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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other party leaders, have formally apologized in the House of Commons for the internment of Italian Canadians during the Second World War.
With some remarks in Italian, Mr. Trudeau offered an apology to men and women taken to prisoner of war camps or jail without charge, tens of thousands of innocent Canadians labelled as enemy aliens, the children and grandchildren who carried the “shame and hurt” of the targeted generation and the community at large.
The Prime Minister said it was right for the House of Commons to declare war on Mussolini’s fascist regime, but added, “Canada did not also have to declare war on Italian-Canadians.”
“To scapegoat law-abiding Italian Canadians. That was wrong,” Mr. Trudeau said.
At issue is the fact that, after Italy’s declaration of war against Canada on June. 10, 1940, the federal government interned more than 600 people of Italian heritage, and declared 31,000 Italian Canadians as “enemy aliens,” leading to widespread discrimination.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also spoke to the issue Thursday.
“On behalf of my colleagues in this House, and Conservative Party members across this great country that Italian-Canadians have profoundly shaped, I add the name of my party and myself to this apology,” Mr. O’Toole said in the House of Commons.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh went a step further. “While an apology is long overdue, restitution can only be accomplished with compensation for Italian-Canadian families that Canada has wronged. The government must go beyond an apology and compensate,” said Mr. Singh.
The federal government has ruled out such a measure.
In a statement, key organizations representing members of the Italian-Canadian community said they “graciously accept” the apology from the Prime Minister and federal government.
“Let us now embark on the task of educating Canadians about these events thereby ensuring that they are never repeated,” said the statement from the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy, and the National Federation of Canadian Italian Business Professional Associations.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced the new Canada Greener Homes Grant, which will provide homeowners grants of up to $5,000 to make energy-efficient retrofits to their primary residences.
On another subject, Mr. Trudeau was asked, during a news conference, about U.S. President Joe Biden ordering intelligence officials to step up efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including possible connections to labs in China. Story here.
In response, the Prime Minister said, “We support the call by the United States and others to better understand the origins of COVID-19, not just to ensure accountability but also to make sure we fully understand how to better protect the world going forward from any such further pandemics. I know there are a lot of theories out there but we need to make sure we’re getting to a full and complete airing of the facts to actually understand what happened and how to make sure it never happens again.”
WOEFULLY INADEQUATE PPE STOCKPILE - The Public Health Agency of Canada’s emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment was woefully inadequate to meet the needs of provinces and territories at the start of the pandemic because the agency ignored problems it was aware of for years, the federal Auditor-General found.
BQ MOTION FALLS SHORT - The Bloc Québécois failed to unanimously pass a motion recognizing Quebec’s right to unilaterally change the Constitution in line with proposed reforms to the province’s language law after Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Independent MP for Vancouver-Granville, blocked the unanimity required for a motion tabled without official notice. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said, following the Wednesday proceedings, that he still believes a vast majority of parliamentarians support the motion.
BILL MARKS SENATE CHANGE - The federal government is moving to legally recognize the evolution of Canada’s Senate into a more independent, non-partisan chamber of sober second thought by introducing a government bill in the Senate. Bill S-4 would amend the Parliament of Canada Act to formally recognize the transformation that the Senate has undergone since 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began appointing only non-partisan senators nominated by an arm’s-length advisory body.
ONTARIO MMIWG RESPONSE PLAN - The Ontario government is laying out its response to calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, including extending the mandate of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council beyond March, 2022.
ALBERTA PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS - Alberta expects to eliminate the vast majority of public-health restrictions by the end of June, making its revised reopening schedule the most aggressive in the country. Among other outcomes, the phased plan announced Wednesday by Premier Jason Kenney clears the way for the Calgary Stampede to proceed in July unencumbered.
QUESTION PERIOD, LATE-NIGHT EDITION -The Globe’s deputy Ottawa bureau chief Bill Curry reports that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was in the hot seat Wednesday evening until nearly midnight, responding to questions from MPs about federal spending. Under House of Commons rules, the opposition can select a cabinet minister for a special session of up to four hours of questioning on the floor of the House of Commons. As MPs peppered the minister with a wide range of specific questions, the opposition quickly became frustrated with Ms. Freeland’s responses.
