Hon. Lawrence Cannon
That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.
Mr. Speaker, first off, I have to admit that it is with great pride that I propose at this time that the following motion be concurred in:
That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.
Such pride comes, first, from the fact that this motion was put forward in this place on Tuesday by the Prime Minister of our country and that it has allowed us to share a rare moment of solidarity among all members of this House who believe in Canadian unity and want to help preserve it.
On this occasion, most of us experienced something akin to a moment of grace in the middle of debates that usually divide us along party lines.
We all know that, under such circumstances, there can be no unanimity in Parliament. We have here a caucus whose stated purpose is precisely to break our unity, a caucus that will always vehemently oppose any measure or great initiative designed to cement the historical spirit of cooperation between francophones and anglophones in Canada. The irony of the situation is not lost on anyone anymore.
Here is a party which has been sitting in the federal Parliament for 16 years, yet purports to demonstrate the uselessness of federal ties. Here is a party ensconced in our parliamentary system with the objective of advancing the specificity of Quebec, but when given the opportunity, it will not recognize that Quebeckers form a nation within a unified Canada.
It must be said, more out of sorrow than anger or despair, that unanimity is not possible in this Parliament because there is one party represented here that does not want Canada to succeed. Tuesday's spontaneous show of support by the members of those parties who do believe in Canada for the motion put forth by the Prime Minister is as close to unanimity as we can possibly get. The fact itself should be a powerful reminder of the necessity for us to reflect carefully on what should unite us and what could divide us.
Nevertheless, here in this House, we are all democrats. Every last one of us represents Canadian democracy. I believe that our first responsibility as members is to exemplify and defend Canadian democracy. That is what we are doing and that is what generations of men and women from all across this vast nation have done before us.
I am thinking especially of those generations of members who have brought forward in this House the grievances, questions, achievements and hopes of their fellow citizens from Gaspésie, Saguenay, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Outaouais, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, the South Shore and the North Shore. They have come here from our cities, our regions, our plains and our mountains to accomplish something and take something back to their communities. Most of them have been Conservatives or Liberals, but there have also been Créditistes, members of the Bloc populaire and independents. There was even an NDP member from Quebec once.
However, I do not think that there has ever been a group of members in this House, not even a single member from Quebec, who would have been opposed to recognizing that Quebeckers belong to a nation within a united Canada, simply because they all know that they belong to the Quebec nation within a united Canada—even the members of the Bloc Québécois, though they do not want to admit it.
The Bloc Québécois members are a little like Molière's Monsieur Jourdain, who wrote prose but did not know it: they belong to the Quebec nation within a united Canada without even knowing it. Having Quebec members in Canada's Parliament whose goal is for there to be no Quebec members in Parliament is unprecedented.
Bloc Québécois members are also democrats and representatives of democracy. We must recognize that. They sit among us because they were elected, just like the rest of us, by their fellow citizens. They are members of Parliament and Quebeckers, as am I, which gives me the right speak to them frankly.
If I may, I would also like to emphasize how proud I am that the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie supports the passing of this resolution. I have been a great admirer of the hon. member for a very long time. I had the privilege of serving alongside this remarkable woman for five years in the Quebec National Assembly, when we were both part of Robert Bourassa's government.
The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie and I now sit on opposite sides of this House, but such is life in politics. I feel nonetheless very comforted, even touched, to know that we are still on the same side when Quebec's higher interests and Canada's integrity are at stake.
Like her leader and almost all her Liberal colleagues, and like the members of the NDP, I would like to point out, the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie has chosen to put the interests of the country before the interests of her party. The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie and I experienced, from the Quebec perspective, the grand adventure of the Meech Lake accords, which, as I recall, inspired tremendous enthusiasm and also caused plenty of anguish.
Yesterday, I alluded to the role of separatist groups in the eventual failure of that promising constitutional initiative. I will not repeat myself here today, except to say the following to my Bloc Québécois colleagues. Nearly ten years ago, you were on the wrong side of history and the majority of Quebeckers were not with you. Please do not make the same mistake again here today. The majority of the people who elected you to serve them are delighted that we are recognizing them for what they always have been and what they always will be. Support this motion. Recognize your constituents for what they are, and not for what you would like them to be—which they have always democratically rejected.
You can always defend your dream of a sovereign Quebec, but do not close your eyes on today's Quebec.
I must repeat what I said yesterday: division has never helped us Quebeckers. This is even truer now. The world is not going to stop while we are stuck in debates on existential issues. A new generation of Quebeckers is ready to take fully its place in the new global economy, and it has already begun to do so brilliantly. Our most fundamental responsibility as Quebec parliamentarians is to open wide the doors to the future for this generation. It is particularly important not to drag it into sterile and fruitless debates.
Since I have the opportunity to mention my past and current cooperation with the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, I would like to warn my Bloc Québécois friends against the temptation to interpret the past in a slanted fashion to justify an uncertain future. For example, yesterday, I heard the Bloc Québécois leader quote, in front of the media, some well-known statements made by Mr. Bourassa, to which I myself referred in my speech yesterday, to support his new resolution on an eventual departure of the Quebec nation.
Out of the respect I have always had for that great man and out of respect for historical truth, I must say this to the leader of the Bloc: when I was a student, I worked in Mr. Bourassa's office. Later, I was a member of his caucus and his cabinet. I am honoured to consider myself someone he trusted. I can say with certainty that Mr. Bourassa never wanted Quebec to separate and never supported separation. In fact, he fought against separation throughout his political career. Mr. Bourassa fought as long as he was able so that Quebec could achieve its full potential within the Canadian family and so that its unique character would be recognized, which is exactly what the resolution before us seeks to do.
I am convinced that those members of this Parliament who respect the memory of Mr. Bourassa will vote for this resolution. I have a friendly word for my friends in the Bloc: stop interpreting a dead premier and listen to a living Prime Minister instead. You will hear the answers to many of the questions you have been asking here for a long time.
For years, you have rightfully criticized the fiscal imbalance that has existed for too long between federal financial resources and provincial and municipal needs. We are going to correct that imbalance. For years, you have demanded that Quebec participate fully in UNESCO; it now does. For years, you have called for measures to prevent misappropriation of public funds; we are putting those measures in place. Since your party was founded, you have been demanding respect for provincial jurisdictions; we are also working on that. It is surprising what you can accomplish when you know who you are and what you want to do.
It is even more remarkable to think about everything Quebeckers have been able to accomplish in Canada. The Bloc would have us believe that “nation of Quebec” and “Canadian unity” are incompatible. In reality, Canada is united because the nation of Quebec is part of it, and the nation of Quebec still exists because it is still part of Canada. That is what I am asking all the members of this House to recognize today.
Subtopic: The Québécois