Mr. Speaker, my speech will focus on three important things: the situation of French in Quebec, the important role French plays in social cohesion, and parliamentary democracy as it applied to Bill C-421.
What was the most important news about the language issue in Quebec in recent years? It was the record drop in the demographic weight of French speakers and the unprecedented rise in the demographic weight of English speakers.
English is not threatened in Quebec; French is. We are not the ones saying that. It is Statistics Canada, and it cannot be said that Statistics Canada is an organization that supports Quebec nationalism.
Here is what is being said:
The Language Projections for Canada, 2011 to 2036...indicate that, if the demographic conditions observed since 2011 continue, the balance between French and English in Quebec will continue to quickly tip in favour of the latter. According to those same projections, between 2011 and 2036, the weight of French-home-language speakers is expected to drop by approximately seven percentage points, while that of English-home-language speakers is expected to rise by two percentage points.
On the 40th anniversary of Bill 101, Guy Rocher, a sociologist, professor and renowned speaker, quoted some figures from Statistics Canada, as well. These figures relate to the census, which showed that French is declining in Quebec, as a mother tongue, language of work and language spoken at home. This has become a language crisis. We cannot keep turning a blind eye, because we now have figures showing how bad it is. Once again, I remind members that Statistics Canada as an organization is not very supportive of Quebec nationalism or independence.
The situation is critical. Play time is over and now is the time to act. French is under threat in Quebec. I am not fearmongering here. I am simply stating the facts, and everything that can be done to protect the French language must be done. This is what my colleague's bill was designed to do.
Here is another quote from Statistics Canada that demonstrates how important the French language is to social cohesion:
The ability of immigrants to speak one of the official languages is considered an important condition for their full participation in Canadian society.
That is what Statistics Canada says about Canada, and rather emphatically at that. It seems to me that what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. French in Quebec should also get special consideration.
The government is trying to brainwash us into believing that the battle for French is won and that we no longer need to worry our pretty little heads about it. The fact remains, though, that mastering French is less beneficial to immigrants than mastering English. There are social reasons for all that, of course. There are unilingual English brand names and the Internet. Information and communications technology has exploded in recent decades, and with it the use of English at the expense of every other language in the world.
The Government of Quebec also has its own unique problems, such as the language of administration, which is often English; the sign law, which is often disregarded; and challenges related to officially bilingual municipalities. Those are all consequences of the many attacks on Bill 101, our language charter.
Knowledge of French is fundamental to successful integration and access to employment. Knowledge of French is fundamental to strong social cohesion.
Marina Doucerain, a researcher in the area of immigration psychology, has done studies on this. She has indicated that all studies of immigrants in the greater Montreal area that she has been involved in have been unequivocal. It is very clear that the majority of participants, whether they come from the Maghreb region, Russia or elsewhere, want to make Quebecois friends and integrate into the majority culture, which means they must learn French. However, the francization and cultural integration of immigrants remain problematic.
Let us now look at what happened here, in the House of Commons, with my colleague's bill. The exceptional procedure applied to the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île prevents the bill from even being voted on in a recorded division. This is basically just another attempt to relegate the Quebec nation to a minority status just like every other ethnic minority in Canada.
Canadians, who are still 100% behind Pierre Trudeau's charter, will not stop until there is linguistic free trade from coast to coast to coast.
In closing, what we want is for French, the common language of Quebec, to have the chance to counterbalance English, the common language of Canada, the United States, and globalization because our distinctness is important to us.
I will take a few moments to read a motion that was moved at the end of November 1995 by Mr. Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister at the time.
The motion moved:
Whereas the People of Quebec have expressed the desire for recognition of Quebec's distinct society;
(1) the House recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada;
(2) the House recognize that Quebec's distinct society includes its French-speaking majority, unique culture and civil law tradition;
(3) the House undertake to be guided by this reality;
(4) the House encourage all components of the legislative and executive branches of government to take note of this recognition and be guided in their conduct accordingly.
In his argument, the former prime minister said:
The purpose of the motion we are debating today is to have the elected representatives of Canada recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada. As a Quebecker and a francophone [we know that Mr. Chrétien is a Quebecker and a francophone, of course], I understand and share the desire of my fellow Quebeckers to have our difference recognized.
Today I call on Canadians who demonstrated their attachment to Quebec during the referendum campaign to support our government's initiative to recognize Quebec explicitly as a distinct society.
This was adopted on December 11, 1995. Is the quiet nationalism mentioned by the member from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert possible in this country? It would seem it is not. This motion should have been applied to Bill C-421, but it was not.
Federalists are upset by our desire to have our own nation, a nation that proclaims loud and clear our pride in speaking French, and to give it the tools needed to keep our language alive. It also bothers them that we want to base our identity on the common values that bring us together and unite us. “The moment Quebec stands up for itself, federalists become outraged.” These words were spoken by my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. He said them in 2015, and we fully endorse them.