House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.


The House resumed from December 9, 2020 consideration of the motion that Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the private member's bill, Bill C-226, introduced by the member for Montcalm, whom I have always found to be an intelligent and respectful debater, even if we do not share the same vision for our Canadian federalism. He always makes his interventions about ideas, and that is fundamental to a healthy democracy.

Bill C-226 asks the House to support an amendment to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act that would make the act not applicable in Quebec. It is important to mention that official bilingualism and multiculturalism in this country share the same origins. That is the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which did its work between 1963 and 1969. The commissioners believed, in fact, that official bilingualism and multiculturalism could be mutually reinforcing, and they were so very right.

Through its multicultural policy adopted in 1971, the federal government recognized diversity as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and as a pillar of our value system. However, it was also made clear that the advancement of multiculturalism throughout Canada had to be made in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada. Built not only on the contributions of indigenous peoples and the two official language communities, French and English, the fabric of Canada owes much to the contributions of the many ethnocultural communities and new immigrants who have come to make a life in this country over the span of decades.

By way of background, the Canadian multiculturalism policy was enshrined in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, and all provincial and territorial governments are subject to its application, including Quebec. The act, which is now 33 years old, provides the framework for federal responsibilities and activities designed to bring Canadians closer together and promote mutual respect and appreciation among Canadians of different backgrounds. The act has been central in creating harmonious relations among Canadians of different backgrounds, and it has helped strengthen the country's social fabric.

Quebec is the only province in Canada that promotes interculturalism as an approach to integration and cross-cultural understanding. Broadly speaking, Quebec's vision and policy of interculturalism propose a model of integration that aims to ensure the continuity of the francophone identity and culture, while still respecting minority cultures, that is, diversity, and the contributions they make to modern Quebec society.

In 1990, a policy statement on immigration and integration entitled “Let's Build Quebec Together” set the parameters of Quebec's policy of interculturalism. Developed by the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion of Quebec, the document reaffirms that interculturalism and adapting institutions to the values of diversity and reasonable accommodation are key parts of Quebec's approach to integration.

As the Prime Minister often says, “we are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.” As many scholars and academics have noted, linguistic duality is at the heart of our Canadian values of inclusiveness and diversity. Accommodating two languages has fostered greater openness in Canadian society toward other cultures. The Official Languages Act and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act go hand in hand in defining the values that Canada represents on the world stage.

In 2021, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada's multiculturalism policy, which was introduced in the House of Commons by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. This will be an opportunity to remember who we are and what unites us.

It is important and, indeed, crucial to note that multiculturalism and interculturalism are not incompatible. They are not really opposites. One does not exclude the other. Both attach great importance to integrating and respecting common civic and democratic values, and both have been invaluable to Canada's social fabric since the 1970s.

I would add that Canada's federal multiculturalism policy is flexible enough to allow for the two concepts, multiculturalism and interculturalism, to coexist. It is very important for the Government of Canada that Canadians in all provinces and territories act in accordance with the country's core values, such as openness to diversity, inclusion and respect for others. In that regard, multiculturalism, like our official languages, is often perceived to be a fundamental social pillar that the government is committed to defending and promoting.

Bill C-226 reminds us that Quebeckers form a nation and therefore possess all the tools and power needed to define their identity and protect three common and essential values, namely, the protection of the French language, the separation of church and state and gender equality. For those reasons, the member for Montcalm is suggesting that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act should not apply to Quebec. However, if we analyze the federal legislation carefully, we see that those three principles hold a very important, and even fundamental, place in it.

First, the application of the act does not exclude the protection of the French language. Immigrant heritage languages cannot be enhanced, as suggested in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, without strengthening the status and use of both official languages. What is more, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, like the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, while ensuring those freedoms are not endangered.

Second, because of this interpretation of pluralism, which is based on reasonable accommodation, the federal government has the ability to maintain the neutrality of the state, since it does not favour majority religious beliefs over minority ones.

The Multiculturalism Act repeatedly points to gender equality as a fundamental principle of Canadian society. Exempting Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, as called for in Bill C-226, could have major consequences.

It would reduce access to the multiculturalism funding program by Quebec's ethnocultural and religious communities. Exempting Quebec from the Multiculturalism Act would also compromise the federal government's ability to promote a consistent shared set of national values and support the overall objectives of the act. Passage of this bill will most certainly lead to discussions about competing anti-multiculturalism ideologies across the country, which is hardly desirable.

This bill is also an attempt to undermine the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec, given that section 17 of the charter officially refers to multiculturalism as a Canadian value. The bill is actually trying to do this without invoking the section 33 notwithstanding clause, which requires an official request by the province. I would note that the Government of Quebec has made no such request.

I will conclude by reminding the House that the position put forward by Bill C-226 is not supported by all Quebeckers and all Quebec governments. In 2017, the Quebec government published an official document that outlines its vision of itself within Canada. The document, entitled “Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations”, remains current and has been endorsed by two successive governments. It states, “Québec has been able to grow and develop its national identity within the Canadian federal framework.” This clearly implies that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act is not impeding Quebec or its development in any way.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act makes Canada a stronger, more united and more inclusive country, and it must be protected.

Whichever way we cut it, we are a country of minorities. This reality, and the awareness of this reality, is what gives us, as Canadians, our wise perspective, a perspective that in my view is the recipe for success in the postmodern world. It is what keeps us from the—

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will have to leave it there. The time is just over the expiry of the hon. member's time.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say how much I appreciate Quebec, its culture and its people.

Quebec makes an enormous contribution to Canadian culture. I understand that some Bloc members doe not really like multiculturalism, but I personally believe that Canadian multiculturalism helps Quebeckers preserve their culture and share it with the rest of the country.

As a result of Canada's openness to different cultures, including French culture, we have French-language schools across the country, including in my riding of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.

My riding also has English-language, Christian and other educational institutions, which offer students a diverse range of educational options. Having other schools does not have a negative impact on our local French-language school, because all these schools coexist.

We can say the same thing about the global culture of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. My riding has a diverse population with people of different backgrounds, but we stand united behind our Albertan and Canadian identity while maintaining personal cultural traditions. That is multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is not new to Canada. There are hundreds of indigenous nations in Canada. The French and the British arrived later in this country, followed by other Europeans. We were already a multicultural people before Confederation, and when Canada was founded, people started to share their nationalities with others from different cultures and religions. It goes without saying that this process was not seamless, but we must accept that a multicultural society is not a utopia.

Nothing in this world is perfect, but I believe that the advantages of a multicultural society outweigh the disadvantages. I support the principle of pluralism, which is a political philosophy holding that people of different beliefs, backgrounds and lifestyles can coexist in the same society and participate equally in the political process. I believe that Canada is an example of a successful pluralism, in which people from all cultures, beliefs, faiths, races and sexual orientations are proud to call themselves Canadians.

As some may know, multiculturalism is something I am passionate about. Quite often I feel like we underestimate it both in terms of what it demands of us and the possibilities it represents. Multiculturalism can be challenging when it calls on us to live with and understand things that are unfamiliar to us, but it also provides us an enriching opportunity to have a deeper and intimate understanding of a much broader range of human experiences that we get through different cultures and traditions.

In a society with limited diversity, we would be ignorant without knowing it. In a more diverse society, ignorance can lead to moments of discomfort, but those moments of discomfort can give us the opportunity to learn and grow if they are associated with grace and humility.

When diversity leads to learning and growth we end up with a society where we all know much more about the world around us, one where we can not only savour all sorts of differences, but where our thoughts and conversations can be imbued with the wisdom of teachers and statesmen around the world.

The creation of this type of multicultural society that works has value and presents tremendous opportunities.

Multiculturalism and the knowledge that is gained from it can make us better artists and philosophers, better able to search for individual and collective happiness because we have access to more data, thanks to our personal relationships and conversations. Multiculturalism can help us resolve more problems by applying various problem-solving techniques, allowing us to become unique world leaders who use our cultural understanding to negotiate peace agreements that previously would have been unimaginable. Finally, multiculturalism is an opportunity to create wealth through our ability to engage in respectful trade with countries from all over the globe without being intimidated or manipulated.

There is a lot more we need to know to practise multiculturalism properly, but the knowledge that we gain about other cultures along the way will help us to do much more than simply avoid offence. When we do not understand a culture, it is easy to make erroneous snap judgments and engage in xenophobia. It is important to be open-minded when trying to understand people. If we do not, we will never have a successful, diverse society. That is why diversity of opinion is so critical. It enables members of an ethnically diverse society to co-exist and understand each other.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and explain why it is important that it apply to all of Canada, including Quebec.

The purpose of the act is to preserve and enhance Canada's cultural diversity. It was introduced in 1971 with the hope that it would guarantee the cultural freedom of all Canadians.

Freedom is a Canadian value. I am someone who values freedom, and that is one of the reasons why I am opposing this Bloc Québécois bill today.

I always oppose attacks on freedom. That is why I am also against Bill C-10. The government says that Bill C-10 seeks to advance diversity, but, in my opinion, freedom of expression is essential to do that.

Quite frankly, I am concerned about the repercussions on religious minorities if the Canadian Multiculturalism Act does not apply in Quebec.

Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities is a problem in all regions of Canada. Conservatives understand the constitutional jurisdictions of each level of government, but we will always act within the federal jurisdiction to protect minority rights.

I do think it is important to recognize that the discourse on the issue of multiculturalism is a little different in Quebec than in other provinces. Given that Quebec francophones are a minority in Canada, I can understand why they want to protect their culture and especially their language.

Unlike some members, my Conservative Party colleagues and I recognize that the French language in Quebec is in decline, and this issue must be addressed. However, unlike some other members, I do not believe that assimilating minority communities or opposing multiculturalism are effective responses to this problem.

The fact is that many immigrants who settle in Quebec speak French, especially those from Haiti, Africa, Morocco and Algeria and from Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon. All these cultures are proud of their French while maintaining their cultural and religious traditions.

Multiculturalism can be a major asset for Quebec when it comes to attracting new francophone immigrants and strengthening the presence of French in North America.

I would now like to briefly address the issue of religion in this debate because it appears in the preamble to the bill. I understand that when an individual or community has a negative experience with a religious organization, that causes pain and a desire to get as far away as possible from the source of that pain. However, hypothetically, repression in the name of secularism can happen too and can be just as harmful as repression in the name of a given religion.

I believe that the political community should focus on freedom, pluralism and freedom of religion. I do not think the state should impose a particular point of view on religious matters or practices. That is the real idea behind the separation of church and state. The idea is not about actively marginalizing people for practising their faith; it is about giving people the ability to decide what they believe in and how they interpret these beliefs.

Multiculturalism and pluralism are an expression of the universal human desire for freedom of choice and freedom to seek the truth on fundamental issues without interference from the state. Multiculturalism is important and must not be exercised at the expense of Quebec's rich culture. I think it can even improve Quebec culture, especially with respect to the French language and the fact that more immigrants speak French.

Although I am in favour of preserving Quebec's rich culture, I do not support a bill that could wind up leading to cultural assimilation. We need to work on improving multiculturalism—

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Jonquière.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I gather from my colleagues' speeches that they will not be supporting the bill. Many of them constantly repeat that they recognize Quebec's nationhood. Unfortunately, now that it is time to put their money where their mouth is, it is radio silence.

Before I begin, I would like to review the origins of multiculturalism. The scene is 1960s Quebec, at the dawn of the Quiet Revolution, as Jean Lesage makes an important statement: the Quebec state will be the driving force of our emancipation. By saying this, Lesage creates a specific political context in which Quebec now has not only a unique cultural identity, but a political vision as well.

This frightens the federal government. In 1963, Lester B. Pearson attempts to bring Quebeckers back on side by proposing the concept of two founding peoples. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, also known as the Laurendeau-Dunton commission, is convened with the mandate of recommending what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races.

What happened to biculturalism and bilingualism after that? Biculturalism fell by the wayside, and Canada became a bilingual, multicultural country. Biculturalism disappeared because it offered recognition to Quebec and gave it the leverage to become a genuinely distinct society, a prospect that has always frightened federalists. For a federalist, there is only one identity possible, and that is the collective Canadian identity.

That does not work for us, not because we reject ethnocultural diversity, but because we have a different identity. This has been shown to be the case many times over the years, during two unsuccessful rounds of constitutional negotiations, as well as in the report of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, also known as the Bouchard-Taylor commission.

I do not know what is going on in the federalist camp, but it does not appear to hear us when we bring up such issues. The Laurendeau-Dunton commission was one of the first rebuffs that Quebec suffered, predating those of the constitutional negotiations. It was the first time Quebec was refused distinct status. Remember this, because I will come back to it later.

It is also essential to understand that multiculturalism has two components: an institutional policy, meaning the multiculturalism we see here, and a liberal theory. The Prime Minister once said that Canada is a postnational state, a phrase he borrowed from thinkers like Will Kymlicka and James Tully. I do not know if he understood what they were saying, but, for these thinkers, multiculturalism involves recognizing not only ethnocultural diversity, but national minorities as well.

Not once has Canadian multiculturalism as it is laid out in our legislation even come close to recognizing national minorities, such as the Quebec national minority and the indigenous national minorities. Over time, it has developed a system of integration that means that if every culture ends up being recognized, none of them really are.

Multiculturalism recognizes different cultures, but not to the point of giving them any real political power. Will Kymlicka, the leading theorist of multiculturalism, divides minorities into two types. Cultural minorities demand recognition, which they are entitled to receive, as they do in Quebec. National minorities demand political autonomy.

The federal government will never be willing to consider the issue. It would rather dismiss it out of hand, since it would mean Quebec would have distinct status and indigenous nations would have a separate government. The federal government has never been interested in moving in that direction.

In my opinion, it is simple: Quebeckers reject multiculturalism. That was proven by the Bouchard-Taylor commission. We are not opposed to diversity, but multiculturalism means denying our nationhood. It offers us no recognition or guarantees.

What really bothers me is that federalists do not understand the principle of duality. As Quebeckers and francophones, we exist as a minority in a sea of anglophones. We need policies to protect us in that specific context. The system of ethnocultural minority integration does not do that.

To add insult to injury, today we are being told that, because Quebecers reject multiculturalism, that must mean they are fundamentally against ethnocultural minorities. That is not true.

I mentioned the Laurendeau-Dunton commission earlier. Canada began recognizing diversity in 1963. I recommend that my colleagues in the House read a short book by Hubert Aquin entitled The Cultural Fatigue of French Canada. It was published in 1962, but the author was already writing that Quebec is a polyethnic society with a different culture. That was the foundation for what is still happening today: a pillar of integration in Quebec is that the integration is carried out in French.

