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House Business

Mr. Gerald Hawranik (Official Opposition House Leader): Mr. Speaker, on House business.

On this side of the House, we're in favour of this resolution and I would ask that you canvass the House to determine whether there is sufficient leave to have the House vote on this resolution.

Mr. Speaker: Well, I can ask the House if the House is willing to put the question but I'm sure–but if there's other–[interjection]

Order. I can put the member's request for asking the House for leave to–for me to put the question for a vote.

Mr. Chomiak
: The practice in this House is–the rules have long stated that we have private members' hours allotted for private members in order to allow them to be able to speak. It's very unusual for the leader–for the government leader–I don't think I ever did it during my tenure as government leader, nor did I ever think I saw an opposition leader stand up and ask for leave to vote on a resolution because as I understand it, the House rules are that members get to speak because it's the only opportunity that members have in the Chamber to all speak freely on a particular issue. So this is–it's not only in violation of the usual rules, Mr. Speaker, but I've never seen this done in this Legislature during the period that I was House leader. I don't think we ever interrupted our own resolutions or those of the oppositions and ask for a debate in order to force debate and not permit members to speak. So, it's not only unusual, I think it's against the rules.

Mr. Hawranik
: I notice that the member from Concordia–or from Kildonan–didn't bother to quote any rule to indicate that it's not–that it's out of order to ask for leave. I believe that it is in order to ask for leave at any point in time whether it's in private members' business or whether it's in government business. And I'd simply ask the Speaker to ask for leave to have a vote on this resolution.

Mr. Speaker:
The request that has been put forward is, the honourable member is asking for–when we do something that is out of the ordinary business of the House or departs from our procedure and practice, a member can ask for leave for us to deviate from that and that's all the member is doing, is asking for leave. 

Mr. Chomiak
: On the same point of order, I understand that any member can stand up at any time and ask for leave, but we have established rules for members of the House to allow them to speak on resolutions. We establish that as party leaders in agreements. We agreed. We agreed as party leaders, to allow hour-long private bills and private resolutions. So I think it would be unusual and inappropriate to grant leave in a situation like that when it's against the rules of this House.

Mr. Speaker
: Order. The request–I'm going to put the question–this is turning into a full debate here. All the member is asking is for us to depart from our rules of the House. If there's other members, and I'm sure there's other members if they wish to continue debating this, all you have to say is no, because we do have freedom of speech in this House. And every member in this House has the right to speak to any resolution or bill that is put forward. That is our rule. Every member has that right, and if there's other members that wish to continue speaking, all they have to do is say no.

I've just been asked to just ask the House if there is leave to stop debate of this resolution to have a vote. So, is there leave?

Some Honourable Members
: No.

Mr. Speaker
: No. It's been denied.

* * *

Mr. Speaker:
So we will continue on with the debate.

The honourable member for River Heights stood up first.


Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this resolution. I acknowledge it's a difficult subject because it deals with basic questions of free speech, which is an absolutely fundamental part of who we are as Canadians. On the other hand, we are dealing with an approach which is being taken which infers or calls Israel apartheid, and this is a very serious matter because apartheid is defined in international law as a crime against humanity, and Israel Apartheid Week is being viewed by many as a deliberate attempt to portray the Jewish state as criminal. In my view, we should be building bridges instead of trying to look at people in the most negative sense.

When Naomi and I were in Israel in early 2006, we had an opportunity to visit various parts of the country. We found it notable that in old Jerusalem that the people in the four quarters, the Armenian quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter, and the Moslem quarter, were living peacefully side by side, each worshipping in their own institutions, and what a wonderful opportunity it was to see how that can happen.

When in Tel Aviv, we visited the Eretz Israel Museum, which is a site where on May the 14th, 1948, David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel. Our guide, who was Avi Ben-Yosef, emphasized again and again to us the importance of this declaration. It specifically provided for guarantees for equal treatment regardless of race or religion or sex. As Avi told us, here in Israel we still don't have a constitution so the Declaration of Independence is very important because it sets out people's rights. I'm going to quote briefly from the Declaration of Independence: it, the State of Israel, "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

During our time in Israel, we were to see many examples of these guarantees of the freedom of religion in Israel, and the efforts which have been taken and are being taken to safeguard the holy places of all religions. For example, we visited with and talked to members of the Druze community, and there are about 110,000 in Israel who have this religion. It's a religion which has its origins in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is based on a vision of truth, peace, justice and a belief in God.

We visited also the shrine of the Báb in Haifa. Báb is considered by Baha'i to be an independent messenger of God and the Herald of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i faith. Of note, the golden dome of the shrine was designed by Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell and completed in 1953. And the 18 terraces were designed in 1987 by the Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba. Baha'i includes principles which include abandonment of all form of prejudice, full equality between the sexes, elimination of the extremes of poverty and wealth, and a recognition of the common source and essential oneness of the world's great religions. It was interesting that the Baha'i Palace was there in Israel because of the guarantees of freedom of religion and the guarantees of holy places.

I also met while I was there with Dr. Yossi Leshem, who directs an observatory in Latrun. He pointed out to us that Israel is one

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.