Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the bill before us today.
Before I discuss the contents of the bill, I would like to put on the record the incredible work my colleagues in the NDP's Quebec caucus are doing day in and day out to ensure the issues that matter most to their constituents are being championed in this place.
The member for Trois-Rivières has been fighting tirelessly for years on behalf of pyrrhotite victims who have been left in a grey zone by the Liberal government's idleness.
The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has been leading the charge in the House against the use of tax havens for the wealthiest and the government's inaction on this file.
The member for Hochelaga has been a ferocious advocate for social housing, despite the Liberals' refusal to actually deliver.
The member for Berthier—Maskinongé, more than anyone in this place, has been standing up for dairy farmers, not just in Quebec but across the country, fighting to ensure the Liberal government does not go through with the concessions on supply management in trade deals.
The member for Drummond is the best defender of bilingualism and the French language in the House. Acadians, Franco-Ontarians and other minority language communities know all too well that the Liberal government is not paying attention to their concerns.
The member for Salaberry—Suroît has been a champion for clean water in her riding by working to get the Kathryn Spirit dismantled, and has continued to point out the government's failure to recognize the dangers of the 9B Line pipeline crossing her community.
The member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert every day does more than even the minister of heritage to protect Quebec's culture from web giants.
The member for Jonquière every day in this place stands up for softwood lumber, paper mill and aluminum workers of Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean, the very ones the government is putting in the line of fire in trade negotiations.
Finally, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot provides a voice to workers in the House who face an EI black hole, forsaken by Liberal and Conservative governments, which shamefully refuse to fix these gaps.
It is with a bit of irony that I, the member for North Island—Powell River in British Columbia, happen to be the one raising these issues today in this debate. One would have thought the Bloc would have used its opportunity to table and debate a bill in the House to discuss any of those important issues. Instead, we are talking about divisive, useless legislation. If this is the best the Bloc has to offer Quebeckers, frankly, it is a little more than sad. However, one thing is clear today. The one Quebec caucus standing up for Quebeckers in the House is the NDP Quebec caucus.
The bill before us today is a solution in search of a problem. Canadian multiculturalism is not a zero-sum game. Respect, protection and promotion of one culture will not diminish the standing of another culture. Instead, it creates a space for newcomer communities to integrate into, in the context of the bill, Quebec society specifically, without giving up who they are. This allows people to embrace and participate in Quebec's unique culture and heritage, without fearing they must give up their identity. They can instead have the opportunity to add Quebecker to who they are. This should be encouraged, not denigrated.
Unfortunately, this approach is not new for the Bloc Québécois. It has tried this before. In 2008, a Bloc MP tabled Bill C-505, a nearly identical bill. The former leader of the NDP, himself a proud Quebecker, the former member for Outremont, Mr. Tom Mulcair, stated quite clearly what the bill truly was: An attempt to divide Quebec from the rest of Canada and an attempt to divide Quebeckers against Quebeckers. He stated:
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.”
He went on to say:
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....
Or, I would add, even in Quebec. Instead, it is a blatant attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric and provide, in addition to the Conservative Party, another voice for that in this place.
This bill ignores the existence of the Cullen-Couture agreement of 1978, which provides Quebec significant authority and policy-making abilities within the realm of immigration. That agreement allows Quebec to develop its own points system for the selection of immigrants. Thus, while the systems are quite similar, Quebec's points system provides more points for French language skills and more points for adaptability. It also provides points for having relatives established in Quebec, for spouses with French language skills and for having a young family. Among other things, that agreement aimed to respect and strengthen the enrichment of Canada's cultural and social heritage, taking into account the federal and bilingual character of Canada. It also acknowledges that foreign nationals in Quebec should contribute to Quebec's social and cultural enrichment, taking into account its specifically French character.
The bill before us, strangely, also ignores the actual Canadian Multiculturalism Act itself, most importantly, subsection 5(2), which reads:
The Minister may enter into an agreement or arrangement with any province respecting the implementation of the multiculturalism policy of Canada.
This means that should the Province of Quebec feel that the current policy being implemented is not achieving the greatest benefit, it can work with the minister to improve the policy's implementation. This is what occurred with the Cullen-Couture agreement. It is truly a shame that the member chose to table this bill of all things rather than using this incredible opportunity to table a bill in the House of Commons that would help impact and shape our country and help promote Quebec culture and heritage.
As I stated at the outset, my NDP Quebec colleagues are working tirelessly on issues of importance to the people of Quebec. The NDP recognizes the national character of Quebec, based on a society that has French as its language of work and the common language of the public domain; a unique culture expressed through a sense of identity and belonging to Quebec; a specific history; and political, economic, cultural and social institutions of its own. Had the member brought forward a bill that strengthened any of those aspect for Quebec, he might have found our support.