An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Pierre Paquette  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 13, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides that the Government of Canada’s multiculturalism policy does not apply in Quebec.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 18, 2008 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 18th, 2008 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-505 under private members' business.

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-505, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Statements By Members

June 17th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois recently received the support of four major Quebec unions in its efforts to get the Prime Minister to move from words to action and give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation.

Today, it is the turn of Julius Grey to support the Bloc Québécois initiative. This lawyer specializes in matters of individual freedoms and urged members of the House of Commons to vote in favour of Bill C-505, which I introduced, to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and thus allow Quebec to develop unimpeded its own model of integration for immigrants to Quebec.

The vote on this bill will be held tomorrow and will be a very revealing test of the sincerity of MPs and the Conservatives. Rejection by the Conservative government of Bill C-505, to exempt Quebec from the application of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, would send a very negative message as we approach St. Jean Baptiste Day.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, regardless of what the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats say about Bill C-505 which exempts Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, we have reached a consensus in Quebec. Consequently, the Quebec Conservatives, Quebec Liberals and Quebec New Democrats here are at odds with the consensus we have reached, which is to encourage exchanges with the cultures and peoples who arrive in Quebec rather than ghettoizing them, as multiculturalism does. This preference for exchanges that enrich the common culture of the Quebec nation is shared by the stakeholders who help to receive and welcome newcomers to Quebec. It is also shared by the newcomers themselves.

I travelled around Quebec with several of my colleagues from the House to sound people out on this bill, the bill on the language of work and the bill on a Quebec radio-television and telecommunications commission. Everywhere we went the answer was the same: we do not want the kind of ghettoization advocated by the federal government and Canada.

We must face the facts. When Pierre Elliott Trudeau promoted multiculturalism, his intent was also to marginalize the Quebec nation by making Quebeckers just another ethnic group. Just like there are Chinese Canadians, in his view, there were also Quebec Canadians. We do not accept that any more in Quebec, regardless of whether we are federalists or sovereignists. I know this because we travelled all over Quebec. Not only is there a consensus in Quebec in favour of interculturalism, that is to say, exchanges among the original cultures in order to help strengthen the common culture, but this consensus goes all the way back to the 1970s.

I remember Robert Bourassa writing to Pierre Elliott Trudeau to tell him that multiculturalism was contrary to Quebec’s specific national character. Quebec government after Quebec government—regardless of whether federalist or sovereignist—has reiterated our preference for a different model from the Canadian one, and Canada should respect that. The Canadian nation should respect it.

People on all sides support it. I had a conversation last week with Julius Grey, who is far from being a sovereignist, but he told me that he fully supports Bill C-505. He too realizes that the integration model needed in Quebec has to be different from the Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism model.

We also have the support of the CSN, the FTQ, the CSQ and the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé. All these people gave us their support in the same spirit of openness so as to create social cohesiveness, to avoid ghettoization and to allow all Quebeckers, regardless of their origin, to contribute to the common culture of Quebec. Of course, this common culture is structured around one axis which is at the heart of the Quebec culture, namely French, our common language. We also have a common history.

The Canadian approach does not suit us. I believe that if this House was sincere in recognizing the Quebec nation, members have no other choice but to support Bill C-505. If not, it will be clearly understood that this was nothing but electioneering on the part of the Prime Minister not only when he gave his speech in Quebec City, but also when he tabled the motion in the House because of pressure from the Bloc Quebecois.

Members will have to vote on Wednesday and I would like to remind them, particularly those from Quebec, that should they vote against Bill C-505 to defend multiculturalism, not only will they be at odds with the Quebec nation and the consensus in Quebec, but they will also be going back on the decision they made when a vast majority of them voted in favour of the motion to recognize the Quebec nation. And we will certainly travel all over Quebec to denounce them.

However, that is not what I hope will happen. I sincerely hope, in a positive way, that all members of the House will support Bill C-505 and will make it law, following their words with action with regard to the recognition of the Quebec nation. That is what I and all Quebeckers are hoping will happen on Wednesday.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak about An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), introduced by the member for Joliette. Multiculturalism is clearly one of the key elements driving the current government's action. Now that the Quebec nation has been recognized, it is time to provide some substance and make this recognition tangible. Quebec has long considered interculturalism preferable to multiculturalism as part of its future. I am very surprised and disappointed to hear a Quebec Conservative member—one of the last, if not the last, to be elected—defending multiculturalism.

In Quebec, there is a consensus that was first expressed in 1971. Robert Bourassa, the Quebec premier at the time, a committed federalist who was never a separatist, rejected the Canadian policy of multiculturalism in a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In fact, like other Quebec premiers, he felt that this ideology went against Quebec's interests and values.

And to complete the circle, on September 24, 2007, Mr. Julius Grey, who is not a Quebec sovereignist either, said that, as the only French-speaking enclave in America, Quebec simply cannot adopt a multicultural ideology. Hence my amazement at hearing a Conservative member from Quebec denying the vision that has developed in Quebec over the past 30 years.

We have to ask ourselves why multiculturalism poses a problem in Quebec and why there is a consensus against a multicultural approach in Quebec. The vision put forward by the Bloc Québécois is one that reflects not only the passage of the motion recognizing the Quebec nation, but also the reality of Quebec as a nation in North America.

For instance, Quebec relies on interculturalism as a model of integration. It requires immigrants to learn French as the common language, insists on the need to respect the common values shared by the Quebec society as a whole but at the same time recognizes cultural pluralism.

That is a very different approach from the one developed at the federal level. Initially, the reality of Quebec as a nation not having been recognized, it was understandable that the concept of multiculturalism that was developed not recognize the Quebec nation and even marginalize it. Now, however, with the status of Quebec as a nation having been recognized, we should be seeing a change in attitude on the part of the federal government, but it is sadly missing from what we have been hearing this morning.

Before 2003, there was even talk of a civil pact. The Quebec model of integration goes beyond simple citizenship designed to promote the development and peaceful coexistence of cultural minorities in a vacuum by bringing these minorities to enter the symbolic and institutional space occupied by the nation.

In Quebec, we can feel a desire to welcome newcomers to our society, because we want to ensure that our society will continue to develop in North America. People who come to Canada are sent a terrible message. In fact, they hear two different things at the same time. Some might find it quite confusing. If you recognize Quebec as a nation, you should also recognize the possibility of using a different cultural development model like the intercultural approach developed in Quebec.

On the website of the Quebec department of immigration and cultural communities—another federalist Quebec government that does not defend the traditional, purely sovereignist point of view of Quebeckers—it says:

An intercultural society's challenge is a collective one: to ensure harmony by maintaining and adapting the values and principles of action that unite all citizens. This challenge is met with respect for individual, cultural and religious differences.

There is no better example to illustrate the difference between Canada's approach and Quebec's approach. Furthermore, a Government of Quebec document for newcomers uses the same language and lists Quebec's values, reminding the reader that knowing those values makes it easier to adapt. Anyone familiar with Quebec's situation as the only francophone society in North America understands why this model corresponds to Quebec's reality.

Under the approach proposed in Quebec and by the hon. member for Joliette, the recognition of Quebec as a nation has to become tangible, based on specific aspects of the nation, in the very expression of what we are as Quebeckers. The fact that we have a distinct culture has to figure in the federal government's practice.

We would have expected more openness from the Conservative government that recognized the Quebec nation.

In a February 2008 article in Le Monde diplomatique, Louise Beaudoin summed up the incompatibility of the two models quite well. She said:

For almost 30 years now, Canada and Quebec have had two different systems of integration. The federal policy of multiculturalism, which is similar to the British model, promotes a style of cultural diversity based on ethnicity and connecting everyone to their community of origin. Quebec has instead opted for a model based on interculturalism, in other words, a cultural exchange within the framework of the common values of a pluralistic nation with a francophone majority. The contradiction between these two visions is clearly insurmountable.

As I was saying earlier, this is confusing to newcomers. Quebec is a French-speaking nation but it exists within a bilingual country that promotes bilingualism. It prides itself on having a policy for welcoming and integrating newcomers that focuses on the importance of a number of basic values and states that French is the language of the people, which totally contradicts the definition by Canada, which claims to be bilingual and multicultural. There currently is no clear message with respect to our immigration.

In its preliminary submission to the Bouchard-Taylor commission, the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec highlighted this confusion. Someone arriving in Quebec receives two contradictory messages. Instead of laying blame, as some are wont to do, the Bloc Québécois thinks it would be better to make the messages clearer, and that is one of the objectives of the bill before us today.

In their February 8, 2007, manifesto, entitled En finir avec le multiculturalisme, Quebec intellectuals Charles Courtois, Dominic Courtois, Robert Laplante, Danic Parenteau and Guillaume Rousseau stated the following:

We think that Quebeckers want to see the principles of equality and public secularism affirmed, putting the emphasis on a common culture and providing inspiration for the principles of integration and the methods of dispute resolution. The Charter of the French Language already does this in part, but in order to do so fully, Quebec needs to have its own citizenship. The debate, which has been stirring opinions for a number of weeks, although overly emotional and sometimes even wild, shows there is a pressing need. For now, new Quebeckers are sworn in as new Canadian citizens without being encouraged to integrate into the Quebec nation. This is not what inclusion means to Quebec.

It is very clear that, given the current situation in Quebec and Canada and considering the fact that Canada, as a country, recognizes the Quebec nation, something practical needs to come out of this logic. Otherwise, it remains an empty shell, which is certainly not what Quebeckers had in mind when the Quebec nation was recognized.

When the Conservative government recognized the Quebec nation, it had to know what it was doing, and if it knew what it was doing, it should agree to adding something today. It should give this recognition some substance and let this nation speak for itself. One of the most important ways to do so is to recognize interculturalism, in contrast to Canadian multiculturalism, a multiculturalism that Quebec does not want.

I urge all members of this House to support the Bloc's proposal and to vote in favour of this motion. I particularly urge the members from Quebec, who know how different Quebec is, how different life and culture are in Quebec, and how Quebec's development model for future generations requires that this interculturalism be recognized. Otherwise, the Conservative government's recognition of the Quebec nation will have been nothing but an empty shell.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of the House, once again, we are debating again today bill C-505. As we have already said and will repeat, our government cannot, in any circumstances, support such an initiative and the reasons for this are many.

Our country was built on immigration and, as we have seen in earlier debates, its faces have become increasingly diverse. It is in this diversity that we find our pride and our identity. Canadian pluralism, as it has existed for decades, far from being an outdated or inadequate model, as some of our colleagues would have us believe, is an inexhaustible source of riches for our country and pride for our fellow citizens.

Over the years, previous governments have adapted the model to the changing realities of our society, without ever having to alter its very essence, namely respect for differences and the agreement of all Canadians on our fundamental values.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act is part of a broader legislative framework that includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act and ensures the promotion of both official languages and the safeguarding of the major principles and fundamental values of democracy, human rights and equality between men and women. These are the principles that we must continue to defend and promote.

Quebeckers, like the rest of the Canadian population, are dealing with new challenges arising from the continuous changes in our society. Cultural and religious diversity are constantly increasing. Non-Christian religious communities account for nearly 10% of the population; 20% of Canadians are allophones; and we now have people from over 215 different ethnic groups.

These figures portray a Canada that is more diversified than ever. But this fine cohabitation has its inherent difficulties: gaps in socio-economic integration, racism, discrimination, security issues, debates about reasonable accommodation. Media coverage in recent years has not spared any effort in focusing on the issue of cultural diversity and its impacts on our society.

