House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was english.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Oui madame, je vous poserai une question à ce sujet.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing cattle calls from the other side saying that this is demagogy. This is not demagogy. This is fact.

I voted in favour of the motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. It is not a nation state. It is not an ethnic nation. It is what one would call the sociological term. That is the only way that I can be included in it.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I can see that the members from the Bloc are quite upset. They are upset to hear the facts. The only definition of nation in which I am included that speaks to Quebec is the sociological one where a people of different nations, different ethnic groups, come together and choose to live together as a people.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I must compliment the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. This was one of the best and most insightful presentations that I have heard from her. She spoke so eloquently about the linguistic speaking rights of Canadians, period.

We all voted for the motion about Quebec being a nation, but when I listened to her speech, I was very proud to be a Canadian because the member was standing up for the rights of all Canadians.

In my family three of our six children are fluent in French. I have been studying French for months trying to learn it. I wish I had learned it as a young child. It is a beautiful language.

We have to recognize the fact that there are many different cultures in our Canada. Would the member please expound a bit more on the linguistic speaking rights of Canadians and why it is so important to support this?

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, our country was founded by two nations. That is incarnated in our Constitution, which recognizes that and recognizes that we have two official languages.

Successive parties that have formed government over time right up until 2006 have brought into effect different measures and programs and policies in order to attempt to realize and implement the Official Languages Act, and to ensure the protection, defence and enhancement of linguistic minority rights.

I would ask the hon. member on the other side: Why is it that under the current Conservative budget we do not see significant moneys being designated to the action plan on official languages?

This action plan was first created in 2003, funded at $642 million over five years. It came to an end on March 31, yesterday, and the official languages minorities have been asking this government for months.

I would urge this member to urge her own government to put its money where its mouth is.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine understands French very well. I saw that when she was on the justice committee. Her speech is worthy of a westerner running down Quebec. I can give examples, and hope my colleague will listen attentively. I would like to know how the rights of francophone Quebeckers are being protected in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon. That is what I would like to hear.

As well, I find that my colleague is exaggerating. She is a part of the Quebec nation. That question has been answered. The dictionary definition of nation in the Robert is a group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together. Francophones and anglophones have always lived together in Quebec and they will continue to do so. We will respect them, let the hon. member have no doubt about that.

The only thing I want to ask her is the following: do people working for the federal government or for enterprises under federal jurisdiction have the right to work in French in Quebec? That is what the debate is about.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it gives me the chance to provide some information. The Official Languages Act applies to other provinces to the federal public service, to all federal institutions, to all enterprises under federal jurisdiction. For example, a francophone working for a telecommunications company coming under federal jurisdiction is entitled to protection and to claiming his rights under the Official Languages Act.

As for the right of francophones in Quebec working at the federal level, I have worked in the past for a federal agency and I can state that the language of work was French. At that time, and we are talking more than 20 years ago, the documentation from management came only in French, despite the fact that this was a company under federal jurisdiction and one that had to comply with the Official Languages Act.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed with the statements that the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has just made in the House. She has taken one very important aspect, which is the underrepresentation of the anglophone community in Quebec, and from there has extrapolated comments that are very harmful to building the kind of unity in Canada that we all want to see.

Nothing that the Liberal government did in the 13 years it was in power addressed the issue of the historic underrepresentation of the anglophone community in the civil service. The Quebec Liberal Party is in power now and is doing nothing to address that issue, which is a legitimate issue.

However, to then start attacking the principle that in areas of federal legislation people should have access to labour negotiations in French as well as English and that they should actually have access, as she well knows is something of a problem right now, to their managers and be able to speak French, to take that as a divisive measure I find quite exceptional.

My question is very simple. The Liberal Party in western Canada has historically opposed those measures, when the NDP has been pushing forward francophone minority rights, as it did in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and also in Alberta with Leo Piquette. The Liberal Party did not speak out against that.

We have heard Justin Trudeau's comments--

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not take one fact and extrapolate harmful statements. I talked about several issues, one of which is the underrepresentation of anglophones within the Quebec public service, for instance. However, I did note that the Commissioner for Official Languages, in his 2006-07 report, said that it is beginning to edge up. That is one.

Second, the member has not addressed a very real point that I made, which is that this Bloc motion would give authority of provincial legislation over federal in a federal jurisdiction. Should we open the door to that, we would then open the door to provincial governments, if they have language laws, to attempt to declare that the language of work, for instance, in that province would be English and would include the federal public service in that province. That would include private corporations that come under federal jurisdiction in that province.

This is what the motion wants to do in Quebec. Should we allow it and should the NDP vote in favour of it, it would open the door to that taking place in other provinces. That is not fearmongering. That is a fact.

It would mean then that provincial law in the area of linguistic protection would have authority over federal law. Should a province attempt to deny a linguistic minority, the francophone minority, outside of Quebec, the exercise of their rights under federal law, they would be told, no, provincial law has authority.

I would urge the members of the NDP to think twice, think three times, think four times. Do not support the Bloc motion.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I notice at the outset how the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, usually so progressive in other areas, illustrates perfectly how the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party close ranks when the opportunity arises to give real flesh, form and substance to the recognition of Quebec as a nation.

As I was listening to the member from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I said to myself that it is quite incredible that this party's demands do not even go as far as Claude Ryan's in his beige paper of the 1980s. Every nationalist in the National Assembly demanded the recognition and the primacy of linguistic rights—even in telecommunications in Quebec's case.

As a matter of fact, we must also recall, delving quickly into history, that the currentMinister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was an ardent nationalist when he was responsible for communications in the National Assembly. He was following in the footsteps of Daniel Johnson, Robert Bourassa and even Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, the Liberal premier who, as early as 1929, was asking for primacy rights. Now, we cannot say that we are going further than Claude Ryan's beige paper in the 1980s, which asked for overriding linguistic rights.

It is sad, and it is a good reminder that, if we are to learn a lesson from this debate, it is that, without the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons, the voice of Quebec and its best interests would never be heard. Language is one of those paramount interests. Why is this so? Because just very recently, the latest census told us that, for the first time in our history, the percentage of people in Quebec whose mother tongue is French is under 80%. If we need to convince ourselves as parliamentarians of the overriding, non-partisan and historic need for Quebec to be fully master of its own linguistic house, we only need to look at the latest census.

Our grandparents learned that speakers of French made up 33% of Canada's population. We could read that in our history books not so long ago. The latest census tells us that, in Canada now, not quite 22% have French as their mother tongue. So, in this House, we cannot discuss the matter as if it were trivial. I call on all members to recognize Quebec for what it is, the linguistic expression of the French fact.

Opposition Motion—Compliance with the Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have six and a half minutes left after question period to finish his remarks.

Now we will move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.

Guelph Greenbelt
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week our government provided a green municipal fund investment of $2 million to the city of Guelph in Wellington county. This will allow Guelph to plan the city's growth as part of the province of Ontario's “Places to Grow” plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe so that sustainable growth occurs with minimal environmental impacts.

I am particularly proud to support Guelph's request to expand the greenbelt to include the city and the southern part of Wellington county, an important part of the Grand River watershed.

This watershed is home to vital farmlands and is an important part of the Carolinian forest zone, an area with the highest biodensity in Canada and, in this country, found only in southern Ontario.

It is also home to over a dozen species at risk of extinction, including the great egret, the Jefferson salamander and the green snake. All are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, most of it caused by urban sprawl.

By launching these initiatives in cooperation with our government, Mayor Farbridge, Guelph city council and the citizens of Guelph are making it clear that they are committed to environmental action for today and for tomorrow.

Dartmouth Work Activity Society
Statements By Members

April 1st, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Dartmouth Work Activity Society officially opened its new home in Dartmouth.

For over 25 years this organization has worked to help people overcome barriers to employment. It works on life skills, academic upgrading and skills development and assists in job placements such as food service, office skills, woodworking and janitorial services.

For Canada to be competitive we need to maximize the potential of every individual. It is good for all citizens and necessary for a country such as Canada to remain competitive.

Organizations such as the Dartmouth Work Activity Society are community champions and work for all of us. The board members, led by Barb Hart, deserve our thanks for their vision, determination and leadership in enabling this move to a new facility. The staff members, led by Colin Herbert, are hard working and inspiring.

Government partners such as the Nova Scotia Community Services and Service Canada, along with community organizations such as the United Way and the private sector partners that donated, came together to make this new building a reality.

I extend congratulations to the Dartmouth Work Activity Society and best wishes as it continues its great work in helping people find their way back to meaningful employment. I know it will keep up the great work.