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

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.


Luc Thériault  Bloc

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


Defeated, as of June 9, 2021
(This bill did not become law.)


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


June 9, 2021 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec)

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the private member's bill, Bill C-226, introduced by the member for Montcalm, whom I have always found to be an intelligent and respectful debater, even if we do not share the same vision for our Canadian federalism. He always makes his interventions about ideas, and that is fundamental to a healthy democracy.

Bill C-226 asks the House to support an amendment to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act that would make the act not applicable in Quebec. It is important to mention that official bilingualism and multiculturalism in this country share the same origins. That is the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which did its work between 1963 and 1969. The commissioners believed, in fact, that official bilingualism and multiculturalism could be mutually reinforcing, and they were so very right.

Through its multicultural policy adopted in 1971, the federal government recognized diversity as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and as a pillar of our value system. However, it was also made clear that the advancement of multiculturalism throughout Canada had to be made in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada. Built not only on the contributions of indigenous peoples and the two official language communities, French and English, the fabric of Canada owes much to the contributions of the many ethnocultural communities and new immigrants who have come to make a life in this country over the span of decades.

By way of background, the Canadian multiculturalism policy was enshrined in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, and all provincial and territorial governments are subject to its application, including Quebec. The act, which is now 33 years old, provides the framework for federal responsibilities and activities designed to bring Canadians closer together and promote mutual respect and appreciation among Canadians of different backgrounds. The act has been central in creating harmonious relations among Canadians of different backgrounds, and it has helped strengthen the country's social fabric.

Quebec is the only province in Canada that promotes interculturalism as an approach to integration and cross-cultural understanding. Broadly speaking, Quebec's vision and policy of interculturalism propose a model of integration that aims to ensure the continuity of the francophone identity and culture, while still respecting minority cultures, that is, diversity, and the contributions they make to modern Quebec society.

In 1990, a policy statement on immigration and integration entitled “Let's Build Quebec Together” set the parameters of Quebec's policy of interculturalism. Developed by the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion of Quebec, the document reaffirms that interculturalism and adapting institutions to the values of diversity and reasonable accommodation are key parts of Quebec's approach to integration.

As the Prime Minister often says, “we are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.” As many scholars and academics have noted, linguistic duality is at the heart of our Canadian values of inclusiveness and diversity. Accommodating two languages has fostered greater openness in Canadian society toward other cultures. The Official Languages Act and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act go hand in hand in defining the values that Canada represents on the world stage.

In 2021, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada's multiculturalism policy, which was introduced in the House of Commons by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. This will be an opportunity to remember who we are and what unites us.

It is important and, indeed, crucial to note that multiculturalism and interculturalism are not incompatible. They are not really opposites. One does not exclude the other. Both attach great importance to integrating and respecting common civic and democratic values, and both have been invaluable to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s.

I would add that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy is flexible enough to allow for the two concepts, multiculturalism and interculturalism, to coexist. It is very important for the Government of Canada that Canadians in all provinces and territories act in accordance with the country's core values, such as openness to diversity, inclusion and respect for others. In that regard, multiculturalism, like our official languages, is often perceived to be a fundamental social pillar that the government is committed to defending and promoting.

Bill C-226 reminds us that Quebeckers form a nation and therefore possess all the tools and power needed to define their identity and protect three common and essential values, namely, the protection of the French language, the separation of church and state and gender equality. For those reasons, the member for Montcalm is suggesting that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act should not apply to Quebec. However, if we analyze the federal legislation carefully, we see that those three principles hold a very important, and even fundamental, place in it.

First, the application of the act does not exclude the protection of the French language. Immigrant heritage languages cannot be enhanced, as suggested in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, without strengthening the status and use of both official languages. What is more, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, like the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, while ensuring those freedoms are not endangered.

Second, because of this interpretation of pluralism, which is based on reasonable accommodation, the federal government has the ability to maintain the neutrality of the state, since it does not favour majority religious beliefs over minority ones.

