An Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act

An Act to amend the Official Languages Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

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


Mélanie Joly  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of June 15, 2021
(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 Official Languages Act to, among other things,
(a) codify certain interpretative principles regarding language rights;
(b) provide that the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for exercising leadership within the Government of Canada in relation to the implementation of that Act;
(c) provide that section 16 of that Act applies to the Supreme Court of Canada;
(d) provide for Government of Canada commitments to
(i) protect and promote French,
(ii) contribute to an estimate of the number of children whose parents are rights holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
(iii) advance opportunities for members of English and French linguistic minority communities to pursue quality learning in their own language throughout their lives, including from early childhood to post-secondary education, and
(iv) advance the use of English and French in the conduct of Canada’s external affairs;
(e) provide for certain positive measures that federal institutions may take to implement certain Government of Canada commitments, including measures to
(i) promote and support the learning of English and French, and
(ii) support sectors that are essential to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minority communities and protect and promote the presence of strong institutions serving those communities;
(f) provide for certain measures that the Minister of Canadian Heritage may take to advance the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society;
(g) provide that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is required to adopt a policy on francophone immigration;
(h) provide that the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of cooperating with provincial and territorial governments;
(i) provide for rights respecting the use of French as a language of service and a language of work in relation to federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and regions with a strong francophone presence;
(j) provide that the Treasury Board is required to monitor and audit federal institutions for their compliance with policies, directives and regulations relating to the official languages, evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of policies and programs of federal institutions relating to the official languages and provide certain information to the public and to employees of federal institutions;
(k) enable the Commissioner of Official Languages to enter into compliance agreements and, in certain cases, to make orders; and
(l) permit employees of federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and regions with a strong francophone presence to make a complaint to the Commissioner of Official Languages with respect to rights and duties in relation to language of work, and permit that Commissioner to refer the complaint to the Canada Industrial Relations Board in certain circumstances.
It also makes related and consequential amendments to other Acts.


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.

An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2023 / 10:25 a.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for their openness. I will therefore be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

As I rise in the House today, I cannot help but feel disappointed. All that, for this? The Liberals tabled a white paper in February 2021 that clearly stated in black and white that the Treasury Board was to become the central agency responsible for implementing the Official Languages Act, as I pointed out in my question earlier. A few months later, in June 2021, the official languages minister at the time, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, introduced Bill C-32. An election was called two months later. What a coincidence. A lot of time was wasted, and we had to start over at square one.

The new Minister of Official Languages introduced her bill, C-13, in March 2022. We were told that the bill solved all the problems and that it had to be passed as quickly as possible. The Liberals begged the opposition parties to co-operate and expedite the bill. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Official Languages, where we heard from witnesses so we could do our work effectively. All of a sudden, the Liberals moved a motion to cut off debate. We had to move so quickly that we wasted eight meetings discussing this problem that had been caused by the Liberals at committee.

They are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They want us to move quickly, but they muzzled us for eight meetings. The opposition parties worked together to take the time needed. We reached out to the Liberals several times to try to get them to listen to reason. They wanted four meetings and we wanted twelve, so we split the difference and decided on eight. I think that is a good compromise. It shows that the opposition parties were acting in good faith. As for the Liberals, that is another story.

The Conservative Party takes bilingualism in Canada very seriously. We worked hard in committee, as I mentioned. We took the time to listen to stakeholders across the country. We worked to respond to their concerns. I am talking about stakeholders like the Fédération des communautés francophone et acadienne du Canada, the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, the Commissioner of Official Languages and many others. These people live with the reality of being a linguistic minority every day. The Liberals would have everyone living in these official language minority communities, particularly in New Brunswick, believe that they are responding to their demands.

I want to tell everyone living in those official language minority communities—whether it is in New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories or British Columbia—not to worry, because the Conservative Party of Canada is there for them and always will be.

In committee, we received a pile of amendments from all parties. About 10 amendments were tabled by the NDP; the Bloc proposed over 80, and we tabled about 60.

It comes as no surprise that the Liberals were ready. They had written a white paper, then introduced Bill C-32, followed by Bill C-13. They must have refined their bill, at least I hope so. However, they filed about 50 amendments, which is pretty interesting. In addition to the 50 amendments, it was clear that there was some dissension within the Liberal caucus. Among those 50 amendments, there were duplicates, which means that two Liberal members had tabled the same amendments. This goes to show how much time they are wasting. Are they even talking within their party? Are they talking to the anglophone members from Quebec? It is a mess. Then they want us to move quickly. They say this issue is so important. This is just one example of Liberal incompetence and inconsistency.

Again this week in the House, the Liberals proposed amendments that could and should have been put forward in committee—but no, they are holding up the process. They claim that it needs to move quickly, but they are holding up the process. Worse, to hear the Liberals talk about official languages, the decline of the French language and the need to protect both official languages, it all seems to be so important to them. However, there was a vote at report stage yesterday, and the Deputy Prime Minister, whom we have been looking for in all the committees, and even in the House of Commons, did not even vote, even though we have a virtual application to do just that. The Minister of Justice, who is a Quebecker and is affected by this legislation, did not even vote. Worse yet, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec lieutenant, who is the main party involved and has responsibilities under this bill, did not even vote. Official languages and the decline of the French language are so very important to them—we had another clear demonstration of that yesterday.

This government's lack of interest and disengagement is obvious again today. What day is it? It is Friday, the day when members have the least amount of time to speak. Who is in charge of the agenda? The Liberals are. Who chose to do this on a Friday? The Liberals did. What does that mean? It means that they do not want to hear about this, that they want to sweep it under the rug. That is obvious, because there is bickering within the Liberal caucus. This is just more smoke and mirrors, to create the illusion that the Liberals care about official languages.

Let us talk about the stakeholders. We met several, but I want to talk about two in particular. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or FCFA, which represents 2.8 million French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec, was calling for six amendments. It was not a huge or unreasonable request. How many of those amendments were fully adopted? Not one was adopted. Good job, Liberals. The Conservative Party agrees with those recommendations and brought forward amendments along those lines. Unfortunately, the NDP-Liberal coalition ignored the FCFA. It did the same thing to the Commissioner of Official Languages. The Liberals and the NDP did not listen.

The bill moved a step forward, but at a snail's pace. It is not that important, then. It was just one step forward. I think I would walk a long, long way for our official languages, but this bill, sadly, goes no farther than a single step. As parliamentarians, this was our chance to take concrete action to reverse the very real decline of French in Canada, and even in Quebec. It is deplorable that official language minority community stakeholders are not being listened to and get nothing but empty words.

I am concerned about the future of Canada as a country bilingual in English and French. We must remember that we have a Governor General who is bilingual but does not speak French. When we talk about bilingualism in Canada, we are referring to the two official languages, the two founding languages.

I was born a francophone in Canada, and my children speak French. I hope that my grandchildren will be able to speak French, here, in Canada. I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be a Quebecker. I am proud to represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques‑Cartier. I will fight tooth and nail for francophones in Quebec and across Canada. My ancestors fought that fight and I will continue fighting it. I am proud of our bilingual Canada, and I am not alone: More than 80% of Canadians value their bilingualism.

I want to remind members of one thing. The Official Languages Act was introduced in 1969 and modernized in 1988. Who did that? The Conservatives. The Harper government was the first to recognize the Quebec nation in a united Canada. He understood Quebec and its unique linguistic reality, and he recognized that it was important for the country.

Quebec has the largest pool of francophones in North America, and it must have the tools it needs to preserve its language and culture, which, by extension, will help francophone communities across Canada.

Our leader, the member for Carleton also values the French language. He is educating his children in French and he speaks both official languages here in the House. He understands the challenges and is making an effort to protect and promote both of Canada's official languages.

In closing, I would again like to reassure the official language minority communities. Unlike the Liberals, we have heard them very clearly and we will call for a single central agency and an enumeration of rights holders. We heard them.

It is truly important to the Conservative Party of Canada that Canada remain an English-French bilingual country, and it will focus on reversing the decline of French and protecting both official languages.

An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2023 / 10 a.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalMinister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

moved that 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, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, hon. members, colleagues and friends, I am extremely pleased to be here to speak to you today. To begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the traditional territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin nation.

Bill C‑13, an act for the substantive equality of Canada's official languages, is now in the hands of members for debate at third reading. At the end of the debate, members will have to decide whether the bill will pass in the House of Commons. I know they will give it due consideration in light of the bill's vital role in promoting Canada's two official languages, halting the decline of French in the country and ensuring that our nation's official language minority communities thrive.

I thank them in advance and I assure them once again of my full co-operation.

Bill C-13 has not yet reached the end of its legislative journey, but the fact that it has made it this far is an achievement worth noting. There has been lively debate, sometimes tense, often emotional but always productive. The operative word here is “productive”, because that is the message we should take away from this process. Without such debate, we could not claim to live in a healthy democracy and we would not have the robust bill that we have before us today.

We all have strong convictions about official languages because they define us and are central to our identity. At times, those convictions can divide us. Fortunately, however, everyone has done their bit and we have managed to come together because, despite our differing views, we recognize that our official languages contribute to Canada's development and are integral to the image that Canada projects in the world. I am delighted to have found common ground with the Government of Quebec, which is a key player in the Canadian and international Francophonie. We can be proud of the progress we have made to date.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages for going through this bill clause by clause and, I have to say, with a fine-tooth comb. I know that, over the past year, they have devoted 26 meetings to this bill and proposed upward of 200 amendments. Some amendments from each party were adopted. Thanks to that colossal effort, Canadians can rest assured that Bill C-13 is on the right track. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that a bill has passed the test of the House of Commons. Moreover, official-language minority communities have expressed relief, knowing that Bill C-13 has finally reached third reading. That alone is evidence enough for me that this bill has met the expectations on the ground.

A reform of this magnitude cannot be undertaken by just one player. It must be the result of collaborative thinking and must embrace all points of view.

We were able to do just that with Bill C-13 thanks to the thousands of people who stepped forward to present their views on official languages even before the reform began and who have continued to do so all along.

