Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to take part in this debate today.
It is very interesting that I have the opportunity to make my remarks on behalf of the people of Halifax and Nova Scotia in the wake of that impassioned intervention by my hon. colleague from the official opposition. There is no question that this is the best country in the world in which to live. I am not going to argue the whys and wherefores with the hon. member because a universal truth is a universal truth. The universal truth is that Canadians from sea to sea to sea are the most fortunate people on Earth.
I come from what is normally known as a have not part of the country. It is quite true that there are many things that we have not
in Nova Scotia. However, one of the things that we have, one of the things we opted for and one of the things we chose was Canadian citizenship. It is something we hold most dearly and most preciously.
It is not merely because we live in Nova Scotia, which I think is the best place in Canada to live, just as I know my hon. colleague, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, thinks that Toronto and its environs is the best place in Canada. I know that my hon. colleague from St. Boniface thinks that Manitoba is the best place to live and my colleague from London thinks that London is the best place. My colleague right over there from Alberta thinks Alberta is the best place to live. We all look at the rest of the country as the setting for our own particular jewels.
I want to speak today to the passion which came from my colleague from the province of Quebec. I understand that passion as I think we all understand it, but that does not need to diminish our Confederation or our country.
On Saturday I attended a meeting back in my riding. I sat next to a prominent Nova Scotia businessman. He raises money for all sorts of good causes, one of them being the Liberal Party. He told me he had been called upon by the premier and the minister of public works to help raise money to ensure that students and seniors who wanted to go to the rally in Montreal were able to go. He said that in over 20 years of being a fundraiser for various charitable causes and various political causes, he had never raised money so quickly. There was such a good response and such an absolute desire on the part of the people he called to contribute and to help because it was for our country.
In my own family, my father's two surviving brothers went to Montreal after World War II and raised their families there. It is very interesting because my cousins in Montreal are a microcosm of Canada. Some of them have Irish last names, some of them have English last names, some of them even have Italian last names, and some of them have French last names.
In my family while we may not be pure laine, we are purely Canadian. My cousins who live in the greater Montreal area will say that they are Quebecois and they are proud Quebecois. They and their children will continue to be proud Quebecois.
The whole point of this debate, the whole point of this resolution is to follow up on a promise made by the Prime Minister on the responses of Canadians right across the country to the fact that Quebec is indeed a distinct and integral part of the Canadian federation, a distinct and integral part of the Canadian identity. We could no more see Quebec leave our federation than we could as individuals cut off an arm or a leg, or lose an eye.
As we debate this here today and in subsequent days, it is terribly important for each of us to listen to each other and to understand that one region of Canada does not seek and never has sought, at least not in modern times, to defeat or humiliate the other side.
That day in Montreal when I saw 150,000 Canadians converge in that square, I knew I was part of something very special. I knew that approximately-numbers are hard to be absolutely sure about-40,000 Canadians came from the other regions of Canada. There were 150,000 people in the downtown core of Montreal. It is clear that a vast majority of the people in that downtown square were Quebecois. They were people who were saying to their fellow Canadians: "We want to stay. We want to hear from you that you understand we are different".
Whether we are from Quebec, Newfoundland or British Columbia, we do understand that there is a distinctiveness and a difference in our fellow citizens in la belle province. We know their language, although that too is shared with francophone Canadians in almost every other province and territory. We know their culture and the incredible richness that is the ongoing Quebecois culture within the Canadian mosiac is something that every Canadian benefits from, not just those within the borders of Quebec itself. We know Quebec's civil code again makes them different and distinct from the rest of us.
Every single one of us celebrates that difference. We celebrate the fact that we can share. We can build a Canada that is a better place, whether one's language is English or French, whether one's ancestral origin is western Europe, eastern Europe, Africa, the Far East, or whether one is an aboriginal Canadian. None of these things matter in the desire to make a better place for our families, our children and our communities. I do not want my friend over there to be upset or to take this the wrong way. What matters is that this country is the best place in the world to live, whether you live in Quebec or Manitoba or Nova Scotia. Yes, we have problems, problems that those of us here in the House must work together to solve.
Most of us in the Chamber have had the opportunity to go elsewhere. We have seen the Russian federation. We have seen countries of the world where people are clamouring to come to Canada, to Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. We are trying to make them clamour to come to Nova Scotia too. Some day they will find out that is a good place to live as well. They are clamouring to be part of this incredible and unique and crazy idea which is Canada.
I think we all understand the desires for recognition in the hearts and minds of our colleagues from Quebec. We are saying that there are similar desires in different areas for all Canadians. We cannot maintain this incredible and bizarre idea, this federation, this country, by standing back and hurling implications at each other. It cannot be done by being accusatory or by suggesting motives that
are less than applicable in these situations. It is done by reaching out to each other the way we reached out in Montreal on that incredible Friday and the way all Canadians, English and French and allophone continue to reach out to each other.
As many have said, this resolution is a step in that direction. It is something that the federal government, the Prime Minister and those on this side of the House sincerely believe is a response to the things the people of Canada asked us to do, including the people of Quebec.