House of Commons Hansard #326 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was multiculturalism.


Divorce ActGovernment Orders

September 26th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Bill C-78, an act to amend the Divorce Act.

Let me begin by saying that we will support this bill, which makes substantial changes to the existing Divorce Act. The NDP supports the objectives set forth in this family justice bill, especially when it comes to promoting the best interests of the child and taking family violence into account in making parenting arrangements.

It has been 20 years since this law was last amended, and even though this bill was unexpected, I have to say that changes to the Divorce Act are long overdue. My colleagues and I have examined this 190-page bill carefully, and we are pleased to see that the child's best interests really are paramount.

I was also very pleased to hear the Minister of Justice say that this bill will apply on a case-by-case basis because every divorce is different, every situation is different, and every couple has their own story.

We believe we must continue to study this bill, consulting experts and witnesses, in order to make improvements, because there is always room for improvement, and we have some suggestions for the government. We believe that by continuing to study this bill and consulting experts, we will get an accurate perspective on this bill.

We spoke with senior law professors, lawyers, divorced parents, and other experts, and we kept hearing the same thing. We will have to see how this law is enforced by judges. Manitoba lawyer Lawrence Pinsky shared this perspective. In a CBC interview, he said that it was too early to measure the bill's overall impact. Mr. Pinsky also said that it will all depend on how judges interpret the bill, and we agree with this.

About the parenting plan provisions in the bill, according to a senior professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, negotiating a parenting plan is certainly a good idea, provided that a plan is not systematically imposed. She said that this provision should not prevent an individual from obtaining a court order in difficult-to-negotiate cases or cases involving violence, when negotiation is not possible.

She said that the addition of criteria to better define the interests of the child essentially codifies the criteria to be considered in jurisprudence. However, we must keep the interests of the child front and centre, in every case, to make sure that the list does not become a simple checklist without any further consideration. We must always remember that this list is not and cannot be exhaustive.

We also believe that the best interest of the child should be considered at all times. In that sense, we would like to see a provision on representation for the child. We suggest that it be made a right under the law that the child be represented by their own lawyer and that services and resources be made available to the child if needed. When I talk about resources I mean psychological support because, as we all know, a divorce causes turmoil in family life and we believe that the child at the centre of the dispute should be represented so that their best interests are also brought forward.

When this bill was introduced in the last session, the government said that the court should also take children's points of view and preferences into account when it hands down its ruling. The children need to be given the means to express their points of view, preferences, fears, and feelings. We sincerely hope to put the child at the centre of this entire process and ensure that the child's voice is also heard, taken into account, and respected.

In the same vein, former Senator Landon Pearson said:

When their parents separate, children's lives are changed forever. The responsibility of parents and family members as well as the professionals who engage with them, is to make that change as smooth as possible. Children have the right to be looked after, and to be protected from violence and undue emotional stress. They also have the right to maintain relationships that are important to them and to have their own voices heard. Only when these and all the other rights that are guaranteed to them by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are respected, will children be able to accept and adjust well to the new circumstances in which they find themselves.

Those wise words highlight how important it is to protect children and, above all, allow them to express their emotions and share their opinions. We therefore think it is also important to ensure that children have fair representation when needed. Members will recall that Landon Carter Pearson was appointed to the Senate in 1994 and retired in 2005. We have been talking about this for a very long time. Senator Pearson served as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights.

Families' access to fair and equitable representation is sometimes unduly limited, and court solutions for family support in the context of shared custody are rarely fair, proportional or economic.

Consider the example of someone fleeing a situation of abuse, control or domestic violence. Those individuals often simply run away from the conflict by avoiding contact with the other parent. As a result of these kinds of situations and changing needs, many children never receive—and some parents never pay—the support payments they are entitled to.

The provisions set out in Bill C-78 are a step in the right direction, but the bill might not adequately ensure that support payments are made in shared custody situations.

In that regard, lawyer Jenny Woodruff indicated that it would have been a good idea for Bill C-78 to ensure that parents are paid appropriate child support, but that the bill does not address that issue.

It is important to ensure that the amounts paid are appropriate. Since the government claims that one of the purposes of Bill C-78 is to reduce child poverty, this shortcoming should be remedied in the interests of the child's well-being and in order to ensure that parents who are in a situation like the one I just described can obtain the child support payments their children are entitled to.

We are pleased that one of the changes this bill makes is to give the government the ability to share with and transmit to provincial entities more tax information on parents who refuse to disclose their income.

Right now, the Canada Revenue Agency can only transmit to the courts basic information such as the parent's name, address and employer. This measure will make it possible to fully assess the situation of a parent who may be trying to avoid paying child support. It is important to remember that, although the Divorce Act is a federal law that falls under the jurisdiction of our Parliament, the provinces are the ones responsible for administering and enforcing child support orders. We must therefore give the provinces our full support so that they can ensure that parents are making child support payments.

I would also like to mention that this bill seeks to better regulate the relocation of parents and children following a divorce, by requiring one parent to inform the other if he or she wants to move and by giving the courts criteria to help them determine whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child and should be allowed.

It is definitely a good idea, but we need to proceed with caution when making such a decision. I will come back to that because this was pointed out by an organization in my riding. I believe it is important to recognize the work of Céline Coulombe from La Clé sur la porte, a shelter for women and children who are victims of violence. Ms. Coulombe has extensive expertise in working with women facing domestic violence. She stated that this bill does establish important guidelines and contributes its share of necessary measures, but we must be cautious and discerning when dealing with such delicate matters as harassment and domestic violence.

Quite often, when these situations arise, the victim tries to flee from the abuser by going to another city, or even another province. We must ensure that, in these cases, the courts will exercise diligence and discretion in order to definitely protect the child and the victim.

I wanted to point that out because in the bill, it says:

A person who has parenting time or decision-making responsibility in respect of a child of the marriage and who intends to change their place of residence or that of the child shall notify any other person who has parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact under a contact order in respect of that child of their intention.

The bill also says:

In considering the impact of any family violence...the court shall take the following into account:

(a) the nature, seriousness and frequency of the family violence and when it occurred;

That is fairly subjective. I realize that this bill leaves everything up to the courts, but we must take great care to ensure the safety of the child and the parent fleeing a dangerous situation.

We must be very vigilant.

I am proud of the organizations in my riding that do amazing work every day with people going through divorce and women who are victims of domestic violence. Le Petit pont is a community organization in Saint-Hyacinthe and Longueuil that helps create and maintain parent-child bonds in a neutral, family-friendly, harmonious space for families undergoing separation or conflict. The organization's priority is the child's best interests, including his or her physical and psychological safety.

Le Petit pont operates outside of the parents' home to ensure neutrality and fair, professional treatment for everyone involved. Services include supervision of parents and children during visitation as well as information and support for families. The organization strives to create a home-like environment. Its facilities are suitable for people of all ages and enable people to get into a daily routine and reduce the stress associated with supervision.

