House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

I listened carefully to the member for Mégantic—L'Érable and I have a simple question for him. Could he enumerate the five basic conditions included in the Meech Lake accord?

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely happy to see that my colleagues are listening so carefully today. The Bloc has asked me five questions. It is the first time in the House that I am lucky enough to be asked five such pertinent questions. I hope that my colleague knows the answer. I am sure that she knows it.

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the member is listening, because I will respond, but first I want to say that I will share my time with my extraordinary colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

The member for Lévis—Bellechasse can fill in his colleague seated next to him. Five amendments were proposed in the Meech Lake accord. That is the starting point. Quebec is at a crossroads now because the Meech Lake accord was not signed. If the Meech Lake accord had been signed, things in Canada and Quebec would be quite different.

Quebec's demands were: first, the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society and of the existence of the French fact and the English fact; second, a constitutional veto for Quebec and the other provinces regarding certain major amendments to the Constitution; third, a province's right to opt out, with full compensation, of any federal program in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction; fourth, increased provincial powers in the area of immigration; fifth, provincial input in the federal government's appointment of the three Supreme Court judges from Quebec. We will come back to that fifth point.

It is unacceptable for the Conservative members from Quebec to say that they cannot support legislation that would require Supreme Court judges, not to be bilingual, but to be able to understand the proceedings of the Supreme Court in both English and French. That is completely unacceptable. That point only reinforces my belief that the only option for Quebec is to become sovereign, because we would then be able to administer our own taxes and our own laws.

I heard members say, as an excuse, that if we required Supreme Court judges to understand the two languages, it would prevent unilingual francophones from sitting on the Supreme Court. When I hear such ridiculous statements—and that is exactly what I have heard, maybe not in the House, but in committee—I find it totally unacceptable.

I do not know of a single lawyer or judge in the Supreme Court who was a unilingual francophone. However, I can say that I know at least three who spoke only English. These were Supreme Court judges. How did they understand proceedings in the Supreme Court? The Lord only knows, but I sure do not.

It is important to read this motion. I will repeat it for my colleague who does not understand:

That this House acknowledge that federalism cannot be renewed, since 20 years after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebec still does not have the power to choose three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada, or to opt out with compensation from federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction, nor does it have a real veto over constitutional amendments and its status as a nation still has not been recognized in the Canadian Constitution.

I heard my colleague say earlier that he was proud of the fact that Quebec was recognized as a nation within a united Canada. That is not a nation. A nation is France, Spain or Portugal. Those are nations that have shared central powers, for instance, regarding the army in some cases, a common currency—the Euro—and defence, for example, as well as other areas.

To be a nation, it means having all the powers a nation has. We will never have them all with this government. An extremely important factor for this government is the federal spending power.

When the Constitution was drafted in 1866—it was ratified in 1867, but the work began in Charlottetown in 1864—one of the powers that was granted to the central government was spending power. This power is extremely important to the central power because it allows it—and this is the crux of the problem—to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction and Quebec jurisdiction.

These include, for instance, education, culture and of course, the whole area of immigration. Yes, immigration comes under federal jurisdiction. That remained, but there was an agreement with Quebec. That deal is being scuttled more and more. The federal spending power has no limits and allows the federal government to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction.

How is it that Ottawa has a health department with 10,000 public servants, yet it does not run any hospital? The only hospital that was under federal jurisdiction was the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Hospital in the riding of my colleague the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges. It will soon be under Quebec jurisdiction because Veterans Affairs no longer wants to take care of it. Why? Because it is too expensive. According to Veterans Affairs, there are fewer veterans. That is false. It all puts a strain on things.

Today I looked at the whole justice file. This entire file is extremely important and sensitive. The current government is making altogether regressive laws, but we know that the administration of justice comes under provincial jurisdiction. So what happens? The provinces will have to pay more and more to enforce the absolutely regressive laws that the Conservative government wants to adopt.

One thing is extremely important. If Quebec were a nation, as they on the other side seem to be saying, it would not be standing, practically hidden behind the curtains, at UNESCO meetings. During international meetings, Quebec could be seated at the table and could take part in the discussions.

The best example is the French fact. How can the government be the one looking after the French fact and the French language around the world when it is not even able to look after bilingualism in its own organizations?

We asked for a law. All we asked here, in the House, was that Bill 101 apply to federal institutions in Quebec. For those who do not know—and there seem to be many on the other side—Bill 101 is a law that allows Quebeckers to speak French in their workplaces and that ensures that French is the language of work. How it is possible that they are not even able to enforce this law? They are not able to apply it to federal civil servants who work for federally regulated agencies or companies in Quebec.

