Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am pleased to speak today on this Bloc Québécois opposition day, and I really mean that. Often, we say we are pleased out of habit. Despite the fact that the government tried to reduce the scope of this day, as we saw during question period, the fact remains that this is an historic moment.
It is an historic moment for the Bloc Québécois. It is our 30th anniversary. My colleague from Saint‑Jean mentioned it earlier, but every time we rise to speak we are taking our rightful place and we must always defend ourselves. I am paraphrasing what she said a bit, but it is truly a pleasure to do so. I am speaking under the theme of freedom, uniqueness, sovereignty, identity, dignity and legitimacy. It is pretty clear that I am pleased to speak.
As the Prime Minister said, as soon as Bill 96 was tabled at the Quebec National Assembly, he promptly mentioned that it was only symbolic. Given everything I said in my introduction, the bill is far from being symbolic. It is an action. I will come back later to the issue of “acknowledging”. It is a really strong action and, beyond the symbol, there are meanings and impacts. It is not only words and sounds, but concrete actions which are part of the matter and the material.
Let us simply recall the intent of the motion, which we are told is trivial. I heard the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons earlier as he was telling us that everything is already in place. I absolutely disagree with that. The Bloc Québécois motion contains three elements and states the following:
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.
I was saying that, for me, this is a concrete step that rests on a solid foundation; it is almost primal. Some said that this was an empty gesture, an exercise in futility. The fact is, however, that acknowledging something is not a passive act. We are not asking the government, the House of Commons and all our colleagues to sit back and do nothing while the train goes by; we are asking them to act. To acknowledge something is to take action. Acknowledging something is an act of will. There is no will to be found in passivity. In order to acknowledge something, one needs to want to do it. Sometimes, people are motivated by interests that I dare not name, but at the very least, they need to make their will known.
One also needs to be willing to admit certain things. Admissions require humility. We are confronted with something that is bigger than us. It is quite simply undeniable. We are also humbled by what we are seeing, because we are powerless to stop it. I will come back to this question of “stopping” it, because to “admit” something should not necessarily mean to “oppose” something. It is not enough to simply observe; we need to see, to understand, to hear, and also to engage, which is a strong word.
What we are asking the House to do today, to acknowledge something, is a powerful thing. The government has never done this before, despite what the government House leader would have us believe.
This acknowledgement also implies a certain duration. A commitment is not simply fulfilled when one votes in favour or against our motion after a couple of days or hours of debate. This is a commitment one takes today for the future. I am urging all members in this house to engage in and not oppose this process.
I am urging members to acknowledge that Quebec is a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that French is the common language of the Quebec nation. Think about what the word “acknowledge” means. I spoke about the primal and concrete aspects of the word, about commitment, humility, admissions and lack of passivity. This motion is very charged. It speaks to our identity, to the very existence of Quebeckers. We are calling on the House to recognize and commit to allowing us to simply be, exist and become.
I have heard some comments that made me think. The Prime Minister said that there was absolutely nothing there, that it would pass and that the motion was unnecessary.
I would like to take a moment to quote a few extracts from anglophone media, be they in Quebec, such as the Montreal Gazette, or elsewhere in Canada, such as the Toronto Sun. What seems to be self-evident for the government, at least according to the comments made in the last few weeks, is not resolved at all in my view.
The government and members of the House will need courage to be able to admit that and to acknowledge what the Bloc Québécois motion says.
I will now quote some extracts in English. I could translate them, but I think they will be clear for the majority of members in the House. Today is June 15. Not so long ago, on June 10, the Montreal Gazette said the following:
“Why does the protection of the French language require the blanket suspension of human rights?”
The Montreal Gazette is telling us that human rights are being suspended. I do not know if the author meant that as a hyperbole or another stylistic device. On my part, I do not see any consensus in there, but rather a potential controversy. The following words are from Ms. Jennings, from the Quebec Community Groups Network. She said:
“It’s a bad way to start as a nation”.
According to her, Bill 96 is a bad way to start a nation. I am sorry to break the news to Ms. Jennings, but the Quebec nation already existed a long time ago. Here is another quote from the newspapers:
“Why does protecting the French language require the blanket...[and] the most sweeping overrides of human rights ever seen in Canada.”
That is a gross exaggeration. This is not the worst denial or clawback of human rights that ever took place in Canada. Now I will quote from the Toronto Sun, which is not from Quebec but from one of Canada's biggest cities, the Queen City. A former advisor or assistant to Jean Chrétien wrote:
The story is about the Canadian province of Quebec, and the changes that are coming in the Quebec government's recently-tabled Bill 96. The Bill would change the Constitution of Canada, and render Quebec a “nation.” The Bill will impose the changes described above to “protect” the French language, too....
It will actually ruin lives in Quebec — and radically change Canada in the process.
The author says that passing Bill 96 will ruin lives in Quebec.
I have thousands of quotes like that one. To me, “acknowledgement” is really an engagement that calls for firm, brave and courageous determination on the part of the government and MPs. I hope they will keep that in mind when it is time to vote.
Just for fun, I will conclude with some words by Loco Locass, whom I never thought I would quote in the House. I believe music is the best way to talk about languages, about our openness, about our past and our future. Is there any better way to show how open we are? My colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix would agree. Can anything convey who we are better than poetry? We are open, but we are also a francophone nation.
...we are creators
Not creatures, not caricatures
Our home has no separations; it has four seasons
We are used to the climate and the ice fog doesn't faze us
We have travelled along the arteries of a massive continent
Our species aspires to space, and we've left our mark everywhere
...In stumpless fields in the moonlight
And the roots of a beech that can no longer bend
We will not bend.