House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

While it is not a point of order, I think it is a point that has been made and should be taken as such and rightfully so. In the most respectful parliamentary fashion we refer to one another as hon. members.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague likes very much to listen to himself talk. He talks and talks and talks. I also like to talk, but at least I do not deny it. What is important here is that as much as I recognize the member's expertise in some of these areas, I have to say that he is talking through his hat with regard to Canadian heritage. The CBC costs us a fortune. It costs us 65 per cent of the $1.5 billion spent, and it is watched by only 13 per cent of English Canadians. This is not a good price-quality ratio. There is too much money paid to too many people for nothing. It is simply too expensive.

I would like to know what information the hon. member has on that. I am a bit tired, and so are Canadians, of hearing that we are the greatest country in the world. That is all very nice, but 20 per cent of our children live in poverty, the unemployment rate is at 25 per cent and we have a debt that grows larger by the second. When will the government stop saying that we are such a great country and start doing something to really make Canada a great place to live? Do you not think that our country is going bankrupt?

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Patrick Gagnon Liberal Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I had been asked to comment on the country's economic situation, I would say that the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata is right. Much remains to be done. I think that together, united and strong, we stand the best chance of putting this country on the road to economic recovery.

However, and I am nevertheless mindful of what was said by the hon. member and by my department, and I am referring to the department I represent here today. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has done a lot for culture in Quebec and for the culture of the francophone minorities outside Quebec. Thanks to the CBC, people know what this country is about. I do not know the exact ratings, but I do not think anyone can deny that Canadian productions are worthwhile. I think we have made some very good films with producers from Quebec and from English Canada. We have promoted the expression of Quebec culture, and I think this is largely thanks to the federal government, which gave Quebecers a chance to express themselves and say who they are, to Canada and to the whole world.

I think the Government of Canada is to be commended for having invested so much in Quebec, and what probably bothers the opposition is the fact that more and more performing artists and producers are aware of the positive role played by this department, and especially by the Government of Canada, in

promoting French Canadian and Quebec culture throughout the world.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to participate in the debate on Bill C-53.

The debate we just listened to reminds me very much of the failure of federal spending. It is no different on job creation from what it is on cultural matters. If federal spending created jobs, every Canadian would have two. If federal spending helped on some of these cultural matters, people would not be voting by turning off their television sets when it comes to a lot of the programming on CBC.

Bill C-53 is one multifaceted attempt to right every perceived wrong in the government's quest for political correctness. It is a continuation of hyphenated Canadians and funding of special interest groups which in the final analysis has hardly promoted unity and has only been a drain on the public purse.

Nowhere in Bill C-53 can I detect any change in this litany of throwing money at something we are desperately trying to understand. It seems that government thinks it can buy peace and unity by entrenching more rights and latitude for special interest groups. When are we going to become Canadians rather than a mishmash of individuals with a particular axe to grind?

While I am on that topic of special interest groups, it might not be as bad if more members of the special interest groups were beneficiaries. Too often a few greedy, self-serving individuals who head up the leadership of these groups are the main recipients.

I am told that one individual who is paid a $60,000 a year salary to head one of these groups, a person in their thirties is nearly a millionaire. Is this where the funding for some of these groups is going: membership at the Rideau Club, first class air travel, cottages in the Gatineau?

Bill C-53 will not correct this injustice but will only entrench it further. One has to simply take a cursory look at the 1994-95 estimates for Canadian heritage. Every conceivable special interest group is on the payroll. What is the effectiveness of these programs? Is there demonstrable success to parallel their mandates? Are they accountable or merely sinkholes of largesse? My Reform colleagues will chronicle the misplacement of funding in this debate.

I would now like to turn to an element of responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage as contained in Bill C-53, specifically Canada's Metis. The department mandate states that the programs for Metis are designed to help the Metis define and participate in the resolution of the social, cultural, political and economic issues affecting their lives in Canadian society. A common feature of the program is that projects are community based and are initiated and managed by aboriginal people.

I can count some $40 million directed at those programs. Is it being used on what is intended? Is it accountable? One does not have to do much research before one's antennae beam on specific examples where accountability is questionable. I refer to the Metis nation of Saskatchewan.

Last March and April headlines in regional Saskatchewan and national newspapers screamed out headlines of mismanagement of funds, accounting anomalies and refusal by Metis leaders to co-operate with audits. At one point over $1 million was unaccountable. No one questioned the legality of the Metis in this circumstance; they did question accountability and proper management of funds.

It seems in government quests to keep everyone happy, we make the cheques and never ask another question. When someone stumbles over some anomaly regarding procedures, we get the whitewash. The bureaucrats and some antsy national Metis council officials get on the damage control mode. This is not good enough. Bill C-53 does not improve on it. What the cloud of uncertainty over the Metis Society of Saskatchewan did was create a splinter group of concerned Metis citizens. It seems they too felt that those Metis leaders handling the funds at the local level did not have the capacity to do it and it reflected badly on the members. Bill C-53 does not address this; it entrenches further mismanagement.

In preparation for this debate, my office called a few departmental people, research officers appointed to and in these debates, and naturally talked to others interested in this subject matter. Is it not interesting that I still do not have a bottom line on funding through Heritage Canada to the Metis. I really do not think Bill C-53 will contribute to enlightening the House any further on this issue.