Let us remember that, in 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, Canadians expressed their commitment to our two official languages. They made it clear that they want to build on that legacy. Francophones and anglophones enthusiastically participated in the round tables and symposia that we organized across the country and online.

Every clause of this bill reflects their hopes, dreams and concerns. We did the impossible by incorporating all of that into the text of this legislation in order to preserve the spirit of their vision and make a difference in their daily lives. It is also important to point out that we took every opportunity to improve the bill for Canadians.

I want to once again take a moment to recognize the work done by my friend and colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when she was responsible for official languages. She was the one who started the major work of reforming our language regime, which included reaching out to stakeholders across the country. She was driven by sincere empathy and a desire to forge a friendship with official language minority communities.

She did not hesitate in the least when it came time to stand up for their institutions. As a francophone and a Montrealer, she demonstrated how important it is for Quebec's francophones to show solidarity with francophones in other provinces and territories.

I myself come from an official language minority community, and I personally felt her positive energy. I want to thank her again. In 2021, her efforts culminated in the tabling of the reform document entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”, which proposed 56 legislative, administrative and regulatory amendments. Bill C-13 embodies the government's vision for a modernized act.

We have been fortunate to strike the right legislative balance on official languages. Our experience with Bill C-32, the predecessor to Bill C‑13, was very enlightening. It enabled us to improve the bill to make it even more robust. Ultimately, Canadians are the ones who will benefit.

An objective of the language reform has always been clear: to strengthen and modernize our Official Languages Act. Bill C-13 would be one pillar of that reform. In adopting this bill, we would be laying the groundwork for substantive equality between French and English in Canada. Bill C-13 also seeks to ensure that Canadians would be able to live and thrive in both official languages.

The bill would recognize the importance of bilingualism to Canadian identity. In concrete terms, this would mean providing Canada with legislative tools to curb the decline of French; better protect the institutions of official-language minority communities, including English-speaking Quebeckers; improve the compliance of federal institutions by strengthening the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the role of the Treasury Board in part 7 of the act; and promote individual bilingualism in Canada.

People might ask, “What difference would this make in the lives of Canadians?” Bill C-13 would make a difference in a number of areas, as it would represent major gains for communities across the country. First, it would recognize the special status of French, which is in a minority situation in Canada and also in North America due to the predominant use of English. That recognition would make all the difference because it would pave the way for the necessary legislative measures to protect French, and Bill C-13 would take all the necessary measures.

Across the country, the stakeholders who best understand the challenges facing our official languages are urging us to pass Bill C-13 as soon as possible. Their calls to action have grown louder and louder in recent months, and I have to say that it is for good reason. Halting the decline of French will require a team effort on the part of all stakeholders, including communities, the Government of Canada, our provincial and territorial colleagues and Parliament itself. We can imagine what would happen if we just stood by and watched. The demographic weight of francophones continues to slide, and the demographic weight has already been below the critical threshold for some time now, which has francophones and francophiles worried.

Canada has now met its target for francophone immigration to minority communities for the first time since it set its targets in 2003. To be sure, this achievement is great news, and we have every reason to be delighted. It confirms that we have the capacity to act, and that well-managed efforts yield results, something we tend to doubt at times. However, we also know that we cannot afford to become complacent. We must do more and we must do better. We have made sure that Bill C-13 contains provisions to counter the decline of French, including by investing in francophone immigration. It is so crucial that our immigration policy include objectives, targets and also indicators that are conducive to increasing francophone immigration outside of Quebec.

More generally, Bill C-13 would provide better support for the French language throughout Canada, including in Quebec and also internationally. Such support would necessarily include increased protection for institutions of francophone minority communities across the country, whose vitality would be strengthened as a result. We recognize the positive effects of a vibrant language on the well-being and development of a community. Every action taken to strengthen a language yields profound, life-giving benefits for the people who speak it.

As members have often heard me say in the House, French is the only official language in Canada that is under threat; as such, we must do more in order to protect it. At the same time, we need to understand that increased support for French in no way represents a reduced commitment by the government to English-speaking Quebeckers in Quebec. Our commitment to those communities and their vitality remains firm and unwavering. On this point, I want to reassure Canadians that the provisions of Bill C-13 aimed at protecting linguistic minorities and minority institutions would apply to all official-language minority communities in Canada, including English-speaking Quebeckers.

For a bill to have a real impact, it needs to have teeth. If not, how could we enforce linguistic rights in this country? I must say that Bill C‑13 has the teeth we need.

It enhances the enforcement of part VII of the Official Languages Act to better regulate the implementation of positive measures by federal institutions and to clarify the duty of federal institutions to take the necessary measures to promote the inclusion of language clauses in agreements negotiated with the provinces and territories. It enhances the powers of the Treasury Board to ensure better coordination and accountability with respect to official languages across the entire Government of Canada. It strengthens the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages, giving him more tools, such as the power to enter into compliance agreements, make orders or even impose monetary penalties on certain private businesses and Crown corporations in the transportation sector that communicate with and serve the travelling public. As I already mentioned, the bill also enhances the francophone immigration policy.

