Mr. Speaker, it is not without a certain bitterness that I join the debate on this bill.
Of course, we can tout the merits of Canada's two official languages. I rise in the House with all due respect for francophone minority communities outside Quebec and anglophone minority communities in Quebec. There is no denying, however, that, over the past few years, there has been an effort to relegate the sovereignty issue to the dustbin of history; to downplay the importance of acknowledging Quebeckers' quiet nationalism, which concerns me greatly. I have observed firsthand that the French language is at the heart of culture.
Last week, we debated the bill on indigenous languages. We heard from several people who stated just how important indigenous languages are to the indigenous identity and culture, and how it is very important to preserve them. The situation in Quebec is obviously not the same because Quebeckers have had the opportunity to take strong positions and to implement measures such as Bill 101. It was highly controversial at the time but it ultimately played an important, structural role in Quebec culture, and is a critical part of French's resilience in Quebec.
I am talking about our national question being turned into a bit of folklore, because, I would remind hon. members, Quebec is a distinct nation. I immediately think of simple things like the fact that our parliament is not called a legislature, but a national assembly, like in France, to reflect the fact that we adhere to the Civil Code instead of common law. We have a republican-like way of thinking, a way of seeing society that is more reflective of France, but includes a healthy mix of our status as Canadians and North Americans in the Westminister system.
My general impression when it comes to defending the interests of Quebec is that there are not too many Quebec MPs who want to talk about quiet nationalism, an expression that I quite liked and adopted. It was coined by Alain Dubuc, and economics columnist at La Presse. This is a nod to the Quiet Revolution and a characterization of our nationalism. In Quebec today, in 2019, this is a consensual nationalism, in the vast majority of cases.
Some hon. members represent largely anglophone communities where people are not inclined to be open to this idea. I forgive those members for not rising often enough to stand up for the quiet nationalism we are seeing in Quebec. As for the other MPs, I honestly have to say that I am very frustrated. For four years now, I have been front and centre at all times. My party, the NDP, gives me room to talk about how vital culture is to our television and popular music industries. Quebec's cultural industries are thriving. Every time we talk about a Canadian filmmaker doing well internationally we are proud of that, but often that filmmaker is from Quebec. We are so proud we might as well be talking about an Olympic champion. However, this does not come from nothing.
In the Olympics, there are programs such as own the podium. In Quebec and Canada, Quebec culture was allowed to thrive in television, film and music. How did we do that? By enforcing regulations; not letting ourselves be colonized and stepped on like doormats; and telling industry stakeholders interested in developing international culture that we had a weakness and that we needed to be a part of the story. If there is foreign content, there will have to be local content. This goes for all Canadian content, and everyone knows it, but it takes on a whole new meaning in Quebec. Both Canadian and Quebec content are hugely successful and have exceptional ratings, and ultimately, they also have a positive impact on society.
I will stop there to return to the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.
In Quebec, protecting culture means ensuring that the stories we tell reflect peoples' lives. I often give the example of the show Fugueuse, which had great ratings and a profound social impact. Every day after an episode would air, social workers and screenwriters would come to Longueuil station to talk about child prostitution, which is a blight, especially in my constituency. The show is having an impact.
In Quebec, we have invested in this particular way of telling our stories and expressing our love to one another, of greeting the world and welcoming new communities that come here. Last year, at a televised gala, we learned that Fugueuse helped 20 or so young people get out of prostitution after speaking to their parents. How marvellous is that?
Some people might say they are sick of hearing about the bloody Quebec culture and would rather watch Netflix anyway because the content is more relatable and much better. Is it though? I myself obsessively watched 13 Reasons Why, a series about teen suicide, before my daughters watched it, because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for them. Then I learned that, according to American studies, youth suicide rates rose by 27% after the first few episodes were released. That is a huge increase.
The reason I bring this up is that we need to defend the Quebec nation in a constructive way. That is why we in the NDP strongly objected when this bill was designated as non-votable. Incidentally, I tip my hat to the member for Hamilton Centre, who fought to convince all his colleagues to vote to debate the bill. This bill represents an idea that could be immensely improved by the work of all the legislators in the House. I do not want to hear anyone telling me this bill is silly. If there is one bill that was sloppily cobbled together without constructive input from all members of Parliament, it is the omnibus bill that contained a certain little provision about SNC-Lavalin. We know all about the disastrous consequences for that company, which is Quebec's leading engineering firm, and above all for my dear Liberal colleagues, who really messed up.
The NDP believes this is an important issue because we are acutely conscious of the significant contributions that these new cultures make. They are going to help us build a stronger Quebec. Naturally, teaching French to newcomers is the central issue. We actually adopted a resolution on this topic at the last NDP convention in Trois-Rivières: Whereas immigration is essential to address the labour shortage, which is hurting the economy; whereas the Conservative and now the Liberal governments did nothing to support francophone immigration and make French language classes more accessible—God knows that is true; and whereas francophone immigration is indispensable for ensuring the future of Quebec and francophone communities across Canada outside Quebec; be it resolved that an NDP government will commit to providing adequate funding to increase the required percentage of French-speaking immigrants and will adapt existing immigration programs to Quebec's unique economic, social and labour needs.
That is why the Quebec caucus would surely have voted in favour of this bill at second reading so that it could be sent to committee. We are not getting anywhere by cutting ourselves off and talking past one another. It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers' quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec's distinct identity.
In closing, we are very disappointed that we are not able to vote on this bill. This really is a dialogue of the deaf. It seems like members just want to put a lid on this issue and not talk about it. I would urge my dear friends to wake up. There is a quiet nationalism in Quebec, and it is high time we helped it along rather than stand in its way.