House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yea.

Topics

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I believe that the member has gone overboard slightly this time. I will ask him to resume debate but to please choose his words more carefully.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have no intention of apologizing because I did not say anything unparliamentary. All I did was speak the truth.

Further to what I had to say, the government is revealing an attitude toward this place that should concern the government backbenchers. They themselves should be as concerned as I am. They should be concerned about the way their own government is acting.

The government is bringing into disrepute the parliamentary process. It is bringing into disrepute a piece of legislation that those members say is very important and which we agree is very important. We said from the beginning we would try to take this process seriously, even though it was introduced surreptitiously on a Friday when the government said it would not come in until Monday, then closure was moved on second reading, then closure was moved in committee and we could not hear witnesses we wanted to hear. Now we have this process. All the way along there has been nothing but stonewalling, nothing but a totally closed door and not just to us.

In the end it does not matter what happens to the NDP or our amendments but it matters what happens to the ideas that our amendments embody. That is that there should not be a retreat from Charlottetown. There should not be a retreat from section 35. There should not be a retreat from all the things we have accomplished in the last 15 years to establish aboriginal people as constitutional and political actors in this country. That is what this bill does. That is what makes it so fundamentally unacceptable and regrettable.

I am here not just in sorrow but also in anger. I feel we could have done much better as a parliament. We could have done much better as a committee in spite of the fact that we had the kind of obstacles that were put in our way by the Bloc Quebecois. The government could have taken St. Paul's advice and tried to overcome evil with good instead of wrong for wrong, arrogance for arrogance, mistake for mistake, contempt for contempt. That is all we got. It is regrettable, truly regrettable.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, this is one of the last minutes in which we can speak of this bill. The way things are going at present with the government, this may be one of the last times MPs will be able to speak in this House. Having three gag orders on one bill is absolutely incredible. That is how the present government operates.

I will savour these next 10 minutes, because I am not sure whether the government will allow me to speak on behalf of my party for the rest of the session. That is how things are going at this time.

I would like to make two or three brief comments. First of all, one to my caucus. From the start, four members had decided to support the bill, because everyone agrees that having clarity on the question and on what constitutes a majority might facilitate things.

I am addressing them. I hope that the hon. members are going to see that the way the government is handling this bill is preventing the elected representatives and citizens of this country from being able to really speak out and reflect on this matter. I trust that my colleagues are going to see what is going on.

In a referendum process, after a yes vote of 50% plus one, imagine how we are going to have our cage rattled, how much the few rights remaining to the opposition will be trampled. The way the Liberals are handling things now is not a very good sign for the future.

I trust that our party will be the same as the country on Bill C-20—united.

I heard what the Reform Party critic had to say. Not to be disrespectful of the Reform, but I had a picture in my head. I do not know if hon. members are familiar with the Simpsons, but when people want to make fun of Homer Simpson, they stick a sign on his back.

The signs says “kick me”. I think the Reform Party has a sign on its back which says “Please kick me. I will love you anyway”. That is the problem with the Reform Party. It is so afraid of losing one vote on this issue in western Canada that it is willing to have a sign on its back which says “Please kick me. I will love you anyway. I am going to support the bill anyway”.

There has been closure three times. The Reformers say they do not agree with the process, but support the bill nevertheless. It makes no sense. The official opposition is going around saying that the government is wrong “No, you should not do that, you Liberals, it is wrong, but we like you all the same and will support you in this”. Such principles are not exactly cast in stone.

There is my NDP colleague as well, who is in fine fettle today and who said “It makes no sense the way they are treating the first nations”. He is right, but his party will support the bill in any case.

The member for Mount Royal, the expert on the committee, said to the first nations “Your message has been clearly heard, we will see there are amendments to have your thoughts taken into account. No more, however. It will be like the provinces. We will look after everything, trust us”.

