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View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is not without a certain bitterness that I join the debate on this bill.
Of course, we can tout the merits of Canada's two official languages. I rise in the House with all due respect for francophone minority communities outside Quebec and anglophone minority communities in Quebec. There is no denying, however, that, over the past few years, there has been an effort to relegate the sovereignty issue to the dustbin of history and to downplay the importance of acknowledging Quebeckers' quiet nationalism, which concerns me greatly. I have observed firsthand that the French language is at the heart of culture.
Last week, we debated the bill on indigenous languages. We heard from several people who stated just how important indigenous languages are to the indigenous identity and culture, and how it is very important to preserve them. The situation in Quebec is obviously not the same because Quebeckers have had the opportunity to take strong positions and to implement measures such as Bill 101. It was highly controversial at the time but it ultimately played an important, structural role in Quebec culture, and is a critical part of French's resilience in Quebec.
I am talking about our national question being turned into a bit of folklore, because, I would remind hon. members, Quebec is a distinct nation. I immediately think of simple things like the fact that our parliament is not called a legislature, but a national assembly, like in France, to reflect the fact that we adhere to the Civil Code instead of common law. We have a republican-like way of thinking, a way of seeing society that is more reflective of France, but includes a healthy mix of our status as Canadians and North Americans in the Westminister system.
My general impression when it comes to defending the interests of Quebec is that there are not too many Quebec MPs who want to talk about quiet nationalism, an expression that I quite liked and adopted. It was coined by Alain Dubuc, and economics columnist at La Presse. This is a nod to the Quiet Revolution and a characterization of our nationalism. In Quebec today, in 2019, this is a consensual nationalism, in the vast majority of cases.
Some hon. members represent largely anglophone communities where people are not inclined to be open to this idea. I forgive those members for not rising often enough to stand up for the quiet nationalism we are seeing in Quebec. As for the other MPs, I honestly have to say that I am very frustrated. For four years now, I have been front and centre at all times. My party, the NDP, gives me room to talk about how vital culture is to our television and popular music industries. Quebec's cultural industries are thriving. Every time we talk about a Canadian filmmaker doing well internationally we are proud of that, but often that filmmaker is from Quebec. We are so proud we might as well be talking about an Olympic champion. However, this does not come from nothing.
In the Olympics, there are programs such as own the podium. In Quebec and Canada, Quebec culture was allowed to thrive in television, film and music. How did we do that? By enforcing regulations; not letting ourselves be colonized and stepped on like doormats; and telling industry stakeholders interested in developing international culture that we had a weakness and that we needed to be a part of the story. If there is foreign content, there will have to be local content. This goes for all Canadian content, and everyone knows it, but it takes on a whole new meaning in Quebec. Both Canadian and Quebec content are hugely successful and have exceptional ratings, and ultimately, they also have a positive impact on society.
I will stop there to return to the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.
In Quebec, protecting culture means ensuring that the stories we tell reflect peoples' lives. I often give the example of the show Fugueuse, which had great ratings and a profound social impact. Every day after an episode would air, social workers and screenwriters would come to Longueuil station to talk about child prostitution, which is a blight, especially in my constituency. The show is having an impact.
In Quebec, we have invested in this particular way of telling our stories and expressing our love to one another, of greeting the world and welcoming new communities that come here. Last year, at a televised gala, we learned that Fugueuse helped 20 or so young people get out of prostitution after speaking to their parents. How marvellous is that?
Some people might say they are sick of hearing about the bloody Quebec culture and would rather watch Netflix anyway because the content is more relatable and much better. Is it though? I myself obsessively watched 13 Reasons Why, a series about teen suicide, before my daughters watched it, because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for them. Then I learned that, according to American studies, youth suicide rates rose by 27% after the first few episodes were released. That is a huge increase.
The reason I bring this up is that we need to defend the Quebec nation in a constructive way. That is why we in the NDP strongly objected when this bill was designated as non-votable. Incidentally, I tip my hat to the member for Hamilton Centre, who fought to convince all his colleagues to vote to debate the bill. This bill represents an idea that could be immensely improved by the work of all the legislators in the House. I do not want to hear anyone telling me this bill is silly. If there is one bill that was sloppily cobbled together without constructive input from all members of Parliament, it is the omnibus bill that contained a certain little provision about SNC-Lavalin. We know all about the disastrous consequences for that company, which is Quebec's leading engineering firm, and above all for my dear Liberal colleagues, who really messed up.
The NDP believes this is an important issue because we are acutely conscious of the significant contributions that these new cultures make. They are going to help us build a stronger Quebec. Naturally, teaching French to newcomers is the central issue. We actually adopted a resolution on this topic at the last NDP convention in Trois-Rivières: Whereas immigration is essential to address the labour shortage, which is hurting the economy; whereas the Conservative and now the Liberal governments did nothing to support francophone immigration and make French language classes more accessible—God knows that is true; and whereas francophone immigration is indispensable for ensuring the future of Quebec and francophone communities across Canada outside Quebec; be it resolved that an NDP government will commit to providing adequate funding to increase the required percentage of French-speaking immigrants and will adapt existing immigration programs to Quebec's unique economic, social and labour needs.
That is why the Quebec caucus would surely have voted in favour of this bill at second reading so that it could be sent to committee. We are not getting anywhere by cutting ourselves off and talking past one another. It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers' quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec's distinct identity.
In closing, we are very disappointed that we are not able to vote on this bill. This really is a dialogue of the deaf. It seems like members just want to put a lid on this issue and not talk about it. I would urge my dear friends to wake up. There is a quiet nationalism in Quebec, and it is high time we helped it along rather than stand in its way.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his longstanding dedication to these important issues. As members know, he has repeatedly tried to rally us all to this cause.
Does he think it is possible to gather data about what led to such despair, to these fatal acts, and to show that the health care system lacks professionals and family doctors?
Bit by bit, our health care system is becoming a two-tier system, and we do not even realize it. Because of this system, have-not families may not get a diagnosis, and I suspect this problem is even worse in Canada's north.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
moved:
Motion No. 1
That Bill S-218 be amended by deleting the short title.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand here today and salute the contribution of Latin Americans, people from Latin American countries, and their presence in Quebec, particularly in my riding of Longueuil-Saint-Hubert. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the authors of the bill and my colleagues here in the House who are responsible for bringing this bill forward for our consideration today.
The bill before us today invites Parliament to recognize that members of the Latin American community in Canada have made an invaluable contribution to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric. Designating a Latin American heritage month will allow Canadians to learn more about this contribution and ensure that it is never forgotten.
The bill also notes that Latin American communities from across the country would take advantage of Latin American heritage month to celebrate and share their unique culture and traditions with all Canadians.
What is more, the bill notes that October is an especially important month for Latin American communities the world over. It would designate October as Latin American heritage month across Canada.
This bill talks about the diversity of Latin American communities in Quebec and Canada from diverse countries and states and their significant contribution to the broader communities around them, to community spirit, the economy of our towns and villages, and to the social fabric of our country. The presence of these communities with which Quebeckers share a certain affinity, similar values and culture, and where—
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I note that this bill mentions the diversity of Latin American communities in Quebec and Canada, since Latin Americans come from various countries and states, and the important contributions they have made to the broader communities around them, to community spirit, to the economy of our cities and towns, and to the social fabric of our country. The presence of communities with which Quebeckers share a certain affinity, similar values and culture, and where there is mutual recognition, contributes a great deal to our communities, and that is what I want to acknowledge about this bill.
Quebec's intercultural project is based on this ability to live together and work together to build a community. This involves recognizing our shared values and the contributions of every individual, which are shaped by his or her personal experience and cultural background.
It is also the reason why this bill proposes that Quebeckers and Canadians learn more about the contributions of Latin American Canadians, to provide an opportunity to remember and recognize them. That is what designating a Latin American heritage month would do. It would allow us to learn about the achievements of Latin American Canadians in communities throughout Quebec, particularly in our own neighbourhoods, like Longueuil and Saint-Hubert, where I live. The same holds true in communities across Canada that have been enriched by the contributions of people from many different backgrounds.
There is a reason why October has been proposed for Latin American heritage month. As mentioned in the bill, October is an important month for Latin Americans. Fall is a time when many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile, celebrate their independence.
Many of these countries were among the first former colonies to declare independence in the 19th century, and some became models of republican harmony. They projected the idea that racial segregation could be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with colonial institutions and economic exploitation.
There are other reasons why this bill proposes making October a month for celebrating Latin American communities. October was chosen because of certain traditions and customs. We know that it is a significant month in Latin America and South America, since it is the month when Costa Rica celebrates the Day of Cultures, Venezuela observes the Day of Indigenous Resistance, Argentina marks the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, Brazil has its Children's Day, and various Latin American cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead.
We feel that dedicating the 10th month of the year to our Latin American communities would give members of those communities an opportunity to share these cultural traditions with their neighbours. The bill also notes that this event would bring people together and give them a chance to share and celebrate this rich cultural heritage.
A little while ago, L'Actualité published a profile of Quebec's Latin American community that highlighted the strong kinship between Quebeckers and the tens of thousands of members of that community, who often refer to themselves as Latino-Quebeckers. According to the article, 90% of Latino immigrants choose to learn French when they settle in Quebec. The community has a political presence in Quebec too, with people like former minister Joseph Facal and the member for Honoré-Mercier, who is originally from Argentina.
Our cities bear witness to the political history of these peoples. The statue of Simón Bolívar located five minutes from here, just off Rideau Street, was a gift to Canada from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. We also have Salvador Allende Street in Laval, a tribute to the former Chilean president who was assassinated in a coup d'état. Let us not forget Quebec City's Parc de l'Amérique-Latine at the mouth of the Saint-Charles River, which pays tribute to great figures in Latin American History, such as poet, writer, and Cuban national independence hero José Martí, Haitian independence hero Toussaint Louverture, and military leader Bernardo O'Higgins, a hero who fought for Chilean independence.
However, those who have left the most indelible mark on Quebec are the men and women who made a life here. Thousands of people from various Latin and South American countries now live in Quebec City, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and the area I am from, Longueuil and Saint-Hubert.
At the Nouvelle Vie church in Longueuil, there are Venezuelan, Peruvian, Cuban, and Quebec musicians. The Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus church on Brodeur Street hosts colourful family celebrations.
Since I was elected in 2011, one of the encounters that stood out for me was the one with Marco Carpinteyro, who has worked with the Table Itinérance Rive-Sud for many years and who, to me, is one of the greatest examples of community involvement. Although Marco does a lot of work in the community, and everyone back home in Longueuil agrees, I am sure that if you asked him what he is most proud of, he would say his children. He teaches them about his heritage every day, since the most beautiful language of all is the one spoken by our children.
It is in our best interests to actively create stronger relationships with Latin American countries, to build cultural bridges, and to share our ambitions with trade blocs like Mercosur. The Latin American communities established here, in Quebec and Canada, can help facilitate these joint projects. These communities and their heritage also make unique contributions to our culture and to the spirit of community in Quebec.
I am very proud to highlight these contributions today and to support this proposal to designate a Latin American heritage month that we can celebrate in all of our communities every year.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand here today and salute the contribution of Latin Americans, people from Latin American countries, and their presence in Quebec, particularly in my riding of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the authors of the bill and my colleagues here in the House who are responsible for bringing this bill forward for our consideration today.
The bill before us today invites Parliament to recognize that members of the Latin American community in Canada have made an invaluable contribution to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric. It also suggests that designating a Latin American heritage month will allow Canadians to learn more about this contribution, and ensure that it is never forgotten. We know that Latin American communities from across the country would take advantage of Latin American heritage month to celebrate and share their unique culture and traditions with all Canadians. We also know that October is an especially important month for Latin American communities the world over.
The bill therefore proposes that October be designated Latin American heritage month throughout the country.
The bill mentions the diversity of Latin American communities in Quebec and Canada, since Latin Americans come from various countries and states. It also mentions the important contributions they have made to the broader communities around them, to community spirit, to the economy of our cities and towns, and to the social fabric of our country. The presence of communities with which Quebeckers share a certain affinity, similar values and culture, and where there is mutual recognition, contributes a great deal to our communities, and that is what I want to acknowledge about this bill.
Quebec's intercultural project is based on this ability to live together and work together to build a community. This involves recognizing our shared values and the contributions of every individual, which are shaped by his or her personal experience and cultural background.
It is also the reason why this bill proposes that Quebeckers and Canadians learn more about the contributions of Latin American Canadians in order to provide an opportunity to remember and recognize them. That is what designating a Latin American heritage month would do: allow us to learn about the achievements of Latin American Canadians in communities throughout Quebec, particularly in our own neighbourhoods. I do not want to appear biased, but of course everything is better in Longueuil and Saint-Hubert. The same holds true in communities across Canada that have been enriched by the contributions of people from many different backgrounds.
There is a reason why October has been proposed for Latin American heritage month. As mentioned in the bill, October is an important month for Latin Americans. Fall is a time when many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile, celebrate their independence.
Many of these countries were among the first former colonies to declare independence in the 19th century, and some became models of republican harmony. They projected the idea that racial segregation could be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with colonial institutions and economic exploitation. For that, they deserve to be honoured.
There are other reasons why this bill proposes making October a month for celebrating Latin American communities. October was chosen because of certain traditions and customs. We know that it is a significant month in Latin America and South America, since it is the month when Costa Rica celebrates the Day of Cultures, Venezuela observes the Day of Indigenous Resistance, Argentina marks the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, Brazil has its Children's Day, and various Latin American cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead.
We feel that dedicating the 10th month of the year to our Latin American communities would give members of those communities an opportunity to share these cultural traditions with their neighbours, in a spirit of harmony. The bill also notes that this event would bring people together and give them a chance to share and celebrate this rich cultural heritage.
A little while ago, L'Actualité published a profile of Quebec's Latin American community that highlighted the strong kinship between Quebeckers and the tens of thousands of members of that community, who refer to themselves as Latino-Quebeckers. According to the article, 90% of Latino immigrants choose to learn French when they arrive in Quebec. The community has a political presence in Quebec too, with people like former minister Joseph Facal and the member for Honoré-Mercier, who is originally from Argentina.
Our cities bear witness to the political history of these peoples. The statue of Simón Bolívar located five minutes from here, just off Rideau Street, was a gift to Canada from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
We also have Salvador Allende Street in Laval, a tribute to the former Chilean president who was assassinated in a coup d'état. Let us not forget Quebec City's Parc de l'Amérique-Latine, which was established at the mouth of the Saint-Charles river to pay tribute to great figures in Latin American history, such as poet, writer, and Cuban national independence hero José Martí, Haitian independence hero Toussaint Louverture, and military leader Bernardo O'Higgins, a hero who fought for Chilean independence. They are legion, but those who have left the most indelible mark on Quebec are the men and women who made a life here. Thousands of people from various Latin and South American countries now live in Quebec City, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and the area I am from, Longueuil and Saint-Hubert.
At the Nouvelle Vie church in Longueuil, there are Venezuelan, Peruvian, Cuban, and Quebec musicians. The Sacré-Cœur-de-Jésus church on Brodeur Street, right above our community centre, Entraide chez nous, hosts colourful, welcoming celebrations. Since I was elected in 2011, one of the encounters that has stood out for me was with Marco, who has been dedicated to the Table Itinérance Rive-Sud for many years and who, to me, is one of the greatest symbols of community involvement. Although Marco does a lot of work in the community, and everyone back home in Longueuil agrees, I am sure that if you asked him what he is most proud of, he would say his children, whom he teaches about his heritage every day, since the most beautiful language of all is the one spoken by our children.
It is in our best interests to actively create stronger relationships with Latin American countries, to build cultural bridges, and to share our ambitions with trade blocs like Mercosur. The Latin American communities established here, in Quebec and Canada, can help facilitate these joint projects. These communities and their heritage also make unique contributions to our culture and to the spirit of community in Quebec. I am very proud to highlight these contributions today and to support this proposal to designate a Latin American heritage month.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the bottom of my heart for introducing this bill. It is also heartwarming to see a majority of MPs inclined to support it. I ask the following question with tongue firmly in cheek.
Does my colleague not think that, in a few months or years, people will see how obvious this all was and wonder why we even needed to legislate in the first place?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to rise today to speak to Bill C-374, which would amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to create three new Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada positions, thereby providing for first nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the board.
This subject is of tremendous importance to me. When I was re-elected, our oath of allegiance was changed to reflect this. Although many people find it odd that we still swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, we nevertheless added a sentence to the oath about how, in carrying out our duties, we will honour and respect the treaties signed with first nations. That was particularly important to me because, as a proud Quebec nationalist, I am acutely aware of some of our gravest misconceptions about this country.
Although I am very proud of NDP members across Canada who chose to recognize the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution as a historical error that violated Quebec's rights, I can also certainly understand the perspective of first nations representatives who feel that their rights were ignored.
We are living in very interesting times, both politically and socially. Many things are no longer considered acceptable. As I myself have had the privilege of attending one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, I truly appreciate how urgently these changes are needed.
There is nothing more fundamental in a society than its heritage, including its historic sites and the significance attached to them. Adding these three additional representatives to the board is just common sense. Looking at the bill, one has to wonder why this was not done sooner. When was the tipping point finally reached? Was it two years ago or 12 years ago? In any case, our colleague's bill can only be commended at this point, and I know the NDP fully supports it. We think it is quite obvious that the bill should be supported. It is the right thing to do for our friends, with whom we share so much.
I think it is a great idea for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board to embrace the first nations' belief that we need to recognize more than just physical sites. We must also recognize places where people have had significant or important experiences, whether they are natural sites or built heritage. Accordingly, I am delighted that our colleague's initiative in sponsoring Bill C-374 has been exceptionally well received by all stakeholders aware of the issues and injustices that need to be fixed. One person who comes to mind is Karen Aird of the Indigenous Heritage Circle, who had this to say:
We feel that in this time, this time of reconciliation, this time when we see a new change in government, there's a need for people to start thinking differently about heritage, and moving it beyond built heritage, and thinking about how indigenous people perceive it and how we want to protect it. We do have our own mechanisms. We do have our own methods and approaches to protecting and interpreting heritage, and we feel it's really time now for indigenous people to have a voice in this.
I would also like to quote Mr. Sinclair, of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation:
the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] has described the mountain, the calls to action issued by the TRC represent the path to the top. The Calls to Action represent the synthesis of one of the largest engagement sessions with indigenous peoples in the history of the country. We must understand these calls as the articulation of the collective voices of thousands upon thousands of Survivors, families and communities across the Country.
Central in the work of reconciliation is this is the recognition that Canada, as a nation, has not accurately or effectively portrayed the perspectives of indigenous peoples in the telling of our collective history. So long as this continues, Canadians and visitors to this country will be prevented from knowing not only who we were, but will be denied an understanding of what we can become.
Including indigenous perspectives and histories in commemorating national historic sites is paramount. Ensuring there is a clear strategy to commemorate and honour community perspectives on the residential schools is in our national interest.
Through these collective steps, we have the potential to tell a much more accurate, richer and honest story of who we are and where we are going.
For these, and many other reasons, we offer our full support for this bill and encourage all parliamentarians to do the same.
