Mr. Speaker, as someone who grew up in Quebec City and who is proud of the Muslim community in his riding, I denounce ignorance and hate, which cut lives tragically short. I mourn for the victims, express my sympathy to their families and loved ones, wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured, and congratulate the police for arresting the alleged perpetrator of these senseless killings.
Since this is the last time that I will rise in the House after having had the honour of representing the magnificent communities of Saint-Laurent and Cartierville for 21 years, I would like to take the opportunity to make a last plea for the cause that I have served with all my might, that of a united, more prosperous, fairer, and greener Canada that plays its proper role in the world.
Our country is a world treasure. Canada is as big as a continent and awe-inspiringly beautiful. We enjoy among the highest quality of life of any country, with two international languages recognized as our official languages, a strong indigenous people who remind us of our history, and a multicultural population that allows us to influence the world. Our roots are in Europe, we form part of the Americas, and we are open to Asia. We have never deployed our brave troops abroad for any reason other than to courageously serve the causes of peace, democracy, and justice. For all of these reasons, billions of people see Canada as a universal ideal of openness, tolerance, and generosity, and we must always strive to live up to that image.
In order to be effective in our pursuit of that ideal, we need to draw on our linguistic duality, which was forged by our history and is essential to our future. The French language is also key to our future success.
My dear colleagues, let us do our part by choosing party leaders that can speak both official languages.
In order to be effective in our pursuit of the Canadian ideal, we need the full participation of Quebeckers. We Quebeckers worked alongside other Canadians to build this country from the ground up. Quebec’s autonomy and a federalism that respects provincial jurisdiction are important, but we also need to share Quebec’s know-how with the rest of Canada.
If anyone were to try to force us once more into the grave mistake of choosing between our two wonderful identities as Canadians and Quebeckers instead of embracing them both, it would have to be with clarity, under the rule of law, under our constitutional framework, with a desire for justice for all. Those are the fundamental rights protected by the 1998 Supreme Court opinion and by the Clarity Act that gave it effect. However, I am convinced that, as Quebeckers, we will always also choose to remain Canadians.
To come closer to this ideal that Canada represents in the world which I have just described in French, we need to build on our democracy’s pluralism and our political parties’ respective strengths. The Liberal Party, which I had the honour to once lead, strives to reconcile economic, social, and environmental challenges, rather than placing them in conflict. The Liberal Party believes that economic growth comes from more social justice, not less, and more effective environmental policies, not less. Canada must be at the forefront of this fight which is so vital for the future of humanity, finding the path of inclusive growth and sustainable development.
We need more Canada. We hear that all over the world. I am proud to have contributed my voice this past year to our country’s role as a determined peace builder, defending our own interests and those of our allies, and promoting everywhere the universal value that all human beings, regardless of their nationality, are entitled to the same dignity.
Those are the battles I have fought for my country as a parliamentarian for 21 years. I can never adequately thank those who gave me the opportunity to do so. If I had the time, I would name them all: prime ministers, colleagues, associates, constituents. However, let me just name my family, Janine and Jeanne, who have made enormous sacrifices and to whom I owe everything.
In recent weeks, I have had to choose between my two passions, teaching and public service. My thanks go to the Université de Montréal for offering me a visiting professorship under really outstanding conditions. I very nearly said yes, because, in my eyes, there is no finer calling than that of teacher. However, within these walls, I do not need to explain the addicting rush of adrenaline that comes from action, or to describe how irresistible is the call of public service, especially when that call comes from one’s Prime Minister.
This is all the more so because of the large responsibility the Prime Minister has offered me. I am pleased to say, after the MP for Markham—Thornhill— that I have accepted the Prime Minister‘s offer to be Canada’s senior diplomat to Europe. I have accepted the nomination as ambassador to both Germany and the European Union.
In its own way, the European continent is facing the same challenges as us with respect to ensuring that openness and inclusion triumphs over exclusion and xenophobia, to ensuring a path to inclusive growth, and to demonstrating that free trade be combined with the rights of workers and respect for the environment.
At this critical time, I will do my part to strengthen Canada’s relationship with Europe. It will be an honour to join the Canadian diplomatic corps. During my 38 visits abroad last year, we were able to strengthen Canada’s relationship with those countries. I owe that to the professionalism and excellence of our civil servants, diplomats, and heads of missions. I am looking ahead with enthusiasm to be serving by their side.
There will be one thing that I miss: elected office. Mr. Speaker, through you to my dear colleagues, savour every minute that you hold the immense honour of being the elected representative of your riding. Each of you, in government and in opposition, show yourself worthy of the great responsibility you carry as a representative of the Canadian people. Cherish our democracy. Always work to improve it, and from time to time, rise above the adversity, and find the time, at least over a soccer game with the pages, to preserve the fraternity that unites us all.
I want members to remember that they will be welcome in Brussels or Berlin by one who may no longer be a colleague but will always be a friend.
Long live Canada’s parliamentary democracy. Long live the friendship between Europe and Canada.