That, in the opinion of the House, recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada means, in particular, that Quebec has the right to ensure that immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by noting that I will share my time with my friend and colleague, the member for .
Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling on language of instruction in Quebec reopened the debate on how to protect the French language and help it thrive in Canada.
Since the 1960s, there have been several attempts to require immigrants to go to French schools in order to protect the status of French as the common language in Quebec.
Following the resounding failure of freedom of choice under the Union nationale exactly 40 years ago, in 1969, Robert Bourassa's Liberals attempted to resolve the situation with Bill 22 in 1974. Images of children in tears being subjected to language tests to satisfy the law's requirement that children have sufficient knowledge of the English language to go to English school resulted in the law being repealed.
There was a shift from freedom of choice to sufficient knowledge of English, which was eventually dropped by three successive governments. It is worth noting that linguistic and language of instruction in Quebec issues contributed to the downfall of the Union nationale in 1970 and the defeat of Bourassa's government in 1976. Changes were made in 1977, under the Lévesque government, when Dr. Camille Laurin introduced Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, and that is the legislation in force today.
Instead of the highly subjective language tests mandated under Bill 22—which we should make a note of because it will come up again—objective criteria were instituted. Bill 101's Quebec clause restricted access to English-language schools to children with at least one parent who had received English-language instruction in Quebec.
Following the unilateral patriation of Canada's Constitution without Quebec's consent, the Quebec clause was replaced by a Canada clause that allowed access to English-language schools for children with one parent who had received elementary schooling in English in Canada and children with a sibling who had received or was receiving English-language instruction.
The change to the Canada clause might be understandable because of the need for mobility within a country, but it is the last bit about brothers and sisters that throws everything off because of a completely unrealistic judgment from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now, an immigrant family need only have enough money to pay for private, unsubsidized English school for one of their children, in order to be able to send all of their children to English public school in Quebec.
Not only is this ruling a monumental social error, allowing well-off immigrants to buy a right, but it is ill-advised constitutionally.
The seven judges can pay lip service to the importance of protecting French in Quebec, but in reality, they are killing any possibility of that. The judgment passes the buck to the Quebec parliament to find a solution. I sat on Quebec's Commission d'appel sur la langue d'enseignement, and I worked as a lawyer for the Conseil supérieur de la langue française and Alliance Quebec, and I know that it will be practically impossible to evaluate the good faith of every immigrant family and to conduct, as the Supreme Court suggested, a global qualitative assessment to determine whether the educational pathways in English—those are the terms they used—are genuine. It is completely absurd.
Unless we can protect Quebec's ability to direct the children of immigrants to French school, all of this will be a waste of time. That is why I encourage all the members in this House to support our motion today.
Mr. Speaker, believe it or not, I still had about six minutes.
Let us look at what the Supreme Court actually wants. It speaks for itself. What I was just reading was a global assessment of the child’s educational pathway depending on the specific facts of each case. It is in paragraph 29 of the Supreme Court decision. Just imagine.
In my introductory remarks, I mentioned that I had been a commissioner on the Commission d'appel sur l'accès à l'enseignement in Quebec. Just imagine what this will mean. They say in the decision that the specific facts of each child and the specific facts of each school will have to be assessed in order to determine whether it was a bridging school. Different terms are used to describe these schools.
If people want to know what this is really all about, we should remember that the Supreme Court grudgingly admitted that the French language was a good idea in Quebec because it is part of Canada. However, the framers—the Supreme Court’s code word for Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau—decided in 1982 that sub-section 23(2) of the Canadian Charter would take precedence over the Charter of the French Language. This is reflected throughout the decision.
Let us look at the decision, word by word. Look at this in paragraph 30: “Section 73 CFL—”. If the members want a telling detail that shows just how the Supreme Court really thinks, look at “CFL”. That is how they write it. It means the Charter of the French Language. The courts in Quebec have already said that this is a quasi-constitutional statute. But here it just has initials, as if it were the Canadian Football League. They say: “The [...] CFL is to implement the constitutional guarantees [...]”. So the CFL, the Charter of the French Language, is supposed to implement. It is as if the Charter were some kind of gofer, doing someone else's bidding. This is about language. Quebec is the only province in Canada with a francophone majority that needs to protect French. Look at the rest. This is from the same sentence. It says, “[...] implement the constitutional guarantees provided for [...]”. So there are guarantees. Where? In the Canadian Charter, written out in full. What a fine demonstration of basic prejudice.
