An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.


Sylvie Bérubé  Bloc

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


Second reading (House), as of Feb. 27, 2020
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to require that permanent residents who ordinarily reside in Quebec must have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 24, 2021 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec)

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2022 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the second reading debate on Bill C-238, An Act respecting the French language. This bill was introduced by the member for Salaberry—Suroît, and I thank her for her work on it. The member has concerns about the future of the French language, as do I, and as do we all.

I am proud to be a long-time member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which has been doing some very interesting work during this Parliament. I would also like to recognize my colleagues on the committee and to highlight the outstanding work being done by our official languages critic, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

French is declining in Quebec. That is unfortunately a fact. The proportion of French speakers across Canada has fallen since the last census in 2016. In fact, even though the number of Canadians who speak French has increased from 7.7 million to 7.8 million, an increase of 100,000 people over five years, the proportion of Canadians whose first language is French has decreased. According to Statistics Canada, that number dropped from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021.

If the trend continues, according to the famous formula, the weight of French in Canada will go into an irreversible decline. The same thing is happening even in Quebec. The proportion of people who use French fell from 79% to 77.5% over the same five-year period. It is urgent that we take action to halt the trend. The Conservative Party has always been a strong advocate for the French fact in Canada. Our country was born in French and must continue to live in French.

The bill we are discussing today contains four parts that address four very different issues. Although all four parts involve the French language, the fact remains that it is difficult to combine four subjects, four issues, four laws in one private member's bill.

I must say that one of the proposed changes rings a bell. I remember having the opportunity to study and vote in favour of Bill C-223, which the Conservatives supported at second reading before the last pointless election was called by the Liberal government less than a year ago. Yes, immigrants residing in Quebec should have an adequate knowledge of Quebec's French language. That is clear. No one is disputing that.

At the time, my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul explained that the Conservatives supported the principle behind Bill C-223 based on two fundamental Conservative Party principles. The first is the recognition of the Quebec nation, as recognized by former prime minister Stephen Harper. The second is our commitment to protecting its language and culture. At the time, we did not even get to vote on the bill at second reading. We did not even get a chance to study the bill in committee, which is unfortunate.

I noticed that Bill C-238 contains three other measures. In addition to amending the Citizenship Act, the bill proposes amendments to three other acts, namely the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Labour Code.

Bill C-238 proposes that the Canada Business Corporations Act be amended to add the following: “the name of a corporation that carries on business in the Province of Quebec shall meet the requirements of the Charter of the French Language.”

It is important to bear in mind that Quebec passed Bill 96 only in June, which is not that long ago. On June 1, 2022, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, also known as Bill 96, received royal assent, bringing into effect several provisions amending the Charter of the French Language and about 20 other acts and regulations.

The new charter sets out stricter requirements for public signs and posters bearing the company's name that are visible from outside premises, and French must be markedly predominant over any other language. The transition period for public signs and posters will end by May 2025. The Quebec government understood that it had to do something about the quality of signs and posters.

However, the bill we are currently discussing focuses the name of a business or corporation as it appears in the articles of incorporation. I own a business myself, and that is how I interpret it. It is also important to note that the decline of French will not be solved by fixing articles of incorporation.

Even if changes were made to company names in Quebec's business registry but not reflected in signs and posters outside, it would obviously not make a difference. The French language is in decline, and we need far more effective measures.

Bill C-238 also amends the Canada Labour Code to subject it to the Charter of the French Language. As it happens, with respect to working in French, my colleagues and I will be studying the application of the Official Languages Act to workers.

I would also like to ask the following question: Would it not have been better to propose a bill like Bill C‑238, which amends the charter, after the final version of the National Assembly's Bill 96 came out in June? We shall see. Perhaps this bill should have been tabled after Bill 96 was passed in Quebec. That would probably have made it easier to understand.

Lastly, with respect to the Official Languages Act, as I was saying, the Standing Committee on Official Languages is are already working to improve the substance of Bill C-13. If we want to amend the Official Languages Act, the committee study of Bill C‑13 provides the opportunity to do so. That is why I am convinced that it is by working hard to improve Bill C‑13 that we will achieve the objectives I share with Bill C‑238's sponsor, who is concerned, as I am, about the future of French not only in Canada, but in Quebec as well.

It is no secret that this government has been rattled by non-stop scandals involving official languages since Bill C‑13 was tabled. The Minister of Official Languages only seems to be working part time, since she is responsible for two totally different departments. This government almost sued B.C. francophones because the Minister of Justice was working against the Minister of Official Languages. There is a lot of coordination that should be done, but the government is not doing it. This government holds unilingual briefing sessions and is not even ashamed of it.

The Standing Committee on Official Languages regularly hears from witnesses who very clearly tell us that there has to be an agency within government that is responsible for official languages, and that is the Treasury Board. This has been repeated ad nauseam. I sincerely believe that we will have to present an amendment to Bill C-13 in that regard.

There is clearly a lot of work to be done to address the French language issue, not just in Canada but also in Quebec. We have to look to legislative measures to stop the decline of French all across Canada. I believe we will achieve that by working together. I would like to again thank my colleague for introducing this bill. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that it will go very far, because it proposes changes to too vast a body of laws and regulations. However, on a positive note, Bill C-13 gives us a real opportunity to change things.

In fact, before leaving for the summer break in June, the government wanted to rush the bill through, and just yesterday we resumed hearing from witnesses in committee. These witnesses more or less unanimously agree that if we really want to stop the decline of French in Canada and Quebec, then we must, especially in Canada, have a government agency that manages our official languages, and I nominate the Treasury Board. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or FCFA, is saying, along with everyone else, that the government will have to think long and hard before passing this bill that will make fundamental changes within the machinery of government.

One thing is very clear: We are getting complaints. The Commissioner of Official Languages is also receiving a whole lot of complaints. There is still much work to be done, but we will work with my colleague and her party to improve the future of French in Canada.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2022 / 11:10 a.m.
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René Villemure Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, it would be a mistake to oppose Bills C-13 and C-238, so I cannot agree with my colleague.

Bill C-238 aims to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Citizenship Act. I would like to start by telling my colleagues that, when they vote on this bill, they will not be doing Quebec any favours. What they will be doing by voting for Bill C-238 is correcting a historical error and giving justice where justice is due.

Everyone understands that Canada was founded by the French then conquered by the British a very long time ago. The two peoples have since lived together in times of peace and in more difficult times. Our history includes victories for some, and bitter losses for others. French Canadians became Quebeckers and chose to assert themselves, shouting until they were blue in the face that their culture, their identity and their language were precious to them.

In 1977, under Camille Laurin, Quebec enacted the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101. Bill 101 made French the official language of the Quebec government and courts. French was now recognized as the normal and everyday language of work in education, trade, communications and business. Bill 101 enshrined in law the fact that French was the language of the majority. The French language was precious and statistically a minority language within English-speaking North America. That is why it needed protection.

Of course, not everyone was happy about Bill 101. Although it protected the anglophone minority in Quebec, which, incidentally, is the best-protected minority in Canada, the bill was challenged and cut back. Opponents tried to render it meaningless, and some of their efforts were successful.

Now we are in 2022, and statisticians have confirmed that the French language is in decline in Quebec, especially in the magnificent island of Montreal. I remember walking with my son on Notre-Dame Street in the middle of Saint-Henri, a neighbourhood Yvon Deschamps described as a place where francophone workers and the poor lived and worked. I remember seeing that the snack bars had been replaced with Internet coffee shops with English names. A very nice student from Toronto who had come to work there as part of a French immersion program spoke to us in English and understood nothing of our “gibberish” as we spoke French. I asked for “un espresso, s’il vous plaît”, and he answered, in as friendly and innocent a manner as can be, “Sorry, I don’t speak French”. This experience was repeated throughout our walk down Notre-Dame Street. Not only was the street anglicized in terms of language, but also in terms of social context. We could have been in Toronto, or anywhere in the globalized world. There is not much difference between “un espresso” and “an espresso”, but, still, French did not seem to be important.

Make no mistake: I have nothing against English. Rather, I am simply saying that I am pro-French. Coming back to the example I gave earlier, I find it curious that a student from Toronto who wants to broaden their horizons would come to Montreal, just to work in English in a café located in an area that was historically francophone but has since become primarily anglophone. So much for French immersion.

Beyond the statistics pointing to the decline of French in Quebec, simply walking through the streets of Montreal confirms it. From Second Cup to Five Guys, my beloved French is suffering.

It is important to understand that beyond fulfilling a simple communication function, language is also a political statement and, above all, a mindset. A bit of an explanation is in order.

Let us start by asking the following question: What is language? It is, first and foremost, a matter of linguistics. Language must first be regarded as a system of signs connecting words, drawn from a lexicon and according to specific grammatical rules established by a syntax. Language is the ability to express an idea and communicate through a system of signs. This is where we have a problem.

The rampant anglicization of Quebec society prevents people from thinking in French, creating in French and being French. Globalization, which made Céline Dion popular from Algeria to Indonesia, has also flattened cultures, all cultures except for one, the Anglo-Saxon culture. We were told that globalization liberated cultures whereas, in reality, it simply made people want to or have to live in English.

Language is all about communicating and thinking. Globalization has brought with it the danger of what I call a single mindset, which occurs when what is essential is no longer distinguished from what is secondary, when far-reaching intellectual projects face the powerful inertia of pervasive mediocrity and small-mindedness, and when tastes and ideas become homogeneous.

It is the very perception of existence that is at stake when we talk about a single mindset. English dominates the world and now serves as the platform for this single mindset. That is why we must resist. That is why we are studying Bill C-238 today.

Six living Quebec premiers supported the Quebec government's motion to the effect that the French requirement should apply to federally regulated businesses in Quebec. The fact that it is not being applied is anachronistic and can only be aimed at exacerbating the decline of the French language.

The former Bill C-223 proposed that those applying for citizenship in Quebec would need to possess an adequate knowledge of French. The fact that this requirement has not already been implemented is equally anachronistic and again can only be aimed at exacerbating the decline of the French language in Quebec.

This is why the Bloc Québécois is categorically opposed to the federal government's attempt to supersede provincial legislation in Quebec with its own law.

The federal government needs to recognize that the Government of Quebec must remain in charge of language planning within Quebec. Language is a fundamental aspect of the specificity and identity of the Quebec nation.

This is the most important part: We must preserve French in order to preserve freedom of thought. That is why I suggest that members of Parliament right a historical wrong and vote in favour of Bill C-238.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, today I am speaking to Bill C-238, an act respecting the French language, which was introduced by the member for Salaberry—Suroît. I thank her for her work on this important piece of legislation.

Bill C‑238 does several things. It amends the Canada Labour Code and certain provisions of the Official Languages Act and the Citizenship Act. It also makes a change to the Canada Business Corporations Act.

As I said in a recent speech in this place, the experts tell us that French is becoming increasingly precarious, even across government and this very government's ministerial offices. Action must be taken immediately and judiciously to achieve the desired effects. In deciding which legislative measures to adopt to protect French, we need to build on existing rights and official language modernization statutes and listen to what official language minority community leaders tell us.

As we know, recognizing official languages tops the list of our most fundamental rights in this country. According to subsection 16(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada”. The charter guarantees that members of the public can communicate with and receive services from the federal government in the official language of their choice. There is no obligation to become bilingual under the charter.

We also need to bear in mind that Quebec has decided to modernize its own legislation to better protect the French language. We must salute the hard work of the members of the Quebec National Assembly who are about vote on and pass Bill 96, an act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec.

Bill C‑238 has been introduced in a context that has not occurred in Canada for decades. Right now, provincial and federal language laws are being reviewed from top to bottom, including in Canada's only bilingual province, New Brunswick.

As I was saying earlier, Bill C‑238 amends the Citizenship Act in order to ensure, among other things, that permanent residents who ordinarily reside in Quebec must have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship. I would remind the House that these changes to the Citizenship Act are the same as the ones proposed in another bill, Bill C‑223, which the Conservatives supported at second reading before the last election.

