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.