moved that Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec) be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, Quebec is a nation, a francophone nation, an egalitarian nation, a nation that is proud of its history, a nation where there is separation of religion and state. The Quebec nation is different from Canada. All Quebec members in the House, no matter their political affiliation, know this. We are different. We are different for many reasons. We are different because of our language, French, our institutions, our particular attachment to secularism and our values, shaped by a history written in part by the Catholic Church, from which the state steadily freed itself.
We are different from Canada. We are not better, we are different. We are different in how we live and how we live together. Having the government impose a model of integration just does not work, and that is why I am very pleased to be tabling this bill on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and very pleased to resume the necessary debate on multiculturalism and its repercussions for Quebec.
This bill 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 the territory of Quebec. 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 Quebeckers 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 the National Assembly specified, repeated and reaffirmed the existence of the nation of Quebec. In fact, this resolution reiterated what all Quebec governments had been saying for decades. In June 1980, René Lévesque said:
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.
That is why the Quebec nation must have all the tools it needs to thrive and, most importantly, to define itself.
Accordingly, I included the following preamble in this 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 state and religion, 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 eight million francophones on a continent of over 600 million people. Francophones make up a total of 2.3% of the continent's population. It is hard to be more of a minority than that.
Demographically speaking, we should have disappeared over time. However, we are still here, alive and well.
Quebec is a true historic anomaly, a miracle of resilience, and it must have all the tools it needs to carry on, starting with its independence.
The federal government could have been an ally and contributed to the survival of the Quebec nation. Ottawa could have used its authority to contribute to the development of Quebec's distinct identity. It has always refused to do so.
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 undermines Quebec's distinctiveness and reduces it to one ethnic group among many. It undermines the existence of a common culture. Multiculturalism undermines Quebec's very existence as a nation.
For Canadians, it is a model that can work. In an anglophone country on an anglophone continent, it is natural for newcomers to want to integrate in English. However, Quebec is French. It is a French-speaking minority in an English-speaking country, on an English-speaking continent. Why would newcomers integrate into a minority? Multiculturalism is undermining Quebec.
If we go to the Government of Canada website, under the heading “Canadian identity and society”, it states that multiculturalism ensures “that all citizens keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry”. In other words, integration is pointless.
In Quebec, multiculturalism is not 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. Multiculturalism is a juxtaposition of communities.
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 of cultures.
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 very existence of the Quebec nation.
In 1971, Robert Bourassa, referring to multiculturalism, 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 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 common language of the public 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.
Quebec is a French-speaking, democratic and pluralistic society based on the rule of law, which means that everyone has the same value and dignity, as well as the right to equal protection under the law. Knowledge and respect for the values of Quebec society are necessary for newcomers to adapt to their new environment and fully participate in it. We believe that integration is achieved through full participation, which multiculturalism inhibits. The conflict between the Quebec model and the Canadian one is clear and 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:
...the efforts made by [Quebeckers] to define and promote [their] 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 blaming them, the Bloc Québécois thinks it would be better to make the messages clearer. Quebec needs freedom to integrate newcomers. Every year, Quebec welcomes tens of thousands of immigrants, and that does not include refugees. We must have access to all the tools we need to integrate them and help them integrate into Quebec.
The Prime Minister's version of multiculturalism is completely out of touch with the Quebec reality. He does not believe in the 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, reach out to all the peoples of the world and contribute to global humanism.
I urge everyone who values global cultural diversity and everyone who values Quebec's interests, culture and identity to support my bill, which will allow Quebec to choose its own integration model.
Quebec is a nation, a small francophone nation on a vast anglophone continent. It must have all the tools it needs to integrate the people who join us, the people who will help us grow, enrich our society, and move confidently into the future.