In addition to the citizenship aspect, Bill C‑238 also proposes amending the Canada Business Corporations Act so that “the name of a corporation that carries on business in the Province of Quebec shall meet the requirements of the Charter of the French Language”. This proposal needs to be analyzed in relation to what the Charter of the French Language already does in Quebec and especially in relation to the scope it will have once Bill 96 is passed.

Bill C‑238 also proposes amending the Canada Labour Code by adding a new provision just after section 4, which stipulates that “any federal work, undertaking or business operating in Quebec is subject to the requirements of the Charter of the French Language”.

If this amendment is applied, will it be consistent with the rest of the federal legislation, including the new Charter of the French Language? That is the question. It is clear to me that federally regulated businesses in Quebec should not aim for the lowest common denominator. We do not want more of what is happening with Air Canada, CN and so on.

Bill C-238 also proposes amendments to the Official Languages Act to add an undertaking that the Official Languages Act will not obstruct the Charter of the French Language. Is the term “obstruct” sufficiently clear and precise? We certainly must ask ourselves how the new version of the Official Languages Act, which could be passed in a few weeks, will work with the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

I also note that the measures in section 43 must be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the objectives of the Charter of the French Language. How will the courts rule if this provision is adopted?

I agree with several of the underlying principles of this bill, in particular the vital importance of preserving the French language and stopping its decline. I believe that we all share legitimate and common concerns about making the Official Languages Act a modern, effective act that will achieve its objective of ensuring respect for French and English as the official languages of Canada.

Setting aside the objectives themselves, I believe it is important to point out that, as legislators, we must ascertain the optimal way of implementing these objectives to protect the French language and ensure respect for the official languages. I believe that it is important to keep in mind the progress of the work of the House. Bill C‑238 is being introduced while Bill C-13, which seeks to amend many provisions of the Official Languages Act, is in the process of being passed.

Before I vote on this bill that was introduced not long ago, I plan to carefully go through all of the underlying details regarding the proposed measures. There are a number of angles to consider and I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same. Nicolas Poussin, a 17th-century French painter, once said that anything worth doing is worth doing well. As legislators, we must determine the best way to achieve our objectives. To better protect the French language, we need the best bills and therefore the best possible amendments, all working together as one to create an effective body of law that addresses the problems.

After studying Bill C‑238, we will have to determine whether this bill provides all of the tools required to achieve the objectives that I described. I want my colleagues to have enough time to study this bill in depth. I will keep repeating that if we want our country's bilingualism to remain a unique and appealing feature, with English and French as our two official languages, we must act now to stop the decline of French. We must protect and promote French so that it can continue to develop.

An Act respecting the French languagePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2022 / 11:20 a.m.
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Sherbrooke Québec


Élisabeth Brière LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-238 on the French language, sponsored by the hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît.

This bill is similar to bills tabled in previous sittings of Parliament. In the 43rd Parliament, we had Bill C-223, which would have required that immigrants living in Quebec have an adequate knowledge of Quebec, as well as Bill C-254, which sought to apply Quebec's Charter of the French Language to federally regulated companies by amending the Official Languages Act, the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Business Corporations Act.

Bill C‑238 essentially combines those two bills into one. We understand the Bloc's concern about the future of the French language, and we share that concern. As we acknowledged in the throne speech, the use of French is in decline throughout Quebec and across Canada. We have a responsibility to protect and promote French across Canada, including in Quebec.

Where we differ from the Bloc is in our response to this problem. In the last Parliament, the former minister of official languages tabled a document entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”, which laid out our government's vision for official languages reform, and Bill C-32, our modernization of the Official Languages Act.

Together, these two documents represented the most ambitious reform of the Official Languages Act since its passage more than 50 years ago. They acknowledged the challenges faced by the French language from coast to coast to coast, including in Quebec, and they recognized for the first time that our government has a duty to protect and promote the French language. However, during our consultations with stakeholders across Canada over the summer, during the election campaign and after the election, we kept hearing that we needed to do more.

That is why, on March 1, in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, which is an important historical site for our Acadian community, the current Minister of Official Languages, a proud Acadian herself, tabled Bill C-13, an act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other acts. This bill is noteworthy because it shares similar objectives with Bill C‑238, namely protecting and promoting the French language. However, it goes much further.

Bill C‑13 broadens the historical scope of the former Bill C‑32 by introducing even more protections for the French language. It ensures that francophones can work and receive services in their language, not only in Quebec, but in other regions of Canada with a strong Francophone presence.

That is why our government will not support Bill C‑238, because it does not protect and, by its very nature, cannot protect the French language and francophones from coast to coast to coast.

Let us compare the immigration provisions of Bill C‑238 with those in our bill. In the preamble to Bill C‑13, our government recognizes the importance of the contribution of francophone immigration to enhancing the vitality of French linguistic minority communities and that immigration is one of the factors that contributes to maintaining or increasing the demographic weight of those communities.

Moreover, our bill requires that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship adopt a policy on francophone immigration in order to enhance the vitality of French linguistic minority communities in Canada. This policy is to include objectives, targets and indicators, as well as a statement that the federal government recognizes that immigration is one of the factors that contributes to maintaining or increasing the demographic weight of French linguistic minority communities in Canada.

This is in addition to the administrative measures set out in the reform paper, which instruct the Minister of Immigration to set up a new francophone immigration corridor, recognize the importance of recruiting and retaining French-speaking and French-language teachers and increase opportunities for newcomers to learn French. There is a shortage of French-language teachers in Canada, particularly outside Quebec, and we need these measures in order to meet our francophone immigration objectives and to nurture the next generation of French-speaking Canadians.

As for the other part of Bill C-238, the section dealing with federally regulated businesses such as banks and airlines, here again, Bill C‑13 offers a more comprehensive solution.

Bill C-13 recognizes that Quebec has adopted the Charter of the French Language. In fact, it even creates a new law, the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act, which states that, in relation to communications with or services provided to consumers in Quebec or in relation to workplaces in Quebec, Quebec's Charter of the French Language applies instead of this bill if a federally regulated private business must be subject to the charter.

However, the Charter of the French Language does not protect francophones outside Quebec. As our government recognized in last year's reform paper, we have a duty to encourage federally regulated private businesses to promote the equal status of our two official languages in order to increase the use of French as a language of service and a language of work across the country.

