Madam Speaker, I want to start my comments on multiculturalism by sharing the words of Boucar Diouf, a columnist, biologist, oceanographer, comedian and radio host. Obviously, he is a man of many talents. I want to share some excerpts from a column he wrote less than a year ago entitled “The Problems with Multiculturalism”:
There are so many walls in multicultural western societies that you would need an iCloud Keychain to remember all of the communities you have to pledge allegiance to. People are divided by ethnolinguistic group, country, sub-region, continent, race, religion, etc.
With so many walls, how can we even envision celebrating a national identity and shared values?
It may be idealistic to dream that community divisions will disappear someday, but there is no denying that confining people to these virtual fortresses, so typical of Canadian multiculturalism, does not allow for cultural osmosis. On the contrary, these virtual fortresses breed and feed discrimination and racism in the shadows.
Although the intercultural model seems unattainable and does not knock down these walls, it does make them shorter and create shared meeting places.
A little further on, he talked about Quebec:
Quebec is far from perfect, but does the rest of Canada really embody this model of tolerance that prompts certain members of the press to point an accusing finger at it on a regular basis?
He cites Washington Post articles by Mordecai Richler, Jan Wong and, more recently, Mr. McCullough, whose perspective he describes like this:
In their view, Quebec is home to the most intolerant people in the country.
He goes on to say:
More surprising still is that 60% of the rest of Canada believes that immigrants should abandon their culture and adopt Canadian culture....
The big difference between the intercultural model that the majority of Quebeckers aspire to and the model that the political and media elite in the rest of Canada hold up as the ideal is that, in the rest of Canada, there is a disconnect between the vision the media promotes and what people really think. Dig a little deeper, as the survey did, and you will uncover suppressed frustrations that are bound to surface sooner or later.
These are the very same demons whose existence everyone denied but that nevertheless drove the people of the United Kingdom, the cradle of multiculturalism, to vote for Brexit, and that are partly responsible for Trump's rise to power.
Those are not my words. I am still quoting Boucar Diouf, who concluded with these words:
It is impossible to live together without truly embodying the word “together”. Multiculturalism is much more like living side by side and harbouring frustrations with one another, with results that fall far short of the ideal presented by politicians.
We think that those who choose to live in Quebec appreciate its unique character just as Boucar Diouf does. In another article he wrote as an open letter to people who want to immigrate to Quebec, he said, and I quote:
You are getting ready to move to the most open and peaceful nation in North America. You are moving to a nation whose women are among the most assertive and equality-seeking in the western world, a nation that is allergic to the mere mention of the religious right, a nation where the right to abortion is non-negotiable, where men have the right to parental leave, where marriage is no longer a sacred institution and one in two couples divorce when their marriage stops working, where teenagers are allowed to kiss and date, where gays and lesbians are able to clearly express their identity and have the right to marry....
Boucar Diouf was not born in Quebec, but I think he grasped its essence. He would say that we may not be perfect, but we are definitely not racist.
I do not know about my colleagues, but we think that Boucar Diouf is an enlightening and inspiring personality. He is one of the most popular and well-loved public figures in Quebec. As members have heard, he is not a fan of what he would call the British model of multiculturalism, which he believes is doomed to failure.
There are also others. Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, former minister and speaker of the Quebec National Assembly, recently said, and I quote:
...a major challenge in Quebec and throughout the western world is and will be how to successfully integrate immigrants so that they become people from here, who accept not only our collective future, but also our society's past, which is the product of a singular and unique cultural path made up of many fruitful interminglings, as we must remember.
There are so many aspects to be addressed when discussing immigration, integration and diversity. I am speaking through the words of other authors who have pointed out that the politics of division that relate directly to multiculturalism are an ideology whereby individual rights supersede collective rights and the common good. Multiculturalism also has a real legal predominance, and other rights and freedoms must be interpreted through that lens.
Every opinion matters, and that starts with dialogue. In the summer of 2017, I met an Italian diplomat while I was travelling. He had stopped in Toronto and wanted to gather people from all walks of life around his table. He said no one would talk to anyone else. Everyone was suspicious of everyone else. No one would start a dialogue. He said that multiculturalism was like building a bunker for each culture. The word he used was bunkerism.
Quebeckers are people of goodwill. They are peaceful people with good judgment. However, that can be tested when people try to manipulate us. We refuse to categorize certain segments of the population according to their origins and social or religious practices because that systematically affects the harmony of a society that considers itself to be free, democratic and secular. Every one of us is obligated to demonstrate reciprocity and it is required by a real process of integration. Quebec must freely establish the rules for living together based on what it is, its history, concerns and culture. That is what compels us to sit down together rather than retreating into bunkers and putting ourselves in separate bubbles. That is what my colleague is proposing with his bill.
We are not ashamed of our vision. On the contrary, we are proud of having introduced this bill in the House of Commons.