House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 81(14) to inform the House that the motion to be considered tomorrow during consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should protect our children from further sexual exploitation by immediately eliminating from child pornography laws all defences for possession of child pornography which allow for the exploitation of children.

The motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Wild Rose will be votable. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

It being 11:08 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to make something clear. During the first hour of debate I believe I spoke for one minute; therefore I have nine minutes remaining.

Last time, I began my speech with the fact that a flagrant injustice had occurred at the time the Canadian federation was created, that is, when Upper and Lower Canada were united. Since I have only nine minutes left, I will have to skip over some of the history. It might well take me nine hours to denounce all the injustices and make my point that Canadian centralization has always existed and still exists.

There was the whole Meech Lake accord period. Quebeckers asked for five minimal conditions and the rest of Canada said no, because, in fact, there were provisions in the Meech Lake accord for the recognition of Quebec and greater autonomy for Quebeckers. English Canada said no to that.

It was the same thing for the Charlottetown accord, which watered things down even further. I think the Charlottetown accord was the ultimate demonstration that the parties had irreconcilable differences, for a number of reasons. As I recall, English Canada rejected the Charlottetown accord because it gave too many powers to Quebec. Quebeckers rejected it because it did not give them enough powers.

Then came the 1995 referendum. Everyone knows the result of that referendum; 49.5% of the population said yes, including 60% of francophones. English Canada could interpret this two ways. It could mean that there was a great need for change in Quebec and that adjustments would have to be made to please Quebec and ensure that the great Canadian family was reunited. It could also mean that it would be necessary to centralize even more and tighten things up. Unfortunately, they went for the second interpretation.

There were further examples after that. The clarity bill is one example of centralization denying one of the founding peoples the right to decide its own future, unless certain conditions are met. As far as I know, at that time the 40 some Bloc Quebecois members rose as a bloc and voted against the bill put forward by the former justice minister, the current industry minister. He was the one who had referred the question to the Supreme Court, setting the conditions.

Then came a whole series of agreements. I will start by quoting a very famous and well known constitutional expert, André Binette. Here is what he had to say about the constitutional agreement and the social union agreement:

The 1981 constitutional agreement and the social agreement are the major and minor aspects of the same proposition: Canada cannot continue to co-exist with the identity of Quebec.

It is very clear.

Canada is less and less capable of defining itself in view of Quebec's aspirations and will to achieve autonomy. Although the social union agreement was created in less dramatic circumstances than the 1981 constitutional blockbuster, its effects are more concrete and more damaging to Quebec's aspirations.

The social union agreement contains a number of elements including the recognition of the legitimacy of the federal spending power. That was in the Meech Lake accord as a matter of fact. One of the conditions being that if a province wanted to withdraw from a program it could do so with full compensation. The social union agreement is making real what Canada has wanted all along. It can spend in any areas of jurisdiction, including those of Quebec.

I would like to quote another constitutional expert, André Tremblay. He said:

For the first time in the history of intergovernmental relations—

I will say as an aside that this past weekend the Quebec premier, talking about the council of the federation, reaffirmed that he will never sign the social union agreement. This is not a sovereignist government saying that, but Jean Charest.the Liberal Premier of Quebec .

Mr. Tremblay went on to say:

—the provinces, with the exception of Quebec, have confirmed and recognized the legitimacy of the power to spend and have given Ottawa carte blanche to intervene in all exclusively provincial spheres of jurisdiction.

He added:

The February 4 agreement provides leverage and the instruments for centralization and diminishes Quebec's distinctiveness. The federal government is recognized as the superior government and the provinces become its branches.

We are not the only ones to state that centralization is increasing.

In the agreement, the provinces are also considered equal. Not only does this deny Quebec's distinct character, but Quebec and Prince Edward Island are said to have the same powers in the Canadian Confederation.

That is the exact opposite of what we have been trying to say for 200 years. When the government formed here in Ottawa for the first time, it recognized that there are two peoples. It also recognized that they should be equal through equal representation in the House. From the moment Upper Canada starting becoming populated, Quebec's powers started diminishing, if only through representation in the House. This trend continues today.

Last week, we passed a bill on electoral boundaries in Canada. We have just increased the number of members in the House of Commons. Yet, Quebec will still have 75 members, no more. For a long time now, the importance of Quebeckers as a founding people has no longer been recognized. There is a shift toward increasing centralization.

It is somewhat easy to understand why the government would do this. When the Prime Minister goes abroad to sign agreements with respect to international treaties, he does not want to have to think about whether this will encroach on provincial jurisdiction and cause him problems.

In their wisdom, the government and the Prime Minister are saying that it might be better to make the provinces small local administrations and take charge of all the debates and jurisdictions, since they are the ones with the money.

It is true that there is money. The main way all this is going to be funded is through the fiscal imbalance. There is nothing complicated about it. Quebec ought to be allocated an additional $50 million a week, or $2.5 billion a year, but because of this imbalance it is not getting it. It is often pointed out that important services such as health and education are a provincial jurisdiction and the provinces are the ones who have to provide the money for them.

There are scarcely any jurisdictions that belong to Ottawa any more, but they are generating a stupendous surplus. It is very obvious that there is a fiscal imbalance. How does the federal government react to this imbalance? It interferes in health. In this year's budget speech, the Minister of Finance told us he had money to spare, and that if the figure was over $5 billion, he would probably come up with the $2 billion he had committed to give us.

Last week, the Minister of Finance announced a surplus of $7 billion. Two days later, he announced that, with all the expenditures, it would be more like $3 billion. He probably wants to avoid having to send $2 billion to the provinces, who really need it for health services.

Only a few decades ago, the federal government was contributing 50 cents for every dollar invested in health care, and now it contributes only 14 cents, so we can understand where the government is headed. It is interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. It is telling people that it is the one with the money, that it wants to centralize everything, that it is going to pass legislation, going to interfere, that it will be the central government and the provinces will turn into local administrations. That is what the government wants.

I wish to congratulate my colleague from Trois-Rivières for bringing this motion before us. Let us be realistic; it is unlikely that the present Prime Minister will be voting in favour of my colleague's motion. However, my colleague can rest assured that the members of the Bloc Quebecois have a very good understanding of the dynamics involved and will be supporting it. I trust that other members of this House with an open mind as far as Quebec is concerned will be able to support it as well.

My congratulations to him again.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to participate in today's debate. Before I begin my remarks, I would like to read the motion before us into the record. It states:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

I acknowledge and support both points of the motion. What I mean by that is this: that clearly when we speak to the point of the province of Quebec, the majority of population that resides in that province is in fact a people. They are in fact a nation. That is beyond doubt within the framework of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and throughout our history in terms of how we have acknowledged the majority of the population in the nation of Quebec itself that resides in the province.

We do believe that provinces have the right to opt out of programs with full compensation. It is a principle that we followed when we were in government, on numerous occasions. Having said that, let me say that the province of Quebec has the right to opt out of a program.

I would say to the hon. member that of course he would want all provinces to have that capacity to opt out with full compensation if those provinces had the capacity to deliver a program in a better way as well.

It is my pleasure to take part in this debate. I wish to congratulate the BQ member for Trois-Rivières for putting before the House the issue of federal-provincial relations.

Let me say from the outset there are many definitions of the word “nation”, but that said and putting that aside, it is important to clarify that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has long recognized Quebec for what it is: a nation, a people, with the majority of population that resides in that province.

In fact, in 1991, when many of the Bloc members, some of them even in this chamber today, were still members of the Progressive Conservative Party, motions were passed to recognize the right to self-determination, which meant that Quebec constituted a nation, a unique and in fact a distinct society. Quebec is a nation. It has been an historical fact since the Quebec Act of 1774.

Therefore, Meech was a natural extension of this historical legislation that is now more than two centuries old. This characteristic of the nation of Quebec must be recognized and celebrated, and we must have a flexible federalism.

Unlike some of our friends from the Bloc Quebecois, we in the Progressive Conservative Party believe that the values and aspirations of the people of Quebec can be served within this larger country, Canada.

I remember the phrase that we see quite often about Quebec: “Je me souviens”.

However, as you know, the full sentence reads, “Je me souviens que je suis né sous le lys, mais je croîs sous la rose”.

We can remember the historical origins of a people of a nation but we can grow within a larger country. That is the principle that has been embraced for well over two centuries.

Let us be clear, then. A majority of Quebeckers identify first and foremost with Quebec. This is their country and, for them, even young people, this country remains the most distinctive feature of their existence, the central focus of any social interaction.

That nation is seen by young people, by young and old alike in the province of Quebec, as their springboard of their existence and their interaction with the rest of the world itself.

Theologian Gregory Baum has written that because Quebeckers are forced to stick together to ensure the maintenance of their culture in North America and assert their collective existence, they have developed a sense of community that, here more than anywhere else, favours the deployment of innovative social community models.

Quebec nationalism, far from being the type of primal ethnic tribalism that it has been accused of, is in fact a hive of social innovation. Let us take as an example its young offenders program, which consistently produces better outcomes and results. Quebec is often at the forefront of social policy development, particularly on policies related to women and children's issues and on environmental protection. There are many lessons we can learn from each other.

Having said that, let me say that we have to be more flexible in that regard. Although predominantly justice issues are exclusively in the domain of the federal government, if the Quebec system or another province's system provides better results, better returns on the objectives of that particular program, we need to have a flexible federalism which would recognize that. Testament to that is the young offenders aspect itself.

I would also like to raise the various circumstances under which we are able to build our institutions together. Health care, for instance, in Quebec, was an idea borrowed from Saskatchewan and implemented right across Canada.

We can borrow from each other innovative ideas and be innovators and incubators of sound public policy on social issues which we have borrowed from the Saskatchewan health care and from the Province of Quebec with respect to its system for young offenders.

Now we come to the motion before us today.

It is clear that the social union agreement in 1999 lacked acknowledgement of what the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has always recognized: the right to opt out, to seek alternatives.

The social union agreement was an opportunity for the federal government to grab powers and a few more jurisdictions by increasing centralization.

The crux of the agreement and the problem with the agreement is that no province will be authorized to opt out with financial compensation if it turns down a federal program and wants to establish its own. The concept of opting out or seeking an alternative is not a thing within this federation.

In the 1960s, Quebec opted out of 22 federal programs, and had seven tax points transferred. This is one way of looking at the country and conducting business in a living and evolving federation.

We need to look at how Canada works in terms of its components and its partners. In my party, the Progressive Conservative Party, we believe in a balanced relationship between partners in the federation and in a flexible Constitution.

With the provincial premiers meeting to change the dynamic of federal-provincial relations, the issue is very apropos. In an election year, with the new leader of the Liberal Party, the matter of relations between the partners of the federation, I believe, is categorically critical.

We need a federal government that makes federalism work well, is respectful of and sensitive to all the regions and provinces of this country.

The nation of Quebec is a vibrant nation, and it will not disappear. It has been building for several centuries, and particularly since the 1960s.

Since the quiet revolution of Jean Lesage in 1960, the Quebec state has been evolving in a very progressive way and it has been doing that in the context of a grander country, that of Canada.

We will support the two principles of the motion itself, that the Province of Quebec and the people in that province do form a nation. The majority of the population are people whose values and aspirations need to be recognized for what they are as a nation. Doing so would recognize the historical fact that it is two centuries old, since the Quebec Act of 1774.

Having said that, together, in a grander country, we can build a better nation where the aspirations and values of all the residents in Canada can be obtained.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly think a great deal more needs to be said on the motion and I want to add a few words to it.

While the other member was speaking, he referred many times to Quebec as a nation. I think it will be very helpful for Canadians of both languages across the country to appreciate that in English and French there is a very significant distinction in the definition of nation.

I was just looking at the definition in the 2003 edition of Le Petit Larousse comparing it to the pocket Oxford Dictionary , which is also on the table in the House. In every respect the definition in English and French is almost exactly the same. Nation, both in English and French, is defined as a community of people, people who share the common heritage, linguistic unity and that sort of thing.

However there is one major difference between the English definition of nation and the French definition of nation. In the English definition it states very clearly that nation implies a state, political boundaries. In the French definition there is no reference to state whatsoever.

I think it is extremely important for Canadians across the land, particularly English speaking Canadians, to appreciate that when our French speaking colleagues talk about nation, which has, shall we say, almost an incendiary effect upon we Canadians who are strong federalists, we must understand that they are not speaking in terms of a separate political entity. That is most important.

I go back to the days of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, long before I became a member of Parliament. I was extremely distressed during those debates on the use of the word nation and its implication in English that this did represent separate political communities.

I think we can acknowledge that when my Bloc colleagues talk about nation, they are really talking about the cultural, linguistic, historical people, so to speak, and not in fact about separating the French speaking nation from the rest of Canada. Indeed, the French speaking nation in Canada goes beyond the borders of Quebec and encompasses the francophones in New Brunswick, Ontario and elsewhere.

With that point being clarified, let me say one further thing. I cannot support the motion even though I appreciate where it is coming historically with my colleagues from the Bloc opposite. The reason that I cannot support the motion is the idea, and it is a long held idea, that if any group that defines itself as a nation in the country has jurisdiction over one particular aspect of life, like education or whatever, and the federal government wishes to introduce a program in that area, then that nation, province or whatever community we are talking about should have the ability to reject that program and be compensated.

I have no problem with rejecting a federally instigated program. What I have a problem with is the concept that one should automatically get compensation. I cannot agree with that. I extend the idea or the concept of nation beyond those who speak French to the first nations, for example.

Across the country, we have, although I do not know how many altogether, but it must be at least 30 or 40 aboriginal groups that are identified by a different language. Forget about the fact that they are aboriginal. The reality is that we have more different nations of aboriginals in this country than there are nations in Europe. If we were to apply what is being proposed in the motion before the House, that a nation should be able to reject a federal program and receive compensation to put up its own program, then we would have to apply that rule to all the first nations in the country.

This is where the equality thing comes in. I have great confidence that the portion of the French speaking nation in Canada, which constitutes Quebec, does have the expertise and ability to administer and run a program very competently. Indeed, we have seen time and again where a Quebec program has been run better than a similar program with a similar aim in other parts of the country.

However the unfortunate thing is that under the current constitution, and maybe it requires a constitutional change, the motion that is before the House would have to be applied to the first nations and the reality is that many of these first nation communities are very small and do not have the management skills, and the tradition of democracy for that matter, that would enable them to reject a federal program and receive compensation.

I appreciate where my colleagues in the Bloc are coming from on the motion and I have a lot of sympathy for it. I certainly think it is extremely important for the country to maintain the French language traditions. It is more than language. I have always thought of our francophone heritage as the heart and soul of the country. Our English speaking heritage tends to be the pragmatist and the mind of the country, but the heart of the country is, I believe, in those who look to the past to old Quebec.

I am an historian and I read French as well as English. I am very conscious and sensitive to the historical contribution to the character of Canada that has been a part of the traditions that are expressed by my Bloc colleagues opposite. In the end, however, as long as we believe in the Constitution and in the interest of equality of all nations within Canada, I cannot support the motion.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to read the wording of the motion twice, once at the beginning of my presentation and once toward the end. Let me start by reading it in French.

Que la Chambre reconnaisse que le Québec forme une nation, et qu'en conséquence, n'étant pas signataire de l'entente cadre sur l'union sociale de 1999, ladite nation québécoise dispose d'un droit de retrait avec pleine compensation financière pour toute initiative fédérale faisant intrusion dans les juridictions québécoises.

That wording, it seems to me, mixes two concepts that are, in my opinion, completely unrelated. The first one is the idea that Quebec constitutes a nation. The second one is the idea that Quebec or any province should be able to opt out of federal programs with full compensation.

The question it raises in my mind is why the first section of the motion could not have been left out so that it would read something like the following but in substantive terms be the same thing.

It is being asked that the Quebec nation be given:

—the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

I will read this one in English:

--that Quebec and every other province has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon provincial jurisdictions, with full compensation.

If that had been written in the motion, I and I think all the members of my party would support it because there is plenty of room in Canada's Constitution and in our tradition to accommodate this sort of thing.

We see a growing tide of support across the country, in all provinces, for a respectful reading of the 1867 Constitution and its clear division of powers and for the interpretation which was given to the Constitution in the 1930s by what was then our Supreme Court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which said that the Canadian Constitution, unlike that of Australia or the United States, had clear watertight compartments between the jurisdictions of different levels of government. This means that within their own level, their own areas of sovereignty, or support or jurisdiction, each province should be treated and regarded as a completely sovereign entity, a completely sovereign country or nation, if we choose to use that term, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of that term, that could be done.

A tradition exists, going back to 1867 through these cases, which was at least partly incorporated in the 1982 Constitution in its amending formula. I would like to read from that to make my point. Subsections 38(2) and 38(3) read as follows:

An amendment...that derogates from the legislative powers, the proprietary rights or any other rights or privileges of the legislature or government of a province shall require a resolution supported by the majority of members of each of the Senate, the House of Commons and legislative assemblies, required under subsection (1)--

This means of seven provinces representing 50% of the population. It goes on:

An amendment [of this nature] shall not have effect in a province the legislative assembly of which has expressed its dissent thereto by resolution supported by a majority of its members prior to the issue of the proclamation to which the amendment relates unless the legislative assembly, subsequently, by resolution supported by a majority of its members, revokes its dissent and authorizes the amendment.

Therefore, the taking away of powers from provinces by amendment is clearly prohibited and a kind of formula, non-financial formula, allowing for that protection is built into the Constitution of the country since 1982. That is a very positive thing.

There is room for further movement in this direction. Let me cite from the policy of my own party, the Canadian Alliance, in this regard. It is the policy that I had a hand in writing. It states:

We believe that the Government of Canada must respect the vision and intent of the original Confederation agreements regarding the division of power and responsibility inherent in Canadian federalism as enshrined in our Constitution. We are committed to ending any misuse of the federal spending power that undermines that intent. We will seek provincial consent for financing any new program in a field of provincial jurisdiction, and provide full compensation for provinces choosing not to participate.

In other words, with the substance of the Bloc Quebecois motion, my party is already in full 100% agreement.

Finally, I turn to a set of proposals that the predecessor to my party, the Reform Party, put out in the period just following the referendum in Quebec in 1995. This was a document proposing a series of changes to the Confederation agreement that would deal with some of the legitimate aspirations that had been expressed by Quebeckers, both those who voted yes and those who voted no, but who fully participated in the process of expressing their discontent with the status quo. This document, which I helped to research, was a document the current Leader of the Opposition actually wrote and was signed off on by Preston Manning, then the Leader of the Reform Party of Canada.

Under the heading “Spending Power”, we made the following statement:

Legislation under Parliament's power to unilaterally amend the Constitution should be introduced, to forbid any new federal encroachments on provincial jurisdiction by means of the federal government's so-called “spending power” (under which the federal government simply establishes a new federal spending program in an area of provincial jurisdiction).

As members of the House can see, there is room to go a fair bit down the path proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and perhaps even to go further than it has proposed. However, very significantly, these are areas that we are saying should be available to all provinces of Canada. It should be part of our Confederation arrangement. It should be part of a concept of equality of the provinces

This allows me to address something which I have never understood about the position taken by the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois. For some reason they are very focused on protecting Quebec's sovereignty, jurisdiction and powers, whether within the Confederate arrangement that exists currently or whether seeking to have independence, without any regard for the other provinces and the fact that they also have sovereign powers dictated under our Constitution.

I am unable to understand why they would think, as a matter of principle, that it is necessary to have this kind of disrespect for the other partners to Confederation, all which have the same aspirations as Quebec. Some of them, including my own province of Ontario, were the original supporters of the idea of provincial rights and respect for provincial sovereignty, when frankly the government of Quebec, in the early decades of Confederation, seemed much less interested in this.

I also cannot see why anyone would think, from the point of view of strategy, that it would be helpful to promote one province, to establish some kind of special status for that province, and thereby guarantee that we would see increasing centralization in the rest of the country. I think we would find that the centralizing impulse, which exists in all federations, would be greatly strengthened if the arrangement that the Bloc Quebecois is always hinting at and which it proposes effectively in this proposal were actually adopted.

Finally, I also must talk a little about the idea that Quebec constitutes a nation, as is worded here. Here I will read again the motion that was proposed by my Bloc Quebecois friend, but now I will read it in English as opposed to French to make the point about the distinctions between the French and English texts. The motion is:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

The thing to observe here is “a nation”. If they were to say “que les Quebecois forment une nation”, or “les Quebecois forme un peuple”, if they were to say something that refers to people somehow being linked together by a mystical bond, to be connected by something that is deep within their nature, their psyche, the way that their synapses fire in their brains that makes them have something in common that the rest of world does not have in common, I could see some validity to that. However they are not talking that. It is very distinct. They are saying that Quebec forms a nation. That is, there is a conflation between whatever nation might exist, whatever people might exist and a state. The attempt here is to create a nation state.

First, that is exclusionary of the francophones who live outside of Quebec; in New Brunswick, Ontario and elsewhere. It is also exclusionary of the anglophones who live within Quebec who do not regard themselves as being part a Quebec nation, but who do regard themselves as being good Quebeckers, as being people who are good citizens of that society and who seek to act that way. That includes my own ancestors. Quebec was my first home too, and I always find it very difficult to accept that we should be excluded in this kind of way by this kind of wording.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, please allow me to read the motion by my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières. I think it is essential that I do so, after the statements I heard from the Conservative Party of Canada, the union of the Progressive-Conservative Party and of the Canadian Alliance.

Here is what the motion says:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

The member from the Canadian Alliance says that the motion mixes two concepts. It speaks about a nation but makes claims and asks for full financial compensation in areas coming under the Quebec jurisdiction. One thing bothers me. It is clear that all Canadian provinces, including Quebec, could ask for financial compensation in areas under their jurisdiction.

However, we know quite well what happened with the social union. That is why the concept of nation is essential in this motion. Quebec is a nation, there is no doubt about that. It is different from the rest of Canada. As we are the sons and daughters of only one father and one mother, we can only be the sons and daughters of one nation.

The very fact that the people of Quebec constitue a nation that has its own ways of doing things gives us the right to full compensation, especially in our own jurisdictions. We are not begging for charity. We are asking for full compensation for the money Quebeckers have already paid to Ottawa, who is using it in roundabout ways to circumvent the limits of federal responsibilities.

For the sake of all those who may be listening to the House of Commons channel at this time, and that must be at least 20 million people, a quick reference to history may be in order. It is important to confirm once again the concept of a Quebec nation, and make it clear that it exists.

In 1867, Quebec and three other provinces agreed to be bound by the British North America Act. In many respects, this constitution was a pact between two founding peoples. The words nation or people are not used. We are not mixing concepts. One has to choose between the English and French definitions. When we speak about peoples and nations, it is a matter that is both rational and emotional. This is something Quebeckers feel and know. Of course, all Quebeckers are not sovereignists, because I would have been gone from here a long time ago. But all of them are now nationalists, and they are aware that it is important to have greater autonomy for Quebec, because we have a centralist and even egoistic federal government. This is at a virtual level. It is hard to understand that such a thing would still exist.

That being said, I will now come back to my main point. Ever since the Canadian Constitution came into force on July 1, 1867, the interpretation of its wording, especially with regard to the distribution of power and the role of each government, has been a bone of contention. So you can imagine what has been going on since 1867. I suppose, I presume, I am certain and I am convinced that already then, over a century ago, the federal government was getting ready to minimize and diminish Quebec. Subsequent events do attest to that.

So, historically it can be said that we have had about 100 years of discussions, squabbles and differences of opinion. As time went by, Quebeckers asked for and demanded more and more autonomy. Of course, Quebec governments did not always meet their obligations in that respect. That is why people in Quebec, people moved by the emotional and rational arguments I referred to earlier, said, “We are going to create a political party”.

As a result, in 1968, sovereignist forces got together and created a new political party, the Parti Quebecois.

It took a lot to show how strong and vigorous the Quebec nation was. Nevertheless, less than 10 years later, the Parti Quebecois came to power in Quebec, proclaiming loudly that it was a sovereignist party. Of course, the terminology has evolved from independence to sovereignty and association, among others.

The facts cannot be denied though: we are talking about a nation able to govern itself and shackled by the federal government, a nation that has no other choice, within the limitations of its abilities and power, than to ask that, as a minimum, the pact between the two founding peoples as well as the one regarding Quebec's areas of jurisdiction be respected.

As we know, things evolved up to the first referendum in 1980. We will always remember what happened then. The debate was quite heated until a certain Pierre Elliott Trudeau—who is now co-owner of an airport in Montreal—told Quebeckers that their no would be a yes to change.

We know full well that the changes that have occurred since then have not benefited Quebec, but have been detrimental to the Quebec people. As far as the actual vote is concerned—we all remember it—40.4% of voters said yes and 59.6% said no. That did not necessarily mean that Quebeckers did not feel very much a nation. Some people will always be more timid than others.

We saw how things evolved and the final result. Even though, at that time, the Parti Quebecois put the independence issue to the people, it was re-elected one year later.

The famous Meech Lake accord process also got underway. We all know how that initiative and the “beau risque” with Brian Mulroney ended: it was a flop. But let us stick to real definitions, because we would like to know how the Liberals, the Alliance and the Progressive Conservative members define a nation.

The issue was simple: recognize Quebec as a distinct society; recognize its right of veto over constitutional amendments; provide guarantees regarding the appointment of judges from Quebec, the right to full compensation and the right to opt out with full compensation, and immigration.

Of course, you will have noticed that I left out one important element, namely 1982, the year the Constitution was patriated. There was also a consensus in the National Assembly on that issue. The National Assembly was against patriation. We remembered that in 1867, there were two founding nations with very well defined jurisdictions, and we knew that if we went along with the plan of Pierre Elliott Trudeau the Quebec nation would be no more.

If Quebec were not a real nation, it would long ago have become a province like the others. Although the federal government and the Liberal Party have been taking shots at us for several decades, we are still standing. What is more, since 1993 we have been standing here, in the House of Commons, to represent the people of Quebec who will, in the next referendum, affirm their independence. As a matter of fact, in 1995, Quebec won its referendum. It did indeed. However, the victory was simply stolen away by all kinds of stratagems used by the government of the time. When something is stolen from you, it is legitimate to recover it as quickly as possible, with the least negative impact on the people of Quebec.

In the meantime, the Liberal federal government should respect what has always existed: the right to full compensation and the right to opt out with full compensation.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to speak on the motion presented by my colleague from Trois-Rivières who I cannot name but whose first name is composed of at least half of mine.

This morning's debate opposes two visions of two different countries, two different visions of the way we should be governed and of the way a people is entitled to govern itself.

Looking at what has happened recently, we can find a lot of examples of attempts by the federal government to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We see that a process developed many years ago has a very definite objective. The objective is to ensure that there is only one government in the whole country and that the provincial governments become, in a sense, branches of the central government.

What we see is a determination to centralize at all cost, without taking the aspirations of all Canadians, Quebeckers and others, into account.

Of course, the aspirations of the citizens of Quebec are different from those of citizens in the other provinces in that, what we want, particularly the majority of francophones, is to have our own country. We want to ensure that Quebec can develop with its own administrative approach, its own methods and its own taxes. We want to ensure that this country will become a country in our own image where it will be possible to offer the services we wish to provide to our fellow citizens.

At present, as I said, what we see is the federal government's desire for wall-to-wall centralization. This desire for centralization is steady and continuing. Why does this government want to centralize all the powers that the provinces, including Quebec, now hold—at all costs? In fact, what is the motive or reason behind this desire for centralization?

When we examine that question seriously, we realize that there really is no reason, because a country can also be governed through decentralization, leaving the provinces to manage that which belongs to them under the Constitution of 1867 and that of 1982, even though we as Quebeckers, do not recognize that document?

In the end, it is an unhealthy desire on the part of the federal government, especially the Liberal Party that has been in power since 1993. It is an unhealthy desire to centralize everything in Ottawa, ensuring that we have a wall-to-wall country, that is, with very nearly all the same programs from coast to coast, without taking any differences into account, without taking the Quebec difference into account, and without taking into account the fact that Quebeckers want a very different kind of government, as we know.

One could list many sectors in which the federal government has intervened in recent years. My colleague cited a good number of them in a letter he recently had published in Le Devoir . Some examples are the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the Young Offenders Act, or policies covering the voluntary sector. Others are health and education. There are more examples involving every area under provincial jurisdiction.

Now, there is an announcement that the federal government intends to invest directly in municipalities, that is, in an area that does not belong to it. That is clearly defined in the Constitution of 1867. It is an area of exclusively provincial jurisdiction, where the federal government has no reason to intrude.

Why is the federal government acting this way? As I was saying, it wants to govern the country the same way from coast to coast, where everybody is equal and where no differences can exist.

I would like to quote a minister who is here in the House and who is very well known for some of the infamous comments he has made. He said one day that for Quebeckers to be brought back into the fold, they had to get hurt. That comment was made and repeated publicly by someone who is here in this House.

What we do realize is that the federal government applies exactly the same method for all the provinces across Canada. With the fiscal imbalance, the goal is to starve the provinces, particularly in the areas of health care and education, which are under their jurisdiction. By starving them, it makes them unable to provide the level of services that they could and should provide. Then the federal government barges in and says, “Yes, we will help you, but under certain conditions”.

That is exactly what is happening with the social union agreement. The provinces, not having the funds they need to provide services, are turning to the federal government for help.

This is absolutely unnecessary. If the fiscal imbalance were eliminated, the provinces would collect the taxes they need to provide services in health care and education and would therefore be able to provide these services without any help from the federal government. It is absolutely unnecessary for the federal government to get involved in areas under provincial jurisdiction. The provinces are perfectly able to provide these services, and perhaps even better than the federal government, as long as they have enough money to do so.

I would also like to add that the federal government tries to intervene in provincial jurisdiction, but for the most part, when it comes to its own affairs, things are a mess. I am the critic for fisheries and oceans, which is entirely a federal responsibility.

Look at what has happened since 1949, when Newfoundland entered Confederation. It started off with an abundant resource and ended up with a moratorium, specifically on cod and ground fish. Yet other countries such as Iceland and Norway have managed to protect this resource through strict management. Note that this is a major industry for Iceland. Those countries have found a way to protect their resource so that their population can continue to earn a living from this industry. In Canada, this is a federal responsibility and the management of it has been a disaster.

As a province, as Quebeckers, are we to trust the federal government to manage our health care system? Never. When we look at what has happened in federal jurisdictions and what the federal government has managed, it is clear that their success rate is extremely low.

There is currently another big case in my region: the infamous Bennett Environmental incinerator in Belledune. The federal government has the power to intervene, but it does nothing, despite the fact that close to 30,000 people have signed a petition calling on it to take action and the fact that there is a coalition. These people are asking the federal government to intervene in this case because protecting this resource is part of its responsibility.

The federal government is dragging its heels and so far has refused to intervene. We hope the federal government will take its responsibilities pursuant to existing legislation.

I could go on at length. Take air transport for example, which is the epitome of federal responsibility. What has happened in our regions is a catastrophe because we practically have no service any more, yet it is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that the public receives efficient services.

I personally, and all my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, recognize Quebec as a nation and Quebeckers as a people. We hope to achieve full and complete sovereignty in order to have services that bring us together and that are a true reflection of our needs.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin, if I may, by reading my motion:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

Sometimes things happen serendipitously. This first hour of resumed debate this Monday morning coincides with the first hour following the 10th anniversary of the election of the Bloc Quebecois with an impressive 54 seats, on October 25, 1993. There is some symbolism at work here. First, the timing of the debate, and second that it addressed the constitutional debate and the place or the future of Quebec within the federation. These dovetail very well with the history-making—so very history-making—mission of the Bloc Quebecois. This motion is presented in conformity and harmony with that mission.

This is a history-making motion because it addresses fundamental issues, the very basic questions we of the Bloc Quebecois should address, do in fact address, which keep us at a distance from the day to day upheavals going on. It takes us back to the source. It is a call for reflection, a call to Canadians as well as Quebeckers to reflect on what the future of Quebec is within this federation, whether we should remain part of it.

I would like to draw hon. members' attention to the underlying meaning of the vote to be held on Wednesday, October 29. If the members of this House, whether from Canada or Quebec, vote in favour of this motion, we need to be aware that the motion means that this House would be recognizing a true special status for Quebec, that this House would be recognizing special and specific powers, special responsibilities, special sources of funding.

If this House voted in favour of this motion, it would be acknowledging the existence of the Quebec nation and consequently its the right to opt out, and also the fact that it was not a signatory of two landmark documents in the evolution of Canada, in 1982 and 1999.

Members should be aware of what is going on here, unless this is only a hoax, a huge travesty not worth the paper on which the Hansard of the House of Commons is published.

