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.


Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

I did not expect to rise and speak to the House of Commons when I decided last week to come here today to renew my experience of this House where I have already spent a great deal of time and where I am still proud of representing the citizens of La Pointe-de-l'Île. I am here today and this debate concerns me deeply. I will try to speak of that in the short time I have, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to tell me when I have one minute remaining.

I want to remind members that Quebeckers have formed a nation for a very long time and that, unfortunately, Canada as a whole has never agreed to recognize that fact. Today, I am astounded to hear certain arguments from members, whom I otherwise very much respect, speaking of this trap that the Bloc Québécois is setting for Parliament by tabling this motion today.

First of all, Quebeckers have formed a nation for a very long time. My first field of study was history. At that time, people spoke of the history of Quebec and of Canada. We can believe—and there are quotations to that effect — that from the time of the French regime, before the British conquest, the Canadiens—because Quebeckers of that period called themselves Canadiens to distinguish themselves from the French—already formed a nation. The Americans had given themselves a country, they had claimed their independence, but even if they had not declared their independence they would have been different from the British. They were Americans. They made up the American nation. In the same way, the Canadiens of that period, in the Canada that was a French colony, made that distinction and there was already that difference. There was this nation that was there.

Needless to say that in the British conquest—the fact that the very great majority of colonists were settled, according to the wishes of British governors, on the Ontario side for one part, and in the Eastern Townships for the other part—the high birth rate of those Canadiens, who later became French-Canadians, emphasized even more this feeling of difference. I could speak about that at length.

I want to remind members that when Lord Durham—of unhappy memory in Quebec—came after the 1837-1838 insurrections, he said, in speaking of Quebec, referring to what was then Lower Canada following the insurrection—and I learned it from my history professor during a session on Lord Durham: “I found two nations warring in the bosom of a single state”.

Lord Durham, after his report, concluded that the most urgent requirement was to turn those Canadiens into a minority. Once that was done, they could be given responsible government later. From that flowed the forced union of what is today Ontario and Quebec which later became Canada. But before giving self government to the colony, which was the seed of independence, Lord Durham said: “These Canadiens must be put into a minority”.

This Quebec nation, recognition of which is said today to be a trap, simply expresses itself and grows differently. It is. It is, not because Canada is united. It just is.

I travel a lot and there are multinational countries, countries that have more than one nation within them—Belgium recognizes that it is one. A nation like the Quebec nation, whether it forms a country or not, is a nation. So saying that it is a trap to recognize it is extremely surprising, to say the least.

It is also surprising that for all this time, from the British conquest to today, with all of the progress by Canada and the self-satisfied image that Canadians often project, they have never wanted to recognize the Quebec nation as a nation, as a group of people united by history, by language, by culture and by a body of laws. This is as true in English as it is in French. Certainly, it is not a country. That is why Quebec cannot join the United Nations.

Why, for all this time, has Canada had such difficulty recognizing it? We need only think of the epic tale that some of us, and I myself, lived through, the tale of recognition of the distinct society and the provisions of the Charlottetown accord. Why find it so difficult to recognize the characteristics of this nation, no matter where its future lies? Once again, I am astonished to hear it said that this is a trap, or a trick. To my mind, the words I have read are much more of a trick. I read those words because I was not here yesterday, for reasons I can explain outside this chamber. And so I read what the Prime Minister said:

The real question is simple: do the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Québécois form a nation independent of Canada? The answer is no, and it will always be no.

If there is a trick anywhere, it is in what “united Canada” is intended to mean. That is why the leader of the Bloc Québécois rose just now to say that he would agree with an amendment that said “currently within a united Canada”. We want to say how things are. Quebeckers are what they are in Canada today, that is true, and our motion says that.

That is why we could not understand—at least, I could not understand, myself—why this Parliament as a whole does not agree with our motion, as amended, because what we have done is precisely to make the effort to get an admission of the recognition of the Quebec nation for what it is today. We cannot accept, however, that at the same time we would be told:

Do the Québécois form a nation independent of Canada? The answer is no, and it will always be no.

In our motion, we do not want to assume what the future holds.

Why does the Prime Minister's motion, which everyone has praised, have to assume what the future holds?

We agree to recognize the Quebec nation, because we are sure of what the future holds.

No. We say that we have to recognize today—

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the motion introduced by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, a motion that, as you know, is of great importance.

Given that the debate hinges on the concept of the Quebec nation, I think it makes sense to define what we mean by “nation”. The term “nation” can apply to two different things. When it applies to a state or a territory, it is synonymous with “country”. That is what we mean when we talk about the United Nations, an organization that Quebec can unfortunately not be a member of because it is not sovereign.

Therefore, if the motion as written says that Quebec is a nation, some might claim that means Quebec is a country. But that is not what the motion says. The motion is asking this House to recognize that Quebeckers currently form a nation within Canada, according to the latest amendment introduced by my colleague from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. However, when it applies to people, the term “nation” is not synonymous with the word “country”. Dictionaries offer a wealth of information on this subject. I feel that we do not refer to them often enough.

According to the Petit Larousse, the term “nation” means “Large community of people, typically living within the same territory and having, to a certain extent, a shared history, language, culture and economy”.

What about the Petit Robert? It defines the term “nation” as a “Group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together”.

That is exactly the meaning of the motion before us today.

Hon. members may have noticed that neither of these definitions refers to origins. They refer to “desire to live together” and shared culture and territory.

For those who claim that the term “nation” does not mean the same thing in French as it does in English, we checked with the Oxford English Dictionary, which says:

a large body of people united by common descent, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.

Fin de la citation.

The definition is exactly the same in French. However you put it, it is clear that Quebeckers form a nation.

Is Canada prepared, and that is the gist of the motion, to unconditionally recognize this obvious fact, contrary to the motion put forward by the Prime Minister? Because that is precisely what the word “united” in the Prime Minister's motion is: a condition set by the federal government.

There is a broad consensus in Quebec that Quebeckers form a nation, and there has been for years. I will remind members that, as my leader indicated, on October 30, 2003, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously passed the following motion:

That the National Assembly reaffirm that the people of Quebec form a nation.

What does unanimously mean? On October 30, 2003, at the National Assembly, it was the very same Parliament as the one sitting today. We have a majority Liberal Party government in Quebec, with the Parti Québécois as the official opposition, and a third party, the Action démocratique, which has not been recognized as a registered party because it did not get enough candidates elected, but which did vote in favour of that motion. All three parties represented at the National Assembly, regardless of federalist or separatist allegiance, unanimously voted in favour of the motion.