Other newspaper headlines suggest that Metis leaders are ignorant of public trust, that funding provided through Heritage Canada for programs and activities of Metis groups, often for worthy undertakings, may not be trickling down from the Metis leaders in charge of disbursing funds. It is simply not good enough to concentrate control of funds with the leadership. It would be better to have these funds administered by a council or committee made up of all strata within the Metis society.

The very thing I speak of is what prompted the RCMP investigation of the handling of funds by the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan. I ask how window dressing the plethora of multiculturalism undertakings into the department of heritage will solve this disbursal and accountability of funding for Metis societies.

Bill C-53 merely complies with political correctness and assures a supply of government funds to be doled out by sometimes incompetent individuals.

I would be remiss if I did not touch on one other aspect of funding that should trouble us greatly. What Bill C-53 manages to accomplish is to again ensure continued funding for the industry that has been created around the Metis societies. Make no mistake about it, this is an industry unto itself, secret, paranoid and accountable to no one.

There was an instance this last spring in the midst of investigation into the Metis nation of Saskatchewan that funding cheques were still being issued to the same individuals under investigation, so-called representing a specific Metis society. What kind of power and control do these individuals in this industry have on this government? Instead of codifying more programs, which in the Saskatchewan Metis experience have caused disunity, not harmony, we should be drafting accountability guidelines for these bureaucrats handing out the largesse and establishing disbursal guidelines for these Metis bodies.

I am not breaking any new trails here. I have asked a series of questions of the minister of heritage, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development regarding the Metis and aboriginal funding. I have attempted to enlighten this administration about who is really getting rich. With the current method, rank and file Metis are not the recipients. Bill C-53 will ensure it is business as usual.

Mr. Jim Sinclair, president of the Native Council of Canada, in testimony before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs stated in April of this year that he would welcome his books being audited by the Auditor General, not the Secretary of State now Heritage Canada. There has to be an arm's length relationship when it comes to the auditing function. Again Bill C-53 ensures that Heritage Canada will continue to audit itself. I call it vertically integrated bureaucratic control. It should be eliminated by the government.

The federal interlocutor for Canada's Metis, the Minister of Natural Resources, is another participant in the process. She indicated that the federal government is prepared to assume 50 per cent of the cost of establishing and maintaining a registry of the people of the Metis nation.

We had a census in 1991. Why would the federal government want to encourage further racial divisiveness by committing to a racially based census? Surely such an undertaking is another instance of the potential for more misunderstanding of the government's uncontrollable urge to create special rights for various groups within our society. Does anyone know how to say no?

At the same time that the federal interlocutor is committing to this census, the Metis leadership is proposing a national legislative assembly, a capital in Batoche, a flag, an anthem, an emblem, Metis and Canadian citizenship and Metis law making authority. Does the minister want to encourage all this by providing funding for an as yet undefined census based on racial characteristics where the proponent has a vested interest in inflating the membership qualifications as much as possible? What is the federal interlocutor of the Metis doing by committing funding to create another group on which to confer special rights?

Either the Minister of Canadian Heritage through Bill C-53 is the minister responsible for Metis or he is not. Clearly responsibility for Metis is outside the purview of the minister of Indian affairs. It should also be outside the purview of the Minister of Natural Resources. Why do we need two ministers responsible for the same issue?

We have a litany of funding and accounting problems in not only the Metis society in Saskatchewan, but there are problems in other jurisdictions as well. This is what Bill C-53 should be addressing.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I address this House on Bill C-53, which confirms the structure of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The Canadian government has used this bill to bring together under one roof several elements of our Canadian identity. Of course, when we speak of heritage, there are those who think of the past, of historic sites and buildings, of monuments and museums.

But there is much more than that. Our heritage is also the present and especially the future. That is why the new department includes: the development and promotion of our unique culture; communications and the development of the information highway; the cultural industries, which are taking their place, with much success, on the world scene; official languages, multiculturalism and heritage languages, essential elements of our national affirmation; amateur sports, which give expression to our search for excellence.

All these elements play a role in making us what we are, proud Canadians who are respected and envied the world over.

I came to Canada at the age of 16. I chose this country for its promise of a future, social stability and a tradition of welcoming new citizens. And I must say that I was not disappointed.

Yes, Canada's doors are open. Yes, Canada is full of opportunities. Yes, Canada is a land of justice and sharing. Yes, it is the best country in the world!

And even if the Canadian Heritage critic for the Official Opposition does not agree, I would like to tell him that there are millions and millions of human beings in the world who would give everything they have to be admitted into Canada and to live here with us. Despite our difficulties, our differences, our economic and financial problems, this country is still the best in the world. And in Quebec, it is a minority that wants to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada and destroy this country.

Let us not be misled, this country is still the best in the world. This fact has been recognized twice by the United Nations and most importantly it is acknowledged by all of us who, day after day, live in peace and prosperity on this vast North American territory.

I am a Canadian proud and aware of the considerable benefits that this country provides. I am also a full-fledged Quebecer who realizes how beneficial it is for us to be part of the Canadian entity.

There are few places in the world where two great cultures can blossom out in such harmony and with such autonomy as in Canada. And this is where the role of the Department of Heritage becomes so important. Our government recognizes that culture is not an abstraction detached from reality but a vital link that binds us all together.

As a matter of fact, in our red book, we say that "culture is the very essence of national identity, the bedrock of national sovereignty and national pride".