Earlier, my colleague said that a secular state is one of the worst violations of individual freedoms. It is important that a state be secular. I do not think that the French are against ethnocultural minorities or that they are hostile to freedom, yet France is a strongly secular state. Secularism is another very important pillar of Quebec's identity.

I was forgetting language, which is essential. Integration in Quebec must be carried out in French. These three pillars can be found in Quebec's policy, which is an interculturalism policy. The House could do something bold and commendable by recognizing that Quebec is a minority nation in Canada, a nation that needs safeguards and protections and that may need its own model of integration.

According to Gérard Bouchard, a co-chair of the Bouchard-Taylor commission and professor emeritus at my alma mater, the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, the interculturalist model of integration is probably the most appropriate system for Quebec's circumstances. Why? Because it recognizes duality and the arrival of ethnocultural minorities, but it also recognizes that there is a national minority and that, if this national minority wants to survive and move forward with its own political projects, it must have a form of integration that suits its identity.

Unfortunately, multiculturalism does not do that today. Not only does it not do that, but it is a constant reminder that, at a time when Canada could have recognized us, it rejected us instead. Canada preferred to adopt biculturalism, the idea that there are two founding peoples. It preferred to adopt this idea, only to eventually set it aside and turn to multiculturalism. This integration policy constantly reminds us that we are in some way second-class citizens in the Canadian federation.

I think that the best thing my colleagues could do is to right a historical wrong against us, recognize that multiculturalism should not apply in Quebec and agree that interculturalism is the right policy for Quebecers.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-226, which was introduced by the hon. member for Montcalm.

The bill seeks the support of the House for an amendment to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec. Bill C-226 states that Quebecers form a nation and therefore possess all the tools needed to define their identity and protect their common values, including as regards the protection of the French language, the separation of state and religion and gender equality. The bill also implies that observing Canada’s version of multiculturalism would now allow for compliance with these three basic principles, and that therefore this federal law should not apply in Quebec.

Since the Canada’s multiculturalism policy was introduced in 1971, many Quebec political scientists and then several premiers have asserted that the federal multiculturalism policy is unsuited to the majority francophone province and that there could be no dissociation between culture and language in Quebec. The enactment of the Charter of the French Language, or Bill 101, in 1977 crystallized the differences between the Canadian and Quebec models. According to some, Canada’s concept of citizenship, which is multicultural, bilingual and open to other heritage immigrant languages, conflicts with the protection of the French language in Quebec and interculturalism.

Clearly, Quebec’s vision of society involves the protection of the French language and culture. More than that, it recognizes that Quebec society constitutes a unique cultural and linguistic minority, often described as endangered in North America. For many francophones in Quebec, Bill 101 addressed the concern that the absence of a strong language law asserting the primacy of French would lead newcomers to choose to integrate into the more attractive anglophone community because of its demographic weight and to preserve their identity. Quebec nationalism owes much to this fear of decline. For many francophones in Quebec, the promotion of cultural equality proposed in multiculturalism would diminish the importance of French and English contributions to the Canadian Confederation and undermine the development of the francophonie in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

It must be said that Quebec nationalism was greatly strengthened by the statement made in the House by prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1971 when he introduced the policy of multiculturalism, specifically giving immigrants the choice to learn either official language and fully integrate into Canadian society. For a majority of Quebeckers, this free choice was incompatible with the cultural and linguistic specificity of Quebec.

This situation was corrected in 1978 under the Cullen-Couture agreement, when the Government of Canada granted Quebec the responsibility of choosing its economic immigrants, giving the province an additional tool for integrating newcomers and protecting francophone culture. In 1981, with the large influx of immigrants, the Government of Quebec proposed a policy of cultural convergence entitled “Autant de façons d’être Québécois” or “Québécois – Each and Every One”. Its principal objective was to “ensure the maintenance and development of cultural communities and their specificities, make French-speaking Quebecers aware of the contribution of cultural communities to our common heritage and finally promote the integration of cultural communities in Quebec society and especially in sectors where they are particularly underrepresented”.

Several researchers and analysts pointed out that the Government of Quebec's program policies that have been developed since the 1980s to promote the development of the province's ethno-cultural communities are an awful lot like multiculturalism in a francophone context and therefore similar to what the federal government itself had proposed 10 years earlier in 1971.

In 1988, the preamble of the Multiculturalism Act reiterated the primacy of human rights and gender equality and the importance of fighting all forms of racial discrimination.

The act reasserts the country's official bilingualism, which has been governed by the Official Languages Act since 1969, by emphasizing the importance of expanding the use of official languages to ensure their development.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act also reaffirms freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, freedoms that cannot be violated. This interpretation of religious pluralism has led many experts to conclude that this system de facto supported the separation of church and state.

In many ways, Bill C-226 and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act are based on similar parameters, which must be enhanced and promoted. That is also the view of the authors of the Bouchard-Taylor commission's 2007-08 final report on reasonable accommodation in Quebec. They said that this truncated version of multiculturalism was essentially a caricature and it may have led its critics in Quebec to conclude that Canada's multicultural model had not evolved in Canada since its adoption and that it was incompatible with the Quebec model.

