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.