Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Motion No. 299, tabled in this House by the member for Papineau.
This motion calls for the introduction of a national voluntary service policy for young people. I must explain that in my speech I will use the French term “service bénévole” instead of “service volontaire,” which I think is a better translation of the text that was likely created here in this House.
The main reason I am speaking today is that I am worried that this motion clearly infringes on the jurisdictions of Quebec, and, more specifically, of Quebec's department of education, leisure and sport.
Before going into more detail on my position, and, of course, my party's position, I would like to take a few minutes to show not only that this motion infringes on the jurisdictions of Quebec, but also that the means proposed to implement this national voluntary service policy for young people are not new or innovative, do not make it possible to achieve most of the objectives one would expect of such a policy, and would duplicate other means that already exist in Quebec schools, among other things.
Motion No. 299 states:
That the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be instructed to consider the introduction in Canada of a national voluntary service policy for young people by analyzing existing programs...
It makes complete sense to me to conduct analyses before introducing this kind of government policy, but we are talking about programs that already exist. The member for Papineau says himself, in his motion, that these programs already exist. There is the evidence of the duplication. If he had done some research before tabling his motion in the House, he would have seen that across Canada, and especially in Quebec, there are policies, means and programs that directly meet the objectives of the policy he is trying to introduce with Motion No. 299.
The motion goes on to say:
...and using the work done by the Voluntary Sector Initiative in 2003...
We must understand while the Voluntary Sector Initiative, or VSI, was doing its work, Quebec was already in the process of negotiating with organizations to develop a policy of recognition and support for the community sector. This policy of recognition had the exact same objectives as the VSI.
Many stakeholders were not able to participate in the VSI because they were in talks with the Government of Quebec. Naturally, the Government of Quebec was not even invited to participate in the development of the policy, most likely because it was already in talks with organizations. The mover would like to base the motion on some document or study, but neither the Government of Quebec nor primary stakeholders from the province were involved. At any rate, there can be no doubt about the result: VSI policies were founded on an English-Canadian model because most of the work was done in English and Quebec was left out of the initiative.
I have a hard time understanding why the member for Papineau thinks that the House will pass this motion, which is based largely on work from more than six years ago that excluded Quebec and used an English-Canadian model. What is even more astonishing is the fact that a Quebec member is moving the motion.
I have to hold back and wrap up my comments on the measures proposed in Motion No. 299. I do not have much time left and would like to talk about other aspects of the motion.
Perhaps I should close with the end of the motion:
...by holding public hearings; and by presenting a report to the House no later than October 2009 that would contain among other things a review of similar policies in the rest of the world and a summary of the evidence heard.
I am taken aback by the administrative burden Motion No. 299 calls for, with all of the work to be done by October 2009. I will have to end my discussion of the measures here, but there are other reasons I oppose this motion.
I have been clear about how this policy would encroach on Quebec's jurisdiction. The policy proposed in Motion No. 299 is based in part on the Katimavik program for youth aged 17 to 21, which provides opportunities to learn skills while performing volunteer work. Katimavik's goal, and the goal of Motion No. 299 with respect to a national voluntary service policy for young people, is to demonstrate Canada's commitment to national voluntary service for young people and the importance of integrating young people into the social and economic fabric of our society.
The principle of integrating young people into society and helping not-for-profit organizations is very commendable, and I agree completely with it. But that is exactly what the Government of Quebec did in 2006 when it created the youth action strategy. After consulting more than 1,200 young people, 70 national groups and the anglophone, cultural and aboriginal communities, Quebec put in place its own youth action strategy. Even though it is still imperfect, this strategy, which was developed just three years ago, is bound to improve with time.
Quebec's youth action strategy has a number of objectives, including fostering young people's entry into the workforce and enhancing their participation in society, in their community and in the world at large.
The wheel was invented around 3500 B.C.E. in Sumer, in lower Mesopotamia. We do not need to reinvent the wheel today. Quebec already has a youth policy with almost the same objectives as Motion No. 299. Not only does this motion interfere in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, but it also amounts to needless duplication of effort, because Quebec already has its own youth policy.
What is even worse, the proposed policy also represents an intrusion into education. The Katimavik program provides participants with continuous learning in five areas: leadership, official languages, environmental stewardship, cultural discovery and healthy lifestyle. The new education program introduced by the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sport has objectives that are exactly the same as Katimavik's. I will quote some of them. Page 24 of Quebec's new education program states:
Each discipline can play a part and provide an opportunity to cultivate in the student the qualities essential to realizing his or her potential: creativity, self-confidence, initiative, leadership...
This is almost exactly what Motion No. 299 says.
In conclusion, this motion is a flagrant intrusion into the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. In addition, it amounts to needless duplication of effort. I am therefore opposed to this motion.