The Multiculturalism Act repeatedly points to gender equality as a fundamental principle of Canadian society. Exempting Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, as called for in Bill C-226, could have major consequences.

It would reduce access to the multiculturalism funding program by Quebec's ethnocultural and religious communities. Exempting Quebec from the Multiculturalism Act would also compromise the federal government's ability to promote a consistent shared set of national values and support the overall objectives of the act. Passage of this bill will most certainly lead to discussions about competing anti-multiculturalism ideologies across the country, which is hardly desirable.

This bill is also an attempt to undermine the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec, given that section 17 of the charter officially refers to multiculturalism as a Canadian value. The bill is actually trying to do this without invoking the section 33 notwithstanding clause, which requires an official request by the province. I would note that the Government of Quebec has made no such request.

I will conclude by reminding the House that the position put forward by Bill C-226 is not supported by all Quebeckers and all Quebec governments. In 2017, the Quebec government published an official document that outlines its vision of itself within Canada. The document, entitled “Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations”, remains current and has been endorsed by two successive governments. It states, “Québec has been able to grow and develop its national identity within the Canadian federal framework.” This clearly implies that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act is not impeding Quebec or its development in any way.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act makes Canada a stronger, more united and more inclusive country, and it must be protected.

Whichever way we cut it, we are a country of minorities. This reality, and the awareness of this reality, is what gives us, as Canadians, our wise perspective, a perspective that in my view is the recipe for success in the postmodern world. It is what keeps us from the—

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-226, which was introduced by the hon. member for Montcalm.

The bill seeks the support of the House for an amendment to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec. Bill C-226 states that 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. The bill also implies that observing Canada’s version of multiculturalism would now allow for compliance with these three basic principles, and that therefore this federal law should not apply in Quebec.

Since the Canada’s multiculturalism policy was introduced in 1971, many Quebec political scientists and then several premiers have asserted that the federal multiculturalism policy is unsuited to the majority francophone province and that there could be no dissociation between culture and language in Quebec. The enactment of the Charter of the French Language, or Bill 101, in 1977 crystallized the differences between the Canadian and Quebec models. According to some, Canada’s concept of citizenship, which is multicultural, bilingual and open to other heritage immigrant languages, conflicts with the protection of the French language in Quebec and interculturalism.

Clearly, Quebec’s vision of society involves the protection of the French language and culture. More than that, it recognizes that Quebec society constitutes a unique cultural and linguistic minority, often described as endangered in North America. For many francophones in Quebec, Bill 101 addressed the concern that the absence of a strong language law asserting the primacy of French would lead newcomers to choose to integrate into the more attractive anglophone community because of its demographic weight and to preserve their identity. Quebec nationalism owes much to this fear of decline. For many francophones in Quebec, the promotion of cultural equality proposed in multiculturalism would diminish the importance of French and English contributions to the Canadian Confederation and undermine the development of the francophonie in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

It must be said that Quebec nationalism was greatly strengthened by the statement made in the House by prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1971 when he introduced the policy of multiculturalism, specifically giving immigrants the choice to learn either official language and fully integrate into Canadian society. For a majority of Quebeckers, this free choice was incompatible with the cultural and linguistic specificity of Quebec.

This situation was corrected in 1978 under the Cullen-Couture agreement, when the Government of Canada granted Quebec the responsibility of choosing its economic immigrants, giving the province an additional tool for integrating newcomers and protecting francophone culture. In 1981, with the large influx of immigrants, the Government of Quebec proposed a policy of cultural convergence entitled “Autant de façons d’être Québécois” or “Québécois – Each and Every One”. Its principal objective was to “ensure the maintenance and development of cultural communities and their specificities, make French-speaking Quebecers aware of the contribution of cultural communities to our common heritage and finally promote the integration of cultural communities in Quebec society and especially in sectors where they are particularly underrepresented”.

Several researchers and analysts pointed out that the Government of Quebec's program policies that have been developed since the 1980s to promote the development of the province's ethno-cultural communities are an awful lot like multiculturalism in a francophone context and therefore similar to what the federal government itself had proposed 10 years earlier in 1971.