That is what Bill C-13 does. We are making sure that Canadians have the right to work and be served in French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and other regions of Canada with a strong francophone presence. We require employers to communicate with their employees in French and prohibit discrimination against an employee solely because they speak only French or do not have adequate knowledge of a language other than French. We are also enacting legislation to ensure that consumers of goods and services have the right to be served in French.

These tools are necessary to support francophones across the country. That is what we are doing with Bill C-13, and Bill C-238 simply cannot do the same.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Salaberry—Suroît for raising this extremely important issue. Like her, our government recognizes that the use of French is in decline across the country and that urgent action is needed not only to stop this decline, but also to reverse it and move toward a future where French grows stronger.

However, Bill C-238 does not and cannot do that. I hope that all members of the House will join us in passing Bill C-13 as quickly as possible so that we can meet the objective of protecting and promoting French from coast to coast to coast, including Quebec, for francophones across the country.

The House resumed from February 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this evening's important discussion on Bill C-223.

I have been listening to my colleagues speak in the House for a little while now, and I think we all agree. The bill's objective is clear. We support the objective, which is entirely laudable and noble: to stand up for the French language, for the place of the French language and for the demographic weight of francophones. As a New Democrat, a Montrealer and a Quebecker, I fully endorse those objectives.

However, we believe that this is the wrong tool to achieve a good objective. In that regard, I think the bill completely misses the mark in terms of its original intention, and for several reasons. A bill can be judged on several criteria, and I will name three of them: its enforceability, its effectiveness and the unintended consequences that might arise from the application or non-application of the bill. Unfortunately, what is being proposed here today would be difficult to enforce and not very effective and could have a harmful impact on some people.

Essentially, there are three main immigration categories, which my colleague mentioned earlier: family reunification; refugees who are in distress and fleeing violence; and economic immigrants, who represent the vast majority of immigrants welcomed into the country for economic development reasons, to mitigate labour shortages and to stimulate the economy by growing communities. Quebec already has the exclusive power to select its economic immigrants. There is also a whole series of factors that are taken into account when determining whether an applicant should be accepted as an economic immigrant.

For years, under various governments, Quebec has used a points system that gives more points for knowledge of French. The questions are extremely easy. By and large, that has worked well. Quebec is already able to attract francophone immigrants because it has total control over the system. The federal government also provides support in the form of French integration and French language classes for those who need it. Quebec is fully autonomous in that regard and has made decisions aimed at increasing the percentage of francophone immigrants. This is working fairly well, and I think this is the type of approach that should be taken, where incentives and resources are provided to help immigrants learn French.

The two other immigration categories stem from something else entirely, with objectives that are quite different. Family reunification is fairly clear. However, we accept refugees out of humanitarian duty, solidarity and compassion for people experiencing oppression, discrimination, violence and civil war, as is currently the case in Yemen. I would not want to withhold Canadian citizenship from someone fleeing Yemen because there is little chance that they speak French. We prioritize immigrants from north Africa, Belgium, Switzerland and France because they are awarded more points to come work here and contribute to Quebec's economy and society. I believe we should be able to make this distinction.

What is the objective of the program and the end goal? I do not think it is right to put obstacles in the way of refugees seeking citizenship just because they do not speak French or have difficulty learning French. I believe that those people need help, not additional obstacles, even if we agree on welcoming more francophone immigrants. I think it is completely inappropriate to apply these provisions to refugees, and refugee advocacy groups are concerned about that approach. It is not just the idea of saying that we do not want them to come here, it is that they will not obtain citizenship, and if they never get citizenship, they will not become engaged citizens and will not be able to vote in elections. It is like telling them to come here because we want to help them, but warning that they will never have the right to vote unless they learn French.

Is that really the message we want to send to promote French?

Some refugee advocates, including lawyer Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, with whom I spoke recently, told me they were very concerned, because this proposal assumes that a refugee coming from a war zone does not have a learning disability or PTSD, and that he or she is on an equal footing with an economic immigrant who comes here to start a business or work for Quebec companies. These are two completely different scenarios, and the bill before us is very broad in scope.

That is why I said it could have unintended consequences on certain categories of immigrants, such as refugees and people who come for family reunification. This concerns us, when Quebec already has a system that works well for economic immigrants.

It would also be difficult to enforce and ineffective, because it does not really take into account the fluidity of interprovincial moves.

A French test might be a prerequisite for citizenship in Quebec, but many immigrants who do not speak French will go to Toronto, Halifax, or Moncton, New Brunswick. They get their Canadian citizenship there, and three months or six months later, they move to Quebec to find work.

That means some people have to take the test and some do not. The latter can still move to Quebec because nobody stops them at the border to ask them what test they had to pass to get citizenship. Given that interprovincial moves were not considered, we find ourselves with a double standard. What should we do about that?

We share the same goal of defending the French fact. I am actually very proud that a motion I moved in the House of Commons a few weeks ago regarding the fragility of French in Quebec and Canada and the need to strengthen and promote it received the unanimous support of the House.

The NDP has a history of defending French. I want to mention a former member of ours from the Quebec City area, Alexandrine Latendresse, whose hard work resulted in a real victory. Because of the bill we introduced and got passed in the House of Commons, all officers of Parliament, such as the environment commissioner and the Auditor General, must be able to understand and speak French. This is a great example of a very tangible and very practical victory for the rights of francophones across the country.

For the past 10 or 12 years, we have been saying that Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, should apply to federally regulated businesses in Quebec. As I mentioned earlier, when I was talking about contradictions and double standards, the situation right now is a little strange. For example, a Caisse populaire employee is protected by Bill 101, but a Royal Bank employee does not have the same protections to communicate in French. If Bill 101 applied, all workers in Quebec would have equal rights, no matter which company they work for. The NDP has been advocating for this since before Jack Layton was our leader, and we are still advocating for it under our current leader.

We are also calling for and requiring that Supreme Court judges be bilingual, that they be able to understand French and speak it well. It is a matter of equal legal rights for people pleading their case in court. I am sure that my Bloc Québécois and Conservative Party colleagues agree with us on that. Unfortunately, the Liberal government does not seem to be listening when it comes to these two files, namely, the application of Bill 101 in Quebec and the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges.

