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Arms & Badges - The Hansard Debate

Tuesday, Dec 5, 1995 - ROYAL ARMS OF CANADA

Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada has pronounced in a press release: "Canada has a new coat of arms which will be distributed this week to MPs and schools across the country-The new coat of arms will appear on all money, passports, government buildings and rank badges in the Canadian Armed Forces. As a French Canadian, I always thought the coat of arms we had been using was too closely associated with the British. These new arms are an important change in our evolution as a country."

You bet they are, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Minister of Canadian Heritage if this is for real. If so, why did the Canadian public not even have a say on it?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the coat of arms was approved by the Queen in 1987. I am always prepared to have great parties to celebrate events but this one would be a little late.

Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the press release says that the Canadian coat of arms proposed by Bruce Hicks of the press gallery was approved by Queen Elizabeth on July 12, 1994, not 1987. The point is that this issue has not even come before Parliament; it has not even come before the people of Canada. My question is about symbols. These symbols do not belong to the Liberal government; they belong to the people of the country. If this is real, why has Parliament not even discussed it? We have seen closure on the distinct society motion. We have seen closure on constitutional vetoes. Why are we now seeing closure on this issue?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could make a brief correction on dates. The date I gave is correct. That was when the coat of arms was approved. What happened more recently was that the Queen decided it could be distributed all over Canada. That is the difference in dates. As to the authority, we should remember that the coat of arms is under the authority of the Governor General of Canada. If the opposition or the second party in the opposition wants to have a great debate, it can always use opposition days.


Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada issued a press release today detailing proposed changes to the coat of arms. We spent the morning trying to figure out what exactly he was talking about. I must say that it reads like something out of a LeCarré novel.
The Prime Minister's office does not know anything about the change. The Liberal whip's office said it must be a mistake. The Privy Council office seems to be completely in the dark.
We would like to know what all the secrecy is about. Why is this change being introduced now? Why does not anyone on that side of the House seem to know anything about it?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, changes in the coat of arms are not unusual. They have taken place over the years. We witness now, somewhat belatedly, another change.
If the member wants to make a great show of it, I would suggest he go outside and ride on the back of the unicorn.

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to follow such a class act as this low life minister.

Some hon. members: Oh. Oh.

The Speaker: Colleagues, as much as possible we should refrain from personal attacks. I ask all hon. members to be very judicious in their choice of words.
I return to the hon. member for Fraser Valley East and ask him to put his question.

Mr. Strahl: Mr. Speaker, the government's arrogance typified in that answer seems to know no bounds. First it uses the old Mulroney tactics of ramming through constitutional vetoes and distinct society status when the Canadian people have not been consulted. Now it wants to change the Canadian Coat of Arms, waiting for a convenient moment when it thinks it can sneak it through Parliament past our eyes.
Why is the government now sneaking through these changes to the Canadian Coat of Arms and why is it changing the fundamental symbols of the country at a time when we are trying to keep it tied together?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I explained these changes were made in 1987. We are not currently doing anything. We are printing booklets giving the symbols of Canada all across Canada.
One reason, as I understand it, the coat of arms was changed in 1987 was to add ``to build a better country''. If this is irrelevant today, I profoundly disagree. Our colleagues should work for a better country, but they do not.

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, we have a rather curious turn of events here today.
Earlier last week the government in introducing this distinct society motion said it attached great importance to symbolism, even symbolic statements.
Now we have a proposed change in the Canadian coat of arms, a Canadian symbol, and the heritage minister who is supposed to be the guardian of these things dismisses it as inconsequential.
To whom does he believe this Canadian symbol belongs, to the sovereign, to the government, to some Liberal backbencher or to the people of Canada?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it certainly belongs to the people of Canada, all of us, but particular to those who believe in what is written on the coat of arms: ``To build a better country''.
I hope the Reform Party believes in it and will support the new coat of arms.

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, if it is true what the minister says, that the coat of arms belongs to the people of Canada and he is committed to building a better country, why are the people of Canada not consulted and involved in changes to the Canadian coat of arms?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the people responsible for the coat of arms are the people of heraldic authority of Canada under the jurisdiction of the governor general.
That is the way the coat of arms is changed. It has been approved by the Queen. If, as I said earlier, my colleague wants to trigger a nationwide debate on the subject of the change, he would be welcome to it.

Mrs. Jan Brown (Calgary Southeast, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the debate surrounding the change to our flag was one of the most emotional, controversial and moving in Canadian history. It gave all Canadians an opportunity to participate in the development of the symbols of the country. We are now told our new coat of arms is ready for distribution late this week. How did this happen in such a state of secrecy? I remind the Minister of Canadian Heritage the press release carried an embargo until 10 a.m., December 4, 1995.

Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has asked a serious question. Although it is on short notice I will try to present her and the House with some information I just received.
I have in my hand a booklet entitled ``Symbols of Canada'', published by the Department of Canadian Heritage. On page 5, under the heading ``Armorial Bearings'', which I understand is another term for coat of arms, it states:

Adopted: By proclamation of King George V on November 21, 1921. On the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada, Her Majesty the Queen approved, on July 12, 1994, that the Royal Arms of Canada be augmented of a ribbon with the motto of the Order of Canada, desiderantes meliorem patriam--they desire a better country.

I hope my honourable friend also desires a better country.

Mrs. Jan Brown (Calgary Southeast, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, of course I absolutely do want to see all of us build a better Canada, a better future. However, the issue here concerns the embargo until yesterday, December 4, 1995, and that part of my question was not addressed.
Further to that, if indeed the House of Commons represents a place for all Canadians to come and debate through our membership, I would like to know why we did not have a broad debate in the House of Commons to discuss this very basic simple issue.

Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I understand it-I will be corrected if I am wrong-this booklet I have was distributed to all members of Parliament and to the public. It was distributed some time ago. It is hardly a secret.
I want to add that as far as I am aware, while there has been a debate and vote in the House on the Canadian flag and a debate and vote in the House on our national anthem, the matter of the armorial bearings of Canada has been something for decision of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada and not for the House of Commons. So I see nothing to criticize this government over the actions of Her Majesty the Queen.


Mr. Patrick Gagnon (Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Lib): Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I draw the attention of the House of Commons to the recent improvements to the Canadian Coat of Arms. These improvements highlight the motto of the Order of Canada, our country's highest honour. Interestingly, they were proposed by a member of the press gallery, Bruce Hicks, over a decade ago. The motto, ``To build a better country'', is something every member of the House should be trying to do.
In 1987 the Queen approved this change for limited use in Canada. In fact everyone who has been to Rideau Hall will have seen this new coat of arms in the stained glass window near the entrance. Last year the Queen authorized its general use and slowly it is being introduced so as to not cost the taxpayers any money.
Last year I sent a copy of these arms in electronic format to every MP and encouraged them to start using them on their letterhead and publications when they reorder. The Minister of Canadian Heritage drew attention to it last month when he unveiled the latest edition of symbols of Canada.
As Canadians, we do not wave our flag. But I for one am proud of my country and its symbols. I applaud the Governor General for this change.


(From official hansard transcripts on the web.)


The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada offers no opinions or judgements of any of the parliamentarians mentioned in this transcript.