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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the original Bloc Québécois motion asked parliamentarians to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation. Period.

We avoided tying recognition of the Quebec nation to other considerations so that it would be acceptable to all, sovereignists and federalists alike. This motion is not an acknowledgment of Quebec as a sovereign state. Quebeckers will decide that question in accordance with the democratic rules established by the National Assembly. Unlike the Bloc Québécois motion, that of the Prime Minister imposes a partisan condition. The Prime Minister has tied the existence of the Quebec nation to its belonging to a united Canada.

The Quebec nation is currently found within Canada. We recognize this fact and that is why we amended our motion accordingly. However, we cannot expect this nation, which exists within Canada, to cease to exist if it were no longer tied to Canada. We are a nation because we are what we are, no matter what future we choose. We are a nation, unconditionally. That is the bottom line.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, most of our ancestors came to this country some time ago. My ancestors came here from Scotland in 1749. I am the fifth generation on the farm I live on in Nova Scotia, and I am the ninth generation in the province.

At the turn of the century in Nova Scotia, 80% of the population spoke Gaelic. School was taught in Gaelic. We had the first Gaelic newspaper outside of Ireland and Scotland, and for many years the only one.

Members would be hard pressed to find 1,000 or 2,000 Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia today. Most of us can say “thank you” or “to your health”, a few words, a few greetings and a few other things, but the culture has died because it was overwhelmed by the majority that surrounded it, plain and simple.

I want to speak directly to the motion. The motion is partisan. The Bloc motion is problematic and mischievous. Quite frankly, it is meant to cause trouble to the Liberals during their leadership debate and the Prime Minister rose above all of that. He put the country first and introduced another motion that will unite all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honoured colleague for the comments that he made.

He mentioned that the motion that the Bloc presented to the House is problematic and mischievous. I agree with him. This motion was put forward for the wrong reasons. Sometimes when we do things for the wrong reasons, it comes back to haunt us.

ThePrime Minister in his speech yesterday said something that I would like my honoured colleague to comment on. He said that maybe it was a good thing that the Bloc put this motion forward. It may be a little over 24 hours since the Prime Minister has spoken. Now we seem to see a country that is rallying. We seem to see the House rallying and we seem to realize that this is a momentous occasion in the history of Canada.

What does my colleague think of the Prime Minister's comment that maybe, although the Bloc thought it was being mischievous, this is a good thing. I would like to have his comments on that.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, one only had to look at the response from our colleague and the leader of the Bloc Québécois immediately following the Prime Minister's announcement in the House and his reaction to that announcement to understand that for certain the fox had been caught among the chickens, and was unable to wreak the havoc that was expected.

Again, I want to commend the Prime Minister on his leadership role on a question that has dogged previous prime ministers and Canadian parliamentarians for many years. He has taken the initiative and been forthright. He has shown the foresight to deal with the issue once and for all, and certainly to deal with it in the proper manner in the House as it should be dealt with and to the benefit of the country.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I think it is fundamentally important to participate in this debate on the motion that the Bloc Québécois has introduced in the House in which it is calling for recognition of Quebeckers as a nation. That in itself does not surprise me, and I doubt that many of my colleagues are astonished.

This is not the first time that the Bloc has raised the subject of Quebec's national identity in this House. It does not do this to resolve the issues facing Quebeckers. Nor does it do this to contribute to improving how our federation works for all Canadians, Quebeckers included. It does it solely and for the single and alleged purpose of demonstrating that Quebec comprises a collective entity that is suffocating in a political framework within which it cannot flourish—a system that is keeping it down. Such are the Bloc’s real intentions. Nothing else.

To call, as the Bloc is doing, for recognition of Quebeckers as a nation without reference to a united Canada is to say, in other words, that Quebec cannot be in charge of its development in all realms of activity within the Canadian federation, and to refuse to recognize that Quebeckers are part of Canada. No one can seriously argue that position.

Quebec consists of over seven million inhabitants who make up a majority francophone society, and two thirds of the anglophones who live within its territory speak French. Quebec is North American by its geography and French by its origins, and its goal is to be a pluralistic society, open to the world. In addition to French and English, a number of other languages are spoken there. Quebec’s heritage, which bears the stamp of the aboriginal and American cultures, therefore occupies a unique position on our continent.

