Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

The 39th Parliament

Debate: The motions on the Québécois nation

Last Updated November 24, 2006

The government's motion regarding Quebecers as a nation that was delivered Nov. 22, 2006, is:

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

This is Hansard's translation of the motion, which Harper originally delivered in French:

"Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Qu�b�cois forment une nation au sein d'un Canada uni."

Harper made the motion in anticipation of a motion by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe that he delivered Nov. 23, 2006:

"Que la Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Qu�b�cois forment une nation actuellement au sein du Canada."

Hansard translated that as:

"That this House recognize that Quebecers form a nation currently within Canada."

Both the English and French versions of Hansard have equal authority.

The following text is from speeches made by the major party leaders in the House of Commons on Nov. 22, 2006. They were discussing a government motion that the House recognize that the Québécois "form a nation within a united Canada." The text is from the Hansard. The translated French appears in italics.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: 'Quebecers have always played an historic role in Canada�s progress.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP) Prime Minister Stephen Harper: 'Quebecers have always played an historic role in Canada�s progress.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Bloc Québécois will present the House with an unusual request that we here at the federal Parliament define the Québécois nation. As a consequence, with the support of the government and with the support of our party, I will be putting on the notice paper later today the following motion.

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

Mr. Speaker, the real intent behind the motion by the leader of the Bloc and the sovereigntist camp is perfectly clear. It is to recognize not what the Québécois are, but what the sovereigntists would like them to be.

To the Bloc, the issue is not that Quebec is a nation — the National Assembly has already spoken on that subject; the issue is separation. To them, "nation" means "separation."

We saw its true intent on October 27, when it said that the NDP had recognized for decades that Quebec was a nation, but that every time there was a referendum its actions contradicted the positions it had taken.

In other words, if you recognize that the Québécois form a nation, you have to vote yes in a referendum on separation. The attempt by the leader of the Bloc to persuade Quebecers of good faith to support separation despite themselves brings to mind what his mentor, Jacques Parizeau, said about lobster traps. Quebecers are not taken in by these clumsy tactics.

The former PQ premier, Bernard Landry, asked this question: "Once that recognition is achieved, you must know, in all honesty, that you will then be faced with the question: why should the nation of Quebec be satisfied with the status of province of another nation and forego equality with yours and every other nation?"

Mr. Speaker, the answer is clear. Quebecers have always played an historic role in Canada's progress, through their public spirit, courage and vision, by building a confident, autonomous and proud Quebec showing its solidarity within a strong, united, independent and free Canada.

When Champlain landed in Quebec, he did not say that this would not work, it was too far away, it was too cold, or it was too difficult. No. Champlain and his companions worked hard because they believed in what they were doing, because they wanted to preserve their values, because they wanted to build a lasting and secure country. That is exactly what happened nearly 400 years ago, when Canada, as a country, was founded.

Quebecers know who they are. They know that they have participated in the founding of Canada and in its development and its greatness. They know that they have preserved their language and their unique culture, and that they have advanced their values and their interests within Canada.

The real question is simple: do the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada?

The answer is yes.

Do the Québécois form a nation independent of Canada?

The answer is no, and it will always be no.

Mr. Speaker, throughout their history, Quebecers have always known who the prophets of doom are and who the true guides of their destiny are.

Once again, the leader of the Bloc and his separatist friends are not concerned with defining who Quebecers are but rather what they want them to become, a separate country.

The separatists do not need the Parliament of Canada to define what is meant by the sociological termination. My preference has been well-known. I believe this is not the job of the federal Parliament. It is the job of the legislature of Quebec.

However, the Bloc Québécois has asked us to define this and perhaps that is a good thing because it reminds us that all Canadians have a say in the future of this country.

Having been asked by the Bloc to define the Québécois, we must take a position. Our position is clear.

Do the Québécois form a nation within Canada?

The answer is yes.

Do the Québécois form an independent nation?

The answer is no, and the answer will always be no because Quebecers of all political persuasions, from Cartier and Laurier to Mulroney and Trudeau, have led this country and millions like them, of all political persuasions, have helped to build it.

With their English- and French-speaking fellow citizens, and people drawn from all nationalities of this earth, they have been part of making this country what it is, the greatest country in the world.

To millions more who live in a dangerous and dividing world, this country is a shining example of the harmony and unity to which all peoples are capable and to which all humanity should aspire.

I say to my federalist colleagues and to the separatist side that we here will do what we must and what our forefathers have always done to preserve this country, Canada, strong, united, independent and free.

