An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Pierre Paquette  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of June 3, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to undertake not to obstruct the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 3, 2009 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to continue the speech I started last March 31 on Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

A new Official Languages Act came into force in 1988 to reflect and implement the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The 1988 act reflected three major objectives of the Government of Canada. The government wanted to ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and also ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in federal institutions. The legislation reflected a desire to support the development of minority francophone and anglophone communities and foster progress toward the equal status and use of both English and French in Canadian society. It also specified the powers, obligations and roles of federal institutions in regard to the official languages.

This new law contained provisions as well in part VII on the promotion of English and French, which were strengthened by an amendment in 2005. This amendment reminded federal institutions of their responsibility to take positive action to support the development of official language communities and promote the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society. It is also very important that part VII of the act can now be used to take legal action before the appropriate authorities.

I want to remind the House that our caucus was unanimously in favour of this change. That helped the amendment enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities and supporting their development to pass. These changes to the law strengthened Canada’s linguistic legislation. We were motivated then, and still are, by our conviction that federal institutions should assume their responsibilities and lead the way when it comes to promoting our official languages and linguistic duality throughout the country.

This description of the milestones in the recognition of French over the last few decades helps to show that a consensus exists in Canada on the official languages. Linguistic duality is an essential part of the Canadian identity and a tremendous benefit for all of society. Our government is very much in favour of this linguistic regime.

The provisions relating to linguistic duality do not contradict the charter of the French language, as some say. The charter of the French language applies fully in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

As regards the language used by the public, it is generally French in the province of Quebec and on the island of Montreal. In all, 94.5% of the population of Quebec know French. It is also in this province that anglophones have the greatest mastery of French, with 69% of them speaking it. Of the allophones, 50% speak both French and English along with another language. We may readily suppose that they use French regularly.

In our global economy and in a difficult economic climate, it is agreed that knowledge of a number of languages is an advantage. For individuals, it means enrichment, opening the door to whole cultural worlds. The ability to speak a number of languages also means greater employment opportunities, a benefit recognized by parents in Quebec, over 80% of whom want their children to learn at least the other official language, if not a third language.

Our government remains firmly committed to promoting and supporting the economic and social benefits our linguistic duality represents. Our government reiterated this support when it announced the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future in June 2008. The roadmap consolidates, adapts and modernizes the government's actions with respect to official languages in order to ensure they produce real results.

Of course, Canadians and their government have come a considerable way in recent decades. Our government wants to focus on the considerable successes and progress in linguistic duality in order to take advantage of the growing mobilization of all players.

The roadmap defines the Government of Canada's comprehensive approach in official languages, while outlining our objectives and strategies. There were originally thirteen federal departments and agencies involved.

Since then, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has joined the group in order to meet the needs of communities in the territories. So now there are 14 departments working to implement the roadmap and our investment of $1.1 billion.

We want as many Canadians as possible to have the opportunity to appreciate the French language and culture, an essential component of our country's character and identity. Major investments are made annually to this end.

By way of example, our government recently announced the details of the national translation program for book publishing. This program will help Canadian publishers translate Canadian-authored books into English and French. With this program, we want to give as many Canadians as possible access to the enormous wealth of our country's culture and literature.

The Official Languages Act celebrates 40 years this year. This anniversary is a real landmark in our history, since the Official Languages Act was an excellent initiative to affirm the rights of Canadians and give them new opportunities. This enshrined linguistic duality is now at the heart of Canada's identity.

Let us then use this 40th anniversary to make Canadians aware of the benefits of having two world-class official languages and make sure that this linguistic duality is a source of pride throughout the country.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on this bill, which I will be voting against.

History is repeating itself in this House. In 2008, the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion in this House, which read as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, following the recognition of the Quebec nation by this House, the government should move from words to deeds and propose measures to solidify that recognition, including compliance with the language of labour relations of Quebec's Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec.

That was in 2008. Now we have Bill C-307, which is far broader than the motion I have just read. As a federalist, a Canadian and a friend of the Official Languages Act, I am opposed to many aspects of Bill C-307.

There are four major points in this bill that are of great concern to me. First, it implies that the French language is in decline in Quebec. Second, there is the matter of what goes on in federally regulated institutions in Quebec. Third, are they thinking about the anglophone minority population of Quebec? Fourth, and most important to me as a representative of the Acadian people, of the French speaking people in a country with linguistic duality, there is the Official Languages Act.

Should this bill become the law of the land, what would happen to the francophone minority Acadian populations in New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia, in Prince Edward Island? What will happen to the French speaking minority populations in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, for instance? To the francophones on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River? To the people who attend the Collège Saint-Jean d'Edmonton in Alberta? What will happen to the people of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan?

When I sat on this Parliament's Standing Committee on Official Languages, I was amazed to learn that there were 50,000 francophones in Vancouver, B.C. What would happen to them if Bill C-307 were adopted? This worries me somewhat.

In her speech, my friend and colleague from LaSalle—Émard said that the Bloc clearly lacked solidarity with the Canadian Francophonie, and in this case, that is true. It is true because this bill would be very problematic for Acadians, for example.

If all federal institutions were to be subject to Quebec's Charter of the French Language, then why not have a Charter of the English Language in other provinces with minority francophone populations?

Why could we not then have an English language charter in a province where there is a francophone minority? What if, in the province of New Brunswick, a government said that the province shall have an English language charter and that English shall be the language of all federal institutions in the province of New Brunswick?

In the history of New Brunswick, there have been riots over political events, hockey victories and defeats, and over quotas for fisheries in parts of our province. One would never see a riot such as there would be if such a law were brought into the province of New Brunswick. It is because I live in a country that respects two languages, two languages under the Official Languages Act that are of equal value and merit, that I so strongly oppose this bill.

The Bloc has falsely stated that the French language is undergoing a catastrophic decline in Quebec. However, the 2006 census and the report of the Office québécois de la langue française, both published in 2008, suggest otherwise. It is not true that the French language is undergoing a catastrophic decline in Quebec. In Quebec, the French language is alive and well, and Quebec's culture is alive and well, thanks in part to the presence of federal institutions that protect the country's two official languages.

It is important to note that Statistics Canada says that the number of people who speak French as their mother tongue increased 1.6% between 2001 and 2006. There have been other increases in the quality and number of French speakers throughout this country. Evidence that bilingualism is one of Canada's core values is so evident in surveys conducted on Canadians by Canadians. It is the very essence of what we are as Canadians.