The motion does not state that Quebeckers form a nation provided that Canada remains unchanged, or that Quebec will be a nation if it achieves sovereignty. I defy the Chair or any member of this House to find any such conditions set out anywhere in the motion before us. This motion states that Quebeckers form a nation, period. There was a reason for the National Assembly to specifically state the existence of the Quebec nation. Members will understand that, when I talked about the National Assembly reaffirming that the people of Quebec form a nation, I was referring to the motion it unanimously passed on October 30, 2003.

Let us now see what Maurice Duplessis said in April of 1946:

The Canadian confederation is a treaty of union between two nations.

Jean Lesage said in November 1963:

Quebec did not defend provincial autonomy simply for the principle of it, but because, for Quebec, autonomy was the specific condition not for its survival, which is assured, but for its affirmation as a people and a nation.

I am running out of time, but I also have quotes from Daniel Johnson Sr. in 1968, René Lévesque in June 1980, Jacques Parizeau in December 1994 and Lucien Bouchard in October 1999. They were all premiers who reaffirmed throughout the years that Quebeckers, the people of Quebec, are a nation.

The Prime Minister would like Quebeckers to form a nation only within a united Canada. This is a bit ridiculous, and my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île went over this a little. It just so happens that Quebec was a nation long before Canada existed. I am going to run out of time since I was given only 10 minutes. Nonetheless, hon. members could refer to what Talon said in 1667, what the French sailor, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, said in 1756 or even what Lord Durham said about the revolt of the Patriots in 1838. It is worth mentioning what Lord Durham said, “I expected to find a conflict between a government and a people, but instead found two nations at war within the same state”.

I want to close by referring firmly to what the Leader of the Bloc Québécois said yesterday:

I would never insist that Quebeckers form a nation only on the condition that they have a country, nor would I ever accept that we could be recognized as a nation only on the condition that we stay in Canada.

We are a nation, because we are what we are, regardless of what the future might bring.

It is important to re-read the wording of the motion before us today.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for his eloquence in explaining the Prime Minister’s intention respecting the motion he put forward yesterday.

For us and for many observers, this is an empty shell, a meaningless thing. As my colleague and the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île said, they will recognize our nation as long as we remain within a united Canada. This is an aberration, and I have proof demonstrating the absurdity of being recognized as long as we remain within Canada. It will be up to Quebeckers to decide this in a referendum, and it is not something to be imposed on us.

What we see is the Conservative government’s wish to accept the Quebec nation, but within an empty shell or framework. I can prove this: at the environment conference in Nairobi, what space was made for a nation that is supposed to be recognized? And what happens in appearances on the international scene?

I would like my colleague to explain the context of this conference and the place made for Quebec—as long we are on our knees.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Indeed, as my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher mentioned to me, this is a very relevant question. Quebec asked to make its voice heard, to say that it was not in agreement with the Conservatives’ opinion regarding the Kyoto protocol. Quebec asked for a chance to express itself, to explain to the world that there was a difference.

But the Minister of the Environment, with the support of the Prime Minister, said that Canada would speak with one voice. So there was no opportunity for expressing any dissidence. It is ironic: the Quebec Minister of Environment, as a fallback, requested 45 seconds to express his position, but his request was rejected.

The Minister of the Environment said that she will use the courts and the corridors to promote her vision. But this is not what Quebec is asking for. Quebec is asking to be recognized as such. That is the meaning of the motion before us.

I will answer my colleague from Québec that it is almost as if someone made the following statement: men and women are equal as long as they remain a united couple. Does that mean that, if a couple is no longer united, the man and the woman are no longer equal? That is what the Conservatives’ proposal means.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is ironic today is that a member from Quebec talks about the environment—which is a fundamental issue—but refuses to support the clean air bill that will, at last, allow us to curb climate change. What is also ironic is that today, a parliamentarian who was democratically elected by Quebeckers, refuses to support a motion that enjoys unanimous support in this House, a motion recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation. Even more ironic is the fact he is opposed to this motion and refuses to acknowledge the reality, namely that Quebec is a province within Canada. I would like the hon. member to answer yes or no to my question. Is Quebec part of Canada? If so, why does he oppose the motion?

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are simply asking that this House recognize that Quebeckers currently form a nation within Canada.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I begin today with a reminder from the Confederation debates of 1864, quoting a father of Confederation:Then let us be firm and united--
One country, one flag for us all:
United, our strength will be freedom--
Divided, we each of us fall.

Yesterday the Prime Minister of Canada put forward the following motion:

That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

I speak in this House as a western Canadian who is passionate about the history of our country and the future that we share together.

I have been privileged in my time in public service to travel the length and breadth of this remarkable country and to experience every region. As the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, I have explored the most distant reaches of this remarkable and compelling land, travelling in the company of extraordinary Canadians who comprise our first nations.

I am also rising in this House today as a francophile, as a Canadian who recognizes, who respects and who embraces Quebeckers' language, culture and history. I am addressing this motion today as a Canadian who is proud of his whole country and of the diversity that prevails within its borders.

The debate that concerns the House is properly before us. The Prime Minister of this country has shown decisiveness and courage in putting forward a motion which effectively responds to the mischief put forward by the Bloc Québécois. In a constructive way, the motion addresses the desire of Canadians to stand as a united country, while also recognizing the foundational role of les Québécois as one of the nations of people who comprise Canada.

The leader of the Bloc and his separatist colleagues do not seek a definition of les Québécois within the context of a united Canada. That is what distinguishes we who are the federalists in this House of Commons, separating us from those who would divide, separate and diminish us. They are not concerned with defining les Québécois, nor are they concerned with the advancement of the very special language, culture, traditions and history of les Québécois within the context of this, the most remarkable nation on the face of the earth. Instead, they would unleash a divisive debate that pits Canadians one against the other and les Québécois against themselves. This is a road that this government will not travel.

The Bloc Québécois continues to want to raise the issue of sympathy. It wants to break Canada. The Bloc Québécois' mission is to defend and promote its own interests, not those of Quebeckers. We disagree with that. Quebeckers, and other Canadians, are all builders of our country. This government and this Prime Minister will protect the unity of our country, which we have all helped build.