Several of our major cultural institutions, namely the CBC, the Canada Council, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada contribute year after year to bring to the fore artistic talents from Quebec.

Heritage Canada supports, finances, develops markets for francophone cultural products that are essential to our artists in Quebec. The Canadian Museum of Civilizations in Hull, as well as the Quebec Citadel, trace the history of the first inhabitants and the first settlers that came here. Our parks and historic sites give the millions of tourists who visit our country an idea of the richness of our natural heritage.

The works of Michel Tremblay, Alice Parizeau, Antonine Maillet and many others have reached far beyond the boundaries of Quebec and of Canada. Those works are translated in several languages and have become the delight of readers all around the world.

The Cirque du soleil, a unique cultural product, conceived and realized by Quebecers, fills with wonder the young and not so young on several continents.

Quebec films, songs and plays have extensions on all continents. In television, the TV5 channel opens a window on the French-speaking world. This international cooperation allows also the francophonie to learn what goes on in our country. Programs produced in this country are broadcasted in Rome, Warsaw or Cairo.

The Canadian government plays a leading role in the expression and promotion of French culture in Canada and in the world.

We support creation. We support production. We encourage young artists. We negotiate agreements regarding export of our cultural products.

In the day-to-day life of French-speaking creators, the federal contribution is irreplaceable. Without the contribution of the Canadian government, many of our famous writers, our established actors and actresses, our renowned movie producers would have never taken off. We know it and this is why, despite our limited resources, we give particular attention to cultural development. This is part of our mandate, part of our responsibilities.

We should not underestimate the economic value of our cultural sector. Today, cultural enterprises rank ninth among our national industries. They generate direct revenues amounting to $22 billion a year.

About 600,000 Canadians work in this field. This clearly demonstrates that our cultural industries are closely linked to the economic development of our country and actively contribute to our prosperity. In addition to preserving and promoting native, French and English cultures, Canada officially recognizes its multiculturalism.

Moreover, the building of this country has largely been influenced by several waves of immigrants who made their homes here. Thousands of immigrants have developed Canada's natural resources. They have settled vast territories. They have helped build our cities.

Most regions of Canada have developed their own characteristics inherited from different cultural groups. This diversity is the hallmark of the Canadian identity and culture. Canadian multiculturalism is two-pronged. It encourages all Canadians to take an active part in society, in either official language. It also urges society to get rid of all obstacles impeding full and equal participation.

Cultural harmony is being promoted through initiatives such as teaching heritage languages, assisting ethnic artists and encouraging cross-cultural activities. While recognizing that

our roots are an important part of our identity, Canadian multiculturalism urges us to make a commitment to Canada. It respects everyone's cultural identity. It encourages creativity and cultural exchanges. It helps us to realize not only what our rights are as a member of society, but also what are our responsibilities.

In Canada, we do not ask newcomers to leave their culture at the door to be welcome. As the Prime Minister would say, you can be proud of being a Canadian as well as a Quebecer. That is what makes us Canadians so unique.

The role of the Heritage Department is precisely to support the development of our national identity. Having grouped all the means of expression of this identity under one department, the government is being consistent. In so doing it is ensuring sound management of our investments and greater efficiency. It proves that federalism can be adapted to our society's changing needs. It proves that several cultures, living in harmony and sharing, can flourish on the same territory. It proves that, together, we can create and share a reality which is unique in the world, and that is the Canadian identity.

This is a time when we have to pull together. Yes, we have some financial difficulties. Yes, we have some serious problems that we have to solve. However, we should look at the number of people outside Canada who are waiting in line in different parts of the world in different Canadian embassies. Think of the millions of human beings who would give everything they have to be here in Canada, to be a Canadian resident, to be a Canadian citizen. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we have a lot of differences. I think that as in the past we can work together, pool our resources and continue to ensure that this is a country of generosity, a country of understanding.

It is only by working together in this globalization that we are going through that we can survive and maintain this unique Canadian way of doing things. We have the Canadian way of welcoming new Canadians in this country and a Canadian way of making sure that our seniors are protected. We have a way of protecting our health system. This is unique if I may be allowed to say that.

That in a way represents Canadians' generosity. Look at me. I came to Canada when I was 16 years old. Today I am a member of Parliament, the highest tribunal in the land. I speak the two official languages. I am of Italian origin. I raised a family. We worked together and we are proud of our achievements.

I was able to achieve because our country and our system allows me to achieve. Therefore I will work hard in future months to make sure that the federal system that we have ensures equality and protection for everyone. We have prosperity and hope that our children will have it.

I am sure there is a solution to all the differences and all the problems that we have. The only way we can solve this is working together. We look forward to solving these problems. A lot of countries look at us and at the way we have been solving and will continue to solve our differences. This is the future of the world. This is where the rest of the world is going.

It would be a shame to depart from this tradition, the way we have been doing things for 125 years.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Saint-Léonard. It is the first time I have had the honour to listen to him in this House and I did so attentively. Other duties prevented me from hearing him before. I do not want that to be taken in a negative way.

