Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by responding to some of what the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville said.
The member's vision of the country has never convinced Quebec nor the other provinces. When he was at the head of his party, he lost lots of seats. I have no problem with more seats as long as the people in those seats actually have power.
Hal Herbert, the member for my riding in the 1970s, wrote an excellent little memoir called “Confessions of a trained seal”. He called himself a trained seal because the prime minister he served under exercised centralizing powers on his members. We have seen that increasing over the years under Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and the current Prime Minister. They have all centralized power within the Prime Minister's Office, so I take none of the questions from this member seriously.
I am very pleased to address the bill introduced by the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead. This bill reflects our values as Quebeckers and Canadians, namely the values of justice and of a just country. I am a Quebecker and I am proud of that. I am a 14th generation Quebecker. The St-Maurices arrived in the 17th century with the Carignan-Salières regiment. The Nicholls arrived in the 19th century with the great migration of British, Scottish and Irish people.
I am proud to be a member of the Quebec nation. I am proud to say that it was the member for York—that was the name of my riding in the 18th century—Michel-Eustache-Gaspard-Alain Chartier de Lotbinière, who introduced the use of French in the Parliament of Lower Canada. He was Speaker of the House at the time.
Asking permission to use French in government is a tradition that continues today. It points to some historical realities. The first was that there were not large populations of anglophones in the colonies at that time. The second was the idea of fairness that existed at that time.
I would like to quote the member at that time. He stated:
Since the majority of our constituents are placed in a special situation, we are obliged to depart from the ordinary rules and forced to ask for the use of a language which is not that of the empire; but, being as fair to others as we hope they will be to us, we should not want our language eventually to banish that of His Majesty’s other subjects.
This moment in our history is immortalized on a painting located above the Speaker's chair in Quebec's National Assembly. I am mentioning it because this is something that gives concrete expression to the notion of a Quebec nation. I should also point out that the second Marquis de Lotbinière referred to a Canadian idea of justice that existed in our country at the time and which is unique to Canada.
I want to refer to another painting. That one is hanging on the wall of our caucus room, the Railway Committee Room. It shows our nation's founders, the Fathers of Confederation. It was their idea that this new experience, this Confederation, should be a partnership between nations. John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier were able to create a nation based on the principles of peace, order and responsible government. The term “order” replaced the word “well-being”, which reflected the concept of Canadian justice, of fairness, which is fundamental to this country.
The painting to which I am referring is from Robert Harris. It shows the Fathers of Confederation, but it also shows the flaws in this vision of justice, because there are no women or aboriginals. It may also have marked the beginning of new injustices.
I will return to these injustices in a little while.
The two partners of united Canada, Canada East and Canada West, were fearful of American expansion at the end of the American Civil War. Macdonald was afraid of getting overwhelmed by the American juggernaut. Likewise Cartier went against the grain of those who were asking for republicanism in French Canada. The predecessors of the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville were asking for republicanism in the presence of his party. Cartier was afraid of his home becoming Louisiana, a state that had been assimilated over the years in a nation that did not value bilingualism. They came together as partners. Cartier was assured by his partners in Canada West that the nation would go forward as equal partners. Here I would like to talk of the injustices of Confederation.
The idea of fairness was not only the right to language but also right to religion, continuation of one's culture and communities of interest.
Exactly two years after Confederation, we had the Red River standoff, in what is now Manitoba. As we know, the Canadian administration was not fair to the francophones and Metis of these camps.
The government wanted to put in place a townships system, instead of concessions. This would erase a culture built over a period of more than 300 years, as well as an agreement between the British, the French and the aboriginals. This sent the message to Quebec that it should shut up and be a quiet partner.
The execution of Louis Riel, following the Northwest Rebellion in Saskatchewan, had the effect of cooling relations between francophones, anglophones and aboriginals. The rebirth of Quebec nationalism dates back to that era. Canada's westward expansion was achieved at the expense of francophones and aboriginals to promote the English culture, with a Canadian touch.
So, our partnership suffered setbacks. We accepted the changes. We are open to an increase in the number of seats for the other provinces, but the agreement between the three founding nations must be respected. We must respect the 24.35% rule.
We have to continue the idea of fairness and carry forward a progressive vision of this country, a vision that includes all three nations. I am supporting my colleague's bill because it does support this foundation of the country in 1867 for a certain amount of seats for Quebec to show the importance of this founding nation within a united Canada.
I would like to conclude by saying that the proposed law would be the beginning of the future of our country. It would build a country that would heal the tensions that have built up since Confederation as well as the problems we had after Confederation between francophones, first nations and anglophones. It would recognize that Quebec holds a special place within our Confederation. Quebec needs to be recognized in terms of the seats it has in this House in order to continue the message of Quebec for the rest of the country.