In 1988, the preamble of the Multiculturalism Act reiterated the primacy of human rights and gender equality and the importance of fighting all forms of racial discrimination.

The act reasserts the country's official bilingualism, which has been governed by the Official Languages Act since 1969, by emphasizing the importance of expanding the use of official languages to ensure their development.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act also reaffirms freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, freedoms that cannot be violated. This interpretation of religious pluralism has led many experts to conclude that this system de facto supported the separation of church and state.

In many ways, Bill C-226 and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act are based on similar parameters, which must be enhanced and promoted. That is also the view of the authors of the Bouchard-Taylor commission's 2007-08 final report on reasonable accommodation in Quebec. They said that this truncated version of multiculturalism was essentially a caricature and it may have led its critics in Quebec to conclude that Canada's multicultural model had not evolved in Canada since its adoption and that it was incompatible with the Quebec model.

The authors of the report state that in Quebec “multiculturalism is presented as though it solely takes into account recognition and affirmation of difference with no regard for integrating elements such as the teaching of national languages and intercultural exchange programs.”

Canadian multiculturalism is obviously not a model that is immutable and fixed in time. Its flexibility allows not only for the integration and enhancement of the common values and founding principles of Canadian society, such as official bilingualism, human rights and the principle of reasonable accommodation, but also for the development of programs and tools adapted to the new realities of Canadian society.

In the most recent Speech from the Throne, the government defined the Canada of today and tomorrow, and in articulated the main Canadian values of reconciliation, the fight against systemic racism, the protection of official languages, the welcoming of immigrants and the strategic positioning of Canada in the world. In that text, the government also recognized the particular situation of French in the country and its intention to protect and promote French, not only outside Quebec, but also in Quebec.

This is a strong commitment by the federal government. These overall values and objectives also find a prominent place in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. A multicultural Canada is not incompatible with the future of a French-speaking Quebec and the flexibility of the laws that govern our country also allow Quebec to flourish.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2020 / 5:30 p.m.
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Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

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.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
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Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to debate private member's Bill C-226, introduced by the member for Montcalm, which is asking the House to support an amendment to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act so that it would not be applicable in Quebec. The act in question is part of a set of 10 constitutional and legislative positions, regulations and practices that recognize the contribution of all Canadians to the social fabric and economic well-being of the country.

The multiculturalism policy and its enabling legislation, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, are at the heart of the Government of Canada's efforts to improve quality of life, preserve social cohesion and guarantee all citizens equal participation in the country's social, political, economic and cultural life, regardless of race or ethnic origin.

Canadian multiculturalism is an effective instrument for fostering social cohesion, mutual respect and a shared sense of Canadian identity. Canada is a pioneer in this regard, being the first country in the world to establish a constitutional multiculturalism state, one in which peoples of all races, religions, cultures and languages have come to join our indigenous peoples.

Because of our Canadian Multiculturalism Act, Canada is viewed internationally as a model for promoting social cohesion. Our acceptance of cultural diversity is fundamental to our Canadian values of human rights and respect for differences and has played a role in our continued successful ranking on the United Nations human development index.

Canada’s model of multiculturalism is one of integration, not assimilation. Assimilation can be described as the process whereby new immigrants become indistinguishable within the dominant host society. In contrast, integration involves adding to the existing culture, which in turn enhances society. The majority of immigrants who come to Canada do integrate into society. They go to school, live and work in local communities and contribute to society at large.

Bilingualism and multiculturalism both speak to Canada's unique national identity. They are not in opposition. They are both assets that have enabled the building of a country that is one of the most envied in the world. Enshrined in our Constitution and in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our official bilingualism and our multiculturalism have supported each other in the past and must continue to move forward together.

No single set of policies can encompass the distinct historical legacies and current needs of Canada's diverse communities. It would be regrettable, indeed tragic, if the policy framework of multiculturalism were seen as operating at cross purposes, as if anyone who supports Quebec's national goals must reject multiculturalism or as if supporting multiculturalism means denying Quebec nationalism.

