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43rd PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 118

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 15, 2021




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 150
No. 118
2nd SESSION
43rd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[Translation]

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

    It is my duty to lay upon the table, pursuant to section 28 of Appendix 1 to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, a report from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner entitled “Ratansi Report”, dated June 2021.

[English]

Commissioner of Lobbying

    It is my duty to lay upon the table, pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, the Commissioner of Lobbying report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Information Commissioner

    It is my duty to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 40(1) of the Access to Information Act, the report of the Information Commissioner for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

[Translation]

Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act

[English]

Committees of the House

Official Languages 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, entitled “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Government’s Ability to Deliver Information and Services in Both Official Languages”.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[English]

Veterans Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, regarding support programs for veterans, caregivers and families.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
    I would like to thank our clerk and all of the staff who have allowed us to continue our work virtually this past year.

Status of Women  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, entitled “Challenges Faced by Women Living in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities in Canada”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Petitions

Travel Advisers  

    Mr. Speaker, I had the honour of speaking with over a dozen travel agents and I have three petitions to present.
    The petitioners call upon this House to recognize the negative impact COVID travel restrictions have had on the economic situations of travel advisers, especially independent travel advisers. They call upon the House to respond with sector-specific remedies until travel resumes for a sufficiently long time to ensure a return to a sustainable income flow.
    The petitioners call for the continuation of the CRB at $500 per week for six months past the full-time resumption of travel. Further, they call for sole proprietors to be qualified for the RRRF in urban areas. Finally, they ask the House to ensure that any financial assistance to airlines and their subsidiary travel companies will be conditional on the protection of travel advisers' commissions and that any commissions already clawed back be repaid to travel advisers.

  (1010)  

Canada Child Benefit  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition started by the Willowdale Community Legal Services and signed by hundreds of Canadians across the country.
    The petitioners are concerned about the current Canada child benefit legislation, which denies many children who are residents of Canada, including those who are Canadian-born, access to the Canada child benefit payment because of the immigration status of their parents. The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reduce child poverty and alleviate the hardships faced by children and women in Canada by allowing all children who are residents of Canada access to Canada child benefit payments irrespective of the immigration status of their parents.
    I am pleased to present this petition and proud to support it.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition virtually on behalf of my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia. The signatures on this petition were submitted out of great concern by my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia regarding the Columbia River Treaty.
    The petitioners, therefore, call on the Government of Canada to act as follows. The Columbia River Treaty impacts the lives of all Kootenay—Columbians. The federal, provincial and regional governments have varying levels of responsibility for the protection of Canadian interests with all aspects of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations. The Columbia River Treaty requires the co-operative development of water resources, flood risk management, power generation and recreation, like Lake Koocanusa.
    The treaty displaced over 280,000 acres of ecosystem, including local farmers, ranchers and indigenous communities. They call upon the Government of Canada to focus on the importance of the Columbia River Treaty and to meet the priority, development and planning of the construction of a weir on the Canadian side of the international border on Lake Koocanusa, British Columbia.
    I support this petition and present it to the House of Commons on behalf of my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia.

Health  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present two petitions this morning.
    The first petition is from many constituents concerned about the shortage of family doctors and how 92% of family doctors in this country are in urban areas and only 8% are found in more rural and remote areas, such as where I live. On a brief parenthetical personal note, I am going to have a knee replacement tomorrow, so I will not be in the House. My family doctor remains in Ottawa because I was not able to find one in Saanich—Gulf Islands 12 years ago when I moved here.
    The petitioners ask for the federal government, recognizing that this is provincial jurisdiction, to develop a holistic, full-on effort, working with provinces and territories, to find a fair and holistic solution to the acute shortage of family doctors in much of Canada.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition speaks to an issue that we have heard about in this House frequently in recent weeks, and that is the critical declining area of our forests comprising old-growth forests. The petitioners note that there are solutions to protecting what is left. Less than 2.7% of British Columbia forests, for example, are in old-growth condition. Old growth fosters biodiversity, and it is a major sink for carbon. It could be part of Canada's federal plans for protecting biodiversity, protecting carbon and keeping it out of the atmosphere.
    The petitioners note that solutions in value-added forest products, in collaboration with first nations, could create part of our path to reconciliation while preserving old-growth forests. In short, the petitioners call for a halt on all old-growth logging across Canada.

Questions on the Order Paper


Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1015)  

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking Nation  

    That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, you have inspired me to read the motion again, as I find it rather poetic.
    That the House agree [the use of the word “agree” was no accident] that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
    Although it has been 30 years since the Bloc Québécois was created, there are still people in the nation next door who think they need to rewrite their own laws to enshrine French, and only French, as Quebec's official language. This is because, 30 years later, there is still that much to be done, not to mention gaining independence.
    Quebec is totally and entirely entitled and justified to tell anyone listening and anyone else, in every forum and soon every forum around the world, that it is a French nation whose only official language is French. I would remind all these fine people that this has been the case since 1974. When I was a boy in short pants French was already the only official language of Quebec. It feels like some members of the House just discovered that the Earth is round, although I am told that a few people here are not so sure. The common language has more weight than the official language. The common language is the one we use when we are walking down the street and we encounter someone we do not know.
    The great tragedy of the French language in Quebec is when a young francophone encounters another young francophone at the corner of Peel and Sainte‑Catherine and they carry on in English without understanding the history behind that reality, without understanding what brought them there, without understanding the sometimes uncertain compromises made, the humiliations of history, the strong affirmations and the emergence of an extraordinary culture. Two young francophones speaking to each other in English in the street is the antithesis of recognizing the wonderful contribution of a Leonard Cohen to Quebec culture. What makes us who we are completes us. We can never give up who we are.
    Today is a very special day. Some would say that it is rather singular to be celebrating it in this place, but that is where our friendly struggles have brought us. This day will be celebrated in the hearts of the millions of Quebeckers who recognize themselves in our cause. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Bloc Québécois.
    In this day and age, it is no longer appropriate to see individuals as being more than human, especially if they are still living. However, I am in a position to speak to, as humbly as possible, the stature of a certain Lucien Bouchard and to assess all that he relinquished, all the courage he showed 30 years ago to create what one day history will call one of the essential tools for making Quebec a full sovereign nation. We have an obligation to be humble, each one of us in this place, in Parliament, online, all the workers, the hardworking men and women here and elsewhere, the supporters, the Quebeckers engaged in this desire to complete a journey that began with the Quiet Revolution.

  (1020)  

    Although we recognize that we must be humble, we also have the right to show our pride. We are a fine bunch; we are the bunch who cheerfully refuse to disappear. We are those they say will not exist. We are told over and over that the Bloc Québécois is finished, just as we are told over and over that independence is finished. Well, these naysayers keep having to roll up their sleeves because our objective is sound, noble and legitimate.
    However, it will never be more and it will never be better than what has been done by those who came before us in Parliament's House of Commons, which, I say with no enmity, will always be foreign to us. If we wish it, it will be temporary.
    Today Parliament is going to properly debate a very important motion, not just surreptitiously dispose of it. Quebec is navigating through the maze of documents that were designed to make it wither away. Those same documents indicate that it is time to acknowledge and note down the fact that Quebec is a nation.
    Quebec is not a nation within a united Canada. That does not mean anything. Quebec is a whole, entire, thriving, complete, vibrant, beautiful, and up and coming French nation. No other language can even begin to compare to the heritage, beauty, allure and poetry of French. No wonder there was a baby boom in Quebec. These things start with flattering words, and French has much to offer in that regard.
    Members were able to refuse the motion that we moved at the end of May with a simple “nay”, but today it will not be so easy. We are pleased to make two observations. First, we think that the motion will be adopted. We will be pleased to accept it because it is very good thing.
    Second, without this great group of 32 passionate people, the motion never would have been adopted. It would have never even existed, and Quebec would have never been able to identify with it to this extent. This group decided to make this proposal to Ottawa. It did not want to be received with indifference and actions that would later go against it. This is not a legal approach that we have initiated, not at all. It is also not an approach that involves interpretation, a scope of interpretation or “interpretativity”. It is a political approach. Take it or leave it. It is political.
    We are putting this Parliament in a position where it will be forced to effectively take note of the fact that Quebec is affirming that we are a French nation. I would dare say that Parliament should do that in a humble way, which is not something it is often known for.
    There will be consequences. The government cannot go on forever hiding behind an assortment of judges who have also been hidden behind a charter that was designed to counter the will of Quebec and the Quebec National Assembly. Beyond all of that, there is the will of elected officials from across Canada and Quebec.
    When the time comes to do something, someone will have to show some consistency. The government cannot recognize the French-speaking Quebec nation, take money from Quebeckers and give it to people who want to challenge and oppose the French-speaking Quebec nation. Now, it does happen, and there have been some inconsistencies, but we will expose the people who deserve to be exposed.

  (1025)  

    I want to say something that might sound a little harsh, but that is not my intention. The government's new, multi-page slogan is called the modernization of the Official Languages Act. I think I can say that this is not something we will be debating here. This bill will not go anywhere. It is essentially a second document filled with statements and hypothetical plans that will only happen if the Liberal government has a minority. We shall see what makes it into the rewritten version if they ever win a majority.
    We do not even know what it is all about. It is starting out with private briefings, and we do not know what the Minister of Official Languages plans to include in her bill. We do know that it will apparently recognize French as the official language of Quebec. A round of applause for acknowledging what we all have known for 50 years. People who are better informed than me have reported that it essentially copies what would be in Quebec's hypothetical Bill 96, with respect to making federally regulated companies and institutions subject to the Charter of the French Language.
    First of all, the two laws would say the same thing, but the federal law would take precedence. Why? It is because in real life, from the Canadian and federal perspective, Quebec is a vassal state. If we do not agree, I decide. That is what Canada is, even in terms of language, identity, values and culture. That speaks volumes.
    We are talking about a government that cannot even hope to pass amendments to the Broadcasting Act, which was thankfully and greatly improved thanks to my friend the member for Drummond's efforts; a government that cannot even get its budget implementation bill passed, when there is probably someone out there shopping for a bus and a couple of planes.
    It is quite ironic to see who the government is turning to. It is turning to the leader of the Bloc Québécois to say we are in a peck of trouble, that we are good people, that we still have a lot in common and that we will to work to make it work. These people have come to tell us that they will be deciding how to manage our language, our values, our identity, our culture and our nationhood and that is really nice of them, but no thanks. We are going to do it ourselves.
    Now let us talk about timelines. The Minister of Official Languages is going to introduce an official languages bill that would, among other things, seek to replicate what will eventually be prescribed by Bill 96, which amends Quebec's Charter of the French Language to make federal institutions and businesses subject to the Charter of the French Language.
    I am a good guy, and I would like to save her the effort. First of all, the parliamentary session of the House of Commons will surely be over before anyone even begins to look at the purely legislative side of things. There is a very good chance that this Parliament will be over too, so it will not happen in the foreseeable future. Let us not hold our breath.
    In the meantime, two things will happen. First, in all likelihood this fall, the Quebec National Assembly will vote on what will, depending on the will of the elected representatives of the Quebec National Assembly alone, become Bill 96, and the Charter of the French Language in Quebec will henceforth apply to institutions and businesses under federal jurisdiction. The fall seems a bit far off, so we are going to move faster than that.
    Tomorrow, the bill introduced by my esteemed colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, which would subject federal institutions and businesses in Quebec to the Charter of the French Language, will be put to a vote in the House of Commons. We are going to save a lot of time, avoid a ton of double-dealing and vote on this bill tomorrow. It will be done. We will be able to say thank you, goodbye. It will be dealt with, and we will be able to move on to another issue.

  (1030)  

    The House will have an opportunity tomorrow to move forward with a bill that would make federally regulated institutions and businesses subject to the Charter of the French Language, as called for by the Quebec National Assembly. Is that not wonderful?
    Why not make the most of this opportunity? I must admit that it would have the disadvantage of stealing a bit of our thunder in terms of scoring political points in the run-up to the election. That is a bit of a shame, but it should not be the priority.
    It is also important to point out that before anyone spoke French in New France, English on the shores of the United States, or Spanish on the southern islands or in Louisiana, North and South America were home to dozens and dozens of nations, each of them no less a nation than ours are today. They have their own histories, languages and cultures. That is always worth mentioning. We wanted to amend the motion to that effect, and some members from other parties suggested it, but others were not willing to let us do so.
    When we have our great debates that, let us face it, pit French against English, we do not always mention it, but we should always give indigenous languages—I hate to say a specific status, because that term is so misused, but a factual, institutional and friendly respect that shelters them from all our debates that, from the perspective of these great cultures, only just arrived on their continent.
    Before I conclude, I would like to encourage the minister to do something useful with the Official Languages Act. Some might interpret that to mean that I am implying she is addressing things that are not useful and, well, they are right. Quebec does not need anyone at any time to tell it how to promote and protect its language, culture, arts, identity and values. What it badly needs is for those who are not involved to mind their own business and keep their noses out of ours.
    Instead, those resources should be invested, willingly, happily and generously, to support Acadian communities and francophone communities outside Quebec, which need them badly. No doubt people will tell us that anglophones in Quebec also badly need to be protected. I say this without malice. I confess I do not get up in the morning worrying about the survival of the English language in Quebec. I think it is doing quite well, and I am happy for it. The day Canada treats its French and Acadian minorities as well, as generously, and as warmly as Quebec has historically treated its English minority, the debate will be quite different. God knows we are not there yet.
    Whatever Quebeckers decide to do with their nation, their state, their language, their culture, their values and their history, the result will be a resolutely French nation. I say this both in friendship and as a bit of a warning: No one is going to stand in Quebec's way. No one will succeed. The joyous, dynamic, festive, colourful, culinary and musical resilience of Quebeckers is unstoppable. As history will show, today will be a milestone in the protection of this nation, which will one day be called upon once more to take its destiny in its own hands, and the sooner the better.

  (1035)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I listened very closely to what the leader of the Bloc had to say and I really believe that he underestimates or undervalues the passion that people have for Quebec. I am thinking in particular of the Prairies, where many people, including me, have a very strong love for the province. We want Quebec to retain its heritage. The French language is a beautiful language.
     I am wondering if the member could provide his thoughts in regard to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have a passion for the province of Quebec and who want Quebec to retain French as its common language.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, who could forget the extraordinary outpouring of deep love from Canada just before the 1995 referendum, when tens of thousands of Canadians violated all the rules of democracy? It was a scam of historic proportions, during which the streets of Quebec were inundated with Canadian flags and declarations of love that vanished just as quickly as they had appeared. I for one have not forgotten.
    I invite the member to pose his question about love for the French language out west, to the Métis.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois for his speech and his motion.
    We are talking about a motion to recognize that Quebec has the jurisdiction to amend its section of the Constitution to state that Quebeckers form a nation, which is recognized by the House of Commons and by the NDP in its platform, and that French is the only official language of Quebec. As my colleague pointed out, this has been the case since 1974, when Robert Bourassa was premier. These are all indisputable facts. In addition, this motion is non-binding.
    What is the point of tabling a motion on something that everyone agrees on?
    Madam Speaker, I am a little excited. I presume that, from now on, everyone in the House will agree when the Bloc Québécois puts forth proposals asserting Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction, not only in the areas of language, culture, art and who we are, but in everything concerning the Quebec nation, including certain exclusive jurisdictions.
    Take pharmacare or dental care, which there is somewhat of a tendency to want to centralize. In this context, not all NDP members read the Sherbrooke declaration closely. Still, we will let bygones be bygones. We will see what happens in future votes.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois.
    I would also like to congratulate the Bloc on its anniversary. I had the honour of working with Lucien Bouchard when he was the federal environment minister. In my opinion, he is still the best environment minister Canada ever had.
    I would like to say that the Green Party totally agrees with the need to protect the French language and Quebec culture for Quebeckers and for everyone across Canada who benefits from that extraordinary culture.
    However, I have a problem. I studied law and constitutional law when I was younger, so I understand the Canadian Constitution. I do not see any problems with the aim of Bill 96, but if any other members of the House have any articles by experts, I would appreciate it if they could share them with us, because I cannot get any further in my research. I think that it is ultra vires of the province to make a change to the Canadian Constitution.
    In my opinion, it is a—

  (1040)  

    The hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly.
    Madam Speaker, debate is a healthy exercise in politics. Reflection is also a healthy exercise.
    Let us say that more than 330 out of 338 members of Parliament agree on a motion; I think it is fairly safe to assume that when it is 30:1, it is not the 29 who are wrong.
    Out of respect and the affection that everyone is so keen to express toward the Quebec nation, I invite the hon. member to reconsider and to acknowledge that French is in a unique position in Quebec, but it goes far beyond that. It is a question of recognizing a nation; despite the fact that it was conquered, it remains, resolutely and obstinately—and Lord knows we are obstinate—a nation.
    Mr. Bouchard was without a doubt a great environment minister. In our 30-year or 60-year history, we had René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Pauline Marois, Bernard Landry and many other great politicians. We also had Gilles Duceppe, my friend and predecessor. It is true that Lucien Bouchard was a great environment minister but, more than that, he was a great sovereignist leader.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

[English]

    Does the leader of the Bloc believe that the ability to amend the Constitution affects all provinces or just Quebec?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I wish everyone the same happiness I wish for us.
    I think that, in theory, beyond the intricacies of the Charlottetown accord, had the exercise been more sincere and taken more seriously, we would have had a confederation of autonomous territories and, unlike what we see every day now, the provinces would not be creatures of Ottawa, but the other way round. That would have required going against the grain and showing a bit of humility, but, as a result, every person, every community, every people and, especially, every nation claiming the right to self-determination—this includes francophone communities outside Quebec and the Acadian nation, which I love—will always have my personal support, as well as that of the Bloc Québécois.
    Madam Speaker, at one point or another, we have all seen unflattering and unhelpful remarks in social media, but there is something we, and especially my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, see a lot. It is called Quebec bashing. In fact, it is a national sport for some, which consists in knocking Quebec indiscriminately.
    I would like to thank my leader for his speech. It was inspirational as always.
    Does he think that the fact that the House of Commons recognizes Quebec as a nation whose common and only official language is French could help educate and influence Canadians in the right direction, which would make relations between our two nations even more pleasant and cordial?
    Madam Speaker, a little earlier, I mentioned two young francophones who were speaking English to each other on the corner of Peel and St. Catherine. I dream of two young people from anywhere in the world meeting on a street corner in Rimouski and greeting each other in French.
    When this happens, when it becomes normal and an everyday occurrence, when Quebec is fully accepted for what it is, we will be a wonderful neighbour to Canada, and we will do so much together, more than with anyone else. Social media will no longer have a reason to bash us.

  (1045)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mont‑Royal.
    I am very pleased to be participating in today's debate. It is in a way the continuation of a debate held in the House in 2006 when I was a young member of Parliament. Well, at least I was a little younger than I am now, and my hair was not quite so white. It was an important debate for me because we were preparing to vote in favour of recognizing the Quebec nation. Obviously, I voted in favour of the motion because, in my opinion, it is a simple fact.
    We had had an extremely interesting debate, and I remember very clearly that the vast majority of the members present voted in favour of the motion recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada.
    My former colleague Stéphane Dion aptly summarized the conclusion of the debate. He said, “we all agree on what is basic in this, which is, for those who are Quebeckers, that we are proud to be Quebeckers and Canadians, and that other Canadians are proud to have Quebec as part of their country.” As a result, the debate in the House of Commons on the recognition that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada was held and settled in 2006.
    The Bloc Québécois may not like what I am about to say, because they would prefer an argument. We clearly recognize that French is the official language of Quebec. I will say it again: French is the official language of Quebec. We also recognize the key role that Bill 101, or the Charter of the French Language, has played in preserving and strengthening the French language in Quebec. I have always supported Bill 101. Since we wish to modernize the Official Languages Act, we understand and respect the Quebec government's desire to do the same with the Charter of the French Language.
    With respect to Quebec's desire to enshrine this symbolic recognition in the province's constitution, I think I can safely say that Quebec has a certain amount of leeway that allows it to make changes, provided it is clearly stated that the suggested amendments cannot directly or indirectly modify the scope of the provisions of the Canadian Constitution. We all agree on that.
    In other words, it must be stated that the Quebec government's bill does not erode other laws that protect the language rights of the English-speaking community in Quebec. Obviously, there will be several debates in Quebec's National Assembly and throughout Quebec on this very important topic. I will follow these debates with a great deal of interest.
    Although it is true that symbols are important, it is also true that actions are even more important. Actions speak louder than words. The government has signalled its intention to take action to counter the decline of French across the country. In fact, our ambitions are not limited to countering the decline of French. We want to take action to encourage people to learn and use French and to foster the development of francophone communities across the country.
    In the throne speech and budget 2021, we clearly stated that we are responsible for protecting and promoting the French language, not only outside Quebec, but in Quebec as well, while continuing to fully respect the rights of the English-speaking minority.
    The reason I am talking about the need to protect French in Quebec is that French is in decline even in Quebec, especially in the greater Montreal area. That decline can sometimes be seen in the way people are greeted in shops and restaurants. It can be seen on some signs and heard on the street and on the radio. It can be seen in the statistics on the decline of French and rise of English, particularly in both public- and private-sector workplaces.
    As a Quebecker and a Canadian, I am very concerned about the decline of French, and so is the government. I know that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Official Languages are especially concerned. Every member of the House who wants to protect a fundamental trait of our country, namely the existence of two official languages, should be concerned. Allow me to make it clear that the federal government wants to protect and promote French.

  (1050)  

    That desire to act on all fronts is written in black and white in the bill that my colleague, the Minister of Official Languages, tabled in the House. The federal government will protect French by taking action in federally regulated sectors, which include banks and communications and transportation companies. All federally regulated employers, of which there are about 18,000, will have linguistic obligations, not only in Quebec, but also in regions with a strong francophone presence outside Quebec.
    Drawing inspiration from the Charter of the French Language, we will pass laws on the right to be served and to work in French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence across Canada. That is a significant step. We will be creating language-of-work and language-of-service rights that will foster the use of French in Quebec and across Canada. We are doing this because we recognize that we need to do more to support French and to achieve real equality between the two official languages.
    To quote Aristotle, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” Facts are facts, and the fact is that French is not equal to English in our country and even less so in North America. As noted in the throne speech, Canada's approximately eight million francophones are surrounded by an ocean of more than 360 million primarily anglophone inhabitants of North America. As such, it is our responsibility to take action in areas within our purview to protect that minority and ourselves.
    I want to stress that the reform we are proposing would in no way curtail the rights of Quebec's anglophone minority. I do not think the Bloc Québécois or anyone else wants that. However, we do know that if the French language is to continue to thrive in Quebec—and this is even more so the case outside Quebec—precise, vigorous and ambitious measures must be instituted immediately. That is what we will do, and we will also be working on a number of fronts. For instance, we will lean on cultural institutions such as Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board of Canada, and CBC/Radio-Canada, requiring them to support French-language content.
    We will adopt measures to promote francophone immigration to try to counter the very worrisome trend of declining francophone demographics in the country. We will increase French-language learning opportunities for all Canadians. We will make it official policy to appoint bilingual justices to the Supreme Court of Canada, a move the Conservatives oppose, for some reason. We will strengthen some of the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages, and much more.
    The reason I mentioned jurisdiction earlier is that, as the Liberal party's Quebec's lieutenant, it is fundamental to me. Jurisdictions must be respected and that is why, whether it is the right to work in French in federally regulated businesses or the right to be informed and served in French by those same businesses, we are clearly acting within our jurisdictions. Not only are we acting clearly, but we will act clearly in our areas of jurisdiction.
    At the same time, this measure we have included in our bill to modernize the Official Languages Act affords us a prime opportunity to work closely with the Quebec government. If we want the new federal system to coexist with the French-language requirements, we need to work together and we want to. That is what underpins what we are doing and that is what is written into the bill. That is also the spirit of the bill, this willingness to work with Quebec to strengthen and promote French, the language that I cherish, that we cherish and that is so beautiful. We must do more to protect it, to share it and to strengthen it.

  (1055)  

    Madam Speaker, one evening during this parliamentary session when the report on the decline of French in Quebec was published, I thought I heard members saying how much they loved French. I get the same impression from the speech that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons just gave.
    In Quebec, we cherish and cultivate French. It is something that we are proud of because it is a key component of living together. Why is the federal government giving this so much attention and taking so many precautions rather than letting us govern our French language with our charter? Why did the federal government contribute to the decline of this beautiful common language in Quebec—
    The hon. government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, from the outset, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois does not have a monopoly on loving Quebec and the French language.
    French is in my blood. It is in my veins. It is something essential for me and for the government.
    With regard to the right to work or be served in French, we are going to take action in areas under our own jurisdiction. Limiting the debate on strengthening French to that means limiting the scope of the debate. We need to invest in our culture, in French-speaking immigration and so on. The government is going to do that.
    Madam Speaker, I always enjoy listening to the speeches of my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
    I must say that there is a huge contradiction between his words and the government's lack of action. The government waited six years before finally introducing—and it had to be pushed—a modernization of the Official Languages Act. I could tell him that we have seen the impact of underfunding francophone programs and institutions here, in British Columbia, as elsewhere in Canada. There were also Liberal members who disputed the fact that French was being threatened.
    I understood my colleague's speech, and it was a good one.
    When will the government finally admit that French is threatened and start funding francophone institutions and take steps to put its fine words into action?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague.
    Note the exceptional quality of his French. It is not only the quality of his French, but also the fact that he uses it all the time. As a result of that, we have meetings of House leaders in French. I think that is historic. When we—the representatives of the four parties—meet and discuss, it is in French. I do not think this has ever been done so regularly in French. It is thanks to my colleague's efforts and his love for French.
    I will answer his question. I mentioned it earlier, and we said it in the Speech from the Throne, that we had to work on French, not just in Quebec, but across Canada. We have introduced a bill that includes very strong measures to strengthen and promote French throughout Canada, and we are investing massively in both official languages.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his speech.
    I noticed that he spoke of the importance of taking action instead of just talking. That is actually one of our biggest criticisms about the current government. It is important to protect francophone culture. I know that many members of the House really care about the French language. They have often demonstrated it. What I am wondering is whether the government genuinely wants to take action on it.
    It seems to me the government is always in reaction mode. When Quebec introduces a bill to protect the French language, the government hurries to introduce one of its own. I would like the government leader to reassure me that the Liberals genuinely intend on moving forward with protecting the French language.

  (1100)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    Our intention is sincere. It is sincere and stems from our desire to strengthen both official languages and to protect French, not only outside Quebec, but also within it. The French language is declining in Quebec, especially in Montreal. I mentioned this earlier.
    That is why we are going to collaborate with every party that is willing to work in the House to strengthen the French language with the Government of Quebec. It will all be done in a sincere and tangible way.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this is one of the most important speeches that I have given in this virtual chamber. I want to clarify for the people in my riding and across Canada what this motion means, and even more importantly what it does not mean. I also want to contribute my views to the public record so that they can be examined by any court that may, in the future, be called upon to consider the significance of this motion.
    First, I want to clarify that if this motion is adopted, it does not constitute an agreement by this House to a constitutional amendment. Amending Canada's framework document would require a proper bill, extensive public consultation, committee study and hearings, legal analysis and extensive debate in this House and across the country. I would never support any constitutional amendment that did not follow this process.