The member for Winnipeg—Transcona had his show, of course, but according to the member for Mount Royal, the government will support the first nations amendment. But, what happens if the government does not support the amendment? There will be problems with the credibility of the member for Mount Royal, who, in committee, seemed to be speaking for the government. But, in addition to that, what is happening with the New Democratic Party's opposition?

What I would ask my colleagues in the Reform Party is to take off the sign that says “kick me” and say it makes no sense.

I say to our NDP colleagues that we will be pleased to support their first nations amendment. Our amendments were rejected for the most part, in any case. We wanted clarity amendments. We proposed clarity amendments and they were rejected in the process.

Do you know what amendments we moved? We proposed inclusion of the words province of Quebec and National Assembly in the bill. I base my remarks on what the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said when he spoke about Bill C-20. In his 16 page testimony before the legislative committee, the minister did not mention British Columbia, Prince Edward Island or Cape Breton. He spoke only of Quebec throughout those 16 pages.

During his whole testimony, he said how evil the sovereignists and the Progressive Conservatives of Quebec were. The government says “This bill is about clarity”. We want to help it make things even clearer. The title of the bill refers to Quebec, the preamble refers to Quebec and the minister, the Prime Minister and witnesses spoke of Quebec but the bill itself does not mention Quebec.

The word Quebec does not appear one single time in the text of the bill. Why? Because they were too afraid. The sensitivities of Quebecers could put the federal government at risk in the future. As a principle, it is rather feeble.

What we hope is that all opposition parties will send a very clear message: this bill is incomplete, it is a plan B bill, B as in baseball bat.

One does not run a country with a baseball bat. That is not the way this country should function. That is a big problem. These stem from baseball bats or batons.

I believe there should be much more openness. Canadians should be very concerned about the way this government is dealing with this bill. The minister, in all his good will—let us give him that—must be extremely disappointed that his bill had to go through the parliamentary process. This bill has to be passed. Why? So that the Prime Minister may say next weekend “We got it. Now, here is the good news: thanks to the wonderful work of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, of Cabinet and of the Liberal Party caucus and thanks to my political instinct, if you want to break the country, you will need to ask a clear question and to obtain a clear majority”.

It is a rather feeble excuse. They are happy, the country is saved. But no. They are being told “Well, now you are going to separate”. I remember one very interesting comment amongst all the relevant comments we heard. There were some good witnesses, not enough, however, because we did not have enough time, but some. This one was from a witness from British Columbia. In passing, it was not a Conservative, but a Liberal. He said that no matter what the question was, for example the question used in 1995 or in 1980, with a result of 50% plus one— You are now entering a new world.

He said “Whether there is any legislation or not, you are in a new political, economic and legal world”.

The legislation can be improved as much as they want, what will happen with a result of 50% plus one on a question like the one used in 1995 and 1980, will be something new. It is certainly not Bill C-20 that will solve everything, on the contrary. It prevents us from finding solutions or alternatives. We are stuck with a table of contents, a modus operandi. And they call that flexibility.

The ambiguity Mr. Clark was talking about is the same ambiguity that we were faced with when Mr. Trudeau said, back in 1980 “If you vote no, it means yes”. Now that is ambiguity. As far as flexibility is concerned, it remains to be seen.

I urge all the opposition parties and my colleagues in the Conservative caucus to stand up and to stand united as we want the country to be.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, you will appreciate that I was anxious to take part in this debate. We are not pleased, however, to have to speak to such an issue, to a bill on clarity which, I must say, does not provide any.

Instead, the bill before us creates confusion. It is unreasonable and undemocratic. It fails to respect the letter and the spirit of the opinion provided by the supreme court at the request of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The Bloc Quebecois certainly moved many amendments, but when the government wants to introduce a bill on clarity, it must be clear.

Let me read an amendment that I moved and which is part of Group No. 1. We were asking, in Motion No. 2, that Bill C-20, in the preamble, be amended by adding, before line 1 on page 1, the following—and this is very important. You will understand later:

Whereas when the Quebec people were consulted by a referendum in 1995, the winning choice was the one that obtained a majority of the votes declared valid, that is, fifty percent of the votes plus one vote;

The people on the other side won last time. If they participated and are still here, it is because we are democrats and we respect the result of the votes. But they are scared of the results, perhaps because the results were tight that time.