I want to move on to the question of what happens to federal companies and institutions that are situated in the province of Quebec. In the past, words have been used against the Official Languages Act. The real meaning of what a federal institution is or what a federal company is has come into play throughout this debate. The bill's main result would see that the Canada Labour Code would be amended so that companies operating in Quebec but under federal jurisdiction would be subject to la Charte de la langue française, a provincial charter.

The Bloc is trying to impose la Charte de la langue française on companies under federal jurisdiction under what it would call a regulatory vacuum. Clause 34 in part 5 of the Official Languages Act states:

English and French are the languages of work in all federal institutions, and officers and employees of all federal institutions have the right to use either official language in accordance with this Part.

What is meant by that is that Canada is a bilingual country. We have the protection of the Official Languages Act. The party on this side has always stood for the core value that we are a bilingual country protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act. It has not always been the case that all parties in this place have thought of the country this way. We think it is a core value and we think it is worth fighting for.

We must stop this bill so that we will not see any riots in any parts of New Brunswick or other provinces in Canada over something as fundamental as taking away the guarantee of bilingual rights in our great country.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this private member's bill. I must say that, in the House, I have been very critical of the Bloc in the past. Its option is not at all in the interest of the francophone presence in North America. Indeed, the Bloc's approach has often left Quebec less united around a blueprint for society shared by progressives in Canada. In this case, I find it perfectly normal to have a bill that ensures French may be used in the workplace.

The NDP supports this bill, and it is quite simple. As a federalist party, we say it is important to acknowledge the French fact in Quebec. It is important, as we have done in Parliament, to recognize the Quebec nation. And in Quebec, people should be able to use French in the workplace.

I lived in Quebec for 14 years and am very proud of that. At the start of my life in Quebec, I was a unilingual anglophone. However, I always had access to services in my mother tongue, regardless of where I was in Quebec, be it in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, in metropolitan Quebec City, in the Eastern Townships, in Montreal, in the greater Montreal area or even in the Outaouais. In all these areas, I had access to services in my mother tongue. That is important. It is an important but little known aspect of Quebec. Often, people speak more of what is missing in the anglophone community. It is true that the services could be improved, especially in the health care and social services network, but still the availability of services is very important.

I then returned to the province where I was born, British Columbia, which is home. I adore this province. There is an ever-growing francophone presence there. Some cities even qualify as bilingual according to the Official Languages Act. The francophone presence is increasing not only in absolute numbers but also as a percentage of the population. That is important. Unlike the process of assimilation feared in some provinces, we have this francophone presence in British Columbia.

I am proud that it was an NDP government that brought about the establishment of a whole educational network in French in British Columbia. There are dozens and dozens of schools now. They welcome francophones of all origins, not only francophones from Quebec, Acadie or western Canada. People talk about a sort of rainbow francophonie, which comprises francophones from Africa, Europe, Asia and all the former French colonies, from all countries using French. All these people live in greater Vancouver. Now, people have access to this school system established by a New Democrat government. That said, there remains work to be done in British Columbia.

However, I cannot imagine a situation in which people would not have the right and opportunity, in their workplace, to communicate with their employer and access information in English. That is exactly what Bill C-307 is doing for French. It means that francophones in Quebec, in their workplace, can access information and read their collective agreement in French, in the ordinary course of things, and ensure that they have full rights in their workplace in French. That is perfectly reasonable. It is not surprising, and it is nothing out of the ordinary. It is perfectly reasonable.

Some may say that this is already the case in Quebec, that people can work in French and people who live in French in Quebec have no problem working in French. Certainly, in some cases, companies under federal jurisdiction have arranged for people to be able to work in French in their workplaces. But it is not the case in every situation.

That is why this bill has been introduced. What it is intended to do is to require that companies under federal law, be they Canadian or foreign, allow their employees to work in French. That is nothing out of the ordinary; it is perfectly reasonable. Canadians think that a measure that allows people to work in French in a francophone community is fair. That is also why the Quebec nation was recognized in Parliament, so that people could work in their own language, as I am allowed to work in my own language in British Columbia.

The question is how this bill will affect the Official Languages Act. The problem is that at present, the Conservative government, like the previous Liberal government, is not enforcing the laws already in place. The Commissioner of Official Languages reminds us every year that we still have a long way to go before all of the symbolic measures in the Official Languages Act become part of everyday reality. People need to be able to access services in French and English, regardless of where they live in Canada, where numbers warrant. We are engaged in a project that we must continually improve. There are still problems to be solved with the existing legislation, so that reality reflects what is written in the law.

Because there is still work to be done, I believe it is important for members from all four parties to work together to ensure that an anglophone can feel as much at home in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and a francophone can feel as much at home on Vancouver Island, in northern Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada, as I felt in the Kingdom of the Saguenay 20 years ago.

The NDP has always been active in this issue. I mentioned British Columbia a minute ago. It was a New Democrat government that established the francophone school system in that province. And not just in British Columbia—it was the NDP government that established the francophone school system in Saskatchewan as well. It was also a New Democrat government in Manitoba that made sure that Franco-Manitobans there have more rights now. In Yukon, it was again a New Democrat government that brought in the Official Languages Act to give the French language status. The New Democrat government of Ontario was also a good government, although it was unfortunately led by a Liberal. Nonetheless, it established a French-language college system in Ontario.

What about the government? It has to put its money where its mouth is to advance the cause of francophones and of language equality in Canada. That is why we support this bill.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will agree with me, or at least you will do after my speech, in my support of Bill C-307. This bill amends the Official Languages Act to recognize that the Charter of the French Language has precedence in Quebec.

In November 2006 in this House, all the members of the Bloc Québécois, all the members of the Conservative Party, all the members of the New Democratic Party, and almost all the Liberal members, except for 16, recognized the Quebec nation for the first time in history in the House of Commons, as it had been recognized on many occasions in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Once it has been said and recognized that Quebec is a nation, Quebec is entitled to the tools that determine, define and guarantee its long-term survival. The Quebec nation makes up about two percent of the population of North America. It is a nation whose ethnolinguistic critical mass is French-speaking. The common public language in Quebec is French. However French finds itself in an anglophone ocean, comprised of Canada as well as the United States of America.

I was listening to my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the former mayor of Moncton, asking why the other provinces should not protect their English language. Apart from New Brunswick, all the other provinces are de facto anglophone. English is not in danger of disappearing in North America. The history of the Quebec nation is a perpetual struggle to ensure that the French fact is firmly established even in its home, which is Quebec.

We have lived through extremely difficult times in the history of Quebec. One need only think of the struggle of the Patriotes, in 1837 and 1838, when the Lower Canadians of the time melted down their forks to make bullets to fight the British empire, the largest empire of the era. We know the outcome. We were given the recipe for democracy, but not democracy itself. They wanted to take that democracy from us.

In 1848, eight years after Lord Durham’s affront in saying that we had to be assimilated—that everything to do with the French language in the British empire in North America had to be assimilated—we rose up in opposition. The purpose of the Act of Union of 1840 was to assimilate us, that is, to bring about our ethnolinguistic disappearance as a nation and make us a pale reflection of the dominant culture by stripping us of all rights to maintain our cultural identity. The French fact was in danger.

In 1848, Lord Elgin agreed to democracy once he realized that more immigrants could settle in the French part of North America, ensuring the ever-increasing demographic submergence of the French fact. In 1848, what is now francophone Quebec was bigger in numbers, but had to have the same number of members of Parliament as Canada West, which was Ontario. And yet there were more of us and we should have had more MPs.

When they saw we were becoming a minority—and this was the Canada of today in embryo form—they applied the principle of representation by population because it made it easier to assimilate us. So that is Canada.

If Quebec does not take charge of its future, does not defend itself with legislation ensuring the survival of its language and culture, no one else will do it. English Canada is even going to make sure it crushes us. It did so in New Brunswick by abolishing French schools in 1873. It did so in Manitoba by abolishing French schools in 1890. It was only in 1979, thanks to a court challenge by George Forest, that Manitoba was able to recover its credentials as a francophone province, as it was in 1870 with Louis Riel. The Conservatives of the day in the House found a way to hang Riel, in large part because he was a defender of the French fact in western Canada. He defended his Métis brothers and his francophone brothers.

In my home province of Ontario, French schools were abolished in 1912. In 1893, French schools were banned in Saskatchewan, part of the Northwest Territories at the time. This was repeated in 1931 and in 1988, the government of Grant Devine, known well to some in this House as a colleague in their province, even abolished services in French. This has happened three times in history. Now imagine what would happen if Quebec abolished English schools. Not that I want that to happen, but if it did, tanks would be sent into Quebec rather than Afghanistan. They respect neither Quebeckers nor the French language. For Canada, we are a people to be assimilated bit by bit.

Quebec has risen. The perpetuity of the French fact is up to Quebeckers alone. The purpose of Bill C-307 is to ensure that my colleagues, my fellow working men and women of Quebec, will be able to work in their French language in areas under federal jurisdiction. A bill must be introduced to defend ourselves. It is being turned down here. This is one more piece of evidence that, with the exception of the NDP, when they agree to recognize the Quebec nation, it is nothing but a smokescreen, a smoke and mirrors trick. Once again, this shows Canada's lack of respect for Quebec.

I am a Franco-Ontarian who has lived in Saskatchewan. I went to Saskatchewan to fight for French schools that were abolished in 1931. They were reinstated in 1995. For 64 years, there were no French schools, and then we went from 63 to 8 French schools. Even today the rate of assimilation among youth 15 to 25 years of age is more than 85% in this province. Why? Because the institutions that would ensure the survival of the French fact were abolished.

Quebec is in the minority in North America. Quebec must protect itself against Canada. I heard the members for LaSalle—Émard, Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and the Conservative member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles say that there is no respect for French-language minorities. Quebec is entitled to its vision of society. Those people are afraid of Canada. They say that if Quebec were to become sovereign, they would no longer have the critical mass to protect themselves. Quebec has been there for four centuries. That did not prevent the federal government from closing its eyes when the provinces abolished our schools, our French services, hung our Patriotes and hung Louis Riel. That is Canada's attitude towards the French fact.

Bill C-307seeks to protect my Quebec colleagues, to allow them to work in their language and to ensure that the French culture and language will be part of all aspects of daily life.

We do not want Quebec to suffer the same fate visited on my brothers and sisters in predominantly English provinces by English Canada.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, as part of this debate on Bill C-307, if I may, I would like to speak to my colleagues about how important the influence of the French language in Canada and the world is to the government, and what the Canadian government is doing in this respect.

I would first like to say that, if this bill passes, its enforcement would set a major precedent in the history of Canada. Certain provinces could simply enforce restrictive language laws within their borders, laws that would probably not promote the use of French, my mother tongue, in circumstance in which that language is the minority.

Once again trapped by their own secessionist ideology, the members of the third party are thinking only of their own parochial interests, while completely disregarding those of francophones in minority communities in every part of this country.

Canada's official languages policy and the status that it confers on the French language are part of the very nature of our country. This policy is a reflection of the desire of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians in every corner of the country to live together and is a sort of social contract between our two major linguistic communities. The government that I support in the House strongly defends these founding principles of Canada.

Since the beginning of the Canadian federation 142 years ago, linguistic duality has been one of the foundations of our country and is of ever greater benefit to this country and its citizens. My Quebec cousins join me in supporting this linguistic duality.

The government that I support in this House is firmly committed to supporting our official languages and the promotion of English and French, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. Its Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future is clear proof of that commitment.

First of all, as the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, we cannot forget that Canada was French before it was English, when it was founded 400 years ago.

French was spoken on both sides of the Ottawa River before Molière was even born. Samuel de Champlain travelled very close to here on June 4, 396 years ago. That is the day he baptized the Rideau Falls and the Chaudière Falls. Even better than the language of Molière, the language of Rabelais is at the heart of Canada, its history and my identity.

As it says in Psalm 72, verse 8, A Mari usque ad Mare. D'un océan à l'autre. From sea to sea.

Last October, the 12th Sommet de la francophonie took place in Quebec City. Our government was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Quebec in strengthening the presence of the French language and culture internationally.

That summit provided Canada with a unique opportunity to promote a strong and diversified Canadian francophonie. The event brought together on Canadian soil the heads of state and of government of all the countries of the Francophonie.

I remember; je me souviens.

Canada is a beacon as far as supporting the dissemination and promotion of the French language are concerned. Moreover, we made the effort to ensure that francophones from all parts of Canada had a presence in the activities surrounding the summit.

The lasting support of the summit shows how committed this government is to ensuring not only that Canada's francophone aspect is fully represented on the international stage, but also that Canada as a whole benefits from the fantastic advantages of having French as one of its official languages.

Spoken by more than 200 million people, French is an official language in 29 countries. Canada is very aware of the importance of its French fact and is determined to help it shine on the international stage. Canada was one of the first countries, therefore, to promote the Francophonie by participating actively in the creation and development of its numerous institutions.

The Government of Canada is the second largest provider of funds after France, with a contribution of more than $40 million a year for the International Organization of the Francophonie and francophone institutions.

I must also point out that the Francophonie was a major contributor to the adoption of a convention by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture—UNESCO—to make cultural diversity an inescapable frame of reference. As we know, this convention formally recognizes, in international law, the fact that cultural goods are different from other goods.

That is why the Canadian government wants to work to promote the French language in the context of a unifying, inclusive and respectful vision of all the francophone realities of our country.

Our approach aims to create a francophone space to connect the francophones of Quebec and those from minority communities , as well as francophiles from every cultural origin. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but the cultural sector is definitely a preferred option in this respect.

We know, of course, that Canada's arts and culture policies generously support the cultural development of French-speaking Canadians in Quebec and everywhere in Canada. That is how we support the distribution of Canadian cultural products to foster a better understanding of French language artistic and cultural production from across the country.

This can help create closer ties between francophones in Quebec and their cousins in minority communities and between the country's francophones and francophiles.

Heightened visibility of French also makes all Canadians more aware of our country's linguistic duality.

So whether the purpose is to strengthen the French fact at the international level or within the country, the Government of Canada and the governments of Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and the other provinces are going to have to work together increasingly closely to strengthen ties between francophones and francophiles here and elsewhere, to promote the establishment of sound partnerships, and to generate concerted and effective measures, which means ensuring that their respective actions complement each other.

I have just given a few examples of the federal government's broad support for the French language and its vitality in Canada, including in Quebec and abroad.

The government's support and initiatives have taken place within the current language policy framework, which proves that the equality of status of the two official languages in no way prevents the federal government from working hard to strengthen the French fact in Canada.

The supporters of Bill C-307 have completely failed to demonstrate how Canada's linguistic regime represents a barrier to the full use of French in Quebec and why it would be necessary to make the proposed legislative amendments to secure the future of French in that province.

Consequently, the government considers Bill C-307 unwarranted, and we will oppose its passage.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a few hours the House of Commons will make its decision on Bill C-307, which I introduced. If it passes, it will ensure that Bill 101 is respected in Quebec, even in federally regulated companies covered by the Canada Labour Code. We are referring here to banks, airports, telecommunications companies and Canada Post. We are not referring by any means to federal government departments or services.

The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard did not read my bill at all and did not understand it. Because of her Trudeau- and Chrétien-like ideology, she distorted what the bill was about. She said the Bloc claims the bill does not talk about federally regulated companies but rather federal institutions, which means the Charter of the French Language would apply to federal undertakings. She implied that government departments would be affected. What we are talking about though are banks—like the Bank of Montreal and the Bank of Nova Scotia—Montreal airport or the CBC, federally regulated undertakings.

At the present time, some 250,000 workers are not covered by the Charter of the French Language, that is to say, they do not have the right to work in French and are often forced to work in English simply because their superiors force it on them, even though there is absolutely no need for it in serving customers. The Official Languages Commissioner recently criticized this state of affairs in airports all across Canada. It is the case in Quebec too.

It is totally unacceptable that these workers do not have the same rights as all other workers in Quebec and are deprived of the perfectly legitimate right to work in their own language, the language of the Quebec nation, a nation that the House has recognized. The House should have no problem at all, therefore, passing this bill so that not only the Quebec nation is recognized but also the fact that this nation has only one official language: French.

We know where the Conservatives stand; the speech we just heard made that all too clear. Right after the motion was passed in November 2006, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that it had no legal implications. We know where the Prime Minister stands. We know that he tried to dismantle Bill 101 and the Charter of the French Language before he became the Conservative Party leader. Quebeckers know what to expect. The party's recognition of the Quebec nation was driven by political opportunism.

Now we are wondering about the Liberal Party of Canada and its new leader. Will the party demonstrate the openness that the Leader of the Opposition referred to when he said that he was the first federalist politician in Ottawa to recognize the Quebec nation? We know that that is why the delegates at the Liberal convention chose the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville instead of him. Tomorrow afternoon we will know for sure whether he was sincere. He will have a choice to make.

Either his recognition of the Quebec nation is exactly the same as that of the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or we are really witnessing a break with the Liberal Party of Canada's tradition of strong-arm tactics. We will never forget the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, the repeated attacks on Bill 101 and the sponsorship scandal. Tomorrow, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Leader of the Opposition, will show his true colours. If he votes against this bill, Quebeckers will know that he is cut from the same cloth as the other federalists who never really wanted to recognize the Quebec nation—not just the Conservatives, but Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien too.

This is extremely important. I would urge all Quebeckers to pay close attention to the vote. He must not try to slip away. He has to be here, and he has to vote. His true colours will finally show.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

moved that Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the interest and energy that introduction of this bill has triggered in the House. That is absolutely normal, given that this bill will enable parliamentarians and the members of this House to give tangible expression to a motion passed in this House in November 2006 recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation. All of our hon. colleagues will therefore be able to be faithful to the decision taken at that time and to amend the Official Languages Act in order to ensure that the Charter of the French Language will be respected in Quebec, particularly by companies under federal jurisdiction.

The purpose of Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts is to require the federal government to recognize the Charter of the French Language within Quebec and to allow it to extend its application to companies under federal jurisdiction.

In order to avoid any ambiguity, we felt it essential for the Official Languages Act to stipulate the fact that French is the official language of Quebec.

We therefore feel it is significant to amend the preamble to state that the federal government recognizes French as the official language of Quebec and of the Quebec nation.

As I said, this recognition of the language common to all Quebeckers is the totally logical extension of the recognition of the Quebec nation by this House.

As I said—

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to see you call for order, but I am also pleased to see that my colleagues are very excited at the prospect of debating Bill C-307.

As I mentioned, in order to avoid any ambiguity right from the start, we will amend the preamble to the Official Languages Act to ensure the federal government recognizes that French is the official and common language of Quebec. I will say it again and I will keep saying that Bill C-307 is the logical extension of the House of Commons' recognition of the Quebec nation in November 2006, if memory serves.

We will also amend two sections of the Official Languages Act, namely part VII and part IX, to ensure that these amendments to the Official Languages Act will require the federal government to undertake not to obstruct the aims of the Charter of the French Language. It is important to mention that recognition of the Charter of the French Language in no way diminishes the rights and privileges of the anglophone minority in Quebec as provided under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the Charter of the French Language, as well. As I was saying, these two amendments to the Official Languages Act will eliminate any ambiguity.

If the Government of Canada and Canadians want to promote bilingualism across the country, let them do so, but it is vital that it be clear to Canadians and the federal government that, in Quebec, there is only one official language, one common language, and that is French. In this regard, the federal government will undertake not to diminish in any way the rights and privileges of Quebec's Charter of the French Language.

It should be mentioned there is no administrative problem in implementing this provision, which will allow the Charter of the French Language to apply to all employees of businesses under federal jurisdiction, and under the federal code specifically, because there are already situations in which the provisions of federal laws, Quebec laws or provincial laws apply to federal law. I am thinking, for example, of minimum wage. It is noteworthy to read in the Canada Labour Code, the provision setting the federal minimum wage according to provincial minimum wages. This provision, section 178.1 reads as follows.

Except as otherwise provided by or under this Division, an employer shall pay to each employee a wage at a rate

(a) not less than the minimum hourly rate fixed, from time to time, by or under an Act of the legislature of the province where the employee is usually employed and that is generally applicable regardless of occupation, status or work experience.

There is no reason Quebec's minimum wage provisions would not apply within Quebec. I therefore have a hard time seeing how the government can support its claim that there would be administrative obstacles to making Quebeckers' common language—French—the language of work for all Quebec workers, whether they are under federal or Quebec jurisdiction.

As we already know, several companies under federal jurisdiction comply voluntarily with the Charter of the French Language, but we think more should be done.

I would point out that some of the national companies governed by the Canada Labour Code are involved in telecommunications and broadcasting. Some are crown corporations, such as CBC/Radio-Canada and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Canada Post is also subject to this provision, but none of the other departments, services or crown corporations are because they are covered by section 16 of the Constitution, which requires a constitutional amendment to achieve the goals set out in my bill. We have set them aside for now to ensure that there are no constitutional obstacles preventing other corporations, particularly private ones, from adhering to the Charter of the French Language.

I mentioned sectors such as telecommunications and broadcasting, federal crown corporations that are agencies, banks, airlines, airports, extraprovincial marine transportation and a number of public services. When I refer to public services, I am talking about railways and bus transportation, which are not necessarily in the public sector. In fact, a number of sectors are targeted. In all, roughly 7% of workers in Quebec are covered by the Canada Labour Code, because they work for companies subject to the code. A total of 200,000 to 250,000 workers are affected.

Between 93% and 95% of workers in Quebec are already subject to the Charter of the French Language. We have to wonder about the inequity of a situation where 5% to 7% of workers in Quebec do not enjoy the rights conferred by the Charter of the French Language. I want to remind this House that the Charter of the French Language does not impose any obligations. It gives workers in Quebec the right to work in French.

It is extremely important that all workers in Quebec enjoy the same rights. In this case, everyone will acknowledge that it will certainly be easier to apply the Charter of the French Language to the 7% of workers who are not currently covered than to do the reverse. Moreover, that would run contrary to the objectives that the Quebec nation has had for a number of years, which are to protect the French language and ensure that it develops.

It is extremely important to take this step so that French continues to gain ground in the workplace. That sends an extremely important signal to the entire Quebec nation. It is also a sign of Canada's respect for the National Assembly's repeatedly stated desire.

All the polls conducted in Quebec show how strongly Quebeckers are united in their support for Bill 101 and the Charter of the French Language.

These amendments to the Canada Labour Code will fill a gap that is creating the inequity I mentioned earlier.

So, this bill proposes amendments to the Official Languages Act to ensure that, in Quebec, the federal government respects the Charter of the French Language. It also proposes amendments to the Canada Labour Code, to ensure that workers in businesses under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec can enjoy the same benefits and rights as those in businesses that come under the Quebec jurisdiction. Better still, the bill also proposes an amendment to the Canada Business Corporations Act, to ensure that the name of a corporation respects the Charter of the French Language. I think this makes perfect sense.

Not only should we respect the Charter of the French Language when it comes to workers' rights, not only should we respect it, and Bill 101, as regards the collective choices made by the Quebec nation and conveyed on several occasions by its National Assembly, but we should also ensure that the Charter of the French Language is respected as regards the names of businesses, because it reflects their corporate image in Quebec.

Let us not forget that since the year 2000 many complaints have been made regarding corporate names. There have been close to 1,500 over the past eight or nine years. So, this is an extremely sensitive issue in Quebec and, in the context of the Canada Business Corporations Act, businesses that are under federal jurisdiction must be required to respect the Charter of the French Language as regards their corporate name. That is why we are proposing amendments to that effect.

I should also mention that a number of people have argued that relatively few complaints have been made to the Office de la langue française about the application of the Charter of the French Language, whether it is regarding the language of work or corporate names. That can easily be explained by the fact that, currently, there is a gap and businesses that come under the Canada Labour Code are not subject to the Charter of the French Language. Consequently, very few people lodge complaints, because they know that they are not relevant in the current context.

If there were any amendments such as those proposed in Bill C-307, clearly, we would be seeing a lot more complaints. Workers have said that meetings were being held in English, even though only a single anglophone and 10 francophones were taking part. Furthermore, employees who are all francophone are being forced to communicate with each other in writing in English, especially in the aerospace sector. This information appeared just today in a major Montreal area newspaper.

In the airport sector, time and time again, employees have complained that it is impossible for them to work in French, even though their jobs do not require them to work in English. Of course I will not bother listing all the complaints that are received on a daily basis regarding services offered in French by airlines, even in the Montreal area.

Logically, this House should fully support Bill C-307, so as to be completely consistent with its decision to recognize the Quebec nation.

This is the second time we are introducing this bill. Last time we had the NDP's support. We hope to have their support for this bill once again.

As for the Liberal Party, the official opposition, it has a new leader who prides himself on being the first leader of a federalist party to recognize the Quebec nation. I therefore expect him to remain consistent with what he has said, and not necessarily take it to its logical conclusion, but at least go one step further towards tangibly recognizing the Quebec nation, by ensuring that the Charter of the French Language applies within Quebec's borders in the case of businesses under federal jurisdiction.

I expect Conservative members from Quebec to support this bill, along with the Liberals and my NDP friends, so it can be referred to committee quickly and improved.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6 p.m.
See context

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, through you, I would like to ask the sponsor of Bill C-307 now before us a very technical question.

We have a Commissioner of Official Languages. If the bill were adopted—no matter its merits or its timing—that would mean that the Commissioner of Official Languages could promote the official languages in the nine other provinces and territories, but not in Quebec. At present, he looks after Quebec.

Have I understood correctly that, consistent with the purpose of this bill, the Commissioner of Official Languages would no longer be able to work in Quebec because only the Charter of the French Language would apply to federal jurisdictions?

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question, which is very important.

When the Charter of the French Language was passed in 1977, there was a very difficult situation in Quebec workplaces. A number of strikes, lockouts and labour disputes had arisen simply in order to get collective agreements translated into French or to be allowed to negotiate in French. That is now a thing of the past for almost all companies, including various multinational firms. Rio Tinto is subject to the Charter of the French Language. I cannot believe that Bell Canada could not also be subject to the Charter of the French Language or that Telus Communications could not do as Rio Tinto and other multinationals located in Quebec have done. GM was mentioned earlier, but there are many others as well in the aerospace industry. There are also Rogers and CTV Global Media.

It is a matter, therefore, of political will. This will has been present in Quebec for many years, and the federal government should now show some respect for it. It is particularly incumbent on the House of Commons to do so, having passed a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. The House should therefore recognize the Quebec nation’s decision to have French as its common language. That is just a matter of logic and of correcting a legal loophole, which appeared in 1977 when the Charter of the French Language was passed.

In conclusion, I would like to say that just a few days ago we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the passing of Camille Laurin, who was the father of the charter. I wanted to honour his memory on the occasion of the introduction of Bill C-307.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Madam Speaker, hon. colleagues, it is a pleasure for me to take the floor today on Bill C-307 which, if passed, would make amendments to the Official Languages Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Labour Code, so as to harmonize them with the requirements of Quebec's Charter of the French Language.

As the Prime Minister has reminded us many times, Canada was born in French. Quebec and the French language are therefore at the heart of Canada, its history and its identity, and complement the history of the anglophone and allophone communities in Canada. Linguistic duality has been one of the foundations of Canadian society since the Canadian federation was created, and is an asset for the country and its citizens. Quebeckers are in support of this duality. Indeed, according to a 2006 Decima poll on behalf of Canadian Heritage, 84% of the francophones of Quebec consider linguistic duality to be a source of cultural enrichment.

Whether it be the commitment of $30 million in the 2007 budget, spread over two years to promote increased use by young people of the minority language in their daily lives, or the establishment of the language rights support program, announced last year, to support the language rights of Canadians, our government has taken concrete action to support this duality and the communities that exist at its heart.

Our government takes full account of Canada’s linguistic duality in its actions, a duality which it has committed to promote in Quebec as in the other provinces and territories. In a speech delivered in Quebec City last year, the Prime Minister himself referred to French as the first official language of our country. This is an incontestable truth which goes back to the arrival of the first French colonists in New France.

Our government is firmly committed to supporting the official languages and to the promotion of English and French, both in Quebec and in Canada as a whole. The Roadmap for Linguistic Duality in Canada 2008-2013: Acting for the Future is clear evidence of that commitment.

Announced in June 2008, this roadmap is the Government of Canada’s five-year plan for linguistic duality and official languages, and represents an unprecedented government-wide commitment with a budget of $1.1 billion. Thirteen federal departments and agencies have been its driving forces from the outset. Since then, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has joined the group, to meet the needs of the francophone communities in the territories.

The roadmap is directed at strengthening the vitality of the official-language minority communities and offering all Canadians the benefits that French and English--the country's two official languages--give them . Hence it supports the development of French all over the country, while also providing for a new arts and culture component and new programs in the fields of justice and economic development, with additional investments in health and immigration.

One example of this increased investment is the $4 million in additional funding which our government provided last week to the Consortium national de formation en santé. This brings that organization’s funding to $20 million in 2008-09, so that more support can be given to francophone students wishing to continue their post-secondary education in the field of health. In this way more of the country’s francophones will benefit from increased access to health services in the language of their choice.

The roadmap includes a new culture component and new initiatives to make the benefits of linguistic duality more accessible to all Canadians. The government recently unveiled two of these programs.

The Cultural Development Fund announced this month, which will have a budget of $14 million over four years, will support and strengthen the arts, culture and heritage within anglophone and francophone minority communities.

It will help Canadians everywhere in Canada to become more familiar with the diversity and vitality of the cultural scene in these communities, from Whitehorse to Moncton and from my community of St. Boniface to Lennoxville.

Our government has also announced the details of the National Translation Program for Book Publishing, for which we are providing a budget of $5 million over four years. This program will help publishers in Canada translate Canadian-authored books into English and French. With this program, we want to give as many Canadians as possible access to the enormous wealth of our country’s culture and literature.

The new programs under the Roadmap, for culture and for linguistic duality, are concrete actions to help promote our two official languages within minority communities and across Canada. We are going to continue down this path. Our government will continue to support the development of francophone and anglophone minorities and to promote the full recognition and use of English and French in our society.

Going beyond the Roadmap, the Government of Canada is very active in implementing cultural measures that encourage the promotion of French. To mention but a few, there are the CBC, Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board, support for cultural industries and the Canada Council for the Arts. At the international level, our active participation in the institutions of international francophonie provides concrete support for the promotion of French and the francophone community of Canada.

The 400th anniversary of Quebec City last year gave us a wonderful opportunity for this, and the celebrations were a great success.

The actions taken by the Canadian and Quebec governments can complement and strengthen each other. In fact, considering that the challenge of preserving Canada’s French language and culture must be met increasingly in the broader context of North American integration and globalization, our government firmly believes that the governments of Quebec and Canada must work together to consolidate a true francophone critical mass within the Canadian, North American and global village.

That is why the Canadian government wants to work to promote the French language in the context of a unifying, inclusive and respectful vision of all the francophone realities of our country. Our approach aims to create a francophone space to connect francophones in Quebec and in minority communities and francophiles from every cultural origin. There are a number of ways to achieve that, but the cultural sector is definitely a preferred option in this respect.

Besides government action with respect to official languages, Canadian arts and culture policies generously support the cultural development of francophones in Quebec and across Canada. We are providing support for Canadian cultural products to promote, among other things, greater awareness of all francophone artistic and cultural production in all the regions of the country. This can help create closer ties between the francophones in Quebec and those in minority communities, as well as between French speakers and francophiles such as myself across the country. Increased visibility of the French language also help increase awareness of linguistic duality among all Canadians.

Linguistic duality is a vital part of our Canadian identity. According to a Decima Research poll, 77% of francophones in Quebec believe that having two official languages is important to their sense of what it means to be Canadian. Our government remains committed to promoting this duality and to supporting official languages across the country.

I would like to focus briefly on the demographics, which have been the subject of considerable discussion since the release of the 2006 census data. This data shows that, in terms of the language used in public, French is the language of the majority in Quebec. Overall, 94.5% of the population speaks French, whether or not they know another language. That is also the case on the island of Montreal.

Quebec's anglophones personify the linguistic duality of our country. Quebec is the province where French is best mastered by anglophones, with 69% being able to speak French and using the language regularly.

To conclude, with our roadmap for Canada's linguistic duality 2008-2013, our government wants to give Canadians living in—

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lise Zarac Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am taking part in the debate, at second reading, on Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, brought forward by the member for Joliette, in order to explain clearly why the official opposition will not support this legislation.

This bill is merely the transformation of a motion presented by the Bloc, in April 2008, on the same issue. This is to stir up old fears on the same issue and to have us believe that the French language is constantly threatened, and that the efforts of previous Canadian governments to promote French both inside and outside Quebec have been to no avail.

What is even more ironic with this legislation introduced by the Bloc is that it proposes to force the Quebec government to interfere in federal jurisdiction. The Bloc, which has always boasted about defending Quebec's jurisdiction, is bringing forward a bill that would impose a provincial law on businesses that come under federal jurisdiction. That is really odd.

Moreover, for years the Bloc has been claiming falsely that the French language in Quebec is in a disastrous decline. The reality is quite the opposite. The 2006 census and the report of the Office de la langue française in Quebec, published in March 2008, both indicate that the use of French in the workplace has increased in Quebec, compared to the 2001 census data. It is also important to realize that the changes proposed by the Bloc could in fact threaten the rights of the anglophone minority in Quebec.

In many provinces and in the territories, bilingualism rates are going up, clearly showing the vitality of minority linguistic communities. A recent survey shows that a large majority of Canadians believe that bilingualism is a factor that defines our country. However, with Bill C-307, the Bloc strikes at the very heart of bilingualism, which is a Canadian value. What this bill is saying is that French must be promoted in Quebec, without regard for the linguistic minorities outside the province.

It is important to note that, according to Statistics Canada, the proportion of Canadians whose mother tongue is French increased by 1.6% between 2001 and 2006. In addition, during the same period, the proportion of anglophones who know French rose from 9% to 9.4%. The proportion of allophones who speak French rose from 11.8% to 12.1% during the same period. According to the Statistics Canada census, in Quebec, in 2006, nearly seven out of 10 anglophones, or 68.9%, said they spoke French and English, compared to 66.1% in 2001.

It is also important to note that the bilingualism rate increased between 1996 and 2006 in eight of the twelve provinces and territories outside Quebec. In support of the thesis that bilingualism is a core Canadian value, the popularity of bilingualism has increased among Canadians since 2003, rising from 56% in 2003 to 72% in 2006.

These figures are all highly revealing and show how false one of the Bloc’s main arguments is, namely that French is threatened as a language of work and that the situation could be improved by applying the charter to more companies. According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 census, 63% of immigrants spoke French in the workplace in 2001 and 65% spoke French in 2006. In addition, 60% of allophone immigrants used French in 2001 and by 2006, this had risen to 63%. Retail sales are a provincial jurisdiction and here the use of English in the workplace increased by 1%, which goes to show that even the provincial language legislation does not have the expected results.

The Bloc likes to rave over the French fact in the Americas but does not seem to care that the Official Languages Act is intended to protect linguistic minorities all over the country.

The French fact does not exist only in Quebec but in the other Canadian provinces as well.

Private member's Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, would modify the Canada Labour Code so that companies operating in Quebec yet under federal jurisdiction would be subject to la Charte de la langue française, a provincial charter.

The Bloc is trying to impose la Charte de la langue française, also known as Bill 101, on companies under federal jurisdiction, by occupying what they call a regulatory vacuum.

Indeed, section 34 of part V of the Official Languages Act states:

English and French are the languages of work in all federal institutions, and officers and employees of all federal institutions have the right to use either official language in accordance with this Part.

The Bloc argues that the law does not mention companies under federal jurisdiction, but rather, “federal institutions”, which would allow them to impose la Charte de la langue française disposition on companies under federal jurisdiction.

The private member's bill reveals the Bloc's hypocrisy on this since it tramples on already established federal jurisdiction.

The Bloc also fails to provide any detail on the economic and structural consequences of the bill for companies under federal jurisdiction, or on the Province of Quebec, which enforces language law.

Also absent from the Bloc's rationalization is how the anglophone minority would be protected.

If French were imposed on all federal institutions in Quebec, what would stop the other provinces from adopting charters of the English language and insisting that they too should not be subject to the Official Languages Act? What would happen then to the Acadians, the Franco-Ontarians, the Franco-Manitobans and the Franco-Saskatchewanians? The Bloc feels no responsibility at all for the Canadian francophonie.

Since Parliament passed the motion recognizing Quebec as a nation on November 27, 2006, the Bloc has been trying to force the federal government to implement policies that make the Quebec nation more of a reality.

Bill C-307 is just another attempt of this kind. By forcing companies under federal jurisdiction to comply with the letter of the labour relations code in the Charter of the French Language, the bill gives Quebec provincial legislation precedence over federal legislation, which in the Bloc’s view, would be a further recognition of Quebec’s nationhood.

Why in this regard would the Bloc not amend its bill to extend it to limiting voting rights only to people who pass a French test, as the PQ has suggested? When it comes to creating two classes of citizens, why stop when they have made such a good start?

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, the NDP has previously supported a bill similar to Bill C-307. It was Bill C-482. It came before this House and was voted on. The NDP supported it at second reading to have it sent to committee for study, because it was a very significant bill.

The present bill has been introduced by the member for Joliette, who said that, in the opinion of the House, further to its recognition of the Quebec nation, the government should now act and propose measures to give form to this recognition, such as having the Charter of the French Language apply to businesses under federal jurisdiction within Quebec, as concerns language of work.

I was listening to my Liberal colleague, who seems afraid of what will happen to francophones in the rest of the country if this sort of thing were passed in Quebec. I remember the member for Papineau saying that, if people did not learn both languages, it was because they were lazy. In New Brunswick, for example, we have two school boards, one English and one French. I recall the member for Papineau saying in Saint John on a visit to New Brunswick that there should be a single, bilingual school board. We know what that produced—a real setback for the French language.

I would like this bill to be studied in committee to hear the experts and hear whether anglophones in a minority situation in Quebec feel threatened. I have a hard time imagining any danger to anglophones in Quebec, given that McGill and other anglophone universities are located there. They are important universities. There is Bishop's University in Sherbrooke and others. They provide good services.

It is still sad that a bill has to be introduced to protect the French language in this country. I am trying to imagine a French company setting up in an anglophone region. All the employees should speak French and the collective agreement should be in French. I cannot imagine that happening. And yet, back home, in L'Anse-Bleue, for example, an anglophone company refused to provide a collective agreement in French. None of the employees in L'Anse-Bleue could understand it.

And what does this bill say? It says that francophones in Quebec will have the right to speak their mother tongue at their workplace and to have services under federal jurisdiction in French. This is not about government services, because services provided directly by federal departments must be in both official languages. Nevertheless, they say that employees within federal departments are entitled to use their mother tongue.

Again this week, at the Standing Committee on Official Languages, we were wondering how many deputy ministers, at the federal level, do not speak French. There are some. Does the same problem exist on the other side? How many deputy ministers do not speak English? With all the respect I have for anglophones, they do not have this problem, because all deputy ministers speak English, but not all speak French.

With regard to the Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver, we have just discovered that the advertising being done by the British Columbia tourism agency in other countries, such as China and Mexico, to welcome them to the Olympic Games, is being done in English but not in French. We spoke about that again this morning.

In spite of this, the federal government says that it respects both languages, that it has given a lot of money, through Canadian Heritage and Sport Canada, and so on. But we still have to fight to make sure that French, one of the two official languages, of one of the two founding peoples of this country, is respected.

I do not mean that the Bloc has fought to have the nation recognized, that they succeeded, and now they want a little more, but in my opinion the word “nation” does not mean very much. We ourselves are an Acadian nation, but what difference does that make? It does not make a hill of beans difference!

I recall that at the time the Queen was asked to apologize and acknowledge the wrongs done to the Acadians. The Liberal government of the day denied us that and fought to make sure that the British Crown did not acknowledge the wrongs done to the Acadians. What we were asking for was legitimate. The British Crown had apologized in a number of countries for the wrongs that had been done, but we Acadians, we could not ask for an apology.

In New Brunswick, we have learned to work together and we have had our French school boards and our English school boards. And in spite of that, people have worked together and it did not create just unilingual francophones or anglophones. I think that New Brunswick has become more bilingual because of that, and because of our mutual respect.

Last year, on the question of francophone immersion classes in the schools, the Liberal provincial government of Shawn Graham did not want children to start learning French before grade five, in the only officially bilingual province in Canada. I would never have believed that I would see 350 anglophones in the streets of Fredericton fighting to have their children learn French from a very young age, when they first start school.

The two communities have grown closer. I think we can see the difference between how it was before and the direction we are taking today.

For example, at the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the organization Parents for French has appeared several times to say that the government should give the provinces more money to help establish more immersion schools so that our children can learn both languages.

Now people are saying they want to learn both languages. This bill does not frighten me so far. It is a beginning. Voting to have it referred to committee would show our ability to talk to each other and to study the bill. It saddens me to hear the Liberals say they will vote against it. We can get some Quebec anglophones and francophones to come in to talk about it, we can chat with them and perhaps come up with some amendments to the bill.

The member for Joliette had even suggested some amendments to the bill. Let us look at the situation as a whole, rather than jump on the Bloc members about its dealing with a nation, and calling them a bunch of separatists. I know that is not what the hon. member said. But people would say that is the perception people have when it comes from the Bloc Québécois. And that is not what it is.

There is one province within North America that is the flower of the francophone culture. As for us, we are the francophones from the rest of Canada and we must protect the language and culture. This is important. We have now made some progress and anglophones see us now, not as a threat, but as full members of society able to work in our own language.

In some countries, there are five or six languages spoken with no problem whatsoever. If, however, we feel that we have to introduce a bill because in Quebec, a province with a francophone majority, francophones are being required to speak English in the workplace because the employer is English, it shows that not much progress has been made.

We need to look at how adjustments can be made. I have problems with Canada Post, for example. There is a problem within the francophonie itself, at the moment. When a person applies for a job with Canada Post, he has to do a test that comes from Quebec. But we Acadians—and it is not that we cannot understand each other—have a different language and a different accent. So I have been told by people working at Canada Post—

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, I know that you are a Franco-Columbian and I believe the debate in this House is very interesting.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This year, as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, it is important to note that, several decades ago, the Government of Canada established a linguistic framework based on the rights of French and English. Respect is the basis for our policy: respect for our two official languages and respect for the groups and the individuals who speak those two languages.

Canada defines itself as a country that values pluralism and where French and English have the status of official languages. Language rights are defined in our constitutional texts and in the Official Languages Act, and the most recent amendments made to that act in 2005 have strengthened those rights.

I want to assure this House that our government is firmly committed to meeting its obligations to support the official languages and promote French and English, not only in Quebec, but throughout Canada. This important commitment underscores the key role of the Government of Canada in this area, a role that is understood and supported by the majority of Quebeckers. According to a poll conducted by Decima Research, 2006, Attitudes and Perceptions towards Canada's Official Languages, 84% believe that linguistic duality is a source of cultural enrichment and 87% believe that the Government of Canada has an important role to play in promoting and protecting the status and use of French within Canadian society.

Our government takes that duality—both the francophone reality of Quebec and the fact of francophone minorities across the country—into consideration in all its actions. As a result of the 2005 amendment to the Official Languages Act, the Government of Canada is even more committed to promoting the vitality of official language minorities and full recognition of French and English in Canadian society. We honour that commitment by providing unequivocal support for promoting French throughout the country, and particularly in Quebec.

I would like to take a moment to outline the linguistic framework put in place in recent decades. July 9, 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the first Official Languages Act passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1969. This act came out of the recommendations in the report by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

This act laid the groundwork for protecting and enhancing linguistic duality in Canada by recognizing French and English as the official languages of all federal institutions in Canada and giving them equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada. The Official Languages Act also created the position of Commissioner of Official Languages, whose job it is to oversee the implementation of the act, receive and investigate public complaints, conduct independent studies and report to Parliament.

This act would lead to the enshrinement of language rights in the Constitution with the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

Official Languages ActRoutine Proceedings

February 10th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord for seconding this bill titled An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This bill would amend the Official Languages Act so that the federal government, the federal administration and federal institutions recognize French as the official language of Quebec and as the common language spoken by Quebeckers.

This bill would also amend the Canada Labour Code to ensure that employees who work in businesses under federal jurisdiction are given the same guarantees and advantages as other Quebec workers, who are subject to the Charter of the French Language.

Finally, this bill would amend the Canada Business Corporations Act to ensure that company names also respect the Charter of the French Language.

I feel that this bill should receive the unanimous support of this House because it is quite simply the concrete expression of the motion adopted here, by the House, recognizing the Quebec nation. It is just a formality, and I am convinced that we will have the unanimous consent of the House to pass this bill quickly.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)