Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-36, which was introduced by the government.
Since Bill C-36 was introduced, to create the merged Library and Archives Canada, I have been wondering about the government's real goals as it tries determinedly to merge these two institutions, which have two distinct missions and two distinct approaches.
Why is the government going against the trend in most industrialized countries such as France, Belgium, the United States and Germany, which are determined to have these two institutions remain autonomous and retain all their prerogatives?
I listened to the witnesses; I asked questions; I expressed my concerns, but my questions were not answered.
There must be something fishy going on. Let us look more closely at this bill and let us consider the real issues that are present or absent.
There are issues of transparency and integrity, for example, regarding the appointment of the Librarian and Archivist and the members of the advisory council. There is the issue of broadening the mandate of this new institution by adding the interpretation of history. There is also the copyright issue.
Although the Bloc Quebecois has pointed out a number of flaws in this legislation, the government has decided not to correct them. Why is this government so stubborn in refusing amendments that would have ensured transparency in the appointment of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada? This appointment will be made by the governor in council, with the agreement of the heritage minister therefore.
Why are there no benchmarks in this bill with regard to this appointment, that would have provided some guarantee of integrity and transparency? Why does the responsibility of the standing committee on heritage not have oversight on this appointment?
Absolutely nothing in this bill reassures us on this aspect. We in the Bloc Quebecois also feel that it is unacceptable to create an advisory council whose members are selected and appointed by the heritage minister. These will be political friends and close relatives, who will be beholden to the people who chose them.
We will never be able to tell the people of Canada and Quebec that this committee is independent from political authorities. To say so would be to put one's head in the sand. It would be taking voters for uninformed people. When appointments are made and those who make them do not even know under what prerogatives, or whether appointees have expertise in an area related to the new structure—will they be archivists, librarians, we do not know—how can this be expected to work?
People do not like to be duped. It is well know that those appointed are forever indebted to those who appointed them. That is why politicians have lost a great deal of credibility with the voters.
Increasingly, this government is ignoring transparency.
With this bill, the institutions in the new organization are becoming politicized. This is very serious.
First, there is the political appointment of the deputy head. And there are political appointments to the new advisory council. The Bloc Quebecois asked that these appointments be handled by an independent committee, as in Quebec.
The ruling party is no longer the PQ but the Liberal Party, and it is not changing how this operates. We relied on transparency. I think it was the hon. member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, who was a minister in the Quebec government, who developed this process.
The greatest concern with this bill is that the government is expanding the mandate of the new institution to include a reference to the interpretation of Canadian history. This new mandate is contrary to the neutrality objectives historically pursued by the National Library and the National Archives.
The government is trying to impose its own vision of history. Like most Quebeckers, including the current Premier of Quebec, we in the Bloc Quebecois believe that Quebec is a nation with a culture of its own. Even the new Premier of Quebec, Mr. Charest, shares that belief.
In his statement under Standing Order 31 today, my colleague from Saint-Jean said that it has been six years since the death of Mr. Bourassa, the former Premier of Quebec. The day after the Meech Lake Accord failed, in June 1990, he said in a solemn and historic speech:
English Canada must clearly understand that whatever happens and whatever is done, Quebec is and always will be a distinct society, one that is free and quite capable of taking charge of its own destiny and development.
There are a thousand and one ways to interpret history; everything depends on what a nation such as Quebec experienced. For instance, when we talk about the War Measures Act in 1970, the perception of events is completely different depending on whether one is from Quebec or Canada.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage talks about Canadian culture. To her, anything from Quebec's culture is in fact a regional element of Canadian culture. It is very worrisome to give a mandate that would allow Canada's history to be interpreted, when we know how the minister thinks and what Quebec culture means to her. Her goal is Trudeau-style nation building, which seeks to instil a sense of belonging, and which reflects only one history and vision of Canada.
The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is not to interpret history. Its mandate is to make historical information available, not to create its own version to propagate across Canada.
It is important to see to what extent in this bill the government ignores the way political institutions make appointments. Given that this type of bill will not be reviewed regularly each year, we should include clauses that would ensure transparency and integrity in the people who will be appointed.
What is more, historical facts must not be interpreted by people who are appointed. Historians, documentalists and archivists are not there to interpret history. Their job is to make available to the people of Canada and of Quebec reference documents to enable them to have a relative view of what occurred at a specific point in Canadian history.
How do we ensure that the transfer of documents is going to be respectful of factual integrity? That is not in the bill. Who will be responsible for assessing the pertinence of documents? Here again, there is nothing in the bill.
As well, they want to include the concept of promoting and understanding heritage. That is a pretty tall order. If anyone is capable of explaining to me what that mumbo jumbo means and how it will be accomplished, they are one up on me.
We are headed for an administrative muddle. The new entity ought not to be responsible for this. It is not the responsibility of archivists, documentalists and historians. It is not part of their mandate, nor of their training. This is a concept of managing the Canadian mind. This bill is an expression of the vision of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
We cannot subscribe to this initiative, which is aimed at adding this duty to the position of Chief Librarian.
Hon. members need think no further than what has happened with the mandate of the CBC and the notion of selling Canadian unity. Where is there any journalistic freedom in that? It will be tested out with these orientations.
Time moves on, but nothing changes with this government. There is talk of encroachment, lack of transparency. The intent with this bill is for it to recover its vision of what politics needs to be. This is not what politics are all about. I am from a province, a riding, and a city whose inhabitants demand information from me. They want me to assure them that what is going on in Parliament is being done in an atmosphere of transparency.
Unfortunately, with Bill C-36, I could not assure my constituents that, in future, those in this new entity will be beholden to someone.
I do not understand why they are creating this new structure. The people who will be working within this structure do not have the same mission and the same training. They are serious professionals. These professionals are having a political burden imposed on them, and it is not part of their mandate.
This legislation lacks transparency and in no way guarantees any respect for those who will be working within this institution and those wanting access to it.
The Bloc Quebecois will never support the government's new, soon to be adopted, vision concerning the role of archivist and librarian.
In this bill, the government does not guarantee any transparency. The Bloc will vote against this bill, since our party opposes the merger between the National Library and the National Archives of Canada. The Bloc Quebecois considers that the enlarged mandate of the new institution is aligned with Canadian propaganda goals, and that the new mandate will interfere with the neutrality the library and archives have always displayed.
The Bloc Quebecois demands that any reference to the interpretation of the history of Canada be removed from the mandate of the Library and Archives of Canada. This is part of a Trudeau-style nation-building effort. This bill seeks not only to merge two entirely different institutions, with two different missions, but also to turn the history of Canada into a propaganda tool.
The Bloc Quebecois will never allow any federal entity to interpret Quebec history. It will never allow the Canadian government to disseminate biased information. Those working at this institution will not do so by choice; they will be forced to do so by law. We will never allow that to happen, because we have too much respect for our ancestors and others who built Quebec.
As my colleague from the Conservative Party was saying, one has to know where one came from to be able to go where one wants to go. It may not be the exact same words that he used, but it means the same thing.
I come from a family where the historical values of the Quebec nation have been omnipresent since before I was born. These values were passed down orally by my ancestors, from generation to generation.
It is true that something is missing right now in our schools in terms of getting our young people interested in our history. However, this new entity will never allow that to be done in a transparent way.
We know that history is a work in progress. Yesterday's history is not today's history nor is it tomorrow's history, but yesterday's history must stay the same. We must use it to go forward today and into the future. However, if we allow these people to interpret it, we will never reach our goal, and that is what we are here for. Therefore, we insist that our history truly reflect the facts.
In closing, I will reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill and will vote against it at third reading.