We consulted Le Petit pont about Bill C-78, and I just want to acknowledge the amazing work done by Martin Tessier, the executive director, who gave us the benefit of his wisdom. First, he told us his organization believes the interests of the child are paramount. He said that, as we discussed, it would be a good idea for marriage documents to include provisions setting out what would happen in the event of a separation, to clarify any issues that are important to the spouses. These important decisions need to be made while the couple is getting along, rather than waiting until after the relationship breaks down or becomes hostile. For example, provisions could be inserted covering elements like custody, visitation, access rights, pensions, division of property, relocation and the children's education.

Lastly, he said that like married couples, common-law partners should draw up a cohabitation agreement, a will, and a financial plan that covers what will happen if they separate. Mr. Tessier said that the most important thing is to raise public awareness of the many aspects people often overlook, like legislation, agreements and statistics. These are all very fair comments. I want to thank Mr. Tessier for his insightful recommendations and suggestions.

In my riding, we are lucky enough to be able to count on the professionalism of La Clé sur la porte, a shelter organization that has been taking in women from across Quebec for 37 years, with locations in Saint-Hyacinthe, Acton Vale and Beloeil. It is a women's shelter and support centre for victims of domestic violence and their children. Since 1981, it has welcomed over 4,000 women and as many children. I think it is imperative that we consult organizations like these when studying the bill before us today, because they have special expertise and an invaluable perspective.

The primary focus of La Clé sur la porte is the safety of the women and children. As soon as clients come through the doors of the shelter, they receive a warm welcome in a trusting, respectful and supportive environment. The clients are safe there. The caseworkers listen to them, support them, and help them in their decisions. Post-shelter assistance is also available from the organization to ensure that the women return to their normal lives under the best conditions.

Members of the organization also work on prevention and awareness raising. They visit high schools, where they give workshops on abusive relationships. They also give talks on domestic violence to social, community and educational organizations and institutions or other interested groups.

I had a discussion with Céline Coulombe, the coordinator at La Clé sur la porte. She voiced some concerns over the bill that I wish to share with the House. The first has to do with family mediation. The bill before us includes some elements to encourage parents to use other avenues than the courts, including family dispute resolution and mediation. Obviously, this alternative is a good idea for reducing court backlogs, but this method can be risky for victims in cases of domestic violence.

Ms. Coulombe told me that advocacy groups had fought for, and eventually won, the right for victims to opt out. This right should not be disputed. Once again, we must be cautious.

La Clé sur la porte and Ms. Coulombe expressed concerns about a second aspect, which is the requirement that a parent give notice of relocation to the other parent, even in the case of criminal proceedings, when the abuser is subject to a no-contact order. The abuser absolutely must not know where the victim is living. We all know that even if the courts issue a no-contact order, victims must often still take additional steps to keep themselves and their children safe.

Because the courts do not communicate, criminal judgments are often not taken into account when access to the children is being decided.

Unfortunately, my riding has seen some cases recently where women have been killed, or at risk of being killed, when they dropped their child off with their former husband. One such situation is one too many. We must be cautious and make sure that women and children are protected.

Lastly, the coordinator for La Clé sur la porte emphasized that the legislation focuses on the traumatic impact that divorce can have on children, and rightly so, but we also need to bear in mind that living in fear in a home fraught with violence is far more traumatic for a child. In addition, violence unfortunately does not usually end on the day of the separation or the day a court decision is handed down. Forcing victims to take part in dispute resolution or mediation sessions can put them in danger.

I am very familiar with La Clé sur la porte, as I used to work there. Back then, I was a recently divorced single parent. Fortunately, I never experienced violence.

I worked nights, and every night I was at La Clé sur la porte, I met women who suffered from insomnia. Those women would come and talk to me and share what they had been through. What I found most moving when I listened to their stories was the realization that it could happen to any one of us. Many of them had not seen it coming and had wound up in that situation through no fault of their own.

As we work to clarify the divorce legislation, it is important to remember that it applies to people who are at a vulnerable point in their lives. We need to make sure that we put in place all the necessary measures to keep them safe and to give their children access to the resources they are entitled to.

In divorce cases, each parent often has his or her own lawyer. However, many witnesses asked us to think about implementing measures that would support the provinces and ensure that, in some situations, the child gets a lawyer. The child's lawyer would be there simply to examine the situation and make sure that the child's interests are being protected under the agreement that is reached.

This would be applied in the provinces, so we would have to ensure that they have the necessary resources to continue to support organizations such as Le Petit pont and La Clé sur la porte.

I am reaching out to the government on this. As the critic for families, children and social development, I have the best interests of children at heart. I want to ensure that the courts have the tools they need. I want to ensure that appropriate child support payments are made. I want to ensure that victims of any form of domestic violence and their children are protected. I want to ensure that the children at the centre of these disputes have the opportunity to be heard, if they so choose, and that they get the support they need.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to share with the House our recommendations and concerns regarding this bill.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member will have 10 minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on this bill.

The House resumed from September 24, 2018, consideration of the motion that Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous Peoples Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-369 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #888

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 6:12 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

moved that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to this important bill, very pleased to table it on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, and very pleased to kick off the debate we need to have on multiculturalism and its impact on Quebec.

This debate follows up on the supposed recognition of the Quebec nation by this Parliament. I know that the Prime Minister does not believe in it and that he wants to make Canada the first postnational state in the world, which means that Quebec's national identity would disappear. That is completely ridiculous.

The Quebec nation is the community to which we belong, the group with which we identify and the one we are discussing in order to decide how our society is to be organized. A nation is a special place where political decisions can be made and, therefore, recognizing a nation means recognizing a political entity with legitimate political rights and aspirations.

By recognizing the Quebec nation, the House of Commons recognized, perhaps unwillingly, the right of Quebeckers to control the social, economic and cultural development of Quebec themselves.

By stating that the Quebec nation is composed of all residents of Quebec, regardless of their origin or mother tongue or the region where they live, the federal government recognized that the Quebec nation has a clear geographic base made up of all of the territory of Quebec.

In short, recognition of the Quebec nation also means recognition of the legitimacy of Quebec's repeated demands that Quebeckers have the powers and resources that are needed in order to develop their own society.

I think it is worth noting that Quebec has never needed Ottawa in order to be a nation and unanimously declare its nationhood.

On October 30, 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously passed the following motion:

THAT the National Assembly reaffirm that the people of Quebec form a nation.

The motion does not say that the people of Quebec form a nation if Canada remains as it is, or that Quebec is a nation if it opts for sovereignty. It says that the people of Quebec form a nation, period. There is a reason why the National Assembly specified, repeated and reaffirmed the existence of the nation of Quebec. In fact, this resolution echoes what governments of Quebec have been saying for decades. Daniel Johnson Sr. said in February 1968:

The Constitution should not have as its sole purpose to federate territories, but also to associate in equality two linguistic and cultural communities, two founding peoples, two societies, two nations...

René Lévesque said in June 1980:

Canada is composed of two equal nations; Quebec is the home and the heart of one of those nations and, as it possesses all the attributes of a distinct national community, it has an inalienable right to self-determination. This right to control its own national destiny is the most fundamental right that Quebec society has.

Quebec has long been a nation, both before and after Canada was formed. That is a reality that none of the federalist parties has ever had the courage to enshrine in the Constitution.

