The first session of Canada's 37th Parliament unanimously passed a Canadian Parliamentary Motion on Alexander Graham Bell on June 21, 2002, to affirm that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone.
Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Its southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
The 37th Canadian Parliament was in session from January 29, 2001, until May 23, 2004. The membership was set by the 2000 federal election on November 27, 2000, and it changed only somewhat due to resignations and by-elections until it was dissolved prior to the 2004 election.
Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born American inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885.
The symbolic motion was a response to the 107th United States Congress' earlier resolution (HRes 269) of June 11, 2002, which recognized the contributions of Antonio Meucci. Due to a misleading press release issued by U.S. Congressman Vito Fossella, this was interpreted by some as establishing priority for the invention of the telephone to Meucci.The House of Representatives' Resolution and the Parliamentary Motion which followed were both opinions and did not carry any legal weight. The resolution also did not annul or modify any of Bell's patents for the telephone.
The One Hundred Seventh United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from January 3, 2001 to January 3, 2003, during the final weeks of the Clinton presidency and the first two years of the George W. Bush presidency. The apportionment of seats in this House of Representatives was based on the Twenty-first Census of the United States in 1990. The House of Representatives had a Republican majority, and the Senate switched majorities from Democratic to Republican and back to Democratic. By the end of term, Republicans had regained the majority in the Senate, but since the body was out of session reorganization was delayed till the next Congress.
The 107th United States Congress resolution of June 11, 2002, recognized the contributions of Antonio Meucci. This was interpreted by some as establishing priority for the invention of the telephone to Meucci, and indeed its preamble said that "if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee ..., no patent could have been issued to Bell" and contained other pointed remarks about Bell and a legal dispute of the late 1800s over the invention priority. However, the House of Representatives' resolution did not annul or modify the status of any of Bell's patents for the telephone or have any other legal effect.
Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci was an Italian inventor and an associate of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Meucci is best known for developing a voice-communication apparatus that several sources credit as the first telephone.
During the 108th Congress another almost identical resolution, SRes 223 was introduced in the United States Senate, but which was then sent to a committee where it died, unenacted.
The One Hundred Eighth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 2003 to January 3, 2005, during the third and fourth years of George W. Bush's presidency.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.
The Canadian Parliamentary Motion and Resolution HRes 269 were both widely reported by various news media at the time of their proclamations.
The Canadian legislative motion was a quick "tit-for-tat" response to the U.S. House of Representatives' HRes 269,passed 10 days earlier by only a single Congressional body saying "that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged", and also saying in the preamble that "if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell." The perceived attack on Bell's primacy and character did not sit well with many Canadians and their parliamentarians, in a country where the inventor-scientist is often viewed as a native son. Only days after the U.S. resolution was announced, Major Chris Friel of Brantford, Ontario near the site where Bell invented the telephone's theoretical concept, dismissed the U.S. resolution out of hand, stating ""Absolutely, the credit [for the phone] remains with [Bell]…".
Chris Friel is a politician in the Canadian province of Ontario. He was the mayor of Brantford from 1994 to 2003 and was re-elected to the same position in the 2010 municipal election. He was defeated in the 2018 municipal election by Kevin Davis.
Responding to the House of Representative's assault on Bell, Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps issued a comment to the Canadian news media: "I'm sure we can come in with our own legislation".After a number of in camera consultations over the next several days with members of the Conservatives, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Québécois in Canada's federal parliament, Liberal M.P. Bob Speller (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant) rose in the House on June 21, requesting that the Deputy Prime Minister advise the U.S. House of Representatives it had erred, by asking: "I am wondering if the Minister will take the time to inform the U.S. Congress that indeed, yes, Virginia, Alexander Graham Bell did invent the telephone?"
Deputy Prime Minister of Canada is an honorary position in the Cabinet, conferred at the discretion of the prime minister. Since 2006, there has been no deputy prime minister.
Sheila Maureen Copps, is a former Canadian politician who also served as deputy prime minister of Canada from November 4, 1993, to April 30, 1996, and June 19, 1996, to June 11, 1997. Her father, Victor Copps was once mayor of Hamilton, Ontario.
In camera is a legal term that means in private. The same meaning is sometimes expressed in the English equivalent: in chambers. Generally, in-camera describes court cases, parts of it, or process where the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure or process. In-camera is the opposite of trial in open court where all parties and witnesses testify in a public courtroom, and attorneys publicly present their arguments to the trier of fact.
After the House's formal Question Period, the Deputy Prime Minister tabled the motion in the Commons affirming Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone. The Canadian motion made no derogatory comments of Antonio Meucci, unlike the U.S. resolution's treatment of Bell. Copps' motion asserting Bell's primacy of invention was met with the unanimous approval of all four political parties, and a copy of the legislative motion was directed to the U.S. Congress.
Question Period, known officially as Oral Questions occurs each sitting day in the House of Commons of Canada. According to the House of Commons Compendium, “The primary purpose of Question Period is to seek information from the Government and to call it to account for its actions.”
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons currently meets in a temporary Commons chamber in the West Block of the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, while the Centre Block, which houses the traditional Commons chamber, undergoes a ten-year renovation.
First to file (FTF) and first to invent (FTI) are legal concepts that define who has the right to the grant of a patent for an invention. The first-to-file system is used in all countries.
Later, addressing the media, Deputy Prime Minister Copps commented on the House motion by stating that Bell was a "visionary" and "...an inspiring example of a Canadian inventor who, by his ingenuity and his perseverance contributed to the advancement of knowledge and the progress of humanity."
As directly quoted in Hansard, the official Canadian parliamentary record:
Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the House for unanimous consent on the following motion, which has been discussed with all parties, regarding Alexander Graham Bell. I move [that]:
The Speaker: Does the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Sheila Copps: Mr. Speaker, might I suggest that we forward a copy of this to the congress in the United States so they get their facts straight?
As directly quoted in HRes 269 (Ver. EH), and recorded by the US GPO (table and paragraph numbering added for referencing purposes):
|Intro.||H. Res. 269|
In the House of Representatives, U.S.,
|¶ 1||Whereas Antonio Meucci, the great Italian inventor, had a career that was both extraordinary and tragic;|
|¶ 2||Whereas, upon immigrating to New York, Meucci continued to work with ceaseless vigor on a project he had begun in Havana, Cuba, an invention he later called the teletrofono, involving electronic communications;|
|¶ 3||Whereas Meucci set up a rudimentary communications link in his Staten Island home that connected the basement with the first floor, and later, when his wife began to suffer from crippling arthritis, he created a permanent link between his lab and his wife's second floor bedroom;|
|¶ 4||Whereas, having exhausted most of his life's savings in pursuing his work, Meucci was unable to commercialize his invention, though he demonstrated his invention in 1860 and had a description of it published in New York's Italian language newspaper;|
|¶ 5||Whereas Meucci never learned English well enough to navigate the complex American business community;|
|¶ 6||Whereas Meucci was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process, and thus had to settle for a caveat, a one-year renewable notice of an impending patent, which was first filed on December 28, 1871;|
|¶ 7||Whereas Meucci later learned that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models, and Meucci, who at this point was living on public assistance, was unable to renew the caveat after 1874;|
|¶ 8||Whereas in March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, who conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored, was granted a patent and was thereafter credited with inventing the telephone;|
|¶ 9||Whereas on January 13, 1887, the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation, a case that the Supreme Court found viable and remanded for trial;|
|¶ 10||Whereas Meucci died in October 1889, the Bell patent expired in January 1893, and the case was discontinued as moot without ever reaching the underlying issue of the true inventor of the telephone entitled to the patent; and|
|¶ 11||Whereas if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell: Now, therefore, be it|
|¶ 12||Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged.|
In 2003, the distinguished Italian telecommunications inventor and Meucci book author Professor Basilio Catania (former CEO at CSELT), interviewed on the parliamentary Bell motion and the congressional Meucci resolution, first commented on Bell's record as an inventor and scientist:
Professor Catania later went on to note the straightforwardness of the follow-up parliamentary motion compared to the seaminess of the initial congressional resolution:
However, intellectual property law author R.B. Rockman was more critical in his view of HRes 269.After first reviewing the essential details of American Bell Telephone Company v. Globe Telephone Company, Antonio Meucci, et al. (31 Fed 728 (SDNY, 1887)), where he noted major inconsistencies in Meucci's various testimonies, the paucity of direct evidence that both the Globe and Meucci brought forward in support of their defenses and the court's definitive rejection of those defenses in favour of Bell, Rockman then compares the 'Bell v. Globe and Meucci' court decision (of July 19, 1887) with HRes 269:
However, Rockman writes based on the explicit assumption that Meucci's design was not electrical; similarly Grosvenor, a grandson of Bell, has always staunchly advocated the same.They follow in this the court ruling of 1887 in Bell vs. Globe; however Mike Green, although not blind to the fact that Meucci had for many years failed completely to sell his invention, finds this "quite unbelievably", and "it is hard to see that justice was correctly apportioned". An appeal was abandoned after Meucci's death in 1889.
Rockman also dissects the U.S. Government's 1887 legal challenge to Bell's telephone patent, which had been brought by United States Attorney General Augustus H. Garland and which is referred to in paragraph No. 9 of the resolution - although Meucci himself, or Globe, did not have anything to do with that. The Attorney General had earlier been given 500,000 shares of stock and was thus a major shareholder of the Pan-Electric Company, which was the instigator of the suit.Pan-Electric sought to overturn Bell's patent in order to compete against the American Bell Telephone Co.
It was this very court challenge that is referenced in HRes 269's preamble, in paragraph No. 9, which inferred an immoral and possibly criminal intent by Bell ("...the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation"), to which Rockland wrote:
Other contested facts were also found within the preamble to the HRes 269 resolution, among them were:
However these arguments of Grosvenor may all be irrelevant because they happened after the invention had taken off; while the chance for Bell to see Meucci's work was obviously before that, in 1975, during Bell's visit to a New York American District Telegraph laboratory, which was affiliated with Western Union.
In total Grosvenor, a grandson of Bell, listed 10 errors in detail found within the congressional Meucci resolution, and was highly critical of both its intent and accuracy.He also asked two salient questions in Section "C" of the same report: "1) Should Congress overrule the US courts and its own committee, which looked at evidence extensively, and without reviewing any evidence in the matter?", and "2) Should [the U.S.] Congress pass resolutions on historical facts without checking with legitimate historians or their own library?" The same document also noted that HRes 269 contradicted the findings of its own Congressional committee's investigation, which had, in 1886, produced a report of 1,278 printed pages. Grosvenor concluded that: "The historical "facts" stated in HR 269 were obtained from highly biased sources, and [were] based on shoddy, cursory research."
The motion was widely reported across Canada over the next three weeks. Canadian news sources detailed the motion's birth and its underlying historical dispute.One notable review was in an Edmonton Journal opinion piece which admonished politicians for legislating 'truth by decree'. A Vancouver Sun editorial also asked: "But since when are the minutiae of history a matter for the attention of our legislators?" Several reports wrote that the motion, like the U.S. "historical jingoism" which preceded it, was only an expression of opinion by a legislative body which did not carry any legal weight. However "…many saw the [American] declaration as an… attempt to rewrite history". The motion was prominent on all major Canadian television news, with lead stories typically stating "Ottawa rose to the defense of Bell after the US Congress passed a resolution..... "
The Canadian Motion was also reported by media in several other countries, where the response was described as providing "heavy condemnation" of the U.S. resolution.Asked his opinion on the Canadian 'tit-for-tat' legislative motion, Italian telecommunications researcher and Meucci author Professor Basilio Catania stated on several occasions that the Canadian response was provoked by "unfortunate passages" directed at Bell, and as such was "quite understandable". Professor Catania, who had worked with U.S. House Representative Vito Fossella to bring about HRes 269, was declined a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps to discuss the motion. Many Italian Canadians were upset by the motion due to long held beliefs that Meucci was the telephone's inventor, according to the Italian-language weekly L'Ora Di Ottawa.
The motion was still referred to years after its passage, in reference to Bell's primacy in the invention of the telephone.In an article on author Charlotte Gray's new book Reluctant Genius, the Ottawa Citizen noted "…Bell invented the telephone company… [and] thanks to a 2002 motion, the Parliament of Canada continues to recognize Bell as the [telephone's] inventor".
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