House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions between all the parties, and I think you will find there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, in relation to private members' business, any votes deferred to Wednesday, November 29, 2006, be further deferred to Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 3 p.m.; and on Wednesday, November 29, 2006, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 5:30 p.m., and private members' business shall be cancelled.

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the motion that this question be now put.

The Québécois
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am proud to be a Quebecker. No, let me rephrase that. I am passionately proud to be a Canadian and passionately proud to be a Quebecker.

I would like to give a brief account of my personal history, not because it is an extraordinary history, but because, on the contrary, it reflects the history of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers.

On my maternal grandfather's side, I have Acadian roots, even though my grandfather, Louis Doucet, was born in Quebec and grew up there, including in Montreal. His roots went back to the area of the Maritimes known as Acadia.

My paternal grandfather came to Canada from Italy in the 1920s, via Ellis Island in New York. He became a barber and had a shop in the bus terminal on Craig Street, a building that no longer exists, where Montreal's convention centre now stands and where, in two weeks' time, my party and I will elect the next leader of the Liberal Party and the next Prime Minister of Canada.

My children speak both official languages. My two daughters are fluently bilingual and enjoy the fruits of English and French culture equally. My spouse is not from Quebec and is not French-speaking by birth. She comes from the west. She lived in Calgary, Alberta, for most of her life. But she is fully bilingual because, when she was five, her parents, who did not speak a word of French but were inspired by Trudeau's vision of Canada, decided to enrol her in a French immersion school. She now lives in Montreal. She is proud to be a Canadian, and she considers herself a Quebecker.

I would like to tell another anecdote, because it brings me to the central point of my speech. Because I have family in Alberta, I sometimes fly from Montreal to Calgary. One summer, on a plane, I sat next to a young, extremely dynamic francophone Quebecker, who had made a life for himself in Calgary. He was a general contractor who was caught up in the economic boom that has been going on in Calgary for the past few years.

I will support the government's motion on the nation of Quebec, but I cannot support the Bloc Québécois motion.

I can support one motion on the Quebec nation but not the other, and I will give my reasons.

Many people underscore the fact that the Quebec National Assembly has unanimously endorsed the idea of a Quebec nation. I would add that this is perfectly normal. The Quebec National Assembly is responsible for life within the boundaries of the province of Quebec. It is not responsible, in any direct way, for French-speaking minorities outside of Quebec.

The motion that the Bloc has presented is a territorial motion. It speaks of a Quebec nation as defined by the boundaries of the province of Quebec, and I cannot support a motion that takes a territorial view of the Quebec nation.

I do not believe it is the business of the federal government to define culture and society in a given province. It is ironic because whenever the federal government gets involved in grey areas of possibly provincial jurisdiction, many of the provincial premiers and provincial governments, rightly, and, of course, our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, protest. However, when it comes to having the federal government bestow a definition on a culture or a society within provincial boundaries, it does not seem to bother anyone.

I am supporting the government motion because it speaks about recognizing the Québécois as a nation, not the territory of Quebec, and that is very important. Because, like the young Québécois man with whom I shared a plane ride to Calgary, he was not living in Quebec. Many Canadians of French-speaking origin who live outside of Quebec believe themselves to be and think of themselves as being Québécois because they trace their ancestry to those French-speaking people who came and settled in New France which became Quebec. The French-speaking people in eastern Ontario or in New Brunswick can identify themselves as Québécois, descendants of Quebec, of New France.

The other reason that I prefer the Quebec nation definition in the government's motion is that it allows for self-identification. It does not say that because people live in Quebec they must consider themselves Québécois. Some people are proud Quebeckers and some of them in my riding and in other ridings love Quebec. But they prefer not to identify themselves as Québécois as strongly as maybe others. The element of self-identification is very important.

