Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion, which I will do from a different perspective. The Bloc was extremely critical of the minister's lack of openness this morning because the announcement made by Michèle Fortin may seriously handicap a powerful instrument for the transmission and production of Quebec culture.
But first of all, I would like to respond to members who wondered why we were defending the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, since it is a federal institution and we want to get out of Canada.
I would like to read a quote from what Pierre Elliott Trudeau said in 1967 in Le fédéralisme et la société canadienne française : ``One way of offsetting the appeal of separatism is by investing tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money in nationalism, at the federal level. A national image must be
created that will have such an appeal as to make any image of a separatist group unattractive. Resources must be diverted into such things as national flags, anthems, education, arts councils, broadcasting corporations, film boards". This is what Pierre Elliott Trudeau wrote in Le fédéralisme et la société canadienne française , HMH, 1967.
We are defending the CBC's French network, which we feel is at risk because of imminent cutbacks, because we are aware that despite the mission Pierre Elliott Trudeau wanted to give the network, Radio-Canada has been a very important vehicle for the transmission and production of Quebec culture, although we could have dispensed with some of the bias involved.
Altogether, it is part of our living heritage. This is an institution that belongs to us, and we want to make sure it will not only continue to exist but will be able to improve the quality of its productions. In fact, Radio-Canada is the depository of a collective resource, a collective instrument that is essential to our culture, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage has no right to trifle with the future of this powerful collective instrument of Quebec culture.
I may recall what was said by Gérald Leblanc on tv-it was not on Radio-Canada-last Sunday. The following gives some idea of the ratings of French television in Quebec compared with those of Canadian tv productions in the rest of Canada: "When the Royal Air Farce, an excellent comedy program, reaches one million viewers out of a potential 20 million, it celebrates and breaks open the champagne. However, every week, Radio-Canada and TVA together regularly reach a viewership of three million or more out of a potential seven million".
He added: "If we were to obey the dictates of the market, Radio-Canada would be affected, cuts would have to be made, but the CBC could not survive". Far be it from me to suggest that we should take away the CBC's means to survive. We are only too aware of the significance culture holds for the future of a people and a nation. We can state forcefully that no people, no nation, with the exception of the United States perhaps, can let the powerful instrument which creates and conveys its culture become hostage to the marketplace.
I add that the CBC is the only broadcaster that has strong Canadian content during peak hours. All other Canadian television networks have a low domestic content, around 20 to 30 per cent during peak hours, which can seriously affect Canadian culture. As for us, we chose this morning to show how important Radio-Canada is to the Quebec culture and how much we want not only to know what the government is planning but also to block its plans to deprive the SRC of its means. We care because the goals of the SRC are intrinsic goals, they are the collective goals it was created to achieve. That is why we cannot afford to let Radio-Canada be deprived of its means.
Mrs. Fortin, to whom I listened with great pleasure, was defending wholeheartedly in her own energetic way the role of this public television network which she compared to public schools. We never say that public schools are not profitable and must be financed in some other way. Public television has an important role to play. At least, it plays an important role in Quebec and it can play that role even better. We think that our colleagues from English Canada could ponder with us ways of strenghtening Canadian culture.
Being a francophone in North America can be difficult since we represent a little more than 2 per cent of the population and we are surrounded, submerged by English language channels. To remain a country not only with a distinct border but also with a distinct national identity, Canada-which does have its own culture, though sometimes it is not easily differentiated from that of the United States-must protect its public television.
I would like to say a few words about culture. If in fact we attach so much importance to public television and to television in general, it is because television is, along with other audiovisual techniques, the main vehicle of culture nowadays. It is not only a vehicle of that culture which exists and which we shall try to define, it is also an extremely important forum for cultural production.
When one realizes the public reached by Radio-Canada and TVA in Quebec, when one realizes the impact popular programs may have on the people, how these programs can strenghten its cultural identity, give rise to debate, question actions, attitudes and values, one realizes how alive our culture is, nurtured of course by our heritage, our history, the arts and all that cultural production embraces, but digested and distributed in another form, vehicled by the media of our times.
In this era of telecommunications, which is still full of surprises, it is a means, the most important means of distribution, development and production of culture.
Figures alone are not enough when we are talking about such an important instrument, which defines what people will think and are thinking and what affects Canadians' current and future desire to live together. This is what nationalism is all about. This is why we say that there are two countries within this country. We keep seeing it-every day. And what we want is sovereignty, because we think it is better for our people.
At the same time, we are aware that Canadian culture as well warrants clearer definition. It too needs to find expression in a world in which it is perhaps more threatened than francophone culture, because it shares a common language with the United States, which is more than a neighbour; it is the prevailing influence of our time. And if, because of this, Canadian minds
are fed American values, images, references, history, action and activities, I would take the liberty of saying that one must draw one's own conclusions and take no delight in the fact that English Canadian public television reaches such a small portion of the population, quite the contrary.
Of course, there are my hon. colleagues beside me who say that culture does need the help of the state. I would challenge them. The state does not create the cultural product, the artist. However, without a way to live, without sufficient means, few artists, artistic endeavours and cultural productions would survive, particularly in today's world. We must remember, here again, that the CBC is in competition with American productions, which have 20 times the resources.
We have chosen to talk about the CBC because our culture, its life and its evolution, depend in part on the continued availability of resources. Just as in the past, during the Renaissance, people needed patrons, the patrons are now being replaced by the state, by states.
No people, no self-respecting nation can afford not to support this great tool which television has become.
It must be said that the audiovisual medium requires a lot of resources. You and I can make video clips, but to produce programs which can compete with other programs coming from all over the world, we need resources. Otherwise, all the talents available to us will either be under-utilized or not used at all.
Culture is what defines a people, a nation. It is its soul. Its way of being. It is not static. It implies a knowledge of the past. It implies the handing down of the cultural production of previous generations. But it also implies a certain intermixing. It implies that each generation has to embark on the creative process using the same basic tools. But, in the long run, it is culture, this way of being, which guarantees that globalization will not reduce all cultures to the one with the most resources. This is what is really at stake in the present situation when we talk about all these numbers.
In 1992, in a fantastic speech he made in Montreal, Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: "The sound globalization of modern life implies the existence of strong cultural identities, since an excessive or ill-conceived globalization could crush various cultures and melt them down into a uniform one, which would spell nothing good for the world".
He added: "Individuals need an intermediary between a universe too large for them and their solitary status, for the mere fact that, at the start, they need a language to understand and decipher the outside world. What they need are practical alliances and a framework of cultural references, to sum it up, a passport to the world". Television is that passport to the world for most young people. That is why it is a national responsibility. This passport contributes the most to the creation of future societies, because it does not act alone.
I digressed a little, but now return to Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali's speech. "Nation-states, which transcend the physically closer alliances of family, clans or villages, fill these needs. A nation has a common reason for existing, which is the first step towards the universal, towards a universal civilization. An orderly world is a world of independent nations which are open to each other and respect each other's differences and similarities". This is what I call the fruitful logic of nationalities and universality.
To defend the Société Radio-Canada and the CBC, the Bloc Quebecois says "stop". Culture is the soul of the people, and if culture is not given sufficient means, the growth of these little people, these small states, will be stunted in a world overshadowed by the giant we all know well.