Finally, it enacts a new act that will strengthen the use of French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence outside Quebec. What is more, the recently proposed amendments to this new legislation seek to enhance and clarify the federal system with respect to the use of French in businesses.

One of the priority areas of Bill C-13 was to take into account the varying realities of the provinces and territories. Once again, I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement with the Government of Quebec on this crucial point.

The second pillar supporting our language regime is our action plan for official languages 2023-28, entitled “Protection-Promotion-Collaboration”. That new action plan, which I recently unveiled, would support the implementation of Bill C-13 by putting forward a historic investment of more than $4.1 billion to support the vitality of our official-language minority communities from coast to coast to coast.

Our plan is built on four key pillars: francophone immigration, supporting lifelong learning, strong measures to support communities, and a federal government that must lead by example. With the adoption of Bill C-13 and the historic investment made with our new action plan, our government would be sending a clear signal that our official languages are a priority for the government.

The bill has been a long time in the making. It has now come to fruition. I understand that some members might still be hesitant to pass this legislation, so I want everyone to know that a lot of hard work has gone into balancing the wishes of all Canadians, especially the wishes of official language minority communities and the wishes of their governments.

As members who care deeply about the interests of our constituents, we know that our priorities can differ from one another, and reconciling those priorities is not always easy. However, I am confident that Bill C-13 reflects everyone's interests to the extent possible and will bring tangible gains for each of our communities across the country. Bill C‑13 will help protect and promote French across Canada, including in Quebec. Once again, I would like to salute the spirit of co-operation that has made this such a great success.

As a francophone and an Acadian from Moncton, I never forget who I am and where I come from. I am most proud of having been able to introduce Bill C-13 virtually from Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia, the cradle of Acadia, as I like to call it. It is a place that reminds us of a people's struggle to preserve their language and culture in the face of the violence and assimilation they endured. In my part of the country, people have great hopes for this language reform. They have a great deal to lose if Bill C‑13 falls short.

I certainly am not going to disappoint them, and I feel confident that everything has been done to meet their expectations and those of all Canadians. Everyone can rest assured of that.

Therefore, it is with the utmost confidence that I invite my colleagues to pass this bill as quickly as possible. The members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages have already carried out a pre-study of Bill C-13. I now invite them to continue the work.

I now look forward to questions from my colleagues.

An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2023 / 4:30 p.m.
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Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, French and English are foundational to our nation. The bilingual nature of our country is in our DNA, and we do not want to lose it. Where I am from in British Columbia, as well as throughout this country, there has been a decline in French spoken at home. The French language and French Canadian culture are part of who we are, our tradition and our heritage.

I live in Maple Ridge. Right across from where I live is Fort Langley, which is where the first capital of British Columbia was situated. The French Canadian coureurs de bois, or voyageurs, were very much a part of that. Maillardville in Coquitlam is the hub of francophone culture in the Vancouver area. Every year, thousands come to the annual Festival du Bois, which highlights French Canadian music, dance, art and traditions.

I am glad there are hundreds of thousands of students, past and current, who have gone through French immersion programs in British Columbia. It speaks volumes about the interest in the language among the non-francophone population.

Francophone minorities in my province of British Columbia, as well as across Canada, have been calling for the modernization of the law on official languages for many years.

My mother put a lot of effort into trying to encourage me, or force me, to learn French. She put me with French families and gave me lists of verbs to learn, but I did not really apply myself very well. It was after I graduated from high school and started travelling that I realized there was real value in learning other languages and communication. I went on to take courses in university to study it. I am very appreciative of the effort my mother made. It has enriched my life.

I believe there is great merit in strengthening the bilingual nature of our country.

I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to Bill C-13, which modernizes the Official Languages Act. I have had the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee on Official Languages for two or three years now, with a few interruptions. During that time, as a committee, we had the opportunity to hear from many individuals and organization representatives who shared their expertise and opinions on official languages in minority communities across Canada.

One thing is clear and unanimous. We need to modernize the Official Languages Act, particularly to address the decline of French in the areas of the country where it is a minority language.

I would like to talk a little bit about my francophone roots, my family lineage. What happened to my family happened to hundreds of thousands of other French Canadian families in western Canada who were originally from Quebec. My grandfather was Léopold Beaudoin. He married my grandmother, Alice, in the 1920s. At that time Quebec families had a lot of children. My grandparents had 18.

Like perhaps most people, my grandfather was a farmer. During this time, the population in Quebec was growing. There was less and less land to support the big families and provide enough food. They decided to move to Opasatika, near Kapuskasing, in Ontario.

As we all know, there is a large francophone community in northern Ontario. My mother was born there. However, after 10 years, they decided to start over in the Rivière‑la‑Paix region in northern Alberta. Many small francophone communities were established in the region, such as Falher, Girouxville, Saint‑Paul, Bonnyville and Morinville, and, beforehand, there were already towns such as Saint‑Albert and Leduc.

My father is Métis. He was born in Joussard. He later joined the Canadian Armed Forces. Whenever my family visited these communities, everyone spoke French. What is the current situation?

French is still spoken, but the demographic weight of francophones is decreasing. Farms are much bigger because of technological advances, and families have far fewer children. Furthermore, many of these children move to Edmonton, Calgary or other cities when they grow up. The situation is similar in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and other provinces.

Francophones are proud of their heritage, their culture, their language. We want it to be preserved, but not as an exhibit in a museum. The French language should be vibrant and alive. It is a major challenge. We are in a sea of anglophones. Almost all business transactions and communications are in English. It is the same situation all immigrants end up in when they want to retain their heritage, their culture and their language but still speak the language of the majority, either English or French in Quebec. The difference is that French and English are the official languages of our country.

It is part of our heritage, part of our history as a country. Speaking of our heritage, I am a little disappointed in the Liberal government. I do not think they show enough appreciation for our heritage. For instance, on the new passport that the Liberals are introducing, they have erased the image of the Vimy memorial, where thousands of Canadians were killed during the First World War. It was a foundational battle for Canada as a nation. The Liberals have also erased the image of Terry Fox, a Métis like me and a world-famous Canadian hero. In my view, in their pursuit of wokeness, they are rejecting Canada's traditions and history.

I am not entirely convinced that Liberals are committed to protecting and promoting the French language. I say this with respect, and I am certainly not accusing all Liberals. The Liberal government has been talking about modernizing the Official Languages Act to better promote bilingualism in Canada for eight years now. The Liberals promised this when they first came to power, and it was still part of their election platform in 2019 and again in 2021.

We were just about to begin the debate on Bill C-32 in 2021, but what happened? The Liberals decided to call an unnecessary election during the pandemic, and that killed the bill. We had to start over. What is happening now? The Liberal government just added a dozen amendments to its bill. Why did it not do this during the committee study? It will only slow down the process. That is also what the Liberals did in committee, with 50 amendments.

These motions at report stage are not substantive amendments and could easily have been moved in committee. However, the Liberals once again decided to waste time. I wonder if they really want to pass this bill. We have a minority government, and the Prime Minister could easily call an election, which would once again kill this bill. I hope we will quickly move to third reading.

An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2023 / 3:45 p.m.
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Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook Nova Scotia


Darrell Samson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C‑13 on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

As members know, this is a historic moment. It has been a long time since we have reviewed this legislation, 35 years to be exact. As the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, I want to tell my colleagues that I did all of my schooling in English because there was no French school. We did not have this essential protection at the time. My children, however, were able to do all of their schooling, from kindergarten to grade 12, in French. What a change. That was made possible because of the first Official Languages Act in 1969. Thanks to that, my grandchildren will also be able to complete all of their schooling in French.

I want to tell my colleagues that this was a very long process. First, there was the Official Languages Act in 1969. Section 23 was added to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and changes were made to the act in 1988. Then, as members know, Bill C‑32, which sought to strengthen the Official Languages Act, died on the Order Paper. Now, we are back with Bill C‑13, which underwent a number of essential changes in committee.

As I see it, the most important thing is that the act will have to be reviewed every 10 years. We will not have to wait 35 years. The procedure has already been established. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, in consultation with the President of the Treasury Board, will have to undertake a review, a comprehensive analysis of the enhancement of the vitality of the communities. They will examine whether we have achieved our objective of protecting and promoting the French language. They will also examine whether sectors that are essential to enhancing the vitality of Quebec's francophones and anglophones, including health, immigration, employment and French-language education from early childhood to the post-secondary level, have been respected. A report will have to be tabled in the House of Commons. In my opinion, this is a well-regimented procedure.

Let us start with the Treasury Board. It is the most important machine in Parliament. Bill C‑13 would make the optional powers, duties and responsibilities mandatory, which is essential. The Treasury Board will have some meaningful work to do.

Other improvements were made in committee. They are very important to mention. Every community across the country asked that there be a central agency, a minister responsible, and we can now check that off the list. What is more, the minister cannot withdraw from their responsibilities or delegate them. The Treasury Board and the minister will have to ensure compliance.

As far as justice is concerned, Bill C‑13 confirms that justices of the Supreme Court of Canada have to be bilingual. Still today, the Conservatives do not agree with that and do not want that to happen. I do not understand it. In committee, progress was also made on appointing justices to superior courts and appeal courts. It is extremely important. We have to take into account people's needs in terms of access to justice. The Canadian Bar Association and the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law have been asking for that for years.

Let us talk about immigration. In my opinion, this is the perfect example. When we started working on Bill C‑32, having a policy was important. When we moved on to Bill C‑13, ensuring that the policy had some content, some details, was important. Finally, in committee, we determined that not only did we need details, but we also needed to ensure that the demographic weight was restored and increased. It is going to be a game of catch-up and we will have to increase our newcomer target to 8% or 9% and then go back to our target of 4.4% or better.

Let us move on to real estate. I am quite pleased because this was a problem for 20, 25, 30 years across Canada.

I can say that now, because of the amendments that were made, the government has to consider the needs of the school community, which was not the case before. It is great to have a charter of rights that recognizes the right to education in French, but if land cannot be purchased, how and where are we supposed to build schools? It is not possible. Now, this will be guaranteed. It will no longer be an option, but an obligation, for the government to do something that is essential. It must consult the school boards about their needs.

I can cite examples such as the Jericho lands and Heather Street lands in Vancouver, Royal Roads in Victoria, Lagimodière Boulevard in Winnipeg, or Oxford Street in Halifax.

With respect to the language clause or the positive measures, the Standing Committee on Official Languages has made a lot of progress. It is not perfect, but it made a lot of progress.

When agreements are being negotiated, those involved, such as school boards or the organizations concerned, must be consulted. It is important to ensure that there is accountability, and that when money is earmarked for a certain organization or a certain location, it ends up there. Major progress has been made in that regard.

The Commissioner of Official Languages has been given significantly increased powers. Bill C-13 of course gives him the power to impose penalties and to make orders. This does not mean that violators will have to pay billions of dollars in penalties, but the idea is that anyone who has to pay $10, $100, $1,000 or $10,000 will be called out. That is very important. We are also giving the commissioner other powers and additional tools to do his job, which is to protect and promote the French language, and that is extremely important.

Now, I must say, there are areas where we did not accomplish as much as we would have liked, and that hurts. On enumeration, we were not able to get it done the way we wanted. Nevertheless, we added that question to the short form census two years ago, which means that everyone had to answer it. We still have that data, which will be good for 10 years. I am confident that if the Liberals are still in power in 10 years, we will be able to achieve and cement this. This is extremely important.

As I mentioned, the language clauses and positive measures are not what I would have liked, but we did make some progress, and I would like to thank the opposition parties for helping us.

I also realize that English-speaking Quebeckers have some concerns that deserve mentioning. However, I can assure you that our government is going to defend linguistic duality and the rights of anglophone Quebeckers in Quebec.

We will continue to provide funding, protect language and culture, and ensure the court challenges program is kept in place and adequately funded.

I am extremely proud to commend the government and the opposition for doing a great job and for the work done and the progress made on bills C‑32 and C‑13 at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. It truly is a team effort. I am very proud of the House and, as always, ready to answer questions.

Motions in AmendmentAn Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official LanguagesGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2023 / 4:35 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I just want to say that I would have liked to debate the motion moved by my Bloc Québécois colleague. I think that we Conservatives would have agreed to it, because it is consistent with what we presented in committee, in that it is about shortening the review period. Instead of 10 years, as written, we wanted to shorten the period to five years, but the Liberals refused. My colleague in the Bloc Québécois had an even better idea, which was to reduce the review period to three years. When something is urgent, we need time to react. The faster we react, the easier it is to close the gap in order to halt the decline of the French language.

As a fervent defender of French, I am always happy to rise in the House of Commons to defend the language. My goal is obviously to halt the decline of the French language and to protect and promote both official languages.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the issue, that is, the government's proposed amendments to Bill C-13, an act for the substantive equality of Canada's official languages, at report stage, it is important to understand how we got here.

Earlier, my colleague mentioned that funding was doubled, but we lost eight years that could have been spent providing the tools needed to protect French here in Canada. This government has been in power for eight years and, for eight years, it has dragged its feet when it comes to official languages. It gives organizations the illusion that it is doing enough to protect bilingualism in Canada.

Way back in 2018, the Prime Minister pledged to modernize the Official Languages Act, a promise that was repeated in the 2019 and 2021 Liberal platforms. It will probably be repeated again in the next election campaign, the outcome of which remains to be seen.

In 2021, the government tabled a white paper on the reform of the Official Languages Act, titled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”. Bill C-32 was tabled by the then minister of official languages, who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but it later died on the Order Paper when the government decided to call an election.

When she was appointed after the 2021 election, the new Minister of Official Languages promised that she would present a new version of the Official Languages Act in her first 100 days. She almost kept her promise. Bill C-13 was tabled in March 2022 to halt the decline of the French language in Canada and promote our two official languages, English and French.

Why am I focusing on the words “English and French” when talking about bilingualism? It is because the government appointed a Governor General who is bilingual, but who does not speak French. The Governor General is our representative, and has some lovely qualities, but unfortunately, she does not speak French. That is a good representation of how much this government cares about defending the French fact.

If it were as important to the Liberals as they say it is, rather than just an election promise, we would not be here today debating Bill C‑13, since a reform would have been adopted long ago.

In rising in the House today, on April 26, at report stage of Bill C-13, an act for the substantive equality of Canada's official languages, I recall the many times the language minister rose in this chamber.

She stated:

I hope once again that members of the House will work with us because stakeholders across the country want this bill to be passed as quickly as possible and we have a lot of work to do.

She was right. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages tried several times in committee to shut down debate on this bill by limiting the number of witnesses who would appear before the committee and the amount of time that would be spent debating the amendments. The Conservative Party of Canada takes English-French bilingualism very seriously.

We had an incredible opportunity to modernize the Official Languages Act, something that has not been done since 1988. As parliamentarians, this was our chance to take meaningful action to reverse the decline of French, a very real problem in both Canada and Quebec.

We were good sports and reached out to find compromises to move this file forward. We took the time to listen to stakeholder organizations that are feeling the impact of the decline of French every day, and we took the necessary action to give Bill C-13 more teeth, as the minister has said. However, we were unsuccessful because of a lack of will on the part of the government.