The authors of the report state that in Quebec “multiculturalism is presented as though it solely takes into account recognition and affirmation of difference with no regard for integrating elements such as the teaching of national languages and intercultural exchange programs.”

Canadian multiculturalism is obviously not a model that is immutable and fixed in time. Its flexibility allows not only for the integration and enhancement of the common values and founding principles of Canadian society, such as official bilingualism, human rights and the principle of reasonable accommodation, but also for the development of programs and tools adapted to the new realities of Canadian society.

In the most recent Speech from the Throne, the government defined the Canada of today and tomorrow, and in articulated the main Canadian values of reconciliation, the fight against systemic racism, the protection of official languages, the welcoming of immigrants and the strategic positioning of Canada in the world. In that text, the government also recognized the particular situation of French in the country and its intention to protect and promote French, not only outside Quebec, but also in Quebec.

This is a strong commitment by the federal government. These overall values and objectives also find a prominent place in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. A multicultural Canada is not incompatible with the future of a French-speaking Quebec and the flexibility of the laws that govern our country also allow Quebec to flourish.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

Seeing none, I will now invite the hon. member for Montcalm for his five-minute right of reply.

The member for Montcalm.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I introduced this bill in the previous legislature, it elicited contempt. There were 10 Bloc Québécois members in the House at the time, but now there are 32. The contempt has turned into the following question:

Why should multiculturalism not apply in Quebec?

It is because Quebec constitutes a nation; a nation that is still French-speaking on American soil; a nation that I deeply love for its talents, creativity, and resourcefulness; a proud, welcoming, engaging nation; a close-knit and diverse nation. It is a nation open to difference because it is itself in search of recognition and respect for its own difference. It is a nation that has the right to say that it wants to base its way of living together in society and the harmonization of diversity on three fundamental principles: gender equality, the separation of state and religion, and French as the common language in the public space.

The federalist parties like to confuse cultural diversity with multiculturalism. Diversity is a fact of modern societies; Canadian multiculturalism is a political ideology that will slowly but surely lead to the assimilation of francophones. Although many federalist members of Parliament consider multiculturalism an incontestable virtue, it is more of a state dogma, a political ideology imposed on Quebec in the 1970s and enshrined in 1982 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution, which we never signed. This federal dogma managed only to juxtapose a multitude of cultural solitudes and ghettoize difference. On this, Boucar Diouf writes the following:

It is impossible to live together without truly embodying the word “together”. Multiculturalism is much more like living side by side and harbouring frustrations with one another, with results that fall far short of the ideal presented by politicians.

I have just heard from the politicians.

The model might work for Canadians. In an anglophone country on an anglophone continent, new immigrants will naturally want to integrate in English. As my colleague from Joliette pointed out in a previous debate on this issue, even great English-Canadian thinkers like Kymlicka and Kallen agree that multiculturalism, while it might be good for English Canada, cannot work in Quebec, because natural integration is done by the majority, dominant society and not by a minority nation. Francophones are a minority in Canada, and represent only 2% of the population of a majority English-speaking continent. Why would newcomers want to integrate into a continental minority?

The truth is that multiculturalism rejects the idea of a common culture, encouraging the coexistence of multiple cultures side by side. It favours cohabitation based on indifference rather than on recognition and the respect of differences, which invariably leads to the ghettoization of cultures. That is why it is important that Quebec have as much leeway as possible to apply its own integration and citizenship policy.

Clearly, only independence will give us enough leeway to put an end to this confusion. After independence, a newcomer who chooses to come to Quebec will no longer be coming to a Canadian province, but to a francophone country. Until then, however, Quebec must be exempted from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Quebec must have all of the tools it needs to integrate newcomers and help them integrate into Quebec.

I invite all those who recognize the Quebec nation on more than a symbolic level, who cherish Quebec culture and the Quebec identity, to support this bill, which will allow Quebec to choose its own integration model. When it comes to interculturalism, cultural convergence or a common cultural core, it is up to Quebec to decide.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, we request a recorded division.

Canadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to the order adopted on Monday, January 25, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 9, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Suspension of SittingCanadian Multiculturalism ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 11:50 a.m., the House is now suspended until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:50 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Points of order raised on June 4 concerning the Time allocation motion for Bill C-10—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2021 / noon


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am now ready to rule on the multiple points of order raised on Friday regarding the time allocation motion for the committee stage of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

Immediately after the motion was moved, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands asked whether a motion of instruction was not a more appropriate way for the House to direct the work of a committee.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker indicated that the time-allocated motion was in order.

The member for Lethbridge then argued that the time allotted under the terms of the motion was insufficient, as all previous examples of time allocations under Standing Order 78(3) at the committee stage had been up to 10 further hours, while the present motion provided only five additional hours. As the standing order provides that the amount of time allocated may not be less than one sitting day, and since committees do not have standard sitting days the way the House does, she contended that the House should be guided by past practices and allot at least 10 further hours.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker repeated that the motion was in order and that she would return with a more detailed ruling after the 30-minute period for questions and comments.

