came into being. At that time, the government had a fairly bureaucratic vision, which unfortunately still exists today, and it adopted a top down approach by imposing measures it thought were good for people. In 1968, a federal-provincial agreement was signed regarding the development of the park in Gaspé. In 1969, a preliminary agreement was reached between Quebec minister Gabriel Loubier and the well-known federal Liberal minister Jean Chrétien. At the time, the end of the 1960s, this resulted in a major debate within the Union Nationale government. Moreover, Marcel Masse, who is well-known in the Lanaudière region because he currently lives in Saint-Donat, opposed the fact that so much land belonging to Quebec was being given to the federal government. Nevertheless, the project went ahead and the final agreement was signed on June 8, 1970. It was then decided that area residents would be expropriated and that the federal government would control the land for 99 years.
On July 22, 1970, the expropriation act was tabled. Negotiations began with those being expropriated and it became apparent that the attitude of the Government of Quebec, and that of the federal government, toward what was happening to these people was extremely casual. In fact, the word “casual” is not strong enough; pressure was put on people who did not technically know their rights. When they became aware of what those rights were, they were subject to legal harassment until one by one they gave up and accepted the small amount of compensation they were being offered.
Let us take, for example, the case of Lionel Bernier, a lawyer who may have been the one who helped those being expropriated from Forillon the most. He was, at the time, a young lawyer who had grown up in the community of Forillon. He took the case at the request of his father and began to read the case law.
He wrote this himself. His words were reported in Le Soleil on May 14, 2001. “I read all the literature I could. It was clear that the government negotiators were saying whatever they liked. I defended those people practically by myself.” It was fortunate that Lionel Bernier was there.
In 1973, Justice Dorion, of the Régie des services publics du Québec, held that the assets of those expropriated had been assessed at far too low a value and directed Quebec to give them more. In April 1973, Jean Chrétien stated that residents would no longer have to move when a national park was established, a policy that was put into effect for Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Unfortunately, in 1973, Jean Chrétien, as minister, could have done things differently. But the hand was already stuck in the grinder, the arm was on its way through, and the rest was to follow. Though a number of court decisions favoured the expropriated people, nothing really ever came together for them.
As I mentioned, on March 5, 1973, Justice Guy Dorion ruled in favour of the expropriated people. The ruling was very harsh for the government and the compensation awarded was three to five times higher. The government filed an appeal, and, quietly, one by one, those who had been expropriated became discouraged and took absolutely paltry settlements.
I will close by mentioning that the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse was present on August 21, 2010, the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Forillon National Park, to announce the action on park access that I described earlier. But he refused to raise any possibility of an apology from the federal government, the Conservative government. In fact, he spoke in very harsh terms. Government actions do not happen overnight. It seems to me that, 40 years later, it may be time to take this step out of simple decency. Of course, we are asking for the support of all parties in the House in passing our motion and offering a proper apology to the people who were expropriated from Forillon and to their descendants.
Mr. Blaine Calkins (Wetaskiwin, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it has been a while since I have had an opportunity to rise in the House. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak to this issue put forward by my colleague on the fisheries committee, the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
The hon. member's motion refers to the properties that were expropriated to create Forillon National Park at the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.
I have travelled to the Gaspé as a member of the fisheries committee. It is a beautiful area. I have no doubt that this is indeed a magnificent national park. It is made up of 244 square kilometres of cliffs and mountains where the northeast tip of the Appalachian Mountain chain meets the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including a 160 meter-wide marine component that extends along the shoreline.
This is spectacular country, carved by erosion of the pounding sea, where sheer cliffs plunge into the sea and pebble beaches line the coves. Inland streams tumble out of the rugged hills. The park is covered mainly by boreal forest, but also many tundra species of plants live along the limestone cliffs.
The park is home to black bears, red fox, moose, and massive colonies of seabirds. Some 245 bird species have been sighted in the park, many of them nesting on the coastal cliffs, including razorbills, cormorants and kittiwakes. Puffins, gannets and petrels feed in the fertile waters. From the shore can be seen many species of whale, pilot and minke, blue and humpback. Harbour porpoises play off the shoreline, and harbour and grey seals clamour out of the icy waters to sun themselves along the rocky coast.
Below the surface swim cod, herring, mackerel and salmon, and the wealth of these fisheries attract not only the animals that feed there but for 200 years they attracted European settlers.
As the hon. member's motion attests, this land was also once home to communities of people who fished the teeming waters, people with names like: Bourgaise, Fruing, Gavey, LeBoutillier, Lemesurier and Simon. They caught cod, and dried and salted it into what was known in the markets of Italy, Spain and the Caribbean as Gaspé Cure.
Many of the people who settled these shores came from the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Others were United Empire Loyalists who had fled the United States after the revolution. Still others were Irish who came to escape the potato famine.
When the government in 1970 expropriated the houses to create the park, a way of life that had sustained the population for several generations came to an end. The land became part of what is now grown to be a network of 42 national parks, 5 national marine conservation areas, and 167 national historic sites across Canada.