At a time when many things are being challenged, when many foundations are being rocked by shifting paradigms, I am proud to say that this Friday I will be using some of my constituency time to visit the community of Kahnawake in a neighbouring riding. This community is part of the greater Montérégie area and lies on the fringes of Montreal's south shore.
It is crucial that we recharge and reconnect with the first nations. I urge all of my colleagues to attend the Secret Path screening being held somewhere in this building this evening.
I call on all of us, as Quebeckers and Canadians of unquestionably mixed origins, perhaps because of the French regime, to discover the roots that we share, either by blood or by spirit, with the first nations.
On June 21, I got to attend the summer solstice ceremony on Victoria Island with Dominique Rankin and an elder who lit a fire. Moments like these make us realize that what these people care about is not buildings, or stained glass windows, or statues. What they care about is the fundamental principle behind these places and these activities.
As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I consider it a privilege to acknowledge how relevant this private member's bill is. I also want to acknowledge how enthusiastically the NDP stands behind this bill. Naturally, we support this initiative, and we hope to see as much concrete and immediate action taken as possible.
Everyone saw these images over the weekend. We need action, and we are taking parliamentary action here. I am keeping my fingers crossed. I urge the government and all parliamentarians to support concrete action to make this bill a reality.
Once we have a board that will establish what we deem to be part of the official heritage of this country, first nations, Inuit, and Métis people will be able to express their views in an atmosphere of full respect and equality.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to rise to support this bill to create a Jewish heritage month.
This bill recognizes that Canada has a large Jewish community and reminds us of the important contribution that Jewish people have made throughout our history. The bill seeks to designate a month, the month of May, to recognize, highlight, and celebrate Jewish heritage. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to talk about how important the Jewish community and its contributions are to Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Quebec has become what it is today because of the strength of presence of each of its citizens, people of all origins, of all faiths, and of all communities. Our society is built on the contributions that each and every man and woman who participated in our country's journey have made throughout history.
The Jewish community is an integral part of Quebec life. Jewish cultural heritage and traditions have over the decades woven into the fabric of Quebec and its culture. Jewish culture has been a part of Quebec for centuries. It all began surprisingly with one Esther Brandeau, a young Jewish woman from the Bayonne region in France, who arrived in New France in 1738 and declared her Jewish origins to the authorities, who were mainly from the Church.
It was not until Aaron Hart settled in Trois-Rivières in 1761 and the first synagogue in Montreal was founded on what is now known as the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Notre-Dame that Jewish culture truly took root in Quebec.
The Jewish community also faced prejudices during the election of Ezekiel Hart, who was twice elected the member for Trois-Rivières, but barred from taking a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada because of his Jewish faith. The Jewish community would forever be part of Quebeckers' future when Louis-Joseph Papineau, one of the great figures of our history, had legislation passed at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, on April 12, 1832, namely “An Act to declare persons of the Jewish Religion entitled to all of the rights and privileges of the other subjects of His Majesty in this Province”.
Thanks to the struggle waged by the Jewish community and the Hart family and the support of progressives in Louis-Joseph Papineau's party, Quebec became the first colony in the British Empire to emancipate Jewish citizens and grant them full rights. The Jewish community flourished and grew, swelled by waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each year starting in 1904, an average of 10,000 Jews settled in Canada from eastern Europe and other parts of the world. They continued to stream in throughout the 20th century and into the present day. Among them were the ancestors of many illustrious figures who have done much to define Quebec, its culture, and its contribution to the world.
These luminaries include Leonard Cohen, one of Montreal's greatest poets; Moshe Safdie, the architect who built monuments in all of our major cities, including Habitat 67 in Montreal, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City; Phyllis Lambert, to whom we owe the preservation and restoration of Montreal's architecture; and others, such as Pauline Donalda, David Lewis, Stephen Lewis, Irwin Cotler, and Victor Goldbloom, Quebec's first Jewish cabinet minister.
The motion we are discussing today is about the Jewish contribution to Canada's growth and prosperity. I would also like to emphasize their contribution to solidarity in our country, the labour movement, and the workers' defence movement. One person who comes to mind is Léa Roback, an activist, feminist, and union organizer who led job action such as the Montreal garment factory strike by 5,000 women workers. She also represented the 3,000 RCA Victor workers in Montreal, and she fought for abortion rights and housing and against apartheid and the Vietnam War.
The Jewish community and its culture have left an indelible mark on our city. Every street in Montreal is, in a way, a shared heritage, a place where time stands still. Montreal's Boulevard Saint-Laurent from the St. Lawrence to the CP rail line, past Sainte-Catherine, Fairmount, and Jean-Talon, is itself a living legacy, a true human monument to immigration and the heritage of the communities that built our city.
If there were only one public place in Montreal, just one meeting place for people and communities, it would be Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Like so many neighbourhoods, this boulevard is also un undeniable part of the Jewish community. Dotted with signs and landmarks that Quebeckers have come to know, Boulevard Saint-Laurent is now also home to the Museum of Jewish Montreal.
Montreal and its streets, shops, meeting places, and landmarks are also the stage for the characters and childhoods evoked by Mordecai Richler, who paints a portrait of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Saint-Urbain, among other things, in a collection of stories simply entitled The Street, and who chronicles, autobiographically, his youth in Montreal, Jewish life in Montreal in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, but also the life of the francophones, anglophones, Greeks, and Portuguese who were his neighbours.
It is impossible to talk about a relationship with people of the Jewish culture and faith in our country without talking about the darker days of humanity, the days between 1933 and 1945 in particular.
I am respectfully aware of the pain and trauma forever etched in the bodies, minds, and souls of the survivors, forming a permanent memory that is passed down from one generation to the next. However, it is important to talk about what happened to make sure that we never forget.
As citizens, we must remember and acknowledge the crimes of the Holocaust. I was able to do so on three occasions in recent years: first at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a reminder of the unthinkable built in the middle of Berlin; then, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which is just as heartbreaking and intimate; and then finally here in Ottawa, just steps from Parliament, where we finally inaugurated a monument in memory of the millions of Holocaust victims. We were the only country among the Second World War allies that did not yet have a monument to commemorate the suffering of the Jewish people, even though the Jewish community has deep roots in Canada.
Today, we have a place to remember the genocidal violence of unimaginable proportions that took place during those years. The monument also serves as a reminder of our dark role in those events, since our government, here in Ottawa, chose to admit less than 5,000 Jewish refugees during that time and turned away many others, despite the horrors that were occurring in Europe.
We have a duty to remember. This duty to remember is also expressed by our choices regarding the kind of society we want, our decision to be a country that wholeheartedly welcomes refugees who have been persecuted or are fleeing violence, our decision to form a society that is open to others and that celebrates diversity, because the future of our country lies in its diversity.
It is this blending of cultures that characterizes and brings to life Quebec and its streets, alleyways, public spaces, CLSCs, church basements, community centres, places of worship, newspapers, and radio and television programs everywhere on a daily basis. It is this mosaic, vibrant and pulsating, yet calm and peaceful, that has always been part of Quebec's history and will always be part of our reality, which is a good thing.
We are a diverse nation, or in the words of Boucar Diouf, who, like me, lives in Longueuil, a tightly-knit diverse nation. That is one of the things that makes Quebec so compelling and such a source of inspiration. It is also what has given us our reputation as a nation of peaceful coexistence, which has found expression many times over the years.
We have had many debates over the past few years about what it means to be a Quebecker, about politics and religion, about the place of different cultures, about secularism, about coexistence and the relationships between citizens born here and those born elsewhere. These are important, legitimate debates, and I have always fought tooth and nail to defend the right of Quebeckers and their representatives in the National Assembly to have these debates.
However, we must never forget that we are talking about men and women, about families, about people, about citizens, about our neighbours, and that our primary obligation is to welcome them with our words and with our hearts. All of us, particularly we who have been elected by the citizens to represent them, have a responsibility to express that welcome, a Quebec welcome.
In the face of both differences of opinion and differences in background, no matter what debate is happening in Quebec, we need to remember that we share one land, a land that binds us. We need to remember that every person in Quebec is a Quebecker, and all Quebeckers are at home in Quebec. To paraphrase a former premier of Quebec, no matter what is said or done, Quebec will always be the homeland of 8 million citizens from here and from elsewhere, unconditionally, regardless of their birthplace, beliefs, language, or background. This can never be said often enough, and I am very proud to be here to say it myself this evening.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, today we have an adjournment debate on a question posed about four months ago, on November 21, 2016. The question was the following:
Mr. Speaker, although the Minister of Canadian Heritage is free to make major changes to the rules governing our distinct culture, she has the responsibility to be open and transparent about what she is calling her “public consultations”. In the interest of transparency, when will the minister make public the briefs submitted as part of these consultations? One thing is certain; they contain important information. Can our ecosystem count on the minister to do what everyone thinks is the right thing and ask foreign companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix to pay their fair share?
This is the answer I received four months ago:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his important question. I would like to remind him that we are indeed holding an open and transparent consultation process and that we are going to make public the briefs submitted by the various stakeholders.
That was done. Thank you and congratulations.
I thank the member. I know that he specifically asked me to make this information public. Of course, I agree with him. This is a good example of co-operation.
I agree that there was a lot of consultation, but the question was about the consensus emerging from every sector in the minister's portfolio that the playing field is not level. Foreign providers do not collect sales tax. Their revenues may not be taxed either.
Yesterday, four months later, I asked her the following question:
Mr. Speaker, last week, the closure of the HMV stores led to the bankruptcy of the distributor DEP, which has put an abrupt stop to the marketing of Quebec artists. From Vincent Vallières to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Florence K, DEP's bankruptcy seems to be the latest sign of the collapse of Quebec's recording industry and a new source of worry about Canadian content. Canada must move swiftly to regulate all the new online providers, whether they are based in Montreal, Los Angeles, or some other tax haven. Can the minister tell us what she has done to ensure that these new players contribute to our ecosystem and to the same tax system as everyone else?
I will read her response:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important question and his interest in this file. Of course, we launched public consultations last year to consider all the repercussions that digital services have on the entire Canadian cultural ecosystem. In 2017, I will have the opportunity to introduce some major changes in order to address some of the issues that were raised by my colleague.
I have been asking this question for four months. Some might say I sound like a broken record. Well, yes, that is because it is obvious to everyone. Everyone knows full well that we must ensure that our merchants, our retailers, and our service providers have access to a tax system that is consistent and equal, or at least equal to that of foreign providers.
Of course, when we are in this situation we scratch our head and say it cannot be so. This is a serious problem. Retailers think that online competition makes no sense because they can sell the same product tax free, no GST and no HST. They are right. The same is true for all our cultural providers.
The only thing that is tax exempt is culture from abroad. It is rather pathetic. The question is simple:
Has the Minister of Canadian Heritage asked the Minister of Finance to resolve this situation and ensure that transactional taxes are applied to foreign suppliers?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his ad lib and frank answer. He says that we cannot rush them in this situation.
In the past four months, HMV and DEP declared bankruptcy, which affects the arts community. I would like to cite another striking example.
Experts on sales taxes, the people who collect taxes, for example the excise tax, were called to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I use the iTunes app and so I asked them why some songs and apps were subject to the GST and QST in the Apple Store, while others were not. There is no tax on the monthly subscription. They told me that the app that was taxed was probably a Canadian app.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are once again proposing an attack on CBC/Radio-Canada. Today, the member for Saskatoon—University is trying to resuscitate old, outdated debates that are as tired as they are tiresome. I cannot believe that we have to waste precious time in the House discussing how to undermine our public broadcaster for the umpteenth time when there are so many other urgent matters that require our attention, especially since we already know that the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians support the CBC. It seems to me that this matter should have been put to rest since the last election. Those watching at home must be thinking that this nonsense was supposed to be over and done with, because they already voted to put an end to it.
There comes a time when people grow tired of hearing the Conservatives' greatest hits. However, the Conservatives insist on taking us for a stroll yet again, and it seems we are not out of the woods yet. We have before us a very detailed, technical bill put together by the Conservatives. If it were to be deemed in order and passed, it would incorporate CBC/Radio-Canada and require the government to ensure that all shares were sold like those of any other publicly traded company.
In other words, what is currently a public broadcaster, as well as an important cultural symbol for countless people and especially for French-speaking people in this country, would become a private enterprise, a private broadcaster like any other that would no longer belong to Canadians. It would cease to be a public asset. This private broadcaster would no longer have to fulfil all the obligations imposed by Canadians as owners and shareholders of the CBC. At present, all Canadians have a stake in the CBC/Radio-Canada.
Make no mistake about it, this bill would take away a basic tool for expressing our culture and setting rigorous broadcasting standards, especially with respect to the news, which impact the entire broadcasting system. A public broadcaster is a tool and its role is to better inform us, and to tell us more about who we are.
Honestly, I cannot believe that we are still talking about this. Just two years ago we had an election where the vast majority of Canadians voted to support the CBC, or at least voted for parties that defended the CBC's role and also promised to increase its funding.
When I say that we are wasting time on this fringe proposal, I mean that there is no time to waste on this type of issue.
I have often said that my two main goals in politics, and here in Ottawa, are climate urgency and defending our distinct culture. I am my party's critic for culture. I spent 25 years in the music industry in Quebec, including at Audiogram, Sony Music, Cirque du soleil, and at various television stations. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which I am honoured to co-chair, and I can attest to the fact that we have our work cut out for us. We just spent the past few months speaking with many representatives of a sector that has been completely turned upside down, a sector that is trying to figure out how to come up with new revenue streams, considering all the new platforms.
As everyone knows, our cultural industries are facing a real disaster.
We are very proud of what Quebec has built. We are proud of Bill 101, which strengthens our language rather than letting it fade away. We are very proud of what has been built here in Ottawa: the CBC, the NFB, Telefilm Canada, Canadian content rules, this entire television and cultural ecosystem, the creative works of a generation of builders who were trying to do more than just make it to the end of the week.
We are proud of this framework, this whole sophisticated infrastructure, this work, and these investments that are paying off today all around the world, whether we are talking about Denis Villeneuve, Degrassi, The Weeknd, or Robert Lepage.
Today, all of that is in jeopardy. Unbeknownst to us, the cultural and linguistic treasures that our parents and grandparents fought to defend have all but vanished.
What do our children watch? At the time, it was Passe-Partout, Cornemuse. Today, fewer and fewer programs are produced here at home with voices that will perpetuate our accents and our world view. Netflix Kids is the flavour of the day.
With this upheaval that is at our doorstep and on our screens, we are starting at square one, and we know that everything we do and decide in the coming year, in the coming months, will have to be as good as what was done by the greats, such as Pierre Juneau.
That is why I feel compelled to say that we have no time to lose. We are out of time. We have no time to waste dealing with ideologically-motivated legislation like the one that was dropped on our lap today. We have no time for it because, even though the Conservatives may not realize it, we have serious work to do to defend our culture and defend what they seem to take for granted or worse, what they seem simply to know nothing about.
However, if we must spend time on this, then let us do it. I note that the hon. member for Saskatoon—University made a preposterous statement when he introduced this bill in September. He told the House that privatizing CBC would make the corporation a true public broadcaster instead of a state broadcaster, which will allow Canadians to participate in it and be owners of it.
I will spare the House my comments on that.
The bill would result in a fire sale of CBC/Radio-Canada. It would be controlled by a limited number of investors. The bill would dissolve the board of directors and remove all references to CBC/Radio-Canada in the Broadcasting Act and other acts that ensure transparency and accountability.
Today, CBC/Radio-Canada is 100% owned by Canadians. It is an independent broadcaster that operates at arm's length from the state. Most industrialized countries have similar broadcasters. It is not a state broadcaster. It is kind of absurd to suggest that privatizing our public broadcaster would make it more participatory or more democratic. On the contrary, it would become a private broadcaster like any other.
I have to say that I do not really understand why this bill was introduced now that we have left behind a decade of rule by the most right-wing government in our history. We were governed by the right-wing Conservative Party, which spent years getting all worked up about CBC/Radio-Canada and taking aim at it at every opportunity. It was actually kind of undignified.
For years, the Conservatives have been threatening CBC/Radio-Canada and making cuts to the public broadcaster. However, they still took the opportunity to shamelessly appoint to the corporation's board of directors their best friends; their best contributors; Conservative Party lawyers, accountants, and campaign managers; and former Conservative Party MPs.
We understand what is happening here. The member for Saskatoon—University is introducing this bill today because he is now a candidate in the Conservative Party leadership race, the embarrassing spectacle that we have been witnessing over the past few months. It is a race to the bottom where each candidate tries to outdo the other with increasingly right-wing proposals and they all try to stand out by making the most ludicrous suggestions.
The reality is that, despite their relentless efforts and all the breath they wasted in the leadership debates, the Conservatives would never be able to afford to privatize CBC/Radio-Canada because, in one fell swoop, they would lose one of their best sources of funding. In fact, every time they attacked CBC/Radio-Canada by cutting its budget, the next day they would bombard their supporters with outraged emails begging them for another $5.
I have here an email dated November 23, 2016, from the leadership campaign of the member for Saskatoon—University. He signed this letter and sent it to his supporters shortly after introducing the bill that we are discussing today. It reads:
Leaders act while followers talk. That's why I introduced legislation this year to sell the CBC. Bill C-308 is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign -- it's an actual plan.
He sent that letter to his political supporters. Just to be sure members understand, I repeat:
“This bill is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign”.
What gall. Some people have no shame.
What we should understand is that here, in Parliament, we have better things to do than talk about ideas that are being floated in order to finance a leadership campaign. Is that not what is happening right now? It is inexcusable to waste Parliament's time like this.
I feel like telling my colleague from Saskatoon—University that instead of going to Quebec once every four years to participate in a leadership debate, he should visit us more often to understand our culture and our cultural industries. That is what differentiates us and makes us proud. It is also what has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in our music, recording, film, and dubbing industries, not to mention in theatre and the video game industry.
My colleague should visit francophone communities across Canada and Acadian communities, which trust Radio-Canada to open a window onto the future of their community, to provide cultural ideas for new generations, and to create new enticing projects, both big and small. We could say the same about Quebec anglophones in the Eastern Townships and communities all across the country, including cities.
There was a reason why there were tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets of Montreal in November 2014 in support of CBC/Radio-Canada at the height of the Conservative cuts. We know how much people care about CBC/Radio-Canada. They are proud of it.
As we leave our safe harbour for deeper and unknown waters, I believe it is this pride and sense of belonging that will, more than ever, make CBC/Radio-Canada the flagship of Canadian culture.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his involvement in such important causes.
My colleague compared the bill to a three-legged stool, so I wonder if he can offer any reassurance that each of the three legs will be of equal importance. Nobody wants a wobbly stool. Should we be at all concerned about one of those legs being less sturdy than the others? I am thinking of discrimination against individuals, specifically.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member across the aisle on taking the bull by the horns and addressing such an important subject in his first bill. I also congratulate him on making the distinction between a bill like his and other kinds of bills that members can introduce, which often seem somewhat frivolous. My colleague is talking about a very fundamental issue here.
I have a question for the member. I am not a legal expert or a lawyer. What charge is the closest to what my colleague is trying to introduce as a new offence?
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