150th Anniversary of the House: This room is about democracy

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour for me to rise today as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of this House of Commons.

I am overwhelmed and grateful for my colleagues that there is an opportunity for the Green Party to mark the 150th sitting of the Parliament of Canada. I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation. We all are very grateful for the perpetual generosity of indigenous peoples in our country to be willing to consider our meek efforts at reconciliation.

I note that at 150 years old, our democracy here, the first meeting of Parliament on November 6, 1867, was a bit late. One hundred years earlier, the first parliamentary representative democracy in North America met in Nova Scotia. In 2008, Nova Scotians celebrated the 250th.

Imagine that I can stand here today, on our 150th occasion, in the presence in the gallery of four extraordinary Canadians, each of who I hold in such respect and affection. That the Right. Hon. John Turner, the Right Hon. Joe Clark, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, and the Right Hon. Paul Martin would be here for this celebration, as well as our former Speakers, John Bosley and Peter Milliken, is an extraordinary moment.

I want to reiterate how proud I am. I find it incredible that I have the privilege to participate, because it is indeed a privilege, not a right.

Even as we look back at Halifax and the 250th anniversary, we are all pikers. The longest continuous participatory democracy on the planet is the 800-year-old Iroquois confederacy of the Haudenosaunee. We have learned parliamentary democracy. We have learned that Parliament comes from the word parler. We know we are here to speak with each other, work together, respect each other, and to work to earn the respect of our constituents who have sent us here not to blow our own horn, but to carry their cares and concerns to this place.

I could not agree more with our right hon. Prime Minister that one of the greatest parliamentarians I have ever had the privilege to know and work with left us too soon when we lost Arnold Chan. It is his words I think of today, that call in his last speech, the last time he had the physical strength to stand in this place, for us to respect each other.

I also ask us to look around. We are in this room, what a privilege, day in and day out, but how often do we look up, and I am afraid I am going to go in a Friendly Giant direction, look way up? There is a reason that this magnificent chamber dwarfs its occupants. This room is not about us as members of Parliament. This room is about democracy. It is about Canada. We are very tiny in this space because our role is to represent something far bigger than ourselves. We are here for Canada. We are here for a country in which we are blessed to live, know, and love. We are to cherish that democracy. This room dwarfs us for a reason.

Thank you to all of my colleagues and thank you Canada. Congratulations and thank you.