If all parties agree to support this motion today to designate Quebec as a nation in a motion of Parliament, not in a law and not in a constitutional amendment, if we feel comfortable with that idea, it would be in no small measure because of successive measures and laws by successive Liberal governments that have built the modern Canada that we know, that have created the framework in which we can recognize, legally and constitutionally, the rights of a French-speaking society from coast to coast to coast. Whether we speak of the Official Languages Act or of the minority language education guarantees in the Charter of Rights, we have created, through successive Liberal governments and through the vision of Pierre Trudeau, a society, a country that includes a French-speaking society from coast to coast to coast of which many of those French-speaking Canadians can identify themselves as Québécois.

I know my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and their Parti Québécois cousins in Quebec will try to use this as a pretext to continue with their independence agenda. If they do take that road, we must remind Canadians of the strength of this country, of our belief in the equality of Canadians and in the fundamental equality of provinces, and that through working with all the provinces and nations within this country we can create something very unique in the world, a society where people come together in solidarity to protect fundamental social values that we all share, values of social justice, values that have led to policies such as medicare and values that have made this country great.

I will be supporting the government's motion because it is not a territorial motion. I obviously will not be supporting the Bloc's motion, which, as I said, is a pretext for carrying on the fight for an independent Quebec.

The Québécois
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to a motion that goes to the heart of what it means to be a Canadian. As a Canadian from the centre of Canada, Manitoba, today's motion is an opportunity to remind ourselves what is at stake not only for the Québécois but also for all Canada.

The success of our country has not happened by accident. It is not something which can or should be taken for granted. We think of Canada as a young country, a country, as has often been said, with more geography than history. It is, therefore, ironic that this young country should also be one of the oldest democracies and one of the oldest federations on the planet.

Canada represents a paradigm shift from the 19th century nationalism of a nation state based on cultural, linguistic and ethnic homogeneity. Canada was premised on the concept of diversity as a permanent characteristic. The Fathers of Confederation chose a form of government uniquely suited to expressing and accommodating regional, linguistic and religious diversity. The most important example of this diversity was undoubtedly the existence of the two major language groups.

One of the major factors in the creation of Canada as a federation was the presence of Quebec. The founders of our country wanted to build a country which embraced our diversity. Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, stated very well:

I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or to render it inferior to the other; I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible.

Cartier stated in the Confederation debates:

We could not legislate for the disappearance of the French Canadians from American soil, but British and French Canadians alike could appreciate and understand their position relative to each other.

He went on to say, “It is a benefit rather than otherwise to have a diversity of races”.

From a historical perspective, we have a long tradition of dealing with the accommodations necessary in a society with two important language groups. The federal structure is perhaps the most obvious, but by no means the only structure possible.

In the context of a North America which is overwhelming English-speaking, the Canadian federation has provided the framework for an effective commitment to the continuity and survival of a French speaking society centred in, but not limited to, Quebec.

Today it is hard to imagine any other arrangement which would have served us so well and one which, 140 years later, is still a model for the world.

The challenge of accommodating diversity is perhaps one of the most difficult facing the world today. The recent debate in Quebec on what constitutes reasonable accommodation for religious minorities is echoed in similar debates across the globe.

Diversity is a modern reality. Most states in Europe, Asia or Africa contain a variety of languages, religions and cultures, and many of the most successful in dealing with this diversity have chosen a federal system of government. Looked at from a contemporary world viewpoint, it is the apparently homogenous states that are the exception.

The nation state, which implies the parallel occurrence of a state and an ethnic nation, is extremely rare. In fact, there are no ideal nation states. Existing states differ from this ideal in two ways: the population includes minorities; and they do not include all the national groups in their territory.

Today, Canada is a prosperous, politically stable country because we have made diversity an asset rather than a problem. Canadians are able, as a result, to make democratic choices based on the respect of human rights. Today, more than ever, we understand that accommodating pluralism is not merely a political necessity, but also a source of pride and enrichment which reflects Canadian values.

Our capacity to develop and adapt as a society and to build institutions that respond to demands of its citizens has served us very well. Federalism is the natural response to governing a large, demographically and regionally diverse country. With 10 provinces, three territories, six time zones and bordering on three oceans, Canada's regional diversity is obvious.