I listened to his speech attentively. What struck me the most is that to define himself as a Canadian, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard only spoke about Quebec francophones, which is rather surprising. So I went to see my colleague from Calgary Southeast to ask her the name of an English philosopher, which she could not remember either. There is an English Canadian-whose name you probably know-now living in Vancouver who has asked out loud what many people quietly think: Is there a Canadian identity? The answer is no. There is no Canadian identity. What is a Canadian? Who is a Canadian? Is it someone who lives in Canada? I myself live in Canada because I do not have a choice but I am a Quebecer and not a Canadian. The Premier of Quebec made a mistake; he did not know any more if he could be a Canadian or a Quebecer, a Quebecer or a Canadian.

A Canadian is defined as someone who lives in Canada, in a country with two languages, multiculturalism and everything. Come on! That is not what defines a Canadian. So he spoke only of Quebec's French-speaking writers. We never denied Radio-Canada's part in Quebec's francophone culture. We never denied this or any other roles. But what is the heritage department doing now? It is cutting off all funding to the National Film Board. They are strangling the NFB. Telefilm Canada was ordered to cut from 5 per cent to 8 per cent. They will no longer be able to produce films.

It is the same everywhere. Let us stop deluding ourselves. It may be the most beautiful country in the world, but I have seen the Rockies and they are nothing compared to Charlevoix.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her initial remarks. She is trying to define what it is to be a Canadian. I have always defined myself as a Canadian, a Quebecer of Italian descent. That is the beauty of it. I tried to explain it earlier. I started to in English, and I will now continue in French.

That is the difference. I think that I am a product of what we could call a Canadian. I came to Canada when I was 16 years old. I have no problem with this country that may mean nothing to you because you do not care much about the Rockies, but Charlevoix is quite beautiful. As far as I am concerned, the Rockies are beautiful and so is Charlevoix. I have no problem because I feel like a Canadian, like a Canadian and a Quebecer, and it is this country, this country's federal system that the Official Opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, criticizes day in and day out and are trying to destroy.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

An hon. member

You are talking about a single culture.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

I am not talking about a single culture, but rather two official languages, the French culture-as I indicated in previous speeches-the English culture, and a multicultural culture. That is the Canadian reality, its cultural identity, with both the French and English cultures and the multiculturalism that make Canada a tolerant country, as I said in my speech, if only the hon. member had listened.

When you come to Canada, you must not leave your culture at the door; you must bring it along, protect and nurture it, and together with other cultures continue to build this great country. Globalization is a world-wide phenomenon. We must not fence ourselves in as the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois are trying to do in Quebec.

We have faith in this huge country stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, point of order. The member cannot say that the Bloc Quebecois wants to keep Quebec inside a small culture. I ask him to withdraw his remarks right away.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I am listening carefully to the speeches on both sides of the House, and with all due respect to all hon. members, I do not believe that this is a point of order. I again give the floor to the Hon. Secretary of State.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the hon. member understood me or if I expressed myself poorly; I was talking about fencing oneself in and said "clôture"; I did not wish to imply that it is a small culture, and did not say "culture". Perhaps my colleague was not wearing an earphone; I said fencing, because I have great respect for the French culture. In the ten years that I have been here, I have always defended the French language and culture and Quebecers' rights and the interests of the Canadian Confederation. She needs only refer to the Hansards which report everything that is said in the House and even what is said outside the House. So she thinks I said small culture, but I was talking about fencing. Either I mispronounced the word or she misunderstood.

Personally, I respect the hon. member's option. I believe in this Canada. I feel comfortable defining myself as a Canadian. I am Canadian. I feel confident. I believe that in spite of all our differences, Canada will continue to exist and will continue to develop. Canada will become a model in the world because it is the only way, with a strong Quebec inside Canada. That is the difference! A strong Quebec inside Canada; that is the difference and that is how Canada will be a model for the rest of the world. When we see what is happening in the rest of the world, people will look to Canada, and the Canadian federal system will still be the best. In the future, you will see that Canada's federal system will continue to progress and succeed despite our differences; the whole world envies us and will continue to envy us.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too appreciated the comments of the hon. member.

I am going to phrase the context of my remarks within the history of my family. My grandfather came from Croatia as a very young man. He was thinly clothed, he had very little money and he certainly did not have any government waiting to give him a handout when he came here. He came alone, without his young wife and without his baby daughter, my mother. They stayed behind in Croatia. He worked his heart out for three years and he paid their way over here. In all of the years I knew my grandfather until he died at 68 years old he worked and paid his own way. Our family learned that tradition of paying your own way. You do not go to government for handouts. If you have a problem you go to your family, you go to your friends and you go to your community support and that does not mean a federal handout.

I am also quite concerned that this debate is grinding down into a Quebecer and English Canadian issue. This is not the issue today. The issue is the legislation of Bill C-53 which means-and let me say it again-we are looking at entrenching multiculturalism funding and we cannot afford it. We are looking at national enforced bilingualism and we cannot afford it. We also cannot afford the funding of special interest groups.

When the hon. member speaks about the economic impact of some of our cultural industries bringing $22 billion into our coffers that is a drop in the bucket against a $532 billion deficit whereby this government will only bring in revenue of $110 million per day. It spends more every day than it brings in. It does not take very long to eat up $22 billion. I would like the

hon. member to perhaps refer to a cross benefit analysis that he has done to substantiate his remarks.