At committee stage, the Liberals moved over 50 amendments, many of which were identical but were submitted by different Liberal members. Some Liberal members also monopolized the time for debate and kept the Standing Committee on Official Languages from moving forward. That shows three things: The Liberals are not working as a team, they are inconsistent and they are disorganized.

Now here we are today, April 26, 2023, at report stage, with about 10 government motions on the table, and that is after some were withdrawn. These motions do not amend the substance of the bill. They could easily have been put forward in committee, but the Liberals chose instead to draw out the process for passing the bill.

I heard my colleague talking earlier about moving forward as quickly as possible so that the bill can be passed as soon as possible, as all organizations are calling for. Unfortunately, this was not taken into consideration, which is why, today, we are talking about details that are wasting time and dragging out the debate.

In accordance with the normal legislative process, we will have to vote at report stage. That will be followed by another stage in the House of Commons. We do not know when this will happen, since the government has not revealed its strategy. However, we will have to return to the House, debate and vote. Then the bill will have to be studied by the other place, the Senate. This shows that the Liberal government is talking out of both sides of its mouth. It says it wants to move fast, but it is disorganized. Amendments were moved today. Amendments were moved in committee. I just want to point out that the Liberals moved 50 amendments.

They drafted a white paper, Bill C-32 and Bill C‑13. They submitted Bill C‑13 to committee and are submitting it again today. What does that show? It shows that the government does not necessarily want to fast-track Bill C‑13. I think that is unfortunate.

I also think it is unfortunate that the Bloc Québécois was unable to move its motion because the Liberals objected. I respect and accept your decision, but the decision was made based on the fact that it could have been debated in committee, yet that also applies to what the government just proposed.

Unfortunately, the act will not have a shorter review period that would allow us to make adjustments when we find out, on the day it takes effect after the bill receives royal assent, that it cannot ensure that concrete action will be taken to halt the decline of the French language in Canada.

I think that this is important, that we should be proud of this bill, proud of our French language and proud of our English language. Bilingualism is something for Canada to be proud of, something that makes us attractive and unique. We owe it to ourselves to respect the organizations that work hard every day to protect our official language minority communities.

With all due respect for my colleague, we in the Conservative Party of Canada will once again reach out and not obstruct the progress of Bill C‑13.

However, I hope the Liberal government does not have any more surprises in store for us that will slow the process down. We should pass the bill as soon as possible so we can move on to something else and give our organizations the tools they need to do what they do every day to protect the French language, halt its decline, and protect and promote English and French. We do not want to pit our two official languages against each other. We are proud of both.

February 17th, 2023 / 10:10 a.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In my opinion, this is another very important amendment. After hearing from many witnesses, including representatives of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, I think that using the word “les” instead of “des” in French makes all the difference. There is only one letter that is different, but the word “des” is vaguer than the word “les”.

I will read the amendment and then I will present my arguments to try to convince my colleagues to adopt it.

Amendment CPC‑26 proposes that Bill C‑13, in Clause 21, be amended by replacing lines 30 to 32 on page 11 with the following:

the positive measures necessary for the implementation of the commitments under—

In other words, in addition to the change that I just explained, the amendment seeks to replace the words “that it considers appropriate” to “necesssary” in reference to positive measures.

I will summarize.

A ruling was handed down in May 2018 after the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie‑Britannique, or FFCB, was forced to fight in court for services to be offered in French and for investments to be made in the francophone community. It talked about employment centres, among other things. I think that everyone is familiar with this case and its outcome. If I remember correctly, the judge ruled in favour of the FFCB based on the distinction between the words “les” and “des” in French. It was the case of FFCB v. Employment and Social Development Canada.

Then, there was Bill C‑32, which was well done.

The government then appealed the Federal Court's decision. You will understand that it is rather odd for the federal governmnet to take an organization that defends minorities to court.

In reference to federal insittutions, Bill C‑13 indicates “that the positive measures that it considers appropriate are taken”. I have heard that people want to replace the word “les” with “des” in French but we will see what happens later in committee. It is important to leave in the word “les” in French and to remove the phrase “that it considers appropriate” so that the number of rights-holders can be enumerated rather than estimated. That is the debate we just had in committee.

If we adopt amendment CPC‑26, it would strengthen the bill. I think that the goal of all members here is to properly support both official languages. If, in the near future, anyone argues in favour of replacing the word “les” with the word “des” in French, it will take us back even further than Bill C‑32.

Amendment CPC‑26 is vital to show respect for what we are doing here, for the FFCB and for the FCFA, which brings together nearly 200 organizations that represent francophone minorities outside Quebec. Even though this amendment may seem trivial because it is so short, it is vital. It seeks to do two things: to leave in the word “les” rather than changing it to another word like “des” in the French version of the bill and to remove the words “that it considers appropriate”.

I presented my arguments, as did my colleagues, on eliminating the idea of consideration.

I will stop there, Mr. Chair. I think it is very important that we adopt this amendment.

January 31st, 2023 / 5:25 p.m.
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Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

I would note that when this law was originally tabled as Bill C-32, I think it was—for people who have better memories than me—Bill 96 didn't even exist and it wasn't law.

