Key moments in the history of a country often provide an opportunity for reflection, questions and actions. We believe that one such moment is the 150th anniversary of the Canadian federation, a political act in which Québec played a leading role in 1867.
Last June 1, our government released its Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations to open a new dialogue with its federative partners and civil society concerning the Canada of the future, to develop more economic, social and cultural ties between citizens in Québec and elsewhere in Canada, and to improve our understanding and acknowledgment of each other.
We believe that our individual ways of belonging should not be viewed in opposition. In fact, by choosing to see the value in each way of belonging, we can offer each component an opportunity to be recognized in all the dimensions of its identity. This welcoming, open approach to collective diversity can generate, and strengthen, a shared sense of belonging to Canada.
Our proposal for closer ties must also be reflected in our relationship to Québec’s own collective diversity.
Last month, the National Assembly unanimously passed a key piece of legislation that, for the first time, recognizes the rules on custom adoption applied by Aboriginal communities in Québec. Just a few days ago our government announced its Government Action Plan for the Social and Cultural Development of the First Nations and Inuit, which will make us a partner for the Aboriginal communities.
The elements of the Policy on Québec Affirmation that concern Québec’s English-speaking community have also received media attention. A favourable editorial in The Gazette offered a paraphrase of the Policy’s title, “Quebecers, our way of being Canadian”, which became “Anglo, our way of being Quebecers”. What is true for Canada is also true for Québec—the best way to strengthen a shared sense of belonging to Québec is to recognize the specific contributions made by each community. Each has differing needs, and is entitled to feel included on the basis of its essential identity.
Over the last few weeks, a number of commentators have mentioned the loss of vitality in English-speaking communities outside Greater Montréal. Some people have attempted to deny the situation and to oppose the two language communities while others, thankfully more numerous, have recognized this as a reality that in no way reduces the importance of promoting the French language. As a result, the Premier of Québec recently announced that he would establish a Québec secretariat dedicated to the English-speaking community.
Last, to continue our policy of creating closer ties, our government will produce a policy on interculturalism to promote the integration of newly-arrived immigrants and increase the number of interactions between the diversity of cultures represented and the shared narrative of the host society.
Cohabitation is a goal of both federalism and interculturalism. It is based on the core values of openness to diversity, whether individual or collective, and the continuity of a shared narrative. Where have we come from? Who are we? What point have we reached in our evolution? Where are we headed?
All of these questions will require an answer once July 1, 2017 has passed. We can choose, as citizens and stakeholders in our communities, to maintain a dialogue that will bring us closer together and strengthen our shared sense of belonging to Canada.
We can follow the example of the “Constellation francophone” show presented in 6 cities around Canada on June 24, which reflected the goal of a number of French-speakers and English-speakers to stand “together for French” from New Brunswick to Yukon. We can draw inspiration from the movement that has begun to support Francophone immigration throughout Canada. We can help people draw closer together by responding to calls from the ministers responsible for the Canadian Francophonie, who are trying to meet an increasing demand for teachers for French and French immersion classes.
Canada’s French-speaking communities are facing huge challenges, but a more open-minded attitude to the Francophonie is beginning to emerge along with a new and justified legitimacy. Canada’s linguistic duality gives it a significant advantage, since by 2050 the Francophone world will have increased from 250 to 700 million French-speakers. We have an economic, social, cultural and diplomatic advantage that is envied around the world.
A Québec for all, and a Canada for all; a Canadian contribution to a better world. This is the essential message in our policy to create closer ties.
In the past our reflex was often to oppose our differences, and this was probably necessary at the time. Today, however, both Québec and Canada have changed. As we mark the 150th anniversary of the federation, we can offer ourselves the gift of coming closer together and recognizing our different ways of belonging.
We can provide an example for the whole world. At a time when migration, economic delocalization and inequality are a cause for concern, and when solutions other than identity withdrawal and isolation are needed, we can inspire a more promising future for humanity by opting for dialogue, mutual understanding and respect.
Young people in Quebec and Canada live in a world subject to major upheavals and are especially concerned—their response will have an impact that goes well beyond their immediate time and place.
The world is hungry for recognition, justice and fairness. Canada, over the next 150 years, can offer part of the response.
We must shake off old taboos and preconceived notions, since the Canada the world needs is respectful and welcoming to all forms of diversity, whether individual or collective. This is the gift I hope we will be able to give once the 150th anniversary celebrations are over.
Government House Leader, Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie