House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to speak to this motion today. I will be sharing my time with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

I perhaps have a slightly different perspective about this motion. Partly it is that I am a first generation Canadian on my mother's side. My mother came to Canada in approximately 1948. She went to Montreal. I was born in Montreal. Subsequently my family moved, but I then returned there to complete a couple of years of school.

I also am a very fortunate Canadian, in that I have lived from coast to coast in this country. I have lived in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, and my father spent time in Manitoba, so I have a unique perspective on this country.

One of the things I value about living in Canada is its diversity. I value its complexity. I value its depth and breadth. The motion before us gives us an opportunity to talk about that diversity.

Members of the House are very well aware of the fact that New Democrats have always recognized the contribution of Quebeckers to the Canadian social fabric. We have always recognized that our strength is in our diversity and we also believe that the Québécois people can realize their potential within the Canadian federation.

The NDP wants to create winning conditions for people in Canada and in Quebec. When we talk about the contributions that Quebec has made to the social fabric, we need only look at Quebec's innovation around child care and pay equity. We know that the issues that Quebeckers have taken on front and centre can contribute to making sure that the rest of Canada has that kind of depth and breadth as well.

When we talk about nationhood, I cannot help but talk about first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in this country. On November 23, a story was run about first nations and nationhood. Because it is relevant to our discussion about what it means to be a nation in Canada, I think it is very important that I bring this story into the discussion. It states:

--the Assembly of First Nations calls upon the Prime Minister to clarify his position in a way that does justice to the status and role of First Nations in Quebec and within Canada as a whole.

I am going to quote from this very important document from the Assembly of First Nations and Chief Picard:

National Chief Phil Fontaine commented that “mindful as we are of our own history and identity, we want to be respectful of other communities and traditions in Canada. The AFN has been, and remains, open to recognition of the nature of Quebec society that acknowledges features such as the French speaking majority in that province. It is important, however, that such recognition be carried out in a way that does not dismiss or diminish in any way, the nationhood of First Nations in Quebec and throughout Canada.

AFN Regional Chief of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard also added that “the First Nations of Quebec reserve the right to assert and affirm our status as Nations regardless of what other governments may imply.” Furthermore, Picard stated that “the recognition by one government of another is only meaningful through a process of negotiation to confirm mutual understandings of the relationship.”

The Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations peoples, as referenced in the Constitution Act, 1982, already provide for the unique status of First Nations in law. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which delivered its final report 10 years ago this week, provided a comprehensive affirmation of our rights and title, as well as a clear path forward for First Nations and all Canadians. Yet, Canada has failed to act and failed to respond in a manner consistent with Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title.

Indeed, First Nations across Canada are expressing frustration at the lack of action and attention to First Nations issues. At the same time as putting forward this motion, the Government of Canada is actively opposing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada's opposition to this non-binding Declaration that would set only minimum standards for dignity, survival and well-being of the world's Indigenous Peoples is unprincipled and inconsistent.

In the conclusion, National Chief Fontaine said, “There is space for all in Canada”.

These are really important elements for us to interject into this discussion.

I am going to come back to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, because it laid out some clear guidelines around what we are talking about when we are recognizing first nations people as nations in Canada.

In regard to these guidelines from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which, as I mentioned, celebrated its 10th anniversary, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have failed to take into account the extensive consultation process that happened in order to formulate the recommendations in RCAP. As Campaign 2000 indicated in its release today, we still see desperate poverty for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

I want to come back to chapter 3 on governance in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report. This is important because it does set the stage. It states:

The right of self-determination is vested in all the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The right finds its foundation in emerging norms of international law and basic principles of public morality. By virtue of this right, Aboriginal peoples are entitled to negotiate freely the terms of their relationship with Canada and to establish governmental structures that they consider appropriate for their needs.

The second point states:

When exercised by Aboriginal peoples within the context of the Canadian federation, the right of self-determination does not ordinarily give rise to a right of secession, except in the case of grave oppression or disintegration of the Canadian state.

The chapter on governance outlines a number of other factors. Part of it is about the fact that:

All governments in Canada recognize that Aboriginal peoples are nations vested with the right of self-determination.

With regard to government recognition of aboriginal nations, the commission concludes that:

Aboriginal peoples are entitled to identify their own national units for purposes of exercising the right of self-determination.

