Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-34, establishing the national museum of immigration in Halifax. The Bloc Québécois is dedicated to the interests and the defence of Quebec, a role that we have fulfilled effectively for 20 years. Any attempt by the federal government—indeed, any temptation it may have—to weaken Quebec's powers, meddle in its jurisdictions or go against its interests will be opposed by the Bloc Québécois. Let there be no mistake about that.
Having said that, the Bloc Québécois's role in Ottawa is not and never has been to hinder the development of Canada's provinces. As the Bloc Québécois official languages critic, I have always worked very hard for the francophone and Acadian communities of Canada and listened carefully to Quebec anglophones. Once again this year, it was this openness to the rest of Canada that led the Bloc Québécois leader to tour English Canada to increase awareness about our ideas.
My point is that the Bloc Québécois supports the creation of an immigration museum in Halifax. Moreover, it agrees that this matter should be handled swiftly in order for Nova Scotians and tourists alike to benefit from it as quickly as possible.
I will come back to the museum in a moment, because I must point out that it is very unfortunate that the government has not acted as swiftly with the Science and Technology Museum.
Twenty-eight years ago, the federal government made a promise to the people of the Outaouais that it would move the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. The unfortunate closure in 2007 of the Domtar mill, the oldest pulp and paper mill in Canada and Quebec, housed in the old E.B. Eddy plant in the Hull sector, was a tragedy for many forestry workers in Gatineau. The government could turn this tragedy into something more positive by relocating the Science and Technology Museum to this heritage building. The old match factory could be revived, in a way.
Michelle Guitard, a historian and specialist in industrial heritage, agreed in an article that appeared on the website ruefrontenac.com on January 24, 2010, and I quote:
The federal government must acquire this site...It cannot let this go. [If it were to do so,] it would show that the government has absolutely no sense of what made Canada what it is today, the importance of the first nations and of the pulp and paper industry.
On February 16, Michel Prévost, the chair of the Outaouais historical society, spoke to Radio-Canada about developing the Chaudière Falls sector and transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau. He said, “Let us hope that this dream will become a reality sooner rather than later”.
Just this morning, the following article appeared on page 8 of Le Droit:
Officials responsible for the [Gatineau science and technology museum] project must now consider wedging the museum inside an abandoned paper factory dating from the mid-1800s. Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show officials have already begun surveying the old E.B. Eddy Co. factory in Gatineau as a possible location for the museum.
The documents suggest that the location meets the needs of the new museum because it includes elements of past, present and future and it is close to downtown.
The collections are currently located in an industrial park far from the downtown core, inside a bakery warehouse the federal government bought in 1967. The location was intended to be temporary, but 43 years later the Canada Science and Technology Museum remains a national orphan.
This contrasts with statements from the Conservative minister responsible for the Outaouais, the member for Pontiac, who is being a real killjoy on this issue.
People in Saint-Constant have been waiting for Exporail to be recognized as the national railway museum since 2007. A report about that from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was adopted in the House on March 1, 2007, but since then, for some unknown reason, the federal government has done nothing.
My colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant pushed hard for that recognition. She is still pushing for it. But unfortunately, recognition does not seem to mean much to this government. Maybe the Conservatives think that they have more to gain from the immigration museum in Halifax than from Exporail in Saint-Constant or from transferring the Science and Technology Museum to Gatineau.
The point is that this government has done nothing to develop federal museums in Quebec.
That being said, an immigration museum is a good idea. In order to know where we are going, we should know where we come from.
Because of Quebec's minority situation, immigration has always had a special status and a special role to play. As Louis Balthazar told the Bouchard-Taylor commission:
Quebeckers have experienced ethnic pluralism for a long time: aboriginals, Scottish and Irish anglophones, Jews, Italians, etc.
But, because of the Durham report, immigration was perceived as necessarily favouring the anglophone minority. Consequently, beginning in 1840, French Canadians turned inward while still living under British rule and being influenced by both the British model and American ideas. Most immigrants were English-speaking.
As a result, it was alarming to realize that the birth rate was dropping, especially at a time when francophone Quebeckers wanted to establish themselves as the majority in Quebec.
Something new has been happening since the end of the 1960s. An immigration department was established. Federal-provincial agreements were signed outlining the Quebec government's role in immigration: in 1971, a presence in federal offices; 1975, Quebec offices overseas; 1978, selection; 1990, welcome and integration. Quebec's 1975.
Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and 1977 Charter of the French Language are the two pillars of modern Quebec society and lay the foundations for the harmonious integration of immigrants.
Will this particular dimension of immigrant integration and the fear that it created in under-educated Quebec, notably due to the mass arrival of anglophones, be reflected in this new museum in Halifax?
Will the bitter negotiations between Quebec and Ottawa to allow Quebec to control immigration based on its own interest and the integration of immigrants into a French society within North America be presented in this new museum in Halifax?
We cannot forget that, for close to 20 years, Quebec negotiated with the federal government in order to acquire more power over the selection and integration of its immigrants. Four administrative agreements were signed by the Quebec government and Ottawa to this effect.