This was followed by multiple points of order by many members who continued to challenge the admissibility of the motion and the approach the Chair was taking. These continued until the House began Statements by Members, and resumed after question period until the House began Private Members' Business.

There are four points I would like to address in relation to this matter. The first is whether this time allocation motion is in order. The second concerns the manner in which the Chair considers points of order before coming to a decision. The third relates to respect for the Chair's authority. Finally, I would like to address the status of the time allocation motion, on which proceedings were not concluded.

First, it is clear to the Chair that it is possible to move a time allocation motion in relation to the committee stage of a bill. As the member for Lethbridge acknowledged, there are three previous examples of such motions under Standing Order 78(3) for bills before standing or legislative committees, all of which providing for 10 additional hours of study by the said committees. Time allocation was invoked under the terms of Standing Order 78(3)(a) for the purpose of setting a deadline, and I quote:

…in respect of proceedings at the stage at which a public bill was then under consideration either in the House or in any committee…for the purpose of allotting a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at that stage; provided that the time allotted for any stage is not to be less than one sitting day...

The standing order makes no distinction between the stages of a bill, except for the possibility of moving one motion to cover the proceedings at both the report and the third stages. Moreover, while it is possible to allot a specific number of hours or days for the consideration of a stage, the minimum length of time is expressed in sitting days.

The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan argued that the Chair should look at the times at which committee meetings are normally organized in the course of a day, suggesting that this could be more than 12 hours. An argument could even be made that the usual length of most committee meetings is two hours. Truth be told, while the House is set to meet and to adjourn, this is not the case in committees. Thus, the Chair can only conclude that the intention was indeed to specifically refer to the length of a sitting of the House.

What, then, is the equivalent of a sitting day when a motion is expressed in hours?

In a ruling made on June 18, 2012, a previous Speaker, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, offered a historical review on the application of Standing Order 78. In his conclusion, he stated that the average length of time for the consideration of Government Orders in a typical week is approximately 4.7 hours per day, and that accordingly a motion allotting a rounded-up number of five hours was the equivalent of a sitting day. There have been multiple examples of time allocation motions under Standing Order 78(3) allotting five hours for the second reading stage, for report stage and for third reading stage.

For all these reasons, the Chair does not see why the committee stage would be any different. I therefore rule that the motion is in keeping with the requirements of Standing Order 78(3).

The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan expressed concerns that the motion would prevent him from proposing amendments in committee that he considers important. Indeed, one of the consequences of a time allocation motion may be that certain amendments and arguments will not be presented at the committee stage consideration of a bill. In fact, the Standing Orders provide for such situations. It is not for the Chair to consider the consequences of a motion properly before the House. That is a decision for the House. The Chair's role is limited to determining whether the motion is in order.

The second point I wish to address is the power of the Chair in relation to Points of Order.

Some members argued on Friday that the Chair is required to hear as many points of order as are raised, even equating a failure to do so with censorship or a suspension of the Standing Orders. Certain members also asserted that the Chair is required to give reasons for decisions, and that a failure to do so immediately enables members to continue questioning the Chair’s ruling. This is not the case.

In a ruling given on June 4, 2018, at page 20170 of the Debates, my predecessor, the member for Halifax West, stated, and I quote:

It is well established that when making a case on either questions of privilege or points of order, members are expected to make brief presentations on the issue being raised. The Chair, once satisfied that sufficient information has been given, may inform the member accordingly....

Acting Speaker Devolin explained this well on June 13, 2012, at page 9374 of the Debates, when he stated, “...the floor is not the members' until they choose to stop. The Speaker has a right to terminate that discussion....That is left to the judgment of the Speaker.” This is to say that members do not have unlimited time to speak.

Additionally, once the Speaker has ruled or determined that sufficient information has been presented, it is not in keeping with our practices that members use new points of order, for it can be perceived as undermining and questioning the authority of the Chair.

This makes clear that the Speaker has the authority to decide how long to listen to an intervention in order to ascertain the argument being made. The Speaker can also decide how many points of order to hear on a matter before closing the discussion. Members do not have an unfettered right to raise as many points of order as they want for as long as they want.

I wish to especially insist on this point in the context of our hybrid sittings. By activating their own microphones, members can interrupt the proceedings, cancelling out the audio of the members duly recognized, and making it impossible for the interpreters to do their work. When the Chair has indicated that a decision has been made and the discussion is over, members are expected to respect the statement and not persist in raising points of order.

When considering a point of order, the Chair may rule right away or take the matter under advisement and return with a decision later. However, it is also possible for the Chair to provide an immediate ruling and return with more detailed reasoning at a later time.

