House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like you to seek unanimous consent to allow two more members to speak to this motion, namely the member for Repentigny and myself.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the member for Ottawa—Vanier have the unanimous consent of the House?

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been further consultations among the political parties in trying to extend the time available to produce the report stage amendments. I move:

That notwithstanding any standing order, the time limit to give notice of report stage amendments be extended until Saturday 6 p.m.

This will add an extra four hours to what we had before.

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the minister have the consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Private Members' Business

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2001 / 4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House during the last hour of debate on Motion No. 241, moved by the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes and amended by the member for Laval Centre.

I also wish to acknowledge the presence on the Hill today of Équipe Francophonie 2001. This team is composed of about 70 French speaking Acadians from across Canada, who came here to meet members, ministers and senators and make them aware of their reality.

I recall that the ancestors of what would become the Acadian people were the first Europeans to settle in North America in 1604. As a matter of fact, Acadia will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its foundation in 2004.

Even though the hon. member does not wish to live in the past, I am convinced that he will be present in 2004, during the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Acadia and that he will be proud to take part in the festivities honouring the forefathers of the Acadian people. However, he will not be living in the past.

In the middle of the 18th century, Acadians were treated horribly by England who imposed one of the worst treatments that can be applied to a vanquished people, expulsion. The systematic deportation of French and Catholic subjects between 1755 and 1763 was organized and realized by the British authorities, in a savage and brutal way. Those are the facts.

Families were dispersed and many never could come back to their ancestral lands. The results of this expulsion can still be felt today and this event influences the way Acadians see themselves today.

Motion No. 241 does not ask us to rewrite history, as someone said earlier, but to simply acknowledge the harm done and the terrible consequences of those tragic events on the development of the Acadian society.

On June 7 last, Mr. Hector J. Cormier, author and editorial writer of the Moniteur Acadien , wrote the following about Motion No. 241:

There are some among us who will speak against this initiative.

We saw that earlier.

The main argument: avoid living in the past.

We also heard that earlier. He goes on:

It is smoke and mirrors. Acadians are undoubtedly living in the present. This does not mean that they do not recall the past. This argument was also used by the senior public servants who prevented us from learning our history. It was not only important that we ignore the past, but we also had to act as if nothing had happened.

Members of the House of Commons who have a chance to speak to motion No. 241 and who forget about party affiliation have been able to demonstrate on a number of occasions that they can speak with one voice when it is necessary. And it would not be the first time.

On several occasions, whether the motion was tabled by the Tories, the Alliance or the Liberals, we have obtained unanimous consent from the House, even if they are now trying to convince us that they cannot support the motion because it was tabled by a member from the Bloc Quebecois and those are bad separatists. It is a dishonest way of refusing to support this motion.

A vast majority of Acadians are in favour of motion No. 241. Approximately 92% of them have said to be in favour of this motion before an advisory committee established by the Société nationale des Acadiens.

We know that all members of the House of Commons can unite on this issue, since they have done it in the past on other matters. Parliamentarians now have to make a choice: they either respect the wish clearly expressed by the various organizations representing the Acadian people and the overwhelming majority of those who participated in the proceedings of the advisory committee established by the Société nationale des Acadiens; or they refuse to recognize the prejudices endured by Acadians because of the 1775 events, and they accept the consequences of taking such a stand.

Nothing can change the minds of the hon. members who wish to oppose this totally legitimate motion.

All possible arguments used so far against it have been dismissed, not only by the MPs of the Bloc Quebecois and other parties, but also by the respective Acadian communities of the members who wanted to divert this debate.

We have, for example, been accused of “paternalizing the debate”. I believe that today they are the ones doing this, offering as a little “goody”, pardon the expression, a little enticement to the Acadian communities, the acknowledgment of a holiday they already acknowledge. Then they accuse us of paternalism.

As for the matter of petty politics, my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes,has offered on a number of occasions to transfer his motion—and it is worthwhile for the Acadians to know this—to a Liberal MP, an Acadian MP, or to a member of another political party, such as the New Democratic Party. Each time, this was turned down.

It has been proposed that the motion be amended—provided it was not watered down too far— in accordance with the wishes of the Liberal Party. Each time, this was turned down.

We are accused of petty politicking on this motion. It is worth pointing out that several attempts were made to transfer this motion, or to make it acceptable to all hon. members. Each time, this was turned down.

As for the lack of consultation, my colleague has acknowledged that. There was perhaps a problem with consultation initially. Afterward, though, since 140 groups or individuals were consulted on the motion, and 92% of them supported it, it can be seen that there was consultation.

I would ask the Liberals whether they did any consultation to find out how many groups were in agreement with their position against the motion. The only argument that can continue to hold for the Liberals is a very weak one: the fact that it was presented by some “wicked sovereignists”, “separatists” as they call us. The Acadians will know how to pay them back for this in due course.

All of this has been debated and resolved. Now we must choose: either we accept to recognize the wrong or we refuse. We accept to right the wrong to Acadians, or the members who are supposed to represent their constituents in the House will have to shirk their responsibility of representing them in the House and say to them: “No, despite the fact that you have asked me to support motion No. 241, out of respect for my government, because I want to become a minister some day, or because I do not want to lose my minister's portfolio, I will have to vote against motion M-241”. That is how constituents will see it.

I am not trying to be mean, but some other people might say “Father knows best”. But that is not very nice, and I am nice, so I would never say this to another member.

I would like to read from an article written by the president of the Société des Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick, published in L'Acadie nouvelle on October 29. The article states the following:

Acadians will not soon forget the steps that have been taken to garner the support of the Canadian government and the Acadian members in their efforts to obtain the apology they deserve from the British Crown following the deportation of 1755. Is it asking too much—

This message is aimed at the Liberal members who are Acadian. It goes on to state:

for you to reconsider the terms and the value of motion No. 241? This is a rendezvous with history that you must not miss. Voting against this motion because it was proposed by an opposition party is a red herring and may well be a strategic error that could backfire against the government.

This is what Jean-Guy Rioux, the president of the Société des Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick wrote.

We hope that in the end there will be an effort made by our Liberal Acadian colleagues and by all of the Liberal members to demonstrate goodwill by supporting this motion of such historical importance for the Acadian people.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to ask for unanimous consent to add my name to the list of speakers since this is the last opportunity to speak on the bill.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent?

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The Acadians
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I closely followed the three hours of debate on Motion No. 241. I must say from the outset that I agree with the comments of the hon. member for Churchill and the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, to the effect that it is not because a motion comes from the Bloc Quebecois that we should oppose it.

I agree with their comments on this issue. I hope that members opposite will accept the fact whether I vote for or against the motion on Tuesday it will not be because it is presented by a Bloc Quebecois member, but we will see at that time.

I would like to talk about the process relating to that motion because it is important to understand the context in which we will find ourselves on Tuesday.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes tabled this motion after his name was drawn. The first hour of debate took place in the spring. At that time, we all recognized, including the hon. member, that consultations had not taken place, that the hon. member presented his motion without having really sought the support of the Acadian community.

I must congratulate the hon. member for the work he did during the summer. He visited Acadian communities, showed them his motion, invited them to discuss it and came back with some support. But let us not exaggerate. The hon. member for Repentigny talked about 92% but it is 92% of 140 respondents. We must keep things in perspective.

If the government were opposed to that motion, it failed in its duty by not going there during the summer and doing the same kind of work that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes did. The government did not do that. We must recognize that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes did go and get some support.

I also followed the second hour of debate on that motion. Some interesting arguments were put forward.

Finally, I also followed today's debate. I must say that I fully support the comments made by the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, who essentially said that the time for apologizing was over.

It is something personal and I have discussed the matter with Acadians over the last few weeks. However, I would much rather have liked to see a respect for what is happening now in Acadia, this keenness, this desire to go forward. Instead of asking for apologies or anything else, according to the proposed amendment, the Government of Canada, in cooperation with the Société nationale des Acadiens and its members, could invite the Queen to come celebrate the vitality of the Acadian community, maybe during the third Congrès mondial acadien that will be held in Grand Pré in 2004.