This Prime Minister and this new government prefer to travel on the road of nation building, on the same journey as other great prime ministers and great parties. This was the chosen path of Sir John A. Macdonald on a route that he travelled with George-Étienne Cartier. It was also the path of Laurier, Trudeau and Mulroney.

As Conservatives, we affirm and recognize that les Québécois form a nation within a United Canada.

We, the Conservatives, prefer to build a stronger Quebec within a better Canada. Quebeckers want tangible, concrete results, which the Bloc will never be able to deliver.

This is an immense country, remarkable in its diversity and in the strands of the ethnological, the linguistic and the cultural riches that define the tapestry that is Canada. As a western Canadian, I cherish this vibrant and colourful mosaic.

It is important to recognize that the creation of this country began with several founding nations, but that Canada has since benefited from the influx of new Canadians from every single corner of the globe. I have often been struck by the fact that, as one reads the speeches surrounding Confederation, this immigration and this peopling of the west was indeed the very plan of the Fathers of Confederation.

I would observe as well, parenthetically, that the first nations of Canada, the aboriginal peoples, including the Inuit and the Métis, have from the outset contributed to the Canada that we know today.

We have done all of this in a manner that has become a beacon to the world. We have succeeded in building a country that is the envy of all people by reason of the prosperity we have, the freedoms we enjoy, and the respect, the tolerance and the civility with which we treat one another as fellow citizens.

The Bloc seeks to end all of this. The Bloc seeks to drive wedges between us. The Bloc seeks to separate us. We must always remember that this is their raison d'être. It is the reason they exist and it is their fervent ambition.

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, the true intention of the Bloc leader and the sovereignist camp is perfectly clear. They hope to separate, divide and break Canada apart. But we must uphold Canadian unity. We must defend national unity. Our Prime Minister and this government defend Canada, which, for us, includes a Quebec that is strong, confident and proud, a Quebec that is stronger within a better Canada.

Indeed, we are all proud to live in this country called Canada.

Indeed, we can all be proud to call Canada our home.

I have often marvelled at the construct of Canada. Why have we succeeded in the creation of such a great country?

To attempt to answer this question personally, I have often turned to the Confederation debates and the words of our Fathers of Confederation at the time they created this wonderful country. The Fathers of Confederation chose a form of government uniquely suited to expressing and accommodating regional, linguistic and religious diversity. The most important example of this diversity was undoubtedly the existence of the two major language groups.

With our linguistic diversity, we are the envy of many countries that are still unable to resolve their cultural differences.

One of the major factors in the creation of Canada as a federation was the presence of Quebec. The founders of our country wanted to build a nation which embraced our diversity.

There can be no doubt that in the heart of this country and all that we have achieved lies the compact that was defined by the Fathers of Confederation. This compact was based upon the recognition of the nationhood of les Québécois, the uniqueness of their language, their culture, their tradition and their history.

None of this was in dispute at the time of Confederation, as the British American provinces united freely, voluntarily and with the fullest intent to protect and advance those very characteristics. The concept of Confederation has always been that les Québécois and other Canadians would be stronger in unity than we would in division.

This was the concept of Canada. It is that very respect, tolerance and acceptance which not only lies at the heart of this country but which has in every way permeated the character and the philosophy of what we have created.

I quote for illustrative purposes H.L. Langevin, after whom the edifice across the street is named, who said:

We are told: “You wish to form a new nationality”. Let us come to an understanding on this word...What we desire and wish is to defend the general interests of a great country and of a powerful nation, by means of a central power. On the other hand, we do not wish to do away with our different customs, manner, and laws; on the contrary those are precisely what we are desirous of protecting in the most complete manner by means of Confederation.

Central to the Confederation debates was George-Étienne Cartier. He was described at that time as the finest statesman in North America. His oratory carried the day in the conferences leading up to Confederation. In 1864, he asked this question:

Was it surprising that some should try to find difficulties in the way of the formation of a Union because there happened to be different races and religions? I have already spoken about the elements which are necessary to constitute a nation.

As Cartier said of Confederation in 1867:

We sealed our pact without bloodshed and without exploitation of the weak by the strong. All it took was fairness, justice and some compromises on both sides.

The words spoken at the commencement of this country ring true today also. My friend Jean Charest, the current premier of Quebec, has said:

Recognizing Quebec as being different, recognizing our history, recognizing our identity, has never meant a weakening of Quebec and has never been a threat to national unity.

That is the nature of the country we have built. Canada is strengthened by its new immigrants as well as by its first nations, creating one of the most beautiful, diverse countries in the world, a country where great opportunities abound for everyone.

A nation drawn together as an act of will in 1867 by les Québécois and their fellow citizens of the English speaking provinces, and so yes, les Québécois do form a nation within a united Canada.

The Bloc, on the other hand, posits that Quebec itself is a nation and that it is a nation extraneous to Canada. The political entity of Quebec is not an independent nation, and if Cartier, Langevin and their descendants are to have their way, and if we as Canadians govern ourselves with goodwill and with a large and generous spirit, the answer will always be no.

Because of all of the attributes in Canada, that which is most central, that which is most important to who we are, is the respect with which we treat one another. We are unaffected by divisions, by distinctions of race, religion, gender or creed, and the humanity and the compassion that inspire us will always prevail.

The motion put forward by the Prime Minister does not recognize the province of Quebec as a nation. Rather, it recognizes les Québécois, the people of Quebec, as a nation within a united Canada. The difference is crucial.

The Bloc Québécois is seeking to tear this country apart. We, on the other hand, defend national unity. We defend Canada. We defend a strong Canada. Together, we have become what we are.

We are, as the Prime Minister has said, a shining example of the humanity that can be achieved through respect and forbearance, by way of our willingness to respect the language, the culture and the history of one another, the recognition of the history, the language and the culture of les Québécois.

Today, Canada is a prosperous and politically stable country because we have made diversity an asset rather than a problem. Canadians are able, as a result, to make democratic choices based on a respect of human rights, and today, more than ever, we understand that accommodating pluralism is not merely a political necessity but a source of pride and enrichment that reflects Canadians values.

Our capacity to adapt as a society and to build institutions that respond to the demands of our citizens has served us very well. Federalism is the natural response to governing a large, demographically and regionally diverse country. With 10 provinces, 3 territories, 6 time zones and bordering on 3 oceans, Canada's regional diversity is obvious.

