House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look at many of the wonderful agreements we have forged in Quebec.

I think back to my days as parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and to the great support Quebec had not only for Kyoto, but also its participation in looking at green technology through the green enabling fund, which was administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I know Quebec was a happy participant in that. It signed on to our wonderful child care agreements as well.

When the Liberal Party was government, it did not believe in cookie cutter solutions. That is why we forged the kinds of relationships with all provinces, recognizing that there were different needs.

Quebec has a best practice for child care, and it signed on to that. Quebec has been a full participant of many wonderful initiatives. It has been to the benefit of Quebeckers to be part of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, in participating in this very important debate, I first want to take note of the compelling words of my leader and my deputy leader, the hon. members of the House for Toronto Centre and Westmount—Ville-Marie, who, within the last 24 hours, have spoken so eloquently about Canada and about the vital and dynamic position of les Québécois within a successful and united Canada.

Theirs was a message of inclusion and cohesion, of strength, of hope, of growth. They spoke of how les Québécois can and should be so proud and confident about their Quebec identity, and equally proud and confident about their Canadian identity.

By contrast, the separatist argument from the Bloc today implies that those two identities must, by definition, be mutually exclusive, that les Québécois must ultimately choose one identity or the other, but they cannot have both, and that is a great shame.

Thus the Bloc motion is fundamentally divisive. The motion is also deliberately incomplete. It is potentially confusing, capable, indeed prone, to misinterpretation. The leader of the Bloc essentially confirmed that mischievous intent on his part in the remarks that he made in this House earlier today.

As is its stated goal, the Bloc will seek at all times to engender an environment within which their separatist objectives could be realized, and this motion is part and parcel of that strategy.

We also recall the words of former Premier Parizeau, who said his plan for separatism was to make other Canadians feel their relationship with Quebec was something like a perpetual visit to the dentist. We must not succumb to that game plan, neither the divisiveness nor the contrived painfulness.

We need to focus instead on how to keep building success for les Québécois and for all Canadians, including les Québécois. We need to demonstrate our unique historic Canadian talent and capacity for respect, inclusion and accommodation within this vast country. That may well be our greatest possible gift to the world, the gift from all Canadians, including les Québécois. Indeed, it is probably in no small measure because of les Québécois that our country has developed this talent and this capacity to live, grow and thrive successfully in a diverse context together.

In a troubled world, a divided world, a world where human disputes, strife and anguish are just too prevalent, surely it is a hugely important achievement, a hugely important model, to have the inclusive Canadian success story. Les Québécois have always been integral to that success. It would not have been achieved, indeed it would not have been achievable, without the role and the experience of les Québécois. Together we must not give up on ourselves.

This country covers a vast land mass, spanning the northern part of a vast continent, the second biggest country in the world, with five huge regions and six time zones. We have fantastic geography and topography to admire, to wonder at and to challenge us from coast to coast to coast.

We have all the features on the North American continent tending to run north and south, while we strive to build a country together east and west. We have a difficult and sometimes downright perverse climate, ranging all the way from the North Pole to the same latitude as the state of California, and all of that belongs to all of us.

We have a small but very complicated population, beginning with the aboriginal peoples, then the French explorers and settlers, then the English explorers and settlers and then wave after wave of the most enriching immigration. It is to the point now where we in Canada include every colour, every creed, every ethnic origin, every religion, every political background, crucially and importantly two official languages, many cultures, quite literally the diversity of the whole world all here and mixed together unevenly, not in a melting pot, but as a mosaic and strung out rather sparsely along about 4,000 miles of American boundary.

We can hardly imagine a more difficult or challenging set of circumstances from which to try to forge a country, but we have forged one. It is the envy of the world.

How have we accomplished that? Yes, with a lot of hard work and also with some generous good luck. Also, we have done it, I believe, primarily through the faithful application of some typically Canadian values and characteristics, like a sense of fairness and justice, a spirit of generosity, compassion, tolerance, sharing, open hearts and open minds, pride in our vast diversity. We have practised the creative art of accommodation so the overall result for all of us can be more, not less.

We have always had that patient willingness to listen to each other, to reach out, to bridge our differences, to try very hard to understand one another. Once we have listened and understood, then we as Canadians have always been prepared to take action with and for each other together, not because any such action is in the narrow self-interest of some comfortable majority, not because we have to, but because we want to, because that action is right for the fair, decent and wonderful country that we aspire to be.

That is the stuff of nation building, and nation building the Canadian way is a never ending process. Canada is today and it always will be a precious work in progress. We must be absolutely resolved to keep on building this great country and to do it always and forever together.

Our opportunities for steadily increasing success for Canadians and for les Québécois and our prospects and opportunities for good fortune would not be possible in our country without the absolutely indispensable skills and values of les Québécois. Those skills and values reach back through out national fabric continuously for more than 400 years. They enrich us today and they will for generations to come.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to express myself during this debate on the Quebec nation. This is one of the main reasons I decided to run for a seat as a member of the Bloc Québécois in 2004. I forgot to tell you at the beginning that I will be sharing my time with the member for Papineau.

I think that the concept of a nation is very important. This is not an abstract word that people do not really care about, as the Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie said last June 23. Recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation is more than a symbolic gesture; it is not just a label.

We know that nations have rights, especially the right to self-determination, that is, the right to direct their own development.

Two former premiers of Quebec, a federalist and a sovereignist, Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque, agreed on this issue. René Lévesque once said:

Having all the attributes of a distinct national community, Quebec has an inalienable right to self-determination. This is Quebec's most basic right.

Robert Bourassa, a federalist, had this to say about self-determination:

English Canada must clearly understand that, no matter what, Quebec is today and for all times a distinct society, free and capable of assuming its destiny and its development.

The right to self-determination is also codified by the UN. Resolution 26.25 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970 describes it best.

The Bélanger-Campeau Commission, which was set up in Quebec after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and chaired by a federalist and a sovereignist, agreed with this. Some of its findings, unfortunately, are still current because we have not really ended the impasse between federalists and sovereignists. The Bélanger-Campeau Commission said:

The consensus expressed in the work of the commission is clear: profound changes to Quebec's political and constitutional status are needed.

This has not been done. It also said:

Only two solutions are open to Quebec in redefining its status: firstly, making a new, last, attempt to redefine its status within the federal system; and, secondly, achieving sovereignty.

As soon as Quebeckers are recognized as a nation only two options are open to us. In presenting this motion, the Bloc Québécois is not saying it wants to achieve sovereignty. What we are saying is that there needs to be a major renewal of federalism on a new foundation or there needs to be sovereignty. Those two options are available. But can federalism truly be reformed? Some 40 years of fighting make me doubt it.

Currently all these avenues seemed to be blocked. The only door that is still open, at least for Quebeckers and for the Bloc Québécois, is sovereignty.

Since Quebeckers are a nation they have to be able to have a say on the world stage in their areas of jurisdiction. For more than 40 years now, all the Governments of Quebec have asked to be able to engage in international relations directly themselves on their own behalf where Quebec's jurisdictions under the Constitution are concerned. For more than 40 years now we have made little progress in all these debates. Quebec participates in only one international organization, namely the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. This is not thanks to the federal government, but on the insistence of France, General de Gaulle in particular.

During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister promised that Quebec would have its own seat at UNESCO, along the lines of the francophone summit. What we are seeing is Quebec left with only a folding chair, rather than a seat, and since the signing over six months ago, which was all for show, no concrete action has been taken.

The Prime Minister also promised that, on the international level, Quebec, as well as the other provinces, though they see less need for it, would have a say in matters affecting their own jurisdictions. We saw in Nairobi, Kenya, during the United Nations climate change conference just what his promise was worth. Quebec was given no voice at that conference. More progressive nations heard about Quebec's plan only because a European minister talked about it.

And the Conservative government only accused her of interfering in Canada's domestic affairs.

The Prime Minister also promised to recognize special cultural and institutional responsibilities of the Quebec government. We are still awaiting the asymmetrical agreement that would allow Quebec to speak for itself on matters under its jurisdiction.

The Prime Minister promised the following:

I am ready to discuss mechanisms to enable the provinces to extend their jurisdictions on the international scene.

How many times, since the election of this new government, has Quebec been allowed to freely exercise its own jurisdictions on the international scene?

The Bloc Québécois would like to assert three principles. The government cannot pretend that it has respected its promises in these three areas.

First, Quebec is not like the other provinces. Rather, it is home to the Quebec nation. For this reason, it requires greater autonomy than the other provinces, including on the international scene.

Second, within its constitutional jurisdictions, Quebec is fully sovereign. It must be permitted to exercise its authority from A to Z, including in international relations.

Third, when negotiating on the international scene in matters affecting jurisdictions under Quebec's own legislative authority, the federal government cannot claim to represent Quebec, unless Quebec authorizes it to do so.

Subordination has plenty of disadvantages. It prevents the Quebec nation from fully developing and realizing its full potential. It is neither normal nor desirable for Quebec to be a province of another nation. Legally, Quebec must be on an equal footing with other countries. That is the Bloc Québécois' opinion.

Obviously, the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois is not asking that the House decide whether or not Quebec should choose sovereignty. What we are asking is that it recognizes that Quebeckers form a nation. As for Quebec's political future, the decision will be made in Quebec, in a referendum that will be held in the purest democratic traditions, as Quebec has always done.

For the benefit of the many sovereignists in my riding, I would like to talk about the advantages of sovereignty. Why would we choose the sovereignist option for Quebec and why would we work so hard to achieve sovereignty? We all want to be free and responsible, both personally and collectively, as Quebeckers do form a nation. We want to face our own internal and external problems, solve them ourselves and gain from it experience, dynamism and the richness of being, all this in a spirit of healthy cooperation with our neighbours, whom we respect, but without the sterile blockage that has existed for too long between Quebec's normal dynamism and the check Ottawa is putting on that.

I want to pay my taxes to the Quebec government that sits at the National Assembly. I want the National Assembly to make the laws that govern the country of Quebec. I want representatives from Quebec at the table in international meetings to debate and sign agreements and treaties that will have an impact on the lives of Quebeckers.

Quebeckers have the means as well as the obligations of a sovereign people. Two neighbours who each have their own house get along better than those who have to share accommodations where the boundaries are blurred. A sovereign Quebec next to a sovereign Canada will better contribute to the well-being of both neighbours.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's comments and I am little bit puzzled.

A few minutes ago I was listening to the member for Papineau, who is also a member of the Bloc. He was vigorously stating that this was not a partisan motion which the Bloc brought forward, that there was no hidden agenda, that it was just a clarification of Quebec rights.

Yet I heard the member for Trois-Rivières make comments about how she favours sovereignty. She would like to see Quebec as an independent nation. She talked about wanting to be free as a separate nation. She spoke about wanting to be able to sign contracts and agreements apart from Canada.

It certainly sounds from her comments that the motion her party has put forward is indeed partisan and does reflect a very clear sovereignist agenda. Yet her colleague in the Bloc stated the exact opposite. He simply claimed that the motion was non-partisan and there was no hidden agenda. So which is it?

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me make myself clear: this is certainly not a partisan motion because it asks us to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation.

Our colleagues opposite cannot pretend to be surprised that we are a sovereignist party.

In talking about this issue, I am obviously sharing my aspirations and those of my fellow citizens with regard to the future of Quebec. It is also evident that we must separate the two concepts: to be a nation is one thing; deciding Quebec's status is another, and that issue will be debated elsewhere, certainly not here in the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to rephrase it and ask the same question. The member talked about there being no hidden agenda and the motion being non-partisan. The motion is clearly as partisan as it can get. I was born at night, but it was not last night.

The member said that it is non-partisan and it is only wording, but then she went on to say that clearly Quebec needs to separate in her view. How could anything be more partisan or more contradictory than that, from the comments of her colleague who said that it was just words and it meant nothing. That is baloney. Please clarify your intentions.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member for Edmonton Centre to direct his questions through the Chair.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I find to be partisan is the opportunism of the Conservative government, which is seeking to win over Quebec voters and to throw the Liberal Party into confusion on the eve of its convention. That is being partisan.

Everyone is aware of and talking about recognizing Quebec as a nation. We have a common territory and language, a Civil Code and the desire to live together. Thus, we are a nation. It is a fact and this has no political or legal implications other than what is stated. We are a nation. Period.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I am different from other members in the House, but I have at least a small need to be liked. I feel better if people like me.

When I think of this wonderful country to which our grandparents brought us, and I kept hearing when I was a youngster all the wonderful stories about how glad they were to be in Canada. They were very grateful. They came from a country where, frankly, they were persecuted.

I think of Canada now as a family. In that regard, families need each other as members. We need to have Quebec and all of its people in our family called the confederation of Canada. Although they do not want to admit it, or at least the separatist faction of them do not want to admit it, they also need us. We work so well together as a confederation. We can cooperate with--

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières has 30 seconds to answer.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not really understand the question. I will say that if he would like us to like him then I am prepared to like him.

I get along with others quite readily. However, I will say to him that I would like to be understood too. To understand me, one must be able to accept others unconditionally and to be able to understand what we represent, what we desire, we Quebeckers, and try to get it straight and to really understand what we mean when we say that we are a nation, that is what we are. Try to like us and to understand us.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion that we Quebeckers from the Bloc Québécois tabled in this House today reads as follows:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation.

What we want to debate is the recognition of the fact that we, in Quebec, form a nation, nothing more and nothing less. The Prime Minister deemed appropriate to add the mention, “within a united Canada”. We are prepared to present an amendment that would say, “currently within Canada”. Indeed, we recognize that we are within Canada and that, currently, Canada forms a country. As people know, we Quebeckers want something else. When we say that we want Quebec to be recognized as a nation, we are asking that this feature of Quebec be recognized. This does not question the features of the other nation, and it does not put an end to anything. It is simply a matter of recognition. This recognition should be treated with a little more respect than it has been so far.

Does the Prime Minister realize that by adding “within a united Canada”, he will trigger issues about Canada's unity? We consider that Quebec is a nation and, regardless of what anyone may say, that is our reality. The other parties should try to understand that. In my view, this is a tactic, but people will not be fooled by it.

The Prime Minister and the other parties are interpreting the intention that we had when we proposed this motion. Yesterday, in his speech, the Prime Minister said:

—the real intent behind the motion by the leader of the Bloc and the sovereignist camp is perfectly clear. It is to recognize not what the Québécois are, but what the sovereignists would like them to be.

In this regard, it seems to me that we are the only ones who can tell what our intentions are. The Prime Minister really cannot know those intentions, and by presenting things in this fashion, he is attempting to get us stuck with a vision that is not ours. We have a right to consider that Quebec is a nation, with or without Canada.

In Quebec, there has for years been a consensus that Quebeckers form a nation. On October 30, 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously passed the following motion:

THAT the National Assembly reaffirm that the people of Quebec form a nation.

The motion does not say that we form a nation if we remain in Canada. Neither does it say that we form a nation if we leave Canada. It says that we form a nation, period. The National Assembly is stating that it reaffirms the existence of the nation of Quebec. In fact, this resolution echoes what governments of Quebec have been saying for decades. I will read some quotes from governments of Quebec.

In April 1946, Maurice Duplessis said:

I firmly believe that Canadian confederation is a pact of union between two great races.

