Mr. Speaker, for most Quebecers, April 17 is the sad anniversary of the unilateral patriation of the Canadian constitution.
This patriation is the result of Canada's will to build itself based on its own values and its own priorities; Quebecers recognize the right of all nations to build themselves as they wish, while respecting neighbouring nations. This approach is the basis for harmonious and constructive relations between nations.
Unfortunately, since 1982, Canada has been carrying out its nation building while disregarding the hopes of the Quebec nation.
Since 1982, no Quebec government, regardless of political stripe, has agreed to sign this constitution that was imposed on Quebec. This situation will not change. Quebec will not sign the 1982 constitution; no Quebec government will ever deny the existence of the Quebec nation.
Like Canadians, Quebecers want to build their nation as they wish. On numerous occasions, they have tried to do this within the Canadian federation, but without success.
In fact, far from benefiting from it, Quebec has had to cope with policies designed to create a strong central government. Quebec stands nothing to gain from this, because it is not a province like the others, it is a nation that wants it own tools for development, like any other nation.
Quebec's historic refusal to sign the 1982 constitution reflects the bad feelings that the unilateral patriation of the constitution still stirs up today.
As a result of these bad feelings, the federal government has deliberately chosen to emphasize the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Of course the existence of a charter of rights is important in a democratic society. It is so important that Quebec passed a Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms back in 1975, well before Ottawa, seven years ahead of the federal government.
But beyond the charter, the consequences of the unilateral patriation of the constitution are still being felt today, as Canada builds itself at an ever faster pace.
With a legal framework that makes it virtually impossible to make constitutional changes that would give more powers to Quebec, the Canadian nation has, in recent years, disregarded Quebec consensus on political and social issues on numerous occasions.
This legal framework is supported by a philosophy that determines the political direction taken by this government. This has created intense dissatisfaction among Quebecers.
Let us mention, for example, the issue of young offenders. While Canadians want a punitive approach, Quebecers prefer a preventive approach. With millennium scholarships, Canadians wish to favour the elite, while Quebecers are more interested in accessibility. As for parental leave, Quebec would like to offer such leave to all young parents, because it recognizes that the work reality has changed for young people.
Similarly, Quebec, which wants to manage its social programs based on its own needs, did not want a social union that advocates the establishment of Canada-wide standards.
Because it is going increasingly further in its desire to give itself the tools to implement its policies, the federal government now has much greater financial leverage to support its vision of Canada's development, this thanks to the fiscal imbalance.
All these Canadian nation building policies do not take into account Quebec's aspirations and they isolate it. This situation does not benefit anyone, because Quebec's isolation has constantly undermined both the Quebec and Canadian societies.
Twenty years after the unilateral patriation of the Canadian constitution, it has become obvious that Quebec's aspirations can no longer be fulfilled within Canada. Everyone can see that attempts to correct the situation, including the Meech Lake accord, have failed.
Finally, regardless of what the Prime Minister may say, history shows that the presence of a federalist or sovereignist government in Quebec City does not change anything about the fact that Quebecers are no longer considered as a founding nation by Canada. Rather, they are seen as belonging to a province like any other, a province that can be ignored, if necessary.
Today, the government proposes to mark the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights. I propose that we also mark the 20th anniversary of the unilateral patriation of the Canadian constitution.
We must do so, because Quebecers still remember April 17, 1982, as the time in history when Canadians chose to give themselves a country that resembles them. Canadians have the right to do so. I hope, and I am working to that end with my Bloc Quebecois colleagues, that some day Quebecers will be able to do the same.