Madam Speaker, the Official Opposition and the government of Mr. Parizeau are trying to convince Quebecers and Canadians that Quebec's separation is unavoidable, that federalism adversely affects development in that province, and that the consultation process recently announced is eminently democratic. At a time when countries want to unite together, including European nations, Quebec wants to separate.
I wish to take this opportunity to correct certain facts and denounce some exaggerations and overstatement by those in favour of separation.
Is Canadian federalism really an obstacle to Quebec's development? I usually do not agree with Mr. Parizeau's views.
However, I must say that I think he is absolutely right when he says that Quebec has achieved a lot over the last 30 years.
In his speech, Mr. Parizeau mentioned, among others things, that in the 1960s Quebec was a modern state with a dynamic cultural life, that in the 1970s it had become a leader in democratization and education, and that in the 1980s Quebecers
had taken the reins of economic power and greatly increased their international presence.
Mr. Parizeau is absolutely right when he says that Quebecers should be proud of these exceptional achievements.
But where I do not agree with him and those who support separation in general is when they say that Canadian federalism is hampering Quebec's development. How can they make such a claim when the facts show unequivocally that Quebec made tremendous progress over the last 30 years, while being a part of Canada?
Indeed, it is within the Canadian federation that Quebec's quiet revolution got started and that companies such as Bombardier and Cascades were able to penetrate world markets. It is also within the Canadian federation that the work and talent of Céline Dion and the Cirque du soleil gained international recognition.
Make no mistake. I am not trying to tell you that Quebecers became so successful strictly because of Canadian federalism. What I am saying is that it is wrong to claim that federalism has impeded Quebec's development.
Is Canada really unable to recognize Quebec's specificity?
In his speech, Mr. Parizeau said that the failure of the Meech Lake Accord indicated English Canada's refusal to recognize, even symbolically, that specificity. This statement does not seem fair to me.
The Canadian federation recognized even before Meech and continues to recognize Quebec's specificity and to preserve the French fact, and not just symbolically. Let me give you some examples.
Even in 1867, the Constitution Act guaranteed the use of French in Parliament and in courts. The Constitution Act of 1982 reinforced this guarantee and made French one of the two official languages of Canada by recognizing its use in all institutions of Parliament and the government of Canada. Also, the Canadian Constitution allowed Quebec to pass language laws to promote French in Quebec.
Under the Canadian Constitution, Quebec has jurisdiction over education and has a justice system based on the Civil Code, the only one of its kind in North America. Control over these two areas is crucial to preserve and enhance Quebec's specificity.
Three out of the nine judges appointed to the Supreme Court must come from Quebec. None of the other provinces has such a guarantee.
For any issue relating to education and culture, Quebec can opt out of any Constitutional amendment to transfer provincial powers to the federal government and get full financial compensation.
Four consecutive immigration agreements have progressively increased the role Quebec plays in this area and let the province choose its immigrants and facilitate their integration into Quebec society. The Leader of the Official Opposition himself publicly recognized the merits of these federal-provincial agreements on immigration. Let me remind members that the other provinces do not have the same rights as Quebec does in the immigration area.
According to the economic development agreement reached by Prime Minister Pearson and Mr. Lesage, then Premier of Quebec, during the 1960s, Quebec was able to create its own pension plan and set up its own deposit and investment fund.
At the international level, Ottawa-Quebec framework agreements allow Quebec to sign agreements directly with France and Belgium and, pursuant to yet another agreement, Quebec has its own seat at the Francophone Summit, something other provinces do not have.
All these examples show how biased and full of half-truths the separatists' rhetoric is.
Canadian federalism is not so centralized or centralizing that it negates or irons out regional and provincial differences. In fact, Canada is one of the least centralized countries in the whole world. Canadian federalism is not against promoting the French fact. On the contrary, it contributes to the French influence in North America.
To conclude, I want to say that the PQ option troubles me a lot as it does most Canadians, especially francophones outside Quebec.
In British Columbia, most francophones are not only troubled but sad. Like me, they feel betrayed. In 1980, I fought with petitions and letters, etc, from Vancouver, to keep Quebec inside Canada. On the night of the referendum, I was extremely happy and, the next day, I gave the wives of eight Quebec police officers visiting Vancouver a rose and a note of thanks.
I hope to be able to do the same next year, on the night of the referendum. This time, if Quebecers say no, I will give roses to my colleagues, the women of the Bloc Quebecois.