Canadian Museum of History Act

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand in this House today to not only pledge my support for Bill C-49 but also to tell my personal story in relation to my passion for history and why I totally agree with the vision and applaud our minister and his able parliamentary secretary for bringing the bill before this House for debate tonight.

The bill is known best as the bill that would establish the Canadian museum of history. Really, this would not re-create or re-establish an important national museum. In many ways, it would actually reassert its important mandate as a national institution in Canada. It would also extend that national mandate to all the small towns, villages, and cities across this great nation. History does not just belong in the nation’s capital. Indeed, it belongs across the country.

In many ways, the bill is about one of the last crown jewels in the collection of important national museums our government has supported across Canada, going back to our support in 2008 for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, being established in Winnipeg, and, in 2010, to our government’s reassertion of the importance of Pier 21 as Canada’s national Museum of Immigration, in Halifax.

I had the good fortune to visit Pier 21 in its early years, thanks to the vision of the Goldblooms in Halifax, who brought that important institution to our country.

The day after my wedding, in Halifax, my wife and I, dreary-eyed as we might have been, with my parents, took my grandmother, Madge Hall, to Pier 21, where she first stepped into Canada with her husband and infant daughter, Molly, my mother, after World War II. Not only did we experience that museum but we looked up the manifest of the Lusitania, which they boarded to come to Canada and a tremendous new life. I only wish one of those three people was still here to see their grandson sitting in Canada’s Parliament.

In many ways, the bill would refocus our national history museum. I will speak to why I think the national network this museum would create is even more important than the rebranding and refocusing of the institution in Ottawa.

It is indeed a travesty that 90% of our historic artifacts and treasures are in storage. It is time to free these important artifacts from the shackles of indifference and dust and to share them with the small towns across Canada, or indeed, the large museums, such as the ROM or the Royal British Columbia Museum, so that they too can feel an attachment to these important artifacts.

However, the converse is perhaps even more important than getting this national artifact network established. It is also important for museums such as Scugog Shores in Port Perry or the Clarington Archives or the Clarke Museum in Clarington or the Lucy Maud Montgomery museum in Uxbridge to share some of their local artifacts with our national institution in Ottawa.

Thanks to the vision behind Bill C-49, and our Minister of Canadian Heritage , we would have visitors to Canada exploring the Canadian museum of history and seeing the artifacts and the history of the small towns and villages in Durham at our national institution in Ottawa. That would be truly remarkable and important. There would be a dedicated permanent space for exhibits from over 2500 museums across this country.

It is also an honour for me to tell a bit of my personal story tonight, and in my first year, to utter only my second Winston Churchill quote. Churchill said, “Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft”.

My friends on this side of the House should really read more history to learn those secrets to try to take our side of the House. The very fact that they have not leaves me resting assured that we are going to maintain this side of the House, because we have followed the edict of one of the world’s greatest parliamentarians.

My love of history started when I was an 18-year-old officer cadet crossing the parade square at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. We had a mandate, as young gentlemen and lady cadets of the college, to learn the history of that historic site.

We gazed at the RMC flag, which was designed by the dean of arts, George Stanley, who shared his vision for the nation’s flag in 1964 with John Matheson, a distinguished gunner from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and later the MP for Leeds. John Matheson is still alive and, at 95, is really one of our living veterans who truly tells the history of this great country.

George Stanley at RMC taught generations of historians who are with us today as leading voices. At RMC he taught Desmond Morton and Jack Granatstein.

In many ways, this debate on why Canada needs a national museum of history was started by one of George Stanley’s students, Dr. Jack Granatstein, who, in 1998, wrote Who Killed Canadian History? In many ways, in the years since then, Canadian history has been given a new life. In many ways, this bill would give our national history museum a network of history and a life across the country.

It is my pleasure to rise today in full support of Bill C-49. Indeed, it is our government’s answer to the question, “Who killed Canadian history?” We may not be able to answer that, but we certainly know who is breathing new life into the subject.

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