That the House encourage the federal government to acknowledge the urgency of the situation of francophones in minority situations in Canada and take the exceptional steps required in order to counter their assimilation and allow their development.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to address the House on this issue which is very close to my heart. First of all, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the associations promoting the rights of francophone minorities in Canada, particularly the Ontario ACFO and the Fédération canadienne des communautés francophones et acadienne, for their courage in fighting for the rights of francophone minorities in Canada.
I know it takes a lot of courage and perseverance. I know that from experience since I come from Penetanguishene, a community near Toronto where we had to fight hard to obtain our own schools. I have seen the discrimination against francophones on the part of anglophones; I experienced it and I witnessed it. I have seen not only the fight that francophones had to put up to get their own schools, in Ontario and other regions, but also the problems that such a situation can cause in families, the dissensions, the assimilation of some people, the francophones who, once assimilated, fight other francophones and the damage all that can cause. I know what the results of assimilation can be.
Unfortunately, I also know that the government often exploits this situation. Francophones are accused of being the source of all the trouble in Canada. The francophone minority, even Quebec as a whole, are blamed for Canada's troubles, when in fact the trouble has its source in the hatred anglophones feel toward francophones, in the discrimination they have subjected that minority to throughout Canadian history.
I do not think anglophones know their history well enough. They did not take the time to read the history which was biased. Today we speak of francophones as being the black sheep of Confederation, of being responsible for the problems of the country when anglophones have created the problem because they have a history of discriminating against the francophones. That is the root of the problem in Canada.
I remind the House that Quebec existed two centuries before an anglophone even set foot in this country which later became Canada. Quebec was here two centuries before Canada was born.
It was a civilized place to live and was conquered in 1760. From that day on there was a manifest and clear attempt to assimilate the French. Anyone who reads the history of Quebec and later of Canada will understand that there was a manifest intent to politically dominate and to economically exploit the French, to impoverish and assimilate them. This went on for almost a century until a point of grave difficulty was reached in Quebec when people were so impoverished and so politically dominated that it created a rebellion in 1837.
Many francophones then left Quebec for Ontario and western Canada. This is one reason there are large francophone speaking communities in the rest of Canada. They could no longer survive in Quebec because it was under a political domination and economic exploitation by an English minority that made it so difficult for them.
Then there is the report by Lord Durham in 1840 which was a manifest document, clearly indicating that the English will was to assimilate the French. Anyone who reads Lord Durham's report cannot deny that he brought the discussion to another level. He spoke of it in terms of racism, a battle of two races.
English Canadians recognize Lord Durham as a person who brought a kind of parliamentary democracy to Canada. If one looks at it from the francophone point of view, one sees a racist, a person who hated the French and who used all the means at his disposal to assimilate the French.
And so it continued until Confederation in 1867, which was probably the crowning of this effort on the part of Lord Durham. It did not really change the political context in Quebec under which francophones lived. Quite the contrary. It was the accomplishment of the attempt by Lord Durham to assimilate the French.
George Brown, the founder of the Globe which later became the Globe and Mail in Toronto, was very anti-French. He wrote his wife shortly after Confederation indicating that the English had finally been victorious; they had drowned the French. The aim of Confederation was to drown the French in a new country and they
had succeeded because in Confederation there were three English voices against one. Before that it was one on one. Today it is ten on one.
The attempt to assimilate the French then had a political purpose and it has continued to today. It has never altered. This discrimination, this hatred against the French is manifest, it is written all over the walls in this country. I can give you three examples of this.
The public service in Ottawa functions in English to a large extent. It is 85 per cent English. The public service in Ottawa, which represented this country that was said to be bilingual after Confederation, never recognized French. Everything functioned in English. Canada did not have a word of French on any stamp until 1926. Canada did not have a word of French on any dollar bill until 1936. The federal government did not put out a single government cheque with a word in French on it until 1956. This country was an English country and it was the intent of the anglophones to assimilate the French and discriminate against them.