For example, on March 21, 2007, Speaker Milliken ruled that an opposition motion on the Notice Paper was out of order, returning with a more detailed explanation as to why on March 29, 2007. An even closer parallel would be on June 12, 2012, when the Deputy Speaker heard several points of order in the middle of the question and comment period on a time allocation motion. She gave a brief ruling at the end of the period, allowing the vote on the motion to proceed, with the Speaker providing a more expansive ruling on July 18, 2012. This is the ruling I referenced earlier about the length of a sitting day. Therefore, it was perfectly acceptable for the Assistant Deputy Speaker to proceed as she did on Friday.

This brings me to my third point, about the need to respect the authority of the Chair. The Speaker is elected by members to apply and enforce the rules that members themselves have adopted to govern the conduct of business in the House. In this, I am assisted by the three other Chair occupants. But to carry out our work, we rely on the support, cooperation and good will of all members.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, reminds us, at page 641, that and I quote: “Once the decision is rendered, the matter is no longer open to debate or discussion and the ruling may not be appealed.” It also states, at page 620, and I quote: “Reflections must not be cast in debate on the conduct of the Speaker or other Presiding Officers. It is unacceptable to question the integrity and impartiality of a Presiding Officer.”

The tone of debate has recently taken a turn for the worse. This past week, both sides of the House openly challenged rulings of the Chair. On Friday, derogatory remarks toward the Chair were heard. I recognize that there are moments when tensions run high and when disagreements are strong. However, disregard for our rules and established practices is not only disrespectful to those entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining order and decorum in deciding procedural questions, it is also disrespectful to the House as a whole.

On March 14, 2008, in a similar context, Speaker Milliken said, at page 4183 of the Debates:

Like all Canadians, and indeed all hon. members, I realize and respect that political exigencies often dictate the strategies adopted by parties in the House. However, as your Speaker, I appeal to those to whom the management of the business of the Parliament has been entrusted—the House leaders and the whips of all parties—to take leadership on this matter....I ask them to work together to find a balance that will allow the parties to pursue their political objectives and will permit all members to carry on their work. I am confident that working together in good faith they can come to an agreement that will return us to the equilibrium that our procedures and practices have been designed to protect.

I come now to my final point, which concerns the status of the time allocation motion moved Friday. For the first two decades of their existence, time allocation motions were subject to a two-hour debate. However, since 1991, such motions are no longer subject to debate. In 2001, following a recommendation of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, the House instituted a 30-minute question and comment period when a time allocation motion is moved under Standing Order 78(3). The intent of this change was to promote accountability and to require the government to justify its decision. This change did not, however, render a time allocation motion debatable, set down on the Order Paper and carried over from sitting to sitting. It is to be decided forthwith, meaning immediately, that is, during the sitting in which it is moved.

Time allocation motions and closure motions are non-debatable motions where the question is not put on them right away because of the 30-minute question and comment period. What then is to be done when the House cannot complete this period?

The Chair has looked at a variety of precedents. On March 7, 2012, the House began a question and comment period at approximately 5:10 p.m. Proceedings were not interrupted at 5:30 p.m., but instead continued until 30 minutes were completed. On April 30, 2015, the question and comment period was interrupted for the first time in order to proceed to Statements by Members. In so doing, the Acting Speaker stated that he was only doing so as there would be an opportunity to complete the proceedings after Oral Questions. On June 6, 2017, the Speaker interrupted the proceedings at 5:30 p.m. to move to Private Members' Business, but the sitting hours had been extended and there was an opportunity to return to the motion later that day.

In those cases, the House resumed the question and comment period where it had left off, completed it and proceeded to the vote. Friday was the first occasion where the proceedings were interrupted for Private Members' Business and the House had no opportunity to resume the question and comment period before adjourning. In the future, the question and comment period on a time allocation motion or closure motion will only be interrupted if there is an opportunity to conclude proceedings in the same sitting. Where this is not possible, the House will continue with proceedings until a decision is made on the motion.

The Chair's role, as I said earlier, is to apply the rules the House itself has adopted. The House has provided for the time allocation motions on bills, including at committee stage, and has provided that they are to be decided forthwith after a question and comment period of 30 minutes. In the case of this motion, the appropriate notice was given, the form of the motion respects our Standing Orders, the motion was duly moved and seconded and the question and comment period began. So far, six and a half minutes have been used in that period. The appropriate course of action is now to conclude the remaining 23 and a half minutes and then proceed with a vote.

I thank the members for their attention.

Questions and comments.

Points of order raised on June 4 concerning the Time allocation motion for Bill C-10—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:20 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do apologize, but reflecting on the events of the day in question, first, I wish to thank you for the clarity you provided. I was the first to rise on a point of order, because, as the motion was read out, and based on the quick research I was able to do before we began, it seemed to me that the motion was not in conformity with the Standing Orders for a motion to instruct a committee. However, I did immediately accept the Speaker's ruling.

The difficulty before us, Mr. Speaker, if you check the record, is that I do not believe we can say six and a half minutes elapsed, because I was not able to hear anything from the questions or the comments that were being put to the hon. minister. I respectfully think we should restart the clock with the full 30 minutes, because this is a rather important matter. There are important motions that the hon member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith has before the committee in clause by clause.

