Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this interesting debate on this Liberal Party opposition day.
In the past few hours I have been re-reading the Liberal Party opposition motion. This is nothing short of a motion of defiance. I would say we are on the brink of having an election, judging by this motion. There is so much to criticize about this government that has been in power for a year and a few weeks.
I want to start with the opposite of what my colleague from Moncton said. In other words, I will start by talking about court challenges. I sat on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and we heard from representatives of Canada's linguistic minorities. They explained to us the importance of this right to bring a challenge in the courts and what a small portion of the federal budget this right represented, compared to the impact it will have on the stakeholders.
It is devastating. I hope that someone from the other side of the House will listen. What this government did by cutting this program, that barely cost anything but gave rights to the communities, is devastating. I am talking about francophone communities outside Quebec and, of course, anglophone communities in Quebec. With respect to francophones outside Quebec, just one example will suffice to show this House the importance of the court challenges program. I am talking about the Montfort Hospital.
We heard from people representing the hospital. They explained that the few thousands of dollars they received allowed them to appeal to the Supreme Court. The minister, who was President of the Treasury Board, but has since changed portfolios and is now the Minister of the Environment, said that he was proud to announce to the representatives of the Montfort Hospital that they had won. I find this outrageous and hypocritical. I could use other words that are unparliamentary, but I will let you use your imagination. These people had to fight the government, but they managed to win their case before the Supreme Court. If the government, represented then by the now Minister of the Environment, had truly been in agreement, then it should have just reimbursed all the legal costs.
I think that the court challenges program must be brought back in as soon as possible because it is critical to the survival of cultural minorities in this country. Over the next five or six years, several francophone communities could disappear if they do not get the rights they have a right to—pardon the redundancy—to file appeals with the courts.
Let me go a little farther with that and talk about this government's hypocrisy—yes, hypocrisy—with respect to the summer career placement program. I live in a region called Abitibi—Témiscamingue that I am proud to have represented for nearly two and a half years now. We never thought that the summer career placement program was a social assistance program for students. We still do not think so. We fought for it and we asked for a program that would bring students to our regions, keep them there, and enable them to pursue their studies in areas that interest them.
Last year, I saw students in pharmacy, accounting, administration, tourism and more come back to Abitibi—Témiscamingue to spend the summer there rounding out their studies.
I just do not understand. Nobody, not even the minister, has been able to explain to us why they are cutting such an important program. Even if they tried, they could not find a better way to score a direct hit on Quebec than to cut the summer career placement program.
Why? Because unfortunately for young people from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, there is no pharmacy school in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Unfortunately for us, forestry engineers are still being trained at Université Laval. Same thing goes for mining engineers and everything that has to do with tourism development. They get their training somewhere other than Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Young people from our region who want to further their education in those sectors have to go to university or even CEGEPs or vocational schools outside of our region. For example, the closest veterinary school is in Saint-Hyacinthe.
The summer career placement program provided an opportunity to bring first-, second- and third-year students back to the regions, where they could find a job in their field of interest, such as with farmers or veterinarians, or even in accounting firms in the regions. Thus, students were able maintain a link to our region. By cutting this program, the government is forcing our students to stay in Montreal, Quebec City, Saint-Hyacinthe, Jonquière, or elsewhere in Quebec, rather than returning to our region for the summer to develop their skills.
We are preparing ourselves for the worst in our regions. We will fight this. I also hope that someone on the other side of the House will become enlightened, whether by the Holy Spirit, Mohammed or Buddha, and understand how important it is for the regions to preserve the summer career placement program. It is essential for our regions. If the Conservatives fail to understand, they will be reminded once again during the next election, certainly in Quebec and likely in other areas across Canada.
If that were the only issue, we could probably accept it once again, but there is something else. I would like to talk about the judiciary. Let me just mention what the Prime Minister said yesterday in the House. It was rather strange. Yesterday, in response to a question asked in this House, the Prime Minister said that they want to make sure that they are bringing forward laws to make sure to crack down on crime and make our streets and communities safer. So far, I think everyone can agree on that. Where he went wrong is when he said that they want to make sure that their selection of judges is in correspondence with those objectives.