Under point 2.3.3, the RCAP report states that:

The federal government put in place a neutral and transparent process for identifying aboriginal groups entitled to exercise the right of self-determination as nations, a process that uses the following specific attributes of nationhood....

It then goes on to talk about a collective sense of national identity, that the nation is a sufficient size and capacity, that the nation constitutes a majority of the permanent population, and so on.

As we are having this very important debate about Quebec as a nation within Canada, we also should be opening up the doors to talk about first nations as a nation within Canada. While we are having this very important debate around Quebec as a nation, why do we not open that door to have that conversation around first nations peoples as nations? This is a missed opportunity.

In my province of British Columbia, we have seen so little progress over the decades in moving forward on treaties and land claims that people are giving up in despair, believing that they will never see a resolution in their lifetimes. I have told members before about a community elder who told me that he started at his grandfather's knee at the age of nine learning how to work toward treaty and land claims settlements. He is 63 now. His community still does not have a treaty. He is now training his grandchildren to take over his role in treaty and land claims settlement.

We are losing a generation. The Campaign 2000 poverty report that was released today states that one in four first nations children living on reserve is living in poverty, and that includes their families because children do not live in poverty in isolation.

In our country, we cannot even get the Conservative government to acknowledge the declaration on indigenous rights. What hope did first nations people have that a Conservative government, or the Liberal government before it, was willing to take the necessary steps to work in partnership with first nations, Métis and Inuit communities to ensure that living conditions were not substandard?

We will be supporting this motion. I urge other members of this House to consider that as well.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, for her excellent speech linking some of the aspects of other people struggles in this country to the struggles of Quebec in achieving its proper state in this country.

I live in the Northwest Territories where we have many aboriginal first nations that are actively pursuing self-government. They are actively moving forward to ensure that they have their nations well established in Canada. Key to their progress is an understanding of their culture and language. It certainly was not well supported with the taking away of aboriginal language programs by the government just recently.

As well, we have in my territory the first claim being negotiated by a Métis first nation, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, in Canada as a whole. Once again the need to hold onto their culture, their expression, and their history is so basic to nation building.

How are we building Canada as a nation? Right now in this Parliament we have the opportunity in nation building. We are going to be creating in the next while a special committee and the four parties in this Parliament are going to talk about nation building when it comes to dealing with the question of greenhouse gas emissions, the climate and the environment for the future. That is nation building as well.

To my hon. colleague, when we recognize the Québécois as a nation, how can this Parliament work to build Canadians as a nation across this country?

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic has really hit the nail on the head when he talks about the importance of language and culture in terms of building a nation.

In a press release by the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council, it condemned the Conservative government. It said that the aboriginal language program unilaterally cut by the minister was a betrayal to the B.C. first nations languages.

In British Columbia, which only gets 10% of the language funding, that is two-thirds of the language groups in the province. It was a great lesson for me when one of the Cowichan elders was teaching me some of the Hul'qumi'num language and was teaching me a word for heart which is “shqwaluwun”. I realized I could not understand the word unless I understood some of the culture.

It was a good lesson for me and for other Canadians that as we embrace languages and cultures, we cannot take language apart from culture. It is essential that when we are recognizing nations, that we recognize their right to determine their language and culture. We must encourage and support first nations communities, Inuit communities and Métis communities in continuing to keep their languages healthy and vital in order to maintain their culture.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have an opportunity today to speak in the House about my country, Canada. One of the reasons why I decided to go into federal politics is that I firmly believe in Canadian unity. That being said, I have been thinking about this issue for years, especially about Quebec's place within our federation.

The NDP recognizes that Quebeckers form a nation. At its convention, held just two months ago in Quebec City, the NDP supported without any hesitation the national character of Quebec, as it has done for 40 years. We believe in a strong Quebec within a united Canada. We also believe that ordinary Quebeckers will be better served if Quebec remains within Canada.

What does all that mean for me, a Vancouver-born Canadian of Russian and Ukrainian origin whose mother tongue is Russian? In my family, we were able to keep our culture and still be proud to be Canadians. I arrived in Quebec City in 1975 to learn French. I recall living on Crémazie Street. I was taking language training at the university and was beginning to understand the Quebec culture.

Since then, Quebec has become a special corner of my country, a place not like any other. I have had the opportunity to live in every major region of Canada and I must admit that every time I go back to Quebec I feel at home.

This might seem a little odd to my friends living in the West, but those who have spent time in Quebec think the same way. I have had the honour of living in Quebec a number of times: for a summer course in Chicoutimi; for three months in Trois-Rivières in 1989 with my wife: a few months in Quebec City; for visits with my friends in Thetford. In fact, I went to see them this summer before our convention in Quebec City.

In the 1990s, I was a French immersion teacher in British Columbia. At the time, I twice had the opportunity to bring a group of students to Thetford. That is when I first met my friends, the school teachers and their families. We have remained friends ever since. Every time I go there, I feel like I am going home. I want to thank Mike, Robert and Jocelyn.

It was thanks to SEVEC, the society for educational visits and exchanges in Canada, a federal program, that we were able to go on these exchanges. Is there a better way to get to know one another? Is there a better way to see both parts of the country? I was also able to send students to Quebec through a six-month exchange program. They spent three months in Quebec, and the Quebeckers spent three months with us. Imagine what it is like for a young student from British Columbia to stay and live with a Quebec family for three months. There is also the Katimavik program, which encourages young people to travel throughout Canada. It is important. I urge this government to maintain this program and every program of this nature.

All that is my personal experience, what I have been through and what I will continue to do. I met my wife, an American, in Martinique through a federal bursary program in the summer of 1986. French is our language of love. She is the one I spent three months with in Trois-Rivières and she is the one I went with to visit my friends in Thetford. When she speaks French I can even detect a slight Quebec accent.

I am not here to bring in so-called logical arguments to make sure Quebec continues to play an integral and important role in a united Canada. We know that there are many of those arguments. I am here to share with my colleagues, and especially with my friends from Quebec, my profound and heartfelt beliefs.

I hope with all my heart that the people of Quebec will decide to remain with us in the Canadian family.

Finally, we know that there are external forces that want to destroy our country and put pressure on us. I am alluding here, for example, to those who want to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board, who advocate corn dumping in Quebec and Ontario or want us to abide by the so-called global rules.

It is by remaining united, from coast to coast, that we can fight those external forces and preserve Canadian sovereignty.

A united Canada, independent and strong, will guarantee that the Quebec nation remains a full and strong member of the Canadian federation.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about nation, again I want to come back to the campaign 2000 report that was released today, I wonder if the member could comment on how he sees nationhood in the context of the fact that we have people in this country who are living in houses that are contaminated with mould, who do not have sufficient access to drinking water, who do not have enough money to pay for school supplies, and it goes on and on.

I wonder if the member could comment about that. When he talks about nation, what critical elements must be in place to building a strong, healthy nation in Canada?

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have a couple of concepts here. We have the idea of a nation within a country and we have the nation that we are talking about, Quebec. We have the nation of first nations. We have other nations who have a right to call themselves a nation within our federal context. However, the question that my hon. colleague addresses, that of poverty, that of injustice, vis-à-vis our first nations, is not acceptable.

In order to keep our country together, it is imperative that we address those concerns. We are only as rich as the poorest people. We are only as rich as those people who live in those outlying area, who can have access to water, and who can have access to all the good things that we all desire.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

I am honoured to rise today to speak in favour of the government motion, which reads as follows:

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

I am proud as a Canadian and as a member of this government to fight for one Canada, strong and united.

For me, a nation is a people, usually from the same geographic area, who largely share a common language, culture, history and sensibility. This describes les Québécoises et les Québécois.

We will soon be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City in 2008, a national celebration in which our government is a proud partner. We recognize that Quebec was and still is the cradle of the francophonie in North America. Over 400 years, despite the vagaries of history and changing powers, the Quebec people, the French language, their culture and traditions, survive because of the courage, the determination, the tenacity and the creativity of generations of les Québécois.

This is every Québécois' heritage, their strength and great source of pride. It is also Canada's heritage, our strength and our source of pride. Their unique history and place in our country is integral to who we are as Canadians. Les Québécois survived as a nation, from its founding as New France, through its days as a British colony, to the creation of Canada. This set the tone for the kind of country we were to become, the kind of country we wanted to be, and the Canada of today.

The spirit of tolerance, of cohabitation between English and French Canada leads directly to our Canada: a multicultural mosaic, enriched by peoples and cultures from all over the world. Our diversity, our openness, our freedom, our security and our way of life are the envy of the world.

A large part of where we are today and the good fortune we enjoy flow from the legacy of Quebec. From the first meetings of the aboriginal peoples and the French, to the arrival of other Europeans, followed by peoples from all over the world, we have become who we are together: one Canada. We cannot take away any one essential aspect of that totality. We must believe in a Canada as we know it and love it today.