The effect of passing this motion on Bill C-10 may be to pre-empt putting forward important amendments that could improve the bill. I do think it requires a full debate. I do not wish to dispute anything you have said, but I think, if you check the record, we did not have six and a half minutes of usable, comprehensible questions and answers.

Points of order raised on June 4 concerning the Time allocation motion for Bill C-10—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I do rely on the information that is given to me by the table, and they do keep track of time. If the member does not mind, I will consult with the table for a moment before making a decision on that.

I want to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, but a decision has been made and, in all fairness, it was done with the information we have. It is final and we will continue.

The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion.

12:20 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, since coming to power, the government keeps saying over and over again that committees are independent and the government can never interfere with a committee. This government motion means that it recognizes the existence of the standing order that has been used on three occasions. The government is using its power to interfere directly in the work of committees, although it keeps saying the opposite. It is odd that some opposition parties agree with the government on the issue of closure, since that is what we are talking about now. The government wants to muzzle parliamentarians. The fact that some opposition parties are okay with this is beyond comprehension.

I remember when I was at the National Assembly, I was advocating for stricter measures regarding the red squares, but I denounced the fact that we were put under a gag order. That was why I even suggested that question period be suspended so that the premier could go and speak with the student leaders who had come to the National Assembly.

My question to the government is very simple. Why invoke closure on a bill that clearly attacks freedom of expression?

12:20 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec


Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question. I will remind him that the motion is before the House and that it is the House of Commons, and not the government, that will make the decision.

Why did we proceed in this fashion? I tried to answer this question last week, but I will try again. During the first four Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meetings where Bill C-10 was being studied, the committee made it through 79 amendments. In the 11 subsequent meetings, when the Conservative Party began filibustering, the committee was only able to review and vote on seven amendments. If the committee can resume its initial pace, there is ample time to get through all of the amendments still before it.

12:20 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, back in 2015, I recall the Liberals saying that they would change practices, that they be more open in Parliament and allow for more of the fulsome debate that they saw being denied under the former Harper government. It is important to note that this manoeuvre that the government has put into place is something that even the Harper government did not try. We are talking about new ground with respect to not allowing the kind of debate that is so important.

I will be voting against this closure motion, because it would not allow the appropriate fixes to be made to the bill. When we look at it, the reality is that this has been a communications disaster. The minister has not clearly communicated, he has contradicted himself and has badly explained parts of the bill.

Is that not the real reason the Liberals are invoking this unprecedented closure motion? Is it not because the communications around Bill C-10 have been a disaster?

12:25 p.m.


Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I have a lot of respect for him but, in all honesty, I am a little surprised by the NDP's position on this matter.

Thousands of artists across the country signed a petition. The signers include francophone artists, anglophone artists, indigenous artists, and artists from racialized communities, as well as cultural organizations like the Canadian Independent Music Association, which testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Like many other organizations, CIMA, which is headed by a former member of the NDP, is asking that we pass Bill C-10 as soon as possible.

However, the NDP is siding with the Conservatives to deprive artists of $70 million a month. I never thought I would see such a thing. I am speechless.

12:25 p.m.


Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, using time allocation to speed up our work is a drastic measure that should be used sparingly.

However, it was the right choice for Bill C-10. Dozens of amendments have been adopted. The Bloc Québécois critic was extremely effective and had several amendments adopted that greatly improved this bill.

We cannot allow the Conservatives to block this bill and jeopardize the future of our cultural sector. It is important because every week spent debating represents the loss of millions of dollars. Quebec's cultural sector and Quebeckers are calling for this bill to be passed before the end of the session. That is why we agreed to proceed in this way.

I have a simple question for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. Should time allocation motions continue to be used only in exceptional circumstances?

12:25 p.m.


Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. I completely agree with him on the significant support for this bill in Quebec and across the country. In Quebec, the National Assembly unanimously called for the adoption of Bill C-10, deeming it a major step forward for the artistic and cultural sector.

To quickly answer my hon. colleague's question, I think that time allocation motions remain exceptional measures that we use in exceptional circumstances.

12:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, to the hon. minister, this is offensive to intrude on committee work. We have a fiction in this place that the committee is the master of its own destiny. It is increasingly a fiction from the day when, in the previous government, Stephen Harper instructed that every committee pass an identical motion that affected people such as members of Parliament in unrecognized parties, such as all Greens and independents, in that we were coerced to show up in committee 48 hours before clause-by-clause began. That process made a mockery of the notion that committee is the master of its own destiny and its own work. This intervention is another offence to this notion. This is the first time in more 20 years that this particular standing order was been utilized to get a committee to report back more quickly than it is normally able to do.

I do think that these principles matter. The irony here is that the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith who, within the Green caucus, carries the work on Bill C-10 and has done a tremendous amount of work, is right now in clause-by-clause in the heritage committee on Bill C-10 and cannot be here to defend his right to put forward every single amendment that we have worked on so hard.

I am sorry, but we have a bit of an interference—