Finally, the hon. member has not addressed the real issue here. In this legislation there is no downsizing, no streamlining and no financial savings. That quite frankly is what Canadian taxpayers are looking for from this government. Those are the things they are looking for because those are the promises of that infamous Liberal red book.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. I would like to tell my hon. colleague that when I came to Canada I did not receive anything. Everything I did I paid for. I went to night school and I paid for the lessons. I shovelled snow in the winter and delivered groceries. I did these things and I am proud of it. However, that does not mean that because some years ago we were in a certain situation people in need should be forgotten.

I agree with the hon. member that there is abuse in the system and we are trying to correct it. I believe the hon. member does not draw a line of what the legislation is and what she would like the legislation to do.

This is a bill to organize a department. This bill is to legalize, to put in perspective of the law the departmental reorganization that the Prime Minister announced in November 1993 when we took office. She mentioned the red book. We had a promise that would cut expenses right away from the top, from the Prime Minister's office down to all the ministers of $10 million a year. I think so far we have accounted for $13 million. This part of the reorganization.

In terms of funding that the member is talking about, the member should take note, probably next week when the Minister of Finance goes before the finance committee and presents his budgetary vision on the next budget and consults with Canadians, of the estimates. That is where funding is provided for every program and for every department.

What we are talking about here is the legal frame of a department. We see here 40 departments that we had in 1984 reduced down to 22. These are the savings and the promise that we kept in the red book.

I invite the hon. member to wait until Wednesday when the minister of human resources will table his discussion paper on social programs. I am sure she has a lot of things to say there and I am sure she will contribute to the debate, not only in this House but also across the country. I am sure she is waiting patiently for the Minister of Finance to come to this House and go to the finance committee to give reference of his consultation for the next budget. There hopefully altogether we will continue to reduce expenses and look at ways we can serve our citizens more with less.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before continuing debate on Bill C-53 it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Mercier-unemployment; the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake-low level flights.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my views on Bill C-53, An Act to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage and to amend and repeal certain other acts. The Department of Communications, the Department of the Secretary of State and the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship were abolished following the government reorganization announced on June 25 and November 4, 1993. This exercise resulted in the creation of a new portfolio, the Department of Canadian Heritage.

For the first time, all federal agencies in the cultural sector, including the Canada Council, CBC, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, the national museums and parks of Canada, the National Archives and many others, are part of a single superdepartment.

I want to quote an important provision regarding a field which comes under the minister's jurisdiction. Clause 4(g), on page 2, states that the Minister of Canadian Heritage must promote "the advancement of the equality of status and use of English and French and the enhancement and development of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada".

That clause provides a good description of the federal government's objective to promote a Canadian cultural identity primarily based on the main features of a bilingual and multicultural Canada. However, no reference is made to Quebec as a society, nor to its cultural and linguistic specificity.

Once again, Ottawa denies the distinct cultural reality of Quebec by attempting to dilute its French status and culture in a supposedly bilingual and multicultural Canadian cultural identity. The creation of that department is in compliance with the defunct Charlottetown Accord, which proposed an artificial and false recognition of the provinces' exclusive jurisdiction over culture.

Never in the past, much less now, did the federal government consider withdrawing from the cultural sector despite Quebec's demands for the transfer of cultural jurisdiction and related budgets from Ottawa. The establishment of this new department is proof positive of this: the federal government is turning a deaf ear to Quebec's demands concerning language, education and, most of all, culture.

The federal government will continue to use its spending power to play a role in Quebec without any regard to the priorities and demands of the Quebec government in matters of language, education, and culture. How many more times will we

have to fight for Quebec's interests and demands? Why is the federal government ignoring Quebec's jurisdiction over culture and language?

My colleagues on this side of the House received a clear mandate to stand for the interests of Quebecers. Quebec's demands concerning cultural and linguistic jurisdiction are part of that mandate, and I will fight for them with conviction and determination.

I would like to quote what the late member for Brome-Missisquoi, Gaston Péloquin, was forever repeating to us and trying to convey to his constituents. It is a true depiction of the Canadian situation.

"The fundamental difference between the two solitudes is that Canada is a country looking for a people, and Quebec is a people looking for a country". The fact that my federalist friends refuse to talk about sovereignty does not mean it will not happen. Quebecers will be deciding for themselves, and the other nine provinces will have to accept that decision out of respect for justice and democracy.

The federal government keeps encroaching on exclusive Quebec jurisdictions. It can offer no guarantee about language, education and culture.

The Canadian Heritage Department is a typical example of this kind of interference in an area of jurisdiction claimed by Quebec. Essentially, the policies and priorities of the department, which were designed without consulting Quebec, are more in line with the prospect of an hypothetical country-wide cultural identity which seeks the outright assimilation, sooner or later, of the French language and the Quebec culture. I believe that is the real objective of the federal government.

The notion of cultural identity is what brings people together in a society. This notion helps to build and establish on a permanent basis the institutions that constitute a given society. What this government must understand is that the notion of cultural identity cannot be commanded or imposed in a democratic system or regime.

Thus the federal government cannot make an abstraction of the French culture and language that give distinct identity to Quebec society. The fact is that Canada is constituted by two nation states. Canada is not composed of a unique culture as the federal government would like us to believe.

These are the facts and the Minister of Canadian Heritage will have to deal with them.

History clearly demonstrates this. The federal government has always been trying to ignore the cultural identity of francophones, and its bilingualism policy is the proof. Bilingualism in Canada is a myth, a beautiful dream, a policy that has never really worked. We must say it: the bilingualism policy has proven to be a real failure.