Numerous detractors have even used September 11 to build dubious arguments claiming that pluralism poses a security problem as a result of the isolation of cultural minorities. However, no tenable correlation—none at all—has been established between security and diversity.

It was inevitable, in such a context, that the government should review its programs, as it does regularly, moreover, to ensure that its policies are still current and correspond to the general trends of Canadian society. The Government of Canada has take a position in favour of maintaining its program promoting cultural diversity, while adapting it to the new realities stemming from Canada’s social development and globalization.

With that in mind, special attention is paid to the economic, social and cultural integration of new Canadians. We all know that these three areas are essential for a feeling of belonging to develop and thrive.

We must also facilitate the implementation of programs designed specifically for at-risk cultural youth, to break their isolation and to allow them to become full citizens.

Finally, the promotion of intercultural understanding goes hand in hand with that of Canadian values. Both allow us to settle the issues of social exclusion that are based on the fact that a person belongs to a cultural community.

A strengthening of the partnerships with other levels of government, institutions, individuals and communities is at the core of this review of our program.

The Bloc Québécois should support such a change, rather than oppose it. The fact is that Quebeckers are already guaranteed the same respect and the same freedoms as people elsewhere in Canada, and that is what matters. That is what is most important. Also, it is together that we must defend our principles and common values, which include Quebec's values.

Canadians are not fools. In a 2007 IPSOS poll, 82% of them confirmed that Canada's cultural diversity was one of our country's biggest assets.

Moreover, two thirds of Canadians believe that pluralism strengthens the Canadian identity and adherence to common values, without adversely affecting immigrants' integration.

Given these numbers, it is obvious that a large majority of Quebeckers see a definite advantage to this diversity. We are not at all surprised by this. Quebeckers have always shown tolerance and respect.

Bloc Québécois members are trying to repair something that is not broken. Instead, let us work together and find solutions to the challenges that we are facing.

Our country establishes a link between a diversified culture and a common citizenship. That is what makes our reputation and our strength at the international level. Let us make sure that this will continue to be the case in the future.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond briefly—since I have yet to give my speech—to the criticism of the Bloc's approach to Bill C-505 as a bit clumsy and heavy-handed.

I understand the NDP's vision, since its members are centralists. They have a centralist vision of Canada. I understand when we hear about the Couture-Cullen agreement. Nevertheless, people who decide to immigrate to Quebec do so in the context of the Canadian nation. Parliament has recognized the Quebec nation. It must also be understood that our distinct society needs all of the tools available to develop and that mixed messages are being sent to the immigrants who choose Quebec, because of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act as well as other acts. Is it not Canadian citizenship that one obtains when one chooses Quebec or any other province? So, does this Parliament really want to recognize the Quebec nation, with all that that entails? That is where we differ.

As for Bill C-505 on the ideology of multiculturalism, there has been endless debate since the concept was introduced in a bill by Trudeau in 1970 and in the legislation that followed in 1988. For many Quebec nationalists, this is one way of shifting the balance of power in Canada. Earlier, we heard our hon. Liberal colleague say that, thanks to section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everything is just fine and that it shows an openness towards immigrants. This would seem to suggest that Quebeckers are not open to immigration. On the contrary, but their approach is very different and is based much more on interculturalism.

Does Canada really protect and accept cultural communities? Is that the goal of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act? In his book Selling Illusions, Neil Bissoondath responds to such questions by indicating that Canadian multicultural ideology pigeonholes cultures into dusty stereotypes and politically-driven clichés, but obstructs the creative possibilities that arise when diverse groups meet.

Adopting the vision of multiculturalism also means adopting the vision of a Canadian nation governed by an anglophone majority. I will come back to the vision that comes with that approach to multiculturalism later on. It is aimed precisely at minimizing our francophone society in Quebec and providing it with fewer tools.

For many nationalists, it is a way of changing the balance of power in Canada at the expense of the francophone community. The Quebec vision goes against that vision of multiculturalism designed to encourage minority groups to preserve and perpetuate their culture, as well as to promote these differences within Canadian institutions. So, in a way, the concept of multiculturalism promotes the Canadian nation, and the political discourse backs up this ideology.

One can read all that in a booklet published by the federal government.

Canada is populated by people who have come from every part of the world. Through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the government encourages Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage and to keep their customs and traditions, as long as they don’t break Canadian laws.

Encouraging Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage is a one-track approach and it is a problem in Quebec. Why? Because multiculturalism rejects the idea of a common culture by encouraging multiple cultures to coexist. Although it is defined as a model for integrating newcomers, in reality it promotes peaceful coexistence.

Concerned that multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes, Quebec has always deplored the Canadian approach, especially since it trivializes Quebec's position within Canada and refutes the existence of the Quebec nation. In 1971, Robert Bourassa, Premier of Quebec, stated in a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau: “—that notion hardly seems compatible with Quebec's reality—".

Quebec has adopted interculturalism as the model for integration. It requires immigrants to learn French as the common language. With the multiculturalism approach, not even a mention is made of the existence of a nation defined as the Quebec nation, the Charter of the French Language or French as the common language.

I would like to digress from my speech for a moment. With regard to the bilingualism approach, I am reminded of when I was a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and we went on a tour regarding the Broadcasting Act. I remember a certain individual who belonged to a cultural community, had become Canadian and said he was bilingual: he spoke English and his language of origin. This reaction is quite understandable because, according to multiculturalism, this person must retain his language and his culture. I can understand that. However, it is evident that we are sending mixed messages that are very dissimilar. This person honestly believed that he was bilingual, because that was his definition of Canadian bilingualism. That is not at all the intent of multiculturalism.

In other words, unlike the Canadian approach, which tends to value diversity, the Quebec approach supports integration through the learning of the French language—the official and common language of its citizens—and adherence to a set of fundamental values. Accordingly, the Quebec department of immigration and cultural communities states on its website:

An intercultural society's challenge is a collective one: to ensure harmony by maintaining and adopting the values and principles of action that unite all citizens.

I would like to come back to what a Liberal Party colleague said earlier when he referred us to section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section is at odds with Quebec's wishes and vision for itself. What we have here are two different visions of how to integrate cultural communities, and we are well aware of the magnitude of the challenge.

Today we are discussing a Bloc Québécois bill that seeks to exempt Quebec from the policy underlying the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. I remember that even in 1998, when I was on the Canadian heritage committee, the Bloc Québécois opposed the vision set out in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

I know that I will not have time to say everything I planned on today, but I would like to speak about the Quebec nation. It is often said that the Quebec nation has been recognized, but what Quebec nation has been recognized if the tools are not there to fully develop it socially and economically?

As Prime Minister Trudeau hoped in 1970 when he established this law, later amended in 1988, the ideology behind multiculturalism was to reduce the influence of an evolving nation. Since the 17th century, this nation has often been described as a distinct nation in search of its own definition of what constituted a Quebec society on North American soil.

Unfortunately, my time is nearly over. I could have raised many other points to show that this House's recognition of the Quebec nation was nothing but an empty shell. In reality, this vision of Quebec is being denied in a number of areas. For example, there is Bill C-10 concerning financial support for films that are in line with public policy. What is public policy for the Conservative government?

We could also wonder about Bill C-484, which would give legal status to a fetus and which could drastically change the entire—

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to speak about this important bill that will foster a very healthy debate in this House and in society as a whole.

Bill C-505, introduced as a private member's bill by the Bloc Québécois, is called An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec). It is interesting that it has come before us on a day when the media are paying rather close attention to this issue. It was refreshing to see on the front page of the La Presse newspaper in Montreal today a reference to all of the private members' bills that have made it before Parliament.

It is even more interesting because we currently have a minority government. So, when the three opposition parties agree on a bill, as was very recently the case with the important climate change bill introduced by the leader of the NDP, we are able to come together and move forward with ideas that would otherwise by blocked by the government. This process is in the best interests of the institution.

I will divide my remarks into two parts, because the bill before us addresses two completely different aspects. There is the issue of proposing a review of multiculturalism, an important topic that has been part of Canada's vision since the 1960s. It is generally associated with former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and rightly so, because in the 1960s, it was a way to distinguish between Canada's vision for integrating immigrants, and the vision prevailing among our neighbours to the south, in the United States. The second part will have to do with the more technical aspects of the bill, and that is where we distance ourselves from the approach proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

Let us come back to the basic principle of multiculturalism. As my colleague just said, it is in the charter. But in his view, the fact that it is in the charter is the answer to the debate. In the view of my party and myself, that sends us back to the starting gate. It is not sufficient to say that section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms talks about multiculturalism and the debate ends there. In fact, I am not persuaded that my Bloc Québécois colleague knew what a hot topic this would be at the time when it came to be debated. Nonetheless, there could not be a better time to discuss it openly and let the audience listening to us know what the differences between the parties are.

I would say, after hearing the Liberal Party on this question, it appears that the New Democratic Party falls midway between the very closed position of the Liberal Party and the position taken by the Bloc Québécois, and I will try to describe that later, which wants to make this a political issue.

We must recall what section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says, because it gives us an indication of why we must oppose this bill, “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

Because Bill C-505 is not constitutional legislation, as a result of the straitjacket imposed on Quebec by the 1982 Constitution, it cannot be amended without following the relatively tortuous process that we all observed in relation to the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, the outcome of which we are all familiar with.

What the Bloc is trying to do with this bill is to alter the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to do something separate for Quebec. It would be easy to follow them down that road, if the goal were to stay in Canada. But let us not delude ourselves. The Bloc Québécois, as is its absolute right in this democracy, has as its ultimate priority the removal of Quebec from Canada. We must therefore realize that the only purpose of the bill must be to position the Bloc in a debate that has been raging in Quebec for the last year and a half. So the goal is not to improve how things work in Canada, and the result of the votes on this subject is entirely predictable. This way of going about it is therefore rather clumsy and heavy-handed.

With all the respect I have for the individuals in the Bloc Québécois, that party’s political manoeuvring is pretty transparent when it comes to what they are trying to do. On top of that, the arguments the Bloc is advancing are wrong.

Important as it is to allow Quebec to work within its jurisdictions, we must also realize what accommodations, dare I say, have been made over the years. Quebec is the only province—thanks to the Couture-Cullen agreement—that has significant authority over immigration. It has its own system for attracting and selecting immigrants and providing for their integration into our society.

These differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada had already been examined long before the constitutional amendments of 1982 that I mentioned earlier. At the time the multiculturalism policy was introduced, it was often said that the United States, Canada's southern neighbour, was a melting pot, a sort of soup or stew where everything blends together and individual elements become indistinguishable.

On the weekend, a Canadian actor talking about a new film described our system as a salad. We have often heard our system be compared to a tapestry or a mosaic in which every piece can be distinguished. Nonetheless, I must say that I like the image of a salad: it is something pleasant and well composed; we can still distinctly see each component and know what it is made of. It was Mike Myers, the famous Canadian actor from Ontario, who created the best image by describing our lovely Canadian salad on the weekend. I am going to adopt his very evocative expression.

The NDP could accept the Bloc's suggestion to debate a bill to protect the language of work for the employees of banks, which are under federal jurisdiction, or Société de transport de l'Outaouais employees who cross the border and work under the Canada Labour Code instead of the Quebec Labour Code. It was easy for the NDP, which has a long history of protecting workers' rights, to understand that it was not right for a bank employee in Montreal to have fewer linguistic rights than someone who works in a caisse populaire. It was easy for the NDP to understand that it was not right for a Société de transport de l'Outaouais employee to have fewer linguistic rights than a bus driver in Sherbrooke or Quebec City.

The NDP is very proud of its history of defending workers' rights. The language rights of workers are a subset of this important principle.

The NDP therefore voted with the Bloc Québécois to bring the bill forward for debate. Changes are likely needed. Like Graham Fraser, we believe that nearly all these changes can be made through the Canada Labour Code, instead of fiddling with the Official Languages Act, which we felt might cause problems, especially for linguistic minorities in the other provinces, and even in Quebec. We preferred to look at this option.

Unlike the Liberals, we believe that the language rights of Quebeckers can be improved to ensure that they can live in French in the only French-majority province in Canada, without that having a negative impact on the rights of linguistic minorities in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada. In that respect, we challenge the position taken by the Liberal Party of Canada, which would not even agree to discuss this important language rights issue.

We have to look at it all the way from Trudeau's pan-Canadian vision to today's reality, where French in Quebec is seen as increasingly fragile. We all have an obligation to enhance the French language anytime we can and make sure we do so in an inclusive way, with all Canadians in mind. This is in everyone's national interest.

We must not strip this out of the legislation, when the problem continues to reside in the constitutional straitjacket that was imposed on Quebec in 1982. As far as we are concerned, that is a complete waste of time and nothing will be resolved that way. Moreover, it does not reflect Quebec's uniqueness, as set out in the Couture-Cullen agreement which was signed more than a generation ago and which gives Quebec very specific rights in that important area.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-505.

This is a bill to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act with respect to the non-applicability of multiculturalism in Quebec. In the amendments proposed to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the bill would include the following paragraph:

AND WHEREAS Quebeckers form a nation and must therefore possess all the tools needed to define their identity and protect their common values, particularly as regards the protection of the French language, the separation of church and state, and gender equality;....

That is the addition.

When this bill first came up, I thought it was extremely important that we have representation on the bill by a member of our caucus from Quebec. Indeed, the member for Mount Royal delivered a speech in the first hour of debate, and I do not think I could say it much better.

First of all, the member acknowledged that a number of the members of the Bloc Québécois have done much work on human rights issues, but he indicated that he thinks “multiculturalism policy should remain a policy that protects human rights--particularly the right to equality and the right to be protected against discrimination--a policy that promotes and protects both diversity and uniqueness of Quebec, and that is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

The argument against this bill is that multiculturalism--and our identity as Canadians--is enshrined in the charter. It is an integral part of defining Canada. It is an integral part of who we are as a country. We have to understand that the charter provides us with a framework that allows us to demonstrate our system of parliamentary democracy, to speak to the values enshrined in our charter, and to ensure that all Canadians feel welcome in Canada no matter where they live.

Under the charter, we have mobility rights. As members know, mobility rights permit residents of Canada to move about the country and in fact to take up residence no matter where they wish to live.

As members also know, Canada always has had the values of tolerance, generosity and acceptance of peoples from all around the world. That is why our immigration policy has been so generous: to be able to open the doors of Canada. That was done under former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to bring to Canada new residents who want to be Canadians, who seek a better life, who want to come to Canada to appreciate and enjoy the rights and freedoms that we have in Canada.

I have often thought that we really do not understand what we have until we have lost it. We are the envy of the world when it comes to what some would refer to as the experiment of multiculturalism.

Today, multiculturalism is an integral part of the Canadian fabric. That immigration policy gives us the opportunity to have new Canadians come here who bring with them the skills, the knowledge and the ability to understand other parts of the world. That provides synergies in Canada, which allow Canada to be better than the sum of its parts. That is what synergy is.

Therefore, as for the suggestion from a perspective of Quebec that multiculturalism should not be applicable in Quebec because of the distinct characteristics or qualities of Canada, there also is the argument that as the Parliament of Canada we have to look at this from the perspective of the values of Canada as a whole.

In his speech, the member for Mount Royal also indicated, “The transformative impact of the charter is not limited to the effects of the provision providing for equality before and under the law”. He stated that “equal protection and equal benefit of the law” are also there.

As well, he noted that the charter also provides for the preservation of cultural heritage under section 27, which states that “the Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”.

Therefore, we are talking about changes that fly in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is extremely important to understand that this is an aspect of Canada which we treasure and value. It has no specific intent to somehow characterize or isolate any particular region or province of the country, but rather to speak on behalf of the values of Canada.

It is clear that our multiculturalism policy, our heritage, is an integral part of the charter. It is an integral part of the equality provisions of our charter, which for so long has been used to ensure that the rights and the freedoms of all who are on our shores are protected and that we are all treated the same.

I do not know what the consequences would be or what it would really mean if the bill should happen to pass, but I know that the interpretation would be broad and I am sure that it would be negative. There are so many different cultural groups represented throughout Quebec. They bring a vibrancy to the province. Many times I have travelled through Quebec and attended many celebrations there, which included full representation of the multicultural heritage of Canada and of Quebec. That is a very important element.

I do not want to question the Bloc's values on this matter. I understand its position with regard to the whole discussion of nationhood. Why would those members want to invalidate the application in Quebec of a policy intended to strengthen the status and the use of official languages? Many Quebeckers have been fighting for and defending that aspect for many years. Our multiculturalism policy shows that we support and defend our official languages policy as well.

It should be noted that in 1993 when the Bloc formed the official opposition, Bloc members did not oppose amendments to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act when the act was amended to recognize the creation of the territory of Nunavut. Here is another example showing that we cannot have just bits and pieces of a policy for a specific intent. We have to understand the breadth of the implications of adopting a multicultural policy in Canada.

I also want to further amplify the role that new Canadians and immigrants play in today's Canada. As we know, the birth rate in Canada has gone down steadily. It has been a very important part of our multicultural and immigration policies to invite new Canadians here not simply for the cultural component, but also to help Canada continue to grow, to prosper and to develop as a proud, generous and tolerant nation.

While I understand the point that the Bloc is trying to make with Bill C-505, I believe that it flies in the face of the values and principles articulated in our Constitution, particularly the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Accordingly, I will not be supporting the bill.

The House resumed from April 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-505, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bill C-505
Statements by Members

May 27th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I introduced Bill C-505 to exempt Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and to specify that Quebeckers form a nation.

The report of the Bouchard-Taylor commission says, “The Canadian multiculturalism model does not appear to be well suited to conditions in Québec.”

The federal government has adopted multiculturalism, which fragments Canadian society and denies the national character of Quebec. Quebec, on the other hand, has adopted a model that promotes interaction to enrich its culture and enhance the use of French, its only official language. The Bouchard-Taylor commission also recommends that French be the language of work in all sectors of activity in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-505, which does not require the Constitution to be reopened and is in accordance with one of the recommendations of the Bouchard-Taylor commission. That is why I am calling on this Conservative government to put its words into action in recognizing the nation of Quebec and to support Bill C-505.

Bill C-505--Canadian Multiculturalism Act--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

April 17th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on April 9, 2008 by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River concerning Bill C-505, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having drawn this matter to the attention of the House, as well as the hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois, the hon. House leader of the Bloc Québécois, and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their comments.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River raised two issues in relation to this bill. First, he argued that the bill as formulated is unconstitutional in that clause 2 states, “The Government of Canada’s multiculturalism policy does not apply in Quebec”. This, he believed, was inconsistent with section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Second, he argued that Bill C-505 could be seen as a de facto constitutional amendment. He based this assertion on the claim that the provisions in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act mirror the provisions concerning multiculturalism that are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the proposed measure is indeed an attempt to amend the Constitution, the member argued, as his second point, that it should not be in the form of a bill but, instead, in the form of a resolution. His conclusion is that Bill C-505 is not in the correct form and requested either clause 2 be struck from the bill or that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and that the bill be struck from the order paper.

In his intervention, the Whip of the Bloc Québécois pointed out that one of the criteria used by the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business in determining the votability of an item is whether or not it appears to be unconstitutional. As the subcommittee did not judge Bill C-505 to be non-votable, the member argued that the matter of constitutionality had been settled.

In his arguments on April 10, the hon. House Leader of the Bloc Québécois argued that the objections raised to the bill were of a legal nature, and not procedural, and reminded the House that the Speaker does not rule on legal matters. He also claimed that the bill seeks to amend an existing law only and has no effect on the Constitution.

The member for Mississauga South stated that the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, in determining whether or not a bill should be votable, may not be in a position to assess fully its constitutionality. He maintained that the process for dealing with reports of that subcommittee did not afford an opportunity for members to express concerns regarding constitutionality and stated that it was therefore appropriate for the member for Scarborough—Rouge River to seek a ruling from the Speaker.

In light of the issue at hand and the arguments put forth, I would be remiss if I did not refer members to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 542, which states:

Though raised on a point of order, hypothetical queries on procedure cannot be addressed to the Speaker nor may constitutional questions or questions of law.

Mr. Speaker Fraser also succinctly addressed this limited role of the Chair, when he declared in a ruling regarding a similar matter, which can be found in the Debates of September 16, 1991, at page 2179, and I quote:

It may later be for a court to decide that the House has done something that does not have the force and effect of law, but that is a matter for the court and not a matter for the Speaker.

Therefore, mindful of my limited responsibility in this case, I have undertaken to examine the bill only with respect to whether it is in the appropriate form for the purpose that it seeks to achieve.

Let me first address the contention of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River that amendments to the Constitution must be in the form of a resolution. There is no disputing that the House has in recent years considered several resolutions of the type referred by the hon. member. For example, on November 18 and December 9, 1997, the House adopted resolutions dealing with the school systems in Quebec and Newfoundland respectively; and, on October 30, 2001, the House adopted a resolution changing the name of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador.

But the House has also seen bills proposing to amend the Constitution. Examples in this Parliament include Private Member’s Bill C-223 An Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, standing in the name of the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville; as well as government bills C-22, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation) and C-19, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure), both standing in the name of the hon. Government House Leader.

I offer these examples simply to explain that this bill cannot be considered not in order simply because it is in the form of a bill and not a resolution. That said, let us examine the actual provisions of the disputed bill.

Bill C-505 consists of two clauses, both of which seek to amend provisions of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Clause 1 proposes the addition of a new paragraph to the preamble of the act, concerning the special situation of Quebec and clause 2 adds a subsection to section 3 of the act, exempting the province of Quebec from the government's multiculturalism policy. There is no reference in the bill to any other statute or for that matter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I have therefore concluded that, since the purpose of this bill is to restrict the application of an existing statute and since this bill proposes an amendment to the existing statute to achieve that objective, Bill C-505 is in the proper form.

As your Speaker, I have no authority to rule on the constitutionality of Bill C-505. Accordingly, given that Bill C-505 is in the proper form, deliberations on it may continue in accordance with our rules governing the consideration of private members' business.

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having raised this matter.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

April 10th, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-505.

This is a very important debate. If this bill were to pass, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act would no longer apply to the province of Quebec. That would be an appalling situation because everyone benefits from multiculturalism, including the people of Quebec.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act is a pillar of the Canadian legal system that promotes diversity. In addition to the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other such documents, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act helps to strengthen and reinforce our pluralistic society.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act provides many benefits and applies to all Canadians, including the people of Quebec. For example, it states that multiculturalism is a core value of Canadian society. It also encourages federal institutions to adhere to such values as respect and equity and equality for the members of various groups. We expect these institutions, including those that serve Quebeckers of course, to respond to the needs of all Canadians of all origins through their programs, policies and services.

Finally, I should mention that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act helps protect the rights of all Canadians and encourages all members of society to participate fully. The act celebrates Canada’s diverse heritage and recognizes the contributions made by all Canadians, regardless of their ethnic, cultural, racial, religious or linguistic origins.

In view of the positive effects of this act, it is hardly surprising that so many Canadians from all across our marvellous country are deeply and unfailingly attached to the principle of multiculturalism. Surveys have shown that 68% of Canadians believe that our multicultural society helps to prevent extremist opinions and acts from posing a serious problem. In addition, 75% of Canadians agree that it is better for Canada to have a variety of people practising different religions. What is even more impressive is that 42% of Canadians think that Canada’s multicultural composition is one of its best features.

Of course, even though so many Canadians appreciate our country's multicultural composition, we still face some challenges. For example, the social and economic integration of new Canadians is not what it should be. Studies have shown that there is a 15% difference in income between visible minorities and other Canadians. Furthermore, 37% of visible minorities have low incomes, compared to 16% of the rest of the population. That is unacceptable. We must work even harder to ensure that immigrants and their children can fully achieve the Canadian dream.

We must also strive to build communities that truly reflect our country's diversity and avoid the predominance of ethnic enclaves. We must encourage more civic involvement by providing better education for our citizens and more in-depth knowledge about Canada for all Canadians. We must find the right balance between protecting public safety and individual freedoms.

We must also ensure that immigrants do not bring conflicts that originated in foreign countries to Canada, and we must prevent the radicalization of the most vulnerable members of new cultural communities.

At the same time, we must find the right balance between respecting the customs of new communities and recognizing well-established Canadian values.

In the interest of tackling these challenges and encouraging an even more inclusive citizenship, the multiculturalism program has defined a set of clear and distinct priorities. For example, the program will support the economic, social and cultural integration of new Canadians and cultural communities.

I will continue my speech next time.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

April 10th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here this evening to debate the bill put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, that is, Bill C-505, which aims to exempt Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. I would first like to congratulate my colleague from Joliette for introducing a bill that is so important for the Quebec nation of course, but also for Quebec and Canada.

When the House of Commons passed a motion in November 2006 recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation, everyone wondered what this recognition actually meant or would mean. From the very beginning, we were of course in favour of Canada's recognition of this notion of nationhood. Quebeckers have known for a very long time that they form a nation, but to see that recognized by the House of Commons is quite meaningful.

However, since that time, we have been asking the government to tell us how it intends to concretely bring forward initiatives that would incorporate into everyday actions, government actions, the notion of the Quebec nation.

The Bloc Québécois did not wait for the government to take action. It decided to make some suggestions for all parliamentarians to give the concept of the Quebec nation a tangible and effective meaning. Nationally, internally, we decided to issue a number of ideas.

In order for the Quebec National Assembly to have all the tools or means necessary to make choices for the nation, we first have to agree on what is meant by resolving the fiscal imbalance. This is one of the paths the Bloc Québécois is proposing to the government, to truly and effectively resolve the fiscal imbalance.

Of course, there is the entire issue related to culture. As a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, it is clear that when I sit in that committee, I would like to hear my colleagues from all political parties and from the government say that the Quebec nation can express itself differently when it comes to culture and can also have all the tools it needs to promote its culture. Until now, we have to admit that the Minister of Canadian Heritage does not, in fact, want this notion of Quebec culture to be entrenched. The proof is that she still refuses to admit that Quebec has its own film industry.

There is also the issue of Quebec's place in the world. How can the Quebec nation recognized by this House express itself on the international stage? We know very well that what was proposed by the current government for Quebec, that is a seat at UNESCO if and only if Quebec agreed with Canada, means nothing. In light of the recognition of Quebec, you would expect that Quebeckers would be recognized as a nation and that it would have a certain number of extended powers in terms of Quebec's representation internationally.

A little earlier, I heard the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek say that the Bloc Québécois is going too far with this bill. I wonder why. Basically, we are just identifying in a clear, distinct and precise manner the way in which the Quebec nation can express itself by showing that in Quebec, interculturalism is a way of life. Canada, on the other hand, has adopted the multiculturalism model.

The member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek was saying that he expected to find a win-win situation. In my opinion, if Canada wishes to continue with multiculturalism and if Quebec, for its part, wholeheartedly embraces interculturalism then that is a win-win situation. At present, as he mentioned, Quebeckers do not identify with multiculturalism.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced a set of proposals expressly in order to put forward a certain number of elements so that the Quebec nation has a status that is more than just the simple recognition of the nation in empty words. These elements would foster a win-win situation for the nation of Canada and the nation of Quebec.

Earlier, the member for Beauport—Limoilou seemed to be saying that immigrants who settle in Quebec do not really experience confusion. I disagree with that point of view. A document published by the Secretary of State of Canada entitled, “How to Become a Canadian Citizen”, says that in Canada, there is no official culture. As an ardent defender of Quebec culture, reading that kind of thing scares me a lot. Everyone knows that in Quebec, there is a culture, a strong culture as expressed by our artists, our artisans, our film, our dance, our television, our way of creating pictorial art. All of these things describe our Quebec culture.

So when an immigrant arrives in Quebec and reads an official document from the Canadian government that says there is no official culture, that person might be surprised to see us defend the existence of the Quebec culture so fiercely because that immigrant no doubt does not realize that there is a difference between Quebec and Canada.

Earlier, my colleague from Joliette very eloquently pointed out that language policies in Quebec and Canada are completely different. Canada has bilingualism, the two official languages policy, while in Quebec, the official language is French. From the outset, we have to make it clear to people who settle in Quebec that there is a common language: not English, but French.

In that respect, the Bloc Québécois also made another legislative proposal through our colleague from Drummond, to entrench French as the common language of work in Quebec. This is yet another proposal that arises from our desire to give shape to the notion passed by the House of Commons to recognize the existence of a nation for Quebeckers.

That is why the bill introduced by my colleague from Joliette is absolutely relevant and, in my opinion, should be adopted by all parliamentarians. It would enable the Canadian and Quebec nations to find common ground that would allow each to develop in its own way, as they see fit, and in the best interest of the citizens living within their respective borders.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

April 10th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the bill by the member for Joliette which proposes in part that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act does not apply in Quebec.

Before I speak directly to the bill, I want to point out to the members of the House that the NDP has already worked in the interest of Quebeckers in a number of areas. We did so when we showed support for the recognition of Quebec as a nation. We in the NDP have supported better protection for francophone workers. We have proposed bills that included asymmetry on child care and education.

In addition to our own initiatives, the NDP has supported bills by the Bloc in the past, but we believe Bill C-505 proposes to make changes that have broad implications for Quebec that Quebeckers themselves would question. On this one we think the Bloc's proposition goes too far and as a result, our members will not be supporting this bill.

Often in this House the Bloc members suggest that they alone can represent the interests and aspirations of Quebeckers, but we do not think that is true. For instance the NDP believes that in order to build on the distinctiveness of Quebec, we do not need to tear down the positive effects of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

Canada was the first country in the world to pass a national multiculturalism law. I would submit that the province of Quebec and many of its communities have benefited in a significant way from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988. The act acknowledges multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society with an integral role in the decision making process of the federal government.

It was directed toward the preservation and enhancement of multiculturalism in Canada. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act sought to assist in the preservation of culture and language, which would include the French language and the French culture. The act also sought to reduce discrimination, to enhance cultural awareness and understanding, and to promote culturally sensitive institutional change at the federal level that was required at the time and continues to be.

I believe that the very nature of the act works in the interest of all Quebeckers and all Canadians. The act states that it will work to: encourage and assist the business community, labour organizations, voluntary and other private organizations, as well as public institutions, in ensuring full participation in Canadian society, including the social and economic aspects of individuals of all origins and their communities, and in promoting respect and appreciation for the multicultural reality of Canada; and provide support to individuals and groups or organizations for the purpose of preserving, enhancing and promoting multiculturalism in Canada; and undertake such other projects or programs in respect of multiculturalism, not by law assigned to any other federal institution, as are designed to promote the multiculturalism policy of Canada.

As I alluded to earlier, many multicultural groups and municipalities in Quebec, including the city of Montreal, receive funding for certain cultural events and programs which is provided by Canadian heritage under its multiculturalism program.

By passing the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, Canada became the first country in the world to pass a national multiculturalism law clearly reaffirming multiculturalism as a fundamental value of Canadian society.

Today if we ask Canadians to describe Canada, 85% describe Canada as being a multicultural society. For many Canadians, multiculturalism refers to the presence and persistence of diverse racial and ethnic minorities who define themselves as different and who wish to remain so, their own nation, so to speak.

Ideologically multiculturalism consists of a relatively coherent set of ideas and ideals pertaining to the celebration of Canada's cultural diversity.

Multiculturalism at the policy level is structured around the management of diversity through formal initiatives in the federal, provincial and municipal domains.

Finally, multiculturalism is the process by which racial and ethnic minorities compete to obtain support from central authorities for the achievement of certain goals and aspirations. Canada's cultural diversity is manifest at the level of ethnic and immigrant composition.

At this point, I would reiterate that the new multiculturalism policy, which came into effect in 1988, offered a clearer sense of purpose and direction. The act acknowledged multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society with an integral role in the decision making process of the federal government.

In seeking a balance between cultural distinctiveness and equality, the act specified the right of all to identify with the cultural heritage of their choice, yet retain full and equitable participation in all aspects of Canadian society.

In effect, the act sought to preserve, enhance and incorporate cultural differences into the functioning of Canadian society, while ensuring equal access and full participation for all Canadians in the social, political and economic spheres.

A crucially important focus of the act was on the eradication of racism and removal of discriminatory barriers as being incompatible with Canada's commitment to human rights. I would suggest that multiculturalism serves as a positive instrument for change.

I understand that some Quebeckers have expressed unease about the federal multiculturalism policy since its inception, but I would say that the efforts of Quebec to protect and promote its language and culture are not contradictory with multiculturalism.

We in the NDP do not see the relationship between Quebec and Canada being win-lose situations all the time like the Bloc seems to. We like to think in terms of creating win-win situations. We salute Quebec's effort in many regards, but that does not mean we have to throw out the law on multiculturalism.

It is important for those involved in this debate, no matter which side they come from, to realize that there is still a special contract between the two founding nations of Canada. That contract is intact but challenged from time to time in this rapidly changing world.

Some critics hold the opinion that the multiculturalism policy has promoted too much diversity in recent years because it emphasizes the differences of Canadians rather than the values of Quebeckers and Canadians. On the other hand, defenders of Canada's multiculturalism argue that it encourages integration by telling immigrants they do not have to choose between preserving their cultural heritage and participating in Canadian society. Rather, they can do both. Also, many have come to the conclusion that ultimately our multiculturalism policy has actually helped integration.

There is so much more that can be said in defence of the value of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, but I am sure other points will arise in the course of this debate.

I will close by saying that when it comes to preserving their language and culture, the NDP supports the aspirations of Quebeckers. We in the NDP view the Canadian Multiculturalism Act as an important tool that is not in contradiction with those aspirations.