November 27, 2006

LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I am afraid the time for the member's question has expired. I indicated there would be two minutes for questions during this period. Would the government House leader respond?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, certainly, this is what this debate is all about. This is why we are having the debate and that is why we had it. I bet that if the hon. member asked his constituents how they liked the original motion from the Bloc Québécois the result may be 34 to nothing.

A motion whose intent was to try and drive a wedge into this country, or was not for the purpose of uniting this country, I am quite sure that in his constituency and my constituency would be unanimously rejected. People want this country to pull together. They want it to work together. They believe in this country.

The hon. member says he has questions and he wants to be able to explain. I certainly invite him to participate and ask questions, and listen to the debate that will be taking place this afternoon. This is why we are doing it.

The hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois said we have a busy agenda. He is absolutely correct. Nonetheless, we are taking the time on this important issue to have this discussed. I am pleased that we are doing that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Order. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
?

An hon. member

On division.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink

The House resumed from November 24 consideration of the motion and of the motion that this question be now put.


LIB

Mario Silva

Liberal

Mr. Mario Silva (Davenport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

It is rare, indeed, that parliamentarians have an opportunity to speak about the fundamental character of their country. Today is one of those opportunities. Canada is indeed a great nation. It is our great nation, a nation with a long history of vibrant constitutional debates. Sometimes in our past, we have approached these debates with fear and fatigue, but we have always looked back with certainty that these open and honest debates are one of the central pillars upon which our nation is built.

Many Canadians are well versed in the terminology of the constitutional debates and can point to the milestones on the long road of Canada's constitutional history. Simply by mentioning the words such as the amending formula, Meech Lake and Charlottetown, one can revive both the focus and passion of previous constitutional discussions.

The constitutional history of Canada as we know it begins with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 in which France ceded to Britain almost all of its North American territories. A century later, the British North American Act of 1867, followed by the 1931 Statute of Westminster, cemented the concept of and the right to self-government by Canadians. Then in 1982, more than 200 years after the Treaty of Paris had first defined Canada as its own territory, the Constitution Act brought our constitution home to Canada.

Who can forget the day when the visionary Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau joined with Queen Elizabeth II at the signing ceremony just outside this very building? It was obvious to all that this event was a huge step forward. Today we are discussing what many of my hon. colleagues argue may be the next logical step forward in the evolution of this wonderful country. But is it?

I spent much of my last week consulting with eminent constitutional and international scholars on the nature of today's debate. One thing is clear: no precise or globally accepted definition of the word “nation” exists. Indeed, in January of this year 35 member states of the Council of Europe concluded that it was impossible to define the word “nation” at all in constitutional terms.

Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, who worked tirelessly to strengthen our country through immigration, understood the word “nation” simply to mean Canada. In 1889 he stated:

We form here, or wish to form, a nation composed of the most heterogeneous elements...In each one of these opposing elements, however, there is a common point of patriotism, and the only veritable politics is that which dominates this common patriotism, and brings these elements toward a unified goal and common aspirations.

Laurier further stated that his countrymen included:

--no matter what their race or language—whom the fortunes of war, the twists and turns of fate, or their own choice, have brought among us.

Canada, for that great statesman, was a broad, great and single country.

By identifying les Québécois as a nation or as a sociological nation within a united Canada, we as members of Parliament, representing all 10 provinces and 3 territories of this great country, would extend to the people of Quebec the recognition of their unique identity within the Canadian federation and, indeed, within the North American continent itself.

Many other nations assign within their borders the concept of nationhood to people with unique cultures and traditions, which are reflected in their history, ethnicity, custom and language. The United Kingdom, upon which our parliamentary system is based, embraces the so-called constituent nations of Wales, Scotland and England.

Any casual traveller will have seen that the people of Wales consider themselves very much a nation, as do the Scottish people. In recent years they have seen powers devolved to them from the central government at Westminster. Many of their political and governmental responsibilities, while arguable different in scale, are not unlike those of our Canadian federation.

The example of Wales is relevant for us as it is a nation within the United Kingdom that has its own official language, a parliament with specific powers and rights, including input with respect to laws passed elsewhere that concern it.

As we objectively review our own constitutional history, we must conclude the sociological concept of les Québécois nation within a united Canada is something we neither fear nor resist. In fact, that very sociological nation has always existed in spirit. The concept of a les Québécois nation within Canada will not diminish or threaten the country with which Quebec is confederated and in which the people of Quebec are citizens, free, proud and loyal. They remain a vibrant part of Canada in spirit and in reality.

We have a clear and present opportunity to move our constitutional history forward and to, moreover, acknowledge the historic significance and culture contribution of the people of Quebec.

By 1000 AD, what is now the province of Quebec was the first destination of the Viking longboats, bringing the first Europeans to the Arctic shores of Ungava Peninsula. Some 500 years later, Jacques Cartier was the first French explorer to erect a cross in this new world. In 1603, Samuel de Champlain came to found the first permanent colonies in Canada, including the establishment of Quebec City itself in 1608.

Thus began the great French presence in the North American continent, with its rich tradition borne of exploration, enriched with deep culture and rapid social development.

In 1774 the Quebec Act was passed in London to ensure the continued growth and development of the French presence in North American manifest in the resilient Quebec people.

It was in 1880, during the St. Jean Baptiste Day ceremony, that our national anthem, O Canada, was penned in Quebec by the composer, Calixa Lavallee, who clearly had a love of this land.

Through the ensuing years, the people of Quebec, who proudly and rightly called themselves les canadiennes, continued to build the country and express their unique social experience in Canada, culminating with the quiet revolution of the 1960s. This was a period of profound social change in Quebec, and a significant leap forward in terms of their identity as a people.

It is crucial to acknowledge and affirm that all this rich history, vibrant culture and enthusiastic political expression flourished as a unique Quebec identity securely cradled within the Confederation of Canada.

We Canadians are an example to the world of the tolerance and understanding of the differences that make us unique, and our open, confident and forward thinking has helped to craft one of the world's truly great countries. We welcome newcomers with open hearts, recognizing that in our shared individuality we find our united strength.

My family came here 30 years ago from the misty islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean called the Azores, precisely because they believed that Canada was a nation of unequalled opportunity. My personal experience of the unbounded welcome and shared vision of Canadians has made it easy for me to love and celebrate our country, both here in Parliament and among my constituents of Davenport, most of whom are immigrants, working for their daily bread, and who give thanks every day for the country they now call home.

Many nations other than ours have sadly concluded that it was arms and armed conflict that bought them their freedom. We, on the other hand, are blessed to live in a country where we deal with our differences not by the sword, but by the word. In Canada our respect for one another has given us our freedom, and it is our laws that have given us liberty and justice.

We are a nation that does not fear differences, but rather encourages diversity. From our first nations, diverse in themselves, to the exploring peoples of Europe and Asia and other parts of the world, together we hail from ancestors who recognized the enormous strength to be found in our shared histories.

Through the motion we discuss today, Canadians outside of the province of Quebec will be able to openly recognize the unique nature of the people of Quebec within our broader confederation. As we have heard, some members of the House oppose this measure as being too much or too little, but neither of these polar positions appropriately reflect the reality of our history. Quebec is part of Canada and Canada is part of Quebec. History and geography have made us one. We are the new global standard of nationhood.

Ours is a country characterized by opportunity, understanding, compassion and service, both to its citizens and to the people of the world. Our nation is much more than a beautiful idea. It is a standard of perfection existing in the hearts and minds of our citizens. It is a profound reflection of the consciousness of time, beauty and the art of our collective humanity. So powerful is the essence of our nation that it is greater even than our imperfect definitions of ethnicity, language and creed. It is not our provinces, territories or fragments that make us great; it is our oneness that makes Canada the greatest nation on earth.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the motion that the Prime Minister has put before us reads as follows:

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

Before voting on a text that some of our fellow citizens believe will be of great significance, we have a duty to tell them clearly what that text means.

In French, according to Le Petit Robert, “nation” has at least three meanings.

First, there is the ethnic sense of the word:

Group of men presumed to have a common origin.

Second, there is the state sense of the word:

Group of people constituting a political unit, established in a defined territory..., and personified by a sovereign authority.

Third, there is the sociological sense of the word:

Group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together.

The sociological sense of the word “nation” is also found in Webster's Dictionary.

In the first sense, the ethnic sense, Quebec and Canada are not nations, but French-Canadians are a nation, one that is concentrated primarily in Quebec but is present everywhere in Canada.

There are several other groups of people in our country that can also be considered to be nations in ethnic terms. I would therefore vote in favour of a motion that said: In Canada, including in the province of Quebec, there are several nations in the ethnic sense of the word.

In the second sense of the word “nation”, the state sense, the only sense that confers legal existence in international law, Canada and Canada alone is a nation. I would therefore vote for a motion that said: Canada forms a single nation which holds a seat at the United Nations.

In the third sense of the word “nation”, the sociological sense, we, the Québécois, are a nation, because we form a large group within Canada—nearly a quarter of the population—and we have an awareness of our unity and a desire to live together. In that sense, it is correct to say that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. I will therefore vote for the motion that is before us.

However, I add that the entire Canadian population is also a nation in the sociological sense of the term. As Canadians, we have the sense of our unity and the will to live together, and there is nothing that prevents the same individual to be part of different nations in the sociological sense of the term.

So I say, in this House, that I am a proud member of the Quebec nation and a proud member of the Canadian nation. I say that these identities are cumulative and indivisible, and that I will fight with every resource that democracy gives me against anyone who wants to make me choose between these two wonderful identities: Québécois and Canadian.

I know all too well the game that the independentist leaders want to play. They want to persuade us that we cannot be part of the Canadian nation because we, the Québécois, form a nation. In other words, they want to shift from the sociological to the state sense of the word “nation”: from the “community” sense to the “country” sense. As usual, they want to conflate the meaning of words in order to sow confusion in people’s minds.

Well, as usual, my country and my 33 million fellow citizens can count on me to counter confusion with clarity. I know all too well that in the politics pursued by some people, there is little regard for dictionary definitions.

Facing this motion, two quotations come to mind.

The first one is from the great Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, who said, “Pity the nation divided into fragment, each fragment deeming itself a nation”. This is why members of the Bloc will vote for the motion. They hope it will help them to fragment Canada.

However, there is another interpretation of the motion, which is not only in accordance with the definition of the dictionary but also noble and generous. It comes from José Carreras, who said, “Cuanto más catalán me dejan ser, más espanol me siento”.

In other words, in proclaiming my identity as a proud Quebecker today, I am proclaiming my identity as a proud Canadian. Let us work together to ensure that this noble and generous interpretation of the motion that we will vote on today will prevail.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has given us thoughtful input into this very important question. Very often as people have spoken, they have looked to definitions. It is clear that when we look at definitions we can find a definition to suit our purpose. We are not surprised at that, but the motion before the House is a qualified definition. It states “nation within a united Canada”. That, to me, does not seem to have too many alternatives other than to say a nation in not a unified Canada. That would be the only difference.

I want to ask the member about how he feels since the Bloc leader has decided to support the resolution before the House with a view to using it to his advantage. Could the member please explain how the statement “a nation within a unified Canada” precludes a reasoned debate on the basis that the Bloc leader has suggested?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion

Mr. Speaker, the answer is that it does not preclude anything. This motion will not solve the problem of unity, and we need to make sure that it will not see the unity of Canada deteriorate. That is why I am saying that I will be in this debate to put clarity into the debate. Because what the Bloc, the PQ and Mr. Landry want to say is that since we Quebeckers are a nation, we cannot be the province of another nation. They want to switch from the community meaning to a statehood meaning. We will need to fight that.

But I urge everyone who is committed to Canada not to give so much importance to this kind of motion. I do not think it is the best way to promote our country. It is not what I want to do, but since this motion is facing me today, I am telling members that I will do my best to make sure that it will be the José Carreras interpretation that will prevail, that because we Quebeckers are Canadian, we are more Quebecker, that this Canadian identity is part of us. If we remove this Canadian identity from us, we will not be such strong Quebeckers as we are today.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

Mr. Barry Devolin (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member. I know that he is very experienced in these matters. I have a question for him. Today it is reported that a very high profile member of his party, given the chance, would vote against this motion today. He is a federalist. I am wondering if the member could explain to the House what rationale people might have for voting against this motion when they say they are strong federalists themselves.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will accept that we should not hammer each other when we have a disagreement on this, because we all agree on what is basic in this, which is, for those who are Quebeckers, that we are proud to be Quebeckers and Canadians, and that other Canadians are proud to have Quebec as part of their country.

As for those of us who have a difficulty with this motion, except for my Bloquiste colleagues, all the others love Quebec. This is not the problem. The problem is with the word “nation”. I would say that technically speaking the motion is accurate and I will vote for it, but I would invite everyone not to have too much hope for the effectiveness of this kind of strategy to keep our unity together.

Symbolic politics is something that we Canadians need to handle better, but the necessity to keep our country together will come when we are able to say, all of us, without playing games between each other, that there is nothing that justifies separation in Canada. If we are able to say so, then let the separatist leaders show that we are wrong. Let them try to find the compelling reasons that may convince people to do something as sad and as radical as to change fellow citizens into foreigners.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
CPC

Maxime Bernier

Conservative

Hon. Maxime Bernier (Minister of Industry, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride and emotion that I speak today to acknowledge the historic motion that the Prime Minister tabled in this House last Wednesday.

November 22, 2006, is a day that will be indelibly marked in my memory and that of Quebeckers.

I am from the Beauce region of Quebec, and I was touched by the Prime Minister's comments. By acknowledging that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada, he has shown, once again, that he is a great Prime Minister, one of the greatest prime ministers Canada has ever known. Our party has always been at the centre of the great moments and great challenges that have marked the history of this country. Last week was no exception.

It took the members of the Bloc Québécois three long days to finally see the light and support our motion. What an about face! Last Wednesday, as hon. members know, the leader of the Bloc Québécois expressed outrage in this House and harshly criticized our motion recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation. I listened to him very carefully and I had a hard time understanding his point of view. I do not think I was the only one in the House who felt that way at the time. I wondered: how can he be against the idea of the government recognizing something so obvious? How can he be against this recognition he has been calling for loud and clear for so many years? I was thinking that several of his colleagues must disagree with him, but no, I was wrong: all the members of the Bloc Québécois gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech last week.

I was stunned, and even more so the next day when I heard the House leader of the Bloc Québécois talking about a black afternoon. According to the comments by the House leader of the Bloc, it seemed that this motion was the worst thing that could happen to Quebec. However, it seems that on Friday, the leader of the Bloc Québécois received some telephone calls, perhaps from André Boisclair and even Bernard Landry, and this made him change his mind since even in sovereignist circles, some had to admit this was a step in the right direction.

Now all Canadians can celebrate the Bloc's decision to support the Prime Minister's motion to recognize Quebec's historic role within Canada and strengthen Canadian unity. We can only hope that the Bloc, which changed its mind on this issue three times in three days, will continue to support it until the vote.

Our motion is important for all Canadians because it is a gesture of reconciliation. It is important to recognize that Quebeckers have succeeded in preserving their unique language and culture while remaining part of the Canadian federation.

Our government truly believes that Quebec society will have better opportunities for development, progress, prosperity and reaching its full potential as part of the Canadian federation than as the independent Quebec advocated by the Bloc Québécois, the hypothetical benefits of which are merely unfounded speculation.

Quebeckers know who they are. They know that they helped found Canada and helped build the great country it is today. They know that they have protected their language and culture while promoting their values and interests within Canada. They know that they can be both Canadians and Quebeckers, that they can be proud Quebeckers and proud Canadians, and that they do not have to choose between the two, as the Bloc would have them do.

Since becoming Canada's new government, we have advocated open federalism, and that has brought about concrete results for both Quebec and Canada. We have invited Quebec to participate actively in UNESCO debates and we respect provincial jurisdiction. We have also brought about many changes. We promised to fight corruption. We have done that by introducing the accountability act, which will restore the atmosphere of trust that is so vital between the people and their government.

We promised to put in place a real national child care program, and we have done so. Parents are receiving a cheque for $100 a month for every child six years of age or younger. We promised to gradually reduce the GST, and we have kept that promise. We have reduced the tax burden on Canadians, and we will continue to do so. We promised to settle the softwood lumber dispute, and we have done so. That is what Quebeckers want. They want action, they want a government that respects the Constitution and honours its commitments.

This motion, which was proposed by our government, shows once again that it is the Conservatives who best defend Quebec's interests, not the Bloc Québécois. And we are achieving these results with just 10 members from Quebec. Just think of what we could do if we had far more.

The Bloc members have decided to support a motion that strengthens Canadian unity. The Bloc no longer has any purpose in Ottawa. I repeat, the Bloc has decided to support a motion that strengthens Canadian unity, and it therefore no longer has any purpose in Ottawa. My honourable colleagues opposite, who advocate Quebec's separation, should follow the example of their former colleagues, who decided to get jobs in the National Assembly. They are totally useless here, in Ottawa, in this House. It is the federalists who recognized that Quebeckers form a nation, and the Bloc members had to follow our lead.

In nearly a decade and a half in Ottawa, the Bloc has never achieved anything tangible for Quebeckers. The Bloc members are wasting their time in Ottawa. They are hampering the development of Quebec society.

For nearly 30 years, the Parti Québécois and its allies, the Bloc Québécois, have been trying to convince Quebeckers to become a nation separate from Canada. Quebeckers rejected this option during two referendums. Why? Because they are proud of their historic role in this country's development. The federalist forces, led by the Prime Minister, are taking action in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois, on the other hand, is pulling back. It has not made any concrete decisions that would have any real consequences for Quebec. It will never be able to make any such decisions, since it will always been confined to the opposition benches.

During its last convention in Quebec City, the Bloc said that its mission was to introduce new ideas. That is not what Quebeckers want. Quebeckers want real results, concrete results. They want their federal representatives to take concrete action, not just spout rhetoric.

As the Prime Minister said in his famous speech in Quebec during the last election campaign, he wants to build a strong Quebec within a better Canada. The motion he moved in this House last week aims to do just that. It will help to strengthen Canadian unity and Quebec can only gain from this. The time for bickering is over. It is time to look forward and build a strong economy. It is time to overcome the challenges before us. Federalism has much to offer for Quebeckers.

Quebeckers, just like the citizens of the other provinces, reap considerable benefits from this type of government. By creating a unified market, federalism allows greater movement of goods and services, labour and capital. This market has allowed all regions of Canada, including Quebec, to specialize in areas in which they most excel and to do business in world markets. Federalism gives us a common currency, which facilitates trading and the circulation of capital. It helps ease economic shocks, thus ensuring greater economic stability for all Canadians thanks to risk sharing, regional transfers and the pooling of this country's riches. It gives less fortunate regions a higher quality of life, and better health care and education services than they could otherwise enjoy.

Our federalism improves our ability to negotiate with other countries. We are not alone against the rest of the world. Together, we form a strong, united Canada.

The size of our market is such that we have considerable economic power and bargaining power on an international level. Canada is a member of the G-7, an influential member of the World Trade Organization and plays a key role within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD. Canada has an important place on the world stage. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, the Organization of American States and NATO. Geographically, Canada is open to three of the world's most significant economic markets, namely Europe, the Americas and Asia.

The advantages Quebec draws from Canadian federalism are also political in nature. Canadian federalism is a form of government that takes into account differences by fostering cooperation and compromise. Canadian federalism was not imposed on Quebeckers. They have been instrumental in its creation and development. Its key advantages are its flexibility, its vibrancy, its pluralism, its emphasis on diversity and its adaptability to modern challenges. Federalism is not rigid. It divides up the political jurisdictions in a way that responds to the common needs of the public, while taking individual situations into account.

Quebec controls a number of jurisdictions, including natural resources, education and so forth. It has its own Civil Code, which makes its legal system unique in North America. It has its own Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it collects its own taxes. Canadian federalism is constantly proving its effectiveness. As I was saying earlier, the primary reason is that Canadian federalism adapts to change and to the major issues affecting this world. Federalism allows countries like Canada to redefine intergovernmental relations as they develop. Canadian federalism has demonstrated that it can be innovative and respond to the legitimate interests of Quebec within our constitutional framework.

For example, since the 1960s, a series of agreements between the federal government and the Government of Quebec have allowed the province to extend its activities into jurisdictions traditionally held by the federal government. As hon. members know, in immigration, Quebec selects its immigrants and has its own integration programs. In foreign affairs, the federal government has developed a series of mechanisms in order to integrate the interests of Quebec and allow it to take part directly in international activities. The summit of la Francophonie and, more recently, the announcement of Quebec's new role within the Canadian delegation to UNESCO are good examples of this.

Quebec enters directly into agreements with France and Belgium, and is a member of several international Francophonie organizations, as I stated earlier. It opens offices abroad to promote its interests in various areas. In short, federalism is advantageous for Quebeckers and for the rest of Canadians.

In closing, I would like to thank all the members of the national caucus of our party, the Conservative Party, for unanimously supporting this motion and hence recognizing the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada. I know that it may be somewhat difficult for some of my colleagues to understand what this recognition means to Quebeckers. I would like to thank my colleagues opposite, the Liberal members, and all the federalists in this House who unanimously supported this motion, both my Liberal and my NDP colleagues. Last week, it was very moving to listen to the speeches of the interim leader of the Liberal Party as well as of the leader of the NDP. I was filled with emotion and pleased to see that this Chamber and this government have the support of my federalist colleagues in the House. That is why I said earlier that we made history in the House last week.

I know that it may be somewhat difficult for some of my colleagues to understand what this recognition means to Quebeckers. As I mentioned, I would like to reassure them. With this gesture, my colleagues who represent the other provinces of Canada have contributed to strengthening the ties that unite us and reinforcing Canadian unity. This is a stand that we should all salute and I am very proud to be a member in this House in order to vote in favour of this motion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink
LIB

Jean Lapierre

Liberal

Hon. Jean Lapierre (Outremont, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the minister’s speech was interesting. There was a slight partisan side to it that I can forgive today but I noticed that he spoke of a motion that is really symbolic, that it is perhaps an opening gesture and probably an olive branch towards Quebeckers. However, his remarks did not go any farther.

I hope that the member and the minister do not take it for granted that with this motion the work is finished. Reconciliation with Quebeckers and Quebec’s acceptance of the Constitution will require a great deal more work. In my opinion, we are taking a small step today. It is nice, but it is symbolic.

The minister did not talk to us about spending power; for example. I would have liked to have heard him discuss that. Does his government intend to take some action in that area? The minister did not talk about the fiscal imbalance.

Those subjects belong at the top of the agenda because beyond the symbol, there is a reality. I know that our fellow citizens have expectations concerning these subjects. One day, I hope we can be here together to celebrate the final and total acceptance by Quebec of our constitutional laws.

I would be glad if the minister could give some details of his thoughts beyond today’s resolution.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Permalink

November 27, 2006