Evidence of meeting #42 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was languages.

A recording is available from Parliament.

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Graham Fraser  Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
  • Ghislaine Charlebois  Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Assurance Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
  • Lise Cloutier  Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Management Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

9:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

We are taking a first step toward deciding on the scope of that audit. It would be a horizontal audit. First we are going to look at the federal institutions taking part in the roadmap.

An article on this subject appeared in Le Droit this morning. I have received emails from my counterparts in Ontario and New Brunswick, and they say they are interested in cooperating in that evaluation. I told them that I was delighted they were interested and that we would take a look at how we could cooperate.

My mandate is quite limited with regard to where the money goes and what the accountability mechanisms of the federal institutions receiving funds are. We are entirely prepared to discuss the possibility of cooperating with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of New Brunswick and Ontario's Commissioner of French Language Services. However, as I said, we are at an exploratory stage. We haven't made a final decision, but we have a draft plan.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Are the provinces already aware of that? Will they be made aware this morning perhaps?

9:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

That is not yet the case. As I told you, we received a request from a member to whom we responded that we would conduct an audit, but we are just at the first stage.

Ms. Charlebois could perhaps give you more details.

May 10th, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.

Ghislaine Charlebois Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Assurance Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

As the commissioner indicated, my mandate will have to be limited to the commissioner's powers. As the audit must be conducted within the framework of the act, we have not yet determined the extent to which we will be able to examine the question of the provinces. We will try to see whether we can work in partnership with the other commissioners of official languages, even though this plan is at the exploratory stage.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you.

In a completely different connection, this committee intends to begin a study on the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

What particular point regarding linguistic duality in the organizations in Canada do you think we should focus on to involve all the country's minorities? What vision should we adopt if we conduct that study?

9:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

I believe there are a number of success stories, but there have also been mistakes that could be corrected.

I believe the Olympic flame relay provided some good examples of participation by the minority communities, but some mistakes were made along the way.

I have always thought that Expo 67 was a striking example of linguistic duality in the time before the Official Languages Act was passed. I believe the general acceptance of the Official Languages Act at the time was due in large part to the success of Expo 67 and to the recognition that it was an instance of linguistic duality. I therefore believe that, from a symbolic standpoint, it will be extremely important for both official languages to be part of all the major events during the celebrations. That must be planned from the outset.

When mistakes were made or matters overlooked in the planning of the major events, it was mainly because the necessary aspects of that kind of celebration had not been not anticipated.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Fraser, I have another question for you, and I have only one minute left.

Would our committee be derelict in its duty if it did not conduct that study? If we, as a committee, had the choice to do it or not to do it, and we decided not to do it, would we be failing in our duty as the Standing Committee on Official Languages?

9:10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

The committee is master of its own decisions. I would not dare tell the committee how to determine its duty. As I said, this is an important question, and there are many other important questions. It is up to the committee to decide on its priorities, on its timetable, and the appropriate time to conduct a study.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

So it would be a priority that could be considered seriously by our committee.

9:10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

I said it was an important subject, and I have never concealed by interest in the matter. I had a conversation with the minister following his appearance before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. So my interest is clear, but it is up to the committee to decide on the appropriate time and its priorities. It is not up to me to determine the committee's priorities.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

All right.

Thank you.

Mr. Dion, you have the floor.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the commissioner and his team for being with us today.

When did you make that submission to modernize the office's IT system?

9:10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

That was in July 2011.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

When you made that submission, were you going fishing or did you have serious reasons to believe that it was normal, that it was according to procedure and that you had a chance of succeeding with the Treasury Board?

9:10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

We made a long-term effort to work with all the institutions that are part of the Treasury Board submission process. There was quite an intense consultation of people at all levels of the Treasury Board, and our arguments were favourably received. Ultimately, all that was lacking were the necessary signatures of the ministers so that it could be discussed by the Treasury Board people.