The CFL implements while the Charter confers rights. Lets us look a little further. Paragraph 31 says: “As I mentioned above, paras. 2 and 3 of s. 73 CFL provide that instruction received [in a UPS or pursuant to a special authorization under s. 82, 85 or 85.1 CFL] must be disregarded”. It can therefore not be given any consideration whatsoever in either qualitative or quantitative terms. The specific facts of each case have to be considered. Every school has to be studied, one by one, on a case by case basis, to determine whether it was a bridge school or not. They even go so far as to analyze the schools’ advertising. What a mess.
According to paragraph 32, “In the protection afforded by the Canadian Charter, no distinction is drawn as regards the type of instruction received by the child, as to whether the educational institution is public or private.” What matters instead is “the child’s overall situation and [...] an analysis of the child’s educational pathway that is both subjective and objective”. Just imagine. It is each specific child, on a case by case basis, qualitatively and quantitatively, and finally considered both subjectively and objectively. That is what has to be done in each case thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada. In the court’s view, “this interpretation is compatible with the primary objective of s. 23(2) [...]” of the Canadian Charter.
There is more. Moving along to paragraph 36: “The ‘bridging’ schools appear in some instances to be institutions created for the sole purpose of artificially qualifying children for admission to the publicly funded English language school system”. A bit further in the same paragraph, it says: “However, it is necessary to review the situation of each institution, as well as the nature of its clientele and the conduct of individual clients. As delicate as this task may be, this is the only approach that will make it possible to comply with the [Charter] [...] That is what Quebec is expected to do.
Look in paragraph 38 at the order of importance: “Bill 104 [the bill that is attacked in this decision] had two principal objectives. The first was to resolve the problem of bridging schools [...]. The second, more general, objective was to protect and promote the French language [...]”. It seems to me that protecting the French language was the first objective. For them, it was secondary and more general. That really shows their state of mind.
Finally, look at what happens in paragraph 44. It is really something. The judge says that six months or a year in a bridging school may not be enough to purchase this right. What they are saying is that if people have the $15,000 to $20,000 a year it costs to send their child to an unsubsidized private school, it is not enough for them to buy just one year.
The court is providing a roadmap here. People have to buy two years and then all their children can go to an English school.
Far from giving real meaning to the recognition of Quebec as a nation, this decision would create a breach that is impossible to fill in the efforts that have been going on for decades to reach a linguistic settlement.
For those of us who have always worked to assure Quebec’s place in Canada, this judgment is an unfortunate relic from a bygone era and a potent weapon in the hands of those who think it is time to leave.
The House should support our motion to get the facts straight and enable Quebec to do what it has always wanted, that is, ensure that newcomers who choose to go to Quebec, even though they could go elsewhere, learn first and foremost the common language of Quebeckers, which is French.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for , for the presentation of this motion today.
The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada means, in particular, that Quebec has the right to ensure that immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost.
Unfortunately, I will not be speaking French during my speech because I do not have the level of French required to do so.
So I will speak in English, and I will also speak from the perspective of a member from Newfoundland and Labrador.
We in particular have an understanding of what it takes to be part of Canada when there are strong differences. We of course joined Confederation in 1949 and we too have questions about our place in Canada. In fact, a royal commission on the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada was called just that, “Our Place in Canada”, and it did a study of all of the issues and grievances that may take place.
We understand the uniqueness of Quebec, just as we understand the uniqueness of Newfoundland and Labrador, but I also speak as a Canadian citizen who is concerned about the future and the unity of our country. I want to reflect upon the importance of this motion and the future of French language rights in Quebec to the unity of this country.
I recall vividly, as I am sure members do and those listening across the country do, the events of 1995 when we had thousands and thousands of Canadians from across the country attend in Montreal, the last day or so before the referendum vote on separation, to express their concern that Quebec continue to be part of Canada. We want to ensure that Quebec remains a part of Canada and that Quebec and the Québécois recognize that their future lies in a united Canada.