People who lived in this area faced a challenging way of life, fishing for cod in the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and then drying the cod on the beaches through the short Gaspé summer and having small forest plots in the woods around the park.
Let us not forget that elsewhere on the coast of the gulf and the Atlantic Ocean many similar communities have disappeared due to the changes in the global economy and the marine environment. New technology for catching and preserving fish for the markets of the world have replaced the drying racks that once stretched out along the pebble beaches.
Parks Canada has taken measures to commemorate and to honour the people who plied the cold waters and built their homes, and raised their families on the Forillon Peninsula.
In the meantime, what about the economy of the region? Given what we now know about what became of the cod fishery and the little villages it sustained in Atlantic Canada, has there been a benefit to the people of the Gaspésie as a result of the decision more than 40 years ago to create a national park at Forillon? The answer, I believe, is yes.
In considering the hon. member's motion, we should look at that as well, not just what was lost as a result of the expropriation but also what has been gained.
This year after all marks 100 years since Canada created the first national parks service. Last year we celebrated 125 years since the creation of Canada's first national park, Banff National Park, in my home province of Alberta. Over that time Parks Canada has been a world leader in the protection and preservation of natural and historic heritage.
These parks and national historic sites have left a rich environmental and cultural legacy, but I also want to emphasize that they create economic opportunities and add to the prosperity of nearby communities.
Each year, millions of tourists visit the national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. In 2007, for example, some 137,000 people visited Forillon National Park. They come to hike, ride on horseback and explore the coastline and the rugged interior. They marvel at the magnificence of the scenery and the abundance of wildlife. I am confident that once visitors have seen the beauty of Forillon, they will go home and tell their families and friends that a national park like Forillon is an economic and natural treasure and will continue to enhance the economy of the Gaspésie.
We must look at the other side of the equation when we consider the hon. member's motion. What has been gained as a result of Parks Canada's administration of the region? In fact, Parks Canada is Canada's largest provider of natural and cultural tourism products and encourages visitor spending of nearly $2.7 billion in national parks and historic sites. About $1 billion of that spending comes from foreign visitors. That is new money added to our Canadian economy.
I remind the House that while the fisheries of Atlantic Canada have declined from their former glory, the tourism industry worldwide represents one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy.
Increasingly tourism is an important industry that supports small businesses and provides employment to Canadians across the country, particularly in regions renowned for their beauty, such as the Gaspésie. Tourism contributes about 2% of Canada's gross domestic product and is crucial to the bottom line of key industry sectors, everything from airlines to restaurants, hotels, and so on.
Parks Canada itself spends significant amounts of money in goods and services, wages and salaries, but more important than their direct investment is the spinoff economy that sustains communities across our country. The activities Parks Canada undertakes across Canada create nearly $2 billion in paid labour that supports nearly 42,000 jobs. These jobs are often in remote communities, such as the northeastern tip of my hon. colleague's riding.
When we look at Quebec, Parks Canada activities create in the surrounding communities approximately $201 million in labour income, which supports more than 4,500 jobs. That is year after year, but I would also point out that under Canada's economic action plan, an additional $48 million was invested in 28 projects in the province of Quebec. These included some $3.25 million invested in Forillon National Park. For example, $1.6 million was spent in the park to counter shoreline erosion on the Route du Banc to help ensure that visitors would continue to enjoy this magnificent site. Another $1 million was invested to refresh and make improvements to the campsite.
Does Forillon National Park contribute to the economy of the Gaspésie? Of course it does. In fact, the total economic impact attributed to Forillon National Park on gross domestic product is estimated at about $13 million each year, including the provision of some 326 full-time jobs in the region.
When the families moved from the region to make room for the national park in 1970, they helped create the foundation for a different kind of economy on the tip of the Gaspésie. No longer is it a region of catching and drying cod, but a vibrant tourism destination that will continue to attract visitors for many years to come. That is what we are celebrating in this year when we mark a century of Parks Canada.
Today, Parks Canada administers about 360,000 square kilometres of national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. In total, this is an area bigger than all of Germany. No wonder foreign visitors are impressed by the vastness of our beautiful and wonderful parks system.
Canada has protected these regions in a series of individual steps to set aside lands for future benefit for future generations. Some of these acquisitions have been very large, such as the agreement a few years ago to increase the Nahanni National Park reserve in the Northwest Territories to six times its previous area. The park is now about the same size, in fact, as the entire country of Belgium.
Over the past few years, we have moved quickly to protect more land, water and historic sites. We have taken steps that will increase these areas by over 30% and reintroduce wildlife to their traditional habitats. Along the way, Parks Canada has learned valuable lessons about how to work with local communities to help ensure they benefit from the economic activity that will come about as a result of the park designation.
Parks Canada no longer expropriates land, as was the case in Forillon some 40 years ago. Instead, in places Nahanni, as well as the Mealy Mountains, Lancaster Sound, Sable Island, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area reserve, and the Haida heritage site, we worked with the local communities, the landowners and local governments.
That is worth celebrating. This is a year for us to celebrate, the centennial of our Canada's national park service, 100 years in which Parks Canada has protected our natural habitats and places of incredible beauty, as well as so many of the heritage sites that represent the creation of our nation. One hundred years, as well, of contributing to Canada's economy and the economies of regions far from the big cities, regions such as the Gaspésie, and a hundred years of learning how to create these protected areas in a way that will sustain the communities that have grown up within and around these marvellous regions.
We learned lessons from the creation of Forillon, lessons that have helped Parks Canada work more effectively with communities. We have helped contribute to the economy of the Gaspésie. That is worth celebrating.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels. Our government has done much for the protection of natural landscapes in Canada.
Notwithstanding the wrong-headed way in which Forillon and Kouchibouguac National Park lands were taken from property owners some 40 years ago, there have been significant changes in the way national parks have been created.
One example that I wish to talk about is a national park in western Canada called Grasslands National Park. The website shows that the area has been identified as a potential national park by virtue of a 1988 agreement between the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan. This agreement replaced a 1981 document when disagreements between the two levels of government arose concerning oil and gas exploration and water management in the park area.
However, Grasslands National Park will eventually cover 900 square kilometres, or 350 square miles, in two blocks along the Canada-U.S. border in southwestern Saskatchewan. The federal government purchases land on a willing seller/willing buyer basis. There will be no expropriation for the acquisition of these lands.
As of 2005, the national park owns a total of 497.3 square kilometres, or 192 square miles, a little over half of what it is looking for in both the east and the west blocks. It may be several years before the park is completely established, however, there is sufficient land base to pursue formalizing Grasslands National Park by including it in the schedule of national parks. This was achieved within the new Canada National Parks Act that received royal assent on October 20, 2000, and a proclamation on February 19, 2001. It also goes on to talk about the draft management plan and so on.
The important thing to note is that the way national parks and the Government of Canada is now engaging in the acquisition of lands is significantly different than it was 40 years ago. This is a much more reasonable way to approach the issue of land acquisition. Fair market value for the property is paid to the landowner when the landowner is ready to sell. It may make things inconvenient for governments that would like to otherwise hurry up the process, but it seems to strike the fair balance of achieving the desire to preserve and protect the natural habitat, while respecting the rights of property owners, such as they are in our country today.
Had this method been approached in 1970, perhaps we would not be having this debate in the House of Commons today.
In order to correct some of the wrongs of the past, Parks Canada has offered to install placards and other interpretative signs in places like Kouchibouguac National Park.
As we can see from an article, Parks Canada admits the pain of expropriation. This is an article that appeared in the National Post, October 9, 2007. We have seen some of the wrongs documented, as we look back in history. There were threats and clashes with police, crusades to save the New Brunswick Kouchibouguac National Park in 1969. A public inquiry and a change in how the federal government reserved land for parks came after.
Now nearly 40 years after some 250 families had their homes expropriated to create this 238 square kilometre reserve, Parks Canada is discussing the installation of interpretation panels and picnic tables as one way to recognize the more than 1,000 people who were dislocated from their small piece of paradise.
The article continues and goes on to say how the landowners, the families and the descendants of those landowners are pleased that this initial step happened in 2006, but it is not going far enough just yet.
The same can be said also for our government's response in Forillon. On August 21, 2010, my colleague, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, announced that those people, whose houses were expropriated in the creation of the national park or historic site, and their children and grandchildren would have free access to locations where their houses were once expropriated.
In recognition of the expropriations that took place at Forillon National Park 40 years ago, the Government of Canada has extended access privileges to three generations of those whose houses were expropriated to facilitate their connections with areas of personal interest within the national park.
My colleague, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, also inaugurated the exhibition titled, “The Gaspesians from Land's End at Forillon”. This is a new permanent exhibition which presents the richness and diversity of the ancient inhabitants of Forillon and also tells the stories of the families living on this land before the creation of the park and the expropriations of 1970.
Parks Canada will continue the work begun with the affected communities and commemorate these events with respect and ensure that former residents have free access to places that evoke personal meaning for them.
I have other examples of wrongdoing in the past that need to be corrected. Some of those things have been corrected, but given the fact that I am probably not will not get through the example I wanted to discuss in the time I have remaining, I will conclude by saying how much I appreciate the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. It is an important thing to consider.
All members, no matter what level of government they are elected to, whether it is municipal, provincial or federal, should always keep in mind the tensions that arise during the expropriations of land. This serves as a good reminder of some of the failings that have happened in the past and why we should be ever mindful of respecting people's personal property.
Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Gatineau.
Today, as the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I am pleased to participate in this debate on the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois. I will reread it:
|| That this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated, and that the Speaker of the House send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.
One of our popular singers wrote a song about Sainte-Scholastique and Forillon Park. As you know, it is a metaphor. When he wrote the song, Paul Piché was describing two major events, two abusive, large-scale expropriations carried out by the federal government on Quebec soil.
Naturally, an expropriation is never easy; it is difficult for the families who have to go through it. I will try, in the ten minutes at my disposal, to tell you about the two expropriations—Forillon and Mirabel, which was known as Sainte-Scholastique at the time. Municipalities were amalgamated by force, by decree.
In the case of Sainte-Scholastique, the neighbouring municipalities of Saint-Hermas, Saint-Benoît, Saint-Augustin, Saint-Janvier, Saint-Canut and Sainte-Monique were affected.
In 1969, the federal government decided to build an airport. Many citizens who lived in these municipalities had to leave their homes when their villages were merged into a single legal entity, a city known today as Mirabel. I will talk later about all the stress and the major debates caused by expropriation that citizens have to endure.
Forillon Park covers an area of 244 km2 located entirely within the City of Gaspé, and which includes the Forillon peninsula, located between Gaspé Bay and Honguedo Strait. It was a decision made by the federal government in 1963. This led to the Governments of Quebec and Canada, in 1970, to issue decrees that resulted in the introduction of the Expropriation Act on July 22, 1970, to the consternation of the landowners and the 225 families living there. In addition to the families who lived within the boundary of the proposed park, there were also families who lived elsewhere, but who owned land and woodlots on which they continued the work of their ancestors. The government wanted to create a national park. In the case of Mirabel, they built an international airport, but that is another matter.
In 1973, the Government of Canada even decided, again by order in council, that inhabitants would no longer have to move when a new national park was created. That applied to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. It began in 1963, but the expropriation order came into force in 1969-70.
Starting in 1973, the Government of Canada decided that inhabitants would no longer have to move when a new national park was created. My Conservative colleague gave some good examples earlier. Today, all of the members in this House should be well aware of the Bloc Québécois motion. We should apologize for this expropriation, which led to an amendment of regulations so that it would never happen again.
We have been talking about this expropriation since 10 a.m. and I find it hard to understand why the Conservatives still do not know how they are going to vote on the Bloc motion.
The motion asks the House to offer an official apology. Why? Because, as responsible members, we should apologize to the 225 families and their descendants for blatantly abusive expropriation. The fact that regulations were amended proves that it was an abuse. Now when national parks are created, people do not have to move.
The Bloc's motion is in response to these people, who have been asking for an apology for many years. They made other requests, which the Conservative government made an effort to respond to, it is true; announcements were made. But the fact remains that a grave injustice was committed and the House should apologize. I believe that the Bloc motion makes sense today.
And that brings me back to the subject of Mirabel. The Forillon expropriation began in 1963; Mirabel began in 1970. In 1969, the Liberal Party of Canada announced that an international airport would be built in Mirabel. In Forillon, 244 km2 were affected; in Mirabel it was 97,000 acres. And the outcome was that Mirabel airport is the biggest white elephant ever constructed by the federal government on Canadian soil.
Only 6,000 acres were used for the actual airport. Six thousand acres surrounded by fences. It is true that the Conservative government agreed to give back 80,000 acres in 1985. They kept 11,000 because they were not sure of the future of Mirabel international airport at that time.
The decision was made by the Liberal government. All domestic and international flights were to be transferred to Mirabel in 1995. That same year, the decision was made to keep Dorval open. That is what the Liberals decided. In 2002, it was decided that international flights to Mirabel would go back to Dorval. In November 2004, all domestic flights and international passenger flights to Mirabel were closed. There was a motion. I will read the text because at the time, the government refused to provide an apology with respect to Mirabel.
The then federal Minister of Transport, Jean Lapierre, a Liberal minister—he is on television from time to time—, refused to apologize to those whose properties were expropriated in Mirabel. At the time, Prime Minister Paul Martin acknowledged that these people had suffered; there was an acknowledgement. Today, the Liberals tend to have a slightly different opinion about Forillon. Is the prospect of an election beating some sense into them? We will see. The fact remains that the issue of expropriations is a harsh reality.
As far as Mirabel is concerned, in 2005, we supported a motion put forward by the Conservative Party at the time. I was a member of Parliament and we were aware of the situation. We were talking about initiating the process to return the 11,000 acres of land that remained. Just before the 2006 election, the Prime Minister went to Mirabel to make a grandiose election promise. The Conservatives are celebrating five years in power and there are still 8,000 of the 11,000 acres left to transfer back. It is not over yet.
The Conservatives, who are in power today, are reluctant to apologize. In the case of Forillon, that is what the people are asking for, an apology, but the Conservatives are in government. In the case of Mirabel, it was the Prime Minister who made an election promise and went to Mirabel to say that all the land would be returned. There are roughly 8,000 acres left to return and 97 files that are still open, but there is a willingness to work on them.
The purpose of the motion put forward by the Bloc is to acknowledge this injustice. It is our primary role as politicians to do so. We are here to pass legislation, but when bad legislation has been passed by our predecessors, regardless of the political party, we have to be able to acknowledge it and know when to apologize for the decisions made by our predecessors. That is the beauty of the Bloc Québécois motion. We are calling on this House to issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park. I hope that all the political parties understand that we owe it to the 225 families and to all those who use these lands, who have suffered a serious injustice and deserve our apology.
Mr. Richard Nadeau (Gatineau, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, today, the Bloc Québécois is making a very simple request: that the federal government issue a formal apology to the people expropriated from Forillon Park.
My colleague, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, just mentioned Sainte-Scholastique. Let us remember Kouchibouguac in New Brunswick and the saga the Vautour family had to endure. Here, in the Outaouais region, the National Capital Commission expropriated the people of Lac Philippe to create Gatineau Park. It is important to note that it was francophones who were living in that area. They were all expropriated. The people who were living in the Meech Lake area were all anglophones who were more well off and who were well connected with the Liberal government that was in power at the time. They were not affected. It is not that they deserved to be expropriated, but the people from the Lac Philippe area are still suffering as a result of this incident.
There are other stories, like the story of Hull, for example. Why were federal buildings put up in Hull, just across the bridge, where the people of Hull lived? Why were they not built on the outskirts of the city to let those people stay in their homes and their community? No, they were cavalierly expropriated. They had to leave and go live somewhere else, like Baron or Pointe-Gatineau. They were expropriated and paid peanuts for their houses. Some of them still live in trailers today because they were not given enough money to build houses like they had in Hull.
At that time, Hull's social fabric was destroyed just so that the federal buildings would not be too far from Ottawa, from the capital, from Parliament. Once again, Liberals, Liberals, Liberals; Trudeau, Trudeau, Trudeau. That is what the federal government did to those people then. They really suffered.
Are the Conservatives like a bunch of Trudeaus? Will they take on the mantle of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and follow in the Liberals' footsteps by not apologizing? That is what we are hearing today. The Conservatives' silence is deafening. They did not rise to say that they were going to apologize to the people of Forillon because the government put them through hell.
The government did the same thing to the Métis. After Louis Riel was hanged, the Métis became corner people or road allowance people. They were not even recognized as human beings. In places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the way to evict them was to burn down their peat moss houses, because they did not pay municipal taxes. That was another form of expropriation by the federal government. It is time for us to come back down to earth and show some humanity.
Consider the deportation of the Acadians. Of course, that was under British rule, before Canada. Consider what happened to them. They were separated and sent to New England, the Falklands and Europe. On some ships, far out at sea, children were thrown overboard so that the Acadians would have no descendants.
Canada has a very dark history when it comes to expropriation. We took people's property; we uprooted them from land that belonged to them. Forillon is another example of this.
I will not go into detail about the hell the people of Forillon went through and are still going through today. They are still alive and they are watching us today. They are hoping to see something other than a bunch of little Trudeaus who continue to perpetuate the insult against them. I see the serious look on your face, Mr. Speaker, and I am convinced that you are going to talk to the people in your caucus so that they stand up and acknowledge the horror and hell that we made the people of Forillon go through.
There are testimonies. We expropriated these people and burned their houses down right in front of them. When they wanted to go back to their community later to visit one of the three cemeteries in Forillon Park and pray at the graves of their loved ones, we made them pay because they were entering a Canadian national park. Nice!
Is that what Canada is about? Will the caring federalists who so love their big country stand up one day? Will they stand up one day and say that they did something wrong, admit their mistake and present the people of Forillon with tangible, official apologies from the House of Commons? Elderly people had to dig around in their wallets to find change so they could go and pray at their child's or spouse's grave inside Forillon Park. It is one example, but I hope that it raises their awareness and that they will not ask how much it is going to cost the Canadian treasury. If the government members are human beings, they will show it. This is a golden opportunity.
“The government sent a subpoena to my father telling him that his house now belonged to the Queen. He never would have believed that they would come to take him out of there. Well, the RCMP forcibly turned him out of his home”, remembers Charles Bouchard, the son of one of the expropriated residents. His father, Édouard, or Eddy, who is deceased, was the last person expropriated to leave his house on the Anse-Au-Griffon trail, one of the areas ceded to the federal government. “He did not want to leave, but he had to resign himself to it. To force him out, the Liberal Government of Canada cut off his telephone and other services.”
Charles Bouchard remembers receiving $1,400 for his 50-acre parcel of land. And his father was given the meagre amount of $20,000 for the house, other buildings, land and two sugar bushes he owned. That gives us an idea of what transpired, and it did not take place in 1622, but in the 1970s. Few members of this House had not yet been born in 1970. About one hundred of those expropriated rebelled against the paltry compensation from Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Liberal government, and they went to court. They managed to get a little bit more.
Jérémie Dunn has provided another account of the events. The program Enquête will be featuring a story about this tonight at 8 p.m. on Radio-Canada. My colleagues should watch it as they will learn a few things. The Radio-Canada program Tout le monde en parlait recently discussed the 225 Gaspé families that were expropriated. The program showed the houses before the expropriation and as they were burning. The houses were burnt down.
We understand the situation. It would be very easy to offer a sincere apology. In fact, we are sincere. We must promote all forms of respect, and our sense of humanity must inspire us when dealing with these people who suffered and continue to suffer—and who have suffered enough—because of the horrible act perpetrated by the Liberal Government of Canada against the people expropriated to create Forillon Park.
Mr. Speaker, I am counting on you to convince your people to rectify the situation.
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Bloc opposition day motion. The Bloc's rationale for wording the motion the way it did, demanding that Parliament express the apology, is well placed given that expecting the government to do it is likely never to happen. We saw that today in the few opportunities government members took to speak to the motion.
They have given 20 minute speeches, and in questions and comments have been asked repeatedly whether they are voting for the motion, and they cannot answer that question. That would indicate to me that they are probably not supportive of the motion. Were they in favour of it, I expect they would be eager to let us all know at this point.
The fact that the three opposition parties are supporting the motion guarantees that the motion will pass and at the end of the day, the Bloc will get what it wanted in terms of getting it through. The apology will be made, regardless of the reluctance on the part of the Conservative government.
Conservative members have indicated that they have been quite forthcoming with apologies since they have come to power and cited several examples. It is a mystery to me why they would be reluctant to vote for this apology, when they have been fairly forthcoming in other situations.
In terms of the Liberal members, I know the member for Honoré-Mercier spoke this morning. I believe he was the second speaker. He made it clear right up front that he was apologizing on behalf of the Liberal Party for its 27 years of neglect on this file. But he did not indicate, at least I did not hear it, whether that apology came from his leader or whether it was his personal opinion that an apology would be in order.
He also did not indicate, nor has anybody in the House so far that I have heard, what the Liberal government actually did during those 27 years to solve this problem. I would have expected that the government, which is always eager to take a whack at the Liberals, would have come prepared and, rather than giving us vivid descriptions of the flora and fauna of the park, would have provided details.
If the Liberals had done nothing for 27 years, the government would have been keen to point that out. I waited to hear that and did not hear that being expressed by government members.
Their positioning so far is very curious, but the new member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette will be making his first major presentation in the House today and will be taking questions. I am sure that the member for Winnipeg North, myself and others, will be very eager to ask him whether he has the answer to the secret that we have been waiting for all day as to whether the government is going to support this motion and make it unanimous. That is, in fact, the right thing to do.
As I had indicated, the Bloc opposition day motion calls for an apology to the former residents of Forillon National Park whose property was expropriated in 1969. A little later I will get into an explanation of many other expropriations, including in my home province of Manitoba, that occurred during that period of time. It certainly was a time when there was a lot of activity in the establishment of new parks, both federal and provincial, as was the case in Manitoba.
In 1969, the Quebec Union Nationale government led by Jean-Jacques Bertrand and the Pearson federal government agreed to create a new national park in the Gaspé region. I believe that was the first national park in Quebec, as one of the Bloc members mentioned. Between 1969 and 1972, over 1,000 residents, about 225 families, living in the area had their properties expropriated to make way for the park.
A similar activity happened in Manitoba with Hecla Island. In reading of the histories of the two, they are very similar and the time frame is reasonably similar as well. According to the histories, it was a sign of the times. People were moving in to the cities. The high school in Hecla was closed down. I think the schools were closing down because there were not enough school-aged children.
It is an island, and it has to be kept open. The causeway had not been built at that time, so it required winter roads and attention. The population dropped and there were fewer and fewer school-aged children.
The people on Hecla Island were promoting the idea of economic development through the establishment of a provincial park. I believe that happened in this situation as well. One of the speakers earlier on today pointed out that there was an expectation that the Quebec and federal governments sold the people on the idea that if they turned the area into a provincial park, there would be jobs.
Like what happened on Hecla Island, the jobs did not materialize. People were stuck selling their property. In the case of Hecla Island, they were not all expropriated because a fairly large number of them voluntarily sold. When they sold, it was sold at low levels and people had to move to places like Winnipeg where property values were triple.
The landowners were at a very big disadvantage and they started having second thoughts. Those who waited to be expropriated, who were fewer in number, ended up getting more for their properties. That led to a lot of acrimony between these groups.
What subsequently happened was a later Conservative government attempted to resettle the people. That ended up in a big mess as well. In fact, police and fraud charges were brought against several people for forgery and so on. I will get to that issue later.
The 220 families were living in the area and had their properties expropriated to make way for the park. Once again, this has to be pointed out. A member, who I get along with very well, has committee hearings right now, but he gave the impression that people were not compensated.