Quebec has always been able to make the influence of this cultural heritage felt, this heritage which is uniquely its own, both within its own territory and in every corner of the international community. It goes without saying that French occupies a central position within that culture, because it is spoken by a very large majority of its inhabitants, but it is a dynamic culture that is also expressed in the arts of all kinds. Whether they be writers, composers, woodcarvers, painters, sculptors, poets, choreographers, filmmakers, actors on stage or screen, singers, dancers, musicians, directors—these artists play an active role in promoting that culture and enabling it to flourish.

The very richness of their culture is one of the characteristics that make Quebeckers a nation within a united Canada, and our government agrees with that statement. There is one point, however, that we must stress in the context of this debate: why does the Bloc Québécois demand it of this House—because, let us be frank, it matters little in the Bloc’s eyes whether we support this motion or not. As long as Quebec continues to operate within Canada, no form of recognition of the uniqueness of Quebec could satisfy the Bloc members. The political agenda of the Bloc Québécois lies elsewhere, and what it is trying to do is to prepare the ground for Quebec’s accession to independence, even though its option has already been rejected more than once by the people of Quebec.

At a time when nations are seeking to delegate part of their sovereignty to supranational organizations so as to strengthen their bonds, Quebec and Canada have the huge advantage of having reached a degree of integration that can only serve them both. The separatist approach, that is, the Bloc approach, proposes exactly the opposite of what has been observed elsewhere in the western world. Taking this utopian path is the equivalent of playing with the future of Quebec and going against the current trends in economic development.

The motion before us is indicative of the Bloc’s presence in this House. The question we must ask is: does this motion contribute anything constructive to the current political debate and in what way would Quebec be better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century?

This is not the sort of question the Bloc Québécois is used to asking itself, since this is not the perspective from which it justifies its presence in the House of Commons. To listen to the Bloc members, its party is here to defend the interests of Quebec, while promoting the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada, right here, in this Parliament. In fact what it is really defending is its secessionist ideology, not the ideology of Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois is proposing to Quebeckers a permanent opposition. The Bloc Québécois is harming Quebec’s right to affirm itself. Quebeckers have shaped Canada, in addition to being a founding people. Why deny this?

Of course, the Bloc can give the impression of collaborating with us in good faith by regularly supporting any legislation which it could not oppose in any case. Some things are so obvious that that they cannot be missed by anyone, not even a member of the Bloc. But the basic dilemma of this party does not lie only in the gap in logic between its presence in Ottawa and its true raison d'être.

There also exists another fundamental contradiction in the raison d'être of this party, namely, that it promotes virtue, defends the great principles, appeals to the most noble attitudes, fosters solidarity—at the same time as separation—but with this important distinction, which it soft-pedals: the Bloc Québécois will never be in power.

It does not want to be in power, because it does not believe in this country. It is playing a waiting game and has been doing so for a long time now. In 1995, with the second referendum approaching, did the Bloc not say that sovereignty was magic and that one wave of the magic wand would change everything? That is the sort of argument the Bloc used to try to convince Quebeckers to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada.

For the benefit of those people watching who still have doubts about the real purpose of this party and the internal conflicts that sometimes result, I will quote two gems. The first comes from the November 8, 1997 issue of Le Droit and features the member from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. Keep in mind that this quote is from nine years ago. He said:

The Bloc is a party that was born of circumstance, specifically after the failure of Meech, because the momentum existed that would enable us to achieve sovereignty. We nearly succeeded the last time, but we came up short...[The Bloc] can afford to go on for some time. But our days are numbered.

It is worth noting that the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean said nine years ago that the Bloc's mandate, which it obtained in the June 1997 general election, was to be the party's last. Yet three general elections have taken place since.

He also said at the time, “It is a long and hard slog for the Bloc in Ottawa because of the lack of interest in the sovereignist option in Quebec”. I wonder what he thinks of the length of time nine years later.

In any event, the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean was quickly called to heel by his leader, just as the member for Richelieu, who today is the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and has represented his riding for 22 years in this House, had been two months earlier for a different reason. He stated in the September 11, 1997 issue of Le Droit:

We have to show that federalism is not advantageous for Quebec. Sometimes, it appeared to be working. Now, we will be able to take it apart at our leisure.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I need to add anything further. Instead of being subtle, the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour was candid, without meaning to be and without realizing it. This is the sort of information we need to keep in mind when we see Bloc members trying to block.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really wish the member who has just spoken would explain to us why he absolutely wants to make this a debate on sovereignty, which is certainly not our intention.

That is a question that had been dealt with, throughout history, as has the fact that the Quebecois nation has always been a nation.