The fact is that francophones cannot live and get an education in French everywhere in Canada. We have the example of Franco-Ontarians. Their history is marked by struggles, by legal battles and, indeed, a resistance to assimilation. And we have the most recent example of Longlac, in northern Ontario, where the francophone community is unable to get services.

A second example are the francophone and Acadian communities in the rest of Canada. In a submission to the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages in the House of Commons in May, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes sounded the alarm, sending out a cry of distress and demanding that the federal government emerge from its indifference.

I quote the federation: "The emergency situation in which members of our communities are living is unacceptable. The assimilation rate, which is increasing from one census to another, and the social and economic situation, which is deteriorating, do not seem to worry the government overly-"

On a five-year period, the assimilation rate has increased by 4.5 per cent in the overall francophone regions outside Quebec. That is a fact. If we do not act immediately, assimilation will continue on its irreversible course, whatever people think and say here.

A third example: the closure of the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. This decision is, I believe, the worst the federal government has taken in a decade.

How can the federal government justify the closure of the only French-speaking military college in the country and continue to promote its bilingualism policy? How will the federal government be able to ensure progress towards equality of status and use of the French language in the armed forces without a single French-speaking institution in this country?

According to reports the Kingston military college is not at all ready to accommodate French-speaking servicemen and to offer them the necessary training.

Those are the facts. This is the reality. The federal government denies francophones an equal status.

To continue on the same subject, I would like to give the House some statistics. Out of 13,000 so-called bilingual positions in the armed forces, only 6,000 are held by individuals sufficiently fluent in French and in English. The other 7,000 so-called bilingual positions are held by individuals who speak only English.

This again shows that the bilingualism policy has failed in Canada.

Here is another figure. The great majority, 85 per cent, of the 63,870 designated bilingual positions across the country are along the Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec axis.

As a consequence, the budget cuts that would lead to the elimination of the annual bilingualism bonus advocated by the Commissioner of Official Languages would affect mainly francophones working in the federal public service. It would mean approximately $43 million in lost wages for francophone bilingual employees working in the federal public office.

Such is the initiative to promote a cultural identity based on bilingualism as a main characteristic of Canada from coast to coast.

Ottawa's lack of global vision considerably hinders the development and prosperity of francophone communities throughout the country.

When answering a question from the opposition about this claim, the Minister of Canadian Heritage admitted that presently, his government had no global policy for the promotion of the development and prosperity of the French fact.

The attacks the current Liberal government carries out in reaction to the Bloc Quebecois's demands simply seek to blind us to the failures of its policies to promote French in the English-speaking provinces.

Those who suggest the status quo should know that, for a lot of francophones outside Quebec, in the long term, that means assimilation.

How can we deny that the fundamental difference between Quebec and Canada is precisely rooted in the fact that English Canada is unable to recognize the existence of French-speaking Quebecers as a nation?

Quebec's aspirations to develop as both a distinct nation and a full member of the Canadian federation were always repressed. Today, Quebec has chosen to develop within its own political infrastructures, as would a truly sovereign country.

Quebec's sovereignty is not a goal per se, it is rather the means to achieve the coherent development of our potential. It is the most appropriate means we have to make efficient use of our resources.

As long as it is in Ottawa the Bloc Quebecois will keep on denouncing the federal institutions' indifference regarding Quebec and French language, education and culture.

I was sent here to shake up the political inertia of the federal government and to bring to the attention of the House of Commons the concerns of francophone communities wherever they may be in Canada.

The federal government must correct all its deficiencies in order to better answer the aspirations of francophone communities.

Quebecers have used most of their political energy over the last three decades to build a political structure that will allow them to develop as a people. It must be understood that if something binds Quebecers together it is their refusal of the status quo.

Quebec's political and economic context has changed radically over the last fifteen years. Those changes explain the strong comeback of the sovereignist movement in Quebec after the referendum defeat in 1980, the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord.

Since the days of Jean Lesage, all the federalist premiers have struggled hard to provide the Quebec State with the decision-making powers which it needed to exercise a real control over our collective destiny.

The vast majority of Quebec federalists refuse the system in its present form. What made them different from sovereignists for a long time is that they hoped that the system could be modified, especially by transferring powers from Ottawa to Quebec and recognizing the distinct nature of the Quebec people.

For their part, sovereignists had come to the conclusion that Quebecers could never fully develop as a nation within the federal framework the structures of which were frozen in time.

After 30 years of fruitless efforts and countless attempts to change the federal system, even federalists in Quebec have to face reality: the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords have put an end to any hope for a renewed federalism.

Today, Quebecers, both federalists and sovereignists alike, can be sure of one thing regarding the status quo: they can either take it or leave it. Everyone will have to make this choice. Nevertheless, when it comes to the mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage, we cannot have just one cultural policy since we have two distinct cultures.

As such, the policy of the Department of Canadian Heritage cannot be developed and applied uniformly across the country. Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois will make sure that the various measures taken by the federal government are in tune with the general direction of Quebec's cultural policy.

The Bloc Quebecois will demand that Quebec get its fair share of federal funding through the main cultural institutions such as museums, the National Film Board and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Bloc Quebecois will also make sure that cuts in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's budget will not be made

at the expense of its French network and, therefore, of Quebec artists.

