Madam Speaker, I worked meticulously on my speech, so I hope that it will address many of the questions my colleagues have raised in their speeches.
I want to recognize my hon. colleague from Montcalm and thank him for his important speech on the bill that he sponsored, Bill C-226, an act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act regarding its non-application in Quebec. This bill is very important for Quebec because it would amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec.
I remind members that there are different conceptual levels of multiculturalism. We need to distinguish between multiculturalism as a social fact of ethnocultural diversity and multiculturalism as a social construct or state ideology. The construct of multiculturalism is a symbolic representation of a nation's political vision. Diversity is viewed differently by Quebeckers and by Canadians.
The Canadian myth portrays Canada as a fundamentally multicultural country, as though there were no social hierarchy created by the cultural domination of the historical anglophone majority. By contrast, Quebec's national vision interprets diversity as a meeting with a host society. This meeting involves a form of cultural exchange. That means immigrants turned citizens integrate into the host society's culture, which evolves by subsuming aspects of the cultures of Quebec's diverse residents.
Unlike the Canadian representation of multiculturalism, the Quebec model involves cultural convergence, which strengthens the nation's common culture without halting its progress.
The term multiculturalism also refers to another conceptual level, that of public policy, the purpose of which is to promote a national vision related to a particular view of multiculturalism by implementing specific measures and programs designed to bring in diversity one way or another.
As mentioned earlier, Canada's policy dates back to 1970. Obviously, it quickly came under heavy criticism from Quebec because it would relegate Quebeckers to being just one ethnic minority among many. What is more, while multiculturalism is presented as an option that is preferable to assimilation, it is an outdated approach with a trivializing effect. It marginalizes communities and traps them in their culture of origin. This leaves groups more isolated, causing them to turn in on themselves.
It is not just Quebeckers and francophones who criticize multiculturalism for being divisive. The same critique was brought forward by English-speaking Canadian author Neil Bissoondath in his book entitled Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada.
What specifically are we criticizing about multiculturalism? I will go straight to the point that interests me even more deeply, that is, everything that our theorist, sociologist and historian Gérard Bouchard has inscribed in our cultural heritage.
According to him, Quebec's interculturalism is a model of integration, as I said earlier, that is distinct from assimilation or multiculturalism. The main components that Mr. Bouchard outlined are as follows: promoting French as a civic language that is a condition for participation in public life; respecting the rights of all Quebeckers, including those most vulnerable to discrimination because of cultural differences such as language, religion and customs; recognizing the majority-minority relationship underlying Quebec's ethnocultural reality; giving priority to collective integration, as befits a small nation whose cultural future is a source of constant concern; developing a common culture; and emphasizing intercultural connections and exchanges.
Let me quote Mr. Bouchard:
One of the model's primary concerns is avoiding assimilation. Rather, its goal is integration, adherence to our society's fundamental values as defined in our Charter. It also expects newcomers to learn French and participate in civic life. As for the common culture, it develops through free intercultural interaction and feeds off all contributions, from the majority and minorities alike. Nobody is expected to renounce their culture.
Quebec's interculturalism took shape in the late 1990s with the publication of a white paper entitled Let's Build Québec Together: A Policy Statement on Immigration and Integration. It states that Quebec is a society where French is the common language of public life, a democratic society where everyone's participation and contribution is expected and facilitated, a pluralistic society open to everyone's contribution within the limits imposed by respect for basic democratic values.
It is therefore essential that the social and economic integration of immigrants take place in French. Economically, interculturalism must provide immigrants with the resources to get into the job market, and that starts with learning French. The notion of exchange is key to the policy of interculturalism because, politically, interculturalism implies that the state respects intercultural principles, especially citizen participation, intercultural exchange and the fight against discrimination.
The civic route is preferred over the courts for settling cultural disputes. Inclusivity and the importance of the common culture are the strengths that distinguish interculturalism from Canadian multiculturalism.
State secularism is a model for integration and a way of accommodating ethnocultural diversity. This is a principle that establishes the separation of government and religion, the religious neutrality of the state, equality for all citizens, and guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
In closing, it is important to know that the two policies are independent. The one does not have to involve the other. Whether it is true or not, the important thing is that, in any case, this is a Quebec discussion that concerns the nation of Quebec, its identity and its future. It does not concern Canada in any way. Interculturalism, like secularism, is a matter for public discussion and debate. There is a clear consensus among all parliamentarians in Quebec that these debates are profoundly national and democratic. They have been held and will be held in our National Assembly, period.