Liberal Leader Bill Graham: 'There are federalists and nationalists in Quebec who believe in Canada.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP) Liberal Leader Bill Graham: 'There are federalists and nationalists in Quebec who believe in Canada.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Bill Graham, Opposition leader and interim Liberal leader

Mr. Speaker, the applause in this House to the prime minister's words clearly indicates the devotion of all federalist members in this House to the cause, first and foremost, of Canada, beyond all partisan purposes.

Speaking on behalf of the Liberals, we have spent our lives devoted to building a stronger Canada, inclusive of Quebec. We believe that the present prosperity and the social harmony of our country are a testimony to the efforts of successive Liberal governments, following on the efforts, as the prime minister was good enough to say, of Conservative governments that were devoted, first and foremost, to our country.

We Liberals have spent our lives building our country, and our country has always included Quebec.

As I travel across this country or as I live in my great city of Toronto and see the multicultural experiment that is the modern Canada of today, I say to modern Canadians that multicultural Canada became a reality because it was a bilingual and bicultural Canada that was the foundation of our races, a foundation that was built on a sense of tolerance and respect for each other that has enabled us to be the envy of the world, a world which, as the prime minister has said, today is struggling with racial disharmony and sectarian differences.

People are looking for examples in a modern world that will give them hope. It is the duty of the members of this House to give them that hope. It is our duty to transcend whatever partisan issues we have in order to inspire not only Canadians but other people in the world.

For our part, we are devoted to this great country with its marvellous history and unlimited potential. We have committed ourselves to building a Canada with Quebec as a key component.

For its part, the Bloc Québécois is dedicated to destroying Canada. Although we have the greatest respect for the members of this House, we fundamentally disagree on this point.

The Bloc is committed to the breakup of Canada and, for whatever respect we might have toward individual members on this point, we must clearly and fundamentally disagree and fundamentally fight for the rights of Canada and the whole of Canada.

There are federalists and nationalists in Quebec who believe in Canada and who are deeply dedicated to a Quebec within Canada. There are women, young and old, immigrants and those born here, families and singles who believe with every fibre of a Quebec within Canada.

How could we ever support a motion on Quebec by a party that has zero commitment to Canada and which is blind to the greatness available for Quebecers within Canada, a country in which they are at home from coast to coast to coast because we have sought to make them at home because it is their home? It is not just Quebecers within Quebec. A Quebecer is a Canadian in British Columbia or in St. John's, and they are equally Canadian and equally welcome in that community, which is part of their community. It belongs to them.

I can only imagine what the future holds for Canada. I can only imagine the incredible opportunities for all Quebec and Canadian youth who live in a country that is the envy of the world. Francophone communities outside Quebec are asking for and want the participation of Quebecers in order to build a better community and a better life for themselves as well. It is our duty. We must also recognize this fact.

We think of those Quebecers, when we talk of our country, who fought for Canada in the past, and we think of those who are risking their lives in Afghanistan and around the world for Canada and for a better world for all Canadians and a better world for everybody in this world. They are risking their lives for that principle and we cannot let them down.

The Liberals will be pleased to debate any motion before this House if it will support Quebec and Quebecers, support Canada and realize the full potential of our country.

To do otherwise is a betrayal of future generations of Quebecers and also of Canadians. We are asking that Canada assume its responsibilities.

On behalf of my party, I say to the prime minister that we will work with all parties in the House, with all members who have the interests of all Canadians at heart, to adopt a solution that respects Quebec and Quebecers and gives them that future within our wonderful country.

It will guarantee to the world that an example will continue to be given to them.

There are many who wish to follow our example, an example which, if we fail them, will make the world a worse place because there are many people who wish to move into a peaceful and socially harmonious 21st Century and for whom Canada will remain a beacon and an example.

We cannot let them down and we must not let ourselves down. We will transcend partisanship. We will be faithful to our country, to our principles and, in the end, in so doing, Mr. Speaker and prime minister, we will be faithful to humanity.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe: 'It is not up to the prime minister to decide which option Quebecers will choose.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP) Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe: 'It is not up to the prime minister to decide which option Quebecers will choose.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Québécois leader

Mr. Speaker, both the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition can make all the accusations they want and try to change the subject, but the question was very clear.

We will be asking the elected members of this House to vote on a motion to recognize that Quebecers form a nation. Official recognition of the Quebec nation by the House of Commons is more than a symbolic issue. It is, in fact, the most fundamental issue there is for Quebec. It is also a fundamental issue for Canada.

For many years, Canada's elected representatives have wanted to avoid this disturbing issue and sweep it under the rug. Yet the issue keeps resurfacing. It came to the fore after the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada adopted a resolution like ours.

It did so again when the NDP adopted a similar resolution at its convention. The NDP felt compelled to re-orient its position on this issue because it had changed during the 1995 referendum. That is why I said that things changed; they went back to their original position.

Since then, a lot of commentators and elected representatives in Canada have dug their heels in. Several polls have shown that the vast majority of Canadians reject the idea of officially recognizing the reality that Quebecers form a nation. This refusal to recognize the Quebec nation, to recognize an obvious reality, could be called a great Canadian mental block. It is this very refusal to recognize Quebec for what it is that explains why Quebec is not a signatory to the Constitution. This refusal to recognize the Quebec nation also explains why Quebec is considered a province like any other and nothing more.

In Quebec, in the National Assembly, sovereigntists and federalists alike agree that Quebecers form a nation.

Nations have rights, including the right to direct their own development. The debate on Quebec's future hinges on whether, as some believe, Quebec is better off growing and prospering within Canada — and I respect that — or whether, as others like me believe, sovereignty is the only way for Quebec to reach its full potential.

This House will be called to vote on recognizing Quebec as a nation, and not on the two options, federalism or sovereignty. Thus, Quebecers will be able to see clearly where each of us stands and where the future of Quebec lies. Although, in the defence of one option or the other, the only attitude that shows respect for Quebecers is to recognize them for what they are, that is, a nation that continues to be a nation even if it is no longer part of Canada, obviously and unconditionally a nation, a nation because that is what we are.

It is not up to the prime minister to decide which option Quebecers will choose. It is up to Quebecers, under the rules of the National Assembly, to decide their own future. I repeat, Quebecers form a nation whether or not they remain within a so-called united Canada. They form a nation whether or not they become a country. Those are the two options, and both are worthy.

The existence of a Quebec nation must never be subject to which option we may choose. We are a nation because we are what we are, no matter which future we choose. That is what we are saying. That is how we see the future.

The only democratic position is to not impose and not subject the recognition of what Quebecers are to the option we may prefer in the future.

Indeed, there can be a nation within Canada. That is what we are proposing to you. That is not my first choice, but I would never insist that Quebecers form a nation only on the condition that they have a country, nor would I ever accept that we could be recognized as a nation only on the condition that we stay in Canada. We are what we are, period.

NDP Leader Jack Layton: 'Our party has been very proud to stand in support of the policy that supports the concept of the national character of Quebecers.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP) NDP Leader Jack Layton: 'Our party has been very proud to stand in support of the policy that supports the concept of the national character of Quebecers.' (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Jack Layton, NDP leader

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent a party that, for decades, has supported recognition of Quebecers' nationhood.

Quebecers are an important people within Canada, a people with an amazing 400-year history, an extraordinary people, proud of their values, proud of their history, an important people not only here in Canada, but around the world and in la Francophonie.

We are proud of Quebec. I am proud to have been born in Quebec and to have grown up there, proud that my grandfather was a minister in the Government of Quebec. I am proud, like anyone who lives or has lived in Quebec and who knows that Quebecers form a nation.

We have long supported this concept, because it is a question of respect for our fellow citizens who live in Quebec. As well, we have found that there has been a huge lack of respect for Quebecers in past years. There are many examples of this: the scandals, when people sought support in Quebec with unacceptable behaviour or with a right-wing policy — not a social democratic policy that reflects Quebecers' values — a bellicose policy that does not reflect the sort of society in which the vast majority of Quebecers want to live.

What is needed at this moment in time is to show respect for Quebecers by helping to build across this country the kind of country that all Quebecers would want to remain a part of, and that is a social democratic Canada. A social democratic Canada that would put to the forefront values that we see so many Quebecers embracing, the concept of a society that builds on assisting one another, with child care, with affordable housing, and with advanced policies on the environment. This is the best way to build the kind of Canada in which Quebecers will find themselves a positive place.

Our party has been very proud to stand in support of the policy that supports the concept of the national character of Quebecers and we will continue to do so.

Now is the time for us to build on this concept, to show all Quebecers that they are respected in the heart of the greatest country in the world, a country that we all are attempting to build to be a model for the entire world. By showing that there is a place for Quebecers here, we can send a strong signal about how a nation like Canada, a people like the Canadian people, can work in all of its diversity to accomplish the goals that everyone in the world shares.

Go to the Top

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Canada »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Politics »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Health »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Technology & Science »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Money »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Consumer Life »

302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive] 302 Found

Found

The document has moved here.

more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »