Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of the House, once again, we are debating again today bill C-505. As we have already said and will repeat, our government cannot, in any circumstances, support such an initiative and the reasons for this are many.
Our country was built on immigration and, as we have seen in earlier debates, its faces have become increasingly diverse. It is in this diversity that we find our pride and our identity. Canadian pluralism, as it has existed for decades, far from being an outdated or inadequate model, as some of our colleagues would have us believe, is an inexhaustible source of riches for our country and pride for our fellow citizens.
Over the years, previous governments have adapted the model to the changing realities of our society, without ever having to alter its very essence, namely respect for differences and the agreement of all Canadians on our fundamental values.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act is part of a broader legislative framework that includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act and ensures the promotion of both official languages and the safeguarding of the major principles and fundamental values of democracy, human rights and equality between men and women. These are the principles that we must continue to defend and promote.
Quebeckers, like the rest of the Canadian population, are dealing with new challenges arising from the continuous changes in our society. Cultural and religious diversity are constantly increasing. Non-Christian religious communities account for nearly 10% of the population; 20% of Canadians are allophones; and we now have people from over 215 different ethnic groups.
These figures portray a Canada that is more diversified than ever. But this fine cohabitation has its inherent difficulties: gaps in socio-economic integration, racism, discrimination, security issues, debates about reasonable accommodation. Media coverage in recent years has not spared any effort in focusing on the issue of cultural diversity and its impacts on our society.
Numerous detractors have even used September 11 to build dubious arguments claiming that pluralism poses a security problem as a result of the isolation of cultural minorities. However, no tenable correlation—none at all—has been established between security and diversity.
It was inevitable, in such a context, that the government should review its programs, as it does regularly, moreover, to ensure that its policies are still current and correspond to the general trends of Canadian society. The Government of Canada has take a position in favour of maintaining its program promoting cultural diversity, while adapting it to the new realities stemming from Canada’s social development and globalization.
With that in mind, special attention is paid to the economic, social and cultural integration of new Canadians. We all know that these three areas are essential for a feeling of belonging to develop and thrive.
We must also facilitate the implementation of programs designed specifically for at-risk cultural youth, to break their isolation and to allow them to become full citizens.
Finally, the promotion of intercultural understanding goes hand in hand with that of Canadian values. Both allow us to settle the issues of social exclusion that are based on the fact that a person belongs to a cultural community.
A strengthening of the partnerships with other levels of government, institutions, individuals and communities is at the core of this review of our program.
The Bloc Québécois should support such a change, rather than oppose it. The fact is that Quebeckers are already guaranteed the same respect and the same freedoms as people elsewhere in Canada, and that is what matters. That is what is most important. Also, it is together that we must defend our principles and common values, which include Quebec's values.
Canadians are not fools. In a 2007 IPSOS poll, 82% of them confirmed that Canada's cultural diversity was one of our country's biggest assets.
Moreover, two thirds of Canadians believe that pluralism strengthens the Canadian identity and adherence to common values, without adversely affecting immigrants' integration.
Given these numbers, it is obvious that a large majority of Quebeckers see a definite advantage to this diversity. We are not at all surprised by this. Quebeckers have always shown tolerance and respect.
Bloc Québécois members are trying to repair something that is not broken. Instead, let us work together and find solutions to the challenges that we are facing.
Our country establishes a link between a diversified culture and a common citizenship. That is what makes our reputation and our strength at the international level. Let us make sure that this will continue to be the case in the future.