An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec)

Sponsor

Luc Thériault  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 26, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

moved that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to this important bill, very pleased to table it on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, and very pleased to kick off the debate we need to have on multiculturalism and its impact on Quebec.

This debate follows up on the supposed recognition of the Quebec nation by this Parliament. I know that the Prime Minister does not believe in it and that he wants to make Canada the first postnational state in the world, which means that Quebec's national identity would disappear. That is completely ridiculous.

The Quebec nation is the community to which we belong, the group with which we identify and the one we are discussing in order to decide how our society is to be organized. A nation is a special place where political decisions can be made and, therefore, recognizing a nation means recognizing a political entity with legitimate political rights and aspirations.

By recognizing the Quebec nation, the House of Commons recognized, perhaps unwillingly, the right of Quebeckers to control the social, economic and cultural development of Quebec themselves.

By stating that the Quebec nation is composed of all residents of Quebec, regardless of their origin or mother tongue or the region where they live, the federal government recognized that the Quebec nation has a clear geographic base made up of all of the territory of Quebec.

In short, recognition of the Quebec nation also means recognition of the legitimacy of Quebec's repeated demands that Quebeckers have the powers and resources that are needed in order to develop their own society.

I think it is worth noting that Quebec has never needed Ottawa in order to be a nation and unanimously declare its nationhood.

On October 30, 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously passed the following motion:

THAT the National Assembly reaffirm that the people of Quebec form a nation.

The motion does not say that the people of Quebec form a nation if Canada remains as it is, or that Quebec is a nation if it opts for sovereignty. It says that the people of Quebec form a nation, period. There is a reason why the National Assembly specified, repeated and reaffirmed the existence of the nation of Quebec. In fact, this resolution echoes what governments of Quebec have been saying for decades. Daniel Johnson Sr. said in February 1968:

The Constitution should not have as its sole purpose to federate territories, but also to associate in equality two linguistic and cultural communities, two founding peoples, two societies, two nations...

René Lévesque said in June 1980:

Canada is composed of two equal nations; Quebec is the home and the heart of one of those nations and, as it possesses all the attributes of a distinct national community, it has an inalienable right to self-determination. This right to control its own national destiny is the most fundamental right that Quebec society has.

Quebec has long been a nation, both before and after Canada was formed. That is a reality that none of the federalist parties has ever had the courage to enshrine in the Constitution.

As Gilles Duceppe said on November 22, 2006:

I would never insist that Quebeckers form a nation only on the condition that they have a country, nor would I ever accept that we could be recognized as a nation only on the condition that we stay in Canada.

...

We are a nation because we are what we are, no matter which future we choose.

That is why the Quebec nation must have all the tools it needs to thrive and define itself.

Accordingly, I included the following preamble in the bill:

Whereas Quebecers form a nation and therefore possess all the tools needed to define their identity and protect their common values, including as regards the protection of the French language, the separation of church and state and gender equality;

I sincerely hope that the House will unanimously support this preamble.

That being said, Quebec is the only nation of its kind in the world. It is a nation inhabited by 8 million francophones in a continent of almost 400 million anglophones. Demographically speaking, we should have disappeared over time. Quebec is a true historic anomaly, and it must have all the tools it needs to carry on, starting with its independence. The federal government could have been an ally in the phenomenon of Quebec, or what I would even go so far as to call the miracle of Quebec.

Ottawa could have used its authority to allow Quebec's distinct identity to develop. Members will recall the Meech Lake-Charlottetown fiasco. Instead, Ottawa is hindering Quebec and undermining Quebec's efforts to create a unifying culture.

One of Ottawa's worst attacks on the Quebec nation, on what we are collectively, is multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is undermining the Quebec phenomenon and the existence of a common culture.

If we go to the Government of Canada website, under the heading “Canadian identity and society” it states that multiculturalism “ensur[es] that all citizens keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry”. In other words, integration is pointless.