[Translation]

    Second, what does this motion do?
    It asks the House to recognize that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, allows Quebec and the other provinces to unilaterally amend their respective constitutions. What the motion does not say is that section 45 is subject to section 41. Section 41 refers to section 43(b), which clearly states that any amendment to any provision that relates to the use of the English or the French language within a province also requires the approval of the House of Commons and the Senate. I will speak to what this means a little later.
    This motion also calls on the House to acknowledge the fact that Quebec intends to use section 45 to amend its constitution to state that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.

[English]

    Third, let me be clear about the mechanism being used. Quebec's proposed Bill 96 has not yet been the subject of hearings. It has not been debated, amended or adopted. Since the determination of whether section 45 applies to an amendment will depend on the final wording of Bill 96, it would be premature to offer more than a preliminary assessment as to whether section 45 could apply.
    No amendment to the constitution of a province made under section 45 can have any legal effect on the Constitution of Canada. Our Constitution is very clear that if any amendment relates to the use of English or French language in the province, section 43(b) must be used, not section 45. Therefore, this amendment cannot be used to reduce or impact the rights of the Quebec English-speaking minority in any way.
    It would not and could not change the scope of section 133 of the Constitution, which says that English is an equal language with French within the National Assembly and the courts of Quebec. It would not and could not change the scope of the rights of the minority language community under the charter, such as education rights under section 23. Perhaps most importantly, in my view, this amendment cannot be used to interpret whether any charter right has been breached or to justify a section 1 limitation of that right.
    Fourth, I support the exact wording adopted by the House of Commons in 2006. That motion stated, “that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.” I want members to note those last words, which are “a united Canada.” The current proposal is missing those words.

[Translation]

    I also believe that it is very important to understand the legal implications of the notion of French as the common language of the Quebec nation. I hope that there will be presentations and debates in the National Assembly on this issue.
    Quebec's Charter of the French Language states that French is the official language of Quebec. French is the first language used in Quebec, and French-speaking Quebeckers should be able to live, work and be served in French throughout our province.

  (1105)  

[English]

    Some proposals in Bill 96 have raised real concerns that common language means something else. For example, is the Quebec government seeking to limit those who can receive certain services in English? Sections 22.2 and 22.3 of Bill 96 link the ability to receive certain government services in English to those who are eligible to receive instruction in English. This has never previously been done in the Charter of the French Language outside of education rights.
    Let us look at what that means. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of people who considered themselves part of the English-speaking community of Quebec will no longer be eligible to receive certain services from the state in English. This would include people who came to Quebec from the United States or other English-speaking countries, and even Holocaust survivors in their nineties who have been part of the English-speaking community since arriving in Canada over 70 years ago. This is profoundly disturbing, and I very much hope this section is amended by the National Assembly.

[Translation]

     There is also section 18.1, which states that the personnel members of the civil administration shall use exclusively French when communicating orally or in writing with one another in the exercise of their functions. I do not think it is reasonable to ask two anglophone public servants to speak and write to one another in French.
    In light of these and other provisions in Bill 96, we can understand why leaders of the English-speaking community, including former member of Parliament Marlene Jennings, who is the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, have expressed some serious concerns about Bill 96.

[English]

    I am particularly concerned about the impact of Bill 96 on how we see the charter and how individual rights interact with collective ones. In my view, we have a Charter of Rights because we, as a society in Canada and Quebec, have accepted that there are certain rights which are inalienable, rights that are not subject to change by a simple majority in the legislature. A charter is designed to protect minorities, even unpopular minorities.
    In Bill 96, Quebec has departed entirely from this principle. First, the bill says the Charter of the French Language would no longer be subordinate to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This means that Quebeckers would no longer be able to argue that the Charter of the French Language breaches rights under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
    Quebec is also proposing to use a notwithstanding clause in an omnibus and pre-emptive way, preventing any Quebecker from arguing that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are breached under this bill. I would like to be very clear that I am against the notwithstanding clause. I do not believe it should be part of the charter.
    We already have section 1, which allows legislatures to place reasonable limits on rights. To allow legislatures to allow unreasonable limits on rights, or to put laws outside the review of the judicial branch of government, is not something I can ever support. I oppose the use of the notwithstanding clause by Quebec, Ontario or any other jurisdiction.

[Translation]

    Although we have to accept that the notwithstanding clause is part of the charter and can be invoked, it should be invoked only on very rare occasions, in response to a legal ruling. It must not be used pre-emptively. The idea of insulating a bill from possible legal challenges is profoundly troubling. The public would have no way to find out whether a right has been violated. As a Quebecker and a Canadian, I believe that we need an extensive public debate on this matter.

[English]

    What is clear is that the issues related to our Constitution, our charter and our two official languages are at the very core of the fabric of our country. They are not documents or concepts to be taken lightly, but to be approached thoroughly, transparently and with the best interest of the federation at heart. Canadians place their trust in us to protect our country, protect our rights, including minority rights, and protect our democracy. These are not conversations that happen in one day, but rather require time, reflection and public debate. Our Constitution and Canadians deserve nothing less.
    In the end, while I believe that this motion is purely symbolic in that it only asks this House to acknowledge what Quebec intends to do as opposed to the House agreeing to anything substantive, I also understand why this may be unclear to Canadians, especially official language minority communities and in particular, English-speaking Quebeckers.
    Therefore, I move that this motion be amended by adding, after the words “of the Quebec nation”, the following: “That the House acknowledge adopting a motion in 2006 stating that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada and reaffirm this position, and declare that the rights of Quebec's English-speaking minority under the Canadian Constitution may not be impacted or reduced by such an amendment.”

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    As members know, an amendment to an opposition motion may be moved only with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. In the absence of the sponsor, it is permissible for consent to be given or denied by the House leader, the deputy House leader, the whip or the deputy whip of the sponsor's party. Seeing as none of them is present at the moment, the amendment is not receivable at this time.

[English]

    We will continue with questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston.
    Madam Speaker, the only way to get past the problem of remembering my riding name is for me to be appointed to some senior position, perhaps such as House leader. I hope my leader is listening right now.
    I would like to say to my colleague, the hon. member who just spoke, that I agree with every one of the comments he made in the first part of his commentary referring to the narrow and symbolic scope of the motion. I thank him for laying things out as clearly as that, and I suspect members would find that view represents the perspective of many people in the House.
    Although I have not had a chance to think it through, there is considerable merit to the amendment the member proposed to the motion. I would be interested in hearing him further explain how, in his view, we should proceed forward given the fact it is not possible to proceed with this amendment.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to let my hon. colleague how much I respect him and his intellectual acumen.
    I know there are many people throughout the country who misunderstand the symbolic nature of this motion, including my constituents and those within the English-speaking minority in Quebec and the French-speaking minorities outside of Quebec. There are certainly reasons why the House would want to restate that we are, indeed, of the belief that the Québécois should form a nation, but a nation within a united Canada, such as we agreed in 2006. I would also like to assure the English-speaking minority in Quebec that our constitutional rights will not be impacted by the motion before this House, which is the reason I proposed the amendment.
    I would be happy to support the motion, provided that we clarify those two points. It is very important to my constituents and very important to many across Canada that we do so.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am somewhat astounded by what my colleague is saying. I must remind him that, as far back as the 17th century, the French sailor, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, was saying that the French were different and that they formed a separate nation. On the subject of the revolt of the Patriotes in 1838, Lord Durham said, “I expected to find a conflict between a government and a people, but instead found two nations at war within the same state.”
    This debate has been going on for years. Listening to my colleague, I get the impression that we have gone back in time 50 years. I understand that he does not support the motion, which I would like him to confirm unequivocally. I would also like to know how a province's domestic legislation is any business of federal MPs.

  (1115)  

    Madam Speaker, I am just as much a Quebecker as the member of the Bloc Québécois. I always find it frustrating that the Bloc Québécois does not recognize that I, who am an anglophone member, or my colleague from Hochelaga, who is an allophone, are just as much Quebeckers as the members of the Bloc Québécois, even though we are not of French origin.
    We are Quebeckers. We are part of the Quebec nation within Canada. I am sorry, but I do not think that I am stuck in the past. I am actually the future of Quebec because Quebec is becoming more multicultural. We are all Quebeckers within Canada.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, which was overwhelmingly in English. I understand that he wants to defend the rights of the historical English-speaking minority in Quebec and is therefore doing his job. However, given that French has been the official and common language of Quebec since 1974 under Robert Bourassa's Liberal government, what is he afraid of?
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I am troubled that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie would question the fact that, as an English-speaking member from Quebec, I gave half of my speech in English. I was under the impression that we have two official languages in the House of Commons.
    Second, I see and I fully agree that French is the official language of Quebec. I have never denied that. However, as a Liberal, I believe that we can think that way while also respecting the rights of the English-speaking minority. That is a concept I will always fight for.
    Madam Speaker, as whip of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to inform the Chair that we are going to reject the amendment proposed by the member.
    The amendment is not under consideration since no one in the House could respond to it for the Bloc Québécois.
    Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston.
    Since the very beginning of what would become Canada, the French language has been a fundamental characteristic of our people. In 1534, when Jacques Cartier set foot on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, he did more than just discover a land unknown to Europeans, he marked the beginning of something wonderful.
    As an explorer, he dreamed of achieving great things. Of course, the future held a land and a culture where amazing things would happen and where a unique people would be born. Over the years, we saw Cartier's dream develop and become the country we know today. Our history is essential. We teach it in our schools. We learn from it as part of our work, and our culture allows us to remember it.
    Although things can change or evolve over time, one thing has stayed constant. One of the elements found in all the years of our country's history is the French language. It has been a driving force for our people and a source of pride. It continues to be an integral part of the identity of Canadians and Quebeckers.
    The Conservative Party of Canada understands this. We also understand the unique character of Quebec beyond the French language. A Conservative government will always respect provincial jurisdiction, including the ability of any province to unilaterally amend the section of the Constitution that deals exclusively with its own internal governance. Both the British North America Act and section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, allow the provinces to do this.
    Most of them have already used this power. Quebec, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces abolished their provincial upper houses between 1876 and 1968. Alberta and British Columbia abolished multi-member ridings. Alberta amended its constitution in 1990 to guarantee its Métis communities land title and other rights.
    The province of Newfoundland used its powers to change its name to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001. Given all these examples, it would be discriminatory to prohibit Quebec from using these same laws to do what is best for its people. As a province and as a people, we stand out in Canada and in the world, and our party has always supported this.
    Provincial autonomy is important and is something that the Conservatives, unlike our Liberal colleagues, deeply respect. Members will recall that, in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper fought to give Quebec a seat at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This important step was a proud moment for the province. Its natural beauty, rich history and wonderful culture are international jewels and deserve to be recognized.
    Quebec is one of the many things that make Canada so unique. Internationally, Quebec makes a valuable contribution to the arts, science, technology and culture. Our solid industries, talented artists and creative students have made their way to many parts of the world. This deserved to be celebrated in 2006, as it does today. That is a good example of the Conservative Party's determination to promote Quebec globally, its pride in la belle province and its commitment to provincial autonomy.
    Prime Minister Harper, in particular, defended Quebec and ensured that we were not forgotten. His motion for recognition of the Quebec nation by the federal government was a major step forward. Mr. Harper and the entire Conservative Party wanted the House to recognize that “the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada”.

  (1120)  

    That second example makes me think of our founding fathers, who shared that same vision. Thanks to the efforts of Macdonald and Cartier in the second half of the 19th century, we became a unique and magnificent country unlike any other the world over. Their work laid the foundation for our political system and ensured that the French language maintained its important status in our society when Upper Canada and Lower Canada united. Cartier himself played a pivotal role in the formation of the Great Coalition, which was one of the first steps along the path to Confederation. His presence in London, Charlottetown and Quebec City was of crucial importance, and it was largely because of him that Quebec became part of the Dominion of Canada.
    Our Confederation and our provincial structure function harmoniously and in unison when the government does not overstep its bounds and respects the provinces' authority and responsibilities. That applies just as much to Quebec as it does to Alberta, Ontario and every other province and territory in our great country.
    While that authority applies for all provinces, I believe it is important to single out Quebec's unique history. That deserves our special attention because French Canadians are a minority in Canada and in North America. As a proud and confident people, we have too often felt forgotten. It is time to take action and get on top of things. When we want something, we have to go get it. Nobody is going to serve up what we want on a silver platter. We have to speak up about what we want and fight to get it.
    One of the Conservative Party's fundamental beliefs is that the people of this country are capable of working hard to get what they want, and I see that value reflected in today's political system. Quebec knows what it has to do to get what it wants, and that is exactly what is happening.
    Even today, provincial autonomy and jurisdictions are not fully respected. When it comes to health transfers to the provinces, the Prime Minister made some promises with exceptions attached and agreed to some requests, but again only with conditions attached. The Prime Minister has never been a partner to the provinces, and he keeps interfering in provincial jurisdictions by making promises with strings attached. Federal centralization is an ongoing phenomenon that leads to complications with the provinces. It is time to stop this back and forth and properly recognize the authority of the provinces.
    This is not a new issue. Quebec has always had to fight for its language, from the time French and English settlers fought hundreds of years ago until the implementation of laws like Bill 101 in Quebec. The Quebec Act, the Official Languages Act and many others were battles fought at the expense of the French language.
    The 2016 census found that nearly 80% of Quebeckers speak French as their mother tongue. That is more than six million people. Despite this huge number of French Canadians, the Liberal government continues to neglect Quebec. The Liberals have had since 2015 to overhaul official languages, but they have not done so. The government needs a better understanding of the importance of provincial jurisdiction and the Quebec nation.
    Today's motion has my support and the support of our party. Under section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, Quebec and the provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions. It is not that Quebec wants to enshrine its nationhood in its constitution, it is that Quebec needs to preserve our heritage and our nation in a meaningful way.
    Although we recognize the presence of anglophone minority groups in Quebec, the common language of the Quebec nation is French, and it should be the only official language of our province. In other words, our house is built on a French foundation. We must ensure that the foundation remains solid, and we must upgrade the structure over time to ensure its integrity.

  (1125)  

    Our history is rich and complex and goes beyond language laws, but it guides our identity and shapes our culture.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He provided a very interesting historical perspective. We also agree on the three points raised in this motion about the Constitution and recognizing the Quebec nation and French as its official language.
    However, we have a concern about recognizing French as the common language, and I wonder if he shares that concern.
    In his view, would this not hinder the recognition by the National Assembly of Quebec of the indigenous languages present in Quebec?
    Madam Speaker, our leader recognizes the importance of French. He is prepared to apply bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. He also recognizes that the Official Languages Act needs to be modernized, and respecting jurisdictions is part of his values.
     Madam Speaker, the member did give us a nice history lesson.
    Today we are talking about the French language and about Quebec and francophone culture, and we are also in the midst of a rather heated debate on Bill C‑10, an important part of which is designed to protect francophone culture. However, there is a lot of opposition to this bill in my colleague's party.
    I would like to hear my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord speak to how important it is to protect francophone culture through laws, such as the Broadcasting Act, which we are in the process of reviewing.
    Madam Speaker, protecting culture is, of course, very important to us. However, we will not compromise on freedom of expression, because that is extremely important to us.

  (1130)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.
    We are talking about the use of French and about defending the French fact here, in federal institutions, so I would like to hear the member's thoughts on something that the NDP has been calling for for several years. The Conservative Party's position is not clear.
    Would the Conservative Party make it mandatory for justices of the Supreme Court of Canada to be bilingual?
    Madam Speaker, the important thing is that the Conservative Party recognizes provincial jurisdiction. That is of the utmost importance to us. Quebec has the right to make its own decisions.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask my question again, because I did not get an answer at all. I heard the hon. member talk about the importance that his party seems to place on the myth that Bill C‑10 would infringe on freedom of expression, but that was not the point of my question at all. I wanted his opinion on the importance that should be placed on protecting francophone and Quebec culture in the legislation that is voted on here in the House of Commons, and particularly on the urgent need to pass a bill, such as Bill C‑10 on broadcasting, in which specific regulations and a specific framework would be enshrined to protect francophone culture.
    That is really what I want to hear from the hon. member, not rhetoric about freedom of expression. We have already heard a lot of that.
    Madam Speaker, we do need to protect our culture, but right now, freedom of expression is what is at stake, and our party will not compromise on that.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, my question is with respect to the motion from 2006 recognizing Quebec as a nation inside a unified Canada. Does the member support that motion?

[Translation]

    The answer is yes, Madam Speaker.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, practice makes perfect.

[Translation]

    The motion that is before us today has two parts. The first part says this, and I quote:
     That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions...
    The second part says, and I quote:
    [That the House] acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.

[English]

    One cannot vote for or against one part of the motion without doing the same for the other part. However, I have very little to say about part two, which asks us to take note of two expressions of what is called the will of Quebec and also to take note of the obviously true fact that French is the common language of the Québécois, which it has been since 1608.
    We all deeply and sincerely hope that this foundational fact that French is the lingua franca of the Québécois will continue to be the case for the next 400 years, just as it has been for the past 400 years.

[Translation]

    For me, a Quebec nation in which French is not the lingua franca is unthinkable.

[English]

    Likewise, it is a fact already acknowledged by the House that the Québécois are a nation. Fifteen years ago, the Commons voted for that by a margin of 265 to 16.

[Translation]

    That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

[English]

    The words “au sein d'un Canada uni” are absent from today's motion, as one would expect from a motion produced by the Bloc Québécois. Nonetheless, it is true that the motion, as it is worded, is by no means incompatible with a united Canada. It is quite the opposite.
    Beyond this, I am not sure there is much to say about the second half of the motion. My interest, as a student of the Constitution, is in responding to the first assertion of the motion, which says, in its English version, “That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions.”
    My comments on this subject are primarily intended to sway the views of my anglophone colleagues, and therefore I will be speaking only English as I address this subject.
     The wording of section 45 is, “Subject to section 41, the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province.”
    Members will notice the internal reference to another part of the Constitution, section 41. This reference is necessary because unlike the constitutions of other federations, like Switzerland or Australia, Canada's Constitution contains multiple amending formula instead of just one. That is to say that different parts of the same Constitution can only be amended using different combinations of legislative instruments from different legislative bodies.
    For example, there are some parts of the Constitution that may only be amended if identical resolutions are passed in Parliament and in all 10 provincial legislatures. This amending formula is contained in section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and of course, section 41 is the clause specifically referenced in section 45. I will not mention section 41 except to observe that it was referenced in section 45 to prevent provinces from unilaterally altering the powers of their lieutenant governors.
    Other parts of the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights, can be amended only by means of identical resolutions in Parliament and in the legislatures of the seven provinces containing at least 50% of Canada's population. This is colloquially known as the 7/50 amending formula, and it is described in section 38 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
    On the other hand, to enact an amendment to the charter designed to place further restrictions on the powers of only a single province, another formula that is found in section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982, applies. Identical resolutions must be adopted by the legislature of that province alone and by Parliament. It was the use of the section 43 amending formula that in 1993 made it possible to add a new linguistic right to the charter that applied to New Brunswick alone, which was section 16.1 of the charter.

  (1135)  

    Likewise, section 43 is also the only formula that may be used for either of the two following matters. It states:
(a) any alterations to boundaries between provinces; and
(b) any amendment to any provision that relates to the use of the English or the French language within a province,
    The existence of multiple amending formulae for the Constitution of Canada is not new. Section 92(1) of the Constitution Act, 1867 was the predecessor to section 45. It was in force for over a century.
    Section 92(1) stated:
...in each province the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to the amendment from time to time of the Constitution of the province, except as regards the office of Lieutenant-Governor.
    The ability of Quebec or of any other province to amend its own Constitution is uncontroversial. The more challenging question is what constitutes a provincial constitution.
    In other federations like Switzerland, Australia or the United States, this question would never arise. Each Swiss canton and each American state has its own stand-alone constitution. The constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for example, is the oldest written constitution in the world, dating back to 1780, which makes it a decade older than the constitution of the United States.
    In Canada, such tidy, clearly defined provincial constitutions do not exist. In this province, provincial constitutions can take one of three forms, which leads to some surface confusion.
     In the three provinces that were created by federal statute, the relevant federal statute is the constitution of the province: the Manitoba Act, the Saskatchewan Act and the Alberta Act, respectively. Despite being acts of the Parliament of Canada, these statutes can, under authority of section 45, be amended only by the provincial legislature. Parliament is constitutionally precluded from being involved.
    In the five provinces that existed before Confederation, the pre-existing British statutes under which they had been created are their constitutions. Despite being acts of the Parliament at Westminster, these too can be amended unilaterally by the province under authority of section 45. Again, there is no permitted role for Parliament.
    That leaves Quebec and Ontario. Their constitutional situation is summed up by eminent constitutional scholar Professor Peter Hogg in the following words:
     The Constitution Act, 1867, which, it will be recalled, created Ontario and Quebec out of the old united province of Canada, contains a set of provisions (ss. 69 to 87) which are essentially the constitutions of those two provinces.
    Therefore, sections 69 to 87 are the provisions which could potentially be subject to amendment, using the section 45 amending formula, which is to say that they could be potentially subject to amendment by means of an act of Quebec's national assembly or Ontario's legislature.
    It is Professor Hogg's view, and my own as well, that Parliament, once again, is not permitted to play a role in such amendments.
    This leaves the question of whether amendments can be made to the Constitution of Quebec or Ontario that involve making any amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867, in which the subject matter falls outside subjects covered in sections 69 to 87, which are sections that deal solely with the functioning of the two provincial legislatures.
    In particular, could changes be made such as those proposed in Quebec's Bill 96, which seeks to add two new sections immediately following section 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867? I have several tentative answers to this question.
     First, the fact section 90 falls outside of the section 69 to 87 envelope is irrelevant.
    Second, this is a matter that is outside the remit of Parliament. We are not decision-makers on this. The courts ultimately will have to decide whether sections 158 of Bill 96, which is the part of the bill in which these two amendments are proposed, is intra vires or ultra vires the section 45 amending formula. We MPs can weigh in on this subject but our views are not binding on anybody.
    Third, and this is the last point I will make, and most important, although the motion we are debating today deals with the same subjects as the two contemplated additions to the Constitution Act, 1867 contained in Bill 96, we have not been asked to vote for or against Bill 96. We have been asked to vote on a specific question regarding the section 45 amending formula and a specific statement about what the motion refers to as the will or volonté of the Québécois, as expressed by the national assembly.
     On these questions, it seems to me the answer is yes—

  (1140)  

    The member's time is up. I left a bit of time, but maybe he will be able to finish during questions and comments.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague who has a really nice French accent.
    He supports the Quebec nation but would like to add something to the Bloc Québécois motion to indicate that the Quebec nation is located within a united Canada.
    First, I would like him to define what a “united Canada” means to him.
    Second, would it not be better to see that Quebeckers, colleagues and partners are happy in his Canada?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will start by finishing the last sentence of my speech, which was the only sentence I did not manage to get in. On these questions, it seems to me the answer is yes and therefore that is how I will be voting.

[Translation]

    To answer my colleague's question, it is not up to us as members from ridings outside Quebec to determine what measures are required to make Quebeckers happy and to make them equal partners in Canada. We need to respond to Quebeckers' initiatives. Today's motion is an example of that.
    My colleague asked another question, but honestly, I cannot remember what his first question was.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I sit with my colleague on the international human rights subcommittee and I know he is a very intelligent and thoughtful member of the House. I also know that his riding has a large population of francophones outside of Quebec, as does mine of Edmonton Strathcona. I am going to ask him a question about protections for francophones outside of Quebec.
    As the member will know, section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees French language and that guarantee is at risk in Edmonton Strathcona because of the potential closure quite soon of Campus Saint-Jean.
    Does he feel the federal government has work to do, and could be doing more and doing it more urgently, to protect French language across Canada by ensuring that campuses like Campus Saint-Jean are protected?

  (1145)  

    Madam Speaker, I actually do not have a large population of francophones in my riding. It is a perpetual problem trying to keep up my French because I do not get the chance to speak it daily. Lately, I have taken to listening only to music with French lyrics as a way of helping myself not lose too much, which is a very enjoyable way of maintaining one's language.
    With regard to maintaining academic institutions in other provinces that assist the francophone minorities in those provinces and also those who want to learn and educate themselves in French, who are not necessarily francophones themselves, there can be a role for the federal government in funding them. Ultimately, we also need to ensure, as members of the relevant communities, that we put the right kind of pressure on university administrations to assign funds appropriately. This is not an issue only in Edmonton, but also in places like Sudbury, for example, and some spots east of Quebec as well in the Atlantic.
    Madam Speaker, I noticed the member had a number of notes and I wonder if there is anything else he wants to expand upon today.
    Madam Speaker, I always write very long speeches, which could not possibly be given in the time allowed. My self-editing cut out a considerable amount of material.
    With regard to the issue of dealing with this within the framework of the Constitution. if we look at Canada's constitutional history, some of the leading figures, some of the most distinguished and thoughtful figures, were francophone Lower Canadians. The term “Québécois” did not exist at the time. People like George-Étienne Cartier and Étienne-Paschal Taché believed profoundly in the importance of establishing a Constitution that had detailed divisions of power. They rigorously followed the idea that the provinces would be independent, like independent states, which is where the term “state” comes from in the United States, in their areas of jurisdiction, and the federal government would be completely independent in its area of jurisdiction. I suggest that model of federalism is the only one that will work in Canada, and we should all embrace it.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby.
    I am pleased to take part in the debate on this extremely interesting motion as the work of the House draws to a close.
    The motion before us is quite interesting because it articulates certain facts that are well established, some of them for quite some time. This motion is therefore both political and symbolic, but it is not binding in any way. If this motion is adopted, not much will change for Quebeckers even though the notions and concepts within have gained broad consensus. It has been clear since this morning that there is consensus in the House.
    I do not think there is unanimous support for the motion, and there may be some nuances and concerns. There is one thing in particular that we are concerned about, and I will get back to that. Nevertheless, I think there is broad consensus around the motion's three main points.
    The motion contains three elements: the Constitution, the nation and the French language.
    With respect to the Constitution, the Government of Quebec has tabled Bill 96, which proposes to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, to insert Quebec's fundamental characteristics, including the fact that Quebeckers form a nation and that French is the only official language of Quebec and thus constitutes the common language of the Quebec nation.
    Specifically, these amendments would be inserted after section 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867. This proposal would allow Quebec to amend its own constitution. It could therefore amend the Quebec section of Canadian Constitution. In fact, section 45 of the Canadian Constitution provides for that; it says, and I quote:
    
    45 Subject to section 41, the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province.
    This is also the consensus among certain experts. I will quote Benoît Pelletier, a former Quebec cabinet member who is now a law professor at the University of Ottawa. Recently, he was seriously ill with COVID‑19 and I wish him a speedy recovery and good health.
    He said, “If you ask me, what the Quebec government is proposing falls under section 45, which is why I said it is constitutional and legal.”
    The first point in the motion proposes a constitutional change, which is really quite innovative. This has never been done before and would have an impact on legal interpretation. That impact would not be all-encompassing, but would be certain. Quebec has the prerogative to do this.
    The motion proposes to amend the Quebec section of the Constitution to state that Quebec is a nation and that French is its official language. This is part of what New Democrats have long proposed as a progressive force and corresponds to our values. This vision and direction is entirely consistent with the Sherbrooke declaration adopted by the NDP in 2005. I will quote from it, because it is directly relevant to the discussion we are having today.
    The Sherbrooke declaration is clear on this matter. It states:
    The New Democratic Party recognizes the national character of Québec and believes that that character can be expressed in the context of the Canadian federation.
    The national character of Québec is based primarily, but not exclusively, on:
i. a primarily francophone society in which French is recognized as the language of work and the common public language.
    That is extremely important. It confirms that culturally, historically, sociologically and politically, Quebec is not a province like the others. It is a nation within the federation.
    That is why the NDP advocates something called asymmetrical federalism, which allows Quebec to opt out of new federal programs with financial compensation. It is offered to Quebec based on this recognition of its nationhood.
    The nation was recognized more broadly by this Parliament in 2006. Once again, we are not reinventing the wheel. That said, I am very proud that we can recognize a modern, diverse, positive and inclusive Quebec nation that is open to the world. This nation makes room for newcomers, who enrich our shared culture and living space, and for influences from around the world.

  (1150)  

    In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about one of the successes of the Charter of the French Language. The third point that I wish to address, after the Constitution and the nation, is the French language.
    I would remind the House that French has been the official language since 1974, when the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa passed Bill 22, or “le gros bill”, as Yvon Deschamps would say. This legislation made French the official language in a number of areas. That is when French became the language of legislation and the courts, of public administration, of public utility companies and professional orders, as well as the language of business, work and education, with some exceptions and exclusions. Bill 22 lasted about three years before it was replaced by the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101.
    In a Quebec that is open to the world, that welcomes people who want to come here and contribute to the development of our society and our world, one of the great successes of the Charter of the French Language and Bill 101 is, in my opinion, compulsory education in French for the children of immigrants.
    I have been a member for a Montreal riding for a few years now. I have lived in Montreal for over 25 years. It is always extremely touching to see boys and girls, from all over the world, speaking to each other in French, playing in French in the schoolyard and having fun in French after school. It is a great achievement of the Quebec government and the Charter of the French Language to have been able to ensure this renewal through the newcomers who join our society and our nation.
    I know many people very well who are children of Bill 101. They are people who work for the NDP, but there is also someone with whom I share my life, who works in French and for whom French is the third language. There is a history within the NDP of wanting to strengthen the French position, not only in Quebec, but also in Canada, where the French language is in an extreme minority situation. As has been pointed out several times today, francophones account for about 2% to 3% of North America's population. Not only are francophones a barely represented demographic, but they are also subjected to the cultural influence of the American giant and its cultural imperialism, which overflows its borders and has spread around the world. It is extremely important to remain very vigilant.
    In 2013, we accomplished something great when our former member Alexandrine Latendresse succeeded in passing a bill requiring all officers of Parliament, like the Auditor General, to be bilingual. It was a step forward, something important that we wished to have. We have always fought for the right of Quebeckers to work in French and communicate with their employers in French. These are principles of the Charter of the French Language, that is to say the possibility for these workers, who account for about 10% of Quebec's workforce, to have the same rights as those who work for federally regulated businesses.
    It is a matter of defending French, as well as a matter of equal rights for workers. We are in an absurd situation right now where a person who works at the credit union has certain language rights that someone who works at a Royal Bank or a Bank of Montreal does not. We need to fix this problem.
    Recently, in 2020, I tabled a motion that received unanimous consent in the House. It aimed to recognize the decline of French, as well as the need for a plan to stop the decline and protect French across Canada.
    On this third point, I would like to conclude by saying that we do not want this motion to have an adverse effect on the recognition of indigenous languages in Quebec. The National Assembly and the Quebec government have recognized the status of indigenous languages in Quebec for years. One does not preclude the other. Recognizing that French is the common and official language of Quebec should never adversely effect our recognition of indigenous languages and the fact that we want to make sure that they continue to exist and develop in Quebec.

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie and thank him for his speech.
    I have two questions for him, and I have no doubt that I will get a clear answer this time.
    I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the fact that the government chose to table a bill meeting many of the requests made by the National Assembly today, on an opposition day when the Bloc Québécois tables a motion to recognize and strengthen French as the only official language of Quebec.
    My second question for my colleague concerns our motion today. Does he think that the amendment to the amendment proposed earlier, which was not adopted by the House for reasons we are well aware of, would completely change the meaning of the motion tabled by the Bloc Québécois?
    Madam Speaker, in my opinion, it is very cynical on the part of the Liberal government to use an opposition day of one of the opposition parties that wishes to discuss the French fact to table a bill aimed at modernizing the Official Languages Act at the last minute.
    In my opinion, they are making political hay. The idea is to get on the right side of the debate. It is even more cynical, since the bill will not be debated or adopted by the House, whether or not we go to the polls in the fall. It is simply a public relations ploy. I find that unfortunate, because we deserve better than that.
    With respect to the amendment, it contradicts the very essence of the motion as it was introduced. It should be deemed procedurally out of order on its face.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I know that my colleague is a staunch defender of Quebec and French language rights in Quebec and across the country. I had the great pleasure of welcoming him to Edmonton Strathcona just a couple of weeks ago. He came and met with members of the francophone community in Edmonton, virtually of course.
    In addition to what he brought up in his speech, what other ways can he envision protecting language rights for Canadians across the country? What other things would he propose we do to make sure that language rights are protected?

  (1200)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. I would also like to thank her for inviting me to meet with representatives of a few Franco-Albertan associations. The meetings were very interesting and enlightening.
    I am on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Right now, we are conducting a study on post-secondary education at certain universities, including Campus Saint-Jean and Université de Moncton. We are also looking at the situation with Laurentian and the initiative involving the University of Sudbury. The federal government needs to do a lot more.
    All of the presidents, rectors and associations that testified before the Standing Committee on Official Languages told us there should be a commitment and stable, regular funding for post-secondary education in French across Canada. Not only is this something that the federal government can and should do, it is actually a constitutional obligation.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
    I would like to highlight one element of his speech that I thought was very apt concerning Quebec's Charter of the French Language. Using French as the language of instruction has helped immensely in integrating newcomers into the French-speaking community, as well as in creating a welcoming place with a common language.
    The question I would like to ask my colleague concerns language of work. One day, we will get to grips with the convolutions of the modernized act, which is a political stunt that the federal government is pulling with regard to the French language.
    Concerning language of work, would the best solution not be to apply Bill 101, as federally regulated businesses in Quebec are calling for?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.
    We both worked in the union movement. Using French at work was always very important to the organization I worked for. There were francization committees in institutions and companies. The union also had francization programs and plans. It is extremely important to protect and maintain the French language in the workplace.
    Where the federal government can really take action is the 10% of companies under federal jurisdiction. The Quebec government has implemented certain initiatives. It has done some very good work, and I hope it will continue. What we at the federal level need to do is guarantee the right of workers to work and interact in French.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking right after my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, not only because his speech was extraordinarily profound and important, but also because he is one of the greatest defenders of minority language rights in the House and, of course, the defender of French in Quebec. His words and his actions are proof of that. He understands that we always need to strengthen the French language, not only in Quebec, but across the country. I have an enormous amount of respect and esteem for him.
    As the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie just mentioned, today's motion is important, but it merely reiterates things that were already settled in the past. The fact that Quebeckers form a nation was of course recognized and reinforced by a motion in the House of Commons in 2006. The fact that French is the only official language of Quebec has been recognized since 1974, and the fact that French is the common language of the Quebec nation has been recognized for a long time as well. These facts are constantly being reinforced.
    There are some concerns about the decline of French. Certain measures are providing hope, which is important, and my party, the NDP, has always been the only one that defends French and wants to strengthen it both in Quebec and across Canada.
    Our record makes that clear. As my colleagues know, the NDP was the first party to talk about enacting an official languages act. It was also the first party to proclaim Quebec's right to self-determination, and the first party to advance the rights of linguistic minorities outside Quebec.
    I will get back to this a bit later, but it was an NDP provincial government that set up the French-language school systems in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Once again, in Manitoba, it was an NDP government that enacted the Official Language Act. In Ontario, it was an NDP government that created the college system.
    I want to remind the House of our history and the work of NDP members like Léo Piquette in Alberta, Elizabeth Weir in New Brunswick and Alexa McDonough in Nova Scotia. In every respect, the NDP has always understood the importance of French at both the provincial and federal levels. As my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie so eloquently put it, ever since Jack Layton and the NDP adopted the Sherbrooke declaration, we have always borne in mind the need to respect the Quebec nation and to ensure that every federal program allows Quebeckers to opt out with full compensation.
    I would also like to talk a bit about the trips I have taken to francophone regions over the course of my life. As my colleagues know, at 24, I decided to learn French, so I moved to Chicoutimi. Even in Chicoutimi at the time, as a young anglophone who spoke only a few words of French, I received services in English at the Jonquière office of the Société d'assurance automobile du Québec when I went to exchange my British Columbia driver's licence for a Quebec one.
    In addition to my time in Saguenay—Lac‑Saint‑Jean, I also lived in the Eastern Townships east of Montreal, where I worked for several years at Champlain College and Bishop's University, two entirely English-language institutions in a beautiful region of Quebec where English-language institutions are still alive and well. I also lived in Montreal and in the Outaouais, and in all these places I found well-funded and very pleasant English-language institutions. Whether we are talking about hospitals or schools, the network is there.

  (1205)  

    What is important is to maintain these institutions, but we must especially make sure that French is protected and that it can develop throughout Quebec. This is an important aspect of what the NDP has always supported. Where I differ from my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, is about the need to talk about the importance of French outside Quebec.
    I worked in northern New Brunswick and in Acadian territory, and I can say that the French language and French-language institutions are extremely strong there. That is important for the francophonie across Canada. Having also worked and lived in eastern Ontario, and as a francophile from British Columbia, I understand the importance of these French-language institutions, as well as of the federal government that finances and supports them across the country. This has not been the case in recent years, under either the Conservatives or the Liberals. The underfunding of French-language institutions puts the very strength and prosperity of francophone communities at risk.
    In British Columbia, where I now live, the number of francophones is on the rise. Several factors contribute to this increase. One of the important elements is the fact that, in British Columbia, there are francophiles, people like me, especially young people, who are learning French as a key asset for supporting the francophonie in British Columbia.
    I am now one of 300,000 French speakers in British Columbia. This is an important point that is not often considered by my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois. The fact that there are 300,000 of us and that the number keeps rising reinforces the cultural aspect and the importance of the cultural economy of French in Canada. When Quebec or Acadian artists come to Vancouver, they perform before packed houses. The vitality of the francophone community is apparent everywhere in British Columbia. It is apparent in the increase not only in the number of francophones, but in the number of francophiles as well. Francophiles are often the ones packing the house. Right now, with COVID‑19, there are few performances, but we hope to see that change soon.
    The fact that francophiles contribute to this major increase in the popularity of French in British Columbia has a lot to do with the fact that parents stand in line for an entire weekend to register their children for French immersion. There are a number of French schools for people whose first language is French, but there is also a system of French immersion schools. As a result, there are more and more consumers of Quebec, Acadian and Franco-Ontarian cultural products. This contributes to the growth of French on a national scale.
    It is very clear that French must be strengthened in Quebec. I do not deny that, and the NDP fully supports that idea and the measures that come with it, but it is also important to have a federal government that strengthens the presence of francophone institutions across the country. This is the best way to strengthen French across Canada and truly build a future where the French language can thrive across the country.

  (1210)  

    Madam Speaker, it is true that today’s motion does not really have any legal weight, but we must not lump it together with Bill 96. We are hearing a lot today about how the amendments proposed by the Bloc Québécois are symbolic. I totally disagree, because they clearly have a binding aspect. I am certain that any constitutional provision can be binding.
    What does my colleague have to say about that?
    Does he believe that the motion introduced by the Bloc Québécois is binding?
    Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, it reinforces important aspects of things that have already been reiterated in the House of Commons in 2006 and in the Quebec National Assembly in 1974. It is important to raise these points, and I see that these are things that everyone could support.
    I will reiterate the important comment made by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, which is that it is important to make it clear that we also want to see indigenous languages thrive in Quebec and throughout Canada. This is an important aspect that must be reiterated, and I am pleased that the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie—
    The hon. member for West Nova.
    Madam Speaker, I have a simple question.
    When it comes to Canada's francophonie, Quebec is seen as the brightest light in the country. The member mentioned the Acadians, who are part of Canada's francophonie.
    Can he tell us how Quebec can work with the provinces to promote small francophone communities in the rest of Canada, like mine, where the common language is French?

  (1215)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
    Of course Nova Scotia has an extremely prosperous Acadian community. It has networks of co‑operatives and credit unions. It is very exciting to see the renewed prosperity of the Acadian community in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It is encouraging.
    Now, the federal government has a role to play in funding francophone institutions. The problem is that for several years, this area has been neglected by both the current Liberal government and the former Conservative government.
    The NDP supports the development of francophone communities across the country. Naturally, if an NDP government is elected in the coming months, that is what we will work on. It is vital to our collective future.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby briefly mentioned indigenous languages in his remarks. I wonder if he could expand on that with respect to my riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay and the indigenous language of Nsyilxc?n. Only perhaps 100 or 200 people are left in the world who speak that language. Indigenous languages need protection and support to thrive after years of residential school and the brutal suppression of these languages.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay always asks very pertinent, relevant questions in the House.
    This has been a national tragedy. Combined with what we have learned and continue to learn about the genocide over the past few weeks, this is a question of emergency. Many indigenous languages have already perished. We see young indigenous activists attempting by every means possible to revive those languages. They need substantial supports from the federal government. The federal government loves to support banks and billionaires. The government needs to put a priority on supporting indigenous languages in peril and those that are still strong and need additional reinforcements.

Points of Order

Admissibility of Amendments in the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage—Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I would like to thank the member for Banff—Airdrie for his point of order raised yesterday regarding the admissibility of amendments made to clauses 8 to 47 of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and contained in its fifth report.
    The member argued that by putting the question on amendments after the expiry of the time provided for in the time allocation order of the House, the committee went beyond the provisions of the order. Accordingly, he asked the Chair to strike out from the report the amendments adopted to clauses 8 to 47 of the bill. In addition, he asked the Chair to rule out of order the amendment introducing new clause 13.1 because it was outside the scope of the bill.
    Several principles come into play when considering the first issue of this point of order.

[Translation]

    Time allocation allows for specific periods of time to be fixed for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill. Its main effect is to determine a set amount of time for debate.
    As was recently pointed out, we have few examples of time allocation motions applied to committee consideration of bills. Until last week, we had no example of such a motion being adopted since February 2001, when the House made important Standing Order modifications in regard to committee consideration of bills and the selection of report stage motions. There are few precedents involving the imposition of such an order on a committee.

  (1220)  

[English]

    The Chair is generally reluctant to involve itself in committee matters unless something extraordinary has occurred. This reluctance is even greater when the committee has not provided any insight through a substantive report to the House. While it is also generally understood that committees are masters of their own proceedings, this principle is not unlimited.
    We know for instance that the Speaker may be asked to intervene when committees exceed their mandate when considering legislation. This is usually with respect to the procedural admissibility of amendments.
    The member for Banff—Airdrie referred to page 779 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, in his intervention. Were the principle and scope of the bill respected? Was an amendment infringing on the royal recommendation, or was it relevant? These are matters of interest for the Chair.

[Translation]

    On June 7, the House adopted a time allocation motion concerning Bill C‑10 so that no more than five additional hours of debate be allotted to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. At the expiry of the limit, after which the proceedings were to be interrupted, and I quote, “every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.”
    There is no question that the House, by adopting a time allocation motion, has decided to limit the study of the bill in committee. The committee continued its study of the bill, and committee members debated and proposed amendments until the end of the time allocated.

[English]

    When the committee reached the five-hour mark, it had to interpret the House order and reconcile it with the decisions previously taken in regard to the amendments put forward by both independent members and committee members, as well as context surrounding its consideration of the bill.
    The House order is silent about the amendments submitted by independent members deemed moved in the committee and about amendments for which committee members had given notice and that had already been distributed to members but not yet proposed.
    Ultimately, the committee decided that all amendments received prior to its five-hour deadline would be put to a vote, but that no further amendments or subamendments would be considered.

[Translation]

    It is clear that the committee considers all the clauses of the bill and that amendments submitted by representatives of all the recognized parties, as well as by a member belonging to a party that is not recognized, were proposed for the vast majority of them after the five-hour deadline had passed. The Chair is not empowered to pronounce itself on the circumstances surrounding the study of these amendments, it can simply note the result.
    As mentioned earlier, the precedents in regard to the interpretation by a committee of a time allocation motion are very few. That said, in the view of the Chair, the terms of the House order were clear and stated that, at the expiry of the five hours, no further debate ought to take place nor amendments moved or adopted.

  (1225)  

[English]

    I therefore rule that the committee exceeded its authority by putting the question on amendments after the five-hour mark. However, in the list of amendments made to clauses 8 to 47, the Chair notes that the amendment made to clause 23, which added text to line 7 on page 20 and replaced line 8 on page 24 of the bill with new text, was the consequential result of an amendment previously adopted by the committee to clause 7 of the bill. Accordingly, this amendment will stand.
    All other amendments made to clauses 8 to 47 are declared null and void, and will no longer form part of the bill as reported to the House. In addition, I am ordering that a reprint of the bill be published with all possible haste for use by the House at report stage to replace the reprint ordered by the committee.
    Finally, with respect to the amendment that created new clause 13.1, I would agree with the member that this modifies a section of the Broadcasting Act that was not covered by Bill C-10. As such, it is a violation of the “parent Act” rule and it goes beyond the scope of the bill. Consequently, it is also declared null and void and will not form part of the bill. Report stage, the next step in the legislative process for this bill, will accord an opportunity for amendments to the bill to be made.
     I thank the House for its attention.

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking Nation  

[Business of Supply]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to start by marking the 30th anniversary of my wonderful political family, the Bloc Québécois. Officially born at a founding convention on June 15, 1991, the Bloc Québécois has been the only federal political party dedicated solely to defending the values and interests of Quebeckers for the past three decades.
    I would also like to point out that the first member elected following the creation of my riding of Laurentides—Labelle in 2003 was Bloc Québécois MP Johanne Deschamps, who served three terms between 2004 and 2011. It was in fact from Ms. Deschamps that I got to learn the trade. I worked as her political aide from 2009 to 2011. I have learned a lot over the past few months, and I am still learning. It was a privilege to have this experience.
    The women and men who make up the great Bloc Québécois family have been working for 30 years. I just want to take a minute to show just how proud we can be of our achievements.
    The Bloc Québécois is working for Quebec culture. For example, there is Bill C‑10, so ably defended by the member for Drummond.
    We are working for agriculture, particularly through my esteemed colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé's sustained defence of supply management.
     We are striving to protect the environment by frequently speaking in favour of climate accountability and ending federal subsidies for fossil fuels. This cause is being championed by the all-female duo of the members for Repentigny and Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.
    We are working for Quebec's economy by presenting demands and applying pressure to obtain a real federal aerospace policy, support the development of Quebec's forestry industry and defend our Quebec businesses. My colleagues from Joliette, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and Jonquière are doing remarkable work on these issues.
    We are working for border security by calling for oversight of border management. I am thinking of our member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia among others.
    Of course, we are working for the sound management of government business by holding the government's feet to the fire on issues that represent a conflict of interest, whether it is the partisan appointment of judges or the awarding of contracts to Liberal friends. I salute the hard work of my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord. I have been working alongside him for the past 14 months.
     I would like to highlight the Bloc Québécois's efforts to improve employment insurance by proudly proposing to increase the number of weeks of sickness benefits. I salute my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît and her Émilie Sansfaçon bill.
     We are working for health care by continuing to demand that the government increase health transfers. My colleagues from Montcalm and Joliette are working on this file.
    We are also working for seniors by continuing to press for an increase to old age security. I want to commend my colleague from Shefford for her work on this file.
    Today is a big day, a very important day for us. On this, our party's 30th anniversary, we have moved a motion stating:
     That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
    Today we are not asking the House whether it agrees with Bill 96 or whether it thinks Quebec should enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a French-speaking nation. We are calling on the House to acknowledge a reality.

  (1230)  

    The amending formula to section 45 allows, or rather would allow, since I am hoping to hear in all the speeches that each and every one of us supports the motion, Quebec and every other province to amend its Constitution. That is a fact. Quebeckers chose to use this tool to enshrine in their constitution that they form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also its common language. That too is a fact. I remind the House that our motion merely asks that the House agree, as I said before, that Quebec has the right to do this and that the motion basically uses the wording of the Constitution Act, 1982.
    To clarify the terms of our motion for those watching, I will simply give the example of the term “nation”. A bit of research will tell us that, when applied to a state or territory, it can be synonymous with “country”. That is what we mean when we speak of the United Nations, of which Quebec cannot be a member because it is not sovereign.
    The motion states that Quebec is a nation. What does that mean? It is not about becoming a country. The motion calls on the House to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation. The Larousse dictionary defines the word “nation” as a large community of people, typically living within the same territory and having, to a certain extent, a shared history, language, culture and economy. The Robert dictionary defines “nation” as a group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together. This is what today's motion is all about. I do not know what my colleagues think, but it makes me think a lot about Quebeckers and what we are experiencing today.
    No matter how we turn the question over, it is obvious that Quebeckers form a nation, especially since October 30, 2003, when the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion: “That the National Assembly reaffirm that the people of Québec form a nation.” We agree that passing this motion will reinforce the consensus in Quebec.
     There is a reason the Quebec National Assembly specified that it was reaffirming the existence of the nation of Quebec. In fact, this resolution reiterated what all Quebec governments have been saying for decades, namely, that the Canadian confederation is a treaty of union between two nations. Members spoke about this earlier.
    Obviously, Quebeckers' conception of their nation has changed over the years. We see ourselves less and less as a minority within Canada and increasingly as a separate nation with its own territory called Quebec and a national government called the Government of Quebec.
    Anyone who joins us on this great adventure to build a French-speaking society in North America is as much a Quebecker as the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists, and that is a good example of the Quebec nation's inclusiveness.
    In closing, I would like to talk about an experience I had a few days ago. I want to recognize Jessy Gareau, a young graduate from the Centre collégial de Mont‑Laurier who signed an open letter in the Journal de Montréal. He is only 21 years old and he wrote the following, and I quote: “to adopt the necessary measures in our time to save French in Quebec”.
    I commend Jessy, and I am sure that—

  (1235)  

    Order.
    I am sure the hon. member will have the chance to continue following questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her heartfelt speech. It is clear that the Bloc Québécois is proud to support and promote the French language and can be counted on to do so.
    My question is this: Is there anything my colleague would like to say that she did not have time to tell us?
    That is a great question, Madam Speaker. I will take only 30 seconds to answer it.
    It is about doing more of what we have been doing for the past 30 years. Our leader talked about the fact that we hear more and more people speaking French on the street. People are proud of our French language, culture and songs, among other things.
    Today, we are taking note of that. We cannot disagree on that.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
    I want to share her enthusiasm and love for the French language, especially with the children of newcomers. I find it very touching.
    Would this motion recognizing that French has been the official language since 1974 and the common language not hinder the National Assembly from recognizing indigenous languages, the languages spoken by those who lived on our land before the first settlers arrived?
    Madam Speaker, I agree that there are various steps to take. Today's step is specific recognition, an acknowledgement regarding the French language in Quebec.
    I spoke earlier about inclusion. We are a big family. We can discuss this with my colleague. We are making a clarification. The motion introduced today recognizes the Quebec nation with French as the main language spoken.

  (1240)  

    Madam Speaker, the subject we are debating today is pretty straightforward.
    Quebec is a nation. The Conservatives made that declaration in the House in 2006, but it was followed by the words “within a united Canada”. We have deleted those words because they are not really relevant, and that is not what Bill 96 says. It seeks to enshrine in the Constitution that Quebec is a nation. The first observation is quite obvious.
    Can this be added to its constitution? Constitutional experts agree that it can. Quebec is a nation with French as its common language, the official language.
    Is anyone in the House surprised to me hear me say this? No, of course not.
    French has been the official language of Quebec since 1974 and, I would remind the House, its only official language. No one should have a problem with enshrining this in the Constitution.
    Does this threaten anglophones in Quebec? Not at all. The anglophone minority in Quebec is among the most privileged in the world, and that will not change.
    When Bill 101 was introduced in 1977, some people panicked. Some wanted to move away.

[English]

    He said, “If you don't like 101, take the 401.”

[Translation]

    These people wanted to leave because they thought that it would be the end of their benefits and their rights, and I dare not use the word privileges. When I look at Quebec today I can say that I am not worried about the anglophone minority. It has its universities and no problem getting services in English or using that language throughout Quebec. I have a hard time when someone tells me the opposite.
    Is Quebec a nation? The member for Joliette mentioned Lord Durham. In Quebec that individual wanted to extinguish our nation. He believed that Quebeckers were a people without a history or culture and that our salvation was assimilation. That is what Lord Durham used to say. When the member for Joliette mentioned Lord Durham in the House a year ago, there was applause and I never got over it.
    I am not talking about Lord Durham to reiterate that dark prediction. In his day, he wanted francophones to assimilate. Today we are talking about French and there are 32 of us here who only speak French in the House. That is one way to thumb our nose at Lord Durham. We can be proud of that. We have been here for 30 years, proving Lord Durham wrong.
    I did not bring up Lord Durham just to grumble about him. He said some interesting things, and I will even quote him. In 1838, the Queen instructed Lord Durham to find a solution to the Patriote rebellion. He said, “I expected to find a conflict between a government and a people, but instead found two nations at war within the same state.” Even Lord Durham said there were two nations in Canada. That is not something we made up.
    The Quebec nation's name has changed over time, but it well and truly exists. Quebec and Quebeckers are a paradox. They are resilient yet threatened by an anglophone sea and a federal government that has always wanted to weaken their nation.

  (1245)  

    In 1867, our status as a minority in Canada was institutionalized. We accounted for 33% of Canadians and one of the four provinces. From the federal government's perspective, we were a province. That was Lord Durham's goal. We were on our way to the sad fate Lord Durham had in mind for us.
    Resilient to the core, we fought back with the revenge of the cradle. Many francophones went to the United States. Names such as Cartier and Barrière became Carter and Gates. Over the course of two waves of emigration, two million people left for the United States. Even so, the people resisted, producing very large families with 10 children on average and sometimes 14 or 15. Many families had 14 children and 170 grandchildren. Sometimes name tags were needed to tell who was who. That was Quebec in the 19th century. The people fought back through the revenge of the cradle.
    The fact that Quebec is a nation is how we managed to resist being swallowed up by the Canadian federation. While the Canadian state subverted the people of Quebec, the Quebec nation became a vector for our survival. The Quiet Revolution, which drove economic growth, gave Quebeckers access to management positions. At the time, we were told that we were born to accept crumbs. Who stood up to challenge that notion and to say that we were capable of managing a business and achieving great things? Who stood up to say that we were going to build dams to prove it?
    The Government of Quebec made room not just for French-speaking Quebeckers but also for Quebeckers of all kinds. It told us that we were capable of achieving great things. We were masters in our own house, as Jean Lesage used to say.
    Bill 101 was adopted in 1977, and this legislated the use of French as the language of Quebec. Yes, there are anglophones in Quebec and we do protect their rights. We were eventually proven right. Anglophones were protected, which was a good thing, as they are part of Quebec's landscape. We can be proud of Leonard Cohen. That is the how it is in a modern Quebec. Nevertheless, Quebec has a common language, and everyone needs to understand it. It is important.
    On the one hand, the Government of Quebec helped us resist, peacefully of course. On the other, we were crushed. In 1982, the word was multiculturalism. Quebec was no longer one of two founding peoples. It was no longer one of four provinces, not even one of 10 provinces. It was just one of many other cultures. That was our new status. That is what the federal powers that be had in mind for us. To make that happen, the government set out to dismantle Bill 101 piece by piece, turning everything upside down and threatening our survival.
     The Prime Minister boasted about how Canada would be the world's first post-national country, but Quebec will never be post-national because Quebec is a nation. All 32 Bloc members are here to make that clear and to tell the federal government that it must respect what Quebec wants and what the Government of Quebec wants to do to protect our reality, our language, our culture and our future.
    Madam Speaker, after such an inspiring speech, I can understand that our colleagues are somewhat hesitant to rise. I will be delighted to do so, first to congratulate our House leader, the member for La Prairie, who is an esteemed colleague.
    He mentioned something that I believe to be very important in our discussions today and that we have often heard from our colleagues from English Canada. He spoke about Quebec anglophones, who are part of the fabric and part of Quebec society. Quebeckers are often described as people who are a little cold towards those who are not or do not consider themselves to be Quebeckers, as was understood at one point.
    I believe that Quebec will not form a nation without everyone who belongs to that nation. My colleagues also believe and are convinced of this. A Quebecker is someone who decides and chooses to be a Quebecker.
    I would like to ask my colleague from La Prairie if he believes that we should improve how we explain our national project to these groups of anglophones and allophones who, and we truly believe this, are part of the society that we want to establish and part of the Quebec we dream about.

  (1250)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my colleague, the member for Drummond.
    Quebec gives pride of place to the anglophone minority. Quebec anglophones have contributed much more than what they think. They are important to our demographic fabric. I mentioned Leonard Cohen, but there are others who have worked on becoming and being, in their own way, a source of pride in a modern Quebec. They have their place and we will defend the place they occupy, without forgetting our place.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for La Prairie for his speech.
    In today's motion, I think that there is consensus, not unanimity, on the three parts. We have minor concerns about the recognition of indigenous languages by the Government of Quebec. We would not want that to undermine or contradict that recognition.
    My colleague is also his party's House leader, and I would like to hear what he thinks about the following.
    What does he think about the fact that today is the day on which the Liberal government decided to introduce its bill to modernize the Official Languages Act?
    Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. All I can say to my colleague is that the fact that the government is tabling this bill today, at the end of the session, when we have a whole series of bills on the table, makes me think, with the added threat of an election, that this is nothing more than a pre-election ploy. That is what I think. If the Liberals really want to work for official languages and for French in Quebec, all they have to do is vote tomorrow in favour of the bill introduced by the member for Beauport—Limoilou to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses.
    If the Liberals are serious, that is what they will do tomorrow.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his impassioned speech. We can clearly feel his pride, which we share, on the issue of the Quebec nation.
    Earlier, he talked about births in Quebec and how Quebec has worked to maintain its francophone demographic weight. I would like to hear what he thinks about the challenges of maintaining this demographic weight now that Quebeckers are unfortunately having fewer babies.
    What could he tell us about the issue of demographic weight? What can be done to help increase the francophone demographic weight in Quebec?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to read from a poem about immigration and welcoming immigrants, written by a man I consider to be the greatest poet in Quebec.

Inside my four walls of ice
I take my time and my space
To prepare the fire, the place
For the people of the horizon
And the people are of my race

    We are welcoming immigrants with open arms because, as my colleague rightly pointed out, our population is declining. We want an integration model that enables us to welcome immigrants and help them prosper in Quebec.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois. I will be sharing my time with the member for Hochelaga.
    In my speech, I will be talking about who I am and where I come from. I will, of course, also talk about the Conservatives' record, our successes as a government, the Bloc's motion and the plan to modernize the Official Languages Act.
    I am a proud Acadian from Nova Scotia. I come from Isle Madame, a small island just off Cape Breton Island. Isle Madame is about 14 kilometres by 11 kilometres, and more than 97% of residents speak French.
    I also want to point out that the Samson family monument in Lévis was erected in honour of brothers Jacques and Gabriel to commemorate Canada's 100th anniversary.
    As members know, I grew up in a minority setting in Nova Scotia. French-language education was not guaranteed. I did all of my schooling in English because there was no French school. However, I remember my father saying in 1969 that Canada was going to change and that bilingualism and the two official languages would be part of the new Canada.
    As well, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, and section 23 guarantees minority language education rights. This section has been enormously helpful for communities across Canada. Starting in 1990, francophone school boards were created in provinces across the country. In 1996, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial was founded in Nova Scotia, and there were finally French schools across the province.
    In 2005, I became the executive director of this school board, a position I held for almost 11 years before being elected as a member of Parliament. It is a remarkable and interesting fact that during those years, the number of students doubled.
    In 2015, I was elected as part of the Liberal government, and I sat on the Standing Committee on Official Languages for four years.
    I was also the founder and president of the Liberal caucus of official language minority communities. In addition, I was elected president of the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie and vice-president at the international level. Clearly, the work is still going on, not only in Canada and Quebec, but also internationally. That is very important.
    Let us now talk about the Conservatives' track record. Today, the Conservatives are talking about everything that they are going to do, but one need only look back at what they accomplished during their 10 years in office to see that we need take no lessons from them in this regard.
    In 2006, the Conservatives did away with the court challenges program, which we reinstated in 2017. They gutted the Translation Bureau. They reduced the number of employees so that they could give contracts to translation firms, whose quality of work is much lower than that of Translation Bureau employees.
    What is more, the Conservatives did not make any additional efforts to increase francophone immigration, and the targets were not met.
    When we took office, we reinstated the Mobilité francophone immigration stream. We also awarded additional points to francophone immigrants under the express entry program.
    In their 10 years in office, the Conservatives never increased funding for the language communities. In contrast, we enhanced those agreements by increasing funding by $500 million over five years.
    Our government has had other successes. When it comes to education, we signed the very first strategic agreement with the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones.
    A year ago, we saw a complete enumeration of rights holders, who are classified into three categories. As part of the 2021 census, members of this community were able to answer questions about being rights holders.

  (1300)  

    In addition, our government has revised the official languages regulations on service delivery, adding 600 designated bilingual offices across Canada, a very significant increase. We have also partnered with the provinces to put in place a multilateral early learning and child care framework that includes an official languages clause guaranteeing linguistic minorities their fair share.
    The Bloc Québécois talks about its motion as if it were going to change the world, but it forgets that there are many Quebeckers and many francophones in our party. We agree that Quebec is a nation within Canada and that French is Quebec's only official language. We already know that the only province that has both of Canada's official languages as its provincial languages is New Brunswick. The other provinces are officially English, but Quebec is French. We already recognize that, just as we recognize that Quebec has the right to amend its own constitution, within the parameters of section 133.
    Our government recognizes that French is in decline. In the Speech from the Throne, we made it clear that we would not only protect French outside Quebec, but also within Quebec. Our government recognizes the importance of Quebec and its role within Canada. As the only French-speaking state in North America, Quebec has a special responsibility to promote the French language throughout Canada. The vitality of French in this country depends in part on its actions and its connection with francophones living in minority communities.
    The Quebec government supports the Canadian francophonie in various ways. Our government supports francophones and French in Quebec and supports linguistic minorities across Canada. That is why I am so proud to be part of our government. I am also proud of the bill we introduced today. We will protect and promote the use of French across Canada, including Quebec. We will protect linguistic minorities. We are currently modernizing the Official Languages Act. That is very important, because we are going to ensure the vitality of our institutions and our communities.
    We will ensure that bilingual justices are appointed to the Supreme Court. We will ensure that French is promoted in Quebec and across Canada. We will ensure that linguistic minorities across Canada are protected and promoted. We will ensure that francophone immigration is protected and promoted both within and outside Quebec, which will continue to be responsible for selecting and integrating immigrants within its territory.
    In conclusion, we clearly recognize the two linguistic minorities in Canada. We have been there to protect and strengthen them. We will be there in the future to continue that work. We also recognize that, if we continue to work together, we can fulfill the aspirations of Quebeckers and linguistic minorities in Canada.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, whom I like very much. Among other things, I like his accent; it is so fluid.
    I know that my colleague is in favour of the Bloc Québécois motion and will vote in favour of it, I am sure. I would like his impression of the amendment that was proposed this morning by other colleagues who would like the wording of our motion to include the words “in a united Canada”.

  (1305)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his work at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We have a good working relationship.
    As I said in my speech, Quebec is already a nation within Canada. We recognize that and we will continue to work to ensure that the inspiration of Quebeckers continues to develop within Canada.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I know that as somebody who is a francophone in a minority setting, the parliamentary secretary will understand that I fight as hard as I can for francophones in my constituency. He will also know that Campus Saint-Jean, the university in my riding, is under threat and that the federal government has told members of my francophone community to be patient.
    I would like to ask the member three questions: When will Campus Saint-Jean be notified of funding? How much funding will Campus Saint-Jean receive? How will that funding be applied?
    Madam Speaker, my colleague has three very important questions. I wish I had a crystal ball, so I could answer those questions as well as I would like to.
    I know our government has been working very closely with the members of the Saint-Jean university and the community. We have had several meetings, which I know the members of Parliament from the region have been involved in. We are there at the table working to find ways to ensure this university can continue to do the work required and support minorities right across this country.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech.
    As the member for Rivière‑des‑Mille‑Îles said earlier, it is music to our ears to hear all the sounds, tones and accents in French that are coloured by people's homelands.
    The parliamentary secretary is a great example of the beauty of our beloved language. This is also the intention behind what we, the Bloc Québécois, are introducing today. It is about recognizing our love for this language, including with its many accents.
    Madam Speaker, you have no idea how delighted my party colleagues and I are when anglophone members make the effort to speak in French. We know that it can feel somewhat awkward to express oneself in a language without perfect proficiency, but it is really touching and makes us very happy when members do make the effort.
    I heard the parliamentary secretary say in his speech that the Bloc Québécois was trying to change the world. That is not at all what we are trying to do. Actually, we are trying to bring people together. Perhaps our message is not getting through, based on the amount of negative comments about francophones on social media for example.
    I would like to put the following question to my colleague because he lives in French in an official language minority community.
    Does he have any advice for us on how we should communicate our message about the importance of preserving the French language?
    Maybe we are doing something wrong and he could provide some advice.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and comments.
    As I mentioned in my speech, Quebec has always been there for francophone minorities across Canada. That is very important, and we have always been very appreciative. We worked closely with him in several areas. Earlier, I spoke about francophone immigration, which is very important for the linguistic minority and for Quebec. We must work together.
    The clear message he is looking for is our message, that is, our party is there to protect Quebeckers and to work with them. We have a strong, French, English, bilingual and united Canada.

  (1310)  

    Madam Speaker, as a proud Quebecker and member for Hochelaga, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion of my colleague from Beloeil—Chambly.
    I moved to Quebec when my parents and I immigrated to the province more than 40 years ago. I am a child of Bill 101 who grew up proud of being a Quebecker. Today, I work and live in French, the language that I also share with my children. Over the years, I have become steeped in the values, ambitions, language and culture of Quebec. I consider myself a Quebecker first and foremost. I chose and deeply love our nation.
    Nationalism is not exclusive to one parliamentary group. Our identities are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary. We can be proud Quebeckers and hope that Quebec is robust, but still believe in the strength of a federal model. It is our duty, as Quebeckers, to focus above all on the aspects that unite us and allow us to thrive in the model that Quebeckers have chosen and that we have chosen.
    With its French language, Quebec is a strong nation with a unique identity, a strong artistic community and a growing entrepreneurial culture, a nation that is always looking for new ways to create in French. These are certainly distinctive traits that give our Quebec nation its unique identity.
    Quebec nationalism belongs to me. It belongs to all Quebeckers. Our nationalism transcends political parties. It is about affirming that Quebec's future is intimately linked to its ability to assume its rightful place in Canada and the world. It is about affirming that Quebec is a model of language protection and immigrant integration, and that Quebec can pass on its national pride to future generations and the rest of the world. We must work together to ensure a sustainable francophone future for those who come after us. Let us focus on our similarities and our common goals to create a unifying discourse that respects Quebec's unique character and builds an influential nation.
    By supporting Quebec's desire to enshrine its unique francophone character in its section of the Constitution, we are looking toward the future. Let us remain squarely focused on the future and join forces with Quebec, particularly when it comes to protecting the French language. We need to ensure the survival of French if we want to keep it and our linguistic duality alive. I would like to remind members that, in 2006, the House recognized that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada. That was 15 years ago. The Quebec nation is clearly a flagship province and the cradle of the francophonie in North America.
    Our government is the first federal government to recognize the decline of French. We clearly recognized that we need to work together to do more, a lot more, to protect French across Canada, including in Quebec. We are determined to take all the necessary legislative and administrative steps to make that happen.
    Let us remember that, in the 1980s, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provided for the principle of advancing the equality of status and use of our two languages. This principle of advancing the equality of use and status required significant efforts to protect and promote French in our institutions and communities. However, we know and see that the use of French is in decline, despite the charter and provincial legislation, including that of Quebec.
    Last year, in the Speech from the Throne, our government established that defending the rights of francophone minorities outside Quebec and defending the rights of the anglophone minority in Quebec are a priority, but it also clearly stated, for the first time, that among our two official languages, French is in decline.
    In a North America with more than 360 million mainly anglophone residents, we must protect our nine million francophone Canadians, but also the demographic weight of francophones, not only in Quebec, but across the country. That is what we must continue to do.
    Last February, my colleague the Minister of Official Languages tabled in the House the reform document entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”. It is a statement of our vision for modernizing the Official Languages Act. At the time, we announced our intention to modernize the act to ensure lasting protection of the French language across Canada and in Quebec.

  (1315)  

    The Prime Minister made it clear in the House when he said, “the best way to ensure a bilingual Canada is to ensure that Quebec is first and foremost a francophone Quebec.”
    Our government tabled a bill in the House today based on this reform document. We firmly intend to keep our promises, which include recognizing French as the official language of Quebec. Like all other provinces, Quebec will also have to respect the protections that the Constitution provides for both official languages.
    We will recognize the predominant use of the English language in Canada and North America, and therefore the imperative to protect and promote the French language. The act will further promote and protect francophone minority communities across Canada. However, it is important that we recognize the French fact in Quebec.
    This legislation will also specify and list the areas in which the federal government will be required to act to protect and promote French. The act will recognize the key role that the Canadian government will play in encouraging federally regulated businesses to promote French. French must be present throughout Canada, in Quebec and in Montreal as a language of service and a language of work.
    Quebec has an essential role to play in these changes to our language framework. This is a historic initiative and the first of its kind since the Official Languages Act was first adopted in 1969. We are introducing a bill that recognizes the particular circumstances surrounding the French language by first recognizing its status within the Canadian francophonie.
    As a francophone Quebecker, I want to close by saying that I am just as concerned as my Bloc Québécois colleague about the decline of French in Quebec and in Montreal. That is why our government recognized the need to protect the French language in Quebec, as the demographic weight of francophones is declining.
    It is time to modernize the Official Languages Act. We are already working on it, without waiting for the Constitution to be amended.
    Madam Speaker, I salute my colleague. I am encouraged to hear that she feels comfortable and connected to the French language, much like each and every Quebecker. I would like to think that she will vote in favour of our motion.
    In the second part of her speech, she talked about what her hon. colleague was up to. We have been wanting to talk about this reform for months. Why, then, was it introduced today, when there are just a few days remaining in the parliamentary session? It will be very difficult to move forward with this bill when we know full well what could happen in the coming months.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her important question.
    Our government has been working on the official languages issue for months and years now. Last February, the minister had already announced that we would introduce a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act. That is what we did today.
    The thing to keep in mind today is that the government means business. Many of us Quebeckers, on both sides of the House, are strongly committed to protecting the French language right across Canada, but especially in Quebec.
    Madam Speaker, I apologize, my French is not very good.

[English]

    The Liberal government has promised legislation that would protect minority language rights, including post-secondary education in minority language communities. When will the government announce financial support for Campus Saint-Jean?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. I want to congratulate her on her speech in the House last night, which I listened to very carefully.
    I would like to say to her that I also sit on the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which examined the case of Laurentian University. I want to assure my colleague that our government is firmly committed to protecting the French language, particularly when it comes to French-language education.

  (1320)  

    Madam Speaker, let me start by saying that it will be my great pleasure to share my time with my hon. colleague from Drummond.
    I want to express just how honoured and moved I feel to be taking part in today's debate. This Bloc Québécois motion is about the core of who we are.
    In my past life, I had the opportunity and the immense privilege to be a member of the House of Commons and the National Assembly of Quebec. My swearing in here in Ottawa was not a moment of celebration because I spent the whole time thinking about my Acadian ancestors who were deported on the grounds that they refused to pledge allegiance to Her Majesty. I was thinking about my Canadian ancestors who were not allowed to hold positions in government if they refused to swear the oath of allegiance.
    When I first arrived at the National Assembly of Quebec, the swearing-in ceremony was a solemn and uplifting experience. The oath of allegiance in Quebec is the same as the one here in Ottawa, but we also pledge allegiance to Quebec's constitution and its people. Every member of the National Assembly of Quebec, no matter where they are from, what their first language is or what faith they profess, swears an oath to the constitution and people of Quebec.
    To me, that makes all the difference in the world between the oath of allegiance we must swear here in the House of Commons and the oath of allegiance we swear at the National Assembly of Quebec. In the latter case, we do not need to explain to anyone, regardless of their ethnic origin, the religion they practice or their mother tongue, that Quebec is a people. It is assumed and patently clear.
    Nor do we have to explain to Quebec MPs that there is a constitution of Quebec, which unlike the Constitution of Canada is not written in black and white on paper. They are constitutional conventions, I would even say constitutional traditions and a certain number of founding documents, including the Charter of the French Language, which establishes that French is the only official language of Quebec and the common language of all Quebeckers.
    The purpose, in the spirit of Camille Laurin, was to ensure that in every schoolyard in Quebec, young Quebeckers speak French to one another, no matter their origin, religion or mother tongue. Quebeckers are a people.
    As early as the 16th century, natives of this country were no longer called French. They were Canadians on Canadian land, and Acadians on Acadian land. Those who were born in this country were already no longer being called French.
    After the conquest, a distinction was made between the English—who had just settled on the land, or more generally the British because of course there were Scots as well—and Canadians, who were descendants of the French. When the English started to identify as Canadians, descendants of the French started distinguishing themselves by referring to themselves as French Canadians and in Acadia as Acadians.

  (1325)  

    There was a pivotal moment called the Estates General of French Canada, during which Quebeckers asserted that they were not just French Canadians, because of their territory, their history and their distinct character, especially with respect to the law. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec uses civil law, not common law.
    All these distinct characteristics meant that Quebeckers, not unlike Acadians, whose identity was forged by the absolutely horrific deportation, began to distance themselves from a French Canadian identity and embrace a Québécois identity.
    People from Sri Lanka, Romania, Nigeria and Argentina found it difficult to adopt a French Canadian identity because of the history associated with that name, but it was much easier for them to identify as Quebeckers. In my previous stint as a federal MP, I debated this with some of our colleagues who were very attached to the notion of French Canadians. There was an integrative element to the change that came about in Quebec during the 1960s in the wake of the Quiet Revolution.
    In the wake of the Quiet Revolution, we wanted to affirm the French character of Quebec through Bill 22, which was introduced by Robert Bourassa's government, as well as through Bill 101, which was introduced by René Lévesque's government in 1977. However, in 1982, a major change occurred, namely, the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, including the integration of a charter of rights and freedoms, which led to the invalidation of entire sections of the Charter of the French Language.
    Today, we are seeing the results of that. Despite this protection, French has lost ground, even in Quebec. I commend this government for recognizing, for the very first time in the history of Parliament, that French is in decline, including in Quebec. I am willing to do that.
    I am of Acadian descent and proud of it. I have always said, and I will say it again here, that the fate of Quebeckers is closely linked to that of Canada's francophone and Acadian communities and their fate is closely linked to that of Quebeckers. That is why it is extremely important for Quebec to be able to reaffirm its French character through Bill 96, which was introduced by the current government led by Premier François Legault. That bill proposes using a provision of the Constitution Act, 1982—the same Constitution that gutted entire sections of the Charter of the French language and that has led us to face the tragic fact that French is in decline in Quebec too—in order to reaffirm the fact that Quebec is a nation and that French is its official language and the common language of its members.
    Now, does this mean, as in the days of the Estates General of French Canada, that Quebec wants to distance itself from the rest of French Canada? Of course not. On the contrary, I think that the more Quebec is able to affirm its French character and its distinctiveness, the more it will be able to extend its influence to all francophone and Acadian communities in Canada, and even in the United States, because I believe, and I reiterate, that our fates are intimately linked to each other.

  (1330)  

    Madam Speaker, what a wonderful testimony. It is very interesting to hear from colleagues with various experiences who can speak about where they are now.
    My question for my colleague is very simple.
    What will happen after the vote, which, in theory, will pass? What actions or consequences will result from this motion for the Quebec nation?
    Madam Speaker, unlike others, I believe that words have meaning and that words are not innocent. I believe that the Government of Quebec is fully within its rights to include in the Constitution Act, 1982, under the provisions introduced in the Constitution of 1867, the fact that it is a nation, whose official language is French, which is the common language of all Quebeckers.
    I am convinced that this law, which can certainly be improved by the members of the National Assembly, will reaffirm and reassert, if I may say so, the National Assembly's authority to better protect the French language in Quebec.
    Madam Speaker, I thank and congratulate my colleague from Montarville for his brilliant speech. He is passionate about the language, francophone culture and Quebec culture, and has been a great defender of them since the beginning of his political battle.
    The question I would like to ask my colleague has more to do with the bill that the government has chosen to introduce today, the day the Bloc Québécois is proposing a motion that is intended to be unifying, that is intended to be peaceful and that calls for the recognition of Quebec for what it wants Canada to see in it.
    I would like my colleague to give me his impressions on the relevance and the opportunism of introducing this bill today.
    Madam Speaker, I think my colleague is quite right to point out that it is a strange coincidence to choose this very day when the Bloc Québécois is proposing this motion to finally come up with a bill that has been announced for ages, and to introduce it so late in the day that it will not even be possible to discuss it before the adjournment, and possibly not before an election.
    As a result, introducing this bill does not really commit the government to anything; it is a symbolic gesture meant to show that the Bloc Québécois is not alone in wanting to defend the French language and that the Liberal government also has a fine bill to amend the Official Languages Act. What else does it have to offer? Beyond the symbolism, because the government's gesture will remain symbolic, what else is there? That is what we are interested in.
    I understand that the current federal government wants to protect French, not just in Quebec, but elsewhere in Canada. However, that must not remain just wishful thinking. It must not remain just words. As long as legislation remains unpassed, it is nothing but words.
    Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak today on this special day as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of my party, the Bloc Québécois.
    Contrary to what some uncharitable souls have said, the Bloc Québécois has always been relevant. As evidence of this, for our opposition day, the Bloc Québécois is moving a motion to have the French language recognized as the official language and the only common language in Quebec. Through our actions, the Bloc Québécois is forcing the government's hand to some degree, and now the government is taking this opportunity to introduce its bill on reforming the Official Languages Act. It is bizarre, to say the least, shall we say.
    That said, I will now get back to the subject at hand. Today I want to talk a little more about the Quebec identity and my beloved French language. We all have different reasons to be proud Quebeckers. One of the things I am most proud of as a Quebecker is precisely our language. There was a time when I used it as a tool, one that I have always tried to respect, to use well and to pass on to my children and those around me. By default, the way we express ourselves reflects on those around us; we have an influence.
    Like it or not, Quebeckers have always been a distinct nation. My colleagues who spoke earlier stressed that repeatedly. In the 18th century, Bougainville said of Quebeckers, “It seems that we are a different nation”. Governor Guy Carleton said that the province of Quebec is completely different from the others and that these special circumstances cannot be ignored. In 1976, René Lévesque said, “We are not a small people. We may be something like a great people.”
    The status of French in Quebec is very worrisome. French has always been a language that needed to be protected and maintained, but it has never been in danger until now. I do not want to get caught up in figures, but the number of people in Quebec who use French as their primary language has not dropped below 80% in decades. That demands a response. That means we need to take action.
    The first thing we can do is to at least acknowledge this state of affairs and recognize that Quebec must be supported, protected and valued. Decisions must be made, political decisions, decisions by citizens, by residents of different regions of the country to learn to speak to us, to learn to respect us, to learn to communicate and to learn to share this love that we have for this language.
    I put the question to a few colleagues. Perhaps we did not get things right. Perhaps we did not properly convey our message. That is possible. I might surprise my colleagues. I am going to tell that about my love and affection for Canada.
    I know that my colleagues will say that it is difficult to believe that I had a life before politics because I am so young. However, in a previous life I had the great pleasure and privilege of being the host of a cooking show on television. For a few years there was an English version of this show. I urge colleagues not to Google it.
    While filming this very rewarding show, I had the privilege of travelling across Canada. I went to Peggy's Cove and tasted one of the most memorable chowders. As I talk about it, I am getting hungry, my mouth is watering and I want to go back there. I fished for salmon in Miramichi. I cannot tell you how many times I ate peameal bacon sandwiches at the St. Lawrence market in Toronto while on my way to the magnificent Niagara region. I shopped at West Edmonton Mall. I rode horseback in the Calgary foothills. I visited Vancouver countless times. I love that city and that area. Who would not love the magnificent Okanagan Valley? I saw Whistler and other places, and I still have many places to visit.

  (1335)  

    In all my discoveries and travels across Canada, one thing stands out. Despite all of the amazing places I have discovered and the wonderful people I have met and bonded with, bonds that continue to this day, I always felt that I belonged to another nation and that my identity had a home somewhere else. I felt that way every time I came back to Quebec. I had nothing against the rest of Canada. My head was filled with memories, my heart was grateful, but whenever I came back to Quebec, I felt the way an Italian might feel returning to Italy after a trip or a Spaniard might feel returning to Madrid. I felt like I was coming home. This showed me in a clear, obvious and concrete way that I belonged to the Quebec nation. That did not prevent me from truly loving my neighbours, the Canadians, but Quebec was my nation, and it still is today.
    I have always been convinced that the best way to promote something, whether it is a simple idea or a societal undertaking like the one my colleagues and I hold dear, is through persuasion, not division. There is no shortage of persuasive arguments for the great undertaking that my colleagues and I are advocating for. French, a beautiful language that sounds as melodious in spoken form as it does in song, will always be the most charming conveyance for those arguments. No other language in the world sounds as good in song. No other language in the world makes wordsmiths as happy as French does. Our language is the envy of the entire world. People have told me that our language is so beautiful, but it sounds so complicated and they wish they could learn it, master it and be able to make it sound the way we do. What a compliment.
    As I said earlier, when our colleagues in the House make the effort to speak French during their interventions, we are very touched and honoured. I am honestly proud when my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga conducts sound tests at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in French, because he is taking French courses and he wants to show us the progress he is making in learning French. I find that touching.
    I am also touched by the fact that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka will be travelling to La Pocatière again this summer to take French courses. I think that is wonderful, and that is what is so great about our undertaking.
    Anglophone artists have chosen to write and sing in French because they prefer the way it sounds. It is a magnificent language for music. I commend the greats like Jim Corcoran, whom I have always admired. I have always been a die-hard fan of his. Born in Sherbrooke as an anglophone, he chose to express himself in French because he loves our language. He still has his charming little accent when he sings, but he is one of the most incredible wordsmiths, one of the finest songwriters that Quebec has ever known, yet he is an anglophone.
    The motion we are moving today simply calls on the House to acknowledge a reality and the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation. There is no trap there. It is not a non‑confidence motion. It is a peaceful motion that simply calls on the House to recognize Quebec as it wants to be seen, in other words as a proud, full nation that is welcoming and open to everyone who chooses to be a Quebecker.

  (1340)  

    Madam Speaker, our colleague makes us want to carry on and talk about people like Vigneault, Leclerc and Ferland. On June 24, we will celebrate our national holiday, and it will be an opportunity to remember just how proud we are to be a nation whose only common language is French.
    I also want to come back to something that he said. I too see this Bloc Québécois motion as an opportunity for recognition, not a threat.
    At the same time, I am wary of support that seems to be fleeting rather than heartfelt. Of course, we are not the only ones capable of loving the French language.
    Does my colleague agree that, without the Bloc Québécois, this debate to stand up for, defend and promote the French language as the common language of Quebec would never have happened during this Parliament?

  (1345)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Unfortunately, I have to answer yes. There are issues that Quebec cares a lot about, and all members of the Bloc Québécois promised to defend and represent the values and interests of Quebec in the House of Commons.
    Without the Bloc Québécois here, many of Quebec's concerns and interests would likely be simply swept under the rug or shelved for later on the pretext that they are not pressing or urgent. Without the Bloc Québécois here working hard, I am afraid that many of the issues that Quebeckers care about would still be forgotten today.
    Madam Speaker, I really enjoyed the part of my colleague's speech where he took us on a virtual tour of Canada, showcasing its beauty and vastness. I completely agree with him on that. However, I also appreciated what he said about how Canada is indeed a magnificent country, as are many other countries, but it is not our country.
    I think he captured Quebec's Frenchness. Quebec is not yet a country, but it is only a matter of time because that is what we truly want, and we are working to make it happen. I would like my colleague to comment further on that. It is what I would consider an esoteric factor that makes our English Canadian colleagues deeply uncomfortable because they do not understand how anyone can love Canada yet feel that it is not their country.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montarville for his question.
    It is certainly something I find difficult to explain. For some time now, the more I think about it, the more I believe we should perhaps do things differently and change the way we communicate and share our vision and our plans.
    I always thought we would do better to be good neighbours than difficult bedfellows. When it comes down to it, we would be so much better off if we both had our full powers and our independence. Instead, we are stuck in a kind of shackle where we understand each other very poorly and where we are both somewhat retreating into our corners, holding positions that are perhaps more historical than factual or actual.
    I also want to mention that I am a little disappointed that I am not getting more questions and comments. As I was saying earlier, our motion was not intended to be provocative; quite the opposite. I had hoped for a little more interest on the part of my colleagues from the other parties. I hoped they might express some curiosity about what is prompting us to move this motion today. I have to say that, in the end, it looks like maybe it does not interest them all that much, but I still wanted to point that out.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

[Translation]

    I was born in Ontario, in Niagara, surrounded by Franco-Ontarians. I chose to go to Quebec at the age of 25 to study civil law, and I settled there. That is where I made a career of teaching civil law in both French and English, and I had my children educated in French.
    I am with the majority of Quebeckers who identify with both Quebec and Canada. This is complicated, but I would like to remind my colleagues on the other side of the House that the vast majority of Quebeckers identify not just with Quebec, obviously with pride, but also with Canada, with pride as well.
    It is not every day that we have the opportunity to dwell on the procedure for amending the Constitution of Canada. My remarks will address the scope and nature of the indisputable authority of provincial legislatures to amend their provincial constitutions. I wish to make three points today.
    First, since Confederation in 1867, provincial legislatures have had the authority to unilaterally amend certain aspects of their provincial constitutions.
    Second, while the exercise of this constitutional amending power typically relates to the machinery of government, it can nevertheless be carried out by a provincial legislature that wishes to amend its provincial constitution by adding provisions relating to the specific nature of the province.
    Third, although the procedure for unilateral amendment by provincial legislatures allows for certain adjustments to a province's constitution, those adjustments must necessarily be limited to that province.
    That means one province cannot affect another by this amending procedure, nor can it affect, by this amending procedure, other provisions of the Constitution of Canada or the norms whose existence was essential to the compromise leading to Confederation.

  (1350)  

[English]

    The provincial legislatures have always had the authority to amend their own constitutions. Section 92(1) of what was then known as the British North America Act, permitted provincial legislatures to exclusively make laws in relation to the matters that included the amendment from time to time of the constitution of the province, except in regard to the office of the lieutenant-governor. That provision was repealed and replaced in 1982. The authority for the provinces to amend their own constitutions is now located in section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which provides that, subject to section 41, which deals with matters protected by unanimous consent procedure, the legislature of each province may exclusively make laws amending the constitution of the province.
    As the successor to the provision under the former British North America Act, this provision has been held by the Supreme Court to be essentially equivalent in scope to its predecessor. For the legislatures to exercise the authority conferred by these unilateral amending procedures, all they need to do is legislate in the ordinary course. In short, then, we are not dealing with a new or even controversial power. Rather, it is a power as old as Confederation itself.

[Translation]

    The constitutional amendments made under section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and under its precursor in what is now known as the Constitution Act, 1867, have generally been in connection with government institutions.
    For example, provincial legislatures initially exercised this authority to adopt legislation regarding their privileges and immunities. This authority also enabled the provincial legislatures to abolish their own upper chambers. When that happened, some provisions of the Constitution Act, 1867, the founding document of the Canadian Confederation, became obsolete.
    For my last example, I will mention that provisions in a provincial law regarding the operation of the province's public service were deemed constitutional. There is therefore no doubt that the provincial legislatures can amend their province's constitution to a certain extent by adopting provisions regarding the operation of a provincial government body.
    The instrument targeted by a constitutional amendment is important for determining the appropriate formula. That said, this factor alone must not be given undue weight. It would be impossible for a provincial legislature or for Parliament to indirectly amend the intangible provisions in the Canadian Constitution by adopting incompatible provisions in a separate piece of legislation.
    The same is true for the rules of law in the provinces' constitutional texts. These provincial constitutions, along with the Canadian Constitution, are not all found within a single document labelled as the constitution. Rather, they consist of a set of texts, principles and agreements of a constitutional nature regarding the provincial governments. What matters is the nature of the amendment and the effect it will have. We would be putting form above substance if we were to only look at the title of the document being amended.

  (1355)  

[English]

    That being said, provisions enacted through the unilateral amendment procedure cannot amend the provisions of the Constitution of Canada, the supreme and entrenched law of the country. The authority that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, provides is limited to amending the constitution of the province. To make an amendment in relation to any provision of the Constitution of Canada that applies to one or more, but not all, provinces would require proceeding by way of the bilateral procedures set out in section 43 of the Constitution Act.
    This would be the case, for instance, if a province intended to make an amendment to one of the provisions that relates to the use of English or French language within the province. It is through this procedure that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was amended to included section 16.1, which enshrines the equality of the French and English linguistic communities in the Province of New Brunswick.
    An amendment may also be beyond the authority of the provincial legislatures under section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, even though it alters the provision that bears on the operation of an organ of the government of the province. This will be the case where the provision is entrenched as being indivisibly related to the federal principle or to a fundamental term or condition of the union at Confederation. This is the case for section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
    While it relates to the use of English and French in Parliament, in the legislature of Quebec and in the courts, it cannot be amended through either Parliament's unilateral amendment procedure or the provincial unilateral amendment procedure. Likewise, an amendment through the unilateral amendment procedure could not insulate provisions that conflict with the charter.
    For instance, section 23 of the charter guarantees minority language educational rights to citizens of Canada. An amendment to this provision, which grants language rights to all Canadians in all of the provinces and territories, would require proceeding by way of unanimous consent procedure for amending the Constitution of Canada. This would require resolutions from the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of all 10 provinces.
    That, however, is not what is being proposed by the bill introduced in the Quebec National Assembly. The amendment procedure relied upon in this case is the unilateral amendment procedure; because of this, the Constitution of Canada cannot be amended either directly or indirectly. The amendment may only relate to the constitution of the province. In that sense, the choice of procedure should guide our understanding of the proposal.

[Translation]

    Keep in mind that the source of section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, goes back to the days of Confederation. This limited authority to amend certain aspects of a province's constitution is reflected in section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which authorizes Parliament to unilaterally make certain amendments to the Constitution of Canada. These provisions recognize that Parliament and the provincial legislatures are equal partners in the Canadian constitutional structure.
    While some elements of our constitutional order are, quite rightly, virtually immutable, others can still be amended in accordance with the constitutional architecture as a whole.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his intervention.
    On the defence and protection of French in general, I would like to ask him this.
    Why introduce a bill on modernizing the Official Languages Act today, when there are six days left in the session?
    Does that mean there will not be an election this fall?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Montreal for his question.
    That is a question he should ask my colleague, the Minister of Official Languages. I know that she has worked hard throughout the session to move this bill forward, which I believe will be released shortly.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Governor General’s Literary Awards

    Madam Speaker, today I would like to recognize two outstanding authors in my riding. They are both recipients of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Awards.
    Eric Walters, accomplished children's author and one of the key founders of I Read Canadian Day, was the winner of the young people's text literature category with his book, The King of Jam Sandwiches.
    Dr. Madhur Anand, professor, author and scientist, was the winner of the non-fiction category with her memoir, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart.
    I encourage everyone to read Canadian, and in particular during #IndigenousReads month, to show their support to our talented indigenous authors and illustrators. This also supports our publishers and our local bookstores. People can use the #IReadCanadianDay to share their favourite stories.

Parry Sound—Muskoka

    Madam Speaker, as Canadians are now finally receiving their vaccinations, and we are slowly getting past this pandemic, Parry Sound—Muskoka is eager and ready to be open and welcome visitors again.
    From the towering windswept pines clinging to the rocky shores of Georgian Bay in the west to the pristine canoe routes of Algonquin Park in the east, and from the Trent-Severn Waterway in the south to the Dokis first nation on the shores of Lake Nipissing in the north, the natural beauty of Parry Sound—Muskoka will rejuvenate one's soul.
    Whether one camps, glamps or stays at a five-star resort, whether one prefers s'mores by the campfire or fine dining by the water's edge, whether one prefers the nighttime chorus of the forest or the stage performances of world-class artists, Parry Sound—Muskoka is the destination.
    To seasonal residents, visitors and tourists, Parry Sound—Muskoka is ready when they are. Let us bring on the summer.

Infrastructure Funding in Scarborough—Agincourt

    Madam Speaker, last week I was joined by the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, other levels of government and community partners in announcing funding for the Bridletowne neighbourhood centre in my riding of Scarborough—Agincourt.
    This announcement marks the first substantial piece of non-transit infrastructure for Scarborough, and families will benefit from it for generations to come. Thanks to the investing in Canada plan, our government is providing more than $26.7 million for this hub, which will house a 50-unit dialysis centre by Scarborough Health Network; spaces for child care, youth and seniors; a pool and fitness centre by the YMCA, a Hong Fook nurse practitioner clinic; and spaces for social agencies led by the United Way. This will all under one roof.
    I am thankful to work with our partners in continuing the work of my late husband, former MP Arnold Chan, to provide this much-needed space for our diverse community, in which everyone can thrive.

[Translation]

30th Anniversary of the Bloc Québécois

    Madam Speaker, today is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Bloc Québécois. Thirty years ago, on June 15, 1991, I hosted the founding convention in Sorel-Tracy. On that day, Quebec rallied behind a party, its party, that would defend its interests unequivocally. Every day since then, the Bloc Québécois has fought on all fronts for the Quebec nation.
    Today, by chance or a quirk of fate, our anniversary coincides with a historic debate on enshrining Quebec in Canada's Constitution as a nation whose official and common language is French.
    Thirty years later, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that can present this measure to affirm Quebec. At every opportunity, the Bloc represents our identity, our values, our language and our culture. Thirty years and many historical events later, the Bloc Québécois continues to turn the established order on its head, and it is proud of the trust placed in it by the Quebec nation to be the standard bearer for its will and aspirations.

Louise Harel

    Madam Speaker, it is my turn to rise today in the Parliament of Canada to recognize an exceptional woman, Louise Harel.
    Although we are not from the same political family, we do share a love for Hochelaga and its people. Louise Harel is a feminist, a sovereignist and a proud resident of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
    She was a member of the National Assembly for over 30 years in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, held various ministerial positions and was the only woman elected President of the National Assembly of Quebec. Although she is already an officer of the Ordre national du Québec and a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Ordre de la Pléiade, I wanted to state that the City of Montreal has just awarded her the title of citizen of honour.
    Ms. Harel has dedicated her entire life to improving the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable, as well as to promoting intercultural ties and defending the French language. She leaves an immense legacy in Quebec, including the Pay Equity Act and legislation on family patrimony. I always found our discussions on diversity and the role of women to be truly inspiring.
    Thank you, Louise, for your compassion and your integrity, for your many struggles for the common good and for continuing to be a model of a progressive woman of conviction.

  (1405)  

[English]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, as this session draws to a close, Canadians are upset with the Liberal government’s “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. The Prime Minister has failed to set a clear plan for international travel, and all of the jobs that go with it, yet he has no problem jet-setting into quarantineless, maskless, distanceless and, frankly, senseless behaviour.
    The Prime Minister says he is appalled with harassment in the workplace and the mistreatment of women, but turned a blind eye to General Vance and gave him a pay increase. The government hoodwinks Canadians, saying it cares about public safety, but really it is targeting law-abiding hunters and sport shooters with one bill and reducing penalties for serious crimes in another.
    Canadians want us back here in this place in September, not prorogued like last year and not tossed into a pandemic election that we voted unanimously against, and hopefully hearing from a government that has deeply reflected over the summer and is finally ready to put Canadians' interests ahead of its own.

Fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to recognize two people in Waterloo region who raised money and awareness for cystic fibrosis.
    An amazing young man named Joseph turned four years old and used his birthday celebration to raise donations. His family arranged a drive-by parade. Joseph was dressed as a pint-sized Batman, and his front yard was transformed into Gotham City. People from the community, including me, drove past to safely wish Joseph a happy birthday and were able to donate to the Farwell4Hire campaign.
    Farwell4Hire was started by Mike Farwell in memory of his two sisters, Luanne and Sheri Farwell, who both lost their young lives to cystic fibrosis. Mike runs his annual fundraiser doing odd jobs in exchange for donations. To date, Farwell4Hire has generated over $650,000 in donations to fight cystic fibrosis.
    I send my thanks to Mike Farwell for his passion, to my community of Kitchener—Conestoga for its generosity and to young Joseph, our own Batman, for showing that heroes come in all sizes.

Diversity and Inclusion

    Mr. Speaker, across the country Canadians have been coming together to grieve our past and present actions of discrimination and racism in this country, whether it is the long history of abuse toward our indigenous peoples as we unearth the tragic killings and disappearances of our innocent children at the hands of our institutions, or the recent rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. I vow to do everything in my power to fight against hate in all its forms.
     Last night I attended a vigil in Brampton commemorating the tragedy in London, where a family of four was killed solely because they were Muslim. Islamophobia has no place in Canada. Every Canadian, regardless of race and creed, deserves to live in peace and security, and my heart goes out to the victims, their loved ones and the entire Muslim community.
    As we build back better, all of us must step up to make our communities safer and more inclusive.

Lyme Disease

    Mr. Speaker, Lyme disease is a huge concern in Nova Scotia. People can suffer undiagnosed for years, pleading with their health care professionals to be tested and referred.
    In 2018, Nova Scotian residents reported the second-highest number of Lyme disease cases in Canada, with 451 people. With these high numbers in such a small province, one would think we would have the best Lyme treatment program in Canada, but sadly, residents continue to travel outside our country for treatment.
    While this is unacceptable in regular times, it is almost impossible during this pandemic. Bill C-442 was unanimously passed in 2014. This bill was supposed to identify and implement new diagnostic treatments or protocols for tick-borne illnesses, changes that have been painfully slow.
    I recently read the story about Hailey Kane from the Annapolis Valley, a 17-year-old girl who lost her life to Lyme disease. Hailey's family can never escape the nightmare that is a result of this undiagnosed, untreated Lyme disease. We need to do better. We need to call on all levels of government to do better for these patients, who have had their quality of life taken from them or, worse, pass away before ever getting the help that they need.

  (1410)  

Rhonda Davies Award for Outstanding Volunteers

    Mr. Speaker, today I would like to honour Amber Caterer-Walsh for her 33 years of service as a volunteer at the Community Association for Riders with Disabilities, called CARD.
    CARD's vision is to be an engaged community in which individuals, not labels, dictate who they are and what they achieve. It provides equine therapy to children and adults. This year, Amber won the 2021 Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association's Rhonda Davies Award for Outstanding Volunteers for her volunteer service. She was described by her nominator as a special woman who devotes her time to help better the lives of those around her and in her community.
    I thank her and the association for the work they do for disability inclusion, and today I remind Canadians that there is still time to provide their feedback for our country's first-ever disability inclusion action plan, which is open for an online survey by video, or by print and mail.

Canada Day

    Mr. Speaker, Canada Day is a time to both celebrate and reflect, a time to embrace who we are as Canadians and all that has brought us here, a time to reflect on what we must protect or risk losing, a time to imagine a vision of what our country can become. To be Canadian means believing in diversity, respect and humility. To be Canadian is to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
    Canada is a free and sovereign nation governed by democratic values, a charter of human rights and the rule of law. It is a country where Canadians alone define our future.
    Our democracy is fragile, never to be taken for granted and always to be defended. The challenges we face today will not defeat us. For 154 years, we have overcome adversity and emerged stronger. We will do so again, together and united as one Canada, one country. Happy Canada Day.

World Blood Donor Day

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday was World Blood Donor Day. Here is how the United Kingdom celebrated it: For the first time, all donors will now be asked the same questions about their sexual behaviours in a gender-neutral manner, meaning that gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships can donate blood and make a difference for the first time. Israel's new coalition government, on day one of its new mandate, pledged to end its gay blood ban.
    By contrast, here at home, this is how the Liberals celebrated World Blood Donor Day: On Friday, they lost in court when they tried to silence a gay man for asking the government to keep the promise the Liberals made six years ago.
    The Conservatives are on record with a very clear and safe solution, just as the United Kingdom, just as Israel and just as numerous other countries around the world are doing. It is time to stop the court cases. It is time to stop the delays. It is time to end the blood ban in Canada, now.

[Translation]

World Blood Donor Day

    Mr. Speaker, June is pride month for the LGBTQ+ community. Yesterday was World Blood Donor Day. However, in Canada, we do not have any reason to celebrate.
    World Blood Donor Day reminds us that the Liberals disappointed people by breaking their promise to put an end to the ban that prevents gay men from donating blood. That is even more shameful given that it is pride month. This discriminatory measure was implemented as a result of the AIDS epidemic, a lack of knowledge about that disease and a strong feeling of homophobia. AIDS was even referred to as gay cancer.
    Still today, if a gay man wants to give blood, he cannot have sexual relations for three months before donating. That is a stunning level of hypocrisy for a country that brags about being a model for LGBTQ+ rights. All members of this community feel marginalized because of Health Canada's rules.
    Until the Prime Minister has put an end to the blood donation ban, he should leave it to members of the LGBTQ+ community to march in pride parades. The LGBTQ+ community believed in him, but he let them down. He needs to have the courage to keep his promises for once.

  (1415)  

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

    Mr. Speaker, June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
    It is an opportunity to speak out about the suffering that some seniors experience. It is a problem that tends to be under-diagnosed. Many people suffer abuse and mistreatment, but they do not even identify their situation and are afraid of reprisals if they report their abusers.
    Therefore, June 15 is an ideal opportunity to raise public awareness of this social issue, to encourage people to recognize it and to prevent all forms of elder abuse. The seven types of abuse include physical, psychological and financial abuse, as well as ageism.
    We know that COVID‑19 has caused a lot of isolation and additional financial stress for seniors. In addition to being the main victims of the health crisis, they were at increased risk of poverty and age discrimination. Seniors have the same rights as all other citizens, and we must allow them to age with care, compassion and dignity.

[English]

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, my riding of Kenora is full of natural beauty that attracts visitors wishing to enjoy the great outdoors. However, the small business owners in our communities are facing a second COVID summer and their life's work has been pushed to the brink.
    These job creators face mountains of red tape and regulations at the best of times, and with the added failure of the Liberal government to secure our economy through the pandemic, these businesses face an uncertain future. Small business owners across the country cannot afford any more economic mismanagement from the Liberal government.
    Canada's Conservatives have a plan to secure the future that includes recovering one million jobs and supporting every sector and region of the country. Canadians will soon have a choice. If local jobs are not their priority, they will have many priorities to choose from. However, if they care about securing Canada's economic future, there is only one choice and that is Canada's Conservatives.

Attack in London, Ontario

    Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the remarkable lives of the Afzaal family.
     Salman, Madiha, Yumna and Talat were tragically killed nine days ago in a senseless act of hate and terrorism. My community of London continues to be in a state of shock, profound sadness and anger as we try to come to terms with what happened. This past Saturday, in a moving funeral service, we said goodbye to four remarkable people who contributed to our community and country in immeasurable ways. May they rest in eternal peace.
    Let us also continue to think about young Fayez, who is now out of hospital. Ensuring his well-being can be a shared responsibility.
    To Canadian Muslims across our country, I say, “Your sense of belonging and security is paramount. We stand with you in fighting to ensure Islamophobia is eliminated.” In that spirit, I call and join with other MPs for a national summit on Islamophobia and ask that this be convened at the earliest opportunity.
    All of us have a role to play in ensuring such heinous acts of hate and terrorism never happen again.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, 300,000 Canadians have lost their jobs because of the Prime Minister's failed vaccine rollout. Canadians cannot live like this while the Prime Minister goes around meeting celebrities and claiming to be the dean of the G7.
    How can this trip help recover the 300,000 jobs already lost by these Canadians who are losing hope?
    Mr. Speaker, let me remind everyone what is really important to Canadians and what the House can do to support them as we finish the battle against COVID-19.
    Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, the Conservatives have used every procedural trick in the book to delay debate on Bill C-30. Canadians expect better. They expect us to get this bill across the finish line.

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, it is not just the job market that is becoming unstable. Yesterday The Globe and Mail reported that a private investor purchased hundreds of Toronto homes just to turn a quick profit. It is no wonder housing prices are up nearly 40% this year. First-time homebuyers literally cannot afford more of the same from the government.
    Does the Prime Minister really expect first-time homebuyers to compete with billionaire investors?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government introduced Canada's first-ever national housing strategy. As part of that strategy, we introduced the first-time homebuyer incentive, which will help families achieve the dream of home ownership by lowering monthly mortgage payments without increasing down payments. We recently also expanded the first-time homebuyer incentive to enhance eligibility in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria by raising the qualifying income threshold to $150,000.
    Maybe the leader of the official opposition can do something to support our budget, which helps first-time homebuyers.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister admits it is his plan that is failing, and it is worse. According to Bloomberg, Canada is in danger of experiencing a housing market crash similar to the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike the Liberals and the minister, the Conservatives have a five-point plan to secure Canada's future, including for first-time homebuyers.
    Can the Prime Minister guarantee Canadians that housing prices will stabilize and ultimately decrease before the end of the summer?
    Mr. Speaker, our record speaks for itself. We are the only party that has taken concrete action to create more affordable housing. We brought in the national housing strategy, now worth more than $70 billion. We brought in the first-time homebuyer incentive. We brought in the Canada housing benefits. We increased supports for the rental construction financing initiative. On every single one of these measures, the Conservatives voted against them. Not only did they do nothing while they were in government, but they continue to do nothing in opposition. The leader of the official opposition should turn around and help Canadians by supporting this budget.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, speaking of records speaking for themselves, falsifying one's service record, throwing Admiral Mark Norman under the bus and covering up sexual misconduct is not the record of a minister who can be trusted to implement the necessary changes at National Defence. With a record as shameful as that, it is no wonder that senior military leaders do not respect their minister. We cannot afford more of the same. The Canadian Armed Forces are literally falling apart before our eyes.
    When will the Prime Minister fire his incompetent minister?
    Mr. Speaker, we will take no lessons from the Leader of the Opposition when it comes to looking after the Canadian Armed Forces. Our government, when we put forward our defence policy, increased defence spending by 70% for the Canadian Armed Forces and put people first. We know that we have a lot more work to do to make sure that we are creating an inclusive environment in the Canadian Armed Forces, and we will get it done.
    Mr. Speaker, he says “an inclusive environment”. Three years ago a woman came forward with an allegation of sexual misconduct against the top general, a close friend of the minister. The ombudsman brought the report to the minister three years ago. The minister fired the ombudsman, covered it up and failed that woman serving her country.
    The minister, if he respects the institution he once served, should do the honourable thing and resign. If not, the Prime Minister must hold the minister to account.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, I will take no lessons from the Leader of the Opposition when it comes to service to this country. We take all allegations very seriously, as I did, and immediately brought the information to the appropriate officials. No politician should ever start investigations.
     Maybe the Leader of the Opposition could answer this question. Why did his previous government, when he was a minister in that government, appoint the previous chief of the defence staff when he knew information of the allegations?

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec wants to enshrine in the Constitution that it is a French nation by virtue of its common language, yet members have been trying to add conditions since this morning. They are talking about a united Canada and about the rights of anglophones, which no one in the House has questioned.
    Quebec is not asking for the federal government's opinion. Quebec is a nation, period. Quebec's common language is French; that is another period and that is even a law.
    Does the government realize that Quebec is enshrining facts in the Constitution that are already the law of the land in Quebec? Quebec is not asking for anyone's opinion.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, under the Constitution Act, 1982, provinces have exclusive jurisdiction to amend their provincial constitutions.
    However, it is important to remember that these additions to the Quebec constitution do not, in any way, change the scope of the other sections of the Constitution and that they do not, in any way, change Quebec's constitutional obligations with regard to the anglophone minority. We have been assured by the Government of Quebec that it will continue to respect its obligations.
    Mr. Speaker, we did not take the House by surprise. Three weeks ago we provided notice that we would move this very motion today.
    Today, we are being presented with amendments and conditions. However, Quebec is not asking for anyone's opinion. It is enshrining the reality in the Constitution. If members are intent on pointlessly questioning reality, that is their choice, but it changes absolutely nothing in the debate.
    Does the government officially recognize that section 45 of the Constitution allows Quebec to amend it, and that Quebec will enshrine that it is a French nation?
    Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendment would have provided greater clarity by reaffirming the position adopted by the House in 2006, while highlighting the rights of the English-language minority in Quebec.
    We have received assurances from the Government of Quebec that it will continue to fulfill its constitutional obligations with respect to the anglophone minority. We continue to be committed to protecting the rights of linguistic minorities across the country, including those of the English-language minority in Quebec. Today's motion is part of that effort, reflects the current law and recognizes the will of Quebec. That is why the government will vote in favour of it.

COVID-19 Emergency Response

    Mr. Speaker, today I spoke with Cherelle, a musician who cannot return to work because of the pandemic.
    Nearly two million people across the country are in the same situation as Cherelle and are relying on the Canada recovery benefit to make ends meet. Despite that, the Prime Minister wants to reduce the help people get by $800 a month.
    Will the Prime Minister reverse this decision to cut help to people, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, our emergency support and recovery measures are helping to buffer the most serious economic impacts and continue to help Canadians put food on the table.
    In order to continue supporting workers during this pandemic, we presented in budget 2021 a plan to extend the Canada recovery benefit.

[English]

    If opposition members want to be helpful, they could support the budget implementation bill and get these supports into the bank accounts of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, what the minister is not acknowledging is that the government is going to cut the help that families need by $800 a month in this budget implementation bill.
     People like Cherelle, who is a musician and earns a living by playing gigs around the country, cannot go back to work. Millions of Canadians who depend on the CRB are going to be in a devastating position if the government continues with its decision to cut the help they need by $800 a month.
    My question is for the Prime Minister. Will he reverse his decision to cut the help that people need in the middle of a pandemic?
    Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Canada recovery benefit, Canadians have access to up to 50 weeks of benefits to help them in times such as the one the member opposite is describing. For the first 42 weeks of their benefit received, they can get $500 and for the last eight weeks, it is $300. We see this in conjunction with the wage subsidy and the new hiring program as a way to transition Canadians back to work and back to economic success.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Prime Minister did what he had told all other Canadians not to do. He travelled abroad to the G7. While he was gone, business leaders called for him to immediately lay out a plan to safely reopen our economy. The chamber of commerce called for clarity and a timeline and said that Canada was a G7 outlier because the Prime Minister had failed to deliver a reopening plan.
    While other countries are helping their businesses reopen, our Prime Minister will not even provide us with a plan. When will he do his job and stand up for Canadian businesses?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the real question is, when will the official opposition do its job and allow Canada to restart the economy? Instead of doing that, instead of understanding that now is the time to finish the fight against COVID and get back to work, the official opposition is engaging in dilatory, delaying tactics. In doing so, it is putting in peril the wage subsidy, rent support, the Canada recovery hiring credit, all measures we need to restart Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, not only is Canada behind the rest of the G7 in reopening its economy, the Prime Minister has made things worse by making the whole economy more expensive.
    The rise in the inflation rate and cost of living is making it difficult for many Canadians to make ends meet. That includes major increases in the price of meat, fish, dairy, gasoline and, of course, the skyrocketing housing prices. Under the government's mismanagement, Canadians are falling further and further behind.
    Why has the government not made life more affordable for Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, let me point out what is really posing a serious economic threat to Canadians and posing a real threat to what needs to be our national priority right now, which is finish the fight against COVID and support the Canadian economy as we come roaring back. The threat is Conservative delaying tactics, which are stopping us from passing the budget. That means the wage subsidy, rent support, Canada recovery hiring credit, the CRB are all set to expire this month.

[Translation]

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, according to an article on the CBC, softwood lumber experts expect that prices will continue to go up. They are also saying that it could take several years before things get back to normal.
    In the meantime, the United States is taking advantage of the vulnerability of our forestry sector and threatening our industries with tariffs.
    Canadian workers had to deal with a pandemic last year and do not need any more problems. Why is the government leaving them defenceless?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me begin by unequivocally stating that duties imposed by the U.S. on Canadian softwood lumber are unwarranted and unfair. I have raised this issue at every opportunity, including with President Biden, with the U.S. trade representative and with the commerce secretary. As we have always done and we will continue to do, we are going to vigorously defend our Canadian softwood lumber industry, its workers and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that it employs.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have repeatedly assured workers in our softwood lumber industry that a new agreement with the United States will be negotiated.
    It has been nearly seven years since they came to power, five year since the softwood lumber tariffs were imposed and three years since CUSMA was renegotiated, but nothing has been done to protect our forestry workers.
    Does the Liberal government have any plan to stop talking and start taking action?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are taking a team Canada approach, working hand in hand with the softwood lumber industry, with labour unions, with the provincial and territorial partners on all fronts. We have launched challenges in defence of Canadian softwood lumber. Consistently, Canada has seen victories that clearly demonstrate that our softwood lumber industry is in compliance with international trade rules and that Canada is a trading partner in good standing in the multilateral trading system.
    We will continue to defend our softwood lumber industry and the workers that it employs.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the finance minister decided to delay her own budget by punting debate on that budget in order to ram through Bill C-10, this at a time when our unemployment is higher than the U.K., the U.S., Japan, Germany, the G7 and OECD, and there are half a million missing jobs. That same budget said that all the pre-COVID jobs would be recovered by this month.
    Will the finance minister keep her word and guarantee that every single pre-COVID job will be recovered by this month when the numbers come out early next month?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me remind the member opposite that, thanks to the resilience and strength of Canadians, Canada has recovered 81% of the COVID recession job losses. That is compared to just 66% recovered in the United States.
    However, Canadians do need more support for our economy to come roaring back from the deepest recession since the Great Depression. They need the strong support measures in the budget, including the wage subsidy, the CRB and the Canada recovery hiring credit.
    It is the Conservatives who are stopping the budget from being passed.
    Mr. Speaker, if she likes her budget so much, it is so strange that yesterday she decided to delay it. Maybe it is for the better that she is delaying her own budget. So far what it has delivered is the second-highest unemployment in the G7; the highest inflation in a decade; the fastest increases in housing prices, preventing the poor working class and young from ever owning a home; and the prospect of a forthcoming debt crisis. All I am asking is whether she will keep her promise from chart 35 in that same budget.
    Will the government have reinstated all the pre-COVID jobs by this month, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a bit rich coming from that party. A few days ago, last Friday, about 10:30 a.m., the Conservatives decided they wanted to shut down Parliament. They moved a motion to shut down Parliament. They had enough of work; they wanted to go out for cocktails, or drinks or whatever. We wanted to work. They wanted to shut down Parliament. Then we wanted to extend the hours and they refused. After that, they started filibustering.
    Bill C-30 is absolutely essential. Canadians need that bill. We hope the Conservatives will stop blocking everything.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the Minister of Justice confirm that the government would vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois' motion. I understand that the federal government will acknowledge Quebec's wish to enshrine in its constitution that it is a French-speaking nation.
    My question is for the Liberal Party whip. Can he confirm that all members of the Liberal Party will vote in favour of our motion?
    Mr. Speaker, the House has already debated the matter of the Quebec nation. You and I were both there. It has been confirmed. That debate was settled a long time ago.
    As for the language, we recognize that French is the official language of Quebec. That is done. The Bloc Québécois is clearly not happy with that because it would have rather seen us argue and vote against the motion. That is not the case and the Bloc Québécois should be happy about that.
    I want to point out that the Bloc Québécois does not have a monopoly over love for Quebec and the French language.
     Mr. Speaker, this morning the parliamentary leader said, and I quote, “Quebec has a certain amount of leeway that allows it to make changes, provided it is clearly stated that...the Quebec government's bill does not erode other laws that protect the language rights of the English-speaking community in Quebec.”
    Can the Quebec lieutenant explain to us why, every time Quebeckers stand up for their right to speak French, Ottawa gets worried about English in Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada cares about all of its citizens, including francophone minorities outside Quebec and the anglophone minority in Quebec.
    What I do not understand is why the Bloc Québécois is not happy about the introduction of an excellent bill to strengthen French by my colleague, the Minister of Official Languages, about the fact that we recognized that Quebeckers form a nation within Canada or about the fact that we recognized that Quebec's official language is French.
    My Bloc Québécois colleagues could at least crack a smile today.

  (1440)  

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, we are in the middle of a pandemic where most of the government staff in Ottawa have been avoiding travel, staying put and working from home, so it is quite the coincidence that on the day after the election was called in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Minister of Natural Resources would send two of his staffers under dubious reasoning to that province. Wait a second, that does not sound like a coincidence at all.
    Will the Liberal Party repay taxpayers for sending two ministerial staff, at taxpayers' expense, to help their friends in the provincial Liberal Party get re-elected?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be crystal clear: My staff followed all the rules to the letter. They, like myself, hold themselves to a high ethical standard. They adhere to all public health guidelines. They filled essential operational requirements to support me in my ministerial duties, including support at the TechNL summit in February. They campaigned on a single Saturday, on their day off, keeping in line with Treasury Board guidelines. All rules were followed to the letter.
    Mr. Speaker, that simply does not hold water. Canadians cannot believe that these staff were there doing anything other than supporting the minister while he was campaigning. It is always the same with these Liberals. When it benefits them or their friends, they will throw any considerations about ethics or pandemic rules to the wayside.
    Now that he has been caught, will the minister commit to have the Liberal Party of Canada repay taxpayers for this inappropriate, partisan expense?
    Mr. Speaker, they both followed the Treasury Board guidelines to the letter, the same guidelines that the previous Conservative government put in place. Section 3.5.4 states, “If a member becomes engaged in campaign activities on a part-time basis, [his or her] involvement must be on [his or her] own time and not during regular office hours.” Both employees travelled to Newfoundland to support me in my ministerial duties. They provided essential, on-the-ground operational support. That is what happened here.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, let us look at the facts.
    The minister's staff arrived when the election was called in Newfoundland and Labrador. They stayed there for the duration of the campaign. They went door-to-door and cost Canadians almost $9,000. Public health rules required workers to stay home. The minister knows that. He is trying to apologize by saying that he needed his staff close to him, but away from the department and their homes. He admitted that he broke the rules.
    Is the Liberal Party going to reimburse Canadians?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this was one blustery Saturday afternoon. Every time the Conservatives get up and attack hard-working political staff, I think they do a great disservice to the sacrifices those staff make and to the time and effort they put in supporting us in our official duties. I am proud that my staff hold themselves to a high ethical standard, as do I. The staff who support MPs and ministers should be recognized for the hard work they do and not be subject to baseless, spurious attacks in this House. Let me reiterate that all rules were followed to the letter. There was no interference here.
    I just want to remind hon. members that the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable asked a question and I am sure he wants to hear the answer. I want to make sure the shouting stops back and forth.
    The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is always the same thing with the Liberals. They are always willing to do anything and bend the rules to help their friends.
    The Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, Dr. Tam, the Treasury Board, the provinces, all had one message at the time: stay home. That was not good enough for the Minister of Natural Resources and his staff. The rules do not apply to them; they are Liberals.
    Not only does the minister deserve to be reprimanded, he also has to pay that money back to Canadians.
    Will the Liberal cronies refund the $9,000 to Canadian taxpayers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, no matter how many times the Conservatives get up and try to twist the facts, it does not change the reality that all rules were followed to the letter. It might surprise members opposite that we on this side of the House respect our staff's private lives and, within reason, their right to do what they wish with their time off. My staff followed all the rules, the public health guidelines and the Treasury Board guidelines for a minister's office that the previous Conservative government put in place. Are the Conservatives really suggesting that the rules they put in place should only apply to Conservative staffers?

  (1445)  

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, watch out, the Minister of Official Languages just woke up. She just announced the introduction of an official languages bill, but it is June 15 and Parliament closes in six days. She knows her bill has no chance of being passed, but she is still going ahead. That is called playing politics with the francophones of the country. It is Liberal cynicism at its finest. It is not serious in the least.
    When will the minister really start taking an interest in the rights of francophones from across the country? Will it be after the next election?
    Mr. Speaker, we took office six years ago. For six years, I have been responsible for official languages in the government. As such, I take an interest in the rights of francophones across the country and of all the linguistic minorities of Canada.
    Today is a historic day. My colleague should be happy. We introduced an important bill that seeks to better protect the French language and all linguistic minorities. There are no surprises here. This is consistent with our commitments in the Speech from the Throne and in the reform paper I tabled in February.
    The question I would put to my colleague is the following: Will the NDP support our official languages bill, yes or no?

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, developers are buying up billions of dollars of single-family homes so they can profit off their rent. Not only is this not creating a housing supply, but it actually drives up the cost of home ownership. Similarly, they are acquiring low-rental properties and treating housing like a stock market, yet the housing minister's spokesperson is saying that everything is fine and the government is not interested in changing its housing policy. Left unchecked, the right to housing is just a myth and home ownership is but a dream.
    Will the government support the NDP's call to increase affordable social housing and take aggressive action against the financialization of housing?
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the New Democrats for finally waking up to the importance of investing in affordable housing. For their information, we have been investing in affordable housing from day one of our government. We have introduced the Canada housing benefit. We have more than doubled the rental construction financing initiative. We have increased investments in the national housing co-investment fund. We have even given more tools to non-profit organizations to protect subsidized units. We have so much ambition in this space, backed by significant investment.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, as a proud Franco-Ontarian and an MP who represents a large francophone community, I am very pleased that the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages introduced a bill in the House today that seeks to achieve real equality and strengthen the Official Languages Act.
    Can the minister tell us how this bill will support the minority language communities and French across the country, including in Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and his hard work as a proud Franco-Ontarian.
    Today is a big day for official languages in Canada. Through a new bill on official languages, the federal government is fulfilling its responsibility to do more to protect and promote French in Canada while continuing to defend the rights of official language minority communities, of course. The federal government can and will be part of the solution to achieve real equality between French and English in Canada.

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the seventh vice-chief of the defence staff since 2015 resigned yesterday because he went golfing with one of the two chiefs of the defence staff who are under investigation for sexual misconduct. This tragic narrative is a direct reflection on the weak leadership of the defence minister. The minister wilfully turned a blind eye to evidence of sexual misconduct against General Vance and refused to implement the Deschamps report. This is a dereliction of duty to the victims of sexual misconduct. Instead of leading by example, the minister failed our troops and lost their respect.
    Will the Minister of National Defence do the honourable thing and resign?
    Mr. Speaker, we will take no lessons from the member opposite when it comes to looking after the Canadian Armed Forces. When he was in government, the Conservatives cut from the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Our government, with our defence policy, added 70% of additional money to the defence budget, putting our people first. We know we have a lot more work, and we will get it done.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister can say what he wants, but one thing is certain: Right now the Canadian Armed Forces is in chaos.
    Things have only gotten worse since this minister took office in 2015. The minister is always saying that he is absolutely determined to bring about a culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces.
    What did he do with the Deschamps report that was submitted in 2015? He did nothing.
    Why did he not implement the 10 fundamental recommendations to protect women? We do not know.
    Will the minister do the right thing and resign?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I stated, we are not taking any lessons from the member opposite when it comes to our actions on creating an inclusive environment for all in the Canadian Armed Forces. We will be putting our people first, as we have always done.
    We know that we have a lot more work to do. We will be moving very quickly with Justice Fish's recommendations, and Madam Arbour will be providing greater guidance on how we can create the culture change that is absolutely needed in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, once again, eastern Ontario municipal leaders are leading our country when it comes to improved Internet and cell coverage in our region. They are ready to go with another massive project to increase Internet speed up to one gigabit per second for their households and their businesses. Recently, local Liberal and Conservative MPs heard the group tell the minister directly that her department is once again refusing to fund their projects. How can this be?
    Why does the Liberal government continue to put up unnecessary roadblocks that delay projects that are ready right now to help our residents?
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to the team of Liberal MPs in this region who have been working to connect eastern Ontario to cell service and high-speed Internet since 2015. We have moved forward, we have funded projects and we continue to support Ontarians as they get connected to this essential service. My colleague is misrepresenting that conversation.
     I appreciate the work that the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus has done, and I look forward to sharing more news with Ontarians about high-speed Internet service in their backyards.
    Mr. Speaker, that was not even close to an acceptable answer. They cannot even get the okay to apply to the universal broadband fund that the minister and the government continue to tout provides better Internet access. One hundred and four heads of council in eastern Ontario are behind this project, and it is valued at $1.6 billion.
    No more wishy-washy teamwork. Can the minister just give a straight answer? It is very simple. Can the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus and the regional network apply through the universal broadband fund to improve through their gig project, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate my colleague's concern, but I assure him that Liberal MPs have been working with the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus since before he had a seat in Parliament, and we will continue to do so.
    In the coming days, we will have more news—
    I am going to interrupt the hon. minister and ask her to start over. I am having a hard time hearing. I do not understand why, because this is usually a quiet chamber.
    The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I was congratulating my colleague for his interest in connecting eastern Ontario to high-speed Internet and I was assuring him that the Liberal members of Parliament in the region have been working hard to do just that with the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus since 2015. We are in regular conversations with them around the universal broadband fund. We are working with the Province of Ontario to connect even more households to this essential service, and we will have more news to come.
     If my colleagues have additional questions or ideas, I am happy to work with them off-line and encourage them to please reach out.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, in the series “Ottawa is 50 years too late”, after declaring that French is an official language, the Liberals are proud to announce that Quebec workers have the right to work and to be supervised in French. I want to make sure that I understand.
    Does the new official languages bill say that, from now on, there is only one common language for employees of federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and that it is French, or is it just that they have the right to work in French?
    Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that we are going to recognize in the Official Languages Act the right to work in French, the right to be served in French and the right not to be discriminated against for being a francophone in federally regulated businesses in Quebec and regions with a strong francophone presence.
    I had the opportunity today to speak with my counterpart, Sonia LeBel, to ensure that the 55% of federally chartered enterprises in Quebec that are already subject to Bill 101 can continue to be under this system.
    In the meantime, our government will fill the legal void. We are offering a new system that will protect French within federally regulated private businesses.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, that does not really mean much.
    What Quebec wants is not the right to speak French, but for the language of work in Quebec for all Quebeckers to be French. We do not want merely to be able to speak French at work; we want to have to speak French at work.
    Instead of introducing a bill that will never be passed, the government should simply support our bill that will ensure that the Charter of the French Language applies to federally regulated private businesses. That is what Quebeckers want.
    What Quebeckers want is for their concerns about the state of French to be addressed and that this be done in federally regulated businesses and in the federal government and with respect for linguistic minorities.
    That is what francophones in Quebec and across the country are asking of us and it is what all Canadians are asking of us. We are introducing an ambitious, robust and important bill, a quasi-constitutional statute. In the circumstances, for the good of the country and for the good of francophones, we hope that the Bloc Québécois will support it.

[English]

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, in June 2020, Canadian vegetable growers lost millions of pounds of vegetables because of COVID. For almost a year they have been asking for compensation for the losses they incurred, and they have been exceedingly patient. Recently, the Government of Ontario wrote to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to ask for the activation of AgriRecovery for vegetable growers who incurred substantial losses and extraordinary costs.
    When will the minister make funds available under AgriRecovery to compensate vegetable growers for their pandemic losses?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there is indeed a certain number of risk management programs, including AgriRecovery, that are available for producers facing exceptional costs for various reasons.
    The procedure is that the province consults us and its officials analyze the situation with our officials. As soon as the analysis is done, I will be pleased to share the response with the producers and with my colleague.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, in Portneuf—Jacques‑Cartier, many agri-food, construction, agriculture and landscaping businesses are reaching out to me because they are short of employees.
    This Liberal government is blaming a lot on COVID‑19. The reality is that it has done nothing in the past six years about accessing foreign workers. Is it normal for certain applications to drag on for more than a year? It is unacceptable. The process urgently needs to be sped up to allow our businesses to stay above water and participate in the economic recovery. When will this government take action?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has doubled the number of temporary foreign workers in Quebec from 11,000 workers in 2015 to 23,000 workers in 2019.
    Despite the pandemic, last year we supported the second-largest number of temporary foreign workers of all time and we are welcoming even more this year. We have already admitted more than 8,500 skilled workers in Quebec this year and we will continue to work together with the Government of Quebec to provide it all the immigrants it needs.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, my constituents are very frustrated with the government's handling of the border. The government has insisted on forcing Canadians into hotel quarantine despite the Liberals' own science expert panel recommending that the government scrap the program. These are the same hotels that have had reports of sexual assaults and a lack of food and water.
    On what date will the Liberals finally listen to the science and end the hotel quarantine program?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has some of the strongest measures to protect against the importation of COVID-19. We have been guided by science and evidence, and Canadians have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last year and a half to protect each other. We will continue to use that science and evidence as we adjust the border measures to reflect the best science and evidence, and to ensure that we protect Canadians from another surge of COVID-19.

[Translation]

International Development

    Mr. Speaker, climate change is rapidly affecting the world, especially poor and developing countries.
    Can the Minister of International Development tell the House what Canada is doing to help these countries in the global fight?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vimy for her important question.
    At the G7 summit, our government reaffirmed its commitment to meeting the international climate finance objective of $100 billion a year for climate finance in the places around the world that need it most.
    We also doubled our climate finance pledge from $2.65 billion in 2015 to $5.3 billion over the next five years.
    Here at home, we are committed to reducing our emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030.

[English]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, for four straight years, the minister of public works could only muster up a feeble “to be determined” when setting targets for government contracts for indigenous businesses, yet in the operations committee we heard evidence that public works invoked the national security exemption in order to sole-source a contract for PPE from China instead of from a qualified indigenous business.
    Why is reconciliation with China more important to the minister than reconciliation with indigenous people?
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is inaccurate in his question. I will say the Government of Canada is committed to improving diversity in all aspects of government programming. That includes increasing participation of minority groups in federal procurement.
    I would like to say that during the pandemic, PSPC awarded 40 contracts collectively worth $130 million to 31 self-identified indigenous businesses. We have more work to do, but I am committed to increasing opportunities for indigenous businesses from coast to coast to coast.

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, home prices have risen to an all-time high. While the minister is patting himself on the back, young Canadians and families are simply giving up the Canadian dream of owning a home due to historic price increases of almost 30% since last year.
    Can the minister tell us, if his housing plan is truly perfect, why Canadians across the country are giving up on owning homes?
    Mr. Speaker, our national housing strategy is investing in the first-time home buyer incentive, which is a real help for first-time homebuyers.
    What did the Conservatives do when they were in office? All they could offer first-time homebuyers was a $750 credit. What a joke.
    The national housing strategy is working. Since coming into office, we have invested over $27.4 billion in affordable housing. In Edmonton, the city the hon. member comes from, we recently announced $46.5 million through the rental construction financing initiative to build over 250 rental units. This is a national housing strategy that is working even in Edmonton.
    Mr. Speaker, what is a joke is the Liberals' existing plan for affordable housing, which is not working for anyone. I have been asking for funding for affordable housing in Sarnia—Lambton for years. In our opposition day motion, we highlighted the failure of the government in this area.
    Considering the Liberals voted against our Conservative motion with all of its common-sense solutions, I would like to know this: What is the Liberal government going to do to ensure Canadians can have affordable housing?
    Mr. Speaker, fake outrage without real action and real policies is not a strategy.
    Since coming into office, we have invested over $27.4 billion in affordable housing. What is the Conservative record? It is $250 million a year. Those are the facts.
    It is really interesting to see a party that voted against the Canada housing benefit, that votes against the national housing co-investment fund and that votes against the rental construction financing initiative get up and fake outrage. Canadians can see through that. It is a joke of a policy. The Conservative Party needs to get serious.

  (1505)  

Disability Inclusion

    Mr. Speaker, every day, Canadians with disabilities face accessibility barriers in their workplaces and in their communities. Programs like the enabling accessibility fund are important to help communities and organizations become more accessible when costs are prohibitive.
    Can the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion share with the House how our government is making communities and workplaces more inclusive for Canadians with disabilities?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Newmarket—Aurora for his advocacy for persons with disabilities.
    The enabling accessibility fund is an important program that empowers communities and businesses to become more accessible for persons with disabilities. That is why, through budget 2021, we are tripling funding for the enabling accessibility fund so we can continue supporting the costs of renovations, retrofits and accessible technologies.
    I am happy to share that we have recently launched a call for proposals for the enabling accessibility fund youth projects and mid-sized projects components. I encourage youth, non-profits and businesses to make applications so we can continue removing barriers in our communities.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, another Muslim woman was violently attacked in my city. She was walking in broad daylight when she was violently thrown face first to the pavement.
    Muslim women in Edmonton have to tell their loved ones where they are going. They take photos of themselves when they go out in case they are attacked or go missing. Enough is enough.
    When will the government table legislation on online hate? When will the government convene a national action summit on Islamophobia? When will Muslim women in Edmonton and in Canada finally be safe?
    Mr. Speaker, no Canadian should have to live in fear, yet we recognize that is the reality for far too many. Hate and racism do not belong in Canada, yet we know they exist.
     There are systemic barriers that exist in Canada, and our government remains committed to doing everything we can. That is why we have Canada's anti-racism strategy. That is why—
    I am going to interrupt the hon. minister and ask her to start—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: Order. Shouting across the aisle is not going to accomplish anything. Members can move to one side or the other if they want to talk, but shouting is not going to get us anywhere. I just want to remind members.
    We will start over. The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious matter, and all members should take it very seriously. Canadians from coast to coast to coast are hurting. Racism exists in Canada, and every single one of us has a responsibility to do something about it.
    Our government has brought forward measures including Canada's anti-racism strategy. Our government has put white supremacist groups on Canada's terrorist listing. Our government has committed to holding a national summit on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. We will work with all levels of government and all Canadians, and I look forward to working with that member.
    No Canadian should have to live in fear. Unfortunately it is a reality for far too many. Every—
    The hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, for more than 40 years, the Government of Canada operated 29 racially segregated hospitals across this country.
    I have heard first-hand accounts from indigenous elders about the horrors they experienced at the Nanaimo Indian Hospital. Researchers have exposed a range of atrocities at these hospitals including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, experimental medical and dental treatments, and sterilization without consent.
    Will the government commit to a full, independent inquiry into Canada's Indian hospital system, and release all relevant documents for that purpose?
    Mr. Speaker, addressing historical harms committed against indigenous children is a crucial step toward healing and justice for survivors, their families and their communities.
    The IRSSA, McLean, Gottfriedson and Anderson settlements represent historic milestones in Canada's efforts to address harms associated with attendance at federally operated institutions.
    We know there are outstanding claims in other institutions, and we are committed to collaborative discussions with the provinces and territories and with all those affected on how to foster healing.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1510)  

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking Nation  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in this debate and to have the opportunity to highlight Quebec's beautiful culture and its language, French.
    Canada has changed a lot since the Official Languages Act was introduced more than 50 years ago, and our linguistic reality has changed as well. French is in decline in Quebec and across the country, and francophone communities are worried about the future of their language and culture.
    With the growth of the Internet and globalization, English has become more prominent. I am therefore pleased to be having this debate in the House. It is an important debate to ensure the survival of French across Canada.
    I want to take this opportunity to talk about how our government is supporting Quebec's unique and vibrant cultural sector.

[English]

    I am going to interrupt the hon. minister. There are two members who insist on having conversations at an elevated voice. I am sure they do not want me to name them. If they want to come together and talk, they can do that peacefully.
    I will just leave that there for now, and hopefully the two will come together and discuss what they have to do in a very peaceful and quiet way.
    The hon. minister.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I was saying that I want to take this opportunity to talk about how our government is supporting Quebec's unique and vibrant cultural sector.
    I think all members will agree that, owing to its excellence and diversity, this sector plays a key role in promoting the French language both in Quebec and across Canada, and even beyond our borders.
    It is no secret. Thanks to globalization and technology, our artists are finding audiences in every country around the globe. In fact, our government eagerly promotes Quebec culture internationally, in addition to making it part of our diplomacy.
    We are also making sure that we do not drown in the ocean of U.S. culture, and our Bill C‑10 is helping us with that. A big part of the mandate that the Prime Minister has given me as Minister of Canadian Heritage covers areas of shared jurisdiction with the provinces and territories.
    Hand in hand with Quebec, we have developed many of our cultural flagships. Together, we can continue to showcase our culture, while also ensuring that Quebeckers and all Canadians have an arts scene that reflects them and their stories in their language.
    Our partnership advances our shared interests in different ways using a variety of collaborative mechanisms. All our levels of government are currently involved in extensive discussions, and we have very productive relationships. We already work together closely in many areas, such as cultural infrastructure, audiovisual production funding and arts funding in general. Our collaboration includes Canadian Heritage and the agencies and Crown corporations I am responsible for, such as the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and a number of national museums.
    The COVID‑19 pandemic hit our cultural sector hard, harder than almost any other economic sector. Many stakeholders and residents of my riding expressed their support and appreciation for the initiatives rolled out to support the sector during this public health crisis. We worked hand in hand with our provincial and territorial partners to do this essential work, each partner's actions complementing the other's to ensure the survival of organizations and directly support artists and workers in the cultural sector.
    Since people had to stay at home for many months, musicians, singers, actors, stage technicians and other industry professionals found themselves out of a job. Our museums, art galleries and theatres had to close their doors.
    Over the past year and a half, my team, the public servants at Canadian Heritage and I kept in regular contact with our provincial and territorial colleagues through frequent intergovernmental and bilateral meetings, telephone calls, video conferences and written correspondence.
    Our federal, provincial and territorial forum on COVID-19 gave us an opportunity to work together so we could share best practices, discuss what we had heard from our respective stakeholders, and do our best to ensure that no one slipped through the cracks, cracks that we all worked hard to fill along the way so that no one would be left behind.
    For decades, the Government of Canada has been supporting Quebec's cultural industry through significant, ongoing investments. Combined with the action taken by the provincial government, these investments led to impressive, undeniable results. This solid tradition of support continued during the pandemic when both Ottawa and Quebec City stepped up to help our cultural industry.
    In June 2020, the Government of Quebec announced its $400‑million economic recovery plan for the cultural sector, from film and television production to music and festivals. There have been many announcements of additional support since.
    For our part, our government has offered unprecedented targeted support. On May 8, 2020, I announced new emergency funding for cultural, heritage and sports organizations. This $500‑million emergency funding has helped maintain jobs and support business continuity for organizations whose very viability was in jeopardy because of the pandemic, allowing them to survive this crisis.
    Of this $500 million, $412 million went to the culture and heritage sector, with $114 million, or more than 30%, going to Quebec.

  (1515)  

    That proportion reflects the historical strength of Quebec's cultural sector and the support it receives from the federal government, thereby ensuring the survival of the French language. More specifically, Quebec stakeholders received nearly a third of the emergency funding allocated by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canada Arts Presentation Fund and the Canada Arts Training Fund. In the same vein, Quebec stakeholders received over 55% of the emergency funding allocated by the Canada Book Fund, as well as 25% to 35% of the funding available for the subsectors of magazine publishing, new media, television and radio.
    Our government committed to supporting the arts throughout the recovery period. It is developing a strong recovery plan for everyone. Back in the fall of 2020, we created a $50‑million compensation fund for Canadian film and television production to stimulate the recovery of this sector, which supports tens of thousands of jobs across the country, many of them in Quebec. Since then, this fund has been doubled to allow for even more filming in the months to come.
    Subsequently, the 2020 fall economic statement provided an additional $181.5 million for the performing arts sector. This investment will help artists begin to create works that can be presented once the restrictions are lifted, cover additional expenses for the presentation of shows that comply with health guidelines, and allow our creators to develop their digital offerings, in addition to stabilizing the theatre, dance, festival and music sectors.
    The last budget went a step further with an historic $1.5‑billion investment to assist the cultural sector's recovery. In addition to these targeted investments, various universal programs have also played a critical role in the survival of organizations and direct support for artists, creators and other cultural workers.
    We already had the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and the Canada emergency response benefit, and now we have the Canada recovery benefit. Without these measures that our government has deployed, far too many would simply not have made it through the past 18 months.
    Thanks to the vaccine rollout currently taking place at a steady pace across the country, we can look forward to the coming months with some optimism. The coming months will offer us opportunities to share our culture, both with Canada and with the world.
    One example is the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall, at which Canada will be the guest of honour. By participating in the book fair, we can generate more international interest in our authors by showcasing creative content from Quebec and Canada to the rest of the world.
    As I said earlier, the Department of Canadian Heritage has a long tradition of supporting Quebec's cultural sector, dating back well before the pandemic. For the 2019-20 fiscal year, Heritage Canada paid a total of $240 million in grants and contributions to Quebec-based organizations, including $101 million for culture, $73 million for official languages, $21 million for heritage and celebrations, $17 million for sports, and $9 million for diversity and inclusion.
    Agencies connected to the department, such as the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund, made financial contributions as well. Quebeckers identify strongly with many of these agencies, which have become veritable cultural institutions in their own right.
    Just look at Radio‑Canada and the National Film Board, which have played and continue to play a very important role in the development and success of Quebec's cultural sector and Quebec society as a whole. These federal agencies help create jobs for thousands of people in Quebec and across the country. They are essential to the vitality of Quebec's film and television industry.
    Funding for cultural projects and initiatives has also been provided. One such example is the Diamant theatre project. Two federal programs contributed funds to help a talented and world-renowned creator fulfill his dream in the heart of beautiful Quebec City. The investing in Canada infrastructure program contributed $10 million, and the—

  (1520)  

    Order. Questions and comments, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that English-language institutions, whether in health or post-secondary education, often receive massive funding from the federal government. The official languages program solely supports and protects English.
    Does my colleague have any data on whether this is also the case for culture? Does he have data that quantifies support for francophone and Quebec culture as compared to support for anglophone culture?
    In addition, does he agree that French should be the only common language, the language for integrating newcomers to Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his questions.
    I would be pleased to provide him with details in writing, but I will come back to the same example I used in my speech. Quebec stakeholders received 55% of the emergency funds provided by the Canada Book Fund, and they also received between 25% and 35% of available funds for the magazine publishing, new media, television and radio subsectors. In all these cases, the percentages are higher, sometimes higher by far, than the proportion of the Canadian population that Quebec accounts for.
    With respect to his second question, I believe that the House has already recognized the unique character of Quebec society, and I completely agree with that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a number of years ago a good friend gave me a really lovely collection of Canadian folk songs. In it are forgotten tunes from Quebec, which are absolutely delightful. It made me think that perhaps one of the best and most positive aspects of Bill C-10 was the notion that more of this Canadian content would be made discoverable to Canadians outside of Quebec, which would be an enriching experience right across the country.
    Mr. Speaker, this is one of the elements at the heart of Bill C-10, the discoverability of Canadian artists; francophone artists by anglophones in Canada, anglophone artists by francophones in Quebec or elsewhere in the country; the discoverability of indigenous artists, which are starting to emerge in different fields, whether it be music, dance, contemporary art; and so many other elements of our vibrant artistic scene.
    That is why it is so important we adopt Bill C-10. That is why APTN and other indigenous organizations across the country have asked for the adoption of Bill C-10 as have quite a number of artistic and cultural organizations.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech.
    He talked a lot about the cultural industry and that is good, but it is not the subject of today's motion. I understand that the government recognizes the Quebec nation, but it does not necessarily recognize the fact that Quebec could be responsible for the language policy within its own territory.
    If he recognizes that Quebec is a nation, why does he not recognize that with regard to language?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.
    However, I somewhat disagree with the premise of it. She said that the motion has to do with language and not culture. Honestly, since I became the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I have spoken to thousands of people across the country, and language is culture and culture is language. The two cannot be separated.
    As members heard from the Minister of Official Languages, we support the French fact in Quebec and want to support it even further. We recognize that French is at risk across the country, which is why the bill to modernize the Official Languages Act is so important, so that the federal government, in partnership with other governments and other organizations in Canada, can work to strengthen the French fact in Quebec and across the country.
    Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that I am sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
    The Government of Quebec wants to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is the common language of the Quebec nation. Why? I believe Camille Laurin said it best in 1977: “By proclaiming French as Quebec's official language and by recognizing the right of all Quebeckers to use French in all facets of their lives, we are turning the language into a national public good, a common good for all Quebeckers, the best way to promote cohesion and dialogue between Quebeckers of different origins. We are giving Quebeckers a way to express their identity to the world.”
    Previously, the Gendron commission had recommended that the Government of Quebec make French the shared language of all Quebeckers, a language that, being known by all, could be used as the instrument of communication in situations of contact between francophone and non-francophone Quebeckers. That is what a common language is. The point is not to enable francophones to speak French with each other. The point is to give people who speak different languages a way to communicate with each other and belong to the same public space, nation and people.
    As the white paper on Bill 101 explained, that is what we see everywhere else in normal societies, including in Canada, where English is the common language outside of Quebec. In other words, French should be the common language of Quebec, as English is in Canada.
    We have heard a lot of people say that Quebec was already recognized as a nation in 2006 and that the matter is settled, but it is not settled at all. Making French the only official and common language is not merely theoretical. It implies tangible measures and actions. It is the essential condition to ensure the future of French and to make it the language of integration and inclusion of newcomers.
    The federal government, which, need I remind the House, is the government of the anglophone majority, has dismantled Camille Laurin's and René Lévesque's Charter of the French Language through its financing of court challenges, through its spending power, through a Constitution and through a multiculturalist charter that was imposed upon the Quebec people in 1982 because it is a minority in Canada.
    The 1982 Constitution has never been signed by any Quebec government. Since the Official Languages Act 51 years ago, and before that, I can hardly talk about how much discrimination there was against francophones. The Liberal government at the time decided that Quebeckers were not part of the francophone minority and that only the anglophone minority in Quebec needed to be protected. This means that every year since then, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars have been used to anglicize municipal and Quebec public services, to over-fund English-only organizations, lobby groups and institutions.
    The federal government began funding legal challenges to Bill 101 in 1978, and beginning in 1982, Alliance Quebec's legal guerrilla warfare was carried out under a Constitution that had been imposed on a minority Quebec to weaken the Charter of the French Language.
    Naturally, for the francophone and Acadian communities, this was better than the overtly “ethnocidal” system that existed prior to that. However, the institutional bilingualism imposed by the Official Languages Act does not work. French-language services outside Quebec are largely deficient, even where numbers supposedly justify them.
    With each census, the rate of francophone assimilation increases despite the fighting spirit of the francophone and Acadian communities. While the Quebec government is working to make French the official and common language of all citizens of all origins in Quebec, the federal government is doing the opposite. Specifically, it is telling newcomers that there is not one, but two official languages, and that they can use the language of their choice.

  (1530)  

    In Quebec, all this federal interference against French, the official and common language, is precipitating the decline in French.
    A few months ago, the Liberal government suddenly recognized that French was in decline. According to Quebec, it was about time because French had been in decline for at least 30 years and the decline is only accelerating. It is not tied to immigration, but to the anglicization of allophones and, increasingly, francophones.
    In the Speech from the Throne, the government recognized that Quebeckers are part of the francophone minority in Canada and North America. It is hard to believe that they did not know that. That has been the case since 1841. That is when the Act of Union was imposed to keep francophones in the minority.
    The Minister of Official Languages made some nice speeches. She said that the Liberals will now defend French in Quebec. In the meantime, even within the federal public service in Quebec, the right to work in French is constantly being violated.
    For example, a few weeks ago, the vice-president of the Quebec region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada told the Standing Committee on Official Languages that “systemic discrimination is deeply rooted in the federal government. It is taken for granted that English comes first and French second.”
    While Quebec is rallying and its government is introducing a bill to acknowledge a national language, federal services offered in French continue to decline, no matter what the Minister of Official Languages says. We see examples of that nearly every day. Last week, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, a federal institution based in Montreal, was at the Federal Court of Appeal fighting hard to avoid complying with the right to work in French in Quebec for a public servant named André Dionne. The office has the backing of Canadian National, or CN, a Crown corporation, which is advocating for the right to work exclusively in English in areas not designated as bilingual, such as Toronto, but that right would take precedence over the right to work in French in Quebec.
    Here is another example. The Prime Minister's Office recently violated the Official Languages Act by providing the Standing Committee on Health with thousands of pages of unilingual English documents on its handling of the pandemic. The Liberals agree that French is an official language, but they are against the Bloc Québécois bill requiring sufficient knowledge of French as a condition of citizenship in Quebec.
    Today, the Minister of Official Languages introduced her bill with great fanfare. She told us that the Liberals will recognize French as an official language of Quebec. Kudos for that, but she does not specify how. The issue is not whether French is an official language, because it has been for a long time. The issue is whether it is recognized as the only official and common language of Quebec. However, this is not the case.
    Quebec wants to be solely responsible for linguistic planning in its territory. The Minister of Official Languages says no to Quebec. In fact, Bill C‑32 likely weakens Quebec's bill by blocking the application of Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses in Quebec. The Liberals say that they will protect the right to work in French in these businesses, but that is not at all the same as making French the common language of the workplace.
    The Prime Minister said that he is going to support the addition to the Constitution proposed in Bill 96, but he added that it will not have any legal consequences. It is a bit like the motion that was moved in 2006 to recognize the Quebec nation within a united Canada. It comes back to what the member for Mount Royal said earlier: he agrees as long as it does not change anything. When we ask the Liberals whether the government will fund the court challenges that will arise from this addition to the Constitution, they simply do not answer.
    In summary, the Liberals talk a good game, but when it comes time to take action, they do not really do anything. The Liberal government is using an old strategy that is already well known. It is recognizing the decline of French and saying that it is going to take action. That is the same old strategy the Liberals used with their election promises, the same old strategy they have been using for a very long time.
    Our national poet, Félix Leclerc, summed it up very well in one of his famous songs. He said, and I quote:

On the eve of the election
He called you his son.
But, of course, by the next day
He had forgotten your name.

  (1535)  

    Long live a free, French Quebec.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. However, I disagree with his position.
    First of all, declaring Quebec a nation goes directly against the Quebec National Assembly, which in 1985 declared indigenous nations as nations within a nation. It also goes against constitutional obligations, which Quebec is bound to, specifically section 22, which states:
    Nothing in sections 16 to 20 abrogates or derogates from any legal or customary right or privilege acquired or enjoyed either before or after the coming into force of this Charter with respect to any language that is not English or French.
    Does my hon. colleague not think that his responsibility as a member of Parliament is to respect and lift up our Constitution and its rights, which include aboriginal people's rights and title and the language rights of all Canadians?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I totally disagree with my colleague.
    Just because Quebeckers form a nation does not mean that the first nations do not form one too. There is not just one nation in Canada; there are many, and Quebeckers form a nation. That does not take anything away.
    In 1977, from the outset, Bill 101 established guarantees to defend first nations laws, and we totally agree with that. Quebec was one of the first to decide to negotiate nation to nation with indigenous peoples.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.
    I understand there is an anglophone nation that took advantage of its majority status to interfere with another nation, the Quebec nation. In the end, it had an impact on our development.
    Just thinking out loud, would it not help Quebec's destiny, in terms of its development, if it were sovereign?
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts about that.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague knows the answer.
    The only way to secure the future of the French language in Quebec and linguistic diversity in North America is Quebec's independence. What we are seeing today confirms that. Until that happens, we will continue to defend the French language and the Quebec nation. It does not take anything away from the English Canadian people or nation.
    If the relationship were based on respect, it would be much easier. Unfortunately, it seems people absolutely do not want to give control to Quebec and let us secure the future of the French language. They do not want us to use French in Quebec the same way English is used outside Quebec. We are not even trying to make French the common language as much as English is. In the rest of Canada, 99% of language transfers are to English, compared to barely 50% to French in Quebec.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my question follows up on what my colleague from Winnipeg Centre said. She made reference to indigenous languages and the importance of reconciliation. I am very curious. What is the Bloc's position on moving toward reconciliation by recognizing indigenous languages and supporting them in all regions of the country?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague did not listen to the answer I gave earlier.
    We entirely agree with securing the future of first nations languages. As I said, Bill 101 was probably a pioneer in this area, because it contained guarantees for first nations.
    I would like to remind my colleague that Canadians mixed with the first nations in New France and that we have very strong ties with the first nations. We support them wholeheartedly.
    Mr. Speaker, French is in decline in Quebec, and Quebec wants to be able to act freely, without impediment, to ensure its revival and development.
    That is why the Bloc Québécois tabled this motion asking the House of Commons to agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
    The motion does not ask the House if it is in favour of Bill 96 or if it agrees that Quebec can enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a French-speaking nation. The motion only seeks to acknowledge a reality. The amending formula under section 45 allows Quebec to amend its constitution, just as all provinces are allowed to. That is a fact.
    Quebeckers have also chosen to use that tool to enshrine in the Constitution that they form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language used by the Quebec nation. That is also a fact. Since the motion simply calls on the House to acknowledge facts, we expect that it will not cause any controversy today and that it will be recognized unconditionally.
    Quebec has the right to amend its constitution on its own. Our motion simply asks the House to acknowledge that right and uses the wording of the Constitution Act, 1982, which English Canada adopted without Quebec's consent. I want to emphasize that it was without Quebec's consent.
    Today's motion is in no way asking for permission. Quebec has decided to do it and again, the House must recognize unconditionally that Quebec has this right.
    I would like to speak about Quebec and its people by speaking about human nature in its simplest and greatest form. Historically, human beings have had a need for security, based on a few principles: having a roof over their heads; having enough food for themselves and their families; and having access to health care and to an appropriate education, in accordance with their life plans their own nature.
    The issue of life plans is central. Human beings need to belong to a community. They need relationships, and they need to form a group with other people, who become their allies in building a future full of hope. For such an enterprise to have a solid foundation, it must be based on a defining set of benchmarks and principles that make the group feel true to itself, thanks to the strengths and legacy of its predecessors.
    Human beings are not avatars. They do not want somebody else to dictate what they should be at the expense of their true nature. Many scientists will confirm that courage and the need to be true to oneself outweigh any feature borrowed from someone else.
    Therefore, human beings have, within their nature, a need to define who they are and will be through their own values and characteristics. By looking at their history, they recognize who they are. They see that they belong to a community which reflects what they consider to be the best version of themselves. When that is taken away from human beings, they lose touch with the community. They become bitter and indifferent. They abandon themselves, become somebody else and forget who they were.
    That is when a person is said to have been assimilated. Some assimilate in spite of themselves, and others are forced to by circumstances. They see that their future and their prosperity lie in globalization and uniformity, and they agree to be alone together.
    I would like to quote my good friend Louis-Jean Cormier, who is an artist: “We are all playing solitaire at the same time.” For the benefit of my colleagues who think that art from Quebec is tacky and outdated, I would like to point out that Louis-Jean Cormier just won his third Juno award for francophone album of the year.
    Like most Quebeckers, we like to gather together at the same time, in solidarity and with common values. We want to be together in our own way because, in Quebec, we know how to live together.
    Human nature is the same everywhere. Just like Canada, Quebec is a nation with distinct attributes. Some resemble Canada's, while others are diametrically opposite, and that is what our motion refers to.

  (1545)  

    Like any normal nation, Quebec is defined primarily by what is distinct about it. This is the very essence of its personality and the pride of a nation. We are defined by what we are most proud of. We are proud to be standing up with our talents, our natural resources, our common values developed through humanity and evolution, and our language in our arms. This is what makes us distinct.
    In my book, as the granddaughter of a schooner captain, because my father and grandfather sailed the St. Lawrence River, as an islander, happiness is simple: being with family, speaking a language that we love because, for us, it is the most beautiful language, and that we will be able to make the wonderful human beings who join us learn to love, with full respect for the first peoples and for our mutual recognition, to grow in accordance with the common values that our recognized constitutional rights will allow us to adjust over time and according to existential needs, all together, at the same time.
    This notion of “French as a common language and a Quebec nation”, which we are promoting in the House and which we hope will receive unanimous recognition in the House, is an exercise that makes sense. It is a matter of common sense, the kind that often eludes the House, which prefers political strategies that border on absurdity. This common-sense approach requires us, the Bloc Québécois, which has been looking out and speaking for Quebec and the National Assembly for 30 years.
    Recognition of the Quebec nation and its only official language is the indisputable foundation for the world to come. Let no one come and tell us that we are this or that because we simply and honestly want to protect and develop what we really are, what defines us, who we are.
    Valuing what makes a people, a nation, distinct is not a lost cause, on the contrary. We would never lose the respect of other nations, socially or economically, by protecting our rights and our distinctive values. A people that no longer identifies with its mother tongue, with what sets it apart and makes it valuable, loses its essence and its innovative and creative energy. Back home, we would call that losing our sparkle. That is not going to happen.
    However, a people prepared to stand tall, supported by its choices and deep convictions and the freedom to determine them, is secure, happy, fair, inclusive, balanced and extremely positive and productive. I would be remiss if I did not commend the great resilience and determination of the people of Quebec in that regard. Without this fight to protect these common values that characterize us, we would have disappeared.
    Still, here we are, 32 members giving a voice to Quebec, and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Quebec get its fair share of recognition and its freedom. I take immense pride in defending the interests of Quebec in this House, as immense as the mighty St. Lawrence.
    I would like to quote one of our most iconic poets, a songwriter and philosopher, the great Gilles Vigneault, but I will be putting my own spin on it.
    [Member sang the following:]
    

Everyone uses their age
Their stones and their tools
To build their village
Their city and their country...
Everyone uses their age
Their stones and their tools
To build their village
[Their island] and their country

  (1550)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as already said, in 2006 the House of Commons adopted a motion recognizing that Quebec forms a nation within a united Canada. I was not here back then, nor was the member who just spoke. My understanding is that it was supported by the House and passed by the House.
    Could the member reflect on why she believes that the Bloc would have supported that motion? Do they still support the motion? Was this something they gave any consideration to before they brought forward the motion today?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question. Quebec began taking action to have the Quebec nation and especially its official language recognized, without conditions, quite some time ago. The Bloc Québécois has been fighting the fight for 30 years now.
    Building on this momentum, various legislative steps over the years have enabled us to accept, vote on and advocate for the different steps that have brought us to what we are debating here today. We are debating this motion here today because French is declining in Quebec and we need to do something to address that right now. In order to do that, we need to have free rein and a free hand. That is why the Bloc moved this motion here today. We believe that it is more relevant than ever.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. I have the utmost respect for the language of Vigneault, Nelligan, Roy, Carrier, Gagnon and even Charlebois. This morning, the Bloc leader talked about the humility and pride of Quebec francophones, but what does my colleague have to say to Quebec anglophones who worry about the loss of their official language?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I meet anglophones from Quebec, including some that I know and others I call friends. They only want one thing and that is for us to do it together. In order to do that and to live together, Quebec must have the freedom to act.
    What we are defending today is really the ability to sit down with our foreign-language friends and to decide the way we will live together. We want to be able to bring our friends to share our culture and language, and to allow us to discover theirs.
    To achieve that, we need freedom and autonomy. That is what this motion requires—or, more politely, asks—of the House today. The phrase “together with them” seems fitting to me.

  (1555)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the report of the Commissioner of Official Languages is alarming and francophone workers are being discriminated against in the federal public service.
    Does the member think the Liberal government has abandoned the language rights of francophone workers? With the Minister of Official Languages tabling new legislation this morning, what does she think of the timing of this?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I consider it is too little too late. The fact is that this bill is more a setback than a step forward for the French language. In the present context, Quebec does not have any other avenue available than to be able to act on its own to put in place a system which will allow French to survive, develop and continue to be an economic force.
    Let us not forget that, in every respect, francophones are an economic force in America and play an important role in the tourism industry. It is therefore very important for us to protect our language, and we know how to do that better than the government, whose bill comes too late and proposes too little.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to rise virtually in the House today. First of all, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Orléans.
    I would like to begin by acknowledging that the lands on which we are gathered today are part of the unceded territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin nation.
    I am pleased to join my colleagues to discuss the motion of the member for Beloeil—Chambly. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their interventions today.
    Clearly, there is a great willingness among members to better protect and promote the French language, not only in Quebec, but also across Canada. On the issue of protecting and promoting French, I want to reassure my Bloc Québécois colleagues in the House and demonstrate that our government is indeed taking action and that it is doing everything possible to arrive at our common goal.
    Earlier today, I introduced a bill to strengthen and modernize the Official Languages Act and recognize the true equality between French and English in Canada. Along with over 90 indigenous languages, our two official languages, French and English, are at the core of who we are as a country.

[English]

    Our linguistic diversity brings us together, reinforces our federation and sets us apart from the rest of the world. In that sense, we can never take it for granted.

[Translation]

    Today, as the Minister of Official Languages and in the context of this debate on the motion from the Bloc Québécois, I would like to give more details about the measures we have been taking to protect and further promote French across Canada, including Quebec.
    First, I want to go back a little bit to the adoption of the Official Languages Act 50 years ago to build a state where French and English would both be central not only to our country but also to our lives. During the decades past, provincial governments even took measures to protect French, such as New Brunswick, which became constitutionally bilingual after an important constitutional process. The province of Ontario passed the French Language Services Act in 1986. As for Quebec, it proceeded to the adoption of the Charter of the French Language, which followed the recognition of French as the official language of Quebec in 1974, under Robert Bourassa.
    Efforts were made to strengthen French, but also to protect our official language minority communities, for them to have access to services and education in their own language.
    Since these tools were created, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. The world is changing, and our linguistic universe is affected. Globalization and the development of international trade at a dazzling speed have had the effect of imposing some languages to facilitate exchanges across borders. At the same time, digital technology, social media and online distribution platforms too often favour the use of English at the expense of French, and this has contributed even more to the erosion of the French language.
    The facts are therefore clear in the eyes of our government: Our two official languages are not on an even playing field. We must do more to make sure that the Canadian francophonie remains strong and that access to our two official languages is democratized. I am thinking in particular of learning opportunities from early childhood to post-secondary education. We must also modernize our language policy. Our actions must aim at reaching true equality between our two official languages, which means we must do more to protect French, including in Quebec, which is a minority in the North American context.
    Obviously, we must continue the work undertaken years ago to protect linguistic communities, more precisely official language minority communities. It is our constitutional duty. The federal government must also take full responsibility in its area of jurisdiction and use all available tools to promote and protect French. That is also our duty to francophones of Quebec and Canada. My answer to the Bloc Québécois today is that we share the same goals in that regard.
    The first provision included in the reinforced Official Languages Act reflects my point since it is about the linguistic landscape of Canada. Indeed, it recognizes the dynamic nature of provincial and territorial regimes.

  (1600)  

    That is why I can assure my hon. colleagues in the Bloc Québécois that the new law also explicitly acknowledges that Quebec's official language is French.

[English]

    Our bill recognizes too that Quebec has specific obligations when it comes to the use of both official languages in courts and in provincial legislatures. As I said, it is our duty as the federal government to ensure that these constitutional rights are respected.

[Translation]

     The modernized Official Languages Act also recognizes people's right to be served and to work in French in federally regulated businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence all across Canada. The system we are proposing will be in sync with that of Quebec, and it will be just as robust.
    We intend to take full responsibility in our area of jurisdiction and work with federally regulated private businesses to ensure that they play their role and respect their new linguistic obligations. We are proposing that these rules be phased in, by regulation, over a period of three years for federally regulated private businesses located in Quebec that have at least 25 employees, and five years for businesses located in regions with a strong francophone presence that have at least 50 employees.
    This legislation aligns with our government's coordinated efforts to better protect French and our firm commitment to work entirely within our jurisdiction to ensure the rights of official language minority communities.
    With regard to government institutions, we are proposing robust measures that would enable the federal government to lead by example. It is important for the Supreme Court of Canada to be bilingual. It is also important for the public service to respect its linguistic obligations, as it is Canadians' primary point of contact with the federal government.
    For a language to be strong, its culture must also be strong. That is why we will protect Radio-Canada. We will give our cultural institutions, such as the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and our national museums, the tools they need to showcase francophone cultural content. We will align our linguistic policy with our cultural policy and vice versa.
    We will also work to showcase the Canadian francophonie internationally. Canada is proud to be a bilingual country where French is alive and well. Strengthening our role within the international Francophonie will enable us to further solidify our leadership among the world's francophone countries.
    I also want my colleagues to know that the bill I introduced today will strengthen the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages to ensure compliance. That will help us achieve our linguistic policy objectives and give francophones in Quebec and in the rest of the country a tool and yet another ally when they need to advocate for their linguistic rights.
    None of these efforts to bring about a course correction for the French language take anything away from the federal government's constitutional obligation to defend the rights of linguistic minorities, including the rights of Quebec's anglophone minority.
    Our government will continue to stand by them by providing them with tools to defend their rights, such as the court challenges program, which we are proposing to strengthen in the bill.

  (1605)  

[English]

    In short, with our bill, our goal is to bring the Official Languages Act into the 21st century. It will reflect the language realities of all in Canada and provide our children with a world of possibilities.

[Translation]

    In closing, it is clear that we have a common goal to want to strengthen and protect French in Quebec and across the country, and that we also recognize that French is the official language of Quebec. At the same time, we will continue to uphold constitutional protections for official language minority communities, including in Quebec.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about French as an official language. However, there is one important thing: Does she recognize that French must be the only official and common language in Quebec in order to integrate and include newcomers?
    Will the federal government continue to promote institutional bilingualism, which runs directly counter to the concept of French as a common and official language? We know that the concept of “language of choice” does not work: When a francophone worker wants to work in French and an anglophone worker wants to work in English, it does not work, so there must be a common language.
    I have one last question on positive measures. Since the minister said that the Liberals wanted to defend French in Quebec, should there be positive measures for French, particularly in the enhancement of official languages program and the development of official-language communities program?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    As I mentioned, it goes without saying that we want to further protect and promote French in Quebec and across the country because we want to achieve real equality for our two official languages.
    The federal government has its official languages policy. There is the Official Languages Act. There will also be a new official languages act if the opposition parties support it, which I hope they will. The Constitution states that there are two official languages in the country within the federal state.
    We will continue to respect the Constitution and its linguistic obligations, in particular section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867. This section sets out rights for anglophones in Quebec. Naturally, our services will be provided in both official languages across the country, including in Quebec. We will continue to work with the Government of Quebec to ensure that francophone Quebeckers can live in French and work in French. Accordingly, we have introduced a bill that establishes new obligations concerning the respect for the right to work in French and consumers' right to be served in French. A francophone working in a federally regulated business must not face discrimination.
    My colleague often asks me—
    Questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her support for building the new La Ronde cultural centre in Timmins. It is very important for our region. The francophone community in northern Ontario is dynamic and very proud.
    My concern has to do with the cultural organizations that have been affected by the pandemic. More specifically, my concern has to do with the fundraising in connection with certain events.
    My question is the following: Is the government prepared to work with the francophone organizations in northern Ontario after the pandemic to ensure the successful development of francophone culture in the northern region of Ontario?

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, I can assure my colleague that I will be pleased to work with him and the organizations in northern Ontario. These organizations ensure that the francophone community is strong and vital and can continue to develop.
    During the pandemic, we provided different support measures including the wage subsidy. We provided help to the cultural sector. We also want to be there during the recovery. Of course the bill I introduced today recognizes that, for a community to be strong it needs to have strong institutions. The federal government has a new obligation, to support minority language communities, including francophones in northern Ontario. We will be sure to work together in order to fulfill this obligation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government took six years to introduce the bill to modernize the Official Languages Act and, in my view, has taken very little action to protect French. A lot of parents and students in British Columbia want to get into bilingual schools, however, they do not have the resources or the funding. More to the point, the province does not have enough resources and funding to support the schools and expand them.
    Will the federal government provide additional dollars to the province to expand bilingual and French schools in British Columbia so we can enhance and protect the French language?
    Mr. Speaker, I had the chance to talk with my counterpart in British Columbia last week. We got along very well and were both in favour of supporting even more francophones across the province, who are fighting for access to better public education systems across the beautiful province of British Columbia.
    That being said, we did increase support to British Columbia for French teachers' recruitment and retention. We also increased funding for francophone school boards and increased the transfers to the provinces. There is also more money in the budget to support provinces and territories for French immersion schools.
     We know that parents across the country, including in British Columbia, cannot wait for their children to have access to French immersion, so we will get rid of wait lists.

[Translation]

    I am pleased to pick up where the minister left off in talking about the reform of the Official Languages Act. I want to start by highlighting how important it is to build upon Canada's official languages in this process.
    We know that our two official languages, French and English, are inextricably linked to our history and our identity. They are used in all of our conversations, activities and projects. They also help us express our culture, which is made up of and enriched by many different cultures. All of these cultures are at the very heart of the social contract that binds us all as Canadians.
    French and English, along with the indigenous languages, enrich this country so much and inspired Parliament to adopt the first version of the Official Languages Act in 1969.
    Since the passage of this act, various measures and amendments have allowed us to strengthen both the official languages framework and the measures defining their use in the public service. Of course, the most important contribution to official languages is without question their entrenchment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    The Official Languages Act and other linguistic measures, including the court challenges program and the language rights support program, paved the way for incredible gains.
    Among other things, we have seen the establishment of institutional bilingualism, enabling francophones across the country to access services in their mother tongue. We have also seen the emergence of a new generation of Canadians who were able to get an education in the minority official language, something their parents were unable to do. We have seen members of official language minority communities assert their rights and support the development and vitality of their community.
    Many civil servants were able to learn the other official language in order to support the delivery of adapted services, while measures were taken to allow francophones and anglophones to find a job and advance their career in federal institutions.
    Back when the act was passed, who would have thought French immersion schools would be so popular?
    The whole country can see how far we have come, but the situation has changed rapidly in recent years. We have observed that, despite our efforts, the use of French has declined across Canada. Because of its minority status in North America, we have always had to be vigilant and focused. Over the past few years, the Internet and social media have become pervasive, international trade has advanced and every aspect of our lives has been digitized. All these factors unduly favour the use of English.
    It is time to take action. This new reality has created an array of needs and expectations, as well as new responsibilities for us. A responsible government must study the situation, review its positions, develop solutions and consult Canadians about the best approach. That is exactly what we did.
    In February, our efforts to that end resulted in the publication of our reform proposal, entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”, which the minister referred to.
    In addition, this morning, after extensive efforts, the Minister of Official Languages introduced in Parliament Bill C-32, an act for the substantive equality of French and English and the strengthening of the Official Languages Act. This bill confirms the commitments made by our government in the throne speech and the 2021 budget statement. It fulfills the vision we presented in February, a vision that was favourably received by official language communities and by many community and government stakeholders.
    We are convinced that, in a modern society like ours, and given our ambition to build a just society, all Canadians need to see themselves reflected in the Official Languages Act. Anglophone parents must be able to enrol their children in French immersion. The government must meet the expectations of francophones, both in Quebec and across Canada, and it must properly promote and protect the French language.

  (1615)  

    Francophones must have the right to work in their mother tongue everywhere in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence elsewhere in the country.
    Immigration is quickly changing Canada's demographics, and the government needs to attract immigrants who speak French to both Quebec and other areas. The government also needs to support official language minority communities, both anglophones in Quebec and francophones outside Quebec, so that they have strong institutions that will ensure their vitality and survival.
    Finally, the federal government needs to set an example. The public service needs to offer real services in both official languages. CBC/Radio-Canada needs to play its role as a key cultural institution, the Commissioner of Official Languages must be given more powers, and finally, judges of the Supreme Court of Canada must be bilingual.
    We want to establish a new linguistic balance that will ensure substantive equality between our two official languages. That will sometimes require each linguistic group to be treated differently in the development and implementation of our policies in order to take into account their specific situation, characteristics or needs.
    In Canada, French and English do not carry the same weight. It is up to the government to make smart interventions to restore the balance and ensure that the fundamental rights of all Canadians are respected.
    Our reform plan and our bill include several guiding principles and proposed changes that will allow us to better promote and support French, support the establishment of essential institutions in official language minority communities and finally achieve the equality between our two official languages that we have been striving for.
    Among other things, we want to highlight the specific linguistic vitality of each province and territory and protect the existing language rights of indigenous peoples. We want to create more opportunities for learning both official languages. We want to support institutions in official language minority communities, and we will commit to protecting and promoting French across Canada, including in Quebec. We want the Government of Canada to set an example by enhancing compliance within federal institutions.
    I would like to reiterate that the reform will also affect federally regulated private businesses and, accordingly, the linguistic situation in that part of the labour market. We will protect the right to work in French in these businesses across the country wherever there is a strong francophone presence, which obviously includes Quebec. Both workers and consumers in these regions will be better protected, better informed and served in their language.
    As well, we have found that legislation dealing with a subject as dynamic and evolving as language must be regularly reviewed and adjusted in order to stay relevant. That is why we have established a system of periodic reviews of the act and its implementation. This is how we will ensure that the Official Languages Act remains relevant and modern.
    We want to ensure the vitality of our two linguistic communities and of all official language minority communities. Due to the differing circumstances of each linguistic community, we are adopting broad principles and comprehensive objectives in order to avoid taking a case-by-case approach, which could create more inequality. We are certain that the solution to achieving the desired results lies in a flexible but solid pan-Canadian framework.
    I believe that all members of the House care about protecting the official languages and the language rights of all Canadians. I would therefore encourage them to study our reform proposal carefully and to support the bill that we introduced this morning.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, with whom I have worked on a number of diabetes-related issues, for her speech.
    Now, let us talk about official languages. There is already an official languages program in place. It is called the enhancement of official languages program or positive measures for official languages. I do not remember the exact title.
    However, this program provides nearly $100 million to Quebec, not for the protection of both official languages, but for the protection of English.
    Does my colleague think it is right that this program exists and that, in Quebec, only the anglophone community can receive this funding, which I am sure everyone will agree is a relatively large amount of money?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Our government has been working hard all along to implement programs to help minority communities.
    I am from Ontario, I am the member for Parliament for Orléans, and I think it is very important that the Liberal government has invested more than $500 million so far in an action plan to support the French fact and to support and promote French.
    We will continue to help francophones across Canada and in Quebec.
    Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague and congratulate her on her speech.
    We work together pretty often at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I would like to hear her opinion on the following. The Government of Quebec is calling for the federal government to recognize that, of the two official languages, there is one minority language that is at risk, and that is French.
    Even the UN's Human Rights Committee said that the anglophones in Quebec are not a minority because they are part of the English Canadian majority, which, I should point out, forced through a Constitution to weaken Quebec law and the Charter of the French Language.
    What are my colleague's thoughts on that?
    At the end of the day, Quebec and Quebeckers represent the bulk of the francophone minority in Canada.
    Does she agree that the government should recognize this and amend the Official Languages Act?

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It gives me the opportunity to suggest that he carefully study Bill C‑32, which recognizes that we must consider the fact that French is in a minority situation in Canada and in North America due to the predominant use of English. We hope that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill.
    As the throne speech and the budget showed, we are firmly committed to protecting French across Canada and Quebec. The Constitution also makes us responsible for protecting the linguistic rights of Quebec's anglophone minority.
    Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary said that the government recognized this in the bill, but it contains no measures. If French is recognized as the minority language, measures should be included to protect the French language.
    What are these measures?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank my colleague. Our actions speak for themselves. From the start, we created an action plan with an additional $500 million. We tabled a budget with an additional amount of almost $400 million to support the francophone minority and also second language training. My colleague knows very well that our government wants to protect the French fact everywhere in Canada, including in Quebec.
    We have a constitutional responsibility, and we are proud of it. We will continue to demonstrate this commitment with concrete measures, like the bill introduced today.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I intend to split my time with my friend and esteemed colleague from Manicouagan, who is a very busy member.
    Today, we are discussing the motion of the Bloc Québécois, and I will take the time to read it, dissect it and discuss it in detail. The choice of words it contains is not insignificant.
    The first part of the motion reads as follows: “That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions”. Anyone who reads this part of the motion will notice that we are not trying to turn members of the House into constitutional apprentices the way we could turn them into apprentice witches. We are simply asking the House to note and to recognize the existence of a section of the Constitution Act that Quebec and the provinces can use.
    It is interesting to discuss this today because we have been seeing all day that many members have tried to act like constitutional apprentices. Some have already found problems and flaws and have already tried to figure out how they could attack Quebec's desire to use this section.
    Rather than welcoming this, these people are already raising issues related to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protection of the anglophone minority, whereas the motion does not deal with those matters. These people are already raising questions about the interpretation of the Constitution and whether there is a symbolic aspect. Right off the bat, these people are already trying to undo something that has not even been enacted by the Quebec National Assembly. I think this speaks volumes about the status of French, the recognition of Quebec as a nation and the recognition of its autonomy and potential independence.
    The second part of the motion asks that the House “acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation”.
    Again, as we have said repeatedly today, this part of the motion is not seeking anyone's permission. We are not looking for authorization from the federal government, from Parliament or from the House to do something in Quebec. We are just asking the House to acknowledge what Quebec is about to do.
    What does “acknowledge” mean? It means to formally take note of information for later use. Once the House has acknowledged Quebec's will, any decision to either ignore it or fight it will at least be an informed decision.
    We have to ask ourselves whether the government is actually acknowledging Quebec's will if it goes ahead with an Official Languages Act reform that dismisses what Quebec wants to see with respect to language of work. Just acknowledging something means that there is a political layer to the government's response to what Quebec wants to do, not to what Quebec is asking, but to what Quebec is going to do.
    We also wonder, and this has been raised on several occasions, whether including Quebec's status as a nation and designating French as the only official and common language in the Constitution will be merely symbolic.
    I would be curious to see how the Prime Minister would explain why one part of the supreme law of his country, the Constitution Act, is symbolic, but not the rest. Why would what Quebec wants be merely symbolic, but not the rest of the Constitution Act?
    Once the Constitution Act recognizes French as the only common and official language of Quebec, it will be interesting to see happens the next time the courts try to butcher Bill 101. This will be fascinating to follow, as will the language of work issue, since it is part of Bill 96. That bill has not passed yet, but I think it will go smoothly.

  (1630)  

    What happens if Quebec passes this bill, the Minister of Official Languages' watered-down version of protecting the right to work in French goes forward and the Constitution recognizes Quebec's official language? That will be interesting. I think it might make headlines in a few newspapers. I was shocked this morning when I read that the minister was introducing a bill said to be basically a copy of Bill 96, but by the end of the article, I realized that that is not at all the case. Protecting the right to work in French is certainly not the same thing as making French the language of work.
    I find it particularly interesting that we are debating this in the House today, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Bloc Québécois. I think it is important to remember the Bloc Québécois's role in the House.
    Journalists asked us the same question several times when we announced our intention to move a motion to recognize the will of the National Assembly to include the Quebec nation and the French language in the Constitution. We were asked if we would be recognizing the Constitution with this motion. We were told that if we used it, we would be recognizing it. The best answer to this question is to remember the importance of not taking things lying down. We cannot let Quebec be weakened by standing idly as we watch the train go by. This would not be in Quebec's interest. It is better to fight with the tools at hand.
    At times, some members badger us about whether we are trying to make Quebec work as part of the rest of Canada. In my view, we are instead preparing Quebec for what is to come. We are ensuring that Quebec will be in the best possible position when it collectively decides to make its own decision about its future.
    Speaking of the Bloc Québécois' 30th anniversary, I want to share a quote from someone who spent a little time in the party: “The politics of the worst-case scenario are the worst kind of politics.” We are not seeing calls to recognize the Constitution; I would say that we are instead seeing an unbridled show of nationalism that is cause for celebration. I am so happy to see Quebec taking a more coordinated approach to protecting the French language.
    The movement to promote French is gaining ground, at a time when this is more imperative than ever. This is urgent, and I spoke about this in the House last week. A trend is starting to appear, and we need to reverse it.
     The percentage of Quebeckers who speak French as a first language has dropped below 80% for the first time in more than a century, and the Office québécois de la langue française estimates that this figure could drop below 70% by 2036.
    We have also noticed that young francophones tend to become anglicized. The number of people between the ages of 25 and 44 in the greater Montreal area has doubled over the past 15 years. A trend has also been observed in Quebec: Only 55% of allophones in Quebec make a language transfer to French. However, to maintain our relative weight, 90% of allophones in Quebec would have to make the transfer to French.
    It is therefore imperative and urgent that something be done. We need to protect French. I think that it is good to talk about the positive aspects of strengthening and promoting French. We should not just talk about it from the perspective of the inevitable erosion of French. We need to remember that French is also a common language for newcomers so that they can share their culture and who they are with us and we can live together in a society where everyone has their place. I see it in my riding. Recent surveys carried out in Saint-Jean showed that residents want to welcome more and more newcomers. French enables us to communicate and share with them effectively.
    I would like to briefly come back to the matter of the Bloc Québécois's role. With regard to this motion, the Bloc Québécois's role is simply to ensure that Quebec is the one that decides how it wants to write its language laws. That is the Bloc Québécois's role, and that is what the Bloc Québécois has been doing for the past 30 years.
    On that note, I want to take this opportunity to wish our party a happy 30th anniversary. However, I must say that I am sure we will not be here for another 30 years, or at least I hope not.

  (1635)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech. It is always a pleasure to listen to her speak about Quebec and the Quebec nation.
    What a coincidence that the Minister of Official Languages chose today to table her bill to modernize the Official Languages Act. In my view, it is not enough. Much attention is given to bilingualism, but not necessarily to the French language. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.
    Mr. Speaker, some people would say that coincidences do not really exist. Today, I am strangely inclined to believe they do.
    As for the protection of bilingualism, I have taken the liberty of making up a new word to describe the type of bilingualism that could be created by the reform of the Official Languages Act. It would “aircanadize” federal institutions. As I mentioned several times, bilingualism is alive and well in Quebec, but French is not. It is French that must be defended, not bilingualism.
    However, that is not what is in the reform. That is why it is important for the Bloc Québécois to go a little bit further and to promote and defend what Quebec wants.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
    Today's motion has no legal effect. It simply asks the House to agree and acknowledge that Quebec has the right to amend its constitution. Does my colleague know why some members of the House are afraid to vote for this motion?

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not presume to know what is going on in the heads of all 338 members. I think that would be really tiring, and I would be exhausted at the end of the day, so I will not speak on their behalf.
    What I do know is that, even though the motion is not binding, as it merely states an established fact and says what Quebec is doing, people find it upsetting. That reason alone is why we needed to talk about it and, most importantly, why we need to vote on it. I have learned a lot about what Quebec's place in a united Canada looks like to some of my colleagues and about how important they think it is to protect and promote the French fact.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Official Languages tabled a bill this morning. Does it help out with the motion the Bloc is putting through today, or is it far from what they are actually requesting?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard my colleague's question, but I will do my best to answer.
    If the member is asking me whether the Official Languages Act reform introduced today is consistent with our motion, the answer is no, not at all. For weeks now, we have been hearing that the reform will just “aircanadize” federal institutions and protect bilingualism, not ensure that Quebec's common and official language is French. That is what we have been debating for weeks.
    If I ever see that in the bill, I will be thrilled, but I do not see that happening anytime soon. We also have to make it to a vote on the bill, and that is another problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I almost feel like singing my question. I thank my colleague for her eloquence and relevant comments. She is highly competent and we always appreciate her input and speeches.
    As this question period draws to an end, I would ask my colleague if she believes the minister's reform package constitutes a road map for Quebec's survival. That is what the minister seems to be saying. I would like to know if this type of reform gives my colleague any hope for the future of Quebec.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. To paraphrase the premier of Quebec, we end up chatting so much that it feels as though we are having our own little party over here.
    Naturally, I do not believe the bill has enough teeth to really ensure the protection of French; what it seeks to protect is bilingualism. Protecting bilingualism means protecting English. People need to know this; indeed, it cannot be said enough.
    I am flabbergasted when, on the issue of protecting French in Quebec, the first reaction we hear from the House is about how we need to offer equal protection to anglophone minorities. The fact is that these minorities are faring quite well in Quebec. At the risk of repeating what my leader said this morning, I will be happy when the day comes where francophones outside of Quebec enjoy the same protections as those afforded to our minority anglophone population, which, it needs to be said, we cherish, and which enjoys a certain degree of status and protection under our domestic legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am pleased to speak today on this Bloc Québécois opposition day, and I really mean that. Often, we say we are pleased out of habit. Despite the fact that the government tried to reduce the scope of this day, as we saw during question period, the fact remains that this is an historic moment.
    It is an historic moment for the Bloc Québécois. It is our 30th anniversary. My colleague from Saint‑Jean mentioned it earlier, but every time we rise to speak we are taking our rightful place and we must always defend ourselves. I am paraphrasing what she said a bit, but it is truly a pleasure to do so. I am speaking under the theme of freedom, uniqueness, sovereignty, identity, dignity and legitimacy. It is pretty clear that I am pleased to speak.
    As the Prime Minister said, as soon as Bill 96 was tabled at the Quebec National Assembly, he promptly mentioned that it was only symbolic. Given everything I said in my introduction, the bill is far from being symbolic. It is an action. I will come back later to the issue of “acknowledging”. It is a really strong action and, beyond the symbol, there are meanings and impacts. It is not only words and sounds, but concrete actions which are part of the matter and the material.
    Let us simply recall the intent of the motion, which we are told is trivial. I heard the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons earlier as he was telling us that everything is already in place. I absolutely disagree with that. The Bloc Québécois motion contains three elements and states the following:
    That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
    I was saying that, for me, this is a concrete step that rests on a solid foundation; it is almost primal. Some said that this was an empty gesture, an exercise in futility. The fact is, however, that acknowledging something is not a passive act. We are not asking the government, the House of Commons and all our colleagues to sit back and do nothing while the train goes by; we are asking them to act. To acknowledge something is to take action. Acknowledging something is an act of will. There is no will to be found in passivity. In order to acknowledge something, one needs to want to do it. Sometimes, people are motivated by interests that I dare not name, but at the very least, they need to make their will known.
    One also needs to be willing to admit certain things. Admissions require humility. We are confronted with something that is bigger than us. It is quite simply undeniable. We are also humbled by what we are seeing, because we are powerless to stop it. I will come back to this question of “stopping” it, because to “admit” something should not necessarily mean to “oppose” something. It is not enough to simply observe; we need to see, to understand, to hear, and also to engage, which is a strong word.
    What we are asking the House to do today, to acknowledge something, is a powerful thing. The government has never done this before, despite what the government House leader would have us believe.

  (1645)  

     This acknowledgement also implies a certain duration. A commitment is not simply fulfilled when one votes in favour or against our motion after a couple of days or hours of debate. This is a commitment one takes today for the future. I am urging all members in this house to engage in and not oppose this process.
    I am urging members to acknowledge that Quebec is a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that French is the common language of the Quebec nation. Think about what the word “acknowledge” means. I spoke about the primal and concrete aspects of the word, about commitment, humility, admissions and lack of passivity. This motion is very charged. It speaks to our identity, to the very existence of Quebeckers. We are calling on the House to recognize and commit to allowing us to simply be, exist and become.
    I have heard some comments that made me think. The Prime Minister said that there was absolutely nothing there, that it would pass and that the motion was unnecessary.
    I would like to take a moment to quote a few extracts from anglophone media, be they in Quebec, such as the Montreal Gazette, or elsewhere in Canada, such as the Toronto Sun. What seems to be self-evident for the government, at least according to the comments made in the last few weeks, is not resolved at all in my view.
    The government and members of the House will need courage to be able to admit that and to acknowledge what the Bloc Québécois motion says.
    I will now quote some extracts in English. I could translate them, but I think they will be clear for the majority of members in the House. Today is June 15. Not so long ago, on June 10, the Montreal Gazette said the following:

  (1650)  

[English]

    “Why does the protection of the French language require the blanket suspension of human rights?”

[Translation]

    The Montreal Gazette is telling us that human rights are being suspended. I do not know if the author meant that as a hyperbole or another stylistic device. On my part, I do not see any consensus in there, but rather a potential controversy. The following words are from Ms. Jennings, from the Quebec Community Groups Network. She said:

[English]

    “It’s a bad way to start as a nation”.

[Translation]

    According to her, Bill 96 is a bad way to start a nation. I am sorry to break the news to Ms. Jennings, but the Quebec nation already existed a long time ago. Here is another quote from the newspapers:

[English]

    “Why does protecting the French language require the blanket...[and] the most sweeping overrides of human rights ever seen in Canada.”

[Translation]

    That is a gross exaggeration. This is not the worst denial or clawback of human rights that ever took place in Canada. Now I will quote from the Toronto Sun, which is not from Quebec but from one of Canada's biggest cities, the Queen City. A former adviser or assistant to Jean Chrétien wrote:

[English]

    The story is about the Canadian province of Quebec, and the changes that are coming in the Quebec government's recently-tabled Bill 96. The Bill would change the Constitution of Canada, and render Quebec a “nation.” The Bill will impose the changes described above to “protect” the French language, too....
    It will actually ruin lives in Quebec — and radically change Canada in the process.

[Translation]

    The author says that passing Bill 96 will ruin lives in Quebec.
    I have thousands of quotes like that one. To me, “acknowledgement” is really an engagement that calls for firm, brave and courageous determination on the part of the government and MPs. I hope they will keep that in mind when it is time to vote.
    Just for fun, I will conclude with some words by Loco Locass, whom I never thought I would quote in the House. I believe music is the best way to talk about languages, about our openness, about our past and our future. Is there any better way to show how open we are? My colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix would agree. Can anything convey who we are better than poetry? We are open, but we are also a francophone nation.
    

...we are creators
Not creatures, not caricatures
Our home has no separations; it has four seasons
We are used to the climate and the ice fog doesn't faze us
We have travelled along the arteries of a massive continent
Our species aspires to space, and we've left our mark everywhere
...In stumpless fields in the moonlight
And the roots of a beech that can no longer bend

    We will not bend.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I especially appreciated how she ended it. I have to say that I listen a lot to Loco Locass these days. As the national holiday approaches, I am immersing myself in our Quebec folklore.
    With respect to the bill on modernizing the Official Languages Act that was introduced today, the Government of Quebec clearly said that no interpretation of the Official Languages Act can as a result undermine the use of French as the common language of Quebec, indicating that there is a right to live and to work in French in Quebec and that in the event of a difference between the Official Languages Act and the Charter of the French Language, the latter takes precedence.
    Today, I heard the Minister of Official Languages say that she would not have the Charter of the French Language take precedence. According to my colleague, why is that?

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for her question.
    The cryptic reasons why the Minister of Official Languages has decided to have her bill take precedence over the Charter of the French Language are only known to her. However, I could make an educated guess.
    I believe that she just does not want to let Quebec decide what is best for Quebec. It comes down to the speech that we heard earlier and what we will see tomorrow when there will be a vote on our bill. We hope it will pass because it better protects not Quebeckers' right to work in French, but everyone's duty to work in French.
    The same goes for the motion we moved today. We are going much further than the minister. We are saying once more that Quebec must decide. I simply believe that the minister does not want Quebec to decide.
    Mr. Speaker, in her speech, earlier, my colleague spoke about the opposition across the aisle. Today, the government introduced its long-awaited official languages bill. We have wanted to reform the Official Languages Act for such a long time. The bill was introduced at the very end of the parliamentary session, on the eve of an election campaign.
    Does my colleague believe this to be a coincidence or a very clumsy political stunt on the part of her opposition, which just happens to be the government?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable. Indeed, officially, we have the same opposition.
    I hope that it is not a stunt. If it is, in my opinion, it was not in the least bit subtle, because we saw it coming a mile away.
    This sounds like some kind of sluggish declaration on the eve of an election. They are trying to prove that they did something and that they were really serious. Earlier, during Oral Questions, the minister said that her government had been working on it for six years.