As Gilles Duceppe said on November 22, 2006:

I would never insist that Quebeckers form a nation only on the condition that they have a country, nor would I ever accept that we could be recognized as a nation only on the condition that we stay in Canada.


We are a nation because we are what we are, no matter which future we choose.

That is why the Quebec nation must have all the tools it needs to thrive and define itself.

Accordingly, I included the following preamble in the bill:

Whereas Quebecers form a nation and therefore possess all the tools needed to define their identity and protect their common values, including as regards the protection of the French language, the separation of church and state and gender equality;

I sincerely hope that the House will unanimously support this preamble.

That being said, Quebec is the only nation of its kind in the world. It is a nation inhabited by 8 million francophones in a continent of almost 400 million anglophones. Demographically speaking, we should have disappeared over time. Quebec is a true historic anomaly, and it must have all the tools it needs to carry on, starting with its independence. The federal government could have been an ally in the phenomenon of Quebec, or what I would even go so far as to call the miracle of Quebec.

Ottawa could have used its authority to allow Quebec's distinct identity to develop. Members will recall the Meech Lake-Charlottetown fiasco. Instead, Ottawa is hindering Quebec and undermining Quebec's efforts to create a unifying culture.

One of Ottawa's worst attacks on the Quebec nation, on what we are collectively, is multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is undermining the Quebec phenomenon and the existence of a common culture.

If we go to the Government of Canada website, under the heading “Canadian identity and society” it states that multiculturalism “ensur[es] that all citizens keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry”. In other words, integration is pointless.

In Quebec, multiculturalism is not about a policy of integration, but rather a policy of disintegration. It is a policy that creates a fragmented society inhabited by people from many different cultures, rather than fostering the development of a society that integrates newcomers to enrich a common culture.

The reality is that multiculturalism rejects the idea of a common culture by encouraging multiple cultures to coexist. Although it is defined as a model for integrating newcomers, in reality it promotes coexistence driven by indifference, or perhaps tolerance, rather than respect for difference. This inevitably leads to ghettoization.

Concerned that multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes, Quebec has always rejected the Canadian approach, especially since it trivializes Quebec's position within Canada and refutes the existence of the Quebec nation.

In 1971, Robert Bourassa stated in a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau that “that notion hardly seems compatible with Quebec's reality”. That was true 50 years ago and remains true today.

Quebec focuses on integration. Cultural plurality, or cultural diversity, is something to be shared. Getting to know one another better, talking to one another more and building our society together, that is the Quebecois approach. To do that, we have to be on the same wavelength. That is why, in Quebec, we ask immigrants to recognize the French fact, to know the French language, to learn it, and to recognize that it is the language of our common space. That is why Quebec insists on the need to respect the cornerstones of Quebec society, such as the separation of church and state, gender equality, and the existence of an historic cultural heritage. That heritage is multicultural, not multiculturalist.

Before 2003, there was even talk of a civil pact. The Quebec model of integration goes beyond simple citizenship designed to promote the development and peaceful coexistence of cultural minorities in a vacuum by bringing these minorities to enter the symbolic and institutional space occupied by the nation. In other words, contrary to Canada's approach, which talks about preserving the identity of minorities without integration, Quebec's approach supports integration based on the learning of the French language, the official language and language common to the citizenry, and on the adherence to a set of fundamental principles.

According to the Quebec department of immigration and cultural communities:

An intercultural society's challenge is a collective one: to ensure harmony by maintaining and adopting the values and principles of action that unite all citizens. This challenge is met with respect for individual, cultural and religious differences.

There is no better example to illustrate the difference between Canada's approach and Quebec's approach.

Québec is a French-speaking, democratic and pluralist society based on the rule of law, which means that everyone has the same value and dignity as well as the same right to protection under the law.

Knowledge and respect for the values of Québec society are necessary for adapting to your new environment and fully participating in it.

Integration is achieved through full participation, which multiculturalism inhibits.

In a February 2008 article in Le Monde diplomatique, Louise Beaudoin explained why the Quebec integration model and the Canadian one are incompatible:

For nearly 30 years, Canada and Quebec have had two different approaches to integration. The federal multiculturalism policy, which is modelled on the British approach, promotes cultural diversity based on ethnicity and encourages people to seek out their own community of origin. In contrast, Quebec opted for a model based on interculturalism, a cultural exchange within the framework of the common values of a pluralistic nation with a francophone majority. These two clearly conflicting visions are irreconcilable.

This is confusing to newcomers. They see Quebec as a French-speaking nation that exists within a bilingual country that promotes bilingualism. It prides itself on an approach to welcoming and integrating newcomers that focuses on the importance of certain basic values and upholds French as the language of the people. This conflicts with the definition of a Canada that presents itself as bilingual and multicultural.

In its preliminary submission to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec highlighted this confusion:

However, the efforts made by the Government of Quebec to define and promote its own model of integration came up against the ideology of multiculturalism, which was sometimes interpreted by certain groups as the possibility of living one's own culture according to the rationale of separate development....the ideological way of thinking that emerged in the 1970s, which presented society as a mosaic of cultures, has since been encouraging certain groups to develop beliefs that clash with Quebec's vision.

People arriving in Quebec receive two contradictory messages. Instead of laying blame, as some are wont to do, the Bloc Québécois thinks it would be better to make the messages clearer. In their February 8, 2007, manifesto entitled “En finir avec le multiculturalisme”, Quebec intellectuals Charles Courtois, Dominic Courtois, Robert Laplante, Danic Parenteau and Guillaume Rousseau stated the following:

We think that Quebeckers want to see the principles of equality and public secularism affirmed, putting the emphasis on a common culture and providing inspiration for the principles of integration and the methods of dispute resolution. The Charter of the French Language already does this in part, but in order to do so fully, Quebec needs to have its own citizenship....For now, new Quebeckers are sworn in as new Canadian citizens without being encouraged to integrate into the Quebec nation. This is not what inclusion means to Quebec.

This is why it is important for Quebec to have maximum flexibility in enforcing its own citizenship and integration policy. We believe that Quebec will truly be free only once it becomes independent. This will put an end to the confusing messages. Immigrants who choose Quebec will no longer come to a Canadian province, but will come to a francophone country. Until then, however, Quebec must be exempt from the scope of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. That is why I introduced this bill.

Quebec needs freedom to integrate newcomers. Every year, Quebec welcomes approximately 50,000 immigrants, and this does not include refugees. We must have access to all the tools we need to integrate them and help them integrate in Quebec.

The Prime Minister's version of multiculturalism has completely lost touch with the Quebec reality. He does not see a Quebec nation and does not think that Quebec should decide how its residents should coexist. He certainly does not want nations around the world seeing who we are, hearing our voice, and relating to our desire to carve out our own place in the world and reach out to people around the world, in a spirit of global humanism.

I urge everyone who values the interests of Quebec, Quebec culture, and Quebec identity, to support my bill, which will allow Quebec to set its own integration model. Quebec should be making its own decisions about interculturalism, cultural convergence and common culture. These decisions should not be left to a government that thinks that openness means putting on a costume when you take an international trip.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a hard time imagining myself in the Quebec described by my colleague.