In Ontario, as in other provinces, all the rights that supposedly were guaranteed by the Constitution, all the rights that had been negotiated in the Confederation debates by John A. Macdonald and others, after Confederation were abolished from Newfoundland to B.C. There were no exceptions. Only in Quebec, anglophones' rights were respected and still are today.
In 1871 New Brunswick abolished French rights and French schools. In 1870 Manitoba abolished French schools and French language. In 1905 Saskatchewan and Alberta abolished French schools and French teaching. In 1912 Ontario abolished French schools and French language. In some provinces of this country there is anti-French legislation that has lasted over a century.
In Ontario, my native province, which is the heart of this country, there has been legislation on the books against the teaching of French and a recognition of French rights for over 50 years. In 1912 règlement 17 was one among many laws passed by the Ontario government to abolish the French language.
In the 1960s Quebec suddenly awoke to this discrimination, political domination and economic exploitation that had been exercised for two centuries against Quebec. Quebecers woke up and said enough is enough. It was the quiet revolution. The anglophones realized that francophones were not sheep or sheepish and that they wanted their rights respected.
Then the Laurendeau-Dunton commission, the B and B commission, was put together which verified the facts. Anyone who reads those documents will recognize the inequity and injustice in this country, the discrimination against the French. There was a royal commission and that is why we have the language laws of 1969. It was to redress these wrongs and injustices toward the French. That is why these laws were passed. It was to put back balance, give justice to the francophones who represented at one time almost a third of the population, today maybe a quarter of the population of this country.
They have rights guaranteed by the Constitution that were never recognized in the provinces out west. It was only recently, two years ago, that we started to provide a school or two here and there, but their rights were never recognized. They are still not recognized in British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
In 1969 the first law was passed on official languages. It was updated in 1988 with all kinds of additions. Today if we look at the situation of francophones living outside of Quebec, we notice that the situation has not improved tremendously. Some concessions have been made. I can vouch for Ontario and how the francophone community has fought tooth and nail for every school it won. It was hard because the assimilation rate in Ontario is something like 40 per cent today.
The Constitution of Canada grants francophones the right to administer their own school systems. However, this right is denied in Ontario. It is denied in British Columbia. It is denied in Newfoundland. In spite of the fact that these rights were laid down in the Constitution of Canada, guaranteed by the charter of rights in 1982, reaffirmed by two Supreme Court decisions granting francophones the right to administer their own schools, this right still has not been granted 25 years after the official language law of 1969, 15 years after the charter of rights and eight years after both Supreme Court decisions.
It is discrimination against the francophones on the part of the English population. That is the problem. The problem is not that Quebec does not respect its English minority. Give or take the problems here and there that might erupt, that is normal. The injustice of this country is toward the French minority which today, after all these laws and these attempts to address the wrongs toward a minority, still has not been established.
I mentioned the rate of assimilation. Over the last 20 years since the adoption of the law of 1969, the assimilation of francophones has increased by 40 per cent. The laws that have been passed and the attempts by the government to redress these wrongs have not worked. The francophone population is still being assimilated. Not only are francophones still being assimilated as they were 25 years ago but they are being assimilated at a faster rate. They still do not have access to their schools. Even in those provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan that finally granted some schools to francophones, it is only one in twenty francophones in Alberta who have
access to French schools. It is normal that the assimilation rate should be so high.
Why is it that in the public service right here in Ottawa functions 85 per cent in English? This is confirmed by the Commissioner of Official Languages. His recent report indicated, according to his survey, that 85 per cent of all meetings that occur in the federal public service in Ottawa are in English. Francophones complain of the fact that the functioning of the public service in the federal system is English. Only about 10 per cent of written documents are in French. The public service in Ottawa still functions in English.
Look at Ottawa. This is the capital of the country of Canada which says that it is bilingual. But anyone, even a blind person, can see clearly that Ottawa, the official bilingual capital of a bilingual country is an English town.
Even the francophone community that existed in Ottawa is being assimilated at a rate of 36 per cent. The rate of assimilation is so great that perhaps the next generation will be much weaker, especially if they do not have access to schools, health services or social services. Francophones have nothing with respect to that except minor concessions and exceptions. That to me confirms the fact that the discriminatory will exercised in Canada, which started many years ago, still continues today in other forms.
