Mr. Speaker, as I rise today to address the bill respecting Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, I realize that, unfortunately, history is repeating itself, and this is not always for the better. Today we had a concrete example of what an elected representative from Quebec can do to further his political career in this Canadian parliament.
It is rather strange that a Liberal member of parliament would even consider tabling this bill in the House of Commons when two of his colleagues, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, are unable to give their support to the Bloc Quebecois and to recognize the historical, sociological, cultural, social and humanitarian importance of the deportation of the Acadians.
We in the Bloc Quebecois were not afraid to point out that serious mistake, because we are not afraid to learn from history. The hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes knows about this. Being himself an Acadian, he sponsored a bill to recognize the wrongs done to the Acadians. And what did the Liberal government members say? They said that it was the past and that we should not look back too far in history.
Today, we are asked to expressly recognize Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier's often roundabout way of doing things by designating an annual commemorative day to honour them. I strongly object to this. There are all kinds of reasons why it would not make sense for us, Bloc Quebecois members, to support this bill. Its very wording states that one of the reasons to commemorate the birth of Wilfrid Laurier is that he was a fervent promoter of national unity. What national unity are we talking about? We are talking about Canadian unity.
In the name of this sacrosanct national unity, they would have us believe that there is only one culture, only one way of defining ourselves as a people. This so-called national unity is the main obstacle to the full and harmonious development of Quebec. If, for our friends opposite, national unity is synonymous with preserving the existing federal system, this is not the Bloc Quebecois' objective.
National unity, as presented by too many members of this House, actually impedes Quebec's development. It is a waste of time and energy. But beyond our constitutional views, there are many reasons why the federal parliament should not commemorate the birth of these two historical figures.
First, we must avoid the pitfall of an official and politically oriented history and not let the Canadian government use history for political ends.
Who would be in charge of the pompous and tedious celebrations of these Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Sir John A. Macdonald days if not Canadian Heritage? Who else but this department, which ensures that everything it lays its hands on sends out a message of “Canadian” unity? There is more than one nation in Canada; there are in fact three. There is not one single Canadian history to recognize and to teach, but rather three national histories. Le livre noir du Canada anglais by a Quebec author now well known, is very revealing in that regard. Each version of history emphasizes different aspects of the events and characters. Is that not meaningful? As evidence of this, on the same day we celebrate our gracious Queen on one side of the river and Dollard des Ormeaux on the other.
It is obvious that what unites us as a nation is not necessarily something that can unite the other nation. Yes, history is repeating itself. Will the things that history remembers about Sir Wilfrid Laurier, for example, be different according to the perceptions each nation has of this so-called national unity?
When a newly sworn minister from Quebec rushes to play down the widely expressed aspirations of Quebecers and refuses to recognize the distinct character of the Quebec nation in fields like the exemplary and inspiring Young Offenders Act, it is cause for concern.
This is a fine example of the actions of a disciple of Laurier. What entitles him to reject Quebec's expertise on young offenders? In another 100 years, will they be calling in this House for a day to commemorate the accomplishments of this young minister, with his aspirations of a brilliant future within this government? Will the bill that commemorates his political involvement reflect what Quebec wants?
Let us consider Confederation, which this bill claims is the great accomplishment of Sir John A. Macdonald. Everyone knows Macdonald would have preferred a legislative union that would have made Canada a unitary state. Consequently, he made sure the Canadian federation was a highly centralized one. In fact, like Macdonald, SIr Wilfrid Laurier rallied around the federal idea, as opposed to the confederal, which was how it was being passed off in order to attract the maritime provinces and to win over the strong misgivings of Quebec.
Besides, in spite of promises to the contrary, the British North America Act was never the subject of a referendum. Even though Quebecers supported Macdonald's party in the September 1867 election, it cannot be inferred that they had ratified his vision of Canada. Regardless of the truth, the newspaper La Minerve , a tool of propaganda—there was propaganda in those days too; it has been going a long time—had portrayed the partners in the Confederation as sovereign states delegating some of their rights and powers to a so-called central government.
What an appealing concept is a partnership between sovereign states. That is what Quebecers thought they had embarked upon. They had been deluded before and they were deluded once again by pre-referendum declarations of love coming from some parts of English Canada, declarations which, for that matter, were recently denounced by a Toronto Star journalist.
That journalist, a tireless and competent worker, Robert Mackenzie, had to take early retirement because, in a country that is said to enjoy such appealing freedom of the press, he had dared to say what he thought about the Toronto daily's political involvement in the great love-in demonstration held by English Canada in Montreal and because he had denounced the caricature of Bernard Landry that had been published in the Toronto daily where he was shown dressed up as bin Laden.
Clearly, in this great country, boastfully described by some as being the most tolerant on earth, there is still a lot of petty mindedness. It is certainly not Sir Wilfrid Laurier we should look to as a model for us. He was elected to defend the rights and interests of French Canadians, then once he was far away from his constituents, he turned around and praised the virtues of integration and unity to the detriment of the interests of his own people.
We saw yet another example of this today in the new Minister of Justice, a minister who hails from Quebec but who does not understand the aspirations of Quebecers. They want to honour the memory of these great Canadians from sea to sea by dedicating a day to them.
The Bloc Quebecois cannot support this. We cannot agree to this bill, but it is up to others to celebrate what they will.