I call that profiling. That is what the government is doing. This is condemned by the Barreau du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association. The government is telling us, quite openly, that there will be profiling. This is unacceptable, completely unacceptable.
I know, because I have sat on judicial selection committees. What we want to know about future judges is whether they can hand down a judgment and whether they can do so independently of political and public opinion. This is an essential quality that we look for in judges.
With the announcement the Prime Minister made yesterday, we think that this will no longer be the case. The risk is that candidates for judgeships in the highest courts—the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Québec and the Court of Appeal—will be asked whether they are willing to be harsher, lean more to the right and enforce more strictly the legislation we could adopt. This legislation has not yet been adopted.
Given what Canada is going through at present, it is a good thing that this government does not have a majority. It is a good thing. I hope that Canadians and Quebeckers will understand that if an election is held, this government must not be given a majority.
If you look closely at this government, it is easy to see that it is a right-wing government modelled on George Bush's government in the United States. That is very dangerous for us. We have only to look at the role right-wing ideology is playing in judicial appointments.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was told that the government wanted to have police officers on selection committees and was asked why appeal court judges were on the committees. We believe, we hope and we know, because we have frequently pleaded before them: judges are independent and want to stay that way. Judicial independence should be a priority when judges are appointed in this country.
That is not all. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who just a few months ago was the Prime Minister of this country, the member for Wascana, who was the Minister of Finance in the former government, and the member for Fredericton, who was the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs until the election, came to testify before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, on which I sit as the Bloc Québécois critic. They came to testify. We asked these three guests specific questions about the Kelowna accord.
I will repeat the question I asked the three guests.
As far as the $5.2 billion is concerned, for implementing the Kelowna accord and allowing the aboriginals of this country to take just a small step toward catching up with the rest of Canadians, we had asked whether this money was in addition to the money the Department of Indian Affairs already had. The response from the three guests, the hon. members for LaSalle—Émard, Wascana and Fredericton, was “yes”.
This government has not respected an agreement signed between nations. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was then Prime Minister and he did not sign the Kelowna accord as the member for LaSalle—Émard, but as the Prime Minister of this country. As for Phil Fontaine, he signed as Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Canada. It was nation to nation and when we look at the documents, this is precisely what was set out.
There is therefore a $5.2 billion shortfall. This money was earmarked in the budget and was withdrawn and transferred elsewhere by this government. The residences in the aboriginal communities of this country are currently still in the 19th century. We all know how cold it is outside. This evening, when I go back to my riding, I will go by an aboriginal community in the La Vérendrye wildlife sanctuary. In this community, which is called Kitcisakik, people still get water with a pail. In Winneway, an aboriginal community in Témiscamingue, there is so much mould on the walls of a number of the homes that they have to be destroyed.
There is a shortfall of $5.2 billion, which was allocated and which will not be there to help the aboriginal communities make up for lost time.
One thousand homes were to be built for the Inuit and the aboriginal peoples of this country, and that will not be done. Knowing that the birth rate among aboriginal women of this country is 3.4 per woman, we realize that there is currently a population explosion. If nothing is done, there will be major health problems.
How is it that today, in 2007, aboriginal communities have the highest rate of tuberculosis in Canada? That is unacceptable. That does not make sense. This government must absolutely listen to reason and realize that it is headed down a dead-end street. It must get back to reality and realize that the first nations need additional monies to survive.
To conclude, I will say that we will be voting in favour of the Liberal motion because the one thing we want is for this government to understand that it can no longer continue down the path it has taken. This has to stop. It must rethink its decision and understand. There is no way we are going to allow right-wing judges, with a conservative ideology, to be appointed in this country. There is no way. There is no way we are going to axe programs such as the summer career placement program. That is unacceptable.
I think it is totally unacceptable for the $5.2 billion earmarked for aboriginal peoples to be reallocated. This government must be made to understand that we can no longer tolerate this situation.