Key to that is a sense that the Québécois can continue to survive within a united Canada, and the Québécois have the ability to protect the vitality of the French language and culture. What is important to that of course is this very issue of language law. We do not want to see the French language diluted in Quebec through waves and generations of immigration, and of course Quebec has the responsibility to itself, in terms of its preservation of its language and culture, to do that.
In fact, my colleague from detailed some of the issues and attempts to do that over the many years, and in some detail looked at the Supreme Court of Canada. While the decision is open to serious criticism, I do want to underscore two things that the Supreme Court of Canada did say which I support very much.
It looked at the legislative objectives of Bill 104, first, to resolve the problems resulting from its attempt to get around the language law; and second, the objective to protect and promote the French language in Quebec. The Supreme Court of Canada, in its legalistic language, said that these legislative objectives were valid; in other words, that the Government of Quebec has the legitimate right to undertake these activities and to protect and promote the French language in Quebec.
It says in paragraph 40:
Moreover, this Court has commented several times on the importance of education and the organization of schools to the preservation and promotion of a language and its culture
It also quotes, with approval, a report from the office of French language in Quebec entitled “Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique au Québec 2002-2007”. This is the translation:
In both the Canadian and North American contexts, French and English do not carry the same weight and are not subject to the same constraints in respect of the future. The durability of English in Canada and in North America is all but assured. That of French in Quebec, and particularly in the Montréal area, still depends to a large extent on its relationship with English and remains contingent upon various factors such as fecundity, the aging of the population, inter- and intraprovincial migration and language substitution.
It is very clear. The Supreme Court quotes this with approval and recognition of the importance of this. It is very clear that the Supreme Court of Canada, as our signal national legal institution, does recognize this. We may argue over what this particular decision is, and my colleague and learned friend, as a fellow lawyer, is quite capable of doing that, but the Supreme Court suspended the application of this particular decision to allow the National Assembly of Quebec to recraft a law to meet these same objectives, but in a different way. I would hope that it has the capability of doing that over the next year and I look forward to seeing result achieved.
However, I want to say this. I think all of us across this country, from coast to coast to coast, from Vancouver to Victoria as they say, to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, have to understand that the diversity of our country includes a strong and vital Quebec, with the first language of French.
It is important to me, I must say. I have three children who are all studying in the French immersion program. I regret to say that I did not have the advantage of doing that. We have a bilingual province in Quebec. We have important francophone populations in Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba. I think that the support for those populations, and the language and culture that is shared with the Québécois depends on a vibrant first language culture in Quebec that is French, I think we accept that.
It does not mean that we have to be forced to speak French. We do not hear any more the language that we used to hear 30 or 40 years ago, complaints about French being shoved down our throats on the back of boxes of corn flakes or that sort of nonsense. I think we are past that.
My colleague from Outremont smiles at that. Perhaps he is not old enough to remember that. But that was the kind of thing that used to be said back in the 1960s, or thereabouts, when talk of bilingualism and biculturalism began to come about. I think we are way past that in this country, and I think many people in this country look with envy to some of the European countries where it is quite common for people to be bilingual or, in some cases, trilingual.
I remember in my own student days travelling in Europe, as I was reminded by my colleague from Nova Scotia, and meeting with students from Holland. They spoke English, Dutch, German and French, all as a matter of course, as part of their lifestyle; particularly if they were students having to learn subjects in different cultures and languages, and watch television and entertainment . It was marvellous to see that. They took it all for granted.
We are at a point in this country where we can respect and acknowledge not only the right but, I would suspect I would go further and say, the duty of the province of Quebec and the Government of Quebec to promote and protect the French language and to find ways of doing that, particularly with respect to immigration.
When people come to Canada, they have a choice. They can come to Toronto. They can come to Newfoundland and Labrador, and we would welcome them. However, if they choose to come to Quebec, it is reasonable to have a rule that says that part of that choice is that their first language of instruction will be in French. If they want to learn English, too, that is good. They could be trilingual with their original tongue, with French and English. They can come and learn to speak French and they can learn to speak English, and be all the better for it in terms of their ability to operate within Canada.
In summing up, I support this motion. I thank the hon. member for bringing it forward. It is important for us as parliamentarians to understand Quebec and to understand how vital this particular role for the people of Quebec and the Government of Quebec is, but to also try to explain to the various parts of the country, our own ridings, our own province, people all across the country, how uniquely important this is for the preservation of our nation. I do not want to see another referendum about separation. If we are going to recognize the rights here, I think we can support the existence of Quebec in a unified Canada with these kinds of rights.
Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada means, in particular, that Quebec has the right to ensure that the immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost.
I support the idea behind the motion, that newcomers have to integrate by learning one of our official languages, and French in particular, in Quebec.
In fact, I think that in moving this motion, the NDP has, perhaps inadvertently, adopted an argument I have been making since I became Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism last year. I have talked a lot about how it is essential for newcomers to learn one of our official languages in order to succeed and my concerns about the fact that only one quarter of newcomers access the free language training offered by settlement assistance agencies across Canada.
Working with provinces to increase the participation of immigrants in the Newcomer Settlement Program, a large part of which is devoted to teaching the official languages, English and French, is a federal government priority, identified in the 2008 Speech from the Throne.
In fact, it is not merely a priority. It is an aspect in which we have invested. Since 2006 when we first formed the government, we have nearly tripled federal investments in language training for settlement services. That includes substantial increases in transfers to the government of Quebec for language training for newcomers. Obviously, in Quebec, those services are in French.
I have repeated many times the importance of encouraging newcomers to Canada to learn one of our official languages, or preferably both, as time and resources permit. All the available evidence and data indicates to us that the single most important factor in the success of immigrants to Canada is their official language ability.
Of course it is still possible for immigrants to succeed in our society with limited knowledge of the official languages, but it is much easier to integrate, economically, in the labour market, culturally, and in our society, if one can speak English or French. Obviously, in Quebec, that is done in the language of Quebec, which is French.
There is a lot of data showing that the reason we see a much higher unemployment rate among immigrants in Canada is their limited knowledge of our official languages. This is a matter of concern for me as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I want to see immigrants succeed in Canada. They come here to succeed economically. We are very aware of the various challenges they must overcome. For example, newcomers working in regulated professions need to have their foreign diplomas recognized. Our government has taken action on this, by creating the Foreign Credentials Referral Office, by investing over $30 million and by providing a budget of over $50 million for the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development to assist organizations that work with immigrants to expedite recognition of foreign diplomas.
That is why the demonstrated important, historic leadership in January when he proposed an agreement to create a framework for recognizing foreign diplomas to the provincial premiers. I think there will be an important announcement on this subject in the near future.
That means we are working impatiently to improve the success, the economic outcomes and the labour market access of immigrants in Canada. But we must always emphasize the importance of language skills.
We form the government, and our last Parliament voted in favour of recognizing the fact that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada. We therefore recognize the unique characteristics of Quebec: its history, its traditions and the fact that it is a French-speaking society.
People from all over the world come to Quebec and Canada. They come from over 200 countries of origin. We are open. One of the greatest national characteristics of Canadians, and so of French-Canadians, is their openness toward other people. That is why we are keeping immigration at the highest level in the developed world, in relative terms. This means that 0.8% of our population is composed of permanent residents each year. As well, there are another 250,000 temporary residents, specifically students.
With an immigration level like this—I believe Quebec accepts about 54,000 of these newcomers—we have to emphasize the importance of integration. I am not talking about cultural assimilation, I am talking about positive integration. We do not want to create parallel communities, communities in which young people grow up in cultures that have more in common with the cultures of their parents’ countries of origin than with Canada’s. We want to give young people, children of immigrants, the full range of economic, social and cultural opportunities. The key, the door to all those opportunities, is language, and in Quebec, it is French.
This weekend, I attended 16 events in various cultural communities in the great metropolis of Montreal. I visited Muslim, Jewish and Middle Eastern communities, communities of Asian, African and Caribbean origin. Success has not been complete, but I am still genuinely impressed by the success of the Canadian Quebec model, particularly among young people. I am genuinely impressed by the number of children of immigrants who have learned French, who use French as their first language or second language. Sometimes their first language is their mother tongue, their parents’ language. It is truly impressive.
I therefore support the spirit of this motion. I have some concerns. We must be clear that under the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord on immigration, training for immigrants is the responsibility of the provincial government, and we will honour that accord.
I work closely with my counterpart in Quebec, the Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, Yolande James, who is doing a good job. I can say that when the accord was first signed, in 1991, the federal government gave the government of Quebec $90 million to invest in settlement services and French language training. This year, in 2009, we are giving Quebec $234 million for the same services, and next year our federal government will give Quebec even more, $254 million, a quarter of a billion dollars, to provide French language training for newcomers and to provide other settlement services.
We are therefore providing tangible support to achieve the goal we see in the motion by the hon. member for .
I would like to emphasize that we must talk not just about the importance of French language training for newcomers in Quebec, but rather about the duty to assist newcomers everywhere in Canada, in every corner of the country, to learn one of our official languages.
In the same spirit as the motion is in French, Canada has the right to ensure immigrants must learn English or French first and foremost, and obviously in Quebec that is overwhelming French.
I am concerned when I see that only a quarter of new immigrants actually enrol in the free language classes that we provide and for which our government has tripled funding. This is the reason we are looking for more innovative ways to provide those programs, to empower the newcomers with, for instance, vouchers.
Two weeks ago I announced a pilot project in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. We will send out vouchers to 2,000 newcomers worth up to 500 hours of language training at a properly registered and licensed language training school and where they can go and redeem those.
We are trying to raise the consciousness among newcomers of the language services we offer, to make the settlement organizations more responsive to the particular needs of newcomers and to create a kind of positive competition and to hopefully increase the uptake of these language classes that we offer.
I know that in Quebec, the participation rate of new immigrants in French training is a sign of success, but we must work together to do more. I agree with the member for that the federal government has a responsibility to work with Quebec to ensure that the money it invests in integration services is actually spent on these services and not put into other government services. I repeat that we put a quarter of a billion dollars specifically towards services for immigrants.
I hope the motion can help to inform a broader debate in the House and in Canada about the importance of language as a key to success for newcomers. On behalf of one of the immigrant employment organizations, Compas research group recently did an interesting survey of employers asking them why they do or do not hire immigrants in their companies. The number one reason was the employers' concern about language ability.
That is why we are ambitious for newcomers to succeed in our country. and why we are offering additional services, but it is also why there is an obligation on newcomers to make a real effort to learn one of our official languages. In our immigration program, the only part of our many streams of immigration to Canada that requires some degree of linguistic ability in French or English is the federal skilled worker program.
Obviously in Quebec, to get a Quebec selection certificate, an individual must have some French-language skills. However, for the federal skilled worker program, an individual must have a certain level of French or English.
However, for other streams of immigration, such as the family reunification stream, or the protected persons scream including the refugees we settle from abroad and people who obtain protection as asylum seekers in Canada, there is no language requirement. I want to emphasize that there is a requirement in the Citizenship Act that new citizens have the ability to speak one of our two languages unless they are under the age of 18 or over the age of 55.
I think that is very important. What I mentioned is a legal requirement. What concerns me is that I have met some new Canadian citizens between the ages of 18 and 55 who appeared to speak neither French nor English. I think that is a problem. I think that there should be a consistent standard.
We need to have a consistent standard. It is not fair to tell people that they are welcome into our political community with all the rights and responsibilities of a citizen but that we will lower the bar and not require them to have some basic ability to get by in one of our two languages because that would severely limit the ability of people to advance in Canada.
I do not think this is a harsh message. I think it is a message of hope and ambition for newcomers. Parents understand that if teachers pass a student through primary school and high school even though the student cannot read or write, they are not doing the student any service. I have sent the same message to the citizenship commission that I fully expect our judges and officials to ensure that the language requirement in the Citizenship Act is consistently applied to those who must have an ability to communicate in English or French in order to become citizens.
This is why I hope we will create a new citizenship guide, a new book for citizens that gives more information on Canada's history, symbols, democratic practices and values.
We must ensure that new Canadians have a thorough understanding of our traditions, our way of life, our institutions and our democratic practices. When I look at the current citizenship guide, there is hardly any information about the history of Confederation, the history of Canadians in the wars of the past century, the development of our democratic parliamentary system based on British traditions, or the importance of the founding of French civilization in North America. There is almost no information on any of these things in the citizenship guide. That is why we are in the process of revising all of the tools and all of the information in the guide for new citizens to ensure that they truly understand where we come from as Canadians.
Whenever I speak at citizenship ceremonies, I always say to new Canadians that in becoming Canadians, our history becomes their history. They too take ownership and become part of this amazing story that started thousands of years ago with our first nations and hundreds of years ago with the arrival of the European civilization. They take ownership with us of our struggles and achievements. They face many significant challenges but we, as a government, stand with them in overcoming those challenges. We believe that one way we can do that is to help them learn one or both of our country's languages.
I would therefore like to thank and congratulate the hon. member for on his motion. I look forward to working with him to develop concrete ways to help new Canadian immigrants improve their knowledge of our official languages, and, especially in Quebec, their knowledge of French.
Mr. Speaker, I will start my speech by reading the motion of the member for , because I believe it deserves to be read.
That, in the opinion of the House, recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada means, in particular, that Quebec has the right to ensure that immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost.
This is a self-evident motion. It does not need to be adopted at all by the Parliament of Canada and needs even less to receive the approval of the members of Parliament for the members of the Quebec National Assembly to consider it feasible and legitimate.
Of course, my party will vote for this motion. However, if the Liberal members intend to massively support this motion by the NDP, it is certainly not because Quebecers need that step in order to make their own decisions. In other words, we think that the member for is in the wrong House. Perhaps he misses his days in the National Assembly.
Contrary to what the New Democrats seem to believe, Quebec simply does not need the consent of the federal members to take charge of its own destiny and insure the sustainability of its language and culture. In fact, Quebecers do that very well, and I want to congratulate them and offer them the support of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I also want to compare the work of the member for to the behaviour of an attention-seeker who puts a great deal of energy into kicking down a door that has been open for a long time. I would not be surprised if the next motion from the member for Outremont would ask us to vote for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to be celebrated on June 24. Perhaps he will also submit a motion legitimizing the presence of the Quebec flag in front of the Quebec National Assembly.
I said that the member for was trying to break down open doors, essentially because all his motion does is state the truth about Quebec. I would remind my NDP colleagues that Quebec has had its own immigration policy for decades. It selects the new Canadians it accepts, and the Government of Quebec guides them as they integrate into our society.
I therefore invite the member for Outremont—since he clearly did not have the opportunity to do so when he sat in the National Assembly of Quebec—to visit the website of the Quebec Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities. There he will find a whole range of programs whose sole purpose is to help new Canadians who settle in Quebec integrate into their new society.
The Quebec portal has this to say about immigrating to Quebec:
Choosing to live in Quebec means choosing to live in a French-speaking society, since French is the language of 80% of the population. Knowledge of French will help you create the network of contacts you will need to become established and find your first job.
The fact that Quebec has its own immigration policy is nothing new. The first Ottawa-Quebec agreement on immigration was signed 30 years ago and renewed 20 years ago. What is surprising is that this motion was made by a former Quebec government minister. What is he trying to do with this motion? Is he trying to show his ignorance, attract media attention, set himself up as the new protector of the French language?
I must say that I am confused about what is really behind the motion put forward by the member for . It seems to me that he is trying desperately to justify his role here, especially with regard to issues in Quebec, but I also have to ask myself: is he aware of the events of recent decades? Does he know that Canada has evolved?
Naturally we recognized the Quebec nation and I am proud of the fact that the Liberal leader did so before the rest of this House did. With his support and that of his party, and well before the Bloc and the Reform Conservatives got involved for purely political reasons, he demonstrated that he understood Quebec and that it was important to affirm its unique nature. The leader of the Bloc and the were wise to follow his lead in this matter.
Naturally we promoted the French language and recognized the virtues of Bill 101. Without a doubt it was the right thing to do. Bill 101 and the Official Languages Act are complementary tools for promoting the French language and ensuring its vitality and sustainability throughout North America.
The members of the Liberal Party of Canada believe that French should be more prevalent, not only in Quebec but throughout Canada. It is part of the fundamental values of the great Liberal vision, which recognizes the unique nature of Quebec as well as its right to protect its language and culture. This vision also provides for the protection of the French language and its development in all provinces and territories of our great country.
The CBC, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and many other organizations are the tools that we have developed and adopted to promote the French language in Quebec and throughout the country.
The Conservatives recently cut their funding. The Bloc has continued to criticize them. As for the NDP, it has never taken an interest in the matter.
However, all of a sudden, the New Democrats have woken up and are asking us to interfere in a matter that is strictly Quebec's responsibility. Fine words about language and culture are all very well, but they have yet to put their words into action.
