Rude, indeed. Even cavalier, and I believe this is parliamentary language. Sadly, this is what we were faced with.
When we vote on this bill, and we will give it all our energy, there will be no hope, no energy, no cooperation strong enough to get all opposition parties to delay the passage of the bill. This is a commitment we make today before first nations. We will use all parliamentary means, with dignity and respect for our institution, but we will delay the passage of the bill as long as possible.
If, through the most strange misfortune, this bill were passed, imagine in what situation we would find ourselves. We have received letters from first nations leaders saying that the opposition to the bill was not a superficial or a knee-jerk opposition, but rather an opposition rooted in all first nations communities.
If members were to pass a bill which is not wanted by first nations, imagine in what situation we would place ourselves as parliamentarians first of all, but also what this would bring about in the future. This is the lack of understanding we are faced with.
How could Liberal members be so insensitive? Last night, in the parliamentary dining room—this is a place where I can be found occasionally—I happened to run into the former member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, whom I can name, Mr. Warren Allmand. This former solicitor general of Canada and enlightened mind has worked at the democratic rights centre. He is a Liberal progressive, in the noble tradition of the word “liberal”, and there are a few of them in the Liberal Party, although their numbers are dwindling. Warren Allmand was telling us that he found it incredible that this government would go ahead with such a bill.
We can certainly not say that Warren Allmand is keen on sovereignty-association. He does not have his Bloc Quebecois membership card and he does not hobnob with sovereignists.
The well-informed sections of Quebec society and Canadian society all reject this bill. Hence, when a man like Warren Allmand, a progressive man who believes in the Liberal Party and who has given the best years of his life to the Canadian Parliament, urges the members to vote against this bill, we cannot help but listen to him.
It is sad. What will happen is sad. We will be using every parliamentary means to ensure that this bill is not adopted promptly and diligently. However, we must warn the government. If it decides to use its stubborn and empty-headed majority to impose an unwanted policy by the sheer weight of its numbers, I can tell you that the consequences of such an action will be felt in all communities and that the Liberals will pay for it. The aboriginal communities will see to it that their dignity is respected.
How many Liberals are there now in the Liberal Party caucus? There are 178 or 179 members. There are 178 members, I was right the first time. This, Madam Speaker, reminds us of the movie The Silence of the Lambs . I do not know if you have seen it, and I do not want to comment, particularly since the Liberal caucus wavers between The Silence of the Lambs and Les Invasions barbares . However, I cannot imagine that they will not show a shred of conscience and of vigilance, if only out of respect for what the Liberal Party was a few years ago, and that they will not try to get the bill defeated.
The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot made a proposal in the parliamentary committee, inviting all colleagues, all those wishing to work in good faith, of whom there are many of all political stripes, to reject the bill. We are going to go the Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources Committee and bring to life the Erasmus-Dussault report. That is what the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot proposed, and we must hope his voice is heeded. The worst thing that could happen is for the bill to be passed, for the minister to proceed in an authoritarian, bitter, headstrong and obtuse manner. This will surely lead to catastrophe. If this is what the minister does, it will lead to catastrophe and we cannot imagine that it would not stir up a lot of opinions.
My friend across the way—not the one directly across, where the Conservative contingent such as it is is placed, but his neighbour to the left—might do this out of friendship for John Turner. That might be one motivation.
The subject is too important for us to allow it to be passed as it is. Why must this bill be rejected? It must be rejected because it is not a nation-to-nation agreement; there is not a relationship of equality. It is a relationship in which the central government wants to call the shots and still supervise the first nations.
Recent years have seen a lot of history made. I remember the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development apologizing in this House for the harm done to the first nations. One might have expected a ministerial apology to be followed with some measures of reparation.
We are deeply saddened, but we still have a lot of energy. Once again, we are not going to let this get us down.
This is such a serious matter that I would ask you Madam Speaker, if there is unanimous consent for me to speak for another ten minutes. This is a matter of such importance.