Mr. Speaker, I hope the member is listening, because I will respond, but first I want to say that I will share my time with my extraordinary colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
The member for Lévis—Bellechasse can fill in his colleague seated next to him. Five amendments were proposed in the Meech Lake accord. That is the starting point. Quebec is at a crossroads now because the Meech Lake accord was not signed. If the Meech Lake accord had been signed, things in Canada and Quebec would be quite different.
Quebec's demands were: first, the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society and of the existence of the French fact and the English fact; second, a constitutional veto for Quebec and the other provinces regarding certain major amendments to the Constitution; third, a province's right to opt out, with full compensation, of any federal program in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction; fourth, increased provincial powers in the area of immigration; fifth, provincial input in the federal government's appointment of the three Supreme Court judges from Quebec. We will come back to that fifth point.
It is unacceptable for the Conservative members from Quebec to say that they cannot support legislation that would require Supreme Court judges, not to be bilingual, but to be able to understand the proceedings of the Supreme Court in both English and French. That is completely unacceptable. That point only reinforces my belief that the only option for Quebec is to become sovereign, because we would then be able to administer our own taxes and our own laws.
I heard members say, as an excuse, that if we required Supreme Court judges to understand the two languages, it would prevent unilingual francophones from sitting on the Supreme Court. When I hear such ridiculous statements—and that is exactly what I have heard, maybe not in the House, but in committee—I find it totally unacceptable.
I do not know of a single lawyer or judge in the Supreme Court who was a unilingual francophone. However, I can say that I know at least three who spoke only English. These were Supreme Court judges. How did they understand proceedings in the Supreme Court? The Lord only knows, but I sure do not.
It is important to read this motion. I will repeat it for my colleague who does not understand:
That this House acknowledge that federalism cannot be renewed, since 20 years after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebec still does not have the power to choose three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada, or to opt out with compensation from federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction, nor does it have a real veto over constitutional amendments and its status as a nation still has not been recognized in the Canadian Constitution.
I heard my colleague say earlier that he was proud of the fact that Quebec was recognized as a nation within a united Canada. That is not a nation. A nation is France, Spain or Portugal. Those are nations that have shared central powers, for instance, regarding the army in some cases, a common currency—the Euro—and defence, for example, as well as other areas.
To be a nation, it means having all the powers a nation has. We will never have them all with this government. An extremely important factor for this government is the federal spending power.
When the Constitution was drafted in 1866—it was ratified in 1867, but the work began in Charlottetown in 1864—one of the powers that was granted to the central government was spending power. This power is extremely important to the central power because it allows it—and this is the crux of the problem—to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction and Quebec jurisdiction.
These include, for instance, education, culture and of course, the whole area of immigration. Yes, immigration comes under federal jurisdiction. That remained, but there was an agreement with Quebec. That deal is being scuttled more and more. The federal spending power has no limits and allows the federal government to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction.
How is it that Ottawa has a health department with 10,000 public servants, yet it does not run any hospital? The only hospital that was under federal jurisdiction was the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Hospital in the riding of my colleague the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges. It will soon be under Quebec jurisdiction because Veterans Affairs no longer wants to take care of it. Why? Because it is too expensive. According to Veterans Affairs, there are fewer veterans. That is false. It all puts a strain on things.
Today I looked at the whole justice file. This entire file is extremely important and sensitive. The current government is making altogether regressive laws, but we know that the administration of justice comes under provincial jurisdiction. So what happens? The provinces will have to pay more and more to enforce the absolutely regressive laws that the Conservative government wants to adopt.
One thing is extremely important. If Quebec were a nation, as they on the other side seem to be saying, it would not be standing, practically hidden behind the curtains, at UNESCO meetings. During international meetings, Quebec could be seated at the table and could take part in the discussions.
The best example is the French fact. How can the government be the one looking after the French fact and the French language around the world when it is not even able to look after bilingualism in its own organizations?
We asked for a law. All we asked here, in the House, was that Bill 101 apply to federal institutions in Quebec. For those who do not know—and there seem to be many on the other side—Bill 101 is a law that allows Quebeckers to speak French in their workplaces and that ensures that French is the language of work. How it is possible that they are not even able to enforce this law? They are not able to apply it to federal civil servants who work for federally regulated agencies or companies in Quebec.
This raises all sorts of questions. There are many possible answers, but only one is realistic. We feel it is obvious that Quebec will never receive its fair share as part of this country. I am not the one who said it. “I appreciate that the House is based on proportional representation.” That was said on May 17, 2007. “But I wonder whether there might be special measures to protect Quebec, which represents the main linguistic minority in Canada”. That did not come from us. It was said by Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's minister of intergovernmental affairs.
I would like to finish with a quotation that I feel is important: “My dear friends, as the days and weeks pass, one thing becomes crystal clear in our minds: Quebec is our one and only country.”