We believe in a united Canada, but we also believe in a Canada that respects its provinces, territories and regions. That is why the Prime Minister signed an agreement with the premier of Quebec earlier this year to allow Quebec to fully participate in the work of UNESCO in conjunction with Canada.

Canada's new government has recognized the unique character of Quebeckers and their major national and international contribution in the fields of science, education and culture.

That is why this government is rigorously pursuing the ratification of the UNESCO convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. We will make sure that Canada's bilingual and diverse cultural character is faithfully reflected on the international scene.

Both I and my colleague, Madame Line Beauchamp, Quebec's minister of culture, are taking every opportunity to encourage our colleagues from other countries to pursue ratification of the convention.

As the Minister of Canadian Heritage, in recent months, I have had the opportunity to meet more than 50 representatives from Quebec cultural and artistic groups. These meetings have allowed me to get a better understanding of their reality.

I understand just how vibrant and innovative the cultural community of Quebec is and how important it is to the cultural life of all Canadians.

We recognize that language is an integral part of one's culture and heritage.

Quebec is recognized in this country and in the world for its artistic and cultural wealth, vitality and diversity. The innovative and creative spirit of Quebeckers is undeniable. There is no doubt that Quebec's talents, creativity and cultural dynamism are marks of excellence in our country and contribute to our country's growth on the international level.

Les Québécois enrich our country. Together we have a face in the international forum that is unique, strong and envied. Les Québécois bring an essential element to our identity as a country. That is our vision of Quebec. That is our vision of Canada. That is why I believe les Québécois et les Québécoises form a nation within a united Canada.

Canada is made up of small communities, neighbourhoods, families and individuals. Each one of us believes in a strong country. Each one of us believes that we work hard to contribute to our country and also to reap the benefits of living in such a fine country. We must embrace every individual, every neighbourhood, every community, every province and every nationality in order that we can remain strong and united. That includes les Québécoises et les Québecois.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta


Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to speak about the advantages today for the people of Quebec continuing to play their rightful role at the heart of the broader country they themselves have helped build, that is, Canada.

I want to focus in particular on the benefits to both Quebeckers and other Canadians of continuing to build on Canada's economic success story. Federal states such as Canada operate not only to preserve and promote diversity and allow for the harmonious co-existence of nations, but also to bring concrete benefits to all members of the federation.

The benefits of the political and economic union for Canada are among the most tangible.

When events around the world can disrupt economic activity, our strong, robust and integrated economy represents a tremendous advantage. In times of need or crisis, it is always a benefit to be able to rely on mutual support that Canadians in all parts of the country can offer each other. This is especially true today in the face of globalization and the rapidly evolving new rules that govern the international economy. These new developments are placing a premium on the ability of nations around the globe to achieve a degree of economic integration that safeguards and promotes their prosperity.

Economic integration is no longer a vague concept that only economists talk about. It has become a reality. Our economy is a global economy. The benefits of economic integration have been demonstrated and those countries that pay attention to the lessons to be learned reap the rewards of prosperity. Canada is one of those countries.

The focus on economic policy is not an end in itself, but a means to broaden the range of choices available to all members of our federation, including the choices on how to improve our quality of life made by individual Canadians themselves, by the larger communities of shared interests and national identity to which they belong, and by their federal, municipal and local governments. Quebeckers and other Canadians have long shared the same basic values: inter-regional sharing, a universal commitment to the best possible public services, respect for diversity, innovation and autonomy throughout the country, an undying belief in democracy and freedom, and mutual respect for other cultures.

Quebeckers and other Canadians also place a high value on living in a country that is healthy, safe and prosperous. Canada is a model for how countries can amplify the strengths of their component parts into a sum that is far stronger economically, and speaks with a far stronger voice in international economic forums than all of those component parts could ever do on their own.

We would do well to remember that Canada is not the first country where the weaving of strong economic and political ties has led to economic prosperity, nor is it alone in today's world.

Throughout history, there have been many examples of successful countries that have united the economic interests of their diverse constituents and prospered.

One of the great examples is that of Great Britain. Great Britain was and remains today a union of nations. Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was one of the principal architects, along with George-Étienne Cartier of not only our political confederation, but also of the Canadian economic union. He viewed himself as a Scot as well as a member of a larger nation that was Great Britain, as well as a Canadian.

