Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in opposition to Bill C-12.
From the outset, I would like to say that this bill on democratic representation is a deliberate affront to the Quebec nation. The bill is an attack against the Quebec nation launched by the Canadian federalist parties because it is an attempt to reduce the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons. Reducing the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons is unacceptable to Quebeckers.
When the Canadian federation was created in 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. I remain hopeful that Quebec will leave this federation. I am a staunch sovereignist and when I see a bill like this before the House of Commons, I feel an even greater urgency. I believe that it is even more pressing for Quebec to leave the Canadian federation. That day will come, I hope, and that is what I am fighting for.
This bill is unacceptable to Quebeckers. In 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. If Bill C-12 were passed, that proportion would decrease to 22.4%, which is less than the Quebec nation's current demographic weight within Canada. There is an attempt to lessen our political weight within the Canadian federation. This is another great contradiction from the Conservative Party; a party that boasts that it has recognized the Quebec nation. And yet, it is quite clear that it does not recognize the Quebec nation, Quebec’s identity, Quebecker’s culture or their language. The Conservative Party even wants to see Quebec’s political weight diminished. That is a pity. It is an unacceptable step backwards in light of the current representation we enjoy in the House.
Many people will say that it is a Conservative Party strategy aimed at attaining a majority. That may well be true, but this bill is not democratic and in no way respects the Quebec nation. As a number of my Bloc Québécois colleagues have already stated in the House, the Bloc Québécois unanimously opposes this bill. We will do everything in our power to prevent it from passing.
This is a minority government and an election may be triggered within days or weeks. Our objective is for this attempt to further marginalize and diminish Quebec’s culture and identity to become an issue in Quebec in the coming election. Imagine every Conservative and Liberal member of Parliament and candidate for election telling Quebeckers that when there was an attempt to reduce Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons they sat on their hands and went so far as to vote in favour of a policy to diminish the political weight of the Quebec nation. I am referring here to the Conservatives and Liberals from Quebec. It is truly shameful.
Make no mistake. This bill is a direct assault on the fundamental rights of the Quebec nation. That is why we moved the following motion in the House on April 20, 2010:
That the House denounce the fact that the government seeks to marginalize the Quebec nation by introducing a bill to decrease Quebec’s political weight in the House, and that it affirm that Quebec Members of Parliament, who represent a nation, must hold at least 25% of the seats in the House.
This motion was our response—the response of Quebeckers—to Bill C-12. It was defeated by the Conservatives and by the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that continues to oppose Quebec, as evidenced by all the action it has taken against Quebec for generations.
On November 22, 2006, the Conservative government tabled a motion of which it was very proud. Clearly, it was an attempt to win votes. They wanted to win seats in Quebec. The Conservatives wanted Quebeckers to believe that they recognized the specificity of the Quebec nation, its language, culture, identity and differences. The Conservatives therefore tabled this motion that recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. Our nation does not need this recognition to exist but it was still a kind gesture and it was interesting to see the House of Commons vote on the existence of this nation and to officially recognize it.
However, everything went downhill from there. The government should have followed through on this recognition and should have walked the walk by introducing a series of measures to respect the language, culture and identity of the Quebec nation. Clearly, Bill C-12 does not walk the walk when it comes to recognizing the Quebec nation. On the contrary, this bill denies the existence of this nation and marginalizes its representation in federal institutions and here in the House of Commons.
The Bloc Québécois then tried many times to introduce bills that would solidify the recognition of this nation, for instance, to have the French language charter apply to federal institutions. Once again, Quebec was recognized as a nation but everyone in the House voted against the bills. These bills would have solidified the recognition of the Quebec nation and ensured that the nation, as well as its language, culture and identity, were respected. Now Quebec's political weight is under direct attack. It is shameful.
Our opposition to this bill is also based on a consensus in Quebec. All elected members of the National Assembly of Quebec oppose Bill C-12. What are the elected Conservative representatives for Quebec doing? They are not even here in the House. None of the Conservative members for Quebec are here to debate a specific issue—