In Quebec, multiculturalism is not about a policy of integration, but rather a policy of disintegration. It is a policy that creates a fragmented society inhabited by people from many different cultures, rather than fostering the development of a society that integrates newcomers to enrich a common culture.

The reality is that 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 coexistence driven by indifference, or perhaps tolerance, rather than respect for difference. This inevitably leads to ghettoization.

Concerned that multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes, Quebec has always rejected the Canadian approach, especially since it trivializes Quebec's position within Canada and refutes the existence of the Quebec nation.

In 1971, Robert Bourassa stated in a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau that “that notion hardly seems compatible with Quebec's reality”. That was true 50 years ago and remains true today.

Quebec focuses on integration. Cultural plurality, or cultural diversity, is something to be shared. Getting to know one another better, talking to one another more and building our society together, that is the Quebecois approach. To do that, we have to be on the same wavelength. That is why, in Quebec, we ask immigrants to recognize the French fact, to know the French language, to learn it, and to recognize that it is the language of our common space. That is why Quebec insists on the need to respect the cornerstones of Quebec society, such as the separation of church and state, gender equality, and the existence of an historic cultural heritage. That heritage is multicultural, not multiculturalist.

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 other words, contrary to Canada's approach, which talks about preserving the identity of minorities without integration, Quebec's approach supports integration based on the learning of the French language, the official language and language common to the citizenry, and on the adherence to a set of fundamental principles.

According to the Quebec department of immigration and cultural communities:

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. 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.

Québec is a French-speaking, democratic and pluralist society based on the rule of law, which means that everyone has the same value and dignity as well as the same right to protection under the law.

Knowledge and respect for the values of Québec society are necessary for adapting to your new environment and fully participating in it.

Integration is achieved through full participation, which multiculturalism inhibits.

In a February 2008 article in Le Monde diplomatique, Louise Beaudoin explained why the Quebec integration model and the Canadian one are incompatible:

For nearly 30 years, Canada and Quebec have had two different approaches to integration. The federal multiculturalism policy, which is modelled on the British approach, promotes cultural diversity based on ethnicity and encourages people to seek out their own community of origin. In contrast, Quebec opted for a model based on interculturalism, a cultural exchange within the framework of the common values of a pluralistic nation with a francophone majority. These two clearly conflicting visions are irreconcilable.

This is confusing to newcomers. They see Quebec as a French-speaking nation that exists within a bilingual country that promotes bilingualism. It prides itself on an approach to welcoming and integrating newcomers that focuses on the importance of certain basic values and upholds French as the language of the people. This conflicts with the definition of a Canada that presents itself as bilingual and multicultural.

In its preliminary submission to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec highlighted this confusion:

However, the efforts made by the Government of Quebec to define and promote its own model of integration came up against the ideology of multiculturalism, which was sometimes interpreted by certain groups as the possibility of living one's own culture according to the rationale of separate development....the ideological way of thinking that emerged in the 1970s, which presented society as a mosaic of cultures, has since been encouraging certain groups to develop beliefs that clash with Quebec's vision.

People arriving in Quebec receive 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. 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....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.

This is why it is important for Quebec to have maximum flexibility in enforcing its own citizenship and integration policy. We believe that Quebec will truly be free only once it becomes independent. This will put an end to the confusing messages. Immigrants who choose Quebec will no longer come to a Canadian province, but will come to a francophone country. Until then, however, Quebec must be exempt from the scope of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. That is why I introduced this bill.

Quebec needs freedom to integrate newcomers. Every year, Quebec welcomes approximately 50,000 immigrants, and this does not include refugees. We must have access to all the tools we need to integrate them and help them integrate in Quebec.

The Prime Minister's version of multiculturalism has completely lost touch with the Quebec reality. He does not see a Quebec nation and does not think that Quebec should decide how its residents should coexist. He certainly does not want nations around the world seeing who we are, hearing our voice, and relating to our desire to carve out our own place in the world and reach out to people around the world, in a spirit of global humanism.