John A. knew something about nations. He was also not afraid of words. On one occasion he said in referring to the people of Quebec:

Treat them as a faction and they will react like a faction. Treat them as a nation and they will react like a nation.

And like many Scots in the history of both Britain and Canada, members of the Québécois nation contributed greatly to Canada's economic development. Recognizing the Québécois as a nation is simply recognizing what they are and the historic role they have played and continue to play in advancing Canada's economic advantage.

Today, according to the OECD, Canada's economy is one of the strongest among OECD countries. In the OECD's view, Canada has worked steadily to become one of the world's most open economies.

Under the leadership of Canada's new government, our Prime Minister and our finance minister, Canada's economy is among the fastest growing in the G-7. We are on the best economic footing of any of the G-7 countries.

Recent public consultations and commissioned experts' work on Canada's internal market indicate that when compared to similar efforts to reform the economic union in Australia and in the European Union, Canada is still considered to be ahead of the EU and comparable to Australia in terms of economic integration.

But we still face major challenges. We need to further strengthen our economic union to improve our ability to compete in the global market. We need to reduce our remaining internal barriers to mobility and trade within Canada, and make Canada an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment.

We also need to continue speaking with a strong and united voice in defending and promoting open trade internationally. International trade remains a central driver of Canada's economy.

The advantages of pooling our economic strengths within a united Canada are as relevant today—in a globalized market and unstable world—as they ever were.

In the various international forums that are increasingly important in securing economic prosperity, it is as crucial as ever to speak with a strong, united voice.

After all, there is a world of difference between having the right to speak out and having the power to make oneself heard.

I submit that Quebeckers benefit greatly from being part of the Canadian voice and are heard more loudly as a consequence. It is certainly the case that all Canadians benefit greatly from having the voices of Quebeckers joining those of other Canadians in formulating the Canadian voice upon the international stage.

As a Canadian, but also as an Albertan who loves his province very deeply, I submit that advancing our common interests and values is best done by binding together. As history has shown, a strong and united country provides the best conditions for societies and economies to flourish.

Think of how deeply integrated our economy is. Think of how much stronger our voices are when speaking in unison.

I support this motion because I firmly believe we must do what we can to safeguard the vital ties that bind Quebeckers and other Canadians within a strong, united Canada.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions between all the parties, and I think you will find there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, in relation to private members' business, any votes deferred to Wednesday, November 29, 2006, be further deferred to Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 3 p.m.; and on Wednesday, November 29, 2006, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 5:30 p.m., and private members' business shall be cancelled.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the motion that this question be now put.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am proud to be a Quebecker. No, let me rephrase that. I am passionately proud to be a Canadian and passionately proud to be a Quebecker.

I would like to give a brief account of my personal history, not because it is an extraordinary history, but because, on the contrary, it reflects the history of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers.

On my maternal grandfather's side, I have Acadian roots, even though my grandfather, Louis Doucet, was born in Quebec and grew up there, including in Montreal. His roots went back to the area of the Maritimes known as Acadia.

My paternal grandfather came to Canada from Italy in the 1920s, via Ellis Island in New York. He became a barber and had a shop in the bus terminal on Craig Street, a building that no longer exists, where Montreal's convention centre now stands and where, in two weeks' time, my party and I will elect the next leader of the Liberal Party and the next Prime Minister of Canada.

My children speak both official languages. My two daughters are fluently bilingual and enjoy the fruits of English and French culture equally. My spouse is not from Quebec and is not French-speaking by birth. She comes from the west. She lived in Calgary, Alberta, for most of her life. But she is fully bilingual because, when she was five, her parents, who did not speak a word of French but were inspired by Trudeau's vision of Canada, decided to enrol her in a French immersion school. She now lives in Montreal. She is proud to be a Canadian, and she considers herself a Quebecker.

I would like to tell another anecdote, because it brings me to the central point of my speech. Because I have family in Alberta, I sometimes fly from Montreal to Calgary. One summer, on a plane, I sat next to a young, extremely dynamic francophone Quebecker, who had made a life for himself in Calgary. He was a general contractor who was caught up in the economic boom that has been going on in Calgary for the past few years.

I will support the government's motion on the nation of Quebec, but I cannot support the Bloc Québécois motion.

I can support one motion on the Quebec nation but not the other, and I will give my reasons.