"We do not want francophones in this country. We do not like francophones in this country. Francophones are the problem in this country. They are the black sheep and they are giving us all kinds of problems". The problem is that the anglophones wanted to assimilate the French and they are terribly frustrated because the French are still here and still strong.
It is surprising, when we speak of the francophone communities, in spite of all the discriminatory laws, injustices and hatred they have known, that they are still surviving, they are still vital and strong. At the same time, there is a terrible urgency that the government should act. But the government is not acting.
What the government is doing is making promises. Two years ago, in August 1994, when the Prime Minister went to New Brunswick, he took advantage of a great event in French Acadia and promised that finally part VII of the language laws would be applied in this country. This he did with great pomp and circumstance. What do members think happened to that promise? We know the Prime Minister is not too strong when it comes to keeping his promises, but this is another one that fell by the wayside. Nothing has been done. The report of the Commissioner of Official Languages confirms in black and white that nothing has been done.
There is an urgency in this country to provide the health, the resources and the co-operation to ensure that francophone communities can breath and have faith in their future but the federal government does little or nothing, if anything at all.
Of course the speeches that will be coming from the Liberal members will say that everything is fine and great. They will say progress is being made and everything is going well. I heard the President of the Treasury Board two days ago saying: "My goodness, we have made great accomplishments and extraordinary achievements in this country in terms of bilingualism and the French language in the public service and everywhere else. Things are just great". That is what we are going to hear from the Liberals and the Reform Party but we will not speak about them.
The Liberals will speak to us about the fact that everything is great which is part of the problem. The government does not even want to recognize that there is a problem. If it does not want to recognize that there is a serious problem then there is never a solution.
The reason why this government does not want to recognize that there is a problem is that the anglophone communities in this country do not want to hear anything about francophones. They are tired hearing about francophones. The Prime Minister knows very well that he does not have any political advantage in trying to help the French minorities that are in difficulty in English Canada.
The majority of the population of English Canada still has that discriminatory anti-French feeling. I know because it is prevalent all over Ontario particularly. It is knee-high and it smells, this discrimination in English Canada. Therefore, the Prime Minister does not want to fluster or frustrate the English majority who have this anti-French feeling.
Furthermore, the government does not want to spend a cent because if the Prime Minister took a single dollar more to help the francophone communities living outside Quebec, my God, it would be horrible what would happen in this country. We would have the Reform Party hitting the Prime Minister and the Liberals would have difficulty enduring the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister does zero, he does nothing. He has abandoned the francophone communities. He has abandoned even the MPs who have been elected in some ridings, Vanier for example.
There is an MP who has resigned his responsibility toward the francophone community. He was elected in Ontario to defend franco-Ontarians. The AGFO organization is now trying to deal with the federal government because it considered it had received so little for so many years. It considers this year to be critical. If the situation does not change, if the situation does not alter in terms of finances and program, franco-Ontarians will lose many of their organizations, they will lose many of the few services they have right now.
They are in a very critical situation and the francophone MPs of Ontario do not even speak up for them. Quite the contrary. They go to the organizations and say: "The status quo is fine. Everything is great. The government is doing everything it can. The Prime Minister has made a lot of promises. Don't rock the boat. We don't want anyone to be upset. Everything is fine".
The francophone MPs who were elected in the Liberal government who normally are supposed to be defending francophone rights are not defending francophone rights at all. They are not defending the schools that are disappearing or the services that are disappearing. They use the typical Liberal tactic which is to attack Quebec and say: "Gee whiz, Quebec is really maltreating the English. The English are really poorly treated. After all, they might not be able to have bilingual signs and blah, blah, blah, fundamental rights". And still the English community in this country, when we compare, is extremely well treated in Quebec compared with the francophone communities outside Quebec.
Assimilation, the will of domination, exploitation, discrimination and hatred by the English of the French continues today. I know a lot of anglophones personally. I know a lot of them are not anti-French. They have open minds, but they are part of the minority as well.