As far back as April 1946, Maurice Duplessis spoke of the Canadian confederation as a contract of union between two nations. In November 1963, Jean Lesage referred to the Quebecois as a people, as a nation. In February 1968, Daniel Johnson Sr. said that “The Constitution should not have as its sole purpose to federate territories, but also to associate in equality two linguistic and cultural communities, two founding peoples, two societies, two nations”.

It goes back to before the arrival of English-speaking people in America. In 1667, Jean Talon already recognized that the French who were here constituted a different people. That is not far from a nation. In 1756, de Bougainville, on his return from Quebec, said: “It seems that we are a different nation”.

There is more, and it is also significant. In October 2003, when the Liberals had just taken power in Quebec, the National Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution reaffirming that the people of Quebec form a nation .

Why are you so bent on adding “within a united Canada”, unless it is because you want to reopen the debate on sovereignty? Without doubt, we could have that debate, but that was certainly not our original intention. It is not the Bloc Québécois that put the nationhood issue in the news. It was the candidates for the leadership of the Liberal party. I do not understand why you insist on having this debate. I wish you would explain it to me. Why are you so determined to add something? When, without that addition, you say, “We would be saying exactly the same thing as the unanimous National Assembly with a federalist majority”.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

First of all, you have to understand that, for my part, I am in agreement with what I have heard here today. I believe that the Bloc Québécois put forward this motion with the aim of laying a trap for both the official opposition and the Conservatives. That is self-evident.

That being said, one thing is certain. From the beginning, we have seen the members of the Bloc shouting themselves hoarse and generally getting worked up in the so-called defence of Quebec's best interests. Is that really what people want?

We are advocating recognition of Quebeckers as a nation within a united Canada. Why? Because that is the fact today. I agree: all the quotes from the parties and leaders that my colleague has read are true. However, no one in those movements was a separatist. As this motion is coming from a separatist party, this absolutely has to be clarified. I want to say this. The Bloc is always talking about defending the interests of Quebec. It is on the defensive, whereas we, forming a government that believes in a united Canada, we are talking about promoting the interests of Quebec.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

We believe that we can promote them within one structure, within a united Canada, and that is what is important. This may shock my friends opposite, but it is the reality. Let us proceed. Let us leave the defence and go on the offence. We must promote the interests of Quebec. I am proud to be a Quebecker, just as my colleagues across the way are, and I do not believe in the association they have been trying to bring about here for the last 13 years.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what my hon. colleague just said but I still go back to my point that I do believe it was a very deliberate, distracting and mischievous motion that the Bloc brought forward. It was caught and now it is trying to send the message that somehow the motion was something that it was not, which is absolutely incorrect.

The Prime Minister took some risk in seeking unanimity among federalist opposition parties and the government--

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain. I salute the Prime Minister for his leadership on this matter. As he said yesterday, it is a fact. Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.

Everyone knew it. Everyone is in agreement on this fact. My colleague opposite may not agree with the words “within a united Canada”, but everyone else does. Now, a federal forum may not be the place to say it, but we were asked and we are responding.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take part in the Bloc Québécois opposition day. As already indicated by the motion, our aim here today is to receive recognition that Quebeckers form a nation.

I would also remind the House that an amendment was put forward by the Bloc Québécois in order to add the fact that the Quebec nation is currently within Canada.

Since today's debates began, we have heard all sorts of statements, judgments and impugning of motives—and the description is a fair one—on the part of members of this House, both from the Liberal Party and more particularly from the governing party, the Conservatives.

Some people believe that the Bloc Québécois motion is partisan and others feel it was a trap that the Bloc Québécois tried to set here in this House. Still others believe that, fundamentally, this Bloc motion is no more and no less than a blue print for sovereignty.

The motion, tabled this morning and debated by the Bloc Québécois, bears rereading. First, it states that Quebeckers form a nation, not that Quebec is a nation. This is an important nuance, because the fact that we attribute the term “nation” to people or groups of people, such as Quebeckers, is a simple acknowledgement of fact. And the perception of the word “nation”—which apparently makes some people break out in hives—as a “country” is not the intended meaning of the motion that was tabled.

On the contrary, it was the motion tabled by the government and that refers to this nation in the context of a united Canada that is partisan, because it inevitably triggers a debate over two political options, that is, federalism versus sovereignty.

