That the House remind the government that it is solely up to Quebec and the provinces to decide on the use of the notwithstanding clause.
Mr. Speaker, rest assured that I am excluding you from this argument, but I get the impression that Quebec does not have many friends in the House. This has been made particularly evident by what seems to be—and this may seem harsh—the Liberal government's descent into hell. The government is essentially the only one to blame, and it is useful in this context to revisit—and, again this may sound harsh—a recent debacle. I will let you be the judge of that. Speaking of judges, we will, once again, have to refer to the Supreme Court of Canada on this matter.
I have made a little list. Bill C-21 on gun control was a lesson in clumsy backtracking, an unruly fiasco and a retreat that was anything but strategic. There was not even a whiff of them admitting to an error—an implicit error—and no recognition of the fact that, indeed, one must consider the safety of civilians and women while also preserving the legitimate privileges of sport hunters.
One example is the electoral map. I remember going to the Gaspé region last summer, just a few days after the Prime Minister, when the first new version of the electoral map had been considered and the riding of my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia was disappearing. The Prime Minister was in the region and had not said a single word about the fact that the regions in Quebec were being weakened. There might even have been a threat regarding the expressed desire of the member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine to keep the file. The Prime Minister, however, never said a word; again, the government is essentially its deputy minister.
There is Medicago, a company, a flagship in technology research that, due to a kind of negligence perpetuated over time and interventions that were often too late, risks seeing the achievements of Quebec engineering go to Japan, subject to the good will of Mitsubishi, which will certainly be a major loss for Quebec and Canada.
There is the acquisition of Resolute Forest Products by Paper Excellence, which is owned by Sinar Mas. That represents 25% of cutting rights in public forests in Quebec and does not qualify in the new Bill C-34, which does not even protect it. Good heavens, if that is not protected, what will Bill C-34 protect?
There are obviously the health transfers. That is really very interesting. Of everyone here, we see that only the Bloc Québécois is both speaking for Quebec and representing the provinces' common front. The Bloc Québécois is the only party to stand up for Yukon, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Alberta. We will wait for the thanks from the benches next to us. Only the Bloc Québécois is standing up for the will of the provinces, the territories and Quebec, while the others are being opportunistic or lazy. We will be told that what we are doing is a waste of time. It is not a waste of time; it is very revealing of how things work.
There is the McKinsey case. I do not have time to go through everything about McKinsey. There would be far too many secrets to be brought to light, like McKinsey and ethics, McKinsey and lobbying, McKinsey and defence, McKinsey and standing offers, and so on. McKinsey's former boss himself—who is surely not as naive as he tried to make us believe in committee—said that, if he had been the client, he would not have signed the contract that the Government of Canada signed. That is interesting. There is also McKinsey and immigration, as well as McKinsey and Century Initiative. One hundred million Canadians, how nice. That is quite a lot, given Quebec’s inability to absorb, over time, in French and with our values, the number of immigrants that that requires. I asked Mr. Barton whether he had considered Quebec. They did not consider it at all. It was not even on their radar.
Based on the ignorance expressed, my word, I want to be the boss at McKinsey. He does not work that hard and says he does not know anything. Also, I suspect the pay is not too bad. McKinsey has a role to play in border management and, of course, in language and identity.
There is also the exploitation of Roxham Road. As my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean mentioned, according to recent revelations, not only do we have criminal smugglers, we now have an all-inclusive package on offer, on both sides. A bus ticket is provided and migrants are openly and brazenly sent to Roxham Road. No one likes handcuffs. However, a brief moment of discomfort from being handcuffed is worth it for migrants, who are very happy to have reached Quebec; of course Quebec is paying the costs of welcoming them in a humane manner.
There is the appointment of Ms. Elghawaby. I will not repeat the whole speech and I do not want to make this personal. That said, it was clear that the government has an extraordinary ability to isolate and protect itself. If our homes were as well protected as the government, we would not need insulation.
Of course, there is also the referral of Quebec’s secularism law to the Supreme Court of Canada in the hope of overturning it.
Beyond that, the divisiveness over Bill C-13 is quite dramatic. I would not want to invite myself to a Liberal caucus meeting, and I think its members would not like that either, but there must be some very passionate conversations within that caucus. It must be just as fascinating as the Conservatives’ conversations about abortion. There may be a few little things that need to be resolved. For our part, everything is going very well. The federal government may also go to the Supreme Court over Bill 96, which deals with the French language.
We have now come to the motion on the notwithstanding clause, which may also go before the Supreme Court of Canada. I would like to speak about a very interesting aspect. In principle, Trudeau senior said that the will of Parliament had to ultimately prevail. That is why the 1982 Constitution, which we consider to be a despicable document, includes this principle of ensuring the primacy of the democracy of parliaments. Let us keep in mind that we have never signed on to that Constitution. We have been pointing that out for a few weeks now.
That was quickly tested. In 1988, the Ford decision established, on the one hand, that the use of the notwithstanding clause was legitimate and, on the other hand, that the role of the court was not to engage in pointless discussions, but to rule on the substance and wording of things.
Let us not forget that Mr. Lévesque firmly invoked and inserted the notwithstanding clause in all of the laws passed by Quebec’s National Assembly. Many fits were had, but Canada survived.
It is important to understand the current government’s legislative or judicial approach—or flight of fancy. By invoking federal documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Constitution, and by appointing new judges as old ones leave, the Prime Minister hopes to replace the decisions of the provincial legislatures and of the House of Commons with those of the Supreme Court of Canada in order to modify by interpretation the Canadian Constitution. As we said earlier, the Constitution is much more theirs than it is ours.
Having had the opportunity over time to appoint judges, the Prime Minister is confident that he has a Supreme Court of Canada whose constitution, pardon the pun, will be favourable to him. He wants to modify the Constitution by having it interpreted by judges he has appointed. This happens elsewhere in the world, and it is rarely an honourable procedure. A Parliament is always sovereign, otherwise any one Parliament could impose its will on another.
Quebec’s National Assembly is sovereign in its choices and its votes. Quebec’s Parliament is, in a word, national. Now, more than ever, Quebec’s National Assembly needs the notwithstanding clause, which guarantees the prerogative and primacy of parliaments and elected members over the decisions of the courts. Courts are there only to interpret, despite the fact that we have learned, particularly over the course of Quebec history, that interpretations can, over time, and without casting stones, be nudged in a certain direction. We do not want government by judges, but government by elected members, government by the people.
As I said at the beginning, it is important to mention that the notwithstanding clause is the legacy of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I remember a question period during which we were told that it was awful, that they were not against the notwithstanding clause but against its pre-emptive use.
Of course, as it is wont to do, it is when the government runs out of arguments that it starts spouting the worst nonsense. That was a good one. If the notwithstanding clause is not to be used pre-emptively, what is the point?
The notwithstanding clause is like a COVID-19 vaccine. People get vaccinated to avoid getting COVID-19, not after they get it. The notwithstanding clause protects Quebec’s laws. We could say “the laws of Quebec and the provinces”, but let us be clear: Aside from a recent notorious case in Ontario, the notwithstanding clause is mostly used in Quebec, particularly when it comes to national identity and jurisdiction, precisely so that we do not have to hear the courts say that we cannot apply our own legislation, that it is being challenged, and that we now have to use the notwithstanding clause to fix a situation that, in the meantime, has had a deleterious effect.
Clearly, that is not how we want to or even how we should use the notwithstanding clause. Too often, harm would be done, and the same courts would have to suspend the application of the law. The notwithstanding clause is a small piece of sovereignty. “Sovereignty” is a word that frightens people. Using it inspires strong feelings and cold sweats. Sovereignty, however, is merely exclusive jurisdiction held by any party. This Parliament claims sovereignty, except in the case of Chinese spy balloons.
It is essential to recognize that, by invoking the notwithstanding clause, a jurisdiction that is a parliament, which by definition is sovereign, is claiming a small part of its sovereignty in jurisdictions which, logically speaking, should be exclusive to it.
This logical relationship between identity, the fact that Quebec is a nation begrudgingly recognized by this Parliament in a very specific context on June 16, 2021, and the fact that Quebec is the one that must resort to this clause is because Quebec is a nation, and its parliament is a national Parliament. Allow me to say that, in my opinion, this is too little.
It is too little because, of course, we want Quebeckers—in their own time, obviously, but we will encourage them—to think about sovereignty as a whole, a nation with a single national Parliament, which, as Mr. Parizeau said, would collect all taxes—we are capable of doing this and we would be having an entirely different conversation about health transfers—vote for all laws applicable in Quebec, sign all treaties and honour all existing treaties, as necessary.
Usually, people do not think about being normal. It goes without saying. We embrace normality, we seek normality and we assume normality. Quebec just needs to think about it right now, and for some time, and observe how its national identity is treated in a Parliament that should at least be a good neighbour if it cannot be a good partner.
This remains an essential reflection, but given the current context, it may no longer hold tomorrow or the next day. The game of cat and mouse, the jurisdictional stonewalling, the encroachments, the interference are anything but progress, efficiency or instruments for the greater good.
Until that necessarily deeper reflection occurs, we certainly need, in this Parliament, to solicit the good faith of colleagues and elected officials in recognizing that Quebec and the provinces have a legitimate right to use the notwithstanding clause. We are not requesting a change to the way things are done. We are asking that it be acknowledged. We simply wish to state the truth and are calling on Parliament to say that it does indeed reflect reality.
Voting against this truth would be akin to challenging the Canadian Constitution itself. This temptation was evident in the Prime Minister's comments. That raised some eyebrows, given the legacy. We are calling on the House to recognize a literal truth, if only out of respect.
In the meantime, and regardless of today’s vote, the Quebec nation and its representatives have only one true friend in this place. Only one political party raises the issues of language, identity, immigration, health care funding and the preservation of the notwithstanding clause in this House. Its members have just as much legitimacy as those of every other party. They are the members of the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc Québécois is proud to stand once again, without compromise, but with a sense of responsibility and with courage, to raise, defend and promote the interests of Quebec, which we hope will accomplish even more.