Therefore, members from the rest of Canada should think twice before voting yes. Let us not forget what happened in 1992, during the referendum on the Charlottetown accord. Politicians supported the agreement, but on the morning of the referendum, there was a spontaneous and unorganized public uproar and Canadians decided to vote no, because Quebec would have gained too much from the agreement. At the same time, Quebecers had also decided to turn down the proposed agreement, because it did not grant Quebec enough new powers.

That is the famous dead end in Canadian federalism, the two solitudes as described in 1963 in the Laurendeau-Dunton report. In my mind, the situation in Quebec has only gotten worse since then.

If this motion is defeated, it means that Quebec is not recognized as a nation. It would be seen as a province like any other, a region, a cultural component, an ethnic and cultural community within the Canadian mosaic, just another component, as the heritage minister would have it.

Defeating the motion would be saying no to one of the two founding nations of Canada, to special status, to a real distinct society, to specific powers for Quebec, to national recognition for Quebec, to international recognition for Quebec, which has established ties with Africa and Latin America thanks to its Latin and French roots.

It would be saying no to a nation that ranks second in the Francophonie, sixth in the two Americas and fifteenth as a world economic power.

As Pierre Bourgault so eloquently put it “We do not want to be a province like any other, we want to be a country like any other”.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 12:09 p.m., the time provided for the debate has expired.

The question is on Motion N. 394. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 29, 2003, at the end of government orders.

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, an act respecting assisted human reproduction, be read the third time and passed; and of the motion that the question be now put.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have an opportunity to speak on a bill that matters, in a medical sense. Bill C-13 is a complex bill. It is about assisted human reproduction. The bill has actually been in the House in various iterations ever since I have been here.

I had an opportunity to deal with infertile couples in my life prior to coming to Parliament. I would like to briefly talk about what drives couples who want a natural child. This is a significant issue to these people and they will do virtually almost anything they can to have a child.

The causes of infertility are quite diverse. They range from the husband being infertile, possibly caused by a low sperm count from infection or injury to, more commonly, a wife's infertility. The wife's infertility may be caused by hormonal reasons and a reduction in the number of ova she might produce, infection, the ovary not working, tumours, and often times unknown factors in relation to infertility.

Science has mushroomed in this area. When I graduated, this was not a huge issue, even on the horizon, but we now have a host of mechanisms to help infertile couples. These range from drugs to enhance egg production, laparoscopic surgery which extracts eggs, to mechanisms which concentrate sperm.

We can now join the eggs and the sperm outside the body. These are commonly known as test tube babies. We can implant them in the mother's womb, or in fact implant them in another womb.

We have sperm donors. We have egg donors. We have instances where there are more eggs being extracted than are necessary for the couple to use. We also have the opportunity to freeze these little embryos, keep them for a fairly long period of time and reuse them.

Most of these issues are not controversial. They are widely accepted by Canadians under the broad heading of assisted human reproduction. Of course, this is a vote that involves issues of ethics. I personally support Bill C-13 as it relates to these activities and therapies.

There are, however, some controversial items in Bill C-13 that do have more ethical and significant moral components to them.

One of them is cloning. Cloning is encapsulated by this bill. Cloning is a complex issue in itself. I would have liked to have seen the bill split to actually look at assisted human reproduction in one bill and the more controversial issues to be looked at and studied in another bill. We in fact put that forward as a proposition, but it was not accepted. That would have been my preference.

Cloning involves taking the nucleus from a cell, replacing that nucleus with another nucleus, and having an identical organism formed from the new cell.

There are two types of cloning. There is cloning for reproduction, which would be someone trying to clone me, heaven forbid, in order to make an exact copy. That copy would be identical in appearance and genetic makeup. The other type of cloning is therapeutic cloning. It is not so simple, but to make it simple, it would be to have spare parts or spare individuals in case of the death or demise of an individual.

This bill would ban both types of cloning: therapeutic and reproductive. I believe that these types of cloning should be banned. However, at the present time, there is a debate going on in the UN on this very issue. There, Canada's position is not the same as the position in this bill. That troubles me because the Canadian position, which is to ban all types of cloning, should carry right through to the international experience.

I have been told that the reason this is being done is that at the UN there is very little chance of passing a total ban on cloning, and I do not buy that. I do not believe for one second that this is a legitimate or valid reason.

The second and even more controversial issue underneath the big umbrella of the bill is stem cell research. Basic cells in the body are stem cells and are capable of becoming any cell. We call it differentiation. They can become any cell. The stem cell, then, could become a nerve cell. It could become a brain cell. It could become a hair cell. It could become skin or bone. These cells, the basic cells of the process of an organism, are the building blocks, so to speak, of our bodies.

Stem cells can be sought and used from two broad sources. They can be used from the adult source or from the embryonic source. The adult source of stem cells is bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, and research on these stem cells has tremendous benefit, in my view, for therapy of some complex illnesses.

The other source is from the embryo. Let us remember that I mentioned in my comments prior to this that extra embryos can be taken from infertile couples and used in the fertility process. Extra embryos can be frozen and then used for research if in fact they are not used by the infertile couple.

A stem cell from an embryo is quite different from the stem cell of an adult. The embryo does involve some significant ethical and moral issues. There are those who debate that the embryo, even when it is outside the uterus, is the fundamental of human life. There are those who say that it is not implanted in the uterus and it is not human life at all. Then there is a third category of people who say that for the embryo, until it is a fetus and born, that is the only time we then have human life.

From my perspective, and this is a perspective of looking at this from the moral, ethical and medical viewpoints, the complexity of fetal or embryonic stem cell research is such that if we had a preference, and we actually do have a preference, we are better to look at the adult stem cells. To that end, my party, the Canadian Alliance, has asked for a moratorium on stem cell research from the embryonic source for three years, which is the initial three years that this bill would then review. To my mind, that would remove the controversy that surrounds the stem cell research.

What promise does adult stem cell research show us? The promise is really quite significant. There are some advantages in that if I had diabetes and my stem cells could produce the cells from my body which produce insulin, there would be no immune reaction. It would be taking my stem cells from my bone marrow and using them for therapy for my system. Immune rejection is a significant problem with the research in these areas. There would also be no embryonic destruction involved, which would remove the ethical and moral decision and debate there.

Are there examples of success? Just this year in June at the University of Minnesota bone marrow cells from adults have been transformed into every single other cell type. This has enormous potential.

My preference, then, and I speak on this bill not just from the party perspective but from my own preference, with a medical background, is to split the bill in half, one the human reproduction half and one the cloning/stem cell half. My preference would be a moratorium on embryonic stem cells for three years, which is actually my party's position as well.

Another preference is that children born of assisted human reproduction would have a right to know their parents and have a right to know the place where the cells came from.

I would also like to see some limitation of the eggs extracted from couples going through assisted human reproduction.

I also will say that there is strong support from me for research on adult stem cells and the exciting therapies that are potentially there.

The bill has been full of controversy. As I have said, it and its predecessors have been around for virtually 10 years. That controversy and the way this is now being brought to the House, with a side deal to allow for an agency to have gender parity, seem to me to minimize the importance and ethical component of the bill.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important bill.

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12:20 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel honoured to follow the hon. doctor from Macleod because he certainly has provided a technological background. I must apologize in that I do not have that background, but I have studied the bill and I have talked to many people in my riding who are concerned, on both sides of the issue, the ethical side and of course the pure science side and the importance of the bill to infertile couples.

These feelings in the local area are very hard felt. Those couples who for whatever reason find themselves in an infertile situation are looking at the science, which has been progressing over the last number of years, and they believe that this is a great opportunity for them to have children. Certainly I understand the importance of children. I have three of them myself and certainly something I think everybody desires at one time in their lives is to be able to raise children. Child rearing is very much the foundation of our country and nation. I certainly understand the concern these people have.

Also, it is unfortunate that in a lot of ways science is passing the legislative process. It has taken us as a legislature a long time to sit down and actually try to deal with this issue.

As we will recall, the history of this file is such that the government almost basically delegated it to the health care community until a lot of members of Parliament became very concerned. They thought that this should actually be formulated in a bill prior to delegating that authority. This is a common theme of this legislation. As we go through it, we see that time and time again there is a delegated authority, delegated to regulations. It is clear to me that there has not been a lot of thought, at this stage at least, put into what those regulations are going to look like.