Our diversity is also reflected in our two official languages. Almost all Canadians speak English or French and one in five also speaks a non-official language. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 98% have English has a mother tongue, while in Quebec in 81% have French as a mother tongue. In Nunavut 79% speak Inuktitut, a language spoken by less than one in a thousand Canadians.

Today, nearly one million Canadians report an aboriginal identity. This is also a rapidly growing segment of our population.

Canada is increasingly urban and multicultural. In 2001 nearly 80% of Canadians lived in cities of over 10,000. Today, Canada's immigration population represents 41% of the growth in 2004 and new Canadians tend to settle in our major urban centres. Between 1996 and 2001, Toronto received more than 445,000 immigrants, 180,000 settled in Vancouver and 126,000 in Montreal.

Beyond accommodating regional preferences and diversity, the Canadian federation has provided an environment which is complementary to national, provincial and cultural identities, all of which have flourished. Federalism allows and encourages experimentation in political, social and economic matters.

Quebec is inescapably in the heart of the Canadian dream. Canada's values have been shaped by the challenge of understanding each other and responding to the presence of two major language communities with courage, generosity and sensitivity. Each successive generation of Canadians has had to face this challenge.

The choice we have made expresses our shared hopes for the future of this vast land and has made us the envy of the world. Anyone who has travelled extensively outside our borders knows that Canada remains one of the world's most favoured nations. Our prosperity and our civility are the product of much hard work and cannot be taken for granted.

Canada is a pluralistic society not only because we have the diversity that is the makeup of our population, whether it be linguistic, cultural, ethnic or regional, but more important, because we have come to understand that these differences contribute to our national community.

Across the country Canadians work together in a variety of ways to build a better nation that either group could not build in isolation. As a result, Canada has become a model for other countries. In a world with some 6,000 languages and only 200 states, pluralism is the norm, not the exception.

Success requires a uniquely Canadian talent, the ability to work together and transcend our diversity. This vision of Canada as a nation, inspired by generosity and tolerance, has repeatedly triumphed over the narrow ethnic tribalism.

Canadians in Quebec and across the country are proud of our success. Our Canada includes a strong, vibrant francophone Quebec. Canada and Canadians have every reason to be proud of our francophone heritage, which is centred in Quebec and very much alive across Canada. It enriches our public life, arts and culture and is a source of cultural enrichment for millions of Canadians who speak French as a first or second language.

Canada's diversity is a source of strength from which all Canadians benefit. Our respect for diversity has in no small manner contributed to the enviable reputation we enjoy throughout the world. We would not have it any other way.

I am, like much of humanity, genuinely perplexed by the desire of certain intellectuals in Quebec to form an independent state. This is why I support the motion of the Conservative Party. We are a strong Canada. We respect the great contribution that the Québécois have given our nation.

I am also very appreciative of my friends in Quebec and the Québécois for exposing me to another language. I have undergone French language training. I am only beginning, but I would like to continue it because I want to be able to reach out to my friends in Quebec. Canada is a great country and I hope, after this motion is passed, we can focus on the things that matter to all Canadians: the economy, health care, justice.

We all want hope. We all want to live the Canadian dream and that dream includes the Québécois in a united and free Canada. As it says in our national anthem, “God keep our land glorious and free”.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, my name is not on the list of members who are to speak to this motion today. I believe there was a mistake. I am supposed to speak to Bill C-278.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to show my support for the motion put forward this week by the Prime Minister. I consider this an historic moment.

Yesterday, my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin shared a number of quotations to clearly illustrate the current state of affairs in Quebec. I find it very interesting that he quoted great Quebec premiers such as Daniel Johnson, Jean Lesage and Robert Bourassa.

I will not list all of them here, but something came out of all that. It is a fact. Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.

Why is it a fact? Because Quebec has a specific culture, one that is based on the French language, its own history and its French heritage. This is very important because this creates something extraordinary. In Canada, our country, we have two main cultures. One is English and the other is French. This is what enriches our country.