I urge everyone who values the interests of Quebec, Quebec culture, and Quebec identity, to support my bill, which will allow Quebec to set its own integration model. Quebec should be making its own decisions about interculturalism, cultural convergence and common culture. These decisions should not be left to a government that thinks that openness means putting on a costume when you take an international trip.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2018 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Andy Fillmore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to address Bill C-393, an act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).

It is well known that Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Our country is a place where indigenous peoples, including first nations, Inuit and Métis, live alongside people including refugees from all corners of the globe who have chosen to make their lives in Canada as well as with long-standing Canadian citizens.

Ours is a land of many faiths, many languages and many cultures. It is a place where Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians and members of numerous other religious groups live in harmony. It is home to proud francophone and anglophone traditions and communities and to native speakers of an array of indigenous languages, such as Mi'kmaq, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Cree and many others. Millions of other individuals have a mother tongue that is neither French nor English in Canada.

Canada's capacity to prosper and grow within the context of this diversity is the result of a commitment we have made to respect and protect our differences. As a result of this commitment, Canada has developed a broad and evolving legislative and policy framework that supports various elements of diversity and inclusion, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Official Languages Act, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

I would like to remind the House that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy was adopted in 1971 following the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Significantly, it recognizes the French and English languages on equal terms.

In 1982, with the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, the Government of Canada reaffirmed the value of multiculturalism in section 27 of the charter, which refers to the “preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

In 1988, the Canadian multiculturalism policy was enshrined in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act gives the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism the mandate to develop and deliver programs and practices, which, among other things, will “recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage” and Canadian identity. The act promotes “the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society” and assists “in the elimination of any barrier to that participation.”

Other Canadian jurisdictions have also adopted policies that promote, preserve and protect diversity and foster inclusion. Overall, the protection of equality rights is an underlying objective of these provincial and territorial laws, and some are supported by specific funding programs.

Quebec, for example, promotes and emphasizes interculturalism as an approach to integration and cross-cultural understanding. As we might expect, Quebec's approach to interculturalism proposes a model of integration that aims to ensure, and places priority on, the continuity of the francophone identity and culture while respecting minority cultures and diversity.

Both multiculturalism and interculturalism place a high degree of importance on integration and respect for common civic and democratic values, and both have been invaluable to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s. I believe strongly that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy is flexible enough to allow for their co-existence.

We should be mindful that Bill C-393's passage could undermine the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec, given that section 27 of the charter officially refers to multiculturalism as a Canadian value.

Our country continues to become even more diverse. I highlight our diversity today not simply to reiterate well-known facts about our multicultural society but to emphasize that our country has benefited immensely from the increasing diversity we have experienced over centuries. Our diversity is a leading source of creativity and innovation that fuels sustainable economic growth. Our diversity generates creativity by ensuring a variety of thoughts, experiences and perspectives. This is key to generating the out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation that is foundational to our creative economy.

Even as we move toward a more diverse and inclusive society, there is a considerable amount of evidence on the persistence of racism and discrimination in Canadian society. The proposed amendments to the act could reduce the government's legal authorities to disburse funding for community support, multiculturalism and anti-racism initiatives in Quebec.

It is important for all of us in this nation of diversity to continue to foster an environment where the multicultural heritage of all Canadians is valued.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-393 was introduced in February by the hon. member for Montcalm.

The bill seeks to have Quebec opt out of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. I must admit that I was not exactly excited about the idea when I first read the bill.

Why would Quebec want to opt out of legislation that is so inclusive and positive? Why reject legislation that celebrates, protects and promotes our culture?

That line of questioning led me to do some research. I already knew about the existence of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which became law more than 30 years ago. I was also aware of some of its virtues. My research did help me learn more about the subtleties of this legislation.

I did my homework and I can say that I am no more excited about Bill C-393 than I was back in February.

I can say that the 30-year old Canadian Multiculturalism Act has aged well. It is not perfect. Can we improve on it? We certainly could if we set our minds to it. However, it has aged well. It is still current and relevant.

