Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I certainly think a great deal more needs to be said on the motion and I want to add a few words to it.
While the other member was speaking, he referred many times to Quebec as a nation. I think it will be very helpful for Canadians of both languages across the country to appreciate that in English and French there is a very significant distinction in the definition of nation.
I was just looking at the definition in the 2003 edition of Le Petit Larousse comparing it to the pocket Oxford Dictionary , which is also on the table in the House. In every respect the definition in English and French is almost exactly the same. Nation, both in English and French, is defined as a community of people, people who share the common heritage, linguistic unity and that sort of thing.
However there is one major difference between the English definition of nation and the French definition of nation. In the English definition it states very clearly that nation implies a state, political boundaries. In the French definition there is no reference to state whatsoever.
I think it is extremely important for Canadians across the land, particularly English speaking Canadians, to appreciate that when our French speaking colleagues talk about nation, which has, shall we say, almost an incendiary effect upon we Canadians who are strong federalists, we must understand that they are not speaking in terms of a separate political entity. That is most important.
I go back to the days of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, long before I became a member of Parliament. I was extremely distressed during those debates on the use of the word nation and its implication in English that this did represent separate political communities.
I think we can acknowledge that when my Bloc colleagues talk about nation, they are really talking about the cultural, linguistic, historical people, so to speak, and not in fact about separating the French speaking nation from the rest of Canada. Indeed, the French speaking nation in Canada goes beyond the borders of Quebec and encompasses the francophones in New Brunswick, Ontario and elsewhere.
With that point being clarified, let me say one further thing. I cannot support the motion even though I appreciate where it is coming historically with my colleagues from the Bloc opposite. The reason that I cannot support the motion is the idea, and it is a long held idea, that if any group that defines itself as a nation in the country has jurisdiction over one particular aspect of life, like education or whatever, and the federal government wishes to introduce a program in that area, then that nation, province or whatever community we are talking about should have the ability to reject that program and be compensated.
I have no problem with rejecting a federally instigated program. What I have a problem with is the concept that one should automatically get compensation. I cannot agree with that. I extend the idea or the concept of nation beyond those who speak French to the first nations, for example.
Across the country, we have, although I do not know how many altogether, but it must be at least 30 or 40 aboriginal groups that are identified by a different language. Forget about the fact that they are aboriginal. The reality is that we have more different nations of aboriginals in this country than there are nations in Europe. If we were to apply what is being proposed in the motion before the House, that a nation should be able to reject a federal program and receive compensation to put up its own program, then we would have to apply that rule to all the first nations in the country.
This is where the equality thing comes in. I have great confidence that the portion of the French speaking nation in Canada, which constitutes Quebec, does have the expertise and ability to administer and run a program very competently. Indeed, we have seen time and again where a Quebec program has been run better than a similar program with a similar aim in other parts of the country.
However the unfortunate thing is that under the current constitution, and maybe it requires a constitutional change, the motion that is before the House would have to be applied to the first nations and the reality is that many of these first nation communities are very small and do not have the management skills, and the tradition of democracy for that matter, that would enable them to reject a federal program and receive compensation.
I appreciate where my colleagues in the Bloc are coming from on the motion and I have a lot of sympathy for it. I certainly think it is extremely important for the country to maintain the French language traditions. It is more than language. I have always thought of our francophone heritage as the heart and soul of the country. Our English speaking heritage tends to be the pragmatist and the mind of the country, but the heart of the country is, I believe, in those who look to the past to old Quebec.
I am an historian and I read French as well as English. I am very conscious and sensitive to the historical contribution to the character of Canada that has been a part of the traditions that are expressed by my Bloc colleagues opposite. In the end, however, as long as we believe in the Constitution and in the interest of equality of all nations within Canada, I cannot support the motion.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions