I knew she would react if I said “du-Renard” instead of “du-Nord”. I did that on purpose.
This motion is important. In 1988, a private company decided to buy Air Canada, knowing that it was subject to the Official Languages Act. It knew what it was getting into when it bought Air Canada. It knew that Air Canada was subject to the Official Languages Act. Air Canada belonged to Canadian taxpayers. That was the rule then and that is the rule now.
Knowing that it was subject to the Official Languages Act, Air Canada decided to create small subsidiaries that were not subject to the Act, even though it states the contrary.
What does the committee want? It wants the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to introduce a bill that would require Air Canada, its subsidiaries and its partners to comply with the Official Languages Act. It is not asking for much. We have been calling for such legislation since 2005. The previous Liberal government, in the person of the hon. Jean Lapierre, introduced the first bill, Bill C-47.
In 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs introduced Bill C-29. In 2007, the same minister introduced Bill C-36. Today, the government is claiming that it is considering how to draft a bill. It is wondering how to draft a bill when the Standing Committee on Official Languages has been talking about this for months.
The Commissioner of Official Languages said he was disappointed at how long it was taking to pass new legislation, and he is concerned about the ongoing legal vacuum. He says that the new bill must clearly and adequately protect the language rights of travellers who do business with Air Canada, but also the rights of the company's employees.
In 2006, the commissioner appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages to talk about Bill C-29. He was worried about what would become of the language rights of travellers and the rights of Air Canada employees to work in their own language in a new entity of the Air Canada group.
He talked about a new bill that would protect those rights, and he said the bill should clearly and specifically name the entities that would be subject to the Official Languages Act. The bill should give the government the power to require by law or order that any other entity that might be created in future as a result of restructuring also be subject to the act. It should also provide for imposing language obligations on any entity that replaces a named entity, such as Air Canada or Jazz, and provides air and related services. The new bill should specify that Jazz and Aveos are subject to the Official Languages Act.
The year is 2010. On March 11 this year I was on Air Canada Jazz flight AC8742. Air Canada masquerades as Jazz to cover its tracks. It leaves Montreal for Bathurst. No one should tell me that Montreal is not French. And Bathurst, counting the Acadian peninsula, is 80% French. A local man was arriving home from Fort McMurray, Alberta. He asked for a glass of water and the flight attendant replied, “I don't understand you.” Is that normal? I complained to Air Canada about this incident.
On March 29, I was on flight AC8739 leaving Bathurst, New Brunswick, for Montreal, Quebec. The same flight attendant was on duty. I asked her for a glass of orange juice and I got a glass of water.
It seems to me that “verre de jus d'orange” and “orange juice” sound similar.
I filed another complaint with Air Canada and with the Commissioner of Official Languages. I learned that Jazz does not fall directly under the Official Languages Act, but Air Canada does. Air Canada's response came from Jazz, which told me that the attendant had taken tests and that, according to their information, she had passed. My goodness, when someone does not know the difference between a glass of orange juice and a glass of water, there is a big problem.
This becomes serious when there is an emergency on board. Which cassette will they put in the player? Which cassette will they put on when the plane is going down? We have talked about this for years and years. It is time for the government to take action. The government told us today that it has a firm position on the Official Languages Act but the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages told us earlier this week that passing bills on bilingualism divides Canadians. This is not a government that respects our country's Official Languages Act. It is shameful.
Earlier, the member for Rivière-du-Nord said that when one is aboard an airplane and goes to the trouble of showing a picture of the meal one wants, only to be met with “I don't speak French” from the attendant, that is a big problem. There is a lack of will on the part of Air Canada because the government lets it do whatever it wants. The company is subject to the Official Languages Act, and there should be a law enabling authorities to ticket the company for violating the Act. The police do not tell people who break the speed limit that they are subject to the highways act and must therefore drive at 100 km/h. They issue tickets and $140 fines. The same goes for Air Canada. There should be ticketing provisions to enforce those laws.
Earlier, the member for Saint Boniface said that the member for Acadie—Bathurst was shouting. I want to say that we have no choice but to shout because the people on the other side of the House do not hear or understand us. That is the problem. We have to raise our voices to make them realize that what is going on is not right.
That became clear again on Tuesday, when the Commissioner of Official Languages said in his report that the government has a laissez-faire attitude toward official languages. The government has the nerve to stand up in the House of Commons and say that its position on official languages is firm. Instead, it should have said that it is firmly opposed to the Official Languages Act and to other laws passed in this House over the last 41 years. The government could not care less about those laws and does not respect them.
They talk about how they are spending $1.5 billion here and $2 billion there, but they are breaking every one of this country's laws and could not care less. That is what I call laissez-faire. We are not asking for much. All we want is for the government to enforce the law. How can anyone stand up in the House and fail to ensure compliance with a law passed in Parliament by a majority of the members of the House of Commons? That is all we want to know. Air Canada is subject to the Official Languages Act. Air Canada belonged to taxpayers. People bought it, and then things got out of control. They have to respect the Official Languages Act.