Mr. Speaker, it is with a deep feeling of justice that I rise today to speak to the Bloc Quebecois motion that asks very clearly:
That this House recognize the urgency of amending the Canada Labour Code to ban the use of strikebreakers.
Everybody recognizes that in Quebec during the last 50 years of the twentieth century, 1976 was a turning point. That was the year René Lévesque came to power. The following year, the National Assembly passed an anti-scab law. I would like to talk about Quebec before and after 1977.
What happened in Quebec before 1977? Even though I was very young, I still remember very clearly the strike in Asbestos. I clearly remember the strike in Murdochville. I clearly remember the strike at Radio-Canada. Those strikes were long, tough and marred by violence, by a blatant lack of respect for workers and their families. Wildcat strikes such as those that occurred in Quebec before 1977 resulted in extremely violent clashes between workers and employers.
In life, when disputes occur, they have come to an end eventually and then we must move on together. After each violent strike, huge walls separated employers and workers. I do not know if there are many members in this chamber who have been on picket lines. For my part I was on a picket line three times. The first time was in 1963. It was the first time nurses were on strike, and it was an illegal strike on top of that. It lasted one month. There were no scabs because the workers to be replaced were nurses and naturally in those days nurses were just as scarce as today.
In 1973, I was still at the hospital, and the hospitals were again on strike. Therefore, there were no scabs that time either. I firmly believe that if there had been scabs, the hospital work environment after the strike would have been terrible. Patients would have paid the price of that terrible environment and that would have been unacceptable.
Quebec has had anti-scab legislation since 1977 and British Columbia since 1993. My colleague for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles has mentioned some figures that were not to the liking of our friend on the other side.
Maybe I should mention some figures on recent disputes in Quebec businesses governed by the Canada Labour Code.
An 18-month-plus strike with scabs forced Vidéotron to sell off a large number of shares. Mr. Péladeau was a little put out and not very happy. At Sécur, the strike lasted three months. At Cargill, the strike is entering into its fourth year.
I am so worked up that I have forgotten to say that I must share my time with my colleague for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, since I will have to leave after oral questions.
The strike at Cargill is in its fourth year. At Radio Nord Communications, it has gone on for six months and we are wondering when it will be over.
One thing is quite clear. When a strike lasts, as it did at Vidéotron, more than 340, 350 person days, how do you think families can survive? How do you think social networks can hold up? These disputes create unacceptable social tensions. I believe that the present Canada Labour Code promotes these social tensions.
I will read you a quote from a worker at Cargill. This quote comes from an article that appeared in La Tribune in late January 2003. Here is what this man said:
I found work eight times.
When you are out of your company for many years, you try to find work to survive:
And in all eight of them, Cargill managed to have me fired. In the meantime, we are still tied to Cargill. We cannot get employment insurance or social assistance. If the lock-out lasts 10 years, I will not be eligible for employment insurance.
We know where the employment insurance surplus comes from.
Even if I worked elsewhere for six years, the day I am fired, I will still be considered to be in lock-out status.
This is a striker who is speaking. This is someone who must wonder every day if he will be able to put enough food on the table for his family, to pay his mortgage.
I will quote a professor of industrial relations at Laval University.
He is very clear. He states:
In the absence of federal legislation, a dispute turns into a war of attrition where the most powerful wins. This encourages traditional strategies that are disruptive and damaging for economic and social performance.
Furthermore, these traditional strategies are confrontational.
I would also like to address another issue. Canada takes great pride, and rightly so, in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, the charter is a wonderful piece of legislation and serves as a model to the whole world. I wonder if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not give a worker, who is first and foremost a citizen, the right to respect and justice. I wonder if the Charter does not give a citizen, who is also a worker, the right to bargain in good faith.
In your opinion, Mr. Speaker, will the Charter of Rights and Freedoms create or recognize the need for arrogance or scorn, which are seen in disputes that last for months on end and during which employers do not hesitate to hire replacement workers to do the job? Will the Charter of Rights foster social and economic tension? I have great respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I am certain that it does not condone unfair social tension.
I encourage all members to support the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois and I ask all parliamentarians to strongly support Bill C-328 when it comes back to the House. Thus, Canada will follow Quebec's lead and I will be absolutely delighted.