Another issue on which we could take meaningful action to change things is the modernization of the Official Languages Act. That is something that was promised by the Liberals, who have been in office for five years. Rather than a new bill, we might see a white paper or a discussion paper tomorrow. The more time passes, the further behind we fall on this issue. This law has not been modernized in nearly 30 years. I think it is time to look at what we can do to give the Official Languages Act more teeth, to give it more power and authority to defend vulnerable francophone communities in some parts of the country.

We want to give rights to francophones working in federally regulated businesses outside Quebec, but we are somewhat concerned that this is only possible where warranted by the concentration of francophones. Information was recently leaked to the media that seemed to indicate that if immigrants may not have this right if they are not sufficiently francophone. It is like a Scotiabank employee in Moncton having certain rights and an employee of the same bank in Calgary not having them.

The Liberals must do better.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-223, which would amend the Citizenship Act to require that citizenship applicants who ordinarily reside in Quebec must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of French and must pass a test on the rights, responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship in French.

This bill would also increase the age range of applicants who must meet the language and knowledge requirements to 18 years of age or more but less than 65 years of age, compared to the current age range of 18 to 54 years.

In 2017, we amended the Citizenship Act to make it easier for immigrants to build successful lives in Canada, reunite with their families and contribute to the country's economic success. The goal was to encourage immigrants to develop a permanent sense of belonging and to become full-fledged members of Canadian society by getting their citizenship more quickly. These changes to the act reduced the age range for language and knowledge requirements from 14 to 65 to today's 18 to 54. By asking only applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 to meet the language and knowledge requirements, we are making life easier for immigrants to Canada and reducing barriers to citizenship for our oldest and youngest populations.

This flexibility also helps support the reunification of families by helping children, their parents and their grandparents obtain citizenship more quickly. That is an important step in enabling immigrants to develop a deeper sense of belonging to our society and become more active citizens.

By proposing to raise to 18 or more, but less than 65, the age range of people who have to show that they meet the language and knowledge requirements, Bill C-223 would undo the changes made in 2017 and restore the barriers to citizenship for older applicants. This would also have an adverse effect on the naturalization rate in Canada, which is currently one of the highest in the world at 85.8%.

We encourage all immigrants to become full members of Canadian society and we know that one of the most important pillars of a successful integration into Canadian society is obtaining citizenship. The success of our immigrants is our success as a strong and united country.

The proposed changes in this bill that would expand the age range and eliminate the choice of language would have a disproportionate and adverse effect on refugees, women, older newcomers and other vulnerable populations who might consider the obligation to meet the language and knowledge requirements in French only to be a barrier to citizenship.

These are populations that need our support and compassion and not additional barriers that have already been exacerbated by COVID-19.

We know that the intention of this bill is to protect and promote the French language in Quebec. Our government values Canada's linguistic duality. French and English are a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian identity, and we know how important it is to promote both official languages.

French and English are fundamental characteristics of the Canadian identity, and we know how important it is to promote our two official languages. We are committed to promoting French across Canada and to preserving and protecting the French language in Quebec.

The Government of Canada has committed to helping all newcomers get the French- or English-language skills they need to integrate into their communities and contribute to the Canadian economy. We know that immigration plays a key role in supporting francophone minority communities across the country and in maintaining Canada's bilingualism. We also know that established immigrants who obtain Canadian citizenship have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada.

Citizenship is a key element that opens doors to greater economic opportunities and encourages full participation in Canadian society. We have implemented measures to attract francophone newcomers to Canada and are working hard to support their integration and retention. This approach has helped strengthen the capacity of francophone communities across the country. By consolidating the francophone integration pathway, our government is committing to the principle of “par et pour”, ensuring that settlement services for francophones are offered by francophones.

It is important to note that Quebec selects all immigrants settling in that province except those in the family reunification for protected persons category. Under the Canada-Quebec accord, the Government of Canada gives the Province of Quebec an annual amount to administer and deliver services for the reception and linguistic, cultural and economic integration of immigrants who settle in Quebec, including resettled refugees.

Statistics show high rates of French acquisition over time among permanent residents who remain in Quebec, which reinforces the ultimate goal of French language acquisition. Census data show that, 10 years after arriving in Quebec, over 90% of those in the economic immigrant category, over 70% of those in the family reunification category and over 83% of refugees speak French. That means the vast majority of immigrants residing in Quebec end up speaking French.

I think we can all agree that that is good news. Given the importance of French in Canada and Quebec, we should do and are doing everything in our power to maintain and support Canada's rich linguistic duality. However, becoming Canadian should be as inclusive and equitable as possible, no matter where one lives in this great country.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-233, which was introduced by my colleague.

First, I would like to remind members that the Bloc Québécois believes that the protection of French in Quebec requires an asymmetrical approach, which is why the bill is specifically tailored to Quebec with respect to the knowledge of French required to obtain citizenship.

In a way, we are pleased that the federal government is recognizing for the first time, albeit it timidly, that Quebec's situation and the status of French are unique. I would like to quote from this fall's throne speech:

Our two official languages are woven into the fabric of our country.... The Government of Canada must also recognize that the situation of French is unique. There are almost 8 million francophones in Canada within a region of over 360 million inhabitants who are almost exclusively anglophone. The government therefore has the responsibility to protect and promote French not only outside of Quebec, but also within Quebec.

This is in stark contrast to what we have seen in the past. The government is now talking about the importance of protecting the French language in Quebec. However, the government needs to walk the talk, and that is what the Bloc Québécois wants to achieve with this bill.

The notion of citizenship is closely tied to politics. It always has been, and that is still the case. The main differences between a permanent resident and a citizen are the following: the right to vote or run in elections; the right to hold a job requiring a specific security clearance, such as a position with a company that does business with National Defence; and the right to sit on a jury. All of this requires some knowledge of French, and the French-language test required for citizenship is not very difficult. Candidates are required to be able to interact in everyday situations or to ask simple, basic questions to express their needs in day-to-day life. They are not asked to compose poetry or write in Alexandrine verse.

This is not the first time that this bill has been introduced. What I find unfortunate is that, in the past, there seemed to be a determination to nip the bill in the bud. I am thinking of former MP David de Burgh Graham, who said the following concerning the bill at the admissibility stage, and I quote:

My wife speaks five languages. French is not one of them. When she got her Canadian citizenship, we had just moved to Quebec. I had already lived there; she came to Quebec with me. She would have had to return to Ontario or stay in Ontario to get her citizenship, and I think that's against the values of our Constitution, our charter. I cannot support that on constitutional grounds.

No evidence was ever provided to show that the bill was unconstitutional, aside from an opinion that was not supported by legal advice, and the clerks of the House had found the bill to be constitutional. It therefore seems that some were determined to kill the bill from the start, which I think is unfortunate.

This time, the bill has gotten further in the process. It has been deemed admissible. After second reading, the bill will be sent to committee, where expert witnesses will speak to various issues. I think it would be a shame to abort the process now and kill the bill again before it even gets off the ground. The argument is that we should not vote in favour of the bill because it would hinder many people from obtaining citizenship.

I would like to point out that, to obtain citizenship, a person has to have spent 1,095 days in Canada. That is a good opportunity to learn the basics of French. I would also like to point out that not having citizenship does not prevent anyone from working or getting health care, because permanent residents can do both of those things.

I think it is a shame that people are refusing to send the bill to committee. The purpose of this bill is to protect the French language, so I think it is a shame to miss this opportunity to see what other obstacles to citizenship exist.

Some people have said that making knowledge of French mandatory would prevent a lot of people from obtaining Canadian citizenship. However, in November 2019, which is not so long ago, Statistics Canada reported that the citizenship rate among recent immigrants had dropped between 1996 and 2016 and had declined much more dramatically after 2006. Even without the requirement to pass a French test, there has been a decrease in citizenship uptake. It would have been interesting to examine the reasons for this decrease in committee.

I also find it odd that the government claims that knowledge of French would be an obstacle to obtaining citizenship, when we know that one of the obstacles to citizenship is the cost of the tests that are required to obtain citizenship. In the 2019 election campaign, the Liberals promised to make the test free, but it still costs $630 per person. For a family of two adults with children, that could mean up to $1,200, $1,800 or $2,400. That is a lot of money, and it is a major obstacle to citizenship. This could also have been studied in committee.

There is another aspect that could have been studied in committee, although I admit it is rather upsetting. In some cases, to obtain permanent resident status and to access other stages of the immigration process, the person needs to already have knowledge of one of the two official languages. However, we are seeing an imbalance when it comes to the tests that are administered. The Commissioner of Official Languages has received several complaints about the cost of tests in French, which is not the same as the cost of tests in English. We see that the cost of these official language proficiency tests is twice as high in French as it is in English. We also see that those who choose to take these tests in French get their results much later.

Fundamentally, there is already an imbalance when it comes to knowledge of one of the two official languages. That is something that could also have been looked at in committee. This has been going on for some time. The government has made several promises on this, but it has not kept them.

Furthermore, these tests are developed and also marked in France, not Quebec. The tests given to many immigrants are not necessarily appropriate. I will give a very simple example. In France, the meals are called “petit-déjeuner”, “déjeuner” and “dîner”, whereas the terms used in Quebec are “déjeuner”, “dîner” and “souper”. This can lead some people to make mistakes and possibly fail the test. For example, a U.S. citizen stated that when she took the test, she was asked to role-play a conversation where she had to order something at the Bistro du Louvre. The different expressions used in Quebec and France were a thorn in her side.

By not sending this bill to committee, we are missing opportunities to improve access to citizenship in general. We are denying ourselves the chance to identify obstacles to citizenship. We are also missing an opportunity to examine how knowledge of the official languages is evaluated in Canada, not just in Quebec. This is a missed opportunity for the provinces and territories as well. We could also have examined the criteria, in particular for obtaining permanent residency.

That is the very essence of the bill. If it does not go to committee, the claims that this bill would make it difficult to obtain citizenship will remain unsubstantiated. We will not be able to determine whether the bill could help strengthen the French fact and ensure that newcomers will fulfill the duties that come with citizenship and that they will be able to fully and completely participate in all that citizenship entails, such as the right to vote and the right to run in elections.

The House resumed from November 19, 2020, consideration of the motion that Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
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Hochelaga Québec


Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-223, which proposes changes to the current process for permanent residents of Canada to become Canadian citizens.

Before I address the bill specifically, I would like to take a moment to talk about myself and my family. I came to Quebec as a political refugee in the early years of Bill 101. I am a child of the very first reception classes and francization classes in Quebec. My single mother and my grandparents, who were over 60 years old, took francization classes at the infamous Centres d'orientation et de formation des immigrants, commonly known as COFIs.

My aunt Marcela arrived in 1978 at the age of 17. She also learned French upon arrival and worked for more than 20 years as a nurse in Quebec health care. She is now a francophone doctor in her field and a professor in the nursing program at the Université du Québec en Outaouais.

We all received our citizenship before we could speak French. Today, my children and my cousins are all young Quebec francophones who work and study in French. That was possible in 1980, and I think it is still possible today.

The Government of Canada encourages all immigrants to commit to taking part in every aspect of Canadian and Quebec society. Getting Canadian citizenship is one of the best foundations for successful integration in life. Immigrants make a considerable contribution on a cultural, economic, social and political level. They volunteer, join community organizations and share their points of view on so many important issues in our society.

Anyone who has had the chance to attend or take part in a citizenship ceremony knows that it is a very moving experience. It is a very touching celebration. It is an official step in a process for gaining Canadian citizenship. For most immigrants, this step signifies that they have demonstrated their knowledge of Canada, their host country, of its history and the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. They were also able to demonstrate that they can speak French or English and that they commit to living and working in this country.

The government of Canada is determined to help all newcomers acquire the French or English language skills they need to integrate into their host community and to contribute to the country's economy.

As we know, the pandemic has had significant repercussions for almost all sectors of society. We are now striving to adapt to the new realities and to make as many positive changes as possible. In March, in response to the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada decided to cancel all citizenship ceremonies, tests, retests and in-person interviews. Through innovation and the use of existing platforms, we were fortunately able to continue welcoming new Canadian citizens at virtual citizenship ceremonies.

Recently, in mid-October 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada held almost 8,800 ceremonies at which more than 43,000 new Canadian citizens took the oath of citizenship. We are currently planning the resumption of citizenship tests using technology that will let candidates take online tests. While waiting for the online testing solution to be ready and accessible, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is using a virtual platform to process urgent citizenship applications and administer a small number of citizenship tests and interviews.

Citizenship officers began contacting clients who reported an urgent need to obtain citizenship. The implementation of such measures shows our commitment to reducing the obstacles to citizenship during this very unusual time. It is important to point out that the government places a high value on Canada's two official languages. As a result, we remain determined to welcome more francophone newcomers. We believe that all newcomers to Canada and Quebec enrich our communities.

Most members know that Quebec is the only province that has an immigration agreement with the federal government.

Quebec selects its immigrants from the economic class. Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French. Census data show that, 10 years after they arrive in Canada, 90.5% of economic immigrants, 71.1% of immigrants under the family reunification program and 84.3% of refugees speak French. Under this agreement, Quebec is also responsible for French-language and integration programs.

We must continue to be welcoming and open to the world. We must ensure that we promote francophone immigration and French-language training for all immigrants and refugees who settle in Quebec.

The Government of Canada knows that immigration positively contributes to our country's economy and society. We also know that newcomers contribute to the vitality of communities, particularly francophone minority communities outside Quebec, but also communities within Quebec. We need to maintain the demographic weight of francophones in North America, which is why francophone immigration is so important. That is why we are taking numerous measures to increase francophone immigration, promote the integration and retention of French-speaking newcomers and build capacity in francophone communities.

As part of the government's official languages action plan, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will invest more than $40 million over five years to support a consolidated francophone integration pathway. In 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada launched new language training services to support the francophone integration pathway, which helps French-speaking newcomers who settle in francophone minority communities and improves their language skills.

Although progress toward achieving these targets depends on lifting pandemic-related travel restrictions, I think we will get there eventually and increase the number of francophone newcomers across the country.

Taken together, these measures will help French-speaking newcomers build new lives in Canada and signal the government's support for linguistic duality in this country. The government's focus on French and francophone immigration will also strengthen the demographic weight of francophones in Quebec.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
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Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a good question.

Indeed, we are here today to defend Bill C-223, which is about making knowledge of French a requirement for newcomers to Quebec. We need the support of all MPs to pass this bill. Otherwise, we will have to take other measures to finally achieve Quebec independence.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
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Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a good question, and I thank my colleague.

Young people are indeed the future. In Quebec, young people are also the future of the French language.

The current government must support this bill because it is very important for the French language. For days now, the Liberals and Conservatives have been saying how important French in Quebec is. They must prove it today by voting in favour of Bill C-223.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
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Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

That is a matter that falls under Quebec's jurisdiction. The member can ask the Quebec minister of education about what is happening in Quebec.

However, today, I am talking about Bill C-223, which the House should support because it seeks to give newcomers to Quebec an opportunity to speak French.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:45 p.m.
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Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Bill C-223 is for the province of Quebec. If we look back on our history and remember what happened, we are all immigrants from New England or France.

Now, 400 years later, we are still debating the French language, even though Quebec is francophone. This bill is truly essential, since we want newcomers to at least be able to speak and live in French, not just in Montreal, but all across Quebec. There are more and more newcomers all across Quebec, even in my riding.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2020 / 5:30 p.m.
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Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

moved that Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the first bill that I have introduced in the House. I introduced a very simple bill with a clear objective, and that is to enable newcomers who want to become citizens and reside in Quebec to integrate into their host society.

In order to integrate, newcomers must be able to communicate with members of their host society. In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec. As a result, newcomers must learn French in order to integrate into Quebec society.

Anyone who wants to become a Canadian citizen at the end of their immigration process must demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of one of Canada's two official languages. Right now, a permanent resident who wants to become a citizen and reside in Quebec could do so without knowing a single word of French. Of course, this situation is not in keeping with the Charter of the French Language, the main objective of which is to make French the common language of all Quebeckers.

That is why, during the last election campaign, the Bloc Québécois's platform included a promise to introduce a bill requiring that permanent residents residing in Quebec have knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship. Promise kept: That is what we are debating today.

During the 42nd Parliament, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île introduced Bill C-421, which would have made that change. Unfortunately, the bill was deemed non-votable following an extraordinary procedure that included all MPs voting secretly in spite of the opinion of the clerk who drafted the bill.

This time, the Bloc Québécois has a legal opinion. The other parties can no longer hide behind the so-called unconstitutionality of this proposal.

In March, the Bloc Québécois commissioned this legal opinion to ensure the constitutionality of the bill we are debating today. The study was carried out by Professor Patrick Taillon of the law faculty at Laval University and lawyer and Ph.D. in law candidate Amélie Binette.

After reading this opinion, it is quite reasonable to believe that Bill C-223 is entirely constitutional. Thus, the first question we must ask ourselves is this: What are the general principles that should guide our interpretation of language rights?

The response issued by Ms. Binette and Mr. Taillon, based, among other things, on the Beaulac decision, is clear: Language rights must be interpreted broadly and liberally, based on their objectives of maintaining and enhancing the vitality of official language communities in Canada.

Given its status as both a majority and a minority of the historic francophone community, which is recognized by the Supreme Court in the Solski decision, the intervention of political actors is necessary to ensure substantive equality between English and French in Quebec. What is this logic of substantive equality?

Substantive equality is not the same as formal equality when interpreting section 16 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which constitutionalizes the equality between the two official languages.

To sum up, it is a matter of looking at the linguistic situation in each province so that measures can be taken that take into account the specific needs of the minority community. Thus, there is nothing that precludes Parliament or provincial legislatures from taking action to promote the use of English or French in specific contexts, since the linguistic demography and pluralist reality of Canada requires an asymmetrical approach.

In Andrews, Justice McIntyre noted that a law will not necessarily be bad because it makes distinctions when having to implement measures for two people in similar circumstances. Therefore, Bill C-223 is not unconstitutional because it creates a distinction between residents of Quebec and those of other provinces. True equality requires consideration of the demographic, geographic and social context of a community when interpreting language rights.

If immigration is a shared responsibility of the provinces and the federal government under section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the granting of citizenship is the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government under subsection 91(25).

As our legal opinion on immigration shows, the courts have encouraged a type of co-operative federalism over the past few years. Passage of Bill C-233 would promote real equality between English and French through an asymmetrical approach and collaboration between both levels of government.

The citizenship test does not constitute a service since it seeks only to assess the linguistic skills of permanent residents and their knowledge of French. The bill does not infringe on the public's right to receive services in both languages, as stipulated in section 20 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms since nothing in its content prevents a permanent resident of Quebec from applying for citizenship in English, providing information in English, communicating with the government in English and swearing their oath of citizenship in English if they so desire even if they have to prove an adequate knowledge of French to obtain citizenship. That would be an curious path to take, but nothing in Bill C-223 would prevent that.

As pointed out in our legal opinion, even if the courts deemed that the citizenship test was a type of service, section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, clearly states that the rights it guarantees are “ such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Jurisprudence clearly shows that specific arrangements to guarantee substantive equality between the two official languages constitute a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society.

In our legal opinion, Professor Taillon explained that the Supreme Court developed a two-part test to interpret section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The first part is to prove that the measure serves a pressing and substantial objective. The second part is to prove that the means are reasonable and demonstrably justified. The French language in Quebec is in such an alarming position, so the intent and content of Bill C-223 clearly serve a pressing and substantial objective.

As to whether this is a reasonable and justifiable measure, it is important to remember that the Citizenship Act already provides for language testing. In Forget v. Quebec, the Supreme Court ruled that the requirement that non-francophones pass a French test was not an arbitrary ground when it came to joining the nursing profession. The same reasoning could be applied to citizenship.

Bill C-223 contains a single provision that makes three important amendments to paragraphs 5(1)(d) and 5(1)(e) of the Citizenship Act.

First, Bill C-223 increases, from 55 to 65, the maximum age up until which a permanent resident who applies for Canadian citizenship is required to demonstrate a knowledge of one the official languages and to pass a test demonstrating that they have an adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.

Second, the bill ensures that, if a permanent resident resides in Quebec, they will not be able to choose between demonstrating their knowledge of an official language in English or in French as is currently the case. Instead, they will have to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of French. Permanent residents residing in other provinces will be able to continue to choose between the two languages.

Third, consistent with the language requirement, under Bill C-223 the citizenship test must be administered in French in Quebec, not in one or the other official language. The bill does not impinge on that choice in other provinces.

The central element of this bill is citizenship. The question we must ask ourselves, and which we will attempt to answer, is as follows: Do individuals require an adequate knowledge of French to exercise their citizenship in Quebec? The Bloc Québécois believes they do.

This bill recognizes the primacy of French in Quebec, it is consistent with recognition of the Quebec nation, it contributes to sustaining French in Quebec, it restores the status of French in Quebec, it acknowledges the importance of understanding the language to exercise all the rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship in Quebec, and it is an additional means to slow the decline of French in Quebec.

As we are seeing in the news, Quebeckers are more and more concerned about the decline of the French language.

According to a recent Leger poll, 63% of respondents said they were very concerned or somewhat concerned about the status of French in Quebec. Among francophones, that figure rises to 71%, an increase of 17% compared to a similar Leger poll conducted in 2018.

Nearly six in 10 Quebeckers think that the situation has gotten worse over the past decade. Six in 10 Quebeckers also think that the status of French will continue to decline over the next decade.

In a report from April 2019 on the evolution of the linguistic situation in Quebec, the Office québécois de la langue française found that the use of French greetings in stores on the Island of Montreal had dropped from 84% to 75% compared to 2010.

It is important that we do everything we possibly can at the federal level to reverse this trend. Major changes will be proposed shortly by the Government of Quebec, and the federal government must also do its part. It is only by passing Bill C-223 and making changes like these that we can stop this trend.

We cannot rely on the Liberal government to take leadership on this file, and that is why the Bloc Québécois is taking charge. I hope that the Liberals will vote in favour of my bill.

The Prime Minister once said, “The Liberal Party of Canada will always be there to protect the French language.” This would be a good opportunity to prove it.

All the same, there are a few factors that make me doubt the Liberals' goodwill on this issue, such as the comments made by the Liberal member at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. She did, however, walk back those comments today.

While questioning the Commissioner of Official Languages, she expressed doubts about the decline of French in Quebec. She needed proof. Well, all the evidence is there. She has only to look at the statistics and read reports like the one published in 2017 by the Auditor General of Quebec, who found that the campaign to teach French to immigrants in Quebec had failed, or simply take a walk in her riding or anywhere else in Quebec.

A Journal de Montréal reporter did just that. She walked into some shops in downtown Montreal. Of the 31 establishments she visited, 16 offered a unilingual English greeting, and in almost a third of the businesses she visited, staff were simply unable to respond in Quebec's official language.

If members of the House of Commons vote against the very principle of Bill C-223, they will be proving two things. First, they will be proving that Canada's bilingual nature is not important to them, by rejecting a minimum requirement for ensuring the vitality of French in North America. Second, they will be proving that Canada's constitutional framework cannot ensure the full vitality of the Quebec nation.

The elected members of the House of Commons will have to decide whether they agree with the spirit of the Laurendeau-Dunton commission or that of the more grievous Durham commission. Quebec deserves to see where it stands.

In conclusion, the entire history of Quebec and, by extension, the history of French-speaking Canada can be summed up as a fierce battle for self-preservation and the survival of French. After more than 400 years, we continue to fight for the right to exist, and the debate we have brought to the House of Commons today, with Bill C-223, is but one more episode in this never-ending story.

In 2006, the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation. What does that mean?

So far, from both a legal and a political perspective, Canada's recognition of the Quebec nation has yet to translate into any tangible action. It was simply a political and symbolic gesture, and it does not address Quebec's historical constitutional demands.

Furthermore, as long as members of Parliament refuse to pass laws and implement government measures that allow Quebec to pursue its own cultural and linguistic development, as Bill C-223 would do, the recognition of the Quebec nation will be meaningless. Passing Bill C-223 would be consistent with the motion passed by the House of Commons.