A typical exchange:
“When will Canada’s budget return to balance?” Conservative Finance critic Ed Fast asked.
Ms. Freeland’s response: “Let me point to another very credible assessor of Canada’s finances, and that is S and P, the rating agency, which recently reaffirmed our triple-A rating.”
Mr. Fast later described Ms. Freeland’s refusal to answer direct questions as disgraceful.
“This has been the most disappointing session of Parliament I have ever been involved in,” he said. “I have asked the minister numerous questions. She has not answered one. There is no transparency and no specificity. The least she could have done is say that she does not know the answer to these questions but she would get back to me. She did not even have the courtesy of doing that. I am profoundly disappointed.”
The Hansard link is here.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister delivers a formal apology in the House of Commons for the Second World War internment of Italian Canadians. He also makes an announcement with Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, holds a news conference, hosts a conference call with provincial and territorial premiers, and participates in a virtual reception to mark the formal apology earlier in the day.
Jillian Horton (The Globe and Mail) on Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s “Let’s go, Joe!” plea for vaccines from U.S. President Joe Biden: “Is it reasonable for our Premier to make a plea for some of the United States’s unused vaccines? Perhaps, even though these requests would typically be made country-to-country, and it’s hard to argue that we have a special entitlement to the surplus when India’s COVID-19 crisis is bringing that country to its knees. It seems Mr. Pallister is unaware that bullying only works in one’s sphere of influence. And how ironic that the man complaining that “Joe” won’t take his calls said, at the same Saturday news conference, that Winnipeg’s mayor should talk to him through his ministers because he has “a lot of things to do during a pandemic.” Meanwhile, the Premier continues to hoard projections from not just the public but key stakeholders.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the golden opportunity that awaits the public service sector postpandemic: “Since Confederation, Canadians living outside the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal nexus have complained the federal government doesn’t understand or respond to their needs. Efforts to decentralize by moving offices to the regions haven’t worked: Managers spend too much time shuttling back and forth, and workers resent having to move. But a post-COVID public service could evolve into one with workers located across the country, by choice.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s constitutional fudging could come back to haunt him: “[Mr. Trudeau’s] silence may serve his short-term political purposes, as he seeks to avoid starting a constitutional fight with Quebec only months before a federal election. But the ambiguity surrounding Bill 96 serves no one’s interest. It would be best for everyone if Mr. Trudeau took steps to clear it up before Quebec passes the bill, and before Mr. Kenney moves to imitate Mr. Legault with an Alberta First constitutional amendment of his own. Mr. Trudeau could ask the Supreme Court to provide clarity on the matter in a reference case.”
Murray Mandryk (Regina Leader-Post) on the need to recognize mental health in politics: “Mental health is just starting to become part of public conversation, but it’s something political back-roomers don’t often discuss. For politicians, talking about one’s mental health remains taboo — a career killer. Can we have a healthy democracy if those in charge of it can’t find a safe place to deal with their mental health issues? [Emile Scheffel, former executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party and Founder of PERSIST] and [Dale Richardson, former director of digital operations for Premier Scott Moe’s office and former communication director for the Saskatchewan Party] hope they can “open up this conversation” to those of all political stripes.”
Tom Mulcair (Maclean’s) on why BIll 96 deserves much more than nodding approval of leaders in Ottawa: It’s clear that neither Trudeau nor O’Toole nor Singh has given a great deal of thought to the substantive sections Bill 96. The great irony is that even if they went the route of the more demanding section 43, there’s absolutely no doubt that the House would pass a motion approving it. Trudeau has claimed that he has a legal opinion stating that Québec can indeed proceed on its own to amend the Canadian constitution without even bringing the issue before Parliament. When [Justice Minister David Lametti] was asked on an English Montréal radio station if he was willing to share that legal opinion with Canadians, he skated.
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