What did the government promise to us before the referendum? That it would recognize the distinctiveness of Quebecers. That was in the speech delivered in Verdun. We have already gone further. What about this declaration? The Prime Minister wasted no time in pushing through this House a motion on distinct society.

You are the Chair. A motion is not as powerful as legislation. When they want to tell Quebecers that they love them, they use a motion. It is barely worth the paper it is written on. When they want to clobber Quebecers, they use legislation. I am not inventing this. We have a bill before us.

I would also like to add to the four adjectives I used earlier an explanation on how this bill is confusing. It has to do with the arbitrary criteria the minister is trying to include. He wants to reserve the right to decide whether the question is clear.

You have visited all of Canada and know that some expressions used in eastern Canada are meaningless in western or central Canada. For example, there is one we often use in Quebec when it rains. We say that it is raining nails, whereas in English they say that it is raining cats and dogs.

Maybe the image is too simple, but how can they ask some different provinces to determine the clarity of a question when we have our own way of expressing ourselves in Quebec, as can easily be seen from the ads in Quebec. Sometimes we use a colourful language, but everybody understands.

The last time, the Prime Minister understood, but now he is not quite sure. The day before the referendum he said “To remain Canadian or not, to stay or to leave, that is the issue of the referendum”. If even he could understand the question, it means that the question was clear. Why should we waste the time of the House in a debate like this? During this time, the economic issues in this country are being ignored. In the finance minister's last budget, we do not find a single word about areas like mine which are hurting.

We are just back from a one week recess. People in Quebec and in the Gaspé peninsula do not need clarity. What they need is money to boost their economy. However, we never talk about that in the House. I would like the House to discuss reasonable initiatives, and give resources to people in our ridings.

This bill is unreasonable because it gives the federal government plenty of reasons to prevent any negotiation from taking place. Let us consider all the steps we have to go through. We have to consult the provinces and the first nations. I like the first nations, but let us not forget that what is at stake is the right of Quebecers to decide their own future.

When we joined confederation, there was no referendum. The fathers of confederation made that decision among themselves. However, the surprising thing is that, when more provinces joined the federation, we were never asked for our permission. We are nice chaps, we did not object in any way.

I know what I am talking about. I am come from the Gaspé peninsula, the eastern tip of Quebec. All the ships carrying settlers travelling to Upper Canada sailed in front of our homes, but today, they are highhanded with our economy and our future. People in my riding are fed up with such a government.

The bill is unreasonable because it also prevents Quebec from offering a partnership to Canada. They want us to look like the bad guys while they take away all the furniture including the kitchen sink. We want to be able to make the decisions concerning our future by ourselves, including the decision to say that we would have a brighter future outside of Canada. Every time we want to improve on things, we are gagged.

The bill is unreasonable also because it is contrary to the position of all political parties in Quebec. Even Jean Charest, the saviour, a former member of this House who was sent to Quebec, does not approve of Bill C-20. Quebec's consensus should be taken into account.

The bill is undemocratic because it subordinates the democratic will of the Quebec people to the will of the rest of Canada. It is our future. Let us decide by ourselves what we want. The bill is undemocratic also because the federal government is appropriating the right to reject the vote of Quebecers. The bill will give more weight to a federalist vote than to a sovereigntist vote.

The bill does not respect the letter and spirit of the supreme court opinion. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has made up requirements that are not mentioned in that opinion.

The bill does not respect the letter and spirit of the supreme court opinion because the government chose what it liked in that opinion and threw away all other democratic considerations. What this bill proposes is unilateral action when the supreme court condemned such a course of action.