Our diversity is also reflected in the two official languages. Almost all Canadians speak English or French, and one in five also speaks a non-official tongue. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 98% of the people have English as a mother tongue, while in Quebec, 81% have French as a mother tongue. In Nunavut, 79% speak Inuktitut, a language spoken by less than 1 in a 1,000 Canadians.

Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, stated emphatically:

I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or render it inferior to the other: I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible.

And so it is not in this Canada.

We are a pluralistic society, not just because of the diversity in the makeup of the population, whether linguistic, cultural or regional, but, more important, because we have come to understand that these differences contribute to our national community and our identity. In that sense, Canadians are a symbol of hope to a very dangerous and divided world.

The Bloc wants to separate Canada. That is something that our party and our government will never accept. That is something that this Prime Minister will always stand against immediately, unequivocally and decisively.

There are those who question whether this debate is properly before the federal House of Commons. I say that the Bloc has brought this question before the House. While its original intent may have been mischief, this new government and this new Prime Minister shall decisively resolve the matter in favour of les Québécois and in favour of a united Canada.

I am heartened by the integrity of other federalist parties in this House of Commons. I am moved by their willingness to set aside partisanship and to follow this Prime Minister on the road of statesmanship. Again, the wisdom of this path finds its antecedence in the debates of the founding fathers who similarly and wisely set aside their differences.

In closing, I echo the words of the great Sir John A. Macdonald on September 1, 1864, at the Charlottetown conference. When commenting upon les Québécois and the other founding partners of Confederation, he observed, “Our hearts are one. It was so then. It is today even more so the case”.

We shall press on as the federalists in this House of Commons, protective of one another and protective of the peoples and the nations which constitute Canada. May we, however, be ever wary of those who would separate us, those who would divide us and those who would seek to destroy what the unity of our peoples has created.

I close, as an Albertan, with the words of another Albertan, Ian Tyson, who, together with Peter Gzowski, wrote a song entitled, Song For Canada, reminding us that we are one nation. It went as follows:

Just one great river, always rolling to the sea
One single river rolling in eternity
Two nations in this land, that lie along its shore
But just one river rolling free

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have listened from the beginning to the minister's lovely quotes. It is great to see that he has been reading. The problem is he may not have read the Bloc Québécois motion. Is he blinded by his partisanship? I will reread the motion to him:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation currently within Canada.

It does not say that Quebec is a nation. I agree with him, that would mean a sovereign state. We have said that Quebeckers form a nation, so that the Quebec people may be recognized as a nation. I would like him to read the Bloc Québécois motion as tabled with a very open mind.

The Bloc Québécois members are the most adept at defending the concept of the Quebec nation here in this House. We have seen this in the past. This is not the first time that we have tabled a motion.

The minister now realizes that it does not state that Quebec is a nation, but rather:

—Quebeckers form a nation currently within Canada.

I would like to know whether or not the minister will vote in favour of this motion, as the Bloc Québécois will do.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this question. However, the Bloc Québécois wants to divide Canada and destroy Canadian unity. We disagree with that. The Conservative Party and the Prime Minister wish to protect the interests of Canada.

That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

This is the motion that is before the House that the Prime Minister introduced yesterday.

The Bloc motion is one that seeks to tear apart this country by separatist mischief. Our destiny as a country will not be shaped nor will it be struck by these kinds of motions that seek to tear apart the fabric that has shaped our country. Our destiny is one as a united front.

My friend accepts many of the quotes that I have put forward. We must be true and courageous in sticking to the words of our founding fathers of one country in which uniqueness is accepted, respected, tolerated and encouraged. In the end, this will make for a stronger Canada and a united Canada. What this Prime Minister and this government stand for is a united and strong country, a country that is united for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, in his capacity as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, he, of all people in this House, understands the importance of nations within a nation.

I will say upfront that we do develop friendships with our colleagues from the Bloc but we absolutely disagree with its whole purpose for being as a party, which is to destroy this country.

Yesterday, in response to a threat to this country by a motion that was presented by the Bloc, we saw the rest of the parties, the rest of the representatives from across the country and even some from Quebec, stand together against that threat. I think the Prime Minister, in his motion, has made a great move to maybe open up the debate but also to make Canadians feel that we are one and we will always remain one.

As an Albertan and a fellow westerner, I would like to ask my colleague to maybe delve a bit further into the issue of recognizing the Quebec people, Quebeckers, as a nation in relationship to recognizing Quebec as a nation. The motion put forward by the Prime Minister recognizes Quebeckers.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that this country has no more loyal servant than that hon. member. He has served this country faithfully and to the best of his ability for his entire career here in the House of Commons. I am privileged to serve with him.

The motion put forward by the Prime Minister recognizes les Québécois, the people of Quebec, as a nation within the context of a united Canada. The motion put forward does not recognize the legal entity of Quebec, the province of Quebec as a nation. That is an entirely different matter. The province of Quebec is a constituent element of Canada. I have referred to the founding fathers in the debate, which takes us back many years in history to how and when that came to be.

Fundamental to Confederation is the concept that we would respect one another. The motion put forward by the Prime Minister in the House recognizes les Québécois, the people of Quebec, the people who live in Quebec, the people who have been there for hundreds of years through their antecedents, the people who have a unique history, an identity in this country, a language and a culture that has firm roots going back 400 years along the St. Lawrence valley and the rock of the Canadian Shield.

For us to recognize les Québécois as a nation within the context of Canada speaks to the respect and the maturity of this country.

My friend also commented upon my capacity as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It is not a difficult step for me as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development because I deal on a daily basis with 630 first nations from across Canada, people who are working together with les Québécois and other Canadians to build this remarkable country. There is nothing in their distinctiveness, their culture or in their pride of this country that makes Canada weaker. It makes it stronger. And so it is with les Québécois and the language, culture, history and tradition of our wonderful brothers from Quebec that make Canada a stronger country.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I am extremely proud to rise and speak to the motion introduced by the Bloc Québécois that reads as follows:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation currently within Canada.

This is a fact that has long been recognized by Quebeckers themselves. It is also a fact that has often been reaffirmed by all the parties in the Quebec National Assembly, whether federalist or sovereignist. The Bloc’s intent, in tabling this motion, was to give the House an opportunity to recognize a reality that Canada has always refused to recognize. We introduced a motion, therefore, that was as neutral and objective as possible and simply recognizes that Quebeckers form a nation.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister wanted to play with words and tabled his own motion yesterday afternoon. He subverted the debate and deflected it from its true intent in order to introduce another idea—which was not at all what the Bloc wanted—about the constitutional future, the future that Quebeckers will have as a nation.

I really think that this manoeuvre was downright dishonest. He diverted the real debate. This was obvious in what the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had to say. This is not a debate about whether we want to have sovereignty or keep the Quebec nation part of the Canadian political federation. It is simply about whether Canada is capable, once and for all, of recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation. This is obviously no longer possible because the debate has been subverted. They are incapable of telling us what this concept of nationhood, as recognized by the House of Commons and Canada, actually means.

The Prime Minister’s tactics or manoeuvres, which I would describe as dishonest, avoid once again providing real, formal, clear recognition. Everything has been all mixed together in the speeches I have heard this morning.

In a spirit of goodwill, the Bloc Québécois amended its own motion to be even more objective and neutral. That is why we said: “...Quebeckers form a nation currently within Canada”. That is a reality. We are a nation and we are still within Canada. I really cannot see, therefore, why the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP would vote against a motion that simply states a fact.

On the other hand, what is false is what we find in the Prime Minister’s motion when he says that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. That is not true. Those are not the facts. That is imagination. It is perhaps what he wants or what he dreams of, but it is not true.

If we go back to the beginnings of Confederation and the beginning of the history of Canada and Quebec, Canada was never a nation, even less united. As we know, since 1982, no Quebec government, whether federalist or sovereignist, has agreed to sign the 1982 Constitution, which was unilaterally patriated by the Liberal government of the time headed by Pierre Elliott Trudeau. There is a reason why Quebeckers have never elected a Liberal majority in Ottawa since that time. For a few mandates, they elected Conservatives under the leadership of Brian Mulroney. Since the departure of Mr. Mulroney and after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebeckers have decided to elect the Bloc Québécois.

The fact that the Prime Minister included “a united Canada” in his statement is not only contrary to reality, it is in fact disdainful of the positions adopted by the National Assembly and the various Quebec governments since 1982. By manoeuvring in this fashion, by including in his motion the word “united” before the word “Canada”, supposedly to recognize the Quebec nation, he has trivialized the decisions taken by the National Assembly and the governments that have refused to sign the Constitution.

They are closing their eyes to the reality of Canada, whose political system is currently in crisis, as is clearly reflected in this House. There is a reason why we have had a minority government for the last two mandates. It is because Canada is in crisis. The fact that Canadian federalists, particularly those outside Quebec, are refusing to recognize that reality does not change anything: far from it.

The Bloc Québécois has tabled a motion that is intended to be objective and neutral, so as to permit the House of Commons to recognize the reality once and for all, that reality being the existence of a Quebec nation within the Canadian political arena. Unfortunately, they have fallen into petty manoeuvring, and unfortunately, we will probably be unable to close this discussion, unless this House adopts the motion tabled by the Bloc, a motion which does nothing more than reflect reality.

I would point out once again that, by adopting the Bloc’s motion, we will not be deciding on the future of the Quebec nation, but simply leaving the doors completely open. I and my colleagues in the Bloc, like a good many Quebeckers, have already drawn our conclusions about what that future should be, but the debate is not over. That has nothing to do with the debate that is going on here, because it will in any case be Quebeckers—the Quebec nation—who will alone decide on their future, in accordance with the rules democratically established in the National Assembly.

All that we can do here, in this place, is to recognize the Quebec nation and the particular role of the Quebec state. Of course, this House and the governments sitting here in Ottawa can also provide this Quebec nation with tools to help it develop, particularly with respect to its most profound identity. Obviously this is not the direction we are taking with the Prime Minister’s motion. If the motion of the Bloc Québécois were adopted, however, that would create an opening.

I would point out that in political spaces that are states and countries, more than one nation can coexist. Canada is an example of this. There are others in the world. Russia, Spain and Great Britain are examples. But in order for such countries to develop harmoniously, there has to be mutual, respectful recognition. The minister said so, but it is not how things really are. There is no respect for the Quebec nation. The motion introduced by the Prime Minister is yet another example of this.

The fact of recognizing the Quebec nation is not what causes problems. The fact of not respecting it does that. I would have hoped, and I imagine that my ancestors would also have hoped, that within this political space, Canada, which in fact combines the former colonies of British North America, recognition of the Quebec nation would come much sooner. I would also have hoped that we would agree to recognize that there is a Canadian nation, an Acadian nation and the first nations, and above all to recognize that those nations must have governments, authorities or administrative bodies that provide them with their own instruments for advancing their interests. That has always been denied. Today, still, the government is unfortunately denying it.

It is not what I hope for, but it seems to me that this House is once again moving toward disrespect for the reality of Quebec.

Within a country, it could very easily have been imagined—in my opinion it is too late, but perhaps not for everyone in Quebec—that through that mutual respect, a spirit of solidarity could be developed and Canada could exist in a real sense. That is not the case. Unfortunately, history shows us that it is not possible. At least, that is the conclusion we have reached. That is why, in all friendship, we want to make Quebec sovereign and have the most harmonious possible relations with our neighbours in Canada.

In conclusion, that is not the purpose of the debate today. We are asking that this House recognize the existence of the Quebec nation, a civic nation to which the anglophone minority and all the waves of immigrants that have happily washed over Quebec belong; to recognize that this nation has a common language—which does not prevent people from speaking the language of their choice at home, or the anglo-Quebec minority from having its own institutions, but the common language, in the political space, within the Quebec nation, is French; to recognize that we have a common history that is distinct, although it is connected to the history of Canada; to recognize that we have a unique culture, one that is a crossroads and that is our own vision of something that is emerging in many places in the world.

Quebec’s culture is not a culture that is closed to what others can contribute. Obviously the French, British and aboriginal traditions, and the traditions of everyone who has come and helped to enrich this Quebec culture, are part of our unique vision of the world. That is Quebec culture. That is what we are asking this House to recognize.

If, unfortunately—and I hope not—the House rejected the Bloc’s motion, we would conclude that Canada, once again, did not really want to recognize the existence of the Quebec nation.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on having made a very clear and concise presentation, both on our motion and on the motion by the current government.

I would like to ask him a question. Does he believe that the motion of the present Conservative government was tabled in order to please Quebeckers and to give them something specific in terms of this recognition, because based on a recent survey—done about a week ago—it seems that 83% of Canadians in the rest of Canada do not recognize the idea of a Québécois nation?

So, is it to please their electors? In other words, did the government word this motion specifically with electors in mind?

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member very much for his question because that is an aspect that I had not raised.

Not only is the motion put forward by the Prime Minister a problematic manoeuvre, not only does it fly in the face of reality but, in addition, it is clear that it is simply motivated by electoral objectives.

They are playing with words, just as they played with words last December 19 by saying that not only did they recognize the fiscal imbalance, but also that they were going to fix it.

We will be hearing the economic statement this afternoon and I am very anxious to see how the Minister of Finance intends to give some indication about the settling of that issue, which is a promise from the Prime Minister and which was another occasion for playing with words.

It is the same thing concerning our role at UNESCO. They told us that Quebec would have a voice in certain fields; that Quebec could speak for itself. What do we have the right to do at UNESCO? We have the right to speak as a member of the Canadian delegation, and if there is no agreement, it is the delegation of the central federal government that speaks on behalf of Canada, including Quebec.

We saw it in Nairobi. The Quebec Minister of the Environment wanted to speak but he was not allowed to. Not only was he not permitted to speak, but they led people to believe that everywhere in Canada, everybody agreed not to respect the Kyoto protocol.

This motion is not only election-minded, but it also plays with words and attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of Quebeckers about the real intentions of this government and all the federalist members of this House.

Quebeckers will not be fooled. I tell you that not only will the Bloc Québécois candidate be elected in Repentigny next Monday but in the next election there will be even more of us in this House if the Bloc motion is not adopted as it stands.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my friend's comments and one word jumped out at me. It was the word “neutral”. He referred to the Bloc motion as being a neutral motion. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my experience in the House has been that the Bloc and its actions within the House typically have a partisan nature to them.

It has already been said many times that it was very clear from the motion that this was intended to create a mischief within the House to promote division within Canada. If in fact the member wants clarity and wants to get rid of the ambiguity, why does he not support our motion which simply clarifies that Quebeckers are a nation within a united Canada?

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Why can we not support the Prime Minister's motion, Mr. Speaker? Had “Canada” not been qualified in the motion, we could have supported it, because it is true that Quebec, the people of Quebec, form a nation, and an inclusive one at that, within the Canadian political space. But using the word “unified” runs counter to reality, for it is not true that Canada is a unified country.

Quebec, the National Assembly and successive Quebec governments, whether federalist or sovereignist, have refused to sign the Constitution of 1982. How can Canada be united when the Constitution was not signed by a component as important as Quebec? That is contrary to reality. Personally, I am not in the habit of going counter to the facts. If the Prime Minister was sincere in making his remarks, he should amend his motion himself to have the word “united” removed. Then, I will have no problem supporting the motion. As it stands, it is not right, and that is what diverted the debate. It gives the impression that Canada is a united country, which it is not. At the same time, positions taken by the National Assembly and various governments have been trivialized by statements to the effect that Quebec not having signed the Constitution of 1982 is no big deal. They say we are united, but that is not true.

I will conclude by saying that the debate has been diverted. The Prime Minister's motion could be interpreted to mean, among other things, as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville said, that Quebec is a nation within the Canadian nation. So—

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Joliette on his excellent speech. It gives me an opportunity to put in my two cents' worth about this motion introduced by the Bloc Québécois.

I will go back to the original motion, because we have proposed an amendment. The Conservative Party has even made it a separate motion. Everyone is ascribing all sorts of intentions to the Bloc Québécois, when it is actually being true to itself. It wants recognition that Quebeckers form a nation. This is not the first time that the Bloc Québécois has introduced a motion to that effect in this House.

That surprises me and will always surprise me. I have been here since 2000, so obviously I was not around for the saga of the Clarity Act. But today I can see the federalist parties' position on Quebec, and I can imagine what things must have been like when the clarity bill was introduced. The original motion made by the Bloc Québécois was crystal clear. Excuse the redundancy, but it could not have been any clearer:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation.

That was the Bloc Québécois motion. The Bloc Québécois did not sit down one morning and decide that because these were nice words, it was going to write this motion. On the contrary, every word is important. That is why we chose “that Quebeckers form a nation”; we did not choose “that Quebec forms a nation”. It is simple. Dictionaries define the word “nation”. The word “nation” can be used in reference to a state or territory. For example, the word “nation” in “Quebec is a nation” would be synonymous with “country”.

But the Bloc Québécois did not want to trick the House of Commons. It wanted to show its openness and to avoid involving anyone in a partisan fight by asking for recognition that Quebec is a nation. Instead, it proposes to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation. Simply put, according to the definition in the Larousse dictionary, the word “nation”, when applied to people, means:

Large community of people, typically living within the same territory and having, to a certain extent, a shared history, language, culture and economy.

For the benefit of some, I can use an English dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary:

A large body of people united by common descent, culture and language inhabiting a particular state or territory.

The Bloc Québécois made sure that the motion it tabled in the House was crystal clear precisely so there would be no political partisanship.

The Conservatives did not choose to table an amendment or to ask the mover of the motion for an amendment; they simply took the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois and made it their own, adding the words “within a united Canada”, which made it a partisan motion. That is what the Conservative Party chose to do.

Of course, I cannot help but smile when federalist parties that supported the clarity bill tell us today that the Bloc Québécois is not clear and reject our motion to table one that is a lot more partisan than ours. I have seen it all. Other colleagues in this House have said that they have seen it all; today, I have seen in all.

I did not take part in the debate on the clarity bill. However, I am taking part today in this debate on the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois, a party that has never hidden the fact that it wants this House to recognize Quebeckers as a nation. It is not the first but the third time that it has proposed such a motion. Whatever the circumstances, we are always consistent. We tabled a motion that was meant to be as clear as possible, but it was not clear enough for the Conservative Party that had to put a partisan slant to it.

Today we are trying to clarify our situation and to make the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats understand that we do not want to force them into an ideological or political war. We are defending a sovereignist option and, one day, Quebeckers will democratically settle the issue. Two referendums have been held so far, and rest assured that there will be a third one. Quebeckers will make that choice. It is not something that we wanted to impose on the Canadian Parliament.