Let me provide some examples.

It seeks to recognize the importance of preserving and enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

It seeks to recognize the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

It seeks to reflect the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledge the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.

It seeks to recognize that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of our country's future.

It seeks to promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society.

It seeks to recognize the existence of communities whose members share common origin and their historic contribution to our big, beautiful country, and, especially enhance their development.

It seeks to encourage and assists the social, cultural, economic and political institutions of Canada to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's multicultural character.

It seeks to foster the recognition and appreciation of the diverse cultures of our country.

It seeks to advance multiculturalism throughout Canada in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada, English and French, which are great assets to our country.

The list goes on and on. I repeat: who would want to opt out of this cultural policy?

I can think of absolutely no good reason to do so. In fact, I think it is very important for all Canadians to opt in.

We were not born yesterday. We know what drives the party that introduced this bill. Its only goal is to further isolate Quebeckers, even though they have so much to offer the rest of the country and, indeed, the rest of the world.

The Conservative Party knows a bit about that. Twelve years ago, we recognized Quebec as a nation here in the House. We enabled Quebec to get a seat at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a great global institution.

Quebec, like every one of this country's provinces, is unique. Everyone knows that.

Canada would not be the country it is today without Quebec's uniqueness as a province and a region. From the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian Prairies, from the Great Lakes and the Appalachians to the Atlantic Ocean and the Far North, Canada is as big as it is diverse.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act is inclusive. It creates space for all people to express themselves freely. It is in no way restrictive.

It says right there in black and white that the minister can enter into an agreement or arrangement with any province respecting the implementation of its cultural policy.

Under a Conservative government, we repeatedly demonstrated that we were open to giving the provinces a great deal of discretion, particularly when it came to multiculturalism. We could also talk about all the discussions that took place in Quebec and the commitments and arrangements made regarding immigration issues. Could we have done more? I repeat, yes, of course. More work has to be done on this, and governments can move things forward. Perhaps people are feeling frustrated by the current government, but we have no control over that at the moment. Let's talk again in 2019.

There is no need for anyone to opt out of that act. To repeat the purpose of Bill C-393, it seeks to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act so it does not apply in Quebec.

I am confident that that is not what Quebeckers want. In fact, I personally spent the last few months travelling all over Quebec with my colleagues and my leader, as we toured extensively to hear from Quebeckers. The tour is continuing this fall. We met with hundreds of people from all regions of Quebec. I met people in love with the belle province, passionate Canadians, proud members of first nations, local artisans, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, really passionate people from all over the province.

These precious moments that I shared with them gave me the opportunity to see just how different each region of Quebec and each region of our country really is. Every community that I visited was unique, particularly from a cultural standpoint. What struck me the most during our tour is how welcoming people are. They are proud to show off their part of the country. They are proud to share what makes them unique. They were very open and showed us what they can bring to Quebec, Canada and the entire world. There are some extraordinary success stories in Quebec that are making waves around the world. These people may not know it, but they are helping to make a name for our beautiful country.

What I saw from the very start of our tour was not people who wanted to cut themselves off from the rest of the country or even do away with the laws we have to promote and defend our identity and our multiculturalism. Instead, I felt their deep desire to tell the rest of the world about what makes them so unique. That is exactly what the existing legislation does. It makes it possible to implement measures and policies, and to call upon each of our institutions to help our regions, our provinces, and our country grow.

The bill's sponsor may tell us that Quebec needs to be able to manage its own multicultural policy. However, I can confirm that Quebec already has full authority to do that, especially since the Conservative Party of Canada recognized that it has this right.

Maybe those who proposed this bill will say that the provinces' powers are not fully appreciated under the Liberals. The centrist side of the current government is indeed undermining intergovernmental relations within the Canadian federation. I should know, since I am the critic for federal-provincial relations.