The Bloc Quebecois will also ensure that the Quebec cultural community receives its fair share of grants from federal agencies such as the Canada Council and Telefilm Canada and from the resource envelopes of the program.

Such is the mandate I received from Shefford constituents and I intend to be worthy of their trust.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Diane Marleau LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am always interested to hear members of the Bloc Quebecois talk about their culture and about other French Canadians, especially Franco-Ontarians, and how they are going to be assimilated, saying that the federal government has no role to play.

I must tell you that I am a French Canadian, born in northern Ontario in a family which has been living there for generations. I was raised and educated in French.

Let me tell you that my roots are the same as theirs, even though for economic reasons, my ancestors chose to go and build a country, Canada. Some stopped in Ontario, others continued further west. We now have our schools, several of them in fact. There are programs to teach English to francophones and French to anglophones.

It is certainly not perfect, but it is a lot better than it was 30 years ago. Do you think for one moment that without a federal government we, francophones from outside Quebec, would have had anything from people like the members opposite who choose to deny our very existence, and claim they are the only francophones in Canada? May I ask them what role they intend to play in the life of my children or my grand-children with their activities? To resort to such trickery is a disgrace.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for her comments. I simply quoted figures in my speech. When you hear about the assimilation process taking place in Canada and see figures, real figures, like the ones I quoted, I think there can be no doubt. We are all entitled to our opinions and to think that things are actually better around us, but in the light of objective figures-those I quoted were from Statistics Canada if I am not mistaken-I would say it is undeniable.

As the minister said, she is, of course, bilingual. As far as I am concerned, I used to teach English as a second language before I was elected to this House. I must tell you that I have a great deal of respect for the English language, and the English culture in general. My thinking regarding Quebec changed progressively; it was not a choice made overnight.

When I was younger, I did not belong to a sovereignist political party; I was a federalist. Then, in 1980, I voted yes in the referendum, and this was the proudest day of my life. I am very proud of having voted yes. Since then, I have matured. I think that is the right thing to do. I would like francophones outside Quebec to be provided better protection. I would like them to have rights.

During Statements by members under Standing Order 31 today, I rose to point out that, in Northern Ontario today, francophones are having problems getting recognized. I do not know where the hon. minister is from or what newspapers she reads, but this is a fact and I think it is important to point it out. Canada as a country will continue to exist; I have no doubt about that.

I remember reading a book that said that birds migrate to the south and that Canada was a fictitious country because it stretched from East to West while the normal axis was North-South. I think it must be true.

When Canada was an English colony, the English had lost the whole southern part and they wanted to protect the North; that is how a fictitious country with two founding peoples was born. Of course, many other cultures came and joined them and they must be respected.

People tend to think that minorities are poorly protected in Quebec. I would like to tell you that the English courses given in our schools in Quebec are improving. Our English-speaking fellow citizens have good facilities, like hospitals in Montreal, schools, three universities in Quebec territory. No other province does as much for its minority, except possibly the national capital, with the University of Ottawa and Saint Paul University. Except for that, there is nothing. I think that it is important to say so.

I want to tell you that I want Quebec to be a sovereign country. Yes, Quebec and Canada should have good relations; we should learn to live together side by side in harmony and trade with each other. As you know, one side cannot do it alone. We in the Bloc Quebecois are in this debate and we will win.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to follow the line of questioning of my colleague, the Minister of Health. I am sure I heard the hon. member talk about his commitment, his responsibility and his party's responsibility for francophones outside Quebec.

If they are successful in creating a country called Quebec, how do they expect to honour those commitments to francophones outside of Quebec? Instead of focusing on francophones and their needs in this great country, are they focusing instead on the creation of a country for the self-serving politicians who in fact want to lead a nation?

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

In the same way that Quebecers treat their minorities well, I believe that in a separate Canada Canadians will treat their minorities well. It will be both sides treating their minorities well. That is important for the future of our maybe two countries. I do not think there is a problem.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to the hon. member's comments and I find it strange that he did not mention that, while there are 1 million francophones outside Quebec, 250 anglophones are now enroled in French immersion classes. We were even told that young Chinese are enroling in large numbers in Vancouver's French-language schools, a fact that should not be forgotten. I still think that they forgot to tell us about Canadian realities. Despite what they say, this is not a fictitious country. This is a wealthy country that belongs to the Group of Seven and that has achieved a great deal. We helped liberate France, Belgium and the rest of Europe in World War II. I think that Canadians have demonstrated their maturity, their know-how. They got involved when other countries did not heed the call. I think that we were able to accommodate Quebecers' needs and desires, because the federal government has invested heavily in Quebec to enable it to express its identity.

Our Quebec includes Natives and anglophones. The Quebec forest that their PQ friends in Quebec City talk about is not only French-speaking; it also includes several cultural communities. Yet, I hear the hon. member speak as though only those people descended from the 60,000 settlers identified by Lionel Groulx were real Quebecers.

I would like to know if, in his opinion, today's Quebec includes other cultures. We often hear about a Quebec open to the world but the hon. member would have us forget this 15 or 20 per cent of the population that is an important part of Quebec as we know it today.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to my hon. colleague simply by quoting figures to show him that the tree always falls on the same side here in Canada. Of the 13,000 so-called bilingual positions in the armed forces, 6,000 are held mainly by bilingual francophones, while the other 7,000 are held by anglophones for lack of bilingual candidates. Yet they decided to close the military college in Saint-Jean where anglophones could have been trained in French, where they could have taken immersion classes and gone outside the military community to experience a little Quebec culture and practice their French. But no, they will be taught French in Kingston where there is no immersion, where they will stay in an English-speaking environment and try to learn French as best they can.

