Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part today to the debate on the motion which reads as follows:
That [. . .]the government should officially recognize the historical contribution of the Patriotes of Lower Canada and the Reformers of Upper Canada to the establishment of a system of responsible democratic government in Canada and in Quebec-
I will come back to that proposal later.
Let me say first of all that I am among those who will not be able to support that motion. However, I want to say that I share in no way, and I underline the words in no way, the arguments and reasons put forward by the member for Calgary Southeast against the motion. Her reasons are not mine and I thought it was important to stress this fact.
It is with great interest that I rise today to speak about that important issue. Most Canadians do not have to go back to their history books to remember the contribution of Reformers and Patriotes during the last century. As we all know, the Patriotes caused the events known today as the Rebellion of 1837.
Although I recognize it is important to stress the contribution of those individuals who, by their action, brought about the establishment of responsible government, I do not subscribe fully to the proposal of the hon. member. If the aim of the hon. member for Verchères is to commemorate important contributions to Canadian democracy, I believe his proposal is somewhat restrictive.
First of all, Canada is a huge territory bordered by three oceans. This alone is sufficient to make us understand that a multitude of individuals must have worked together to build this great country. The motion of the hon. member stresses only the historical contribution of the Patriotes of Lower Canada and of the Reformers of Upper Canada. Notwithstanding that fact, if the motion had been put differently, I could have given it my support. However, I oppose the motion because it does not take into account the fundamental contributions of Canadians in other regions.
Montesquieu said that to love democracy is to love equality. If we recognize the contribution of some, this should be done equally for all.
It would be important to highlight or, at least, not to forget the role played by Joseph Howe to whom we originally owe the principle of accountability in government. I am not saying this to gloss over or down-play what William Lyon Mackenzie did in Upper Canada and Louis Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada, but this does not change the fact that Joseph Howe was the originator of the concept of accountability in government. He was a journalist with the Nova Scotian , an influential paper at the time. He had campaigned in favour of accountability in government. When he entered politics, in 1836, he played an important role in the establishment, in Nova Scotia, of what was called a liberal reform government. He was the one who argued with the
British authorities of the day in favour of an executive power accountable to the elected members of the legislative assembly.
It was the beginning of responsible government. As the member who spoke before me mentioned, Louis Joseph Papineau and his committee had presented 92 resolutions advocating the control of revenues by the legislative assembly, but executive responsibility, the election of a council and their action were part of a larger movement which was related to a fight being fought elsewhere by Joseph Howe, in Nova Scotia, for example, or by William Lyon Mackenzie in Upper Canada.
What we must point out when we talk about the history of Lower and Upper Canada, is that the provinces were created by the Constitutional Act of 1791 which drew a line west of the seigneury of Vaudreuil to create the new province of Upper Canada, a sort of distinct society for the English speakers of the time, a way to give them the common law and the right to own land under a system known as "free hold land tenure".
A distinct colony was establish to protect these two principles. However, I should say that this new colony of Upper Canada was merely a narrow band of land just north of the St. Lawrence River, just like Lower Canada extended only along both shores of the river.
Nevertheless, if we were to take the motion as it appears in today's order paper and to translate its content in 1994 parlance, we would talk about the responsible democratic government of Quebec, the former Lower Canada, and of Ontario, the former Upper Canada, and we would exclude all the other provinces of this big country of ours. As I said earlier, the initiatives of Joseph Howe preceded those of William Lyon Mackenzie who, with a group of friends, rebelled and took arms-a few guns, forks, shovels, whatever they had then-to show their discontent.
Needless to say, they did not get very far. They were for the most part banished, jailed, etc. and they only surfaced years later. As for Lower Canada, we certainly all remember Louis Joseph Papineau and his friends, who were then called the Patriotes, and who played a role similar to that of William Lyon Mackenzie, the grandfather of another Liberal Prime Minister elected several years later, William Lyon Mackenzie King.
We are all aware of these facts and I am not one to forget or diminish in any way the role played by the Patriotes. In closing, I will repeat what I said at the beginning, that I totally dissociate myself from some comments made today. I declare that, if this motion was intended to recognize in Ontario and in Quebec, which are both provinces, the contribution of these groups, I would gladly support the motion, and I must say that if the member opposite was willing to request unanimous consent of the House to change the word, I would immediately give my support.
I suspect, however, that there is another, different objective in that motion. At the end, it says "in Canada and in Quebec", as if they were really two distinct and equal entities.
Of course, Ontario and Quebec are both provinces. Quebec is a province within this great country which is Canada, this great country which, I hope, will always remain strong and united.