House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think we all would agree that giving people $100 a month will create affordable, licensed, quality child care spaces in this country is a bogus notion. I would argue that we need to continue to support a national child care act.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss the Liberal motion and comment on the completely mistaken reference it contains regarding Canada’s linguistic duality.

I would like to reiterate the government’s very firm commitment to the Official Languages Act and our unfailing support for linguistic duality throughout Canada. I also wish to talk about the achievements and policy and program directions that the new government has and continues to put forward with a view to advancing the equal status of both official languages and enabling the country to take full advantage of the riches afforded by this linguistic duality.

There is a consensus on official languages, namely that the country’s linguistic duality is an essential component of the Canadian identity and an extraordinary asset for all of society. A recent CROP poll indicated that over 80% of Canadians share this opinion, which shows the great popularity of this Canadian value.

The government has taken a clear position in favour of the Official Languages Act. We are making sure that English and French have the same status regarding their use in all parliamentary and governmental institutions. We support the development of official language minority communities and we will help them to contribute fully to the prosperity of our country. We are promoting the full recognition of English and French throughout Canada.

We have demonstrated our support for linguistic duality on numerous occasions. Indeed I would remind the House that we contributed to the adoption on November 25, 2005, of the Act to Amend the Official Languages Act, which reinforced Part VII of the act. This part states the commitment of the Government of Canada to foster the development of official language minority communities and to promote the full recognition and use of both official languages. A collective resolution by the caucus brought about the passing of this bill.

May I recall that this act was passed in spite of the opposition of the Bloc Québécois, which claims to be the great defender of francophones but which refused to support this positive measure for francophones outside Quebec?

I would also like to mention the personal and complete commitment by the Prime Minister himself to official languages, particularly the French language, which he uses frequently.

The government’s support for linguistic duality as a foundation of Canadian society remains unequivocal. I wish to add that, for us, this support includes the recognition of the Quebec’s key and crucial role in the vitality of the French factor in this country.

Furthermore, we are committed, unlike the previous Liberal centralizing government, to practising an open federalism that recognizes the unique place of a strong and dynamic Quebec within a united Canada.

We have five priorities on our government's agenda that will enable us to come closer to our ultimate goal of building a stronger, more secure and better Canada. In my view, I cannot imagine a strong Canada without the contribution of our official language minority communities, big or small, located across Canada.

I now want to mention the policy and program directions that the minister has brought forward in carrying out her mandate and point out the many accomplishments over the last year.

We have many challenges to meet in maintaining and further enriching the impressive heritage bequeathed to us by former generations.

For instance, there is education, where we need to redouble our efforts in order to ensure that young francophones not only start their educational paths in French but complete them in French as well.

That is why we have signed bilateral education agreements with all the provinces and territories worth a total of $1 billion over four years. These agreements will enable young people from minority communities to go to school in their own language. In addition, they will help all young people in Canada to learn their other official language.

Thanks to these agreements, the official language minority communities are able to implement programs adapted to their realities. Young people receive an education in their own language and attend schools managed by their community. They flourish in their own language from a very young age while developing an even stronger sense of belonging to their community.

In partnership with the provincial and territorial governments, we also announced the construction and renovation of community spaces in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

We count on immigration as well to ensure the demographic and economic growth of our communities and country.

In the last budget, our government announced an additional $307 million for immigrant settlement in Canada. We also brought forward measures to establish the Canadian agency for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials. This will also help the French-language minority communities.

The issue of official languages requires the involvement of many different partners and that is why we have paved the way for open, respectful cooperation with all levels of government and organizations from all sectors.

I believe that this spirit of cooperation that the government is fostering among the various official language stakeholders was very present at the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie, which was held last October and co-chaired by the Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. At this meeting, along with the ministers from the provinces and territories, we decided to focus our action on young people.

Young Canadians are open to linguistic duality and all its advantages. They are more and more bilingual, mobile and attuned to the new technologies. They represent our future, a future full of promise.