That is an example of this government's bad decisions. The tree always falls on the side of the majority. If we look at what is happening in Canada, it is very difficult for a majority to understand a minority. However, since Quebecers are a minority in Canada, we understand well the problems of the anglophone minority in Quebec and we have given anglophones their own institutions. I challenge anyone in this House to find better anywhere else in Canada.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I begin by saying that as I sit and listen to the Bloc Quebecois I continue to wonder whether we have lost our minds.

We are looking back over the last 25 years. I had the great privilege and opportunity to work for the greatest Prime Minister this country ever had, Pierre Trudeau. I think of what this one Quebecer did to make sure that the presence of the francophone culture permeated every region of this country. I think of the fights and the battles and the commitment that he led to move and expand opportunities for Quebecers right across this country, not just in the public service.

By his example and by his presence, he created an environment where Quebec business leaders are now running companies in every part of our country. I think of the Public Service of Canada right across this country. Maybe it is not a majority but a very high percentage, very close to 50 per cent of the public service positions right now are managed by francophones. In fact most of these senior positions are bilingual imperative.

I know that the system is not perfect, but there are signs regarding the great experiment, the great drive to respect so much of what the members in the Bloc are fighting for, respect for their culture and respect for their language. I cannot believe that they do not really believe in their heart of hearts that it has moved forward tremendously.

Could one imagine 10 or 15 years ago that in the province of Alberta today, as we now have, there are lineups to get into French immersion schools? If 15 years ago someone stood up in Alberta and predicted that in 1990 there would be lineups to get into French immersion schools, the person making that statement would have been thought out of his or her mind. But that is the reality of Canada today. There are lineups to get into French immersion schools in nearly every part of this country, including my own community.

I do not want to suggest that the system is perfect, but we have moved a long way. I will tell this House what bothers my constituents. We are trying to build this country, trying to develop national programs and a national spirit. We have tried to move the French language into radio, television and into senior positions in the public service. Now, all of a sudden, we have a small group here from the province of Quebec who would say to all of Canada: "Well, it was a nice try". In spite of the billions and billions of dollars that all Canadians have paid to make this great experiment work, we now have a small group of people

here who want to say: "We quit. We quit this great experiment". It is more than an experiment; it is working.

I am very excited about this bill because I have always believed in the Government of Canada presence being promoted right across this country. One of the reasons why I ran to be a member of Parliament in downtown Toronto was because I opposed the Meech Lake accord.

I opposed the Meech Lake accord because I do not believe in dismantling national programs and national institutions. I do not believe in giving any group preferential status in this country. I believe in a multicultural society. A multicultural society means to me that no culture is less than or greater than another culture.

When one wants to talk about a distinct society that has special status, do not count on me to support that kind of thrust where one gives a special status to any particular culture in this country. Respect for bilingualism? It is the law of the land. I support that fully. However, to give special status to one culture over another, no way. That is not on.

One of the reasons the Bloc Quebecois does not like this legislation is that it will once again reinvigorate the department that is so important in our rebuilding the Government of Canada presence in the province of Quebec.

We talk in this bill about making sure that our parks and all of our Canadian symbols, our broadcasting and our cultural policy reflect the fact that we are a country from coast to coast. We do not just go from the west coast and jump over Quebec to Atlantic Canada. This is a country from coast to coast.

Nothing should please Canadians more than making sure that the federal presence is reinvigorated in the province of Quebec. I believe, and this is where I come apart from my friends in the Reform Party, that if we want to keep this country together, we have to spend some money.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Your grandchildren's money.

Canadian HeritageGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

The member is absolutely right. The Reform Party says that it will be my grandchildren's money. I don't have any yet, but hopefully.

There will not be anything for our grandchildren if we do not rebuild the national presence, the Government of Canada presence, and the symbols of Canada in the province of Quebec.

This is what I cannot understand from the Reform Party. For 10 years we had a Prime Minister, Mr. Mulroney, who basically retreated from building, exposing or showing what the Government of Canada did in Quebec. He was quite happy to shovel off and devolve responsibility to the operating province of Quebec.

One of the reasons we have such a strong separatist feeling in Quebec right now is that the Government of Canada presence, the services, the programs, the symbols and the things that all Canadians pay for, is not realized by Quebecers. It is in the billions. In no other province in Canada do we have a situation like that.

When government programs, government services and government activities happen in all the other provinces and in the Northwest Territories, they are plainly and clearly identified. However, in the province of Quebec we basically dismantle the federal presence. That of course is the reason as I said earlier why the Bloc Quebecois does not like this legislation. With this legislation we are going to once again try to rebuild that presence.

If we go to Quebecers and ask: "Do you want to continue to be a part of Canada?", let us at least let Quebecers know what we are doing.

It has nothing to do with the heritage department. It has to do with all those symbols, services and programs that right now are not known as Government of Canada services and projects. Once again I stand here and say we in this Chamber are trying to rebuild the spirit of this country. We are trying to make sure there is a national feeling shared by all Canadians right across the country. I hope that one day a large majority of Quebecers will see that the best opportunity for their language and culture is by being a part of the whole nation.