Yesterday, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada met with artists from Quebec's cultural scene. He sat down with three groups: those working in theatre arts; those from the museum field; and those in video, film and television.
Our leader announced concrete and specific commitments. He promised to double financial support for the Canada Council. He promised to provide stable and long-term funding for the CBC. He clearly stated that a Liberal government will restore the cultural programs eliminated by the Conservatives.
Unlike them, we Liberals do not think that cultural investments are a frivolous waste of money. We do not think the performances of pianists and singers are “a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers”. That is clearly what the Conservatives think though. They said so and their actions prove it.
No, we Liberals know that culture is first and foremost the spirit of a people, a national identity. It is the mirror we hold up to ourselves when we ask the question, “Who are we really?”
If, in addition, the money that governments spend on culture generates considerable economic spin-offs, which produce tax revenues, it is a very naïve government indeed that would take the axe to its cultural investments. It is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It is certainly not the best of strategies.
While the NDP discovers the linguistic issue in Canada—and the hon. member for demonstrates all the zeal of a last-minute convert—we Liberals will continue to work hard to promote the language and culture of Quebec and of all francophones in Canada.
It is clear that new Canadians who choose to live in Quebec—like all new arrivals across the country—need a bit of government help to adapt to their new situation. That is why the Liberals will always be a loyal partner for Quebec in this regard. If it likes, the NDP will have all the time it needs to support our initiatives as well.
I would like to turn now to the Bloc. Its ultimate goal is well known: to divide our country and pick quarrels. Its refrain today is hardly new and is not surprising. It can be seen coming a mile away. We know well in advance. There is no vision there. No inspiration. Nothing to bring us together and unite us. They never contribute anything to building the great country we have inherited from our ancestors. The Bloc never helps to enhance the respect and harmony among our citizens. So there are no surprises there.
Getting back to the hon. member for , we are left wondering what his real motives were. What was his purpose today in getting us to debate matters that have been closed for ages? Is he trying to sew ill-feeling and stir up new quarrels? If so, he will certainly fail.
If that is his intent, he is wasting his time. It is a dud. The NDP is only demonstrating that, like the Bloc, it does not want to unite, but to divide. The hon. member for Outremont can take my word if I say that Quebeckers do not need his intervention. They are doing quite well by themselves and we are all very proud of that.
Quebec asks us to recognize and respect its unique character, its language and its culture. The Liberal Party of Canada has understood that message very clearly and commits itself to do it. There are well established jurisdictions at the federal and provincial levels and the jurisdiction over the subject of today's motion is one of them. The time to play political games, as the NDP member and as our colleagues from the Bloc constantly do, is over. Let us talk about important things that will help us build Quebec and Canada.
I will conclude by saying that the Liberal caucus will support the NDP motion because we are true to ourselves. We were the first to recognize Quebec nation. We still recognize it and, contrary to the member for , we respect it truly and sincerely.
To claim that the adoption of the motion by the House will in any way whatsoever give the Quebec National Assembly some kind of legitimacy it does not already have borders on navel-gazing and egocentricity.
To be very clear, I will say that Quebec nation is free to make its own decisions. It is certainly not for us, members of this House, to tell it what to do.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the NDP's motion. The Bloc Québécois will support this motion being debated today. The purpose of this NDP motion is to debate a subject that Quebeckers have agreed on for a very long time and that, for the Bloc Québécois, is restating the obvious. There is no doubt that the Québécois form a nation.
Since a nation has its own language, culture and territory, recognizing its existence implies recognizing its identity, values and interests as a nation. By recognizing the nation of Quebec, the House of Commons has recognized that Quebeckers have the right to control the social, economic and cultural development of Quebec.
Quebec is a French-speaking nation and not a bilingual province, something that should be made perfectly clear. It is all very well for the House of Commons to adopt motions recognizing the existence of the nation of Quebec and stating that it must have certain powers. The reality is that the federalist parties far too often oppose plans to grant more power to that nation. Just look at the Bloc Québécois bill to apply Bill 101 to companies under federal jurisdiction.
The Liberal Party of Canada opposed having Bill 101 apply to federally regulated businesses. Yet the member for recognizes that it is important for immigrants to learn French. He says that Quebec's goal of francization is legitimate and that the wording of Bill 104 simply lacked “subtlety”. “Immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost,” he said about Bill 104, on which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled. Yet if he recognizes the importance of learning French, why did his party oppose the application of Bill 101? I am referring to the member for .
