Madam Speaker, I would remind the members opposite that I have been talking about Bill C-55 for a while. I am providing facts to permit an understanding of the government's attitude.
On July 3, 1998, Michel C. Auger of the Journal de Montréal , not known as a sovereignist, commented in these terms on Ottawa's attitude to Quebec in the meeting organized last summer by the federal government, and I quote:
There was nothing to prevent Quebec from having the status at this conference of participating government similar to the arrangement at the francophone community summits.
In fact, Canada's position would be strengthened by the presence of Quebec, if only to show pointedly that Canada is not afraid of cultural diversity internally or externally.
However, as usual in Ottawa, they are incapable of seeing beyond the end of the flag. By appearing just slightly more open, the Minister of Canadian Heritage would have struck a vigorous blow for federalism. Because, if there is one thing at the heart of the sovereignist project, it is the right to cultural diversity.
So when globalization questions a number of the classic arguments in favour of sovereignty, there is one argument that takes on added importance and that is the right to defend one's culture and one's right to difference internationally.
I would, in this same vein, like to quote Bernard Descôteaux, the new head of the Devoir , who said this morning, and I quote:
But the presence of Quebec at meetings where cultural diversity is addressed should be a given. This is an issue that has Quebec truly concerned and rightly so. It has some viewpoints to offer and an experience to share in what is constitutionally a provincial area of jurisdiction.
This speaks volumes. Quebec and Canada have reached agreements on crucial issues like immigration, manpower, housing, and, just yesterday, the justice minister recognized Quebec's uniqueness in the way it deals with young offenders. Why is the federal government so intent in ignoring Quebec's culture?
Yet, Quebec's demands in the areas of culture and communications date further back that its demands about manpower and were made by every Quebec government.
In 1996, Daniel Johnson stated that Quebec should make its own decisions regarding culture. This statement was reiterated by Jean-Jacques Bertrand three years later. In 1971, Robert Bourassa asked for a reallocation of powers in the area of culture. In 1991, the Allaire Report released by the Quebec Liberal Party recommended that culture, communications and language should be exclusively under Quebec's jurisdiction.
Once again, I remind my colleagues opposite that I am only quoting from federalists.
In 1991, the Bélanger-Campeau report asked that Quebec be given, and I quote:
—exclusive jurisdiction and responsibility over its social, economic and cultural development and in the area of language.
By refusing to recognize Quebec's culture, by passing it off as a mere regional culture within the Canada mosaic, by light-heartedly mixing the cultural policy with propaganda, the heritage minister and the federal government are giving sovereignists a winning condition.
By stating that only independent nations have the right to attend international events like the one that was held in France, the Prime Minister is providing sovereignists with another winning condition.