My information is that the residents were compensated for their properties. However, when they had to move, they had to start over. They had to buy properties. They could not replace their property at the price they received. They were at a disadvantage from day one. They were living under this assumption that somehow there would be all these jobs, which never materialized.
The former residents have been calling for this formal apology for 40 years now. We have asked the question many times about where the Liberals were on this. Once again, I would have expected it to be wall-to-wall Conservative speakers today, dumping on the Liberals for their lack of action for 27 years and being eager to be onside. It really is a mystery to me as to why they are holding back.
Parks Canada has created an interactive exhibit in one of the expropriated homes, detailing the experiences of some families that were forced to leave. Commemorative plaques have been placed around the park where the communities once were. All of this is very well and good. It has taken a lot of years for Parks Canada to do it. It is something it did not have to do, but it was the right thing to do.
The government has announced that in 2011 it will issue special entry passes for families up to third generation. Our critic indicated that this should be expanded to five generations. It does not just include this park. I believe it includes all the parks in the system. Those passes are to be given to people up to third generation whose principle residence was expropriated for the national parks or national historic sites.
The member for Gatineau indicated that people who wanted to go back to visit their ancestors in the graveyard would have to line up and pay to get into the park. I believe there are three graveyards in this park. It is hard to comprehend.
Eligibility for lifetime passes would be based on existing historic records, if any still exist. A committee would determine whether someone could get a pass.
These committees are part of the reason the Conservatives got into trouble in Manitoba with the resettlement of Hecla. They had a committee, but some of the people on the committee ended up getting them into trouble, as I had indicated before.
Despite expected difficulties in getting these passes, many former residents see this as a promising first step.
A petition from 750 former residents and their descendants was presented to Minister Prentice in 2010. I join my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North in complimenting Minister Prentice who did a very good job in the many difficult spots he found himself in with that government.
The 750 former residents were asking for free park access for five generations instead of the three the government was promising. There are three cemeteries in the park. Most of the generations of 225 family ancestors are buried there and most buildings in the park were burned down or bulldozed in the creation of the park. However, the ones that remained were preserved.
We see this as a relatively non-controversial motion. We feel the apology should have a very limited financial implication because court cases have already ruled the expropriations were within the law.
There are expropriations all over. Governments have to expropriate. Duff Roblin, when he was premier in Manitoba, had a floodway built, and he has almost approached sainthood for having done so. It saved the province of Manitoba billions of dollars. Just recently the floodway was expanded, costing quite a bit more money. However, it is expected to save a lot of grief in a few months from now when the flood waters are at historical highs. To build that floodway, he had to expropriate.
Let us not delude ourselves. Governments of any stripe involved in construction projects, like a floodway to save billions of dollars in damage, have to expropriate, but that is a different situation than a national park.
As with Hecla, the fact is the government basically killed the park when it got rid of the people. There needs to be activity in the park with people living there. Then the Conservatives went full circle and decided, in 1998, they were would try to bring people back and repopulate it.
How nice is that? We go to all the trouble of expropriating and forcing people out of the park, then 15 years later decide to try and bring them all back to restore the mess that was created in the first place.
We have seen all kinds of inconsistencies with governments over the years, for example, the nursing shortage. The Conservative government fired 1,000 nurses in Manitoba at a time when the population was aging and we needed the nurses.
The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel talked about the Mirabel airport. The best brains in the country developed the concept for a new airport in Mirabel and expropriated all the land and what happened? It turned into a big boondoggle. At least the Conservative government did the right thing back then and gave the land back to the original people who wanted it.
The government did the right thing then, so we want it to do the right thing in this case. It is not that difficult to join with the rest of the members of the House. The motion will pass anyway, so why not make it unanimous? Why not do the right thing and admit that governments can make mistakes. No one is above admitting a mistake and correcting the problems that come about as a result.
In the four minutes I have left I want to deal with some of the issues coming out of the Manitoba situation. Other members have talked about how this parallels situations in their provinces. It was not a federal park in the case of Manitoba, although I believe the government tried at one point to make it a federal park. It was a provincial park. Many articles have been written on this because it was a long-standing saga and it mirrors the situation with Forillon Park. It is the same story but a different environment.
Interestingly enough, this happened during the same time period. We are not talking 20 or 30 years separation. We are talking about the same time that the park in Quebec was being set up. There was the park in New Brunswick as well that had a more violent end to it. All three of these situations happened at the same time.
The settlement on the Hecla Islands was founded by Icelanders in 1876. There is just too much information for me to try to get it in my remaining two minutes so I will try to cut it short.
The island had a population of 500 people who were served by two schools and two stores. A few people eked out a living on farms plagued by poor soil conditions. Most islanders were commercial fishermen and captains who took to the lake to earn an adequate livelihood.
The island's fortune began a downward spiral in the following decade, which resulted in many fleeing their communities to places such as Gimli and Winnipeg to seek better opportunities. In 1966 the last remaining school closed, giving islanders another reason to abandon their homes. The islanders could no longer support themselves as an isolated community. They were served by an ice road in the winter and a tiny ferry when there was open water. The causeway was not completed until 1972.