This raises all sorts of questions. There are many possible answers, but only one is realistic. We feel it is obvious that Quebec will never receive its fair share as part of this country. I am not the one who said it. “I appreciate that the House is based on proportional representation.” That was said on May 17, 2007. “But I wonder whether there might be special measures to protect Quebec, which represents the main linguistic minority in Canada”. That did not come from us. It was said by Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's minister of intergovernmental affairs.

I would like to finish with a quotation that I feel is important: “My dear friends, as the days and weeks pass, one thing becomes crystal clear in our minds: Quebec is our one and only country.”

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech on the Bloc Québécois motion. It brings into focus how relevant our presence in this place is, and in particular how relevant sovereignty is.

The time allotted to the member was too short to address the use that Conservative MPs and other federal MPs make of their presence here in terms of standing up for Quebec. I would like him to tell us what his perception is of the role played by Conservative members from Quebec who vote against measures promoting the French language—he did touch on that—and reducing Quebec's political weight in the Canadian Confederation. They also vote against other measures reducing Quebec's economic efficiency by establishing a national securities regulator. I would like to hear him on that.

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will add another example to the ones already given by my colleague.

I come from an area called Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Four days ago, the House passed Bill C-288 to grant a tax credit to young people who return to their region after training or graduating outside their region. My colleagues from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and Laurentides—Labelle were spokespersons on that bill. The fact of the matter is that every Conservative member from a Quebec region voted against the bill.

That is worse than learning that they root for the Vancouver Canucks. If only the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages visited our regions more often, he would easily understand that there are different regional bodies that have needs. One of those needs is for our young people to come back to our regions. He should stop cancelling initiatives in our regions and giving them to major centres like Vancouver and Toronto. Let us keep them; we need them. That is how we will bring back our young people and develop our regions. It find it unacceptable for members of Parliament from Quebec to vote against this kind of motion.

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, it is deeply insulting to hear a Bloc member say things like that about Conservative members from Quebec. Bloc members voted against a human trafficking bill of significant importance to all parents and children. The Bloc Québécois voted against protecting children in Quebec and Canada. Bloc members would have us believe certain things about Conservative members from Quebec, but I am sure that the latter are doing everything in their power to protect parents and children.

I have a question about bilingual judges. The member made a number of remarks on the subject. I am almost perfectly bilingual, but I sometimes have trouble understanding the Quebec accents of the members on the other side of the House. Sometimes I have to listen to the simultaneous translation. What about judges who do not understand accents and idioms without the help of simultaneous translation?

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague should have heard the common law students who were here two days ago. They were from New Brunswick, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and their French was better than that of some Quebeckers. They hope to be judges someday.

I can hardly believe that anyone in the House would say that people who want to be judges in Canada need learn only one language: English. Although I respect Justice John Major a great deal, I heard him with my own eyes—I did in fact see him and hear him—when he told the committee that he did not need to speak French because the translation seemed right to him and that when Supreme Court judges deliberate, they do so in English. Such statements are unacceptable.

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the motion brought forward by our House leader, the member for Joliette. I will take the time to read it again for the members, for you, Mr. Speaker, and for those who are watching us.

That this House acknowledge that federalism cannot be renewed, since 20 years after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebec still does not have the power to choose three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada, or to opt out with compensation from federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction, nor does it have a real veto over constitutional amendments and its status as a nation still has not been recognized in the Canadian Constitution.

It is important. Indeed, 20 years after the Meech Lake accord, we have to ask ourselves some questions, and that is exactly what the Bloc did. In fact, no one in the House has ever questioned the seriousness with which the Bloc approaches every issue. Obviously, the post-Meech analysis, 20 years later, had to be done properly, and that is what the Bloc Québécois did.

We conducted a survey and it is important that we report the results to the House to show the position of Quebeckers and their expectations 20 years after the Meech Lake accord, as well as the position of Canadians. The survey was conducted just recently, between March 18 and April 6, 2010. There were 1,001 respondents in Quebec and 1,007 in Canada, outside Quebec. The results from Canada do not include the results from Quebec. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%. I say it, but when one hears the results, one understands that the difference is so significant that the margin of error is not even an issue.

I am the chief organizer for the Bloc Québécois, which means that political structure is of great interest to me. So I am going to say very nicely that, for the last 30 years, federalist pollsters have used a particular measure to qualify Quebeckers. In their polls, they ask Quebeckers if they consider themselves Quebeckers, French Canadians or Canadians. It is important because many of my Conservative colleagues ripped their shirts in the House today to say they were Canadians. It would be important for them to hear what their constituents think about that.

In 2010, when Quebeckers are asked whether they consider themselves Quebeckers, French Canadians or Canadians, 67% say they are Quebeckers, 21% that they are Canadians, and 12% that they are French Canadians. In 1995, when the referendum was held, 47% of Quebeckers considered themselves to be Quebeckers. It is important that Quebeckers and Canadians listening to this debate understand clearly that as time goes by and Quebeckers change, more of them will consider themselves Quebeckers rather than Canadians, and their natural response will be that they are Quebeckers.

