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.