Our support for the communities could be seen as well in the creation of the Assemblée franco-ontarienne and our $660,000 grant to the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada to organize its 2007 summit of francophone and Acadian communities.

We have signed a cooperation agreement with the anglophone community sector in Quebec. We want to maintain an open and honest dialogue with this community which contributes significantly to Quebec's national and international reputation.

We must not forget that the needs and the challenges of anglophones in Quebec are different and varied. Moreover, members of this community are models of bilingualism. This is why we must continue to work together to highlight our linguistic duality across the country.

We have also signed important agreements totalling nearly $64 million over four years for minority language services. Together, these agreements will allow members of official language minority communities to strengthen their ties and ensure that their voices are heard, loud and clear.

This is what can be accomplished by cooperating, not only with federal partners, but also with other levels of government and with the private sector, and by developing ways to focus on the economic, cultural and social benefits of linguistic duality.

The new government's cooperative approach has also proven itself in other areas, particularly in health care. In this area, innovative partnerships have been created with minority francophone and anglophone communities, and this is producing tangible results.

In summary, the new Government of Canada intends to defend bilingualism with passion and heart. We want to work to increase equality between the two official languages in all federal institutions, to reinforce minority official language community vitality across the country, and to make sure that the two major linguistic communities in Canada understand and mutually enrich each other better.

Unlike the previous government—I am referring to the corrupt Liberal friends of the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore—and unlike the members of the Bloc who can do nothing and will never be able to do anything, we took action and we continue to take action to demonstrate, once and for all, the strength of Canada's linguistic duality.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's presentation. Her rhetoric was very nice and she read the text well. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what she said and what is really going on.

First, one of the things this government did recently was cut the court challenges program for linguistic minorities in Canada. Basically, the government is telling minorities that if they think their language rights have been violated, they can just deal with it themselves because the government will not be giving them any money and will not help them defend their rights.

Second, we recently learned that senior army officers will no longer be required to be bilingual. I find that completely unacceptable. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that. Does she think it makes sense that our senior military officers do not have to be bilingual?

Third, we have recently seen that the government cannot even offer services in French to parliamentarians here on the Hill. Many government ministers do not have a single person on staff who can answer our questions in French. Some of these departments are very important. People in our offices—members who have francophone staff here—have all experienced that. They cannot find a single staff member in a minister's office who can speak French.

Does the Conservative Party member agree that rather than trying to teach the Liberals a thing or two—we all know they did not do their job—her government should set an example? Should the government not require all senior military officers to be bilingual? Should it not reinstate the court challenges program for linguistic minorities? Should ministers not set an example in their own offices by offering services in French to those House colleagues who need them?

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, to hear a Bloc member defend la Francophonie to that extent will always fascinate me because we know full well that the Bloc voted against Bill S-3.

And to see to what extent they just talk and talk will always fascinate me. When it comes time to take action, to stand up and speak loud and clear for la Francophonie, they are simply never there. They voted against Bill S-3. They voted against francophone minorities outside Quebec. What can they add to this? They have never supported la Francophonie outside Quebec. Every time we had a vote on this, they voted against.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about linguistic duality, but a growing number of Canadians have neither English nor French as their first language.

When children are hungry, they cannot learn. Yesterday another report came out on child poverty, UNICEF report card number seven, “Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries”. Canada is doing very, very poorly. Canada ranks second last in all OECD countries.

A percentage of young people aged 13 to 15 reported being overweight. The new health commissioner said that today's overweight teenagers are tomorrow's heart attack victims. Partially it is because they are missing their breakfast and there is not a decent lunch program in schools.

Would the hon. member support a national health and nutrition program for every child under 18 in schools and community centres? This would be based on a flexible, made in Canada community development model, building on the existing knowledge base of local organizations and parent groups so kids would not be hungry and would have decent, healthy, nutritious meals in schools. Then they could learn properly, whether it is English, French or any other subject.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleague from the NDP that literacy has never been cut in official languages.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, February 20, 2007, at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent of the House to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?