In its opinion, the court insisted on the need to negotiate when the bill is geared to prevent any negotiation. I move:

That the French text of Motion No. 9 be amended by adding the word “un” after the word “donné”

As many members have said, after being gagged, censured and subjected to time allocation, as the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, I will have had only 10 minutes to speak to a bill that could have an impact on the future of Quebec and of my fellow citizens. It is not normal that we were given only 10 minutes. If they want to claim to be great democrats, they should let people express themselves.

I understand that this is not the Chair's fault. You are there to apply the rules, but I believe that, for the people opposite, democracy does not mean much. When I see the minister's smile, I believe that he despises the people of my riding and of Quebec. When he returns to Quebec, he will have to answer for that smile.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with great honour that I enter the debate today. What we are discussing is very important. It seems to underpin the very democratic process not only of parliament, but of the Canadian way in terms of how we do things and the importance of what it means to act in a democratic fashion.

I listened with great interest to the Reform Party and the member for Macleod. The one thing with which I agreed was his congratulations to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The minister has done a tremendous job in this whole process and deserves our congratulations, respect and thanks. Not only is he a great Canadian but he is also a great Quebecer. It bodes well for us as we move confidently into the 21st century to have a person of his calibre leading very positively in the way he is along with the Prime Minister.

The Reform Party really flip-flopped on this issue. It is always disturbing to see how it never stands for Canada when it counts.

I listed too to the NDP and the member for Winnipeg—Transcona. He got a little outraged and put on a little theatre for us in the House. Really what he did was quite trite. I assume he knows his constitutional history but he certainly did not show it today. If he knew his constitutional history he would know that the aboriginal peoples are covered off in the constitution. They will be very much at the table when it comes to making these kinds of decisions not only for themselves and for whom and what they represent, but for Canada as a whole.

I say to him and all Canadians, that process is in place and in hand and we will do it in a manner consistent with the values—

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If the hon. member would understand the facts of what the member for Winnipeg—Transcona said—

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

That is debate. That is not a point of order.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I will tell you what I am saying. It astonished me, and the member reminds me of what the leader of the NDP did when we first brought in the clarity bill. Outside she was quoted as saying that the bill was stupid and provocative. Those were exactly her words. I find it shameful that the NDP would take that kind of attitude on such an important bill, the clarity bill which underpins the very importance of not only who we are but what we represent.

I say to my hon. colleagues in the Progressive Conservative Party opposite, the party of Sir John A. Macdonald and Cartier, imagine how they would be spinning in their graves. Imagine how they are today listening to the Progressive Conservatives not standing up for Canada, not being on the right side of history, being on the wrong side of history, and their leader Joe Clark saying the kind of nonsense he has been saying with respect to this all important bill. It is shameful that the party of Sir John A. and the party of Cartier has come to that. It is absolutely disgraceful.

I had to give my head a shake to really understand what the Bloc member who spoke before me was trying to say. Imagine having to bring in an amendment to an amendment. Imagine threatening, as Bloc members have now done, a thousand amendments on three clauses. Imagine getting up day after day in the House of Commons, in this great place of democracy, and reading 300 press clippings and always caterwauling away. They say they represent the democrats when in fact it is quite the opposite. They are undemocratic. All they are trying to do is stall the business of the House, stall what Canadians want us to do which is to bring clarity to the debate once and for all.

But what do they do? They keep stalling. Even at the committee they went on for five hours to try to talk it out so that the business of the committee could not take place. Imagine the disgrace and the shame. Quebecers and Canadians wherever they live want no part of that kind of nonsense because it is ridiculous. It undermines the very Canada for which we stand.

I cannot believe that they—

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

2 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member has at least five minutes left to speak, but it is 2 o'clock and we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Commonwealth Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I invite Canadians to celebrate Commonwealth Day, remembering our shared heritage and ready to work together to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

This year's theme, the communications challenge, is highly appropriate at the start of the new millennium. Recent advances in communications technology bring the challenge of ensuring that the advantages of modern communications are available to all and that they are used to bring us closer together.

Just a few months ago the Commonwealth held its heads of government meeting in a democratic South Africa. There leaders praised the role that the Commonwealth played in bringing an end to apartheid. Nigeria, fresh from its own elections, also expressed its gratitude for the Commonwealth's efforts to restore democracy there.

Clearly the Commonwealth is making a positive contribution in the world today.

Religion
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, last Thursday protesters vandalized the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal. They were yelling against religion, spray painting and defacing the cathedral, and overturning the tabernacle and ripping up hymn books.

Seven people have been charged with unlawful assembly, assault against police officers and obstruction. Hate crime charges were not considered because “the elements were not there for charges of that kind”.

Anti-religious vandalism such as this cowardly act is a hate crime regardless of the religion, denomination or location, yet our justice system discriminates between religions. A National Post editorial notes:

What is missing is media and political outrage. Anti-Christian hostility is one of the last acceptable bigotries in Canada. It is observable not only in the bigots and thugs who attacked the cathedral, but in federal bureaucrats, for example, who instructed Swissair crash site mourners to make no mention of Jesus Christ.

We would never accept an attack on other religious groups. We should not remain silent when Catholics are the targets of intolerance. Where is the outrage?

Dan Doyle
Statements By Members

March 13th, 2000 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 6 at 10.30 a.m., Dan Doyle of Woodstock, Ontario demonstrated great generosity and selflessness when he jumped between a car and a baby stroller, saving Brenda Craig and her 22 month old son, Barry. In the resulting collision, Dan Doyle suffered a fractured leg and rib while the mother and her child were unhurt.

Police and public alike are calling Mr. Doyle a hero. Mr. Doyle's wife commented that his actions did not surprise her as he is always watching out for other people and lending a hand whenever possible.

We are not often faced with life-threatening situations. It is heartening to know that there are some citizens who are not afraid to put themselves in harm's way to save the life of another.

I am proud to acknowledge the heroism of Dan Doyle. Thank you, Dan, for your heroic example.

Seniors
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada's Social Programs represents 25 organizations with a combined membership of over 500,000 seniors.

The alliance has declared Toronto the most diverse city in the world. It has noted that seniors reflect this diversity racially, ethnically and culturally. Many seniors who are immigrants are socially isolated due to limited language skills, cultural inhibitions and discrimination. This makes accessibility to social programs and services more difficult particularly in the areas of health, community care access, housing and education.

The Government of Canada and the Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada's Social Programs recognize the importance of funding for health care, the specific needs of seniors, and the special linguistic and cultural requirements of minority communities.

We are committed to working with seniors toward programs and services consistent with cultural backgrounds and needs of our diverse and aging population. Together we will maintain and enhance Canada's social programs in keeping with Canada's reputation as the best country in the world in which to live.

Mining Industry
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, RSW-Béroma of Val-d'Or will operate the first small scale mine in the Abitibi, with a modular plant for ore concentration.

The unique features of this concept, compared to a conventional plant, are its investment costs, its quick installation and its mobility.

This initiative was made possible thanks to the leadership of Laurent Bérubé and his team at the Val-d'Or plant, Charles Veilleux, Gilbert Rousseau and Roger Jolicoeur, and the involvement of the National Research Council of Canada and of the Secretary of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Liberal member for Outremont, through his IDEA-SME program.

The project is located at the Granada gold deposit, northwest of Val-d'Or, in the Abitibi.

Tara Sloan
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay respect to Tara Sloan, one of Canada's top swimmers. Ms. Sloan passed on two days ago in Calgary after being involved in a tragic car accident.

Tara was a five time Canadian breaststroke champion and set the women's 100 metre breaststroke national record in the short course pool. She was a great competitor with a passion for life who proudly represented her country at the world championships, the Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games. She won 17 international medals.

At the national championships this weekend her Calgary teammates dedicated their events to Tara. Her teammates won. They won the men's and women's overall team titles.

Today our sympathy and the thoughts and prayers of this House join with those of the family, friends, teammates and competitors of this wonderful young Canadian, Ms. Tara Sloan.