And well we should applaud them. They must have had smoke coming out their ears at times.
I have enjoyed sitting in the House of Commons, whether as a member or as a minister. I would also particularly like to thank the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, who allowed me to make a real difference in the world of sport in Canada and to stand up for our country’s values at Citizenship and Immigration, especially after the events of September 11. I also want to thank former prime minister Paul Martin for appointing me to the position of minister for La Francophonie and special adviser for Haiti.
I am especially proud to have negotiated the agreement to bring the World Anti-Doping Agency to Montreal, to have created a meaningful policy on sport in Canada and to have assisted our Olympic and Paralympic athletes and their coaches.
I am proud to have taken action to ensure respect for the languages spoken by all of our athletes, be they anglophone or francophone. Thanks to the body that came to be known as the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, athletes are no longer at the mercy of their federations.
In immigration, the agreements I signed made regionalizing immigration a priority. I salute my colleague, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
The one I am the most pleased with was the one we signed with Manitoba. This was a historical agreement that allowed Manitoba to pick up its own immigrants. It was good for the economy and the people.
I promoted francophone immigration across the country, simplified the points system and started major debates on issues such as creating a national identity card and using biometric data offline.
Since I have been sitting in the House for 16 years now, I will take the liberty of sending a few messages to the government and to my colleagues as a whole, regardless of political party.
Canada is a magnificent country, and its wealth derives from its diversity, from its variety. Let us never forget that Canada has two official languages and that no one should be considered a second-class citizen. French exists across the country, and the Government of Canada must ensure by its actions that francophones are respected.
It also means that judges of the Supreme Court should be bilingual.
Multiculturalism is an important Canadian value, and we should never have to choose between that value and bilingualism. They are two complementary values that must not be forced to compete with each other.
Let us respect the public service and stop using it as a scapegoat or cannon fodder. Public service employees do an incredible job. They are professionals and part of the solution.
Let us stop pitting the regions against each other. Canada is strong when we respect the uniqueness of every province and territory.
Quebec is a nation, and it must be respected. Let us make sure we do not constantly throw fat on the fire just to provoke flare-ups. Instead let us use this great diversity to strengthen our connections.
Lastly, Parliament needs more transparency. Democracy is fragile, and it is our responsibility to protect it.
My only regret is that I was never able to do justice to Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba and a father of Confederation. The man is innocent, and we must put right the mistake that was made.
In closing, I quote the Greek philosopher Epictitus, who said, “Do not expect events to unfold as you would wish. Accept them as they occur and you will be happy.”
As for me, I am going home to Montreal, as Ariane Moffatt says in her song. I will stand as a candidate for the mayoralty of Montreal, Quebec's magnificent metropolis.
Be forewarned, however: if anyone thought I acted up in the House just to make myself heard, know that my voice will travel from Montreal to Ottawa. Learn the word of the day: “unavoidable”.
Mr. Speaker, I have loved sitting in the House. It has been an honour to be among you. There is nothing nobler than to enjoy the public's trust. However, we do not own the right to be here; we borrow it, and for varying lengths of time. Let us all remember that.
Thank you, my friends. It has been an honour.