First off, the Quebec I know welcomes all kinds of cultures. Quebec is home to francophones from the Caribbean, Haiti, Africa and, of course, France. I have always thought of my province, Quebec, as a welcoming place for everyone. Newcomers not only integrate, they become an integral part of Quebec's economic, cultural and artistic society.

I am having a really hard time understanding why my colleague does not see all these people as an asset for Quebec as a whole. Could he explain why?

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little taken aback by my colleague's comments. With all due respect, I do not think he understood my speech at all. What I said was that the multiculturalism model may work for the rest of Canada, but it is not the ideal model for Quebec.

My colleague, who belongs to a federalist party that has never recognized the Quebec nation, says he supports diversity, but that has nothing to do with multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a policy that prevents Quebec from fully integrating newcomers because of an inherent contradiction: multiculturalism seeks to quash the Quebec difference while denying that a difference even exists.

Here, we support recognizing and respecting all differences, not just tolerating them. Canada and my colleague's party only tolerate the presence of the Quebec nation within Canada.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would disagree with my colleague and friend across the way. My ancestors and family are rooted in Quebec. Quebec is a very important aspect of my personal heritage. It is a province of which I am very proud.

I live in Winnipeg's north end. I believe that Canada's greatest strength is our diversity and that the people who live in Quebec are very proud of their heritage. It is a heritage that is appreciated in every region of the country.

Quebec as a whole is a welcoming and loving province, with great prosperity. It continues to support Canadian society in an array of areas, just like every other province, especially by contributing through its cultural activities. Other regions of Canada have so much to learn from Quebec.

Does my friend across the way not recognize that many people across this land have roots in Quebec and are very proud of their heritage, individuals like me? I often will talk about my family and where it comes from.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my distinguished colleague were so proud of his Quebec roots, he would not be the slightest bit opposed to including the Quebec nation in Canada's Constitution. That is what should be done at a minimum, because the Quebec nation, according to every Quebec premier I cited earlier, is a founding nation of this country.

Multiculturalism seeks to obscure Quebec's distinct nature and to reduce the nation to one ethnicity among many. That is not how Quebec, as a distinct nation and a minority, can integrate newcomers. The most renowned English Canadian experts on multiculturalism say that only a majority can carry out natural integration. We are a minority.

The 1982 Constitution even usurped our minority status, in addition to obscuring our right to be a nation. When we say that we support cultural diversity, we should at least agree to include the Quebec nation in the Canadian Constitution. I am challenging my colleague. We could then talk about being proud of our origins.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Andy Fillmore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to address Bill C-393, an act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).

It is well known that Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Our country is a place where indigenous peoples, including first nations, Inuit and Métis, live alongside people including refugees from all corners of the globe who have chosen to make their lives in Canada as well as with long-standing Canadian citizens.

Ours is a land of many faiths, many languages and many cultures. It is a place where Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians and members of numerous other religious groups live in harmony. It is home to proud francophone and anglophone traditions and communities and to native speakers of an array of indigenous languages, such as Mi'kmaq, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Cree and many others. Millions of other individuals have a mother tongue that is neither French nor English in Canada.

Canada's capacity to prosper and grow within the context of this diversity is the result of a commitment we have made to respect and protect our differences. As a result of this commitment, Canada has developed a broad and evolving legislative and policy framework that supports various elements of diversity and inclusion, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Official Languages Act, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

I would like to remind the House that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy was adopted in 1971 following the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Significantly, it recognizes the French and English languages on equal terms.

In 1982, with the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, the Government of Canada reaffirmed the value of multiculturalism in section 27 of the charter, which refers to the “preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

In 1988, the Canadian multiculturalism policy was enshrined in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act gives the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism the mandate to develop and deliver programs and practices, which, among other things, will “recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage” and Canadian identity. The act promotes “the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society” and assists “in the elimination of any barrier to that participation.”

Other Canadian jurisdictions have also adopted policies that promote, preserve and protect diversity and foster inclusion. Overall, the protection of equality rights is an underlying objective of these provincial and territorial laws, and some are supported by specific funding programs.

Quebec, for example, promotes and emphasizes interculturalism as an approach to integration and cross-cultural understanding. As we might expect, Quebec's approach to interculturalism proposes a model of integration that aims to ensure, and places priority on, the continuity of the francophone identity and culture while respecting minority cultures and diversity.

Both multiculturalism and interculturalism place a high degree of importance on integration and respect for common civic and democratic values, and both have been invaluable to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s. I believe strongly that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy is flexible enough to allow for their co-existence.

We should be mindful that Bill C-393's passage could undermine the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec, given that section 27 of the charter officially refers to multiculturalism as a Canadian value.

Our country continues to become even more diverse. I highlight our diversity today not simply to reiterate well-known facts about our multicultural society but to emphasize that our country has benefited immensely from the increasing diversity we have experienced over centuries. Our diversity is a leading source of creativity and innovation that fuels sustainable economic growth. Our diversity generates creativity by ensuring a variety of thoughts, experiences and perspectives. This is key to generating the out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation that is foundational to our creative economy.

Even as we move toward a more diverse and inclusive society, there is a considerable amount of evidence on the persistence of racism and discrimination in Canadian society. The proposed amendments to the act could reduce the government's legal authorities to disburse funding for community support, multiculturalism and anti-racism initiatives in Quebec.

It is important for all of us in this nation of diversity to continue to foster an environment where the multicultural heritage of all Canadians is valued.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-393 was introduced in February by the hon. member for Montcalm.

The bill seeks to have Quebec opt out of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. I must admit that I was not exactly excited about the idea when I first read the bill.

Why would Quebec want to opt out of legislation that is so inclusive and positive? Why reject legislation that celebrates, protects and promotes our culture?

That line of questioning led me to do some research. I already knew about the existence of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which became law more than 30 years ago. I was also aware of some of its virtues. My research did help me learn more about the subtleties of this legislation.

I did my homework and I can say that I am no more excited about Bill C-393 than I was back in February.

I can say that the 30-year old Canadian Multiculturalism Act has aged well. It is not perfect. Can we improve on it? We certainly could if we set our minds to it. However, it has aged well. It is still current and relevant.

Let me provide some examples.

It seeks to recognize the importance of preserving and enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

It seeks to recognize the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

It seeks to reflect the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledge the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.

It seeks to recognize that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of our country's future.

It seeks to promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society.

It seeks to recognize the existence of communities whose members share common origin and their historic contribution to our big, beautiful country, and, especially enhance their development.

It seeks to encourage and assists the social, cultural, economic and political institutions of Canada to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's multicultural character.

It seeks to foster the recognition and appreciation of the diverse cultures of our country.

It seeks to advance multiculturalism throughout Canada in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada, English and French, which are great assets to our country.

The list goes on and on. I repeat: who would want to opt out of this cultural policy?

I can think of absolutely no good reason to do so. In fact, I think it is very important for all Canadians to opt in.

We were not born yesterday. We know what drives the party that introduced this bill. Its only goal is to further isolate Quebeckers, even though they have so much to offer the rest of the country and, indeed, the rest of the world.