I want to make this clear for the member for Selkirk—Interlake who put some misinformation on the record this morning. When the NDP became the government in 1969, it inherited the Walter Weir Conservative government's two-year old plan. The Conservatives had already been planning to turn Hecla into a provincial park for two years. The process was well under way.
When Premier Schreyer looked at the plan devised by the bureaucrats, he did not like what he saw. The bureaucrats wanted all the people gone. The premier, however, envisioned a park with some of the original inhabitants and he proposed to expropriate the land for needed infrastructure and any private homes. To have no one living there was a flight from common sense he believed.
Evidently there was a plan to leaseback, but very few people took advantage of the province's proposal because the island was economically depressed, according to a federal-provincial rural agreement. Of the 99 properties expropriated, 56 of them were voluntarily given up, 18 were eventually voluntary ceded after negotiations, 17 cases were decided by the courts and 3 properties were not considered for expropriation.
Mr. Robert Sopuck (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the motion by the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine concerning Forillon National Park. Right off the bat I will apologize for my Manitoba high school French and hope my friends across the way will indulge me.
This is almost my first speech in the House, as I have said a few words before, but I would like to thank all hon. members for the wonderful and warm reception that I have received, members opposite as well. I do not think that will last very long but, for the time being, it has been truly wonderful. I also thank members opposite for their help, as well my friends on my side.
I know we all think Canada is a wonderful country, but in my case it has a special poignancy for me. Both my parents, Joe and Ida Sopuck, were born in eastern Europe and came to Canada as immigrants in the 1920s, arriving at Pier 21.. For those who have not been there, it is a very moving experience to visit it. I and all my colleagues in the House can appreciate what a wonderful land of opportunity Canada is. Not only is it a land of opportunity, it is a wonderful land with beautiful landscapes.
I have not been to Forillon National Park, but I understand it was created in the 1970s to protect and showcase examples of one of Canada's most unique and wonderful regions.
However, I have experience with local people and their relationships with national parks. My constituency has within its boundaries Riding Mountain National Park. Therefore, I will be pleased to answer members' questions when they want to learn more about Manitoba.
I happen to live right next to a national park. My wife and I have 480 acres of land about five kilometres away from the park. I live in the middle of a farming and resource community and my neighbours make a good living off the land right next to a national park.
I appreciate the hon. member's concerns for families who were required to leave their lands when the Forillon National Park was created in 1970. We had a similar experience near Riding Mountain National Park. We had generations of people who had come from faraway lands and first nations communities who made good livings in the area and they, too, were forced out of the area.
The riding that I represent, Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, is a very large riding consisting of 52,000 square kilometres. It has a number of provincial parks, as well as a national park. I would like to thank the constituents of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for electing me and placing their trust in me.
I know that my constituents who live around Riding Mountain National Park and the constituents who live around Forillon National Park would have a lot in common. Leaving aside the bitterness about national parks, they have a rural way of life based on natural resource harvesting and a deep concern for the land and the landscape.
The people in my constituency have a deep and abiding stewardship ethic. My entire constituency is covered with what are called conservation districts where people look after the land and make a living from it at the same time. There are various conservation organizations that work very hard to keep our landscape in great shape.
Agriculture is the backbone of my constituency. What has developed over time is something that I like to refer to as the culture of agriculture. Not only do people in my constituency care for the land but they strongly care for family and community. We have logging, commercial fishing, trapping, tourism and a budding oil industry.
The point I am making in terms of Forillon National Park and Riding Mountain National Park, is that I agree that the people of Forillon National Park have an issue with the park, as do my constituents, and I deeply sympathize with them.
Riding Mountain National Park started out in the late 1800s as a dominion forest reserve and became a national park in the 1930s. Here is where the story gets interesting. In the 1970s, under the Liberal government of the day, I will continue the great tradition, one by one the resource uses in the park were phased out. First, the logging was phased out. Then the grazing was phased out. Then the haying was phased out. Not a bit of compensation was ever paid to the people who were eliminated from that park. Whole farms were destroyed. Family farm operations were destroyed because of that.
I have a very deep sympathy for what happened in Quebec with the creation of this national park. I do agree with my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, when he said that we cannot create parks in this way any more. I can assure members that one of my jobs as an MP will be to look out for the interests of my constituents who live around Riding Mountain National Park. I do intend to speak with the Minister of the Environment and the parliamentary secretary on a regular basis about this particular issue.
In conclusion, I would like to thank members for this opportunity. However, let us never forget that rural Canada is the backbone of this country. One of the things that I am very gratified to see happen in the last few years is how our natural resources industries are carrying the entire country. We as a country have an opportunity to have thriving natural resources industries: agriculture, forestry, mining, fishing and so on. We have the opportunity to have beautiful parks and wild places conserved. I think we can do both.