Worse than this, I suppose, is that it would appear that legislators are not going to be involved in that process. In other words, we are going to delegate this authority to bureaucrats and others to work out, which may or may not be in the best interest of my constituents, the people I represent. I feel somewhat offended by the legislation in that sense.

I also know that there are those who suggest that it is such a technological issue and so complex that it possibly would be very difficult for members of Parliament who do not have a science background to comprehend, but the reality is that all of these things impact people. It is our duty as legislators to try to represent our constituents in the best way possible.

I have some problems with this. I think that sometimes we try to take shortcuts with the legislative process. I certainly understand the concern of people who are infertile or otherwise want to use reproductive technologies and think it has taken too long already, but the object of the exercise is to try to get this thing right.

I do believe that we should go back to the drawing board to some extent on the delegated authority and see if we cannot find ways to work this out, if not at this point in the stage of the legislative process, then at least to provide that those regulations come back before a committee of the House and members of Parliament will have the ability to comment and to maybe indeed even change or object to the regulations as formulated. I think that is a natural and healthy process in a democracy, where people can put a constant check on the regulated authorities in the best interests of people generally.

I have another concern. One of the driving forces to bring the legislation into passage is an industry that seemed to be starting up, that of paid servicing. This, of course, most of us have big problems with, because we cannot understand why people would actually be prepared to rent their bodies. However, I also have talked to people who have told me that it is none of our business, so there are two ends to that. But I think if we take the orientation to science generally, it is incumbent on us to ensure that there is not some kind of profit maximization motive here that would drive people to do these things.

Essentially the bill is attempting to do this, but the bill would permit surrogates to be reimbursed for lost employment income if they have a doctor's certificate, so in fact we have not really ended the concept of paid surrogacy. We can visualize someone opting to leave their employment to do this and possibly earn more money, or whatever the case may be. That would be legal and legitimate under this legislation. Once again, I think that these are areas we should be concerned about and should review a little more before this legislation passes.

What I do want to reiterate is that in regard to this technology, like so many types of legislation in this area, the real world is passing us by in some real and fundamental ways. I read an interesting column about the evolution of spam mail in this morning's Globe . I think there is a correlation between that and this issue, and that is that technology is way ahead of us. The people who are concerned, our constituents, are those who are receiving e-mails they did not ask for. There does not seem to be a regulated authority to control that. Because there are not a lot of controls, we also have a tendency to demean the electronic commerce and its potential.

Here too we are going down a road where technology is surpassing the legislative process. Clearly here we are trying to find a general process within our country that would allow us to use new technologies to the benefit of individuals, but at the same time we realize that really we are playing with the human genome here and there are some significant ethical concerns about cloning.

Having said that, let me say that the bill has some strengths, such as, for instance, stem cell research. Certainly I have talked to a number of disease organizations that see this as having tremendous potential to end or certainly curtail significantly diseases that affect the human species. On that strength alone, I think we should keep on moving down the road with the legislation, but I am concerned about the delegated authority.

I think we could possibly have a better system if we brought the legislation and regulations back to the House, to the committees, so that members will not simply be in a position where they have passed this legislation, it has gone out into the real world and we will have no way to really measure it other than possibly complaining and having another bill in a few years to try to correct some things. It would be beneficial for the House and for the importance of members of Parliament if we were to have an oversight and a review process in place prior to implementation of the legislation.

Other than that, I basically support the general thrust of the legislation. I think it has taken us too long to come to this place. I certainly respect the concerns many people have about using reproductive technologies, about the importance of that in their lives, and about getting on with a significant research agenda.

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12:30 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today, at third reading stage of the bill on assisted human reproductive technologies, to draw the attention of the hon. members of this House to a common occurrence in this Parliament.

We saw it this morning, during private members' business, when we debated a motion about intrusion in Quebec's jurisdictions, which was put forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. This is a case in point.

The assisted human reproduction bill was introduced a long time ago, and has been before this House for a very long time. It dates back to even before the April 14, 2003 election in Quebec. At the time, Quebec was opposed. Federalist members in this place may think that there was opposition because there was sovereignist government in Quebec City, but it is not so.

The new Government of Quebec, a federalist government led by Mr. Charest, and the health minister, Mr. Couillard, have spoken out against this bill. They did not address the substance, but wondered whether this was not a systematic encroachment on an area of provincial responsibility.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support such a motion. The current federalist Government of Quebec will not support such a bill either, and does not want it passed.

I remind the hon. members that Bill C-13 on assisted reproduction will make human cloning a criminal offence. That is not a problem, since the Criminal Code falls under federal jurisdiction. We therefore support this notion. The same is true of the ban on paid surrogacy.

The Bloc Quebecois, the Government of Quebec and all parties in the National Assembly of Quebec all agree, however, when it comes to the establishment of a Canadian agency to monitor the practices used by fertility clinics across the country. That is what the Quebec health minister, Mr. Couillard, is opposed to.

It is important for people to realize that the government is putting legislation through in an area over which it has, for a large part, no jurisdiction. In this respect, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that the bill be split, to ensure that federal jurisdiction was clearly defined, and that we would be voting on the matters of federal jurisdiction. As for the part that is more specifically a provincial jurisdiction, we should leave it to the provinces to look after it.

It was reported in Le Devoir that:

The position taken by the Charest government makes it even more unlikely that this very controversial bill will be passed in the House of Commons over the next few days.

Quebec understands what is going on here. When the Government of Quebec speaks out against the fact that the federal government is encroaching upon its jurisdiction, it is totally normal for Quebeckers to be united in seeking justice.

We often see this type of behaviour on the part of the federal government. We saw it with young offenders and with the millennium scholarships. Bills that interfere in Quebec's jurisdictions are being rammed through the House, which makes it obvious that this government does not believe in co-operative federalism.

Today, we know that the Government of Quebec, a federalist government headed by Jean Charest, is against this bill. It wants everything that comes under provincial jurisdiction to be removed from the bill. So why would the federal government not take the time to re-examine its bill and remove from it all aspects that are not under its jurisdiction, so as to respect the consensus that exists in Quebec?

We also know that members of the Alliance and a number of pro-life Liberal members are opposed to this bill. More specifically, they are opposed to the use of human embryos for stem cell research. This is not the thrust of the debate in which I am taking part this morning. Indeed, it is an area that needs to be regulated, but it must always be done with respect for provincial jurisdictions.

In fact, the Quebec health minister, Mr. Couillard, said that if the bill were defeated or died on the order paper, he firmly intended to deal with this issue. He said that this issue could not be left dangling, that a firmer regulatory framework was needed and that they would clarify the situation with their federal counterparts and then decide whether or not there was a need to legislate.

However, the federal government must first accept to take a step backwards and wait before passing this bill so there is no interference in provincial jurisdictions.

We know full well that Quebec has no jurisdiction in criminal matters, but it could have jurisdiction over the organization and management of fertility clinics. Mr. Couillard, the minister, said so himself, and I quote:

We will set up the appropriate legislative framework in our own jurisdiction, but I shall wait to see how the federal plan evolves before going any further.

Thus, we are in a system, the federal system, where each of the two governments claims jurisdiction over the same sector, from time to time. Here it is clear: the aspect relating to the Criminal Code is a federal responsibility, while the aspect relating to management of fertility clinics and all aspects related to health are under provincial jurisdiction.

Moreover, different approaches have become established in various provinces for some years. In Quebec, we hope to continue to be progressive in this field, to show leadership and adopt attitudes that reflect the will of Quebeckers. That is what is lacking today.

Often, there are situations that are difficult to assess; there must be legislation to manage the issues of cloning and surrogate motherhood. It is important to make laws in this domain, because if no one does, problems will be left unresolved and behaviours will become habits. Nevertheless, the federal responsibility is not to take a position in areas under provincial jurisdiction, but rather to pass a bill that deals with its own jurisdiction, as soon as possible.

If the federal government had taken this kind of attitude when the bill was first debated in the House—I think that was over a year ago—we would already have settled the issue. In fact, we could have split the bill and adopted it based on the elements that are federal government responsibilities. On that part of the bill, the Bloc Quebecois would probably have supported the federal government. As for the other part of the bill, which is not within federal jurisdiction, the Bloc cannot support the government.