The Conservative Party knows a bit about that. Twelve years ago, we recognized Quebec as a nation here in the House. We enabled Quebec to get a seat at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a great global institution.

Quebec, like every one of this country's provinces, is unique. Everyone knows that.

Canada would not be the country it is today without Quebec's uniqueness as a province and a region. From the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian Prairies, from the Great Lakes and the Appalachians to the Atlantic Ocean and the Far North, Canada is as big as it is diverse.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act is inclusive. It creates space for all people to express themselves freely. It is in no way restrictive.

It says right there in black and white that the minister can enter into an agreement or arrangement with any province respecting the implementation of its cultural policy.

Under a Conservative government, we repeatedly demonstrated that we were open to giving the provinces a great deal of discretion, particularly when it came to multiculturalism. We could also talk about all the discussions that took place in Quebec and the commitments and arrangements made regarding immigration issues. Could we have done more? I repeat, yes, of course. More work has to be done on this, and governments can move things forward. Perhaps people are feeling frustrated by the current government, but we have no control over that at the moment. Let's talk again in 2019.

There is no need for anyone to opt out of that act. To repeat the purpose of Bill C-393, it seeks to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act so it does not apply in Quebec.

I am confident that that is not what Quebeckers want. In fact, I personally spent the last few months travelling all over Quebec with my colleagues and my leader, as we toured extensively to hear from Quebeckers. The tour is continuing this fall. We met with hundreds of people from all regions of Quebec. I met people in love with the belle province, passionate Canadians, proud members of first nations, local artisans, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, really passionate people from all over the province.

These precious moments that I shared with them gave me the opportunity to see just how different each region of Quebec and each region of our country really is. Every community that I visited was unique, particularly from a cultural standpoint. What struck me the most during our tour is how welcoming people are. They are proud to show off their part of the country. They are proud to share what makes them unique. They were very open and showed us what they can bring to Quebec, Canada and the entire world. There are some extraordinary success stories in Quebec that are making waves around the world. These people may not know it, but they are helping to make a name for our beautiful country.

What I saw from the very start of our tour was not people who wanted to cut themselves off from the rest of the country or even do away with the laws we have to promote and defend our identity and our multiculturalism. Instead, I felt their deep desire to tell the rest of the world about what makes them so unique. That is exactly what the existing legislation does. It makes it possible to implement measures and policies, and to call upon each of our institutions to help our regions, our provinces, and our country grow.

The bill's sponsor may tell us that Quebec needs to be able to manage its own multicultural policy. However, I can confirm that Quebec already has full authority to do that, especially since the Conservative Party of Canada recognized that it has this right.

Maybe those who proposed this bill will say that the provinces' powers are not fully appreciated under the Liberals. The centrist side of the current government is indeed undermining intergovernmental relations within the Canadian federation. I should know, since I am the critic for federal-provincial relations.

However, Quebec is not the only province to have a bumpy relationship with the Liberal government. Abandoning the Canadian Multiculturalism Act on that pretext would be unfair to all Quebeckers. Having toured the province over the past few months, I can safely say that that is not what the people of Quebec want right now. They do not want division, and they certainly do not want exclusion. What Quebeckers really want is a strong voice in Ottawa, through measures like this act.

Quebeckers deserve recognition far beyond the provincial border. That is exactly what they will get, starting in the fall of 2019, with a new Conservative government.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the bill before us today.

Before I discuss the contents of the bill, I would like to put on the record the incredible work my colleagues in the NDP's Quebec caucus are doing day in and day out to ensure the issues that matter most to their constituents are being championed in this place.

The member for Trois-Rivières has been fighting tirelessly for years on behalf of pyrrhotite victims who have been left in a grey zone by the Liberal government's idleness.

The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has been leading the charge in the House against the use of tax havens for the wealthiest and the government's inaction on this file.

The member for Hochelaga has been a ferocious advocate for social housing, despite the Liberals' refusal to actually deliver.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé, more than anyone in this place, has been standing up for dairy farmers, not just in Quebec but across the country, fighting to ensure the Liberal government does not go through with the concessions on supply management in trade deals.

The member for Drummond is the best defender of bilingualism and the French language in the House. Acadians, Franco-Ontarians and other minority language communities know all too well that the Liberal government is not paying attention to their concerns.

The member for Salaberry—Suroît has been a champion for clean water in her riding by working to get the Kathryn Spirit dismantled, and has continued to point out the government's failure to recognize the dangers of the 9B Line pipeline crossing her community.

The member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert every day does more than even the minister of heritage to protect Quebec's culture from web giants.

The member for Jonquière every day in this place stands up for softwood lumber, paper mill and aluminum workers of Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean, the very ones the government is putting in the line of fire in trade negotiations.

Finally, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot provides a voice to workers in the House who face an EI black hole, forsaken by Liberal and Conservative governments, which shamefully refuse to fix these gaps.

It is with a bit of irony that I, the member for North Island—Powell River in British Columbia, happen to be the one raising these issues today in this debate. One would have thought the Bloc would have used its opportunity to table and debate a bill in the House to discuss any of those important issues. Instead, we are talking about divisive, useless legislation. If this is the best the Bloc has to offer Quebeckers, frankly, it is a little more than sad. However, one thing is clear today. The one Quebec caucus standing up for Quebeckers in the House is the NDP Quebec caucus.

The bill before us today is a solution in search of a problem. Canadian multiculturalism is not a zero-sum game. Respect, protection and promotion of one culture will not diminish the standing of another culture. Instead, it creates a space for newcomer communities to integrate into, in the context of the bill, Quebec society specifically, without giving up who they are. This allows people to embrace and participate in Quebec's unique culture and heritage, without fearing they must give up their identity. They can instead have the opportunity to add Quebecker to who they are. This should be encouraged, not denigrated.

Unfortunately, this approach is not new for the Bloc Québécois. It has tried this before. In 2008, a Bloc MP tabled Bill C-505, a nearly identical bill. The former leader of the NDP, himself a proud Quebecker, the former member for Outremont, Mr. Tom Mulcair, stated quite clearly what the bill truly was: An attempt to divide Quebec from the rest of Canada and an attempt to divide Quebeckers against Quebeckers. He stated:

We must recall what section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says, because it gives us an indication of why we must oppose this bill, “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

He went on to say:

What the Bloc is trying to do with this bill is to alter the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to do something separate for Quebec. It would be easy to follow them down that road, if the goal were to stay in Canada. But let us not delude ourselves. The Bloc Québécois, as is its absolute right in this democracy, has as its ultimate priority the removal of Quebec from Canada. We must therefore realize that the only purpose of the bill must be to position the Bloc in a debate that has been raging in Quebec for the last year and a half. So the goal is not to improve how things work in Canada....

Or, I would add, even in Quebec. Instead, it is a blatant attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric and provide, in addition to the Conservative Party, another voice for that in this place.

This bill ignores the existence of the Cullen-Couture agreement of 1978, which provides Quebec significant authority and policy-making abilities within the realm of immigration. That agreement allows Quebec to develop its own points system for the selection of immigrants. Thus, while the systems are quite similar, Quebec's points system provides more points for French language skills and more points for adaptability. It also provides points for having relatives established in Quebec, for spouses with French language skills and for having a young family. Among other things, that agreement aimed to respect and strengthen the enrichment of Canada's cultural and social heritage, taking into account the federal and bilingual character of Canada. It also acknowledges that foreign nationals in Quebec should contribute to Quebec's social and cultural enrichment, taking into account its specifically French character.

The bill before us, strangely, also ignores the actual Canadian Multiculturalism Act itself, most importantly, subsection 5(2), which reads:

The Minister may enter into an agreement or arrangement with any province respecting the implementation of the multiculturalism policy of Canada.

This means that should the Province of Quebec feel that the current policy being implemented is not achieving the greatest benefit, it can work with the minister to improve the policy's implementation. This is what occurred with the Cullen-Couture agreement. It is truly a shame that the member chose to table this bill of all things rather than using this incredible opportunity to table a bill in the House of Commons that would help impact and shape our country and help promote Quebec culture and heritage.

As I stated at the outset, my NDP Quebec colleagues are working tirelessly on issues of importance to the people of Quebec. The NDP recognizes the national character of Quebec, based on a society that has French as its language of work and the common language of the public domain; a unique culture expressed through a sense of identity and belonging to Quebec; a specific history; and political, economic, cultural and social institutions of its own. Had the member brought forward a bill that strengthened any of those aspect for Quebec, he might have found our support.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Rémi Massé Liberal Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about private member's Bill C-393, which was introduced by the member for Montcalm. The bill seeks the support of the House to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act so that it would not apply in Quebec.

Diversity is a fundamental and enduring feature of Quebec and Canada. Our society is made up of individuals from different cultures all over the world who have learned over time to respect and accept one another. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971. In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act affirmed that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society. Multiculturalism strengthens Quebec and Canada by fostering an inclusive society in which people of all backgrounds are respected and recognized.

Multiculturalism may be one of the government's official policies, but it is also a concept that is expressly included in and part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 27 states:

This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

In a society as diverse as ours, our multiculturalism policy helps preserve our values and the principles of inclusion and diversity. This policy also makes it possible for Quebeckers and Canadians of all backgrounds to make social, economic, cultural and political contributions to our society. It is clear to me that the laws, initiatives and programs that eliminate racism and discrimination support full participation and ensure that institutions reflect the diversity of the people they serve.

Furthermore, these laws, initiatives and programs are essential to creating a more inclusive and respectful society where every person, no matter their ethnic origin, colour or religion, helps build a more just society. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act seeks to build a society where multiculturalism and respect for diversity are fundamental characteristics and values.

This does not mean that differences cannot lead to tensions between individuals, but as we learn to manage these tensions, Quebeckers and Canadians learn to adapt and develop relationships in spite of their differences. We have come to understand that our differences do not have to divide us.

Canada's federal multiculturalism policy and Quebec's interculturalism model have complemented each other and coexisted since the 1970s without causing tension or creating serious problems. Although interculturalism is a provincial model of integration in Quebec, multiculturalism is Canada's federal integration model, as set out in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988.

There are differences between these two approaches, but the federal multiculturalism system is flexible enough to allow these two approaches to coexist. The approaches put more emphasis on integration and respect for shared civic and democratic values, and as such, both approaches have been contributing to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s.

Quebec and Canada are proof that it is possible for men and women from diverse backgrounds, religions and cultures to live together. We admit that there are problems, and we are working to find solutions, despite our differences. We are showing the world that different people can accept each other, respect each other, and work together to build one of the most open, resilient and creative societies on Earth.

Canadian Heritage's multiculturalism program offers programs and services in support of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act's implementation.

The objectives of the program are to: build an integrated, socially cohesive society; improve the responsiveness of institutions to the needs of a diverse population; and actively engage in discussions on multiculturalism and diversity at the international level.

To that end, the program includes four key areas of activity: grants and contributions; public outreach and promotion; support to federal and public institutions; and international engagement.

It is important for us to continue working together to achieve common objectives for building a strong and inclusive society.

Over the past four decades, multiculturalism has become central to the way Canadians view themselves and their country. They feel that multiculturalism is not only key to their national identity, but a source of pride. We increasingly see our country as being richer for its diversity.

Debates on multiculturalism are necessary ingredients in a democratic society. These are the debates that helped develop Canada's approach to multiculturalism and diversity. In the 1970s, debates were focused on celebrating our differences. In the 1980s, the focus was on managing diversity and now, in 2018, multiculturalism is focused on social inclusion.

The wording of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act is general enough to include new approaches to promoting the act's objectives.

Canadians are proud of their diversity. According to a Statistics Canada study released in 2015, 85% of Canadians believe that ethnic and cultural diversity is a value that Canadians share.

Ultimately, what matters is not what we call our policy framework. What matters is creating a climate that fosters appreciation for the multicultural heritage of all Canadians, who have roots all over the world. It is also important that we create a public space in which everyone can express their confidence and their sense of attachment and belonging to our society, its people and its institutions.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to distinguish between “diversity”, which is a state of affairs, and “multiculturalism”, which is a political choice. My colleagues from other parties do not seem to see the difference.

People can be against multiculturalism without being against diversity. We are not at all against diversity, but we are against this policy.

Some of the eminent academics who have examined the matter, including some in English Canada, say that multiculturalism can work. Others say it does not. However, it only ever works in one context: English Canada. It works when one's culture is dominant and one can be fairly certain that everyone else will be integrated eventually.

Those academics, those intellectuals, all say that this kind of policy will never work for a minority nation. My people, the Quebec nation, we are a minority. Imposing multiculturalism on a minority nation does not work. That has been our experience. That is not how we integrate people. Academics agree that it will not work.

It is often said that multiculturalism is a beautiful mosaic, but what is a mosaic? If people look closely, they will see small stones surrounded by cement. Creating small cement barriers between people is not an approach that works for us. What we want is for the cultures to integrate and for people to live in harmony, not just tolerate each other. We have a lot to learn from newcomers from every culture, from the people from different cultural communities who come to live among us. We do not just want to tolerate each other and live side by side separated by small cement barriers. We believe in integration. That is all that my colleague is proposing.

When I spoke about intellectuals from English Canada, I was thinking, for example, of Will Kymlicka, Evelyn Kallen and Vince Seymour Wilson, those great thinkers of Canadian multiculturalism.

According to them, multiculturalism can be a good policy for English Canada. They say that organic integration must be done by the so-called dominant society or majority, not by a minority nation.

All of these great thinkers agree that things are different in Quebec. Canada's multiculturalism cannot be transposed on Quebec.

That is all that my colleague said, but what contempt from some colleagues in the other parties. They are saying that Quebec does not want diversity, but this is not the case. There is a lot of confusion.

Quebec does not believe that multiculturalism is necessary to integrate diversity. There is a lot of confusion here, and everything is being mixed up.

Evelyn Kallen, a professor at York University in Toronto, sorts it all out in her book entitled Multiculturalism: Ideology, Policy and Reality. In it, she says that diversity is a reality, a state of affairs. Liking or disliking diversity is a feeling. As she points out, multiculturalism is one policy among many others. Nothing more. This policy may be appropriate in some places, perhaps more so in English Canada. I will leave that up to my colleagues to decide. I am not part of English Canada, so it is not up to me to debate it. That is up to them, but Quebec should be able to deal with its own affairs; we should not have decisions made for us.

Quebec is a diverse society, a welcoming society, a pluralistic society. We are not all alike in Quebec, and that is just fine. I believe that it is not enough to simply tolerate difference; one must love it. Difference challenges me, it makes me question things and forces me to evolve. It enriches me and makes me a better person, which I like. Interaction is needed for that to happen. For interaction to take place, we need a minimum of shared values on which we agree well enough that we can understand one another when we talk. This means we need a language we all understand, a common language. That is how we will interact, and mix and blend together. In Quebec we often say that we are a tight-knit bunch, but Boucar Diouf came up with the expression that Quebeckers like so much, “se métisser serré”, basically saying we are a tightly-knit diverse nation. That is how we like it, and that is how we will be able to live together, and not just side by side. That is how we are going to build the Quebec I love so much.

We must work together to pursue this great adventure of building an original society on this North American land. To achieve that, we, as Quebeckers, must be the ones to decide how we will interact with one another and how we will manage our differences in order to live together harmoniously.

The bill introduced by my esteemed colleague from Montcalm is simply intended to allow that. Nothing else.

The rest of Canada is the majority society. Not only that, but English Canadian culture, spread through the English language, is part of the dominant global culture. The same cannot be said of Quebec culture. I would like to quote from page 19 of the Bouchard-Taylor commission's report:

...the Canadian multiculturalism model does not appear to be well adapted to conditions in Québec.

Generally speaking, it is in the interests of any community to maintain a minimum of cohesion. It is subject to that condition that a community can adopt common orientations, ensure participation by citizens in public debate, create the feeling of solidarity required for an egalitarian society to function smoothly, mobilize the population in the event of a crisis, and take advantage of the enrichment that stems from ethnocultural diversity. For a small nation such as Québec, constantly concerned about its future as a cultural minority, integration also represents a condition for its development, or perhaps for its survival.

I think these few sentences say it all. I will repeat the last part of the sentence about Quebec, because I think it captures the issue perfectly: integration also represents a condition for its development, or perhaps for its survival.

Canada has chosen multiculturalism. That is its right. Canada is gambling on the idea that integration into the dominant society will naturally occur in the globally dominant language and culture. That may work, but Canada has no right to impose this model on Quebec, a minority nation.

The Canadian mosaic, as it is called, is not suitable for Quebec. As I have said, I am a Quebecker. I would not ask Canadians to become Quebeckers, nor would I ask Canada to change its diversity management policy to something that would suit Quebec better. That is not what we are asking for. All I want is for Canada to show the same respect for Quebec's choices.

Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Joliette will have two and a half minutes remaining when the House resumes debate on this motion.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question I originally asked the Minister of National Defence back on April 26 about a situation that had occurred on April 20. I will give the House some background.

It was brought to my attention that Colonel Jay Janzen, who is the Canadian Forces director of strategic communications, had taken to Twitter and had decided to criticize the media and us as politicians for raising questions at committee and in the media about the UN mission to Mali. At that point in time, very little was known about the mission, very little was in the news and very little was being said by the Minister of National Defence.

For months we called for a fulsome debate here in the House on the mission to Mali before we deployed our troops. That never happened. The Liberal government continues to stonewall the official opposition and Canadians about providing all the details about what Canadians are doing in the mission in Mali.

What was insulting in the Twitter exchange between Colonel Janzen and I, and other people who were engaged, is that essentially what I saw was disrespect towards parliamentarians and our right to ask the hard questions, to raise issues and to ask about what Canadians need to hear about what the government is doing and how it is using the Canadian Armed Forces.

This comes back to the fact that after the Liberals formed government in 2015, they developed a policy called the weaponization of the Canadian Armed Forces public affairs division. That was actually reported in Defence Watch in 2015. We have had a change in policy.

The director of strategic communications, or public affairs, of the Canadian Armed Forces is meant to be there to help inform Canadians and to help explain what the Canadian Armed Forces is up to, whether it is the mission in Mali, whether it is training here at home, whether it is recruiting or whether it is deploying to other missions around the world. That is its role. They can talk about some of the equipment we are buying and what they are doing with that equipment.

Those are the interesting discussions Canadians are looking for. They want to make sure that they are engaged at that level, but to have a Twitter war appear is something I am concerned about, and others are as well.

As I said to the colonel in one of my tweets back:

Do you have a problem with #transparency, civilian oversight or both? It is arrogant and insulting to diminish the legitimate questions of Parliamentarians and Canadians. We have the right to know how [the Prime Minister] is using our #Canadian Forces to get #UN SecurityCouncilseat.

An explanation was given by Colonel Janzen about the terminology being used properly. I accept that explanation, but the discourse between the armed forces and us as parliamentarians needs to be respectful and ensure that information is being shared and that nobody feels diminished in asking those hard questions.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Serge Cormier Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for his question. I am certainly looking forward to working with him on the Standing Committee on National Defence.

Tonight is my first adjournment debate.

As we know, our government made a commitment to provide Canadians with accurate information in a transparent and timely manner. The government's communications staff are at the forefront of these efforts.

The Department of National Defence has civilian and military communication professionals working at its headquarters, across Canada and abroad. These Canadians from diverse backgrounds work diligently to inform the public about what our defence team is doing in Canada and abroad. Every day, they provide communication services and advice to support our government's defence priorities, which we outlined for Canadians in our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”.

Their support is part of what makes it possible to hold technical briefings to keep journalists and parliamentarians abreast of our defence team's ongoing efforts to protect Canada, keep North America safe, and pursue our engagement in the world. Take, for example, the information sessions on the deployment of our women and men in uniform to Mali, or the announcement of our defence capability program.

Similarly, our communications experts manage the National Defence lines of communication, particularly on the Internet and on social media. Our government takes this responsibility very seriously, since we are committed to encouraging Canadians to participate through every possible means in order to gather many different perspectives and new ideas.

In that regard, our efforts in the creation and publication of our “Strong, Secure, Engaged” policy are a prime example of the most comprehensive public consultation on Canada's defence policy in the past 20 years. Throughout the consultation period, Canadians representing various walks of life and different backgrounds submitted more than 20,000 documents and ideas through the public consultation portal. Over 4,700 participants gave feedback and voted using the online discussion forum. Nine round tables with over 100 experts were held across the country, including special events dealing with the industy, gender and indigenous issues. Lastly, more than 50 parliamentarians organized community consultation activities. The knowledge and ideas shared by Canadians were carefully considered, and Canada's defence policy is based on what we heard.

Our civilian and military communications experts also play an important role in the implementation of strategic marketing and advertising, including recruitment campaigns. These campaigns are essential to attracting the brightest and the best Canadian candidates and encouraging them to consider a career in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Our government also understands that diversity is our strength and a key factor in the success of our missions. That is why the Canadian Armed Forces welcomes candidates of any gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We will continue to build a defence team that reflects the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion.

We understand that the Canadian Armed Forces must reflect Canadian society and remain an employer of choice for all Canadians. That is exactly why we are engaged in dialogue with Canadians through various means, including social media. Our objective is to inspire and educate young Canadians and to pique their interest by presenting a variety of opportunities and military careers.

Thanks to these efforts, we are pleased to present the army as an employer of choice and, in particular, to attract women and Canadians of diverse origins. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to managing and improving defence communications, and we are proud of the efforts made in that regard by our entire team.

In closing, I would like to remind my colleague that we proposed a take-note debate on the Mali mission. I would like to suggest to my colleague opposite that he speak to his House leader about what he said in his speech.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence into his new job. He is the third one in three years I have had to deal with.

It is inappropriate and inexcusable that the Prime Minister weaponized the public affairs division of the Canadian Armed Forces. The public affairs division is meant to inform Canadians on the work performed by our men and women in uniform. It should not be used to attack journalists and members of Parliament who raise legitimate questions regarding the government's defence priorities.

It should be clear to anyone that the public affairs division of the Canadian Armed Forces is not a wing of the Prime Minister's Office. This follows an alarming trend of the Prime Minister's willingness to use the Canadian Armed Forces as a political pawn for partisan gain. The purpose of the Canadian Armed Forces is to defend Canadians at home and abroad and not to aid in the Prime Minister's re-election campaign.

By weaponizing the public affairs branch of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Liberal government is failing to respect the non-partisan values of our military. As with the Mali peacekeeping deployment, this is yet another example of how the Prime Minister has broken his promise to run an open and transparent government. I expect better and I ask the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of National Defence to change course.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Serge Cormier

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are an organization made up of many communications specialists working throughout Canada and the world. I can assure the House that they are committed to providing valuable advice and services, as well as quality support for our government's defence priorities. However, the Harper government made cuts for decades.

My colleague referred to the fact that I am the third parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence in three years, but he too once held this position. When he was the parliamentary secretary, the Conservatives cut billions and billions of dollars from the defence budget. I came into this position at a time when our government is investing billions of dollars in defence, so I do not think I need any lessons from him on how to manage the government's budget.

In closing, I would like to say a special thank you to all the men and women, particularly the staff at the Department of National Defence and our communications specialists, who work extremely hard each day to ensure that Canadians know what the Department of National Defence is doing and are aware of just how much we have achieved to date.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise here this evening to follow up on a question I asked the Prime Minister back in April of this year on the subject of illegal border crossers.

For nearly two years, the Conservatives have been asking the Prime Minister and his Liberal government to take action to address the influx of illegal migrants. It is profoundly disappointing that instead of putting forward a plan to resolve the problem, the Liberals have allowed a trickle of illegal crossings to grow into a stream and to now grow into a flood. Because of their inaction, a minor problem that could have been addressed early on has become a crisis. Do not take my word for it. Recent polls have indicated that two-thirds of Canadians consider this situation of illegal migrants a crisis.

When I realized that Canada was experiencing a concerning increase in the influx of illegal border crossings at the beginning of 2017, nearly two years ago, I called on the Liberal government to take swift action. Instead what we got was tweets from the Prime Minister saying, “Welcome to Canada” and “Regardless of who you are or where you come from, there's always a place for you in Canada.” Here we are, 19 months later, and it is clear that the Liberals are either unwilling or unable to fix this mess of their own making.

We are not just talking about some abstract concept here, we are talking about the lives of real people. Under the current Prime Minister, large numbers of refugees are not receiving the support they need to successfully integrate into the Canadian economic and social fabric.

In addition to that, asylum seekers are facing backlogs that are years long to have their asylum claims heard. In the meantime, they are being housed in hotels or moved from shelter to shelter, drawing welfare payments and struggling to access language training services. All of this is costing taxpayers excessive amounts of money, yet it is not delivering the desired results.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister has normalized the policy of allowing people to use Canada's asylum system as a means to immigrate to Canada for economic reasons. Asylum is for those who are facing violence, persecution and war. When we treat economic migrants as refugees, resources that ought to be reserved for those in dire need are instead redirected to individuals who were already safe. This is not compassionate. In fact, it is downright unfair to those who are languishing in refugee camps around the world waiting for their chance to come to Canada, for their chance to be free from war, persecution and violence.

We recently learned that more than 65% of illegal migrants from 2017 to 2018 had legal status in the United States prior to illegally entering Canada. Despite the border security minister's false claims over the weekend that the “overwhelming majority of those people have left”, we know that only six of 900 illegal migrants under U.S. deportation orders have been removed. Though he later retracted it, it is concerning that the minister appears to be unaware of just how bad the situation actually is. Since early 2017, more than 34,000 illegal migrants have entered Canada. Only about 400, about 1%, have been removed. These are facts the minister should know well. I will go a step further there. These are facts that should have led the Liberal government to develop and implement a plan to address this crisis a long time ago.

I continue to await an answer from the Liberal government. Will it put a stop to illegal border crossings? Will it restore order and fairness to our immigration and refugee system? Will it defend the integrity of our borders? Will it stand up for the thousands of vulnerable individuals who want to come to Canada the right way?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Peter Schiefke Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth) and to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the hon. member for Provencher's question today. I am happy to note that since he presented his question, he has had a productive discussion with the Minister of Border Security to acknowledge significant improvements on the issue following our government's significant initiatives and outreach.

As we all know, in the past two years, we have seen an increase in the number of claims made both by asylum seekers crossing at points of entry and by asylum seekers irregularly crossing the border between two points of entry.

I would first like to debunk the myth that asylum seekers are jumping the line and that their arrival in Canada delays the processing of other immigration applications.

Asylum claimants are not taking the place of refugees who are coming to Canada in resettlement programs and they are not taking the place of people waiting in other immigration streams. For that party to continue to suggest so is irresponsible and outright dangerous.

The reality is that dedicated, impartial staff at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada make decisions about asylum seekers. These decisions are based on the facts presented in each case. They are consistent with the principles of natural justice and ensure that the procedures are fair. Decisions are based on the merits of each case.

This process does not impact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's ability to make decisions on other types of applications. Accordingly, Canada has a multi-year immigration levels plan that sets out how many immigrants Canada will welcome in family and economic streams.

I repeat: asylum seekers are not taking places reserved for family or economic immigration.

Further, I want to clarify that claimants do receive—and this goes to the assertions my colleague made about how we are not preparing them when they are here and not providing them with support when they are here—interim health care and work permits while waiting for their claims to be decided. This may contribute to the mistaken impression that we are providing expedited work permits as part of queue jumping. However, the reality is very much to the contrary. This is a process that helps claimants lead an independent life in Canada while they wait for their claims to be heard, rather than forcing them to rely on provincial social assistance.

Knowing that this is the case, I hope that the members of the party opposite will finally cease their baseless claims. The government is committed to working with provinces and municipalities to deal with the challenges of migration, including irregular migration. These are challenges that we are addressing.

I must point out that, although there were fewer migrants at the border this summer compared to the same period last year, we remain vigilant and are prepared to take action should this situation change.

In short, our plan is working and since last August there has been a 70% reduction in the number of asylum seekers and the processing of claims has increased over that time by 50%.