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Mr. Premier, the moment we are sharing today marks an important stage in the history of our nation, and will give our Canadian relations new momentum.
I am a Quebecer, and proud of it.
I am a Quebecer and it is my way of being Canadian.
This expression contains, in a nutshell, the meaning and essence of Québec's participation in the Canadian Federation since its inception.
It expresses a plurality of ways of belonging that characterizes our identity.
An allegiance to Québec and a sense of belonging to Canada.
A sense of belonging to Canada that is strengthened by an allegiance to Québec that is recognized, accepted and endorsed by the partners in the Federation.
An overriding majority of Quebecers share this sentiment. On several occasions, a majority of us have indicated clearly that we feel, to varying degrees, a sense of belonging to Canada.
There is nothing surprising about this because, since 1867, Québec has participated in the political project of the Federation while affirming its own national identity.
This identity is based on fundamental aspects such as its unique and predominantly French-speaking character, its civil-law tradition, and its political, cultural, economic, educational and social institutions.
As French Canadians, Quebecers were recognized as a separate entity in 1774 in the Quebec Act, and again in the Constitutional Act of 1791. Following the Act of Union of 1840, the same recognition was reflected in the agreement between LaFontaine and Baldwin, which neutralized the effects of the Act by establishing the double-majority rule for the passage of legislation. In 1867, the choice of a federation and recognition for Québec were prerequisites for Québec's support.
Recognition for Québec was part of our federal history, but was partially set aside during the last century as a new way of interpreting the meaning of the federation emerged. Recognition must be returned to its rightful place in our joint project.
As we have moved way from the initial meaning of the compact between French and English Canadians, a gap has appeared between the two communities, leading to various misunderstandings.
I am not trying to deny that our history includes a number of genuine conflicts and disagreements which have left their mark, and certain key facts bear repeating here.
As we are all aware and as we affirm here, the Constitution needs to be improved to give effect to, and to guarantee recognition for, our national identity.
As stated by Jocelyn Maclure, professor of philosophy at Université Laval:
"Despite its dark days and obvious-imperfections, Canadian federalism proved to be accommodating enough for Québec to succeed in its nation building project."
We have travelled a great distance, and have had misunderstandings along the way, but our shared path has taken us to a level of social and economic progress that is envied around the world.
Our government, on the strength of this shared progress, has decided to enhance Québec's place within the Canadian Federation, and has taken the opportunity of the Confederation's 150th anniversary to present its Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations.
The Policy states, first, what we are.
An inclusive nation, predominantly French-speaking, anxious to respond to the aspirations of the First Nations and Inuits, enhanced by the past and present contributions of a dynamic English-speaking community, and enriched by the diversity of people of all backgrounds who have chosen to live in Québec.
Next, the Policy, on the basis of what we are, establishes the principles that underlie our vision of Québec in Canada, and that guide Québec's Canadian relations.
Because of the distance that has built up over the years between Québec and Canada, the Policy sets out ways to begin to draw closer to our Canadian neighbours, on the basis of dialogue and mutual understanding.
We want to ensure that Québec's aspirations are better known. This appears to us to be an essential condition if they are to be well received.
By solemnly declaring who we are, we will make the reasons for our position easier to understand, and we will be able to present the foundations of our vision for the future.
The promotion of Québec's interests and powers is part of this process.
The Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations has another objective: to make Québec better known to civil society in Canada, and to increase its outreach throughout Canada, in particular in the economic, social and cultural spheres.
The Policy begins with a historical overview which, while not exhaustive, highlights the key events that define Québec's nationhood and its current relations with the rest of Canada.
The Policy is a continuation of our political and constitutional history, drawing inspiration from it to offer an updated view of Québec's place in Canada.
We want, in particular, to shift the focus to a type of federalism that recognizes collective diversity in addition to individual diversity, and that recognizes a plurality of ways of belonging in order to strengthen a shared sense of belonging.
This kind of plurinational federalism meets Québec's goal of acting as a full partner in the Canadian adventure, while upholding all the dimensions of its identity.
It also offers a way to renew the relationship with the Aboriginal peoples. Québec has, for several years, maintained a nation-to-nation relationship with the Aboriginal peoples present in its territory. It intends to continue along this route and to give clear priority to a reconciliatory approach, based on the creation of partnerships and the strengthening of the individual and collective capacities of the Inuits and the First Nations.
In both Québec and Canada, there is a new willingness to make a genuine effort to include the Aboriginal peoples in our shared future. This willingness must become a duty.
Plurinational federalism allows all Canadians to participate proudly in defining and implementing a form of cohabitation that is more welcoming and, because it is based on respect, more successful.
Our goal, based on an inclusive view of humanity, is to bring together individual and collective diversity.
In an uncertain world, where isolation and identity withdrawal are a constant temptation, Québec and all Canadians now have an opportunity to work together to discuss and implement a way to combine rather than oppose their ways of belonging.
Quebecers and Canadians can offer a partial solution to the worldwide challenges of increased migration, economic displacement and growing inequality, by choosing a plurality of ways of belonging, and a diversity of nations that is recognized and accepted.
This is a major challenge, but also an exciting human project.
Today, we are at the start of a long journey. We have announced our goal of breaking down the taboo surrounding discussions about our future relations within Canada. We must resume the discussion about the future of the Federation. This includes the constitutional issue, not as the starting point, but as the result of a dialogue that will give shared meaning to our federation and define a shared understanding of our future.
We know that this will take patience—bonds of trust take time to form. Before making any attempt to amend the constitutional texts, we must discuss the issues in order to improve our understanding and acknowledgment of each other, and this is what we intend to do.
Québec therefore invites all citizens and federative partners to take part in a new dialogue, in order to renew their acquaintance.
We propose a renewed foundation.
We will begin by increasing our visible presence on the Canadian scene, making our voice heard in order to be understood.
This is the goal of the main measures set out in the Policy.
The Policy is based on an affirmation of our national identity, which is the source of the principles that will guide the conduct of Québec's Canadian relations. Québec will give priority to a proactive form of domestic diplomacy with its federative partners.
Québec will also take more care to nourish a dialogue with the representatives of civil society.
In addition, Québec will work to bring citizens closer together. Despite the label "two solitudes", relations between citizens have shaped a depth of cooperation that has contributed to the economic, social and cultural progress of Québec and Canada.
Québec's trade with the rest of Canada now equals its trade with the United States, which has a population ten times larger.
We trade more with British Columbia than with China, and more with New Brunswick than with France.
There is more cooperation than solitude.
I would like to outline another example of cooperation:
It took place on the day on which Alberta's new environmental policy was launched. The Premier of Alberta, Mr. Notley, was accompanied by Steven Guilbault, cofounder of Équiterre.
This was a striking illustration of the cooperation existing between environmental groups in Québec and those elsewhere in Canada, and of their support for new public policies.
How can we not feel pride when we see Québec's influence?
All these inter-relations help disseminate the vision, aspirations and interests of Quebecers.
Why not increase the number of connections?
We will encourage social and union organizations, business leaders, environmental groups, artists and researchers from Québec to begin or increase their inter-actions with people who, in Canada, share the same desire to support the vulnerable, create employment, meet the challenge of climate change, entertain audiences, or innovate.
Québec's goal of playing a more dynamic role in Canada will also be reflected in the government administration.
Our Canadian relations will now be coordinated by the Secrétariat du Québec aux relations canadiennes (or SQRC, the Québec Secretariat for Canadian Relations), which will replace the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes (or SAIC, the Secretariat for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs) and play a more prominent role as a strategic advisor in the area of Canadian relations. In addition, the new secretariat will work actively to create additional bridges and possibilities for dialogue within Canadian society at all levels.
The government, under SQRC’s coordination, will ensure that each government department has a unit for Canadian relations.
In general, Québec will be present everywhere where its voice must be heard to project the vision and goals of its government. For example, it will play a more active role in intergovernmental forums.
It intends to continue to work with partners in the other provinces and territories, and to increase its ties with federal and civil society stakeholders.
We will support closer links with the university sector and economic, cultural and social interest groups, and we will be more active on traditional and social media.
In the coming months, we will define concrete measures to support all these goals.
For example, annual university forum-type meetings could be organized for research institutes to discuss experiences and develop a shared understanding.
Québec will also propose the organization of social, economic and academic missions with the other Canadian provinces, such as Ontario, our main trading partner, our neighbours the Atlantic provinces, and all the provinces and territories up to and including British Columbia, which provides access to Asia.
Of course, Québec is more determined than ever to help promote the Canadian Francophonie, working with the government of Canada and with Francophone and Acadian communities.
It will take all possible steps to ensure the protection, viability and vitality of French in Canada. Québec will also seek to increase Canada's Francophone space.
This space will give our language the resonance it needs, allowing Quebecers to strengthen their sense of belonging to Canada and to enjoy the feeling of being at home, wherever they are in Canada.
The ties binding Quebecers to other Canadians must be based on a feeling of trust and must be reciprocal. This will form the basis needed for a genuine discussion about the future of our country.
Today, Québec is affirming its national identity and clearly defining the place it intends to occupy in Canada.
The Government of Québec will ask the new Secrétariat du Québec aux relations canadiennes to determine the most appropriate new ways to support a more strategic and active diplomatic effort to bring citizens closer together.
Québec is proposing that the rest of Canada recognize its nationhood for what it is and what we want it to be, which is an original and positive contribution to the Canadian federation.
We are at the start of a path that should lead to greater mutual understanding. First, we must re-establish a dialogue in a spirit of openness, referring back to the idea of a kind of federalism that welcomes and recognizes both individual and collective identities.
The 150th anniversary of the Federation provides an opportunity to come together and launch a discussion. However, a lot of work will need to be done before each party can occupy its rightful place in Canada as a whole.
This will take more than one year; it takes time to build the future.
However, the objective is clear: we must seek to improve our understanding and acknowledgement of each other.
Affirming who we are, and what is fundamental for us, will make it easier to explain our priorities, visions and plans.
For a vast majority of Quebecers, our identity is based on a double way of belonging.
An allegiance to Québec, and a sense of belonging to Canada.
This identity, our identity, no longer needs to be nourished by resentment or fear of others. Instead, it must be built on trust in ourselves and in our desire to live together. Our identity has matured and affirmed its nature.
As French Canadians and Quebecers, we used to define ourselves by opposition to English Canadians or other Canadians.
Today, we prefer to affirm all the dimensions of our identity.
What we are is a reflection of our plurality of our ways of belonging.
We are Quebecers, and this is our way of being Canadian.