The government led by Jean Charest, the Parti Quebecois, as official opposition, the Action démocratique du Québec, intervenors from the field, who are familiar with actual practice in Quebec, and the general public—although they may not all agree on the approach to be taken—all believe that the Government of Quebec has the responsibility, that it should shoulder that responsibility and that the federal government should stick to its own areas of jurisdiction.

We know that unacceptable practices such as creating human clones do exist now. There are also the fertility clinics' activities, for which Quebec is responsible. Bill C-13 contains a number of flaws that should be corrected. I still have hopes as far as opposition to this bill is concerned. The government has to correctly evaluate the situation. The government is responsible for passing legislation in areas under federal jurisdiction in order to deal with this problem.

If the government does not modify its current approach, the bill could very well be defeated by the House for a number of reasons. Many Alliance members are opposed in principle. The Bloc members, as well as all the federal Liberal members, should oppose this bill. The Quebec government, which represents all Quebeckers, has said through the health minister that it did not wand the federal government to adopt this kind of legislation and that it should take all the parts under provincial jurisdiction out of it.

We would like to think that the federal Liberals understand what the Quebec government is asking. It is no longer a sovereignist government asking. It is a federalist government, which has said that it was reaching out to the federal government in order to establish co-operative federalism. However, we see that the federal government across the way has not responded. It still wants to ram the bill through, despite the Quebec government's opposition.

I think that many federal Liberal members from Quebec who have already sat in Quebec's National Assembly should oppose the bill or make representations to their government to ensure that the part of the bill that concerns provincial jurisdiction is taken out of the bill in order to avoid confusion and to ensure that there is no intrusion into what is not under federal jurisdiction.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois intends to vote against the bill.

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12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-13, the government's ill-conceived blanket legislation regarding reproductive technologies and human embryo research, two very distinct and very important issues rolled into one piece of legislation.

With regard to reproductive technologies, there are some positive elements to the legislation, including the fact that it addresses bans on reproductive or therapeutic cloning, chimera animal-human hybrids, sex selections, germ line altercation and the buying and selling of embryos.

Cloning is of particular concern to constituents in my riding. I have received numerous letters, postcards and petitions from residents asking Parliament to pass legislation that would stave off the potential threat of cloning research in Canada. They feel it is an affront to human dignity, rights and morality.

Research on embryonic human stem cells requires the destruction, the death, of the embryo. So far no disease has been cured or alleviated as a result of this research or the use of embryonic stem cells, despite early hopes that such therapies might be helpful for patients suffering neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

In contrast, use of adult stem cells is a far more acceptable option to many people, and research suggests using adult stem cells may even be a favourable option.

Dr. Helen Hodges, a British researcher, has said that adult stem cells may be safer and more flexible than fetal cells. According to Hodges, some of the work she has done indicates adult stem cells travel to the area needing repair, whereas embryonic stem cells remain where they are injected.

Hodges also notes that because adult patients can donate their own stem cells for treatment, the cells are not treated as foreign objects by the body's immune system and rejected.

Other published research suggests adult stem cells are able to develop into a greater variety of different tissues than embryonic stem cells and are favourable because they are more readily available.

Earlier this year, writer Wesley J. Smith highlighted the story that appeared in the New York Times of a teenager whose heart had been pierced with a three-inch nail, causing him to have a serious heart attack. The teen was selected to take part in a clinical trial using adult stem cells to repair damaged hearts. A special protocol was developed and after extracting stem cells from the young man's blood they were injected into the coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart. A few days later the teen's doctor noted an incredible improvement in his heart function.

While not yet common, cases such as that one are far from isolated and are giving researchers hope for the potential of adult stem cell treatments.

As Smith noted in his article:

Money spent on embryonic-stem-cell research and human cloning is money that cannot be spent on [investigating] adult stem cells.

A new era appears to be dawning in which our own cells will be the sources of very potent medicine. Rather than having to choose between morality and the wonders of regenerative medicine, it increasingly looks like we can have both.

On behalf of my constituents, I have to voice the concerns my party and I have about the use of embryonic research, particularly when a viable alternative such as the use of adult stem cells looks so promising.

Bill C-13 would allow for the creation of embryos, especially for reproductive research. If put into law, this would legitimize the view that human life can be created solely for the benefit of others.

Embryonic stem cell research inevitably results in the death of an embryo, early human life. It is a scientific fact that an embryo is early life. The complete DNA of an adult human is present at the embryo stage. For many Canadians, this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life, where life becomes a tool that can be manipulated and destroyed for other, even ethical, ends.

Adult stem cells are a safe, proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. Sources of adult stem cells include the umbilical cord, blood, skin tissue and bone tissue. In fact just this weekend the headlines in our local paper, the StarPhoenix , indicated that the umbilical cord has saved the life of one of our young children.

Adult stem cells are easily accessible. They are not subject to immune rejection and they pose minimal ethical concerns.

Embryonic stem cell transplants are subject to immune rejection because they are foreign tissues, while adult stem cells used for transplants are typically taken from one's own body.

Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, MS and other conditions. Embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person. Research, resources and efforts should be focused on this more promising and proven alternative.

The bill specifies that the consent of the donor to a human embryo is required in order to use a human embryo for experiment. The bill leaves it to regulations to define donor, note the singularity of the term donor, but it is vital to remember that there are two donors to every human embryo: a woman and a man. Both donors, parents, should be required to give written consent for the use of a human embryo, not just one.

I have only just touched on some of the complex elements of the bill. The issues I have highlighted are the ones that are of the most concern to my constituents, and I am pleased to bring those concerns to the House.

Residents and organizations in my riding have expressed, categorically, opposition to the embryonic stem cell research. I have heard from my own constituents and from across the province, but specifically from towns, villages and the city of Saskatoon in my riding.

Residents and constituents from the towns of Allan, Bladworth, Bradwell, Burr, Colonsay, Elbow, Hanley, my own community of Kenaston, Lanigan, Loreburn, Outlook, Strongfield, Viscount and Watrous, including Young, all want to send a clear message. They do not want the killing of embryonic humans for the purposes of stem cell research. They believe this is immoral, unethical and unacceptable.

I ask that when it comes time to vote on this bill that my colleagues in the House will keep in mind the concerns of constituents from my riding and from across the country.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to third reading of Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. At the outset, I want to indicate that the Bloc Quebecois intends to vote against the bill. Our Liberal friends opposite are experts at confusing the public and twisting the policies put forward by other parties and the way their opponents vote.

First, for the record and for those who are watching us, I want to make one thing clear. The Bloc Quebecois does support a ban on cloning. However, we will oppose the bill in its present form, unless the government agrees to split it.

My hon. colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve moved in committee to split the bill. The provisions concerning paid surrogacy and cloning would have been dealt in one bill. We would then have been able to support a ban on cloning and paid surrogacy and to forget about creating a new Canada-wide agency to control the operations of infertility clinics throughout Canada.

This is why we intend to oppose the bill if it is not amended. However, people should not try to interpret our opposition as meaning that we agree with human cloning. I wanted to put things in perspective from the outset.

As I was saying earlier, the bill would create a pan-Canadian agency to control fertility practices across the country. We consider that all this is strictly within the provincial governments' jurisdiction. This is another example of the type of federalism that is advocated and preached by the Liberal Party of Canada. This really is riding roughshod over provincial jurisdictions.

The members of the Bloc are sovereignists. There is no ambiguity there. We want to tell this government that the way it is acting only serves to confirm and reinforce the reasons for which Quebec should get out of the Canadian federation. Quite simply, the federal government is not content to stick to its own areas of jurisdictions, as they were set out in the Constitution Act, 1867, when Canada was born. The Bloc Quebecois members consider that this pact does not work any more. This is why we believe that the best way to get rid of this constitutional agreement is for Quebec to achieve sovereignty. We will then be able to take all of our responsibilities and to do as we see fit, as everything will then truly be under Quebec's jurisdiction.

This government is once again riding roughshod over provincial jurisdictions. This is why we cannot support this bill.

I believe that today's discussions on this bill are a clear illustration of what my colleague, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, has presented in his motion, which will be voted on later this week, during private members' business.

That motion deplores this government's flagrant intrusion into areas that are under the jurisdiction of Quebec, which is the reason we say, and I repeat, that sovereignty is the way to put an end to this.

