November 27, 2006

CPC

Guy Lauzon

Conservative

Mr. Guy Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying how proud I am to take part in this important debate on the motion that is before us. The motion reads:

That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

That tells me that we are trying to unite Canada by this motion, even more than it is united now.

Today, I would like to give several examples of administrative and constitutional measures that have been taken over the years to recognize Quebec's specificity and take it into consideration within the Canadian federation.

These tangible examples demonstrate that Quebec's specificity is already very much a reality that is taken into consideration within Canada's federal institutions and that the federal system contributes to Quebec's development by taking account of its unique characteristics.

Our government has also undertaken a series of measures since we took office. I believe it is important today to present the real Canada, which is a work in progress but which has from its founding taken Quebec's specificity into account.

I would first like to list some of the most important examples of how Quebec is recognized in the Constitution. Let me first turn to examples of existing recognition of Quebec in the Constitution of 1867.

The province of Quebec was created in 1867 out of the former united colony of Canada. A federal system was chosen in 1867, rather than a unitary system favoured by many, largely in recognition of the fact that federalism fit Quebec's aspirations best.

Section 92 reserves property and civil rights to the provinces in order to protect Quebec civil law. Section 93 protects denominational schools in Quebec and the 1997 constitutional amendment now protects schools organized along linguistic lines.

Section 94 provides for uniformity of laws relating to property and civil rights procedure, but it does not apply to Quebec in recognition of the fact that these matters are dealt with in the Civil Code of Quebec and the Code of Civil Procedure of Quebec.

Section 98 provides that Quebec judges shall be selected from the Quebec Bar.

Section 101 allowed Parliament to create Courts of Appeal for Canada, including the Supreme Court, under the Supreme Court Act. The law and conventions regarding the Supreme Court of Canada have always reserved a prominent place on the court for Quebec judges. Section 6 of the Supreme Court Act reserves at least three places on the court for judges from Quebec.

Section 133 protects the use of the English and French languages in the federal Parliament and Quebec legislature and the Official Languages Act provides a more expansive protection for the French language.

All these examples clearly show that Quebec's specificity is already taken into account in many ways in Canada's Constitution.

Canadian federalism is flexible enough to meet the needs of Quebec and Quebeckers. Federalism is an asset to Quebec's development, not a barrier, as the Bloc Québécois would have us believe.

For the Government of Canada, the issue goes beyond partisan considerations.

The two parties that have formed successive federal governments have signed a number of agreements with the Government of Quebec over the years, in order to recognize Quebec's specific character and to address Quebeckers' specific needs and concerns.

In 1964, the Canadian and the Quebec student loan programs were established. In 1966, the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan were established.

In 1991, the Canada-Quebec accord relating to immigration and temporary admission of aliens was signed, giving the government of Quebec a range of powers. In 1997, the Canada-Quebec labour market agreement was signed.

In 2005, an agreement was reached on establishing Quebec's parental insurance program. In 2006, under the present federal government, an agreement was signed on Quebec's role at UNESCO.

All of these agreements were signed to respond to Quebec's specificity, for the benefit of its entire population.

In sum, by virtue of these agreements and the powers conferred on Quebec under the Constitution, the government of Quebec controls major economic and social levers to assist its development.

The government of Quebec plays a predominant role in the fields of health, education, culture and social services. In addition, Quebec, in cooperation with the federal government, has been able to increase its presence in such fields as immigration, taxation and international relations.

Over the years, Canada has promoted Quebec's distinctness, and federalism continues to serve Quebec's interests. Quebec also plays a significant role in the Canadian federation and is present and active in all federal, provincial and territorial forums.

Our government is determined to work closely with all its partners in the federation. The open federalism we practise calls for a pragmatic approach.

Les Québécois, like other Canadians, are calling on us to work to strengthen our federation, while respecting the specificity of each region of the country by working more closely with our partners, fully respecting the jurisdictions of each. Among other things, this approach involves clarifying the roles of both orders of government, setting limits on the federal spending power and restoring the fiscal balance.

We are making progress and our relations with our partners are productive on many fronts. We are taking tangible measures to respond to the ever evolving needs of Canadians in all regions of the country. In the specific case of Quebec, we have already given tangible expression to our desire to highlight the unique place it occupies within Canada by concluding an agreement on its role at UNESCO and supporting the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Quebec City.

Under an agreement signed by the Government of Canada on May 8, 2006, the Government of Quebec will be fully represented, as it sees fit, in Canadian delegations at debates, meetings and conferences of UNESCO. This agreement not only shows that the current government is making good on its promises to Quebec, but it also shows clearly that open federalism is producing tangible results, and it illustrates the excellent relations between the governments of Canada and Quebec. These two government are determined to work together.

In light of these constitutional and administrative examples, whereby Quebec's specificity is recognized in Canada, I am sure the House will agree that the Canadian federal system already reflects the recognition that the Québécois form a nation and our approach makes Canada more united. As I said at the beginning, this motion is all about promoting the unity of Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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CPC

Garth Turner

Conservative

Hon. Garth Turner (Halton, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the hon. member. I have been trying to get an answer to this question for a little while in this chamber today.

Could I please get from the hon. member a definition of the word “nation” in English or “nation” in French. It is important to my constituents to understand exactly what it is I am about to vote on in an hour and 10 minutes after a very short and unsatisfactory debate.

It is important to my constituents because I had some meetings in my riding and they peppered me with this question over and over again. They asked me for an explanation of exactly what is it we are conferring upon the Québécois. What is the definition of “nation”. Only when people know what the definition of that word is can they then reasonably understand what the consequences might be down the road of having granted nationhood status to the Québécois.

What does this mean? Is it purely symbolic as some members have said? It means nothing; it is semantics. They said it is only a collection of words to make the separatists go away.

Other people have said it is consequential. This is an important matter. It is so important that all the members on the Conservative side are under a three line whip. They do not have the ability not to vote for this motion. If they do not vote for this motion, they are out of the caucus. Gentlemen, there is a warm chair right beside me here. It is empty at the moment. They are all welcome to come and visit me, and live here if they would like.

It is interesting that a member of the Prime Minister's government was lost this afternoon. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, whose riding abuts mine, an honourable man, and whose honour was so great as a matter of fact that he could not sit on that side of the House tonight under a three line whip and subjugate the will of his constituents and his own moral compass, his own sense of honour, his own duty to Canadians, and vote for this motion. I am sure that he does not know what a “nation” means either, other than our nation of Canada.

I ask the hon. member, and I know you cannot vote against this even if you wanted to,--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I want to remind the hon. member for Halton, what he has already realized, that he has slipped into the second person a couple of times now. Please do not do it anymore.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Garth Turner

Conservative

Hon. Garth Turner

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for pointing the errors of my ways.

As I was saying, I know the hon. member cannot vote against this motion. I understand that. He made that choice. He is a part of a team. There is no i in team. We both understand that. However, I would like him to explain to my constituents, because I cannot answer this, and he believes in these things, so tell them--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. We did want to leave some time for the hon. member to answer the question. We will go to the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Guy Lauzon

Conservative

Mr. Guy Lauzon

Mr. Speaker, there is an expression in French that says that we must not get tripped by the flowers in the carpet. That is about the best I can do in translating it from French to English. That is what is happening here. We had a sequence of event.

We had a Liberal leadership candidate who pronounced on whether Quebec should become a nation or not. It caused all kinds of trouble within Quebec among Quebeckers. Actually, it caused problems within his own party. The Bloc Québécois saw this as an opportunity here to see if it could make some hay with this and so it came up with a motion.

Thanks to the wisdom of our current Prime Minister, he saw the folly and damage that could happen with this and the Prime Minister reacted. I do not care how many line whips there are on this, I will vote for this any time and I will do it proudly because Quebec is part of this nation.

It has nothing to do with the province of Quebec. My mother was born in Quebec 93 years ago. She is lying in a nursing home, as we speak, close to death. I can tell members that I will vote for this motion because of her. The Prime Minister has given my mother a dying wish and I want to thank him for that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that every time the word Quebec is mentioned in this place and in fact even outside of this place, it congers up a lot of language and a lot of debate. Let me suggest to the House that there is a reason why it does.

On November 16, 1976, the separatist party, Parti Québécois, stunned the country by winning the provincial election making René Lévesque premier, a very significant event.

On May 20, 1980, we had a Quebec referendum on what? It was on sovereignty association. Does anyone remember sovereignty association? It was not a clear question. It was not, “Do you want to separate from Canada?” It was something nebulous that no one had any idea what sovereignty association meant. Did it mean that one would still belong to Canada but one was separate? One could still enjoy passports, the protection of the army and a few other things.

That took us on a road which I suspect has been the genesis of much of what has been said in this place today. Just to remind all hon. members the vote was 60% opposed and 40% in favour and it was Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who was the lead campaigner for the no side.

On April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth signed into law the new repatriated Canadian Constitution but without Quebec's signature. This was very significant. I remember watching the proceedings and seeing Prime Minister Trudeau basically conclude that we had better take what we could get because it was the best we were going get. However, it is not over. We need to have Quebec to be a signatory to our Constitution.

On June 3, 1987, 11 first ministers including Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reached an agreement called the Meech Lake accord in an attempt to bring Quebec into the Constitution and declare it a distinct society. It needed approval from all provincial governments within three years. It is not over yet.

On June 23, 1990, the Meech Lake Accord died when Manitoba and Newfoundland legislators fail to ratify it. The accord died on the same day that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is elected Leader of the federal Liberal Party.

On August 28, 1992, my wedding anniversary, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the provincial premiers signed the Charlottetown accord. The Charlottetown accord was another package of constitutional amendments that would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society.

If we want to have a debate, let us have a debate on what constitutes a distinct society and I think we will hear much of the same arguments that we have heard in this debate since last Friday

On October 26, 1992, the Charlottetown accord died when five provinces including Quebec voted against it. The accord was narrowly approved in Ontario by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9%.

On October 30, 1995, Quebeckers voted to reject sovereignty again with 50.6% voting no and 49.4% voting yes. The then premier Jacques Parizeau blamed the resulting loss on money and the ethnic votes.

Again, there are more elements of history in this debate. In the discussions that have been held in this place for many years, there is history.

On March 15, 2000, the House of Commons passed the Clarity Act which put strict rules on any future Quebec referendum, including a provision for a clear question on sovereignty. I believe the legacy of our former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, is defined in many ways for many achievements, but the passage of the Clarity Act by the Parliament of Canada was probably the most significant event that occurred during his prime ministership.

A number of members, who have spoken in this place on all sides of the debate, have raised some interesting questions. What better place to debate the subtleties and the nuances of issues than in the Parliament of Canada, on the public record and in front of the people of Canada, issues that have been the subject of Ph.D. theses for at least 30 or 40 years? We are dealing with issues that people have studied extensively.

The bottom line is that we must remember who the Bloc Québécois members are and what they represent. Fundamentally, that is what this debate comes down to for me. The Bloc raised a motion in this place on an opposition day that basically said that Quebeckers form a nation. Some changes were made and there was talk about whether it would be with the phrase “within a united Canada at this time”. We have had some iterations on what is going on but the leader of the Bloc said that the motion was without a partisan condition.

As we know, the government presented its own motion, “that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada”. The leader of the Bloc Québécois said to Parliament and to Canadians that the condition was a partisan condition.

However, to suggest that we are talking about this matter in the context of a united Canada is not a partisan opinion. It is a fact and we must remember that. We must also remember why the Bloc is here.

The Bloc members are here to fundamentally oppose anything that would support, protect or defend a united Canada. They want to break this country up. They want to take Quebec outside of Canada. The Bloc members were elected to this place under the rules that guide all elections across the country. They are entitled to be here. I am sorry they are here but they are entitled to be here and to hold their positions. We know that when they vote they vote in favour of anything that enhances the conditions or the circumstances as they relate to Quebec. They oppose anything that goes into the realm of possibility of infringing on provincial jurisdiction. They certainly would vote against anything that would not be in the best interests of Quebec. We know that. We know why they are here.

We know why the Bloc members have thrown this issue on the floor of the House of Commons. It is because they saw an opportunity to see what they could do to enhance the prospects of the Bloc Québécois in the next federal election. This was a political decision. It was a partisan decision. It was a decision to take advantage of the rights and privileges of this place to enhance their political objectives, and that is to separate Quebec from Canada. That is why the Bloc raised the motion. All members here know that. The federalist members of this chamber are here to ensure that never happens.

Part of our job is to defend the Constitution, to defend this country and to defend its people from sea to sea to sea. Quebec is often talked about as Quebec and Canada in the Bloc parlance but in this place Quebec is part of Canada. It is part of my Canada and I am here to defend and to protect my united Canada.

Let me remind all hon. members of what was said in this place when the government motion was put on the table. The motion, as members know, reads:

That the House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

I would emphasize the word “recognize”.

Unfortunately, it may be too simplistic because it does not have a lot of detail. It leaves open to interpretation, which many members have done in their speeches, the word “recognize”. Questions have been raised by the hon. member for Halton as to what nation means. In this motion I know exactly what “within a united Canada” means. When Liberals support this motion, that is what we are supporting, a united Canada.

The Prime Minister stated:

Mr. Speaker, the real intent behind the motion by the leader of the Bloc and the sovereignist camp is perfectly clear. It is to recognize not what the Québécois are, but what the sovereignists would like them to be.

The meaning is clear. The motion reminds us of why the Bloc Québécois members are here. They are here to break up this country.

The Prime Minister went on to say, “if you recognize that the Québécois form a nation, you have to vote yes in a referendum”, according to the Bloc. That is the way the Bloc members would like to spin it because that is what they are telling us.

The Bloc has abandoned its motion and it will now be supporting the government motion because it sees it as a way to spin it, just like people have been spinning it in the debate today and last Friday. It can talk about nation without worrying about the part that says “within a united Canada”. It can talk about nation because the Parliament of Canada recognizes Quebec as a nation.

However, it is not up to the Government of Canada to determine and establish that Quebec is a nation. That is up to the province. The province has done it as a matter of fact. It passed it unanimously. All of the separatist and federalist members of the Quebec National Assembly passed it unanimously. Quebec is a nation. They understood.

If we look at the debates of that resolution that Quebec is a nation, we and the member for Halton will see clearly what the definition of “nation” was when Quebec debated it in the national assembly. It was not country. If the member wants an answer, he will get an answer. He can look at it for himself. If he looks at the debates, they were to recognize the distinctiveness of Quebec, the language, the culture, the identity and the civil code.

One can paint a picture of Quebec but I can paint a picture of the Métis, the Acadians and the first nations. I could do that and we could have resolutions in this place to recognize the Métis, the Acadians and first nations. Would it raise the ire of some members of Parliament the way this has? I do not think so but I know why this has raised the ire of some members. The legitimate concern of some members is the fear of what it means and the fear of the consequences down the road?

We need only look at the history and, yes, there is history and there is a threat to this country. I was watching the night the result of the referendum was so close. I remember the reaction of Canadians. They were absolutely scared that we almost lost the country. They were hurt that somehow somebody let us get so close to something we did not understand what it really meant and how it would be done. They did not understand but they knew they came so close that they never wanted to be there again.

Parliament, I believe, and all federalist members of Parliament since then and I hope in the future, will continue to come to this place to protect, defend and speak out on behalf of a united Canada and not to let any opportunity go by in this place to remind the Bloc that we are here to protect Canada.

The Prime Minister went on to say:

Quebeckers know who they are. They know that they have participated in the founding of Canada and in its development and its greatness. They know that they have preserved their language and their unique culture, and they have advanced their values and their interests within Canada. The real question is simple: do the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Québécois form a nation independent of Canada? The answer is no, and it will always be no.

The members in this place have to repeat it, time and time again, to their constituents, to the Bloc and to the media. If we are here to fight for Canada, then we must stand up for Canada at every opportunity.

I am sorry but sometimes I think some members are nervous Nellies when it comes to talking about tough issues. Yes, this is a tough issue but this is the place to talk about it. If we are not prepared to defend our country in this place, if we are not prepared to remind Canadians that we are here fighting against the Bloc Québécois members who want to separate this country, we should not be here. We have come here to fight for Canadian unity and to fight to make this country a better place.

The intent of the motion is clear to all federalist members. We needed to take action on this. The members rose in this place at the end of the Prime Minister's comments in unity and said that we would be supporting the motion because the motion has to do with one thing, and that is to remind Canadians that we are here to fight. It reminds Canadians that we will say no to the Bloc. We will say yes to Quebec within a united Canada because we love every part of our country from sea to sea to sea and it includes Quebec. When the Bloc suggests otherwise, I will rise in this place and I will fight that.

I ask all hon. members, whenever they see the opening, whenever they feel the threat and whenever they know that the separatists are firing themselves up to take another run, to stand in this place and say no to the separatists. Tell the separatists that Canada is united, that it is the best country in the world and that we will keep it that way.

I commented on the Clarity Act, which is an important act. I believe it will ensure we do not run into the same problems as we did with the previous referendum but we will have another referendum. Let us not ever be afraid to talk about Quebec ever again. Let us not show some reticence to deal with this issue. We must deal with it every time it comes up. We must reaffirm our commitment to Canada and to Quebec, reaffirm the commitment we made when we came to this place and swore an oath to be in this place and to protect Canada. It is all about protecting Canada and to make it an even better place, not only for us but for the generations to come.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Dave Van Kesteren

Conservative

Mr. Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent—Essex, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of an old Japanese proverb which says, “It is more difficult to raise a family than it is to raise a nation”.

I think about my mother, who is 87 years, with 10 children, 60 grandchildren and, at the last count, about 70 great grandchildren and the unity that we have experienced in our family. If we ask her what binds us, she will tell us two things: love and respect.

Does the hon. member feel that this motion puts forward those two basic principles that would bind this nation together?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, love and respect can be applied to many things and certainly Canada is one. However, after the federalist members support the motion tonight, this Parliament assures all Canadians who have some concerns that the passage of this motion will not give any special constitutional status. It will not make any new concessions nor will it lead to a further devolution of powers. This is a recognition of a reality and it is our effort, I believe, to make absolutely sure that the love and respect that we have for this country continues to be reflected in our support for this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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LIB

Alan Tonks

Liberal

Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on the passion with which he has expressed his support for the motion, but there is one thing that does concern me, and I am sure it concerns many, and I would like the member to comment on it.

The member has made it very clear that he is willing to fight in the House with every ounce of enthusiasm and commitment that he has. He certainly has convinced me and I know he has convinced others that he really means that, but I wonder if the member would comment on the fact that the fight is not in this House in the sense that even under the clarity bill the issue will be one for Québécois to decide.

I would like to ask him whether he thinks that support for the motion in fact will be a step in the direction of winning the minds and hearts of Québécois, and if it is, whether he on the other hand believes that through some misunderstanding we might lose the minds and hearts of other Canadians. I think there is an element of risk, at least in the minds of some people, that this might happen. I would like the member to look at both sides of this and give a response.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue in the historical context of our country. The country was shaped by two founding peoples as well as our aboriginal nations, our first nations, and we know there are others who could be included. I am absolutely convinced if this motion were to be defeated it would be Parliament turning its back on Quebec. Passing this motion says to Quebec that it is part of Canada and that we will fight to keep it part of Canada so that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast, from sea to sea to sea, will enjoy the benefits of the best country in the world.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Garth Turner

Conservative

Hon. Garth Turner (Halton, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, first I would like my hon. friend from down the 401 to know the results of an online poll regarding whether or not we should support this motion. The latest results as of a few minutes ago are running basically 70% to 30%, suggesting for members of the House, if they care about what the voters think in terms of polls, that 70% want us to vote against the motion and 30% want us to vote in favour of it.

First, I am wondering if the member might be able to comment on that, on whether he takes that into consideration at all in determining how he is actually going to cast his ballot 40 minutes from now or whether he does not care.

Second, we have a great example here of the suck and blow school of government, where people are saying on the one hand that this motion does not really matter that much. They are saying that it does not confer any special powers on the Québécois or give any special powers to the province of Quebec, that it is just semantics, just words. On the other hand, we are told that if we do not pass this tonight, if we do not rush to judgment, we are turning our backs on the people of Quebec.

Then, of course, we have the argument about our friends from the Bloc Québécois. If we do not pass it, they are going to go willy-nilly into another referendum and win because we have turned our backs on Quebec. However, if we do pass this motion, it gives them no tools to campaign with. If I were those guys sitting here, I would be rubbing my hands in glee waiting for the clock to hit 8 p.m. so that I could have this finally behind me. There they go. They are doing it already.

They are happy because this motion plays right into the hands of the people the hon. member just made an impassioned speech about wanting to foil. Suck and blow: they cannot have it both ways. I fear that right now we are going down the wrong path. Would the hon. member please comment?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member enjoys surveys and polls. I thank him on behalf of all the House in regard to knowing how his constituents feel.

I have been a member of Parliament for 13 years. I first ran in 1980. I have been involved actively. I know my community. I have lived there for over 25 years. I know the people. I know what they believe. I do not need a poll to tell me how the people in my riding feel about their country.

Maybe the member has missed it. I really was not talking about the next referendum. I talked about the next election. If we do not recognize the Québécois reality, the Bloc Québécois will go into the next federal election and pound federalist candidates into the ground because of it. That will give the Bloc members the strength they need to make absolutely sure they have every advantage when, if, as and when another referendum comes.

The member has to be either with Canada or against Canada. If he is going to support a united Canada, he should be in this place and stand in this place and support a motion that supports a united Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, allow me first to emphasize how proud I am today as a Quebecker—and I repeat, as a Quebecker—to be able to express my views on the motion of the government that this House recognizes that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, a fact that has been too long denied. I must say that this is a great day for all the Quebeckers in this House.

Unfortunately, today’s debate has been fed for too long by political players with debatable goals. The facts are clear: Canada is a federation that works and it works because of our heritage, the heritage of a decentralized country, of a federation that recognizes the differences and special character of our provincial and territorial partners.

All our regions and all of the provinces have benefited from the decentralized nature of the Canadian federation, which in turn has contributed to the progress of all Canadians and Quebeckers.

Our first economic and fiscal update shows this. The economy is strong, government spending is targeted, our debt is lower, and taxes are going down.

I am proud to take part in this debate today and to have this opportunity once again to remind the Bloc Québécois that it is wrong to depict the Canadian federation as a straitjacket restricting Quebec’s development.

It is natural that Quebeckers live and flourish in a province with its own distinctive character that enables a majority of francophones to affirm and gain recognition of their special identity. It is also natural that this rich and special society accepts the presence and growth of multi-ethnic communities and pluralist identities. It is a true success story.

I would also like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

The Québécois are Canadians and they do not have to choose between two identities. They have them both at the same time. I am Québécois and I am Canadian and proud to be so.

If we adopt the reasoning of the Bloc Québécois, the conclusions we reach are ones that I find troubling. If we adhere to the Bloc Québécois credo, we reject all of the achievements that make Canada a decentralized federation founded on respect for differences, as it was established in 1867. If we share the Bloc’s ideas, we also admit that since that time, the exceptional language, culture and institutions of Quebeckers have never found a home within a federal system. Nothing could be further from the truth. What this amounts to is saying that respect for differences and respect for the spirit of federalism are purely imaginary and have nothing to do with how Canada has evolved and with how Quebeckers have flourished. That is false. History tells us the complete opposite.

Quebeckers are distinguished by a rich history and a desire, constantly reaffirmed by generations of women and men, to promote and defend their rights and preserve their cultural and linguistic heritage. We have done a tremendous job of this.

Must we say otherwise? No. Quebeckers also belong to a collective entity that has adopted effective instruments for its development that promote progress and prosperity. Should we say otherwise? Absolutely not.

I would note what was said by Mr. Landry, who himself admitted that Quebeckers had achieved noteworthy development and flourished remarkably, because they enjoyed legal and financial advantages.

I am persuaded that it is precisely the Canadian federal system that has made it possible for Quebeckers to make such strides and flourish in their difference, in the richness of their culture, language and institutions. Our federation is hugely flexible and hugely adaptable. Let us not deny the achievements of our history and our traditions.

Let us not reject the intentions of the founders of the Canadian federation. They were aware of the need to recognize the diversity, the differences, the uniqueness of the partners in the federation. We owe that intention to the very fact that Quebeckers were here in this very House.

Quebeckers participated fully in the creation of Canada and joined Canada because they knew that their differences and their uniqueness would be respected. And in fact that flexibility, which is characteristic of a federation, has worked not only for Quebeckers but also for Canada as a whole, because all of the provinces, all of the territories and all of the regions have benefited from it and through it have helped their people to flourish.

Within a federal framework, Quebeckers have succeeded in achieving economic development and affirming their uniqueness. They have flourished not only within Quebec, but the whole world over, through the influence of a unique culture that has achieved recognition and respect around the world.

How can we possibly not change as new circumstances and many new situations arise? How can we possibly not recognize the importance of new, emerging issues that could affect the quality of life and well-being of Canadians and Quebeckers, issues to which we must respond in a globalized world that is moving faster and faster?

These changes revolve around the concept of open federalism. We have already seen some applications of this new approach based on respect for differences and the spirit of federalism, as the founding fathers wanted. There are, for example, Quebec’s full participation in Canada’s UNESCO delegation, our objective of restoring the fiscal balance, and our desire to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of government.

It is through this concept of open federalism that we wish to ensure that our heritage will be preserved and perpetuated. It is through our support for open federalism that we try to ensure that the spirit of federalism endures, that it will continue to be based on decentralization, which is its very essence, and that thanks to it, Quebeckers and Canadians will continue to flourish.

While the vast majority of Quebeckers are justly proud of their Quebec identity, they are also proud of their Canadian identity. What they want above all, though, like most Canadians, is that their governments act in the interest of all our fellow citizens and agree to build a true partnership across the entire country, a partnership based on solidarity and respect for our diversity. For Canada to function well, all levels of government have to consult and work together.

Our government is well aware of the role that Quebeckers have played in building our country. They obviously still play a crucial role in the Canadian federation.

Last January 23, the Quebeckers in the greater Quebec City area understood. They accepted our invitation to “change for real”—and changed in order to advance, changed in order to build, changed in order to unite and, most of all, changed for real results. The results were that 10 Quebeckers were elected to build and not to divide. They want to build in order to grow, to grow within the beautiful country that is our Canada, with their home in the magnificent province that is the province of Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, one of my constituents, who is opposed to this motion, wrote me an email this evening.

A few hours ago her minister stepped down because he had not been consulted on this motion. Was the parliamentary secretary consulted on the motion before it was introduced or was she kept in the dark just like her former minister?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I was consulted and am happy to say in the House that I am proud to be a Quebecker, proud to be a federalist, and proud to work for a government that wants to be a government of builders.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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CPC

Daniel Petit

Conservative

Mr. Daniel Petit (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the debate in which I have the pleasure of taking part is, in many respects, of a historical nature, and I am proud to support the motion, which reads as follows:

That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

First, I would like to say something to those who feel this motion is of little significance. In the eyes of Quebeckers, the political will displayed by the Prime Minister during this debate is not at all insignificant. On the contrary, they see it as a recognition of what they are, and of the unique place that is theirs within the Canadian community. I should even say the unique place that is theirs within a continent where the language of the majority is different from that of most Quebeckers.

There are days that are of real significance in a country's history, days that have a very special significance and that history remembers in a special way. Today is one of them. It is not only about recognizing Quebeckers' specificity: it is also another proof that Canadian federalism can evolve, be flexible and recognize what distinguishes a significant portion of Canada's population.

This recognition is not triggered by fear. It is an awareness of a fact that no one can deny. In recent months, not to say in recent years, reference was often made to Quebec's specificity and its make up. So, there is no need to get back to this. However, I want to stress Quebeckers' role in the building of our country. The recognition that they form a nation within a united country called Canada seems to me to be the perfect time to do so. Quebeckers are deeply attached to Canada. They understand our mutual need to remain united and to work together to promote progress for a country that believes in tolerance, compassion and cooperation.

Canada's history is a testament to that success and to the essential role Quebec has played in building it. Like other Canadians, Quebeckers' role is to carry on building that success. This country must remain united for future generations who deserve to inherit a strong and prosperous country. Recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation does not undermine that unity, which is vital to the country's progress. On the contrary, it sends a clear message to Quebeckers that their history, their culture, their language and many of their institutions are a prominent part of the portrait of Canada, a country rich in diversity.

Quebeckers' pride in their identity as Quebeckers has never diminished how they feel about being Canadian and has never taken away from their deep attachment to their country. That feeling of belonging to both Quebec and Canada has never stopped Quebeckers from thriving and developing as a nation within Canada. That is clear on days like today, days that give Quebeckers a special opportunity to reaffirm their attachment to Quebec and Canada. It has been said many times during this debate: Canada has never gotten in the way of Quebeckers' reaching their full potential; on the contrary, it has been an asset. The Canadian federalist system has been crucial to Quebec's progress.

Quebec already has all the powers it needs to preserve its uniqueness and to protect the French language and promote its culture. Quebec has its own language laws which guarantee that French is used in public signs, which make French the language of work and which mean that a very large majority of young Quebeckers attend French schools.

Quebec has its own government culture department and its own public television network, Télé-Québec. As well, under agreements signed with the federal government, Quebec selects and settles its own immigrants. It has a seat at the Sommet de la Francophonie as a participating government and a seat on the Canadian delegation to UNESCO. It may enter into international agreements in cultural and scientific matters. Through its delegations abroad, it is able to promote Quebec culture on the international scene.

Quebec’s uniqueness is already recognized when it comes, for example, to the Civil Code and the numerous agreements signed with the federal government over the years in relation to taxation, pensions, immigration—as I was just saying—and regional development, student loans, family allowances and foreign policy.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the federal government has contributed greatly to defending, promoting and expanding the influence of French language and culture in Canada, and that it continues to do so. Through the work done by federal institutions, Quebeckers have a place on the national and international scenes, and play a role and exert an influence that is the best guarantee that French and the culture of the Quebeckers will be protected. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that Quebec brings to Canada a contribution that is particularly apparent on the cultural scene. Through its uniqueness and its support for francophones in the other provinces, Quebec is a key part of the diversity of Canada.

We need only consider the history of Quebec to see that Quebeckers have reaped benefits from the Canadian federation that make it possible for them to put their uniqueness into practice, to achieve their full potential and to make a wonderfully rich contribution to building a country that is the envy of the world. This integration was not achieved at the expense of either party. Everyone benefits from it.

It is within Canada that Quebeckers want to take up the challenges they must face. That is the basis of our government’s policy, which is summed up in this formula: open federalism.

We want to improve the functioning of our federation. We want to work together on promoting the fundamental Canadian values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. These values are unifying and Quebeckers share them as much as other Canadians do.

We have set out to put order back into the government and to reduce taxes. In that respect, hon. members will not mind if I refer to the recent publication of Advantage Canada, which is an economic and strategic plan that will build a strong economy for all Canadians, improve our quality of life and our success on the world stage, and that is based on the following four fundamental principles: focusing government; creating new opportunities and choices for people; investing for sustainable growth; freeing businesses to grow and succeed. Our government wants these principles to shape public policy today and for generations to come, and to allow Canada to become a leader in an ever-changing world.

Quebeckers share these objectives and want to achieve them.

I will close by saying that the Canada of the 21st century absolutely needs Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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LIB

Robert Thibault

Liberal

Hon. Robert Thibault (West Nova, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his remarks. He spoke at length of the possibility for Quebeckers within Canada to maintain their language, promote their culture, counter the effects of more linguistically powerful cultures, like the United States, which continue to have a devastating impact.

It is good to listen to all these institutions within Quebec. Francophones outside Quebec seldom enjoy equal opportunities. They often have a harder time, having to resort to challenges and to contend with provincial governments which may not be as prepared to offer as readily services in the language of the minority. We also have to contend with school boards, health boards and all the institutions responsible for serving people in their mother tongue. It is often a different story if you are a francophone outside Quebec.

This motion which, like the hon. member, I will be supporting, states that Quebeckers form a nation within Canada.

Here is my take on the issue. People, regardless of where they live, whether they live in my riding, Montreal, Quebec City, Edmonton or the Lac-Saint-Jean region, are equals. As such, they should have an equal opportunity to have access to similar opportunities and similar services to preserve their language and culture, as requested by Acadians, Franco-Ontarians and all French-speaking Canadians in a minority setting.

The fact of the matter is, however, that the government to which the member belongs cancelled the court challenges program, this long-standing tool of choice to improve the lives of francophones outside Quebec. That tool has now been taken away, and people have to rely on the kindness of the provinces, local health boards or school boards, which have been known for 100 years to refuse to provide the services requested. Services were obtained through constant battles, large and small, fought with the help of funding from the court challenges program which has now been cancelled. In so doing, a component which the member considers important to the development of these communities is being removed.

What does the member have to say to that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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CPC

Daniel Petit

Conservative

Mr. Daniel Petit

As far as the court challenges program is concerned, pursuant to subsection 92(14) of the British North America Act, this depends on the provinces.

I also want to point out that the government did not abolish that; it simply removed the surplus that was used, but did not go back to those who used the program. That is all I have to say on the matter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the unique status and rights that first nations, Métis and Inuit people have in Quebec and throughout Canada as the first peoples to inhabit, develop and govern themselves on their lands and as distinct and vital nations onto this day.

Does the member agree that this motion in no way derogates from or diminishes or modifies the unique status and rights of aboriginal people in our country?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink

November 27, 2006