12/25/2017 11:24 EST | Updated 12/25/2017 11:24 EST

These Moments Show The House Of Commons Has Some Grace, Too

It wasn't all yelling and shouting in 2017.

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Malala Yousafzai, and late MP Arnold Chan delivered memorable speeches in the House of Commons in 2017.

When it comes to Canadian politics, it's often the most partisan barbs and heated exchanges that grab headlines.

One can be forgiven for thinking that all our members of Parliament do is jeer at one another or bark out talking points, while ignoring whatever good ideas may be coming from the other side.

Yet to see politics merely as an exercise in rhetorical combat is to miss those quiet moments of grace, be it a classy gesture between rivals or a moving speech. And 2017 had its share of those moments that are worth remembering. Here are some of our favourites.

The words of unity after the terror attack in Quebec City

The day after a gunman opened fire on people peacefully praying in a Quebec City mosque, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal leaders rose in the House of Commons to urge unity.

Each leader delivered direct, moving messages to Canada's Muslim community.

"We will grieve with you, we will defend you, we will love you and we will stand with you," Trudeau said to those most reeling from the attack.

Then-interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said the attack "negates the principles on which Canada was founded." Then-NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair pledged MPs would "stand united and fight" against the forces of hatred and Islamophobia.

"Today we are all Muslims," Green Party Leader Elizabeth May offered. "We stand with you and we will never let there be daylight between a Christian, a Jew, a Sikh, an atheist and a Muslim in this country. We are Canadians and we stand together in love."

A veteran Conservative MP returns to the House

Conservative MP Ed Fast, a former international trade minister in the Harper government, suffered a stroke and collapsed at his home last December. A popular and gregarious figure, Fast is known for making Environment Minister Catherine McKenna crack up in question period and for hugging a Liberal minister on the floor of the House to mark the signing of the Canada-EU free trade deal.

So it's no surprise that when Fast returned to the House in March, he was given an extended standing ovation from MPs on all sides.

Fast said that he was happy to be back with his parliamentary family and then launched into a humorous speech bashing the Trudeau government.

"Alas, upon my return, I find that the ship of state has run aground on a massive iceberg of deficits and broken promises," Fast said. "Listing to the left, the good ship Sunny Ways is awash in a sea of red ink and carbon taxes."

He ended his address with a play on the movie Titanic.

"As the panicked caucus orchestra plays, and the good ship Sunny Ways slowly sinks under the sea, I can hear the captain singing, My Heart Will Go On," Fast said.

"Mr. Speaker, it's so good to be back in this House."

Malala Yousafzai's inspiring, hilarious speech to Parliament

In April, Malala Yousafzai addressed a joint session of Parliament with a speech that was both powerful and charming.

The Nobel Peace Prize co-winner and education advocate spoke to the House after she officially became an honorary Canadian citizen.

The honour had been deferred because of the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill. Yousafza referenced that shooting with poise.

"The man who attacked Parliament Hill called himself a Muslim but he did not share my faith. He did not share the faith of one and a half billion Muslims, living in peace around the world," she said, sparking one of many standing ovations.

"He did not share our Islam. A religion of learning, compassion, and mercy. I am a Muslim and I believe that if you pick up a gun in the name of Islam and kill an innocent person, you are not Muslim anymore."

She lauded Canada's open and diverse society and urged leaders to seize every opportunity to promote education for girls around the world.

Yousafzai was also very funny, sharing how her friends were excited for her to meet Trudeau — who "does yoga" and sports tattoos.

"While it may be true that he is young for a head of government, I would like to tell the children of Canada: you do not have to be as old as Prime Minister Trudeau to be a leader," she said.

Indigenous languages in the House

A handful of MPs made a point to promote the preservation of Indigenous languages by speaking them in the House, even if they were not immediately understood. Sometimes the words were tributes, other times protests, but each instance was powerful.

And those speeches appear to have helped push the federal government to expand the number of Indigenous language interpreters available in the House, according to CBC News.

In May, Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette delivered a call to action, entirely in Cree, on behalf of Indigenous women facing violence. Ouellette, who comes from Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, later provided his own translation of his remarks for the House.

He told HuffPost Canada he spoke Cree because he wanted Indigenous youth to hear his message and feel pride in their language.

In June, Liberal MP Marc Miller, who is not Indigenous, delivered a statement in the Mohawk language. Miller said his remarks to mark Aboriginal History Month were the culmination of his own "personal journey" to understand Indigenous languages.

Also that month, NDP Romeo Saganash asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a question entirely in Cree. Saganash, a residential school survivor, was pressing Trudeau on his decision to rename the Langevin Block, a federal building honouring a father of Confederation who was a supporter of residential schools.