I believe the very eloquent speech of my colleague from Trois-Rivières, and those of the other colleagues who have spoken on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, clearly illustrate what is going on. Bill C-13 provides us with evidence of just how justified the motion introduced by my colleague for Trois-Rivières is.

As reinforcement of the Bloc Quebecois position, on Tuesday October 7, Quebec health minister Philippe Couillard confirmed his opposition to the controversial Bill C-13, because he felt—and still does—that it is clear interference into Quebec's jurisdiction.

I do not know if people will agree with me. Perhaps the Quebec health minister is re-examining his political career. This reputed neurosurgeon may be rethinking his federalist allegiance, since he is a member of the Liberal Party of Quebec, a federalist party, and the party that has formed the Government of Quebec legitimately elected by the majority of the population since April 13, 2003. So, we must acknowledge that the Liberal Party of Quebec constitutes the Government of Quebec. Yet, its Minister of Health has made clear his opposition to Bill C-13, because he considers it an encroachment on areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec. As it happens, he objects to precisely the same provision that we in the Bloc Quebecois find problematic: the creation of this Canada-wide super-agency, which would administer, regulate and control practices in all fertility clinics across Canada.

For all these reasons, we in the Bloc Quebecois must pursue our efforts and representations. Perhaps the members of the Liberal majority will eventually see the light. Perhaps they could reconsider and just withdraw Bill C-13 or not go ahead with it.

Now that the member for LaSalle—Émard is firmly in the saddle, even though he has yet to be chosen at a convention, and that he is clearly in control of the legislative agenda, there are rumours of an adjournment on November 7. All one has to do is look at how long we are taking to debate in this place matters that could be resolved much faster.

The government is drawing things out. It does not have an agenda. It is keeping members busy at committee with various tasks that are not necessarily useful, while we would like to know what direction this government wants to take and what the position of the member for LaSalle—Émard, the phantom leader of the Liberal Party is. Witness the fact that he is never in the House, he is never here to answer questions. The member for Saint-Maurice, the current Prime Minister, is answering the questions while the other one is pulling the strings, with his informal cabinet meetings, and his informal pizza lunches. In reality, he is the one pulling all the strings.

We saw it last week, with respect to the high-speed train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. The henchmen, the Pontius Pilates of the member for LaSalle—Émard, used that issue to literally trash and question this government's commitment to invest $700 million in a high-speed train project.

And this is happening constantly. I think the government should show its true colours and withdraw Bill C-13. At any rate, we will be voting against it.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the last session I had the opportunity to address the House on what was then Bill C-56. Now I have the opportunity to continue to address this important piece of legislation which is now Bill C-13.

The number of the legislation has changed, but the concerns have not changed. Given that the legislation, when enacted, will govern human biological technology development for perhaps the next 50 years, the government's lack of care, caution and ethical integrity is both astounding and frightening. We know that the legislation goes right to the heart of the issue of what it means to be a human being and the relation of a human being to the state.

It is arguably the most important piece of legislation the House will ever deal with. Members of the official opposition have been mindful of this fact and I would like to acknowledge their hard work, especially on the health committee, in this regard.

The notion of what it means to be a human being sounds quite lofty and academic, but let us accept the fact that the bill is about children, about how people can be assisted in conceiving and having healthy children and about ensuring ethical technology around this important endeavour.

I last spoke about the issue of using adult stem cell research instead of the ethical minefield of embryonic stem cell research. The official opposition supports the bill's ban on cloning. We also support the ban on commercial surrogacy. However, this time I would like to keep my address to just two other important issues, first, the issue of the agency created by the bill and second, the identity of the rights of children born of such technologies. Indeed, the creation and responsibilities of the agency take up half the text of the bill itself and the identity rights of children created through these technologies is given precious little consideration.

The official opposition supports the creation of an agency to oversee any technology related to the assisting of people having healthy children. However there are problems with the relationship of the agency, parliamentarians and the public at large, just to name a few.

There are no provisions in the bill for regular reports by the agency to Parliament, but the agency itself will not be independent. Just like a government department, it will write its own performance evaluation. We know that many of the regular governmental department performance reports are rarely worth very much.

Another problem is that a minister of the crown can at any time give an order to affect any of the agency's powers. This is despite the fact that regulations must be laid before Parliament and can be referred to committee. This is not accountability; it is another expansion of ministerial power and the diminishment of accountability to Parliament.

Another problem is that the configuration of the agency falls under orders in council. That is a problem. We have all the usual concerns regarding this type of governance. Experience has taught us that the government does not have a stellar reputation in this regard.

What will be the ethical framework of the board of directors and the president of the agency? We know their mandate is to foster the application of ethical principles in relation to assisted human reproduction. I have no doubt that they will be scientifically and legally well informed individuals, but how much confidence will the public have if the appointments for such issues as life and death are made by orders in council? My guess is that ethicists will be add-ons to the list of what we call experts and stakeholders. The ethicists' role is crucial, but the government would be hard pressed to recognize an ethicist even if it fell over one. It is a telling sign of the times that we even have ethicists on call to help us with these complex issues.

It is lamentable that we cry “Canadian values”, and then fail miserably sorting out good and evil, necessary and unnecessary, and conflict of interest. What was once understood and recognized as being right and true has deteriorated into a collision of group rights versus individual autonomy. Ethics are based on longstanding tried and true principles, not on day to day polls on human values. It is no less true in the legislation.

We also demanded that any recommendations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health should be considered seriously by the health minister. We know that the government likes to put most issues of process and accountability out of the reach of parliamentarians and the public through the creation of a myriad of bureaucratic regulations. However, the official opposition demanded that any regulations affecting the health of unborn children be referred to the health committee.

Regulations are only as good as they are achieved by consensus. That consensus includes the Canadian people through their elected representatives. Such consensus cannot be achieved in the dark by ministerial fiat.

These demands from the official opposition in no way undermine the research and science on this issue. The official opposition always supports the goal of health and well-being for Canadians.

As for the rights of the children conceived by the assistance of sex technologies, the goal is still healthy children, remembering that we have come a long way in the medical advancements for physical well-being of children. However, it has always been my contention that the bill does not deal with that other part of our lives that is so important to us. That is our identity.

Life is more than just physical well-being. It is important that the environment for children is both safe and loving and that the parents of children born through these technologies receive the best care in part because of the great effort taken to have them created. However, there is something more. It is our human connectedness to the past.

Many adoptive parents in Canada go a long way to ensure that their children know their heritage if it is different from the non-biological parents. Why do they do that? Because they realize the importance of culture and history as well as the biological roots.

We have whole sections of our society stratified according to their birth and heritage in order for certain rights and privileges. Whole government departments are dedicated to a section of our society because we recognize the importance of history.

Genetic and biological parental identity apparently is important to the government for particular groups of people, such as the aboriginal community, but for anyone with the assistance of this technology, the identity of the biological parents is not allowed to be considered as important. This bizarre and inconsistent policy, I believe, amounts to the commodification not of the child but instead the donors of sperm and ovum.

Sperm and ovum are called reproductive material in the bill. Yes, this material is the constituent entity of the continuation of human life, but we know and celebrate that human life is also the intricate web of relationships, cultures and histories.

We cannot nor do we want to escape the physical reality that there is a mother and a father to every human being who walks this earth. Children conceived by these technologies should have the opportunity to know who their mother and father are.

This is why we on this side of the House do not agree with the anonymity of human reproductive material. Anonymity degrades and commodifies such natural material. In fact, the United Nations recognizes the right for all children to know their biological identity and yes, that means the identity of the mother and the father, whether through birth or what they call “other status”. If the traditional adoptive processes of this nation are starting to recognize the importance of identity, why does this legislation not?

Donating sperm and ovum is not the same as handing over a child. The psychological impact of the two cannot be compared. Donations of human reproductive materials can result in hundreds of children with similar genetic heritage.

I am sure that members from all parties would agree with the United Nations on this particular issue of the right to identity for all human beings. Anonymity should not be an option. The fear is that the supply of donors will decrease dramatically.

Yes, we will no longer get university medical students or will we get donors of sperm compliments of the U.S. prison system. Instead we will get more mature adults who understand the plight of those wishing for a healthy child. The motivation is on completely different grounds. Sweden and New Zealand have both moved to a known donor system. We know that it can be done.

This biological material is not like a pint of blood or a kidney or a heart that means life to a patient. We are all somebody's child and so should those be who are conceived through this technology.