House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

That is the addition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, is it not ironic to be debating a bill to exclude Quebec from the application of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act here, when a quick glance around the House shows the positive impact that this legislation has had in Canada?

Take a look around. This assembly is the living and dynamic reflection of the pluralism that characterizes the Canadian society. Some members here chose Canada themselves, while others were born here, after their parents or grandparents came to our country to seek a better life. However, all share a common desire to actively participate in the democratic life of our country. And all had the same opportunity to make this desire come true.

That is one of the great successes of our integration approach. Canada welcomes its immigrants, while also giving them the opportunity to fully participate in the social, political, cultural and economic life of their adopted country. Our origins may be different, but our basic values are the same: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values were adopted by all of us when we came to this country. They are at the very core of our identity, thus allowing it to expand and express itself through our diversity.

Canadians laws and policies recognize this diversity at the cultural heritage, religious and national origin levels. This diversity is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which seeks to protect fundamental freedoms, namely the freedom of religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression.

Moreover, section 27 provides that the charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with “the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”.

Therefore, with its charter, Canada made a legal commitment to all newcomers. We want to respect and maintain this commitment across the country.

The bill tabled by the Bloc Québécois goes against that commitment. Why? I wonder. What would Quebec gain from being exempted from the application of the federal legislation? This would only create confusion that would not benefit anyone. Protecting the French language seems a pretty weak argument to justify such a measure.

As was pointed out in previous debates, the use of French at home is constantly increasing among immigrants in Quebec. Indeed, it rose from 39% in 1996, to 51% in 2006. Within federal institutions, French is already largely protected through many legal and political instruments, including the Official Languages Act.

While reinforcing the obligations of the charter, that act aims to ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada, as well as equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions. It also aims to enhance the vitality of the English and French minorities and support their development. Finally, it aims to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

Linguistic duality is at the very heart of our philosophy of diversity. It is the manifestation of our historic commitment to respect one another's cultures. People from around the world who chose to immigrate to Canada deserve this same respect, regardless of where they decide to live. And a great many people choose Canada because of its policy of openness and tolerance.

Far from depriving Quebeckers and all francophones across Canada of their status as one of the founding nations of this country, the federal legislation simply seeks to allow newcomers to feel fully at home, free to be Canadian citizens like everyone else. And, like the rest of Canada, Quebec needs immigrants in order to remain vibrant and prosperous as a society. A society that makes such cohabitation possible will be better equipped to face the new challenges brought about by globalization.

Pluralism has proven successful across Canada. It has defined our identity as a multicultural society that enjoys the benefits and makes the most of its diversity. It is in Quebec's best interest to continue to play an active role in the Canadian model of integration, a model which has earned our country fame and praise around the world for its values of tolerance and respect.

Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I am now going to give the hon. member for Joliette his right of reply. He has five minutes.

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11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.