However, Quebec is not the only province to have a bumpy relationship with the Liberal government. Abandoning the Canadian Multiculturalism Act on that pretext would be unfair to all Quebeckers. Having toured the province over the past few months, I can safely say that that is not what the people of Quebec want right now. They do not want division, and they certainly do not want exclusion. What Quebeckers really want is a strong voice in Ottawa, through measures like this act.

Quebeckers deserve recognition far beyond the provincial border. That is exactly what they will get, starting in the fall of 2019, with a new Conservative government.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rémi Massé Liberal Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about private member's Bill C-393, which was introduced by the member for Montcalm. The bill seeks the support of the House to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act so that it would not apply in Quebec.

Diversity is a fundamental and enduring feature of Quebec and Canada. Our society is made up of individuals from different cultures all over the world who have learned over time to respect and accept one another. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971. In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act affirmed that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society. Multiculturalism strengthens Quebec and Canada by fostering an inclusive society in which people of all backgrounds are respected and recognized.

Multiculturalism may be one of the government's official policies, but it is also a concept that is expressly included in and part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 27 states:

This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

In a society as diverse as ours, our multiculturalism policy helps preserve our values and the principles of inclusion and diversity. This policy also makes it possible for Quebeckers and Canadians of all backgrounds to make social, economic, cultural and political contributions to our society. It is clear to me that the laws, initiatives and programs that eliminate racism and discrimination support full participation and ensure that institutions reflect the diversity of the people they serve.

Furthermore, these laws, initiatives and programs are essential to creating a more inclusive and respectful society where every person, no matter their ethnic origin, colour or religion, helps build a more just society. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act seeks to build a society where multiculturalism and respect for diversity are fundamental characteristics and values.

This does not mean that differences cannot lead to tensions between individuals, but as we learn to manage these tensions, Quebeckers and Canadians learn to adapt and develop relationships in spite of their differences. We have come to understand that our differences do not have to divide us.

Canada's federal multiculturalism policy and Quebec's interculturalism model have complemented each other and coexisted since the 1970s without causing tension or creating serious problems. Although interculturalism is a provincial model of integration in Quebec, multiculturalism is Canada's federal integration model, as set out in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988.

There are differences between these two approaches, but the federal multiculturalism system is flexible enough to allow these two approaches to coexist. The approaches put more emphasis on integration and respect for shared civic and democratic values, and as such, both approaches have been contributing to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s.

Quebec and Canada are proof that it is possible for men and women from diverse backgrounds, religions and cultures to live together. We admit that there are problems, and we are working to find solutions, despite our differences. We are showing the world that different people can accept each other, respect each other, and work together to build one of the most open, resilient and creative societies on Earth.

Canadian Heritage's multiculturalism program offers programs and services in support of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act's implementation.

The objectives of the program are to: build an integrated, socially cohesive society; improve the responsiveness of institutions to the needs of a diverse population; and actively engage in discussions on multiculturalism and diversity at the international level.

To that end, the program includes four key areas of activity: grants and contributions; public outreach and promotion; support to federal and public institutions; and international engagement.

It is important for us to continue working together to achieve common objectives for building a strong and inclusive society.

Over the past four decades, multiculturalism has become central to the way Canadians view themselves and their country. They feel that multiculturalism is not only key to their national identity, but a source of pride. We increasingly see our country as being richer for its diversity.

Debates on multiculturalism are necessary ingredients in a democratic society. These are the debates that helped develop Canada's approach to multiculturalism and diversity. In the 1970s, debates were focused on celebrating our differences. In the 1980s, the focus was on managing diversity and now, in 2018, multiculturalism is focused on social inclusion.

The wording of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act is general enough to include new approaches to promoting the act's objectives.

Canadians are proud of their diversity. According to a Statistics Canada study released in 2015, 85% of Canadians believe that ethnic and cultural diversity is a value that Canadians share.

Ultimately, what matters is not what we call our policy framework. What matters is creating a climate that fosters appreciation for the multicultural heritage of all Canadians, who have roots all over the world. It is also important that we create a public space in which everyone can express their confidence and their sense of attachment and belonging to our society, its people and its institutions.