Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Québec East (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 30th, 1996

Madam Speaker, the member is from Kenora-Rainy River. Not many francophones live in that area of Ontario but there are francophones in Ontario, especially in northern Ontario.

What I noticed in what he said is there is a lot of misunderstanding with respect to language laws. That is probably one of the major problems in the country. People do not really understand the application of language laws and the situation of francophones versus anglophones.

The member said francophones in Ontario control their school boards. That is not true. Francophones in Ontario have been fighting for years to get adequate schools. Only recently have they been enabled to control four school commissions out of a possible 15. Ontario is very resistant to the survival of the French language. It could have been a province that had been bilingual like New Brunswick. There are 5 per cent to 10 per cent francophones in Ontario. Ontario has mistreated the francophones more than other provinces because of the number of francophones living in Ontario. Francophones of Ontario do not control their school boards.

Coming back to the members questions of what will happen to francophones if Quebec leaves and why Quebec does not help francophones, we cannot have the situation both ways. Francophones outside of Quebec are being assimilated at a very dangerous rate. They are losing their schools, they are losing the foundations of their survival in a country that is said to be bilingual.

Quebec also suffers from the discrimination which is practised against francophones. One form of discrimination, particularly in Ontario, is that francophones cannot automatically provide funds for their own schooling. In other words, whenever they pay school taxes those go automatically to English language schools.

If you are a francophone and you really want to have French schooling for your children you have to go out of your way and assure yourself that your tax dollars are to be served for French language schools. For example, in Ontario in a business with 15 employees, 14 of whom are francophone, where do the school tax dollars go? They go to the English school board, not to the French school board.

There is a form of discrimination against francophones, translated in Quebec as well. Everyone knows Quebec has a long history of discrimination with respect to its survival as a French culture. That is proof and the reason Quebec has come to the conclusion that the French language is not respected in so-called bilingual Canada. It is proof that Francophone rights throughout Canada have never been respected. Even today francophones rights are not respected according to the charter of rights and freedoms of 1982, article 23.

After 15 years every province in Canada should have granted proper schooling and control of school boards to francophones, but that has not been done. It has not been done in B.C., in Ontario or in Newfoundland, despite the fact we are most likely to pass a motion that will provide for the premier of Newfoundland to change the school system. He has not spoken about granting the rights to francophones to control their own school system. That is against the Constitution. These are provinces that have not respected the Constitution of Canada in granting rights to francophones, and that is a serious problem.

It is natural that because the situation is so disastrous Quebec looks at its own survival as a French language and culture, as they are far from being guaranteed.

There are other reasons but one cannot stand in the House and say Quebec is not trying to do the utmost to help the survival of francophone communities. Quite the contrary. That is why we are working for sovereignty.

Supply May 30th, 1996

Thank you, Madam Speaker. The rate of assimilation is nonetheless a serious thing, basic. Francophone communities outside Quebec are going through this ordeal. It is true. There is no doubt. Statistics confirm it very clearly.

I could, obviously, give you the rate of assimilation in all the provinces outside Quebec, but you know about that, Madam Speaker, because you are Acadian. Assimilation is happening and is on the rise in all provinces outside Quebec. New Brunswick is, perhaps, the sole exception, with a rate of assimilation of between 8 per cent and 10 per cent. In Ontario, for example, the rate is 35 per cent to 40 per cent. In western Canada, it is over 70 per cent.

This rate of assimilation is bad, because francophone communities outside Quebec, the symbol of Canadian bilingualism, are being destroyed.

Just last week, another Statistics Canada study was published. It concerns young people and indicates that there are fewer and fewer young francophones outside Quebec and that francophones are producing fewer and fewer children, thus contributing to the tendency of francophones living outside Quebec to disappear.

In its report, Statistics Canada says, and I quote just one sentence: "Unless the situation changes or the number of francophones increases through migrational activity, the size of the francophone population outside Quebec will decrease in the future".

This is from a study published two weeks ago by Statistics Canada. When Statistics Canada publishes a report, it uses neutral language. This marks the condemnation, so to speak, of the future of francophone communities outside Quebec. When young people leave, when there are fewer and fewer of them, when they no longer have access to French schools, when their numbers keep going down and the trend continues, this portends a very dark future for francophone communities.

The government knows this. We have been saying so long enough. Even the spokespersons for the association of francophones outside Quebec said so in a report entitled "The Heirs of Lord Durham". This report is worth reading. I could even give a copy to the members of the Reform Party. Its subtitle in English is: "Manifesto of a vanishing people". One paragraph at the beginning of the report from the association of francophones outside Quebec reads as follows:

"Our dreams have been shattered. We are going through a severe crisis which may even have been planned and deliberately cultivated. Francophones outside Quebec are like a family whose home has been destroyed by fire. We are without shelter, our eyes fixed on odd belongings scattered here and there, but we are still alive".

That was in 1977, 20 years ago. The problem has gotten worse and, only two weeks ago, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, which published this report in 1977, wrote in another report: "The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada expects elected parliamentarians to carry out the mandate entrusted to them by the Canadian people. The urgent situation faced by members of our communities is unacceptable. The government, and especially its officials, does not seem overly concerned about the fact that the assimilation rate increases from one census to the next".

This report was published by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne after the Prime Minister made his solemn promise to the Acadians in August 1994.

Application of part VII of the Official Languages Act is just a manifestation of the government's commitment to promote the development of francophone communities. That is absolutely normal. If the Canadian government, and the Prime Minister first and foremost, portray themselves as the champion of francophones outside Quebec, committed to the survival of the French language in Canada and the symbol of a bilingual Canada, then they have all the more reason to react swiftly when the very communities which form the basis of this symbol are threatened with disappearance.

The act was passed in 1988 and the Prime Minister made his promise in 1994. Nothing has been done in the intervening six years. And since the Prime Minister took office, two years ago, I must tell you that, with regard to enforcing part VII of the Official Languages Act, nothing has been done, nothing at all. That about sums up the action taken by the Prime Minister in terms of his solemn undertaking to implement part VII.

These are not my personal observations. The facts speak for themselves. I read and quote the report of the commissioner of

official languages, who is supposed to be impartial in this matter, although I doubt that seriously, because it seems to me that he sometimes plays the government's game of covering up the fiasco involving francophones outside Quebec. Time permitting, I will get back to this point.

The commissioner has examined everything the government has done in relation to part VII. In his detailed study released this year, two years after the promise made by the Prime Minister before the Acadian congress, in August 1994, the commissioner stated that, according to his study, nothing indicates the existence, even after August 1994, of a systematic effort to ensure compliance with section 41, that is to say part VII, in the restructuring process of the government's institutions and programs. Instead, notes the commissioner, this restructuring was sometimes done in a way that reduced, instead of increasing, support to the development of minority official language communities.

After solemnly promising to defend and support francophone communities outside Quebec, communities now confronted with a difficult and disastrous situation, not only did the Prime Minister of this country not make any effort to ensure the law was enforced, but the commissioner, himself almost in the Prime Minister's pocket, was forced to admit that nothing has been done. What is more, the situation has actually deteriorated.

The Prime Minister has no right to claim to be the champion of francophones outside Quebec when he is not doing anything. Not only did he not enforce the law, but he is cutting back the resources allocated to programs supporting francophone communities. This year, in some cases, cuts in subsidies have been as high as 50 per cent. For some, this represents a death sentence.

There is a francophone community in Saskatchewan and this community has been treated very unfairly because, as you know, legislation contravening the Canadian Constitution was passed in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, prohibiting the teaching of French. Several Supreme Court rulings were made, telling these provinces they had to respect these rights.