Many people underscore the fact that the Quebec National Assembly has unanimously endorsed the idea of a Quebec nation. I would add that this is perfectly normal. The Quebec National Assembly is responsible for life within the boundaries of the province of Quebec. It is not responsible, in any direct way, for French-speaking minorities outside of Quebec.

The motion that the Bloc has presented is a territorial motion. It speaks of a Quebec nation as defined by the boundaries of the province of Quebec, and I cannot support a motion that takes a territorial view of the Quebec nation.

I do not believe it is the business of the federal government to define culture and society in a given province. It is ironic because whenever the federal government gets involved in grey areas of possibly provincial jurisdiction, many of the provincial premiers and provincial governments, rightly, and, of course, our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, protest. However, when it comes to having the federal government bestow a definition on a culture or a society within provincial boundaries, it does not seem to bother anyone.

I am supporting the government motion because it speaks about recognizing the Québécois as a nation, not the territory of Quebec, and that is very important. Because, like the young Québécois man with whom I shared a plane ride to Calgary, he was not living in Quebec. Many Canadians of French-speaking origin who live outside of Quebec believe themselves to be and think of themselves as being Québécois because they trace their ancestry to those French-speaking people who came and settled in New France which became Quebec. The French-speaking people in eastern Ontario or in New Brunswick can identify themselves as Québécois, descendants of Quebec, of New France.

The other reason that I prefer the Quebec nation definition in the government's motion is that it allows for self-identification. It does not say that because people live in Quebec they must consider themselves Québécois. Some people are proud Quebeckers and some of them in my riding and in other ridings love Quebec. But they prefer not to identify themselves as Québécois as strongly as maybe others. The element of self-identification is very important.

If all parties agree to support this motion today to designate Quebec as a nation in a motion of Parliament, not in a law and not in a constitutional amendment, if we feel comfortable with that idea, it would be in no small measure because of successive measures and laws by successive Liberal governments that have built the modern Canada that we know, that have created the framework in which we can recognize, legally and constitutionally, the rights of a French-speaking society from coast to coast to coast. Whether we speak of the Official Languages Act or of the minority language education guarantees in the Charter of Rights, we have created, through successive Liberal governments and through the vision of Pierre Trudeau, a society, a country that includes a French-speaking society from coast to coast to coast of which many of those French-speaking Canadians can identify themselves as Québécois.

I know my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and their Parti Québécois cousins in Quebec will try to use this as a pretext to continue with their independence agenda. If they do take that road, we must remind Canadians of the strength of this country, of our belief in the equality of Canadians and in the fundamental equality of provinces, and that through working with all the provinces and nations within this country we can create something very unique in the world, a society where people come together in solidarity to protect fundamental social values that we all share, values of social justice, values that have led to policies such as medicare and values that have made this country great.

I will be supporting the government's motion because it is not a territorial motion. I obviously will not be supporting the Bloc's motion, which, as I said, is a pretext for carrying on the fight for an independent Quebec.

The QuébécoisGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to a motion that goes to the heart of what it means to be a Canadian. As a Canadian from the centre of Canada, Manitoba, today's motion is an opportunity to remind ourselves what is at stake not only for the Québécois but also for all Canada.

The success of our country has not happened by accident. It is not something which can or should be taken for granted. We think of Canada as a young country, a country, as has often been said, with more geography than history. It is, therefore, ironic that this young country should also be one of the oldest democracies and one of the oldest federations on the planet.

Canada represents a paradigm shift from the 19th century nationalism of a nation state based on cultural, linguistic and ethnic homogeneity. Canada was premised on the concept of diversity as a permanent characteristic. 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.

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 country which embraced our diversity. Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, stated very well:

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 to 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.

Cartier stated in the Confederation debates:

We could not legislate for the disappearance of the French Canadians from American soil, but British and French Canadians alike could appreciate and understand their position relative to each other.

He went on to say, “It is a benefit rather than otherwise to have a diversity of races”.

From a historical perspective, we have a long tradition of dealing with the accommodations necessary in a society with two important language groups. The federal structure is perhaps the most obvious, but by no means the only structure possible.

In the context of a North America which is overwhelming English-speaking, the Canadian federation has provided the framework for an effective commitment to the continuity and survival of a French speaking society centred in, but not limited to, Quebec.

Today it is hard to imagine any other arrangement which would have served us so well and one which, 140 years later, is still a model for the world.

The challenge of accommodating diversity is perhaps one of the most difficult facing the world today. The recent debate in Quebec on what constitutes reasonable accommodation for religious minorities is echoed in similar debates across the globe.

Diversity is a modern reality. Most states in Europe, Asia or Africa contain a variety of languages, religions and cultures, and many of the most successful in dealing with this diversity have chosen a federal system of government. Looked at from a contemporary world viewpoint, it is the apparently homogenous states that are the exception.

The nation state, which implies the parallel occurrence of a state and an ethnic nation, is extremely rare. In fact, there are no ideal nation states. Existing states differ from this ideal in two ways: the population includes minorities; and they do not include all the national groups in their territory.

Today, Canada is a prosperous, 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 the respect of human rights. Today, more than ever, we understand that accommodating pluralism is not merely a political necessity, but also a source of pride and enrichment which reflects Canadian values.

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

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

Today, nearly one million Canadians report an aboriginal identity. This is also a rapidly growing segment of our population.

Canada is increasingly urban and multicultural. In 2001 nearly 80% of Canadians lived in cities of over 10,000. Today, Canada's immigration population represents 41% of the growth in 2004 and new Canadians tend to settle in our major urban centres. Between 1996 and 2001, Toronto received more than 445,000 immigrants, 180,000 settled in Vancouver and 126,000 in Montreal.

Beyond accommodating regional preferences and diversity, the Canadian federation has provided an environment which is complementary to national, provincial and cultural identities, all of which have flourished. Federalism allows and encourages experimentation in political, social and economic matters.

Quebec is inescapably in the heart of the Canadian dream. Canada's values have been shaped by the challenge of understanding each other and responding to the presence of two major language communities with courage, generosity and sensitivity. Each successive generation of Canadians has had to face this challenge.

The choice we have made expresses our shared hopes for the future of this vast land and has made us the envy of the world. Anyone who has travelled extensively outside our borders knows that Canada remains one of the world's most favoured nations. Our prosperity and our civility are the product of much hard work and cannot be taken for granted.

Canada is a pluralistic society not only because we have the diversity that is the makeup of our population, whether it be linguistic, cultural, ethnic or regional, but more important, because we have come to understand that these differences contribute to our national community.

Across the country Canadians work together in a variety of ways to build a better nation that either group could not build in isolation. As a result, Canada has become a model for other countries. In a world with some 6,000 languages and only 200 states, pluralism is the norm, not the exception.

Success requires a uniquely Canadian talent, the ability to work together and transcend our diversity. This vision of Canada as a nation, inspired by generosity and tolerance, has repeatedly triumphed over the narrow ethnic tribalism.

Canadians in Quebec and across the country are proud of our success. Our Canada includes a strong, vibrant francophone Quebec. Canada and Canadians have every reason to be proud of our francophone heritage, which is centred in Quebec and very much alive across Canada. It enriches our public life, arts and culture and is a source of cultural enrichment for millions of Canadians who speak French as a first or second language.

Canada's diversity is a source of strength from which all Canadians benefit. Our respect for diversity has in no small manner contributed to the enviable reputation we enjoy throughout the world. We would not have it any other way.

I am, like much of humanity, genuinely perplexed by the desire of certain intellectuals in Quebec to form an independent state. This is why I support the motion of the Conservative Party. We are a strong Canada. We respect the great contribution that the Québécois have given our nation.

I am also very appreciative of my friends in Quebec and the Québécois for exposing me to another language. I have undergone French language training. I am only beginning, but I would like to continue it because I want to be able to reach out to my friends in Quebec. Canada is a great country and I hope, after this motion is passed, we can focus on the things that matter to all Canadians: the economy, health care, justice.

We all want hope. We all want to live the Canadian dream and that dream includes the Québécois in a united and free Canada. As it says in our national anthem, “God keep our land glorious and free”.

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1:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

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1:10 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, my name is not on the list of members who are to speak to this motion today. I believe there was a mistake. I am supposed to speak to Bill C-278.

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1:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

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1:10 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec


Christian Paradis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to show my support for the motion put forward this week by the Prime Minister. I consider this an historic moment.

Yesterday, my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin shared a number of quotations to clearly illustrate the current state of affairs in Quebec. I find it very interesting that he quoted great Quebec premiers such as Daniel Johnson, Jean Lesage and Robert Bourassa.

I will not list all of them here, but something came out of all that. It is a fact. Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.