It seems important to me to set a number of things straight today. Could this be a trap or a blueprint for sovereignty? I encourage the members to read the motion over, together with the one adopted by Quebec's National Assembly on October 30, 2003, by which it reaffirmed that the people of Quebec form a nation. The latter is practically identical to the one put forward by the Bloc Québécois. To the extent that this motion put before the National Assembly was unanimously adopted not only by the Parti Québécois, but also by the Quebec Liberal Party and the Action démocratique, both of which are federalist parties, does this mean that the National Assembly adopting this motion represents a blueprint for sovereignty? To state the question is to answer it.

So, the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois today seeks nothing more, nothing less than recognition of the fact that Quebeckers form a nation, something we wish the federal government and this House would have recognized.

Why do we form a nation? First, because we share a common land to which we belong and which is known as Quebec.

Also, we share a common culture characterized by great diversity, a unique Quebec film industry, creative artists who put their art to the service of the Quebec nation to express our common values.

In addition, we want to share a common history, which just keeps evolving, building on our past, and which includes Quebeckers of old stock, of course, but also Quebeckers by adoption, who help build Quebec society as we know it and will know it in the future.

Then there is the fact that, in Quebec, we share a common language, namely French. We are part of the 2% of the North American population trying to survive in this linguistic sea where we are the minority.

We have had to put in place mechanisms enabling us to continue to work, live and evolve in French because we have institutions, because we have a National Assembly that makes legislative changes and that is essentially an institution and a place where the Quebec consensus can be expressed on national as well as international issues.

In Quebec, we have the charter of human rights and freedoms and the charter of the French language that provides the greatest number possible of guarantees enabling us to continue living in French. In the 1960s, we decided to use the state as our primary engine of economic development in Quebec by creating the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, equipping ourselves with solid mechanisms, such as the Commission des valeurs mobilières du Québec, and with many strong tools appropriate for a nation that wishes to takes its place on the international scene and to take control of its destiny without being contemptuous of English Canada. That is not the kind of debate we are having. We merely wish to reaffirm that Quebec has the right to live and to express itself in French, to share a common culture and history. This affirmation of the Quebec nation, as I mentioned earlier, was reiterated on October 30, 2003, by the members of the Quebec National Assembly, by both federalists and sovereignists, who unanimously adopted a motion stating that the Quebec National Assembly reaffirmed that the Quebec people form a nation.

Instead of respecting this consensus in Quebec that had been confirmed by the National Assembly, instead of allowing this House and this government to accept the basic premise of the National Assembly's proposal, the government decided, no more and no less, to change the elements of this motion. It decided to include in this motion, which will be voted on, the concept of recognizing the people of Quebec in the context of a united Canada. What does that mean? It means that recognizing the Quebec nation is conditional upon staying in Canada, in a united Canada, as it is.

My colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was absolutely right and his question was pertinent. Why is it that the Quebec nation cannot be recognized in a context that excludes a united Canada.

If this united Canada were left out of the motion, could the federal government recognize the existence of the Quebec nation?

I have a few seconds remaining because I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska. I would like the government and this House to recognize the arguments that have been made and the unanimous adoption by the National Assembly on October 30, 2003, of the resolution that Quebec, Quebeckers form a nation. We could then continue to agree. We would like this motion that will be adopted, I hope, to be followed by real constitutional changes. Otherwise this is just symbolic. How many times in this House have we adopted motions that were not followed by concrete action on the part of the federal government?

Let us hope that any motion we vote on here will allow Quebec to be recognized, once and for all, as a nation.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, at the beginning of his remarks, my colleague mentioned that some Conservative and Liberal members in this House were in fact impugning motives, in the same way that people often pass value judgments when they run out of arguments.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on the remarks made by the member who spoke just before him. He talked about the Bloc's presence in this House being almost illegitimate, as if Bloc members had not been democratically elected here. I think such comments are to be included with those insidious remarks that have no place here. We live in a democracy and we are fully entitled to represent people here. Indeed, we are here because we were democratically and legitimately elected.

I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is probably referring, among other comments, to those made by the member for Mégantic—L'Érable. This debate should remain civilized. It is important to have different views in this House. We may not agree on some issues, but there is a fundamental element here in that, to my knowledge, we were all elected on the basis of a clear agenda. Each member of this House was elected by voters. Therefore, each member has legitimacy.

We are asking the government to be very cautious. The government should know and understand that as long as we are in this House, we will continue to protect the interests of Quebec. Indeed, this is the mandate that we were given, and this is the mandate that we intend to fulfill.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, November 27, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Is there perhaps unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m. so that we can commence with private members' business?

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—The Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers’ Day be read the second time and referred to a committee.