Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the permission of the House to split my time with the hon. member for Drummond. I therefore understand that I have five minutes left and that my colleague will have 10 minutes.
Before question period, I was saying how proud I was to belong to a political party that had introduced a motion of national recognition—when you really think about it—and how much I believe, with all due respect to the other political parties, that no one else in this House could have introduced such a motion.
We appreciate the support of our NDP colleagues, but we saw before question period the extent to which the government and the Liberals had joined forces to fight obstinately side by side. When it comes to recognizing the weight of Quebec's language rights, the two centralizing parties stand shoulder to shoulder, incapable of giving content or substance to the recognition of the Quebec nation.
I want to make three points. First, what the Bloc is seeking is recognition for Bill 101. Camille Laurin said it was an act of national redress. For a very long time in the history of Quebec, it was considered acceptable that people who came to Quebec as immigrants learned English before learning French. It was, of course, impossible to accept that situation. Demographically speaking, the struggle for the survival of the French fact and the influence of anglophones in Quebec and Canada can never be considered in the same terms.
The Bloc Québécois motion also asks whether it is true that we are a nation, whether it is true that we have a history, whether it is true that we have a legal system, whether it is true that we occupy the land in our own way, whether it is true that we have a cultural life and whether it is true that we have different traditions from those of English Canada. We do not claim that they are superior; we claim that they are different. We are seeking recognition of the principal vehicle for the expression of this cultural reality, the Charter of the French Language, that is, our own vernacular, which is French.
Two members of the Bloc Québécois tabled bills. One member proposed an amendment to the Official Languages Act to recognize the French language as Quebec's only official language. When a member of the House of Commons rises to say that French is Quebec's only official language, his statement carries the weight of historical fact, because all governments in the National Assembly have recognized that. This is not a partisan issue.
The French fact also raises a distinction with respect to strategies for integration. I was not just talking through my hat when I said that this is a non-partisan issue.
Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, the minister responsible for immigration under Robert Bourassa's government in the 1990s, who is still the member for Saint-François in the National Assembly, suggested that immigrants be party to a “moral contract”. The moral contract comprised five elements. It recognized that French was the official language, the language of the common public culture. Things like that prove that historically, Quebec never supported ethnic nationalism, and that is even truer today. Anyone who knows or wants to learn French and who lives in Quebec is a Quebecker.
Gérald Godin, poet, former minister of cultural communities and member for Mercier, who defeated Robert Bourassa in 1976, quite rightly said that there are 100 ways to be a Quebecker.
But the 100 ways of being a Quebecker have to converge in one and the same reality, which is knowledge, learning and promotion of French.
In 1990, Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay, who is not a sovereigntist, who is not a separatist, proposed a moral integration contract in response to multiculturalism. There were a number of elements, among them knowledge of French and the fact that Quebec is a secular society. As far as the operation of institutions is concerned, Quebec is a secular society, which does not mean that people are not entitled to their religious life or to deep faith. That is not the issue.
We asked for a third element, namely recognition of the democratic culture that comes about by participating in Quebec’s democratic institutions. It may be remembered that Quebec is one of the oldest democracies in North America, if not the oldest. That is certainly true when it comes to the parliamentary system, which came about with the Constitution Act of 1791 and where the first Speaker of the National Assembly was, if I am not mistaken, Mr. Panet. I know that there are history teachers in this place, and I would hate to be wrong.
So, we have knowledge of French, development of democratic institutions, acceptance of the fact that Quebec is a secular society and another element in that moral integration contract for immigrants, an extremely important value that we had occasion to recall during the proceedings of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, namely that Quebec is a society which puts men and women on an equal footing. We do not accept the view that women are inferior or men are superior.
We ask immigrants to believe in the equality of men and women. After Pierre Elliott Trudeau, it was the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney—I do not know if I evoke good or bad memories in this House when I utter his name—who in 1988 passed the Multiculturalism Act.
The message of multiculturalism is that you can retain your original cultural without taking part in the common public culture of your host society. All governments, Robert Bourassa, Jacques Parizeau and the others promoted interculturalism. That is what the Bloc québécois wants, and the Quebec Conservative caucus votes for this motion out of national pride.