That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
Mr. Speaker, you have inspired me to read the motion again, as I find it rather poetic.
That the House agree [the use of the word “agree” was no accident] that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
Although it has been 30 years since the Bloc Québécois was created, there are still people in the nation next door who think they need to rewrite their own laws to enshrine French, and only French, as Quebec's official language. This is because, 30 years later, there is still that much to be done, not to mention gaining independence.
Quebec is totally and entirely entitled and justified to tell anyone listening and anyone else, in every forum and soon every forum around the world, that it is a French nation whose only official language is French. I would remind all these fine people that this has been the case since 1974. When I was a boy in short pants French was already the only official language of Quebec. It feels like some members of the House just discovered that the Earth is round, although I am told that a few people here are not so sure. The common language has more weight than the official language. The common language is the one we use when we are walking down the street and we encounter someone we do not know.
The great tragedy of the French language in Quebec is when a young francophone encounters another young francophone at the corner of Peel and Sainte‑Catherine and they carry on in English without understanding the history behind that reality, without understanding what brought them there, without understanding the sometimes uncertain compromises made, the humiliations of history, the strong affirmations and the emergence of an extraordinary culture. Two young francophones speaking to each other in English in the street is the antithesis of recognizing the wonderful contribution of a Leonard Cohen to Quebec culture. What makes us who we are completes us. We can never give up who we are.
Today is a very special day. Some would say that it is rather singular to be celebrating it in this place, but that is where our friendly struggles have brought us. This day will be celebrated in the hearts of the millions of Quebeckers who recognize themselves in our cause. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Bloc Québécois.
In this day and age, it is no longer appropriate to see individuals as being more than human, especially if they are still living. However, I am in a position to speak to, as humbly as possible, the stature of a certain Lucien Bouchard and to assess all that he relinquished, all the courage he showed 30 years ago to create what one day history will call one of the essential tools for making Quebec a full sovereign nation. We have an obligation to be humble, each one of us in this place, in Parliament, online, all the workers, the hardworking men and women here and elsewhere, the supporters, the Quebeckers engaged in this desire to complete a journey that began with the Quiet Revolution.
Although we recognize that we must be humble, we also have the right to show our pride. We are a fine bunch; we are the bunch who cheerfully refuse to disappear. We are those they say will not exist. We are told over and over that the Bloc Québécois is finished, just as we are told over and over that independence is finished. Well, these naysayers keep having to roll up their sleeves because our objective is sound, noble and legitimate.
However, it will never be more and it will never be better than what has been done by those who came before us in Parliament's House of Commons, which, I say with no enmity, will always be foreign to us. If we wish it, it will be temporary.
Today Parliament is going to properly debate a very important motion, not just surreptitiously dispose of it. Quebec is navigating through the maze of documents that were designed to make it wither away. Those same documents indicate that it is time to acknowledge and note down the fact that Quebec is a nation.
Quebec is not a nation within a united Canada. That does not mean anything. Quebec is a whole, entire, thriving, complete, vibrant, beautiful, and up and coming French nation. No other language can even begin to compare to the heritage, beauty, allure and poetry of French. No wonder there was a baby boom in Quebec. These things start with flattering words, and French has much to offer in that regard.
Members were able to refuse the motion that we moved at the end of May with a simple “nay”, but today it will not be so easy. We are pleased to make two observations. First, we think that the motion will be adopted. We will be pleased to accept it because it is very good thing.
Second, without this great group of 32 passionate people, the motion never would have been adopted. It would have never even existed, and Quebec would have never been able to identify with it to this extent. This group decided to make this proposal to Ottawa. It did not want to be received with indifference and actions that would later go against it. This is not a legal approach that we have initiated, not at all. It is also not an approach that involves interpretation, a scope of interpretation or “interpretativity”. It is a political approach. Take it or leave it. It is political.
We are putting this Parliament in a position where it will be forced to effectively take note of the fact that Quebec is affirming that we are a French nation. I would dare say that Parliament should do that in a humble way, which is not something it is often known for.
There will be consequences. The government cannot go on forever hiding behind an assortment of judges who have also been hidden behind a charter that was designed to counter the will of Quebec and the Quebec National Assembly. Beyond all of that, there is the will of elected officials from across Canada and Quebec.
When the time comes to do something, someone will have to show some consistency. The government cannot recognize the French-speaking Quebec nation, take money from Quebeckers and give it to people who want to challenge and oppose the French-speaking Quebec nation. Now, it does happen, and there have been some inconsistencies, but we will expose the people who deserve to be exposed.
I want to say something that might sound a little harsh, but that is not my intention. The government's new, multi-page slogan is called the modernization of the Official Languages Act. I think I can say that this is not something we will be debating here. This bill will not go anywhere. It is essentially a second document filled with statements and hypothetical plans that will only happen if the Liberal government has a minority. We shall see what makes it into the rewritten version if they ever win a majority.
We do not even know what it is all about. It is starting out with private briefings, and we do not know what the Minister of Official Languages plans to include in her bill. We do know that it will apparently recognize French as the official language of Quebec. A round of applause for acknowledging what we all have known for 50 years. People who are better informed than me have reported that it essentially copies what would be in Quebec's hypothetical Bill 96, with respect to making federally regulated companies and institutions subject to the Charter of the French Language.
First of all, the two laws would say the same thing, but the federal law would take precedence. Why? It is because in real life, from the Canadian and federal perspective, Quebec is a vassal state. If we do not agree, I decide. That is what Canada is, even in terms of language, identity, values and culture. That speaks volumes.
We are talking about a government that cannot even hope to pass amendments to the Broadcasting Act, which was thankfully and greatly improved thanks to my friend the member for Drummond's efforts; a government that cannot even get its budget implementation bill passed, when there is probably someone out there shopping for a bus and a couple of planes.
It is quite ironic to see who the government is turning to. It is turning to the leader of the Bloc Québécois to say we are in a peck of trouble, that we are good people, that we still have a lot in common and that we will to work to make it work. These people have come to tell us that they will be deciding how to manage our language, our values, our identity, our culture and our nationhood and that is really nice of them, but no thanks. We are going to do it ourselves.
Now let us talk about timelines. The Minister of Official Languages is going to introduce an official languages bill that would, among other things, seek to replicate what will eventually be prescribed by Bill 96, which amends Quebec's Charter of the French Language to make federal institutions and businesses subject to the Charter of the French Language.
I am a good guy, and I would like to save her the effort. First of all, the parliamentary session of the House of Commons will surely be over before anyone even begins to look at the purely legislative side of things. There is a very good chance that this Parliament will be over too, so it will not happen in the foreseeable future. Let us not hold our breath.
In the meantime, two things will happen. First, in all likelihood this fall, the Quebec National Assembly will vote on what will, depending on the will of the elected representatives of the Quebec National Assembly alone, become Bill 96, and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec will henceforth apply to institutions and businesses under federal jurisdiction. The fall seems a bit far off, so we are going to move faster than that.
Tomorrow, the bill introduced by my esteemed colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, which would subject federal institutions and businesses in Quebec to the Charter of the French Language, will be put to a vote in the House of Commons. We are going to save a lot of time, avoid a ton of double-dealing and vote on this bill tomorrow. It will be done. We will be able to say thank you, goodbye. It will be dealt with, and we will be able to move on to another issue.
The House will have an opportunity tomorrow to move forward with a bill that would make federally regulated institutions and businesses subject to the Charter of the French Language, as called for by the Quebec National Assembly. Is that not wonderful?
Why not make the most of this opportunity? I must admit that it would have the disadvantage of stealing a bit of our thunder in terms of scoring political points in the run-up to the election. That is a bit of a shame, but it should not be the priority.
It is also important to point out that before anyone spoke French in New France, English on the shores of the United States, or Spanish on the southern islands or in Louisiana, North and South America were home to dozens and dozens of nations, each of them no less a nation than ours are today. They have their own histories, languages and cultures. That is always worth mentioning. We wanted to amend the motion to that effect, and some members from other parties suggested it, but others were not willing to let us do so.
When we have our great debates that, let us face it, pit French against English, we do not always mention it, but we should always give indigenous languages—I hate to say a specific status, because that term is so misused, but a factual, institutional and friendly respect that shelters them from all our debates that, from the perspective of these great cultures, only just arrived on their continent.
Before I conclude, I would like to encourage the minister to do something useful with the Official Languages Act. Some might interpret that to mean that I am implying she is addressing things that are not useful and, well, they are right. Quebec does not need anyone at any time to tell it how to promote and protect its language, culture, arts, identity and values. What it badly needs is for those who are not involved to mind their own business and keep their noses out of ours.
Instead, those resources should be invested, willingly, happily and generously, to support Acadian communities and francophone communities outside Quebec, which need them badly. No doubt people will tell us that anglophones in Quebec also badly need to be protected. I say this without malice. I confess I do not get up in the morning worrying about the survival of the English language in Quebec. I think it is doing quite well, and I am happy for it. The day Canada treats its French and Acadian minorities as well, as generously, and as warmly as Quebec has historically treated its English minority, the debate will be quite different. God knows we are not there yet.
Whatever Quebeckers decide to do with their nation, their state, their language, their culture, their values and their history, the result will be a resolutely French nation. I say this both in friendship and as a bit of a warning: No one is going to stand in Quebec's way. No one will succeed. The joyous, dynamic, festive, colourful, culinary and musical resilience of Quebeckers is unstoppable. As history will show, today will be a milestone in the protection of this nation, which will one day be called upon once more to take its destiny in its own hands, and the sooner the better.