Mr. Rene Matte (Champlain):
Mr. Speaker, the bill we are now considering seems to me to be an ill-advised response to a malicious expectation stemming from prejudice. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, if the present debate had been held five, eight or ten years ago, this bill could have been regarded as a reflection of the government's intentions to provide an opportunity for the grass-root participation in government's decisions.
However, even though we advocated, ten years ago, the use of referenda in order to know exactly how Canadians felt about, say the abolition of capital punishment or the legalization of abortion, the whole question was taboo, Mr. Speaker. The government was not the least interested in introducing a bill aiming at popular consultations. How come, then, that today we are considering a legislation dealing with referenda? Nobody can deny that this bill is the result of the government's reaction to the policies and, above all, the expressed philosophy of a provincial government.
And now they try to prove to me that we are dealing with something else; it is a shame to see a government act like that, a government about which the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) himself has said that it is merely a local government in a huge country, only one of ten provinces or of 12 provinces if we include the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. That is what the Prime Minister thinks. And yet he maintains a contradictory and unhealthy attitude towards the manoeuvres of a government which a growing number of people in Quebec seem to approve, at least for the administration it provides.
Mr. Speaker, this preamble is to show that we have to do with a controversy that the present government and especially the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) want to win and that they are not concerned about finding adequate solutions to the national problems facing this country. Rather it is for the Prime Minister a matter of winning a controversy that he triggered decades ago; indeed some 20, 25 years ago the Prime Minister was already talking about these issues with Rene Levesque and Gerard Pelletier and others and at that time the Prime Minister was already being stubborn the way he is today. This lack of intellectual evolution on the part of a man who is now leading the country means that Canada now faces a period of insecurity and that it is a little hard today for a Canadian to go abroad and see how his country is being ridiculed, at least as far as the dollar is concerned. A determination to resort to confrontation rather than seek fair and equitable solutions is the trademark of the right hon. Prime Minister and his government. Where does such an attitude stem from? Merely from its refusal to accept reality. The government is determined to ignore reality not only on the Quebec political scene but all over Canada nor does it make any reasonable effort to seek equitable solutions.
Mr. Speaker, when the government put forward so-called solutions to the constitutional problems of Canada, by adopting the Official Languages Act, and introducing a motion aiming at upgrading the status of French, I voted against it mainly because I felt that these were not adequate solutions, and now a few years later, the House must recognize that I was right. For what is the result of this band-aid designed by this government? It led to the decision, effective April 1, 1979, to reduce by over 33 per cent the number of civil servants responsible for the promotion of bilingualism in Canada. A cut
of over one-third; it was considered they were not important any longer.
On the other hand the top brass in the federal government has not significantly changed in number. And in the higher spheres of that administration, we find only 2 per cent for example in relation to research, with this figure increasing to 5 per cent and 6 per cent in some departments, and reaching 7 per cent and 8 per cent in others. Those are the opportunities for Francophones within that federal administration. On the whole, Francophone public servants account for about 25 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, I said then and 1 repeat it today: Even if the whole federal administration became bilingual, if French Canadians or Quebeckers do not take full and equal part in the administration of this country, absolutely nothing would have been solved. It is not a question of language. It is above all a question of participation. That is why the right hon. Prime Minister and the government would never find the solution in bilingualism. It is not there. It has been put to the test and we see today the results of such a policy. Mr. Speaker, I already said and I repeat once again because it is so true that the problem in this country is not related to a question of language, but amounts to a question of nationality, a question of participation with pride and dignity, on equal terms, in the development and the emancipation of this country.
That is what Quebeckers want. They want nothing less than equality. Equality does not means 25 per cent representation in the federal administration.
Equality does not mean saying in English or in French how much one owes the income tax people. Equality means working together to create the things we must manage jointly. It is as simple as that. Even today, Mr. Speaker, although the Irish people have decided to use the English language as their medium, I am sure they would resent being called Englishmen.
I am saying this to show the difference between national participation as a people and language difference. Those are two things quite different. And this is why the government failed. They forgot that the problem to be solved in Canada, in the first place at least, was not a language problem, but a nationality problem.
Quebeckers, having acquired an objective awareness of their strength and potential, never wanted to infringe upon the rights or privileges enjoyed by the rest of the country; they simply decided to be themselves and to offer their wholehearted co-operation to the rest of the country, so that the latter could truly develop. Our objectives should be aimed in that direction. There should be no more reference to destroying the country because a part of the country wants to rebuild it.
There is a world of difference between rebuilding a country to fit its inhabitants, and destroying it. But whenever someone rises to defend the particular interests of his nationality or his people, he is immediately branded a separatist, and this does away with any difference between that and the opportunity to
improve this country, on the basis of separate entities that are nonetheless willing to closely co-operate to promote everyone's well-being.
It is utterly ridiculous and irrational to think we will solve the Canadian problem with references to opportunities for bilingualism in B.C. It is just as ridiculous and irrational to think we will solve that problem with opportunities for total bilingualism in the Trois-Rivieres area. Mr. Speaker, let us be serious. We must see things as they are. This is the reason why today, if we want to build a Canada that will really fit our respective aims as Anglophones or Francophones, we must be objective not to fall into animosity and bickering. Unfortunately, there are no other words to qualify this legislation.
Yesterday, I listened to the comments made by the Minister of Communications (Mrs. Sauve). Hers was a vindictive contribution glowing with animosity, if not hatred, and she said things that were untrue if not clearly irresponsible. I feel it is unworthy of someone from the cabinet to find nothing better, in defence of a piece of legislation put forward by the government, than politicking and electioneering against a certain party in a certain province.
In her speech, the minister, for instance, stated that the present premier of Quebec was purposely trying to foster confusion. She went on and on along this line, talking about confusion as if this whole bill was not itself adding to the present confusion. It will be absolutely indescribable and it can create such a turmoil that it could end up jeopardizing peace and order in our country. There is confusion, indeed. This government is looking for it and is creating it. The minister said, for instance, that the Premier of Quebec was confused and dishonest when he was pretending he was following the same line as his predecessors.
Mr. Speaker, I still remember in 1960 and 1962 Mr. Lesage's fantastic team in Quebec, a team which had been elected because it went much further than the Duplessis government had ever gone before on the road to autonomy. They went as far as using, in 1962, the slogan "Masters at home" which became the leitmotiv of the Liberals in Quebec. In 1966, Mr. Daniel Johnson following the same line went even further and declared: "What Quebec wants is equality and if ever Ottawa denies us this equality, we will have to consider independence." Everybody knows it, and why is it that the hon. Minister of Communications does not know it? All this led to the victory of the Parti Quebecois in 1976. Their objective was to reshape and restructure the country so that Quebeckers would have absolute control in all areas under their jurisdiction and be able to influence the development of their province and work toward its cultural and social fulfilment. With this objective in mind, they say that this country must be reinvented and that its component parts should be
January 31, 1979
given sovereignty within an association which will create a new Canada, truly reflecting the national realities of the country.
What is so scandalous about it? What is so scandalous when one knows, Mr. Speaker, that we are the thirteenth generation descending from the French settlers who came here in Canada? I do not have any complex with respect to anyone whatsoever. I feel at home in Quebec, I feel at home in this country and at one point, without overriding anyone's rights, I declare that I want 100 per cent respect as I want to fully respect my own partners and to blame me for that, Mr. Speaker, would be just the same as to blame me for loving my own mother and my own father, because if I am a Quebecker today, Mr. Speaker, it is because I was born in Saint-Casimir, in the riding of Champlain, and that is that. If I had been born in Moscow, I would be a Russian; if I had been born in Rome, I would be an Italian, if I had been born in British Columbia, I would be very pleased, I would be a good English-speaking Canadian. Mr. Speaker, let us face the facts. Let us stop making the situation even more complicated in prejudging what is going to happen and looking for evil intentions and objectives which exist only in the mind of some poor frustrated people.
And we have before us a frustrated government that, on November 15, 1976, lost its head and managed to devalue our Canadian dollar from $1 to 82 or 83 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. A government that, for the sake of revenge, caused a flight of capital not only in the province of Quebec but throughout Canada, a mean and small government that tries to destroy our country when we only wish to establish harmony in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, as long as this government will speak with so much hatred and animosity, which is totally inadmissible from a government, from people who should be above all partisanship, there will be confusion like the minister said. We might laugh at the cat and mouse game the government is playing if the consequences were not so sad. In fact, we are studying a bill in case something should happen in Quebec. We never know! What if Quebeckers answer yes instead of no? Just in case the province of Quebec answers yes, we are drafting legislation in such a way that we too will answer yes just to oppose the other government. We are asked to take part in those childish manoeuvres and to give our support to this bill.
I understand perfectly the members of the official opposition who are against it as well as those of the Social Credit party. Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly normal. Why do they want us to take part in the four-ring circus? Why do they want us to play that little game where they say: In case they found the answer we are going to take it from them? Mr. Speaker, it is terrible. I understand my friends opposite who wish to expedite the matter. But, Mr. Speaker, I did not want to let this go by without making those few remarks and now I am going to give objective evidence of what I am saying.
A brief analysis of the report of the Pepin-Robarts commission, Mr. Speaker, forces us once again to realize that the personalities appointed by the government itself-although admittedly it had some difficulty in finding them, especially in Quebec-after making a survey of the situation all across Canada could do nothing but add to the objective conclusions one must inevitably come to. But, here again, what was the reaction of the Prime Minister? He immediately said his friend, Mr. Pepin, was naive; he said so right off the bat, without thinking-
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CANADA REFERENDUM ACT