Gabrielle BERTRAND

BERTRAND, Gabrielle

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Brome--Missisquoi (Quebec)
Birth Date
May 15, 1923
Deceased Date
September 10, 1999
administrator, homemaker

Parliamentary Career

September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Brome--Missisquoi (Quebec)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (November 1, 1984 - October 14, 1986)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (October 15, 1986 - October 14, 1987)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Brome--Missisquoi (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 3 of 28)

September 9, 1992

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Brome-Missisquoi):

Madam Speaker, over the course of nearly 125 years, hundreds of debates held in this House have shaped the history of this country, page after page, day after day and speech after speech.

But beyond these walls, in my riding of Brome-Mis-sisquoi or in yours, Madam Speaker, in the streets, in our living-rooms, around the kitchen table, thousands of others speeches are being made-somewhat less pompous maybe, using everyday words-but nonetheless important because they speak the heart of the people. Politicians, lawyers, constitution experts, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, students, all are concerned with our economy, but at the same time every one is very concerned with the future of this country that we will hand down to our children.

That is why we are looking into the renewal of our Constitution today. Why? Because the promises made to the people of Quebec at the time of the referendum in 1980 have not been fulfilled; because the Constitution signed in 1982 was unacceptable for Quebec; because my Prime Minister promised in Sept-Iles in 1984 that Quebec would regain its rightful place in the Canadian family; because of the failure of Meech in 1990; and above all, because in Charlottetown, a couple of weeks ago, a change in winds brought about a consensus which will be decided upon come October 26.

I am neither a lawyer nor a constitution expert. It is more as an observer of the political scene in Quebec for over 50 years that I asked to take part in the debate tonight.

I can still hear Maurice Duplessis say to Ottawa "We want our booty back", not to mention Jean Lesage's "Quebec comes first", Daniel Johnson's "Equality or

independence" and Rene Levesque's "sovereignty-association".

I have seen all these premiers, regardless of their political affiliation, spend all that energy defending Quebec. It is not surprising that some of them died in the middle of their carreer.

That explains why I understand so well, after 50 years of struggle, the impatience showed by my compatriots from Quebec, my brothers and sisters, my children. One of our great writers, Felix-Antoine Savard, taught them that they were of "a race who refused to die". Today, Gilles Vignault sings to them that they "have a country to build".

As for me, here is what I have to say to them: "This race which refuses to die, this country which we want to build, in a word, this future and this heritage we will leave to our children and grandchildren must not and cannot be less than ours".

To my Quebec compatriots I wish to say also that we now have before us a series of offers which are not perfect, I must admit, but which nevertheless reflect a consensus and are acceptable, honourable and realistic.

These offers, if accepted, will enable us at last to concentrate on our economic development; these offers were approved by great citizens like senator Claude Castonguay, the very one who had convinced Robert Bourassa to reject the Victoria agreement in 1971, who said that the July 7 offers were unacceptable, but who, today, believes the new accord contains more than Meech and gives Quebec the guarantees it needs to preserve its distinctiveness.

I repeat, for the benefit of my fellow Quebecers, what another witness and actor in the great constitutional debates, Mr. Claude Ryan, said, and I quote:

Quebec can still contribute enormously to the growth of a strong Canada. If Quebec is a happy and confident partner, if Quebec feels it is understood and accepted for what it is, there can be no imaginable limits to the aspirations of this country.

September 9, 1992

Government Orders

Speaking about this country, I would now like to speak to my fellow countrymen and women from outside Quebec.

I know that with translation they will get my message. [Translation]

Because of them, I often suffered in my soul as a francophone when I participated in commissions or read the results of polls or heard some media reports. However, I do not hold it against them, I still respect them and I will tell you why.

How can they understand, and even less appreciate, the attitude of a nation, the people of Quebec, the French speaking Quebecers whom they too often know little about?

During the Meech Lake debate, I saw them cheer on Clyde Wells, Elijah Harper and other political leaders. I heard them express their feelings in front of the Spicer commission. When I travelled outside Quebec, I could feel the distance between us. I heard some of their leaders express for the Beaudoin-Edwards commission, opinions that would make you shiver.

Such an attitude can only be explained by a total ignorance of this country's history, its past, its pioneers, its creators. I hate to use this word-ignorance-but it seems that it is time to admit the fact.

Am I wrong in presuming that the vast majority of the English-speaking people of this country, who automatically oppose all of Quebec's claims, are almost totally ignorant of whatever concerns the francophones of this country?

For a good number of them, our history starts with the Conquest, that is 200 years too late. What do they know of this country's founders, of Cartier, Champlain, Laviolette, Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeoys? Or explorers such as Jolliet, Marquette, La Salle and La Verendrye, the very same who settled the territory stretching from Lake Winnipeg to the Rockies. This territory was theirs as early as 1733. What do they know about the pioneers whose memory we are still celebrating on this 350th anniversary of Montreal, to name only these among hundreds of them?

As for those who were taught the history of British North America, do they know how hard the French speaking settlers had to fight to survive as a people on this continent? How did we explain the deportation of the Acadians to them? What about the 1774 act? And the 1791 act? And the role the French Canadians played in resisting the American invasions? And the 1837 rebellion? And the Durham report? And the 1840 Union Act?

Happily, I also sometimes realize that highly intelligent and smart Canadians understand the importance of what is at stake. The name of Andrew B rewin, who was a member of this House and who is the father of one of our colleagues, comes to my mind as a case in point. In 1967, he wrote the following in a supplement to Le Devoir.

Indeed, the future unity of Canada does not lie solely in a constitutional agreement. It will demand a lot of common sense, patience and mutual understanding from every citizen all across Canada. But it will also require the will to tackle problems, even a problem as tough as the renewal of the Constitution.

More recently, Mr. William Thorsell of The Globe and Mail, when addressing the members of the Canadian Club, said last January in Tbronto:

The present constitutional debate is putting to the test the tolerance of English Canada, our faith, our sense of social justice, our understanding of history, indeed our very imagination and our intelligence as a people.

Mr. Thorsell added that "by restricting Quebec's constitutional prerogatives, English Canada deserves to lose its status as a country and to become an annex of the United States".

Yet, if we look back on our country's history, General Murray had this to say about francophones in a letter to the King of England:

It is a brave and courageous people. If it ever decided to leave the country, it would be an irreparable loss for the Empire.

Would he say the same thing today about Canada and Quebec? I suppose so because it is a view shared by many clear-minded and enlightened anglophones. But unfortunately, those views are still too rare and people are still not ready to listen. Time goes on, debates drag on and on, emotions are high and wounds take a long time to heal.

September 9, 1992

Twenty-five years ago, Claude Ryan wrote this:

A thousand times in the last few years we said to the rest of Canada: "Listen to the other voice, accept the other view before it is too late and before the hope of a new dialogue is killed prematurely by your repeated refusals and your indifference.

Those are the sentiments that inspired my intervention here tonight. I would like all Canadians to share those sentiments and not to be blinded by mistrust, ignorance or political interest. I would like them to fully realize what is at stake here, that is the survival of a country, of our country, a country which is the envy of all peoples all over the world.

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September 9, 1992

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Brome-Missisquoi):

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, September 8, we celebrated International Literacy Day, which gives us an opportunity every year to reaffirm our commitment to this cause.

The reason we attach so much importance to literacy in Canada is that it has a major impact on the quality of life of all citizens of this country and on our future as a nation.

People whose ability to read and write is limited cannot take part in the decisions affecting their neighbourhood or their community. It is harder for them to obtain the information they need to make wise choices as consumers, as workers or as parents.

The commitment we made a few years ago is still current. We made literacy one of our national priorities in order to give equal opportunity to all Canadians.

In closing I would call on all members of this House to continue their efforts beyond International Literacy Day, so that even more Canadians are made aware of the importance of knowing how to read and write.

September 9, 1992

Oral Questions

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June 23, 1992

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Brome-Missisquoi):

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report on the activities of the Canadian section of the International Assembly of French-Speaking Parliamentarians at the meeting of the Commission des Affaires culturelles in Brussels, Belgium, from May 11 to May 16, 1992.

[Editor's Note: See today's Votes and Proceedings.]

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June 16, 1992

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Brome-Missisquoi):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a message from several hundred members of the Yamaska Valley Chapter of the Canadian Club, in my riding, to their anglophone fellow citizens in the other provinces.

We of the Canadian Club of the Yamaska Valley, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, wish to tell you of the enrichment we feel in our lives because we have an opportunity to partake in two cultures. We consider this diversity a bonus. This province is not unique, just different. Most provinces have languages and customs which they treasure and want to keep. Quebec feels the need to preserve what it has and we accept this. We do think that a compromise can, and will be achieved, so that Canada will remain a united country.

A positive attitude recognizing that we are a privileged people is essential. These privileges were given to us as Canadians to enjoy and to share. Let us not lose sight of this.

I hope this message will be heard and understood across the country.

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March 25, 1992

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Brome-Missisquoi):

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank several groups and individuals who are working together to promote buying at home and stop cross-border shopping. I would like to start with our local weeklies. Last week, 21 weeklies in the area distributed 500,000 copies of a special 20-page insert under the headline "U.S. bargains, an illusion?"

This initiative is only one of several in my riding, including those by the chambers of commerce and local business people in Bedford, Bromont, Sutton, Cowans-ville, Magog and Famham. These initiatives are starting to produce results, and I hope people will realize how serious the situation is and that the drawbacks of cross-border shopping have been underestimated. By crossing the border to do our shopping, Mr. Speaker, we are destroying our economy and helping to maintain high levels of unemployment in this country.

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