It would have been much better, much more subtle and much more elegant to proceed this way. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes will be concluding this debate. I suggest he give it some thought. Before we vote on the motion on Tuesday, there could perhaps be a way of getting the unanimous consent of the House to change the meaning of the motion, to make it more positive and more forward looking, which is what the Acadian community is telling us without any reservation. I think everybody agrees on that.

We will see what happens then. I hope the hon. member will have time to consider this option. I would readily support such a motion. However, I must point out that, even if the motion were to be amended, I am not sure it would pass when we have the recorded division next Tuesday. We will see how things turn out. I will wait for the closing comments of the member before deciding how I am going to vote on this issue.

Even if the motion, as amended, is not passed by the House, that will not mean that some kind of initiative would not be welcome. What I respect the most about the Acadian people, whether they are from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia, is their vitality and their desire to move on.

I would like to suggest a couple of initiatives and I do hope that someone either from the government or the Department of Canadian Heritage is listening and will implement them.

First, I would like Acadian music performers to embark on a national and maybe even an international tour in 2004. They could include some of the artists we already know, like Angèle Arseneault, Edith Butler and Marie-Jo Thériault, and groups like “1755”, Barachois and one of the new ones, Zéro Degré Celsius. There could also be a Canada-wide tour. Since 2004 will mark the 400th anniversary of the francophonie in Canada, it would be nice if the Franco-Ontarian Festival here in Ottawa would have Acadia as a theme.

The same thing could be done in Manitoba, the Yukon and Vancouver in British Columbia, to promote the richness of this culture and artistic community, which manifests itself in several interesting and appealing ways. This is my first proposal.

My second proposal was made by a member of the other place. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if I can identify her. I will do it and you can reprimand me. Senator Losier-Cool recommended that the Government of Canada recognize the date of August 15 as Fête nationale des Acadiens et des Acadiennes. I agree with that.

As we do on June 24, we should recognize the symbolic value of August 15 for the Acadian community. We should do it somehow, not only in Acadia but also here in Ottawa, perhaps on Parliament Hill. It would be appropriate, according to the senator's proposal, to celebrate Acadia and not only in Acadia.

Third, I had the opportunity to go to Caraquet two years ago, on August 15, having heard about what is called the “Grand Tintamarre”. I was told that people gathered in the streets to make noise. The local population is approximately 4,500 to 5,000 people. At 6 p.m. on that date, a good part of the street in front of city hall is closed and a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 people, four times the local population, raise a ruckus for an hour or so. When I was there the mayor of Caraquet, the member for Acadie—Bathurst and Premier Lord were in the crowd.

At first, I must admit it was rather odd to see 15,000 or 20,000 people making so much noise with any and every possible instrument. But after a few minutes, you get involved. It becomes a collective release, a huge celebration. I would like to see such a thing on Parliament Hill. We make a lot of noise in this Chamber but this time it would be a different noise, a lively noise, reflecting the willingness to recognize, commend and encourage this Acadian community because, after all, it is ours.

Those are ideas I wished to present. My ideas are positive ones, and I am looking towards the future. I recognize the value of the comments made by my colleague who said that the time for apologies is over. I can understand that some members are clinging to that, preferring formal apologies. Personally, it is not an opinion that I share. And to then say that it is because the motion comes from a certain place, that is a type of argument I cannot accept. I hope my colleagues will realize it.

In my opinion, the initiative, whatever it might be, should have come from the Acadian community. I believe all members can agree on that.

My colleague, the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, said he is ready to share his motion, to transfer it to another member, but only if it remains essentially the same. Perhaps he might be willing to see this in a more positive light. I hope he will accept this notion. I present it to him in good faith. I believe the House wishes to reflect the will of the Acadian people in this. It would be an honourable thing for him to do. I ask him to think about it.

I thank my colleagues for allowing me and my colleague from Repentigny to make these few comments.