In November 1963, Jean Lesage said:

Quebec is not defending the principle of provincial autonomy because a principle is involved, but for the more important reason that it views autonomy as the concrete condition not for its survival, which is henceforth assured, but for its affirmation as a people.

For his part, Daniel Johnson Sr. said in February 1968:

The Constitution should not have as its sole purpose to federate territories, but also to associate in equality two linguistic and cultural communities, two founding peoples, two societies, two nations, in the sociological meaning of the term.

Later, René Lévesque said:

—Canada is composed of two equal nations; Quebec is the home and the heart of one of those nations and, as it possesses all the attributes of a distinct national community, it has an inalienable right to self-determination...This right to control its own national destiny is the most fundamental right that Quebec society has.

In December 1994, Jacques Parizeau, to whom the Prime Minister referred yesterday, said:

To date, Canada's basic law has failed to recognize Quebeckers as a nation, a people or even a distinct society.

That is a sad commentary.

Finally, in October 1999, Lucien Bouchard said:

Quebec is the only majority francophone society on the North American continent with a well-defined land base and political institutions which it controls. The Quebec people has all the classic attributes of a nation... The Quebec people adheres to the democratic concept of a nation characterized by its language, French, and a diverse culture, and which is broadly open to international immigration—

The product of immigration myself, I am one of those who have been welcomed on Quebec soil as a full-fledged Quebecker. I have been here since 1967. I can therefore echo the last part of what Mr. Bouchard said and confirm that the Quebec people to whom I proudly belong “adheres to the democratic concept of a nation characterized by its language, French, and a diverse culture, and which is broadly open to international immigration”.

This goes to show that Quebec has been a nation for quite some time. We are not interested in forming a nation provided that we remain within Canada. No one should force a people to stay in a system that it does not believe in. Things will unfold democratically. But what we are looking for today is full and complete recognition of what we are, nothing more, nothing less.

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the House in this debate that has to do with the motion that the Prime Minister tabled yesterday. As a Quebecker from Beauce and a Canadian, I am very proud to recognize, as do all my colleagues in the House, that Quebec does form a nation within Canada.

My question is for my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. On several occasions, Quebeckers have democratically recognized themselves as being a nation, a nation within Canada.

I am wondering about the Bloc Québécois' willingness to constantly question democratic decisions made by Quebeckers over the years with regard to their future.

I am happy to see and to state that Quebeckers have decided to stay within this country and to form a nation of which they are very proud. They are proud Quebeckers and fine Canadians.

Why is the Bloc Québécois always hell-bent—and has been for years—on forcing Quebeckers down a path they have refused to take on several occasions?

Opposition Motion—Quebec Nation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am happy to respond to my colleague and to tell him that we are indeed within Canada. That is stating the obvious.

We, the 50 members of the Bloc Québécois, would not be here if we were not within Canada. The redundancy only accentuates the fact that there may be something fishy here. The fact that motives are being impugned to us is also part of the game. It is like an old movie that is shown to us again and again, but this time we will not be fooled.

Vanier Cup
Statements By Members

November 23rd, 2006 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, November 25, at Saskatoon's Griffiths Stadium, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies will go head to head with the University of Laval for the coveted Vanier championship.

By keeping their eye on the ball, the Huskies have made their way to the top of Canadian university football, one victory at a time. Through teamwork and a tight defensive game, the Huskies have advanced to the finals once again.

I congratulate PotashCorp and its president and CEO, Bill Doyle, as well as the University of Saskatchewan and its president, Peter MacKinnon, for their commitment and leadership in bringing the cup to Saskatoon. They had a vision, just as a quarterback sees the winning play before he throws the ball.

The excitement is building. It is the first time the Vanier Cup has been played outside of the province of Ontario. It is a fitting tribute to Saskatoon's centennial year and will kick off next year's University of Saskatchewan's centennial.

I also thank Paula Cook-Dinan from McGill University's women in the house program for bringing the same enthusiasm to my office this week that will enable the Huskies to win the Vanier Cup this weekend.

Go Huskies, go.