For my part, I will give the following example: I was trained as a lawyer. I studied law in the early 1990s. What I found fascinating during my studies was that Quebec has a civil law system, but it also has to consider the whole common law system, which comes from British law. It is an asset. Few places in the world give us access to such an asset. Lawyers in Quebec, in Montreal, are in demand because they have a double knowledge of the culture of law.

Such examples show what our country is today. Quebeckers come from one of the founding peoples of Canada, our country. In all the numerous Canadian institutions, Quebec has left its mark. It is a great asset.

I take this opportunity to recognize the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown this week. He did something courageous. It is the first time that this issue has been brought explicitly before the federal Parliament. The Prime Minister agreed that the debate should take place here.

Although this is a given in Quebec, and people are aware of it and it is part of their lives, the Prime Minister felt that he had to take a stand on this issue. This is in keeping with the fundamental view of government held by our party, which wishes to exercise an open federalism and not centralize everything as the previous government tried to do.

Each region in our country is different from the next and each is equally rich in its own way. This diversity has enriched our country. I believe that open federalism will enable us to evolve. The same applies to the discussion of any issue: the less we debate the issue, the less chance that we will arrive at a complete understanding.

In our country, we have various points of view that make Canada what it is today, a credible and recognized global leader.

I am pleased that the words “united Canada” are part of the motion. Personally, when I entered politics as a Conservative, I believed in open federalism. We must not be satisfied with defending the interests of Quebec. We must promote them. We must move forward and take the offensive.

We live in a united Canada and we are moving our interests in that direction.

I believe that is how we will succeed. We will not succeed by arriving with the idea of separation.

These are my points of view that I wished to put forward today. I will be pleased to support this motion.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech from the member opposite and found it quite interesting.

One of the primary difficulties or impediments that I see with respect to the motion by the Bloc is that, by my reading of it, it speaks not at all to those French speaking Canadians who live outside the province of Quebec, some half a million in Ontario alone, let alone all of those other thousands and thousands of French speaking Canadians who live in other provinces.

I would like the member opposite to comment on his view of that and whether or not the motion by the Prime Minister, which refers specifically to the Québécois, is in fact as significant as I see it to be.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Of course, when I say that I support the motion introduced by the Prime Minister which recognizes that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, I think that the word “Québécois” makes sense because we talk about all Quebeckers, no matter where they are.

Thus, it is a fundamental perspective that takes this aspect into account and reflects the Prime Minister's wisdom; I think that it is important to go that way.

Once again, I express my support for the Prime Minister's motion. I think that it is a big step forward and I am proud to say that we recognize the fact that Quebec is a nation in a united Canada. One does not contradict the other.

Once again, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say that Quebec's culture enriches Canada. Even though it is a statement of fact, even though everybody knows that it has been there for many years, it is satisfying, and, from a historical point of view, it is important that the Prime Minister of Canada is now ready to recognize that fact with a motion like the one he introduced this week.

I think it is a courageous gesture that will be beneficial to our country's unity and one that represents a great step forward.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am a Franco-Ontarian member, but I would also like to explain or point out that my roots are in Quebec.

My grandfather and my father were born in Quebec City, and my father's family, with the same last name, also lives in Quebec.

As a family, we are very proud of our contribution to our country. We are also very proud of our heritage. My colleague here lives in Quebec. He comes from Quebec and his constituents live in Quebec as well.

I would like to know whether he can share with the House his constituents' feelings and views about our motion.

The Québécois
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his interesting question. It is very interesting indeed. My constituents are very pleased with what is happening today because we are talking about open federalism.

Once again, we see that the Prime Minister of Canada wants to move things forward and make things work for our country's unity. That is leadership, and it shows that he is really listening to Quebeckers.

I speak on behalf of my riding, but it is clear that this motion is welcome in all regions of Quebec. People are ready to talk about it and they want to hear people talk about it. Putting forward a motion like this one, which is about recognizing reality and has nothing to do with abstract ideas, shows the path that the government plans to take by creating open federalism, correcting the fiscal imbalance, recognizing Quebeckers for who they are and valuing their immeasurable contribution to Canadian culture.