December 8th, 2022 / 12:55 p.m.
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Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Once again, and I want to emphasize this with regard to positive measures, Bill C-13 goes further than Bill C-32. In addition, non-governmental organizations, as you cited as an example, are mentioned in the new version of the act. That's new. We want to ensure that this bill is passed because we want to continue doing the necessary work.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us to develop the regulations and so on. We are all eager to continue that very important work.

December 8th, 2022 / 12:15 p.m.
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Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

First of all, Mr. Godin, as regards my role at the cabinet table, my voice isn't a lesser voice; it carries just as much weight as those of all the other cabinet members.

Bill C-32 was indeed the first take on the modernization of the Official Languages Act. However, I have just introduced the final version of the bill, which contains improvements.

People often ask me if our bill is less rigorous. I was asked that today. However, it's quite the contrary: we've gone to great lengths to ensure that our bill has more teeth.

We've done that, Mr. Godin, because stakeholders across the country have asked us to make amendments to the bill. For example, they wanted us to give the Commissioner of Official Languages more powers and tools to do his job, to clarify the immigration policy and to provide a more precise definition of positive measures.

Since the bill hasn't yet been passed, I hope the committee will work together to pass it as soon as possible.

December 8th, 2022 / 12:15 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, thank you for being here today.

We all have the same objective: to work at strengthening bilingualism in Canada, both English and French.

You said in your statement that you had conducted many consultations. I believe that's true because we've seen your itinerary. You have a very busy schedule. So I'm satisfied that you met with the representatives of organizations.

However, I'd like to know something. We've had the white paper, BillC-32 and the consultation that you conducted this past year. Did you hear loud and clear what the representatives of the official language minority communities told you?

I'm going to talk to you right now about the first demand of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, the FCFA. It has requested that the Treasury Board be designated as the central agency responsible for implementing Bill C-13. Do you support that request, which I believe is unanimous among all the communities represented by the FCFA?

We can see that there's some confusion. Earlier the Minister of Canadian Heritage didn't seem to be aware of the issue. He gave you all the responsibilities, but your position isn't mentioned in the bill. He has no powers.

Would you be inclined to amend the bill to implement the FCFA's first recommendation?

December 8th, 2022 / 11:50 a.m.
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Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the ministers for being with us this morning.

Ms. Petitpas Taylor, I've often heard francophone columnists and commentators say that Bill C-13 wouldn't go as far as Bill C-32.

I don't get the impression that's true, but I want to give you a chance to state your view of the matter.

December 6th, 2022 / 1:20 p.m.
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President of the Treasury Board

Mona Fortier

It was Bill C‑32.

November 22nd, 2022 / 12:15 p.m.
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Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Senate has already done a study and submitted a report. We've wasted five meetings. Mr. Chair, follow the process regarding amendments.

The Conservative-Bloc coalition has merely submitted amendment after amendment.

Follow the process, and we will vote. We're flexible; we proved that two weeks ago. We were ready to accept the dates that Mr. Godin proposed, and then we continued with another meeting. We've heard from 6,000 stakeholders on the action plan and they told us we should pass the bill as soon as possible. The Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, or ACFA, and the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario, the AFO, told us we should proceed with clause-by-clause consideration. Since 2019, we've proposed the white paper, Bill C‑32 and Bill C‑13. Stakeholders want us to proceed with clause-by-clause consideration.

I really don't understand what's going on. I'm being told to withdraw my motion without the other sub-amendments being voted upon. We have to follow the process. We're prepared to vote on an amendment. I encourage the members here today to vote for the sub-amendments. That way, we'll be following the process and can then move on to my motion. We're flexible on dates, as we've previously said.

We can't get there because there's been systematic obstruction over the past five meetings. Don't tell me we're wasting meetings. We've already wasted five. That's enough.

October 18th, 2022 / 12:45 p.m.
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Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Larocque, after Bill C‑32 was introduced, you warned the political parties, calling on them to safeguard linguistic communities that are vulnerable to partisan squabbles.

In our view, it is very unfortunate that the Liberal government called an early election immediately after introducing the previous version of Bill C‑13 and then waited so long to introduce the new version of the bill in the House of Commons. We then had to wait for the House to vote on the bill in principle. Now that the bill is before us, former Liberal MPs are calling for it to be dropped.

The NDP's position is clear: the bill must be improved and passed. We must all pitch in to ensure the survival of francophone communities across the country. We have to recognize the current reality that French is in decline right across Canada.

In light of what we have seen in the year and a half since your publication and the unveiling of the plan to modernize the Official Languages Act, do you have a message for the government today?

October 18th, 2022 / 12:35 p.m.
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President, French for the Future

Ania Kolodziej

Bill C‑13 is a considerable improvement over Bill C‑32. A lot of recommendations have been included, but others have been left out.

We are here today to continue that work. We want the bill that is ultimately adopted to be the right one, and to include all the necessary provisions for the full implementation of the Official Languages Act. We want it to truly help the young people we are working for and to encourage students to use French outside the classroom. We want the act to provide for the training of workers to support our institutions in order to increase the demographic weight of francophones in Canada.