Trudeau did not understand the question, which was ostensibly the point. Saganash was reacting to a ruling from the House Speaker that the Commons lacks the technical capacity to provide immediate interpretation of Indigenous languages and MPs would need to repeat their comments in either English or French.

MP's show what can be accomplished in just one minute

Members' statements, those one-minute speeches delivered by MPs before question period, are often forgettable. But several MPs made the most of their time in 2017.

In March, Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan delivered a St. Patrick's Day message that made a point about the anti-immigrant "vitriol" that lurks in some circles today. By the summer, O'Regan landed in cabinet as veterans affairs minister.

In September, Conservative MP David Sweet quieted the chamber by announcing that his daughter had passed away after a lifelong struggle with mental health. Sweet later opened up to HuffPost about all that he learned from loving and losing his daughter.

And also that month, Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes rose to tell the House she was rocking "dope" braids to make a statement against girls being body shamed.

"I want them to know that their braids, their dreads, their super-curly afro puffs, their weaves, their hijabs, and their headscarves, and all other variety of hairstyles, belong in schools, in the workplace, in the boardroom and yes, even here on Parliament Hill," she said.

Videos of Caesar-Chavannes' remarks went viral. In December, the MP continued the conversation by speaking out against racial "microaggressions" she has faced, including when someone recently asked her not to steal her wallet in a washroom at her Ottawa office building.

An incredible speech from an MP battling cancer

Arnold Chan conceded in June that he didn't know how much longer he'd have the strength to stand up in the House and deliver a 20-minute speech. So in what would be some of his last words in the Commons, Chan spoke about his cancer, his family, his love of Canada, and his advice that MPs should use their heads and follow their hearts.

"I know you revere this place... I would beg us to not only act as honourable members but to treat this place honourably," Chan said.

With his parents, wife, and brother looking down from the gallery, Chan urged MPs to "ditch the talking points" that don't elevate meaningful debate. And for all Canadians to hold on to that sense of decency — from saying thank you to a Tim Hortons server to giving way to another driver on the road — that makes the country special.

"It's the small things that we collectively do, from my perspective, that make a great society. And fundamentally to me, that is ultimately what it means to be a Canadian," he said.

Chan, who had been battling nasopharyngeal cancer, died in September at the age of 50. In December, his wife Jean Yip won a byelection for his seat in Scarborough-Agincourt.

Charlie Angus tells Gord Downie to 'go to the angels'

Canadians across the country were heartbroken in October when Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away after a battle with brain cancer.

"We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it," Trudeau tearfully told reporters on Parliament Hill.

But it was NDP MP Charlie Angus' tribute to "Canada's boy" in the House later that captured the moment. Angus had been open about his sister's cancer during the NDP leadership race and took a short leave from the contest after she passed in August.

Angus noted how Downie focused his remaining months on reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous people, including the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, who died trying to escape residential schools.

"He took his suffering and brought our nation on a journey of reconciliation and justice," Angus said. "Gord wanted the nation to know that there were thousands of Chanie Wenjacks out there today, trying to find their way home from a system that had robbed them of their families, of their identity, and their culture.

"Go to the angels Gord and rock that choir. And we will watch those constellations and you reveal themselves one star at time."

An historic apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians

Finally in December, Trudeau delivered a long overdue apology to members of the LGBTQ2 community who faced discrimination from their government, including those kicked out of the military and public service.

"It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize," Trudeau said. "I am sorry. We are sorry.''

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer joined in, urging the government to defend human rights in countries that target members of the LGBTQ2 community, such as Iran and Russia. The NDP's parliamentary leader Guy Caron also pushed the government to scrap a policy that restricts gay men from donating blood.

The Green Party's May took on "cynics" who may feel that Canada has apologized too much lately or question the value in such steps.

"They matter to the people who have suffered injustice, they matter to the families of those who have died who never got to hear this apology, they matter to all Canadians who know that we recognize that we have wronged our fellow citizens and that we will never do it again," she said.

A Liberal bill to expunge the records of Canadians convicted of crimes because of consensual same-sex activity also passed the House with the support of all parties. The debate on the legislation was cordial, with gay MPs such as Liberal Randy Boissonnault and the NDP's Randall Garrison speaking in personal terms about what the legislation means to them.

And in a possible sign of how times change, Tory MP Michelle Rempel even quoted iconic drag queen RuPaul in the House.

"If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?" Michelle Rempel said.

Garrison later told the House he was a bit "unhappy" with Rempel.

"She has stolen from me the ability to be the first one to quote RuPaul in the House of Commons but I will forgive her for that," he said with a big smile on his face.