The Multiculturalism Act is compatible with Quebec's special status. The act aims to build relations of inclusive citizenship that embrace all Canadians.

Multiculturalism in Canada is not just for newcomers. Multiculturalism is about, and for, all Canadians. Multiculturalism is about mainstream Canada because mainstream Canada is multicultural.

Our history in Canada shows that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act has helped create a society where diversity is accepted and where integration is successfully taking place. It has helped build a country that takes pride in its multicultural heritage.

The last few decades have shown that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and Quebec's intercultural model have managed to work well alongside each other. One policy has not caused a problem for the other. Without a doubt there are differences in the policies, but each have helped forge a Canada that we can all be proud of.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was created to preserve and enhance our multicultural heritage and to help ensure the equal participation of all Canadians in society. The act provides a framework that is expansive and visionary. There is room within that framework for the voices and perspectives of all Canadians, including those of Quebeckers.

In 1971, the federal government, through its multicultural policy, recognized the diversity found in Canada as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society. This policy recognized that Canada was built not only on the contributions of indigenous peoples and the two official language communities, French and English, but also on the contributions of the many diverse communities that have come from all over the world, over the span of decades, to settle here in what is now known as Canada. It was an aspirational statement that would lead the way to the Canada we know today.

In 1988, the Parliament of Canada embedded our multiculturalism policy in legislation through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act, now over 30 years old, provides the framework for federal responsibilities and activities. It brings Canadians closer together and promotes mutual respect among Canadians of all backgrounds.

Since the Canadian Multiculturalism Act has been in place, it has become a core component of Canadian identity. It has helped build a cohesive society by assisting groups and individuals to participate in all spheres of Canadian society. The act has contributed to promoting mutual respect and peaceful relations among Canadians of different backgrounds and assisted in strengthening bonds of mutual trust and responsibility.

As much as multiculturalism has become a core component of our identity, so, too, has our country's linguistic duality become a defining element of Canadian identity. Our Official Languages Act complements the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Both recognize that there is a uniqueness to the diverse population in Canada and that this unique heritage is worth preserving. These two acts are symbols of Canada and its heritage.

After 30 years, I can confidently say that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act has served our nation well. In Canada, diversity is one of our greatest strengths, yet we must never forget that it demands our continuous effort, attention and care, so that it can continue to grow. Today, according to Statistics Canada data, immigration accounts for about two-thirds of overall population growth. Our multicultural heritage should not be divisive, particularly in a democracy that respects individual freedoms as much as Canada. Generations of immigrants have come and successfully settled across this country, and we can see the success of their integration simply by looking around this chamber or walking down the streets of just about any city in Canada.

Multiculturalism is not simply a government policy; it is the lived experience of people across our country, a country in which Canadians of different origins live and work side by side and where these same Canadians, new and not so new, work to learn the languages, customs and history of our country that they, in turn, share with us as equal members of Canadian society. This two-way street has helped shape us as a country.

The work to lay the foundation for the multicultural country Canada is today was done by past generations.

Today, young Canadians are consistently more accepting of immigration and cultural diversity than older generations. On the whole, Canada's multiculturalism policy and the subsequent Canadian Multiculturalism Act have helped create the Canada of today: a Canada that is open and welcoming of cultural diversity, and a Canada that will remain a multicultural society.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2020 / 6:20 p.m.
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Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I worked meticulously on my speech, so I hope that it will address many of the questions my colleagues have raised in their speeches.

I want to recognize my hon. colleague from Montcalm and thank him for his important speech on the bill that he sponsored, Bill C-226, an act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act regarding its non-application in Quebec. This bill is very important for Quebec because it would amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec.

I remind members that there are different conceptual levels of multiculturalism. We need to distinguish between multiculturalism as a social fact of ethnocultural diversity and multiculturalism as a social construct or state ideology. The construct of multiculturalism is a symbolic representation of a nation's political vision. Diversity is viewed differently by Quebeckers and by Canadians.

