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

Sponsor

Mélanie Joly  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 15, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-32.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 23rd, 2021 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, as Quebeckers prepare to celebrate their national holiday tomorrow, we can be proud of a federal government that protects and promotes the French language.

I am proud that our government has introduced Bill C‑32, which will modernize the Official Languages Act and bring it into the 21st century.

Could the Prime Minister tell the House how this bill will establish true equality between our two official languages?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 3 p.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his excellent question and his leadership at the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Our Bill C‑32, essentially a modernisation of the Official Languages Act, will protect and promote French in all areas of Canadian life, in our cultural institutions, in our public service and in international relations.

Bill C‑32 guarantees that francophones have the right to work and be served in French, whether they live in Quebec or somewhere in the country with a strong francophone presence. I hope that all parties will join us so we can quickly pass Bill C‑32.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, the government introduced Bill C‑32, which seeks to modernize the Official Languages Act. This bill contains historic measures to protect and promote French across Canada, including in Quebec.

Can the Minister of Official Languages tell the House how Bill C‑32 will help us achieve real equality between our two languages?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when we asked the minister if she thought that her Bill C‑32 would protect French better than Bill 101 in Quebec, she said, and I quote, “Indeed, our remarks involve the entire country. Why? Because that is important. That is how we strengthen our federalism.”

That is great for her federalism, but her bill is supposed to strengthen French in Quebec. Does she realize that she will not strengthen French in Quebec with a single approach that does not accept that French is the only official language of Quebec?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to understand where the minister stands on the language issue.

There are two systems: One is for the very large majority of Quebeckers, who are protected under the Charter of the French Language. The other is for about 200,000 workers in federally regulated businesses. These are the people Bill C-32 seeks to help.

My question is simple: Between Bill C‑32 and the Charter of the French Language, which one is more effective in protecting the right to work in French?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for my colleague, and I can see that our objectives are aligned. We both want to protect the French language in Quebec. Now, we want to protect it across the country too, and we will. We also want to protect linguistic minorities, including francophones outside Quebec and anglophones in Quebec.

My colleague should be happy. For the first time ever, the federal government is stepping up and protecting the French language. That is why I encourage her to vote in favour of Bill C‑32 on official languages.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I think that my colleague should read Bill C‑32. She would get a good answer to her question.

Essentially, 55% of businesses that have already complied with Bill 101 in Quebec will have the right to continue under the same system, and those that have not can decide to do so at that time.

Naturally, we want to protect the right to work in French, the right to be served in French and the right not to be discriminated against for being a francophone in Quebec as well as in regions with a strong francophone presence.

My colleague will also recognize that within federalism, the federal government must have a national role and an approach that protects all francophones. That is the objective—

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 17th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Official Languages keeps repeating that the Charter of the French Language and her bill do the same thing. She says that someone protected by Bill C‑32 has the same rights as someone covered by the Charter of the French Language.

However, when minister Jolin-Barrette says that the Quebec law must apply to everyone, the minister digs in her heels. When the House voted for Quebec's federally regulated businesses to be subject to the Charter of the French Language, she voted against it.

My question is simple: Why did she vote against it if it is the same thing?

June 16th, 2021 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I obviously want to thank the President of the Treasury Board for being with us today to defend these budgetary appropriations.

Mr. Duclos, you have been an ally on the francophonie file. I've seen you many times in our official languages caucus.

Yesterday, the Minister of Official Languages introduced her Bill C-32 on the modernization of official languages, which provides for a number of protective measures. First of all, it states that bilingual judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is also designed to protect the French fact. It takes into account the fact that more measures must be taken to protect the French language and put it on an equal footing with the English language, since French is a minority language in North America.

The Treasury Board has a major role to play in providing that protection. Could you explain to me what the Treasury Board's new role will be with regard to the proposed measures under Bill C-32?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 16th, 2021 / 2:55 p.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, let us stop trying to scare people, as my colleague is doing.

It is not complicated. Bill C-32, an act to amend the Official Languages Act, which we introduced yesterday, requires federally regulated businesses to recognize the right to work in French, the right to be served in French, and the right of francophones not be discriminated against. Basically, these are the same provisions that are in Bill 101 and that have been adapted to a national system that applies to Quebec, as well as to regions with a strong francophone presence.

For businesses that are already compliant with Bill 101, an agreement will be made with the Government of Quebec. For those that are not compliant with Bill 101, it is not complicated; there is no longer a legal void and they will have to comply—

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 16th, 2021 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C‑32 invalidates Quebec’s Bill 96 and its intent to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. Bill C-32 does not force the francization of businesses; it simply tolerates that workers speak in French. Bill C-32 does not recognize French as Quebec’s only official language, nor does it do anything to make up for its threatened minority status. Bill C-32 therefore prevents Quebec from taking charge of its language policy.

Why would Quebec vote for this instead of its own Bill 101?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 16th, 2021 / 2:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no legal void and Quebec has no plan to rely on Bill C‑32.

Quebec's minister responsible for the French language said, “One thing is for sure: The terms and conditions of Quebec's bill will be the ones that apply in Quebec”.

The federal minister, looking for a fight, responded, “We have jurisdiction over federally regulated businesses.... What do they want to do? Do they want to protect French or do they want to keep arguing?”

The minister clearly chose to keep arguing, because her bill does not protect the French language. It protects bilingualism. Why does the minister not simply let Quebec protect the French language with Bill 101?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

June 16th, 2021 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec wants to protect the French language. All that Ottawa could do in its jurisdictions to protect French in Quebec was to let Quebec's Charter of the French Language apply to federally regulated businesses.

However, the minister is doing the opposite with Bill C‑32. She is setting the stage for increased bilingualism by extending the scope of Canada's Official Languages Act. She is creating a jurisdictional squabble instead of helping stop the decline of French.

Why is the minister refusing to do something useful by letting Quebec apply Bill 101?

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2021 / 4:10 p.m.
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Orléans Ontario

Liberal

Marie-France Lalonde LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion moved by the member for Beloeil—Chambly.

I am pleased to pick up where the minister left off in talking about the reform of the Official Languages Act. I want to start by highlighting how important it is to build upon Canada's official languages in this process.

We know that our two official languages, French and English, are inextricably linked to our history and our identity. They are used in all of our conversations, activities and projects. They also help us express our culture, which is made up of and enriched by many different cultures. All of these cultures are at the very heart of the social contract that binds us all as Canadians.

French and English, along with the indigenous languages, enrich this country so much and inspired Parliament to adopt the first version of the Official Languages Act in 1969.

Since the passage of this act, various measures and amendments have allowed us to strengthen both the official languages framework and the measures defining their use in the public service. Of course, the most important contribution to official languages is without question their entrenchment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Official Languages Act and other linguistic measures, including the court challenges program and the language rights support program, paved the way for incredible gains.

Among other things, we have seen the establishment of institutional bilingualism, enabling francophones across the country to access services in their mother tongue. We have also seen the emergence of a new generation of Canadians who were able to get an education in the minority official language, something their parents were unable to do. We have seen members of official language minority communities assert their rights and support the development and vitality of their community.

Many civil servants were able to learn the other official language in order to support the delivery of adapted services, while measures were taken to allow francophones and anglophones to find a job and advance their career in federal institutions.

Back when the act was passed, who would have thought French immersion schools would be so popular?

The whole country can see how far we have come, but the situation has changed rapidly in recent years. We have observed that, despite our efforts, the use of French has declined across Canada. Because of its minority status in North America, we have always had to be vigilant and focused. Over the past few years, the Internet and social media have become pervasive, international trade has advanced and every aspect of our lives has been digitized. All these factors unduly favour the use of English.

It is time to take action. This new reality has created an array of needs and expectations, as well as new responsibilities for us. A responsible government must study the situation, review its positions, develop solutions and consult Canadians about the best approach. That is exactly what we did.

In February, our efforts to that end resulted in the publication of our reform proposal, entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”, which the minister referred to.

In addition, this morning, after extensive efforts, the Minister of Official Languages introduced in Parliament Bill C-32, an act for the substantive equality of French and English and the strengthening of the Official Languages Act. This bill confirms the commitments made by our government in the throne speech and the 2021 budget statement. It fulfills the vision we presented in February, a vision that was favourably received by official language communities and by many community and government stakeholders.

We are convinced that, in a modern society like ours, and given our ambition to build a just society, all Canadians need to see themselves reflected in the Official Languages Act. Anglophone parents must be able to enrol their children in French immersion. The government must meet the expectations of francophones, both in Quebec and across Canada, and it must properly promote and protect the French language.

Francophones must have the right to work in their mother tongue everywhere in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence elsewhere in the country.

Immigration is quickly changing Canada's demographics, and the government needs to attract immigrants who speak French to both Quebec and other areas. The government also needs to support official language minority communities, both anglophones in Quebec and francophones outside Quebec, so that they have strong institutions that will ensure their vitality and survival.

Finally, the federal government needs to set an example. The public service needs to offer real services in both official languages. CBC/Radio-Canada needs to play its role as a key cultural institution, the Commissioner of Official Languages must be given more powers, and finally, judges of the Supreme Court of Canada must be bilingual.

We want to establish a new linguistic balance that will ensure substantive equality between our two official languages. That will sometimes require each linguistic group to be treated differently in the development and implementation of our policies in order to take into account their specific situation, characteristics or needs.

In Canada, French and English do not carry the same weight. It is up to the government to make smart interventions to restore the balance and ensure that the fundamental rights of all Canadians are respected.

Our reform plan and our bill include several guiding principles and proposed changes that will allow us to better promote and support French, support the establishment of essential institutions in official language minority communities and finally achieve the equality between our two official languages that we have been striving for.

Among other things, we want to highlight the specific linguistic vitality of each province and territory and protect the existing language rights of indigenous peoples. We want to create more opportunities for learning both official languages. We want to support institutions in official language minority communities, and we will commit to protecting and promoting French across Canada, including in Quebec. We want the Government of Canada to set an example by enhancing compliance within federal institutions.

I would like to reiterate that the reform will also affect federally regulated private businesses and, accordingly, the linguistic situation in that part of the labour market. We will protect the right to work in French in these businesses across the country wherever there is a strong francophone presence, which obviously includes Quebec. Both workers and consumers in these regions will be better protected, better informed and served in their language.

As well, we have found that legislation dealing with a subject as dynamic and evolving as language must be regularly reviewed and adjusted in order to stay relevant. That is why we have established a system of periodic reviews of the act and its implementation. This is how we will ensure that the Official Languages Act remains relevant and modern.

We want to ensure the vitality of our two linguistic communities and of all official language minority communities. Due to the differing circumstances of each linguistic community, we are adopting broad principles and comprehensive objectives in order to avoid taking a case-by-case approach, which could create more inequality. We are certain that the solution to achieving the desired results lies in a flexible but solid pan-Canadian framework.

I believe that all members of the House care about protecting the official languages and the language rights of all Canadians. I would therefore encourage them to study our reform proposal carefully and to support the bill that we introduced this morning.

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

June 15th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

moved for leave to introduce Bill C‑32, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

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