Madam Speaker, first, I would like to thank the Bloc member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve as well as my hon. colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party and the NDP.
The House will understand surely that I am completely floored by some of the comments made by the Liberal member and my colleagues from the Canadian Alliance. These people are basically wondering what social condition and grounds of discrimination or even discrimination could mean.
In fact, during the first hour of debate, the first Liberal member to speak on this bill had basically said the same things, showing how ignorant he was about social condition and discrimination.
I realize of course that the federal government is totally disconnected from the reality and the concerns of Canadians and Quebecers. That is why they cannot even define the terms “social condition” and “discrimination”.
It is so simple, really. One only has to visit the web site of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec to find a clear definition of the two terms which were a complete mystery to the Liberal member.
Social condition is defined as “a specific place or position in society as a result of particular facts or circumstances”. These can be income, occupation or education. For example, it can apply to socially underprivileged people including welfare recipients or the homeless.
Prohibited discrimination exists when an individual or organization uses a personal characteristic as grounds for refusing a job, housing, access to a public place or the exercise of any other right under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
I hope these definitions will enlighten my colleagues. I also remember clearly the remarks made by the Liberal member. He stated that the government had no intention of making hasty, special or piecemeal changes to any legislation, including the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I believe the member was not referring to any particular legislation or policies of the federal government. Let us look here at the employment insurance fund. To eliminate its deficit and then increase its surplus, the government did not hesitate to make drastic cuts in benefits and in the number of people eligible for EI benefits. This also creates difficult social conditions and often forces people to rely on welfare, which means that Quebec and the provinces have to bear the costs.
When the federal government refuses to make full retroactive payments of the guaranteed income supplement, that creates particular circumstances.
In Quebec, this also applies to housing. In Canada, Quebec and seven other provinces already have social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Obviously, it does not apply to the same sectors and the same activities. For people in general, it applies mainly to banks and telecommunications.
After introducing my motion, I got a huge number of letters confirming that those who are less well off are discriminated against. Today it is difficult to be without a bank account. Some people are denied accounts because of their social condition. They are not applying for credit, just for a service. Moreover, increasingly, banks do not want to deal directly with people. They want us to use automatic tellers. They want to see people as little as possible, and they deny access to the disadvantaged.
As for telecommunications, we know Bell is very quick to cut off people's service. And we also know that this is a service essential to the less fortunate.
In this connection, because Quebec has made social condition a prohibited ground of discrimination, Hydro-Québec has been forced to negotiate with people and thus to allow them a little dignity.
Social condition as a ground of discrimination ought, therefore, to be prohibited.