The Canadian myth portrays Canada as a fundamentally multicultural country, as though there were no social hierarchy created by the cultural domination of the historical anglophone majority. By contrast, Quebec's national vision interprets diversity as a meeting with a host society. This meeting involves a form of cultural exchange. That means immigrants turned citizens integrate into the host society's culture, which evolves by subsuming aspects of the cultures of Quebec's diverse residents.

Unlike the Canadian representation of multiculturalism, the Quebec model involves cultural convergence, which strengthens the nation's common culture without halting its progress.

The term multiculturalism also refers to another conceptual level, that of public policy, the purpose of which is to promote a national vision related to a particular view of multiculturalism by implementing specific measures and programs designed to bring in diversity one way or another.

As mentioned earlier, Canada's policy dates back to 1970. Obviously, it quickly came under heavy criticism from Quebec because it would relegate Quebeckers to being just one ethnic minority among many. What is more, while multiculturalism is presented as an option that is preferable to assimilation, it is an outdated approach with a trivializing effect. It marginalizes communities and traps them in their culture of origin. This leaves groups more isolated, causing them to turn in on themselves.

It is not just Quebeckers and francophones who criticize multiculturalism for being divisive. The same critique was brought forward by English-speaking Canadian author Neil Bissoondath in his book entitled Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada.

What specifically are we criticizing about multiculturalism? I will go straight to the point that interests me even more deeply, that is, everything that our theorist, sociologist and historian Gérard Bouchard has inscribed in our cultural heritage.

According to him, Quebec's interculturalism is a model of integration, as I said earlier, that is distinct from assimilation or multiculturalism. The main components that Mr. Bouchard outlined are as follows: promoting French as a civic language that is a condition for participation in public life; respecting the rights of all Quebeckers, including those most vulnerable to discrimination because of cultural differences such as language, religion and customs; recognizing the majority-minority relationship underlying Quebec's ethnocultural reality; giving priority to collective integration, as befits a small nation whose cultural future is a source of constant concern; developing a common culture; and emphasizing intercultural connections and exchanges.

Let me quote Mr. Bouchard:

One of the model's primary concerns is avoiding assimilation. Rather, its goal is integration, adherence to our society's fundamental values as defined in our Charter. It also expects newcomers to learn French and participate in civic life. As for the common culture, it develops through free intercultural interaction and feeds off all contributions, from the majority and minorities alike. Nobody is expected to renounce their culture.

Quebec's interculturalism took shape in the late 1990s with the publication of a white paper entitled Let's Build Québec Together: A Policy Statement on Immigration and Integration. It states that Quebec is a society where French is the common language of public life, a democratic society where everyone's participation and contribution is expected and facilitated, a pluralistic society open to everyone's contribution within the limits imposed by respect for basic democratic values.

It is therefore essential that the social and economic integration of immigrants take place in French. Economically, interculturalism must provide immigrants with the resources to get into the job market, and that starts with learning French. The notion of exchange is key to the policy of interculturalism because, politically, interculturalism implies that the state respects intercultural principles, especially citizen participation, intercultural exchange and the fight against discrimination.

The civic route is preferred over the courts for settling cultural disputes. Inclusivity and the importance of the common culture are the strengths that distinguish interculturalism from Canadian multiculturalism.

State secularism is a model for integration and a way of accommodating ethnocultural diversity. This is a principle that establishes the separation of government and religion, the religious neutrality of the state, equality for all citizens, and guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

In closing, it is important to know that the two policies are independent. The one does not have to involve the other. Whether it is true or not, the important thing is that, in any case, this is a Quebec discussion that concerns the nation of Quebec, its identity and its future. It does not concern Canada in any way. Interculturalism, like secularism, is a matter for public discussion and debate. There is a clear consensus among all parliamentarians in Quebec that these debates are profoundly national and democratic. They have been held and will be held in our National Assembly, period.