Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon on behalf of my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois to mark Commonwealth Day on this second Monday in March.
This is the third time the Bloc Quebecois has the opportunity to celebrate this event in the House of Commons. As my predecessors did on previous occasions, I would like to stress how important Canada's membership in the Commonwealth is. It dates back to the very beginning of the organization, in 1931.
I cannot help but insist on the need for this government to finally give its true meaning to its Commonwealth membership. We will never say it often enough, the Commonwealth is the ultimate forum to debate the major issue of respect and promotion of human rights and democracy.
The last Commonwealth government heads meeting, which took place in New Zealand last November, was no exception. This last summit ended with Nigeria being suspended from the organization on account of the unusually harsh nature of its present government, which executed several political opponents, including Mr. Saro-Wiwa.
The Bloc Quebecois welcomes the three main objectives set at the Auckland summit, namely, to go beyond rhetoric, to put principles into effect, and to show determination to stick to them.
These new objectives, set out at the Auckland summit, show how Canadian policy, in terms of these three goals-the promotion of human rights and democracy, foreign aid and international trade-is inconsistent. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the government that it is really unfortunate that it has opted for not going beyond the rhetoric and not making its actions conform to a consistent and transparent policy.
The government chose not to actively promote human rights and democracy in order to be able to focus only on its commercial interests.
In a different connection, I would like to remind the House, and in particular our English speaking fellow citizens in Quebec, that a sovereign Quebec would wish to remain part of the Commonwealth. This commitment is quite natural, since it reflects the value of our British heritage and traditions. The English speaking community in Quebec must be reassured in this regard. Need I remind them again that the nationalists have many times undertaken to ensure that a sovereign Quebec would fulfil its responsibilities towards the English speaking minority in Quebec?
English speaking Quebecers, as we have said repeatedly, will continue to enjoy all the collective rights they already have. I hope that this is no longer an issue for English speaking Quebecers. The English culture is as vibrant as ever in Quebec and we are very proud of it. It is part of the rich collective heritage we want to preserve. Historically, English speaking Quebecers have played a great role in the growth and evolution of Quebec society and their contribution is greatly appreciated by all of us.
The fact that Canada, and indirectly Quebec, is a member of the Commonwealth reminds us that English is not the preserve of English speaking Quebecers. The majority of French speaking Quebecers use it too. That is a firm guarantee that English will survive and prosper in Quebec. Needless to say, English is a great cultural language, and there is no reason to believe it is threatened in any way.
Sovereignists have expressed a desire to remain part of the Commonwealth. This is not only a sign of respect for the contribution the English speaking community has made to the development of Quebec, but it is also the best demonstration of our will to live all together in our modern and outward looking society.
Why would it not be possible to extend that concept to include a larger partnership which would be in the best mutual interests of the rest of Canada and Quebec? This would be an opportunity to give a real meaning to the word partnership.