Margaret AITKEN

AITKEN, Margaret

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
York--Humber (Ontario)
Birth Date
July 3, 1908
Deceased Date
November 19, 1980
author, columnist, journalist

Parliamentary Career

August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  York--Humber (Ontario)
June 10, 1957 - February 1, 1958
  York--Humber (Ontario)
March 31, 1958 - April 19, 1962
  York--Humber (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 17)

February 14, 1962

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber):

Mr. Speaker, debate on the flag issue has now become an annual event in the House of Commons and not only one bill but two or three are introduced every session. I find that every time we have a debate on this matter in the house there is very great interest outside. I know that my mail is always a great deal heavier after one of these debates.

There is no doubt that more and more people want a distinctive flag and where the controversy arises is in the interpretation of the word "distinctive". At the outset may I say that my interpretation of the word "distinctive" does include the union jack. I

Flags of Canada

noticed that the hon. member for Drummond-Arthabaska (Mr. Boulanger) told us that his leader had promised to bring in a flag within two years if he should come to power, but the hon. member did not tell us whether the Union jack was going to be a part of that distinctive flag. I include myself among many thousands of Canadians who want a distinctive flag and yet obviously I mean something quite different from what other people mean, in fact quite different from what many members of this house mean.

Having spoken a good many times in the house on this subject, I can only reiterate some of the points I have made before. Certainly I think that none of us on either side of the house wants this matter to become a political football. To all patriotic Canadians a flag is something that affects the emotions and it would be a great pity, in fact, a national tragedy in my opinion, if party politics were allowed to enter into the matter or if it became a referendum issue. I think that would be one of the greatest dangers to national unity.

One reads periodic tirades against politicians for not moving faster on the subject of a flag. Personally I have never blamed the Liberals for moving slowly, as they did, because I think the decision of choosing a flag is a momentous one which will not only affect us in our time but will affect Canadians for generations to come. All of us have received scores of suggestions for a new flag. I presume that the designers of these sometimes extraordinary flags have their reasons for the emblems and colours that they use. My reason for wanting the union jack in our flag is because that design is part of our history.

A couple of years ago in the Canadian Commentator, W. I. Hearst of Toronto wrote a letter in which he made a very good point. This is what he said:

A flag not grounded in a country's history and tradition is nothing more than a label such as one finds on a can of tomatoes.

Mr. Hearst went on to say that our system of laws, method of government, literature and culture, all came from Britain. Then, he said:

No matter how racially mixed the population of Canada may become, she is permanently stamped with British tradition.

I have never forgotten a speech the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Mandziuk) made on this subject of a flag. He said people were wrong to think that our different ethnic groups were against the inclusion of the union jack. Indeed, he went so far as to say they were content with the union jack, itself, as a flag. It had become the symbol of freedom and human dignity to peoples all over the world.

One argument heard against inclusion of the union jack in our new flag is that old bugaboo about British sovereignty over Canada. This is absolute nonsense, and every thinking Canadian knows it. We are an independent nation with complete control over our own affairs. If there is any kind of foreign influence upon Canada, it certainly does not come from Britain. There is no argument any more on that basis.

One of Canada's greatest daily columnists, the late J. V. McAree, wrote his last column on March 25, 1958 on this very subject of a flag. He concluded in these words:

The union jack and God Save the Queen have inspired millions and have been the source of countless deeds of heroism. It will take a long time for a new flag and a new anthem to build up this great tradition they have established.

Another argument against inclusion of the union jack in a Canadian flag is that it has no symbol in it to represent the French part of our nation. This may be true, although all Canadians have lived together and prospered under the union jack, both as a colony and a sovereign country. It is part of both our histories. I cannot see why, at this time, we should erase it altogether from the future pages of our history. If our French speaking Canadians feel that the union jack has no symbolic significance to them, then by all means let us have a fleur-de-lis or anything else they want, just as long as we include the union jack.

I think a referendum would be one of the worst things we could do. Canadians are people who have learned the benevolent art of compromise. We should practice that virtue in choosing a distinctive flag. We represent the people here, and we represent their views, and to take the issue to the people would, in my opinion, be the greatest danger to our unity.

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May 25, 1961

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber) moved:

That the eleventh report of the standing committee on standing orders, presented to the house on Tuesday, May 23, 1961, be now concurred in.

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May 23, 1961

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber):

believe this bill, Mr. Speaker, No. C-92, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to capital punishment, and the debates that led up to it have shown parliament at its best. In his fine speech during the presentation of Bill No. C-92, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton) gave due credit to the private members who introduced various bills on the subject of capital punishment. I believe that the debates we had in this house last year were good for parliament and good for the country as a whole.

I know that hon. members received, as I did, many letters from the constituents and from people outside our constituencies indicating that the debates crystallized their own thinking as they did our thinking. I received one letter from a lawyer in Prince George, British Columbia. He had this to say, and I thought it was pertinent:

As a practising lawyer, I believe most sincerely that capital punishment degrades and tarnishes the whole administration of justice. It places on judges, jurors and counsel alike, an unbearable strain. It engenders sympathy for the very last man for whom sympathy should be felt-the accused man himself. .

I am an abolitionist, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to capital punishment. I do not believe the taking of life by the courts is a deterrent to murder. I do not believe it is morally right that a man or a group of men should be given the power to take life. I believe hanging is a

Criminal Code

barbarous facet of our civilized society. I believe that capital punishment should be abolished. I do, however, give wholehearted support to this Bill No. C-92. I support it, first of all, because I think it is a forward step.

In last year's debate, I suggested that every step toward abolition of capital punishment is a forward step. I certainly believe that this bill is a step toward abolition. Last year the Anglican Church of Canada declared itself in favour of the abolition of capital punishment and decided to ask the government- I quote the words that were sent to the government-"to initiate proceedings leading to abolition of capital punishment in Canada." I think this bill, Mr. Speaker, is doing just that, initiating proceedings that will lead to the abolition of capital punishment.

I am not going to repeat the arguments that we who would like to see capital punishment abolished put forward in this house during these debates. I do believe that a murderer, whether capital or non-capital, should be taken out of circulation, out of society. I look forward to hearing from the minister an explanation of precisely what the life sentence penalty will now mean. There are some people who say, why should the taxpayers support murderers for many long years. It has been said, and truly said, that you cannot reduce anything as sacred as life to dollars and cents.

Another reason, Mr. Speaker, why I am supporting this bill is that I do not believe at this time if a vote were taken in the House of Commons or in the country as a whole, the result would be favourable to abolition. I believe this measure is a good compromise and a step toward the abolition of capital punishment.

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February 27, 1961

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber) moved:

That the fourth report of the standing committee on standing orders, presented to the house on Thursday, February 23, 1961, be now concurred in.

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February 20, 1961

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber) moved

that the third report of the standing committee on standing orders, presented to the house on Thursday, February 16, 1961, be now concurred in.

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