Recently, a Supreme Court ruling invalidated Bill 104 in Quebec with regard to bridging schools. What this means is that even in its own areas of jurisdiction, Quebec does not have full jurisdiction. This is one reason why many Quebeckers want Quebec to become independent.
It is important to remember that this is the reason René Lévesque refused to sign the Canadian Constitution in 1980: the National Assembly was losing part of its jurisdiction over education and the language of the Quebec nation, which is completely unacceptable. It is always dangerous when one nation's language laws are subordinate to another nation's laws and institutions. Quebec passed legislation to protect its language, and a federal institution has just decreased that protection. That is something we cannot accept.
For 20 years, Quebec has had a policy on integrating immigrants: interculturalism. But the federal government's insistence on imposing multiculturalism, an integration policy that is foreign to Quebec, is doing tremendous harm to the integration of immigrants to Quebec.
My colleague from will have a chance to talk about this. The official language of Quebec is French everywhere, except when it comes to the federal government, which considers that there are two official languages. The Bloc Québécois asks that the federal government recognize and comply with the Charter of the French Language in Quebec in the Official Languages Act and comply with the spirit of the charter in regard to the language of signage and of work in related legislation.
At the risk of repeating myself, it is important to remember that Quebec is a French-language nation, not a bilingual province.
Also, since civil law and family law fall under Quebec's jurisdiction, the province should have full authority over family reunification.
The Bloc Québécois believes that since telecommunications and broadcasting are important to the future of Quebec culture, these powers must be delegated to the Government of Quebec. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec could create its own broadcasting and telecommunications council which, while complying with federal legislation, could implement its own regulations based on its own concerns and interests.
The recognition of a nation is more than symbolic, because the nation is where political decisions are made. Recognizing a nation means recognizing a political entity with legitimate political rights and aspirations.
That is exactly what Robert Bourassa said in the Quebec National Assembly when the Meech Lake accord failed:
—English Canada must clearly understand that, no matter what, Quebec is today and for all times a distinct society, free and capable of assuming its destiny and its development.
Unfortunately, most Canadians who thought that there would be consequences for recognizing the Quebec nation were opposed to doing so. The House will remember. It was 2006. Most people who supported it were quick to point out that it essentially meant nothing. That is rather appalling, since recognizing a nation means recognizing a people and an entity. It means recognizing that people have the right to take the destiny of their nation and of their fellow citizens into their own hands. It means recognizing that nation's needs.
Having independence and sovereignty means three things: it means creating one's own laws; it means collecting all one's taxes, all the money that is from the people for the people; it means signing one's own international treaties. That is what Quebec wants. It wants complete and full sovereignty.
By recognizing that the people of Quebec form a nation, Canada recognized that all the positions that the Bloc Québécois defends in the House of Commons are legitimate and appropriate. These positions include: respect for Quebec's distinct character; acknowledgement of Quebec values; settlement of the fiscal imbalance; full respect of Quebec's jurisdictions, which means putting an end to federal spending in Quebec jurisdictions; the end of Canadian nation building, which aims to create a Canadian nation and to weaken the Quebec identity.
In short, by recognizing the Quebec nation, Canada recognized that it was normal for Quebeckers to think about Quebec's interests first and foremost, which is consistent with the view of the Bloc Québécois.
The Quebec nation has a language, French. Canada must take that into account and adjust its legislation accordingly, including by making sure that federally regulated businesses are required to operate in French in Quebec, just like Quebec businesses.
The Quebec nation has a culture, the Quebec culture. Federal laws and institutions that have an impact on culture and identity must take that into account and stop trying to shove us into the Canadian mould as if there was only one nation in Canada, the Canadian nation, of which Quebec was only a regional component.
With our vision of Quebec and the integration of newcomers to Quebec, the Bloc Québécois is working, here in the House of Commons, hand in hand with the National Assembly of Quebec, not against the National Assembly and its decisions. We have a vision of a full-fledged society that is international in scope, a society that has aspirations, a society that welcomes immigration based on Quebec's needs. This vision of immigration, by the way, recognizes fully that French is the common language of Quebeckers.