Madam Speaker, I too would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for sparking the discourse, the controversy and discussion. I would say that we in the Bloc Québécois have taken this very seriously. We discussed it for over an hour. However, we may not agree on everything.
There is no doubt in our minds that the federal government has a responsibility to certain populations in Canada, people who face inequalities in their relationship with the the environment. The state and quality of the environment has had serious repercussions on our lives over the past two years. We know that this is of paramount importance to everyone.
The Bloc Québécois supports the intention expressed in the title and preamble of Bill C-226 when it comes to environmental justice. If Parliament is to pass such a law, we believe that the concept of environmental justice must be the be the main subject and central concept.
The living conditions that some individuals and communities in Canada find themselves in—and I am thinking here of drinking water, for one—are inconceivable and unacceptable in a supposedly wealthy G7 nation.
That is why we think the House is justified in expressing its desire to act against environmental inequality and discrimination, to study these phenomena in greater depth, to understand the mechanisms and to explore possible solutions. That is all fine.
The existence of geographical differences in standard of living and access to a quality environment is a concern. We should worry about the fact that citizens who are immigrants, who belong to visible minority groups and indigenous communities or who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are directly affected by these differences.
That is why the Bloc Québécois supports government action to address environmental inequality affecting all communities. However, we are not convinced that implementing this from coast to coast to coast across the federation is the right approach if we want to protect the rights of all people to health and access to a quality environment.
Any action the Government of Canada takes must take into account the prerogatives of Quebec and the provinces because environmental protection, health and social services are under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The government must therefore acknowledge Quebec's expertise in this area.
In any case, we are convinced that it would be inconsistent to claim to fight for environmental justice at the federal level while failing to advocate for the defence of Quebec's environmental sovereignty.
Some federal infrastructure is not covered by our protection laws. I will talk about a very specific case, that of the Limoilou area, which is next to the Port of Québec. Quebec's environmental laws, which are much more stringent than the federal ones, do not apply there because ports fall under federal jurisdiction. Consequently, everyone living in Limoilou, whether they are immigrants or not, are seeing the quality of their environment and their health deteriorate as a result of dust from ore transshipment. Everyone in the Limoilou neighbourhood is suffering. This is known as a low-income neighbourhood.
Nevertheless, the House rejected the solution proposed by the Bloc Québécois several times by voting against our bill on Quebec's environmental sovereignty. This is in stark contrast to the unanimous will of the National Assembly of Quebec expressed on April 13, 2022, which members will agree is fairly recent, to support the primacy of Quebec's environmental jurisdiction. Members were unanimous in opposing any federal environmental action on Quebec's territory.
In Quebec, the right to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity has been included in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms since 2006.
The House of Commons will have an opportunity to follow our lead because Bill S-5, the strengthening environmental protection for a healthier Canada act, is currently being studied in the Senate. It must come back to the House, and we can only agree with introducing this right into Canadian legislation.
Environment-based human rights need to be developed. The best protection against inequality is Quebec's social safety net and the defence of our collective choices.
I remind the House that there is a consensus that socio-economic disparity, limited access to decision-making bodies, and a lack of political power and representation are all at the heart of this quest for environmental justice. When we talk about environmental justice, we are talking about all of this.
The factors I just mentioned cannot be ignored if we want to pursue justice. This is no small feat. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Quebec has chosen solidarity. Quebec has the best record in North America when ti comes to the distribution of wealth. This can be measured. Pan-Canadian standards and strategies often run counter to our collective choices. There are a number of examples of this in the most recent budget, which we have been debating. The federal governments' interference in social affairs is harmful and does not reflect Quebec's reality.
The Bloc Québécois works and advocates for Quebec to be its own country, a country founded on mutual recognition among indigenous nations, a country in which all citizens, no matter the colour of their skin or where they were born, are equal and entitled to equal enjoyment of the benefits of social and environmental justice.
A good policy is obviously a policy whose measures are characterized by a reasonable degree of flexibility. There are certainly extreme situations, such as unacceptable living conditions, that require an appropriate public response. However, let us remember that good policy is universal. It serves the common good and applies to everyone.
Universal public policies—and I must emphasize this—also dismantle unequal structures and discriminatory practices. Be it in Quebec, France or elsewhere, social policies that have done the most to advance rights, develop the social safety net and eliminate inequality—or, in other words, develop the welfare state—are, as I said, universal policies intended for everyone.
The Bloc Québécois wishes to emphasize its commitment to the principle of universality, which enables all members of society to pursue economic and social well-being.
If we institute new policies based on new rights, such as the right to a clean environment, everyone, without exception, should have them. If the policy is well thought out and the measures implemented have a real impact on these inequalities, those who suffer the most from injustice will receive help and support, or reparation for the harm done, from the government.
If the rights and the eligibility criteria for government protection and support are universal and their principles are applied to everyone, without discrimination, then the policy will eliminate inequalities based on differences.
I want to share some lines from a song by Gilles Vigneault, a great Quebec poet who sang Mon pays, which has been adopted as a Quebec anthem. This song evokes the warmth and universality of the Quebec people.
About my solitary country
I cry out before I am silenced
To everyone on earth
My house is your house
Inside my four walls of ice
I take my time and my space
To prepare the fire, the place
For the people of the horizon
And the people are of my race
The Bloc Québécois believes that these rights, and the policies that stem from them, will have to be universal. Everyone must have them, regardless of their differences.
Then we will have powerful legal tools to address inequities and discrimination, including on the basis of origin, language or cultural background, which are induced by unequal environmental factors such as exposure to pollution or lack of access to clean water or life-sustaining resources.