This is important because our questionnaire asked what Quebeckers and Canadians think of Quebec's place in Canada. Here are some of the questions asked in this opinion poll. Should the Canadian Constitution recognize that Quebec is a nation? A resolution was passed in the House of Commons to recognize the fact that Quebec is a nation. Should Canada's Constitution recognize Quebec's nationhood, and should that concept be enshrined in the Constitution? Seventy-three percent of Quebeckers think that it should, and 27% do not. In the rest of Canada, we have the exact opposite, with 83% of Canadians thinking that Quebec's nationhood should not be enshrined in the Constitution, and 17% thinking that it should. We have two completely different perspectives on Quebec's place in Canada.

Should Canada undertake a new round of negotiations to find a constitutional agreement that is acceptable to Quebec? Many Quebeckers think there are still three options: stay in Canada as it is, become a new country and separate from Canada, or modernize Canada.

This is what many Quebeckers think. Between March 18 and April 6, Canadians and Quebeckers were asked the following questions.

In response to the statement, “Canada should initiate a new round of negotiations in order to find a constitutional arrangement satisfactory to Quebec”, 82% of Quebeckers said a new round of negotiations is necessary while 61% of Canadians said the opposite.

Here is another question: “A new division of powers and resources must be negotiated between Quebec and Ottawa in order to give Quebec special status”. It is no surprise that 73% of Quebeckers said they want Quebec to have recognized special status within Canada while 71% of Canadians said no. Quebec considers itself to be a nation and was recognized as such by the House of Commons, which gives it special status.

In Quebec, language issues have been the subject of much debate. This gave rise to Bill 101, which was created to protect the French language. That is why one cannot poll Quebeckers on Quebec's place in Canada without asking a question about language. In response to the statement, “The Quebec government should have greater power to protect French language and culture”, 82% of Quebeckers said yes and 69% of Canadians said no.

Once again in the last few months, the Supreme Court thwarted Quebec on the subject of bridging schools. These are the schools that were created to allow Francophones to access the English school system, which by law they are not permitted to do. Once more, 69% of Canadians said Quebec does not need more powers to protect its language while 82% of Quebeckers said the opposite.

In response to the statement, “The Canadian government should respect the provisions of Bill 101, which makes French the only official language in Quebec’s territory”, 90% of Quebeckers said yes and 74% of Canadians said no.

There is another question—

Sitting Resumed
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is rising on a point of order.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in your ruling of Tuesday, April 27, regarding the issue of providing information to members, you reserved entertaining a motion in order to allow House leaders, whips, ministers and party critics two weeks to suggest some way of providing documents without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain. We have held meetings on this topic, and we are considering proposals.

We do have a unanimous request. As discussions are ongoing, we ask that you grant an extension of that deadline to Friday at the end of government orders. I believe if you were to ask it, you would confirm that this is indeed a unanimous request.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the government House leader's suggestion correct, that there is unanimous consent that I defer a decision on this matter until Friday at the conclusion of government orders?

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel lost about a minute and a half of the time allotted to him for his comments. He will have an opportunity to continue his speech after question period. This is unfortunate for the hon. member, but nothing can be done about it.

Mother's Day
Statements By Members

May 11th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Sunday was Mother's Day and, in fact, every day should be a mother's day. Mothers are the foundation of the family and they play a significant role in bringing up their children. Mothers help make stronger families and stronger families make stronger communities and a stronger nation.

Recognizing the challenges, sacrifices and contributions of mothers in bringing up a family, the Conservative government has implemented the universal child care benefit and choice in daycare. In many societies, mothers face challenges, first as daughters, then as wives, as daughters-in-law and as mothers or grandmothers. Future mothers should be treated with respect and compassion.

It is our collective responsibility to help prevent female foeticide and provide girls with education and equal opportunities so they can also become better mothers in the global village. For all mothers, a very happy Mother's Day.

Florence Honderich
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is humbling to stand in the House in testimony to a woman who has been described by her son John as among the finest of her generation. Sadly, Florence Honderich, mother of Mary, David and John Honderich and an early supporter of the David Suzuki Foundation and Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, passed away recently after a brief illness.

Her service through numerous philanthropies, foundations and her church, Bedford Park United, was exceptional. As David Suzuki said:

It is the incredible generosity of people like Florence that continue to seed the missions of small but essential local charities and groups across the country. Without this crucial support, our communities and lives would not be nearly as rich.

Equally profound was her devotion to her family. In the words of her son John, “she was incredibly loyal and supportive of her children”.

I am certain all members of the House will join with me in saluting this remarkable woman, Florence Honderich, and express our sympathy on behalf of all Canadians to her family.