I will reread the motion, because earlier, I heard the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development explaining that the aim was to have Quebec recognized as a nation and accordingly a country. No, I am sorry. Let us read the Bloc's motion carefully. I will reread it for my colleagues in this House, in order to demonstrate our good faith:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation.

In order to clarify our position, we have added “currently within Canada”. Yes, currently, Quebeckers are within Canada. We say this perhaps in all honesty. You think we have some ulterior motive behind what we are after, which is recognition.

Other parties have problems in this House. Other parties have political problems. All we want is to simply have the House recognize what the National Assembly of Quebec recognized and passed on October 30, 2003, when it stated that the people of Quebec form a nation.

The members of that assembly did not use the word “Quebec”. The National Assembly used the words “people of Quebec“. We used the words “Quebeckers“. It amounts to the same thing—the people.

Let us return to the dictionary definition. I find the position of the Conservatives and the other members of this House nonsensical. The Larousse dictionary provides that the word “nation”, when applied to people refers to a large community of people, typically living within the same territory and having, to a certain extent, a shared history, language, culture and economy.

You cannot claim Quebeckers do not form a large community of people. Seven million five hundred thousand people—a large community, in my opinion.

Although it is not the subject of the debate, I will nevertheless say that, if Quebec became a country, it would rank 95th of 230 countries in the world in terms of its population.

It cannot be said that Quebec is not a large community and that Quebeckers, as a nation, do not form a large community with 7.5 million inhabitants. The definition also provides “typically living within the same territory”. Well, indeed Quebeckers do live within the same territory. This is not the subject of today's debate either, and I do not wish to be partisan, but should Quebec become a country, it would be 18th among the 230 countries in the world in terms of its size.

You cannot accuse us of saying that we are not living within the same territory or that it is not a territory with a shared history. Some federalist members have even referred to the history of Quebec. Quebec has its linguistic history. I cite the definition from the Larousse dictionary again; it says “having a shared history, language”. You cannot deny that Quebec is French. It is the largest francophone territory in North America. Nothing more needs to be said about this linguistic fact. In terms of culture, you cannot deny Quebecers have their own cultural structure. Our artists are known throughout the world, whether we think of Cirque du Soleil, Céline Dion or others. The definition talks about having a shared economy, to a certain extent. If Quebec were to be a country, it would rank 20th in terms of gross domestic product, out of 230 countries.

The purpose and objective of the Bloc Québécois are not to engage in a partisan debate about Quebec sovereignty. The objective of the Bloc Québécois is for the House of Commons to settle the nation issue once and for all. That is why the question was so lucid and so clear. The first motion that was introduced by the Bloc, and because of which the Conservatives introduced a motion in an attempt to have a completely new debate, was worded as follows:

That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation.

It was that simple. We extended our hand to the federalists who found it so difficult to recognize Quebeckers as a nation. I can understand them. Recognizing Quebec as a nation, according to the dictionary definitions, is like recognizing Quebec as a country. I say: the Bloc Québécois motion has been studied and analyzed. We have used the correct terms.

It is the Conservative Party that decided—once again, the ones who voted for the referendum clarity act—to take that clear motion, to eliminate it completely and to introduce its own motion. The Conservatives wanted to say: “Look, they are wrong”.

I hope they will understand that it is up to Quebec to choose a question for its referendum, it is not up to the Conservatives to decide that. Once again, in this House, they are incapable of accepting the clear position in a very clear and very lucid motion by the Bloc Québécois, a motion talking about the Quebec nation, that Quebeckers form a nation.

I hope that my Conservative colleagues will make a little progress and understand that there was no malicious intent in the position taken by the Bloc Québécois, other than to get federalists in the rest of Canada to understand that Quebeckers form a nation.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2006 / 1:05 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am first and foremost a Quebecker, and proud of it. The blood in my veins is that of a Quebecker and I have a Quebecker's roots and culture. For the first time, yesterday, we were witness here to a unique and historical gesture.

What makes me think that the Bloc’s approach is partisan is that we included “united Canada” in the motion. It is true. And why? What bothers the Bloc members most? Is it that we recognized the Quebec nation or that they realized that nationalist Quebeckers could be sovereignists or federalists, and that both had their place in Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am having trouble following my colleague’s train of thought because I have been explaining to her quite simply since a while ago that the Bloc Québécois motion says that Quebeckers form a nation. If she says she is a nationalist, all she has to do is vote in favour of this motion. It is as simple as that.

It is the Conservative Party that decided to turn this into a partisan debate, by writing “within a united Canada”, meaning by that that Quebec could never determine its own future outside Canada. But as far as I know we still belong to a democracy, and Quebec will always have the right to choose its own destiny.

We did not wish to turn this into a partisan debate. This is why we did not say, “Quebec forms a nation”; we said: “Quebeckers form a nation”. And I repeat it.

I do not have a monopoly on Le Petit Larousse; there are copies in all good bookstores. As I said earlier, the term “nation” is used to talk about people. We are not talking about countries.

This is the open-mindedness with which the Bloc Québécois expressed itself. The Conservatives opted to make this into a partisan debate. Quebeckers will not be taken in.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, Quebec’s intentions are very clear.

My hon. colleague talked about a hidden agenda, that we would be suspicious that the Bloc had a hidden agenda. Who are we trying to kid here? This makes me laugh if it was not such a serious thing for Canada. We talk about partisanship. I am a partisan Canadian, pure and simple, from coast to coast to coast. I am Canadian.

I have spent a lot of time in all parts of Canada. I own a little piece of Quebec. My hon. colleague owns a little piece of Alberta. He can choose to claim that little piece of Alberta if he wishes to or not, but I choose to claim my little piece of Quebec as a Canadian. I will never give up that right.

We will talk about partisanship, but I would like to ask the member a question. How is being a partisan Canadian, if he wants to call me partisan, any different than being as partisan as he is being now as a Quebec sovereignist, a Quebec separatist?

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's party chose to have a partisan debate on a non-partisan motion presented by the Bloc Québécois. If the hon. member is trying to say that he would have supported that motion had it been tabled by any other party in this House, it is even worse. It is even more humiliating for federalists in the rest of Canada. As Quebeckers, we are just as representatives of the population, and this is a choice that we made.

We selected the proper words, precisely to avoid being accused of partisanship. Had we said “Quebec forms a nation”, that would have meant that we wanted to declare Quebec is a country. Instead, we decided to say “Quebeckers form a nation”, so as to accurately reflect the motion passed by the Quebec National Assembly, to the effect that the Quebec people forms a nation.

So, we did not want a partisan debate. The partisan debate will take place in Quebec, and it is not up to the hon. member to settle this issue. It will be up to Quebeckers to choose their destiny. I am sorry for the hon. member, but that is how democracy works.

The Supreme Court of Canada even told former prime ministers and the member's own Prime Minister that they would have no option but to negotiate, should Quebeckers opt for sovereignty.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Wascana.

I rise today to take part in the debate on the motion moved by the leader of the Bloc which asks that the House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation. I understand that this is a very emotional issue for some; however, we must debate serious issues and even difficult issues in an atmosphere of respect and tolerance.

My position vis-à-vis the Bloc motion is very clear and unequivocal. I will vote against it. As the leader of the official opposition said yesterday in the House, how could we ever support a motion on Quebec by a party that has zero commitment to Canada and which is blind to the greatness available for Quebeckers within Canada?

There are many people in Quebec who strongly believe in Canada and want to be full participants, as well as enjoy all the benefits that come from being part of one of the greatest countries in the world. Canada is richer and a more vibrant nation for having Quebec and that is why I take great pride in rising to say why I object to the motion, even though I happen to be from Kitchener Centre which is a southern Ontario riding.

I recognize that the duality of Canada goes back to the two founding nations, the cultures and the two religions that has led us to be an incredibly rich and tolerant country that I believe impacts the lives of all Canadians. It makes Canada a beacon of hope to the world of how we can live together in peace, and not just tolerate diversity but celebrate it.

There are many federalists and even nationalists in Quebec who believe in Canada and who are committed to a strong Quebec within a strong and united Canada. Liberals have always believed that Quebec, with all its resources, can prosper and meet its dreams within a united Canada.

Yesterday in the House the leader of the Bloc, and the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, stated during ministerial statements:

The debate on Quebec's future hinges on whether, as some believe, Quebec is better off growing and prospering within Canada...--or whether, as others like me believe, sovereignty is the only way for Quebec to reach its full potential.

Clearly, by the admission of the leader of the Bloc, his party is dedicated to destroying Canada. His party believes that the only way Quebec can reach its full potential is by withdrawing from Canada.

It goes without saying that I, as well as all members in the House, respect the opinions that are expressed in the chamber. However, on the issue that is before us today, I fundamentally disagree with my colleague from the Bloc. I share the view, along with the majority of Quebeckers, that Quebec can reach its full potential within a united Canada.

I will always fight for a united Canada that is based on tolerance, respect and inclusion. Twice through referendums, Quebeckers have rejected leaving Canada. Even with flawed questions, Quebeckers have opted to remain as full partners in a united Canada.

Why does the Bloc choose to ignore these Quebeckers, the ones who have twice rejected proposals to leave this country of Canada? If the Bloc says it speaks on behalf of Quebeckers, why does it ignore the majority who have twice rejected leaving Canada?

It is the point of view of the majority of those Quebeckers that I am speaking to and defending today. Liberals have always believed that when confronted with a clear question, whether or not to be part of Canada, Quebeckers will always choose Canada.

The member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean has proposed an amendment to his leader's motion that implies that Quebec will one day leave Canada because the motion says, following the word “nation”, he would add “currently within Canada”. Clearly, there is a ticking time bomb here as far as the Bloc is concerned.

The suggestion that Canada could be united now but not in the future must be rejected. I will not support any amendment that implies in whole or in part that Canada will one day not be united.

My party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and I will always fight for a strong and united Canada. I believe a strong Quebec can prosper within a strong Canada.

In December 1995 the House voted on a resolution recognizing that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada. This resolution was proposed by the Liberal Party. I am proud that my party stood in the House and recognized that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada.

The Bloc MPs in the House that day voted against the Liberal resolution recognizing Quebec as a distinct society within Canada. It is true, when the Bloc members had the chance to vote in the House in favour of Quebec being recognized as a distinct society, they voted against that recognition.

One must ask, what are the motives for the motion that we have before us today? There is broad agreement that all parties of the House--and I think that was demonstrated yesterday and I would have to say that yesterday was probably one of the most historic days that I have spent in Parliament--recognize Quebeckers as a nation. The motivation then becomes suspect when we see the amendment that was put forward by the Bloc today. It is quite clear that the Bloc's motives are to tear apart Canada.

Soon all of Canada will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city of Quebec by Champlain. Quebec's history is a rich history. It is part of Canada's history. I know that I will be proud to celebrate that 400th anniversary, as will all Canadians across this land.

I would like to take one moment to further reflect on something that was raised by my colleague, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie earlier today when she was speaking to the motion. She talked about the Bloc's motive. What could it be? What was its purpose? She said that in her view the Bloc is trying to divide federalists. The Bloc members want not only to divide federalists and those who believe in a strong and united Canada, but they are continuing to keep Quebeckers divided by refusing to acknowledge that the majority of Quebeckers believe Quebec can reach its full potential within Canada.

As my leader said yesterday, the Bloc's raison d'être is the breakup of Canada. The motion before us, once again, is an attempt to divide rather than to unite. It is pure politics. These tactics and attempts by the Bloc must be rejected. This is simply another demonstration of the Bloc playing games, games of which I refuse to be a part.

In closing, it is important to rise above partisanship and political games, and defend the interests of all Canadians, including those Quebeckers who have twice rejected leaving Canada. It is equally important to adopt a solution that allows all of us to reach our full potential, a solution that respects Quebec and Quebeckers, and gives them a prosperous future within the most magnificent country.

Let us not be fooled by the politics of the members of the Bloc Québécois. They have no desire to define what Quebeckers are. Their objective is to take Quebec out of Canada.

I am convinced that Quebeckers will always opt for a strong Quebec in a united Canada. That is my objective and duty. I want to ensure that Quebeckers can fully thrive within Canada.

Opposition Motion—Quebec NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. She says that Quebec can reach its full potential within Canada. Why then has Quebec not signed the Canadian Constitution? Why has Quebec been fighting for the past 40 years in Canada to be recognized and to put a stop to encroachment on its areas of jurisdiction? If we are so happy and if we can reach our full potential, why do we keep up the fight?