When they complied with the Supreme Court's decisions, the provinces received certain amounts from the federal government to try to encourage communities to make up the ground they had lost over the past century.

I will conclude by saying briefly that, in Saskatchewan, subsidies for francophones were cut by 50 per cent. Had I had more time, I would have read you the letter of a 12-year old girl. It was handed to me just minutes ago. This 12-year old wrote Mr. Chrétien, asking him: "How can you say, Mr. Prime Minister, that you care about francophones outside Quebec, like us in Saskatchewan, when you are cutting our subsidies by 50 per cent?"

Supply May 30th, 1996

If members were a little quieter, I could talk to you about it. The rate of assimilation continues to climb. In the 20 years between 1971 and 1991, it has increased. I could provide official statistics from Statistics Canada, which indicate that this is the case in all provinces, including yours, New Brunswick.

Supply May 30th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to this well written motion put forward by the Reform Party. I fully agree with the motion, which points out the Prime Minister's Liberal government did not keep its many promises.

There were frequent reports in the press about the promises that were made, like those the Prime Minister dared to make before the election. For example, the promise on free trade was abandoned, as well as the one on job creation. An attempt was made with the infrastructure program, which created a few jobs. Few jobs have been created since then. In fact, the government did not even keep its promise to make job creation the focus of its budget. On the contrary, everything was done to try to protect wealthy families, for example, rather than to help the poor, as this government took all kinds of measures to go after the most disadvantaged and the weakest, as we well know. We know all about this.

To this we can add the famous promise to scrap the GST, which was not kept. Ms. Copps had to resign because of this unkept promise, a promise that, unfortunately, did not bear fruit. In fact, her resignation seemed to mock voters. When Ms. Copps promised

to resign, she was supposed to resign for real and not stand for re-election again the same day.

There is much to say, and the evidence is there that this government is very dishonest when it comes to its promises, as well as very hypocritical.

There is one promise that few people will remember, except you, Madam Speaker, and francophones outside Quebec. It is a promise the Prime Minister made in Acadia, not before the election but in August 1994, when he was already Prime Minister.

Mr. Chrétien came to the Acadian convention, where he solemnly promised that part VII of Canada's Official Languages Act would be implemented. As he said himself in his August 12, 1994 speech, he was making that promise not only as Prime Minister of Canada but also as the former member for Beauséjour. Therefore, he seems to know the situation of francophones living outside Quebec.

In his speech, the Prime Minister said: "It is always a good thing to remember that there are over one million francophones living outside Quebec". There is a minor mistake here, since we all know that, given the current rate of assimilation, there are no longer one million francophones living outside Quebec but, perhaps, only half of that figure.

The Prime Minister added: "Therefore, the federal government will not stop here: it will continue to protect and to promote the rights of French speaking minorities everywhere in Canada. This is one of the major principles I have defended throughout my political career and it will remain a priority for the government of which I am the leader".

This is a very solemn commitment. The Prime Minister then added that the Minister of Canadian Heritage had announced earlier that same day, during the same event, "how, from now on, the government will ensure that all federal institutions likely to play a role in the development of French speaking communities take into account the particular needs of these communities".

Madam Speaker, you are from Acadia and you will surely remember that, in making this statement, the Prime Minister effectively pledged to establish the implementation process for part VII of the 1988 Official Languages Act.

Earlier that same day, the heritage minister had said very clearly: "Therefore, I am pleased to announce that cabinet has approved a corporate policy regarding the participation of federal institutions in community development, as well as a work plan". The minister was also referring to part VII of the Official Languages Act, which had been approved in 1988, but which six years later, in 1994, remained an unused part in the statutes of a government claimingto be very concerned about the survival of French speaking communities outside Quebec.

For those concerned with this question, it is a very serious problem affecting a number of communities, as we know. In addition, it is part of the symbol of a bilingual Canada. This is why the Prime Minister, of all people, has repeatedly referred to himself as the champion of francophones outside Quebec.

The problem is a serious one, when you think that not only is the rate of assimilation of francophones outside Quebec very high, but it is also increasing rather than declining. The Official Languages Act was passed in 1969 for the very purpose of slowing down the assimilation of francophones.

Another part of the Official Languages Act of 1969 was also to ensure that Quebec is respected as a French speaking province in Canada. This is another promise not kept by several prime ministers, including Mr. Chrétien, the current Prime Minister, but I will not go into that.

Not only is the situation of francophones living outside Quebec precarious, but it is steadily worsening, despite the solemn promises made by this Prime Minister. As the minister has just said, separation will obviously not help matters.

This government, as the Prime Minister and certain of his ministers have often done, is using francophones outside Quebec as pawns in a game against Quebec. He says that francophones outside Quebec will disappear if Quebec separates, when they are already disappearing because the Government of Canada, in the most scandalous display of hypocrisy, is doing nothing to implement the Official Languages Act in Canada, including Part VII. I could also mention other parts of the Official Languages Act, but the most glaring omission is Part VII.

Reformers are not perhaps as sympathetic to francophones living outside Quebec as are members of the Bloc Quebecois or the people of Quebec. Like the people of Quebec, we respect French culture in Canada and it is in our interest to see that francophone communities, whether they are located in Canada or in the United States, survive. This is an obvious and fundamental principle for all those who respect the French culture.

Ministers and members in this House who say that francophones outside Quebec are a symbol of the survival of this country should look at what is happening to them. Once again, not only is the rate of assimilation very high, but it is on the increase. This means therefore that the situation is not improving for francophones outside Quebec. There are a number of reasons for that.

Employment May 6th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in an attempt to do something about the government's poor track record in helping the unemployed find jobs, the constituents of Québec-Est formed Solidarité-emploi Laurentien, a not for profit organization bringing together the unemployed and employers in the Quebec City area.

In two years, Solidarité-emploi has helped over 500 people in the region to find work. This is a real success story, and we congratulate the organizers, including president Suzanne Lessard, and encourage them to keep up their splendid work.

There is one question, however. Should the government not provide them with adequate support, with the resources that they must have to continue operating? It seems not.

Despite repeated requests, the minister will not see them. The federal Liberal government is not doing very well at creating jobs, but here we have an example of a local initiative achieving extraordinary success.

Congratulations to Solidarité-emploi Laurentien.

Francophones Outside Quebec May 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the corporation may be respecting the act, but this government is not, when it comes to keeping its promises not to cut funding to the CBC. Everyone recognizes that the absence of adequate means of communication is a factor in assimilation.

By going back on his promises not to reduce the CBC's budget, just as he went back on his promises to scrap the GST, will the Prime Minister go on much longer denying that it is through measures such as these that his government is playing an active role in the assimilation of francophones outside Quebec?

Francophones Outside Quebec May 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on pages 88 and 89 of the red book, it is written that funding cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation illustrate the Tories' failure to appreciate the importance of cultural development and that a Liberal government will be committed to stable multiyear financing for the CBC. The result of this other promise is close to $400 million in cuts since this government came to power.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Yesterday, the official languages commissioner voiced his concern about the impact of

cuts on francophones outside Quebec. Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that, by making these cuts, his government is directly responsible for the CBC's inability to meet the needs of the country's francophones?

Francophones Outside Quebec April 30th, 1996

My question is this: Why do Statistics Canada's figures show that, over the last 20 years, the assimilation rate for francophones outside Quebec has risen from 27 to 34 per cent?

Francophones Outside Quebec April 30th, 1996

-but I will still ask her a supplementary question.

How can the government accept a report by the commissioner of official languages that denies the francophone reality, going so far as to avoid the word "assimilation", when Statistics Canada's figures show that, between 1971 and 1991, the assimilation rate for francophones-

Francophones Outside Quebec April 30th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what her word is worth these days-