Why is it a fact? Because Quebec has a specific culture, one that is based on the French language, its own history and its French heritage. This is very important because this creates something extraordinary. In Canada, our country, we have two main cultures. One is English and the other is French. This is what enriches our country.

For my part, I will give the following example: I was trained as a lawyer. I studied law in the early 1990s. What I found fascinating during my studies was that Quebec has a civil law system, but it also has to consider the whole common law system, which comes from British law. It is an asset. Few places in the world give us access to such an asset. Lawyers in Quebec, in Montreal, are in demand because they have a double knowledge of the culture of law.

Such examples show what our country is today. Quebeckers come from one of the founding peoples of Canada, our country. In all the numerous Canadian institutions, Quebec has left its mark. It is a great asset.

I take this opportunity to recognize the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown this week. He did something courageous. It is the first time that this issue has been brought explicitly before the federal Parliament. The Prime Minister agreed that the debate should take place here.

Although this is a given in Quebec, and people are aware of it and it is part of their lives, the Prime Minister felt that he had to take a stand on this issue. This is in keeping with the fundamental view of government held by our party, which wishes to exercise an open federalism and not centralize everything as the previous government tried to do.

Each region in our country is different from the next and each is equally rich in its own way. This diversity has enriched our country. I believe that open federalism will enable us to evolve. The same applies to the discussion of any issue: the less we debate the issue, the less chance that we will arrive at a complete understanding.

In our country, we have various points of view that make Canada what it is today, a credible and recognized global leader.

I am pleased that the words “united Canada” are part of the motion. Personally, when I entered politics as a Conservative, I believed in open federalism. We must not be satisfied with defending the interests of Quebec. We must promote them. We must move forward and take the offensive.

We live in a united Canada and we are moving our interests in that direction.

I believe that is how we will succeed. We will not succeed by arriving with the idea of separation.

These are my points of view that I wished to put forward today. I will be pleased to support this motion.

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1:15 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech from the member opposite and found it quite interesting.

One of the primary difficulties or impediments that I see with respect to the motion by the Bloc is that, by my reading of it, it speaks not at all to those French speaking Canadians who live outside the province of Quebec, some half a million in Ontario alone, let alone all of those other thousands and thousands of French speaking Canadians who live in other provinces.

I would like the member opposite to comment on his view of that and whether or not the motion by the Prime Minister, which refers specifically to the Québécois, is in fact as significant as I see it to be.

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1:15 p.m.


Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Of course, when I say that I support the motion introduced by the Prime Minister which recognizes that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, I think that the word “Québécois” makes sense because we talk about all Quebeckers, no matter where they are.

Thus, it is a fundamental perspective that takes this aspect into account and reflects the Prime Minister's wisdom; I think that it is important to go that way.

Once again, I express my support for the Prime Minister's motion. I think that it is a big step forward and I am proud to say that we recognize the fact that Quebec is a nation in a united Canada. One does not contradict the other.

Once again, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say that Quebec's culture enriches Canada. Even though it is a statement of fact, even though everybody knows that it has been there for many years, it is satisfying, and, from a historical point of view, it is important that the Prime Minister of Canada is now ready to recognize that fact with a motion like the one he introduced this week.

I think it is a courageous gesture that will be beneficial to our country's unity and one that represents a great step forward.

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1:15 p.m.


Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am a Franco-Ontarian member, but I would also like to explain or point out that my roots are in Quebec.

My grandfather and my father were born in Quebec City, and my father's family, with the same last name, also lives in Quebec.

As a family, we are very proud of our contribution to our country. We are also very proud of our heritage. My colleague here lives in Quebec. He comes from Quebec and his constituents live in Quebec as well.

I would like to know whether he can share with the House his constituents' feelings and views about our motion.

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1:20 p.m.


Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his interesting question. It is very interesting indeed. My constituents are very pleased with what is happening today because we are talking about open federalism.

Once again, we see that the Prime Minister of Canada wants to move things forward and make things work for our country's unity. That is leadership, and it shows that he is really listening to Quebeckers.

I speak on behalf of my riding, but it is clear that this motion is welcome in all regions of Quebec. People are ready to talk about it and they want to hear people talk about it. Putting forward a motion like this one, which is about recognizing reality and has nothing to do with abstract ideas, shows the path that the government plans to take by creating open federalism, correcting the fiscal imbalance, recognizing Quebeckers for who they are and valuing their immeasurable contribution to Canadian culture.