Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for introducing this bill, which would make federally regulated businesses subject to Bill 101. This is the fourth time this type of bill has been introduced in the House.
I want to start by saying that the principles of the Official Languages Act are at odds with those of Quebec's Charter of the French Language. The purpose of the charter is to make French the common language in the workplace. French must not only be the primary language of work, but it must also be used when people who speak different languages have to communicate with each other. In the rest of Canada, English is used in these cases.
Almost all authorities recognize that the two language planning models are in opposition. Studies of such models around the world show that systems based on institutional bilingualism and individual rights—as is the case with the federal government's linguistic policy, the Official Languages Act—invariably lead to the assimilation of the minority languages.
Most countries operate in one common language, the official language. Places where there are a number of national languages and where we do not see the assimilation of minority languages are places where the language management approach is based on collective territorial rights. That is the case in Belgium, Switzerland and many other countries. In a given territory, the official language is the common language, the language of public institutions. However, that does not prevent people from learning any number of second languages and getting by quite well.
As soon as the Official Languages Act was implemented, we saw an increased rate of francophone assimilation and language transfer toward English, which grew with every census.
Outside of Quebec, approximately 40% of people whose mother tongue is French use English as their main language at home. That is also becoming increasingly common in Quebec.
Until just recently, the federal government denied that French was in decline. The Liberals were saying that everything was fine and that Canada is a model for the treatment of linguistic minorities. However, we are witnessing the decline of French everywhere, including in Quebec. We are pleased that the government finally admitted that in the throne speech. However, since the government did not provide any statistics, it is all still quite vague. The Minister of Official Languages presented a proposal for reform, but that is still just good intentions, just rhetoric.
The reality check was the Bloc Québécois's bill requiring knowledge of French to obtain citizenship. They opposed it. Now, they are preparing to vote against the application of Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses.
To date, in Quebec, the Official Languages Act has only served to promote and defend English, as evidenced by previous throne speeches. We know that programs based on the Official Languages Act, such as the development of official-language communities program, the enhancement of official languages program and the official languages health program, receive between $80 million and $100 million a year, paid for by federal taxes collected from Quebec. This only serves to strengthen the English language. One hundred per cent of amounts allocated to these programs only serve to strengthen the English language. That clearly does not help in any way.
The Government of Quebec has stated its expectations for the modernization of the Official Languages Act. The government is primarily asking that Quebec have sole authority over linguistic development and management in the province. It is also asking for recognition of the fact that, of the two official languages, French is the only one in a minority position across Canada. This implies full respect for the legislative authority and the specific responsibilities of Quebec with respect to language.
Our bill moves us in that direction. For example, we are asking to change the preamble of the Official Languages Act to recognize that French is the official language of Quebec and the common language in Quebec. We are also asking that the Government of Canada undertake not to obstruct the objectives of the French language, specifically positive measures, that the federal government spending that only serves to strengthen the English language be changed, and that all this be done with the approval of the Government of Quebec, and not on a unilateral basis.
Virtually none of this is present in what we have seen of the good intentions of the Minister of Official Languages. We need only to read all the proposals. The Liberal government is saying that it will amend the Official Languages Act instead so that federally regulated businesses afford a greater degree of respect to the French language.
On the one hand, as we speak, the Government of Quebec is preparing to strengthen Bill 101. That means that it is trailing behind the federal government with regard to these businesses. On the other hand, even within federal institutions, we can see that French is far from being the common language.
At the Standing Committee on Official Languages, we heard from people from the Quebec office of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. They explained that systemic and deep-rooted discrimination exists within the federal government and that, even in Quebec, their members sometimes struggled to be able to work in French.
A study by the Commissioner of Official Languages even found that 44% of francophones living in designated bilingual regions do not feel comfortable working in French. I have witnessed this first-hand. People working at transportation companies, which are not subject to Bill 101 but rather to the Official Languages Act, have reached out to me. They were unable to work in French, and were even given safety instructions in English.
André Dionne, a long-time employee of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, complained for 30 years that he could not work in French. Every time he needed to communicate with his team of investigators in Toronto, he was forced to do so in English. He took his case to court, but lost. He was told that the Official Languages Act did not apply to him because he was part of a majority.
The Official Languages Act is for so-called official language minorities. In Quebec, only anglophones are recognized as a minority. Even the UN does not recognize them as a minority because they are part of the English-Canadian majority.
The right to ensure the future and vitality of a language is a fundamental principle of the self-determination of peoples. This is really incredible. People sometimes tell me that it is because of the Constitution, but the 1982 Constitution was forced on Quebec. No Quebec premier signed it.
The government constantly promotes institutional bilingualism, and that shows no sign of changing. The Bloc Québécois wants the federal government to, at the very least, stop hurting French in Quebec, but that has not happened. I strongly urge my fellow Quebeckers to take a good look at what is happening.
Bill C-254 would not fix everything, but it is a small step in the right direction. If even that small step is too much for the Liberals and they manage to block this bill, I think we can draw some conclusions from that. We will have to accept that it is impossible.
They say we are a majority. As long as Quebec is not a country, we are not a majority but a minority subordinate to the federal government. The federal government is using its spending power and its legal authority to impose English everywhere and make Quebec bilingual. That has to stop.
Right now, Bill C-254 just might pass because the opposition parties support it. We really have to do our best to rally and make sure everyone is here to vote and pass it. It would be [inaudible].